Tuesday, October 20, 2009
As I left work late on March 5th, I was still busy writing notes of things that needed to be done while I was gone. Well into that evening I was online busy handing over duties to others to cover for me while gone. I had asked several people for help without telling the reason I was going to be away - I wanted to surprise folks.
A sample post to one of the lists I managed -
"On the 6th of March for about three weeks I'm going to be away from my computer. This situation has arrived that I need to be away, where computer access will be limited and what little time I'll have for such will mainly be used to let those close know how I'm doing. This absence is not due to illness.
I hope to be back in the saddle by the first of April but will take it a day at a time on my return.
While I could say more, I'll leave it at that as I don't feel comfortable sharing more at this time."
It appears my last email was sent out at 115 AM 3/6 - the morning we were later heading for China.
We got up around 330 AM, got all our last minute items together. A friend picked us up at 4 AM for the 15 minute trip to the airport, dropped us off at the airport. Our luggage checked through to Shanghai, we boarded our American Airlines jet and departed Chattanooga at 6:25 AM.
The flight to Chicago put us in Chicago a little after 9 AM. As we neared Chicago, the stewardess came through the cabin informing passengers not terminating their travels in Chicago which gate to go to for their next flight. She would ask where each passenger was going, consult her information and give them the needed info. When she got to us, about 2/3 of the way from the front of the plane, she asked where we were going to. We said Shanghai. She said you have to be kidding me. You are the 5th and 6th persons on this flight going to Shanghai. What's the deal with Shanghai? Landing in Chicago and deplaning I saw a man I recognized from church. We caught up with him and introduced ourselves. We discovered he was a businessman heading first to Shanghai and then to western China on business. When he learned the reason for our trip, he invited us to have breakfast with him. For airport food, it was good to have one last meal before departing to the unknown.
Our flight to Shanghai left Chicago around 11 AM local time. Our seats were near the back of the plane, center section where the plane was 5 seats across in our section with sets of 2 seats each across the aisles to our left and right. We were flying American Airlines. We flew due north from Chicago and looking out a window near one of the bathrooms, I saw Hudson Bay which doesn't look that big from 30,000 plus feet. Our route took us over the Arctic Circle within 300 miles of the North Pole, then westward for a while. Later we came in over Siberia which appeared like white flour with mountains poking through.
Our original flight plan would have brought us near North Korea but a hundred miles or so we diverted and flew over Beijing instead. I looked for the Great Wall, with the help of a graduate of a university in Chicago without success. It was interesting to run into this young woman. She was originally from Shanghai and was returning home after recently graduating law school in Chicago. She was hoping to work for a firm there to practice international law. Speaking of her experience in America the one thing she had trouble wrapping her mind around was the concept of personal freedom.
As we approached Shanghai, about 50-75 miles out we started seeing skyscrapers dotting the landscape. We arrived in Shanghai about 330 in the afternoon of the 7th, having at some point crossed the International Date Line in our westward journey. The flight was 14 hours long and it was daylight the whole time.
It was cold in Shanghai and we were not dressed for it. After clearing customs which went fast and precise, we made our way to baggage claim, as we had to transfer airlines. Coming from baggage claim to the main terminal we were met by a wall of people waiting for certain individuals. Some were holding signs. I was pushing our baggage on a cart and my wife was behind me. As I came upon this crowd, I wished I could have remembered my Chinese phrase of greeting for such an occasion but alas I did not remember it until a few minutes later - dajia hao (Hello everyone!). Opportunity lost.
In the main terminal we found our new airline but discovered we could not check in until 2 hours before our flight. We had a 4 hour wait. On this level doors were every 100 feet or so and opened to the passenger pickup / drop off points. Each time the doors opened a new cold draft came in. We finally found a downstairs away from cold air and taking an elevator to that floor found a place we could sit until we could check in. Having now been up for well over 24 hours, we were groggy. My wife took a nap, but not daring to fall asleep, to keep our bags safe, I started trudging along behind the baggage pushing it and looking in the various shops. The most interesting find - pickled chicken foot.
After two hours we headed up one floor to check in. Getting our turn we presented our e-tickets and passports. The agent conferred with another and then another and finally a person in some sort of security uniform said to me, you follow me. Leaving my wife wondering what in the world, off we went. He showed me to the airline counter of the flight we were taking and chattered something to the lady there. After more conferring, I finally got documentation to take back to the check in place.
