Sunday, March 28, 2010

Happy Birthday Grace!

Today is Grace's 12 birthday.

Six years ago I never thought this day could have arrived quite so quickly! I see in front of me a child who shows no outward signs of any life other than what she knows now. Her first six years will always remain somewhat of a mystery. She remembers some and from the research, she will remember more as she struggles through those difficult teen years trying to establish her own identity.

Every day I am grateful that God brought us together. She is kind, loving, at times shy, caring, and funny. She is an avid reader and artist. She works on something until she accomplishes her goal, very different from me. She has taught herself to whistle, crochet, draw, among so many other skills.

She loves her grandparents and the rest of her family.

Today has been a mixed blessing.

Having your birthday on Sunday makes it a little difficult to celebrate, but everyone at church wished her a happy birthday and many gave her cards and some even gave her money! She loved all the attention.

We went to lunch at El Fenix because she decided it was cheaper than Pappadeaux's, which it is! Then we headed to NorthPark to see the movie "How to Train Your Dragon". From there we visited Toys R Us with a gift card they had received for Christmas.

While at Toys R Us, Dad called to say our minister has taken a turn for the worse and they were doing emergency surgery. Mom and Dad were so torn because they knew they needed to be at the hospital, but did not want to disappoint Grace.

So here it is 7:00 p.m., and I cannot decide what to do for dinner, birthday cake, and presents, non of which will happen if I keep sitting here!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Gloomy and cloudy

From Waco to Dallas is all farming country and the rolling hills and wide open skies provide a huge panoramic view of changing weather. The sky to the east was light but overcast and from the west you could see the darker clouds being blown in by such a strong wind that all the flags were standing straight out, no matter how big the flag. By the time we got home, the dark clouds were spread out and left just a cold, gray sky.

The wind was so hard, it felt like it was trying to blow the warm memories of yesterday away and replace them with the dark and cold. The drive from Waco to Dallas is always bittersweet, as it usually always involves dropping off Gillian and Darcey, my nieces, to their father and the end of all our fun together. It also means huge changes for them, but none they discuss. As soon as it is time to pack, there is a change and nervousness in Gillian to remember all their stuff and make sure we leave on time and will be at just the right place to meet their daddy. We left extra early so we would have time to eat lunch before he got there.

As they went to bed last night, I promised to check on the movie schedule to see "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" but the first showing at all the theaters made it so we would have to rush to Waco. Out of all the things we had done this week, we still had not made our doggie biscuits, so we did them this morning instead. We used the left over salmon and sweet potatoes and each girl used their creativeness to make a wide variety of shapes perfect for all types of dogs. Our dogs keep wishing they could have one more bite.

Yesterday was such a brilliant day and after a long morning walk collecting stick to make stakes out of they used our find to make a tepee. Blankets were brought out and after a few early failures, they had a pretty good structure. It was hard to have them take it down, but the forecast called for rain and was also a signal of the end of spring break.

Last night I volunteered two hours with our organic coop to bring the price of our fruits and vegetables down. It is in an old service station and there were 3 of us working away dividing larger packages of assorted greens down to individual portions when a policeman walked in and asked if we were ok. I was so far in the back that I did not realize it was a policeman at first until he came around to where I was standing. It seems there had been a hold up at a store close by and the man had gotten away. The policeman urged us to close the garage bay doors and lock the office doors. When I went through to the office area I saw that there was another door standing ajar and went and got a couple of the cops to check it out rather than doing it myself. They showed up with their guns drawn, and while I was trying to keep my composure, my back is hurting so bad, it's difficult to decide which was worse, a robber or my back ache! Not really! I guess I wasn't scared with all of them there and was thankful that Mom sent Dad to pick me up. It is less than two blocks from our house and I had walked up there. She did not know about the robbery, but would not let Dad go to bed until I was back home safe! She is a little psychic evidently!

Today in Waco I got to meet my brother in law's "friend" Patti. I had heard a lot about her from the girls and so grateful for her being there to rescue them for the more girly issues, I just had to hug her. I don't want anyone to replace my sister, but my nieces need someone to help with the day to day issues that I cannot be there for. I think she was quite surprised at my reaction, and I guess I am too. My heart aches for the girls and it is difficult to know what is best for them.

