Saturday, May 30, 2015

Photobook to Orphanage

I met M a few months after arriving home with the Girl.  Before leaving, I knew about the Yahoo adoption groups, but never joined up.  M provided me some great photos of the orphanage and later pictures and video of the Girl (unknown to anyone) with others in the crib room.  

M later adopted another daughter from China.  She and her husband took the kids for a Heritage Tour back to their cities and orphanages.  I took that chance to have her take a photo book I created online back to the Girl's orphanage.  

She sent me a nice photo of their reception of the book:


And then, of course, I had questions.  So I sent her email with a list of questions about their experience, and she answered.  I then asked if I could post the answers on the blog.  She said yes, as long as I introduced some anonymity.  You know me, I'm good at that!  

So here are the players:

M - mother
H - husband
D1 - first adopted daughter, from the same orphanage as the Girl
D2 - second adopted daughter

Also since English is her second language, she asked that I correct some of the spelling or grammar.  Also, she answered all this via her iPhone (impressive!)

1) Is the orphanage the same location?  Did they move it?
The orphanage is done being a orphanage and is in use as a elderly home since the last 2 yrs. It was a elderly home already when we got D1  in 2005. The top floor was for them and the third floor was for the children. Now the kid's rooms are in use for the elderly and we weren't allowed to take pictures ;-( We did take pictures of the old cribs piled up in the stairway...The elderly home is moving within a few months.. So right on time for visiting the building! The children they had were all in fostercare.

2) How long did you visit last?3) Who did you meet?
We had a visit from a whole morning and long lovely yummy Sichuan style lunch with Director Li (when we picked up D1 she did administration... Now she is the leading lady of the elderly home and the move to the new building.). Director Dai ( who was the director at D1 and Girl's time) is retired and was in a different city when we were there. We also met a nanny who I recognize from a picture from when D1 was a baby and holding her! She also went along with the lunch. And we saw two men who were working as a handyman/cook in 2005. I recognized then from my film in 2005. In total we stayed 3 days in [adoptive city]. Loved it! We went one day to the orphanage , one day the "outskirts" driving around and at night to the square mingling ;-) dancing and so on and one day to shop, walk around see the market, sightseeing down town... Feeling regular life.

 4) What did you see there?
We saw the the orpahanage but a different floor. We got to stay in the office and exchange gifts. D1 got a candle chinese like present and a buffelhorn something. 

5) Do any of the caretakers remember your daughter?

There were no other caretakers other than that one nanny. She knew D1 and the Girl. Because all the children are in foster care.. The other nannies were laid  off. They are working elsewhere and they [SWI staff] didn't know where.
6) Do any of the caretakers remember the Girl?
Yes! The remember that whole "group"/room! Especially when they saw the "young" picture (the one you got from me a long time ago) they were both excited of how tall and healthy she looks!
They remembered D1 too and wondered where her chubby cheeks were ;-)
7) Do they get many photo updates sent to them from adoptive parents?
Yes they do and they file them. And the had one poster in the hall way.

8) Did they have any questions about raising your kids in their new home?
No not really. They are just curious in a way that they are looking how they live "western-life-style'
They say that the girls are very lucky.
 9) Did they have any questions about or for me?
No questions.
10) Anything else interesting that I didn't specifically ask?
I feel that Beijng/politics/the party is still close in Sichuan. The guide although she was nice.... Wanted to know exactly what doing and was shocked/ scared when she found out H went to the finding spot on his own. Big brother is still watching you ....way different as in the south (D2) we even had a poster hung up with help of the guide to let the bioparents know she (D2) is okay and living in the [their country]. Beijing feels further away there.
What it did for D1.. Most important for us.. The trip made China not something "mysterious unknown" but it has a face, smell, feeling, closure maybe even? She had some "forget me not flower seeds " and threw the out in the orphanage yard. Symbolic, simple but good for her. Not make it all to big but nevertheless good to know where she was born, how the people look, eat and live.
At home she wanted to go right away to all her school, friends, the beach .. Like a confirmation it is all still there. She is also way more helpful in the house. Happier ??? 
With D2 no change..
Her orphanage was still in use for special needs and is really awful to see how they handle/take care of the kids. All self-soothing behavior .. Sad. I understand her better now.

