• Elle's World
  • Adventures in shopping

    Now I can’t fly all the way to Russia and not do a little souvenir shopping. Although I’ve been here 3 times before there are things I still would like to have. However, Derek did tell me he didn’t think a samovar would fit into my suitcase. I’m pretty sure he’s right, but if there had been one for me to purchase this afternoon I certainly would have weighed my options. True to form I did manage to purchase at least one breakable item.

    This morning Galina collected me at 11:00. She had hired her friend, Sergei, to be our driver for the day. Sergei was such a good sport. We often wandered off and Galina had to call him to find us. At one point we wandered about 6 cars away from his and she called him. Sergei stood outside of the car and waved to us. We felt silly. Did I mention that my companion on this trip is a 73 year old woman who grew up in the Soviet Union? This isn’t to say she is anything less than a complete blessing in my life. She is getting old and she even says, “I’m tired.” This woman will not stop. She may not be as spry as she was 20 years ago when I first met her, but she is still Galina.

    I asked her if she would take me to the Central Market. While traveling there are two things I like to do. One is to visit churches and the other is to visit grocery stores. I know it sounds strange, but you can tell a lot about people and a culture by visiting where they buy their food. Also, I’m a snooty foodie. We wandered through the central market and Galina pointed out things that she likes and tells me, “this is too expensive.” In a nutshell there wasn’t much to purchase there because she felt it was all too expensive.

    I think the most fascinating part about the Central Market are the butcher counters. Each morning the butchers bring in their haul and the meat has been butchered that morning. The inspector comes and stamps the meat so you know it is fresh. Galina tells me you would never buy meat from a vendor without the stamp. The butcher counters are unlike anything you would ever see in the US. The vendors lay out their cuts of meat directly on a tiled counter. They are not in a cold case. They are not wrapped in cellophane. They are cuts of meat on the counter. The ladies sell the meat and if you look behind them you’ll see racks with sides of pork and beef hanging there. Next to the rack is a man with a giant stump and a massive axe that he butchers the meat with. In the first photo you can see the racks and the man standing next to them. I couldn’t get a very good photo because Russians really don’t like their photo being taken. I wanted to be respectful. Oh, and sorry if you’re squeemish.

    We wandered through the stalls outside in search of a particular type of children’s shoes. They are called Nanai shoes and are a type worn by the indigenous people here. I wanted to find a pair for my nephew, but sadly Nanai shoes are very hard to come by anymore. We found one pair, but they were not well made and too expensive. We headed off for more shopping.

    Galina took me to a small shop across the street from the “blue” church. They had a small counter with your traditional Russian souvenirs. I picked up things for the children and a few friends as well as a few things for myself. This is where my breakable item came from. I have a thing for tea pots. I splurged on a little authentic porcelain Russian teapot. I have one already, but this one is a little bigger and actually of a useful size. Russian porcelain is one thing that I could buy on every trip here if I had my choice. I have matroyskas, laquerware, a kitchen talisman, scarfs, weavings, birch pieces. They are all very similar no matter when you go. However with the porcelain, there are so many different pieces you can purchase.

    We had a small lunch and great conversation. We talked about our families, life and even a little about politics. It was interesting to hear stories about the economy in Russia. Americans think their economic and employment problems are unique to them. I assure you, they are not. Russians have the same problems, or rather the same mindset.

    We continued our journey out to the “gold” church. I was on the hunt for a special gift for my sister-in-laws. The scale of this church simply amazes me. I’ve been to St. Basil’s in Moscow and The church of St. John the Divine in Harlem, but this place is a whole new level of amazing. All of the buildings are finally finished. The seminary was not complete when we were here last. While I was inside God and I had a few words. I think we are coming to an understanding.

    Church of the Transfiguration

    We went on a few other errands and stopped by another church. It is the oldest in Khabarovsk and the only one not destroyed in the revolution. Galina tells me that during the Soviet Union attending church was not permitted, but she and a group of her friends still met at this church. There were very few people in that time who defied the system, but now there are many who attend church.

