Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas from Annabel's concert!

Merry Christmas! From Annabel's band concert. She is hard to spot as she is behind the conductor, but wearing a Santa hat and a white dress! More later!
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


I have learned some important things about being a mom.

First and foremost, you are pretty sure you are a better at what you do in your role as mom than almost anyone else. Honestly, Moms, do you ever look at what someone else is doing and think, Wow! I wish I was that kind of mom? Now you might wish you prepared a meal like a certain mom, sewed, danced, dressed, but rarely ever would you trade your kids for theirs. Now that is not to say your children are perfect and you will be the first to admit it, but you know in your heart of hearts that you are doing such a great job that your children are better than the neighbor's, the cousin's, the playgroup friend, or the church member. You are proud of your children and know that you have done a great job as a mother.

Second, you doubt ability of being a mom, being a good mom,  not even trying for great, almost all the time. Rarely is there a day that something doesn't happen that makes you think you are up for worst mother of the year award. Whether it is a bad grade on your child's test, a pouting spell, a temper tantrum, or any of the other "human" things that make our children human and less than perfect. At that point, you are sure you could have done better, you should have known how to react when your child's bottom lip was dragging so low that they were in danger of tripping over it, you should have made them study more to avoid that bad grade, you should have checked your bad day at the door before tackling a disagreement between siblings, there are millions of ways that you could be a better mom. There are just so many things we need to do to be better mothers so our children can have a better lives. Any failure of theirs is a direct reflection of us as failures as moms.

Third, we are always looking for ways to improve what we do, through advice, magazines, yahoo groups, almost everyone except non moms! If that wasn't true, there would not be half the magazines, advice columns, and all the formats that will help us be the best mom in the world so our children's lives will be perfect!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sweet memories

This morning I was struck by a strong memory when I heard my coffee pot brewing.

Odd thing memories.

I was talking about this same thing with an older man at work recently. He is still grieving the loss of his wife and we talked about how just walking down a hall you are suddenly struck with a memory eeither from a sound, a word, a smell, memories that you had forgotten, but reappear so quickly with no warning.

We were having company for lunch so I got up early trying to get a head start on the day. I was standing there chopping up vegetables when my coffee maker started and I was immediately transposed to a much younger age in my bedroom that was across the hall from the door to the kitchen, hearing Mom and Dad having breakfast with their usual cup of coffee, and Dad listening to the radio.

And with this memory it brought back what was important in my childhod: it was not what we had or had not, it was that whole sense of security knowing that every morning my parents would be in the kitchen enjoying a cup of coffee while eating breakfast and listening to the radio. And they were there if I needed them. I loved this so much that I would cry at night dreading when things would change. OK, I was a weird kid.

In one of my recent posts I wrote quite candidly about my concerns that my girls seemed ok and really was worried about what we faced in the future.

Many of you wrote to tell me not to worry about the future and while that is easier said than done, the memory recalled this morning brings home the point that not everything has to be perfect to make for a good childhood. Mine was not perfect, but it was secure and I know that is all I can offer my girls, the rest takes time to realize.

Another thing that happened recently was Annabel's 2nd ever Christmas concert. Her group's participation last year was really short and well, it was their first concert, so you know. But this year they have really improved and I was so proud of her and all the other students that I was clapping until my hands hurt, and that's when I looked around at all the other mothers. They too were clapping, as hard as they could, trying to make sure their children knew how proud they were of them. It did not matter that the Christmas songs had nothing to do with their religion or their heritage, it was their children and they were proud. I love the school my girls go to because of their ethnic diversity and it is great to see that moms are moms no matter what!

I'm not promising that I won't worry about the future for my girls, because I also know that is part of being a mom, so know I am trying but I can't guarantee anything.

Monday, November 29, 2010


Sometimes when I try to write, there is such a strong mixture of events and emotions that it makes it very difficult to capture the elements in a blog post.

Thanksgiving is a holiday that seemed to receive a lot of press this time as an unappreciated holiday, that it is so much better than Christmas because it is not as commercialized, and we all NEED to express our appreciation, and the best way to do it would be to start our Christmas shopping on Thanksgiving to buy gifts for everyone we appreciate!

For our family, it has also been the anniversary of a number of other celebrations. Both of my sisters' birthdays have fallen on Thanksgiving. It used to be our annual camping trip to Eisenhower State Park. Jana announced she was married at one Thanksgiving. It evolved into a time to gather with mom's family. More recently, for us, it is also the anniversary of our adopting our two crazy dogs.

With all of these celebrations, it has become a bittersweet celebration with the loss of Jana, especially when her birthday coincides with the holiday.

But this year we had a great surprise and Lisa and Gillian and Darcey were able to join us for our celebration and that made everything better! It was great to have two kitchens to work in, with Mom handling the difficult parts in her kitchen, and me handling the extras in mine next door.

We also celebrated Lisa's birthday and had a chance to visit with Mom's side of the family again, ate too much, shopped just enough, and the girls learned two new crafts!

My daughters are in seventh heaven whenever their cousins are here and this was no exception. They were so excited to teach their cousins how to do screen printing and everyone has new t shirts with their name and a picture of their choice!

The next day, Lisa taught them how to knit and Annabel is convinced it is addicting! I am so glad for her to have a means to occupy her hands when she feels restless. It took a lot of patience to try to teach all 4 at once, especially since they learn on such different levels.

By the time Sunday got here, I was finally feeling better after almost three weeks of fighting the worst bug I have had in years, but it had caught up with Mom and Dad! So we sent one group home, one group to bed, and we hit the books to get ready for this week.

My list of thank yous includes all of you who take the time to read our story.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

What ifs???

Something has been on my mind and I can't decide if it is made worse because I have been sick or just an emotional time.

With all the joy of baby Isabel being born, it made me worried that my girls feel lost because there is no record of their beginnings, not their births, and very little, other than a date, as to when they were left, abandoned, but not a term I like to use.

I tried to imagine what it would be like if I did not know anything about my early years, and it is impossible. There is no way you can put yourself in their shoes and know what it feels like to have your life begin that way.

There is a local newspaper column that always asks their interviewee if they could travel back to any time or place where would they go. Most pick historical points. I would pick the time right before the birth of both my daughters. I would give anything to be able to provide for them any kind of insight as to what was happening in the birth mother's life, what forced her to give them up.

I've read a few books where the adopted child was able to reconnect with their birth family, and the circumstances surrounding the decision to allow their child to be adopted is more varied than I expected. Some families had too many children. Some were not married. Some had no money. Others because the child was sick, the parents made the difficult decision to leave their child where they hoped it would be found and the medical help provided.

Annabel has been exceptionally quiet this week. She complained one night about some fairly minor problems, which spurred her to tears. Completely out of character for her.

I finally asked them if it bothered them.

Grace immediately answered no. She just doesn't think about it. This is the same child who when asked how she handled being "chewed" out by someone, told me she just ignores it.

Annabel never answered me.

We were going to a program for adoptive families. All the parents sat around and discussed all the problems their children were having. I couldn't relate to any of it. We don't seem to be having those problems. There is no bitterness, no secretiveness, no defiance, none of what others described. I can embarrass them, but I can embarrass almost anyone!

The moderator told me my girls just haven't gone through their grief yet.

How depressing is that?

I'm guessing if you have a 12 and 13 year old, there will quickly come a time that I will become an idiot, based on how most teenage girls become. But what happens if they suddenly decide to deal with their "grief" at the same time?

I'm truly not trying to borrow worries, but I feel for my girls. I mean mourning is not something I actively do for their loss but want to be fully prepared and not sure if I can be. It's no good to just sit around waiting on something I know. Like I said, it has been complicated and emotional.

I'm just ready to feel better so I can be there ready. I am so sick of being sick!

Saturday, November 20, 2010


Pictures of perfection!

We have been blessed this week with a new addition to our family.

Little Isabel Jane was born on Tuesday to my sweet niece, Marcie and her husband Drew.

It has been a long time since we had a baby in our family. Actually it has been 10 years since Darcey was adopted at one year old and before that it was 13 years for Gillian. My girls joined the family in the meantime, but somehow a six and 11 year old are not quite as cuddly.

We are very excited for Marcie and Drew. It is so great to have another reason to celebrate in November.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

My life in beige

I want to be one of those women who wear beige.

Not just a little bit of beige, but the whole outfit is beige and it probably would not be called beige, but flaxen or ecru or some other great term that doesn't make it sound like you are just wearing a blah color because the outfit would probably would be linen and maybe even the color would be called linen.

And a hat would be appropriate and look good with the outfit, and if you took the hat off, your hair would still look good.

And you would have a croissant for breakfast, but just nibble on it, preferably at a table outdoors, and you wouldn't be thinking about the fat content since you only nibble on it and then never really seem hungry.

And people take your elbow and wheel you away from things that are distressing because you might have the "vapors" if you actually had to see anything that was upsetting.

