Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas finally arrives

My grandmother was born in 1898. I have to admit that seems almost impossible to believe as it seems so incredibly long ago.

She had her first child at age 16 and her last more than 20 years later.

She had a total of seven children. One daughter, Mabel, died as a young child. Sis, another daughter, died in her 40's from somewhat questionable circumstances. Some believe she might have been poisoned by her husband, but most believe it was an error on the part of the doctor.

This left five children who all survived which is no small wonder considering the lack of health care, the hard work, and for some, the wars they fought in.

Each child had a nickname and one uncle even had two. He answered to both Pill and Babe, which I guess were switched out depending on how he was acting. There was also Son, Beadie, but my dad had the best nickname, Pet.

If I counted correctly, there were 14 grandchildren, which doesn't sound like a lot, but when they all started marrying and having children, that makes for a big crowd! But each was known and loved by Grandmother and every single person got a gift at Christmas.

The "big" house, which eventually was added onto and made into a six room house, or rather seven, when the bathroom was finally added, came with a few acres that were a pasture. This was where the Christmas tree came from each year. There were no pines or spruce or any of the traditional trees for Christmas, but instead there were cedars. There is a reason Cedars are not used for Christmas trees and that is because they have very spiky, sticky branches. They smell good but will tear up your hands while you try to decorate them.

One year I remember being the first family there and we all followed dad into the pasture to help select the tree that most closely resembled a Christmas tree shape. Then we got to do the decorations which included bubble lights, plenty of icicles, and the white flossy stuff which is probably illegal to sell anymore because it was so flammable and probably made out of something like asbestos.

But what was placed under the tree was the best, of course, only that could not even be considered until dinner had been served which did not happen until all had arrived, which seemed as a child to take forever.

Grandmom had one table in her dining room which was the kind with a yellow cracked ice Formica top. This area was reserved for the men and they were served first.

The women were too busy with last minute preparations, fixing kids' plates, and pouring coffee to get to sit down. Yes, I understand how backward this seems now but that was exactly how Grandmommy wanted it, so that was what we did.

My best guess is that the meal would have been similar to the loaves and fishes, as I don't believe you could ever cook enough in her tiny kitchen to feed all the people who were expected. Grandmother started early and everyone brought some things they had already made, but this was long before you would run to the grocery store and pick up whatever you were going to bring so there was plenty of advanced planning involved. It was also done before you would pick up the phone to casually place a long distance call so the planning was done well in advance via letters.

I remember the meal as being delicious and only surpassed by the brilliant spread of desserts, sitting atop her buffet. After coffee and cigarettes the men were finally finished and the women got to sit down and have theirs. In the meantime, the kids were running in and out and getting in trouble with fireworks or burning leaves or asking for the millionth time when were we finally going to open presents.

Grandmother put a lot of thought into each gift and for many years I received a glass animal purchased at either Ben Franklins, M.E. Moses, or McCrory's, all the best 5 and 10 cent stores you could find. I still have a few of these intact and they are special treasures.

As I got older, and the number of family members increased, while the money did not, she switched to items that came in multi packs and would buy them and split them among the grandchildren. This might be a new cup towel and dish rag, or panties, which were never the right size, or socks, but something useful and at least one item for every single person.

For whoever was passing out presents, you soon realized the majority were going to one place, for grandmother. I can still see her sitting in that rocker or her recliner, with her haul spread from her lap all the way to the floor and in a giant circle around her.

She was just like a kid again and would clasp her hands and proclaim, "Lord I don't know what I have done to deserve all of this". Of course we knew and were so glad she loved the gifts we brought.

All the cousins drew names so you also ended up with a brilliant prize from one of them. Life was good!

Eventually everyone would disperse from the living room, with the men retreating outside to smoke or share a story or a shot of "cough medicine" while the women cleaned up the kitchen, fixed dessert for all who asked, and the kids began to ask the next series of questions about how long till Santa came.

When we were very young we all stayed at Grandmother's house on Christmas Eve. I think I must have been so convinced of the story of Santa that I completely ignored my parents and aunts and uncles' processional through the bedroom where all the kids were asleep carrying the Santa gifts for under the tree. Maybe it really was delivered by Santa because there is no way my parents could fit all the presents as well as our stuff in the trunk of just one car.

Tomorrow I will try to remember the rest, but tonight I have to give up early.

To grandmother's house for birthdays

When writing about my grandmother I left out an important part of her life, her front porch. While the "first family" has Camp David, at Grandmother's house, you had the front porch, complete with the swing. The porch was where you went when you needed to talk, or needed some quiet, or needed to try to catch a breeze, because the kitchen was hotter than he**, where you waited on the rest of the company to arrive, where you had heart to heart talks, where you shelled peas or peeled potatoes, or snapped beans.

Grandmother's house was really close to the highway and at first the highway was only two lanes and you could sit out there and watch the traffic go by at a fairly leisurely pace. People would honk and wave as they made their way to and from town. Eventually it became a four lane highway and the traffic was considerably heavier, but that never deterred her from wanting to sit out there.

If she was expecting you, you could almost expect to find her there waiting. The best was to surprise her and drive up while she was sitting on the porch, especially if you brought lunch with you.

The swing had just the right creak that could lull you into a peaceful trance. It was the same swing that my grandfather would sit on and his pet chicken would come up and sit on his knee. The swing was definitely the favored place to sit as the rest of the furnishings on the porch was a wide variety of chairs that had found there way out there for one reason or another.

The front yard was huge and covered with a variety of concrete statutes, which were a favorite for grandmother. There were concrete squirrels and deer, and angels, and gnomes, toad stools and chickens, and a few rabbits.

If you met grandmother, you might wonder how she was even able to make it. Her back was so curved, her legs were blue from varicose veins, and she could barely hear thunder, but I really cannot remember her ever complaining about anything. She was so content in her life that people found themselves envying her. Her success was never financial but instead in the love she shared with everyone.

If you met her once, she knew you for life.

If you supplied her with a service for any length of time, your whole family became part of hers.

If you married into the family, you would always have a place at her table.

Your birthday was as important to her as hers was. She never missed a birthday and as long as her money allowed, there was always something in your birthday card. She completely ruined birthday cards for me because I always open them expecting to find some money. I love to include a $1 in birthday cards whenever I remember.

Grandmother also had a tradition of starting all the granddaughters a hope chest. The cardboard box was filled with a matching set of jelly jar glasses, a couple of cuptowels, and other must haves for the kitchen. When my sister and I chose college rather than marriage out of high school, I think she was convinced all hope was lost that we would ever use our hope chests. OK, so mine did end up being a hopeless chest after all.

The other favorite place for grandmother, after the porch, was her kitchen. You never had to worry about having something that was half cooked, as she had a habit of cooking the fire out of everything she fixed, including her coffee. I think the coffee pot was always full and at a full boil at all times. She enjoyed drinking her cup of coffee by pouring it into her saucer to cool it off and sipping it from there.

So while it is Christmas time, I have to write about her birthday parties first.

I think the parties grew the year she turned 80 but it could have been earlier than that. It was somewhere around that time that she made the newspaper for taking a motorcycle ride at her birthday celebration.

Christmas was more about the inner family, but her birthday was wide open to all the relatives, friends, adopted families, and everyone else that wanted to wish her well, which included some rather colorful characters.

The celebration was in the front yard and all the tables in the house and any extras were laden with more food than could be consumed in a week, even with the huge crowd that would show up. One year a very distant cousin came on down after all the bars in Dallas had closed. The pounding at the door was way too early but my sweet mother and Auntie Dora got up and let the cousin in. The two of them never turned anyone away and even though it was incredibly early they were the ultimate hosts starting that pot of coffee to try to rouse the rest of the crowd. We managed to ignore it but their kindness was repaid with enough tall tales from cousin to last the rest of us with stories even today. There was also the year the cousin who worked at La Bare showed up with his buddies but it didn't matter who you were or what you did, Grandmother loved us all and the fact that you would come to wish her a happy birthday was all she needed.

