Thursday, April 30, 2009

dossier SO close to being ready

Our adoption dossier is this close to being ready to be sent in. Just some documents to get notarized at the consulate next week, and we're set to get this show on the road.

Today I went to my neighborhood copy shop to copy a mountain of documents. Okay maybe it wasn't a mountain, but it was definitely a minor hill. The guy spoke to me in great English, which was very surprising as I have patronized this store before and nobody came close to saving me from my Portuguese. As I waited for the copying to be completed, he must have been reviewing my documents while making copies, and he surmised we were adopting.

When he returned with two minor hills of paper, he told me that we didn't need to buy our new child any clothes when we got him home. I asked why and he said we could make clothes out of all the paper he'd just used for the dossier and he'd be well-clothed for a long time. I like that guy's way of thinking - it is a lot of paper - and am trying to figure out what else I can copy just to give him more business!

another hot item from our resident trash collector

As I was buying more Scotch tape today, I remembered that Mac never lets me throw out the used plastic tape dispenser. I would like to think he's a budding environmentalist and wants to recycle, but he just likes to play with it. What can its purpose be except to dispense tape???

passing along of a weird genetic trait

I love having a place to put things in. I'm talking boxes, crates, little containers, filing cabinets with neat rows of files, etc. I'm sure this has to do with my Type A personality where everything needs to be neat and orderly, which allows me to find exactly what I need when I need it because I know what box in what closet it's stored in.

I have apparently passed down this love of containers to Mac. His obsession clearly isn't for the purpose of keeping everything neat and orderly; it's just because he loves containers, particularly small ones that really aren't very useful after their original purpose is complete.

He likes to buy Tic-Tacs not because he loves Tic-Tacs, but because he wants the little clear plastic box with the fliptop afterwards. Jimmy got a new iPod a couple months ago and it came in this nice little plastic box. Jimmy was ready to throw the box out but Mac said it was a keeper. Last night in the bathtub, Mac played with 2 empty shampoo bottles that he refuses to throw away because he can shoot water out of them. Any little gift box is like a gem to him.

He is a trash collector extraordinaire and I'm quickly approaching the time when I've got to clean out the trash so we can pack up. This may provoke a battle, but I refuse to knowingly ship garbage to another continent. I mean we can buy Tic-Tacs in the States, right? Go north young man! Another continent of trash awaits you!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Now I know for sure that we were the things that weren't like the others

I heard yesterday that the tickets at the breast cancer fundraiser were sold for R$5,000-R$10,000 per couple. Obviously we were in a league not our own. I also heard the event raised something like R$2.5 million and the raffle alone raised something like R$250,000. To put in US dollar terms divide by about 2.1 or 2.2. Lots o' greenbacks.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

dress-up clothes and paint-by-number makeup

Before you start reading this, you should start humming (or singing if you're so inclined) that song that goes "One of these things is not like the other". Do you know the song I'm talking about? From Sesame Street?

Yesterday around lunchtime, Jimmy called me to ask if I wanted to go to this fancy breast cancer fundraiser last night. The US Ambassador's wife has started an NGO to raise breast cancer awareness here. Part of their initiative is to raise money to buy mammogram machines for out-of-the-way places in Brazil where poor women have no way to be checked for breast cancer. And so last night's fundraiser was to raise those funds. The Ambassador had bought several tables at this event and for some reason, there was a table that hadn't been filled, so the call went out to various consulate people to fill it.

My first inclination was to say no. It was one of those days where I didn't even wash my hair when I took a shower yesterday morning. A fundraiser at the Hyatt meant dress-up clothes and a late night and high heels and a babysitter, none of which seemed terribly interesting to somebody who hadn't even washed her hair that day.

Jimmy said to think about it and so I did. And what I thought is that I probably wouldn't get many chances to go to a high-fallutin' breast cancer fundraiser at the Sao Paulo Hyatt next year in South Carolina, so we should go. I called the woman who cleans our apartment twice a week who is the best thing I've discovered in Sao Paulo and asked if she was available to babysit. She said she could so one of the big dilemmas was off the table.

Then I moved on to what to wear. As you may have noticed, my style is vintage Gap, not Hyatt fundraiser couture. I have a little black dress, but I decided it's kind of sad when you show up for every event in the same little black dress, so I ditched that idea. I called my resident fashion expert and dear friend Gisele, who gave me ideas of what was acceptable, and I decided on black pants and this sparkly black sweater.