Additional pictures from the orphanage that D1 and the Girl shared

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Trendy - 1

The other day, the lead Architect (head technical brain) wrote an email to the small group we are in and said, "So, what are the plans to have this project (which we are already a month into) made into an Agile Development project?"

No one answered.

I decided to gently nip this in the bud and I replied back, "Well know if you feel that's the way to go, well, sure we can set this up as Agile.  However, my viewpoint and it's just mine, is that Agile Development is like a $1.00 solution to a 50-cent problem."

And, no reply.

And then this week, he said again, "I'd like to see 2 week sprints for our progress to measure how we're doing."

Well, okay.  Not going away.

I went back and thought of all the stupid initiatives we've run throughout the years at the Mega-lo-corp.  When I talk stupid initiatives, I'm talking one where the CEO and his Senior VPs all make videos about how important it is for the company to embrace [insert initiative here] as it will help us keep up with the industry and become winners!  [yay!]

And then we were required to take mandatory whole-department lectures on the subject.  And then have workshops on the subject, and then get checked off as "We got the message boss!  We're behind this initiative 150%!!!!"  [yay!]

The first big one was Six-Sigma.  Man-o-man.  That had faded so far away from my consciousness that I almost forgot to include it.  Thank goodness because this blog needs it.  And I just looked it up.  Wow, it hasn't been reclassified as a colossal failure.  In fact, it makes you think that companies are actively still using it [cough-bull-cough-crap]:

Roughly, this is how six-sigma was forced fed to us:
1) identify a problem (the number of open bugs)
2) analyze what caused those large number of open bugs
3) implement solutions to prevent that from happening

[okay - sounds great so far, common sense I can agree with]

4) to be considered successful, the next year's number of open bugs should be 50% or lower

wait, what?

5) then, it becomes recursive.  You do the same thing this year [1-4] as you did last year and next year your numbers (dropped 50%) will drop another 50%

And that's when I said, "Cough-bull-cough-shit"

My reasoning was if I tried to six-sigma myself:
1) I'm fat
2) I'm fat because I eat unhealthy food and don't exercise
3) Eat fewer calories and exercise
4) Next year, I will weigh 50% less

And number 4 was where I said, "Okay stop.  This is stupid.  If I tried to sig-sigma myself, I would weigh 24 pounds AND be dead."

And you know the funny thing?  Absolute hilarious thing?  After all that training and certification, we just quietly didn't actually use it.

I think management realized that it would take 3-4 months to analyze and re-work our processes that it would put us 3-4 months behind in our schedule.  And when you're 3-4 months behind schedule, in the rush to catch up you:
a) throw the rulebook out the window
b) actually cause more bugs with sloppy work trying to catch up

So yeah, we say "Six-Sigma?  Oh yeah!  Oh.  Uhhhh, yeah we did that once."

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Hump or the Slump - Conversations with My Mother

Okay, you're going to have to bear with me on this.

Growing up, I hung out with many Asian (Taiwanese) kids because my parents and theirs were very social.  We had many parties or get togethers.  The thing is, I mostly didn't like many of the other kids because they mostly didn't like me that much either.  Except for a few, they let me know:
  1. They were smarter than me (true)
  2. They were richer than me (true)
  3. They were more socially adept than me (true)
They're parents were doctors or bankers or whatever made them richer than us.  We were just professor kids - you know, kids of a parent who was happy being stuck in school.  Thinking back, I think the reason I wasn't bullied was that their parents, old school parents like mine, were raised to be very, very respectful of professors.  I've documented in the past how difficult it was to get into college in Taiwan, and especially the "Harvard" of Taiwan - National Taiwan University.  I'm pretty sure that none of the other parents in their social group were able to attend NTU except my dad. 

Anyway, when I left for college, I never looked back with ANY longing to see those folks every again (but their parents were always nice to me).

Now, back to regular programming. 