Rather than getting more morose and because my computer keeps messing up, I will stop there and go cover up my seedlings from the impending snow on our first day of spring.

Friday, March 19, 2010

My Annabel

For those of you just tuning in, I adopted Annabel from China in July 2008. She has now been in the US for 18 months. She knew no English and her life before adoption is pretty sketchy. I was contacted by a woman just prior to traveling to China, who says that she was involved in saving Annabel's life when she was two years old. The woman told me she was part of a mission group visiting the orphanages and found Annabel tied to a chair and in a room by herself. She was rushed to a hospital and treated for dehydration and afterward moved to foster care. She remained with that foster family until she was identified as "adoptable" and then moved into the group home at the orphanage. She loved her foster family very much and still misses them. At the group home, she was responsible for the care, feeding, and cleaning of very young children.

I don't tell you all of this for sympathy, but to show you how resilient, strong, and resourceful Annabel is. She has a kind heart, a strong spirit, and can make me laugh harder than anyone else. She LOVES her grandparents and is growing that affection for me. She and Grace are working towards being sisters and when they fight, I know they are close to that goal!

Annabel has embraced learning about God. She joins in our family prayers, reminds me when I don't pray before eating EVERY meal, prays by herself, and says things that touch your heart so you just want to cry.

This week we were taking care of my niece's cats while she and her husband were on spring break.

On Wednesday night, Annabel prayed thanks for bringing Marcie home safe.

At Rosemont, we had serious problems in the way they handled her education. They sat her in a chair in front of a computer and let her play games. They also allowed bullying.

I stayed in constant communication with them and documented every thing that happened.

None of this improved the situation and I eventually filed a complaint with the Department of Education for these two offenses, as well as taking Grace from her regular class to the ESL class to serve as Annabel's translator.

After a VERY LONG process, the DOE determined that the school had done ESL correctly, or enough to get by, that Grace was moved into a regular classroom that just happened to be ESL, but that they had indeed failed Annabel as far as the bullying.

Rosemont got a slap on the wrist and a requirement to be educated in bullying issues.

None of this helps Annabel.

I feel a great deal of guilt that I did not do more, but felt powerless fighting against DISD.

None of that helps Annabel either.

No one had taken the time to teach her to read.

We tried at home, but by the end of the day Annabel had reached her limit on learning.

She is learning 6th grade curriculum through verbal learning only.

I love their current school because at the first hint of anything like bullying, it is nipped in the bud.

BUT Annabel still needs to learn to read.

I have found a fantastic resource through SMU and one of the directors is working with her one on one. She normally turns the students over to one of her doctoral students, but recognizes the needs that Annabel is facing and works with her privately.

Annabel came out yesterday spelling Cambodia!

Then we went to Barnes and Noble and for the VERY first time, wanted to buy a book in English!

Yes, I am a bit emotional about it all, as I feel so many people have failed Annabel along the way that I feel it is imperative that I don't. I know I will at times, as I haven't found the "how to" book that gives definite parameters on what to do, but this seems to be such a good thing for her that I must give it a try.

We got report cards yesterday. She passed everything but Science, which irritates me after her hard work on the science fair project, but it shows how hard she is willing to work without even being able to read!

The problem? Because you know there is one, is the cost. The classes are $50 per 45 minute session. The instructor would like to work with her twice a week, through the summer, to help catch her up.

That's about $400 more than we have in our budget right now. Does anyone know any good fund raisers? I am willing to do whatever is necessary to provide her with this in hopes that it will improve her life all around.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Spring Break!

Ahh, spring break! The very words create images of frolicking on the beach, through meadows filled with flowers and butterflies, visiting historic monuments, riding a carousel....

Somehow that has not worked out for us.

We eagerly await the longer breaks when my nieces, Gillian and Darcey can come visit. Their visit was delayed a day and I took advantage of the time and cleaned out flower beds, transplanting, repotting, and building a raised bed so I can hopefully plant some vegetables that will actually grow and produce something! I worked from early until I needed a flashlight to determine if I was pulling up a weed or an onion and by Sunday morning was not sure if I could get out of bed.

Rarely when the phone rings on Sunday morning is is good news and this time was no different.

