My dog is so quiet and so sneaky that sometimes I don’t even realize she’s behind me; particularly when I am folding laundry. I’ll catch the slightest movement out of the corner of my eye, turn and see my dog quietly, yet emphatically, shredding a dryer sheet that has wafted gently out of the dryer with some article of clothing. Freed from its duties and newly released from the sultry heat of its tumbling prison, it has joyously floated out so softly that I am totally unaware of its meager existence. Mason however is acutely aware that this wispy, gossamer like sheet has fallen from the dryer. She swoops in like a stealth bomber and picks it up with the prowess of a ninja slinking on the roof of an ancient palace (after all, this dog could hear a cotton ball hit a sidewalk from a fifth story window) and she swiftly and skillfully shreds it to perfectly fluffy strips that even an Eastern Bluebird would eagerly snatch up during his springtime nest gathering ventures. Her eyes meet mine; I say nary a word. The look on her face is as shameless as it is mindful, oh yeah, she knew what she was doing and she also knew that it was a no-no. She tucks her tail, bows her head and curls up on her bed, leaving the mess for me. Best let guilty dogs lie.

This post is not really about laundry, or my dog. It’s not about fluffy dryer sheets or even bluebird nests. It’s about getting things done; better yet, it’s about doing things.

 

I’m not really what you would call a procrastinator. I am a doer!! I make things happen! Heck, I am a maker of THINGS! I make my own Christmas cards. I decorate two Christmas trees. (Why? I don’t know why? Why not? The trees are pretty, that’s all. I like pretty.) I also cook, I paint, I shoot a lot of pictures, I create, I do, I make, I do, I make. Well, I used to do all of these things.

I finally managed to decorate the big tree…took me three days, but I did it!

 

For the last couple of years, however, I feel like I am indeed a lost and troubled procrastinator. I make plans. Great plans. They sit, these plans, like tidy little warriors ready for marching instructions in one or two or more of the many little spiral notebooks that I can never resist buying –  for inspiration of course! My big plans; my organized thoughts, my personal stories, all jotted down for later and further elaboration. The more I buy, the more productive I will surely be. For the book I am writing- my rough drafts, for my blogs – oh so slow to get started you have been, Yoda would surely scold. I think you get the picture. I write plans.  

Then…I fail. I make more plans. I fail. I come up with grand and elaborate schemes, ideas and plans. But, alas, I don’t seem to be able to follow through. The problem is not that I am lazy or that I waste my time per se, the problem is that I am sick. Crazy sick. Like it won’t go away and leave me alone sick! My rheumatologist calls it chronic illness- well that sounds chronically annoying to me! I do not have time for this anymore! I’ve become rather irritated by it all. However, irritated gets me nowhere. No. Where. Freakshow!

I’ll explain some of that some other time. Now, I have someone who is helping me work through my feelings and my dealings with this ‘sickness’. She has taught me that I have to, absolutely must, no way around it…make a date with Dawn.  So, that is what I have done!

Today, I decided it was time to do something with my ‘chemo’ hair. My hairdresser stopped me from going completely pixie- she cut a beautiful little bob that made it seem so much more full and happy. We had a date with Dawn!

I worked on some of my photography, wrote this post and reflected on a wonderful meal I cooked on Sunday. I liked my date with Dawn. 

 

 

October is here…or at least it was.

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October 30, 2016

For me, this is a long awaited and much coveted month. I was born in October. Perhaps this lends a bit of nostalgia to the month itself. Mostly however, I think that October brings a beautiful freshness to the eye and mind with the ever changing, always exhilarating palette of chromatic foliage. As those longer nights flirt with the dancing leaves in darkness, lethargic bees search in vain like like drunkards in their slow and dizzying flights for any remnants of the sweet nectar from the summer’s dried and dying blossoms. Bright butterflies are drawn to the azalea blooms with soft and delicate landings. Although daylight wanes at an even pace each fall, it is the amount of moisture in the soil and the weather itself that ensure a uniquely different autumn each year. The trees slow down their production of chlorophyll, (which is produced during the growing season and gives leaves their green color) thus revealing the distinctive golden, orange, and yellow hues of carotenoid pigments that have been ever present, but hidden by the abundance of chlorophyll. A third pigment (or class of pigments really) that occur in leaves are the anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are especially common in berries, including blueberries, cranberries, raspberries and blackberries. Anthocyanins absorb blue, blue-green, and green light. Therefore, the light reflected by leaves containing anthocyanins appears red. Those cool evenings and fresh mornings whisper to us that the hot, dusty imprisonment of summer’s long days have come to an end.