As an aside, this was supposed to be a gala event (which would have precluded my attendance as I'm fresh out of gala gowns), but with the financial crisis, the organizers decided a gala would be tacky so they made it less formal.

As another aside, until last year, the last eye shadow I bought was probably in the 8th grade when blue eye shadow was all the rage. On one of our trips home last year, I saw these great little compacts that are like paint-by-number kits for eyes. I decided to buy one for the dressier occasions in my life when I actually might have to wear more makeup than chapstick. Let me just tell you that's some of the best $4 I've ever spent. Because we've gotten to go to more dress-up things in the last year in Sao Paulo than we've been to in probably the 10 years of marriage before that, this little eye shadow set has come in handy. There's a diagram on the back for the makeup-challenged people like me that tells you exactly where to put each of the four colors. The next things in my makeup arsenal that I need to work on are blush and mascara. I'm probably risking eye infection every time I use this antiquated, dried-up tube of mascara and I lost the blush brush years ago and now put on blush with wadded-up toilet paper.

Okay, on to the event.

So we drove up to the Hyatt in our minivan with one headlight burned out. It was sort of like when the Beverly Hillbillies first got to Beverly Hills. We were surrounded by Mercedes and Volvos and BMWs. Nary a minivan in sight and certainly all the other cars had working headlights. But I didn't trip getting out of the car and my eye shadow was in place, so it was all good.

We entered the reception area to wait in the line to be checked in and there were personal bodyguards everywhere. I, of course, knew who none of these people were, but the richest man in Brazil was pointed out to me as was a woman who had Mick Jagger's love child. Roving waiters served lots of good appetizers and so I was happy.

Drinks were from 8-9pm and then we entered the ballroom for dinner and it was beautiful. I have no idea how much each seat cost, but I'm fairly certain it was probably more than our family's annual grocery budget. There were candles and flowers and printed programs and menu cards. N-I-C-E.

I studied the menu card to see what was in store. We were to start with this salmon dish that I didn't really like - weird consistency and I'm all about consistency. Then we moved on to beef with potatoes and vegetables. Then for dessert was this dinner plate full of small 2-bite desserts. It was my kind of dessert plate.

We also all studied the raffle prizes, which included such things as a trips to Paris, Buenos Aires, and Mendoza; 2 business class airlines tickets; a Gucci pocketbook, a Mercedes Benz smart car, etc. Just a few things any fundraiser-going person can use. At the freebies table, we weren't sure how you got raffle tickets, but we assumed since we didn't pay for our seats, we wouldn't be entered because surely your hefty check for entrance at least got you a raffle ticket, right? Wrong. Those cost an additional R$1000 per ticket. Young women walked around all night with credit card machines to let you buy as many raffle tickets as you wanted.

Now we were at table 40, aka the freebies table, so we were in the back corner by the cameramen and the sound crew. These young women soon caught on to the fact that we were the charity case and they left us alone and didn't try to sell us any more tickets.

The embarrassment came when the emcees for the evening (some man who I'm sure is famous and Ana Maria Braga, who, if you live in Brazil or have ever lived here, has that morning talk show with the parrot puppet) started walking around among the tables with microphones, trailed by cameramen (the video was fed to two huge screens at the front of the ballroom) to hit people up to buy raffle tickets. They were schmoozing with the rich people at the big tables for a long time and quite frankly I never thought they'd come over to our table in the dark corner. But they kept making their way across the room. And before I knew it, the man was standing behind Jimmy (who was across the table from me), tapping him on the shoulder, asking in the microphone for all the world to hear if he'd bought his raffle ticket yet. (Maybe he remembered seeing him in Rolling Stone and thought he was of the moneyed set??) Jimmy had no idea he was coming because he was engaged in conversation and was caught off-guard and could only muster a noncommittal "uhhh." And the man said "if you say "uhhh", that means you haven't bought your ticket yet." So he left the credit card girl to take care of Jimmy, who promptly sent her away.

So I didn't win the Gucci bag or the trip to Paris, but we each got a little goodie bag on the way out. We scored some MAC lipstick, chocolates and Clinique products. As the song says, we clearly were the things that weren't like the others, but I'm pretty sure I'm happier being thrilled with free lipstick than I would be if I felt the pressure to buy R$1000 raffle tickets just to look good in that crowd. Now I'm off to start trying out my new Clinique products...

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Jeremy has left the building...

Jimmy, Mac and I were lucky enough to have one final visitor before we blow this popsicle stand. One of our oldest friends from childhood, Jeremy, came to visit us. I'm not 100% convinced he really came to see us; it might have been more the allure of the female Brazilian population to which he is partial, but we take visitors where we can get them.

