Monday, September 26, 2011

Return: to The White Stone

When I lived in New York City, I had the wonderful experience of attending Redeemer Presbyterian Church. Pastor Tim Keller spoke each Sunday in a way that engaged both my spirit and my mind. He is a true intellectual, and he never spoke to the lowest common denominator. Week after week, I left the church services feeling like both my soul and my intellect had been enriched by what I had learned from this teacher. Many consider him a modern-day C.S. Lewis, and indeed Lewis is one of his great influences.

Recently, Dr. Keller has been writing some very thoughtful and thought-provoking books. One of them is called The Reason for God. Brian is currently leading a weekly group that is meeting to discuss some of the ideas put forth in The Reason for God, and he's also blogging about it at The White Stone. If you're interested in reading some of his posts, he would love it!

To see Tim Keller talking about The Reason for God in an Authors@Google forum, you can watch this video:

Friday, September 23, 2011

Return: to College Theatre

I decided it might be fun to share some photos from different shows I've done through the years. This photo is from the first major production I was cast in at Baylor. I played air-headed maid "Peg" in William Congreve's The Way of the World.

It was an itty-bitty part in a great big play, but I had a ball and found a lot of joy in making this small part a larger than life, living, breathing character. The actress in the photo with me who played "Betty" is Allison Lamb. She is a very talented performer who does a lot of acting work in Charlotte, NC.

More acting photos to come!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Return: To Childhood!

Yesterday, my sister and I got together with our kids and took them on a carousel ride! I can't really remember the last time I went on a merry-go-round, but it was so much fun to relive the excitement and fun and wonder through the eyes of the kids!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Return: To Now (If that's even possible)

Yesterday, I had an audition for a holiday musical here in Houston. There were 40 actors there vying for 9 parts. Yikers!

As we all milled around waiting to sing and read for the director, I realized that with the exception of one other woman, I was the oldest female there! And even though that realization was a little unexpected, I was happy because I very content being one of the oldest of the bunch. It just felt good because I wasn't competing with the myriad of 20 somethings there for the "young" ingenue-type parts.

And it was nice, because I was very comfortable being right where I was, right when I was, at just the age I was.

In a culture that endlessly praises youth, it felt good to be happy in my 37 year old skin!  I got to read for a villainess character, which was super fun and wicked!

I don't know if I'll get cast, but as far as this post goes, that's not really the point.

I just wanted to say that it was rather sublime to feel fabulous "in the moment" of a situation that took me by surprise. The surprise being that there was absolutely no sense of longing to "go back" to an earlier, younger time. The wonder of the realization that "right now" is awesome!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Return: To Ethiopia

The title of this post might sound a bit misleading and more exciting than it actually is. No, we are not planning a return trip to Ethiopia anytime soon. Nor are we planning another adoption from Ethiopia.

This summer, on one of our many indoor walks at a local mall, my sons and I befriended a woman named Hadassah. She works at one of the kiosks in the mall selling products made from Dead Sea minerals. Walking by one day, she asked me if I was interested in her products. Normally, I would avoid eye contact, say "no thank you" and walk on, but I couldn't look away, because this woman looked so very Ethiopian to me. Having adopted my two sons from Ethiopia, I nearly always ask "Are you Ethiopian?" if I'm reasonably sure my hunch is right.

So that day, rather than cruise on by, I asked her if she was Ethiopian. "Well, I'm from there, too," was her response, "but I'm also from Israel."

I had heard about the mass exodus of Jews from Ethiopia in 1980, and Hadassah and her family left in a second wave of Ethiopian Jews in 1995.  So my interest was piqued when I heard about THIS DOCUMENTARY, called The Name My Mother Gave Me. If you click on the link I just provided, you can watch the hour-long documentary online about a group of college age Ethiopian-Israelis who made a pilgrimage back to the land where they were born. The name of the film has to do with the storyline of one of the characters who had dropped his given Ethiopian name and taken on an Israeli name once he relocated and was enculturated in Israel.

