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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Lessons Learned

As 2009 draws to a close, I have been looking back at the good and the bad of this year. There was LOTS of bad in 2009. But I am choosing to focus on the good things I have learned.

I have realized that I:
am much stronger emotionally than I realized

enjoy writing now more than I ever did

am a better writer than I thought I was

am very grateful for the opportunity to co-author a book

yearn for a simpler life

have too much 'stuff'

am quite willing to take risks and leaps of faith, and more often than not, things will turn out OK

have a good sense of humor, which I use to help me cope with stress

am a positive person, not the negative soul I always thought I was

now understand the disconnect between the life I live and the life I want

really love outdoor and architectural photography

have been blessed with a body that has withstood the rigors of more than 30 years of running, and am looking forward to many more

have a vision of the life that awaits me once I retire and move to New Mexico

am learning to better support my daughter emotionally

have so much for which to be grateful

can actually lose weight

can relieve much of the pain of bursitis in my hips by stretching twice a day

I am looking forward to making some major life changes in 2010, and to continuing the changes I began in 2009. For 2010, I want to

move to New Mexico and start a new life with my daughter

run 600 miles

continue to care for and support my daughter

do more hiking and bicycling

get involved with OrphanBaby, a non-profit that helps children in Ukrainian orphanages by training caregivers and medical staff to better meet their emotional needs

volunteer with my daughter at a no-kill animal shelter

And there is one more thing, which will remain private.

I am looking forward to moving to New Mexico and getting settled in our new house. It will be stressful, certainly, but I am confident the benefits will far outweigh the stresses. I'm also looking forward to even more personal growth and discoveries about myself.

As the Russians say, "S Novym Godom!" (Happy New Year!)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Looking Back, Looking Forward

This has been a challenging, to say the least, yet rewarding year. My daughter has been through some extremely difficult times, which in turn wreaked havoc on me both physically and emotionally. That's the bad.

Now the good: This also has been a year of change and growth for both of us. We are gradually rebuilding our relationship, although much work remains to be done. I have seen many positive changes in my daughter, in her attitude, in her self-confidence, in her interest in arts and crafts, photography and reading, in her realization that taking care of her body with proper food and hydration makes her feel good. She is much more caring toward others, and able to better communicate and acknowledge her feelings and emotions in an open, positive way. She enjoys going to visit 'her' lady in a local nursing home, something she does regularly. She is learning how to give and to accept love.

I, too, have experienced growth and positive change this year. I have learned to take better care of myself. I have lost 8-10 pounds simply by reducing the amount of sugar and carbohydrates in my diet. I have rediscovered my love of writing and photography, talents that never went away but were ignored for too long. I realized how very much I enjoy words -- manipulating them to get just the right sense in a sentence, trying to find a better way of saying something to convey the right meaning and connotation, reading and savoring a particularly well-written sentence or paragraph. I now fully realize the pleasure I get from writing, especially while working on a book about my experiences as the mother of an adopted daughter. This has been an empowering and therapeutic experience. I also have learned to be a better mother to my daughter, who will turn 16 in a few days. Finally, after all the drama and trauma of this year, I am emerging a person with a greater sense of calm, a better sense of self, and a sense of where my life is headed.

We will visit our new house in New Mexico together (the first time my daughter will see it) over the Christmas holiday. We're going to paint her bedroom (her current thinking is that she wants to just 'splash' some contrasting paint onto the walls but leave them their current color) and paint the Pepto-Bismol pink guest room as well. More important than the work to be done, however, is the opportunity to spend time together. She mentioned once that working together to paint the room/s would be a good chance for us to bond.

From there, we will drive to Santa Fe, an amazing city any time of year, but it's supposed to be magical during Christmas. The lights, the farolitos (brown paper bags with sand in the bottom into which a lighted candle is set) and maybe a dusting of snow, should provide a beautiful setting for Christmas. We will walk Canyon Road on Christmas Eve, enjoying the farolitos displayed in rows along walkways and on top of adobe houses.

When my daughter asked recently what I want for Christmas, I could think of nothing material. I told her that I have all I want or need: her, our dogs, a secure job, my health, a new home in New Mexico, and the promise of a new life in the coming year. Work will continue on the book, I am exploring some new volunteer opportunities, and I have taken up 'active wishing' for some things that are on my private 'wish list.'