Our minister, who has been an integral part of our family, being there the minute we called about Jana, holding our hands, saying prayers for each and every illness, providing the girls with a quarter each Sunday and any other time he sees them, and overall being a great friend to Dad, had been rushed to ER. While the diagnosis is still unknown there is evidence of "masses" in his colon and liver. Prayers on his behalf are appreciated.

Yesterday I was stuck at work most of the day, even though I was supposed to be on vacation, but when you have a small office staff and someone is sick, you have to pinch hit. The only trouble is that I was useless as my head and chest feel like elephants have taken up residence.

But when I got home, I took the girls to Wal Mart. Annabel has been wanting embroidery thread to make friendship bracelets. She has checked all the local stores, but hoped to find what she needed at Wal Mart.

We thoroughly inspected everything in the toys, arts, clearance, school supplies, toys, and back. Each bought a "must have" for outside play for a whopping $2! I can opposed to Wal Mart for all they have done, but you cannot beat the price for cheap entertainment.

When I choose my next career, I still think weather forecasting will have to be it, you don't even have to get close to being right and still have a job! The weather was supposed to be brilliantly perfect all week.

We woke up to cloudy, rainy, dreary skies which has put a damper on those great Wal Mart finds from yesterday.

Today a dog behaviorist was supposed to come by and talk to Nina, our dog, about her barking. She's not able to make it so I tried to have the conversation. I think talking to the dog is preparing me for my girls' teen years!

No matter what the weather is like, these four girls have a wonderful time together regardless of what they are doing. I love to hear them laugh and joke and have a good time. They all 4 got in my bathroom together last night and after about an hour and a half, they were all finished! I wish I had been a fly on the wall as I think all the most important details are discussed in there.

I wish the girls could live closer, but glad they can be here when they can. I hope I can make the rest of the week resemble everyone's vision of what spring break should be!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Older children adoptees

This weekend, I attended a program our Families with Children from China (FCC) group put on with Sherrie Eldridge, an adult adoptee who wrote the book, "Twenty things adopted kids wish their adoptive parents knew".

I did not get to hear very much of the program as I was selling books or running here and there, but heard her briefly comment on how adopted children NEVER lose the fear of abandonment as well as their fear that they are too much to handle.

On Sunday, I snipped at Annabel about some very unimportant detail, and she responded with tears, followed by returning her allowance money, followed by returning her art supply case.

Trust me, these moments are so hard. You know if she had stolen the car, killed the dog, or even lied to me about something, I think I could better understand her feeling of rejection and abandonment, but this was just one of those things that I should have ignored, but instead brought to her attention, and for her it was a MAJOR event.

Even though she did not appear to listen, I talked to her about the fact that she is my daughter for now and always, that it will never change, no matter what she does, I will continue to love her. I make sure I say it every day, but think we will pursue getting her Texas birth certificate, framing it and putting it on the wall, so she knows she is here to stay!

While at the program I met fantastic people who have adopted and some who are still in the waiting mode.

The wait for an infant girl from China used to be 1 - 2 years. Now it is over 4 years! The Chinese government and our government, continue to change the rules and it has made it more difficult to adopt all the time.

When I went for my first appointment to Hope Cottage, the social worker tried to talk me into adopting an infant from India. I had my heart set on China because I wanted my niece, Darcey, to have someone else in the family who looked like her! The last thing she mentioned was the waiting child program. This was fairly new at the time and there was not much known about it. The Chinese government did not think anyone in the US would want their older children who had any "special" needs, even if it was just glasses!

Once I found out that I could adopt an "older" child and not just an infant, I knew I had found my answer.

I would go to the support group for the families waiting to be matched with their babies and they worried and wondered about how much formula and how many diapers to pack.

I knew the only thing I would have to worry about was where was the closest McDonalds.

Adopting an older child, well children, has been the best thing and makes me continue to advocate on behalf of these kids.

I wish more people would take a chance on these beautiful children and find the happiness that I have.

All of this is leading up to a story but I had to take a few rabbit trails to get there!

Last night I was cleaning off the table and slammed my baby toe into the leg of the stool sitting there.

You have all done it and you know I let out a scream! It hurt so bad I could not stand to touch it or look at it, and was trying to figure out how and when I could get to the ER and get that wooden shoe they give you because I was sure I had broken most of my foot!