    Our last stop of the day was another grocery. This place is a stark contrast to photos I saw 20 years ago. I remember sitting at a luncheon with my mother-in-law listening to her friend, Bobbi’s stories of her first trip to Khabarovsk. She showed photos of the grocery that had many barren shelves and if there was food it would be an 8′ section of pickles… all one brand. Today we went into a grocery that was much larger than many groceries in the US. It was very crowded and the prices were very reasonable. It had the most random things. It reminded me slightly of a Russian Fred Meyer (you have to be from the Northwest to get that reference). However, the non-foodstuffs area was much smaller. It had sections for housewares, gardening, automotive and sporting goods. The sporting good section was full of ice skates. Pick up your hamburger and while you’re at it grab a pair of hockey skates and stick while you’re at it.

    I wanted a specific kind of chocolate that I absolutely love and can only get in Russia (the don’t have it at our Russian market). While we were in the chocolate section (oh yes, there’s a whole aisle) Galina showed me a package of chocolate that had individually wrapped squares. She was trying to slyly open a package to show me and I told her not to do it. We joked that we’d get arrested and for the rest of the week everyone would be wondering why we didn’t show up. We’d be sitting in prison.

    Of course no shopping trip in Russia is complete without copious amounts of vodka. No. We didn’t drink any. In fact I’m remarkably sober on this trip. I was required to purchase some for certain members of my family and my organization. I counted the number of bottles I needed and Galina looked at me in shock. Yes that many. A .25L bottle was $2.50 and a .5L bottle was $7.50. Galina kept telling me to buy the smaller bottles because they were less expensive. I had to explain to her that that same .5L bottle in the US would run us $20. In the end I did go with smaller bottles only because of weight. I don’t have extra money to pay for overweight luggage.

    All in all I had a good day shopping. I was able to relax and enjoy myself. My stomach settled a bit and my head cleared. I’m less anxious about the days ahead and the journey home. I have a very clear picture of why I came here and the work that needs to be done. I am thankful to everyone who has supported this trip. While I may have spent the day shopping and having fun I still had the work of Sweet Hope on my mind.

    Tomorrow it is back to work. We are going to visit the KSIL company and in the afternoon meet with our friend Evelina.

  • Elle's World
  • My experience at Khor Village

    There are very few things in life that compare to the emotional journey of international adoption. I am sure everyone has something in their lives that has effected them so profoundly that it is truly life changing. It just happens to be that spending time in a Russian orphanage during the process to become a parent was mine. I distinctly remember walking up and down the hall with Oleg and a little group of children walked by and they all started calling out, “Mama! Mama!” as they saw me. How can that not change you?

    Many people asked me if the reason I was coming to Russia was for another adoption. It is not. I would love the opportunity to adopt again, but Russia is not the country for us the second time around. Just as I knew in my heart that my first child was in Russia, I know that my second child (if he or she is out there) is not here. It made it only slightly easier to walk into a shelter full of orphaned children. It still was not easy.

    We started our journey at about 10:00 a.m. Galina arrived to pick me up at the hotel and with her was another Galina (the president of the Slavyanka Women’s Society) and Irina, a local journalist and my Galina’s best friend. I needed to exchange money first so we headed to a bank. The first bank was closed so we found another. The second bank was open and I gave them my passport and the cash I wanted to exchange. it was taking forever and Galina came back into the booth (in Russia the banks have little booths you do your transactions in). The teller explained to her that she could not find my country in her computer system. I knew the Republicans were pissed about the election, but I didn’t know they set out to wipe out the whole country. I didn’t need a receipt so she exchanged my money and we were on our way.

    It is about an hour and 30 minute drive to Khor. Galina explained that Khor is not really a village, but it is not really a city either. She could not think of the exact word in English. Also, I should mention that the true letter for translation for the town is Hor (in Russian it is written Xop). The X in Russian makes a Kh (a hard h) sound and on google earth it is spelled Khor.

