Thursday, July 30, 2009

Not another cul-de-sac!

This is an ongoing meditation on the process of adopting a child. I'm in the early stages; paperwork is mostly done as I go through a series of workshops and collecting information about myself to prove that I am a good person without TB and that I can drive.

This week I had the second of four monthly, three-hour sessions at my adoption agency. They all focus on a different aspect of adoption. This time it was "Through the Eyes of the Birth Mother" and they brought in four women who had placed their babies. Once again, everything I thought going in was completely different on the way out.

For example, I learned of the terrible stigma these women face. When I announce that I'm adopting, I get all kinds of praise and kudos about the "wonderful thing you're doing for a child." In reality, it was the only and obvious decision to make in my situation, when a found myself in a situational corner that left me this option, or doing things that made me extremely squeamish, or not having kids at all. Birth mothers, on the other hand, are perceived as irresponsible. Liars. Sluts. They are treated differently in the hospital, and you'll rarely hear women you know blurt out that they'd had children but placed them with another family. It is a point of shame. When really, there are few, if any, ways to show greater selflessness than carrying a tiny being through his or her little beginning life, and then helping prepare that babe for the next stage.

The birth mothers also told us what was attractive in the introduction letters they look through when trying to find a family. One woman said that after reading about 100 profiles, it seemed like everyone lived on a cul-de-sac, had a guard dog and an SUV. She ended up choosing the couple with the underwear on their heads in the picture, because she wanted the child she bore to grow up having fun. "I don't care what you have, I care about who you are," she told us. Stability is good, as many of these women haven't had too much of that in their lives. As is brevity. And not mentioning religion.

In the end, it pays to just be totally honest and vulnerable and let your own freaky flag fly, because you will get the baby you deserve, the one that you are supposed to get, the one whose birth mother actually likes that you will raise the child on a steady diet of Beatles and They Might Be Giants and musical comedies.

Another important point during the session came from the agency's director, who facilitates it all. The three things that will kill your adoption plan are fear, pain and secrets.

That actually applies to everything, no matter what it is or who you are.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Another Tough Day at the Office

Vanessa and KTLA's Gayle Anderson talk about ways to save energy this summer.

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Saturday, July 25, 2009


I very much realize that it's a non-entry to write about how I am not keeping you readers updated, nor even mildly entertained. But I also see that of the 20 or so regular blogs I follow, nobody else is either.

Maybe school hard-wires us to take the summer off. Which is pretty much all I want to do -- except there's that whole thing about my habit, which involves keeping a roof over my head. I spend every spare second at the beach. I skip the Sunday farmer's market and don't eat for a week to meditate on the shores, and read Oprah magazine with my big hat on. I vow to live there, next move.

And that is why, even in this bleakest of markets, I am slowly winnowing my possessions so that in a year or so, my forthcoming new baby and I -- whenever the adoption gods decree -- will move to a place where the sand in our toes is a short walk away.

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

10 Things Smart Women Know About Money

This is from my friend and mentor, Barbara Stanny. And it works for Dudes too! She writes GREAT books on money, such as Prince Charming Isn't Coming and Overcoming Underearning and Secrets of Six-Figure Women. Go visit her at

1. A smart woman thinks beyond being a wage-earner and dollar-watcher to become a wealth-builder. Wealth has nothing to do with what we have. Wealth comes from what we do with what we have. We create wealth by investing, or putting our money in assets that will grow.

2. A smart woman doesn't wait until she has a lot of money to begin. Wealth begins with as little as $25 to $50 a month. (If we simply put $1.75 aside every day, we'd have saved more than $50 at the end of each month). Through the "magic" of compounding, we can accumulate a surprisingly sizeable portfolio.

3. A smart woman doesn't wait for a crisis to get started. A crisis is the worst time to start anything. We can't think straight. We tend to make terrible decisions, sink into paralysis, and leave ourselves wide open to financial losses. Instead, we must make a conscious choice to become smart with money.

4. A smart woman knows with total conviction she must do it herself. Dispelling the myth that "someday my prince will come" is the most important financial decision we will ever make. Prince Charming need not be a man, or even a person. Our "prince" could be an employer, insurance settlement, or a lottery jackpot, anything we fantasize will save us financially.

