Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

Halloween - one of those holidays that has so many memories. Growing up, my Dad's company always had inventory on October 31, which kept him from participating, UNLESS, it was raining, then, after working a very long and I am sure, trying day, Dad would load us up and drive us around the neighborhood so we could try to get the much anticipated candy.

Nine years ago, Halloween was only a couple of weeks after I had adopted Grace. Halloween is not a custom in China, so here I was with a 6 year old, with no English, my very beginning efforts of being a mom, and I am dressing my child up in a costume, and teaching her to go door to door, begging for candy.

This is the first Halloween that I have missed since then. But after 2 trips to the school to pick up this afternoon, with the traffic considerably worse with each trip, on top of the rest of the day, I chose to stay home, while Grace and Annabel scored bags of candy with their cousins instead.

As far as the rest of the day, I actually had today off. We're planning our return trip to China next summer and after checking the prices of the trips, we've been trying to find ways to raise some funds. This has led to me finding things to sell. We all have more than enough stuff and so why not have a garage sale? A garage sale is great, when you are looking for a bargain, but oh my goodness, having one yourself is a ton of work, and really hard on your back, which kept me out of the trick or treating loop tonight. I'm just hoping I can find that stash of candy the girls brought in.

Oh and if you are in the neighborhood, drop by the sale!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Hope is needed

Our Saturday began and ended with the word hope and in between was a lot of chicken wrangling. The girls have joined a service organization at school. Out of all the clubs and groups they could join at school, for them to pick a service oriented one, makes me so proud. Anyway, they had signed up to volunteer Saturday morning and when that alarm went off at 6:00 am, I was pretty sure someone was playing a mean trick on me.

Our day had a long list of things that had to get done - chores, errands, and a chicken rescue.

A friend of my niece's had moved and needed a new home for her 6 chickens. Annabel was skeptical, but after looking them over, gave her approval. We went back, with Dad's pick up and our largest dog crate in the back. When we got there, the chickens were out free ranging, rather than in their chicken yard. Trying to catch a chicken, even in a small space, takes a lot of work, but thankfully, Annabel, dressed in shorts, t shirt, ball cap on backward, and my size 10 rain boots on her size 5 feet, was smart enough to wrangle them back into the chicken yard. What happened next is all owed to her skill, speed, and determination, as she wrangled each chicken, in spite of the chickens' heroic attempts otherwise.

The chickens are not convinced they like their new home and have stayed huddled in the back of the yard. It is recommended that you keep new chickens separated from your flock for at least 2 weeks, to ensure they do not transmit any diseases and also because the pecking order will be disturbed. In the meantime, our chickens are not pleased at their inability to free range and are very vocal about it. Last night when I went to check on them, the new chicks had not been able to figure out where they were supposed to roost and were still huddled in the back corner of the yard. We set up a borrowed coop and Annabel, the chicken wrangler, was at it again, only this time, some took flight and escaped to Mom and Dad's yard. Because it was dark, it was really difficult to even see them, but Annabel is extremely determined and kept on until she rescued the last one. When I went back to check on them, one had slipped through a spot in the coop and was so distressed that I thought I could open the door and grab it, like Annabel, only it got out and somewhere there is an errant chicken. We had a huge storm last night and I am not sure what to expect this morning.

In between all the chicken wrangling, our department at work had been invited to have a display at the Festival of Hope - celebrating an outreach ministry in the area. While I was there, I visited the other exhibits and was surprised to find one I did not know existed, practically in my backyard. Promise House - the only Dallas shelter for homeless and at risk teens. The young man with the organization was so inspiring and motivated to help these kids. I am so glad to learn of this group and the vast services they provide to so many. If you are in the area and want to help, they have a wish list on their website.

The day started at the Cathedral of Hope, where the girls had volunteered to serve breakfast to the homeless and needy. As we arrived, we saw a really long line of people, patiently waiting to get in. Annabel said I could just drop them off there, but there was no way that was going to happen. We parked and I went in too. After hearing what was expected and surprised that their teacher sponsor or any other parent of the kids was there, I knew I had to stay. The regular volunteers gave us a quick orientation and set the tone, that we were there to serve. The two hours flew by as there was a non-stop need and line for those waiting to be served.

What surprised me the most were the number of average, clean cut looking people who were there for a free breakfast. These people looked like neighbors, friends, family, they did not fit my idea of the "needy". I was shocked, especially when it was a family. The man I was serving with explained that by the 4th Saturday, that most had run out of food stamps and had nothing left and would not get the next ones until the first of the month.  I had visited the North Texas Food Bank this week and the guide had told us that very thing - so many times it is impossible to know that someone is in need by looking at them but those who have been able to find the resources, like Cathedral of Hope, the North Texas Food Bank, Promise House, have a chance.

