Sunday, May 31, 2009

Images of Meizhou, China - Emily's Homeland. Thanks, Google Images!

What else do you do at midnight on a Sunday when you're finishing up (hopefully) the final revision of your thesis and concluding the design of the accompanying Power Point demonstration?

You think to yourself, "Hmmmm. I'm still in the mood to push some buttons. Let's see. What have I NOT done yet. Oh yeah. I know. I've not pulled up images of Meizhou, China from Google. Let's do that. Sleep can wait."

Ding dong. Yawn.

I'm sure the images are not all encompassing...meaning I'm smart enough to know that pictures in isolation are not representative of the entire location (showing very poor and/or very elaborate conditions). Even I take a decent picture outside with sunglasses on from 50 feet away.


Every now and then I talk of going back to China one day to tour and experience the culture. Just today Emily and I were talking about China, and she said she does not want to go back. I've assured her we'd just visit, eat the food, see the sites -- but today it's a no go. At other times she's said that she would like to visit but I cannot take an entire entourage of people with us...choose a few folks on the trip. That's enough.

Other adoptive moms say that it's best to wait about 5-ish years before you attempt a Homeland Tour of sorts. The children have to process what all has happened in their lives and make their own connections with China -- the place of their birth. The place of their beginnings.

I'll play it by ear. I have no plans to travel back to China anytime in the near future. BUT...when I do, I hope to go to Meizhou where she lived and was cared for. We'll take our own photographs.

Not Representative of the Entire Area, But...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Put Me On an Iceberg and Set Me Out to Sea...I Was Done!

Well, well. Another momentous occasion in the life of the Divine Miss Em. As Jethro Bodine on the Beverly Hillbillies would've said: "She's a kindergarten grad-gee-it. She knows her double naughts and all."

The big hoorah took place last Friday. I was sitting on the front row of the library-slash-auditorium with Nanny Carol, Ayi Cookie, and Kourtney (a.k.a. Monkey). When the little marchin' in song started playing, I lost it.

Soooo cheesey and so special all at the same time. It was the song from Aladdin, A Whole New World:

A whole new world
A dazzling place I never knew
But when I'm way up here
It's crystal clear
That now I'm in a whole new world with you

A whole new world
Don't you dare close your eyes
A hundred thousand things to see
Hold your breath - it gets better
I'm like a shooting star
I've come so far
I can't go back to where I used to be

A whole new world
Every turn a surprise
With new horizons to pursue
Every moment red-letter
I'll chase them anywhere
There's time to spare
Let me share this whole new world
with you

I've always admired people who could hold back the tears at critical times. I do not happen to be one of those kind of folks. Not sure why. My mom has repeatedly told me my cup was on "spillover" at any given moment. She said I was the only adult she knew who cried during the movie Babe when the little pig sang, "La, la, la. La, la, la. La, la, la, la, laaaa...."

I cannot argue with reality.

But I just thought last Friday morning how appropriate those words were for Emily's life and how it is a whole new world for both of us -- especially HER. Of course, it could've been the words to a Hunt's Ketchup commercial and I'd a likely found s-o-m-e similarity therein to relate to emotions and circumstances.

Here I was all sentimental and sweet taking pics with the digital camera of this adorable little almond-eyed girl with long bouncy hair and the cutest white bow set atop her precious head. Then it happened.

I clicked to take a picture and the camera said, "Low battery. Goodbye." Goodbye?! Goodbye?! Poof. It no longer worked. It was then I thought, "Uh. Yep. I believe I WILL take up cussin'!!" Grrrrr. Let's see. I'll start with A-words and work my way thru the alphabet. I could think of an A-word.

Then I got a grip. Looked over at Kourtney & her digital camera like General Patton would've confronted his troops, breathed out a deep sigh, and said, "Kourtney. It's all up to you now!"

Needless to say, she got pictures as you can see.

