Apr 30, 2008

We're in China - April 29 & 30

Getting ready to leave
We’re here! It’s now about 3:45 am on Thursday and I’m having trouble sleeping, so I figured I’d get up and write out our story so far. (Michael is semi awake, so I’m sitting on the floor of the hotel room around the corner in the doorway. I think Cackie & Caryn are sleeping, they are in a room across the hall.)
So, our journey began at 2:30 am on Tuesday. Michael & I were excited and anxious and actually got up a few minutes before the alarm went off (quite an accomplishment at 2:30 am!) We got ourselves ready and it wasn’t until 3:15 that we woke up CackieDoodle. She was a little cautious at first, but quickly figured out what was going on and started giving out high-fives to all of us! She dressed quickly and was excited to be leaving.
Dad & Michael got all the luggage piled in the 2 cars and we headed off to the airport just before 4 am. When we arrived in the terminal it was absolutely packed with what looked to be some sort of high school group, I immediately started praying that they were waiting on the AirTran check in to open and not United (my prayers were answered thankfully!)
Now, I had searched the United website to try and find out what time the check in at Memphis opened and couldn’t find it anywhere. The only thing I could find was that you had to check-in 2 hours prior to an international flight. So, that meant we needed to check-in at 4 am. Turns out that the check-in counter doesn’t open until 4:30, ggrrrr. But, hey we were the first in line!
Caryn, Michael & I stood with our luggage at the check-in counter, not willing to give up our precious spot and watched the TSA staff prepping the security machines for the day. That was a TON of fun, lol! We all joked that at4:29 a door would finally open and a United employee would appear to start helping us. It was hilarious when this guy who looked like Morgan Freeman (remember this, it comes up again later) wearing a United sweater opened the door and walked toward us. Caryn described it as an “aaahhhh” (insert angels singing) moment! He took care of us and got us checked in all the way to Beijing. We scored a minor victory when he weighed our luggage and each of the 4 pieces was under 44 lbs! (the weight limit for in-China flights is 44 lbs per bag and we wanted to be prepared for that when we fly from Tianjin to Guangzhou).
After we were successfully checked-in we stood and hung out with Mom & Dad while we eyed the security line to make sure it wasn’t getting too long (we wanted to beat that school group through security). After a while it was time to go and fight the security mess. That was quite the ordeal, I have no idea how we would have done it without Caryn being there! After we got into the concourse we spotted the wonderful oasis of Starbucks and quickly got in line for a much needed caffeine boost.
When we arrived at the gate and got settled, Michael pointed out that we needed to get a gate check tag for the monster stroller. I spotted a girl at the counter and started to head that way, but got distracted watching a story on CNN. A few minutes later I headed to the counter and there was “Morgan Freeman” waiting to help me out. I couldn’t help but laugh to myself that it was like the movie “Evan Almighty” where Morgan Freeman, “God”, is everywhere and everyone at the same time.
We actually went outside to board the plane in Memphis, after having to navigate down a flight of stairs while carrying our multitude of bags AND the double stroller, that was a lot of fun, NOT! Our flight to Chicago was uneventful, just as we wanted it to be. When we arrived in Chicago it took some navigating but we were finally able to make it outside the security gates to meet up with Uncle Donald. They weren’t very accommodating to passengers spending time with non passengers, so we basically sat on benches outside of the check-in/security areas and had coffee and bagels.
We were able to spend a couple of hours with Uncle Donald and let Cackie blow off some steam. She loved seeing Donald and would just run over to him and give him big hugs! I’ve got some great video of Cackie & Caryn acting silly that I might just sell to the highest bidder, lol!
About an hour and a half before our flight we said our goodbyes to Uncle Donald and headed through the security maze again. It went a little easier that time, but not much. When we finally arrived at the gate there was a sign stating that they would check-in each person and verify that they had a valid visa before you could board the plane. When we did this we took advantage of the opportunity and asked about getting our seats moved around (when our seats had been assigned in Memphis, Cackie & I were together, but Michael was a couple seats down the row and Caryn was behind us.) At first the lady told us that the flight was overbooked and there was nothing she could do. She suggested boarding and then seeing if others around us were willing to switch. But, thankfully another lady at the counter overheard what we were asking and said she would take care of it. She did some searching, reseated 4 others and was able to get us 4 seats together in the center section of the plane quite close to the boarding door and directly in front of the bathroom area. This ended up working out great because we didn’t have anyone behind us banging on our seats and since we were near the front of the plane most of the foot traffic came from behind us. (Kudos for United on this one!)
By the time we boarded the flight Cackie was doing anything she could to fight off sleep. Poor girl was going on adrenaline and was starting to get out of control. Michael, Caryn & I were all pooped and couldn’t wait to get off the ground to get some sleep. The plane was loaded, we pushed off from the gate and taxied down the runway for a while before the Captain came on and said that we were headed back to the gate. There was some sort of electrical problem that needed attention.
Waiting for the electrical problem to be fixed.

