Saturday, December 1, 2012

A very bad day

If you are going to have a bad day, let me recommend you do it like I did.

That pesky light showing maintenance needed had been blazing since we went to Austin last week, so I knew I had to get it taken care of, since I am actually buying this car and hope it will at least last the next three years so I can get it paid for.

Anyway, I went to the first place, which promised a great price of only $31 for the "special" service which would include vacuuming out the knee deep layer of leaves in our car. After waiting an hour, they finally told me they did not have a filter to fit my car. Really? It took you that long to figure it out?

So I called the local dealership. They quoted a price of $41, which was $6 more than the last oil change I got with them. When I got there, they quoted a price of $49 and no matter what I said, they stuck to the price.

I was running out of patience and time and vaguely recalled seeing one of those oil changing places not too far out of the way.

The man motioned me to pull in. This seemed to be a good sign because at the other two I had to go look for someone.

Anyway, I asked if he could change the oil and had all the parts needed, how long it would take, and the price, although anything lower than $49 was going to seem good.

Yes, he had all the parts, it would take 10 minutes, and would be $39, which seemed like a good enough deal, and I could just sit in the car while he did it all. This seemed amazing, as I needed to make some phone calls and check my email.

While rummaging under the hood, he also pulled out the air filter and asked if I wanted it changed. Since I had never been there, I was sure he was just trying to upsell me, so a quick phone call to Dad and a check in my owner's manual, assured me that replacing it was LONG overdue, only by 25,000 miles! I agreed and he reported it would be an additional $18. Dad approved of the price, so I said go ahead. While reading the owner's manual suggested maintenance, I also noticed that the cabin filter should have been changed the first time at 25,000 and again at the 50,000 where we are now. He did not mind taking care of it, which was considerably more complicated. He had to take out the glove box and other assorted parts, but he did not mind. It was even worse than the other filter, so I agreed to its replacement. This quick oil change of $39 was costing more than I planned! BUT I had cash, which I NEVER DO, where I had taken back some things so it seemed to be the perfect time to take care of.

The last thing was starting the car to get the mileage for the little sticker to remind me when to return. He sat down, turned the key, and then I heard that dreaded sound, "click, click", but no sound of a motor starting.

He said, "I'm sorry, but it seems your battery is dead."

He gets out, checks under the hood to make sure nothing there seems to be out of sorts, tries it again, and this time it was a more definite, "click, click".

OH NO!

There I am stuck in one of only two bays they have to do their business and my car won't leave.

He quickly offers to bring his truck around and jump it and before I can even think, he does just that. He is telling me the whole time to check with the dealership and make sure there if there is any warranty left on the battery as it appears to be the original.

He announces his cables aren't there so they must be in his wife's car and he will gladly go the few blocks away where she works to retrieve them. I again have no time to react or think and he is gone.

I start trying to find the number of the dealership and not surprisingly, there is no warranty left.

While the first man is gone, another pulls his car around and they hook up some cables and no matter how hard they try by gunning their engine several times, mine still won't start. The first man returns with a little box thing, attaches it, and in no time my motor has enough juice to go.

All of the men, in this tiny shop, gather around to admonish that I cannot stop, I must go immediately and buy a battery, otherwise I was going to be stuck.

For the few minutes while they are talking, I think about all the places I had already been that day and all the places still left to go. I had to pick up my girls from school, then I was volunteering at their homecoming game until late. If the battery had died at any one of those stops, I never would have had the type of help I had there.

The car repair place I like to use was just two blocks away and they all agreed that would be a better choice than going to an auto parts store, leaving the car running while I go in and shop! Much better than trying it at Wal Mart!

I drove around the corner, left the car running and went inside for help.

These guys said, "No problem!" First they checked to make sure it was the battery and not the alternator. See, this is where you know you have a good place, as an alternator costs considerably more than a battery, but they assured me it was just the battery. They had a battery that would work and could get me out of there in a very short amount of time.

In less time than it has taken me to type this, they had my car ready to go with a brand new battery with a 5 year warranty.

You see, if you are going to have a bad day, have one like mine. There were so many other times and places where this would have been a major undertaking, but instead was a mere bump in my day.

If you need a great oil change with guys willing to go the extra mile, let me highly recommend, Classic Oil and Lube, on E. Davis, in Oak Cliff and if you need to be rescued for a battery or any other car problems, try Safety Brake on Beckley in Oak Cliff.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Happy birthday, Lisa

Today is my older sister, Lisa's birthday.

From the very beginning Lisa took on the role of big sister seriously. I did not have to learn to talk until much later because I could grunt and she would tell mom what I wanted. When she started school, my parents were called in after the results of her first IQ test were off the charts! Whatever she did in elementary, I did. She joined Brownies, so when the time came, I joined Brownies. When they offered classes on band instruments, she chose the flute, so I chose the flute. In junior high she joined the band, so when it was my turn I joined the band. In high school she was on the school newspaper, so I joined the school newspaper. Bless her heart, she even had to share a bed with me until she was about 15! Her clothes always ended up in my closet, somehow. I'm sure she was glad to finally get away to college, but I followed her there too.

You would think she would have grown tired of me but when we were both away at college, she always made sure that I had everything I needed. One year, at the end of the semester, I had hurt my back, and could not even bend over to tie my shoe. She came over, packed up my dorm room, hauled it down the 3 flights of steps, packed her red VW Beetle to the ceiling, then packed my green VW Beetle to the ceiling. I'm sure we were quite a sight rolling through the hills of west Texas.

Jobs were another thing that I followed her on, from my first at Myer's Department Store, to Red Arrow Freight Lines, to Tex Pack Expresss, and then all the way to Abilene, to Lusky's Western Store. After college, she went to work for Southwestern Bell, becoming their first female lineman in all of west Texas! I eventually followed her to Southwestern Bell after I decided teaching wasn't going to pay the bills.

Somewhere in there, she got away from me long enough to fall in love, get married, and have 2 darling children. I will never forget seeing her jump off that giant SWBT truck with the big boom on the back when she was about 8 months pregnant, hard hat, overalls, and work boots!

She decided the life of a lineman for the phone company didn't work as well in her new role as mom, so she went back to school to get her degree in education, while balancing the other roles of mom and wife. She has found her niche in education, which I attribute to the fact that she still knows how to enjoy life and have fun.

Through all of my ups and downs, Lisa has been there for me, big and small, whether it is in a hospital waiting room or arriving from China with my daughters, to the every day smaller things. She has always been generous to a fault, and never ceases to surprise me with her love, support, and kindness.

She reached an historical milestone this year and accepted a new title, Grandmother. It is quite obvious that Killian is as smitten with her as she is with him.

She set the bar high on what an older sister does and I have been the grateful recipient.

She loves to laugh and remember crazy things, so for you Lisa, I no kiss you, happy lulu, my barling goldfish! xxoo

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Happy holidays!

Maybe I am just paying attention to what cynics say, but I've read/heard more lately about how we should not celebrate Thanksgiving, that it is a holiday based on horrible acts against others, and Christmas is all about the presents, rather than the true reason to celebrate. And I admit, I actually have spent time pondering these issues and even toyed with the idea that they were right.

But tonight, I went to Home Depot. The place was bustling with activity. People were buying decorations to make their homes pretty for the season, others were buying gifts, while some of us were just buying some things that we needed, like 5 gallon bottles of water.

Anyway, Christmas music was playing and I realized as I left that I felt bouncier (?) than when I went in and that I had burst into song in the parking lot, the tail end of the last song I heard as I pushed my bottle of water to the car.

That's when it hit me. These are not holidays that are bad, these are holidays that are good. When else during the year can we truly expect that the majority of our country is sitting down to an almost identical meal? Even if you don't particularly care for turkey, it is the one day out of the year that you will eat enough to make your host/hostess feel appreciated. And what is wrong with that?

We all stop and give thanks, we take time to be with family, we take time to enjoy a meal together, to remember those who could not be with us, those who have gone on before us. Is there another time during the year that this happens?

If we were a Middle Eastern country, we would have lots of similar holidays or religious observances. For us, Thanksgiving and Christmas are all about family. New Year's is not family holiday event for most. The 4th of July isn't. Memorial Day? Not hardly. Valentine's? No.

I think we need these holidays. While we are not having rough times like my parents did growing up, it still is not an easy time in history. Unemployment remains high, prices are high, threats are high, what part of our life is easy right now?

I think we need a month of time focusing and planning on what we can do for others, planning and preparing for times with friends and family, decorating our homes to look bright and cheery. It is the time of year when night comes way too early. Why not make our homes and the time in them fun and festive. I don't think there are very many adults that look at Christmas as a time to get something, instead, I think we enjoy giving.