    When we arrived we found the director’s office and set down our things. The facility is laid out exactly like Oleg’s baby home. I flood of memories came rushing back. The facility is well taken care of and many of the rooms and areas have brand new energy efficient windows. They told me they spend a good deal of the money they receive from the government on the upkeep of the building.

    We were shown around every nook and cranny of the facility. There is a sewing room where the older children are taught how to tailor and make clothing. They take great pride in the work they do. We visited the music room where they have a room full of costumes they use for holidays and such. Of course they made me play dress up and took photos of me.

    At the end of a hall was the large lunch room. We happened to be there during lunch time. We walked into the room and all of the children were seated having their lunches. I was introduced as a friend from America and in unison all of the children said, “Zdrast-veets-yah!” It was utterly heart melting. I could have stayed in there and interacted with the children for hours. I wanted to photograph each and every one of them so no one felt left out. I wanted to talk to the older ones and ask them about their hopes and dreams. I wanted to hug each and every one and tell them that things may suck with their parents, but there was someone in the world who loved them and cared about them. It breaks my heart. No child should be put in the situation they are in.

    The Khor facility is quite unique. They are a temporary shelter for the children. There are 76 children between 2 facilities. There are 52 in the main facility and 24 in another. The children all live here for a short period of time. Sometimes it is as little as 3 months. Typically the children return home when conditions improve. Over the course of a year the facility will care for roughly 300 children. There are lawyers, social workers, psychologists, and doctors all working to not only improve the lives of the children, but to help the families through whatever situations put them in the path of the facility.

    Many of the children are in Khor because they have been removed by the government due to alcoholism in the home. The staff at Khor will care for the child during their stay, but they will also seek rehabilitation help for the parents. They work with the parents to get sober and to teach them what it takes to be a good parent. Many times this works, but occasionally a child will return to Khor and they start the process all over again.

    I am the child of an alcoholic parent. I know first hand what this disease does to a child. I experienced it. I’ve watched my brothers and sisters struggle through it. It is not something I wish for any child. Ever. The staff at Khor genuinely care for the children here. They make the money they receive from the government go very far. However, there is one very important piece of the puzzle missing. The piece is play.

        There is artwork everywhere in this facility. Artwork by the staff, by the children, everyone. What is missing are toys. There are empty shelves. There is a large play yard with very little to play with. There is very little joy here. I asked the vice-director what they needed most. A play structure. Over and over again, a play structure. It is a very large piece of the puzzle that will greatly improve the lives of the children who pass through the doors of Khor.

    In years past we have given children Christmas. We have given them birthdays. As we move into the season of giving I’m asking you to look deep inside of your heart and to please consider giving to Sweet Hope. This year you will be helping to give a childhood to nearly 300 children who need nothing more than for one moment to be a child.

  • Elle's World
  • Good news! Today you have heat and hot water!

    Those who have been to Russia know two things: 1) it’s damn hot inside in the Winter and 2) hot water is a maybe 50/50… no maybe 70/30. Today I get both! Lucky me.

    I survived the flight from Beijing to Khabarovsk. Once off the flight we were herded onto the meat locker bus to drive the 50 yards to the terminal. Having been to Khabarovsk before, I knew how the routine of passport control worked and filled out my immigration form, got into yet another queue and waited my turn. I was the very last person to exit passport control. Why? Because they had never seen a multi-entry visa here before. It took 5 duty officers to sort it out with one of them taking my passport and walking away. Then he brings it back, sets it on the counter and smiles and says, “No problem.” 10 minutes later. For a moment there I thought they were going to tell me they had good news and that there was a flight to take me back to China waiting for me.

    I exited passport control and found my dear friend Galina. I was so happy to see her. It has been since April 2006 since I saw her last. This woman is very important to the work of Sweet Hope.