This week I saw the movie, "Letters to Juliet" and Vanessa Redgrave wore mainly beige, probably flaxen, and looked fantastic throughout the whole movie, and she had a great looking grandson to wheel her away from anything that even remotely appeared upsetting.

Wow! I have tried to avoid those kind of movies for a long time, the kind that are set in Europe with fantastic scenery, wonderful meals, and only beautiful people, basically chick flicks. I try to avoid chick flick books too.

I guess I have had that time in my life when it was sort of a chick flick, with trips to Europe, where breakfast was not something heated in the microwave or toasted and eaten in the car, where you had more than one cup of coffee and it was actually in a coffee cup, not a thermal mug or a paper cup, but I'm not sure that I ever just nibbled on a croissant.

As far as beige, recently I have decided that I have a "uniform" that I wear, dark pants, white shirt, and a sweater/jacket. While Vanessa and her character probably shopped at some cute boutiques, my clothes seem to be bought at Sam's. Not quite the same, is it?

But this morning I decided I would pretend that I was on a jaunt to Europe as I had some croissants for breakfast and would take the time to drink a cup of coffee from a cup, or several cups, and I could actually eat my croissant on a plate, not a paper towel, so I got out a plate, which just so happened to be a Barbie Princess plate, fitting, right? and poured myself a cup of coffee.

Now the scenery was somewhat different though, as there were no views of the hills of Italy, or a pool, but instead a very high stack of unpaid bills and junk mail to sort through, and I was not wearing beige, but my giant bear t shirt that was a souvenir from Alaska from Mom and Dad.

And there was no good looking grandson to steer me from anything that might upset me.

But the company here was much, much better. I wouldn't trade it!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Meeting my goal

The goal for today was not to be sad.

It is hard for certain dates to come and go without having emotion attached to them and today marks the day my sister passed away four years ago.

So while my goal was not to be sad, I also added in the desire to make new memories, but still wanted to honor my sister's memory with a symbolic gesture of wearing red, which is symbolic for some many reasons, but will stick with the fact she died of a sudden cardiac attack.

But finding something red in my wardrobe is difficult. I have one red t shirt my sweet niece made for us last year with the Chinese symbol for love and heart, but I was also having a veteran's breakfast and just learned last week how seeing some of these symbols can be difficult for those who served in the Pacific during WWII, so I opted not to risk triggering some deep memories and instead bought a new sweater that was reddish.

This morning I got my new reddish sweater and my very dark pink sweater and asked the girls which was closer to red.

Annabel and I agreed the reddish sweater, which was actually maroon, seemed more red, but our artist in residence, Grace, advised us we obviously did not understand hue and tint or we would understand that the deep pink was indeed closer to red.

No time to get all teary eyed when you have started WWIII in your own home by trying to discern the article of clothing that is closer to red!

Onward and upward!

The idea of the veteran's breakfast was hatched just last Thursday, but thankfully I have lots of great help and my goal of reaching 20 veterans was doubled and 40 came for our first annual Thank You Breakfast for veterans. I received the most touching email from one who said that in his 40+ years since Viet Nam, this was the first time anyone had offered him that opportunity. Wow! OK, so I spent the morning crying over those types of really special moments.

The event I attended last week told how they had taken the time to pin a flag pin on each veteran, shake their hand, and tell them thank you for their service. The first three I did this for, I had to stop as the tears made it impossible to see to pin anything on them without causing serious injury.

There were some incredible stories and I am glad to have this new memory.

I really should not have worried about having too much time to get sad today since my girls keep me quite entertained and engaged all the time I am with them.

This afternoon, after making it through one of the worst traffic jams the city has seen, both ways, going to school and back again, which was then made even more intense with rain, and a lots of it, the last destination before home was the grocery store to pick up a prescription.

In between was Gi Tar class, or guitar, if you have not read how I continue to put my Texas twang into it, where we picked up the guitar I bought Grace ages ago at Tuesday Morning after the having the instructor tune it for us.

So we have arrived at Tom Thumb, where I thought Grace would cry if I chose to park and go in, so we opted to drive through.

And if you have a guitar with you, why not take advantage of it and play and strum while I try to do business with a man who is using the microphone as if he is a rock star, at the exact same time that a truck is revving up, making it impossible for me to hear the question Mr. Rock Star pharmacy tech is asking.

What did he ask me?

Would I like a waffle with that?

Did I bring a baby bird?

What is your mother's worth?

What is your daughter's girth?


See, why did I worry about being sad when even driving through the pharmacy drive through can be quite amusing???

Another important part of today has been all the many kind words, well wishes, prayers, and notes I have gotten from so many friends.

It's hard not to miss my sister but I have great memories of her and adding great new memories all the time.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Essential life skills

Yesterday afternoon, I was reading about 10 essential life skills. I made a silent oath that I would try to incorporate these into my life, but when I did, I was not counting on the dreaded question, "Mom, do we have.... (fill in the blank)?" Because when the initial greeting is asking if we have something, generally there is little chance that we do have it or else the question would not be asked, right?

So as Annabel got into the car yesterday, she asked if we had any black yarn.

I am not a craftsy, creative type of person, and while I do have some craft supplies, it is a rather limited amount of anything that is not paper or paint and I think I have only ever bought one skein of yarn and would be hard pressed to know where it was at this point, since I bought it long before I adopted Grace, which was more than 6 years ago.

Black yarn?

For what?

Seems they were making a movie trailer for their Information Technology class and she was supposed to play a king.

This is why I love this school because the very idea of making a movie trailer when you are in 7th grade is pretty amazing to me and then when they cross teach it with their language arts class it is especially awesome. But when your student remembers on the way home, miles from the closest Michaels, Hobby Lobby, or Jo Ann's that she needs black yarn, oh and a crown, and a moustache, then you kind of wish they were going to a school that did not expect as much.

Anyway, I have failed to mention that the girls are now taking guitar lessons, which either my east Texas roots are showing or my time in west Texas is shining through, and I pronounce it as Gi Tar.

So their GiTar lessons are FREE, my favorite cost, and more about them later, but they put us in an area that was the shopping mecca of the neighborhood when I was growing up. Now my choice of places to shop are primarily pawn shops with a few dollar stores sprinkled in.

We crossed the street to the dollar store with hopes that they would have something, anything that could become a beard.

Creativity is one of the essential life skills and I was trying to make it work, only that dollar store was creepy and was selling way more incense than could ever be burned in all the temples in China, and the lights cast an eerie glow that made you almost sure that this very store could be the backdrop for some B rated horror movie.

We quickly left there and proceeded to our "usual" dollar store where I tried to concentrate, another one of those essential life skills, on the task at hand and increase my creativity to find some object, that with minimal adjustments, could become a black beard.

Someone suggested after the fact that we could have used cotton balls. I have to say, never even thought of that, because her vision of this king resembled Abraham Lincoln, so I was looking for something with black fur.

The only trouble was though, I could not take a step without both girls being right on my heels, so if I stopped, it was like a bad cartoon, with them running into me.

I urged them to spread out so we could look throughout the store faster and get home.

Before I could look up they were back directly behind me and stepping on my shoes and if I stopped, bumping into me.

After trying to come up with a means of turning a black washcloth, a fake hair doo dad, a pair of black socks, striking out on finding black contact paper, no Santa Claus outfits with beards, only a dog costume, and not even a good Halloween costume left in the clearance bin, we left with only a roll of black electrical tape.

I managed to design a crown out of poster board but when I tried to embellish it, again we came up short on our craft supplies, and I could not find any jewels or glitter to bedazzle the crown! So I opted for painting the whole thing gold and hoping the others in her group might be overwhelmed by its beauty! It actually looked like someone who was younger than 2 had made it, but at least it was done and Annabel was able to get her homework done.

Oh but wait, I still had to figure out a beard.

I got a skinny headband as a way to hold something around her and started putting on tape. The problem with electrical tape is it curls and after several adjustments, made something that might pass as a beard.

On the list of essential life skills that had really struck home with me was undivided attention. With technology so easily accessible, it's hard sometimes not to multi task, even while talking to your children.

I know that Annabel's crown and beard did not measure up creatively, but I did feel from her that by my doing this work for her counted a lot more than the end product, and I gave her my undivided attention in trying to help her achieve her goals and her needs for the day.

Like I have said before, unqualified, but still showing up!  

Monday, November 8, 2010

Will you please take the time to read this?

This Thursday, November 11, will mark the 4th year since my beautiful little sister, Jana, died of sudden cardiac arrest. She was only 44 and left two remarkable young daughters.

They say that time heals all wounds and evidently it takes much more time than has passed for me now.

I continue to try to find a way to make sense of her death and a purpose in it. I feel I have failed, in some ways, by not organizing a HUGE walk a thon or a fund raiser or something to ensure that her memory is kept alive and others do not go through what we have in dealing with this loss.