My sister invited us to her house for Thanksgiving. This is just the second time in my life that I have not had to help prepare a meal. It is a huge treat. But when we all sat down at the table together, I realized we could have been almost any family throughout our country. How wonderful is that, something that unites us, since there is so little that does! We argue about every detail of our government, our families, our healthcare, but this one day we all stopped long enough to say thanks.

Now we jump right into planning for Christmas. There were plenty who proclaimed that we should not be shopping for such a materialistic holiday as Christmas.

Well I shopped and I enjoyed it. You know why? I got to shop with my daughters, my nieces, my sister, and even my little great nephew. It was wonderful spending time with them, seeing things they liked, hoping I could remember and surprise them later with items they had selected. It was fun. I love having a reason to do nice things, a motivator in fact to do them.

I'm tuning my radio to the Christmas channel and I plan to sing with every song. This month passes way too quickly and I want to enjoy every minute of it. I hope others will too.

Friday, November 9, 2012

My soapbox

When did we become a nation of people who feel entitled? What happened to common sense? Much less common courtesy? When did we decide that others would benefit, actually deserve to hear our critique of them? When did we stop saying, "Thank you"?

This became noticeable to me with the advent of Facebook. People became bolder in sharing their opinions of anything and everything anyone posted.

"I love Italian food!" someone posted.

Their "friend" posted, "What? Are you crazy? Don't you know how unhealthy Italian food can be? You are stupid to eat that!!!"

OK, so that specific example did not happen, but many more did.

Then with the election, if you posted that you were for a candidate, then you immediately received multiple postings telling you that you were wrong. Period. There was no explanation of why, just  posts that told you that if you did not believe the same way they did, you were wrong!

I tolerated it.

Many of my friends bowed out of checking Facebook until after the election.

In the meantime, in public affairs, it seemed that this attitude was being exhibited regularly. People were going out of their way to address any and ALL transgressions that anyone did against them, to ensure that they set someone straight.

Why?

As an adult, it takes a WHOLE lot for me to change my behavior, much less my opinion. Your input will rarely be the catalyst for this change.

Now if it comes from my children, or my parents, I will take the time to think about what they said, but otherwise, I look at your opinion as something that is not wanted and instead my opinion of you is changed.

Now don't get me wrong. There are appropriate times, places, but most of all ways to provide guidance to someone.

If your child misbehaves, do you just tell them "Stop? Don't do that?" Well, then you will never get the behavior you want from that child. But if you take the time to provide a brief explanation of why and then redirect or lead them to an appropriate activity, you will all win. What compels us to believe that other adults will benefit from pointing out the errors that you perceive?

I hope soon we can return to a nation that is indivisible, that instead of man against man, we return to man helping man, looking for nice things to say to others, helping someone who could use a mental/physical boost every now and then.

Kindness is not overrated. It is always appreciated.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

What is going on?

I'm having trouble sleeping tonight and wondered if I tried to work through some of the things on my mind if that would help.

By the time I got home tonight from work, I have to admit I felt quite beat up. Lately no matter how hard I have tried I seem to have very vocal critics who feel it is their duty to set me straight. Normally I try to outguess even the smallest detail about everything and anything that can possibly go wrong in any scenario when planning events for work. I can go months without complaints that are not too difficult to remedy, like, "We ran out of coffee." Sure, I can get more coffee. See, that is the type of complaint that is easy and that I expected.

The complaints I have received lately are from very angry people about things that seem very trivial, like I let one person go ahead of the next in a line that all made it to their destination simultaneously. this person was so mad she came back to tell me again I did her wrong. Then called to tell me and was surprised that the person in charge was the one who caused her fury. I tried to listen carefully to see if there was something else going on, maybe some terrible situation that was being exhibited in this complaint, but could find nothing.

My goal is to please the most people I can by providing something they need and I guess I take it personally when I fail or it is perceived as a failure to them.

And this is just one of the many!

I never thought I would be one of those who could not leave the job at the door and focus on my family but it has proven very difficult.

Within the last couple of days, I have also heard of two people diagnosed with cancer, two families that are in turmoil dealing with post adoption issues, and at least one person who just lost their job. Of course on the TV and internet are thousands of images of the toll that Hurricane Sandy made on so many lives. A friend in New York posted tonight that she finally had power. I heard an interview and the ONLY thing this man wanted was hot water. He would do without electricity if he just had some hot water. Others told about carrying up gallons of water for six floors.

I realize my problems are small when compared to everyone else's. I keep trying to put it in perspective and maybe writing this has helped me realize why I can't turn loose of mine. I really worry about these people who have been so angry at me. Is there a bigger picture? Are they this angry over every injustice lately? Or am I just really messing up? Do I need to re-think and re-visit what I think "works"?

I'm hoping with some extra rest it will all become clearer, but to get that, I have to go back to sleep for now.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The shape shifter

I have heard of shape shifters and now realize that one has taken over my body. That is the only plausible explanation for why I do not have any clothes that I like.

You see, I HATE to shop for clothes. There, I said it. There are way too many choices, everything is priced too high, you cannot get help when you need it, and nothing seems to be appropriate for a woman of a certain age.

Within the next two weeks, we have 5 or is it 6 events where I think I really should look at least decent. Not trying for great, just willing to settle for decent. In the meantime, the weather is expected to completely change numerous times in that same time period. So when I got an email from a store that I really like for 50% off any item I decided to just shop on line.

Trying to select from a 12" screen is probably not how most fashionistas fill their closets. I would try to narrow down my choices by putting in my size, but somehow that left out the sale items. Then I tried narrowing down by the type of item I wanted but then they never had my size. I finally narrowed down my selection and turned to the comments submitted by previous shoppers. Invariably the items I liked the most were only reviewed by women who showed their age as being 70+! Great, I love the fashion of the ladies I serve but that is really NOT the look I was going for.

I settled on three things and before I could talk myself out of it AND because I could get free shipping, I whipped out my credit card and hit submit.

The packages came today.

I tried on the first top.

Looking back at me in the mirror was either my mother or my aunt as I am pretty sure they had the exact same top only back in the 70's.

I tried on the second one, which is primarily red, because I have read that wearing red will give me energy, something I have been lacking lately. With it on the only thing I could thing of was, "What was I thinking?"

The last item was a plain black dress, something I have needed for a while.

I tried it on and moved to the full length mirror in the hall. That's when I realized what has happened to me - a shape shifter has taken over my body! The parts are no longer in the right place, they have all shifted! What was on the north is now at the equator! The south left town evidently.

I wonder if there is way to dispel a shape shifter?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Oh wait, I'm the mother

Over the weekend, Annabel was asked to take care of the neighbor's cats and chickens while they were out of town. It does not require a lot, just making sure to let the chickens out in the morning feeding the cats and the chickens, and then closing up the chickens in their coop at night.

We continue to learn with our chickens what they consider to be night though. If it is overcast the chickens have a tendency to go to to their roosts early. But if you go out the backdoor a minute too soon, they are also willing to jump down off their roosts and come check out any special treats you might have brought to them.

So we have learned to wait until it is completely dark to close the coop door.

We guessed it would be the same with the neighbors.

I always try to go with Annabel to put up the neighbor's chickens as it can seem scary to be in someone else's backyard at night.

On Saturday night she had latched the coop and we both had left the chicken pen area and were just closing that gate when we heard a THUD! Then every chicken in the coop starting squawking, LOUDLY!

Annabel looked at me and her eyes were as big as saucers. I looked back at her equally startled. We both froze. I had heard from a friend about her chickens being attacked by a possum. My immediate thought was that a possum or raccoon had managed to get into the coop and we had just passed a death sentence on all the chickens as they were being torn to shreds by a predator. A lot can pass through your mind very quickly when you are scared.

Then for a brief minute, I looked back at Annabel, wishing she would want to go check it out and let me stay on the safe side of the fence and then I remembered, "I'm the mom." It's very sad that I still have to be reminded sometimes!

I took a deep breath and swallowed, trying to get my brain nimble enough to make an instant decision on the best way to deal with whatever menace was upsetting their chickens. I knew it would have to be swift and I quickly ran to the chicken coop, sure that as soon as I opened the door something would come out fighting.

As I inched toward the latch I took another deep breath and swallowed again.

Quickly I pulled up the latch and the door swung open.

There inside were the chickens, staring back at me, wondering what all the bother was about and really resenting the fact I had disturbed them.

There was nothing else in there but chickens!