    We made our way to the hotel, which is right down the street from the train station. It is in a part of town I’ve not been to before, but I know where I am. The hotel is nice and there is a little cafe here. We found my room and it is certainly cozy. Cozy meaning… well, just plain tiny. We walked in the door and Galina said, “Oh, it’s tiny.” It doesn’t matter to me. I have a bed a toilet and a shower. It’s quiet and the bed isn’t too uncomfortable.

    I took a short nap to ward off too terrible of a case of jet lag and got up and went for a brisk walk. By brisk I mean it’s cold here. And windy. Galina had told me there was a grocery on the first floor of the train station. I made my way there to find a building with the word “Supermarket” on it (in Russian of course). I say, the best thing I ever did was learn the Russian alphabet. I went into this “Supermarket” and it was not what I was looking for. Finally, I found a store that said, “Produce.” Ah-Ha!

    If you’ll recall two years ago I changed my eating habits when we came to the conclusion that I likely have celiac disease. This is my first trip abroad since that time. Most of the food I know in Russia is some form of wheat based thing. I know there are non-wheat foods out there, but the language barrier is one that is difficult to get over when I’m alone, don’t really speak the language and while I know the alphabet, I can’t read everything. Therefore I’m throwing caution to the wind and my diet out the window. Luckily Derek found me a pill form of an enzyme that seems to be helping.

    At the grocery I picked up a round of bread, a noodle bowl, some butter, a bar of chocolate, apple juice and water. I also grabbed a bar of soap since the hotel provided soap is tiny (just like my room). All of it came to 237 RUB (about $7.25). While I was at the market I also priced out bottles of vodka. The price has gone up a bit. Roughly $6 for a bottle a little smaller than a 5th.

    Tomorrow we are going out to Khor Village. Galina tells me that Tatiana (the director) is on holiday, but Irina (the vice-director) will meet us there to show us around and talk to us. She says it’s about an hour and a half drive to the village. I’m terribly nervous, but excited too. I do hope she will take the time to show us around. Galina tells me this a good place.

    Now if you’ll pardon me, I’m going to do what I can to force myself to stay awake until at least 8:00. It’s 5:30 at the moment.

    Oh hey! Before I forget. Did you buy candy yet. Nope you didn’t. How do I know? Because we’ve only gotten 2 orders all week long. You can do better than that.

  • Elle's World
  • The first leg of the journey

    You know how you get super nervous about something, but you know if you let your guard down you are going to totally lose your shit and never get it back? Yeah, this trip is like that. On our way to the airport on Wednesday I expressed this concern to Derek. He told me I’d have a good time and forget all about it once I got going.

    Up until the 2nd hour of my first flight, which was 11 hours by the way, I was having a great time. I was going to watch one of my favoite movies, have my dinner and drift off into a medically induced sleep to slumber away the duration of the flight.

    I’ve made the trans-Pacific flight 7 times. I know it sucks. I hate it and it’s my least favorite part about going to Asia. Ok, maybe not being able to read anything may be more difficult and make my brain hurt more in the end, but an 11-14 hour flight is no walk in the park.

    So sleep. That was my plan. My body had other plans. I took my sleeping aid (which I’ve taken before) and within about 30 minutes something was not going right. I got up to use the bathroom and before I could really get all the way inside I projectile vomited all over the wall in the lavatory. Not a shining moment in my adulthood. I then proceeded to vomit up the wonderful airline food that was left.

    What occurred after that was a bit of a blur. I remember coming out of the bathroom and telling the other people they don’t want to go in there. I then had to tell the flight attendant what happened. I must not have looked good because they swarmed me, had me sit down on the floor near the rear galley and gave me blankets. They had set me by the rear emergency exit door and it was fricken freezing. All I can remember are people in my face asking what is wrong, what do I need, then asking if there was a doctor or nurse on the plane. A man was taking my pulse, a nurse was taking my blood pressure, a flight attendant was giving me oxygen, it was chaos. I was just asking them if I could lay down. It would be fine if I could lay down.