I noticed a few years ago that my Mom has a particular pattern to our very short phone calls.  Our phone calls are incredibly short.  We're talking like 5 minutes long.  And, I only call them about once every 3 or 4 weeks.  Or if my Mom is annoyed with me for not calling, she'll call me (miffed!) the 5th or 6th week.  The 5 minute conversations go like this:

Minute 1- Hello this is me.  Oh really, haven't heard from you in a long time.  Yeah, I've been busy.
Minute 2 - [the hump or the slump]
Mnutes 3-5 - What's been going on at their house or our house

Okay, bye!

What is the hump or the slump?

This where my Mom relates some story about some childhood acquaintance (see above) or relative.

I used to wonder, "Now where did THAT story come from?"

What I mean was "Why did she bring up a story about Dick who I was more than happy to say goodbye to 20 years ago and have no desire to even care about what he is up to?"

The "Hump" would be this:
"Well, I heard that Dick, you know the brother of Dick and Nana (his sister) will be graduation from Stanford soon and is probably headed to Stanford medical school"

Oh goodie, his prediction that he would be smarter, richer, and more successful than me came true!

Or these other Humps: "You know Wendel,  of Wendel and Wendy (apparently all Taiwanese families had exactly 2 kids) got married and they have 2 kids and he's been at Hewlitt-Packard for 10 years and he's on his way to be some sort of high ranking manager"

After a few years of these "Humps" I got the message:

a) you need to get married
b) you need to be as successful as they are
(my parents still do not understand what I do at the Mega-lo-corp)

But, as we've gotten older, the Humps have turned to Slumps.  Here is an actual Slump she shared with me a few weeks ago:

"[Sigh]  You know your cousin Gene?  Well, you know he is in New York (city) and he was driving a bus, and then well he hit some car.  So they took him off driving buses and now he goes around reading things (meters) and writing down numbers.  [Sigh] And you know his wife.  Well, she went back to Taiwan to take care of her ailing father.  She was only supposed to go back for 3 months and now she's been there like 7 months and Gene isn't sure she's ever coming back.  [Sigh] And you know they live above their store, a convenience store and it isn't doing very well because he can't handle working a job and running the store.  That was her job.  [Sigh].   I don't know, I don't know."

Wow!  Thanks for the great start of the phone call Mom!

Now, instead of "you need to keep up with your peers" (I once had to tell her I hated most of them and didn't care what they were doing or how well they were doing - my Mom was stunned, couldn't comprehend what I was saying and decided to ignore what I just told her because it didn't make any sense whatsoever to her).  Now, my Mom is giving me Slumps as "There but the grace of God go I".  Sorta a negative "pep talk".  My Mom is the Queen of backhanded compliments (most of the time inadvertent).

So, in one slump call, she recalled how Wendel and Wendy's Mom was killed in either a mugging in the middle of the day (?) in their front lawn in Houston was a semi-home invasion.

Again, thanks for the great slump to begin the a phone call Mom!

This last Mother's Day, I had plants sent to her.  This is how the conversation went:

Me: So did you get the flowers?

Mom: Yes I did.  [chuckle] You are lucky you have someone that takes care of that for you.  (meaning Wifey)

Me: Uhhh, What?

Mom: Oh just saying that you are lucky someone handles that for you.  You know, [Wifey]

Me: No, I ordered those flowers for you.

Mom:  You did?  Oh WOW, that makes them even more special!


Me: Okay????? (whatever, let it go.  Let IT GO)

Mom: [Sigh] I had to go to Wendel and Wendy's Mom's...ummm what you call it the ceremony where you go and pay your respects

Me: Hey, the kids are here and want to say Happy Mothers Day.  Here, talk to the kids!

Mom: Uhh, uhhh, what? Ummm, okay...

Friday, April 03, 2015

Family Day for the Boy

It's the 8th year that the Boy has been with us.  As usual, Wifey can not correctly remember the date or keep straight the time difference between Texas and China.

