20th in Venice – Matt’s Thoughts

Matt’s turn to talk! He took some fun pictures on our trip and they brought up all sorts of new memories from the trip. I loved going back through our trip seeing things from his perspective. So, without any more from me, I present Matt:

20 years together! Actually we’ve been together for 24 years, but on this trip we celebrated 20 years of marriage. I could not have asked God for a better partner, friend, wife, mother to our children, and traveling companion on this nomadic journey we call Army life. We looked at several locations for this trip, but settled on Venice because it is beautiful and we’ve been there before which means we felt no pressure to see all the sights in a new place. This was a relaxing trip that we both thoroughly enjoyed. St. Marks Square is an amazing place. There are tourists everywhere, yet its beauty cannot be hidden…much like the Beauty beside me in this picture.

We had amazing weather for this trip. It was hot and humid, but we weren’t wading through 2 feet of water like our last visit. I think it is unbelievable that this city has no cars (where would they drive?) or bikes. I cannot imagine another city like this anywhere. It truly is amazing.

We went to swanky mall near the Rialto bridge. It felt like we were very underdressed, but everyone else was too. The mall had a security guard at the door who greeted everyone. I found the watches (I love watches) and was drawn immediately to the IWC Big Pilot. I remember watching the commentary on John Mayer’s “Any Given Thursday” concert DVD back in 2004 and he mentioned his first nice watch: the IWC Big Pilot. This is the first one I’ve seen in person and they let me try it on. It was amazing, but I still can’t see how a watch can cost 13,700 euro. I’ve never owned a car that cost that much. It was neat to try it on and see how the other half live. At the end of the day I ordered an homage off of Amazon for $100. Occasionally I put it on and play my PRS Silver Sky John Mayer signature model guitar and pretend I am a rock icon… in my bedroom.

We found a couple vantage points to see the sights from that were spectacular, but quite honestly I can’t look past my wife. I’m still amazed she’s mine!

We are Americans. We love the Hard Rock Cafe. It is an institution, possibly an institution dedicated to American decadence and overpriced hamburgers, but they have free refills, all the ketchup you want, loud music and rock memorabilia everywhere. Jennifer graciously indulges me in the rite of passage for every city we visit. I unashamedly love it!

Having a son who is very artistic has opened me up to all this art. Hayden and I saw a Banksy on display in the Stuttgart art museum that was really cool. This painting was even more remarkable because it was found in the natural environment that Banksy usually paints. We just happened to hear about it in an off-hand comment so we researched it. Banksy had just painted it the month prior.

The Bridge with no parapet. No rails! This is how many of them were originally, and, because there were no street lights in Venice, many people fell into the water. There are only two bridges left without rails.

Thanks, babe, for stopping by with your thoughts on our trip! Looking forward to the next to 20+!!
~j

Click Below for:
Part 1: Why Venice?
Part 2: Day 1 in Venice
Part 3: Day 2 in Venice
Part 4: Day 3 in Venice
Part 5: Day 4 in Venice
Part 6: Day 5 in Venice

 

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20th in Venice – Day 5

A dream activity of mine was to take sunrise photos at St. Marks. Nothing was holding me back other other than the desire to sleep, but knowing this was my last opportunity gave me the push I needed to set the alarm. I did so and got out of the apartment without waking Matt. I was up and moving before the coffee shops were open, if that says anything.

When I arrived in the square I realized I had found my people. The only other people there were photographers who were there to capture the majesty of God’s creation in all its glory. The difference between them and me? They had tripods. That meant I was very limited in where I could aim my camera. I was very thankful that the restaurant that sits at the entrance of the square left its tables and chairs out overnight. Knowing I didn’t have a tripod I brought along several towels and washcloths to create a safe and level base.

I had a couple of hours to sit in the quiet and to absorb just where I was. It was surreal: the stillness of the square, the knowledge that I was in St. Mark’s square, at sunrise. So much to think on including our first trip here in 2012 during Acqua Alta, the blazing hot days Matt and I had just spent wandering through the streets of this magical city. I didn’t listen to anything… I just sat. And I took a lot of pictures. I’m going to post them individually rather than in a slideshow so that I can make comments about them.

