Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Ciao, 2009!



Dear 2009,

Thank you for such a rich year. Thank you for the love, the tears, the conundrums, the fabulous thrift scores, the time I got to spend with family and friends. And all those IDEAS.

You know what I really liked? The very best thing about you? That this year I set out on the path to adopt my child, and took the steps I needed to become part of this pool of waiting, eligible parents. (I don't know if you're reading this, 2007 and 2008, but I know you introduced the ideas, but really, it was 2009 that things really got moving.)

There were, of course, some things I'd rather you hadn't brought around. Like my collapsed lung, for example. And this terrible economy and the accompanying plummeting value of my properties. And those icky wars.

As you usher yourself out, I want to say goodbye to you, and to please do not be upset if I like 2010 better ... especially as I iron out some of those ideas and make them real.

Love,

Vanessa


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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Orphan Christmas



First Annual Holiday Note to Self:

Each year, you try to have a lower-key Christmas. You try to lessen your waste footprint and do only the things that are meaningful. But it mounts. You think you can get off easy after the note to the friends and family, "Hey, I love you madly. But I am laying low this season and will get back with you in January!" You think you can hibernate and make recycled cards from two years' worth of cards collected for this very purpose. You are humbled that people you haven't spoken with in years still send you cards with their breathtakingly gorgeous and grown up children on them. (Hey! Those teen twins! Weren't they just, like, 2?")

But then Annie, who is your inspiration and laugh-riot girlfriend, comes over and says, "Hey, what do you say we do Nochebuena Thursday night? I bought a ham! Can we do it here? And can I invite a couple artists who don't have anything to do?" And of course you say yes because you would never deny holiday orphans, which, by the way, you are this year for reasons too sad to delve into for this semi-humorous note.

And you go to the store and get a bunch of food to feed other holiday orphans you never met, and you make your fourth batch of rum balls this week (where DID they all go? Hmm?) so you are sure to not run out and so that you can bring some to the OTHER holiday orphan parties this year.

And you sit, scrunched over at your desk, developing a knot like a billiard ball between your shoulders, looking for the exact right funny Santa to cut out from an old card and paste onto a somber religious scene with a peacefully lit tree. Because it is soothing and arty and fun and nobody can tell you that you did it wrong.

And your dog has had a terrible time of it with something too gross to post publicly, and she is sleepy and hungry but you can't feed her per vet's orders, even though she's giving you that WTF look. And you are broke, broke, broke from said vet visit, but relieved that she will be OK for at least another 12 years.

And you remember the Christmastime you got away from it all and spent three months in Southeast Asia, swaying in a hammock on a Thai beach on Dec. 25, listening to Nat King Cole on your Walkman, scoffing at the lights wound round the palm trees. And so, so, alone and sad.

And this, dear Self, is why you are so very grateful to roast beets and clean spinach and go back to Trader Joe's yet again because you forgot the feta and the pecans. To feed people you love and people you never met.

Love,

Vanessa







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Sunday, December 13, 2009

In Praise of the Generic Gift


Mom and me celebrating Christmas, Port Townsend style

This month marks six years since my dad left this world. I miss his bear hug and the accompanying smell of his signature Paco Rabanne cologne.  I miss flopping down on the soft leather couch in his office and thumbing through magazines, as I waited for him to get off the phone so I could tell him something huge or insignificant. I especially miss him this time of year.

My dad was good at a lot of things, and terrible at a lot, like anyone. But he was at his best at Christmas. His history with the holiday, to be sure, was fraught with trouble. As kids on Christmas, he and my uncles Mike and Seamus would have to brave the absence (or worse, the mean drunkenness) of their barrel-chested father, a former Marine. Uncle Mike stopped celebrating Christmas when, at about 10, he was sent by his mother to go and recover Grandpa Pat and his suitcase from the bus station. But maybe those lousy holidays supercharged my dad.

As far as I can remember, Dad went all out. I have a fuzzy recollection from the very early '70s of being at my godmother's house, with all the grownups talking about the reindeer on the roof, which they would not let me see. And then being scared and suspicious as Santa came through the door ... with my dad nowhere to be found.  Each year, there was a tree and presents for us -- some years were better than others, depending on the ups and downs of his freelance writer's career. But the most amazing thing about my dad, despite the fact that the rest of the year he gambled away the equivalent of my college tuition and that he exercised no self-restraint for early e-mail scammers offering Viagra and get-rich-quick schemes, is that he made sure EVERYONE had a present. It didn't matter if you were the guy who came to fix the computer ... shaving cream warmer. Cousin of the friend of the wife who came for dinner on Christmas Eve ... Nordic-themed mittens. UPS man who had a flat and needed to make a call in the house ... light-up picture frame.