So there I sat thinking back over all the many challenges Emily has confronted and conquered during the last...let me count on my fingers...8 months. Then it truly hit me that she's been overcoming obstacles all her precious little life. She's experienced more in her time on this earth than many (not all) children in this country will ever have to face.

EVERY child is a gift from God as the Bible says. Last Friday mine was all wrapped up in a darlin' pink dress with roses and a big old white bow -- and proud as can be to have a family and an audience there to celebrate this milestone in her life.

Emily and Her Kindergarten Teacher - Mrs. H.

Ah...Suzanne, NBCT. Kindergarten Teacher Fabuloso - and
humble to the core. She's a wonderful example of what
teachers are at their very best. She helped me thru
my National Boards with constant assistance, encouragement,
and prayers and has embraced Emily
with her heart each day in her classroom. Suzanne was at the
airport when we arrived home from China and been
hand holdin' ever since. How blessed am I to have educators
and friends like this?!
Thank you, thank you, thank you. I am forever grateful.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Ahhhh....One of the Most Talked About Topics of My China Trip...The Squatty Potty.

I'm on a kick posting some odd photos about my trip to China. Some of these pics came from other sources...but they represent the memorable times I had overseas.
Folks love to talk about these squatty pottys. You never know when or where you might find them as you are out and about in the People's Republic of China -- so you just have to be ready.
I did use one when we were at the zoo in Guangzhou. Do you see a toilet paper roll in the pic? Negative. Based on what others who'd BTDT told me, I was prepared -- thus the scientific process of removing the cardboard cylinder from a roll of t.p. and squishing the entire pile of tissue down to fit into my purse...along with the rest of my life stashed in there and being toted around on my body. The Public Potty Police in PRC do not provide toiletries.
When I was finished and re-joined my group, my 50,000 dollar dufus question was, "Which way do you face as you squat...toward the wall or the door?"
One person's brilliant response was, "ANY ole way you can hit the target!!"
Mission Accomplished.

The DUMP Where We Stayed in China. Kidding. It Was Paradise!

My agency had us stay here. The Westin is located in the high-end business/shopping district of Guangzhou. It is within walking distance -- as in about 2 doors down -- from the U.S. Consulate's office. That's where we all took oaths, signed papers, and likely turned ourselves in as being Tibetan sympathizers. Who knows?! There were 7 banks within eyeball view but NONE who wanted to exchange our American money for Chinese currency. When we finally found a bank who would deal with us -- thanks to an adoptive mom who is of Chinese heritage & language...and VERY cute -- I remember just standing at the counter handing the teller gobs of money and being at their mercy. The guards with sub-machine guns standing 3 1/2 feet from me gave me that warm, fuzzy all over kinda feeling. Let's just say they did NOT respond to kind smiles and head nodding. I should've sent them a Christmas card.

I traveled to China with TWO money belts tucked underneath my, my...uh...well, my underwear. One alone held $5,000 in crisp, new $100.00 bills that I'd ordered from the Federal Reserve Treasury in Atlanta - necessary for gov't transactions. On the trip over, whenever I'd go to the bathroom on the plane or in an airport, I'd have to hold the belts around my waist and pray I didn't flush any of the contents down the potty. Between those, my wear-able purse, my passport/i.d./and ticket holder, U.S. gov't paperwork, Chinese documents to be turned in while in China, some of Emily's clothes (in case luggage was lost), some of my clothes (for the same reason), EVERY known medication and antibiotic that could possibly be needed in a foreign country for my soon-to-be child and/or me...let's just say I was on heightened alert. There was no room for error. Thank goodness Christy was with me. Phew.

Every adoptive parent can relate to the paragraphs above. BTDT, huh? Goin' over I kept up with all that stuff. Comin' back...I wrangled a confused and bewildered 7 y/o little girl. I looked nothing like her. Didn't talk like her. She had to be wondering just exactly WHY was I putting her on this plane and for what reasons???

It is, however, the trip of a lifetime.

I plan to go back someday and take Emily to experience some of the sights, sounds, and people of her homeland.

