Archive for April, 2014

The Happiness Project continued

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

A while back, I wrote about Gretchen Rubin’s book, “The Happiness Project.” As I recounted here, Gretchen’s first few chapters motivated me to clear psychological space in my life by de-cluttering and organizing the physical space around me—i.e., our home.

The task was harder than it appeared because since the year 2002, my life has felt a little out of control. My husband and I got married, and a few months later, the roller coaster ride began: The paper chase of adopting our daughter, my moving to Antigua to expedite the process, our daughter adjusting to living with us in California, adopting our son, my starting to write about our experiences, my husband authoring two text books and traveling for his job, our searching for and finding our children’s birth moms. Navigating schools, going to Heritage Camp, trying to learn Spanish, maintaining family connections in Guatemala. Plus all the ancillary activities associated with rearing two wonderful children with their own individual needs.

The next thing I knew, a decade had passed, and our rooms in the basement–including my office—were filled with so much stuff you couldn’t take a step without tripping over a suitcase, mound of papers, or woven basket or textile.


With Gretchen’s book in hand, I vowed to tackle the  de-cluttering task, one pile at a time. Months followed in which I schlepped bags of outgrown clothes, shoes, and toys to the Salvation Army and Goodwill; carried cartons of books to our local library; and hauled down duffel bags of gently used items to orphanages in Guatemala. At last I could close my closet. The surface of my desk reappeared.

But one area remained untouched. The photographs. Envelopes and folders and bins of them. Could I make order of that chaos?

Then a friend on Facebook suggested I begin with today—the most recent event—and organize those photos first. Work backwards, she said. Start with now.

This was excellent advice, and I recommend it to anyone daunted by their own surplus of pictures. Using a web-based program, I assembled photo books of our trips to North Carolina and Virginia and Boston and Maine, and will begin another of our family sojourn this month to New York City.

Side note: Thankfully, I’ve consistently created albums of visits with our kids’ birth families. Each year we return to Guatemala, I present photos from our previous year’s visit to our Guatemalan family, a lovely way to reconnect and document our history together.

But before I let myself off the hook completely, I must admit to a major shortcoming: School pictures. During the years our kids have been in school, I have framed not a single image. Not the impossibly cute pix from preschool, or the portraits with impish smiles revealing missing teeth.

So last weekend, when my husband was away on a business trip, and the kids slept late, I rooted through the photos and excavated the distinctive school picture packages. Triumphantly, I returned upstairs, spread my loot on the dining room table, and woke up the kids.

“Here’s today’s project,” I said. “We organize these pictures.”

“Where did you get these?” they exclaimed. “I can’t believe how young we look!”

And that, friends, was our weekend. After breakfast, we drove to Ikea, where we purchased two cases of simple and inexpensive black wooden frames. Following a hearty lunch, we embarked on an afternoon session of matting and framing. By nightfall, the portraits sat in a long row on our dining room table, and we stood and admired the changes in Olivia and Mateo. How beautiful and handsome they have become. How strong and healthy.

Gretchen Rubin was right. I do feel happier.


Final at last

Monday, April 28th, 2014

Seven years. Seven years! Congratulations to Suann Hibbs of Edina, Minnesota, for staying the course and finalizing the adoptions of her 8-year-old twins and their 7-year-old sister. The girls lived in five different orphanages and don’t yet speak English. As you know, adoptions between the US and Guatemala closed in December 2007, leaving hundreds of cases stranded in process. Adoption between the two countries remain closed, and likely will for the foreseeable future.

Here’s my plea to friends from that part of the country: Please reach out to Suann Hibbs! I bet she would welcome support from fellow adoptive parents, and her girls would love to meet other Guatemalan children who have lived here longer. No one understands the road Suann and her girls will be traveling as much as the families and children who have been there. We gain strength from each other. Again, congratulations!

Watch the news coverage here.


On the radio and A to Z

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

I’ve written a few essays lately, which feels great after many months of writing no essays. One appears in the Mamas Write anthology, of which I am very proud and which is available now on Amazon, and another on the “Write On Mamas” website, for an A to Z blog challenge, titled “Q is for Quiet.”

The first paragraph of my Q contribution reads:

In the days when my parents were telling stories, before their memories of the past began to disappear, my father liked to say that every night when he and my mom put me to bed and closed the door, I was talking. The next morning, when they returned to wake me up, they opened the door to find me still talking. For all they knew, according to Dad, I’d been moving my mouth for a solid ten hours. I was the third of five children, born to two verbal parents skilled at spinning yarns, and sandwiched among siblings who learned from the masters. To be heard in that crowd, I needed to yammer and jaw: “Listen to me! Over here! I, too, have something to say!”

You can read the rest here.

In addition, I wrote a piece that aired on our local NPR affiliate, KQED, ”Sugar High,” about my failed attempts this Lent to give up sugar. The idea came to me one Friday night at a weekly soup supper our church hosts during Lent’s 40 days, when all I kept thinking about was the possibility of someone serving a rogue dessert. Rarely, if ever, has an essay come to me with so little effort.

I’m hoping to stay inspired. De-cluttering was the first step. Just getting rid of stuff cleared space not only in our house but also as in my mind. It’s a start.



Two upcoming events

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

I will be reading at Listen to Your Mother on Saturday, May 3 at 7 PM. The location is the wonderful Brava Theater in San Francisco’s Mission district. You can buy tickets here. This is a very fun event. Please join us!


My writing group, the Write On Mamas, is hosting a series of launches for our new anthology, Mamas Write. I will be reading with the group at Book Passage in Corte Madera on Sunday, May 4 at 7 PM. Admission is free and refreshments will be served. It would be lovely to see you there! ~


Judge suspended in Guatemala

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

Judge Jassmin Barrios, who presided for 18 years in Guatemala, in cases that include the murders of Bishop Juan Gerardi and Myrna Mack, the Dos Erres massacre, and the mystery of Rodrigo Rosenberg, is suspended for a year for her role in the Efrain Rios Montt trial. An interview with Judge Barrios, translated into English, can be read here on Upside Down World.


“Mamas Write” Anthology

Monday, April 7th, 2014

I belong to a writing group called the Write On Mamas, and we have self-published our first anthology, titled Mamas Write. The essay I contributed, “The Mother in the Square,” is set in Antigua, Guatemala.

This article in the North Bay Bohemian, about the group and anthology, features a beautiful piece of writing by my friend and fellow adoptive mom to a son from Guatemala, Teri Stevens. Read through to the end of the article for Teri’s very moving piece, “There Was a Before.”

Mamas Write is now available in England, apparently, on Amazon, and soon at bookstores and on Amazon in the US. Exciting!