It’s time to get out and bike, or hike without the brutality of triple digits sucking the life out of us!

Well, this is what I would normally say anyway. This entire month, I have put off posting this… just waiting for ‘october’ to show up. It is now the day before halloween and I am finally posting this. Today we hit a high of 87 degrees. A possible record high. We are also in a drought, which is kind of crazy for a ‘sub-tropical’ zone that touts no dry season. With that being said, I have not been able to photograph any amazing fall foliage or dewy leaf covered lawns. Instead, lawns are dry and dusty – trees are drab and mostly still green. How sad that October was forgotten this year.

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Most years people say the same thing throughout the seasons, “it’s never this hot” or “I cannot remember a winter this cold!”. Early into this summer when it was very humid and oh so hot – even early in the mornings, I actually said to a neighbor on a morning walk: “I don’t know what I was thinking back in February when I said that I could not wait for summer to arrive!?” Yet, here I am, once again looking towards the cool, freshness that a southern winter will bring to me. How quickly we forget. But, with October just being a long extension of summer this year, I want to forget the dry, thirsty heat and the dusty haze that has hung on for way too long.

Having lived for a more than a decade in northwest Ohio, with its bitter cold winters, a couple of years in southeastern Wiltshire, in the UK with its balmy, wet and rainy climate, and an entire childhood in East Texas/Southwest Arkansas- I begrudgingly respect the sultry hot south that I once again call home. For those of us who truly have a four seasons where we live, we absolutely love, anticipate and happily embrace each change. We look forward to each season with renewed vigor throughout the years, no matter how short our memories might be regarding the details on the heat or cold! I feel a bit cheated this month- no doubt about it.

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I did joyfully celebrate my birthday a couple of weeks ago, and loved the few crisp mornings that we did have this October. But now, I guess I am looking forward to November, for surely I will get to see some spender of fall foliage! As I bid farewell to my 2016 October, and enter into the true celebratory harvest month, my goal is to be thankful- out loud and with more conviction than ever before to the people with whom I share my love and my life. To my husband, my children, my extended family and my friends, I wish you all a happy November!

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A family photo before Pauline’s surprise birthday party at Nori Nori…that little guy ate his weight in sushi! Thank you Scott for inviting us and caring and Pauline and kids for loving us so much!

Part 2  is finally here.

We have decided to adopt our summer orphan! 

I had to wait for China’s pre-approval (which came a week ago) to be legally allowed to even mention this publicly. Then of course, I had to let it all sink into my head a bit. I have a mound of paperwork to do already. They tell me it takes 6 months to prepare the dossier. I believe them. CCAI is the acronym for Chinese Children Adoption International. Our little Emily was adopted through this program 12 years ago. CCAI is chock full of orphans and the angels helping them. Close to 12,000 children have been placed by them in the last couple of decades. They are amazing folks.

http://ccaifamily.org/

I was unsure of how to proceed with part 2 of this; my Chinese Orphan Series. You see, I was unsure of whether we would even be allowed to adopt a child, due to my Churg-Strauss Syndrome. I was torn on moving ahead with advocating for this child. I wasn’t ready to give him up to a stranger. Not after he stole our hearts. My job this summer was to advocate for dental, vision and health check ups for this little guy. I did that, and I will say that I did it well. I did it well only because God put the best doctors with goodness in their hearts in my path. These doctors all donated their time, efforts and full exams to our little man’s disposal. They were amazing. As was this little boy.

I have also had some awesome support from friends and family in making this happen. Thanks to all of them!

This child has been an orphan since he was two weeks old. He turned 12 on February 29th of this year. He’s the size of an 8 year old. He is bright, he is kind. He is full of mischief and love. Today will not be the the day that I share his full personal story. I have too many tears just thinking of it all: the pain that he has felt, the family he has missed, the God he has never even been told of…

Medically speaking, he should not even be alive. He beat the odds. God has purpose for him; for me, for our family.