Our flight left Shanghai at around 730 that evening. We had found some food in one of the stores selling the pickled chicken feet which was a novelty for us. We arrived in Guangzhou, a beautiful airport around 1100. Proceeding from baggage pickup, there were few waiting and we found our guide and our driver easily. The ride to our hotel took about 30 minutes and we began getting to know Helen, our guide. We arrived at our hotel, The White Swan close to midnight - 31 hours after departing Chattanooga. As we approached this tall building and others lit with bright lights, I said to myself I wonder if we'll be on the 14th floor. Checked in, Helen went on her way, leaving us to rest in room 1414.
Monday, October 5, 2009
Looking back at past emails I discovered that our LOA (Letter of Acceptance) arrived 25 Jan 2008. The last piece of the puzzle needed before Travel Approval would be issued.
One month to the day after LOA our TA arrived. So on 2/25 I was informed that we were leaving on March 6th - quite an unexpected time line.
From a note I wrote at the time - "We have to stay in Tian's province, Guangdong, for 2 1/2 weeks before we can go elsewhere in China. Our appointment with the American embassy to process Tian's paperwork for citizenship in the US is the 24th of March.
Then we go to Beijing for a few days before returning home."
In the next few days we were offered the option of paying China another $150 to cut our trip short by a few days versus staying in Guangzhou another few days at $200 a day. Decisions, decisions. Well that took about 30 seconds. So our itinerary was changed to leave 6 March, return 21 March.
Now we move forward to March, 2008 - Welcome Tian.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Please watch over Mommy and Daddy, comfort them.
Let them know that I’m watching over them as they once watched over me.
Please watch over my brother and sister too. Let them have a long and wonderful life. May they know the best life has to offer and shield them from the mean things of the world.
Please watch over my brother in China, until he soon joins my forever family in America.
Thank you Jesus for letting me live with you while I wait for my family to join me.
This post is dedicated to Chelsea Tatakis (8 Sep 1997 - 6 Jan 2006) gone too soon. Today is her 12th birthday.
Monday, August 10, 2009
As open ended as the wait box can be, there were still many things to do to get ready before her arrival. Originally we had planned that we might have to stay in Guangzhou for three weeks plus about four days for travel with the international date line thrown in there and/or flight schedules.
So knowing that that was coming I was in the midst of automating the payment of our bills so that whatever came due while we were away would be paid without me worrying about over due bills or finance charges being racked up.
Meanwhile my wife continued to get our daughter's room ready, painting a closet in pink as pink seemed to be the theme. Years before though the room itself was painted a light yellow with a sponged paint look to it, with a checkerboard blue heading around the top of the room.
Being a third generation pack rat and having inherited some of the first generation material, my office was awash in paper, stacked willy nilly, the garage loaded as well. However, I had slowly started the process of dejunking my life which takes a lot of discipline to untie oneself emotionally from various forms of paper and other items. This was done while working full time, taking care of our herd of animals and doing other things too. So little in the end was accomplished in that department as the inflow seemed to match the outflow, so I suppose will say the piles weren't getting any smaller but at least they were not continuing their growth which I can call a success of sorts.
On our wait went to February, 2008.
Saturday, August 1, 2009
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
A number of years prior my wife knowing of my love of cats had agreed that we could get a couple of cats. Having two made more sense for they could keep each other company as they would be indoor cats.
We discovered a local private shelter where the adoption fee included spaying or neutering at the appropriate time. We went there with no particular type of cat in mind. We visited a covered area where there were several cats on both sides of a walkway and of course there was lots of meowing going on as we entered the room. I suppose they figured it was eating time and they were voicing their hopes of such. The range of those available was diverse so that choosing could have been difficult. I looked around and finally said to the cats in general - ok, who will speak to me first. Shortly thereafter a little white and gray kitten spoke to me and thus she was selected first. She was later named Muffin.
On the opposite side of the room there was this little cat running back and forth in this long cage. He seemed to be mostly ears with long fur and had a somewhat fearful look in his eyes. Further viewing ensued and we were told that his breed was Maine Coon. He was such a beautiful kitten we selected him next. He was named Buster.