    I shivered on the floor of the galley for at least 6 hours. I must have slept off and on because it didn’t’ seem like that long. I just remember it being so. damn. cold. Eventually I asked for another blanket (I think I had 5 all together with one wrapped around my head). One of the flight attendants gave me a large bottle of Evian that she had heated up. I cuddled my hot water bottle. I must have slept for another hour.

    When I finally woke up and was able to sit up the flight attendant asked me if I wanted a banana to eat. I had just thrown up all of my food and only had a bowl of fruity pebbles and a piece of peanut butter toast that day. I ate the banana then finally returned to my seat. I tried to go back to sleep, but that banana had other ideas. Back to the bathroom with me.

    I’ve thrown up on an airplane before. I was alone that time too. There is nothing worse than throwing up on the airplane. Needless to say I was feeling a little crappy. Somehow I managed to get myself through security in Tokyo and found my gate. I tried to call Derek, but it was 12:30 in the morning at home and of course he had the sound turned off on all of the devices in the house. Luckily my wonderful friend Camille had a fussy baby so she was up and I chatted with her on Facebook. I needed someone to talk to.

    If throwing up on the airplane wasn’t bad enough, I wasn’t done traveling. I was only 1/2 way through the journey. I had an hour and 45 minute layover in Tokyo, a 3 hour flight to Beijing, a 4 hour layover in Beijing and as I write this I’m currently on yet another airplane (2 1/2 hours) to Khabarovsk. I’m almost there.

    I endured a very smelly Chinese guy for 3 hours. When I got to China I had to go through passport control, but I don’t have a valid Chinese Visa. Mine expired May 2011. I was in a panic that they wouldn’t let me transfer to the other terminal without a visa. Fortunately you stand in a queue for immigration and they stamp your passport with a ‘transfer visa.’ I then had to collect my bag, find my way to the terminal 3 shuttle, take the shuttle, find the ticketing counter, stand in a queue to re-check in with the Russian airline, stand in a queue to check my boarding pass, stand in a queue for immigration control again, then proceed to yet another queue for x-ray and security, where they were patting down every last passenger and making you take out not only your laptop, but your camera too (of which mine was at the bottom of my bag).

    By this point I was nearly in tears. I was hungry, exhausted and felt like complete hammered dog shit. But I did it. I found my gate, laid down and took a 40 minute power nap. It’s amazing how just a little bit of sleep can make you feel better.

    So here I am on the airplane. It’s cramped and the chick next to me is laying down taking up 2 seats and I really want to say NYET sister, I’ve been traveling for over 24 hours just let me lay the hell down, but I had tea with dinner and I’m wide awake now.

    I’m going to make it. This trip is going to be great. I’m very proud of myself for not totally losing my shit.

  • Elle's World
  • How to get a free piano

    When your husband says, “If {*insert child’s name here*} likes piano lessons we should look at getting a piano.” most normal people would say “yes dear.” Especially if you live in a 1400 square foot house that includes 3 humans, 3 cats and a very busy dog. So when a friend mentions that her parents are trying to unload giving away a free piano and you find yourself calling DIBS! It may or may not end up well.

    I found myself in this situation on Friday.

    My friend Teresa said her parents had a free piano they were giving away all you had to do was haul it away. My first questions were what kind is it and what’s wrong with it. Because honestly… who gives away a perfectly decent piano? Her response was it’s an upright and it probably needs to be tuned. I can manage tuning. It isn’t horribly expensive to have a piano tuned. Having a sound board replaced or repaired (as is the case with my Father-in-law’s piano) is very expensive.

    Someone else beat me to the punch and said she’d take it. I expressed my displeasure. I should also mention that my husband was in Montana as I was attempting to commit us to a free piano (that he would have to move). Teresa asked if I still wanted it if the other person didn’t. Um hell yes!