When I had brain surgery all those years ago, Grandmother was not able to be there, but as soon as she could she had to see me and see that I was all right. She had my senior class picture hanging on her wall and she would stand there and tell me, with tears in her eyes, "you don't know how many times I looked at that picture of you hanging on the wall." For the rest of her life she would say this to me and I knew that even though she was not physically in the waiting room, she was with me in spirit through all I went through.

OK I have written too late again and will have to postpone telling about Christmas another night.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

To grandmother's house we go!

When I wrote briefly about family recently, I got immediate response from my cousins of memories of Christmas at our Grandmother's house. In today's life, we have difficulty finding a time and place to get even small parts of our family together, so I thought I would reminisce about these Christmases that still bring so many good memories.

But first a little background on my grandmother.

She was very young when she got married, either 15 or 16, finding her true love early. She had a bunch of kids while balancing running the house and working in the fields, all during the most difficult economic times our country has ever known. When we asked dad what it was like to have lived through the Great Depression, he said they were already so poor by that time they had no idea it had happened.

While they moved frequently during those years, by the time I came on the scene, I only remember two different houses, the little one, and the big one, which isn't saying much since the big one was 4 rooms, maybe 5. There wasn't much use for a bathroom, as there was no running water.

There seems to be some disagreement as to whether there was a big tank that held rain water in the back but I am pretty sure that was where we filled a bucket with water which was brought in, placed on a special table by the stove and the communal dipper was replaced along with a special cup towel to keep what out? Germs?

During the summer you kept all the windows open and I vaguely remember one fan but if you were hot, you could always go outside, right? In the winter, you did not have to worry about being cold, even though the walls were very thin and I am pretty sure there was no insulation, but there were at least 2 space heaters that were on full blast once the temperature dipped to the least chill and if that was not enough, she usually had the burners on the stove wide open as well. How the whole thing never caught fire has to be some sort of miracle.

Grandmom's house was surrounded by gigantic oak trees and plenty of sandy soil, which provided a wealth of entertainment for all the kids. It was just the right kind of soil that allowed you to dig your toes into the dirt and feel the coolness below. In the fall, there was no lack of leaves to rake up and eventually burn, sometimes sparking interest from the local fire department, and at least once, coming awfully close to the propane tank also. So in the summer, you went to bed with a fine layer of sand and in the fall, you went to bed with your hair smelling of burning leaves.

I mentioned the lack of a bathroom and not sure how long it took to get indoor plumbing, but I do remember when the out house was expanded to become a two seater. The walls were covered with a variety of writing including words of wisdom, memories, poems, and how to find a final resting place of a stray bird, which included directions such as regular steps and kid's steps.

Because Grandmother always wanted everyone to come visit, she made sure she had a way to have a bed for everyone, even if there were only 2 bedrooms and most families had 4 kids and there could be several families there at once. On each bed, there were at least 3 mattresses which were pulled off and put on the floor and covered with kids and quilts.

If grandmother knew you were coming and got to go to the grocery store, she would have all the food she had bought sitting on her kitchen counter, to show you how proud she was that you were there. Among the items was usually at least one can of salmon or mackerel and the rest of the meals were supplemented with fresh food out of her garden.

This wasn't just a little patch of a garden, this was a good size garden and it always had potatoes, onions, green beans, tomatoes, and in good years, corn. I almost forgot the okra and I guess there were other things but the idea of all of those things, fresh from that garden, brings back so many great memories of sitting around the table with family.

Of course it is all about family which was the most important thing to grandmother.

For Grandmom, there were two holidays each year, one was her birthday, and the other was Christmas. Attendance at both was mandatory. Of course you wanted to go so that didn't matter. Getting there, however, was a different story.

With all the thousands of trips we all must have made, I don't remember too many that involved accidents or car trouble, in spite of less than stellar vehicles and little two lane roads. It got fairly complicated when we got jobs, especially retail jobs, to convince your boss that you had to be off early to get to grandmother's but it would not have mattered what time you got off, you still knew you would head to grandmother's.

But since it is Christmas night and I, in my role as Santa, had a late night last night, I will write about Christmas at Grandmother's tomorrow.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Obituaries and reflections

I think my favorite section of the paper to read is the obituaries. No, I won't do the old joke that I make sure I am not in there each day and in fact, the only day I read them is on Sunday, but I love the glimpse into the lives and rarely do they answer all the questions that they raise.

The really long obituaries always call for a good scanning to see why this person is so famous and best guess is they have money since you are charged for each inch in print and from what I understand, it is not cheap. Usually these people's stories begin from the beginning and read more of a narrative of what all they have accomplished with their lives, their service in the military, corporations they have led, and usually end with information on their service and request for donations to their favorite foundation/fund.

Then there are those who look so young in their picture. Rarely does it tell why or how they passed away though, which I appreciate, but then if they ask for donations to a specific cause, you assume that is what caused the loss of this young life. You immediately feel the loss this whole family must feel.

Where it gets confusing is if the picture is of a younger person but the years accumulated are significantly higher. I always wonder what made them choose that picture? Is it the only one they had? Was that their favorite time in life?

Obituaries are also a source of great nicknames, not just Jim or Charlie, or Meg, or Liz, but those that you know have a great story behind them. I have always wished for a good nickname. Maybe I haven't lived the kind of life that warrants a great nickname. Seems like you have to be more of a character than I am. I might have been headed that way, but with the addition of two daughters, have decided my run of a character needed to end.

I've heard a commencement address on the importance of what happens in the dash that appears between the year you are born to the year you die. There is a great story on the Internet right now of an obituary for a professor from Central Connecticut State University. After reading it, complete strangers have voiced how much they wish they had known him.

Tonight's perusal of the most recent obituaries and with the professor's story on my mind, it made me wonder if how we live our life is backward. Maybe we should write our obituary, then try to go back and accomplish those things. Do you want to be known as the member of a bunch of clubs? Companies you have worked for? Schools you have attended? Or do you want to be known for the difference you made in other's lives or that you worked tirelessly to improve, say the access of clean water to others? Would the place where you spend the majority of your time reflect the life you wanted to live? To be remembered by?

Just wondering...

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thanks for family

I can't let the month of thankfulness end without telling what I am most thankful for - family.

While growing up, our family seemed huge. There were so many aunts and uncles and cousins and when we all got together at my grandmother's house, well, I'm really not sure how we all fit. Family also consisted of mom, dad, and 2 -4 kids, for everyone in the extended family too.

Now our family seems so much smaller but no less important. There aren't as many opportunities to get together and that does make it harder. Plus family no longer means mom, dad, and 2.5 kids but they are still family and they love you and accept you, no matter how stupid you are. And they are proud of you, even if the accomplishment is tiny.

And with the acceptance of families no longer having to fit a certain mold, then I was able to make my own family, and having my daughters is easily the single thing I am most thankful for.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thankful is an understatement

When making a list of things I am thankful for, the coincidence of National Adoption Month falling into the same month as Thanksgiving is not lost on me. To say I am thankful for adoption is the biggest understatement I could possibly make. There are so many people, most I will never know, some who have no idea how they impacted my life, but all who brought me to the best my life has ever been.

So to name a few people for whom I am thankful in regards to adopting my daughters, I must start with the birth mothers, not just my daughters' mothers, but all birth mothers who make the truest sacrifice and make the decision to allow their child to be adopted. I'm not sure that I would or could make such a decision, but will be eternally grateful to two mothers in particular, who gave the ultimate in selflessly when they took the time and care to place my daughters in public places so they would be found in hopes of a better life.

I am thankful for the birth families as well and feel a tinge of sympathy for them as they will never know what fantastic beings they are missing in the make up of their family.

I am thankful to the people at the Social Welfare Institute, who provided the initial home for my daughters, who acquiesced and allowed strangers into their facility who disapproved of their methods at times, but allowed them to make the changes needed to provide a nurturing environment that my daughters are able to form bonds and show love.

