Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year's Eve

Realizing that it has been more than six months since I last wrote, to say the time has flown is a terrible understatement.

We had a fantastic trip to China with Nanchang being our next to the last destination. The time in Nanchang was so emotional/critical/amazing that I feel I am still processing the details. My daughters asked that I not share the pictures of their time with their foster families and of course I will honor that. What I had not been prepared for was the impact it had on me and that is what I feel I am still working through. At some point, instead of showing their "reunions", which has become very popular among videographers/documentary makers/film makers, I will tell about the trip from my perspective. But that will come later.

When we arrived back home, my sister and nieces, along with my parents were there to greet us. It was bittersweet to return home, knowing there was still so much to see and do in China, but reality had to set back in.

My nieces were able to stay with us a few weeks in the summer and we took advantage of that time acting like tourists in our own city, enjoying the sights that we normally just speed by. Then before we could sit down, the summer was over and the girls had to go back to school on August 5.

This is their junior year which is hard to believe, even though I say it often, to actually write it down makes it more real than having lived it the last five months. This has been a difficult semester - course wise, as they both are taking physics, government, US history, then adding on pre-cal, statistics, AP art, makes my head swim, but they persevered and passed all their finals.

Now today is the last day of 2014, a time of reflection, I guess, but I don't think I will mourn the passing of this year. It has been a good year, but also very difficult, a lot has happened in the world that forces you to fight becoming cynical, there have been losses of those too young and others so unexpected, and with each passing year I feel more the effects of my own age on my body and know I have to work harder to accomplish the same things that were easier in earlier years.

For my daughters, I have immeasurable awe and pride in all they are able to accomplish, their kind and good personalities, their desire to give, rather than to receive. I tried to explain some of how I feel about them to my sister but did not do a very good job. I likened it to having a child who almost died and then relishing each milestone, recognizing that only because of the goodness of God, they were able to be here in this life to even have the milestone to face.

We talk a lot in our family about circles of friends and how one circle connects with another, in ways, initially you did not realize, but in retrospect you see. This year we celebrated 10 years of me being a mom and Grace being my daughter. 10 years.

10 years ago I never could have guessed where my life was going and had no clue just how good it could be, and it just gets better. I do catch myself holding my breath, fearful, knowing that the life I know can be shattered in an instant, and have to force myself to take a deep breath and live in the present time without borrowing trouble from the future, worries about things that may never happen.

To you, my readers, I wish for you an even better year in 2015, to find peace, love, good health, and good fortune, and to think of us often and remember us in your prayers.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

On to Hong Kong and then home!


The next leg of our journey required considerable travel again, but this time, we switched from one mode to another. We flew from Nanchang, Jiangxi to Guangzhou. Thankfully, there was a guide and driver wanting for us there, because what is considered by some to be quite simple, seemed like a rather difficult maneuver, going from the airport to the train station.  Once there, the guide stayed with us to ensure we knew exactly where to go, what time to be there, and in the meantime, where to get something to eat. Then she left after telling us what so many others had told us, Hong Kong is easy to get around because almost everyone speaks English.

Evidently, everyone in Hong Kong, except those people we met, can speak English. Or is it just that I speak way too Texan to be easily understood. The worst part was they would look at my girls and speak Chinese to them, but my girls speak Mandarin and they were speaking Cantonese, so neither could understand.

My daughters got to experience several firsts on this leg of the trip.

The first was a taxi driver who did not mind putting all our suitcases in the trunk and then holding it shut with a bungee cord. They were convinced that we would lose something along the way. They also did not know I knew how to call a taxi and could not believe that when I would step out on the curb, whistle, and hold up one hand, expecting one to appear, and they did.

This was our very first stay in Hong Kong and I was completely unprepared, for the vast difference in the “customs” of the hotel. We stayed on top of a mountain in China, a remote area, and had free internet. In Hong Kong you had to pay for it in your room, otherwise there was 30 minutes free in the lobby every 12 hours. Electricity in Hong Kong is a different current and there was no free adapter like all the hotels in China had provided when needed, but they would provide one for a charge. The mouthwash in the room even came with a price tag on it. And this was a nice hotel, not some two bit hotel. I was sitting in the lobby, trying desperately to send a message to my dad for father’s day, in my brief 30 minute window, when I was told that it was  required to buy a minimum of one beverage to sit there! UGH!

I had read on line that the subway system, the Metro was easy to use, yet the concierge urged us to take taxis instead to reach our destinations.

Our first stop was somewhere to eat, only the driver let us 2 or 3 blocks away with a vague wave of the hand of the location we needed to go. When we finally found the place, a reservation was required unless we could guarantee to be out of there within an hour. Fine by us, we normally eat faster than that and had a list of things to do. The thing I did not factor in was the terrible service and when our food still had not arrived about the time our hour was up, we left. Not a popular decision among my group I must say.

Before we had left for China, we had a long list of things the girls wanted to buy. With the speed of our trip, we had rarely found time to shop, so our next stop was the Ladies’ Market, an area of small booths all owned and operated by women. Thankfully, this taxi driver took us right to the beginning of the market so we weren’t at the mercy of me trying to read a map to find our way.

Here was a 2nd thing my girls learned about me – I know how to bargain in these markets. I was amazed at how it shocked them at my ability to get items for the price I wanted to pay. One of the first things we found was a phone case for Annabel’s phone. The price the woman quoted was retail and we were certainly not in a retail environment, so since I was holding the money, I offered a more appropriate price. After hearing how I was killing her, she of course, agreed. The girls were so impressed that we continued down through the stalls quickly picking out some of the top things on our long list that we still wanted to buy.

Since it was now closer to 9:00 and we still had not eaten, I asked the last woman we had done business with for a good place to eat, which was pretty funny, because she could suddenly no longer understand English and so I had to act it out, which provided plenty of amusement.

We were trying to find a Chinese restaurant and were surprised at how difficult that was, but we finally ended up somewhere that would take a credit card, since all our cash was spent at the market, and our waiter quickly gave us an orientation to the Hong Kong way of eating out. The dirty dish on the table, Hong Kong way, 4 pots of tea for 2 tea drinkers, Hong Kong way, and evidently chasing the mom down whose trying to find the bathroom to sell one more dish is also Hong Kong way.  Having your waiter continue to add soup to your bowl, much like our waiters add tea or water to your glass, must also be the Hong Kong way. The food was very good, but by then it was really late, so it was back to trying to find a taxi to take us back to the hotel, since we were completely lost by then.

Again, the girls were amazed when I insisted that we had to get to a busy enough street to find a cab and then having one actually stop.

Our goal for our one full day in Hong Kong was Hong Kong Disney. I had been joined a yahoo group of parents looking for help in planning these types of trips and when someone mentioned ending their journey with a trip to Disney, it sounded like a brilliant way to end ours. I just wasn’t sure what was going to happen when seeing the foster families and the emotional toll it would take on all, and I felt like we really had to have a break from that intense time, before coming home, kind of a decompression chamber.

