Category Archives: Family

Thoughts on Adoption

The Whole Fam Damily

I haven’t written much about my experiences with adoption, specifically International adoption, because I decided long ago that my daughters’ stories are theirs and to reveal specifics about them is not my place. However, there are some aspects of our journey I feel comfortable about sharing.

When my wife and I decided to adopt, after some research and communication with a couple of friends we knew who had gone through a similar experience, we decided to adopt from the People’s Republic of China. We were quite fortunate to be introduced to an organization that arranged Chinese adoptions, and that organized the entire trip, including working closely with us throughout the process, including translating documents and accompanying us through every necessary step.

When we began the process we also discovered there was a Yahoo group dedicated to those of us who were using this organization, which was called U.S. Asian Affairs. We used it to introduce ourselves to the group and, over time, to learn about the process and the lives, as well as the hopes and dreams, of the other families who had traveled or who we would be traveling with, as well as those who would be adopting subsequent to us.

When we were in China, at the China Hotel in Guangzhou, I spent nearly every free evening down in the sports bar, where they had a couple of computers set up and I could send emails to the group, apprising them of our progress and how were were feeling. I also continued to communicate with others for several years afterward, am still friends with many of those with whom we traveled, and also belong to a Facebook group that kind of took over for the Yahoo group.

Even though I’m no longer using the Yahoo group to communicate, at the beginning of each month approximately ten emails are sent to everyone who’s a member. Of those ten, three are from me. I’d like to share them (I may have shared one or more of them sometime in the past 14 years, but I can’t remember and don’t want to search) here. This first one is from October 12, 2005. Our oldest was a little over four years old and it would be another year before we adopted our second child.

The post was in response to a question another parent had posed, which was “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 is my response:

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.


A Death Cult

Quite some time ago, I finally came to the conclusion the Republican Party has no business being in government. The job of a public servant, which is what a member of Congress is (both Representatives and Senators,) is to protect their constituents, the oft-referred to “American people.” Yet, it’s quite clear the Republican Party doesn’t care about the American people, which they have amply demonstrated by their obstruction of any program that might have alleviated much of the pain suffered by millions due to the Corona virus and the near collapse of our economy. It’s also clear to me their definition of economic growth, and their criteria for success, skew heavily in favor of capital and the inexorable forces of consolidation and monopoly.


Image by herotimes from Pixabay

If the shenanigans of the Republicans during this last election hasn’t shown you who they are, I submit you’re either not paying close enough attention or you’re a closet Republican. How does one explain the constant drone of allegations of election fraud, which are made more ridiculous by the reality not one Secretary of State—Democrat or Republican—has come forth with any evidence of fraud?

In fact, what little fraud has been uncovered was a couple of instances of people illegally voting for Donald Trump . . . and what are we to make of the revelation by the Republican Secretary of State of Georgia that Lindsey Graham suggested he find a way to dump legitimate Democratic ballots?

Now we find ourselves in the unenviable position of having a lame duck POTUS for the next 64 days. Unbeknownst to the majority of us, the transition period between administrations has always been a time of heightened vulnerability and, thanks to the narcissistic sociopathy of the outgoing president, this time may be the most dangerous in our nation’s history.

Trump has always been the show pony, the elephant at the circus, designed to keep our attention while the guys under the bleachers steal our wallets and photograph our daughters’ underwear. The grift should be ending on January 20, but you can bet your house the Republicans will be jockeying for position to mingle under the bleachers.

We need to stop this cycle. Think of how much cleanup there was after the GWB administration; an eight-year period that made Dick Cheney a far richer man than he had been, while coming close to bankrupting the entire country. Seems like every time we have a Republican president, at least through the last three to five, we’ve had to claw our way back to solvency. Did I mention the thousands, maybe tens or even hundreds of thousands of deaths resulting from our knee-jerk reactions (and over-reactions) to 9-11 and the ongoing, so-called “war on terrorism?”

I’m not letting the Democrats off the hook entirely, either. The majority of the Party are enthusiastic supporters of capitalism, an economic system that has, in my opinion, outlived its efficacy and needs to be adapted and adjusted to meet the exigencies of the times we’re in.

This pandemic has made it clear we need to take better care of our people. We need universal healthcare. One’s health, and the health of one’s family, should not depend on where you work or how long you’ve been there. Healthcare should be seen as a right, not a privilege.

We also need to institute a much fairer way to distribute the wealth of our nation. We produce so much of value, yet the majority of that value is captured by a very small percentage of the population, hence the constant referral to the 1%. It’s a bit more nuanced than that, since there’s a lot of wealth that goes to the top 10%, but there should be little doubt the value produced by the labor of the 90% is not inuring to the benefit of those who create it.