I am thankful to those who, stateside, sent checks supporting these children they did not know, ensuring their health and safety, and even provided a few bright spots in what could otherwise have been dismal childhoods.

I am thankful to my Auntie Peggy and Uncle George, who were so ahead of their time, sought out adoption and provided the earliest glimpses of what that family could look like.

To my sister Jana, who persevered in her decision to adopt, even when faced with the effect it might have on her life.

To my niece, Darcey, who, from the first instant I saw her, made me fall in love with these beautiful children in China who needed parents.

To Eileen, who chose to be a single mom and when I heard her story, knew I had to find out more.

To those here who helped provide funding to get us to China two times and bring my family home.

You see, the list could go on and on While we credit ancient proverbs with the saying, It takes a village to raise a child", it is quite obvious that adoption involves so many more.

My heart is full of thankfulness to all of you who impacted the source and presence of my family.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Very unexpected things to be thankful for

Friday started at 3:30 am when I woke up way too early and knew there probably was no chance I would go back to sleep. Too much was happening and I was more than a little worried about some of the details as I was also trying to avoid some memories.

Friday was Veterans Day, which you already knew, but it was also the day my little sister died so suddenly that even five years later, it still seems impossible.

Last year, right before Veterans Day I went to a program on palliative care for veterans called Wounded Warriors: Their Last Battle. The speaker addressed the need to thank our veterans for the services they provided to keep our country free, before they die. Since I have always been one who feels that if there is a need, it is up to me, I quickly planned a breakfast to thank as many veterans as I could. It felt good to have a new focus for a day that had taken on such sad memories and was successful enough that I decided to plan something much bigger and better for this year.

So what I thought I would be writing that I was thankful for would include some of the people who helped or thanks for a job that allows me to do this type of program, or thanks that it was a success, instead I am thankful for the things you could NEVER plan and could not have made happen.

As the event drew to a close, it was great to hear that people had enjoyed and appreciated the event. I admit I was feeling pretty good about what we had done and I was just about to sit down, take a few minutes to enjoy a cup of coffee and a bite to eat. As I poured my cup, I saw a woman and who I thought was probably her son, come into the auditorium as the tables were being cleared.

They had gotten lost and no, she was not the veteran, he was,.

All the extra food had been cleared from all the tables, but I encouraged them to at least sit down with me and have a cup of coffee. I found a server who would locate two more breakfasts and they agreed to stay. It seems he had not been out of the service long, but his 5 years in, and his deployments to Iraq had taken their toll. Here was a mom, trying to find that connection again, with a son, who had changed from seeing war up close.

For those of us sitting there, we wished we could offer more than an ear, when about that time, someone else came in late, only this is where you have to know that someone or should it be Someone, had a greater purpose for our little event.

The other late attendee, specializes in finding those resources, providing those needs, helping make those connections. She knew the right questions to ask, she quickly offered her services, and helped begin to build that bridge, that connection back, back for the family that once was.

How can you not be thankful for that?

As I said, Friday was also the anniversary of my little sister passing away. I was glad that the day had been so full and that I was so tired that I really had not had the time to sit and grieve and that did not dawn on me until late in the afternoon as I went to pick up my girls. As I sat at the  traffic light, I looked up right as this truck drove by.

I am thankful for things that I cannot control that work out so much better than I could ever plan. I am thankful for someone who cares enough to make these surprises, these unexpected things happen and makes me stop and take that moment to think, to feel, that I might have missed otherwise.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Great things to be thankful for

Since I last sat down to write so much has happened to limit my thanks to the last three days will be difficult, but I will try.
 
I am thankful for my health. If you saw my medical history, you would probably wonder how I can still be here. It is long and complicated and more than once have had what the airlines call "near misses". There are plenty of things I would like to improve regarding my health, as my blood pressure, although in the normal range, is at the top of it, and the same holds for cholesterol and there are always pounds I would love to disengage myself from, so when I was offered the opportunity to participate in a special program at work to help combat these issues, I decided to take them up on it.
 
Yesterday I went for my initial consultation.
 
First the nurse asked what illnesses I had.
 
None that I could think of.
 
Then the nurse practitioner came in and asked the same thing.
 
I started wracking my brain trying to remember if there was something wrong with me.
 
Finally the doctor came in and said I probably did not qualify because I was healthy!
 
Got to love that! I am thankful for my good health!
 
Then as soon as I think I have the final details of my big program confirmed for Friday, it began to unravel.
 
When I exhausted all of my resources, I turned to my friends on Facebook. I should probably put friends in quotations so you know and understand the rest.
 
I am very thankful for friends that are always there and ready to pitch in, calling in favors for me, following up, and making sure I got it "fixed". The best part is that some of these friends I have never even met!
 
So while I am thankful for friends, this is not where I am going to comment on them, yet, but I want to say how thankful I am for friends I have never met!
 
At the end of some of these marathon type days at work, I find I am especially thankful for a nice, warm bed to provide the rest needed to make the next day even better.

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It's not about sandwiches! It's about my life!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Blessings for today

I've gotten into the habit of going to the grocery store on Sunday afternoons. I am still trying to plan a menu and meals that I can prepare somewhat in advance so our crazy evenings aren't any crazier than they have to be.

Today I chose Aldi, which in some ways makes you even more responsible for what you choose to buy as you know you are going to be handling it several times, in the basket, out for the checker, then you have to bag it and load it into your car. Then of course bringing it in and unpacking. I think if you go to a regular grocery store, maybe you don't have to get quite so personal with your food as others will handle it for you.

Anyway, we were studying about laying up treasures in heaven, rather than earth, and our tendency toward excess, and had this in mind, as I weighed the decision on each item that went into my basket,. What was needed and what was excess?

So this brings me to what I am thankful for today:

I am thankful that I can go to a grocery store that is fully stocked, with multiple choices, and I can buy what my family needs, not all that they want, but can buy not only what we need, but can also buy extra to fill the request from the local children's home and for veterans and their families who have fallen on hard times.

I am thankful that our stores have a wide variety of foods, the individual ingredients to cook from scratch, packaged products for when time or desire is short, and fresh fruits, vegetables, and meat, and there is no line to get in, and I have the money to pay, not a card issued by the state, but money I earned.

I am especially thankful for these things because I am preparing them for those who have not always had these luxuries. As all who lived through the Great Depression (although my father says his family was already so poor they did not know it even happened), my parents were thrilled to get an orange as a Christmas present, not be able to buy large bags of them. Frozen food did not exist so vegetables in the winter came from a can or a jar when you canned yours that you grew. Meat was served only when an animal was slaughtered, with absolutely no part of it wasted. Families were large and times were lean and money was scarce.

I have never experienced true hunger. I rarely even feel hungry, but have never known hunger. For my daughters, hunger has been a reality, a part of their day to day lives, as it continues to be for so many throughout the world. The faces of those starving rarely make the evening news. I guess it doesn't bring in the ratings or is too disturbing. Instead our news focuses on those who have excess and the petty problems they face and it is called news.

I am truly thankful for the food, the variety, the sheer volume that is available for me and my family.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

More things to be thankful for

Thank you to all who shared things you are thankful for. I'm sorry it doesn't show here, as they did it on Facebook.

But on with things I am thankful for:

I am thankful for the volunteers I work with every day and have for the last 10 years or so.

These are the most dedicated and hardest working people I have ever met. These people are reliable and trustworthy. When they say they will be there, they are. They work hard and receive very little in return. They fill a need that we could not afford to fill. I'm not sure how they ever found time to work with all the good things they do full time now. They take their job very seriously.

Sometimes you know someone for a very short time but realize how thankful you are for them very quickly.

Recently Grace has been teaching herself to play some new songs on her guitar. She plays each night, watching videos to teach her the chords. Annabel has also resumed her playing since we got her guitar repaired recently. Last year, we took advantage of the free lessons in our neighborhood, which got them started, but the required attendance of class 4 days a week was overwhelming this year with the load of homework they have each night.

