Category Archives: Family

Connecting From The China Hotel – 2002

This is another email I sent from the Sports Bar in the China Hotel when we were in the People’s Republic of China to adopt our oldest daughter. The time and date say it was at 12:43 AM on September 15, 2002, which means it was mid-morning on September 14 here on the west coast in the States. This was the day we arrived back in Guangzhou after a six-day tour or Beijing. We were still childless, but were flying the next day to Nanning, where we would have Aimee placed in our arms in a small conference room at the Majestic Hotel.

I sent this email to one of the moderators of the Yahoo Group we had joined, which was created for people adopting through the organization U.S. China Affairs (USAA). The Internet in China was pretty squirrelly back then and there was no access in hotel rooms, nor was there such a thing as a smartphone (at least not one that was widely available as a consumer item), so I would have to trudge down to the lobby and this small bar, where there was at least one (don’t remember otherwise) computer I could use for a little while. I was writing mostly for those who had yet to travel. The wait for us had been nearly two years. For others, it would soon get longer, though we didn’t know that at the time. I knew people were hungry for status whenever a group traveled, so I filled that void for a while.

Chinese Babies

In the lobby of the China Hotel, in Guangzhou, some of the 33 children – all girls but one, and a set of twins – adopted by 32 families in our travel group in September 2002. That’s Foosh on the far right, in the red top.

I reiterate. I am posting these in part so my daughters will someday be able to read them and fill in another blank, when they’re ready. They both know they’re adopted and are aware of everything we know (which isn’t all that much) about their lives before they joined our family, but these emails I’m posting run the gamut from mostly informational to fairly emotional and, perhaps, introspective. They’re not ready for that kind of conversation yet. Hopefully, these memories will be available online for them. I could just print them out but I want them to be on my blog as well. Otherwise, why do I have this thing?

Hi Rick:

We’re now in Guangzhou, and I’m in the Sports Bar in the China Hotel. Still can’t access groups, period; not just China33. My interest was more in reading just to see what was going on, but if no one else is communicating with you guys, this email can serve to let you know what’s going on. We’re finally all here; had brunch this morning at a wonderful restaurant which appeared (from the outside) to be located below a sports stadium, and Norman introduced the China team and told us what would be going on. The groups then split into two – one for the folks remaining in Guangzhou to go shopping, and the other for the folks who will be traveling tomorrow to get 70 minute foot massages for 80 RMB. Norman says they are top drawer and include all you can eat and drink. As for myself, I chose to come back to the hotel and relieve myself of a large amount of cash I’ve been carrying around and which Sara was more than happy to take off my hands. I also wanted to get in what I suspect will be some of the last reading I’m going to get for a while.

Tomorrow, Linda and I travel with about 10 other families to Nanning, where we will perform a multiple gotcha at the hotel in the evening. I’d like to say I’m excited, but I don’t believe that word comes close to conveying the range of emotions I’m experiencing right now. No matter how hard I try to imagine what it’s going to be like for this 55 year old, childless man to shift gears – in an instant – so dramatically, I find it impossible to do so. I have chosen to put my faith in my lifelong love of children, my experience with my sister, who is 19 years my junior, and the knowledge that lesser men than me have risen to the challenge, to carry me through. Frankly, I’m not that worried, though perhaps that means I haven’t fully grasped the enormity of the situation.

As for Linda, I can only say she has strong maternal instincts and I’m sure she’ll do fine. Besides, she knows I sleep a lot less than she does, so she’s got a mule in the stable.

Well, that’s it for now. Feel free to post this message, either in its entirety, or edited as you see fit, for the rest of the family on China33.

When we come back from Nanning, no doubt the serious shopping will commence. I will inform you of our progress on the dresses. Take care.


Celebrating Sociopathy At The Grocery Store

Shopping Cart in Parking Space

This is one of many photos I found addressing this issue. Clearly, I’m not alone.

