Saturday, April 28, 2012

A journey of a 1,000 miles...

...begins with a single step, as the wisdom goes. We're somewhere on our adoption path, but we don't know exactly how far we've traveled. One of the challenges of adoption is that it could happen at any time. While this is exciting, it can also be frustrating. Are we near, are we far? There's no way to know exactly which step we're on or how many miles we will travel on our journey before we get there.

Luckily, there are some ways for us to keep ourselves on track. Susan loves crafts and has been keeping busy with various projects during our wait. For the last several weeks she has been working on a cross stitch birth record for our future child. 

Susan working on the first of the ten blocks. It's the number 1 with a bunny.

This project is also a long journey, but one with clear indications of the progress made. The finished piece will be 12" x 9". There are 6 letter and 4 number blocks around the border. Each of the 10 blocks is a solid 40 x 40 stitches or a total of 1600 stitches per block. The whole piece will eventually have about 18,400 stitches, not including the back stitches to outline elements in the piece and write out our child's name, date of birth, and birth weight.

A work in progress! You can just make out the bunny.

As you can see, Susan hasn't yet finished even 1 block and still has a long way to go. Sometimes we ask ourselves which will happen first, finishing the cross stitch or adopting our child? Of course we hope to adopt first. We know if that happens first this means it will probably be years before the cross stitch gets finished, but we're okay with that. Working on the cross stitch while we wait is almost meditative and helps keep Susan calm and focused. We both look at her steady progress and remind ourselves we're on way and we will get there.

Zoo Alphabet Birth Record designed by Cathy Heck,

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Books, books, and more books!

The 2012 Los Angeles Times Festival of Books was this past weekend and we want to reflect on what this local event means to us. Enjoying ourselves at the festival has become one of our favorite traditions. We first went about 10 years ago. It still amazes us that we hadn't heard of it until friends from the East Coast brought the event to our attention. We met up with them at the festival that year and had a great time checking out the many booths from a wide variety of publishers, local bookstores, and other organizations. 

We loved the Photosaurus booth at this year's festival. 

We had so much fun and quickly realized that this was a perfect event for us. We've gone almost every year since our first festival. Susan's mom and a friend or two often joins us and we always meet up with our East Coast friends whenever they can make it out here. During our ten years of festival going we've found many favorites. For instance, it's always fun to check out the Museums LA booth for the latest information on exhibitions and free days at the local museums. Mitch always looks forward to picking up free copies the Santa Monica Review and the Penguin "What the World is Reading" sampler each year. We both love checking out the Getty booth for great books at special festival prices.

Susan and her mom discovered the Jane Austen Society at the festival last year and this has become a new favorite booth to check out. The ladies there are kind, charming, and encouraging of everyone interested in Jane Austen, even if you haven't read any of the books. This year Susan met Syrie James, the author of "The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen". While Susan hasn't yet read this book, she had a nice chat with this delightful author and is looking forward to a quiet afternoon with her book in the near future. 

A new find at the festival this year. Susan can 't wait to read it!
A few years ago Mitch also made the transition from attendee to hard worker at the festival. He volunteered as a bookworm (manager) of the mystery writer's room for three years starting in 2009. He had hoped to be a bookworm again this year, but unfortunately he wasn't able to because of scheduling. At one point it looked like only Susan would go to the festival this year with her mom. Luckily Mitch's schedule for Sunday cleared at the last minute so we spent the day together and met up with one of our friends. 

Mitch happily meets up with Susan after a day of volunteering at the 2011 festival. 
Sometimes people wonder why we are so passionate about the festival, especially now that it has moved to USC and seems to have more traffic, less parking, and greater challenges than ever. We love it as a place to check out new books, authors, ideas, organizations, and people. It's an annual reminder of our love for books and an inspiration for the year ahead.

Past festivals have been a wonderful opportunity to see many authors we like including Jared Diamond, Sarah Vowell, Julia Alvarez, Lisa See, Ricky Jay, and many others. We've had the chance to hear them speak about their latest books and had them sign many of these books. We've also had the somewhat startling experience of discovering that there are one or two authors that we didn't care for in person even though we liked their books. (We'll hold back their names).

It's also a great chance to discover new authors and their books. The festival includes many author panels, usually with 3 or 4 authors. We'll often choose a panel because we are familiar with one author and then are inspired to read the others after hearing them speak. For instance, a few years ago Susan learned about Muriel Barbery's "Elegance of the Hedgehog" at one of the panels with Lisa See. Susan also discovered author Susan Kandel in one of the panels in Mitch's mystery room a couple of years ago. She enjoyed Kandel's character Cece Caruso in several mysteries, most in "Dial H for Hitchcock".

We've found other books we love by checking out the many booths at the festival. Many are hosted by smaller publishers or local organizations and we've found some great books while browsing there. Two of our favorite finds are related to kid's books, "What to Read When" by Pam Allyn and "The Read-Aloud Handbook" by Jim Trelease. We've enjoyed reading both of these books and can't wait to use some of their ideas and book suggestions someday as we encourage our child's interest in reading.

One of our favorite finds from the 2010 festival.
There's even been a couple of authors who sounded wonderful to us at the festival. We couldn't wait to get home to check out their work, but unfortunately found it wasn't for us. Luckily we started with books from the library. Again, we won't give names. We respect everyone's reading taste is different and they may be authors you might really like.

Working on the giant crossword at this year's festival. 
Our eyes are also very open to the future we hope to share with our child. The Festival of Books always has a large and vibrant children's area with many fun activities throughout the weekend. The children's stage always includes lively readings and performances with children's book authors. There are characters that interact with the kids and this year's festival even included Scooby Doo and the Mystery Machine. The children's area always looks like so much fun and we can't wait to explore it with our child. 

Stopping for a quick photo in the kid's area at the festival.
The booths with kid's books contain perhaps the most tempting items for us at the festival. Every year we always find at least a dozen kid's books we want to buy for our future child on the spot. It's quite a challenge to resist all these fun books, but we try to keep in mind that it will be even more fun to pick books out together with our child once we adopt. Of course that said, we had to give in to temptation just a little bit. We found the book below at the Natural History Museum booth and it just happened to come home and join us waiting for a future little person to read it.

After all, what better subject for a book than dinosaurs?