Jeremy came to visit us in Brasilia and we wondered what in the world we were going to do with a good-looking single guy in that city, which doesn't have extraordinary nightlife (not that we would've known if there was even mediocre nightlife). As our friend James Watson used to say: "if the streetlights are on, the Storys are in bed." We need not have worried because the Brasilia nightlife came to Jeremy and thus began his love affair with this country.

Jeremy has been back to Brazil (to Rio) twice since then but he came to us in Sao Paulo this time. We removed all possibility of temptation by making him spend the first 5 days of his visit at a very family-oriented beach where there might be nightlife but he didn't experience it. It was a relaxing few days of lazing around in the sun, surfing, eating way too much, and catching up.

We returned to Sao Paulo after the long holiday weekend. Jimmy worked and Mac went to school, so Jeremy and I piddled around town. He was an easy, undemanding guest, which meant we didn't do nearly as much as we should have. But we did hit the Municipal Market, the shops, and the movies, all the while eating very well, no thanks to my kitchen or cooking talents.

It was a great visit and we're so thankful he came. Jimmy leaves Sao Paulo two weeks from tonight so it was a great excuse for us to eat at some of our favorite restaurants and to go to our favorite beach and to visit with a friend that we don't see often enough.

Jeremy, thanks for coming down. We loved every minute of it!

Friday, April 17, 2009

a little orchid story

I love orchids but had never really bought them before Brazil because they're so expensive in the US. They're a lot less expensive here so I have bought probably more than my fair share. When we lived in Brasilia, quite frankly I treated them as annuals: they bloomed, the blooms fell off, I looked at the leftover greenery and decided there would never be any more blooms, and promptly threw the whole plant away.

Then we moved to Sao Paulo and I heard discussions among my friends here of just setting aside the past-bloomed orchids on your balcony and leaving them. You can still enjoy the greenery and the orchids will eventually re-bloom. So I studied a little bit on where to cut off the stalks after the flowers died, and I had a nice little collection of sort of straggly-looking plants on my air conditioning unit on the balcony.

I went out on the balcony a couple days ago to water all the plants, and wouldn't you know that one of the orchids has got new blooms on it. It's my favorite orchid, too, so I think it wanted to show off one more time for me before we leave and I have to give it away.

I also think this is God telling me personally the Easter story of the resurrection. We give up on something, thinking that it's dead, and then there's new life. It wasn't the thunderbolt message that I might have heard faster, but it's so appropriate for the week after Easter that it now seems louder than a thunderbolt.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

papa was a rolling stone...

Okay, I have a pdf file with the article, but I'm too dumb to figure out how to make it appear as a post! I tried cutting and pasting - no dice. I tried importing it as a photo - no dice. Any thoughts?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Jimmy makes Rolling Stone

First of all, that's Kurt Cobain, not Jimmy, on the cover!

This is quite possibly the coolest thing that has happened to anybody in our family, but an interview with Jimmy was just published in the Brazilian Rolling Stone magazine. WOW!

The guy did the interview a month or so ago and we weren't sure it would be published, but it came out yesterday. WOW WOW!

I don't even read Rolling Stone magazine because I think you need to be way trendier than I am and know way more about music than I know, but I bought my first copy yesterday. It was wrapped in plastic and I asked the guy at the newstand if he had an opened copy (a la Barnes and Noble) that I could look through first. I didn't want to spend R$9 if this wasn't the right edition. He only had one plastic-wrapped magazine (apparently we live in the neighborhood where they sell more home magazines and less rock and roll magazines). So I bought it - and of course told him that my husband was in the magazine (I thought).

I walked nonchalantly down the street until I was out of his sight before ripping off the plastic to scan the table of contents. Jimmy was in the table of contents. WOW. It wasn't like he was part of some compilation article where he didn't get a mention. He had his own section with a page number.

It's a whole one-page article and you know Rolling Stone is an oversized magazine, so it's a lot of words and this very serious picture of him. He looks super-smart and official and handsome with his dark suit and fancy glasses.

When I found out about the interview, I immediately thought I might get to be in the magazine. Don't those magazines always have a picture of the couple lounging on their sofa in the fancy apartment, glass of wine in hand? Okay, well that was a fantasy. So then I asked if Jimmy could at least mention me in the article. Reportedly, he mentioned me six times in the interview (and he says he has the interview tape to prove it). But wouldn't you know I didn't get a single mention? Granted, the published interview didn't give a lot of opportunity to discuss me. The questions were about Obama's plans for diplomacy, the Taliban, the Amazon, Jimmy's role in Afghanistan and other matters of foreign relations. And I'm quite sure it would've been difficult to mention me in the context of those subjects. I mean, was he supposed to say "the US is engaged in Afghanistan to fight the atrocities of the Taliban, and did I mention my wife, Susan, doesn't wear a burqa?" Tough transition, you know?

