Sunday, June 21, 2015

Father's Day - a special thank you to my dad


Today is Father's Day and anyone who knows us personally, know how important my dad is in the lives of so many, from our family to the neighborhood, to our church, to others as far away as Africa, Australia, Switzerland, and beyond.

But he holds a very special place in our lives.

When I decided to adopt, I went into it with both eyes open, but that doesn't mean I could see very well.

I was convinced that I could do all and be all to my girls and of course, I had no clue what that meant. Shortly before adopting Annabel and not very long after my sister passed away, we moved next door to mom and dad. At the time, I thought it would mainly benefit them. I had no idea how much my girls would need the love, the influence, the teaching, the camaraderie, the direction, all the things that my dad has provided to them. He is patient and kind, willing to help rescue us in a thousand situations. He never turns us down and is always there ready to listen and give help any way he can.

The picture above is one of his happiest days. Last July 4, he baptized all of these girls, all of his 2nd set of granddaughters. He continues to teach and lead in ways that are so much more important than anything they can ever learn in a class.

Thank you dad for being there for all of us.

Monday, April 20, 2015

How to get your drivers license and stop all traffic!

I have decided we cannot go anywhere without it turning into an event. I blame this on my parents, who can somehow manage to involve the majority of store personnel and finally the manager into buying almost anything. They all end up best of friends, patting each other on the back, and mom promising to send Christmas cards. A slight attempt to find someone else to blame for our antics.

When selecting a behind the wheel class, the primary motivator was money. Trying to do two at once while trying to save for our trip to China might have pushed me into selecting a very subpar school, so much so, that even after completing the class, neither felt comfortable driving. For the next year or so, driving was limited to very short trips in the neighborhood.

They finally felt more motivated when two things happened: Their cousin Gillian got her license and when I explained that if they really wanted to do certain things, they would have to be able to drive themselves, as I was resigning as the driver.

If you have not gotten a driver’s license recently you might not realize just how difficult and complicated it is and how long in advance you must make a reservation for the test Trying to juggle three people's scheduling and finding an agreeable date, pushed the reservation to April 1, yes, April Fool's Day.

The night before I was looking on line at all the paperwork required to take with us to prove their completion of the course work, citizenship, enrollment in school (yes that is required, proof that you attend school if you are under 18), among other details when I ran across a notice that as of April 1, 2015, additional training was required, even if you had completed all the training. A two-hour class of video after video of horrible wrecks that caused deaths and injuries from distracted teenage driving, which was available on line, and they were able to complete before our 3:30 appointment, which required us to be there at 2:30 to register.

Because I never know when we will run into problems, I even packed their birth certificates, which are in Chinese, the adoption decree, also in Chinese, and their Certificates of Citizenship. You can never assume that someone in authority will suddenly HAVE to see it to prove our relationship.

We get to the location, which proved to be one of the smallest offices I have ever seen for a public facility. The place was packed with all ages needing a variety of license and ID cards from the State of Texas. It took a long time to even check in and we were presented with even more paperwork to complete (which later we were told was wrong and we had to do it again), then take a chair, which there weren't any, and wait for our number.

The numbering system is not in order. I am guessing if you are getting a renewal, you are in one queue, but if you need an ID card, you are in another, and commercial in another. Who knows! Anyway, we hovered outside the door of the only restroom in the place, a good unisex facility that had obviously seen better days. After an hour of waiting and our 3:30 appointment looming, both girls started to panic that we had never been called. 

I try to find anyone whose eye I can catch to confirm that they know we are here and why we are here and that our appointment time has come and gone. The best I got was a nod, which I guess, was good enough.

Finally, Grace's number was called and we made our way to the front and away from our friend the toilet. The woman behind the counter was true to everyone's idea of a DMV employee and she gruffly barked orders of documents she needed. On the very last one, the VOE or verification of enrollment, I saw the color drain from Grace's face as she realized that was still at home in her backpack. 

I could tell the woman realized it was an honest mistake and I actually thought she would acquiesce and allow her to proceed but it is a state requirement and her hands were tied. I offered for the school to fax, could we bring it later, could we ????? I am looking at the giant State of Texas clocks to see that it is 3:50, they close at 5:00, we live about 30 minutes away, trying to do some quick math and then come up with the only possible solution.

I can call my dad and have him bring them to us.

The woman looked skeptical and barked, if he can be here no later than 4:15, they would process them. 

You have to understand how long it took to get the appointment, how hard to get off from work, and then for them to get out of school, the thought of starting over made me make the call to dad.

Dad, can you go into our house, look in Grace's laptop bag, finding something that says VOE and bring to South Grand Prairie in less than 25 minutes?

For those who know my dad, you know he said sure.

Within 2 minutes, he calls and says, what bag?