    Husband comes home, I inform him that we’re getting a free piano, he recruits a bunch of friends, borrows the shop truck and arranges to get the piano Sunday morning. Our conversations revolve around not being sure if a) it will fit through the door between the living room and the family room (thus requiring them to carry the piano through the backyard or empty the entire garage to go that way) and b) the size of it. My wonderful husband says, “the only problem I can see is if it’s an upright grand.” We had circa 1970 console piano in mind.

    Derek heads off to meet his friends at the piano owner’s house, walks in the door and takes one look at the new to us instrument.

    *sigh* It’s an upright grand. Joel looks at the piano, looks at Derek and proclaims, “HOORAY! It’s an upright grand!”

    Not only is it an upright grand, it’s circa 1890. It’s also a Julius Bauer. The J. Bauer Piano Company constructed the soundboard out of solid wood. So is the cabinet. The thing weighs close to 900 pounds. 7 guys at the original owner’s house and 6 guys at our house, a truck without a lift gate and a door that is 1/4″ larger than the widest part of the piano…


    Despite being 130 years old this piano is in extremely good condition. It’s mostly in tune. It will need a minor tuning after it sits for a while. We’ll have it appraised. It was last appraised in 1992 and it was valued at $900. The amazing part is that this instrument was destined for a landfill. Tim, the owner, told Derek that if we didn’t take it he was just going to get rid of it. Derek and I firmly believe that an instrument of this significance should never be thrown away. Even if we never play it we saved it from an ugly death.

    I’m thrilled with my new acquisition. The boy is going to start piano lessons after the first of the year. Hell, I might even try to learn to play again.

  • Elle's World
  • Dusting off this here blog

    Since I’m going to be taking a very big and important trip I thought I’d dust off this here blog to share with you a little bit about my travels. I’m going to keep official Sweet Hope business on the Sweet Hope website or Facebook page and all the rest of the stories here. You can’t travel to Far East Russia and NOT have stories. Besides, I’m going by myself and won’t have anyone to talk to and I might have free time. So before I go any further about the trip let me catch you up… bullet style… on what has been going on for the past (hold on let me look) wow! 8 months.

    April: nothing much happened here.
    May: Mother’s Day, busy at work. Enough said.
    June: My sister-in-law FINALLY completed the adoption of my wonderful, adorable nephew. I turned another year older.
    July: We took our only family vacation to Eastern Washington. We were awesome parents and totally forgot the boy’s bag at home. This meant we had to go to the next town (an hour away) to purchase new clothes for him. However we did get to see the Grand Coulee Dam on the way back and if you ever visit Washington State and have the opportunity to visit the dam I highly encourage it. The children even thought it was cool (we took the boy’s best friend with us on the trip).
    August: Nothing much here either. We celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary.
    September: Back to school. I am now the parent to a 2nd grader.
    October: Rain and Halloween.

    Now you’re caught up. See this is why I didn’t write anything. I didn’t get puked on. I only had a few fights with my child. I didn’t have any major home improvement nightmares, I didn’t go anywhere. I worked. That is all.

  • Elle's World
  • A shift in focus

    Maybe it’s the sunshine that’s finally making an appearance or the severe boredom that I’ve endured the past 4 weeks, but something’s go to give. I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with this blog. Why do I keep writing it? Is it for me, is it for the few readers I have left?

    There isn’t much going on in our lives that warrants sharing. Yes, I had surgery. It has improved my life. I think more than anything I’m ready to start living my life.

    I realized something before and after the surgery. Before hand I spent time preparing by reading an online forum for hysterectomy support. It was helpful to read success stories and advice from women who’d been there done that. I did the same thing while we were adopting Oleg (to a point of obsession with that one). Afterwards I participated less. I also noticed one thing… forums are full of people with bad experiences. I know now that is a big fat duh.

    People spend so much time trying to find other people who have also had bad experiences. They have this need to connect with others. I’ve even noticed that with some blogs. Some of the writers I followed through their adoptions journeys continue to write because they continue to have issues after their children have come home. There are some that have moved through the trials and have moved on to full on mommyblogger status. In any case that leaves me in an awkward place.