I have no idea what happened. Annabel and I looked at each other, shined the light to make sure of what we were seeing and realized there was no cause for all the ruckus.

Who knows? Maybe someone got on another one's side of the roost!

Crazy chickens!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Unexpected kindness

For work, I take my job seriously about providing opportunities to improve the health and well being of older adults in our community. My ideas can be considerably bigger than what we can accomplish but I'm always willing to accept a challenge.

My most recent project's logistics were a bugger to plan, coordinating so many people through so many details in so many places and at the last minute, it seemed like it was all going to fall apart but as I constantly reassure everyone, "it will all work out" and it did.

So while the plan looked good on paper and all the final details fell into place, we took off for our first of seven planned events.

What happened next caught me off guard and rather than appreciation for the work needed to bring this together, instead we dealt with considerable complaints that seemed to beleaguer us at each of the events.

Saturday was the last one and within the first three people who showed up, two of the participants let me know their considerable displeasure with me. My critical mistake? I asked one person their name before the other.

OK, it is my job to deal with these kind of issues, but I'm trying to set the stage for the fatigue I felt at that point. The events had required very early beginnings and rather than hearing positive responses, had dealt with a record number of complaints similar to the one above.

I have to admit that I was weary and ready to finally put this event to bed when the kindness of a stranger touched me in such a way that I must share.

We did Saturday's event in a public place that has its own traffic. I was at the front and mentally noting as each person came in, mainly as a way to determine if they were here for their usual Saturday morning activities or for mine.

One of the younger men that I had seen enter earlier came to my side and asked my name, as there was a gentleman in the restroom who was asking for me. At that point, I had three people talking to me at once, I'm mentally fatigued, but this pretty much jerked my brain to him as I brilliantly asked, "What?"

He repeated there was a man in the restroom that was asking for me.

I followed him with caution and he pushed the door open just enough for me to recognize a person who had come for my program. He was needing help that I could not provide no matter how hard I thought.

The young man who summoned me, offered instead to help and quickly left to go retrieve what this man needed. No questions asked. No thanks anticipated.

He just saw a need, quietly and discretely filled it.

When I tried to thank him, he quickly dismissed it and said he was glad to help.

I did not even get the man's name but he completely turned around my day.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The State Fair of Texas

Growing up I thought our state fair was the only one of its kind. Shoot, Pat Boone even crooned about it and the movie, State Fair, was even filmed at the State Fair of Texas. Central to the State Fair was Big Tex. Big Tex was always the place to meet your friends at the fair, but as the area around the statue grew, you would have to be quite clear on which side of Big Tex you planned to meet.

Each year, all the school children receive tickets and a day off to go to the fair. When I was growing up they even included a bus pass. We went almost every year. Sometimes it would be left up to mom to try to wrangle all four of us on and off buses and making all the necessary connections but we would spend the entire day there. The area around Big Tex became the beginning of the midway, where all the rides and carnival barkers could be found. But even better, around Big Tex is where you could buy a chameleon attached to a string that you could pin on your shirt. I dreamed of owning one of these but wasn't really sure where it would live when it wasn't attached to your shirt. This is also the area where they sold the more exotic items and I loved walking the whole way around the base of Big Tex to see these brilliant offerings.

Some times our family from Paris, Texas would come in and we would all go at night. This was quite a treat and we would spend considerable time in the agricultural displays. One year there was even a two headed cow as a main attraction. But we always made time to go by and see Big Tex and walk through the Midway.

In junior high and high school, our school bands would play in the nightly parade. That proved an even diffent type of perspective and experience. One year I was asked to bring a group of older adults to be the backdrop for a press conference by Medicare. We all got to meet the voice of Big Tex.

As a mom, I wanted to share this with my daughters. We've gone several times, but this year, we were especially excited about going to see the Chinese Lantern exhibit. We were in such a hurry to get to that exhibit that I did not make them stop in front of Big Tex like I have other years to take their picture. Instead we took it in front of the Chinese opera masks.








 

We had a great time seeing a bit of China in Dallas.

Today has been an incredibly busy day and not until I got home did I learn the news that Big Tex had caught fire and burned. I thought original posts about the fire were a really bad joke as I could not imagine such a thing happening to an icon for not only the fair, but for so many people.

I originally starting writing this post immediately after our trip to the fair and had put it aside until I had time to finish it but after seeing the pictures of Big Tex on fire, I had to finish it tonight. I'm surprised at how sad the whole thing makes me feel. I hope the link will work for you to see this very sad sight. It does feel like fodder for lots of jokes in the future, but right now, it is a part of my past that I hate to see lost. Big Tex goes up in flames

Reports are that the city has assured us that Big Tex will be rebuilt and be bigger and better. Only in Texas!

Friday, October 12, 2012

No respite for me!

Before I was a mom, I thought that parents enrolled their kids in classes like piano, dance, and art to help broaden the child's horizons and skills. How funny! That's not why the kids are in all those classes, as I quickly found out. They are in those classes so the parents can have brief respites!

I'm pretty sure that most parents don't call it respite as that is a term usually associated with caregivers of older adults but you get the idea.

I have to admit, it took me a while to figure it all out. From the beginning of adopting Grace, she wanted to take Chinese classes. The first class she enrolled in, I was so new to being a mom, that I sat outside the classroom, and patiently waited for her. I did not move nor risk leaving the area.

By the third or fourth year, I slowly began to make good use of the time by going to the grocery store and running other much needed errands.

Then at some point, I finally realized I could actually do some things that I would not make time for any other time, like read a book or write in my blog. Unfortunately time and money have a tendency to run out for us and soon there wasn't any type of lesson.

Now I have to tell you, the one exception to all of this is if they are involved in sports. That is not respite because you are outdoors in all sorts of weather and it looks bad if you aren't watching the game!

For both girls though, the time has come to take Chinese classes again, in preparation for us to return for a visit to China.

By now, I am quite comfortable with being a mom and both girls are old enough that I felt like I could actually do some things while they were in class. I love being with my girls, but was really looking forward to writing my blog as well as reading some of the many thousands of books that I wish I would read.

Somewhere along the way, things did not quite turn out like I planned.

Another mom who has adopted from China and whose daughters attend the classes, convinced me that I should take advantage of the free tai chi fan dance class offered for the parents while the kids are in their class. I know how important tai chi is for helping you regain your balance and what a great exercise it provides and the price was right, so I agreed.

I hope this will work so you can see what I am trying to learn. I emphasize the trying in that sentence. This is very difficult to learn but I have enjoyed meeting the other parents and know it is beneficial for me.
 
So this takes up the first hour of their class and I could have used the second hour to do what I wanted but instead am now taking a class on Chinese brush painting!

Oh my goodness! Instead of respite, I'm actually learning new things! Something went wrong with this plan! I'll put respite on my list for another time.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Caregiving

In my role as an expert on aging and because I a blogger, I was recently asked to write a guest post on the role of being a caregiver while still having children at home.

I thought about it but a few things lately have made me know that while I might be an expert on aging, I am no expert on caregiving.

The other afternoon I was pulling out of my driveway taking my girls to a babysitting job when I realized my dad was standing on his roof, clearing leaves out of his gutters. I pulled into their driveway, rolled down my window, and reminded him that there were 3 of us who could help him do that and it was quite dangerous.

Yes, he was well aware of that but the forecast called for rain the next day so it had to be done right then. We stayed around until he came back down off the roof, no problem.

So who is taking care of whom?

Friday, October 5, 2012

What is going on?

I had a moment tonight. Not an "Aha!" as Oprah always had. I had more of an "Uh oh!" moment instead. Several things were leading up to it, but I had ignored the subtle warning signs I was receiving.

I must admit that I haven been an authority on several topics or had been until I actually had first hand experience. I easily could tell you how to raise your children until I had mine.

Right now I have been called an expert on aging as that is what I do for a living. One thing that has happened during my tenure as an aging expert is that I have also aged. But what I have found, consistently, is that the term older always refers to the group of people in the next older age group. I know when I was growing up that someone in their 30's were, in my opinion, middle age. When I got to 30, it was obvious that I was not middle age and that surely middle age was more like mid 40's to your 50's. Of course, if you ever admit that you are middle age, then it is just a matter of time until you are older.

Now I have admitted here before that I have personally experienced some symptoms of being older, like when I realized that when my gas gauge shows half a tank, I feel worry. I also now actually factor in the possibility of traffic, the need to park, and walk into a building in planning the time it will take to get somewhere, rather than leaving the house at the time I am supposed to be somewhere.