Sorry for so many that seem like duplicates. I’m still enamored by all the different looks you can get out of the same spot using different settings and even more enamored by how much personality the light in a space has. It changes so rapidly at sunrise and sunset and I really had a good time capturing it.

Before the sun actually rose
I moved to a new spot. The sun was beginning to turn the sky orange.
You can see where it’s just about to peak over the building.
The way the orange light reflected off the stone was gorgeous.
The stone and the lamp posts reflecting the orange.
I was just about to move locations and when I stood up, the sun smacked me in the face. I sat back down and within 10 seconds it finally peaked over the building. I almost missed it.
Just a few seconds later, with some adjustments made.
With the sun in the lamp post. (This looks much darker on this blog than it does in Photos.)
Their photos are going to be STUNNING!
One last look at the St. Marks… just the day before we had stood on that balcony!
A 180* turn and a last view of the area where I had spent the past few hours waiting for the sun.

I got back to the apartment and climbed into bed! I slept for about an hour and a half before it was time to wake up and get packed to go home. Matt and I had a make-do lunch at Tronchetto and then took the tour bus back to Treviso airport. That is where we sat and played cards and ate these delicious treats!

Sunrise to Sunset.

That evening I sat watching Anna play in the sandbox and thought back on the day. Sunrise in St. Mark’s Square and sunset in our backyard.

There’s no place like home.

Click Below for:
Part 1: Why Venice?
Part 2: Day 1 in Venice
Part 3: Day 2 in Venice
Part 4: Day 3 in Venice
Part 5: Day 4 in Venice

 

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20th in Venice – Day 4

Our last full day in Venice was totally unscheduled and unplanned.  We woke up and decided that we really would regret not going inside St. Mark’s Cathedral and, that while we were at it, we may as well go up into the tower that is in the square, St Mark’s Campanile.

We bought skip-the-line tickets for both and that proved to be helpful. If you decide to go inside St. Marks, be sure you are wearing appropriate clothing. If you find yourself there on a whim and are wearing shorts or a sleeveless shirt, they do sell very inexpensive pieces of cloth that are used to wrap around your shoulders and around your waist as a skirt. Read up on the regulations before you go. 

In the movie Inferno, Tom Hanks is seen on the top of the basilica with the famous horses. The other character tells him that these aren’t the original horses… that they are in a museum. As it turns out the museum is just inside the basilica so Matt and I were able to see both! The views from the top of the church are well worth the museum’s price of admission! After seeing the view from there we walked over to St Mark’s Campanile, (once again, we had skip-the-line tickets).  Such beautiful views from up there! We were there pretty early and could have entered with very little wait without the skip-the-line passes, but while we were inside enjoying the views the lines grew much longer. It was nice to be there before the crowds.

Later in the day we rode across the lagoon to The Church of San Giorgio Maggiore to take pictures back toward St. Mark’s Square. 

By this point we were sweltering in what was a newsworthy heatwave. We headed back to our apartment to hide from the heat in the air conditioning. Vacations are for naps, so we made sure to enjoy one of those! That evening, once the peak of the heat had passed, we took a gondola ride from the stop just outside our apartment. That was a really special part of my trip, to be honest. It was one thing to take a gondola ride from just any old stand, but to take one round-trip from the spot just outside our window was pretty neat.

And here: the part of the trip I’m most proud of, the night-time pictures I took at Rialto Bridge. The pictures I took during the photo-tour were very much guided by the professional photographer. These were all me! And I was very limited in where I could place my camera. I didn’t have a tripod so I had to use the edges of the actual bridge, severely limiting the scene! With all of that said, I’m incredibly pleased with this first set of on-my-own attempts!

Click Below for:
Part 1: Why Venice?
Part 2: Day 1 in Venice
Part 3: Day 2 in Venice
Part 4: Day 3 in Venice

 

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20th in Venice – Day 3

Venice is incredibly photogenic. Everywhere you turn you find a fascinating scene. On this date we were out to find the Banksy, which I mentioned in yesterday’s post.