I have decided to simply post the ‘gist’ of my answer to the very first question on the very first ‘pre-approval’ form:  Preliminary Assessment for Special Needs Adoption.

Because LOVE wins.

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PRELIMINARY ASSESSMENT-

How did you arrive at your decision to adopt a child with medical needs? Please address the attitudes of all your family members towards this decision.

We hosted ‘our’ special-needs child, Ni Zhang, in our home this summer because we had prayed to the Lord for guidance on being more in tune with doing ‘good’ in the world. How, I asked God, can I find what it is that you need us to do Lord? Ni Zhang was what I prayed for, and we fell in love with him in the 3 weeks that lived in our home and moved into our hearts. We had to make a decision to advocate for him to find him a forever family or to make a move to adopt him ourselves. I stalled as long as I could, try to be sure that I was the right Momma for the job, so-to-speak.

I asked my daughter a few weeks ago in a quiet moment on a paddleboard, out on a lake, in the middle of East Tennessee: “Can I do this Whitney? I don’t know. What good would I be to a child if I were too tired. I’m older now, I’m not the 25 year old I was when I had you. Would that be unfair to a child? Why am I doubting myself? I asked for this!?”

My wise and beautiful daughter explained to me, without hesitation, just as if our roles had suddenly changed and she was now in charge:  “Would it not be better to have a Momma who is tired, than to have no Momma at all?”

Silence.

I will say that this was the pivotal moment. I have never looked back.

Whitney the Wise has reminded me too, on occasion, that she knew how I had always wanted to help a child. “Remember, how you always wanted to teach? How you said, ‘If I can save one child from dropping out of school, I will have done some (good) in the world.’ Well, Mother, you helped Robert and you helped me to be proud, honorable high school graduates. You taught me how to work for a master’s degree, for what I believed in and wanted for myself- not what someone else wanted me to do. Your love is what taught your son to be loyal to himself, his family and his country- your love taught Robert humility and humor, it also taught him how to be secure in himself and the Marine that he became. You are also making an impact on Emily like no one else in her life ever has.

My wonderful daughter reminded me how I have introduced young Emily to a whole new world in the last 3 years. I know she’s right, I know that I was unsure of how to step into the life of a child whom I had never met in her previous 10 years. I have taught Emily of the beautiful and abundant love that God has for her. She has been given responsibility and learned of the satisfaction that can be reaped with that responsibility; how to do things for herself, not wait for someone to do it for her. I have taught her to to cook a few things and help prepare meals and to not be afraid of the oven or the knife- “yes, Emily, you will get burned and you will get cut, more than once in life; you will learn from it and you will grow strong and wise and accept new challenges.” I have shown her that she is a beautiful person who is capable of standing on her own two feet and thinking for herself. She has learned that I am tough; my guidelines on life come heaped with love and acceptance.

Thanks to my daughter, Whitney, for her young, but infinite wisdom; her sincere and true love for me. Thanks to her for reminding me that I am Momma! Thanks to her for knowing truly, that I am more than capable of making the best life for Ni Zhang that he would never have without my motherly love.

This is how we, (and I personally), came to the decision of adopting young Ni Zhang, medical needs and all. My Vincent and his big heart, Emily and Whitney as loving sisters were already fully decided; my son – in summer college courses, so far away in Texas – and his wife were not able to meet Ni Zhang while he was here. My son knows of my wishes and he supports me- he agrees this child deserves our family. Their support will be fully wrapped around Ni Zhang as will my entire, large and extended family’s love and acceptance. I only had to get past my  own self beliefs that I am not perfect. I realized finally that perfect has never been asked of me. Ni Zhang is a blessing of goodness that the Lord has bestowed upon me and my wonderful family. He loved us unconditionally while he was here. These are the reasons why we have decided to adopt this child.

Ni Zhang on the day before he went back to China with the photobook of summer memories I surprised him with that morning.

In closing, I will say that I realize that anything could happen. Something along the way could derail our plans. This child begged me for 3 days not to send him back to China, it was gut-wrenching for all of us. We have to go and get him. 

I have FAITH…if this is truly God’s will, then let His Will be done. Blessings to all for your love and support. Prayers are always appreciated.  

With love, Dawn and Vince

Our little friend from China!