As I get older, I realize few things happen merely by chance and today has proven that theory. My in box at work is way too full and I was trying to get to the more important notices when I came across the link for our weekly newsletter from work. Scanning it quickly, probably seeing if my name were anywhere, I came across an article where one of our doctors has done considerable research on sudden cardiac arrest.

That is what killed Jana.

Last year I asked everyone to wear red in her memory. Will you do it again this year?

I am ending this with information that I found from our doctor's research and an organization I did not know existed. Please take the time to read this and share with others.

More than 250,000 deaths occur each year as a result of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). In fact, SCA claims one life every two minutes, taking more lives each year than breast cancer, lung cancer or AIDS. To decrease the death toll from SCA, it is important for the U.S. public to understand what SCA is, what the symptoms and warning signs are and how to respond and prevent SCA from occurring.

The Society's “Apples and Oranges” campaign is designed to educate people about the difference between a heart attack and SCA. The campaign targets heart attack survivors, who are at the highest risk for SCA, and stresses the importance of maintaining a healthy heart lifestyle and learning critical risk markers, especially their Ejection Fraction (EF).

Friday, November 5, 2010

Decisions and their impact

Many years ago, some people, my best guess, men, better guess, business men, sat around a table to discuss the state of affairs of China.

In that discussion, based on my own jaded history, the primary discussion bottom line was probably profit and how to get more of it, and a decision was made that families should only have one child.

This child should be a male because a female cannot, surely never will they have, any power or ability to earn a living, much less own a home, and take care of his parents.

So it was decided that Chinese families would consist of the man, his wife, and their son.

Because the decision was made by businessmen, again my guess, no consideration was made for the daughters born to those unions. And God forbid, if more than one child were to be born.

So the families were left to handle the unforeseen from this decision and they began to find ways to ensure their babies, especially their daughters, could be put in a place where people would find them and hopefully and prayerfully, give them a life.

Two of those families left their precious little bundles where they could be found and God, through His wisdom, brought them to me.

And now as I am trying to de-stress from my day, one daughter is playing the guitar and showing me what she has learned, the other is dancing "mariachi" and the two dogs are barking at the mariachi dancer and the guitar player is non plussed by all the distractions and noise and intent on showing me each and every note, chord, and detail she has learned.

And life is good.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Trying to find a balance

Back in 1979 I had brain surgery.

Not many people can say that and still be alive!

For a neurosurgeon today, I am sure it looks like a cave man did it!

Anyway, when I was discharged from the hospital, my rehab consisted of the admonition, "call us if you are still alive next year"!

Eventually I decided there were probably much better ways to help someone going through what I did and sought out a Master's Degree program at UNT to work with people with disabilities.

There I had a professor who emphasized that our bodies try to be self adjusting, but when pushed too hard they will rebel resulting in a variety of illnesses.

This summer I began to have problems with a cold that just would not go away.

I finally went to the doctor, a new doctor, who took time to sit down and talk about a lot of things and ask questions. He asked about medicines that I have taken forever for asthma. He really got me thinking about some things but I did not slow down.

At the time, work was especially stressful, there was never enough time at home to accomplish what I wanted to do, and money was a constant issue.

But I kept going at the same rate until my body started with a variety of other problems and when I stopped for a minute, I realized my body was trying to tell me something, that there has to be a limit. There are only 24 hours to the day and a finite amount of money.

I started with the money.

This was hard.

I cut down our cable to a plan so cheap it doesn't even appear on their website. I called my insurance agent and worked hard to cut out the non essentials and upped deductibles and decreased limits. I looked at the prescriptions that I have taken forever that my insurance has paid less and less for and slowly, but surely cut out all but one. (This has had to increase to treat the symptoms that I have developed from what I think is stress induced problems.) I'm still trying to figure out a way to cut down on my cell phone and home phone, but haven't found a plan that helps yet.

From there I started looking at things that cost a lot in both money and time and realized that the majority of these were things for my girls. It was really difficult to do, but the tutoring for Annabel was costing a fortune and wearing me out trying to get her there. That sounds very selfish as I type it, but my goal is to clear out the time for me to help her, which hasn't been happening. Grace has flourished under her piano teacher, but at $50 for 45 minutes, it just had to go. She was also taking an art class, which she loved, but the time to get her there and the cost really was taking a toll.

Trying to recover some of the time has been even more difficult.

Time isn't just the physical time spent, but the mental time, email time, and more importantly for me, the stress of the situation.

This is the one area I have not been successful in yet. People don't thank you for a job well done and volunteer to take over for you. This is actually requiring a ton of work, time, and stress almost to the point that it doesn't feel worth it, but I know what my goal is, finding my health again, so I can focus my time, attention, and money where I want it, where it needs to be.

I'll keep you updated.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Are you my family?

Tonight I skipped to the front of the line and took my shower first and while enjoying the few minutes of solitude caught myself remembering earlier conversations with my girls.

I was actually trying to decide what and how I wanted to write about next but a primary theme was how you have to be on duty, 24/7 as a mom, because before you can complete one set of questions, another is thrown at you, a meal has to be served, a phone call taken, a load of laundry done, and you are behind two or three sets of MAJOR questions and problems that need to be resolved.

As they gathered their clothes and head to the shower, the door pops open again and the question is asked, "Mom, what animal is roast?".

Uh, cow?

"So is a girl cow called a cow and a boy cow called an ox?"

Hmmm, I think an ox might be a type of cow or something, but no, I don't think they are the boy cows. This is when I wish I had taken that Animal Husbandry class at ACU that my sister did, as I really don't know the answer.

I wasn't sure where or how this conversation had originated so Annabel comes back through after announcing to Grace that she, Annabel, was right!!!

So here is the explanation:

"Mom, I told Grace that I was eating my relative tonight because I am ox (the Chinese calendar and which year you are born) and a cow and an ox are related so I was eating a relative tonight."

This child won a certificate of merit on Friday for being the 7th Grade Most Inquisitive Student! Enough said!

Monday, Monday!

This morning I am at home with a sick child and a leaky toilet.

For once it is not Grace who is sick but Annabel who came in dragging this morning. I asked if she was sick and her answer was "kind of, sort of", which for her means, YES, but she hates to commit and cause any problems, much less admit weakness. But when I told her to go back to bed, she went with no complaints and has slept soundly in her uniform for the next few hours. Also a pretty clear proclamation that she is indeed sick! She NEVER sleeps or at least not late or extra! She might miss something!

As far as the toilet, it kept Dad up all night.

No, it is not in their house, it is in ours but I complained to him about it so it became his problem and after trying to repair it himself without success, then finding the "right" person became one of many worries for Dad.

It is now repaired, thankfully, but when the man arrived it was obvious that we had a language barrier and while I tried to call my co-worker to translate, Dad arrives and speaking a mix of words, none of them exactly Spanish or at least in the way you learn them in school, gesturing and not sure what else, the man clearly understood the problem and got to work! And the way you know it is the "right" repair person, when Dad can negotiate a better price, and everyone goes away happy, including the repair person!

While driving back from dropping Grace at school, I actually toyed with the idea of going back to bed too, but when Dad arrived to check a fan that tried to catch on fire, Mom arrived too and felt my floors could use a good sweeping!

So while I thought a nap sounded good, with being in the "sandwich generation", sick child in bed, and parents that I think I am supposed to take care of, instead I got my fan repaired, my floors swept, a bargain on toilet repair, and I caught up on laundry, dishes, and email for work!

That's the way to start a week off right!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Tears and fears

Annabel's Earthquake proof home that included landscaping!

Grace's earthquake proof home that included curtains in the windows. Very sound structurally!

The other night the girls had just completed their earthquake proof homes for their science projects. I was so impressed with what they had done that I was in the middle of taking pictures of how they had incorporated the material they had learned about making a structure earthquake proof and then the extra touches Annabel put on hers like the flowers and the wind turbine, when Grace came in to tell me that Annabel was crying.

As I mentioned in my last post, I have really been trying to look at some things that have been consuming us, financially, emotionally, mentally, and overall just eating up our time.

When I went in to check on Annabel, to see why she was crying, it precipitated my decisions on changes that needed to be made.

Annabel was crying so hard she could not tell me what was wrong.

Partly I knew she was too tired. They had worked on designing these homes for over a week and then building them the next. Because they wanted theirs to be "above average" (my words) it took longer to complete the project and bedtime was compromised.

BUT when she could finally catch her breath, she gasped out that she was afraid she was going to fail.

Fail? On the science project? No way!!

No she insisted, not the science project.

I began to guess what she thought she was going to fail at and it finally came out that she was afraid she was fail 7th grade, high school, college, and overall, life.

Wow! This from a child who spent the first 11 years of her life being shuttled from an orphanage to foster care, who brings so much joy to everyone she knows, who constantly puts others before herself, ok, I can just go on and on.

But her concern about failure worries me and makes me know she needs more of me, right now. 

It is a very fine line for me, trying to help her build up her confidence, learn English, do homework, maintain discipline, and help her believe she is loved.