Anyway, September has been a busy month, I've worked most Saturdays, and in between there have been a lot of softball games for Annabel, so I admit, I am tired. I was so tired earlier today at work, I got on an elevator and could not think of what button to push because I couldn't remember what floor I had entered the elevator on. Surely that is just a symptom of being tired, not being older.

Tonight I had a choice to make, about going somewhere. Here were my warning signs that actually appeared to be factors, not warning signs, in making my decision. First factor: the weather is expected to change over night and the forecast calls for a cold and rainy day tomorrow. Second factor: it might get dark while I was out. See, these are not even considerations if you are younger, weather, time of day, you laugh at them and do what you want when you want. So I should have realized that I was making a decision based on "older" thinking and then maybe I would not have been blindsided by what happened next.

I decided concern over the weather beat out the risk of it getting dark while I was out and jumped into the car and turned on the radio. I'm not used to getting to choose the station, but fairly quickly I found a station playing a song I really liked. I was singing my heart out when it happened. The song ended when the announcer said, "All oldies, all the time". Seriously? The only good music on the radio is on an oldies station? What does that mean? The implications of it all worry me.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Raising chickens and needing math

Last weekend we had a conference on grandparenting. One of the speakers was from the local school district addressing the importance of education. One thing she said was to avoid saying you cannot do math as it will give your children an excuse to not even try. The reason I bring this up will be evident later in this story.

September in Texas has been as hot as the hottest part of the summer with many days either over 100 or close to it. Right at the beginning of the month, I got sick with allergies? Sinus infection? Dengue? I don't know but the combination of the heat and being sick made just getting through the work day difficult, much less what some evenings presented.

One such day, as I came in the front door, Annabel was running in from the back door notifying me that Stinky Pants was missing. Yes, we have a chicken named Stinky Pants. This was her other chicken and after Selena had committed suicide or whatever happened to her, I knew I could not risk Annabel losing her other chicken.

Barely taking time to set down my purse, I joined in the search, in the heat, with my dress clothes and shoes on. We started with a complete search of the backyard and at least did not find Stinky Pants dead, so I decide we need to expand the search.

Now if you are looking for a dog or cat, you normally call their name, right? Well, I'm not really sure that chickens know their names, as there is not a lot of calling them by name and responding. Truly the best way to get chickens to respond is by feeding them treats. So I head up and down calling, "Here Chick, chick, chick", "here chick, chick, chick", which did seem better than yelling "Stinky Pants!".

We tried to decide exactly how and where she escaped to determine where she might have gone. We had found her sitting on the fence between our house and my parents' house earlier in the week, so we checked out their yard, then the next neighbor's yard, who also has chickens, and I finally end up going down the alley, even though I promised as a child to never go into alleys after being caught riding my bike through them. I stopped at the end of the block and even kind of acted out what I was looking for to two women who did not speak English. I wondered if Stinky Pants was in their kitchen in a pot of boiling water.

As I finally headed back home worrying about how to tell Annabel, she runs to tell me that she has found Stinky Pants! He was in the underbrush right next door. Stinky Pants did get her wings clipped immediately! Teach her to try to fly away again!

Today was our first day to ever get 7 eggs in one day, which means one of our two youngest, Swanlea or Piper, also known as the Twins, the youngest of the group, laid their first egg today.

I kind of felt like I should have "the talk" with her since now she is a woman, but opted to do like a lot of mothers and just leave the literature for her to read.

Any way, with the recent increase in egg production we suddenly had more than we could possibly use. So we were to the original hope (intent?) of owning the chickens, actually selling the eggs. I posted on Facebook that I had eggs for sale and very quickly sold the first two dozen.

The Chinese government has invited back the adoptees to tour China, and they will pay for all in China expenses, you just have to cover the international airfare and the cost for the parents. OK, that "just" equals about $8000.

So this is where my math really stinks, whether I say that in front of my daughters or not, I am admitting it to you.

When the first two dozen sold, I actually starting thinking that selling eggs might pay for our trip.

Needless to say my math was not too good considering we have 8 chicks who, who on even the best weeks, probably produce 5 eggs each. That would be a total of 40 eggs a week. Subtracting out the ones that Annabel eats each morning, since she rarely eats one each day, not that I don't know how to subtract 7 from 40, so that leaves us with 35. That leaves us with 2.91 dozen per week.

So even if we round it up to 3 dozen eggs a week and there are 12 weeks before we would leave on this trip, I just need to make $222.22 per dozen to cover the cost of the trip.

I am pretty sure, even with them being free range, that proves to be a little too high for a dozen eggs. And even though I can't do math, I don't think that adds up!

Friday, September 21, 2012

8 years ago today

This is the first picture I saw of Hong Hao Yuan Jie. How can you not fall in love with that face? I knew immediately when I saw this picture that we were meant to be together.
 
Eight years ago my world changed forever when this tiny girl carrying a HUGE stuffed dog entered the room and my life began.
She became Grace Yuan Jie Locke that day and I became mom.
I could never have known just how wonderful my life was about to become.

Grace today.
Thank you Grace for all the love and wonderment you have brought in our lives as mother and daughter.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The life and times of chicken farming

This has been an eventful week with our chickens. We have 9 bought at 2 different times but with 3 age ranges. The three oldest chickens have always kept to themselves and pretty much ruled the roost. The next four were all hatched at the same time and bought when they were about 5 weeks old. The last two were little baby chicks with all the yellow fluff when we bought them. Chickens stay in clans or cliques or whatever is the right word and while they might finally grow tolerant of others invading their space, they maintain their own group, especially at night when they roost.

Chickens roost at night. They must have a safe, well ventilated place to spend the night where they can be off the ground which helps keep them safe from night predators. About sunset, they will automatically go to their beds/roosts, which is so completely different than kids. You cannot force them to roost early but you must let them get into their roosting place at night when it is time.

Because they will freely return to their roost at night, we have been letting them free range in our back yard, beginning in early evening, propping open the gate that keeps them safe from our dogs, who could pose a terrible risk to them. Then at night, we go back, close the gate, close the door to their chicken coop, and another part of our yard has been cleared by pecking. It seems to be a win/win situation because they LOVE the fresh grass and we don't want to mow it.

One night this week we got home from softball practice after sunset. Annabel did as she was told and headed straight to the shower while I let the dogs out. I was trying to close the back door to avoid any West Nile carrying mosquitoes and did not notice at first that the dogs were not going down the stairs from the deck. It took a minute for my eyes to adjust to the light and realize the reason the dogs would not go down the stairs is because they could not, they were blocked by big old chickens who had decided that would be where they would roost for the night, since the gate to their coop had swung shut so they did not have access to their usual bedtime routine. Although we only have nine chickens, it seemed like they were everywhere; on the deck, on the stairs, on the pole holding, the gate, and one that found a stray board to sleep on.

I screamed for help because Nina's mouth had begun to water when she got a good smell of the obstruction and as her teeth were just about to get a bite, Grace arrived to seize the dogs and get them back in the house. Then I was left with trying to get the chickens in. Annabel is my chicken wrangler but she was missing all the excitement since she was in the shower.

The last chicken was the most stubborn and I had to pick up the board she was roosting on and tilt it enough to make her lose her balance. Annoyed with me, she squawked a few times, then strolled into the coop, and with her in, all were accounted for and disaster was diverted.

Then yesterday afternoon, Annabel came in from checking on the chickens and announced that she thought her chicken, Selena, was dead. I'm still in my work clothes and it was 101 degrees outside so I quickly changed, asking questions the whole time about why she thought she was dead.

Ugh!

I really hoped she was wrong in her assessment as she was when she thought one had disappeared but was actually on the roof instead. Dreading that she was right, I head into the coop for the place she has described and sure enough, Selena was laying there, like she had slipped, fallen, and broke her neck. Dad insists they can't but this was not the smartest chicken and I think anything was possible for her.

Thank goodness for Dad.

While I am retrieving shovels, Dad, bless his heart, bends down, picks her up, puts her in a feed bag, and then we head to our new christened animal cemetery and proceed to dig a hole big enough for Selena.

I had read many accounts of people writing about their chicken's unique personalities and I had not believed it until we had our own. Selena was an individual who marched to her own drum. She roosted with her two older sisters at night, but generally she wandered around as if she were humming to herself. Even if we brought out a special treat, Selena would stay by herself and only when everyone else was finished, then she would casually stroll over to see what all the fuss was about.

At the funeral, I asked Annabel if she wanted to have a brief service.

Her eulogy, "She was alive, and now she is dead."

OK, so if you ever need someone to provide the world's shortest eulogy, ask Annabel.