As soon as the first sound came out of my mouth, both girls rushed to my aid! Grace trying to examine my foot and Annabel holding me by the shoulders, ready in case I passed out.

I went from crying to screaming in pain to laughing so hard I almost fell off the stool! They were so sweet and so ready to take care of me that I felt like a big baby crying with an 11 and 12 year old ready to render aid!

When I finally did touch my foot I realized it did not really hurt and laughed even harder! They would have amputated my toe if necessary or figured out how to drive to get me to the hospital if necessary!

See infants could not have done that! Older kids are much better!

Monday, March 8, 2010

No bit parts - these are main characters!

The weekly series of my life continues today with some of the main characters - no one time roles for them!

First let me say that I am an excellent judge of character. Rarely is my first impression wrong. When I started this job 11 years ago I shared an assistant with a woman who was my complete opposite. That did not last long as we made her crazy and she quit!

The economy was really good at the time and no one was applying for a job. It would be weeks at a time before I would get an applicant. One woman showed up with her kids and in her house shoes!

Finally another employee referred her friend and I knew that it was not going to work, but I was desperate and hired her. Within a short amount of time she told me I could jump up her bum, sideways, and was released from her employment with me.

Then another woman came highly recommended from another employee. I knew it wasn't going to work, but I had not had an applicant in quite a while so thought I would take a chance. She soon began having trysts with as many male employees as she could and the rumor was most occurred in my office! Her employment ended pretty soon after that.

Then I hired a man who came highly recommended by another employee. He got way too friendly with the male Mormon missionaries, then moved onto our volunteers, and when he imposed himself on one, he was given his walking papers.

With all of these people I knew it was not going to work, but I was so desperate for help I took a chance.

I decided to hold out for a better choice the next time and when a very highly regarded employee told me her daughter was interested in the position I had, I was thrilled. For the first time I thought I might have someone good to work with. And I did!

Erika quickly became more than just a co-worker and more like part of the family.

The only part of having someone highly qualified, they move to higher paying, "better" jobs.

When she left I had a chance to hire another person whose family members were co-workers. I knew Gloria would be a perfect fit and she still is.

There are several reasons I am talking about these two because with us working together it has more than once been like an episode of I Love Lucy, with the antics of Lucy and Ethel! I have a tendency to think of these HUGE plans but need help in bringing any of it to fruition! Thankfully both are extremely hard workers and willing to help me achieve these dreams. They tease me about always saying that things will work out, but now believe me!

Another important point about these two are they were there during the most important times of my life.

When you have a biological child, I am guessing that not all the BIG events happen at work.

If you are adopting, most do. You get THE call while at work that you have been matched witha child, approved to adopt, and when you are travelling to adopt your child.

Erika was there when I opened my first picture of Grace. She held my hand through all the tons of paper work, then made me lots of check lists and copies as we got ready to board the plane to China.

Gloria was there when I first found Annabel. She held my hand through all the tons of paper work, made lots of check lists and copies as we got ready to board the plane to China again!

Erika has been back working with us temporarily for the last few months, so we have gone from being Lucy and Ethel, to maybe more of hmmm, can't think of any show that has three characters except the Golden Girls and Gloria and Erika are too young to be in that group!

Yesterday I wrote about my experiences with the dead battery.

I left out an imortant part of the story!

As soon as I told Gloria and Erika about my battery, they immediately started planning on how we could pull the battery out of my car, take it to the store, get another, and put it back in! These are some strong women and they know how to take care of things! They were already looking for a piece of cardboard to set the battery on in the car and gloves to ensure they did not get acid on their hands! I'm surprised they did not have the battery pulled at the store waiting on me!

But this is how they handle everything! No matter what you need they are there to help or do it for you! They are there for all of my family, all of our volunteers, and anyone else who needs help! So they would not be the drop in stars in my weekly series, they would definitely be part of the all star cast! The headliners!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Special weekly series starring lots of guest spots!

If my life was made into a weekly TV show, this week would be the one with all the guest spots! More people have been in my life than usual and most have been characters that some star would love to play.

I'll start with the most recent one since he just rang my door bell again!