But I feel like we are facing a very critical phase for Annabel, where she has to "get it" right now before school gets any more difficult, where her ego can be built up, or otherwise we will be facing major discipline problems very quickly. PLUS it is just time for her to be loved. I know I keep saying that, but I worry that is part of what she does not "get". There have been so many people in her life and I am guessing they have promised to love her, but none of it has lasted. And when you are 13 life is rough enough without all the extra baggage.

So I continue to look for ways to cut back on all the distractions and be able to focus on what is important. It is so frustrating dealing with trying to end some of these distractions. I keep trying to focus on my goal and know that I can take a little beating up because Annabel deserves/needs me more than anything dished out to me.

An end note on Annabel's progress - I got an email from the principal asking for my presence at an awards ceremony on academic performance for Friday. Guess whose getting an award? Yep! Annabel!!!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Some thoughts

Life lately has gotten way too complicated, if it has been two weeks since I sat down to write.

I tried last week to quit some things that are taking up way too much of my life, my emotions, my time, my money, and it was just not pretty.

People do not like for you to quit. It doesn't even matter what you are trying to quit, if you have been doing it, it is wrong for you to stop doing it, and no one asks why you need to quit or if maybe you might need some help for a change, rather than you helping them all the time.

These situations have been on a constant loop going off in my head and really been quite distracting.

It dawned on me a few weeks back that I really could not remember the last time I had enjoyed something. Not that I have to be entertained, but I could not remember a really good meal, a conversation, a laugh. I know there were some and so dear reader, if you have been in my life lately, don't take it personal, but it has felt like all of my energy has been spent trying to maintain or even survive, but nothing more.

Back in the 80's it was popular in to draw a circle and determine how much of your time was devoted to each area of your life and if it was not balanced, you were doomed to fail.

I haven't seen anyone draw that out lately and the last time I did, the only person I had to care about was me, so it was pretty lopsided in those days, but now it just had begun to feel like it was flat, with some areas being a giant weight dragging the bottom of my circle down and the areas that I really want to focus were continuing to be neglected and dropping down into the weighty section as well.

This is surely not the way things are supposed to be.

But just as things seem to be murkier than ever, several things began to happen last week to give me that infamous Oprah, "Aha!" moment. Places that I am normally not, caused me to run into people I normally would not have seen, some who held specific answers for some of the problems I have been dealing with, others offering solutions that I had not even considered, and hope that a balance can be found that will make my circle more evenly divided.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Unqualified but still showing up!

Even without my glasses on and trying to read from my Blackberry's tiny screen, I felt the article at the end summed up what I have learned from parenting better than I could say it.

I don't know about parenting birth children. I don't know about parenting with a spouse. I don't know about parenting babies.

I only know about parenting older children from a foreign country as a single parent. I have to say it is the hardest but by far the best job I have ever had. It is so good that I wish I could do it full time and not be distracted by things like jobs, but I know I have to set the example for my daughters and one of those things is having a job. I digress....

Yesterday Annabel and I went to the grocery store together. She is always ready to go, it rarely matters where.

For whatever reason she stuck to me like glue. I could not move the basket without rolling over her feet. Everything I tried to do was amusing to her, which grew tiresome very quickly, especially since I was tired when we got there.

This is when I wonder if the loop playing inside my head is being heard by anyone else. I recognize that it is me, not her, with the problem. I finally sent her to buy me some coffee from Starbucks to buy a few minutes to breath and ask for patience in a quiet prayer.

Recently I was reminded by Annabel's ever brilliant tutor, that Annabel has been through enough in her life.

She spent her first 11 years trying to please everyone so she could survive. That's a HUGE job for anyone, but to know that it is required just to survive, not even trying to thrive, but so you can have food, shelter, and what little affection you can get, you are required to please people and do it from infancy, well it must have been overwhelming at times.

So with the tutor's voice in my head also and knowing God would help, we got out of the store without incident.

We got home, started dinner, and I made a quick escape with a short bike ride, but left Annabel to make brownies on her own. I know better, but was really in a hurry to ride before our cornbread chili pie was done, so did not check with her that she understood exactly how to make the brownies.

When I came back, she had that deer in the headlights look and casually mentioned she might have put in too much oil. Yes, three times the amount is too much. She tried to fix it by stirring it a LOT!

Deep breath.

We ended up adding the other 2 boxes and making a HUGE recipe of brownies. I know she knows I am annoyed but verbally I keep saying that it is a mistake anyone can make and I appreciated that she tried.

I get all teary eyed when I talk about Annabel and cannot even explain why. I know more times than not that I fail but I keep reminding myself that even though I am unqualified, I keep showing up!

Unqualified, but Still Showing Up

October 3, 2010by Janet Morris Grimes Share 7 Comments I read recently the following quote by Tom Peters: “There is no such thing as a minor lapse in integrity.”

The same is true for parenting. Being a parent is not something that you clock in and do only during your waking hours. It is much more of the person you are; day in and day out. Not only does it take over your waking hours, but permeates your sleeping hours as well. Parenting rules your work week as well as your weekends; your lazy days and busy days. It determines where you live, how you spend your time, and your thought process throughout each day. Not only does it become who you are twenty-four hours a day, but only when you multiply that by the number of days in the rest of your life, do you begin to get the picture.

And this can be a comforting thought.

Always present, and always aware, your children remain in the shadows, picking up on your good habits as well as your bad ones. They have a front row seat to your tough days in progress, but they are also there to witness your victories. They are the first to detect a bad temper, financial problems, health problems or an upcoming major family change. They are also the first to celebrate with you when you overcome these challenges.

I recently saw an Australian television commercial called “Make Your Influence Positive.” It shows scene after scene of a child following in the footsteps of his or her parent. A mom with a cigarette in her hand, and a child doing the same. A father passing by a lady who needs help, and his son does the same. A mother yelling at her infant to stop crying, and her daughter does the same. Though this particular commercial demonstrates the negative side of the influence that a parent holds in the life of a child, the opposite is also true.

Our children recognize how we live, the way that we love, and the times we choose to do what is right, especially when no one else is looking. They sense our motives behind our actions. They recognize the unspoken dreams we still long to pursue. They notice the moments when we rise above our own needs to touch the lives of those around us.

Our kids are influenced much more by our actions than by our words; our hearts more than our habits; by what we do not say as much as by what we do.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Dear Walt....

Dear Walt Disney,

I know you are gone, but you keep hounding me. Please leave me alone. I have enough stress as it is without you constantly reminding me that it would be a GREAT family vacation to take my group to Disney World! I know you are offering 25% off but that really doesn't help.

You see, I am very busy.

I have subscribed to a number of websites that are teaching me to be a great parent, not a good one, but a great one, because we all know I am extremely competitive and if there is a prize to be given, by gum, I will work my tail off to win it and obviously, there must be or there could not possibly be that many websites telling me how to do it!

The only trouble is, I have so many emails, I can't get through them all to absorb the brilliance they are willing to share!

So I subscribed to some of the websites that will help me control my time, manage it is the usual word, but I think that managing time must be very similar to trying to manage liquid mercury or as my friend puts it, herding cats. I try, I honestly do, and I have great intentions, but I continue to fail.

Oh I am behind on those emails too but I think that is because I am trying to plan the most delicious, nutritious meals for my family, and so I have subscribed to some websites that will shoot me a recipe on a regular basis that is quick and easy and most of all nutritious. I know my family needs good nutrition, but really, all I want for dinner are some fritos and bean dip and a coke. It used to be my go to meal when I had a bad day. Now I recognize the fat content will clog up my arteries and the sugar from the coke will put me at risk of diabetes, so I will comb through your brilliant essays on easy meals but it is beginning to stress me out, trying to balance organic with my budget, easy with prepared, nutritious, with tasty. I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who can make it happen, but it is just making me feel like a failure, so I have subscribed to some websites that will provide me with a minute of meditation, or deep thoughts, like they used to have on Saturday Night Live.

I believe the meditation people are right, slow down my breathing will help me clear my head, but sometimes the very minute I try to slow down my breathing is the exact instant the dogs begin to bark and warn me of some dangerous predator like a squirrel, so I fail at that also.

Because I need to provide the most warm and comfortable house, Lowes, Good Housekeeping, Real Simple, Home Depot all want to help me achieve my goal and bless their hearts, they have some great ideas and love to send them to me and so I have started a folder on things to do as soon as I get the nutritious meal prepared after completing my meditation.

Of course I am missing one of the most elemental needs of a good family, and that is family time! Not just sitting around laughing at a TV show together, we are supposed to be doing any number of the very worthy projects from Family Fun magazine, the various museums, much less the fun we are supposed to have with our dogs that Rachael Ray will help us plan!

But to do any of these things takes money, so I have started subscribing to all the "group" coupon offers and actually bought quite a few. The only trouble is, now I can't find which group I bought the coupons from and it is stressing me out to think I wasted my money trying to save money to have a good time!!!