This time we tackled the Metro, the subway system.

The girls were surprised that I could even find the entrance, much less know how to read the subway map, buy tickets, and then get us on the correct platform. They have a very nice subway system, and it is remarkably clean, and very easy to use.

When we made our last transfer, there was no doubt we were on our way to Disney, as the rings to hold onto were mouse ears, and displays of Disney princesses in bronze were on display.

The price on the tickets was higher than expected, but still a lot less than the cost of the US Disneys, but it is also a lot smaller. Being smaller was not a problem, as we were able to see and do almost all we wanted to, before we lost all our energy, and tackled the subway system back to the hotel.

When we got out of the subway, I could smell noodles cooking, but we did not see anything but nicer restaurants on the street level. The area is surrounded by skyscrapers and office buildings, so we went inside one that mentioned it had a shopping mall. The guard, with my acting ability to portray eating noodles, sent us upstairs to a very cramped and crowded restaurant, where they were able to understand we wanted to “take away”. While sitting on a tiny stool outside this busy restaurant, waiting for our food, I realized it was one of those jewels you just happen to stumble upon, as the windows were covered with awards they had won, letters received from several satisfied customers from companies such as CNN. Love these kinds of “accidents” that turn out great.

Back to the hotel in hopes of making the connection with a friend of their girls’ school, who is spending a lot of the summer with family in Hong Kong. Of course, it was back to the lobby to handle communication and our brief 30 minute window of checking email, trying to connect home, as well as their friend. Thankfully I found a “free” place to sit, rather than do like the others who seemed like zombies wandering through the lobby staring at some device in their hand to avoid the extra charge of the internet.

After a lot of packing and repacking, we had all our treasures packed and ready for our trip today. I let the girls sleep as long as we could while I went in search of inexpensive breakfast. Within a block of the hotel, I lost count of the number of Chinese medicine stores, that all open early, and office buildings, where workers were rushing to get inside. Again, one of the buildings mentioned a shopping area so I went inside and up the escalator and found about 5 noodle shops, serving big steaming bowls of noodles, among other things I did not recognize. I wasn’t sure I could act out “take away” again, but I finally found a place that was only “to go”. Since the entire menu was in Chinese with no pictures, I wasn’t sure I could guess well enough to order something. I tried asking everyone in line, but none spoke English. When I got to the front of the line, the man and woman running the place spoke perfect English and fixed me up with some spicy noodles with fish balls, and an egg on top, one of their favorites. I finally found a “McCafe” a new part of McDonalds, where I was able to get a ham and cheese croissant without the need to act it out, as there was a picture to point to!

After buying breakfast I realized I no longer had enough money to pay the cab fare to the airport and knew I did not want to exchange $100 into Hong Kong money as we were leaving. The girls scourged through their purses and wallets and came up with $10, which when added to how much I had, was exactly $300 HK and the amount I was told to expect to pay. Thankfully our driver was Mario Andretti in another life, and we made it to the airport, with the extra cost of the toll and the cost of our bags, and the price was $290 HK! I was terrified that I would have to run into the airport and exchange money to pay him off but we ended up with $10 to spare!

We are now 12 hours into our 15 hour flight and I am missing the luxury of the Business Class seats that we were fortunate to get on our way to China. My body and brain are still very confused as to what time it is, much less what day, Since we have now spent 24 hours as Tuesday and when we get home, will still have 8 more to go!

I’ll go back and fill in the parts that I missed of the trip later when I can actually access Google again! I wish Google and China had not been fighting, it would have really helped

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Happy father's day

I think this is the very first time I've ever missed father's day and it is really hard to do especially if you have a father like mine, who deserves more than just one day to celebrate!

I have the kind of father that everyone is jealous of. My dad is kind and generous and fair to everyone. He has never met a stranger and everyone he greets gets his full attention and a sincere question of how they are doing.

He can work circles around me and others 1/4 his age.

He can get a bargain better than anyone.

He is a strong Christian who cares for his whole flock.

He rarely gets angry and you know you really messed up if he is.

He loves and treasures my mother more than anything except God, and right behind that is family.

Thank you father dear, for your patience, your kindness, and love. I'm so sorry to miss being with you today.

Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Thank you to all who sent prayers

Thank you to all who sent prayers on our behalf yesterday. The day proved far more eventful than anticipated.

Our guide and driver deftly maneuvered major highways and then a number of back streets, none with markers as far as I could tell, and we arrived safely at Grace's foster family's home. The foster mother set off a HUGE package of firecrackers to celebrate our arrival. There was no doubt to anyone within a mile that she had something to celebrate.

This was our second time to see her since I adopted Grace, as she met us when we adopted Annabel. In spite of the language differences, you knew how much she loved and cared for Grace. Both my daughters are very fortunate that the majority of their lives pre-adoption were spent in foster care, rather than at the orphanage.

The foster mother, foster sister, her husband, and baby greeted us with a banquet of fresh fruits and drinks. She then started presenting gifts for both Grace and I. I received a beautiful porcelain plate, something the region is known for, along with a beautiful embroidered bag, and a pair of shoes. Grace received a beautiful bag, new outfit, and a pair of shoes. We waited for the foster father to come home, than all went together to a very nice restaurant. Our guide did an outstanding job of trying to keep the communication going between all of us. Grace had many memories that she wanted confirmed and each time the family loved that she could remember so many details. 

After a wonderful meal, it was very difficult to say good bye, but we had to go.

If you are not familiar with Chinese adoption, you might know understand the next part without a brief history. The Chinese government, in an effort to control the population after Chairman Mao's reign, where large families were encouraged, implemented a one child policy, making it illegal to have more than one child per family. Some exceptions were made if you are a minority or live in a rural area and need the family to help on a farm.

On top of that, sons are preferred over daughters, and millions of baby daughters were abandoned as a result, hoping someone would find and care for them. I cannot imagine the anguish a mother felt in making this decision and sure many still live with the scars of having to choose.

As a result, children adopted from China have an abandonment certificate, proclaiming that the local government did all they could to find the parents of a child who was found. It usually lists the address where the child was located and by whom.

Somehow I traveled without ours, even though I thought both girls might be interested in seeing if we could find that place. A quick message home and my poor parents tried to go through the mounds of adoption paperwork to find just the right document, make copies and then email halfway around the world.

They got to us just in time and our guide took us to the place where Grace was found.

I think I am still too overwhelmed by the whole idea to fully realize what that meant and the people who rent the place now were not there in 1998 and referred us to local police station.

The woman at the police station was colleagues with the man who found Grace, called him, and he came to that office.

Sometimes this whole process can take months, even years, yet it all happened within hours for us.

When the officer arrived, I truly wanted him to recall something about that day, but he insisted that he found so many babies during that time, he did not remember anything specific.