Hours later after a meal.
At first they thought it was a “backup” system for the plane, but they later found out that it was a necessity and a crew had to be sent over to the international terminal to swipe the necessary part from another plane there. This ended up taking nearly two hours, the whole time which the plane got a little warm and we all struggled with not falling asleep. Thankfully Cackie had conked out by this time and we all dozed off and on for a while.
Finally, about 2 hours late we took off and they rushed meal service to us. Cackie had been complaining that she was hungry, so we woke her up and tried to get her to eat. She was NOT happy with us, but did eat a little when we promised her that she could watch a movie.
The flight itself was uneventful, just VERY LONG! Cackie did really well overall. She watched most of “Finding Nemo” with Caryn and did some coloring and practicing on her writing. I could tell that she was missing her friends already when I gave her a little notepad and she would tear off pages, color on them a bit and then say “this is for Alex, this is for Jessyln, this is for Jackson”, etc. By the time we left the plane there were lots of notebook pages scattered around our seating area, lol!
It wasn’t until the last couple hours of the flight that Cackie finally crashed hard. We tried to wake her up for the final meal service because she kept saying she was hungry, but she would have nothing to do with it. She was soo zonked out that Michael had to carry her off the plane while Caryn & I schlepped the majority of our misc baggage. Thankfully they had the stroller waiting for us, so he was able to settle her down in that. We made it through Customs with no problem, took a “train” to the luggage terminal and found that all 4 bags arrived safely!
We found our heavenly guide, Helen, easily as we were exiting the terminal and she guided us through the maze of the masses of people. Lines and waiting order do not apply in China, it’s everyone for themselves when in big groups, so it wasn’t easy to get us all onto the same elevator. We got a nice tour of each floor of the terminal, since someone had pushed the wrong button and we went down instead of up, so we were especially glad to have Helen with us! She took us to our waiting van and we all piled in. Then the real adventure of the day began… I turned in my seat to look towards Caryn & Helen and couldn’t help but laugh at the expressions on Caryn’s face. Driving in China is like nothing I have ever experienced and Caryn was getting a really nice introduction to it. We spent most of the trip riding on the shoulder of the road, dodging in and out of other cars! I couldn’t watch most of it, too stressful, so mostly gave Helen my full attention. Caryn later said that she could no longer complain about Dad’s driving, that compared to this it wasn’t soo bad after all!
Helen is awesome! She had an itinerary planned out for us listing all the sights we will be seeing on Friday and Saturday. There is another family from Orange Park, FL arriving on Thursday and we will be touring Beijing with them. She told us about some of the things that we will be seeing and really scored with us when she said that she likes to take families to eat at places that are not touristy, but where the local “real” people go. We LOVED that and are all excited about experiencing more of the “real” China. The only downside was when she warned Michael against drying the different foods from the street vendors. He has hoped to be adventurous, but she strongly warned that those vendors are not very sanitary. Helen tried real hard to win Cackie over, but Cackie was being especially grumpy and didn’t warm up much. We warned Helen that she is not normally like that and to be prepared for her to be a bundle of energy after getting some sleep! Grumpy Cackie after arriving in Beijing.
We didn’t really have anything official scheduled for today (Thursday) because we wanted to adjust to the time change, but Helen really wanted to take us out and make sure we got to see something, so we planned that she will take us to see the Temple of Heaven this morning. A really nice bonus to our trip! That will take a few hours and then we can come back to the hotel to rest and maybe do some exploring on our own.
We finally arrived at our beautiful hotel, Helen got us checked in and she & Michael went around to a grocery store to get us some water while Caryn, Cackie & I headed up to the room. Only trouble was that our room number is 2405 and the elevator only went to 19! So we rode around a few minutes trying to figure it out when we ran into Michael back down in the lobby. We just couldn’t get enough elevator riding, so we went on the same adventure again. I’m sure that we looked like the 4 Stooges to anyone who was watching us! We were just soo beat, nothing was making sense to us. Finally with the help of someone from the front desk we found our separate wing of the hotel and caught up with the bellboy who had been searching for us to let him in our rooms, lol!
It was about 7:30 pm by the time we finally got into our room and we quickly unloaded what was needed to feel like humans again. We each took showers and that helped our outlook on things a whole bunch (in the van on the way to the hotel Cackie actually would not sit in BaBa’s lap because she said that he didn’t smell good!). Around 8:30 we ordered room service (prawn & pepper stir fry, prawn dumplings, vegetable dumplings and fried rice). It was YUMMY! Nothing special, but it hit the spot for us. After that we tucked Cackie into bed across the hall and within minutes Michael & I were asleep ourselves, even despite the fact that the beds are like bricks with sheets, lol!
He slept well most of the night, I did a bit of tossing and turning, but I think a lot of that is due to the sinus funk that I have developed. I honestly haven’t felt this bad since my surgery, so I think I’m going to start taking my antibiotics this morning to ward off any problems.
So, that brings us to now… I got up at 3:45 am and started writing this. Michael was up about 30 minutes later and now it’s almost 5:30 am and I’m sitting on my bed next to the window watching the sun rise over Beijing. Pretty cool! The view outside of our hotel room