5. A smart woman is persistent when learning about money. Without fail, the moment we start learning, resistance, like a growling dog guarding the gate, is there to block our way. We don't feel right. We get scared. We want to quit. To stay on the learning curve, we need to follow three rules: Just Start; Keep Going; and Never Give Up.

6. A smart woman deals with her unconscious attitudes to avoid sabotaging success. If we find ourselves fogging up or spacing out, if we can't seem to apply the information we learn, or resist learning it in the first place, then chances are, psychological factors are impeding our progress. Once we identify our internal blocks, success can occur spontaneously, almost effortlessly.

7. A smart woman has no special secrets for financial success. There are, however, certain "smart things" smart women do. They trust their intuition, learn from their mistakes, start small, go slow, invest regularly, diversify broadly, and know what they're buying.

8. A smart woman understands that risk makes them wealthy. Risk in the market refers to volatility and volatility refers to price swings. The more a stock moves up and down, the riskier it is. But those fluctuations only matter when we sell our holdings. The longer our time horizon, the less important those ups and downs are. If we've got say 10 years, those fluctuations are irrelevant.

9. A smart woman talks to others about money. We can learn from each other's mistakes and draw inspiration from each other's successes. We can use each other as sounding boards, role models, and sources of encouragement, advice, and information.

10. A smart woman recognizes that she has the resources to make fulfilling choices and the power to effect change. Taking charge of our money is a transformational experience that enhances us financially, empowers us personally, and endows us with enormous clout. When we combine our check with others - be it a charitable donation, a political contribution, or an ethical investment - we have tremendous power to create widespread social change.
Now go make some money, y'all!

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Going in Deeper

From my teacher tonight: In yoga, there is only so much you can do, so far your body can go, and then you have to take it deeper within.

I have been contorting myself in all manifestations of forms since about 1997. Yoga is familiar to me, it is comfort, I feel at home and it helps to ease my monkey mind. But I still can't do Lotus. I still can't do a lot of things.

My teacher's words resonated, and I wondered how I can apply this outside the studio. My job is to help people -- journalists in particular -- become more aware of the (very worthy) environmental initiatives of the company where I work. In three+ years, there have never been two days alike. Yet I get it, at this point. I'm good at my job and I can do it just fine. And because I am grateful to be working, it might be time to do what the teacher said -- how do I go deeper? Find more meaning and nuance?

As a person who has never married, I'm thinking it may be the same with matrimony. Once the rings have been exchanged and the last bottle of champagne swigged by your bridesmaid (who hooked up with someone's cousin? who would have guessed?), you've crossed what some people consider the "finish line." But what if marriage is the starting point? The point at which you've extended every joint and every muscle as far as it can go, according to Earth physics, and then it's time to go deeper into the relationship. Time to explore the space and the nuance and the rich layers of this other person, of yourself, of the two of you together.

What say you? Is marriage a beginning, an ending, or a middle?

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Operation Beautiful

I am a huge fan of Operation Beautiful. Here's how it works: Write an anonymous note to someone on a post-it or whatever, and then just leave it for anyone to see. This could be in a public bathroom, on the bus, between the pages of a library book -- wherever.

It's like adding a little change into your good karma piggy bank.

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Trade-Offs

This is an ongoing meditation on the process of adopting a child. I'm in the early stages; paperwork is mostly done as I go through a series of workshops and collecting information about myself to prove that I am a good person without TB and that I can drive.

When it comes to acquiring a very new, small person, what pretty much takes only two people to do biologically takes dozens of people the other way -- through adoption. This adoption process started out, in my mind, as a solitary excursion. Me and endless forms and Xeroxed reading material. Me alone for an hour each way to Santa Ana, where the agency is based. Me tallying up how much I will have to spend on daycare, and worrying if there will be enough money for a comfortable life, for a college fund, for a cute pair of shoes if I want them.

But I'm a little over a month into it and I'm learning that there are people coming with me on this journey. The social worker who cheerfully sends me new fingerprinting forms when she realized I messed up the first set. My hard-working boyfriend who helps me scrape vintage wallpaper to turn a dingy second bedroom into a bright, cheerful haven for a child. My girlfriends who have been tasked with writing referrals and warned that they may get interviewed about my fitness as a parent.

My friend Carolyn has the soul and wardrobe of an indie rock queen. She is practical beyond reason, cuttingly funny, and bore a chubby-cheeked redheaded sweetheart of a daughter a year ago. It was Carolyn who opened her Rowena Avenue door to me on April 10, 2005, when Lucy and I began the California chapter of our life. We watched one horror movie a week for a year. And so Carolyn is one of the people I tapped to write a recommendation for me.