In the meantime, the original woman at the police station called the local news, who showed up and interviewed all of us! It was supposed to be on the news last night at 8:00 pm, but we missed it.

Our guide told us of another family who had been able to reach out to the media and within a week, had been contacted by the birth family.

Overwhelming is an understatement. I'm not sure what will happen next.
 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

A very brief note and a request

We have finally made it to our destination, Nanchang. For the next 2 days we will be visiting my daughters' foster families. This will be a bittersweet time for all involved, to see someone you loved and cared for for so many years and then to be separated from them again.

Your prayers and warm thougts are appreciated for all involved. Thank you.

Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android

A very short post and a request

We finally made it to our destination, Nanchang. This is the city that both daughters are from.

Today and tomorrow we visit with their foster families. The time will be bittersweet for all, as it will be a wonderful time for all to be together, but very difficult to leave. Both daughters spent many years in these families and I am grateful for the wonderful job they did in providing a loving environment. 

Prayers and kind thoughts for all involved are appreciated. 
 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Trip of a lifetime!

This has truly been a trip of a lifetime. Today is Tuesday and we are at a Mountain Retreat outside Shangshuo and I'm trying to remember if I've ever seen a more beautiful place. The bamboo trees frame the river with mountains sticking up all around us. On the river are rafts, originally made with bamboo, now with PVC for their durability, transporting those who make their living by working the river. On one side you can see people working in a field, possibly a rice field, clear, fresh air, small waterfall, mountains, incredible!

We got here after a river cruise on the Li River The pictures all look hazy but there was a fog/haze over the river and up into the mountains throughout the 4 hour cruise. There were many sights and rock shaped creatures, none of which I could really see, but the fact they remain untouched for 1000's of years just increases their beauty to me. We also had a delicious meal on the cruise, which was nice.

Yesterday, Monday, seemed to be mostly travel as we left the hotel early in Chengdu. It took over an hour to drive to the airport, but the airport was clean and modern and the plane was in great shape. They served a hot meal on a 1.5 hour flight. Quite a bit different than a US trip of the same length and there was no extra charge! 

We arrived in Guilin and met a new guide whose love of the area was contagious. After quickly checking in she wanted us to see the park the city is most known for Elephant Hill. The only problem, while the thermostat might have said 80-90 degrees, the humidity was over 1000! and I'm not exaggerating. The mosquitoes tried to carry some of the smaller children off, so the beauty of the area was somewhat lost.

After a great meal, we took a quick tour of the night market and enjoyed seeing the sights and sounds of the nightlife.

The evening before we had a hot pot meal in Chengdu. We had watched an episode of Andrew Zimmern from Bizarre Food where he had a hot pot dinner at Chengdu. It was on Annabel's most wanted to do list and we did it. They serve it red, white, or a combination of red and white oils, either diffused with peppers or plain. My girls chose the red and all manner of goodies was fried in the hot oil and 4 bottles of water were quickly consumed.

Time for dinner and a show tonight. More later. 
 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

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topiaries gigantic spider outside toilet moss to show Van
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What a day!

I'm kind of confused as to what day it is because I've never been able to change the date and time on my phone or laptop and I purposely kept my watch on Dallas time so I could remember what time it was there, so we are always ahead by almost exactly half a day. Right now it is 11:16 pm on Sunday night and I need to get to bed as tomorrow is another day spent in travel.

Yesterday we left Xi'an and arrived via Hainan Airlines to Chengdu. We met us with the rest of our group again and went to dinner together.

This morning we had to be ready to go by 8:00 am to go see the pandas and they are most active in the morning after receiving their bamboo. 

We arrived ahead of most of the crowd and within a short amount of time came across 2 different areas that had huge pandas sitting in there munching on their bamboo.

I don't even have words to describe it. It was incredible to see these giants that you have seen on TV, in pictures, everywhere but in real life!

From there, we saw what I described as a pit of pandas, all about teenage years (meaning a little less than 2 years old), sometimes fighting over the same piece of bamboo, some just laying around on their backs eating, everything like you would imagine with a group of teenagers.

Next we saw a momma and her baby. They were they most entertaining and the most active. That baby would not let the momma but a few inches from him and then go running to catch up. Since google is blocked, then my blog is also blocked so I don't know if adding an attachment from an email will work, but I'll try.

The pandas were great and the park was beautiful, so many gorgeous flowers, bamboo lined paths, beautiful lake with black swans, just a fantastic day.

I'm running out of energy and tomorrow we travel by plane to Guilin where we will spend only one night before taking a river cruise to a mountain retreat. Lots of one day stops for the next 3 or 4 days, so I will close for now. If I can figure out how I will post the link to my flickr account and you should be able to see all my pictures.


 

Friday, June 6, 2014

Terra cotta warriors

The story of the terra cotta warriors is pretty amazing. A farmer was drilling for a well and he was down in the hole sending out loads of dirt and did not realize that he had tossed the head of an ancient warrior made of terra cotta into the pile of dirt. When it arrived at the surface the other workers were so terrified they ran to the village for help from the authorities, leaving the farmer in the hole. The area he was digging is marked in the pit and just a slight adjustment 3 different ways and he would have missed them. There have now been 4 pits discovered, the first being the largest and the 4th being completely empty, as there was no time to produce any more warriors until the people who had been enslaved by the emperor rebelled and brought the end to that dynasty.

The pits are huge. I wish I could convert meters to yards quickly enough to remember just how vast they were. I just know it was a lot of football fields worth. Most of the warriors were destroyed by later uprisings and evidence of huge fires to destroy them is seen in blackened areas surrounding the warriors. No two warriors are alike and there are warriors who represent the generals, the charioteers, infantryman, archers, and horses. Looking down into the pit it's difficult to see the differences but some are presented on a higher level and you can see that even the size of the feet and the diameter of the ankles varies greatly, along with their hair which signifies their rank.

We also had lunch at one of the farmer's relatives homes, where he cooked the meal himself. It was very traditional and very delicious.

The craziest part of the day was at the end, after the tour, and our guide was so impressed with how spicy they liked their food, he wanted to take them to his favorite duck take away place. It was kind of like a deli counter on a busy street. The only things I recognized in the case were some feet of various birds. Our guide had them give the girls samples and then they started ordering, putting the stuff in bags, until I finally insisted we had enough and we carried off bags of very spicy duck necks, duck tongues, duck intestines, duck feet, octopus, and lotus root. There was no McDonald's, kfc, or pizza place in sight, so we headed back to the hotel to find the man who said he could order a pizza for me.

I knew they had one on their restaurant menu as I'd had a slice the day before, so we headed to the restaurant and the man in charge recognized us from the breakfast buffet. Annabel, whose just like her grandfather, asked if we could borrow some paper plates. First the man offered to send them to our room but once he recognized the bag, insisted we all eat in the restaurant so they could enjoy it easier.