It was very moving (watch with Kleenex nearby!) to see these young men come to terms with what their lives would have been like had they stayed in Ethiopia. Some of them dealt with their feelings of connectedness to one culture more than the other. Some saw relatives and friends left behind in villages many years prior. All seemed to be changed for the better by their trip back to Ethiopia.

As an adoptive mom, it was fascinating for me to watch. Although my sons didn't leave their country for the same reasons, I imagine that they will be faced with some of the same feelings one day when we return to Ethiopia for them to connect with the place they were born.

I highly recommend taking an hour to watch this film, if only to have a glimpse into how a fairly recent even in world history has impacted a handful of Ethiopian-born young men.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Return: To Modesty, Please...

Note to the reader: If you don't want to see images of scantily clad women, don't read this post.

Yesterday, as I was mall-walking with my boys in the stroller (yes, we still had temps in the triple digits here this week!), Jeremy said "Yook, Mama!" I looked up to see what was catching his attention, and I saw this huge poster in front of us:

"Oh, no!", I thought. 

"What are you looking at?" I asked, hoping that there might be something else. 

"Elephant!", he answered. Waaaaaay in the distance, was this adorable lady at the Rainforest Cafe:

"Phew!", I thought to myself. "My innocent boy is still my innocent boy." 

It made me wonder, though, how hard it will be for me to raise young men who are respectful of women when society constantly bombards us with sexualized images of women just to sell products. As an experiment, I decided to take pictures during the rest of our mall walk of images that could be seen from outside of the stores we passed. 

Also in Guess' window was this gal sprawled out on a bed with mile-high cleavage:

And this image also was at the Guess store of three classy dames throwing themselves ever-so-sultrily at a lollipop sucking dude who could seemingly care less about them, even though he seems to be the center of their universe:

Next on our walk, we encountered these bigger than life floozies at Victoria's Secret. Their message? Wear these underthings and you'll be "Unforgettable" to your man:

Um, newsflash, Victoria! I don't need your little secret to be unforgettable to my man! Ain't that right, baby? ;)

As if Victoria weren't enough, Frederick came from Hollywood to flaunt this business in the face of every passerby:

All I can say is, "For reals, Freddy?" Nothing about that window display even makes me want to walk into the store.

Things got a little tamer when we came upon the Reebok store. Notice, though, the subtlety of this...

The man is wearing a tank top, but the ladies are working out in jog bras. Hey, Reebok, while I'm a big fan of holding my girls in place while I work out, I generally throw a shirt on top. Thanks!

A random novelty store had this lovely lady in the window:

Because we all know that the reason we wear a scarf is mainly to be a ta-ta cover.

Finally, we came upon a store called "Perfect Bodies" that sell...well, just read the sign.

I love that the web address at the bottom of the poster is for ""

All this to say...Yes, I absolutely will do everything I can to raise my sons to be respectful of all people, to have pure minds, and not to look on women as objects. I'd sure appreciate it if advertising and marketing teams across America would get on board!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Return: Something to Look Back On

Today, my baby is 17 months old! During his first year, I did a photo session with him every month. Since his first birthday, I haven't been doing them every month, but he looked so cute in the outfit he was wearing this morning, I couldn't resist! Here are some of my favorites!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Return to the '70s!

I have an audition this Saturday for a holiday musical that will have a 70s theme. For my audition song, I have to pick a pop, rock or disco song from that decade. I do believe that "I Love the Nightlife"!!!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Return to Friendship

This morning, I attended a moms' group at my church, and it was really fun! About 80 mothers of young children were there. After the big group time, we broke into smaller groups of about 10, and they asked us why we decided to join. I said my biggest reason was for friendships. I still feel new to my community, and making friends is so much harder when you're home with little ones most of the time. Several of the other moms said the same thing and agreed that motherhood can be isolating at times.

I'm just really excited about what the upcoming year will hold in terms of getting to know some of these women better. I actually already know a few of the women in my small group, and three of us had lunch together this afternoon, which was really nice!