I've been holding our purse strings so tight it was hard to make the decision to do it, but I learned about a new guitar teacher in the area who came highly recommended and felt that the initiative they were showing on teaching themselves deserved some help with a professional.

Grace's second lesson was yesterday but Annabel's was this morning.

She and I got up and ready to run out the door with just enough time to still get there and when I reached for the car keys realized they were not there. With all pointing fingers at each other, we soon had to acknowledge that the keys just were not here and probably had been left at mom and dad's from the previous evening.

I hated to do it but I called the teacher and told him we could not make it. I wasn't sure what his policy was on missing classes but before I had to find out, he volunteered to come to our house to teach the class.

Wow! I am thankful for our new guitar teacher!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Thanksgiving

On Facebook during November most people post something they are thankful for each day.

I decided I would post mine on my blog instead.

You see, growing up, I really liked November, hate Fall, but like what all November represented with Thanksgiving, both of my sisters' birthdays, the arrival of the Christmas Sears Catalog, and two days off from school.

But five years ago that changed with the passing of my sister in November and for the last five years I have begun to dread November as early as August.

Last year something great happened in November though.

My first great niece was born and Isabel Rose made November get better. I'm not sure if her parents planned that but feel certain that God did.

This year in November, we have another exciting event, as another niece is getting married.

So finding something to be thankful for every day is getting easier than it has the last few years and since it is already the third day of November, I will tell you three, all of which became evident first thing this morning.

1. I am thankful for seat warmers. After a brutal summer, with record breaking heat, I was not sure if I could ever feel cool again, but as is usually true with Texas weather, we like to go to extremes and the temperature dropped rapidly last night. So this morning, in my very base package car, I am thrilled that seat warmers are considered part of the base package.

2. While driving my daughters to school, we came across a wreck where a car sat straddling the median, which made me think, I am thankful for all the 100's of safe trips we have had in our commute to school.

3. This might sound rather simple, but once I dropped the girls off at school I enjoy listening to the radio and I switch from a station that is all fluff to NPR, depending on how challenged I want my brain to be that morning. So I am thankful to have the radio and the varied stations we have available.

What are you thankful for?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

People we miss

At this point in my life, it seems like I should be used to people coming in and out of my life.

BUT there is one person who is no longer in my life that I hate to admit, but I grieve for regularly AND it is my fault she is no longer a part of it.

This person was extra special to me. Every two weeks, she would come to see me. In preparation for her coming, I would always pick up and put things away, anxious for her arrival.

She seemed impervious to all the mess that I seemed able to create. In fact, she seemed to be challenged and invigorated by it.

She was the best. She did not even care if I was home when she came to see me. She was willing to come as often as I wanted her to.

She did not need to be entertained, fed, or cared for in any way.

She seemed like her sole purpose was to please me.

And I miss her terribly. Some days I think I will grab my cell phone and just call her and beg her to come back, even if she could come to see me just once a month! At least that one day my house would be clean. About the same time I break down and reach for the phone though, some unexpected bill or repair or school cost comes up.

You see there was only one thing she ever wanted from me. She did expect to be paid. There just aren't a lot of people who want to come and clean your house for free.

Boy, do I miss her today!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Seniors making the neighborhood better or why I do what I do

http://oakcliff.advocatemag.com/2011/10/a-life-worthwhile/
The link above is a story about some of my friends. These are the people who motivate me to do the job I do every day.  I don't write about my job often but hope you will allow an analogy about it as it has been quite a week at work!

You know sometimes how you decide, just one dip of Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla ice cream sounds so delicious and the perfect sweet treat, but then before you can get the first bite down, you decide if you just sliced up a banana in it, that would make it taste even better, almost like a banana split, right?
But then you remember you have some nuts that you just bought and just a few of those, with the banana, would really make that ice cream delicious?

And once you've gone that far and you now have a faint memory of some ice cream dish you had somewhere that was really good but it had coconut on it too, so you add just enough to make it a vanilla ice cream, banana, coconut, nut dessert instead. And about that time you remember it also had some hot fudge on it, so you stop and look for some chocolate syrup, which you don't have, but decide you can substitute caramel to finally make it the perfect, absolutely without a doubt, best sweet treat ever.

So that's how I do my job.

I think of something that sounds like such a great idea and that is really all we need.
But then I sit there thinking, that while that is really a great idea, if I just added this one more thing to it, it would be so much better.

And before you know it, I have a program that no longer resembles that first idea, but now includes all the extras that can make it the perfect, absolutely without a doubt, best program ever!
And I have to say that people like those in the story above are who motivate me to keep adding those extras to finally reach a point where I think we can do the most good for the older adults in our community.

Well, that is all well and good if you are only preparing one dish at a time, but unfortunately, at any given time we have a number of  "dishes" being prepared at once. One day this week, we had 6 events occurring simultaneously! So, needless to say, it has been a pretty full week.

So because of people like those in the story above, I am driven to do even more and never seem to learn my lesson. Would anyone like dessert?

Monday, October 24, 2011

No room for adoptive parents!

I was shocked when I got the message below from our local Families with Children from China yahoo group. It is so hard to believe we are in the 21st century and the application for Texas colleges and universities would have such outdated wording and no consideration for the many children who are adopted.
 
I have cut and pasted the actual wordage that appears on their website further below. I hope you will also contact this institution and tell them you expect better for our children.
 
https://www. applytexas. org/adappc/ html/preview12/ sch_2.html

Note from original post - "I was looking at the sample common college application for Texas colleges and noticed that it only asks for information about biological or step parents.
Since my daughter has no information on her biological parents, I guess she will leave this blank and thus qualify for financial aid :)

But seriously, for many teen adoptees, questions about their biological parents raise lots of anxiety. Applying for college is stressful enough without insensitive and incorrect wording on the application adding to it.

Please review the application yourself at the above link, and if you think warranted, please email applytexas@austin. utexas.edu<mailto:applytexas@austin. utexas.edu> with a request that they change the application language to make it easier for adoptees to provide information. It shouldn't be hard to ask for information about legal guardian or parent with whom you live vs "biological" parent.

Please pass on to other adoption email lists. November is Adoption Awareness month - let's make Texas colleges aware of adoptive families."
  1. Biological Father's Information
    OR Deceased
  2. OR Not Applicable
  3. $ .00
    OR No Income
    1. Biological Mother's Information
      OR Deceased
    2. OR Not Applicable
    3. $ .00
      OR No Income
    1. Step Parent's Information
      OR Deceased
    2. OR Not Applicable
    3. $ .00
      OR No Income
    1. If you are living with someone other than a biological or step parent, please provide their information below.
      OR Deceased
    2. OR Not Applicable
    3. $ .00
      OR No Income
    It's not about sandwiches! It's about my life!

    Thursday, October 20, 2011

    The changing seasons

    I had two terrible things happen to me last week.

    Every year as the calendar changes from August to September, I think to myself, I can still wear _____ (fill in the blank). This year, as in many other years, I was sure I would continue to wear my sandals, my white skirt, that favorite sleeveless top, even when it got a little cooler. The weather never really gets that cold here that I could not keep wearing these favorite items.

    But then one morning I wake up and cannot even imagine wearing that white skirt, that sleeveless top, or those sandals, because it is too late in the year! It has finally gotten cooler! So many reasons and then I realize the seasons did change and my perception of what is "right" has changed so gradually that until that moment I wasn't even aware of it.

    Age and seasons seem to be a common analogy and while I was sure I was still in the prime of my summer, these two terrible things happened that make me wonder if my seasons changed so gradually, so subtlety that I had not noticed.

    I went into a shop to buy a cute Halloween card to send my nieces. The only cards they had were $6 each!!! I commented to the manager that the price was too high. She, being younger and blonder, did a quick nudge and wink, and said, "Well, you will get the senior discount!"