It was a very kind thing to do and not something that happens often, I'm sure, allowing street food in a nice restaurant while your mother orders the cheapest thing on the menu. He reminded me that our room would have had a very bad odor this morning. Annabel insisted on bringing the leftovers to the room and hopes to eat them on the plane today.

Blech!

Sent from Jerri's Yahoo Mail on Android

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Hello from Xi'an

Have you ever seen the movie, "If this is Tuesday, it must be Belgium"? That's how I am feeling and this is only our second stop.

Yesterday, Wednesday, we saw the Temple of Heaven in Beijing. Feng shui was very important in the planning and structure of buildings in the early days in China, which explains the duplication and balance of structures in the pursuit of harmony. This is great until you try to see the entire layout in a very short amount of time and after passing through the 3rd of so gate, you are pretty sure you will never get to the other side. I had to continually remind myself of the age of the structure, 500+ years and the ability of it to withstand time, war, and many other disasters.

After seeing the Temple of Heaven we enjoyed another fantastic Chinese meal before racing to the train station.

The train station was a whole new experience and the best way to describe it was, that everyone trying to catch a train has a type A personality and they were all fearful they might not succeed, so they pushed and ran and squeezed into the tiniest of places to get through faster than we could.

The bullet train was also very interesting but to be able to cover close to 700 miles in under 4 hours was great.

Our guide met us and managed to get us out of the train station unscathed and whisked away to our hotel, where we were fortunate to receive an upgrade. It is very strange to see such an American name as Sheraton in the heart of a Chinese city.

After getting our bearings, we made it down to a market, which was actually a 3 story grocery store, but more like a Wal-Mart. We were on a quest for snacks, bottled water, and me some nail clippers. As usual we stopped traffic but this time I think more people were surprised when Annabel would open her mouth and English, with a definite East Texas accent came out!

We finally found someone to help us find nail clippers after Annabel translated, "where is" then turned to me to pantomime nail clippers. It worked, but was pretty hysterical in the punchy, exhausted state we were in.

This morning's breakfast was the largest buffet I think I have ever seen and you can even have ice cream at the end. There was a station to boil noodles with your selected ingredients, 4 types of congee, a whole section for Korean food, and another for Japanese, then a huge area for breads.

Our guide took us to the city wall and we rented bikes to ride around the top. We enjoyed breezing along and stopping to see the sights along the way, until we realized that we either had to turn around or keep going and both ways seemed like a lot of the 8.4 miles distance was still left. We persevered and made it the entire way around the wall.

From there we visited the Muslim market, which from outward appearances seemed like all other Chinese markets. Then onto lunch at a famous dumpling restaurant where we had dumplings with every ingredient known to man, along with wheat tea.

After lunch, we visited a local elementary school. It was amazing. We sat in on a class learning English of 12 year olds. The lesson today was on giraffes. I wished I had a picture of the giraffe in front of the Dallas Zoo to show. After we participated, then we got to ask them questions.

I asked if any planned to come to the United States, the answer was a resounding no, which surprised me. The teacher asked me what other foreign countries I had visited and she was amazed and my list is relatively short.

Then it was time for recess and both girls got in some ping pong, as well as badminton and basketball.

Tonight is the Tong Dynasty Show but in the meantime, naptime seems more appropriate. Tomorrow is the Terra Cotta Warriors.


 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Another incredible day

When you actually see something that you have learned about, read about, and seen in so many medias all your life, and it is even more grand than you imagined, you wish you could find a way to capture it so others can have a more accurate impression of it.

That is how I feel after seeing the Great Wall of China. 

To describe it as great is like calling the Grand Canyon, grand. Maybe because we overuse these descriptors for much more menial items our perception of what truly is great and what is grand are deflated.

We had another incredible day on Tuesday. Up early (since we our bodies are still confused on the time) and down for the breakfast buffet. The girls are loving having a nice warm filling bowl of congee, which is similar to our oatmeal, only with rice, along with dumplings, buns, and plenty of fruit, like lychees and watermelon. I love getting to have a croissant and a very strong cup of coffee. On our other trips, I was pretty sure that pot of coffee they started the first day was the same pot they served our last, as I had never had such strong, thick coffee.

On our way to the Great Wall, we stopped at a jade factory. I've seen jade all my life and admired it but never knew much about it until hearing their educational program. It's impossible not to buy something after learning about it.

Then onward and upward to the Great Wall.

Our guide chose a section that would be less crowded but a considerable distance from our hotel. It took about 2 hours to get there by bus, a trip I was very glad I was not driving, and we made it to the Mutianyu section, an area that is restricted from the Chinese tour buses to allow foreign visitors easier access.

After steadily climbing into the mountains, we finally reached the entrance, only to be faced with a straight uphill climb that felt like it was a million miles. It was a quick wake up call to how much more conditioning I wish I had done before we left!

From there we took a cable car straight up, which still put us at the bottom of more flights of stairs and a steady climb to finally reach the wall. All along the way are vendors selling fruit, vegetables, tshirts, and other souvenirs. After considering seriously several times that I had reached my limit, I was really glad that I had persevered and made it to the top. Once you are there, you are still going up and down stairs. Someone in our group suggested it be called the Great Stairway of China.

After that we had lunch, which my girls loved, and the last stop of the day was an acrobatic show, where tricks were performed that left you breathless.

We are on our way to visit the Temple of Heaven, then to catch a bullet train to Xi'an.

More later!
 

Monday, June 2, 2014

Good morning from Beijing

If you are younger, your body seems to adapt more quickly to the huge time change from Dallas to Beijing, or at least if you base it on whose still asleep at 5:00 am and whose not.

Thankfully we made it to Beijing without incident. We had wonderful help at American Airlines checking our bags all the way through to Beijing, rather than us claim and re-check. The man who helped us with our bags has 2 nieces from China, one name Gracie and the other Annie, so he went out of his way to ensure we were taken care of when he learned our bags consisted of items for the orphanages.

We were extremely fortunate that Mom and Dad paid to upgrade us to business class, with seats that completely stretched out. We aren't used to that kind of luxury but it made a huge difference.

We arrived in Beijing about 9:00 pm on Sunday, after leaving Chicago at 7:30 pm on Saturday. If that is confusing, you can see why my body is so confused.

After checking in, we walked to 7 11, which we had been told was somewhere between 1 and 2 minutes. It was very close and I was insistent on having some ramen noodles on hand in the event someone woke up in the middle of the night hungry. Annabel has never flown this leg of the trip and Grace was only 11 last time, but I vividly remembered waking up with my stomach on my "normal" schedule.

Since no one slept much, we were at the breakfast buffet by 6:00 am. If you have never traveled to China and had a breakfast buffet, you are missing out. This one seems even more extensive than any others I have seen, but still had the traditional items. There were dumplings, eggs served in a variety of measures, pastries, fruits, and a few odd things, like baked beans, which they always seem to have and I never see served anywhere else.