Wifey: So this Saturday we'll be celebrating his family day by...
Me: [Sigh] Do you think is Family Day is April 4th?
Wifey: Well, duh, that's date.
Me: [Deep Sigh] How come you can never, ever remember the dates of our kids' Family days?
Wifey: Well then you tell me what the days are!
Me: The rule is it's always a "2".  Her day is two days after my birthday.  His day is 2 days after April Fools.  C'mon we keep going over this at least twice a year!
Wifey: So you're saying it's April 3rd?
Me: Y-E-S!!
Wifey: Hmmmm, I'm not sure.
Me: God god, last time I had to leave out his adoption papers for you to "accidentally" read the document so you are so damn stubborn and refused to believe you are wrong.
Wifey: [MIFFED] Well!  If you say so then!  Anyway, I was right anyway.  If it was April 3rd in China then it was April 4th in Texas.
Me: [counting to 5 to calm down] Okay, once again you have the dates wrong.  China is 12 hours AHEAD of us in Texas. 
Wifey: Whatever, I want to talk about what we're going to do on his family day....Now, what I'm thinking is......

So, here we go with pictures from his family day, which I may or may not have included in my blog when I was in China:

He arrived 2 hours late.  And had to be escorted past us by his nanny.  They couldn't let him mingle with us until the transfer paperwork from the orphanage to the Civil Affairs was completed.  

Besides our group, there was another giant adoptive group who was still processing their pictures and paperwork.  Thus, there was a bit of a wait.  Someone was getting antsy for this long-discussed brother of hers to show up

And then he was handed to us
Of course there would be tears from the boy, but the biggest crier was the Girl.  It suddenly dawned on her that she was no longer the ONLY focus of everyone's attention!

There would crying, moments of calm, and then crying once more.  Finally, she calmed down enough
And then the bus ride back to the hotel.  He was fairly calm

About two days later, he looked completely different:

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

You Know How They Say The "Ex" Was Crazy?

Some of you are on FB with me, but some not.  Here is what happened today.  I was working at home, as I do all the time now.  The phone rang and I looked at the caller ID and it wasn't an area code I recognized.  I let it ring through to the answering machine.  I heard someone leave a somewhat rambling message.  You know how drunk people talk, where their words seem to be elongated?  Like they're trying hard to formulate the words, but it's more comical?

I thought, "Drunk dialing?"  But, it was like after 10:30 in the morning.  And then the phone rang 3 more times, each time a short message in succession.  I texted Wifey that she received 4 calls from the same person in a short period (snapshot from the web interface for our VOIP phone service):

And then my wife's chat said, "Hmmm, I wonder if it's my ex.  That name Pro sounds like something he would do."


I went downstairs and listened to the 4 messages.  They lasted from 15 to 30 seconds.  They were very, very hard to understand.  Something about:
  • talked to you last year (didn't happen)
  • your birthday (and he did correctly list her recent birthdate, which is confirmation it was hime)
  • my arrest last September
  • let's talk some more next time
  • and the rest was garbled mumbling

I've talked about him in the past, but here's a summation: 
  • They were together almost 12 years
  • Halfway, about the age range that schizophrenia hits men in their 20's he started acting strangely
  • And it developed into fullblown paranoid schizophrenia.  She had him hospitalized twice.
  • Each time, after they force-fed him meds to be sane, he would say, "That's crazy.  I'm not nuts!" And would throw away his meds
  • After the second time, when he became violent, she had divorce papers waiting for him when she went to go pick him up at the state hospital
  • Since his family feels she didn't give him a "fair shake" they don't talk - thus she can't keep track of where he is
  • I met him once when he tried to sue her over the divorce agreement (in small claims court).  He and she acted as their own counsel.  He refused to tell the judge that he had just come out of the state hospital as part of the reason for contesting the divorce settlement.  And in a 30 minute window, I saw a man go from normal to just gibbering to himself.  
  • He's about 160 pounds soaking wet - I'm not worried about him physically, but with a weapon?  And this is Texas.  Mental risks issues abound!
Back to the caller log, I thought "Pro Thius" was some sort of Latin named business.  But yeah, now that I think about it, it would be him.  His legal name is "Darby" and they just called him Darb for short.  Then one day as he was progressing deeper towards insanity, he proclaimed he wanted to be called B-R-A-D, which is Darb spelled backwards (odd twist).

