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??