We were to meet our guide at 9:00 am but in the meantime, thankfully my girls figured out the free wireless access and were able to communicate back home for us.

Our first stop of the day was to the Hutongs, a preserved area tucked away from the hustle and bustle that a city of 23 million presents. Because the streets are so narrow, we left our bus and hopped on a rickshaw! I felt like I was giving these men a good work out! I bet they flip a coin to see who loses and has to carry the Americans!

All the buildings are gray, so as not to compete with the beauty of the emperor's residence. There are only communal bathrooms and little to no electricity, yet each property is valued in the millions because of their location. We met a very nice man who let us look at their home which consisted of 4 buildings facing a courtyard. OK buildings is somewhat of a misnomer and it is more like 4 rooms facing a courtyard. The way facing the north is higher than the other 3 and reserved for the most senior family members as it has the best access to heating and cooling from the weather. The courtyard included an area filled with bird and grasshopper cages suspended from a pagoda.

From there we went to the silk factory, run by the government. Learning about the silk worms and processing their cocoons was very interesting. They were selling silk quilts that were amazing, but I could not see spending our entire souvenir budget on me a quilt. I did get the girls each a beautiful silk dress, so we are ready for parties.

After that we had lunch. The other family is adventurous in their eating so our guide was pleased to oblige by ordering fish heads, spicy long beans, ma po tofu, shaved pork, and one beef dish, that was not nearly as spicy, since I admitted I was not quite as adventurous.

With our stomachs full, we headed to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. She warned us that we would walk non stop for about 2.5 hours and she was right. The lines to pass security were longer than any US citizen would stand, just to see a national treasure like the square. Thankfully our guide flashed her pass and knew some people in charge, and we were on the square within minutes. I was immediately overwhelmed by the enormity of the square and the vast number of significant historical events that had happened there. The area is huge and yet you could feel the presence of those who had tried to stand their ground there, outside the many government buildings. There is also Chairman Mao's tomb, which is open to the public each morning for a few hours, but your Chinese ID is required and enduring a line that was longer than the square itself.

You eventually make your way across the square to enter the gate that we are familiar with, where the giant picture of Chairman Mao is suspended. This is the first of many gates necessary to go through to get to the Forbidden City. So I was expected lush gardens and beautiful scenery inside, but instead, most of it was a series of huge pagodas, some recently restored, but all at the top of a long series of stairs. It's amazing to think that this was created in the 1400's and survives intact today. The final stop was the lush garden you think of, but I hate to admit, that between the crowds, the heat, and my back, I mainly just wanted to get back to the bus. I'll also blame it on jetlag.

There are plenty of pictures coming, I've just got to figure out how to upload them. I'm not used to being blocked from websites like google and Facebook so I'm having to find new routes to accomplish it.

We ended the day with dinner with the second family in our tour group, who had just arrived. Again, our guide did a great job of finding so many foods that my girls absolutely loved. I'm doing my best to try more than I ever have and admit the flavors have been so much better than anything we can get in Dallas.

Part of my reason for not being able to sleep is we are having trouble getting our donations to the orphanage shipped and the donation to the local orphanage picked up. Hopefully it will all be resolved today and I am especially appreciative to our church paying for the costs of shipping, since they expect it to be over $100 US.

Speaking of US dollars and the Chinese RMB, for some reason I can't do the math. I thought some ice cream last night was over $10, when it was only $1 and then I thought a phone case was $10 and it was over $30. Very glad I have 2 extremely bright children who access their calculators quickly to keep me from making too many blunders.

Today we are headed to the Great Wall, a portion that is considerably less crowded but takes a couple of hours to get there.

More later!
 

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Thank you for all you do

We are taking a deep breath before the next leg of our journey and wanted to update you on the response to our request for help.

You saw the need, you answered the call and as a result we have 2 big boxes of pajamas for the 800 children in the orphanage at Xi'an. Between the money you donated and those you bought, we are taking over 200 pairs of pajamas! We also have about 30 tubes of diaper rash cream for this same orphanage. This work is done through a group called Caring for China's children.

We also have over 30 bottles of baby vitamins for the orphanage in Beijing run by Love Without Boundaries. The vitamins are necessary to get the most sick well enough to endure surgeries for cleft palate/lip repair, heart defects, and so many others. Many of the children are severely anemic when brought to the orphanage.

Our special thanks go to good friends, Jamie and Rebecca who donated their miles for our dallas to Chicago trip. To my dad who donated his miles for business class seats. To my niece Marcie for a wonderful all American send off meal. To my sister Lisa and nieces Gillian and Darcey and our neighbors Pete and Rachel for taking care of our dogs. To our church and members who are providing for the expense of shipping the items to the orphanages as well as funds for pajamas and vitamins.

To everyone who is saying a prayer for our safety.

We love you and thanks!
Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android

Friday, May 16, 2014

Taking care of those who can't take care of themselves

When I traveled to China to adopt Grace, I had the great fortune of my sister, Jana going with me. She taught me to pack very light so we could fill our suitcases with things the children in the orphanages needed.

She was right. There were so many children and so many needs that the small amount of clothing, school supplies, and toiletries barely made a dent.

Before the trip to adopt Annabel, Grace and my nieces raised money to buy the children in the orphanage shoes. We also collected toothpaste, toothbrushes, yarn, and other items that were needed.

This time I plan to pack light again. There is a special need at the orphanage in Xi'an for summer pajamas for the babies, as well as diaper rash cream.

We want to help as many as we can so we are accepting gifts of new summer pajamas sized newborn to 3T, as well as diaper rash cream, to deliver to those who have not been adopted. If you are not in our area, but would like to make a donation to purchase these items, you can send it to my PayPal account, at jalocke2@sbcglobal.net.

Any amount is appreciated and it will all go to help those who can't help themselves.
Thank you.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Thankfulness for so many

Our trip is planned and the reservations are made! We are headed to China - soon. But we've had help getting there.

I continue to be amazed at the generosity and kindness of family and friends to the point that I'm at a loss for words.

Every kindness is noted and appreciated - starting with the people who buy our eggs (including those who paid for delivery, Robin). To those who have hired my girls to babysit so they will have spending money. To those who helped with my sale - both organizing and buying.

To those who generously donated their American Airlines miles, Rebecca and Jamie. They gave up their journey so we could take ours.

And for the donations from the people who want to remain nameless, but I know are watching our plans develop.

We thank you all for your help and you will travel in our hearts with us.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Why are we going to China?

This week I posted on Facebook looking for help on how to make international reservations to China. Thank goodness I have friends in the travel industry and even more that travel often and they were able to help. Some are wondering about our trip so I thought I would explain.

Recently I walked with my daughters and my nieces to a store in the neighborhood. As we walked, it dawned on me that I was probably walking on the exact same sidewalk in front of the store that has been there since we walked to the exact same location as kids. The store has changed but it is the same route we knew by heart from a very early age.