This post was the second in my “Cranky Curmudgeon” period. ;) It represents a behavior I have long been irritated by, mostly because of what it says to me about the nature of so many people. It’s not as dangerous as similar behavior on the road while driving, but it’s still mildly disturbing and it happens far too often to be seen as a mere aberration. In fact, while looking for a suitable graphic to accompany this post, I was surprised at how many people have registered their anger at those who do this.

Originally Posted 24 February 2006


I think there are numerous ways in which our country’s celebration of the individual is unhealthy and counter-productive. One of them is clear to me whenever I go grocery shopping. There are two behaviors of many shoppers who demonstrate this. The first is those lazy jerks who, having either picked something up they no longer wish to purchase, or whose children have grabbed something from the shelf, leave it wherever they are when they change their minds or discover their little darlin’s behavior.

Now, if it’s a bag of rice or a can of soup, the only damage is it creates extra work for the folks working in the store. I suppose I shouldn’t say “only damage” as even the creation of extra work translates into greater cost and, eventually, higher prices. Even worse, though, is the tendency of those who decide they no longer wish to purchase something which needs refrigeration, to leave it next to the potato chips, where they happen to find themselves when their befuddled minds finally comprehend the shallowness of their culinary desires.

Add to that the folks who buy things they don’t really want, but wish to “try out”, and then return it after they’ve given it a go, and you’ve got some large ancillary costs that have to be passed on in order for expected profits to be realized. This “trying out” behavior isn’t limited to grocery stores, btw, but we’ll stick to that option for now.

There’s another thing that truly irks me. I’m not saying I lose any sleep over it. In fact, generally by the time I’ve left the parking lot I’ve forgotten about it. That may be why it’s taken me years to reach the point where I can remember to say something about it. But it does make my blood boil a little when I see it happening. It’s not as egregious, but it’s somewhat related to the practice of perfectly healthy people parking in handicapped spots (even if they’ve managed to con their Doctor into helping them get a handicapped placard).

What I refer to is those who, having transferred their groceries from the shopping cart into their vehicle, now feel it is their right to leave that shopping cart in the parking space next to them. Most of these people are actually thoughtful enough to place the front wheels onto the median strip that divides the parking lot, but some will even leave their carts just sitting next to them, right in the middle of a spot. I suppose this wouldn’t matter much in an area which saw little traffic, but in a busy store it can be a bit of a problem.

What bothers me about this is the message, which is “My time is more important than yours. My convenience is more important than yours.” I can’t figure out how much of this is sheer laziness, outright stupidity, or semi-pathological sociopathy. I’m inclined to think it comes from a culture which is increasingly slanted toward the “me-first, you never” mentality; a belief that life is a zero sum game and you have to grab all you can get or someone else will take it and you’ll be left holding the bag.

This is, undoubtedly, a theme I will continue to harp on as I touch on other subjects in my curmudgeonly quest, not to right all wrongs, but merely to anger those who commit these wrongs and – perhaps – spur others to action in calling people to task when they exhibit these piggish qualities.

This was written nearly nine and a half years ago. Unfortunately, not only hasn’t this issue gone away, I’m pretty sure it’s actually worsened, with the me first, you never attitude it displays spreading to other activities and behaviors. I console myself with the belief the darkest hour is just before the dawn, though I can’t help wonder just how much darker it can get.

Another Letter Regarding Our China Adoption

Had I been paying closer attention, I likely would have realized I sent this email the day before I sent the one I posted yesterday. Nevertheless, they are closely related in both time and content, so I want to share this one as well. I know I also have a file with the emails I sent from the sports bar in the China Hotel in Guangzhou, while we were there completing our adoption of Aimee and, eventually, I’ll post them here as well.