What is an orphan? Are all orphans created equal? Are American orphans better than Russian orphans? Are all orphans children of God? He who numbers the hairs on our head will certainly not turn away from the orphan.

All Orphans Have a Father

God is the great protector and loving Father of all orphans. Psalm 68:5 says, “Father of the fatherless and protector of widows, is God in his holy habitation.” 

The People of God Will Care for Orphans

James 1:27 says, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (1)

In January of 2016, I was so sick of being sick. I was praying for a way to learn acceptance of the ‘sentence’ I had been dealth. I had, at this point, been sick for a little over 17 years- but, for almost 2 years, I had been “chronically ill” almost every single day. I was more than a little annoyed, way past feeling sorry for myself; welling up with a feeling anger about being sick. I was angry that not a single one of the 8 or so ‘ologists’ that I saw could (fix) me. Good grief! this is the year 2016 for Pete’s sake! And so it was that my little brain finally accepted…it is what it is. Dawn, you must buckle down and find a way to perservere like you always have always perservered- with the Grace and Strength of the Lord’s guidance.

I have a strong faith in The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. Never once have I been angry at God for this. In fact, I am stronger in my faith. More grateful, more open minded and more conscious of the world around me. Please understand, I have never been selfish, or closed-minded to others needs; quite the contrary. But I had never had the courage, nor have I been strong enough mentally to do anything bigger than fundraising and praying for other peoples’ needs. I don’t know why; can’t give anyone an answer any better that. I have dreamed big schemes and helped others do ‘good’, but I simply have not had the support I felt I needed to do it myself.

Early this year, I asked God to help me focus on acceptance. Acceptance of my taciturn health, acceptance of the loss of my ‘livelyhood’ in working as I had done since the age of 16, acceptance that I am not going to be healed, that I am going to deal with this ‘sickness’ for the rest of my life. I prayed for discovery. “Please God”, I prayed, “show me how to move on with what I deal with daily; mostly, please help me figure out how to help other people who are in a worse situation than I am in Lord. I don’t mean to seem, act, or be pitiful of my situation. I don’t want to BE selfish. I need your help in figuring this out Lord.”

Things started to materialize and dawn on me in my thinking process after I read an article in the CCAI Circle – December 2015 Issue. The arcticle was “Life’s What Ifs- The Baby We Didn’t Adopt”. (2) My husband and his ex-wife had adopted my step-daughter from China 12 years prior, and my husband is still a supporter of the charitable funding of Chinese orphans- so we get this little flyer from CCAI periodically.

http://www.ccaifamily.org/Newsletter/Circle/Circle-2015

The beautiful story prompted me to go the website and have a look around. I came across a page that listed about 20 or so Chinese children who were spotlighted as needing summer host families in the United States. Each child had specific medical issues, some more severe than others. All needed love and a ‘break’ from their normal routines in their orphanages. Immediately, I wanted them all. That’s just me with kids though. A few of them really tugged at my heart and kept me glued to my laptop. I watched each video and read each profile. My heart was excited. My soul thrilled. For weeks, then months, I watched and re-watched, read and re-read. I researched their medical issues. I tried to figure out how a country would do this to it’s people. How hard it must be for mothers to give up their babies- because the culture will only accept perfection in children?? We all know of China’s One Child Policy (recently changed to 2). If you don’t know it well, I encourage you to go out on the web and research it.

I was also cautious. I know that I am a big dreamer; since childhood, through my teen years and onward. My life story will appear in words here someday as well…but this post is for the children that I feel have dreprived of a full chance to dream their lives, let alone live it.

My daughter was here with me for a weekend visit a few days after I had seen the site. She knew of my long desires to adopt a child in need. We talk daily and she knows me well. My open heart, my soft emotions, my determination and my struggles. I showed her the videos…and one that especially touched my heart. We agreed the little boy was totally adorable and his bio made us believe that there was a possible chance for his medical needs to be easily attended if he had the opportunity of a family and good doctors. We both agreed that his tiny little self reminded us a lot of Vince’s childhood pictures.

To be continued…

(1) http://showhope.org/4-things-the-bible-says-about-orphans/                        (2) http://www.ccaifamily.org/Newsletter/Circle/Circle-2015

 

Leftovers again!?