That started me thinking - I work each day at the hospital I was born in. I drive the streets that my parents did from before I was born. I visit the house I grew up in. I live next door to that house! The schools I went to are still in the neighborhood. I look in daily on my classmates lives on Facebook. My church is still standing in the same place.

But it is more than that.

I could drive the route to my grandparents' home in my sleep if needed. I can show you the houses they lived in. I can show you the place where my parents met.

Of course I know my siblings and their children. Beyond that I know my cousins, my aunts, my uncles. Thanks to Facebook, I know my 2nd and 3rd cousins as if we still got to go to Grandmommy's house for visits.

I know my history from before I was born. I know the doctor's name that delivered me, my pediatrician's name, my dentist's name.

My whole life story can be remembered.

But for my children, we know none of that.

We don't know where they were born or who was there, because we do not know their birth families. We don't know if they have siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, or grandparents. We don't know if they were born at home, in a hospital, in the city or in a village in the country. We don't know any of the circumstances of their birth and some
thing that still makes me cry is the space on their birth certificates that asks for parents' name and it says "unknown".

Both my daughters were older when I adopted them, Grace was 6 and Annabel was 11. They have a history in China. They had streets they walked to go to the store, friends in the neighborhood, classmates. But because they were children, they don't know where these people or these neighborhoods are. They come from a city of four times as many as Dallas. How is a 6 year old or an 11 year old supposed to know where those places are?

But they need to look, they need to explore, they need to talk to people. They need to see familiar sights, smell the smells, taste the food. They need to reconnect with the foster families that loved them.

Will we even find any of those people from their past? I don't know because I'm not sure they want to find them.

What I do know is they need this connection with the past to face the future and that's all I know for sure.

Monday, April 14, 2014

A special request for a special life

My heart is heavy and my thoughts are a mish mash of emotions today thinking about a dear family who has gone through a loss that is difficult to rationalize.
 
I live in a unique spot, next door to the house I grew up in, on the block where I spent my youth, my teen years, and returned to often. Our neighborhood has gone through the same cycles that so many urban neighborhoods have, as people fled to the suburbs for more? better? I'm not sure, but my parents were very satisfied where they were and did not leave. With all the younger families leaving, the homes with the older residents began to decline with the aging of their residents. As the neighborhood became more transient, regardless of how many people had bought or sold the houses, we still called the house by the names of the original owners who lived there.
 
That was until Zac and Heather moved in on the other side of my parents. They brought with them the same spirit of neighborliness that had once made our block such a special place to live. They brought with them chickens, and gardening, and bike riding, dumpster swimming, and sharing, and caring, and love. A path is now evident in my parent's grass as we made our way back and forth to each other's homes.
 
When it was announced that they were expecting their first baby, we were thrilled for them.
 
When little Roger William was born, he quickly acquired an extra set of great grandparents, aunts, and cousins from our family. His life was filled with love and adventure and the wonderment that only babies can possess. His smiles melted our hearts and we would feel blessed by them. At 7 months, he was beginning to realize that he could reach things for himself, to sit up and stand, and we were excited about the next steps he would reach.
 
But then the unthinkable happened and he did not wake up from his nap and his beautiful life ended too quickly.
 
The news was met with shock and disbelief, as I was sure I had misunderstood and the realization that it was true was met with such sadness for all the lives he had touched.
People ask, how? why? and for now those remain unknown. Instead the family wants to focus on the blessings received from such a beautiful life, no matter how short and they want others to focus on those things as well. They have asked others to focus on what they do know, that all of us benefit from kindness.
 
I'm borrowing the following from one of their good friends as she explains, "Being the altruistic people they are, Zac and Heather have asked that this be a day of kindness in memory of baby Roger. So, even if you don't know the Lytles, do a good deed today or perform some act of kindness in honor of Roger Lytle today. If you'd like, email rogerwilliamlytle@gmail.com to let Zac and Heather know what you did. They will read the messages to cheer themselves up when they are blue."
 
 
It's not about sandwiches! It's about my life!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Good news/bad news

I'm having a good news/bad news kind of day.

The alarm went off at the usual time, 5:50. My foggy brain did a quick check for what day it was and I finally figured out it was Saturday. Good news, right? Bad news, I had to get up.

Grace is at an art competition today and had to be in Coppell at 7:15.

We made it, in spite of the fog and I decided to go in with her.

The teacher asked if I could wait a minute and he could tell me what time she would be finished.

Oh good news! She's in the first group that starts at 8 and should be through by 9!

Great, right? It's about a 40 minute drive from our house, so I just need to find a place to hang out for an hour or so.

Bad news? In my haste to get out the door, I did not really dress to hang out at Starbucks. My girls will cringe when they realize.

Good news - I'm attending an intermediate class on essential oils today.

Bad news? It's at our house at 10 this morning. I'm hoping no one wears their white gloves since I planned to clean after I dropped Grace off!

We'll see!

Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android

Sunday, February 23, 2014

A rough time

The last couple of weeks have been hard and I'm thankful to say things finally seem to be improving.

A few weeks ago, Annabel got in the car and said something I had never heard her say, "I'm tired." I thought, no wonder, the basketball schedule had been grueling with 6 a.m. practices and games that lasted until 9 p.m. up to 5 days a week. I was tied too. Then a couple of days later she said it again. Both girls ended up home for 2 days with congestion, sore throat, etc in the middle of us having day after day of nasty weather that went from bad to worse.

We got back to our usual routine but I limited staying after school for activities. Then the next week, Annabel got up, teary eyed, a very rare sight, but I could not stay home with her because of work so I sent her on to school. When the family we carpool with called to say they were picking their daughter up early because she was sick I had her grab Annabel too and we headed to the doctor.

The possibility of mono came up and we went for blood work. I knew she was sick when she laid her head in my lap while we were waiting, something she had never done.

I couldn't stay home with her the next day either so, thankfully I have the world's best caregiver right next door, my mom. When the doctor called with the initial test results, it looked like mono for sure. I started to call my boss to explain that I might be out for 2 weeks with Annabel, but with a quick look at my calendar, I knew there was no way that could happen. The doctor called later to say the results for mono actually came back negative but keep her home another day and see if she bounces back.

The next day ended up with more bad weather and all the schools closed but ours so after getting Annabel situated, Grace to school, I ended up at work. By the weekend the weather got better so I let Annabel get out and enjoy the sun. On Sunday I was scheduled to be at a conference out of town, a once year opportunity that I've missed for the last 4 because I did not want to leave my girls. This time it was too late to cancel and the decision was made that I would go.

Monday and Tuesday her condition did not improve but I was sure if I could actually be home with her, I could get her well. Wednesday was very quiet and I was surprised at how badly she felt. I felt badly because it was the very first day I had gotten to stay with her, working on work, but at least I was there. On Thursday I decided we had to go back to the doctor, if for nothing else but a note to get her back to school after missing a week. We didn't get to see our doctor and the new one announced she was well and needed to get back to school. Really? She can't stay awake the whole day but we tried the next day and I was picking her up by 11, in tears because she felt so badly. I had to leave her with mom again and run back to work.