This particular email was in response to a post by another adoptive parent who, in seeking to understand adoption from her child’s POV, wrote “Maybe some of the referrals come with information that stretches the truth, but I think that the act of being placed in our loving arms is not quite as wonderful for these girls as it is for us. Give them time.” Here’s what I wrote:

This has to be one of the most important, and profound, statements I have read on China33* in some time. We must, repeat must, remember what these children have experienced. Each of them has had to suffer two major, life-changing upheavals. The first was being separated from their birth mother (no matter the circumstances under which it took place); the second being taken from either a foster family or the only real home they have known.

We have to control the tendency to see our good fortune in finding them as the only interpretation of these events. We must fight against trying to impose our perception of reality on them. I believe the wisest thing we can do is try and understand their lives from their perspective. They may not be able to give voice to it, and their memories are almost always pre-verbal, but that doesn’t negate the powerful emotions these events evoked.

I have watched our Aimee nearly shut down in situations that were similar to the evening she was placed in our arms. A room full of children, adults, noise, and pandemonium. Even an open house at pre-school has greatly unnerved her. However, with every day she has grown a little more secure in our existence as a family and now, at over four years old, she is finding her place and blossoming like we hoped for her.

The most important thing we can give our children is the knowledge not only that they are loved, but also that they are respected. I can’t emphasize this enough. Remember the concept of “walking a mile in their shoes”. By all means, revel in the joy of finally having her in your arms; the ineffable depth of emotion you feel when holding or even just watching her (or him). Just keep in mind that you are the lucky ones. If our children were truly lucky, the conditions leading to their abandonment would not have existed, and they would still be with their birth family.

Remember, one day they will be all grown up, and they will almost certainly be at least curious about why they were separated from their birth family. You will be doing both them and yourselves a great service by keeping that day in mind – always.

Rick Ladd

* China33 was the name of the Yahoo group we used to stay in touch during those times. When we adopted, the wait time was nearly two years and the time spent in China was three weeks. For some, the anxiety was overwhelming, though it was significant for even the most sanguine among us.

Some Thoughts From Our First Adoption

I became a first-time, adoptive father in August of 2002, when my wife and I traveled to the People’s Republic of China to meet our new daughter, Aimee. I have been loathe to write much about the experience as I didn’t feel it was my place to wave her life, and the circumstances (as I knew them) of our adoption, in public. I did, however, spend the first few years communicating a great deal with other parents of internationally, and transracially, adopted children. I’ve decided now is the time to start sharing my thoughts and recollections. This is an email, dated October 13, 2005, I sent to a Yahoo group used by most everyone who used the facilitator we did – U.S. Asian Affairs – to help us with all the issues our adoption from the PRC required addressing. Most of the people who adopted Chinese children are white, and the issue of racism was even more difficult for many to discuss back then than it is now. Anyway, here’s what I wrote in response to a statement by a fellow AP (adoptive parent):


As my father used to say, “you hit the head right on the nail”. While abandonment issues are the most obvious, they exist because of something that happened at a time certain. That isn’t to say they don’t continue to affect our kids in numerous ways as they grow; just that the fact of abandonment is something that happened in the past and must be dealt with in that context.

Race, on the other hand is (unfortunately) an issue our children will almost certainly continue to deal with all their lives. How we approach it is of paramount importance in how they will cope with it. My research tells me (as do my gut instincts) that parents who choose to believe they can ignore it, or that it really isn’t a major issue, are setting themselves and, tragically, their children up for some major problems.

Once again, I urge all adoptive parents and all prospective adoptive parents, especially families where both members are Caucasian, to learn as much as you can about the realities of racism. I am talking here not merely about the most obvious aspects (such as outright bigotry) but also about the institutionalized and insidious aspects of racism. Those of you who have not given it much thought (this is not an indictment, merely a recognition of reality) will be shocked at some of the things you learn.

Additionally, I can’t stress enough how important it will be to let your children lead the way with respect to their lives. I believe love consists of two major components; affection and respect. I know you will show great affection for your child. It’s important as well that you show them deep respect and you can do this by learning how to listen to them. Children should not be seen and never heard. They should be heard first and foremost. Trust them; listen to them; make sure they will always talk to you and you will become their allies in a battle they will have no choice but to fight.