Well, yes.  When I am only cooking for me and I want a quick and healty meal…it’s always a stir fry that summons me to the leftover rice in the fridge.

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We were at Costco recently and grabbed a new item- TruRoots Sprouted Rice & Quinoa Blend.  We love it!  I had some left-over from my lunch two days ago and decided to use it in a stirfry today.  Turned out quite well!

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We didn’t name our blog cornbread and chopstix without reason. This dish was definitley asian inspired- with a southern flair.  How so?

Well, I decided to add a little fresh okra to the sauteed veggies in the beginning. Not bad, not bad I tell ya!

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20160415_142628 One large Portabello, one green onion and 4 small fresh okra pods, with pepper flakes.
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Cold rice and quinoa, toasted sesame oil, less sodium soy sauce and garlic (minced)
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About 1/4 teaspoon of Chinese Five Spice. Haha, is that dust on top of my five spice lid?
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Hot skillet or wok…toasted sesame oil and saute on high heat.
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Just a bit more to ensure the okra is tender…
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Add the cold rice mixture and sautee on high, just until heated.
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Prepared for the egg to be dropped in and scrambled.
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Why are eggs so beautiful in a dish…I don’t know, but they sure get me excited! Scramble into mixture for a few moments, add a bit of soy sauce and serve hot!

 

Super tasty!  Delightfully healthy and oh so quick and easy!!

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Hello Okra…my little Gumbo friend.
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Vince is on his way back from NYC today…had to save half for him or he will be jelly!

You can of course use any left over rice that you have. It’s better to use cold rice for stir frys so that it doesn’t get too mushy. On occasion, I use leftover black rice, also known as forbidden rice. Feel free to add chicken, pork or shrimp if you’re more of a meat eater than I am.

Did I mention that I never waste food!?

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Honestly, I take each meal with a prayer for blessings and nourishment- I always reflect on those who went to bed hungry and wake up hungry with the possibilty of not getting any food again for the day. Be mindful of those who have less than you do and those who have nothing at all.

God Bless!

Love,

Dawn

Hello again everyone!

Sauteed to perfection.

I try to never waste anything. It could be that I am a frugal chef or it could just stem from my childhood of poverty…either way, I have learned to make some of my left-overs taste better than their original servings. No, really!

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This is just an example of how I use left-over rice- which we have a lot of, because we eat so much rice in our house- and because I always make a lot more than we need for that meal, purely so that I WILL have left-over rice.

We use BOTAN Calrose Rice -it’s a sushi grade rice- sticky and perfect. I’m a little spoiled  with this rice after living with my Chinese husband for 3 years!

Calrose Rice

Leftover rice is great alone or in any of your meals where you need it in a hurry!

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For this dish, I drizzle the left-over rice with sesame oil and black sesame seeds before I do anything else. This recipe is made using about 2 cups of left-over rice that has been either refrigerated for a day or so, or from rice that I have thawed from a frozen state.

Let the drizzled rice sit out to warm up at room tempurture while you clean and prepare the vegetables that you will be using. Let the veggies drain from the washing and rinsing or pat them dry so as to keep the hot oil from spattering so much – it also helps to keep the vegetables crisp. Go ahead and prepare and slice the smoked sausage into grillable discs that are easy to pick up with chopsticks.
fresh veggies

In a hot wok or non-stick skillet, add a few tablespoons of olive oil. Add the vegetables and sautee for a few minutes until very fragrant, but not too soft or overdone. You want to keep them crisp and crunchy.  Remove the vegetables to a warm bowl for holding while you grill the sausage pieces (in the same skillet or wok) to the degree of darkness that you prefer.

Then, when sausage slices are ready, add vegetable back in to the skillet with the sausages and add about a quarter cup of soyaki sauce and a quarter cup of sriracha sauce. Saute well and add rice, continue to saute for a moment or two until everything is well coated. Add a scrambled egg or a fried egg on top of the dish as it is served for an extra special treat!

I use Trader Joe’s Soyaki sauce and Sky Valley Sriracha- these two sauces have great flavor, balance and sweet heat. Adjust the Sriracha to your liking or add it onto your food while eating if you don’t like hot and spicy foods all that much.

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Freshness abounds!

Cheers and love,

Dawn