Our two cats selected, they became our first of several adoptions to follow. Adoption then was a different mindset for adoption of animals or people are vastly different yet do hold some common components.
Buster lived with us and was Muffin's best friend as they played with each other and often slept together. Over time as other pets either found their way to our door or were found, these two became the elders of the lot.
Buster was also affectionately known as Buster Boo-Boo for his playfulness. He would bring me a twisty tie hoping I would roll it up and through it with a whoosh mouthed sound whereupon he would pounce upon it, gather it in his mouth and return it to me. We would play this game often mostly when I was in the bathroom and unable to freely move but also at other times as well.
He loved to roll over and let me rub my nose on his belly for even though he bluffed at being a feisty cat he was in fact just a lovable fur ball. His fur was the silkiest fur I've ever felt gliding like such through my hands.
We have a small earthenware pot that holds about 5 gallons of water that he loved to hop into and then peek out like a spy kitty to watch the room. He loved to snatch and grab at slowly moving things including watching a toy train come through a tunnel then playing Catzilla to attack and wreck the train but then hop back saying, who me? Who did that?
After these two adoptions in the years that followed, first Oscar Nelson and then Chester Bob joined to fill out the kitty ranks. In 1999, Gracie May, followed a couple of years later by Henry provided us with our dogs.
Time marched forth into the beginnings of our first adoption of a child. Buster continued with his playful attitude through most of the summer of 2007 until early fall when his weight started dropping rather significantly. Taking him to the vet after Thanksgiving, delay was I believe fatal, they confirmed the dramatic weight loss but offered nothing constructive to slow or halt the weight loss other than some new food.
His weight continued to decline but in late December he seemed to rally eating better as I worked with him on an hour by hour basis. His new home was in the floor of my closet, food, litter box and bed all there. We tried goat's milk and he really took to that as it was rich in nutrients but I suppose it may have overtaxed his system. I don't know and will always wonder, when I dwell on such.
Christmas Eve, my wife went to bed early and later going in to see about Boo-Boo he had jumped upon our king size, high bed and curled up was about midway up the bed. My wife and I both petted him and said sweet things to him and then I went off to do other things not knowing...
Regret is one of those killer emotions that beats us down, feeds upon itself, is hard to beat back. When I came to bed a few hours later Boo-Boo had retreated to his closet and I went on to bed after checking on him. Previously I had slept on the floor by his closet bed.
Around 630 or 7 the next morning I woke and went to check on him but he was not there. I found him by a vent in our family room in bad condition and woke my wife to tell her the same. We worked with him off and on trying our best to make him comfortable. My wife held him in her arms and around 10 that morning he made two final pleading, pitiful gasping meows and he slipped away. My wife continued to hold him until she could feel him stiffening.
A good friend and fellow kitty lover had previously built a box for him. To keep water away from him as long as possible the box had a Styrofoam base and I used modeling clay to seal the outside bottom of the box. My wife found one of my old tee shirts to wrap him in. Using a black marker I inscribed the lid on the outside and inside with his information - Buster Boo-Boo, June, 1993-25 Dec 2007, We will always love you.
Yes our little bundle of fur, our Buster Boo-Boo, passed away on Christmas morning. We placed the last twisty tie he had played with a couple of days before between his paws, said our goodbyes, and nailed down the lid. We had our own private service and then let his box sit on our patio table for a while as my wife sat in a rocker in the family room looking over him, lost in her own private thoughts.
Around 12:30, we moved up the hill above the house, to a flower garden overlooking the house near where a previous burial from another time was. Digging the grave was hard because our ground there is heavy with stone and not much dirt other than near the surface but presently it was large enough to hold this box and be underground enough not to be bothered by other animals. Placing the box in the ground and filling in around it, two large flat stones and the bulbs of some flower were placed on top. As we finished adding the final touches of his final resting place it started to snow.
Of course the rest of the day was hard as both my wife and I were lost in thought of the many memories of Boo-Boo, sometimes speaking of them to each other, some times thinking of them privately.
Presently though we finally had a small Christmas with each other and our remaining fur family. My wife opened gifts we had purchased for our daughter that we hoped would soon join us.