We don't have a scanner but once I find a scanner, I'll scan the article and include it here. It's SO cool!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

unnatural gait

My calf muscles are so sore today that when I first stand up to walk (even if I've only been sitting for 20 seconds), I can only walk with my knees bent. Is this natural? I think not.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

nightly prayers

As we progress more fully in the adoption process, we continue to address with Mac what it will mean to bring home an African-born child in terms of race, this child's life as an orphan and his subsequent assimilation into a family, and Mac's adjustment from only-child status.

Tonight during prayers, as normal, we prayed that our child would feel our love all the way from Brazil to Ethiopia and that he would know we were preparing our hearts and our home for his arrival. I reminded Mac during the prayer that "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son" and that this meant God didn't just love America or Brazil but that God loved Africa, too. Mac interjected and said God loved even the aliens. My teachable moment was entirely lost on this precious 6 year-old. Yes, God does love the aliens too.

my birthday party

Jimmy threw me a fantastic birthday party last Wednesday night at the Hilton. I had such a great time celebrating with friends here; I wish I could have a party like that at least every other week. We had great food and the most delicious chocolate cake ever. Jimmy even thought to order chocolates from my favorite chocolate place as party favors for the ladies! How lucky am I?

random thoughts...

1. Mac is on a field trip today and he was SO excited to get up and out of the house this morning. Too bad I can't call everyday a Field Trip Day.

2. Mac has his Spring Picnic and Easter Party tomorrow at school. I bet tomorrow's wake-up will be just as easy as today's.

3. It's a very fast descent from happiest happy to saddest sad. A worse ride than Space Mountain at Disneyworld and I hate Space Mountain.

4. Jimmy helped organized and played in a charity softball tournament all day on Saturday. When we got back home, we ran by the grocery store and while he was parallel parking (and holding up traffic for approximately 20 seconds), some old guy yelled at him to "go back to his own country." That really stung me, especially after having spent the past 11.5 hours raising money for charity in this man's country. In 11 years of foreign service life, we've never been told to go back to our own country. Wow.

5. The trip to Rio last Thursday was successful. I had all my documents and the package was DHL'ed to Lima, Peru yesterday. The last immigration form Rio sent took Lima 6 months to approve. We are praying for a faster turnaround.

6. I had Round 2 with Carla, the Trainer, today. Tomorrow's going to be painful.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

sore....but going to Rio

I woke up this morning feeling pretty good. In fact, for a little while, I thought maybe I hadn't gotten my money's worth out of trainer Carla yesterday. Now here we are, a mere 7.5 hours after the alarm clock's ring, and I can barely move. Everything hurts. Even the parts that I didn't know she was working yesterday. OUCH!

In more pleasant and exciting news, I am going by myself to Rio tomorrow to the consulate to file our petition for advance approval to adopt an international orphan. I am so nervous about this. I've spent the last couple hours running around, making copies of documents and buying little plastic folders to keep all my documents organized.

And yes, to any State Department people reading, I have become that person who shows up at the consulate with reams of unnecessary paper. They ask you to bring your last Form 1040; I'm taking not only the last three Form 1040s, but also every supporting document that went into filing our taxes. We're talking 6 or 7 inches of paper just for that. I realize this is overkill and I don't intend to pull these documents out unless I'm asked. I have the "required" documents in one binder; two copies of every "required" document in another binder (overkill again, but you never know); and all my other Nervous Nellie documents in a third binder. There will be no need for anybody at the consulate to even know I've brought the Nervous Nellie documents. But if they need to see proof of rental income in 2005 from the beach condo we sold a year ago, I have got it. Better safe than sorry, I say.

I fly out at 9:55 tomorrow morning, supposedly landing in Rio at 10:55am. I intend to go to the Copacabana Palace Hotel to treat myself to a celebratory early lunch (celebratory because we've made it this far in the adoption process) by their spectacular pool and then I will go to the consulate for my 1pm appointment. I get back on a plane at 3:55pm and land in Sao Paulo at 5pm. Pray that all goes well and smoothly and without incident.

Also pray that with the current soreness in my body, I am physically able to carry my pounds of paper!:)