The city so far doesn’t seem to have as many large buildings as Hong Kong, it seems to be more spread out. I think some of that is because they are trying to preserve Beijing as a more “asian” look and feel, not just big skyscrapers. Most of the buildings I can see from here have the curved ceramic tile rooftops, and there is a beautiful flowering tree just across the street. This area definitely caters to tourists and the very wealthy. On the way here we passed a Rolls Royce dealership, a Ferrari dealership and lots of high end shopping stores. That should provide for some cool walking and window shopping later!
I’ll try to update again later after we do our touring. I’m excited to meet the other family coming in today and we can’t wait to see what Helen recommends for lunch and dinner dining!
Love to everyone!

Apr 28, 2008

China or Bust!

We'll we're just about off! We're about to head to bed for a quick nap and get up really, really early.

Next post we'll be on our way!

Countdown Complete!

We've completed our countdown to China. See the link here...


In less than 24 hours we will be on our way!
I'm at work now, everything is finished, even took care of our last minute banking needs at the credit union... now I'm just here for a little longer available to answer questions.  When I leave here I'm headed to Michael's office to have lunch with him (yummy Mexican!) and then I'm off to finish up some stuff.  Just a few last minute items to pick up and stuff in the suitcases.
Then at 3pm I've got my monthly massage scheduled!  That is going to feel sooo good.  After that I'll work on some things at the house and pick Cackie up from school.
Tonight we plan to go to Bosco's for dinner.  That is where Michael & I went almost 3 years ago the night before we left for China to get Cackie.  Guess we're being superstitious, but we want everything to go just as well this trip.
The only really hard thing to do today is get the carryon bags packed.  I've got to figure out how to get everything I need in my stuff, but once that's done we're ready to go.
My mom & dad will get here this afternoon and will take us to the airport sooo early in the morning.  Our flight leaves at 6 am and we need to check in 2 hours ahead of time, yuck!
But, once we arrive in Chicago we have a couple hour layover and my Uncle Donald will be meeting us there to spend some time with us.  Cackie is totally excited about that, but I think she's expecting him to go on to China with us, lol!  She's gonna be disappointed!
I hardly slept last night, even though I was absolutely exhausted, so maybe that's a blessing and I'll be able to get to bed early and get a couple of hours in.  That would be really nice.  Although, I don't really expect to get much sleep, I'm pretty much at the point of overwhelmed excitement and I don't know if sleep will happen.
I hope to get in one more post before we leave.  Stay tuned...


We survived Sunday!  One day closer to leaving!
We went to Church, something that we haven't done much this year because of all the work around the house that we've had going on.  It was nice to be there.  Before the end of the service, Pastor Martha shared with everyone that we were leaving on Tuesday and soo many people shared their congratulations with us and said they would keep us in their prayers.  That was especially nice!
After Church Michael, Cackie & I went out for BBQ!  We were trying to get in some of the foods that we won't get for a few weeks and BBQ fit the bill nicely.  Later in the afternoon our friends Tom & Libby called and wanted to meet us at Baskin Robbins for ice cream.  That was a wonderful treat on a Sunday afternoon!
The rest of the day we ran a few last minute errands and worked on getting everything packed.  We're just about done, just need to get our carryon bags organized and any last minute items.

