Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving!

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

Perfect!



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?

Huh?

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).

http://www.hrsonline.org/PatientInfo/

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!