I did not think I would ever think one of those silly chickens meant anything, but I have to admit to feeling rather sad at her untimely demise. Silly, huh?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Memorable days or memories that make days

To set up this story, I am reminded of a book I have been reading, where the author insists that the big events in life aren't what make memories, instead it is the smaller things, the details that make the memories and what ends up being important.

Looking at the caledar, today was not supposed to be a monumental day. It was not our first day of school, like most, but from the get go, it seemed to be a day intent on becoming monumental, if for nothing else, everything that was going wrong.

From the realization that it was a filling from my tooth that was in the sink, rather than in my head, to the realization I had to leave Grace at home when she was sick, to the realization that my lunch did not make it to the car, the day just seemed to be piling up with things that could go wrong.

It was also the day I was expecting to pick up my car after the body work was completed from when a concrete column jumped out and hit our car and at every turn, I saw so many really serious accidents, I was beginning to be nervous about driving my newly repaired car.

So as I began reflecting on my day, I thought about what the book and author had said and realized that regardless of all the things that went wrong the day did provide some great memories.

Starting with the man who repaired my car and worked really hard to save me from as much of cost of the deductible as possible, I think that is a good memory.

Then the role both parents played, with Mom staying with Grace so I could go to work, to Dad, willing to ride along as I picked up my car, and on to return the rent car, even though he was really too tired to go, and then his offer to help pay for the rent car. Yes, those are great memories too.

But out of all the memories of the day, I believe the fact that I did not accidentally pack my sister's skirt, rather than my own to change into after gym, and ended up having to "borrow" a skirt that was so short that my shorts showed, is probably not the best, but definitely the funniest memory of the day.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A quick and funny story

My parents are the kind of neighbors that entire neighborhoods dream of having.

They have lived in the same house for more than 55 years and make it a point to know all their neighbors. They are not the nosy kind that watch you but they do notice if you are not on your usual schedule or if strangers come to your house during the day.

Dad waters his plants every evening and greets every one that is out for a walk so his neighborliness extends past our block.

He also likes to take walks and when he is out, checks on the rest of the neighborhood. He is especially interested if you are working on your house or your yard.

One house in the neighborhood had renters for a long time, but then sat vacant for a long time. It was on the verge of becoming a victim of blight when it was bought, gutted, garage razed, and even the bricks removed, while receiving its makeover.

Dad got to know the man who bought the house and kept up on the vast improvements that were made.

Then it got hot here, so hot that Dad stopped his walks for a while.

Last night, with the cooler weather, he resumed his walks and stopped by to check on the progress of this house. He went up on the front porch and because he is so tall, could glance inside.

Much to his surprise, it had been completed and the new owner was staring back at him.

He waited to see if the neighbor came out to ask why he was on the porch, but when he did not, Dad finished his walk and went home.

Within a few minutes, the first police car arrived.

The officer got out and asked if Dad had just gotten home.

Well, yes he had.

At that point the officer began to hem and haw, and Dad finally offered that he had been looking in a house that he thought was under construction and was that why the police officer was there.

The officer was clearly relieved and became more relaxed and began to explain that the neighbor had flagged him down with a very accurate description of Dad, who wasn't hard to find, standing 6'5" with overalls and an orange shirt.

Dad explained what he had been doing but before he could finish another squad car appeared.

The first officer gave the all clear sign to that car who also got out to hear the story which was again stopped as the third police car had appeared.

Pretty soon all the neighbors had gathered round as they were concerned thinking Dad had called the police, rather than ever considering the police were called for him.

Of course Dad ended up friends with all the officers, a lot of back slapping took place, plenty of chuckles, and I ended up with a good story.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Suicidal chicken or what I did on my summer vacation

I think I must have blinked because summer is over for us.

It happened that quickly and for once, I am not thinking, I wish we had done... You know how it goes, always sure there were a certain number of things you wanted to get accomplished in a limited time and when that time is over, none of them are done.

I went into summer a little more realistically this time, knowing that our summer break was shortened considerably by the school. Whereas most schools begin at the end of August, ours was slated to begin on August 2. When the last class is held on May 24, that does not give you a lot of time.

In the two months that we have been off (ok, just the girls have been off), we have gone to Destin, Florida, had company, gotten new water heater, new tires, had company, traveled to Austin, traveled to Hot Springs, AK, the girls volunteered at the hospital, they took Chinese classes, Grace took piano classes, I took a memoir writing class, and Annabel was on a softball team. I think that is all and tonight for the first time in weeks, it is a Monday night and we were through with dinner, clean up, plans for tomorrow, and there was still time to sit down and try to catch up on other things, like email. But, of course, I was wrong.

I've been off kilter a little today and I am not sure whether it was from falling last night or the fact that I was awakened in the middle of the night with one of those dreaded, "Mom!" stage whispers that can rattle the dead, followed by the news bulletin that Nina, the dog, had peed on Grace's bed, which required me to wake up enough to locate sheets, start the washer, and send Nina outside.

This was especially painful since I had fallen earlier in the evening when Annabel asked if we could go to the dollar store and since I plan to participate in the American Heart Association walk in less than a month, told her we would walk. Somehow I did not take time to change shoes, so off we went me wearing my flip flops. The sole of my flip slid in the mud and made me flop on a neighbor's lawn. Lovely.

Anyway, tonight I was determined to take a break and about the time I pulled the laptop on my lap, Annabel comes in and announced, "Mom, one of the chickens is missing." I ask, "Are you sure?" as sometimes they huddle up very closely and you can't count them as well.

Before I have time to stand up, she is back announcing, "There is a chicken on the roof!"

Yes, there was. Dorothy, not our brightest, had managed to get on the roof of the shed/chicken coop and then did not seem to know how to get down. My attempts at forcing her down with a very long pole, seemed to urge her to go to the opposite side toward our neighbor, who has a really tall fence even with our roof line, and try to escape that way.

By then Grace has joined us and all three of us are imploring Dorothy to come down, even trying to bribe her with feed, which she is dutifully ignoring.

She then plops down, closes her eyes, and seems as if she is calling it a night on top of the roof!

I finally agree to calling Dad who stands on his deck and says, "Well, you do have a chicken on your roof!"

Dorothy seems to rally a bit and goes back to the edge, which looks down in the chicken yard, and much like the divers in the Olympics, looks down, looks out at the distance, and then jumps, only instead of jumping, she flies!!! She almost makes it all the way across the yard to our house's roof! The distance is close to 1000 feet, because I cannot tell distance, so it might be more like 15 feet, but when she misses the next roof, she instead crashes to the ground.

At that moment, I am faced with one of those fears that mothers experience of trying to protect your children from all things dreadful, as I am sure she has broken her neck and I will have to dispose of her but wanting to protect my children from seeing one of their pets in distress, at the same time wondering if you can cook a chicken that has committed suicide.

I can't decide whether to make them go back inside while I check or Dorothy, but they have already run to look for themselves.

There is crazy Dorothy, upright, rather stunned, but making her way into the chicken coop!

Tomorrow night I will try to catch up instead. That is enough excitement for one night!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day!


As we started making plans for our 1500 mile round trip to Destin, Florida, I knew I needed to get the car serviced before we left. I hate car problems, but could not imagine having them with just the three of us on such a long trip. Also, my maintenance needed light had been on for a month, but you know, you get busy.

I took it into Wal Mart, had the oil changed and paid extra to have all the other fluids and things checked.

Dad asked, did they check your tires?

Hmm, I guess so.

Dad says did they rotate the tires?

Hmm, I don't think so.

He stayed after me about it and finally met me at work, swapped cars and took mine to the tire place. He calls pretty quickly to announce they have a tread depth of less than 3/32.

OK, so we are good to go, right?

No, they have to be replaced.

When you are taking a road trip because it is the cheapest vacation you can do, you really don't want to hear that you have to replace all your tires just before you leave, but there was no taking no and I got new tires.

ALL  the way to Florida, I saw big chunks of tires on every road we drove on.

A million times in my mind, I thanked Dad for being persistent and knowing we were at least safe on the tire situation.

The night after we got home and all lining up to take showers, I heard a really weird noise in our kitchen, which I finally narrowed down to coming from our water heater.

The noise got louder, then there was the sound of water, followed quickly by the smell of gas.

I am standing there in my pajamas, wet hair, no glasses, trying to figure out what to do.

I did what I always do, sent one of the girls to quickly get their grandfather and rescue us, which he did even though he was ready for bed.

These two events happened less than a week apart and are just two of many of the thousands of times my dad has rescued us.

He does more than just rescue damsels in distress though.

When I was interviewed by the social workers before each adoption, I was asked about the male influences that my daughters would have, but maturing through the 70's and 80's, I was under the misguided idea that women can do it all and while there were men in my life, I could pretty much handle it.