Apr 26, 2008


This evening...
Me: "OMG! In 3 days we're going to China"
Michael: "Don't worry, that's nothing compared to the fact that we're bringing home a little boy."

He's sooo right! Getting to China will be a breeze. Hopefully bringing Owen home will be as well, but we just can't be sure right now.

So, we're just 3 days away! Last night was our last night just Cackie, Michael & I. Cackie & I got home a little late, but then we headed to the store to do some last minute shopping for Michael's items. After that we had a great dinner out. It was a really nice night together.
This morning we got up early and headed to our favorite coffee shop for breakfast. The last time Michael & I had been to this coffee shop was on 5/25/05, the morning that we left Memphis to get Cackie. We can't believe that it's been soo long since we were there, but we vowed to take both the kids back real soon!
We had a great morning until my mother in law called to say that my step son was creating problems. All I can hope is that he at some point realizes where he went wrong and corrects his mistakes. Then, we headed home and found a horrible surprise. Our sweet Baby cat was laying in the street across from our house. She had been hit by a car and was long gone. She had grown on Michael & I very much, especially in the last few years and we will miss her terribly. Baby cat, your biscuits were the BEST!
After we got over that, Cackie & I headed to Hallie's birthday party. It was wonderful to be surrounded by such great friends and have such a good time!
After we got home and Cackie went down for her nap, Aunt Caryn arrived. It was then that soo much of this became real. We're going to China!
Caryn & I worked on getting the majority of our misc stuff into our suitcases and now we're really close to being ready to go. Tomorrow we will finish up the packing, run a few errands and that's about it.
Whoo hoo! We're just hours away from heading to China!

Days till China updated...

I've updated our countdown slide show. Check it out here...

Apr 25, 2008


It's starting to really sink in that we have just 4 days to go! I'm just about finished up with all my miscellaneous tasks at work, so now I'm there to answer any last minute questions and help out in any way I can. I work all day today and as I keep telling everyone... at 12:01 pm on Monday my buns are in my car headed home!
Tonight will be the last night that it will just be me, Michael & Cackie. We're hoping to do some things around the house, make some dinner and chill out the rest of the evening. Maybe we'll get the blinds hung in the new room and Cackie can spend her first night in there.
Tomorrow I think the true reality will really sink in. My sister will get here sometime tomorrow afternoon and we will begin the final packing process. I'm really hoping to be done with packing by the time we go to bed on Sunday. It will be nice on Monday to take care of last minute items, go out to dinner and try to get to bed early.
That's about it for now. I wanted to post early so that I didn't forget again! I've got pictures to post, but they're at home :-(


Well, I missed another day... wish I could say it was because we had our noses to the grindstone and we got tons done, but nope. My in-laws came over to spend a little time with Cackie and we went out to dinner with them. It was a good night. It was nice to veg out a bit. Michael & I even got to watch my two favorite shows (Grey's Anatomy & ER) after Cackie went to bed. I got a good amount of work done on Owen's blanket, too. I'm almost 2/3 of the way finished, it will definitely keep me busy on that 13.5 hour flight to Beijing!

Speaking of Cackie... I'm starting to get quite perturbed with her. Yesterday I picked her up from school to find her sitting on the bench with the teacher, not running around playing with the other kids. It seems that she had a problem with spitting yesterday and wouldn't stop, even after she was repremanded a number of times. Oy Vey! What is going through her little mind?
I know this is all in reaction to the changes that are about to take place, heck her whole little world is going to be rocked upside down in a little more than a week, but what's with starting this crap soo soon? She's had no TV for two days now and won't get any on Friday either.
She had asked if she could take her favorite yogurt treats to school on Monday to share with her friends before she leaves and I had agreed whole heartedly (how do you disagree to a kid taking yogurt to school?), but I've warned her now that if she doesn't behave there will be no yogurt treats on Monday. Maybe that will help to get through to her. We'll see...