If you do not know my father, you are missing a treat. But if you have ever been within a million mile radius of him, you know him. Dad does not know any strangers. Now that does not mean he knows your name, but he always has a kind greeting and a genuine interest in your well being, so what he did does not surprise me.

A man is walking down the street and Dad is outside taking care of whatever needs taken care of. They strike up a conversation, the man has quite a story, and so Dad hires him for me, to cut down some broken branches on a really tall Cedar tree that was damaged from the snow.

This, of course, was not the only work that needed to be done, so I hired him to clean up my yard, then he was referred to a neighbor, and in between he tells his whole life story.

If you were in Dallas a few years ago, you could not have missed the news story about the gas tank explosion at a business near downtown. I'm not sure if you can make this link work, but it tells how horrific the scene was and about the injured.

Gas Explosions Shower Debris Near Dallas - CBS News Jul 25, 2007 ... New York had an explosion linked to an allegedly faulty gas line ... Dallas with a faulty gas tank. Posted by lorinkundert" ...

This man insists he was the one standing there telling the driver he did not have it hooked up correctly right as the man hit the connection with a wrench and caused the explosion.

So he escaped with permanent injuries, but still escaped. But he is only receiving a small workers comp check and has not received a settlement check yet so he is dependent on the kindness of strangers to get by.

Today he needed a ride back to his boarding house to meet a man for something. Yesterday he just needed a ride. Friday night he just needed $30 more dollars to pay his weekly rent.

Who knows!? But he would be a great character for a guest star in my weekly series. I don't think we have heard the end of him yet!

Some other "featured" guests would be from what happened Thursday.

I have a bad habit of listening to just one more story on NPR when I get to work, but unfortunately I fall asleep a lot of times while sitting there listening. This time I got a rude wake up when the radio stopped playing! I jumped to see who had gotten into my car and turned it off, but nothing that dramatic, the battery had died!

My lease is up next month and so I really did not want to spend the money on a battery but since the car refuses to go without one I was stuck.

Thankfully our police force at the hospital will rescued damsels in distress and the officer responded promptly and courteously giving me a jump and sending me on my way to get a battery. i am just not good at these things any more. When I had my VW for years and years, I spent lots of time looking for the parts to make it go, but when I sold it I got into a terrible habit of leasing cars I could not afford to buy and always got rid of them right before they started having problems, so I did not even know where to go buy a battery!

I drove to the local auto parts store and explained my situation to the man behind the counter who was chewing such a big wad of gum it was hard to understand what he said after "too bad". Finally I just asked what he was saying and what did it mean. He meant too bad because he wasn't going to help me!

OK, so I went to a place not known for their customer service, Wal Mart, but was pleasantly surprised when the young woman behind the counter proceeded to check and see if I really needed a battery and then was quickly served by their mechanic. When the radio would not work, the tech and his boss worked a long time trying to figure out how to re-activate the radio. So I was shocked and very pleased over actually getting customer service from a company that usually lacks that!

All good parts for those "special" guests!

But the oddest part of Thursday will be the role a neighbor played in my freaky day. This man has lived across the street for a long time, off and on, and has at times been a great friend to our family. I guess that is why I was so surprised to realize he was lashing out at me when he yelled across the street to me. It took a while to understand that he was threatening me and our dogs if I did not control their barking! We do have dogs who would even wear out Cesar Millan! But to sit across the street and yell seemed extreme! Much less to threaten us!

Death and dying have been a major component to the week's activities and I'm not sure if someone wants to play that role in my show!

A long time volunteer of ours has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. All he wants to do now is be taken to the Veterans Cemetery and get some peace. While recently hospitalized, he screamed and hollered at all staff trying to help him. He seems so defiant and angry. I would hate to face death while being such a sad person.

Our co-worker has been dealing with her own issues of death and dying this week, as she received a call that her brother had passed away. He lived alone and had heart condition so he had friends in place to check on him and how to handle things in the event he could not. A really sad part of the story is that he was found dead after passing away three weeks earlier! He was obviously more alone than he thought since it took so long for his friends to find him.

On Wednesday evening I even went to a program on death and dying and trying to find a humorous connection to it. From the discussion, it is obviously something we all need to talk about more often but some great actors would have prime roles playing all of these parts.

So look for these special "guests" appearing in my weekly show!