Talk About Customer Service...Oh My. I Didn't Even Press the Button for An Elevator. THEY Did It All (and did I EVER pay for it!! Ha.)

Westin Hotel Bedroom. I Didn't Know What to Push or Pull to Close or Open. Yin and Yang at Its Finest!

Where We Ate Breakfast Every Morning. Like I Said Before: A 5 Star Hotel and I Wouldn't Even Drink the Water. Didn't Trust ANY Water Not Bottled!!

Shamian Island in Guangzhou - China: The Famous Banyan Tree. They're Everywhere.

Christy, Emily, and I walked around this island -- shopped, ate, drank Starbucks, dodged the rain, fed fish, watched the fan dancing senior citizens, admired sculptures, chatted with folks who had adopted -- either on their 1st child or their 4th from China, compared 'war' stories, & took comfort in sharing the experience with others from around the United States.

It was on this island where I took Emily to a doctor's clinic for repeated check ups on her ears. When I first got there, I was crying, not knowing where to go, what to do, and out of the come my travel group companions Sherrie, Dick, and their new little boy, Samm. They'd come to tour the island. I ran into them and they totally took me & Christy into their care and helped me get Emily seen by a doctor in the clinic. Love these folks!! We stay in touch and have already arranged the marriage of their son and my daughter. Case closed. This just makes life easier. So there.

At the famous White Swan hotel, we met up with Pam and Cheng Cheng for dinner. I'd never met Pam until standing in line in an American airport, again at another airport in Japan, and then here on Shamian Island in China. She was adopting her adorable 3rd child, Alex a.k.a. Cheng Cheng. Pam actually lives within one mile of my house here in the sunny south, but I got to know her on the other side of the world. Talk about miraculous connections...Emily and I have a special place in our hearts for this little fella and his family.

Shamian Island - Back of Lucy's Restaurant. Ah. I remember it well!!

Shamian Island - Street Corner

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

I Come from a L-O-O-O-N-G Line of Good Lookers. Happy Mother's Day, Mom!!

Yep. This is my gene pool.

Precious women who have influenced my life either before and/or after I was born.

The two pioneer-type, hard-workin' women on the far left - great/great and great grandmother(s)...I never knew them. I favor Bachelorette #1 in my body design. Of this I'm sure. My calves bear a strong resemblance to those of great grandmother sitting to the right of her. I wish I'd known them, but if I had, I'd be very old or likely be dead right'll do for now to just hear bits and pieces about their lives from relatives who've known stories about them.

The next Sista-in-Line, 3rd from the left, is my Grandmother, Nana. I knew her and loved her dearly although I always figured she'd pop me upside my booty should she ever get the notion. She would give me a quarter and send me & my brothers to the shopping center up the street from her house for a treat. We usually ended up at the bakery there. I'm from the old school. I knew when I grew up I would not go on the Dr. Phil show and trace my weight issues all the way back to her. Why bother. I could always blame my mother. Kidding.

Which leads me to the next point: My Mom, a.k.a. Nanny Carol, Miss Clairol, Sherelle. That's the little cutie pie sitting at the end of the row. She doesn't look much different from that today -- just a more grown up version of the child. I think she's the most beautiful woman I've ever met.

My mother is the Carton Queen if ever one lived. Erma Bombeck wrote about her mother being the same way. (As I've told others...if I'm ever humorous, then likely I'm plagiarizing.) In simple English, my mom's a box saver. She's evangelistic about her ability to hold on to boxes for decades on end. December is her finest hour. Want to wrap a piano? My mom's got a box for it. I throw boxes away and she gives me that, "Lord-knows-I-did-the-best-I-could" look. She's like a minesweeper at birthday and holiday functions. Honestly, I think she'd pull boxes from a burning fire -- singe marks and all. One of the saddest eras of her life is when she realized stores were shredding their boxes and no longer keeping them out back by the dumpster.