Apr 23, 2008


Oh my goodness! Six days left!
Today was not a good day, one that I'm glad to have behind me.
My nerves, anxiety, stress and everything has gotten soo built up that it's been making my stomach hurt all week. Today, it made me downright sick! I think I may have a touch of a stomach bug, too and that definitely didn't help matters.
I ended up leaving work at lunch time and came home to rest (be closer to my bathrom) and work from home. Michael had been out for lunch and stopped by to check on me before he headed back to the office and his first reaction was "wow, you're pale!" Not what I really wanted to hear.
So, I rested up some then got up and did some work from home. My cleaning girls come tomorrow, so the rest of the evening has been spent getting stuff put up and out of their way.
I have little to no energy, it's amazing I got it all accomplished! When I'm done here I'll eat a little white rice I made and then head up to bed. Hopefully this is all behind me and tomorrow I will feel a ton better (fingers crossed).
Michael made huge strides tonight and got the bunk beds put together! Cackie can't wait to sleep in her new bed tomorrow! I didn't take pictures tonight, but I'll do that tomorrow.

We got another bad report about Cackie today. More time in the blue chair! We had already determined that she would get no TV tonight from yesterday's behaviour, but now there will be no TV tomorrow either. We've done a lot of talking about her behaviour, but who knows what;s getting through!

Oops, I missed Seven!

I never got a chance to post yesterday...
I left work early for an appointment and then picked Cackie up at school. I decided to skip what was to be my last Chinese class so I could take Cackie to gymnastics and Michael could work on stuff at the house. It worked out well, she got rid of some of that super energy and Michael was able to get a little more work done in the bedroom.
After that I was just too pooped to even get on the computer. We were in bed just after 9:30!

We're starting to see some bad behaviour coming out of Cackie. She had to sit in the blue chair twice today and when I arrived to pick her up she was doing time on the wall outside. Apparently she is doing a lot of talking back, not listening and making bad choices. She's been doing a lot of the same at home, too. We're really trying to work with her to work on this, but it's tough to correct, especially just a week before our trip. Hopefully by the end of the week we will see some improvement.

Apr 21, 2008


Whew, eight days to go! I can't believe it, but I'm actually glad to be back at work today. We worked soo hard on stuff this weekend that I'm seriously pooped. My concentration level at work is not 100%, but at least I get to sit down and rest! (On Saturday, while we were on our way home from the birthday party Cackie told me that she didn't feel good. I asked her what was wrong and she said, "I think all my energy is gone." Boy, I can relate to that today!)

I've become addicted to a podcast series by Seth Harwood and listening to that has helped me to stay focused on work and get some stuff accomplished. I'm also keeping my handy little notepad right beside me to write down any last minute things that I can think of. My brain is super muddled right now, I will die if I lose this notepad!
On a positive note, the weather here is absolutely gorgeous today! I stepped out to get some lunch and didn't want to go back to my desk. I should have stayed and eaten outside, but I wanted to do this post, so Blogger won.
Tonight I get to look forward to paying bills, yippee! The best part is that it will be the last time I have to worry about that until after we get home.

Apr 20, 2008

3 year anniversary

I didn't forget! I'm just a little late posting it...

Yesterday we celebrated the 3 year anniversary of Cackie's referral. It's really hard to believe that it's been 3 whole years. We have a tradition of taking a picture of her each year on April 19. The "updated pictures" that we received of her after referral day just happened to be taken on April 19, so here are 4 years worth of Cackiedoodle...

Days till China II

Room makeover

The new room is just about finished! We are soo happy with how it has turned out. There are still a few small things to do, but for the most part it's ready to move in.

We will move the chests of drawers in tonight and this week Michael will work on putting the new bunk beds together. Once all the furniture is in I'll add new pictures

Apr 18, 2008


Wow! We're now in single digits!
Today we go A LOT accomplished and the freak out feeling from yesterday is almost gone.
Cackie & I took a trip to Walmart to pick up the remainder of the items we need. It feels really good to almost have everything checked off that list.
Michael did a whole bunch of odds & ends around the house, including hanging the closet doors in the kids room and installing the baseboards.
We still have a bunch to do, but it's getting better.
We're down to a pile of stuff in the middle of the office floor and I now need to start splitting it out to the different suitcases. The hardest part right now is planning the clothes we need to take. The weather is a little cooler than we have here, and we may need to take some pants to get through the cooler days. I'm watching the weather intently this next week.
OK, gotta get back to working on Owen's blanket.


Major stress setting in today! Still soo much to do and I feel like we are running out of time.
This morning Cackie & I went to a birthday party and headed home just after lunch for her to take a nap. After nap she & I went out to do some last minute shopping for miscellaneous stuff.

Michael was able to get the floor of the bedroom finished and the dresssers are drying from their coat of poly right now. He also did a bunch of misc stuff around the house as well.