See, Dad would buy a bunch of generic gifts and then quickly excuse himself to wrap them when someone came in the door, and write their name in his Catholic school cursive with a black fountain pen on the tag. And then he'd hand it over modestly, as if giving a personal gift to an almost perfect stranger were the most natural thing in the world.

As much as we can all agree that Christmas is not about presents, it is the way that he took such joy and responsibility in making sure everyone was covered that makes him a saint during this season. This year, I am making it a point to scoop up electric tie organizers and bath salts and kitchen mitts ... because you never know who will show up.


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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Is it still self promotion if someone else has done it?

I don't do a lot of things right. I speak too soon. I fall in love too quickly, often with the wrong person -- frequently many times over until I've learned my lesson about that one. I am not a patient painter, or sewer, or organizer. And I am not sure I choose flattering eyewear for myself.

But what I have done well in this lifetime, from the 40licious P.O.V., is populate my world with amazing people. Like this bright and beautiful young woman, Carlin, who was my intern a couple years ago. She finished her gig, and then she just kept hanging around even after she graduated. She's an ace networker and quick learner and waaaaaay too complimentary about me in this piece she wrote about Gen Y.

And if you know anyone who needs a communications whiz, have him or her give Carlin a shout.



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Monday, November 30, 2009

RIP Cindy Schafer



I didn't know her well. She'd come around and take corporate photographs and the last conversation we had was about her name and me confusing her with the famous Cindy Sherman. She was always happy and smiling and smart and accommodating. Another delight in another day.

The news came today that she'd died yesterday in a seaplane crash in Canada. As I look over her website and blog, I'm sad that I didn't know her better. We would have been friends. I would have gone to her recent show in Pasadena if I knew about it.

This comes as just another reminder that anything can happen to anyone at any time. Death does not come at our convenience. Our slates aren't always clean. How are we spending our time? Have you become the person you want people to remember?


And, in case I happen to die before I see you again, I love you. You all know who you are.



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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Home



I just returned from a seven-day road trip. There is very little glamor, after at least five of these now, in traveling with a slightly stinky beagly mutt in a Prius. And a man who can do a scary-good Tom Jones.  But I can say this, now that I'm letting the rumble of the road wear off with a fresh glass of wine from A Blooming Hill Vineyard (my bonus mother's winery near Portland, Ore.) and some Olive Pit olives stuffed with bleu cheese: We are hard-wired to go home.

We did the Seattle and Port Townsend rounds, visiting 40M, Amanda, Alison and All Adither. And then, Ground Zero for "home." For at least three generations, McGradys have convened in Lilliwaup, Washington, for holidays. My Uncle Seamus lives in the 1930's homestead, which has a fireplace my great grandfather built from beach rocks. We like Thanksgiving the best because it doesn't involve complex codes for gift-giving and we are all tremendous cooks and we really, really enjoy being around each other.

Throughout the day on Thursday, the kids and cousins and friends spent time doing what we do there: hiking up to the tiny ancient graveyard where family and strangers are buried, where in 2003 we dumped the bulk of my dad's ashes under a huckleberry bush. We saw fresh bear poop. From an obviously huge bear. And scurried down the hill. We went out in the pelting rain, in the dark when the tide was low, and carried kids over rivulets and collected hundreds of perfect oysters. One of the most magical moments was hiking along the creek (where, legend has it, my great grandmother and grandfather took watercress from along the banks to feed their wedding guests watercress sandwiches) and watched salmon spawning. Two-foot-long silvery fish fought their way against the rushing water, suddenly losing ground and coming back, never minding their dead brethren on the side.

In my hypnosis watching those fish, it all came very clear that despite crazy relatives and the long drive and that I could have spent my vacation somewhere sunny and tropical, I had to come home. It is in my genetic code. And I am grateful to have a place.



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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A half-assed Thanksgiving


Here's my recipe for super easy cranberry sauce, posted by the amazing Angie over at Half-Assed Kitchen. You will never reach for a can of the red stuff again!



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Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Thing You Resist


The thing you resist is the thing you most likely need the most. Like if you keep putting off cleaning your desk, it is precisely what you should be tackling. For years, I resisted a yoga pose that was too hard and too awkward and made my left arm go numb. It's called "Eka Pada Koundiyanasana," or "hurdle" pose. When it comes time for the class to do this, I usually get up for some water. Or, do another easier arm balance. Or make a miserable attempt and end up in a heap on the floor. Which, fortunately, is only about 6 inches from my head in this setup.