I mentally make a quick inventory of the number of bags we have hanging on our kitchen table at any one point and realize I am not surprised he cannot tell which one. Nevertheless, after much trial and error, he found the right one, grabbed mom, and they raced to distance that originally took me 30 minutes to drive, and they made it in 15.

There have been many times that I have looked up and seen my parents coming and this is just one more of those. I have never been more relieved since he actually made it with 5 minutes to spare. 

We race back in, catch the girl's eye, listen to another person there tear into a tirade about waiting 5 minutes, and patiently waited our turn. 

At this point we have two DMV clerks processing each person's documents as fast as they can; I am signing where I need to, then one of them whispers for me to grab one daughter, get the car, and meet her in the back as quickly as possible.

I did not ask questions and Grace and I ran while Annabel finished fingerprints, eye exams, and pictures. 

The clerk was in the back flagging us down and showed us exactly where to line up. She then explained that she was trying to get us in before the woman whose impatience proved to be the tip of the iceberg for that clerk and our patience had paid off.

Grace went first and to hear her tell it, it was like a drivers ed lesson with people turning left from the right lane, directly in front of her, kids darting into the street, and at the end, he talked to her for a really long time in the car. All I could do was stand outside and pray. She finally emerged victorious and it was Annabel's turn.

All the anxiety leading up to this point was not helping Annabel and the first thing she told the evaluator was that this would probably be the scariest ride he had ever been on. At the end of the end of her test, it seemed like it took even longer and he was pointing and drawing and talking to her, but she finally emerged victorious too. 

We three had to race back into the DMV and get the final processing taken care of. By the time we left, I wanted to hug everyone involved and get their addresses to send Christmas cards. I was so thankful for the many kindnesses they showed to get us through the process, knowing that they probably do turn others away who present the same issues.


But of course, I have to thank Dad the most, one more time of him rescuing us!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Where do we go next? College?

In the Spring semester of my junior year in high school, I'm pretty sure my biggest worry was whether or not I would get selected again to be a twirler with the band. I don't remember fretting about college, ACT, SAT, career choices, standing in my class, or any of the things that seem to be worrying my daughters on a daily basis.

I always say that when I went to college, there were really only two choices for women - either teaching or nursing and since I was scared of the sight of blood, then I chose teaching. There was no career counseling or if there was, I did not know to access it, so when I graduated I realized the market was flooded with teacher applicants. It took nine months to find a job and the salary was a whopping $8600 a year! I lasted a whole 4.5 years teaching before I decided I wanted to earn more money and quit teaching and never looked back! At one point in my life, I quit a good paying job, went back for my masters degree and still did not do any exploration as to what this new career would pay. So when I graduated after 2.5 years, I was earning about $20,000 less per year! Brilliant, huh? Loved the job, just couldn't afford to spit with the earnings though.

My girls are looking at salary as a primary determinant in their career choices. They realize our money is always tight and they would prefer to do something to allow them to do more. Salary is not the only deciding factor, of course, but they do see the difference it makes.

My sister had gone to school at Abilene Christian and since I always did what she did, I guess I just assumed I would go there too. I had seen the college when we dropped her off and knew of the one where my dad had attended years before and I think that was my extent of college visits.

The school my daughters go to really emphasizes that everyone go to college so they have taken them to visit a number of college campuses for a visit. They have seen a few that they liked, but none seem to be the perfect match. We hope to visit some other campuses this week during spring break, so they can quit stressing over it.

I found out that all I needed to take was the ACT test and after taking the PSAT, took the test. I did not know about taking prep classes, buying study guides, and the Internet was decades away! My girls worry because most of their classmates have been in a SAT prep class since they were freshmen! When we had a slumber party, one girl had to leave at 6:00 am to attend her prep class! So far we've tried a prep class, but with their schedules, there really was no time to add another class of 4 hours on Saturdays, so we have just invested in a few of the study guide books. Grace is registered to take the test this spring, but Annabel thinks she would like to wait a while.

Not until I was about to graduate, did it dawn on me that my grades would influence anything. I probably should have known that earlier so maybe I would have tried harder. This ignorance followed me to college where until I was ready to graduate, did not know that you could graduate with a special declaration of Magna cum laude, summa cum laude, and cum laude, which surprisingly I received. As competitive as I am, I surely would have worked harder to get a higher rank. The awareness of these honors did follow me to my master's degree, where I worked hard to get straight A's only to find out you don't get those honors! Lesson learned too late.

My girls check on their grades regularly. The school does not allow them to know their class ranking until their senior year, but they know if they are in the top 25%, 50%, and 75%. They fret over this regularly as well. I'm pretty sure I graduated 42 in my class, but that means nothing since I don't know how many were in my class!
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I hope to help my girls avoid some of my errors I made in my decisions, but I know each one of those decisions I made, finally led me to them, so I don't regret any of them. I just hope I can be like my parents and accept the decisions they choose as mine did for me. None of us have a looking glass to see how each decision will lead to the next.