Tomorrow we still have a lot to do, but hopefully it will be more manageable. Part of my major stress today is that I spent so much time with Cackie and she just doesn't shut up! I feel horrible saying that about my child, but sometimes I just need a few minutes to just enjoy the quiet!
That's all for now, I'm pooped and need to get some rest. Tomorrow we're in single digits!

Eleven days to go!

Eleven more days! We're really starting to get excited and concentrating is becoming much harder!
Right now I'm not sure what little task will get worked on this evening. Gotta see how everythinig falls together. There is supposed to be a "carnival" at Cackie's school this afternoon, but it has been raining so that may be cancelled. We still have some last minute shopping to do and there are all sorts of things around the house that need attention.
I do hope to get some pictures posted tonight. If not tonight then this weekend, I promise!

Catch up!

Oops, I missed day 12! It was a busy day, so here's a quick recap...

Cackie had her St. Jude Trike a Thon at school. She was sooo excited to be taking her trike for the day and the kids had a great time. Both Michael & I got to drop her off because we were headed to our last minute pre-trip doctor appointments. Glad to have that out of the way!
Work was just crazy for me... it's been a long time since it's been that crazy!
After work, Cackie & I got haircuts! Michael was very nervous about Cackie getting her hair cut, but he remarked last night that she looks really cute. I got a picture, but will have to post it later.
The most exciting news of the day was that Michael got the floor in the kids room stained! Yippee! So, all we have to do is poly it and we can move the furniture in!
Things are starting to come together and it really feels good!

Apr 16, 2008

Don't Forget to Take Your Vitamins

Thirteen days to go! Yippee!

I woke up this morning to a surprise email from the American who volunteers at Owen’s orphanage. He wanted to share that he had seen Owen yesterday and that he is doing well. The bad news is that he doesn’t think that Owen has received any of the packages that we have sent to him. It sounds like there is still a possibility, but we may never know for sure. Either way, at least we know and I still have plenty of time to reprint most of the pictures to take with us. We want to be able to show him pictures of his MawMaw, Grandad, LaoLao & LaoYe and of course all the various animals around our house!

The rest of what he shared is why we need to make sure we’re taking our vitamins. Here’s what
he wrote…

"His teachers, I think, find him a bit of a handful. They were wondering when he was leaving. I am not entirely sure if this is because they don't want to be surprised or because they are looking forward to a little rest. (Hmm... maybe I shouldn't tell you things like that...) "

I started laughing when I read this! This totally could have been written to describe Cackie. Sounds like he & Cackie will be double trouble! I’m going to make sure I warn the teachers at school when I pick Cackie up today. They’ve handled her well, so I have complete trust that they can handle anything!

Today is my day to start packing. We’re leaving work early to attend Chuck’s funeral and after that I will head to the house to start the massive task. I have a lot of downsizing to do, ought to be fun!

Apr 15, 2008

Aunt Caryn's Blog

Yippee!! Aunt Caryn is going to China with us! She's getting excited about the trip, too.
It's not often that one gets an oppportunity like this and we're glad that Caryn can go with us to learn about her niece & nephew's homeland and help haul luggage!

Thank you to everyone who donated funds to help her make this journey. We all appreciate the love you have shown for her.

She's started a blog to document her journey. Check out the Vol Princess at Princess of All Things Orange.

14 days

Just 14 more days and we'll be on our way to Beijing! We're excited, but at the same time we're thinking.... only 14 more days to get stuff done!
Major packing mode is starting to set in. I'm making mental lists, checking our central checklist and trying to think of every little thing we might possibly need for the trip. It's exhausting!
Tonight I can't get much done... Michael takes Cackie to gymnastics and I have my next to last Chinese Class. But, tomorrow... watch out! I need to spend the evening going through all the stuff we have, start condensing it and making my final shopping list.
This weekend Michael will be working frantically to get the bedroom floor stained and the finish put on it. That's a big chore and I'll be there to do anything I can to help move things along.

Last night we went out to cross two things off my to-do list and we ate dinner out. Cackie was in a really good mood and it was fun to just sit and laugh with her. We kept telling her she only had 3 more weeks as an only child. She still doesn't comprehend what all this means... poor girl is going to have her whole world rocked! I'm starting to say my prayers every night that our transition to a family of four goes well for all of us.

14 more days!