I'm encouraged!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Return to September 11, 2001

I was in San Antonio getting ready to attend a funeral, ironically enough. Little did I know that our entire nation was on the verge of experiencing a grief unlike any we'd ever known before. As my Mom and I were getting ourselves ready for the day, we were watching Good Morning America when they reported an airplane crashing into one of the towers of the World Trade Center. An accident, I thought. But when the second plane crashed, I thought it must be an act of terrorism. Soon, more news of an airplane crashing into the Pentagon. And finally, news of an airplane that went down in a field in Pennsylvania.

I was worried we'd spend the entire day wondering which city would be next.

It didn't take long for the news agencies to announce that America was under attack.

I had moved back to Texas from New York City just two years before the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. I still had a lot of friends living there, and as I flipped through the rolodex in my brain of all my friends who might have worked in the twin towers, I couldn't think of any one. As it turned out, I had two friends who worked there. One of them was working in the New Jersey office that day, and my other friend had a doctor appointment that day, so she didn't go into work. Miracles worth counting on a day when so much was just so terrible.

Late in the day, it dawned on me that my former boss, "J", worked near the WTC, and I got all teary-eyed at the thought of the possibility that he might be gone. I called him for days and never heard anything back. Finally one day my phone rang and it was him...alive and well. Phone lines had been down in New York City, and it took him and his wife several days to get back to their rural home outside the city to get my message and call me back. He worked across the street from the WTC in the World Financial Center. He felt his building shake when the first plane hit. He went outside to see what was going on, and when he saw people jumping from the towers, he had to turn around and just walk away. He walked and walked all the way home (which was no short distance).

One of the strange feelings I had in the days following September 11th was the distinct feeling that I wanted to be back in New York. I wanted to be there to grieve with my former city. It took me two years, though, before I made it back to NYC, and I was there on the two year anniversary of September 11. I went with my friend to Ground Zero and saw people reading bios of those who perished in that very place two years before.

It was all so much to process. I walked to the nearest pay phone and called "J" at work. I got his voice mail. I just wanted to tell him that I was thinking of him because he was the person I was so worried about that day two years ago. As I began talking on his voicemail, I started to cry, and I was so embarrassed because I couldn't pull myself together. Finally, two years after the attacks on the WTC, I was grieving. Several months later, "J" called me and told me that he was out of the country when I called, but he wanted me to know that he so appreciated my message. I was so relieved because I thought maybe my tearful message was too much for him. He assured me that he didn't mind my tears at all. In fact, he said he saved the message and replayed it when he was having a bad day.

I call him every year on September 11th, just to tell him that I'm so glad he's my friend, and I'm so glad he's alive.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Return: To Bliss

The day we got engaged!

One of my favorite engagement pictures taken at Laguna Beach!

Our Wedding Day!

Happy Honeymooners!

By the way, today is 9-10-11. Just thought that was fun!

Friday, September 09, 2011

Return: The Opposite Of...

After returning home from the airport feeling blue, I flopped down on the bed and told Brian that I needed a hug. Goodbyes are so sad! As Brian gave me a big bear hug, I remarked that one of the best things about marriage is that it is a relationship that doesn't involve many goodbyes. Maybe for business trips here and there etc., but for the most part we just get to be together...and be together some more...for the rest of our lives! I'm thankful for that.

Life with my husband/best friend is good.

I love you, Brian!

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Return: To Spain

Today Rebeca is getting on a plane and flying back to Spain. We'll all miss her so much! We've so enjoyed having her as a part of our family for the past two months. I so appreciate what a huge help she's been with the boys, but mostly I have appreciated her friendship. If you hear someone crying over at our house today, it's me...I'll miss you, "Beca"!

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Return: And now back to this infomercial!

Have any of you seen the infomercial for The Genie Bra?

It's an "as seen on TV" thing, but you can also buy them at Bed, Bath and Beyond. Two come in a box for about $20.