Although I voted for Joe Biden, and I will support his presidency for the most part, he was not my first choice. In fact, nobody in the Democratic Party actually represents or advocates for the direction I’d like to see the country go in, which is socialism as the predominant form of economy. I’ll have much more to say about this in the weeks, months, and years to come.

I have long said I would be a Democrat, but they’re too conservative for me, but I was not only a member of the Simi Valley Democratic Club, but served as an officer (Corresponding Secretary) for the years 2018 – 2019. I only left that post because my youngest daughter was threatening to drop out of school. Since she was a sophomore in High School at the time, I had to work hard to show her what a bad idea that was.

As of today, she’s not only thriving in this online schooling methodology, she’s actually improved her grades dramatically and is doing very well. I still have to help her, but I refuse to do her work for her. She’s gaining confidence as she’s learning her subjects. Now I have to go and take her to the orthodontist. Hopefully, they’ll be removing her braces soon. She’s really tired of them.


Cry For Happy!

Thought I would take a break from politics, economics, philosophy, and all that lighthearted kind of stuff, and share a little something serious . . . and wonderful. I came across this a bit earlier today on Twitter. I’m surprised I was able to find a standalone video (i.e. one that isn’t embedded in a news site’s pages) I could share. This pup was rescued by members of the Secretaría de Marina (Mexican Navy Corps,) according to a member of Twitter I have no reason to doubt.

I have no idea how long this dog was stranded where it was found, standing on its hind legs in order to not drown. This one looks so much like our girl, Angel, it really broke my heart to see this. I don’t know if it’s the case, but it’s a little frightening to realize how many people will just leave their pets when danger arrives. I can’t imagine leaving our Angel should we be required to flee someday.

There are so many sad, disheartening stories of abandoned animals, and not just in areas where there’s been a fire or a flood or earthquake. There are far too many people who become disenchanted or for some reason no longer wish to exercise the responsibility necessary to take care of an animal.

Inasmuch as it’s clear there are far too many people who don’t care about other people, I suppose it’s asking a bit much to get some folks to care about animals as well. Thankfully, this particular story appears to have had a happy ending. For that I suppose we should be grateful.


Sometimes You Have No Choice!

All I really wanted was to try that bacon maple bar, but all those other things jumped in the box before I could stop them … and they’re so cute I just couldn’t resist. Besides, I figured Linda and the girls might want something too.

BTW – There’s a crumb-covered cinnamon roll underneath that French cruller and those donut holes in the back right.

Eat Me! Eat Me!

Now – I want to find a place that does the maple bacon thing with crumbled bacon sprinkled over the top instead of that rasher. Same amount, different presentation.


R.I.P. Zacky

Our Beloved Zacky

Linda and I just said our final goodbye to Zacky, our beloved boy of about 14 years. His body was shutting down and we didn’t want him to suffer any longer. We brought him home on Friday in the hope he might improve, but he didn’t, so we took him to the Vet this morning and they recommended saying goodbye.

I know it was the right thing to do, but I’m beside myself with grief. I’ve never known a cat quite as attached to humans as Zacky was, and I have had the good fortune of knowing quite a few of them in my life. He was especially bonded with Linda and frequently slept in her arms or under the blankets, in a little cave she would make for him.

I would have gladly put up with a few more bloody rats on the bedroom floor to have had a couple more years with him. We’ll be grieving for a while, but we’ll move on. Lots of good memories of this guy.

2020 most definitely sucks.


Dan Mirrors My Feelings

I have to share these few paragraphs written by Dan Rather. They mirror my feelings well. I would like to add that staying home during this time has exacerbated the difficulties we’re experiencing with (mostly) our younger daughter. Things were tough enough when she was actually attending school. Now that she’s home all the time, it’s increased the friction and made my life far more stressful than, perhaps, it’s every been. Now for some Dan:

Dan Rather

I sit locked in a self-imposed isolation as a deadly virus surges outside. Time frames for returning to any hope of a faint echo of normalcy stretch into the many months or years. This distant horizon strikes particularly deep for those of us at a certain age and stage of life. Our nation is adrift amidst rocky shoals with cruel incompetence as our captain and enabling cravenness as the first mate.

What a perilous time to live.

I know I am extremely fortunate. Neither the roof over my head nor the food on my table are in doubt. I have the privilege of protecting myself and my loved ones more than many. We don’t work in meat processing plants, or distribution warehouses, or even in hospitals. I strive to keep habits and schedules, but hours bleed and to-do lists go unchecked.
What a moment to contemplate the future.

The basic tenets of decency, truthfulness, and compassion are torn across our political divide. We see scientists denigrated and charlatans exalted. We see the rule of law and the norms of our democracy debased for personal gain. We see our allies bullied and our adversaries coddled.