Know also that you are not in this alone. There are numerous resources out there for you to learn or gain strength from. We should all be thankful for Rick, Karin, and all the folks who contribute to the discussions here on China33. Traveling to China to receive your child is just the beginning of a lifelong journey and you have the opportunity to take it with a large, supportive community. Take advantage of it. Your kids will thank you.

Rick Ladd

Getting High on Pie. Oh My!

Banana Cream Pie

Just Like This!

My mother used to make the most delicious banana cream pies. I think I could have eaten a whole one when I was a teenager. One Thanksgiving I was taking one of her pies out to our second refrigerator in the detached garage (we lived on the border of North Hollywood and Sun Valley and the garage abutted the Alley just behind Roscoe Blvd.) and I dropped it.

It was in a Pyrex pie dish and just shattered. I was crushed – heartbroken. There was no way to salvage even one morsel because there was no way to tell where there might be pieces of glass. That was over fifty years ago and I think I’m still suffering over it.

Damn The Contradictions! Giving Feels Good.

Last night my Rotary Club of Simi Sunrise led a community effort to assemble the bicycles we had raised money for and purchased to distribute to children in our community whose families could not otherwise afford to get them one this year. We planned on buying, assembling, and distributing 300 bikes, but were only able to get 272, because there just weren’t any more available.


A sample of the 272 bicycles assembled for community gifting.

Above is a pic showing some of these bikes. They were all assembled, put through a final quality check to ensure everything was done correctly, and loaded into trucks for distribution to the various groups and agencies who were participating in this event in approximately 2.5 hours. Kudos to everyone involved. It really was an amazing event, topped off by free pizza from The Junkyard, which was delicious.

PS – The title I used for this post reflects my knowledge that things like philanthropy and volunteerism (especially the former) can be indications of a failure in our society to meet the basic needs of many of our citizens. While I recognize there is, indeed, a problem of economic justice inherent in the ways we distribute goods and services, I also recognize there remains a real need regardless of the theories and concepts we can develop to describe and explain them. I therefore wish to opt for doing what I can (and Rotary seems an excellent avenue with which to do it) to alleviate some of the discomfort caused by the imbalance. 

Giving Thanks is a Year-Round Affair

Senior Center at Thanksgiving

Some carving, some cooking, and the calm before the storm.

Last night’s dinner at the Simi Valley Senior Center, organized by my Rotary Club, and for which I was a co-Chair, was a resounding success. There were a few less people than the past couple of years, but we still fed around 350 – 400 seniors, plus a ton of volunteers. It is so gratifying to see so many people come together to make something happen like this and, truthfully, it is all the Thanksgiving I need.

Today will be a lagniappe; a little something extra; a little more than I need or have any reason to expect.

I have so much to be grateful for. My family and, especially, the two beautiful girls without whom my life would be so much poorer (though I’m having some doubts about the 13 y/o ;) ). My wife, Linda, who puts up with my volatility, especially since I retired from the job I expected to work at until I dropped dead at my desk. My life after retirement, which is slowly resolving into something considerably different than I thought it would, but that I’m settling into rather comfortably. The wonderful people I’ve had the opportunity to work with and learn from. My numerous friends, both irl and virtual, whose sharing, comfort, and kindness have kept me from despondency and buoyed my spirits when things weren’t looking all that good, and who have also helped me continue to grow as a human being.

I’m also grateful for the ability to think critically and the strength to seek out the truth and accept its lessons, no matter how challenging or harsh they may be, without losing faith or diminishing the love I feel for the human race and this beautiful world we live in.

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends. Be well, be strong, be faithful to the truth. Much love and respect to you all.

