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


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.


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!  

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!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Where have I been?

Annabel's homework is to write a story about a significant event in your life. She had asked me to make sure we had time tonight for her to ask some questions about specifics of her adoption.
There is so much of that that surprised me and not even sure I can put into words what part of it surprised me other than her decision to write about her adoption.

So tonight I sat down with her and opened up my old blog where I recorded the first two years of our life as a family.

Thank goodness I took the time then to sit and write.

There is already so much I had forgotten and details that would be lost that reading each post brought back a flood of memories.

It makes me wonder why I don't write as often and I have to say it is just more complicated now.

I have a lot of posts that I have written and then not published. Most of these seemed to have rambled on or I never quite got them to where I wanted them or decided they were really just too personal to put out for everyone to read, which is more often the case.

It was different when they were younger but now I am keenly aware of the risks of posting things they would consider personal.

And so while that is part of it another part is that I think that what I write isn't that good any more.

Now hear me out.

Have you seen how many gazillion blogs there are? I mean everyone has a blog, many have multiples. AND for a lot of people that is how they earn a living, writing their blogs.

I cannot tell you how very much I would LOVE to be able to earn a living from what I write. That to me would be the absolute dream job, but when I read these other people's blogs, the ones that make money from writing them, I am blown away!

I mean seriously, these people are talented!

Most of the blogs I have gotten into have thousands of followers. They have their own Facebook page! You subscribe to their posts and each day in your inbox are their latest brilliant posts!

A big difference in these posts and mine are they are rarely just ruminations of the day's events. Instead these people bring you the latest and greatest in a long list of things you did not know you needed, or could do, or could make, or could cook, or ways you can save money, or ways to turn a T shirt into, I don't know, a prom dress! Wow!

These women, most of the ones I read are written by women, tell you what to cook for dinner, how to clean up dog vomit, how to decorate your home, I mean they are all aspiring Martha Stewarts and I am so the opposite.

If you need toilet paper and don't mind a case being delivered, they can tell you how to get it for pennies on the dollar.

You want to know how to make your own toilet paper, there is probably a blog post somewhere for that.

How about recycling your toilet paper? You betcha! Plenty of blogs on how to increase your greenness while decreasing your carbon footprint.

And even if there are no recipes for a meal of toilet paper, there is probably a blog post on making your toilet paper into a Pottery Barn lookalike must have home accessory.

So you see, I think I have become rather hard on myself and decided that mine just didn't stand up to the competition so I have quit writing with the frequency I once did.

I hope that I will quit worrying about the brilliance of everyone else and get back to mine as more of a journal, because I know in the future, what happens in our day to day life will be as amusing as reading the details of our lives from just three years ago.