What a time to be an American.

But that’s just it. It is a time to be an American, to contemplate our future, and to live. We have had very dark days in the past. We have had deep, systemic injustices. We have faced daunting odds. And women and men of courage, of ingenuity, of resolve have stood up time and time again. They have said some version of, “we will not abide.” It is our duty to not abide either.

From the streets, to newsrooms, to online social and political activism, I see countless millions of Americans who are not abiding. We are living through damage, loss, and sadness that could have been avoided. Much trauma lies ahead. But I know most of my fellow citizens agree that this shall not be us.

I desperately wished this was not our lot. I wish so many things. I wish the hospital wards were empty. I wish kids were having a summer and could go to school safely. I wish small businesses weren’t closing. Heck, I wish I was at a baseball game trying to not have the mustard drip on my pants. That’s not where we are.

We must be true to ourselves to recognize that much of what we are seeing now was not only the product of the last few months or even the last three-plus years. We have big problems, wherever we look. But we see them now. And we must do the hard work to fix them, not only through the ballot box but through the energy of our hearts and power of our imaginations. Whatever despair I might feel is tempered with a hope that is growing within me. I will not abide, and I believe most Americans will not abide either. Courage.

Dan Rather


“Corona Virus Blues” | Don McAlister’s Blogsite

Written by my former (and last) manager at Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, these are contemporary blues lyrics. The tune is up to you. If you know 12 bar blues, it shouldn’t be all that difficult to gin something up.

Written by Don McAlister, 6/28/20 as a standard 12 bar blues song.

When this all got started
We didn’t have a clue
‘Bout how crazy things would get
And change everything we knew.

At first it didn’t seem that bad
The danger wasn’t clear
Then cases started popping up
West and East, and then right here.

And now it was a crisis
Affecting me and you
We got it bad
Corona Virus Blues!

CHORUS: We got a virus out to kill us
And it don’t care ‘bout who
And the only way to slow it down
Is to change the things we do.

We gotta stay six feet apart
And cover up our faces
Stay away from bars
Only eat at takeout places.

We’ve been hunkered down for months now
Watchin’ movies and the news
Yeah we got it bad
Corona Virus Blues!

Some folks got tired of hearing
What they should and shouldn’t do
And they protested and said
It was time to loosen rules.

Gov’nors felt the pressure
And opened up some places
But still asked us to distance
And cover up our faces

But it got out of hand again
Careless gatherings and booze
Infections started spiking up and
And now we’ve still got Corona Virus Blues!

(Repeat CHORUS and end)

Source: “Corona Virus Blues” | Don McAlister’s Blogsite


Isolation. It’s Like Forever Only Much Shorter-Part 2

This is the second post by my long-time friend, Susan Marlow. Her first post was published on 28 March 2020 and this is somewhat of a follow-up.

by Susan Marlow – 18 May 2020

Each morning now after more than three months of restriction and isolation I wake up feeling constricted.  As I come to, a small gasp escapes out of me and I realize I am still here and still isolated.  I feel saddened as I realize this time is all too precious.  I have adapted to this thing we call quarantine and I can continue, but I am not enjoying the isolation as much now.

I grumble my acceptance of this new way of life and stretch my body out on the mattress which we meant to replace months ago when it hit the ten year mark of discomfort.  With no store to shop for it this mattress is condemned to continue servicing me. Then I take a deep breath of recognition that my day has begun.  I thank God for this day.

Since I began in late February I have continued with my gardening and composting.  I have 37 gallons of beautiful, sweet smelling dirt which will soon be ready for my garden.  Meanwhile, I am experimenting with how to grow vegetables from food that we eat by planting the roots and stems.  I have a big tub of bright green tubers growing from bits of potatoes.  No potato famine here at this house.  Come to think of it what does one potato cost?  No matter . . . this is my victory garden.

The wall surrounding our pool equipment has been painted bright blue.  The dog has had his hair cut a little- oh lucky pooch.  My hair continues to grow like corn stalks sticking out every which way after the hay is collected into mounds,.  Nothing to be done about that. I was already white haired before our quarantine began so I do not have to see one color disappear slowly in an awkward manner.

I am beginning to book zoom meets on my calendar—some back to back.  It’s like being back at work with appointments to keep.  Two zooms are for Funerals and one is for sitting Shiva.   Today I will exercise with ladies in Woodstock, New York via zoom.  The next birthday zoom is for someone who turns 100. Life and death continue.

During my long period of study and introspection I have come across two items which tell the story of how others, also restricted and far more deprived, nevertheless found ways to cope with fear, death, and massive loss of personal freedom,  They too have left remembrances of a once impossibly difficult time in our not-too-distant past. From these little keepsakes we see the human spirit is quite resilient and forever hopeful.