I'm still processing what all of this means. At this age, I should not be surprised when I learn something new, but you would really think I would have known/realized just how overwhelming the needs are for so many in our area. Instead of just ruminating about it, I hope I can find ways to provide hope for others, like the amazing people I met today, who do this all the time.

Friday, October 25, 2013

What kind of day are you having?

Earlier today someone, quite innocently, asked me how my day was going. Although I truly wanted to tell them, I did not, because I wasn't sure how much more could go wrong, if I started enumerating the problems.

Our alarm was set for 4:45 am to ensure that Annabel got to her basketball practice by 6:00 am. Because she is still really new to the team and the rules are strict about being tardy, I went to bed worried that I might not wake up in time. The less smart thing to do then, is just stay awake most of the night, in spite of using every technique I know to help with relaxation. But if you have stayed awake most of the night, then at least you are already awake when the alarm goes off so you don't have to worry about being late.

I got Annabel to school in plenty of time, which is about an 18 mile trip each way, through downtown Dallas, each way, and returned home in time to get Grace up and us ready to meet the carpool and me to work, all by 7:10 am. It was at this point, not feeling very secure in the outfit I have chosen, I ask Grace, "Do these shoes make my pants look too short?" Of course they did but I chose to default to a 15 year olds stamp of approval to the outfit I am leaving the house in, rather than take the time to try to change. So I realize that she is looking at the clock rather than the length of my pants because she hates to be late, and she quietly says, "No, they look fine". So then I press it a little more and ask if I have on too much black. Again, I see her glance at the clock, not sure of how much longer this barrage of questions will last, and knowing we have a very small window of getting to carpool on time, she again answers, "No, it looks fine too". So  in spite of my best efforts to receive honest feedback, I leave the house knowing my pants look like "high waters" and a color other than black might have been a welcome relief to my Johnny Cash impersonation.

My inability to sleep was also impacted with concerns about the program we were having today at work, a big one on Medicare, with lots of partnering groups to supply services and resources. Of course when you are trying to coordinate lots of groups, something is bound to go wrong and one of the key services had left a message that they would not be able to participate. OK, not the best, but we can make do.

When you are working with older adults, it is very important to have restrooms close by. Well, the closest restrooms were under construction, so we were having to route people down a long hall. An equally important part of any activities for older adults is the food you serve. Generally our catering staff does a top notch job on the food service, but this time completely missed the mark, and we had long lines just for a cup of coffee and trust me, seniors don't like to wait for coffee!

Then within 15 minutes of the start of a 3 hour program, 2 ladies grabbed their stuff and approached me at the exit. They had been sitting behind a man who had a real problem with the government and was being very verbal about it. That had caught their attention, but then when he left the room, but left his backpack behind, they became quite frightened and were about to evacuate, just sure that his backpack contained a means to get even with the government. I did a quick mental scan trying to place the person they were talking about and my mind went quickly to the thought of interrupting the speaker, and announcing a quick break, and for them not to feel alarmed but we needed to evacuate the premises immediately to allow the bomb sniffing dogs in. Thankfully the disgruntled citizen was found fairly quick giving an earful to the Medicare rep and that disaster was diverted when he returned to his seat to reclaim his backpack.

Thankfully our speaker did not miss a beat and continued with the program until the construction in the adjoining restrooms began to include some extremely loud sawing, which overpowered our sound system. Each time the sawing started, the speaker would pause, and the second he opened his month to continue, it would start again. When it finally subsided, the speaker continued until, only 15 minutes later, when the fire alarm went off. There seemed to be only 2 ways that the seniors reacted to that - either evacuate immediately or just sit tight and see what happens. So I am trying to found out if it is a false alarm or if we need to get the 150 people out of the auditorium and my speaker just kept talking.

When the alarm did not stop, I announced a 10 minute break only to realize we are out of coffee, pastries, and everything else that makes up a continental breakfast. I get all my help searching desperately for catering personnel, as I am scrambling to explain that refills are on their way or hoping they are at least.

It was at this moment, someone comes by and says, "How's your day going so far?". All I could think to say was, "Good" as I struggle to keep an eye out for the catering department, my ears tuned for the construction or "all clear" on the fire alarm, and trying to make sure that no one is angry enough at the government to be planting explosive devices. Oh and all of this happened before 10:00 am!

How was your day?