Bought it. Like it. Recommend it.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Return: Volver

On Thursday, Rebeca (our summer nanny) will be returning to Spain to continue her university studies. What a fun summer we've had with her here! We took advantage of overcast skies and cooler temperatures today to do a photo shoot with her and the boys. Rebeca, thank you so much for all you've done for us this summer! You were wonderful with the boys and a great friend to me! We love you and will miss you so much!!!

Monday, September 05, 2011

Return: to 1977 and 2010

The top photo is of my mother in 1977. 
The bottom photo is of my sister in 2010.
Same age.
Not planned.
My mom saw the photo I took of my sister and said, 
"I think I have a photo like that of myself at her age!"
Exactly the same age!
The apple did not fall far from the tree,
and I'm glad.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Return: NASA--A Field Trip through the last 40 years

Rebeca and I went to Space Center Houston yesterday. During the various tours we did, we heard various presidential speeches that were made during the past 40 years of the space program. We also saw a short film that highlighted each of the space shuttle flights. It was full of such exuberance until that fateful day in the 1980s when the Challenger shuttle met its demise.

I remember exactly where I was when I heard about the sad news: in the cafeteria lunch line at my school. When I got home, I told my mom about how I heard the news that day, and she said that my generation will always talk about "where we were" with the Challenger the way her generation did with the Kennedy assassination. To some extent she was right, but sadly I think the bigger tragedy my generation will always remember is where they were on September 11, 2001 when they realized our nation was under attack.

As a mother of young children, I found myself thinking to the future and wondering what amazing accomplishments in space travel will happen during my children's lifetimes.  It also made me wonder what catastrophic event might be the "where were you when..." story for their generation. For better or for worse, it is almost certain that we will experience both the wonderful and the difficult, the amazing and the tragic during our lifetimes, both as individuals and as a collective human family. Both the good and the bad leave their mark, have the power to shape and change us.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Return: Feeling Good in my Skin

There were two times/seasons in life that I remember clearly feeling good about my body:

The first time was when I was an acting student in New York City. Living in NYC means not having a car and walking all over the place! The average New Yorker walks about five miles a day, so even when I wasn't hitting the gym, I was already getting a lot of exercise. Acting school included four days a week of dance class--ballet two days a week, and modern dance/yoga two days a week. Occasionally, I would work out at the gym, too. I remember going to buy a new pair of jeans and realizing that I had gone down a size. I felt pretty excited about that!

The second season of life was when I was a vegan (who ate meat/dairy once in a while). That period of life lasted about a year. My stepfather had been diagnosed with cancer, and the literature we read seemed to indicate that a vegan diet gives your body the best chance at fighting the disease. So in a move of solidarity, my mom and I committed to a vegan diet along with John. It was amazing: when I quit putting animal fat into my body, I lost a ton of 20ish pounds. It came off quickly, and I felt great! When I look back at photos of that time in my life, I love the way I trim!

I guess I'm reflecting back on these two times in my life because I'm not very comfortable in my skin today. I've gained about 20 pounds since I got married, and I'm probably about 30 pounds heavier than I was in my vegan days. It's a bummer, and I really don't know what to do about it.

What strikes me as I look back on those two seasons of life is that I was living lifestyles of consistency. In NYC, I was exercising regularly and eating 3 meals a day with virtually no snacking in between. In my vegan days, I was committed to eating a certain way and stuck with it! It's not rocket science, I know. I'm just trying to find the willpower inside to commit to a new routine, and I also want to figure out what that new routine will be. Finding a routine that works with my lifestyle of suburban wife/mom is my challenge. I'm hoping I can find within myself the ability to rise to it. Sometimes, I think I can, but other times I feel so weak.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Return: This Time Last Year

On this day last year, Brian and I were two days into parenthood. We were in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia falling in love with our sons! 

Two days earlier, on August 30, 2010, our sons were placed in our arms, and we were so full of joy! 

It's amazing that we've been together already for a year! This year, to celebrate one year together as a family, we had a cookie cake that said "Happy J & Z Day!"

We are so blessed to get to be parents to our wonderful sons!