    WHAT??? Who is she talking to? Did someone come in behind me? I know I don't look like I should get that discount.

    THEN, something even worse happened.

    On Wednesday I realized that I only had a half tank of gas. I immediately started planning when I could get over to the service station to fill up. I worried that I only had half a tank. HALF a TANK! Yikes! When did I start fretting over having "just" half a tank? I used to think that going to fill up before the warning light came on was a waste of time and energy! Much less it made for way too many trips for gas! Yuck, who wants to go more often then they HAD to?

    Then an unexpected errand made that gas gauge register even lower! But by the time we were headed home from the errand it had gotten dark and I hated to stop.

    No problem, it was not my week to do the car pool. I only had to drop the girls off at our meeting point and onto work, a total of about 2 miles, so I was surely safe, BUT I should probably drop them off and then head straight to fill up. I had LESS than HALF a tank, I should hurry and get it filled up. I might have to be a little late to work, but I HAD to get it full.

    That's when it hit me. Who am I???

    I know my Dad fills up the second his car drops to three quarters of a tank! BUT not ME! I would be willing to put $1 in and see just how far I could go and then HOPE that I made it in time to buy more. Now I was worried with a half a tank!

    Oh my! Have I slipped into that next season?

    Wednesday, October 12, 2011

    Do you suffer from these problems?

    I drive my co-workers and others crazy by being able to accurately diagnose their problems.

    Tonight, I have self diagnosed a condition that has become a chronic condition in the last few years, Ican'tstandtoseedirtydishesinthesinkitis.

    I've decided it is a condition you only acquire at a certain point in your life as the younger members of my family instead have the condition known as Imightbeabletostuffonemoredishintothesinkitis.

    I have to say I have really good daughters, really good and each one has their chores they are to do each week for their allowance, which is not as consistent as it should be but the chores are still expected to be done.

    Their chores include the laundry, one washes, the other folds and puts away; the trash, one takes out the recycling, the other takes out the regular trash; and the dishes, one unloads the dishwasher and the other loads. Some weeks when homework is taking its toll I jump in and help, but for the most part, I expect them to learn to budget their time to ensure everything gets done.

    The only problem is that I want it done when I want it done, not necessarily when they get around to it and as a result I have developed this condition where I hate to see a dirty dish in the sink! When I start to cook, I want everything clean, as I have a really small work surface and need all the room I can get. This is a fairly recent development for me because I truly was like my kids and had the old, I can still fit one more dish into the sink syndrome before. If the Queen of England had dropped by, there would have been dishes in my sink, no doubt about it. Now, it would make me crazy! I can't hardly stand to go to bed until that sink is clean. (That sentence sounds very Texan or just country!)

    I'm not sure if men suffer from this but I know growing up that Dad had a condition known as iseverylightoninthishouseexcepttheoneinmycloset? I think that one is reserved for men though because I don't mind having every single light on including the one in my closet and don't mind paying the bill even, I like it well lit!

    I have had this other problem for a long time, whatisthathorriblesmell? itis. I've been blessed (?) with an ultra sensitive nose but what I don't understand is how my girls, who get home an hour or so before me, can be in the house and not notice that the trash MUST go! You can almost hear them saying, "HUH? Smell? I don't smell anything!"

    I'm not sure if there is a cure for any of these problems, but hoping that Congress might consider sending some serious funding for research and I will be glad to help out by hiring someone to do it exactly when I want it done!

    Tuesday, October 11, 2011

    Cutting through the thick of it!

    Recently we had a cooking demonstration for a program we had at work. She spent a bit of time discussing the need to have really good quality knives and that a good knife should cost about the same as a little black dress. Well the last time I bought a little black dress, my budget was all about me, not split three ways.

    I thought I had some fairly good knives and it had not been a problem until she put that idea in my mind.

    Then last week, I tried to slice the pot roast I had prepared and instead it ended up looking like "pulled" beef.

    AARRGGHH! I wanted to take every knife I had and throw them away!

    Instead I posted a question about favored brands of knives on a mom's group I am a member of and boy it stirred up a lot of interest and I started getting responses almost immediately. People feel very strongly about the knives they use.

    Yesterday I made a quick trip to the Crate and Barrel Outlet. They had a great deal on a good set and I felt I must have it if I was ever going to possibly continue to cook.

    I had not taken the time to even open the package but I was running a little late getting started on dinner tonight so I opened it up quickly and decided to give the chef's knife a quick wash. Rather than use a dish cloth I just ran my finger down the blade and promptly cut the fire out of my thumb. Of course you already saw that coming.

    I must say a good knife does make all the difference, it is much faster and more efficient, or at least I think it is. Holding the tourniquet on my thumb made it a little difficult to maneuver but it did make for a good clean cut!

    Drive Time

    To the man who was in front of me, beside me, and finally behind me in traffic today:

    I know what you were thinking. You thought I should have left earlier if I was in that big a rush that I was switching lanes that much.

    I promise, I did leave on time but somehow traffic was against me and less than a mile from work and 15 minutes had already passed.

    When I realized that I only had 15 minutes to drive the majority of my trip I did speed up. I was just sure I could finally get around the clump of traffic that you too were stuck in, but you kept going the same speed as I bobbed and weaved and cut in and out but somehow we always ended up either side by side or you were still ahead.

    I could sense your disapproval. I did not need to see your face because I felt it.

    But you see, I was in a hurry.

    I needed to pick up my daughters and I have to admit, I hate to make them wait. No, they aren't impatient, but I always worry about them thinking no one is coming to get them. Their early years were rough and too many times there wasn't someone there to pick them up, so I admit, I hurried to get there so they wouldn't have any doubts that I would be there to pick them up.

    BUT you will be glad to know, I felt your disapproval and I knew I was wrong. While it is very important for my daughters to know I am coming, it is more important for me to get there. I slowed down. I made it safely. Thank you for your concern.

    Monday, October 10, 2011

    Thanks Mom!

    "That is so pretty!"

    That was my mom's response as I held up a stick with just a few autumn leaves still attached after I had stripped it of its pretty flowers

    But you see, that is my mom. She can find the good in EVERYTHING and EVERYONE!

    I obviously did not take after her.

    I kept waking up worried about how I was going to tackle the project, formerly known as our house. While I can organize a meal being served for 300 in 15 minutes, I cannot seem to organize this house. It is always out of control so when Mom dropped in today, I immediately unloaded on her about how overwhelmed I was by trying to clean our house. Even though she probably did not feel like it, she went home, got her favorite dust mop and cleaners and came back and began to tackle the living room. With her involved, she made sure the girls were also and within an hour the mountain became a mole hill.

    I know how fortunate I am as not everyone has a mom who believes in them like mine does. She even let me cut her hair when I probably should not have been allowed to even use scissors! Even at this age, I can show mom a spot so tiny that it would take a magnifying glass to see and she will respond appropriately with the right amount of sympathy. And on the opposite end, she can be sitting there looking at me and then ask if my eye might be swollen.

    Thanks Mom!

    Tuesday, October 4, 2011

    U.S. History

    I have no idea how Annabel has been able to do all she has in learning English and the monster sized homework assignments she completes and much less how she continues to make good grades and only every now and then, she needs some help.

    Her recent U.S. History assignment required an understanding of the U.S. History that I think we develop after hearing it, reading it, and learning it for years, not just the sampling she has gotten in the last 3 years!

    The assignment was interesting and I learned quite a bit too, but they were to pick one of the original 13 colonies, find the basis of the colony's creation, the culture of the colony, and prepare a 5 minute speech pretending to be a colonist recruiting people in England to leave their homes and join them in the new world.

    The research was fine and even the poster was fine, but trying to develop the speech was really difficult. She went from being the comedian, to the ad libber, to despair, and about the time I thought we had reached the breaking point, she got it down to a pretty succinct presentation with all the details and emphasizing the important points of her research.