On the truthful side, I've told folks when all of life is said and done the overriding lesson I've learned from my mother is "forgiveness". I won't go into all the stories or why. She'd tell you SHE'S the one who has always needed forgiveness.

Once she was hit head on by a car, nose practically came off her face, forehead and eyebrows peeled backwards, and some other complications. Did she complain? Heck no. Not her style. Was she appreciative to be alive? Yes. Later thru the years when THAT person (who hit her) had his house flood, she was concerned about him. Genuinely cared about his well being.

The foundation of her character: a love for a Heavenly Father who first forgave her and sent His Son to die for her. She radiates this 24/7 by the example of the life she leads. You cannot escape the impact that she has on others as she lives a life that's not been incredibly easy -- but it has been blessed.

Is she funny? Oh my. Once when completing an adoption reference application for me, one of the questions was, "Does Vicki have a gambling problem? Does she use drugs?"
Her answer, "She doesn't have a gambling problem but she SURE pushes her luck with me!! As for drugs, I couldn't tell. She acts so goofy all the time I wouldn't know if she was high or not."

This was the MOCK, MOCK copy/application she did just for me to make me laugh. The "for REAL" application that was mailed in to the adoption agency made me cry. This one, however, made me roll on the floor and nearly.....I won't say. My mother HATES for me to finish that statement.

Does Emily adore Nanny Carol? You bet. Emily tells her she has "circle hair" -- the roundish, bouffant kinda hair whipped up at the beauty shop. When Em finished a round of shots at the doctor's office where did she want to go? To Nanny Carol's house. 'Nuff said.

Do we absolutely appreciate her for everything she's done? Yes...but I don't show it enough. I need forgiveness. I feel certain I have it.

So from two of your biggest female fans who live 5 houses up the street -- Happy Mother's Day. We love ya.
Vicki and Emily

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

If You're Goin' to Heaven or Hell, You've Got to Go Thru Atlanta to Get There...

...or at least that's how it is in the deep south. I did fly several hours out of the way to that Delta Airline hub in -- as I call it -- "Hotlanta" just to turn right back around and fly over (nearly) the very same airspace to head to Los Angeles. Thus the title of this post.

Why did I write all that?

I have no idea.

I've been talking to Emily about Mother's Day and how 'children' have to make a big hoopla over their mothers and grandmothers. Seriously - I have had to work with her and help her understand about my birthday, Nanny Carol's b'day, and other formal giving occasions.

See...Nanny Carol bought some winter gloves for Emily to give to me for my b'day back in December, but when the time came to give them, Em hemmed and hawed saying, "These from Nanny Carol. These not from me." It's not that she's un-giving (hmmmmm....coining a new word), it's just that she's having to learn the whole concept about celebrating a person's special day. Granted, she had only been in the country right around 3 months when these b'days and Christmas rolled around. It's only understandable that she is having to be Americanized into how we do things in these parts.

She's getting it, BUT she does have to be taught. She's not grown up with these rituals and traditions. It's my job to teach her.

So I'm telling her about Mother's Day/Grandmother's Day (as she also referenced it b/c of my talking about Nanny Carol) and I lie not. The next thing out of her mouth was, "They no Children's Day?"

I thought to myself, "Hmpf. Didn't take her long to figure that out...did it?"

I explained how we celebrate children e-v-e-r-y day. Nope. Not buyin' it.

Well, she finished her Bible class last Sunday night and will be 'moved up' to the next grade/class in the fall. Guess what's on the agenda for tomorrow night? You got it. We're CELEBRATING her accomplishment as a child. Out to eat. She's been promoted. Happy Children's Day. I reckon we'll celebrate once again when she gets promoted from kindergarten to 1st grade next week.

And what is she doing for Mother's Day/Grandmother's Day? She decided she will make us a card b/c I told her that we much prefer her beautiful cards to the store bought ones. Inside the cards she plans to tuck a couple a dollars to buy (interpret: to apply toward) our Sunday meal when we eat out.