But a couple months ago I really began to try to get this one. And again, each time, I'd end up on the floor. Today I shocked myself by coming up on my arms and stretching my legs out to the left. I hung there in the air. Suspended, balanced. And the teacher saw. And then I fell onto my face.

It reminds me of the time Lucy finally caught a squirrel by the tail and was so shocked, she stopped and opened her mouth in awe, and the squirrel ran away.

What are you resisting that you probably need?


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Monday, November 9, 2009

Landslide

Every damn version of this song makes me cry. Can I handle the seasons of my life?

(thanks, Annie)









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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Chris Jordan



Today I brought this amazing artist, Chris Jordan, to work to talk to our people. 120 RSVP'd. Maybe half of that showed up. No execs, really, which is what I'd wanted.

It is days like this that I think I'm in a small army of people who are trying to make a difference in how we live as Americans, how we consume, how we need to change. Everything.




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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Perspective

I thought I was having a bad day Thursday when I got a parking ticket for $49 in Long Beach as I frivolously shopped for a new coat before meeting friends for dinner. I thought my luck was getting WORSE the next morning when I got another parking ticket for $49 on my block because I forgot to move my car. I never, ever get parking tickets. But I didn't know that later in the day, I would go to acupuncture and end up in the hospital with a collapsed lung.

There was a rainbow of pain: The kind that feels like a piece of glass jutting in my side on the way to the hospital. The pain of so much waiting, being treated like a junkie in the ER until they understood I had something seriously wrong with me. The pain of having a tube jammed in my chest to let the air of the pulmonary protective sac out, and to let my lung fill back up (think B-movie with a woman screaming on a table, people in white coats all around, and that's pretty close). The pain of having to be very, very still as this tube stayed in my lung overnight and the next day. The pain of fleeting sleep from so many beeps and pokes.

But of course, with all this comes the good. A good man who sat through all the gruesome parts of it and acted as my PR guy, calling my parents and my coworkers and friends and giving them updates. All the flowers. All the well wishes. That I'm OK now. And the blessing that I wore pretty underwear that day, because a lot of people saw it.

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Opening to more

Quite by kismet, someone sent me a brochure for a woman who specializes in parenting issues and adoption. I feel good and like I don't have an acute need to see someone, but I also feel like maybe she dropped a breadcrumb in front of me and I'm supposed to follow this path in the woods.


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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I've never heard it said better



I am often guilty of being jaded, of thinking patriotism an overrated virtue, of empty threats to move to Paris or Canada if such-and-such happens.

But then I see this man, and I love him immediately, and I remember why we are all on this patch of dirt between the Atlantic and the Pacific, and why everyone else wants to come here.



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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Got some change


In my last post I expressed great desire for change. I got some!

I'm not sure who I look like, but it's not myself.

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Monday, October 19, 2009

OK, how about now?

The people have spoken, and they miss the green. Too much now?

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

NEW NEW NEW

I want everything new. I want a new life and new breath in my home and new body and new hair.

But tonight I will settle for an appointment with Sue Ann on Tuesday for highlights, and playing with my site. What do you think of the new logo? GREAT help from All Adither.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Falling

My basket of knitting has been sitting there patiently all summer, by the couch. I can still only make a scarf. So I guess I'll start a long, long season of long, long scarves.


Loved this grey angora/wool one that I made on the plane this time last year. Lost it already.




The scarf for Mashi matches her hair.




For cold New York winters. I test-drove it in Maine.




Cousin Elizabeth in her orange scarf I made while at PopTech. Nothing simpler, nothing cozier.



Liz's daughter, my cousin, Miss Mary Ohannes, clearly has a brilliant future as a scarf model.
We made this one to match the color of her towel.




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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Hit Me


It took me a while to learn how to win at Blackjack. You can't be all intuitive about it. You can't bet on a strong feeling that the dealer has a 16 and that your next card on an 18 will be a 3. You just follow the rules -- what cards warrant a hit, what warrants a stay.

So it is with social media. The rules say that you publish relevant comments to your posts -- even if they are negative. It's part of being in an honest dialogue. So I did that with my 48 hours of hate mail from the Pregnant Teenagers on BabyCenter.com. I'd apologized profusely, but many of them still had something to say about how wrong it was to post a (supportive) reply to a girl considering placing her child for adoption.