    As I dropped them off for school I was still saying a little prayer that she could remember all the details, not get distracted, and hopefully show her teacher some of the hard work she had done.

    In the middle of the day I got a recorded message from the school that while there had been a power outage at the school, things were ok and the power was back on. Hmmm, wasn't sure what that meant, but when I picked them up, Annabel jumped in the car full of news!

    The power had gone out almost as soon as school started and U.S. History was up first, so class was held in the dark, basically.

    Annabel volunteered to go first, BRILLIANT!, and the teacher acknowledged the challenge of presenting in the dark and she got a 93!

    I love it when even the bad things can work together for good!

    Saturday, October 1, 2011

    A hard week

    This has been a hard week and I am treasuring some quiet time on Saturday morning, enjoying a cup of coffee in an actual cup, not my thermal to go mug, and watching cooking shows, while Annabel tackles homework, and Grace catches up on her beauty sleep.

    For a living, I try to come up with things to keep the older adults in the community active and healthy. Sometimes my ideas get way bigger or way more than what should be tried, but I feel so committed to try to improve the quality of their lives, that I push on.

    At the end of the a week like this, I think I must be crazy!

    Of course a common theme of any "get healthy" program is eat better and exercise more, but I know at some point that holds less and less appeal. Actually, at this point in my life, the exercise more is not thrilling either.

    Anyway, this week we had three days of "trial" exercise programs as well as health screenings, but what made this week the hardest, was saying good bye to a dear friend, who also happened to be a volunteer.

    Tuesday, September 27, 2011

    Travel back in time

    One of our local publications interviews a local "celebrity" in each edition. They have a series of questions they ask each person. One of these questions is "If you could travel back in time, where would you like to go?"

    If I could travel back in time I know exactly where I would go.

    I would go back to two different Chinese mothers, who made a heart wrenching decision, who cared enough about their babies, that they took the risks and placed these babies where they would be found.

    Many of you reading know I adopted my daughters from China. If you have known me for any length of time, then you know about the one child policy in China, which allows parents to only have one child. Period.

    And for many years, the preferred child was a boy, as there is no social security or Medicare in China, so as you get older, you are dependent on your child to care for you. When you can no longer work and earn a living, you switch roles with your children and they are required to support you. If you have a daughter, it is expected that she will assume the caregiver role for her husband's parents, not her own, so if your only child is a girl, there will be no one there to care for you when you need them.

    My memory of when this began is sketchy now but the interest in adopting from China steadily grew beginning in the late 1990's.

    I don't know if the possibility of adoption played a role in any of the birth mother's decisions, but maybe it did. There is a book called "The Lost Daughters of China", a very difficult book to read. It chronicles the desperation the families felt when they realized their baby was a girl. Maybe the desperation began earlier, when they first realized they were pregnant. Maybe they were not old enough, not married, maybe they already had a child, maybe the father left home, maybe the family was already starving, or the mother was sick? See there are an infinite number of possibilities why this precious new life could cause desperation.

    I wonder if the word spread that there might be Americans or people from other countries, who would adopt their babies and women began to have the courage to leave their babies in very public places, knowing they would be found, and the hope of a better life? Knowing they were risking everything by doing this? I don't know what happened to the babies before then.

    But I would love to meet these two women, who made the decision to hope for a better life for their daughters.

    That way, when my daughters have to write a personal memoir, they could and English assignments would not be quite so hard.

    Ranting about food

    I am so disappointed in blogger.

    When I look at my post from Sunday, after way too much work to get pictures posted, I don't see anything. Can you?

    Now I know why people switch to other providers!

    Back to food, a much more important subject for now and a rant about the whole state of food and where and how it is served.

    The hard apple cider pork roast was pretty good. Mom liked it well enough that she wanted to save the leftovers. Pretty good endorsement there. If you want to make it, here is the link

    http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/claire-robinson/pork-roast-with-hard-cider-gravy-recipe/index.html

    My final product was not quite like hers but it gave me inspiration. Tonight was pot roast with mashed potatoes, carrots, spinach, and corn. While I tried the Pioneer Woman's technique, most of it was how I traditionally prepare a pot roast.

    BUT my big discussion tonight is about food, not what I prepare, but what we buy when we go out to eat.

    What is the deal with the sudden popularity of "street tacos"? Really? I want something that is reminiscent of buying from a place that cooks on the street? Why? Growing up, Dad would always say to check the German Shepherd population around a street vendor to ensure there still were German Shepherds and they weren't what was being served. Maybe that has been enough to turn me off of street vendor food for years! Now the restaurants advertise that they sell street tacos. Does that lend them credence of being "real"?

    And what is it with food trucks? There is even a competition about food trucks on the cooking channel. Food trucks, again, something from very formative years, used to be called something disgusting plus the word coach, which rhymes with the other word. These trucks pulled into the parking lots of industrial places and all the workers bought lunch. I know today's trucks are different and offer a variety of gourmet treats, but then where are you supposed to eat? We live in Texas and the temperature stayed over 100 for a million days and I personally don't want to sit out in that temperature while enjoying one of the few meals I buy out.

    And for some reason I thought food would be cheaper from one of these food trucks but was I wrong! They have little or no overhead as there is no brick and mortar costs and everything is served on disposal products but maybe I just don't get it.

    When I go out to eat, which is not often, I admit, as I am way too tight with my (our) money, but I really don't even like a buffet. I want to sit down, tell someone what I want to eat and drink, them serve me, make sure it is right, fill up my glass if it threatens to be depleted, then smile, and thank me for my business all while enjoying their controlled environment with the temperature somewhere about 73 degrees! And I want flatware that does not break or bend and a plate that someone will wash later.

    Is that too much to ask?

    OK, rant over.

    Sunday, September 25, 2011

    If I knew how, I would have included these pictures in the post below...

















    A great weekend

    Three pots on the stove with three meals finishing up for the upcoming week. The winners from yesterday's marathon Food Network shows are Pork Roast with Hard Apple Cider Gravy,  from 5 Ingredient Fix, Tortas Ahogadas, or Braised Pork Sandwich with Spicy Tomato Broth, from Mexican Made Easy, and my own variation of the Pioneer Woman's Pot Roast. Reviews later in the week!

    Someone asked if cooking didn't just create more housekeeping, but I have figured out a great solution to that. My mother does not mind cleaning up, but she gets tired of cooking, Dad loves to eat, so if we take our meals to their house, I leave all the dirty dishes! See? Isn't that brilliant?

    We've had a great weekend and as I have said before, there is no time to get bored around here.

    When Grace was very young, I found a guitar at Tuesday Morning at such a bargain I decided to buy it to let her experiment if and when she found an interest in it. So at times she would pick it up and strum it some, but not there was not much discernible music at that point.

    Last year, we had the fantastic opportunity for FREE guitar lessons, four days a week, specifically for middle schoolers. We jumped at the chance and both enjoyed learning music as varied as Y Volvere to Smoke on the Water. Annabel got a guitar for Christmas and lots of music has been made.

    Fast forward several months and both guitars needed some attention. We have found a new type of "candy store" for teenagers in the form of the store Guitar Center. Both girls LOVE to go and always find plenty of instruments to try, especially guitars.

    The work on Annabel's guitar was pretty easy but Grace's was beyond repair. This was bad news as Grace practices almost every night, even teaching herself new songs by watching You Tube videos. To me, this shows dedication and a desire to learn, so while a new guitar would be a great Christmas gift, I just could not see making her wait that many more months, especially when we found a great sale on a used one.

    With both girls armed with their guitars again, they both sat in front of their computers, finding videos to learn lots of new songs and hours had passed with neither moving anything but their fingers.

    One more comment on that, their guitar style and the songs they like are just as dichotomous as they are, again my yin and my yang.

    On our way home from Guitar Center, Grace mentioned a photography competition that her art teacher had mentioned. She then surprised me by recounting that she knew I had won several awards for my photographs in contests. I did not know she had ever noticed as I have very few of my pictures where anyone can even see them.

