The Purple of Life

She told me to hold on to the purple in my life.

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Location: Chicago, United States

I'm a 37-year-old editor and city dweller, wife and mother, moderately liberal and radically optimistic. I would fill my perfect day with a cup of coffee and the Op Ed section, a flea market and the playground, a run along Lake Michigan, a walk through the neighborhood with my son and my greyhound, a Cuban dinner and a bottle of red with my husband, and an evening flight to some European city. I wouldn't be picky about which one.

January 31, 2012


We’re riding up Lake Shore Drive in the dark, past 10, after drinks and dinner downtown—Indian or Spanish or Italian. Going home. The lake is opaque, a huge wild darkness on my right; on the left are the twinkling high-rises, the quiet canal, the empty softball fields. The traffic flows smoothly. I play deejay with the iPod: Iron and Wine, the Civil Wars, the Shins, Mason Jennings, Rocky Votolato. The music has changed with time, but we’ve been doing this Saturday-night drive on a regular basis for more than 10 years, just the two of us. Sometimes we sing along:

Life keeps on changing
Tell it to stay still, but it won’t listen
I just want you near me like you are now, for good.


It’s been more than two years since I mailed our initial application to adopt from Korea, and we are finally, truly, on the cusp of becoming a family of three. The utter on-the-cuspness of these January days is almost hard to comprehend. I feel compelled to clean out closets and organize drawers. Our extra bedroom is slowly becoming a nursery. There’s a new dresser and lamp, children’s books on the shelf, toys in the closet, gray and yellow and light-orange paint chips on the walls.

I have a coupon for the Gap, and I spend it on tiny track pants, little waffle-knit shirts and an orange T-shirt with a bicycle on it.

There’s a to-do list on our kitchen counter that has items such as “attach bookshelves to wall,” “send Mom addresses for baby shower,” “write list of questions for Will’s foster family.” There’s also a list of restaurants to visit one last time, before restaurant-going becomes a pastime that’s on hold.

On weeknights, while John works, I go to the gym, or meet pals for dinner, or cherish my alone time. I feel slightly freaked out about all of this going away. At the exact same time, I am so ready for everything to change.


It’s funny how so many of the best moments of this adoption process have occurred in my office at work. For instance: Yesterday, an email from our social worker, with a video of Will’s first birthday celebration, or dol, taken in November at his foster family’s home. He’s in his hanbok, sitting in his high chair. He smiles, looks around, pounds the table. He can’t reach the traditional dol objects, and his foster brother helps him stand up. He chooses the thread, which signals a long, healthy life, and he looks quite pleased with himself as his foster mother cheers. His foster brother kisses him on the head. Will bonks himself in the face with the thread package. I am utterly transfixed and moved and proud, a little jealous, overwhelmed with love. I watch the video nine times that day.


I turn 36. It’s the loveliest of weekends, sunny and crystal cold. It includes a birthday box from Mom and Dad, a beautiful bouquet of flowers from John, a manicure, calls from friends, dinner with family, impromptu drinks with the downstairs neighbor who’s also celebrating his birthday, two outdoor runs, lots of sleep, shopping downtown, dinner at a fabulous Spanish restaurant, drinks at an old jazz club, lunch and a lakefront walk with a friend, and John’s delicious parmesan breaded chicken with homemade tomato sauce. My cup overflows.


For my birthday, I wanted a ring with a citrine, which is Will’s birthstone. I scrolled my way through Etsy, and my eye caught a silver honeycombed ring sprinkled with a few small yellow stones. I loved its unique, modern look, so I clicked through to read more about the jeweler—a Korean man who lives in Seoul. Obviously, I bought it.

When the ring arrived, with a beautiful handwritten note of thanks, I emailed the jeweler, told him how much I loved it, and explained why I’d wanted a citrine ring. I told him that Will is in his city right now, and how excited I am to go there. He emailed me back: “Thank you. I hope God bless you. Please take care of him.”

I hope I can do that soon.

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January 1, 2012

2011 lookback: An embarrassment of riches

Even when I kept a paper journal, back in college, I always loved writing a “year in review” entry at the end of December. This meme, while a meme, makes it easy. Without further ado:

What did you do in 2011 that you’d never done before?
Ran a half-marathon in two hours, stood on Cuban soil, became an aunt, took a four-week photography class, took a staycation. Went to six concerts (Iron & Wine, Mason Jennings, Death Cab for Cutie with Frightened Rabbit, Mountain Heart, Amos Lee, and the Civil Wars). Walked on Lake Shore Drive after a blizzard. Attended a mayoral debate. Kept a daily gratitude list for a month. Cheered on runners in the Chicago marathon. Named my son.

Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
My 2011 resolutions were to run the half-marathon again and beat my first time (done!), become comfortable driving again (woefully not done!), continue reading at least one book per month (done), take a more in-depth photography class (done), and hang out in my neighborhood café in the winter when I feel sad about the lack of light (semi-done; I could have indulged in this more often).

2012 is going to be a year like no other. Of course, my resolutions are focused on Will—on doing the very best I can to make him feel safe and comfortable and happy in his new home. I’m going to do some intense reading on attachment this winter. I want to focus on patience and calmness. Overall, I want to start learning how to become the best parent I can. I also want to focus on keeping our marriage strong as we embark on this huge change in our life.

I am so, so excited to love my child in person.

I’d like to run my third half-marathon; I think I can do it, depending on the timing of my maternity leave. I want to write here at least once a month, and I want to keep taking ballet classes when possible.

Where did you travel in 2011?
San Francisco and Havana, Cuba! Closer to home: northern Michigan for a weeklong camping trip.

What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?
Obviously, Will.

What dates or images from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory?
November 10, the day I received the phone call at work that changed everything. November 13, the day we knew for sure that Will was our son.

Then, in chronological order:
--April 17, the day I held my week-old nephew for the very first time, and looked down and saw my family in the tiny, red, scrunched-up face of a newborn.
--The Friday night in late May when I stumbled across a blog post discussing the fact that Korean adoptions would be on hold for the rest of the year.
--The morning of June 22, when I wandered into the kitchen and found a small gray box waiting for me on the counter. Beautiful, beautiful diamond earrings from a husband who continues to surprise and delight me after 10 years of marriage.
--The very early morning of August 14, watching the cobalt clouds rush across the downtown skyline as I walked toward the start of the half-marathon.
--December 8, seeing the island of Cuba from the sky for the first time, the passengers clapping as we landed, my hands shaking and a little Cuban-American boy yelling excitedly to his mother, “We’re in CUBA!”
--December 10, visiting the neighborhood where my mother grew up, walking the rooms where my ancestors lived. I will never, ever forget this day and the way it made me feel.

What were your biggest achievements of the year?
As with last year, running! I had a personal best of 24:35 in a 5k, and I shaved 15 minutes off my half-marathon time. I wrote here almost every month, and I took four photo walks: two in Uptown and Edgewater after the blizzard, one in the Loop, and one in the neighborhood this fall. I celebrated 10 years of marriage, and I started taking ballet classes again after 21 years.

What was your biggest failure?
Driving more often. I really, really need to get on this.

Did you suffer illness or injury?
Some illnesses here and there, but I’m so happy to be able to type that none of them was serious.

What was the best thing you bought?
New plain white dishes. An oil painting in Cuba. A flowered dress from Akira. My iPhone.

Whose behavior merited celebration?
Cuban bloggers who are brave enough to speak out against the oppression and propaganda of their country’s government. Read them. The wider their audience, the more protected they are from persecution.

Whose behavior saddened you?
I wish the Korean government would embrace an adoption policy that works better for children who need families.

Where did most of your money go?
The mortgage, Cuba, adoption fees.

What did you get really excited about?
Will. Cuba. Running. Game of Thrones. Eating at Topolobampo for our 10th wedding anniversary. Living outside on our deck in the summer. Girls’ weekend in Chicago. Our staycation. Working on Will’s nursery. My neighborhood. Lagunita’s A Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale. Big Star. The Violet Hour. Watching Stella run on the beach.

What song will always remind you of 2011?
Anything by The Head and the Heart and The Civil Wars. The Beatles song “Till There Was You,” which John learned to play on his guitar.

What do you wish you’d done more of?
Photography and driving.

What do you wish you’d done less of?
Worrying; thinking in terms of “what ifs.”

What was your favorite TV program?
Game of Thrones, Mad Men, and Modern Family.

What was the best book you read?
I read 12 books this year—three less than last year, but four of them were giant books in the Game of Thrones series. The New Yorker continues to take up a lot of my reading time! The GoT books and Freedom by Jonathan Franzen were my favorites.

What was your greatest musical discovery?
The Civil Wars

How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011?
I finally tried on a pair of skinny jeans and felt sad that I’d waited so long. Also, I happily wore lots of dresses and skirts in the summer.

What political issue stirred you the most?
Gay rights and health care… same as last year.

What kept you sane?
Late Sunday afternoons with a glass of wine and InStyle magazine, preferably on the deck. Summertime camping. Any stretch of a few days where I didn’t touch a computer. (Mind you, these are exactly the same as 2009 and 2010.)

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011.
Our family and friends provide us with an embarrassment of riches. I can run faster than I’d ever imagine possible. Also: What you think about the reflection in the mirror isn’t the point; just put on the leotard and go.

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