So Walt, if you could just back off on the commercials, the emails, the banners at the top of my email page, I would really appreciate it. I have got to go buy the nutritious elements to prepare a fast, nutritious meal so we can have family time with our dogs while saving money in our warm and comfy home and still have time to pay the bills!

Your friend, Jerri

P.S. Walt, 25% off, really?? I mean, we are old friends. Surely you can do better than that! Free is the favorite price! I'm just saying....

Friday, October 1, 2010

Annabel and dogs and school and misunderstandings

As I was coming down to the final days before adopting Annabel, several urged me to write a blog about the experience. I could not imagine how you could do that. Thankfully google made it very easy and I started writing, A sister for Grace, as that was the focus, adopting a sister for Grace. I don't think I am the exception in not fully understanding and/or appreciating just how valuable each addition to a family can be. My primary goal was to ensure that Grace had a "family" in case something happened to me and a sister seemed to be the best solution.

Two years later I can tell you that not only does Grace have a sister, but I have an amazing daughter who continues to overwhelm me with her huge strides in learning, her kindness, her energy, her humor, and thankfully now, her love.

Part of what has amazed me about Annabel is her relationship to our dogs.

I write about them some, but to explain where and how they came about adds to this story.

Two and a half years ago I had to have my dog Buster put down right before Thanksgiving. It was very sad, but with the addition of Grace in my life, my priorities and focus had shifted to her instead.

Two days after Thanksgiving, while visiting the mall, we came across the SPCA exhibit and the cutest terrier looking dog, just the right size, was out there wagging his tail, hoping someone would love him and take him home. Unfortunately I was with my sister Lisa, who has become a dog nut, not a doughnut, and she urged me to check it out.

The people who run these exhibits are VERY smart and when they had us hooked in with the cute terrier, they pulled out his sister, who looked more like a dust mop and was considerably smaller and seemed a little psychotic even from the start. How could I consider taking one without the other???

So we "adopted" Nina and Ollie and almost immediately I knew why their previous family had taken them to the shelter: they were just bad dogs. They both bark constantly and bite every chance they get.

Only if your daughter is adopted and the term "adopted" has been used on these animals, how can you take them back? I mean, how much would the psychiatrist bill be for permanently scarring my daughter making her think that if she did not work out, I would take her back.

So we persevered. A dog trainer was called and this is when I knew these dogs were smart. They behaved PERFECTLY while she was here. But the second, I mean the very second, she got into her car, they started back to their old ways, barking and biting.

A second visit was no better and she could not understand what my problem with the dogs was so we persevered.

Then as the time to travel to China got closer, my Dad, for just the second time ever, shook his finger at me and told me I had to get rid of those dogs before I brought Annabel home as they would scare her to death and terrorize her and who knows what else!

I couldn't, but I did take Nina to a dog therapist who agreed to put her on medication for her biting, which has helped, some....

Anyway, we return from China, I go pick up the dogs, and inside the house Annabel is waiting.

We have no common language and it has been difficult to try to act out that we have these dogs and they live with us in our house and they are not dinner.

We all held our breath as the scene unfolded and they made a beeline to Annabel.

Certain that I would be calling 911, I lunge forward to put my body between she and the dogs, but she has dropped to her knees and hugging and petting these wild and crazy dogs.

I call her the "dog whisperer".

She has been their best friend they could ever have and they were there for her when she could not tell us what she felt.

This week she gave Ollie a bath. That night she wanted Ollie to sleep with her because he smelled better. Much of the time he smells like the locker room of an elementary school gym, but she had even put the deodorizer on him.

So that night she is yelling for him to jump up on her bed, but Nina jumped up first and Ollie would not then because Nina will growl at him. So Annabel tries to get Nina off her bed, but now she is growling at Annabel, not really, but it makes for a better story.

So I have to call Nina to get her to jump off because she always wants to be with me and about the time she jumps off, then Ollie jumps up on Grace's bed, so Annabel is still fighting to get Ollie and so Nina jumps back on her bed.

It went on for quite a while with the wrong dog being on the wrong bed and Annabel continuing to try to lure Ollie on hers. It was quite amusing! Finally they both just got on her bed and she was satisfied.

Annabel carries each dog around like it is her baby, which amazes me when I think about how mean they originally were. She rocks them and swings them as you would a baby and won't put them down even while trying to do multiple things, as if they cannot walk on their own.

OK, obviously I need to get some pictures of this, but I think it says a lot about Annabel's inner self that this really bad dogs tolerate and LOVE her for all she is for them.

School for Annabel has not been as easy and while she does amazingly well, 7th grade is just harder. Early in this school year I realized that their math seemed like where I left off in high school and I was no help.

They had a big math test this week and part of what I love about this school is that the teachers want the children to learn. There is no emphasis on the annual state testing, the focus is on learning, so when they don't understand the concepts in class, they are given another chance, by going to school on Saturday, where they can get more one on one and if needed, re do their work, including a test that did not have a passing score, which is what happened for Annabel , and put her in a miserable mood tonight. And I can't say I blame her because I hate for her to have to go, but so glad she has the opportunity.

I'm trying to put a positive spin on it and the only thing that has helped is that we will go to McDonalds for breakfast.

Trying to catch up with all the "lingo" that makes English so difficult to learn at times makes for some really funny conversations.

My brother in law is a state trooper and from his job we have learned the slang term "black and white" as what they call their cars.

Recently we were driving along and Dad asked if I had seen that the Dallas Police were going with black and whites.

Annabel immediately shouted, "POPPA! DON'T BE RACIST!!!"

When you are laughing so hard it is really difficult to explain that he was only referring to their cars.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Unique opportunities!

What an incredible week of unique and rare opportunities that culminated into a very special celebration!

This week included the anniversary of Grace and I becoming mother and daughter, the Mid Autumn Moon Festival, which is very important in China, meeting an important top person with Medicare, dining with the top officials from China, and celebrating our family with a luxurious meal atop the ball at the Hyatt Regency.

I've talked some about adopting Grace. I wish there had been blogs six years ago because so many of the details are already lost from memory. Neither of us are good historians, except for random details.

Mid Autumn Moon Festival was on Wednesday and somehow I completely missed it. It is a family focused celebration in China with family members traveling great distances to be with their loved ones. The first time I had heard of it was soon after Jana had adopted Darcey and for the celebration had bought this beautiful box of pastries called moon cakes. I looked at them envisioning the delicate pastries being filled with apples or apricots, maybe even pecans, but instead they contained white lotus seed paste and red bean paste and sometimes if you are very lucky, an egg yolk in the middle. Obviously tastes that you acquire.

The next time was in China during the process of adopting Grace. Grace's foster mother had sent a big box of these Chinese delicacies, moon cakes, with her and we sat in the floor of our hotel room at the White Swan in Guangzhou sampling each one. Later I learned how expensive that box was and know what a sacrifice, financially, much less emotionally, it must have been for her foster mother.

Other years I have bought moon cakes for the girls at the Chinese market and last year I even made my own version using my dream filling with apples in the center.

But it feels like so much has been happening, especially at work, that I got distracted and missed helping my daughters remember their heritage.

Part of what had distracted me was the big event we were hosting on Thursday. This week was the 6 month anniversary of the Affordable Healthcare Act, which included numerous new benefits for Medicare recipients and since my job is primarily working with Medicare recipients, I was contacted about hosting a very important representative from Medicare to make the announcements of the changes. Of course I jumped at the opportunity and we pulled off coordinating a sizable audience, press coverage, and all the other details in record time, making it appear effortless with no sign of the sleepless nights and worry that preceded it.

BUT I realized just how much my life has changed me.

When given this kind of opportunity in the past, I was all over it to meet the individuals, provide any of the extras to help make sure it was stellar for them, but this time I was much more focused on it ending on time so I could get the girls and be on time for our dinner in Fort Worth. Gladney, our adoption agency, was hosting THE top ranking officials from China who handle all the adoptions. I wanted these people to see that their trust in us was valid, that the adoption of the older children worked, and in some ways that a single person can be a good choice.

We made it to the Fort Worth Stockyards, to the Mexican restaurant, to meet the top officials from the CCAA, The China Center of Adoption Affairs, When you apply to adopt, you fill out tomes of paperwork. All of this goes to these very people, who pore over every detail in every document you send to ensure you are an appropriate parent.

If you are adopting a baby, it is rumored they look at your pictures and find a baby that seems to be a great match for you. I don't know how they do it, but I think God has a hand in it much more than just human decision making.

You have to remember that my girls are teenagers, or at least pre-teens, so you can know just how accepting they are of me and used to my actions.

Also, language is never a barrier or a deterrent when I am determined to accomplish something, especially when it has to do with my girls and all the other girls who need families.