Just three weeks before our trip a cruise ship had crashed into a ferry boat and a dock causing five injuries (thankfully, no fatalities). Italians have been trying for a few years to stop cruise ships from coming so close to Venice for a number of reasons, safety being one. I will break a personal rule and post a photo out of order here, because it makes sense to post it as I’m writing about this, though I didn’t take the photo until day 5. These ships come right up to the city.

Sitting in St. Mark’s Square enjoying the sunrise and in comes a ship.
They just got closer and closer…
And finally entered the Canal de Giudecca heading to port.

One major complaint is that the cruise ships are destroying the foundation of the entire city by stirring up the muddy floor of the canal. Banksy (google him!) passionately hates that this practice is harming the historic city and he painted a little girl on the side of a dilapidated building that was, at the time, for sale, making a statement about this issue.

Here are a few links that may be outdated in the future, and if so, please comment so I can clean the page up, but for now, they’re pretty interesting.

Enough about the political and art scene in Venice and back to our trip. On this day we decided to find a few spots to take photos of the city from up high. Along the way we saw some really beautiful places and I couldn’t resist taking photos around every corner.

After we tracked down the Banksy we headed to Scala Contarini Del Bovolo, a tower that offered a few of the roof-tops of Venice. Matt wasn’t impressed but I loved it. I wouldn’t suggest others go, necessarily, but I am glad we did.

Our next activity was to go to the top of the most expensive mall I’ve ever been to, the Tedeschi shopping centre. We viewed the Rialto Bridge and the Grand Canal from its roof! This is a free experience but you do have to make an online reservation because they only let 20-30 people at a time on the rooftop. They have an iPad just outside the door in case you show up without an appointment. I would highly recommend you make reservations ahead of time rather than risk showing up and not being able to get an appointment that day. We were lucky that an appointment was available 45 minutes later. I killed the time by having a cup of coffee, Matt tried on a 13,700 Euro watch, (~$15,390!) and then we shared a bubble waffle ice cream cone (at least that was in our price range).

The views from the Tedeschi shopping centre are incredible and this is a do-not-miss activity in my opinion!


This was the day we were schedule to take a Movie Tour. We love movies and we watched several leading up to this trip that were filmed in Venice. This tour was led by a local who took us to the filming locations. In addition to seeing some neat spots we recognized, the guide took us to a few places that were important historically and of interest to Venice, specifically.

The famous Danieli Hotel (as seen in several movies)
The spot where Johnny Depp jumps off the balcony in his pjs onto the market roof.
Casanova used to bring his dates here when it was a bar. Now it’s a coffee shop, I believe.
Instead of repairing foundations to straighten them (which, I can imagine, would be incredibly expensive and difficult, and probably dangerous), they just craft their doors around the tilted foundations.
Before street-lighting, Venice-inhabitants filled in the dark corners with masonry so that thieves couldn’t hide and surprise innocent late-night-walkers.

In the two photos above you can see the location in two famous movies: Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones in the Last Crusade and Katharine Hepburn in Summertime.

Two interesting things about these attached locations, though neither are about famous films. The top photo shows a church that has two exactly-alike entrances. “This duplication was so that the two rival local factions, the Nicolotti and Castellani, could each have an entrance of equal importance.” The bottom photo is of one of the last remaining gondola builders in the world. I took a really nice picture of this same spot during my photo-taking session and it’s in the previous post.

Our tour ended and we were on our own, and we walked past this spot where, just the day before, we had visited with our photography-tour guide.

During my photography tour/lesson Matt and I were sitting on the tip of this jut-out, sort of near the lamp. (You can see that photo in the post just before this one.)

This was a jam-packed post, but we had a week that was jam-packed. There is so much to see in that city that you simply can’t see it all in one trip.

Click Below for:
Part 1: Why Venice?
Part 2: Day 1 in Venice
Part 3: Day 2 in Venice

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20th in Venice – Day 2

I have taken quite the hiatus from learning photography and have recently felt ready to get back into it. I have no desire to be a professional or to take family photos, I just want to capture the beauty around me. I worked for several months on getting the photos from the past 3+ years organized and backed up. I reset my DSLR settings (I had done something wonky by accident) and by the time we left for our trip, I was ready with two blank storage cards and an eagerness to learn a new skill.