    Way back before my mom days, I used to love to travel and I always traveled with my camera and loved recording those trips on film. It was long enough ago that you truly did record the image on film and had to have them developed to see what you had taken!

    Anyway, Grace started asking a lot of questions about what awards I had earned, what the pictures were, how had I chosen my subjects, etc. She really seemed interested and had some ideas of what she might want to photograph for the contest.

    It was agreed that we would go downtown this afternoon and give it a try. All three of us were armed with cameras and I loved how even though they started off slowly were soon looking for unique angles and subjects to take.

    I, on the other hand, actually got some good pictures of them, with cameras in front, but with neither posing, some I really like. Tell me what you think. OK, I hate trying to add pictures to blogger, so they are in their own post.

    Saturday, September 24, 2011

    What's for dinner?

    As much as I hate housework, just the opposite can be said for cooking. I LOVE to cook. I"m not necessarily very good at it, but now that I have a hungry audience, then I have plenty of opportunities to work at perfecting , experimenting, and finding just the right ingredients to achieve success! And success for me is when the bowls are empty or there is just enough left for lunch and Annabel grabs it up for her lunch!

    The one problem with cooking regularly though, is you get tired of making the same thing and I am really bad about just throwing stuff together when I am too tired and knowing that as long as it has noodles or rice, my girls will generally eat it.

    So lately I have looked for inspiration in a variety of ways. Sometimes I take a cookbook and pick out 3 or 4 different recipes to make for the week. Sometimes I grab a magazine, looking for things that we can all agree on, tear out the pages and head to the grocery store. I subscribe to lots of different sites that are more than willing to email me their daily choices, which if I print, I quickly lose. There is one more great resource for recipes and that is all the THOUSANDS of cooking shows on TV now.

    It used to be the only place you could find someone cooking was on your local educational channel, which for us, continues to be Channel 13. The earliest shows I remember, were not watched for inspiration, but more for entertainment. I remember, of course, Julia Child, but French cooking was so foreign. Then there was The Galloping Gourmet. Can't remember a single thing he cooked. Then Justin Wilson and his Cajun cooking. OOO Wee! or was his trademark Woo! Wee!, either way, it was never anything I was going to prepare.

    Now, with the addition of cable, there are at least 2 channels that are devoted only to cooking. You add in Martha Stewart taking over the Hallmark Channel, which adds a few more, and on Saturdays, there is still Channel 13. So many choices!

    Last week I watched Rachel Ray's week in a day show and Semi Homemade with Sandra Lee, which resulted in us having drop biscuit chicken pot pie, delicious!, and chicken and corn chowder, which was only fair. I meant to make Rachel Ray's shrimp dish also but knew that if we ate with Mom and Dad, it would be much too spicy, so we opted for fried shrimp instead.

    I am so glad to be home this morning with nowhere we have to be and I am desperately trying to avoid housework, so Annabel and I are enjoying a morning of a variety of cooking shows.

    I'm not sure I have any inspiration for the week, but Annabel, after watching Secrets of a Restaurant Chef, has decided you must be part crazy to be a chef, but then her interest was piqued by a new show for both of us, The Kimchi Chronicles. In between, The Pioneer Woman made me want to cook a great big old pot roast and if I watch Barefoot Contessa, I will be wanting dessert first!

    I would love for you to send me your favorite recipe and maybe it will inspire me too!

    Thursday, September 22, 2011

    So very depressing!

    Research shows that women struggle more with depression than men do and I know why.

    Housework!

    There I said it and it is out there and you might think I am sexist, dismissive, and otherwise ill informed, but housework is my single most depressing issue that I face DAILY!

    Think about it, you just get your kitchen clean and someone comes in wanting something to eat or drink and what is left? Dirty dishes, a mess on the floor, fingerprints on your refrigerator! I mean seriously, one quick bite or sip can upset the whole cart!

    Since I work full time, I try to tackle a little bit of the problems each night so the weekend is not dreaded and cleaning house is the only thing we ever get to do. But I get no where! As soon as one section is clean, you turn around and what you did the night before is now dirty! NEVER are there NO dishes to wash, clothes to wash, clothes to fold, floors to sweep, sinks to clean, and we're not even talking mopping and dusting, toilets or tubs! Much less windows and curtains and just the stuff that stacks up!

    Our dogs don't help.

    Saturday I vacuumed the rug in my room. By Sunday it was covered with balls of fluff from the dogs, shaking their booties on my rug to get a good scratch going! GROSS!

    Wednesday night Grace woke me up with the news that one of the dogs had an accident in her bed. GREAT! We had just changed the sheets. Let's do it again!

    And who sends that much mail when almost everything is on the computer now and when did I subscribe to these magazines that I don't have time to read that are making that tall stack that looks like the leaning tower of Pisa? 

    When I watch TV, through the layer of dust on our screen, I look at the settings in "people's homes". Where is their stack of mail that needs to be gone through or their children's papers they really want to save for posterity? The ONLY show that even hints at reality is The Middle. She is my kind of housekeeper. She stores her grandmother's quilt in her stove because she doesn't have anywhere else to put it!

    When it was just me, I actually had someone who came every two weeks and cleaned. What was she cleaning? How messy was I, by myself, that I needed someone to clean?

    Oh dear! Maybe the problem isn't the kids and the dogs, it's me!

    Wednesday, September 21, 2011

    The many faces of Grace!

    Hong Hao Yuan Jie
    Empress of China
    Obviously loved very much by her foster mother who had these pictures made.

    When she was a flight attendant in China, just joking!




    February 2005?

    Too cute! With cousins in 2005



    First day of school 2007, after we both had beefed up!

    Chinese New Year 2009



    Getting award at school May 2011 for being GREAT!



    With Gillian, Santa Fe, New Mexico June 2011


    Happy Gotcha Day, Grace!

    Seven years ago today, after a very long two year process, I became a mom and Grace became my daughter.
     
    Out of the million decisions I will make in a lifetime, the decision to adopt was the single best one that I have ever made and ever will make.
     
    It was not something I did on the spur of the moment and it took me weeks and months to do research, looking behind the scenes at the options/opportunities, before deciding this was what I would do.
     
    It's so funny how a very casual remark started the process in motion. As I was about to leave the adoption agency on my first visit, crestfallen that adoption just did not seem to be right for me, the social worker casually mentioned the waiting child program in China. She told me an agency I might call for more information and before I left their parking lot had placed a call to learn more.
     
    All of the reams of paperwork were quickly forgotten as I sat in that government office in Nanchang as this gigantic stuffed dog, hiding my dear sweet Grace entered the room.
     
    Life has its ups and downs and will continue and we will see losses and gains, and good and bad, but there is absolutely no semblance of my life before to my life now and for that I am eternally grateful.
     
    I actually thought I had a good life before, but life as a mother is great, greater than I could ever have imagined.
     
    My heart breaks at the thought of the many losses both daughters have experienced in their very young and tender lives, but will always be steadfast in my gratefulness to God for bringing us together.
     
    Happy Gotcha Day, Grace!  

    http://mysandwichlife.blogspot.com/
    It's not about sandwiches! It's about my life!

    Monday, September 19, 2011

    I wish I had the answers

    Tonight my heart is heavy. It seems that the older I get, the less I understand about life, or at least the end of life.

    Three families are struggling with this on a personal level.

    The first is my friend, my volunteer, someones mother, grandmother, great grandmother, someone who touched every single life she came into contact with, someone who found the good, truly, in everyone she met, someone who took the time every day to check on you, to listen, to care, to pat your hand, to offer an encouraging word, and most importantly a prayer.

    She came to us as a volunteer, someone who had suffered some serious losses, received some devastating diagnoses, but was determined to make a difference in others' lives through volunteer work. She came without fail, drove a long way, and rarely showed up empty handed. She was always taking care of someone and would bring what they needed to make their day better. She was as kind and gentle to our rather unlovable guests as she was to everyone else.