    What is this blog? Why do I write it? Who are my readers? I won’t say that we don’t have our issues here. We do. Oh we do buddy. They aren’t issues we want to air publicly. I don’t want to offend anyone and some of them cross my line of share and don’t share. That leaves me in the mommyblogger category.

    I know my few readers like hearing my stories or seeing how big the child is getting. I’m not saying that this is the end of Life of Elle. I can’t give it up. Besides, I blatantly exploit this blog to force you to buy candy once a year. However, I’m going to focus on a different project I’ve been working on for nearly 4 years now.

    I write a gardening blog. Did you know that? I bet you didn’t. Well I do. It’s called Sprouting Off. I really enjoy it too. I’m going to try to focus on that blog in the immediate future. (Secretly I’m hoping to become famous from a blog like Pioneer Woman did.) Just kidding… no really I could totally have a show on HGTV. So please become a reader of that blog. I promise to make you a better gardener.

  • Elle's World
  • I am not superwoman, I love my couch

    Earlier this week I was feeling great. I had more energy, I felt like I could do so much. Sunday I asked Derek to help me do a little weeding in the garden. Monday I figured that since I did some yard work on Sunday I could manage a little bit on my own. I was sure to limit the size of bucket I would fill. Usually I fill a 15 gallon bucket and empty it into the yard waste bin. This time I only filled a 2 gallon bucket at a time. I had to get up more often, but my theory was that then I wouldn’t sit hunched over for too long.

    I am aware that this wasn’t the brightest idea. I’ve done dumber.

    I mentioned to Derek how good I was feeling. I told him I wanted to go into the shop. He said if I was feeling up to it he wasn’t going to say no. This meant I had to drive myself there. I haven’t driven a car in 3 weeks.

    Yesterday I woke up feeling good. I thought I might try going into work to see how I felt. I’m slightly worried about not working for 6 weeks and then being thrown into the busy Spring season and having absolutely no stamina. My thought was to slowly work myself up to working at least 1/2 days when I get back.

    I ran by the fabric store to grab a few skeins of yarn that I needed and then headed to the shop. I told Travis that the only stipulations were that he couldn’t leave me by myself and I couldn’t lift over 10 pounds. I also didn’t know how long I would be able to stay.

    I made it an hour and a half. I didn’t do much. I helped a customer, answered the phone and took care of some chicken stuff.

    I spent the rest of the day on the couch. I am very aware that trying to go to work 3 weeks after major abdominal surgery was a colossally stupid idea. I won’t try it again.

    My new mantra is “I am not superwoman. I love my couch.”

  • Elle's World
  • We did it!

    Eight years ago I was researching grant opportunities for families wanting to adopt a child. I found a website that had a long list of charitable foundations that offered such grants. It is what propelled us into the realm of international adoption. I thought that with saving, hard work, a little fundraising and the possibility of some grants that international adoption would be feasible. Armed with that information I told Derek of my idea.

    It took convincing, but he agreed and we journeyed down that path. As we went along that list of potential grants got shorter and shorter. We didn’t live in the right state. We weren’t adopting from the right country or with the right agency. We weren’t willing to write a “salvation statement.” Jesus died for our sins. Isn’t that salvation enough? “By grace you have been saved by faith.” A statement as simple as that wasn’t going to fly with the ultra conservative set.

    I was discouraged. I wanted a child. Money stood in my way. I vowed that once I had my child home I would do something to make a difference. I would help those families where money stood in their way too. I would do it without prejudice.

    I started making candy. I sold the candy to anyone who would buy it. I expanded the scope of my giving. Not only did I give to families (we’ve helped 3 children come home so far) I gave to the children. The children left behind who may never find a forever family. I sacrificed my time, my life for these children and families.

    A few years ago I roped some friends in to helping. I twisted their arms and asked them to serve on a board of directors. I promised that it wouldn’t be all boring meetings. I would provide the occasional yummy snack and they could drink Derek’s scotch. They agreed.