On the second day of our trip I let Matt sleep as late as he wanted and I went down to a coffee shop in the square just outside our apartment. 

Our first activity that day was to walk around as tourists. The following pictures were just fun spots we saw around the city.

Then we went to Murano to check out the glass. I wanted a specific glass necklace that I had seen in several shops but wanted to buy in Murano. If I was a going to own a piece of Murano glass jewelry I at least wanted to buy in in Murano! 

In one of the photos in the slideshow below you’ll see Matt filling up our water bottle. In Europe you run across running fountains with drinking water all over the place. Quite handy!

 

We then rode out to Burano. If we were to plan this day again, we’d skip this. Burano was cute, but we aren’t into lace and it was at least a 45-minute ride one way. We ate a delicious calzone lunch and then headed back, as I had my photography session at 3:00. 

My photo-tutoring session was amazing. Guilia was able to teach me some tricks that I used the rest of my trip. She was patient and kind, and a good teacher. 

The skill was taking long exposure photos in full sun, using a filter I’d never even seen before. Here are my favorite photos from the tour with Guilia. Note that in each picture something is blurry (it was in motion) while something else stayed still and is crisp. What is really cool is that when a vaporetto would go past, it wouldn’t even show up in the picture! The shutter was open for 30 seconds at a time!  

That night we had dinner at Hard Rock. Good food. Loud music. It was the one thing Matt wanted to do on the trip and while it’s not my favorite, it was pretty good… I collect Starbucks mugs… he likes to eat at Hard Rock cafes!

While he shopped, I tried a few tricks that I had learned that day. They’re not stellar but for my first attempts on my own, I’m pleased. 

Just some fun shots from the rest of the day that don’t fit into the story above. 

This day was exactly what I wanted it to be! Have you heard of Banksy? I mention him in the next installment of this series!

Click here to read the first installment in this series.
Click here to read about Day 1 in Venice.

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20th in Venice: Day 1

More often than not I find myself consumed with my day-to-day life (which I actually really love) and I sort-of forget where I am. There are moments that it hits me that I am living an amazing adventure in Europe with my best friend and the five coolest kids ever born. It shocks me just how close we are to other amazing countries, and that we can just hop a plane and find ourselves in Venice in an hour. 

Leading up to our trip, Matt and I watched a handful of movies that were either set in Venice or had major scenes filmed there. When picking activities to do while there we found, on AirBnB, a Movies-Set-in-Venice tour. We booked that, as well as a photography tutorial that would teach me a few new skills using Venice as the subject. I was not passing that up! And the final activity we booked ahead was a skip-the-line deal at Hard Rock Cafe. With those activities as our anchors, the rest of the trip was go-at-our-pace, see what we want to see, and do what we want to do. 

On our way:

Our flight was shortly after lunch and Matt and I were eager to start our trip so we decided to take the bus to the airport early enough to have a sit-down lunch before we needed to check in. We picked the biergarten and ordered Schnitzel and Flammkuchen. I was pleasantly surprised and have to admit that it was the best flammkuchen I’ve had! I definitely didn’t expect to say that about a restaurant in the airport!

Our flight left about 30 minutes late but it was uneventful. We got a few pictures of the Austrian Alps which still have snow on them.

When we arrived in Italy our bus ride took exactly 40 minutes from the airport to Tronchetto (SP). 

Our lodging:
I had a few non-negotiables in mind when selecting our place: First and foremost, I wanted a water-view. I wanted to look out my window and see gondolas ride by. Second, air-conditioning. (These were close-enough to consider them a tie… and I am very thankful for the AC looking back, as we happened to visit during the hottest week so far in 2019.) The apartment itself wasn’t much to look at and I call the style, “Great-Grandma’s left-over antiques that no one really wanted” but we there for the aesthetics of the city, not the apartment.