Well, of course, as with so many other things, I learned I was very mistaken.

Easily, one of the most important people in my daughters' life is my dad, their grandfather.

He is there to comfort, support, educate, lead, pitch a ball, set an example, and do the many things he did for me growing up. Now he can add riding a bike with them!

I am so thankful they have the influence of this wonderful man, my Dad.

Happy Father's Day!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Long story deleted, much shorter one follows!

I have no idea why I can't seem to type on a laptop any more but I do something weird and the whole thing I have just typed disappears. So my long detailed post is gone.
 
So I will make a very short post instead and hope this summer improves so I can write more often.
 
Even though school is out, somehow this week has been as hectic and we have had the added inconvenience of being without a hot water heater all week.
 
Thankfully we had a little cooler weather so maybe we did not get as ripe, as Dad says, but tonight, after cleaning out the chicken coop, mowing, hanging out clothes, and cooking dinner, I needed a shower.
 
I left knowing I still needed to put my bed back together and had boiled some water to wash the dishes.
 
When I came back (which kind of felt like I was at camp, out at night, in my pjs, hair wet, going back to cabin) I found my two wonderful daughters, washing the dishes, even though the "old fashioned" way had been a bone of contention earlier in the week.
 
Oh my goodness! Wow!
 
So while they finished that up, I went to put the sheets on my bed.
 
OK, so what would is better than wow when you are absolutely amazed at someone's kindness, especially when it is your teenage daughters?
 
They had made my bed!
 
I write this because I posted a message from Half the Sky just prior to this one.
 
It tells the story of a girl who was not adopted and still lives in the social welfare institute in China.
 
Her story is similar to my daughters.
 
This week, I read where people who originally sent their documents to China in 2006 were just now being matched to a baby.
 
I also read where people who chose older children were able to travel in a matter of weeks.
 
I wish I could be the voice that makes you consider adopting an older child.
 
If you ever want to talk about it, let me know.
 
My life is nothing but better because of my daughters, not just for washing the dishes and making my bed, but because of the love and kindness they show to others, and the incredible women they are becoming.
Think about giving these older kids a chance.
http://mysandwichlife.blogspot.com/
It's not about sandwiches! It's about my life!

Friday, June 8, 2012

A Star Is Born | Half the Sky

A Star Is Born | Half the Sky

A Star Is Born

Posted by HTS Staff on
For as long as I can remember, I have lived at the Xiamen Social Welfare Institution. The staff here gave me my name, QianRu. My childhood has not been about beautiful toys or clothes. All the children like me live together, sharing the same food and toys and clothes. Our parents are the staff who take care of us. When I went to public school and saw my classmates’ parents pick them up and take them to travel during vacation, I felt sad and lonely about being an orphan for the first time. I realized that when I was a child my parents did not want me. Why did they abandon me even though I am healthy? The word “orphan” was so heavy for me to carry.
When QianRu was in junior high, she came very close to being adopted, but for many reasons, the adoption did not go through. QianRu had to stay in the institution while many of her good friends were adopted one after another. She cried for many days and spent days alone in her room. She was not interested in anything, even basketball, which had always been her favorite. All the ayis and her friends stood by her and gave her encouragement. Gradually, time diluted her sorrow.

Through the Youth Services program, QianRu started taking Latin Dance lessons. At the first class, QianRu was intimidated by the other girls in the class, all wearing prettier clothes than she and most having had dance lessons before--she was so nervous that her face was red like an apple. When the bell rang, QianRu was the first one to rush out of the classroom. But QianRu's dance teacher praised her and told her she had potential and that praise gave her a lot of energy and encouragement. She was not that shy from then on and was active during class. She also made friends with other girls.
I often tell QianRu that she is no different from other girls. She is a beautiful and clever 16 year old--she just needs to be more confident. She has made big progress in dancing and even won the prize for the new star of Latin dance. She has made good friends with several girls in her dance class and often invites them to the institution or goes to their homes--she is proud to have friends who are not from the institution. Now much more confident, QianRu has learned that though there is much bitterness and many difficulties in life everyone needs to work hard to be successful and it is not easy for anyone to grow up. She is ready to face the road ahead of her.
By Mentor Huang Ju & Field Trainer Hu QunHua

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Chicken farming, pictures

Pictures that Annabel made of the teenagers. They are a lot bigger now.




Picture my niece did for my birthday. Gorgeous, huh? Kind of started the whole chicken farming idea. That and a book from my sister on raising chickens!

Chicken farming, Chapter 3

Having chickens has certainly not been boring.

Tonight, since both girls were still very involved in homework, I decided to go look for any eggs and see what else might be going on.

As I stood outside the fence to the chicken yard, I had to stop and do a quick assessment. OK, so we have 3 different sizes of chickens, in a variety of colors, but do we have one really small one that is blue?

The answer, of course, was no, and I realized that just as the mother blue jay made a quick sweep for my head!

Inside the chicken yard was a fairly small blue jay mingling with our chickens. Thankfully Gogh Gogh was not tormenting it as much as she does the teenagers, or maybe if she had, the mother blue jay had already set her straight.

As usual I went straight to mom and dad's and interrupted another of their meals, looking for dad to come up with the best way to handle this mini crisis. He braved the mother blue jay attack and dove into the shed and came out with food for the chicks while Annabel ducked in and looked for eggs.

We all tried to decide if there was a better place to put the baby blue jay but knew dogs or a cat would get it anywhere else, so we left it alone.

We have never seen the baby possum since the early morning visit about a month ago but either the chickens attract a lot of unwelcome guests or because I am in the yard more frequently, am actually seeing who else visits our yard.

The morning of the possum visit, I thought it might be a good enough time to just put the babies out with the old ladies and the teenagers. Boy was I wrong. They appeared to be fair game to both groups and would have been bald, or worse, within a brief time, if left out.

But with almost a month more of growth, much less a month more of me cleaning out a cage, I decided it was time for them to leave the nest, so to speak.

They did pretty well during the day and I made sure everyone had more than enough to eat, which seems to be the issue for the old ladies, but when it came time to shut everyone up for the night, the babies, Swanlea and Piper, were still roaming around the yard. They acted like it was their first chance to get to the food bowls.

But you could almost hear the grumbling of the old ladies who were ready to call it quits for the day. The teenagers were also quite vocal, sounding off as if their precious sleep time was also being interrupted.

We tried shooing them into the shop/shed, but they would just run, very fast, and take cover under a very low growing redbud tree.

I tried sprinkling a path of food to their cage, but they acted like they were wanting to party all night and NEVER go back into their cage.

About the time I was giving up, all of a sudden they were in the shop and I closed the door.

I had propped open the door to their cage, just sure they would want to retreat there for safety like the teenagers did after their first days of freedom.

One thing about weekends, the chickens have learned to bypass my "secure" door, and let themselves out if we are too late to open it for them, so since we don't get up at 6:00 on Sunday morning, they were already out. I have no idea where they slept, but they were still alive with most of their feathers, so I did not worry.

Tonight I waited for it to get dark before going out to close the door to the shop. (I think I switch from calling it the shop to the shed but either term actually represents it in a better light than what the structure really is). Since I went without my glasses, I could not see the blue jay and because there is no light in the shed, I wasn't sure where the babies were, but since they were not in the yard or in their cage, I hope it was them roosting on the nesting box, otherwise, baby possum was back!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Big day for chickens

At 10 weeks old, I have decided our babies need to fly their nest. When the possum got in with them and I hoped to introduce them then, there was just so much pecking I'm not sure they would have survived.

Now they seem closer to the teenagers size so I am trying it again.

I gave everyone extra food so that would not be a problem and cause for fights, then opened the door and hoping for the best!

It's funny how they never truly meld into the other groups. I'm not sure if it is because the teenagers still aren't as large as the old ladies or if they are just that cliquish.

I will update later to let you know if this works. Life in the chicken yard will just be that much easier with one less cage to deal with.

Sent by Jerri

Friday, April 27, 2012

So you want to raise chickens, chapter 2, or Birds of a feather

As I went to put up the chickens tonight, the problem with the way we bought our chickens was very evident, too many groups!

The lady at Chickenville sent us home with so many cautions that if they were not closely followed would cause the chickens to die. The end result of any of our negligence would automatically result in death, which caused a bit of concern, that we were investing this much in something so fragile.

Thankfully my friend whom we bought the second group from convinced me they were pretty hardy creatures, that if basic needs are taken care of, will have no problems.