    I found a lawyer willing to provide legal advice for free… and the occasional glass of scotch.

    I filled out paperwork, wrote checks and crossed my fingers. It took me almost a year to fill out the seemingly endless IRS Form 1023. International adoption paperwork was easier than that form. I was paranoid. I thought surely it would be rejected. I was meticulous. Finally, after the board threatened me, I sent in the form. That was in December.

    On January 12th I received word from the IRS that they had gotten the application (and cashed my check) and I would be hearing in approximately 90 days.

    I went out to the mailbox today to collect the 2 days worth of mail only to return to my front door to find out I locked myself out of the house. It was about 15 minutes before Derek was supposed to come home for lunch so I waited in the warm greenhouse rather than wandering the neighborhood to find a neighbor home so I could use their phone. While I waited I sorted the mail. There was a letter from the IRS.

    The United States Internal Revenue Service has deemed that Sweet Hope Foundation qualifies as a tax exempt 501(c)(3) charitable organization! This is nearly the last hurdle we have to face in this process. It is by far the biggest. This means that the donations you make to Sweet Hope are now tax deductible. It means that we can apply for grants. It means the world.

    I want to thank all of our supporters through the years. I want to thank the board for telling me I didn’t have to be perfect.

    We did it!

  • Elle's World
  • Nicknames

    Yesterday another blogger in the BlogHer sidebar had a post about nicknames. Mainly about her child’s nickname or rather potential nickname for her unborn child. It got me thinking about my nicknames and the nicknames of those around me.

    Although I have a fairly short name I’ve always had a nickname. It is quite uncommon for my family to call me by my actual name. That could be why adopting the name Elle came easily. For those just catching up my name is Lisa. My parents call me Leese (pronounced lease). The long form, given to me by my dad, was Leese McGeese. It isn’t my favorite. My uncles call me Leeser.

    When I started dating Derek (who by the way doesn’t have a nickname in real life other than D) there was a bit of a conflict. You see, his middle sister is also named Liese (yes, Lisa). They couldn’t call me Lisa K (my maiden name starts with a K) because Liese’s middle name starts with a K. At some point a friend of mine started saying, “listen here little missy” to me. Somehow in some convoluted way people started calling me Missy. In Derek’s family I have always been known as Missy. It was cute when years ago Derek’s grandmother said, “I’m glad you started using your real name” when I inadvertently signed a card to her “Lisa.” It was a mistake, but one that made me realize that the name Missy really isn’t my favorite. It may not be the best, but I’ve been known as such for nearly 20 years so I can’t go changing it now.

    Like I mentioned, Derek doesn’t really have any real-life nicknames. Most of his family calls him D. My niece B (who we actually call B) calls him Uncle D. He does have another nickname that our friends Sam & Cari call him, but I won’t disclose it in public lest I be sleeping on the couch too.

    Oleg has a nickname list a mile long. Typically we call him by his name, but he also responds to Babaganush, Batu-tu, Oggie, Ogig, Lil O, Little Man or when he’s in trouble Olezhek. The story behind Babaganush is here.

    Even my pets (all of them ) have nicknames. Hammond (cat) – Hammy, Hamster, Hammer, Dammit. Truman (cat) – True, Trummy, Turdy. Fiona (cat) – Fi, Squee, Fifi, Squee-Wee, Kitty. Busy (dog) – Biz, Wizzy, Busy Dog, Wizzy Dog, Wizzer. Sparkles (chicken) – Sparks, Sparky. Betty Draper (chicken) – Bets, Betsy. Picken (chicken) – Picks, Picker. Grinnin (chicken) – Grinny, Grin, Grinner, Grins. Even the fish. Technically the fish is named Minerva Louise, but we call her (actually a him) fishy.

    Personally I have a love-hate relationship with nicknames. Obviously I’m not overly fond of my own, but I do like a good creative nickname. What about you?