From Tronchetto (after getting our 7-day passes from the machine and validating them) we boarded the vaporetti and made our way to our AirBnb. 

In the slideshow below, you’ll see a really cool “Banksy-esque” bit of grafitti. I don’t condone graffiti but I do respect artistry. Not sure if this is his, but we did get to see an original Banksy while we were there. More on that in a later post.

The graffiti posted below is at the gondola stop that was near our apartment. You’ll see a photo of the arch at the end of our alleyway as well as a photo that shows our two windows. In the previous slideshow you can see that arch and the boat from inside the alleyway.

If I were to make another trip, I’d pick the same general location but pick a prettier apartment with or without a water view. That turned out to be less important than I thought it was going to be.

We picked a place near the Rialto Bridge. This turned out to be a very good choice as it was fairly central to the whole city. We were able to walk places very easily and found that most of time it was faster to walk than take public transportation. Another benefit to staying near Rialto bridge that I couldn’t have predicted was that in the evenings, when we were tired and just ready to get back to the apartment, we just had to follow the signs to Rialto. The signs were everywhere! If you look at the picture below, on the wall just to the left of the red/white striped gondola pole a sign points to Rialto.  

There were just as many signs to San Marco so it would be easy to find as well, but it’s on the far end of the city and Rialto is central. I would definitely stay near Rialto again. 

Once we got in the apartment and got settled in we headed out for dinner. We selected a take-out pasta place someone on Facebook recommended. It was really good! (It was called Dal Moro’s Fresh Pasta to Go if you’re interested.)

Below are the details and tips for those who are planning to go to Venice. Things we learned and hope to pass on to make life easier for friends planning their trips.

Click here for Day 2 and to skip the boring travel tips.

THE DETAILS and TIPS:
GETTING THERE: 

Flight to Italy from within Germany:
RyanAir has its some really GOOD aspects and some really irritating ones. On this trip, I’m happy to say, we had only positive experiences. Both flights were delayed in leaving, but as we didn’t have connecting flights to worry about, we weren’t stressed at all.  We could have flown for less than $100 total, but we both wanted to be able to take a suitcase. Round trip, the price of our tickets combined was $249. 

Bus to Venice:
We flew from Stuttgart’s airport to the Treviso Airport 40 minutes outside of Venice. We pre-booked bus tickets from the airport and then back to the airport on a tour bus by Terravision and even with all the other options available, (city bus, car-for-hire, taxi) I’d choose this option again. Fine print states that you have to have your receipt TO Venice printed and the FROM Venice on a separate page, because you have to give those to the drivers. Just keep that in mind, and all is well. When booking things like this, read all details before you book. (On this one, the TO/FROM trips have to be within 10 days. Easy to fix if your trip is longer than 10 days… just book two single-direction tickets…making sure that the tickets for different days are on separate pieces of paper.  

Water busses: 
These busses are known as a vaporetti (plural). Not knowing how often we’d need the Vaporetti (public water bus system) I decided to purchase the week-pass. These were 60€ each and after doing some math, that means that we needed to use the vaporetto system 9 times to get our money’s worth. I think we did! If not, it was pretty close. They (strategically) have 1-day, 2-day, 3-day, and 7-day passes. We were there five days so I went for the 7-day and looking back, I think it was a good purchase. (While there I felt like maybe I should have just paid the 7€/per ride…. I think it’s a toss-up. It’s expensive either way.)

At Tronchetto I scanned the Q-card at the Vaporetto stop and it printed our paper ‘bus passes.’ This is important for anyone visiting: when getting on a vaporetto you have to scanthe pass every single time (this is called “validating” your card. The machine will beep and some have swinging doors that fling open to walk through. In our five days we were asked for ours and a uniformed officer checked that we had scanned our cards three times! We even saw a family from India being ticketed for not validating before they got on. This system is confusing at first, so I felt bad for them as they had been expecting someone to stand at the bus stop and literally “punch-validate” their bus tickets. They had paid for them, they just hadn’t scanned them before boarding the boat.

This ends the “details” part of this post. Stay tuned for my journal on Day 2!