So to recap, these are the chickens we have -

Bought at Chickenville
Piper and Swanlea, Red Sex Links, hatched 2/29/12, bought at 2 weeks old and currently almost 9 weeks old. These two have required a heat lamp until they were old enough to go on top of the dryer in a dog crate and the nights got warmer. They are now in the chicken house in another cage that we bought. These are the babies.

Little Missy, an Ameraucana, is the oldest and consistently lays at least 5 weeks a week. She is about 25 weeks old. Her eggs are blue/green.
GoghGogh, Black Star, is named after Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night, and was supposed to be 16 weeks old when we bought her and should be 23 weeks old.
Selena, a Blue Laced Red Wyandote, is also supposed to be 23 weeks old.
Either GoghGogh or Selena have started laying, so we are now getting 2 eggs most days. This group sticks together and have earned the reputation of being the old ladies and when they peck the others, the old biddies. They have lived in the chicken house/used to be shed, the whole time. No special needs or places to stay. Yea!

The last group were all bought when they were 5 weeks old and are currently 12 weeks.

Llama, who is a light Brahma
Dorothy, White Plymouth Rock
Pollo, a Buff Orpington
Stinky Pants, Gold Sex Link
As you can tell we had just about run out of names, I guess. This group started out in the largest dog crate. These are the "teenagers".

Which brings me to the point of this information:

DO NOT BUY CHICKENS OF DIFFERENT AGES WHEN YOU ARE FIRST STARTING!!!! Notice, I says when you are first starting. If you are a seasoned chicken farmer, then you probably have appropriate spaces for everyone and used to this.

The lady at Chickenville tried to explain that the cost difference between the 16 and 18 week olds, compared to the 2 week olds, would quickly be comparable after feeding them until that age.

BUT even more importantly, there are all sorts of phrases that truly originate in the bird world, such as "birds of a feather, flock together" and anything to do with pecking order. These birds do not welcome the young. They are mean and don't mind attacking anyone smaller than themselves.

So at the end of the first week I had chickens in 3 different places, two of which were cages with solid bottoms that had to be cleaned regularly. I won't go into details, but it was just about the nastiest thing I have done in a LONG time.

Thankfully we found someone selling a hamster/gerbil cage. I grabbed it. I needed something larger for the teenagers and when I saw it, realized I could turn it upside down and the wires would be on the bottom, allowing stuff to drop through, rather than accumulate and have to be pulled out. The teenagers were moved into the hamster/gerbil cage and moved to the chicken house/former shop.

The babies remained in the dog crate on the dryer.

After another week or so of that, I consulted all the text I could about introducing new chickens to the flock, because I needed the teenagers out of their cage and into the open area, so I could move the babies to the open bottom cage.

It went much better than I expected. No one felt too threatened and everyone had their own food, I guess. Each night the teenagers would go back into their cage to roost at night until one night I realized they were roosted on top of the cage. I grabbed them and after a lot of squawking, put them in their cage and shut the door.

Annabel and I conferred and agreed that if they wanted to sleep out of the cage, why not! That would free up the hamster/gerbil cage for the babies, which would get them off my dryer, and would move all the chickens out of the house, and would alleviate any more cleaning cages for me! I LOVED that!

So we made the big move and the babies were not convinced they could go without their night light (heat lamp) but I figured if our air conditioner was running at night, it was warm enough for them!

Things were going fine until the morning that I found a baby possum in the cage with the baby chicks.

Not wanting to deal with a baby possum while dressed, ready for work, I decided I would just introduce the babies to the teenagers and the old ladies.
The babies quickly decided they would prefer their chances with the possum rather than be pecked to death by their elders.

Thank goodness for Dad who rescued us by tearing the cage apart which allowed the possum to escape.

I still get chills from that. Oohh, I hate vermin looking creatures of all kinds.

So the babies still live in the hamster/gerbil cage and are hungry all the time, so much so that they don't mind biting the hand that feeds them.

The old ladies continue in their original roost, which used to be a shelf.

The teenagers have progressed from on top of the hamster/gerbil cage to a very precarious place above the old ladies - on the rungs of a metal ladder that is hanging horizontally. It does not look comfortable. Some had trouble maneuvering the flight up to the ladder, because if their feet barely touch the shelf where the old ladies are, they get pecked. So I moved the ladder from some bunk beds and they can now jump up the steps to their roost on the metal ladder.

All except Llama.

Bless her heart. I don't know if she is too heavy or what, but should could not seem to figure out how to get up with the other teenagers tonight. I finally tried picking her up and putting her up there, but she just panicked and flew back down. After watching for a while, she finally flew up on an old door and was eyeballing the shelf with the old ladies. This caught Little Missy's eye and when I shut the door, there seemed to be a stand off going as to who could stay awake longest, so Llama would not have to sleep alone.

Next... is it all chicken feed?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Chicken farming, the beginning

I can't remember when I first thought about raising chickens but when new neighbors moved in with theirs, I guess it rekindled the thought.

Today I just wondering, what was I thinking?

I've been posting pictures of the chickens on facebook and if I can figure out how to on here, I will, but google has updated the blogger page and it looks completely different and not sure how to use it all yet.

For my birthday in February, my sister gave me a book on raising chickens and my niece painted a beautiful picture of a chicken, which got framed and hanging over my mantle.

In the meantime, my dad set about building himself a chicken coop.

This is no thrown together, recycled unit, this is the Cadillac of chicken coops, with different roosting stations, a front door, and sliding side door with ramp.

But the chicken coop set empty until spring break in March.

The plan was to go to my aunt's 90th birthday party in Paris, Texas, stop by the flea market, pick up some chickens and put them in Dad's coop.

Well the day of the party, the only way we could have brought home chickens was if the ark had been built because it rained so much, there was no flea market, and no where for chickens to ride. We didn't want to be accused of doing like Mitt Romney and tying them to the roof.

So on Monday, my sister calls and says be ready in 10 minutes. We are heading out to buy chickens.

So my dad, my sister, my daughters, my 2 nieces, and I climb into dad's truck and head for Terrell, Texas, actually to a place called Chickenville.

By now I was getting excited and considering the possibility of us adding chickens as well, even though I did not have a chicken coop ready.

At Chickenville, there is this big barn, sectioned into different "yards" full of chickens, scratching and pecking. Chickens of all colors and sizes but segregated by age, which has turned out to be a very important factor.

The pricing on the chickens was pretty simple - $1 per week of age. So a 14 week old chicken was $14. But to get a laying chicken, you need one that is at least 18 weeks old, as they will start laying between 18 - 24 weeks. So if you are trying to stick to a budget, then you think, hmmm, $28 will buy me 2 that are just 4 weeks shorts of laying, rather than $36 to get 2 that are. Only you get confused because there are so many chickens wandering around your feet and your kids love all of them and you are actually thinking days, not weeks, because 4 weeks is a long time of feeding and cleaning up poop before they ever earn their keep.

So Dad ends up buying 3 or 4 that are supposed to be laying and 3 or 4 younger ones.

We buy, 1 that is supposed to be laying and 2 that are supposed to be 14 weeks old, so I think I am getting a bargain at only $44 for 3 chickens. BUT then we went to see the babies, that were supposedly 4 - 6 weeks old, but somehow cost $6 each.

Here is where it got crazy. I had let each daughter pick out a chicken. Then I worried that my nieces didn't have a chicken, so I let them pick out a baby each. The box the Chickenville lady put them in was from the hatchery and the label noted that the chickens had hatched the date on the shipping label, which was 2/29, which actually made them 2 weeks old.

On our way home, names were heatedly deliberated, only taking a break to stop at the local farm store to buy our first bag of feed, needing a separate one for the babies, feeders, and hay. Quickly my cheap investment went beyond chicken feed.

With dog carriers full of chickens, we got back home to let Dad's out to their Cadillac Ranch Estate, while we scrambled to figure a way to contain 3 chickens in a backyard that needs to be accessed by our dogs. I was just sure our old dogs would not care about those chickens, but even with Ollie being blind, they both would love just a little taste.

We rigged a door with old window screens across one of our shop's double doors. We tried to contain them within the shop with other doors and screens, but soon realized these birds can fly, so they got the whole shop instead.

The babies on the other hand, were placed in a plastic storage container, lined with paper, and put in my bathtub, with Annabel's reading lamp poised on them, their own water container and food bowl.

For the next day we all strategized, which evidently is not a word, but best describes what we were doing, the best and easiest way to structure a fence that would still allow the chickens plenty of room but safe from predators, like the dogs, and easy to access.

Dad, of course, came up with the best plan, and sent me to Home Depot with a list of supplies.