That weekend she began to complain about her legs hurting and we tried heating pads, ointments, oils, anything we could think of to help. Monday I was back at work but knew we had to do something and our doctor would not be back until Wednesday. Tuesday morning we went to the er. Everything I had read said this kind of pain was when you needed to seek help and by then I was getting fearful. Annabel has a congenital chronic illness and I was very concerned about that. Lots of tests later, with no specific diagnosis, we at least knew what it was not.

The next day I had to be back at work and left my parents in charge of taking her to her doctor, which was quite an experience for them all. More tests were ordered and a decision to try half days of school was reached. I'm glad to say she made them ok since I had to be at work. This weekend she has finally seemed like herself for the first time in 3 weeks. I've missed that terribly.

My girls have been sick before and both have had to have surgeries, but this was the first time there just didn't seem to be any improvement and there was nothing I could do. My heart goes to those dealing with this on a daily basis that goes on for months. I cannot imagine the pain of seeing your child in pain for so long.
Sent from Jerri's Yahoo Mail on Android

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Happy birthday!

Today's my birthday and in spite of my best efforts I can't get home as early as I wanted. I'm sitting in the Tampa, Florida airport having dinner in chili's by myself. Don't feel sorry for me being alone because it is only a temporary situation.

I've been to a conference on positive aging. Right now I feel like my brain is full of all the wisdom shared but the underlying theme of all the programs is that growing older is good or can be, and the biggest determinant of whether it is good is you, no life circumstances, no genetics, no riches, only you.

I'm not Pollyanna and an even worse pep talk giver, just ask Annabel (my advice to her consisted of the facts that they would probably lose but she was still expected to play).

One speaker talked about the need to find what we value and when we find that, we will work harder at taking care of that which we value. I like that.

What makes life harder is when we look at what others have and value it more than what we have.

My life is not perfect and I have my down times and the weather has not helped, but I have a good life with 2 amazing daughters, family and friends who love and care and I've reached an age where very little seems better than what I have.

Today is a bump in the road and dinner by myself, even on my birthday is no reason to grieve. I wish for those who are younger to find peace and value in what you have.

Sent from Jerri's Yahoo Mail on Android

Friday, February 7, 2014

Bad to great in a hurry!

I came dragging home tonight from work. It's been a rough week and by the time I pulled into our driveway, well I was spent. Before I could get out of the car my phone rang. It was Annabel, who has been very sick, calling to tell me to come to mom and dad's, rather than home. It wasn't until I got much closer that I saw the happy birthday streamers across the door.

Inside everyone was blowing horns, there were streamers, banners, and balloons, and a stack of presents. Inside one of this boxes was an incredible present from my girls, a Vera Bradley bag! Absolutely beautiful! Paid for by them! Borrowing a phrase from my grandmother, Lord I don't know what I've done to deserve all of this.

Then, even though that was more than enough, the doorbell rang and dinner was delivered compliments of my amazing niece, Marcie - lasagne, salad, and garlic bread! Delicious!

But wait, there's more - dessert! Homemade chocolate pie made by Marcie. And it was amazing! Very close to mom's, which is saying a lot!

They certainly know how to turn around a bad week!
Sent from Jerri's Yahoo Mail on Android

Monday, February 3, 2014

Returning to China

On August 7, 2008, the night before we were leaving China, coming home from adopting Annabel, I let Annabel call her foster family to tell them good bye. I did not intend to, but our guide in Nanchang had promised her that she could and so I agreed. I was completely unprepared for what happened next. Her foster father was not home and her reaction was so sorrowful, so mournful, that she cried for hours, inconsolable over the loss of being able to talk to him and tell him good bye, compounded by the loss of leaving the only world she knew and heading to a new life with a very overweight, red-faced, constantly sweating white woman and her other daughter. (Don't get sidetracked thinking I'm being too hard on myself, if you saw pictures from that trip you would agree.)

I knew heartache and I knew loss. We were still trying to recover from the loss of my sister, but this sadness hit so deeply that the only thing I knew to do was to start promising things in hopes of her seeing some brightness in her future. Of course you have to understand, I know NO Chinese and she knew no English.

But one of those things I promised was a return trip to China. I'm not sure how I did it but I made her understand enough that we would come back some day, soon, maybe when she was 14.

The years went quickly from 11 to 13 and I realized that returning when they were 14 (both girls are the same age from March to July) could cause some serious problems. One being, we were flat broke. I was still trying to recoup from the adoption expenses, plus the ear surgeries, the this and the that that make up daily life with 2 pre-teens. The other big problem, in my mind, was that in China, if you are not adopted by the age of 14, you are on your own. The government and any sponsors are no longer responsible for you. I could not risk Annabel thinking that we were taking her back to the orphanage, that this had just been an extended trip. I had to make sure she knew she had a forever family that would never desert her and so I pushed the plans back to go when they were 16.

Guess what?

This year they will both be 16.

It's really not a surprise that they will be 16 as that is what usually happens after you are 15, but somehow I feel even less prepared than ever. And in the meantime, heritage tours have become big business. I did a google search just to be sure I wasn't making this up and ended up with 47,000,000 results!

A heritage tour usually consists of seeing most or some of the more touristy sites. If you were adopted from China, even as an older child, the chance you ever took a sightseeing vacation would be rare, so you probably only saw the city you are from. These trips generally start in Beijing and then proceed to see the Great Wall of China, the Terra Cotta Warriors, the panda preserves, among other things, and usually end with a trip to your birth city. Both girls are from the same city, so that helps.

Trying to narrow down the right agency to use for this trip has been difficult, recognizing it is probably our one shot at doing it. The Chinese government sponsors some trips and pay the in country costs for the adoptees. There are some trips that give you credit for one child and others that only allow the credit if the child is under 12.

Then there are the dates of the trips. I've been to China in July and in September and I can tell you that both are HOT and being from Texas I know what hot is. July in Texas means you stay indoors or rush from one air conditioned place to another via air conditioned cars. In China, if you are trying to tour, it is a lot of walking, climbing, driving, and finally resting in places that cool it considerably less than what you are used to. So those trips that are only in July and August are out, that part was easy.

There are a few with great reputations and everyone that goes on the trips loves them, but looking at the price, I'm pretty sure they are more of the Cadillac type of trip. We just need a good Honda Civic trip so I finally narrowed it down to 2. One trip both girls would be covered for in China travel, the other just one. Neither trip covers us returning to the city they are from, Nanchang, neither covers international airfare, and neither covers all meals, but they both cover all the same tourist spots for almost the same price. One has you traveling between provinces on planes and the other on overnight trains. I finally printed both itineraries and looked at them day by day and realized that the one that is a little cheaper has us seeing everything in about half the time that the other one takes. One memory that stands out from both trips is the extreme jet lag and realizing that we would basically be running all day every day helped me decide to rule that trip out.