So, of course, I found the top man, grabbed a translator, and proceeded to tell him how very important my daughters were to me. How having them had made my life. How the older child adoptions were such a success. How I grieved that I could not adopt again just because I am single, but would love to find a way to help those who "age out", who become 14 and for as many reasons as there are girls, have few if any resources once they reach that age, and how I would love to find a way to help. This stopped the conversation. Initially he said there are foster parents for these children. I explained that this would be foster care here, with the family providing home, food, and education, preparing for a career, but returning to China at the end. I'm not sure, but I think he understood and said he would take it back as a consideration. At least I have planted the seed. I'm not sure I could give up a child who lives with me for 4 years to return to the unknown that China would hold, but I know they would be better prepared. The laws seem arbitrary and for someone who likes to find solutions, it is really easy for me to say the laws just need to be changed.

My girls were the oldest children there and Annabel was one of the few who could still understand Chinese and much to her chagrin, I brought her over to talk to the executive director. I'm not sure what he asked her but know he got typical teenager's answers, including a shrug of the shoulders, "I don't know", and "I guess"!

The whole scenario bordered on bizarre, being in the Stock Yards, eating Mexican food, speaking to the people who hold so many other's futures in their hands while they sipped on margaritas and tried to understand the corn husks wrapped around a tamale. I don't think nachos, tamales, tacos, or taquitos translate into Chinese.

Before I adopted Annabel, Grace and I went to the restaurant atop the Reunion Tower each year to celebrate our "gotcha" day. The year we came home with Annabel, I knew I could not translate to her why and where we were going and besides, at that point, we could barely afford a glass of water there. Thankfully it was closed due to renovations.

Last year, rather than try to figure out two separate events, we decided a trip to Mexico was our "family" anniversary celebration of becoming a family.

This year our focus financially has been on the "extras" like tutoring and piano and art, so we opted not to take a trip, and found ourselves needing something though to mark our celebrations.

The view from on top of the ball was just too irresistible and since the renovations were complete, we made our reservations, got dressed up, and went for the most scrumptious of meals.

The surprising change was the menu was now Asian and the menu was full of dishes that the girls LOVED and very reminiscent of China. Tiny dumplings were followed by duck for Grace and quail for Annabel, each accompanied by noodles. We got there while it was light and watched our view change as the sun began to provide a beautiful sunset, and stayed until the lights of the city came on. It was a perfect way to celebrate. When the dessert menu came, my very practical minded girls opted to end the meal with a McDonald's sundae for $1, rather than $12 cookies!

Life is good.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Becoming mother and daughter

Six year ago today, I became a mom and Grace became a daughter and while it usually occurs simultaneously it took us a while to grow into our roles.

I wish I could describe those first moments as magical and fulfilling in all that I had dreamed, but realize I had not really had any REAL ideal of what to expect, even though the process had taken several years to actually happen.

I was prepared to be a mom, I convinced myself, I had taught school, I had been an aunt, I had baby sat, I had worked in the nursery, I was an expert! I did not need parenting classes, I knew well how everyone else had failed and I would be THE ONE to succeed and be the perfect mother, whose maternal instincts would flow immediately and love would be there to make it all work.

And so at the end of a long journey of paperwork, a trip that took days to complete, I was whisked to a building that I am not even sure its purpose or location, as the whole thing is a blur of jet lag and a fine mist that started that morning, making it feel almost magical, and put into a room with another family who were also adopting an older child, and told to wait as my Grace would be brought to me.

I'm not sure who all were in attendance, other than Jana, Gillian, and Darcey, but it felt like all eyes were on me and waiting on my reaction, as they brought this little girl holding this gigantic stuffed dog into me, and while I could recognize her from the pictures, all I could focus on was that gigantic stuffed dog, that was bigger than her, and my first thoughts as a mother were concern on how I could ever get that thing on the airplane and would I have to buy a ticket for it.

And so that maternal instinct did not kick in immediately, as expected, but my usual practical self took over!

I remember she had a ton of doo dads in her hair, lots of necklaces, a shirt with dice made out of glitter (an appropriate shirt for a 6 year old), jeans, and pink shoes.

She was and is the most beautiful child I have ever seen.

While I dealt with paperwork, Jana, Gillian, and Darcey stepped in and a bond was made between she and Gillian that is still so strong and profound that I don't know what I would have done without them.
In a blur we had pictures made, thumbprints made, signatures on all the dotted lines, and then whisked back to our hotel.

Within minutes I learned that all the things I thought had prepared me for motherhood were not necessarily transferable skills, but again, thankfully I had Jana with me to guide and direct me through those initial days.

My Grace, through our enneagram work, has identified herself as a lion and while I first thought she was anything but that, in hindsight, I see her strong character and will are her most basic qualities and what made her survive so we could become mother and daughter and why I love her so much.

Her strong will and mine clashed relentlessly for months afterward and at times it was not a pretty picture. I remember my dad even getting onto her and telling her she was killing me by her actions, but we persevered and she taught me and I taught her and we finally became worked into our roles of mother and daughter.

The name Grace describes her perfectly. She is strong but has a heart full of love and kindness. She is quick to learn new things and doesn't forget anything. She is patient and compassionate, shy, and great with a quick retort at the least expected times that make me bowl over with laughter.

There is so much more, but I want to stop here and attach a request I received this week.

When I become a millionaire or have the brains to figure out how to do this, I will help take care of those children left behind in China. Yes, I know there are children here who need help, so please don't fault me for wanting to help those in China. The difference is profound between what is available here and what is available there.

When a child becomes 14 in a Chinese orphanage, they are no longer eligible for help and pretty much on their own, unless there is a sponsor. I know there are families here who would "foster" these kids, allowing them to get an education that would prepare them to work when they return to China, but right now there are no such arrangements and what happens to them after they are 14 seems like a great unknown. If anyone reads this and can help me even find a foothold or a springboard on an idea of making this happen, I wish you would tell me.

In the meantime, this is one of the organizations that provided help for both Grace and Annabel until I could adopt them, providing funds for their education, their foster care, and other ways.I thought some of you might be interested in a way to help.

Hi, Like the kids here, our sponsored children from several of the Jiangxi orphanages are returning to school and they need your help. We need to pay the schooling costs for our sponsored foster children that attend the school near their foster home instead of the one near their orphanage. The cost is $155 for the year. I hope you can help!

I'm sure you can all appreciate the benefits to these children to be in a loving, attentive foster home instead of in the orphanage. And once they're in school they benefit from having a foster family that will encourage them and help them with their homework, giving them a chance to compete with all the other kids at school that have parents and grandparents focusing their attention on their only child. A child in the orphanage is at a significant disadvantage. The child in foster care also benefits by being in the community and seeing the value of an education and growing up with the expectation that she will someday be an independent adult that can get a job and care for themselves. And hopefully in a school away from the orphanage, surrounded by their
foster family and local community that accepts them, they will not have the stigma associated with being an orphan and can really live a normal life without bullying at school.

But to achieve all this we must pay for their schooling in addition to their foster family stipend and need some new sponsors for this. Here is a list of some children of the children that need a sponsor ($155):
Girl born May 2005, in kindergarten
Girl born June 2002 who has congenital heart disease, in kindergarten
Girl born March 2005 who has congenital heart disease, in kindergarten
Girl born March 2004 who has cleft palate, in kindergarten
girl - 5 y.o. - healthy - kindergarten
girl - 6 y.o. - HepB - primary school
girl - 15 y.o. - left leg deformity - middle school
boy - 3 y.o. - club foot - kindergarten
boy - 3 y.o. - lower extremity deformity - kindergarten
boy - 3 y.o. - healthy - kindergarten
girl - 5 y.o. - Cerebral Palsy - kindergarten
Girl born 11/04 (has Cerebral Palsy) in kindergarten
girl - 4 y.o. - possible autism - kindergarten
girl - 6 y.o. - Cerebral Palsy - kindergarten
boy - 3 y.o. - Cereberal Palsy - kindergarten
girl - 6 y.o. - Cerebral Palsy - kindergarten
NANCHANG this is the city that Grace and Annabel are from
girl - 14 yo - cerebral palsy - special ed school
boy - 15 yo - cataract - special ed school
girl - 15 yo - low IQ - special ed school
girl - 7 yo - cerebral palsy - kindergarten
girl - 10 yo - cerebral palsy - primary school
girl 9 yo - cerebral palsy and epilepsy - kindergarten
girl 10 yo - cerebral palsy and epilepsy - kindergarten
boy - 9 yo - developmental delay - kindergarten
boy - 3 yo - hydrocephalus - kindergarten
girl - 10 yo low IQ - kindergarten
boy - 13 yo - low IQ - special ed school
girl - 7 yo - "malfunction of the brain" - kindergarten
girl - 16 yo - low IQ and hep B - special ed school
girl - 13 yo - middle school
All of the above children need $155 per year. But we also have some older children that need more but this could come from several sponsors if needed so any amount you could donate would be much appreciated. A few of these are:
A girl from Leping, born 10/90, who has had polio and will attend Nanchang Financial College. She needs $994 for the year.
A girl from Nanchang, born Jan 1993 and has hep B, in her first year at Nanchang Women's College. She
is majoring in aviation service and hotel service and when she graduates wants a job as an airline stewardess
or job working in hotel. The cost is $268 per year.
A girl from Nanchang, born Jan 1990, has hep B, also in her first year at Nanchang Women's College.
She is majoring in metro service and administration, planning for a job associated with the subway. The cost is $268 per year.
A girl from Shanggao born 7/95, healthy, who is in high school and needs $315 for the year. (High school is not paid for by the government even though she is living in the orphanage).
Support is provided by donations to Altrusa Foundation which is a 501(c)3 organization in the US that works together with Amity Foundation in China. Altrusa does not take any admin fees out of your donation and Amity Foundation in China charges only a 7% admin fee. The rest of your donation is all going to your
sponsored child's schooling! You can learn more about us at .
If you'd like to donate by check it should be made out to Altrusa Foundation (tax deductible in the US) and
mailed to me at:
Altrusa Foundation
Attention: Peggy Gurrad
P.O. Box 1354
Longview, WA 98632
You can also donate through (which is a good option for those of you outside the US). But there are fees with PayPal also so please add about 3% for US donations and 4% of those from outside the US.
However it appears that you can choose an option that says this is a gift and then neither you or Altrusa are charged fees.) Using my peggy@gurrad. com e-mail address will take you to the Altrusa Foundation account.
Or if you want to use a credit card let me know. Please consider helping. We have lost many sponsors
because of the bad economy and won't be able to continue helping all these children if we don't find some
more people who can help. And it makes such a big difference. It's thrilling to see some of these kids continue on with school through university or professional school and then get jobs!
Peggy Gurrad
Altrusa Foundation