I'm a Dave Ramsey financial kinda girl -- or at least in theory. Emily has a clear glass creamer, sugar container, and a glass cup (all from a set of drinking ware that some folks gave me when their parents broke up the household due to older age/death). The 3 lovely containers hold money -- bunches of $1.00 bills. One holds $$ for tithing, one holds for saving, and one holds money for spending. This is money she's accumulated from b'day & Easter gifts, etc. She'll use a few dollars from the 'spending' cup to "treat" us to lunch and celebrate. This will be a very tangible learning experience b/c she's chosen what to give and in what way to do so...with her own resources.

We shall see.

Since I've mentioned death twice already, I guess I sorta subliminally know why I did title the post as is. Monday afternoon brought an unexpected loss to my life (...and don't laugh too much b/c I'm kinda serious). Big Bird, the who-knows-how-old Cockatiel, passed away. He could've been 20+ y/o. Not sure. He and my parakeet, Boogie Woogie, lived in a big ole cage in my classroom at school. Both had to be given up by their owners so I guess you could say they were rescue birds. Years back, Big Bird's mom owner had moved to heaven, and his dad owner was placed in a nursing home. Thus, he became my charge & my little buddy. He was a rascal. I'd open the cage door and let him crawl around all over the cage. He liked me but would not hesitate to bite the stew out of my finger if he deemed it necessary. My students loved him. My principal tolerated him. And now I miss him.

I affectionately called him Siren Sam. He could hear a police car, name it...from miles away -- long before anyone else in the room noticed it. He was better than smoke alarm any day.

Seems like his little heart just gave out. He was fine one moment and literally gone the next. Emily hasn't realized it yet but she will soon enough.

Maybe that's what got me thinkin' about heaven, hell, and all that. Who knows?!

So...we luv ya, Big Bird. We'll miss ya. Hope you made it thru the Atlanta airport without any glitches.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Emily & Miah - Two Girls Who Arrived Home at Older Ages

This is Emily and Miah. Miss Miah-girl belongs to Betsy, a.k.a. Mother Teresa. She (and fun hubbie/daddy Mr. Ira) have got a boatload of kiddos who are absolutely precious. She's precious herself. (The "p" word: VERY southern descriptive).
Anyhoo, both of these girls came into our hearts and homes at older ages than most other little darlings from China.
How precious are THEY?
Betsy consulted w/me several times on the telly before I ever left to meet Emily -- advice about an older daughter, adjustments, how to keep your sanity or at least attempt to.
When I first touched down on American soil after being in The People's Republic of China, Betsy's house was one of the first I visited. She welcomed me with open arms and no judgment. I marveled that SHE had a little girl who was speaking English, but then again...Miah had already been in the U.S. for about a year. It was just one of those "aha moments" -- where I thought, "Oh how wonderful. They can communicate!" Like Emily and I never would?! Duh. Jet lag.
But...a few weeks back we celebrated Miah's birthday. We don't often get together, but I think Emily reallllllly likes having a buddy who is closer in her age -- another little girl with somewhat of the same type story. I know I like it. They're not as far off track regarding language development, school/grade placement as they are with the wee ones who joined forever families at the baby ages. However, Emily loves and adores EACH of those younger ones, too.
Based on the photo, I would say PINK was the color of the day. Wouldn't you? I'm so glad they both like playing with baby dolls and all the nine million accessories that accompany that toy in particular. (Can you tell we're hoping to keep them young, innocent, and clueless about "older" girl things as long as we can?!)
We all went out to eat Mexican food after Ira whirled us around in circles in the "I think I'm gonna puke swing" in their backyard. Never again - once was enough for 2 lifetimes.
And it happened. Just as I've predicted: Emily and Miah are in the backseat of my 2009 Black Roadster Mercedes Benz Coupe (Joke: Toyota...bottom of the line. Think 'tuna can on wheels'.)...and one of them looks at the other and asks,
"Are you from China? I'm from China?"
"You from China? MY China?"
I love it.