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I survived the Passport Office

“You’ve really never had a Passport before?!?”

The lady on the other side of the plexiglass divider raised a questioning eyebrow at me in disbelief. Her eyes glanced back down at my printed out paperwork and birth certificate laying out on the counter between us, finger resting on my birthdate. I am pretty sure I know what she is thinking.

Yes, I am 30 years old and have never traveled outside of the US. 

Well, I’ve been to Canada, but does that really even count?

“Where are you going and when are you traveling?” Continued her curt line of questioning. “Eastern Europe, we are adopting a little girl but don’t know our exact travel dates until the Orphan Courts make an official ruling and schedule a hearing for us. Likely we will be traveling in early 2013, but we need valid Passport numbers now to complete all of our Paperwork.” Her eyes light up and entire demeanor changes. I can tell that even at 8:36 in the morning she has been gearing up for a tough day. The three people who cycled through at her window before me all came ill-prepared, spewing excuses as to why they didn’t have a valid form of photo id or why their driver’s licences had expired or offering to go home and get a High School Yearbook to show photo identification. I thought the requirements were pretty clear, but I did read them about 23 times, and maybe it’s just me who gets so anxious about going over the paperwork at least 15 more times and having at least three different types of backup documentation just in case. Really, Natalie, you can relax. This was actually a very easy process.

But I still get super hung up over the little things. Like traveling abroad. For the first time ever.

I can tackle the paperwork, the prying home study questions, planning out how to fit 4 girls in one room, rushing around to get things copied and notarized and mailed. BRING IT. But the thing I am most anxious about? Getting on an airplane for 10 flipping hours, having to go through customs, and navigating travel through other countries. Man, my palms get all sweaty just going through the security line for a domestic flight because I am so worried about getting it right and being all prepared. There’s only 6 people ahead of us– BE READY! Did I take my belt off? Wait, I’m not wearing a belt? Do I have any pennies in my pocket? What if they think my carry-on isn’t the right size? Get the laptop out! Shoes off! Wait, did I forget to take my belt off? Please oh please oh please don’t select me for special screening! Please don’t beep! Please don’t beep! And I swear, nearly every single time, Matt forgets to take his belt off, making me all the more obsessive about getting through the darn process without hang-up’s. I don’t know how people who fly all the time put up with all this. They must just get used to it. It’s like an intricate dance where you have to get all the steps straight. And international travel? I am completely unfamiliar with the choreography. All the more to deal with.

After 42 minutes at the Passport Office downtown, $225 in fees and expedited services and a $10 bill handed to the parking garage attendant, I will be able to pick up my Passport on Wednesday afternoon, giving me the clearance to leave this country. Perhaps I will have to invest in some prescription-strength deodorant. Can I add that to my adoption out-of-pocket expenses we can claim on our tax return?

You know, I am really rather excited about this at the same time. It’s not that I have a fear of flying or travel, I love both. I just haven’t had the opportunities to do any international trips. I have wanted to. Growing up, my mom didn’t fly, so driving (yes driving) 15 hours from Northern California to Southern California to go to Disneyland in 8th grade was about the biggest trip we ever did. In college, Matt and I REALLY wanted to study abroad in Florence, Italy our 4th year of Architecture school. But being the minority of married students, paying our own way through college, it just didn’t work out to go. That has been something that in the back of my mind, I really kinda regret not working harder or going to school a year longer to do. I think we just wanted to get done with our degrees more than we wanted to go live abroad. I think we thought we would have more opportunities later.

This year, we started discussing our upcoming 10 Year Anniversary (this coming January, by the way). 10 years of marriage is a big deal. We mulled over throwing a big party versus taking a big trip. By July, a big trip had won out. By God’s providence, we started planning on a trip to Europe and saving. We started looking into places we would want to go just after the new year. Europe? or Mexico? Warm or Wintery? maybe we stay domestic and go to Hawaii? or Costa Rica? what about Spain? or Italy? There was a list under a magnet on our fridge of our top 5 options. Last week I threw that list away. Because our trip has been decided.

I know this trip and this story is going to be so good, and full of hope and excitement. And like the lady who helped me this morning, nearly everyone we get to chat with about what we are doing gets encouraged and excited along with us. So I will be bold and I am going to GO. Passports mean we are one step closer to being able to bring Ana into our family.

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