Apr 13, 2008

Heavy Heart

I've been meaning to write my thoughts for a few days, just haven't had much motivation to do so. The last few days have been very hard on me and my heart is very heavy right now.
We've been very busy at home and at work and I was soo looking forward to having a good end of the week and getting on to the weekend. I left the house on Friday and decided to be bad and go by McDonalds to pick up some breakfast (hey, I was sick of dry cereal!). So, by doing that I got to work a few minutes later than usual, but not bad at all.
Just moments after I arrived at my desk one of my co-workers came by to tell me that I need to go see our Controller about something. This person is not one who would usually come to me to tell me to see the Controller and I could just tell by the sound of her voice that something was wrong. Fears started racing through my head and I had no idea what I was about to hear.
She told me that one of our Senior Accountants, Chuck, had passed away the night before while playing softball. At that point, I felt like a daggar had hit me.
Chuck was just 32 years old and had been at St. Jude for just a little over a year. In January he and two others had been re-organized and started reporting to the same boss as me. That meant that we did some cubicle shuffling and Chuck had moved back to my little corner of the office. Actually, I had moved to a new cube and he had moved into my space.
The last few months at work have been a LOT more fun. A HUGE reason for this was Chuck. He was funny, smart, a goofball and an all around good guy. He had a 3 year old son, just a few weeks younger than Cackie, so I would often talk to him about having a boy and what to expect, etc. Just last week I trained him on how to take over a few things while I was out of the office on leave to get Owen. It's so hard to believe now that he won't be there to exchange stories with and laugh and shoot hoops with our Nerf basketball net.
One reason that this hurts so bad is that it's not the first time it has happened. In December 2005 I came into work on a Monday to find out that my right hand man, the guy who took on soo much so that I could take time off to be home with Cackie had passed away suddenly at home. Clint was just 29 and died suddenly of an anuerism. His death was a major shock to all of us and to this day, I think about him often.
Then 6 months after Clint passed away, one of our employees who had only been there a few months died in a 4-wheeler accident. Jason was young as well, maybe his early 30's.
And now Chuck.
So, my heart is very heavy now, full of grief. How does this happen to one office, three times within a two and a half year period?
I'm partially dreading going to work tomorrow. But, on the other hand, I look forward to being with my friends who are grieving with me. One thing I have learned through all our losses is that I work with some super amazing people. In reality we spend more waking hours together than we do with our spouses or other friends and I am soo blessed to have such a wonderful group of people to work with. And no matter what, even though we hurt so bad when we lose someone who we are close to, I won't stop getting to know my co-workers and caring about them.
Please keep Chuck and his family in your thoughts and prayers. I for one will miss that big goofball!

DTC - Days till China Slideshow updated

I've updated our Days till China slideshow. You can go here to see it.

Apr 10, 2008


This was forwarded to me by a friend.  I couldn’t not post it.  It says soo much…



On Heartbreak, Basketball, and a City Divided

By Srinivas Ayyagari


No doubt this will be among the more ridiculous things I've ever written, but in the maudlin sentiment of now, it rings true. That said, I would appreciate it if no one ever asks me about any of this ever again.

You may notice that Memphis Tigers fans take their basketball a little too seriously. But if you understood the relationship between the city and that team, you wouldn't be surprised. Many people dismissed Coach Calipari's underdog talk as a motivational gimmick this year, and to some extent it was. But Cal is above all things perceptive, and he knew how to seize the heart of a city with his words.

There are only two blues that matter in Memphis: the kind you play on a guitar, and Tiger blue. If you're born and raised in Memphis, and you have no other allegiances, you root for Tiger basketball; that's just the way it is. Imagine if most Carolina grads stayed in and around Chapel Hill, or most Kansas grads settled near Lawrence. Memphis is a small college town of a half million people, most of whom are from around there, most of whom will stay nearby. A great portion of the city is run by people who graduated from Memphis. A lot of us leave after high school and never return. But most carry the spirit of a city that has for many decades searched in vain for healing, and validation.

Memphis is in a lot of ways a crucible for this nation's deepest scars. We just observed the 40th anniversary of Dr. King's assassination. We still have cotton exchanges on Front Street. We have a riverfront park named after the founder of the KKK. We have square mile upon square mile of devastated ghetto, both north and south of a downtown that has been "redeveloped" or "gentrified," depending on who you ask. We are about as perfect an example of the patterns of white flight as you could hope for. We have a public school system in serious crisis. We're always near the top of the nation in the murder rate. We are a city derided in the region for being too black and too violent. We are in a region derided by the country for being too racist, too dumb, and too poor.