Monday, September 20, 2010

Recording the history of adoption

In the last couple of weeks, I have either heard snippets of books written by parents who have adopted, seen a movie about it, and begun to read a book recounting the author's story of adopting.

On NPR I heard two different interviews with Scott Simon discussing his book about adopting his two daughters from China. Each time you could tell that he got emtional discussing it, and overall, he answered the questions candidly, humorously, and at times quite emotionally. I have not read the book, but his answers seemed to be a very straightforward approach to adopting.

In between I began to read a book that is supposed to tell about a woman adopting her daughters from China, though she actually began the journey as the companion of the "new" mother. I can't get far enough along to know how/what happens that she becomes the mom rather than her friend, because she gets so bogged down with this rather odd story about reincarnation or something. Like I said, I can't get into it.

Next came the movie Blind Side. If you have not seen this movie, I have to urge you to rent it. It easily deserved the Oscars it won and Sandra Bullock is remarkable as a woman who saw a need and filled it. No ulterior motives, no strange reincarnation, just a young man who needed a family and hers had room to spare! I liked that at the climax she and her new son are forced to address the motives of their arrangement and both could honestly say it was what fit and it worked.

The last was the book reading I went to featured a mother who wanted to tell the world about her trans racial adoption. I am evidently doing something wrong because I don't label my daughters as "trans racial" adoptees I guess I know what that means, but the emphasis is on the multi ethnic part of the adoption, rather than the people adopted, I guess. It makes me think of when I worked with people with disabilities and it was constantly preached to us to put the person first, then the disability. This seemed like all she wanted to do was point out that her daughter was a different race than she and the problems that involved.

Tomorrow is the six year anniversary of adopting Grace. I see there are all kinds of ways to talk about adoption and I hope I choose the best. More about our first days together later!

Time running, fleeting

When you are growing up, more times than not, you want the time to speed by, asking how many days till Christmas? How long until I can date? How old do I have to be to drive? Other than Christmas, spring, and summer breaks, the rest of the time seems to move at a snail's pace.

Of course when you are older you blink an eye and everyone got a LOT older, not you of course, but everyone else has. Your children seem to grow over night and all you want to do is put the brakes on so you can actually take time to enjoy life.

Lately though, all I wanted was for time to speed up and get me through our event on Saturday. I am a die hard optimist on planning these big programs and insist that it will all work out, but for whatever reason, I did nothing but dread the inevitable on Saturday.
Time ran by and it was soon over and the rest I felt I needed so badly had to be delayed since both girls needed hair cuts, I wanted to attend a book reading, and then dinner with Mom and Dad. When we finally got home about 6:30 I tried to stay awake to tell my girls good night, but finally gave up at 8:00 with them in charge of turning out their own light. They told me later they turned it out right on time and said their prayers by themselves.

OK, now I am ready for time to go back to normal. I can't keep up with it at this pace! And of course it won't because before I could complete that program, I got a call with an opportunity to host an important event for Medicare and jumped at it!

Maybe I can rest this weekend!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Being different

From a very early age, I think we learn that we don't want to be "different". Now that is not the same as being the "same" as everyone else though. You don't have to be just like the others in your group, but you definitely don't want to be different.

For a variety of reasons I decided to ride my bike to work today, which really made me feel different.

From the get go, it seemed odd/different. I walked out with my keys in hand, going toward the car, but decided I had to give it a try and unlocked my bike instead.

Pretty quickly I had the impression that I looked a lot like a character from a favorite movie you might have seen. Does she look familiar?
The only thing missing was the basket with the little dog trapped in it.

Somehow riding your bike in shorts and a t shirt is one thing, but putting on your dress pants and riding seems a lot different. Then while we usually ride in the late evenings, I had not ridden in the middle of traffic! Which all really makes you feel different.

So while there was plenty of traffic, including foot traffic this morning, there just weren't a lot of middle age women in dress pants riding their bikes to work! Riding home made it even more "different" as the number of people out was even greater!

With all that said, being different was also exhilarating and liberating. It gives you a completely different perspective from the seat of a bike than from a car. I think I will do it again, but I hope it will be cooler!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Nurse Grace

My dad called this afternoon to find out if I needed help getting the girls home from school and then casually mentioned that Mom had hurt her hand but he had bandaged it and thought it would be ok. I told him as soon as the girls got home that we would come and check it out.

Since my Dad is the Master of Understatement (remember how he told me they had a small accident, which was actually hitting a concrete wall head first and the airbags were deployed?), it quickly began to nag me the way Dad so casually called about the girls ride home, which he rarely if ever does, and the even more casual way he presented Mom's injury, so I go over to check on them.

Now when I went to college, the first time, there were really only 2 choices for women, nursing or teaching. I figured out really quickly that blood was not something I liked and could never work around, so I went into teaching.

As a person who has had brain surgery and shots in her eye and 2 daughters, you would think I had finally gotten over my issue with blood and injuries, but still have not and when I got there and saw Mom propped up on the couch with her hand double the size that it should be with a really bloody, gross bandage around it, I knew I was going to be no use. I had to have my daughters, especially Grace, who, like Darcey, gets so involved in watching someone being bandaged that you can't see anything but their heads!

I called Lynne, who has been an answer to our prayers for car pooling, to find out where they were and explained the situation. She is so kind and I think if she had a siren and flashing light, would have put them on her car to speed the girls to rescue their mother and grandmother.

When they got there, Annabel comes in like a bomb exploding complaining about the heat, her homework, and dumping a pile of her belongings.

Grace walks in, without speaking, puts her things down, walks past us, and leaves me with my mouth gaping open, thinking she must have misunderstood how desperately I needed her help and fearful that I am still going to have to do something with this very bloody bandaged mangled hand.

Now to let you know how bad this was, Mom really thought she had cut off her hand when she saw the amount of blood. Taking so many things to keep the blood moving seamlessly through her also makes her skin extremely sensitive to any nicks or scrapes, and this time she was just putting clothes in the dryer and caught it in a way that for us, would maybe be a bruise or a scratch, but for her had caused her hand to double in size and bleed enough that she thought she would pass out.

Grace comes back in calmly and asks where is the first aid kit?

Then she goes back out and in with a wet cloth and slowly begins the process of removing the bandage, sending Annabel, her assistant, after extra supplies like tweezers. This is very painstaking and Mom had already admitted that she was fearful of facing the pain of removing the bandage, but Grace works slow and steady!

Grace applies pressure where it needs to be to stop the bleeding, cleans the rest of the blood off her hand, applies antibacterial ointment, and I'm not even sure what else, because I left to cook dinner for us and knew that she had handled it all so much better than I could!

While the girls did their homework, I cooked, and then had Annabel call to say it would be ready in 5 minutes. Mom asked if she should make some tea and Grace flew up yelling no, she was to remain on the couch with her hand immobile! So they run next door to make sure Mom is not moving and get the table set and drinks for everyone.

After we ate, Grace changed the bandage again because it had begun to bleed.

She never ceases to amaze me with her kindness and compassion, and remains so calm in every situation.

As of September 21, it will be 6 years since I adopted Grace. I cannot imagine my life without her!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Any answers?

There are a few things I wish someone could explain to me tonight.