I was scared that a prospective birth mom might read this and think I'm a monster. I considered just deleting all the posts and the comments. But, in the same way you hit on a 17 when the dealer is showing an 8, I just kept it all up there. And then, in the same way that 3 or 4 comes as the next card, the sweetness began to roll in.

"I didn't mean to come off sounding so...bitchy. I tend to have a sharp tongue. I've been on the Pregnant Teenagers site for 3 years so I know the impact adoption posts have on the girls there. I never stopped to think you would not know that. I sorry for that."

"Hello, I was one of the teenagers on that board when you posted. I did not comment, however. I understand your frustration and confusion. I did not comment on that post because I knew that you weren't being condescending, and you really thought that perhaps this forum was some sort of link to a possible adoption. I am sorry some of my cyber friends were so horrid to you, but you have to understand where they are coming from. I am a teenage mother. I am 17 years old and my daughter is one. I was planning on giving my daughter up for adoption up intil three months. Please don't be too offended. They were just protecting their rights as mothers. Hold your head up. You will get your baby."

"i was lurking on the pregnant teen boards and saw your post. i understand their reactions, but it seems as though you're not as terrible of a person as they make you out to be. keep at it. you'll get your baby soon enough."
We're all scared. We're all feeling raw and protective. We all want Blackjack.


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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

West Coaster


I've known Joanna since 4th grade. She's always been dazzlingly beautiful, completely confident and totally talented. We spent a lot of time not knowing each other, but we reunited, better than ever, when I moved to LA in 2005. This year for her birthday, she wanted to go on the rides on the Santa Monica Pier.

On the roller coaster, they've figured out the maximum scream nexus and have placed a camera there, right as you are plunging to near-certain death. We got the picture -- we're in full-fright mode, hair all over, wide-eyed and molars out -- in order to put it in the alumnae publication that comes out once a year from our Very Proper Elementary School.

Today felt a lot like Joanna's birthday.

News came from my social worker that I am one of four families a young woman at UCLA is considering meeting, but that the baby's father is pressuring her to hold on. "That is the problem with African American placements, the families do not want to let go. I will keep you posted but it does not look too promising," the social worker wrote to me.

Then I felt all sick and like I am missing a whole chunk of information about how I should find this child. Like I'd been led on. Like adopting is only for the rich folk. So I sat at Taco Bell in Santa Ana, waiting for my support group at the agency to start. Wondering if I should cry or not.

I wandered in, early, to find the agency's director in her office. I broke down and told her that I was feeling out of information and out of ideas and out of my league and maybe I should go through the foster program and -- well, everything.

I guess she's used to people like me. She told me she loved my profile and to make 25 copies so she can send it out next week.

It's a little bit of information, and a little bit of hope. And the ride, at this particular moment, is a little smoother.


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Saturday, October 3, 2009

Glimmer



Here's the part about social media that I think we forget. The word "social" and all it implies.

For example, you wouldn't really barge into a group of people you didn't know and start talking about your needs. Who the f cares? People help people they know. I was aghast and ashamed at the backlash I got from the pregnant teenagers when I went to meet them in their cyberspace. But I was even more touched and moved by the people that have come out of the woodwork to help me. A guy I didn't know that well in high school. My cousins. My yoga teacher.

My social worker sent me a note yesterday. She told me to not get my hopes up, but there is a pregnant young woman at UCLA who is open to placing her child with a single white female. Will know more next week. In the meantime, I am obsessively working on my "calling card," a letter-sized flyer that serves a snapshot of my life and who I am for women deciding who they'd consider to parent their child.

No matter what happens with this one, I have to just remember to plant all my seeds, and not expect them to bloom where I drop them. They will tunnel under, swirl around rocks and weeds, push through oceans and come up in the craziest, most beautiful garden ever.
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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Red-faced and smacked down

Jennifer Garner plays hopeful adoptive mom, Vanessa. I know.
I've done my freaking out over all the similarities in the this movie.

My brilliant idea, like many brilliant ideas throughout time and history, has completely backfired. It has singed my eyelashes and turned my skin a deep dark red. It has made my stomach warp in embarrassment, and my shoulders turn in for shame.

Said idea I had last night was to go find the pregnant people who may be looking for adoptive parents. Kind of like fishing in a stocked pond. So I found the pregnant teenagers section and read a note from a girl who was considering placing her baby for adoption, and feeling pressure from others one way or another. I wrote and told her that she had a lot of rights and resources as a mother giving birth, and to never ever let anyone pressure her into a decision. That she could even wait until after the child was born to decide. And that there were people like me who would very much like to raise a child.

