Tuesday, August 27th, 2013
In a fascinating new book called To the End of June, author Cris Beam explores the intricacies of America’s foster care system. She shares heartfelt stories of real kids journeys woven in with solid research and insight. Our country has more than 400,000 foster kids today–and they’re in every city and school. Yet, the average person doesn’t know much about them or what they go through.
Cris hopes to inform us all–and thereby improve–childrens’ lives. Read my Q&A with this amazing author below. Cris left her own home at age 14 and never saw her mentally disabled mother again. Later, as a grown woman and educator, she adopted a transgender foster kid who was getting lost in the system. She pores her soul into her acclaimed, must-read release.
KK: In three sentences, what is your book about?
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CB: To the End of June reads like a novel as it closely follows a few foster families over the course of five years as they navigate their way through child welfare. These families love their kids and want to do what’s best for them, so through their journey, we can more easily see the problems and potential in child welfare overall. When the families encounter particular issues endemic to foster care (running away, birth family reunions, intersections with juvenile justice, etc.), the book pans back into some child welfare history and research, but always sticks closely to the individual characters and stories themselves. (more…)
Wednesday, April 10th, 2013
I love my job! I was invited to sit down with actress and screenwriter Nia Vardalos–the writer and actress from My Big Fat Greek Wedding. She was so friendly and gracious and nice. She hugged me when we said hello. Then we sat down in New York City to talk about her amazing new book, Instant Mom.
With her trademark wit and warmth, she detailed her journey from Hollywood success to infertility and eventually adoption through the foster care system. She talked candidly to me about her 10 IVF treatments, the day her daughter arrived, how she does it all and what she’s working on next (a new movie!).
Here’s the scoop from our chat:
KK: Did you really have just a few days before your daughter arrived at your house?
NV: I had 14 hours.We got the call (from foster care) at 11:30 p.m., and she was there the next morning. Ian (Ian Gomez from Cougar Town) went that morning and got everything and by late afternoon, she was there. She was almost 3 years old.
KK: You write that the transition was hard for her–can you tell me about that?
NV: Even though her brain and body were not formed, her emotions fully were. She came with a full set of personality and pain and feelings of betrayal. My biggest job now (Ilaria is 8) is that she knows that she was not abandoned. Two people who did not stay together chose to do the right thing and place her in foster care, and that’s a good thing.
KK: You unveiled yourself, in a way, for My Big Fat Greek Wedding. But you unveil yourself in a different way for this book.
NV: Tula is obviously an extension of me, but that screenplay is mostly made up. But the base is from my real marriage–my husband (Ian Gomez) got baptized. But this book, it’s all real. We’ve already gotten calls about making this a movie. It’s already started. But I think it makes a better book because the words are exactly how I want to describe it. So once again, I’m just staying in the moment. I’m not thinking about it. I’m just trying to get through the interviews without crying.
KK: You went through so many hard years. How did you keep going after 10 IVFs?
NV: The years of infertility… I felt so alone. My advice is not to stop what you’re doing. Instead, I think that each person knows when it’s time to keep going. And there are so many successful IVF stories.You know when you’re in a relationship with a bad boyfriend? You take it and take it and take it. Until one day you sit down and tell your girlfriend, and you hear it for the first time, that’s how I felt when I sat down with the adoption facilitator. When I said what I’d been through, that’s when I realized it. That’s when I also knew the best thing I could do is take some time off and process it. That’s the best thing I did that led me to my daughter.
KK: Did the press ask you nosey baby questions?
NV: Constantly and just when you least expect it. One guy I remember saying to me at a party, ‘Yeah, my wife and I were just talking, now that you got skinny, there’s no that you’re going to get fat with a baby. You’re going to hire some kid to have it, huh?’ His wife went on to say crazy things, too. I would’ve traded all the success of My Big Fat Greek Wedding for the simple chance to have a baby. It was a terrible time to go through it. Now, I wouldn’t trade one minute of it because it led me to my real daughter. I’m at peace with it, and that’s why I can talk about it without crying.
KK: Did Ilaria read this book?
NV: I don’t think she’s going to read this book until she’s about 16 or so. Because there are adult topics in it. From the infertility to the victim crying in my front yard.
KK: Was it hard to write about the horrifying attack you experienced in your front yard?
NV: Women have this thing where we feel like we can’t exhale because then the other shoe will drop. That is a fact, whenever you think, ‘Now I’m done,’ something else happens. That’s why I kept this part in. If anyone was going to exhale, it would be me after the adoption was finalized. And then that peacefulness was taken away from me by a selfish stranger. It happened very soon after the adoption was finalized. I kept it in because people need to carry pepper spray and look behind them when they’re on the street.
KK: Tell me about your lovely babysitter, Anna.
NV: She’s our babysitter, and Carmen became our housekeeper. They come about two or three hours a day about three or four days a week. I acknowledge it because I don’t like when actresses pretend they do it all on their own. Come on, you don’t make your own pesto, your chef did! So I’m just saying out loud, the whole ‘Can we have it all?’ Well, sure–with some help.
KK: What do you think is the one message you want to get out overall?
NV: The thing that touched me the most was the kindness and compassion of women. The mothers I met at the park who had children the same age as mine and saw the dismayed and confused look in my eyes as a new mom of a 3-year-old were so comforting and welcoming for me. They never dug for secrets, but they were curious and kind. That’s how I realized by the end of the book that we’re all Instant Moms. None of us are prepared for this. The uniqueness of my story is that I had an almost 3-year-old child furious at us that she was living with us on Day 2 and sleeping only on two-minute increments.
KK: I heard you’re donating the profits for this book.
NV: The money will go directly to people trying to adopt or people who need help to defray the costs. I found an orphanage in another country, I met the man who runs it, and I’m going to give them some money. That’s what we decided. We’re going to just share the proceeds.
KK: What are you working on now?
NV: As soon as I finished Instant Mom, I was proofing it, recording the audiobook, and then I started writing a script for Paramount. Then I flew to New York City to film an episode of SVU. Ian was off from Cougar Town, so he told me to get out. I came for 10 days. I went back to Los Angeles and turned in the script. It’s for Paramount, and it’s called Leftovers. It’s an anti-romantic comedy romantic comedy. I’m trying to fill the large dearth of films out there for men and women who are single and are happy about it. It’s about all of the myths we’ve been fed, and are they for us or not? Usually not. If everything goes according to schedule, it would be out in about a year. I’m starring in it and producing.
KK: You’re super busy!
NV: I always wonder, does something have to give. And I think, ‘Yeah, a little bit.’ So what if I gained six pounds, let it go. Who cares? If I didn’t return that mom’s text about a playdate, that’s okay. I think I just allowed myself to be much more fallible than I did before. The only thing I won’t do, is I won’t hand in a script late. I am on time!
Nia is very easy to love, and I wish her much success with her new book and movie. Check out Instant Mom. It’s great for anyone who has been through infertility–or knows someone who has.
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adoption, foster care, Ian Gomez, infertility, Instant Mom, IVF, Leftovers, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Nia Vardalos | Categories:
Celebrity Books, Mom Must Read, Must Read, Parenting Advice, Q&A With Authors