Why has it taken until 2010 for manufacturers to finally realize that women need a variety of shapes in pants. We have lots of different shapes and we would like to have pants that fit. There, I said it!

Also, why do they keep trying so hard to come up with a new reality show, putting people in precarious positions, with little food, and see who can make it as the survivor? Or race to the finish line first after a series of trials? Or follow people around who like to get into fights and make celebrities out of them? Why can't they put these wanna be celebrities in real life situations and see who can survive? Why don't they put them in remote areas of China and see who can build the best orphanage, with a school, and training for the children who age out? Or see who can find a way to feed villages on crops they plant and grow? Or go into areas hit hard by natural disasters and see who can rebuild lives the fastest?Why aren't the celebrities that are followed, the parents who make time to take their children to church? Who help them with their homework? Who provide healthy meals on low incomes?

Just some things I am wondering about. I am also tired of being sick. I see a pattern developing, feel like a rash breaking out, get sick to my stomach, lose things, and then my fever spikes to 100 and I don't feel like doing anything. Tired of that and have way too much going on this week to be sick!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Happy birthday, Dad!

Today is my Dad's birthday!

Dad is the go to person, not just for us, but for everyone in the neighborhood, church, the hospital, I guess everywhere he goes.

He gives great advice and has good sound judgment on almost all matters, except about me adopting the second time.

Very rarely have I had felt Dad's disapproval. One time being when I kicked the window out of the door because my bratty siblings locked me out.

Another when I grieved more over a boyfriend that did not show up for graduation, rather than enjoy my family who traveled a long way for it.

The night I came home really late and he was standing on the porch waiting for me and what was worse, did not say anything! Yikes, I knew I was in trouble that time!

But when I decided to adopt again, Dad did something he rarely does. He shook his finger at me and told me I would NOT adopt again, that my mother could not handle taking care of another child.

OK, I'll admit it was rather crazy around their house in those days as Grace went there after school each day as well as Jaan's daughters, and they all seemed a LOT younger then.

But if I could have known what kindred spirits my Annabel and my father would be, there could not have been any concern.

The two are peas in a pod. She doesn't care where Poppa is going, she wants to go, whether it is Tom Thumb, Home Depot, Lowes, it doesn't matter, just so she can go.

They both make friends wherever they go.

They share a loud verbal dislike of traffic and people who drive poorly.

While Mom and I are satisfied just sitting on the front porch, they have to be moving, usually tossing a ball back and forth.

Any project Dad is working on, Annabel is right there ready and willing to help.

I asked her how much she wanted to spend on Dad's present.


I told her that was very sweet, but she could spend less.

She told me she wants to get him something nice, maybe a couple of the books he likes to read. I explained that books generally cost a lot more than that.

She said she had up to $76 to spend! And for him it was worth it!

I hate to say it Dad, but I knew right on this one! Adopting the second time was right!


While at Mom and Dad's house the other day, Annabel watched a show about the devastation of 9/11.

I'm not sure if she had never seen it or if it is just now making sense as to what happened. It's not that I have purposely protected her from seeing it and I know that Grace and I have watched the films showing the planes crashing into the Twin Towers and talked at length about what happened.

But this has really hit Annabel hard.

She is especially worried because the people who did it were Muslim and a number of her school mates are Muslim. They had already told me how a lot of the kids were fasting at school this week and would miss school on Friday for Ramadan.

She and I took a quick bike ride Thursday after she watched the program, which was really good, as it gave her a chance to ask some questions, but I think they are just the tip of the iceberg.

She wanted to know why those people wanted to hurt us.

I tried to explain that they did not approve of the "Americans'" lifestyle.

She asked, why did they have to kill so many people? Couldn't they have just told us they did not approve? Or just close their eyes? Or find some other way rather than kill so many people?

Good point! I told her the people who did it had to be crazy to plan such a thing and purposely do what they did, in the name of their religion. I don't think it was especially because they were Muslim that drove them to do what they did, that was an excuse to hurt people.

Her prayers have gotten longer now. I am so thankful that she believes and understands that God is there listening to her concerns and worries and will take care of those she asks Him to.

Now she prays not only for our minister, his wife, my niece Marcie, her husband, and Isabel, who is expected November 24, and Gillian and Darcey, when they are not with us, and Grandmother and Poppa, and Grace, and me, and Nina and Ollie, and Aunt Lisa and Gillian and Darcey to be safe driving here, and all the people who were hurt from 9/11.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Power napping

When I was going to college, I would take a quick break between classes and work, with a REALLY quick nap. I had a clock radio, similar to the one above, only mine was avocado green and had a very important button on top, a snooze alarm.

I learned to turn the alarm knob until it went off, press the snooze button, fall asleep quickly, before the alarm would go off exactly 7 minutes later. Today that is called a power nap! It worked well enough to keep me at work until 9:00 at night when the Western store I worked at would close.

After an afternoon meeting, where I wished for toothpicks to prop my eyes open, I was in desperate need for a quick nap before I could even imagine doing anything else.

BUT since I no longer have my clock radio, I begged the girls to wake me up in just 30 minutes, that's all the time I had, and was sure that would be more than enough sleep.

I lay down, get comfortable and a shriek comes from my bathroom and Annabel screams that she is scared! The power had gone off and there are no windows in my bathroom, so I quickly rescued her, and then was down to 25 minutes for my power nap.

As soon as I laid down, Nina jumped up on the bed with me, followed by Ollie, the other dog.

Within a few minutes, here come Grace with a stack of laundry for me. The dogs jump down but Grace stops to talk.

My time is fleeting and so far my eyes have barely blinked.

The dogs come back in but then Grace whistles to let them know that their dinner is served and they jumped back down.

Then Grace came back in to talk and announced I had 1 minute left to sleep!

Thank goodness for Starbucks!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Lessons recently learned

Some things I have learned recently:

1. Every point in Oak Cliff is downhill from our house.

Yes, it is obviously true as I am learning by riding my bike to enjoy the cooler temperatures. After having lived here off and on all my life, I never knew our house was the HIGHEST point in Oak Cliff, but once you get away from our front yard and try to return, it is ALWAYS UPHILL! Another point I have learned riding again, that a cruiser, like this one, makes you wish you had learned to ride a 10 speed!

2. Bicycles make you know that cars will be even more problems and you better enjoy this age while you can!

Last night we were in a VERY competitive Wii game when a neighbor knocked on the door and invited us down to a party. We rode our bikes so we could check it out, since I wondered if we were actually crashing the party, and I guess we rode because I am crazy. There, I admit it!

It was only a few blocks and all downhill, but somewhere we lost Grace. Annabel, the very nimble and strong rider, went back in search of her "baby" sister and coaxed her down the hill. Grace has consistently had problems with her bike and I have paid to get the gears and brakes fixed and was wondering if maybe it was just the wrong bike for her.

As we left, Grace announced that she was having problems riding her bike because both tires were flat! I gave her my bike and please refer to number 1 above to know that I pushed her bike back UPHILL!

If we are having this much trouble just trying to get 3 bikes going at once, what will I do with 3 cars??? I hope by then there is such great mass transit or flying cars that I won't have to worry about it!

3. I am not good at taking risks, being an entrepreneur, doing anything I'm not sure if I will be good at, or being the grunt.

We have been participating in this program with other adoptees helping identify our personality characteristics to help us in relating to each other. Grace and I both identify ourselves as the same personality (shock to no one in our family) and while we LOVE independence and being in charge, we don't want to try anything we are not absolutely sure we will succeed in, not just complete, but we are driven to succeed!

So she is taking piano lessons and has made monumental progress very quickly. She is also as competitive as I am and wanted to know if I could play the songs she is learning. The short answer is no. So with a stroke of brilliance, I decided to sit in on her classes and learn as she did, without paying for more classes. Right??

Two things I learned there:

1. She is already so far beyond anything I ever learned, the class might as well have been in Chinese!
2. She doesn't practice the pieces that she is not as secure with. I hear a beautiful minuet often, but had never heard her other 2 pieces, so after the class we talked about this and I realized that I had all the things necessary to make bread for months, but it had set on my shelf because I am afraid it would flop!

So I attempted to make bread, which got interrupted by the bike ride to the party and thankfully I have a very kind mother who tells me it is delicious, even though it looks like this image they always give you in motivational classes!

Our neighborhood is undergoing some very welcome changes and people are coming out of the woodwork with brilliant ideas of new and better businesses and programs and I realize the only thing I am any good at is planning more stuff for older people to do, which they are not too thrilled about doing, and no one really wants to pay a lot for that! Keeping older people active and healthy just doesn't sell a lot of t shirts I guess!

So I just admire what these guys are doing and wish I could come up with that genius idea, that I would be willing to try, even if I did not know I could be successful! But in the meantime you can come back to Oak Cliff and enjoy what the young whipper snappers are up to!

4. One last thing I have learned this weekend, even with three days off, it is not nearly enough!