During a trip to see her family in Santa Fe, New Mexico, he started coming down with paranoid delusions in the car that the government was following them and tracking them. He kept demanding she speed up or slow down or go into hiding at a motel.  Finally in West Texas, she had enough and told him that she was proceeding to Santa Fe without him and he was to make his way back home.

She left him somewhere out there and when she returned home a few days later, he had somehow made his way home.

When Wifey moved in with me, she sold her house.  During his paranoid rages, she would leave her house and drive endlessly through neighborhoods dreaming of a new life without him.  And after her divorce, she bought a house in one of those neighborhoods she dreamt about.  When she sold her house, she agreed to have her mail transferred to a PO Box for a year or two so he couldn't track her.  He would occasionally call her years after the divorce, in some various level of sanity.  And she got a new phone number, which we paid to have unlisted.

Then after 10 years or so, we got lazy and decided that having an unlisted number wasn't worth it anymore.  And the last we heard, he had gotten arrested somewhere in California.  Apparently, being homeless, he had been camping in the state forests.  He started a campfire during a no-burn period and so got arrested (Wifey did a google and found his arrest and sentencing record).  I think he doesn't fight the arrests because: a) he's nuts and b)it's food and shelter for a while.

He gets arrested often, apparently, because these voices tell him he's got to go knock on THAT DOOR at THAT HOUSE and warn those poor people that aliens or the government are watching them.  That leads to a trespassing charge, which they typically drop.   They just want him off their porch.

So the number shows me that it's a Verizon cell phone originally assigned out of Sacramento.  But you know how cell phones are, he could be calling fro outside my house and it would show he's calling from Sacramento.

I'm hoping he's not in Texas.  We haven't had to think about him in 10 or more years.  I guess we cross that bridge as it's needed.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Conversations with my mother

My mother is stubborn and thinks she's smarter than everyone else, especially doctors.  Here are snippets of our various conversations we had while we were on Kauai:

Me: So, remember I promised I would take care of you in your old age.  When it gets time, we'll sell everything you own and move you two to Kaui.
Mom: No, I don't think so.
Me: Well, when it comes time.
Mom: In 8 years, your dad will be 80!  And I'll be 76.  Who knows by then!
Me: True.  But you're always worried about being taken care of.  Just know I have a plan.
Mom: We don't know what the future will be. 
Me: True.
Mom: If I die first, then yes you should move your Dad here.
Me: Yeah, he'll be fine.  He'll say, "Great, this is closer to Taiwan"
Mom: [laughing] Yes, your Dad will be easy.
Me: But I won't take his little brother (my uncle)
Mom: [laughing louder] Oh my...your Dad's brother needs so much direction.

Then overnight she is mulling this over (does this for every. single. conversation.)

Mom: I thought about it overnight.  You know your sister she says that now she lives closer to us, she's more willing to take care of us in our old age.
Me: [mumbling under my breath - yeah cause she wants your house when you're gone] Right.
Mom: She says that with all the kids, they can help out taking care of us.
Me: No way.  You can not count on her. C'mon you know that to be true.  You know I'll take care of you.  What makes her all of sudden reliable?
Mom: Well (weekly) you know, she' know, more willing.
Me: Right.  No, she is unreliable and you know it.

So my sister, when she lived 10 miles from my parents, she wouldn't take care of them.  Now that she lives 2 miles from them IN THE RENTAL HOUSE MY PARENTS GAVE THEM, she's now more willing to take care of them in their old age.  Puleeze.  They're just eying the 4 bedroom 4 bath house my parents live in now.