So I have finally picked the tour company to see the tourist sites. Now I just need to pick the company to help us in our return to Nanchang. This normally is not a problem but we have 2 foster families we want to see and really don't care if we see the orphanage, or so I thought. Then I heard about some who visit the orphanage and it is turned into a great celebration and you are given the chance to see all your childrens' files that have never been shared before. Then both girls mentioned they might be interested in going there. One catch - it costs to visit the orphanage and not a small amount either, it varies from $350 - $600! For a visit! Then I thought we might do volunteer work there. That costs even more! It can run $700 - $900 to volunteer!!

Then we have another problem. Both girls were with foster families, but each family is completely different. One works to stay in touch and sends huge boxes of clothes and food for the holidays. The other has made contact maybe 2 -3 times in the last 5 years. I have no reason to think that it will be different when we are there, but it will surely cause some really hurt feelings. Blah.

So now I am trying to find a company that understands how delicate this visit will/might be, that we don't necessarily want to pay to see the orphanage, but would if it did not cost so much, and to do that, I have about 6 more companies to decide between. I keep trying to find that one that seems sensitive to what we might be facing. So far none have.

Oh I'm so confused! And don't even get me started on trying to find the international airfare. When I do a search, it can fluctuate between $1700 and $4200 each!

I know we are going, but I'm not sure how and when.

I'm wondering if there are still slow boats that go that way??

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Do not try this at home!

Yesterday as I was trying to get ready for work, the static electricity in my hair was so bad I could not keep it out of my nose, eyes, or mouth. Out of desperation I grabbed my little jar of hair paste? Or is it glue? Regardless of the name, I proceeded to apply a liberal amount to control the flyaways, instead of the small amount that was recommended. As a result I could easily shape my hair into a DQ swirl or that of Kip's Big Boy. My first thought was to go back and wash it but there was no time so I grabbed a clippie and pulled it into an unattractive arrangement instead.

At work I was discussing the problem with a co-worker who mentioned the benefit of color in providing texture to her hair. An idea was planted.

It's been an unusual week as both girls have been sick and I've been dragging. I had put dinner in the crock pot before I left so at least that was taken care of pretty easily. I had bought some homeopathic medicine that my niece recommended and was feeling better than I had in days so I announced I was going to color my hair.

Usually I have Grace to accompany me on these quests but all she felt like doing was going back to bed so I started on my own with the color I had on hand, which ended up being a for highlights. I could not be deterred even when I realized the instructions were missing.

About the time I think I should wash it out Grace observed that I had missed a large portion of the back of my head. I slathered on some back there about the time I looked closely at the front. The color coming through was not necessarily human or at least not natural. I jumped in the shower, wrapped it up in a towel and went to tell the girls goodnight. I was trying to delay the big "reveal" as long as I could.

When the towel finally came off I stood there looking in the mirror horrified by what I saw - basically the crown of my head was the color of pumpkin souffle and the rest was about my usual shade. In a moment of panic I tried to decide if I should make an emergency trip to Walgreen then or wait until morning and then decide. By then I was too tired to go any further and hoped I would wake up to find it was a bad dream.

No such luck, so after I dropped the girls off for carpool I raced to Walgreen. Trying to pick a hair color from a box with no way of comparing it to your hair is really difficult. I finally "borrowed" a mirror from their hair accessories display and tried to make a good decision. I was also faced with choosing between a product that was $3.49 up to $14.99 so of course I chose the $3.49 box.

I hurried home, read the instructions, did the application, then waited. As I got in the shower I wondered where I could find a stylist who could rescue me that early if I ended up with another crazy color. The color included a deep conditioner which made it feel pretty good but when I used the shampoo my hair became a brillo pad. Oh dear, a whole new set of issues. After 6 pumps of conditioner I finally had it somewhat under control.

The result? I still see some pumpkin color but at least the rest isn't so bad.

Don't try this at home!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Christmas, a little late.

Back in October I reminded myself that I really should get started on Christmas because by the time Thanksgiving gets here, it's too late. Christmas always gets be here before I can even blink an eye. So I ordered some things for my girls, on line, on a special sale. I was feeling pretty good about my early start until they both needed what I had ordered, and quickly had to dig into my Christmas stash. The worse part was the clothes did not fit so I was actually in the negative because we had to run buy the things they needed then.

My intention was to buy more on line but.... ok there was never enough time at night to peruse websites to find the best prices, with the correct sizes in the color desired to actually hit the submit order button to get an early start. And shopping for clothes on line can be overwhelming!

So Thanksgiving came and we got to spend some great time with family but zero on shopping. That's ok I thought, we have no commitments for the first Saturday in December, I'll get a good deal of it taken care of then.

What I failed to factor in was an ice storm that would paralyze the city for the majority of the next week. The ice storm also impacted my brilliant planning to hold all my Christmas parties for the seniors that first week, so we entered the second week with me scrambling to reschedule those parties and by the time the weekend came all interest in shopping was gone and instead we just went to parties.

Not a problem, I work best under pressure, I still had one more Saturday and I knew I could do it.

On Friday night, Grace and I dropped Annabel off at a Christmas party, and even though I was somewhat under the weather, we hit the stores. We needed to buy a little something for everyone in our family, but I took mom's brilliant idea and looked for a long sleeve t-shirt for each person. I know it's not much but something everyone could use and that was my goal. We filled up our buggy at one store then pressed on to the next. In less then two hours we had a lot of presents bought.

The next morning, Saturday, my goal was to finish for my girls and my parents. I set the alarm early and when it went off so did the balance in my head. The room seemed to be spinning one way and my head the other. Unless I was laying flat I felt like a gyroscope. I took medicine, I used essential oils, I tried deep breathing but nothing was working. I finally could raise my head just enough to put in a quick order with Amazon, but it did not complete my list.

By Monday I had developed something I had never had before - a toothache. I already had an appointment with the dentist to finish up a crown and by the time I got in his chair I was crying from the pain. I'm generally not a wimp but this was fierce. By the time I left they had deadened my mouth for the third or fourth time, handed me a prescription for antibiotics and pain pills, and with my hair and shirt sopping wet from tears, tried one more time to go shopping for my girls.

It was not a successful excursion and I ended up at the drug store instead.

Somehow I managed to get out the next morning and finished as quickly as I could before the pain pill wore off and thanks to everyone pulling together, we managed to host our family party that night, none of which could have happened without all that Grace and Annabel did.

Do you see why I was so determined to get presents for them? As well as the rest of my family? They are always there to rescue me.
Sent from Jerri's Yahoo Mail on Android which is actually a kindle fire that my daughters saved up their babysitting money to buy me for Christmas