Today, as her daughter practiced standing and I tried to keep her occupied, Carolyn filled out the form my agency sent her. When she was done, she read it aloud. She'd gotten through eight or nine answers, and then stopped. She looked up at me, unable to read any more. Tears streaming down her face, she handed me the paper.

Here is what she could not read out loud: "What special qualities do you believe Vanessa has that would enable her to successfully parent an adopted child?" "She has an immense capacity for love and understanding and is extremely patient."

Of course, this sent us both into floods. I was -- and still am -- moved beyond measure.

Instead of the wonder and thrill of conception, morning sickness, sore boobs, stretch marks and ultrasound snapshots, I have trade offs. I have to look good on paper, I have no idea who this baby will be or when he or she will come, and I need to rely on so many other people to make this happen. I can't do it without them. And the most amazing thing of all is that they are there for me, wanting to pitch in, helping me bring a child into my world. Our world.

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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Breast of Show

"Why yes, Ranger, I do have my fishing license right here.
I've written really small so you'll have to come closer ...

I am a firm believer that books find the reader; it's rarely the other way around.

I would never, ever, in a million years, or 40 years, have purchased any kind of book on how not to look old. My vanity precludes me. I've figured I've got it all sorted out.

HOWEVER, this evening, shopping for a friend's birthday in a bookstore, I found myself in front of a tome called "How Not to Look Old: Fast and Effortless Ways to Look 10 Years Younger, 10 Pounds Lighter, 10 Times Better," by a smiling blonde named Charla Krupp. "I'll just flip through and see if I can pick up a tip. Probably not, but I'll see," I thought to myself.

As the pages rippled under my fingers, I stopped quite randomly toward the back of the book, in the "Learn to Love Shapewear" section. My eyes locked on a paragraph that read: "Don't feel bad if you need to up the cup. Once we hit forty, many of us need a bigger cup size."

Now I've been the same bra size since college, when I was hauling my 36C's around to cocktail waitressing and bartending gigs and banking on a little decolletage to go a long way. I've since moved to a career where I no longer dress like somone whose forgotten her pants but remembered to wear a big belt. And by this time I've gotten so good at eyeballing bras that I don't even need to try them on; I can tell at a glance if they will be lovlingly supportive or ghastly humiliating.

BUT. After a recent purchase, as I was modeling a new bra for my boyfriend, who is also lovingly supportive, he said something to the effect of "they look like they're trying to escape."

I laughed it off as male ignorance to the subtle physics of the push-up cup. But tonight, as I read the Gospel According to Charla, it all clicked. My unloading of all my front-button shirts. The great relief as I unhook myself out of bondage each afternoon when I get home from work. The way I always reach for the older, stretched out bras.

Fighting initial embarrassment and sliding the book between the items I'd chosen for my friend, I went to the counter with the same mortification a teen-aged boy might feel if he were buying Tampax for his mother.

Tonight I will read about lip-plumping gloss, tossing my black eyeliner, and trading in my old-man aviator shades for ones that are more chic and sexy.

And I will consider the D. I will not commit, but I will consider.

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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Thrift Store Haiku

One-dollar sweater
Oh look, some little holes. Dang
Guess I'll sew it up

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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Giving Cancer the Boot

If you recall about this time last year, I did the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in honor of my friend from work who died, Charlene McComas. Being how I am, I took this as a personal challenge and hit up everyone I know for a buck or two. My very, very generous friends -- you know who you are -- contributed a total of about $2,000.

So this year I hadn't thought about it too much. I ignored the invitation for the "Honor Roll" party sponsored by a vodka company, and didn't bother putting out feelers. I thought I'd let it slide. I thought I'd forget about it.

But dang it wouldn't you know that in today's mail arrived a Tyvek envelope from the Komen Foundation. Inside was a beautiful pink satin sash that reads in black letters, "Honor Roll 2008." And a note saying that they're sorry I missed the party but here you go.

And so.

So I'm thinking that I might just have to go at it again, in memory of all the people who have fought cancer, successfully and unsuccessfully, and in memory of my father, whose business it was to help them.

Anyone coming with me? It's September 27 in Orange County.

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