He built a gate while I dug a hole for a post, then everyone pitched in on mixing concrete and setting the post.

Of course, those who are into home improvement projects already know the post has to set overnight, so we could not complete it until the next day.

Evidently I don't like to do things easy.

In the meantime, a friend in the neighborhood, who raises chickens, answered by much earlier email about buying some chickens from her.

The girls and I went to chicken them out.

So just to recap, at home we have 2 babies in my bathtub and 3 "older" ones, corralled in our shop with window screens.

At her house, they had 5 week old chickens, so they were $5 each. Well, shoot, I did what anyone would do and bought one for each girl, since I was holding a $20.

She explained that these would need to be kept separate from the others though.

No problem, we have dog crates just for that.

Again, the naming of the chickens commenced and we returned home to finish our chicken yard.

So now to recap, we have 3 that can be together outside, in the chicken yard, 4 that need to be inside, until it is at least 80 degrees, and 2 that must be under a heat lamp, all needing their own food containers and water and being reminded again, it is critical to keep water for them at all times.

The teenagers were moved to the back porch in the largest dog carrier, but pretty quickly, I decided it was warm enough for them to stay outside on the deck, in their dog carrier.

Next chapter.... too much poo!

A lesson in what not to say

This was on a Facebook posted by a friend who has also adopted.

I wish I could say our experiences have been different, but they haven't. I realize that people, for the most part, are well intentioned and really don't know what to say, so I thought I would post this so my friends would know what you should not say -

-Sh*t People say to Adoptees

Wow, your adopted parents must be SO AMAZING!

So what happened to your real parents?

OMG, you and your brother could like totally date since you’re not really related!

... You must be really against abortion then, huh?

What was wrong with your real mom?

Did you see Sandra Bullock’s new kid!!?? squeeee!! he’s SO adorable!

Oh, wow, adoption is so beautiful - I love adopted people!

I totally want to adopt some day. I just don’t see the point in having your own kid when there are so many out there I could have.

oh wow, you are SO lucky!!

Yeah, I would totally adopt some day, but like only a baby, not one of those special needs or foster kids - i know this is fucked up, but they’re just so, you know…damaged.

so, do you know your real family?

Ugh, I SO wish i was adopted. My family is so f*cking annoying. It’d just be nice to know i didn’t actually come from them.

Wow, you’re like, really angry.

I mean, at least you weren’t thrown in a dumpster.

Oh, you must be so grateful!

Isn’t it great that your parents wanted you SO much?? Oh, sorry, I mean your adopted parents wanted you.

You are so special!!

It’s so weird, but you almost actually look like your parents.

You must really love your birthmom for being so selfless and courageous.

I think it’s so great how celebrities these days are adopting all these unwanted kids, don’t you? I really admire them.

Oh…I’m sorry.

So, wait, I’m confused. Your step-parents? Wait, no your real parents? I mean your adopted parents. Wait, who are you talking about?

So was she like on drugs and stuff?

Oh really? My __________ is adopted. She’s so well adjusted. Not like you, I mean, sorry, I just mean she’s not all sad and angry and stuff. She really loves her parents.

Oh really? My _________ adopted a kid. He is SOOOOOOO cute and cuddly. They got him after that big disaster in ____________. Thank god they saved him!

But don’t you think you’re totally better off?

I always wished I was adopted.

Your parents are so nice though! You really shouldn’t be sad. If I were you, I’d be so grateful just to have a home.

OMG, you are SO fascinating - your life is just like an Oprah episode!

I know, I totally get it. I always felt like I didn’t belong in my family either.

So do you think you’ll adopt some day?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Saturday

The only problem with Saturdays is that I do not sleep on Friday nights.

I know that is odd and most people have trouble with Sundays.

It's not that I am not tired. On the Fridays I pick the girls up from school I am amazed I don't fall asleep behind the wheel just trying to get us home! Of course Friday afternoon traffic is so bad it would be truly difficult to sleep through, unless you are Grace, who is the most relaxed in a car.

When I looked at the upcoming week on Sunday it was pretty full.

The class I took on chronic disease self management in August had provided a new opportunity, to train a group of lay leaders. I believe so much in this program that I jumped at the chance to train more trainers, especially since 5 were recruited from our program.

So I knew I would be out of the office for 2 full days which left only 3 to complete all arrangements for our big event in May, as well as begin June's planning. Of course never satisfied with my original plans I complicated it by planning 4 more events to occur simultaneously!

Got all that done and even squeezed in a few volunteer hours at the school and an ortho appointment.

But the week was not complete without a surprise and while it was not the birth of my next great niece, as expected, instead it was a first time in a long time visit by my niece and nephew from Austin.

I think the last time the two were here without parents their mother had bribed them with $1 to keep their shoes on for the whole trip to protect my sense of smell! That was a long time ago.

My nephew has just graduated from law enforcement school, following in the steps of his dad, who is a state trooper.

My niece is patiently counting off the days and weeks until she delivers only the 2nd grandson, actually he will be a great grandson, in our family!

So you see there was plenty to promote exhaustion but for us our Saturdays include a long to-do list. Today includes ukulele lessons for Annabel. Trip to post office. Cleaning chicken coops. Transplanting tomato plants. Trip to grocery store House cleaning.

Seems like I am forgetting something.

Maybe that's the problem with Friday night sleep!


Sent by Jerri

Monday, April 9, 2012

When I get old...

I'm afraid my children don't understand me. I know they don't get my humor. I find the funniest things and sit here giggling over it and when they ask me what's so funny, they just don't get it.

Take for instance what my friend Holly posted on facebook,

"When I get old, I'm gonna move in with my kids, make a lot of noise, trash the house, pay no bills, and when asked to clean, pitch a fit like it's killing me."

OK, I found that hysterical.

And really the best part was all the parents who chimed in with their own version of what they will do when they get old and move in with their children.

ALL of those were funny.

So I am sitting here giggling and the question is, "What's so funny?".

I start with explaining that my friend Holly, that I have never met, but we are friends on Facebook, well that made the conversation come to a screeching halt.

"Mom, you have friends on Facebook that you have never met?"

"Uh, yeah" a little timid because I am not sure where this is going, whether they will realize that I don't allow them to be friends on facebook with people they have never met, or what.

They were actually more confused by how I knew we were friends if we have never met, how did we meet, etc.

So by the time I explained all that another parent had posted a funny response and I giggled again.

This time I read them the original quote.

"I don't get it."

"Me neither."

Both turned back to whatever they were working on and just shook their heads.

OK, I can't wait until I get old...

Sunday, April 8, 2012

A weekend off

I did something this weekend that I have not done in a LONG time, I took the weekend off!

Last week as way too full including our first two major events at our new hospital in Richardson, an evening program, then ending with 2 days where I was the trainer of my peers, along with the usual work that needed to be done.

By the time I got home on Friday all I really wanted to do was sit and vegetate. BUT the girls had the day off and I knew they needed a change of scenery almost as much as they needed a new dress for church. So instead of taking a break, we waited out the worst of the traffic, then started with dinner at Grace's favorite, Chik Fil A, followed by shopping at JCP and Kohls.

God knew what he was doing when he blessed me with my daughters. I don't think either has complained or demanded to go shopping. In fact, it is one of their least favorite things to do, but when we go, they are conscious of price and even more importantly, a sense of modesty. And it is really difficult to find teen clothes that are neither cut too low or too high, so it takes a while.

Saturday started with a music lesson, this week for Grace, followed by my attempt to somewhat fill them up before we went to eat dim sum.

Dim Sum means small bowls, but can also mean, big price when taking Grace and Annabel to have it! We invited 2 ladies from church who love Chinese food but weren't sure where to find it and I invited my friend from work who helps in translating. We were celebrating Grace and our friend, Billie's birthdays but it was also my work friend's birthday, so we had plenty of reasons to celebrate!

My daughters LOVE Chinese food and a big benefit of dim sum is the variety of items served. I think we especially enjoyed sharing the experience with our older friends. I know I especially appreciated my friend providing translation services.

We finished off Saturday with some repairs/clean up for our chickens, then a great meal with mom and dad before watching our favorite show, Doc Martin.

Church seemed especially uplifting with so many visitors and guests, and realizing how blessed we truly are.

For the third time in three days we ate out, which is a HUGE record for us! Dad took us all out for Souper Salad, which was an especially good contrast to all the Chinese food from the day before.

So the weekend has been great and I am really trying to get over the guilt of not doing more, but instead relishing the great times we had. I think the whole thing was put into perspective by watching Soul Surfer tonight. What a fantastic movie to serve as a reminder of what truly is important.

Have a great week!