Now 19 months after that event, it still brings tears to my eyes, as I think of how much I miss our second adoptee, our first loss together for my wife and I. I remember now and believe I always will as long as memory remains to me, that I will fondly remember his love and trust in me, for he too in his own kitty way taught me a lot about caring, parenting, love and loss and I miss him so.
A few days later I was given a poem - Rainbow Bridge, which helped to some extent to think of the event in fanciful ways until reality crept in again.
My dearest Buster, my Boo-Boo, I love you still.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
I'm glad our wait box was not in my control because had it been we most likely would have been in China during the worst snowstorm in many a decade in January, 2008.
Providence / God held up some of our paperwork, which while frustrating to us to no end, turned out to be the perfect timing for when we should have been there.
Had we gone in January we would never have met and got to know the family of one of our daughter's fellow orphans. The weather was much better in March, the air much cleaner, even if smoggy, than at home and Beijing much warmer at 50 in March than who knows what it would have been in January.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Of course one of the first things to come together was a quick snapshot of financial status, do you have two nickels to rub together to raise this child? Our agency person who had 20 plus years in the business looked at what we presented and said I can tell you that you have a 95% chance of approval, so I guess we got an A on that.
At the time we did our adoption we had some dates told to us when certain things would happen depending of course on paperwork we did or that others did. We didn't know the fancy acronyms used now to associate with certain dates for we were driven by start, do and finish.
In about 6 weeks my wife had put together an impressive stack of papers by the time we met our home study person. The home study person said that in 20 years only one other couple had put together so much paperwork in so short a time.
Our I-600 had been filed and we had our date to be fingerprinted by Immigration. We got a rough draft on May 1st and went off to be fingerprinted. At about the same time new rules were announced by China for future adoptions but since we already had our pre-approval (PA) we were using the old rules for our adoption.
I think often of the parallels between adoption and buying a house. One fills out many, many forms; throws money in every direction as told to do for some important reason; and waits. One of the big differences is you know more about a house one will occupy than you will about the child that you wish to live with in that house.
As it seems with most paperwork more than likely one will miss a blank or not understand the crossing of Ts and dotting of Is that are needed to pass muster with those who take the forms and search for those missed items so they can have the glee in saying this isn't filled out right. Thus such happened as we needed to get pen in hand signed copies to show we had in fact been born! So after another round of paper and dollars our dossier trundled off to China and the wait box began.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
My daughter has two mothers. Her birth mother somewhere in
To the mother in
Regardless, I know it must have broken your heart to let her go for mother's love runs deep.
Now your daughter has a new home, far away in
Know that your daughter will be loved and nurtured as if she were our own biological daughter. We will remind her of her heritage and encourage her to remember her
We trust that your daughter / our daughter will always make you proud as she makes her way through life. We hope that somehow you will know this, if only deep down in your heart.
Lastly, we thank you for the privilege through your great sacrifice of raising your daughter as our own.
To the mother in
True that there are trying times, tough times as our daughter pushes against boundaries but through it all I see your love growing deeper and stronger. I admire your vast qualities of talent, vast quantities of energy as you parent this child. I know that our daughter loves you as well and that that love too will grow deeper and stronger as the years pass.
Thank you for the privilege of being your husband these 20 years and partner in this venture of love.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
My wife's birthday occurs every year on the same date, yet somehow it always manages to slip up on me. Near the end of January, 2007, I asked her what she wanted for her birthday for what does a man know what a woman really wants, especially since they already have everything that would make a man happy and more.
We had talked of adoption off and on so when she replied, "you know what I really want?" for once I knew exactly what she was speaking of, so I told her let's go for it, for more than anything I wanted my wife to be happy for her birthday.
A few days later she approached a local agency with whom another family we know had used many years ago. My wife told the agency that we were seeking a Chinese girl that was older than a toddler, aged 6 or 7. The lady looked at her files and produced a picture and file and said what about this one? My wife said that she would have to consult me first.
We met for lunch that day and she showed me the referral pictures and the medical report on the girl. The documentation that came with the picture did not indicate anything we were unprepared to deal with. Again I told my wife - Let's go with this.
Having seen nearly instant love once before I was privileged once again to see such. At that point I don't think I'd seen her that happy since our wedding.
The story continues....