The first is a delicate small fan, not unlike a cocktail fan, known by the name of a Wagasa.  Look closely and you will see a familiar character; the symbol of Camel cigarettes. These delicate little fans were created using the only spare items available-in this case cigarette packages. It took great patience and a fine delicate handwork to create one of these. Even though it now resembles a little mai tai cocktail fan it has far more to say to us. Behind the stark wooden walls of an internment camp in the desert an unknown  human spirit lived and created such beauty with whatever they had at hand while they patiently waited to see if their lives would, at some unknown point, resume and in what manner.

Japanese Umbrella
A Miniature Wagasa (Umbrella) made of Camel Cigarette Packs, Toothpicks, and thread

I also invite you to look at a tiny deck of cards, pictured below. Each one hand inscribed and beautifully drawn by my father during a perilous escape from Nazi Europe to Palestine, which was a beacon of safety and promise to Jews. This was a working deck of cards created from mini cigarette packages available during WWII.  You can see a handwritten inscription in Latin on just one card, the Ace of Spades, Athlit, November 13, 1940.  It is a poem and prayer by Horace, the Roman poet.

By then my father had been on that boat between 9-12 months. Those desperate souls were left on board a Turkish coal ship for many, many months.  This was not a passenger ship. The bathrooms consisted of “walking the plank” and squatting out over the ocean in full view.  There were no private rooms, just a large open space for coal storage.  The “rooms” were created by internal scaffolding.  This was an exodus boat headed to Israel carrying 2300 Jews from all corners of Europe.  Perhaps they would be allowed to land or perhaps they would be turned back—like the St. Louis—to almost certain death. Meanwhile, those on board this boat waited and played cards together with a deck constructed of Chesterfield, Pall Mall, or Lucky Strikes packages patiently collected and artfully created. They waited as we wait.

So I look around and begin to think, what will I leave behind during this time of Covid19 to show my family that, while this isolation may seem like forever, it is actually far less.  I try to embrace this time of waiting.  I try not to think of the time as lost to me.  It is my personal journey yes, but without the cigarettes!


Gloomy

A Little Spring Backtrack

I didn’t really realize until Linda pointed it out, but helping my youngest with her classes is forcing me to relive High School . . . and I hated it! I cut so frequently, it took me an extra semester and two excruciating terms of Summer school to graduate. And she’s only a sophomore!

Concurrently, time is beginning to exert itself. I had no trouble keeping up with my kids through my sixties, but my energy level is waning, probably exacerbated by the need to stay put, which results in lack of exercise and eating a little too much . . . of some of the “wrong” things.

Oh, well. It’s raining (actually, mostly drizzling) outside, so gloomy seems to fit the moment.


Thank You, I Think

This post is from my old blog, The Cranky Curmudgeon. It was written nearly 14 years ago, shortly after my oldest’s fifth birthday.

Well, Hallmark Thinks It’s Important, And They Have No Vested Interest . . . Right?

So what is it with Thank You cards? When did they become de rigeur . . . a fixture of every child’s birthday and gift-giving Winter solstice celebration?

My daughter celebrated her 5th birthday recently and we had a party for over twenty children and adults. We provided entertainment for the children, lots of food and drink for everybody, really nice loot bags for the kids, a large cake, and a pinata filled with lots of candy. My wife spent around a week’s worth of her spare time researching and purchasing everything necessary to make the kids feel special. This included purchasing inexpensive cowboy/cowgirl hats and bandanas, as the party was held at a nearby farm where the kids could feed animals and enjoy some really fun and clever rides. I spent a good 10 – 15 hours running around and picking up things and making arrangements. We really wanted everyone to have a good time.

Now comes the aftermath. My wife is not the best at sending out Thank You cards, and I have virtually no experience doing it at all. I mean, isn’t it against the law for men to do this kind of thing – no matter how sensitive they are? So . . . here it is, a couple of weeks later and the cards she took the time to purchase are still sitting on the table . . . in their original box. They’re taunting me. Like chocolate in a candy dish, I sometimes hear them calling out my name.

Isn’t a sincere “Thank You” at the party’s end enough for everybody? I don’t know; maybe she feels better about not doing it than I do, but why do I have this sinking feeling we must carry some sort of guilt because we have yet to send a hand-written, personalized note written by us as though it was our child channeling Emily Post or Martha Stewart?

Here’s an example of a Thank You we received the day after a 5-year-old’s birthday party:

Thank for coming to my birthday party. I was really happy you could be there. The Spiderman backpack will be really useful next year in Kindergarten to carry my laptop as I’m learning how to post covered calls without the help of my broker.

Now how are we going to follow that?


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