Mom: So you have high blood pressure? 
Me: Yeah, taking medication for it.
Mom: I had high blood pressure.  It was like 170
Me: Okay
Mom: So I told your Dad to give me one of his pills he takes to make his urination easier
Me: Ohhhhhkay
Mom: And it dropped my blood pressure down to the 90's
Me: Unhhhh Hunh
Mom: And then the next day my blood pressure was in the 70's.  And I was making a smoothie and I fainted.  I called out to your Dad.  He said that he could barely hear me with the blender running and that when he got to the kitchen he couldn't see me because I was on the floor (behind an island)
Me: So you did go see a doctor right?
Mom: [silence]

The next day:

Me: So did you go see a real doctor and tell him you had high blood pressure?
Mom: Yes.
Me: And did it help?
Mom: Yes it lowered my blood pressure, but sometimes it goes up high again
Me: You know that one pill and one prescription doesn't solve anything right?  You have to report that it doesn't always work and let him adjust.  Right?
Mom: [silence]

Mom thinks she is smarter than all the doctors.  She doctor shops.  She goes to different doctors until she hears what she's looking for from one doctor.

[After busting my butt driving back and forth between two locations handling Wifey and the kids and my parents, as I'm picking up my parents to drop them off at the house to turn around and then go get the kids at a golf course]

Me: Okay, I'm taking you to the house and then I have to turn around and get the family at the golf course.
Mom: So you're taking us to the house?
Me: Yes.
Mom: Then can you stop by a McDonalds?
Me: There are no McDonalds here (nearest one is 25 miles away)
Mom: Oh, how about a Burger King?
Me: No Mom.  This is not a big town.  They don't have fast food here like in the city.
Mom: Oh.

Later the next day:

Mom: So I was thinking that no, we are not willing to move here when we get older
Me: Really?  Why?
Mom: Well when we get old it's too far away from hospitals.  We live right around the corner.  I mean if you can't even get a McDonalds here, then it's too far away to live when you get older.
Me: I thought so.  I knew you would never leave Houston.
Mom: Well we have friends and all our connections.
Me: Okay.  Well you have an option.  Don't say I didn't offer to take care of you in your old age.
Mom: I know!  I'm just saying we'd rather not move.

Fun with Mom.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Kauai 2015

A visual recap of our trip from Kauai.  We just got back last night.  Oh whenever I tell people we're going or coming from Kauai, they get it confused with Hawaii...which is annoying.  Oh another fun fact is that over time, political correctness overtook Hawaii.  The first few times I went to Hawaii (I think we counted and I have been there 11 or 12 times), the name was just Hawaii or Kauai.  Now, it's spelled and pronounced distinctly:  Hawai'i and Kaua'i.  So you say it:

Hawai'i - Huh-Why-e! (very short and distinctive E sound)
Kaua'i - Kuh-Why-e!

I think it was to appease the native Hawaiians grumbling about succeeding from the US (we get that crazy talk all the time from conservatives Texans wanting to succeed from the US as well).


In front of our favorite restaurant Duke's, which sadly I will have to downgrade and give it a bad review on Yelp and Urbanspoon.  Yes it was kitschy and a huge tourist trap.  But the cost, the service, and the portions are all going the wrong direction.

A visit to our lot:

The view from the street:

The backyard is very steep and will most likely never be used by us.

However, I found a friendly builder and he spent an hour talking to me about what can be done with the lot in 8 years.  So, it looks like we took the right chance and ended up with a buildable lot.

Our rental house.  It was very nice.  And the top floor blew my parents away.  But of course, my mother had to make comments.  In a later blog posting.



Another sunrise.  Note the protruding rock on the left side:

We walked up a trail to the top of the rock, where guys were fishing from and took a picture backwards:

And we went for a horseback ride.  There was the ranch heeler.  She wasn't very personable and barked at every car pulling up to the ranch.  But, she didn't bite me and let me pet her.  Her face is about 90% the same as one of my heelers, Abby:

One of the reasons the Girl loves going to Hawaii is she can have a hamburger and white rice and Wifey won't give her (too) much grief over it:

One thing about the Boy is that he is a super sore loser.  He was doing very, very poorly at bowling and started to cry.  Wifey says he does this every-single-time she takes him bowling.  He thinks it's a cinch and then starts rolling gutter ball after gutter ball.  Afterwards, as we were walking i the parking lot, he asked his older sister to give him a piggyback ride as it always cheers him up.