    I went into Sam's tonight to buy some things for work. A flood of memories came back as I recalled her helping set up for our programs and treating everyone as if they were a guest in her home. She would ooh and aah over whatever I bought and make me think I had chosen just the most perfect combination for a virtual feast, even if it was just cheese and crackers. She brought plenty of her own goodies and loved to share

    She developed a cold accompanied by a cough, that just did not want to go away.

    Out of concern we urged her to the doctor, sure that just the right medicine would take care of it quickly and she would be right back. Only it wasn't a cold, it was something so much worse. Something that would come with nothing but bad news, and only get worse.

    I am so grateful there are angels here on earth, serving as palliative care nurses, hospice workers, so they can be there, when the rest of us fail. They are not afraid to help, to be there, to make that passage as peaceful and painless as possible. The rest of us freeze and become immobile, dreading the phone call they know will come.

    Another family is dealing with the loss, which is still so raw, the future seems unbearable to imagine, to see life without this essential person, who was here just moments ago, who seemed to have beat the illness, but succumbed in the blink of an eye, gone, forever. No more time to wonder what's next, what does the future hold, who will I become? There is no more time. The only thing left is the family, struggling, wishing there would be a way to make it make sense, but there is no sense to be found.

    The third family is suffering from what a man from church used to call, suffering from the longevity of life. He would pray every time for those suffering. I finally looked up longevity because I wasn't sure if it was catching. I did not know anyone who had this dread disease but of course, in my lifetime, now I have lost count of how many.

    On my way out of the grocery store, late the other night, I caught a glimpse of a couple I have known for quite a while. When I saw them I had to do a double take, probably a triple. I was shocked at their gaunt, bent over appearance, struggling to maneuver even the short walk into the store. I had lost track of them several years ago and really guessed that I had missed them in the obituaries because their health was so poor and complicated, it seemed the end was imminent. But no, instead, they are still struggling, trying to achieve the most simple thing like a trip to the grocery store.

    I thought writing it out would help me understand better. I really have even fewer answers. I know the only thing I have to offer are prayers I'm sure they would appreciate yours too.

    Domino effect

    Some days you just kind of see a domino effect happening and once that first one tilts, you know the rest will come down.
     
    Monday mornings actually have their start on Sundays.
     
    But Sundays can only happen if your usual happens on Saturday.
     
    See, it all builds up to one place, Monday mornings.
     
    So I worked on Saturday, which pushed back our usual chores and errands to Sunday.
     
    Sunday got here and we had the usual Saturday things to take care of, PLUS a few extras that were way off our usual list of things to do, so by the time Sunday night got here, we were just coming home with groceries for the week about the time we usually are wrapping up the weekend and getting ready for Monday.
     
    While we, the humans, are so very thankful to finally get some rain, our dogs, on the other hand, have now decided their paws are much too delicate to risk any dampness, so they refused to go outside.
     
    AARRGGHH! No matter if you drag them out there, they are going to run as fast as they can back to cover so when one woke me up in the middle of the night, with her legs crossed and hopping back and forth, I had to wake up enough to let her out.
     
    Peee YUUUU, what is that smell?
     
    The other dog evidently decided he would just do his business inside the house! So while still very asleep, I am cleaning up a VERY stinky mess, but not completely as I did not want to get out the mop at 2;30 a.m.!
     
    With the interrupted sleep I then overslept, which is the worst thing you can do when you are responsible for driving the carpool!
     
    I delivered the bad news to Grace that she still needed to finish cleaning up the mess the dogs had left and Annabel and I each grabbed a dog and headed outside. Since the grass was still wet, it took a LOT of convincing to get them to even remotely consider stepping into it, and after much wasted time, we gave up on one and cheered for the other.
     
    Back inside we all three are scrambling for breakfast, clothes, and lunches.
     
    Thankfully, Annabel had her act together and when the others for the carpool arrived, quickly unlocked and changed the seat configuration, while Grace and I were still making a crazy mad dash for required items.
     
    Mom, have you seen my tie?
     
    Ties are required for Monday morning dress meetings at their school and not having it means a detention or a fee.
     
    I ran into their room and while I found an assortment of clothes, bags, and shoes, there was no tie.
     
    Back out again, I am trying to convince Grace that it must be in her backpack.
     
    No, she has checked.
     
    I tear through stacks of books, more clothes, supplies, all of which are on our table, but still no tie.
     
    Time's up, we have to go. As we start to run out the door, I see my cup of coffee on the counter, quickly grabbing it, my purse, and whatever I had thrown together for a lunch.
     
    I felt like I was competing in the long jump category as I built of speed from the porch to the car seat! Voila! Thankfully our carpool mom opened the door for me or I would have splatted.
     
    Car in gear and we're off!
     
    First corner and I am wearing my cup of coffee to work, with no napkin in sight, but really needing a beach towel instead to clean up. The whole time Grace is digging in her backpack and in the very bottom finds her tie!
     
    Everyone is dropped off safe and sound, I make it to work on time, and hoping that is all the dominoes for the day.
     
    Hope your Monday is great!
     
    It's not about sandwiches! It's about my life!

    Sunday, September 18, 2011

    Time travel

    Last week I felt like a magician. Or maybe a time traveler, coming from some long ago time sharing antique inventions that no longer exist!

    I had 2 boxes, filled with wonders, that kept my girls spellbound wondering what in the world that contraption was???!!!!

    I pulled one strange wooden box out that had a wire attached. Annabel asked, what is that?

    It is a speaker.

    How do you use it? Wait, you have two of them? How do they work?

    Hold on and I will show you.

    Then I pulled out this contraption that if you pushed the button on the top, it opened, and they started pushing the others.

    By the time I finally got my "bookshelf" stereo assembled and plugged in, they were trying to make the strange display work by pushing on it.

    No, it is not touch screen.

    Then Annabel started shouting at it.

    It certainly isn't voice recognition.

    I showed them how to select FM stereo, then use the scan arrow until we found a station we can all agree on.

    Wow! They had never seen such a thing.

    Then Grace started playing with the "tuner" and showing me how if you were just one number off that it made it all staticy.

    It all made me laugh and feel quite old.

    Music is one of those things that has helped me realize just how quickly my girls are growing up. The very fact that we all will listen to the same radio station says a lot. We don't all like the same songs but we do like enough of them.

    Growing up my Dad and Mom always listened to the radio in the mornings. I remember this gigantic green box radio Dad had that even had world bands on it, but I'm not sure if we ever heard more than KBOX or WBAP in the mornings with the latest Porter and Dolly and Buck and even some Conway Twitty. I don't think there were ever any traffic reports in those days and the news probably came off a teletype machine, but we knew everyone of the DJs as if they were members of the family and every song had a story.

    The radio had a dial and you had to really work hard to get just the right place to even get your local radio station. Nothing digital on that old box.

    Eventually we each had our own radios and my first was a clock radio, again with a dial that took some delicate maneuvering to get just the right radio station, with just the one speaker but it did the job.

    I really don't remember when I bought this "stereo" which I am putting in quotation marks because to call it a stereo is quite a stretch and again a foreign word to my girls.

    But after I adopted Grace, under the tutelage of my sister Jana, I quickly learned that music I was used to listening to would hold little interest for a 6 year old. I quickly adapted and tunes from Mickey and Minnie, Belle, Snow White, and Cinderella soon blasted daily, so I put up my stereo.

    Hearing this very spunky 6 year old, with little or no English, belting out Oh my Darling and She'll be coming round the mountain, will be one of those memories I will always cherish.

    Too soon though we switched from the animated Disney tunes to those with the tween pop star sounds, and then I blinked and they made the jump to popular music.

    So I decided to start some memories with them, like mine with Dad's radio playing each morning and dug out that antique that will allow all of us to listen to music together, without headphones! They already want to share it with the dogs!