After a turbulent year, it seems that we are starting to enter calmer waters. The days and months ahead are full of promise. We both have learned valuable lessons and gained important insights into ourselves and each other. 2010 won't be perfect; no year ever is. But we can look forward to a year of continued growth and change, a deeper bond between us, new skills to deal with life's challenges, and a new life in a state with the most beautiful skies I have ever seen.

We wish you all a wonderful Christmas season, happy holidays, and a bright, fulfilling New Year full of love and dreams fulfilled.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Last summer, I was trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. Actually, my thoughts had turned to my post-retirement life, but I hadn’t given it a lot of thought. I was in a job that was secure, paid well and had good benefits, but it bored me to tears. There was nothing rewarding or challenging about it.

With my daughter away, I had time to really start to think about my future. Could I retire now or would I have to work a couple more years? Where did I want to live during retirement? What would be the best place for me and for my daughter? Could I start a small business with my photography and writing, or would it continue as a fun hobby? Would I remain alone the rest of my life, or was there room for a male companion at some point?

I spent a wonderful, relaxing week by myself in New Mexico, quietly celebrating my birthday, living according to my own schedule, hiking, taking photographs and just exploring. Some days I sat in the sun on the Santa Fe plaza, or in the beautiful Basilica Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi. I hiked in Bandelier National Monument and clambered up four 10' wooden ladders to reach an ancient puebloan kiva. I photographed flowers and wildlife at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.

One day, I realized how out of sync my life in Silicon Valley is with the ‘real’ me. I noticed that I was nearly always outside: hiking, walking around, dining on the patio, or just driving with the windows down, something I seldom do at home.

After I got home, I started reading a book about callings and how to live an authentic life. It had sat on my book shelf untouched for several years. One day, while working at my computer, I noticed the book. The timing seemed right to start reading. Although much of the book seemed rather abstract and philosophical, I continued to read every day. I knew that my life in Silicon Valley was not authentic. The rapid pace of life, the overcrowding and noise made it very clear that I was a person out of sync with her preferred reality. Spending my days inside an artificially lit room (in some cases with no window) and breathing artificially treated air was stifling me.

One Friday afternoon when I got home from work, I was blown away by how much energy I had. Obviously I was still hanging on to some of what I had learned from talking with my daughter’s therapist and while on vacation. I did laundry and hung it on the line to dry; I vacuumed the entire house. I wanted to go for a bike ride, but a leaking tire stopped that. So instead, I did the grocery shopping, then cleaned out a bookcase. When I finally went to bed, I decided to spend a few minutes reading my ‘callings’ book. Suddenly, the words on one page leaped out at me.

I had read previously that callings are not necessarily passions; they may in fact be things that we feel unprepared for or actually dislike. Then I read: “Expect that through the right lens, all our encounters will appear full of thunderbolts and instruction. Such encounters might include:

An offer to collaborate with someone on a project that draws you in an entirely new direction.

Some harrowing challenge is imposed on you.”

Suddenly I had a vision of my future – I would work to support and educate people about the challenges of raising adopted kids. The ‘offer to collaborate’ was my daughter’s therapist’s invitation to co-author a book with her. The ‘harrowing challenge’ was dealing with my daughter’s problems and what to do about them.

I started crying and wondering how to determine whether this would in fact be my future calling. Not photography, not writing, but working on behalf of other adoptive parents and their struggling kids. How would I know if this was real?

My first reaction was to try to put an action plan into place, to make the calling a reality. But now I am letting it unfold at its own pace. And it is unfolding.

Since then, I have written more than 125 pages of our book, which we believe will give hope to other parents struggling to understand and deal with their adopted kids' issues. I am being considered for a position on the board of directors of a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of children in Ukrainian orphanages by educating the physicians and caregivers responsible for their care. The therapist also said that she thought I would be a good person to run a group home for struggling adopted children and their parents, to provide respite and education for the parents, and a safe place for the children. As of now, this remains the therapist’s dream, but I was amazed at how these things surfaced in short order. I have been approached by a couple of people with questions about dealing with adopted kids' problems, and I offered what guidance and support I could. And of course, I have bought a new home in New Mexico.

I am relaxed about my future and I'm still letting it unfold on its own schedule. I have learned that trying to force something never works. If this calling is authentic, it will happen as it is meant to happen. I have taken the first step toward a more authentic life by buying a house in a state I love, one with incredible natural beauty, mountains, the bluest of skies and a fascinating architectural style. It offers wonderful photographic opportunities. I will continue working on the book, and who knows where that endeavor will lead?

My life this year has been full of challenges, but also opportunities. I am looking forward to the next chapter.