This did not go over very well in the pregnant teenager section of Babycenter.com.

People accused me of preying on young vulnerable women. They blocked me from further comment. One person sent me a comment on last night's post that read, in part: "How dare you approach vulnerable teenagers and suggest the only option available to them is adoption? In case you haven't notice the Pregnant Teenagers group on Baby Center is for SUPPORT. Support in HAVING our children. Not in giving them up."

So now I know.

And the search continues -- after I read guidelines more closely.

Crap. This is harder than I thought.


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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Where the Light Is

There's that old joke about the drunk looking for something under a lamppost. A cop comes over and asks what he's doing.

"Looking for my keys," the drunk says. "I dropped them across the street."

"Well if you dropped them across the street, why are you looking for them here?"

"The light's better."

Which reminds me of something I tell people at work all the time. We may operate on one space, the easiest, the most convent, the safe one we know. The one where the light shines brightest.

But our audiences may be elsewhere.

So I sent stuff to Facebook and Linked In and Twitter, but how do I know pregnant people hang out there?

Then I found the mother lode, referred to me by a young mom I know: www.babycenter.com. Where there is a group for pregnant teenagers.

Hopefully, as I shine a light in this new space, I will find the key.



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Monday, September 28, 2009

Socially Speaking


Two posts ago, I was disheartened by how much work I am going to have to do to find my baby. Paying a lawyer or an adoption facilitator is one way to go -- and then I can kiss that child's college tuition goodbye.

After the initial crumpling up and bewilderment that often accompanies news of a long and uncertain road ahead, I decided to do the only thing I know how to do really, really well: communicate and ask for favors. So I put up my profile on www.vanessamcgrady.com/adoption. Then I sent the link around to Facebook friends and Tweeted it.

Not too much response.

Then today, too sick to go to work but too awake to stay in bed, I re-posted to Facebook, and asked all my friends to do the same. The Liquid Muse Tweeted it under her "Preggatinis" identity (she wrote a book on cocktails for pregnant people). And after pretty much ignoring years of Linked In, I sent a message to 50 of my contacts asking for help to get the word out.

And they did. Visitors came from nine states, and Belgium. As of 10 p.m. tonight, I have 70 hits on www.vanessamcgrady.com/adoption. Most people are probably just curious. Maybe some can pass it along to relevant people. But I know that at least one person paid attention. A high school classmate of my cousins' wrote:
"Dan just posted a link about your adoption efforts and I checked it out. Unfortunately not for the reasons you are probably hoping for but because I'm an adopted child and I was raised solely by my mom. I just wanted to say I admire women who want to give a baby boy or girl all the love and nurturing that those little ones so much deserve and especially doing so on their own...too cool!! :) I thank God everyday that my birth mother (I have no idea who she is..only that she was 15) was brave enough to go through all that she did so that I could live a life and I thank God for my adoptive mother who has never made me feel like I'm an adopted child~she's absolutely the best mom I could ever ask for.

"Best of Luck to you and I sincerely hope to hear @ least through the "grapevine" of FB that you were successful. "
I hope I can answer her soon.

Any by the way, if you have any other good networking ideas, I hope you'll pass them along to me.

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

The World Is a Very Good Place

I found this group called Swap Mamas and they just give away and trade stuff. Free. It's really lovely. And they put out calls for help for their sisters and friends who have kids with deadbeat dads etc.

Good change in the karma bank.







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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Fat Lady got about two verses in ...

photo: http://farm1.static.flickr.com/49/129635382_421b746277.jpg?v=0

This is an ongoing meditation on the process of adopting a child. I'm mostly through the logistical and ID hoops and mountains of paperwork. Soon I'll be in the "pool" of eligible adoptive parents.

The light was at the end of the tunnel. The light was brilliantly beckoning, jumping up and down and yelling, "you're here! you're here!" With the exception of one first aid class I take next week, I thought I was done with all my steps, ready to jump into the pool of parents, just waiting to get that phone call from the agency about a brilliant and drug-free 17-year-old who went into labor at Target, who wants to relinquish her baby to someone exactly like me.

But I realized wrong. Now the work really begins. I have to FIND the baby. That means a mass email looking for leads (if you're a personal friend of mine, look for one coming soon!). It means a social media campaign, and some Craigslist postings. It might mean hiring a lawyer/facilitator to help recruit.

I'm working on a profile and new website that I'll announce soon. In the meantime, email me if you know anyone.

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