Our Switch to Solar Saves Thousands

Solar Panels

The Finished System – 38 Panels – 9.5 Kilowatts

Just received our latest electricity bill from Southern California Edison. Our total charges for delivery are $1.77, which is applied to a current credit balance of just over $200.00. Now that we’ve returned to bundled service from SCE, which means we are totally on a net energy metering account, we are consistently producing more energy than we’re consuming. I have been keeping close track of our total expenses since we had net metering fully enabled and I’m projecting we will save approximately $2,000 over last year’s bill. Think about that. This includes the amount we pay each month on the lease of the solar panels which, since we use a lot of energy, is a large system and is more than some people we know ever spend on a month’s worth of energy.

Some of our savings can be attributed to our being a bit more proactive in cooling the house in the evening and morning by opening up the windows and doors, and using an inexpensive box fan to pump the cooler outside air into the house before buttoning up as the temperature rises. Also, we’ve set our thermostat a bit higher in the Summer months, and have learned to be comfortable with an occasional high temp of 78 or even 80 degrees in the house.

Our two biggest expenses in terms of energy consumption are the pump for the swimming pool filter and our old, not terribly efficient air conditioner. We can’t do much about the pool, as we kind of would like to keep it and there’s nothing we can do to change the need to filter and circulate the water. So the pump remains a drain. I have tweaked the timing so it turns on after the Sun has reached an elevation that generates enough electricity to nevertheless keep our meter running backward, and turns off when the Sun is too low to be of much effect.

SCE Bill

A Portion of our October Bill, Showing Net Production.

Actually, during the Summer I experimented with different settings on our thermostat, which ran the gamut from cooling the house early in the day to take advantage of the abundance of solar energy our system was generating, and waiting until the inside temperature reached 78 degrees before switching on the A/C. Thanks to SCE’s online tools, I was able to track performance on an hourly basis and, by paying attention to the vagaries of the weather as well, I was able to fairly accurately determine what settings made the most sense in terms of production and conservation.

Another aspect of our particular situation is where our house sits relative to the path of the Sun. I don’t think we could have planned it any better if we could have picked the entire house up and planted it facing the perfect angle. Prior to installation of our panels, I’m pretty sure our house heated up far more quickly because of its placement. Now, not only do we have the maximum amount of energy produced by the two sets of panels, but I’m reasonably convinced we benefit as well from the fact the panels also shade the roof and absorb a fair amount of the heat energy as well, meaning the house heats up far slower than it used to.

I have to give kudos here to the company that designed and installed our system. They took into consideration our historical usage and the location of the house and the angle of the rooftops relative to the path of the Sun, and designed a system to provide the bulk of our energy needs. In fact, the system is efficient enough to offset whatever energy we use when the Sun is down, e.g. lights (most of which are CFLs, LEDs, and other fluorescents), TV, computers, etc. That company is Real Goods Solar, one of the first to enter the business and one that is local here in SoCal.

All things considered, I’ve concluded this was a very wise choice for us. Not only do we get to play a role in conserving energy, but we also save a rather substantial sum over what we had been paying for our overall electricity costs. I recommend you consider whether your overall energy consumption, coupled with the amount your house can produce based on its location and conditions, warrants the installation of a system. Not every home will benefit, but I’ll wager a considerable number will find the savings worthwhile. I seriously urge you to consider the alternatives.

Boy Are Your Pipes Wasting Water!

Down the Drain

The Cost of Wasted Water Waiting for it to Heat

So . . . I finished taking out the trash, garbage, and recycling materials to the curb and, as is my wont, I took to the kitchen sink to wash my hands. Because I’m far more acutely aware of our water use due to the drought, I ended up washing them with cold water; I just didn’t want to let the water run long enough to get hot.

That got me wondering about how much water could be saved if we had instant water heating. I did a little research into tankless water heaters and quickly found out how little the technology seems to have progressed in the last 10 years or so. Most articles I came across suggested the break-even point for installing one that was reasonably efficient/effective would probably exceed your lifespan.