Click here to read the first installment which talks about our honeymoon photo-disaster and why we picked Venice for our 20th.

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20th in Venice

20 years ago Matt and I spent 10 days on the West Coast enjoying our honeymoon. San Francisco was amazing! We loved the weather and knew we’d like to go back someday. When we had our photos developed at Wal-mart (send-out, not one-hour because we had 300+ pictures to develop) we were crushed to find that only about 10 had come out clear. The new-fangled camera I had (a style of camera that lasted only a handful of years) had a non-replaceable battery in the zoom thingy and every photo that I used the zoom feature was blurry.

The lady at the photo counter felt so bad for me she ran the entire batch through the 1-hour machine just to double-check that the problem was the actual photos and not the machine they had been run on.

Nope. 290 ruined photos. 10 were good. I cried. And you better believe that before I had babies I upgraded to an SLR camera. (DSLRs weren’t out at that point or if they were, they weren’t in my price range.)

Because of my heart-break and for a graduation present, my parents helped us go back to San Francisco for our 1-year anniversary. I took my pitiful honeymoon photo album, which I had created with the blurry pictures, along on the trip and we recreated as many of the pictures as we could. I then made a side-by-side album which I still treasure.

Most of our anniversaries have been celebrated with low-key activities. One year, after his 15-month deployment, we took a cruise. It was a great time celebrating our 10th Anniversary and was the longest we had ever been away from our boys (there were three at the time). It was also our first-ever debt-free vacation! The cruise was memorable for many reasons, the top three reasons being that it followed such a long separation, that it was paid in cash before we left, and finally, because we learned something about ourselves: we aren’t really the cruise-going kind of people. Our package included two vouchers we could spend on anything on board. After one visit to the spa where we found could finally relax, far away from the swarms of people and non-stop loud-speaker announcements, we sank our entire vouchers (and then some) on the week-pass to the spa. We read by the windows that overlooked the very back of the ship, sipped water with fresh orange slices, and relaxed in the Japanese jacuzzi.

During our tour in Wiesbaden we took a family trip to Italy, with Venice being the finale. It was a magical place and we vowed that we’d make it back some day, without kids. We started saying that we’d shoot for our 20th, not knowing if that would be feasible. Who knew where in the world we’d be living when we hit that milestone?!? Well, as it turns out we are in Stuttgart, Germany, a 1-hour flight from that magical city, so we simply couldn’t pass up the opportunity to make our dream a reality.

In this series I’ll post about our fun, some tips I have for those heading to Venice, and, most importantly, share the pictures I took that I’m simply thrilled to say I took {mostly} all by myself.

My sweet husband made my dream of celebrating our 20th in Venice a reality. I’m sure there were other cities he would have liked ot check off our bucket list, but this was a special trip to celebrate us. We decided that revisiting a city we’d been to before would help us relax and just “be” there… we wouldn’t be worried about seeing all of the things because we’d seen them before. Getting lost in Venice is sort of what you’re supposed to do, and without kids, we were able to do that multiple times a day… on purpose (with anyone whining that they were tired, hot, hungry, or needing a Wi-Fi fix)!

I hope you enjoy reading along as I share our Venetian Adventures! I’m looking forward to re-living them as I write!

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When am I Going to be White?

Heart. Broken.

That’s what we felt when we heard Anna ask this last week.

We have done everything in our power to affirm Anna’s gorgeous brownness. We point out the beauty of black people on television and in books. We talk about how unique God made black hair and just how many different kinds of curly hair there is. It’s not as if we only talk about that in our house, but it is definitely something we talk about. All that I’ve read on transracial adoption has encouraged this as most adult transracial-adoptees say that their parents ignored their melanin and just pretended their child was white… they pretended to be colorblind. They pretended (and this is a stretch, y’all) that the world is colorblind.

We are not perfect and we won’t know for 20 years if our approach is the right one, and it will be up to Anna to tell us some day, but for now we are doing what we have read is the best thing for her: let her know we see her and her color; affirm that part of who she is; encourage her to have pride in both of her ethnicities.

And to go a step further, we never say anything like: ‘You got ‘the good kind of hair’ or ‘You’re not too dark…’. Think about what those messages, which are engrained in our culture, send. Those messages shout, “The whiter you are, the better.” When a very dark-skinned woman is on the television screen we point out, “Wow! Look at (insert whatever we think is lovely… her hair, smile, eyes, skin), isn’t she so pretty/lovely?!?”  Don’t get me wrong… we are honest. Kids aren’t stupid. Anna, for sure isn’t going to buy ‘fakeness’ from us. So when we see beauty in any shade we compliment it. And sometimes it’s not even a visible thing… the lovely thing we compliment may be the person’s kindness, ability to be a good friend, empathy when someone is hurting. It may be a male character who has stopped to check on someone who crashed on his bike. Beauty takes on infinite forms.

Even with our efforts to affirm Anna as she is, and with our intentionality to affirm blackness in all its shades, Anna still said four things in a single week that crushed us and made us wonder what is going on in her brilliant little mind.

The first thing she said to me was, “Look mommy, we match.” And she held her arm beside mine to show that we were almost the same color… “The sun’s making me white!”
That was the first gut punch. First, the sun will never make her white and I don’t want it to!  Second, the sun makes me more brown and I tan easily, so what the sun can do for me (change my color to be more like her) it can’t do for her (make her more like me). Finally, as a mother who will never “match” her daughter, I hurt… not because that matters to me, but because it will matter to her. At some point Anna will truly begin to understand what “adopted” means and people, it’s not a rainbows and unicorns word. Adoption always comes with trauma. No way around it. Even with adoptions that were as smooth as ours, with connection to a child’s first-family, trauma is there and Matt and I are voraciously reading about how to best be there for her no matter how her “adoptedness” affects her.

The second gut punch came in the form of a very brief conversation Anna had with Matt after her bath. I was nearby sweeping the floor in the kitchen and overheard, and it came on the heels of the conversation I had with her. Matt, I have to say, handled this so beautifully. Because he’s done the same work I’m doing on race, biases, and adoption trauma, he was ready to affirm Anna and didn’t show any emotion at all. He just answered her questions as if she had asked what we were going to have for dinner. He’s a pro!

Anna: When am I going to be white?
Matt: You’re not going to be white.
Anna: Princesses are white.*
Matt: Not all princesses are white. By this point I was perked and ready to see what in the world was going through her mind. I had set down my broom and was just going to be a voyeur and then she said this:
Anna: “I need to be white so I can be a ballerina.”
Matt: Ballerinas are black, too, You have a book about a black ballerina. (At this point I was right outside her door and went straight to her bookshelf and pulled the book about Michaela DePrince. Not only an accomplished black ballerina but an adoptee, too.) 

Having books that portray children of color in our home matters. Giving mirrors to Anna, matters (‘mirrors’ being images that reflect herself in books and on television). I had that book in her hands before Matt had her dried off. While she was having products applied to her hair and lotion applied to her thirsty, brown skin, she flipped through the book we’ve read dozens of times. We strictly limit the number of white-princess movies she watches, though there really aren’t many brown princess movies out there. I don’t know if we convinced Anna that she doesn’t need to be white, but we at least let her know that she does not need to be white for us to love her. Sadly, that’s not enough in this world, and I know that. She’s going to want to be loved and admired, appreciated and accepted by people outside our circle and I can’t guarantee that she will be. What I can do is try to strengthen her character, her identity as “Anna, bright young lady who is capable, kind, athletic, incredibly smart, black and white, and beloved Child of the King.” And with those pieces of her identity she will have to build her own life and fill it with people who add to her character, not tear it down. She will have to use what tools we give her to deflect what the world will throw at her.

And to take this conversation a step further, to what actually got me on this topic today… she has a privilege that she will need to recognize, not abuse, and she will need to help culture tear this idea down. She is light-skinned and that in itself will “help” her be seen as beautiful and smart, among other positive traits. I want her to see that all shades of black are beautiful and to not internalize what our culture tells her is beautiful.

So, if you’re interested in what light-skinned privilege is, check out this MTV Decoded video.

This. People. THIS.

Can we stop seeing people as good or bad based on their skin tone?

Before we adopted, Matt and I were very much unaware of the issues surrounding the topic of race and ethnicity. We lived in a the comfort of the majority. Because we are white, we fit in everywhere we go and were always given the benefit of the doubt… never looked at as if we were less-than because of our skin color. As we research we are learning more and more about just how deep these issues go. Our country is mostly past the overt racism of slavery and segregation, but we have entered a new phase that is challenging in its own way because it’s subtle and obscure. It’s easy for white people to pretend it doesn’t exist and that makes it very dangerous. The video I linked to explains skin-privilege between members of the black community and I have no intention of sharing that video to educate black people on black issues. My intent is to inform good, well-meaning, non-racist white people that there are ways we unintentionally buy into ideas that our culture has ingrained in us for hundreds of years. Light-skin privilege is something Anna has. White privilege is something I have. I would love for white people, good, kind, loving, non-racist white people to look at these topics. I consider myself in that category. I look back at my life pre-Anna and would have said that I was all of those things and yet, I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

 

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Hohenzollern Castle

Every now and then a Princess needs to visit a castle. We’ve been here in Stuttgart for a year-and-a-half now and it’s been right at a year since we last visited a still-in-tact castle.

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Hohenzollern Castle is very close to Stuttgart and is a stunning piece of architecture. While not the original castle on the site it is still magnificent. We were given the royal treatment when we arrived and directed to a section of parking for mini-busses. The castle offers a bus that packs people in as tightly as absolutely possible to make the trip up the mountain but we are tough and mostly in shape so we decided to take the walking path. What we did not know at the start was that the walking path had a lot of stairs. It was incredibly steep, and had we had Anna in a backpack carrier we would have been just fine. (Okay, fine is a stretch. We would have still been huffing and puffing, but less exhausted once we reached the top.)

Once at the top, you join the street, and then follow the castle’s driveway to get inside. It is such a steep mountain that the designer created an elaborate figure-eight driveway. On our way back down a very fancy car carrying a wedding party was entering and in order for them to get through this archway I had  to go back through, stop people who were walking down and wave the driver on through. It was very narrow and with a steady stream of visitors it would have taken them all day to get through. IMG_7408

Anna believes there’s some connection to castles, being a princess, and ballet, so when she to the top, (NOT exhausted, mind you) she did a few moves.

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The views are simply stunning. They say that on a clear day you can see the TV tower in Stuttgart. We plan to take my family to this castle when the come and I’ll be looking for it! (Dad, bring your binoculars!)
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On the way back down the driveway I snapped a few pictures. This was the least blurry of them but I still wanted to post it. IMG_7433

Our visit to Hohenzollern castle was lovely and we can’t wait to show it to Mason and Madison!!

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Welcome at the table.

 

As an adoptive mom I can sometimes feel a pinch of defensiveness when I read words like this. I want to say, “Yeah, but not us.”

We truly do welcome Anna and her whole story to our table. We talk about her first-parents, we have their pictures on our walls. We talk about her other siblings. Ask her how many mommies she has and she’ll tell you, “Two. Mommy and Mama Kim.”

Reading Anne Heffron’s complex thoughts make me want to share to her words with my own world so that more adoptive parents will examine their beliefs/perspectives/attitudes regarding the way they interact with their children… really investigate what messages they are sending, even inadvertently.  I also hope this helps people choose open adoption when it’s a possibility… I pray that one day open adoption is the default.

Adoptees grow up with a complex set of feelings regarding their stories and those feelings should also be welcome at the table. When I feel that annoying pinch of defensiveness I am drawn to look more deeply at how I’m raising my daughter and whether I am doing everything in my power to give her space to be who she is… she is NOT like our other kids… she is ANNA. She comes with a set of traits that are not Hyatt/Hamrick… they’re from her other parents. Those traits are welcome at our table. Those traits bring a whole new set of dynamics and it is my job to welcome them, not try to conform them to the Hyatt/Hamrick way.

Just some thoughts that were too complex to be a quick “share” on Facebook or Instagram.

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