The racial divisions alone have plagued everything about our city's politics, and psyche. It is a city where black and white work side by side, in the same offices, in the same jobs, and yet live in different worlds when they leave. And over everything hang the ghosts of 1968 riots, of bitterness over the corrupt administration of the current black mayor, the first one ever elected in Memphis.

So if it seems that we turn almost obsessively to something that brings the city together, I don't think we should be blamed. Memphis is a basketball town in the football-mad South, always will be. Everyone can talk Tiger hoops, because everyone's been talking Tiger hoops for so long. The 1973 championship game run came only 5 years after King's assassination. The team featured local black high school legends, and the city rallied to them. Same with 1985 Final Four run by a team from a city riven as much as any other by crack and its violence. Tigers have always been Memphis kids, from the ghetto, from the suburbs, from white Memphis and black Memphis. Sure the campus is as divided in some ways as the city, but it is at least a concentrate of the community united by the Tigers.

We don't recruit locally anymore, but that spirit that the Tigers are Memphis kids still remains strong. So in 2008 we have a team with a hulking 24-year-old senior from the worst of West Baltimore; a junior All-American from the Detroit playgrounds; a freshman prodigy from Chicago's South Side. And each time these black kids from the roughest neighborhoods come back from a road trip, or sets out on one, they get hugs from little old blue-haired white women decked out in Tiger blue; these same women grew up in segregation and probably supported it. Maybe their parents hurled epithets at the Little Rock Nine. Maybe they cowered in fear at the rioting in '68. Maybe today they clutch their purses a little when they see a black teen. But in those send-offs and greetings, they find in those kids only people whose success they pray for. At least in those moments when the Tigers are playing, the richest white suburbanite in Germantown and Cordova can have the same passion, directed to the same place, as the teenager from Orange Mound. What's more, they can see that same passion in each other.

So when we hear the slights directed at the Tiger team--too many tattoos, too undisciplined--we hear echoes of the slights against the city--too small compared to the big cities, too "urban" for rural whites, too much crime, too much racism. And in defending the Tigers against fans and the media, maybe we're striving to defend where we're from too.

Memphis needed that title last night, because we needed something untainted, simple, proud. Our jewel of a Civil Rights Museum arose from the  blood of Dr. King. A basketball title is one thing that would lift the hearts of Memphians of all colors. And if basketball can make black Memphis and white Memphis, rich Memphis and poor Memphis, stand next to each other and cheer for a week or two, talk a little hoops at work, and after, then that's worth more than another banner at UCLA, another great year at Carolina, another title at Kansas. I don't pretend that individual fans root for Memphis out of some great need for reconciliation, racial or otherwise. The motives are as varied as the people who have them. What is important is that there is something simple for all of them to get behind and agree on.

Carolina, Kansas, and UCLA are to college basketball what New York, Chicago, and LA are to U.S. cities. They are a cut above, entrenched, and never in danger of being replaced or surpassed. Another skyscraper in New York doesn't mean much; the same one would transform the Memphis skyline. Similarly, a Tiger title would have done some real good in a city that yearned for it. We all know those programs and those cities will keep on getting their accolades, their chances, their titles, and probably soon, probably next year for at least one of them. They have their storied past: Dean Smith, Michael Jordan, James Naismith, Phog Allen, John Wooden, Bill Walton, Lew Alcindor. They have their 17 odd titles between them. It could happen again for Memphis next year, but it's just as likely it may take another 25 years to get to a Final Four. These are rare chances. We needed this, because we don't know when we'll be back. We don't know when we'll be able to get together again like this.

So if it seems like Tiger fans care a little too much, it's because, well, we do.

Apr 5, 2008

Go Tigers Go!

Photo from ESPN

Go Tigers Go!
Guess what we'll be doing on Monday night?? Go ahead.... guess!
We'll be watching the Memphis Tigers play for the National Championship!

We're a happy bunch in our house right now! Cackie has been loving how we're jumping around and dancing! She says we're silly, lol!

We splurged earlier this week and gave ourselves a present. Turns out it was the greatest thing we could do for ourselves... we splurged and bought ourselves a 42" LCD HDTV! We had told ourselves that if the Tigers made the Final Four we would treat ourselves, so Sunday night after they stomped Texas we starting checking out the LCDs. Michael went out Monday night and bought it for us and finally this morning I was able to get us an HD cable box.
We LOVED watching the game on it! It was totally worth the splurge!
And, now we get to watch the Tigers play for the National Championship on it!

...more updates coming later - we've got some celebrating to do!