In the process, I came across figures for the number of gallons of water an average household runs down the drain while waiting for the hot water to push out the cold that’s in the pipes between the sink/tub/shower where it’s going to be used. The figure I came across is 26 – 29 gallons. I also looked at the US Census to see how many households there are in California. The number of housing units listed, as of 2013, is 13,790,495.

So, taking the number of households and multiplying by the more conservative number of 25 gallons per day down the drain, I determined the following. If we could find a way to heat water directly at the point of use, thereby not wasting that 25 gallons per day, the State of California would save 125,838,266,875 gallons of water per year. As it turns out, that’s a third of one percent of the water in Lake Tahoe. Drop in the bucket, or significant savings? Probably doesn’t matter, unless you’ve got an idea for how to provide on-demand, on-location hot water . . . cheap.

Did You Know Medicare Doesn’t Cover Dental?

Oral & Heart Health

Be Good to Your Teeth and They’ll Never be False to You.
~ Soupy Sales

Are you aware of just how important your dental health is to your overall health? The two are far more closely related than you may realize. It’s been almost 10 years since my mother’s death, but her oral health played a major role in what brought her life to a close. She had been admitted to the hospital and was awaiting a triple bypass. Coronary bypass surgery has become pretty routine nowadays and the operation she was facing wasn’t all that dangerous, although at her age (81) recovery would have been somewhat lengthy.

However, the real problem was her teeth. The surgeons would not operate before she had eleven teeth pulled. My mother was not one who faced pain all that stoically and she had neglected her oral health. This was, of course, exacerbated by an inability to afford good, useful dental insurance. She was on Medicare, through Kaiser Permanente, and there is no dental coverage offered as part of the overall plan. The reason they wanted to pull her teeth is the very real danger of Endocarditis, an infection of the inner lining of your heart (endocardium). According to the Mayo Clinic, “Endocarditis typically occurs when bacteria or other germs from another part of your body, such as your mouth, spread through your bloodstream and attach to damaged areas in your heart.”

I will never forget the look on her face when she told me about their plans. She made an expression I had come to recognize over the years that said “I don’t like it, but I have no control so I’m giving up.” Give up is what she did. Within two days she lost consciousness and quickly died. I can still see her expression and it breaks my heart.

Yesterday, I created a petition at “We the People“, a part of As someone who is currently on Medicare and who has a difficult time affording a good dental plan, and as someone who recognizes the importance of good dental health to overall health (not to mention someone who does need a little work) I am appalled that Medicare doesn’t cover — at the very least — routine examinations and bi-annual cleaning. I know of no studies, but I have a feeling offering such coverage might actually bring down the overall cost of Medicare.

I know there are some issues with whether or not this kind of thing works, or if the Obama administration is either taking it seriously or paying much attention at all. However, I’m bound and determined to do what I can to bring attention to this problem. It only takes a moment of your time to sign and I think it’s worth raising awareness.

Below is the text of the petition. Please take a moment and sign it. Here’s the link. If you have a moment, you can also share through the Facebook and Twitter buttons just below it. Surely you have family who may benefit from this expansion of coverage and, whether you like it or not, you’re going to get old yourself. Will you be able to afford a dental plan? In the long run, I’m in favor of universal health care. However, in the meantime, let’s ensure our older population has the means to remain as healthy as possible. Maybe we’ll all die of less expensive diseases. ;)

“Recognizing the role oral health plays in the overall health of our citizens, as pointed out by such organizations as The Mayo Clinic, the Office of Disease Prevention and Health promotion, and the Surgeon General’s Report on Oral Health in America, we believe it is prudent and economically imperative to provide coverage for Dental Services to all recipients of Medicare. Many of those who have reached the age of eligibility are healthy and desirous of continuing to contribute to our country’s well-being. Ensuring their dental health is important to ensuring their overall health as well. Many people who have reached the age of eligibility for Medicare are unable to afford separate coverage for dental health. We ask the administration to work toward achieving this goal.”

Thanks from the bottom of my heart . . . and my mouth.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,115 other followers

%d bloggers like this: