Sunday Morning 8/28/2016

Lobstah!
Lobstah roll!

I’m in Colorado! I arrived at the B&B early yesterday evening, and after making a short drive back up the road to Loveland to pick up some dinner I fell right asleep. I’m exhausted and there’s been little chance to stop and relax. It’s been go, go, go (unless I’m sitting on an airplane, but that’s not relaxing either) from the moment WenYu and I started out last Tuesday.

I’ll be heading out after I finish writing this to spend some time with my mom for a while, and then plan to drive up the road a short ways and visit Trader Joe’s for a few things to take back to Kaua’i. I’m not sure yet whether I’ll be able to see Mom in the afternoon or not – in the past afternoons haven’t been a good time for her. I’ll talk to the staff at her residence and see what they say, and plan my schedule around their advice. I’m hoping I can fit in two visits a day while I’m here.

A pensive WenYu in her dorm room, taking it all in
A pensive WenYu in her dorm room, taking it all in
Looking out to Lake Waban from the window seat
Looking out to Lake Waban from the window seat. The girls will be able to see more of the lake when the leaves are off the trees.

I had a wonderful time in Massachusetts, and the hospitality of my friends there was unsurpassed. WenYu appears to be settling in fine at Wellesley. Her first night she did the traditional “Freshman Swim” in the lake, but said it was very smelly and she’s glad she only has to do it once. Yesterday she had headaches all day and found herself sleeping through some of the meetings, but she’s hanging in there. I think the whole experience just kind of caught up with her and she needs to stop and catch her breath.

Berthoud Inn B&B, Berthoud, Colorado
Berthoud Inn B&B, Berthoud, Colorado
I'm staying in the "Oriental Room"
I’m staying in the “Oriental Room”

The Berthoud Inn is as nice as I remember it from our visit in 2012; I’m staying in the same room YaYu and I shared when we came then. The B&B is about seven miles away from where Mom lives, but the price is reasonable (less than any of the hotels in the area), the room is wonderful, and there’s a fantastic three-course breakfast served every morning!

Breakfast started with a fresh fruit cup (other guests had yogurt)
Breakfast this morning started with a fresh fruit cup (other guests had yogurt)
Second course was salmon with mango salsa, strata, asparagus, and cinnamon toast
Second course was salmon with mango salsa, strata, asparagus, and cinnamon toast
Third course was a cinnamon Danish (which came topped with whipped cream and a scoop of sherbet for other guests)
Third course was a cinnamon Danish (other guests’ Danish came topped with whipped cream and a scoop of sherbet)

The best part of staying at a B&B is the breakfast conversation with the other guests. My morning companions included a young lawyer from Naples, Florida, and a country singer and his wife, from Oklahoma. He’s booked into a club for a couple of performances, and will also do some recording while he’s here. I think we all could have sat together and chatted all morning! But, it’s almost time for me to get myself on the road and up to Mom’s, so . . .

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I finished The Sound of Broken Glass during my flight yesterday (all the flights so far have been very smooth, making it easy to read) and am ready to start Donna Tartt’s The Little Friend as soon as I can find some down time.
  • Listening to: It’s very quiet here, even sitting outside this morning. Berthoud is a small town, out in the country, so not a whole lot going on.
  • Watching: I haven’t watched any TV since last Tuesday.
  • Cooking/baking: Nothing. No cooking also means no dishwashing – yeah!
  • Looking forward to next week: Going home! It’s been a great trip so far, and I’m looking forward to the time with my mom, but it’s been difficult at the same time because so much has been going on each day, and I’m having to handle it all myself. I miss my “travel buddy.”
  • Happy I accomplished this week: I got WenYu settled and said good-bye without too many tears. I miss her terribly though. Last Friday, Move-In Day, I got exactly two hours of sleep the night before, so it was a hard day both physically and emotionally, but I made it through. I rested when I could in her dorm room while she and her roommate were out at meetings or running errands, and at one point got up and rearranged all the furniture in the room before they got back. The girls were happy with the result (the initial set-up had been very awkward). Her room has a window seat (!) with a view of the lake, but it was unusable because of how the furniture had been initially arranged.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: We got everything we needed for WenYu’s room, and spent a wonderful last day together before she moved into her dorm on Friday. Her roommate is quite nice, but a very quiet girl, maybe even shyer than WenYu. They seemed to hit it off right away so hope the friendship continues. I had a great visit with my former childhood neighbors, and we had a good time catching up with each other and learning about what had happened to others on our street. WenYu told me that after hearing about the divorces, violence and even murder that our neighbors had been involved in she was ready to call our quiet little suburban lane “Scandal Street.” It really was a wonderful place to grow up though and as kids we certainly had no idea all this other stuff had been happening. The J. Jill store we visited in Natick had a fantastic sale the day we went, with 40% off their sale prices, and I bought two shirts that will be perfect for Hawai’i. And, I had a lobster roll when we went out for dinner with my friends – so good!
  • Thankful for: I’m so thankful WenYu is at Wellesley. She has a terrific room, a nice roommate, the campus is beautiful and I know she is going to be very happy there. She also has two wonderful local families who will be there for her if she ever needs assistance. I am so thankful for the friends that picked us up at the airports in San Diego and Boston. We had so much luggage, and getting it all to where we needed to be on our own would maybe have been a bridge too far. Finally, I’m also grateful for the good job Brett has been doing to hold down the fort back on Kaua’i.
  • Bonus question: What’s been the hardest part of traveling on your own? I am a very organized person, but it’s been exhausting trying to manage and keep track of everything on my own, from car rentals to driving in new and different places to getting WenYu settled to wrangling all the luggage we brought. Having to do everything on your own is exhausting. I have a much better appreciation now for all that Brett takes care of when we travel.

Hope you all are having a great week, and that good things happened for you too!

Checking In

Friday evening my host/friend/neighbor and I headed to Boston Harbor for a stroll and seafood
Friday evening my host/friend/neighbor and I headed to Boston Harbor for a stroll and seafood dinner.

The last few days have been a whirlwind of activity, but WenYu has been successfully launched at Wellesley, and today I will be heading for Denver, to spend a couple of days with my mom before heading home. Other than feeling sad and a little lonesome without WenYu, everything has been going well and I’ve been having a great time seeing the area, eating delicious seafood, and visiting with my childhood neighbors.

Here’s hoping I have some sort of Internet connection at the B&B in Colorado. If so I’ll get a Sunday post up with more details on all the happenings. Otherwise, it will have to wait until I get back home to Kaua’i.

Whatever happens, I’ve decided I’m upgrading myself to first class for the Seattle-Lihue leg of my return trip. Its affordable, and I feel like I’ve earned it.

On Our Way

It’s almost 6:00 a.m. and WenYu and I will be on our way to the San Diego airport in a few minutes to start the second leg of our journey to Massachusetts. We had a smooth and comfortable flight from Kaua’i and hope today’s is the same. I’m not sure when it happened or why, but when we checked in yesterday we did not get the seats I had originally booked, and ended up a few rows from the back of the plane, in different rows. Hmmm. We were able to change with another passenger so we could sit together, and it all worked out. The crew on the plane was super nice, and the cheese and fruit snack plate I ordered for lunch was delicious – I plan on ordering it again today.

Gibbler the pig is heading off to college with WenYu - she's had him since she was 8 years old.
Gibbler the pig is heading off to college with WenYu – she’s had him since she was 8 years old.

We got a nice surprise when we checked in at the airport yesterday. What we thought was an oversized and overweight suitcase turned out to be neither oversized nor overweight, so we checked it in under my name and saved $50 over what we thought we would be paying to check it. Plus, we were told we will not have to pay again to recheck our bags today for the second leg of the journey. We arrived on time in San Diego yesterday evening – planes still fly in to the airport through downtown San Diego (and you can still watch them come in when you’re dining at the swanky Mr. A’s restaurant). Denise was there to pick us up at the airport and take us over to our hotel in Old Town. After dropping off our bags, we all walked over to a nearby restaurant for some Mexican food and had a great, but too short, visit. We couldn’t get over how busy the restaurant was at 9:00 on a Tuesday evening. On Kaua’i the sidewalks get rolled up at 8:00 p.m., even on the weekends.

IMG_4084Because we were checking bags for WenYu, we bought some locks for her new luggage. The two items Brett is holding above were used to package two small travel locks (that were ordered from Amazon). Over-packaged much? The cardboard can be recycled, but who thought this was a good idea or even necessary?

That’s it for now – on to Massachusetts!

Sunday Afternoon 8/21/2016

We're just getting started . . .
Just getting started . . .

I don’t think I’ve ever felt quite as anxious about an upcoming trip as I do about this one. Although I’ve been sleeping well, I’ve awoken every morning this last week with my stomach in knots. There will be lots going on this trip and in some ways it’s just a bit overwhelming, mainly because for the most part I will be managing it all on my own rather than with Brett, my usual travel partner. Not only will I be saying goodbye and handing WenYu over to Wellesley, but I’ve also then got to get myself back to Colorado to spend a couple of days with my mom, and finally home to Kaua’i. I don’t really know my way around where Mom is in Colorado, and will have lots of free time there as Mom can only handle visits of around an hour and a half or so at the most. Mom’s condition is also an unknown – there’s been no word since my brother and sister visited early last month, so I am trusting that “no news is good news.” or at least as good as it can be, all things considered (medical information is only given out to my sister, and she hasn’t relayed anything). It’s almost hard to believe right now that this trip is just eight days long, and that three of those will be taken up with air travel.

We also just learned that rather than head straight on through to Boston, all our luggage will have to be claimed after we arrive in San Diego because of the length of the layover, and then rechecked the next morning for the second flight. I’ve got my fingers crossed on both hands that we won’t be charged for the checked bags a second time since the two flights are part of the same itinerary. I admit to feeling a bit relieved though about having the bags with us overnight as I was concerned about WenYu’s things having to sit so long in the airport.

We have fun things on our itinerary to look forward to though. WenYu and I will be having dinner with our good friend Denise while we’re stopped over in San Diego, and my childhood next door neighbor will be meeting us at the airport in Boston. We’ll be staying at her home while we’re there, and also getting together with another former childhood neighbor for a small reunion one evening. I’m feeling especially blessed that WenYu will have two families nearby that she can call if she ever needs assistance. I know she will be in good hands, which makes me less anxious about her being so far from us.

We had a weird bump this week on Monday evening when the freezer in our refrigerator suddenly decided to defrost itself. Thankfully I noticed that something was wrong and got everything out to our small freezer in the garage so we didn’t lose anything. Tuesday morning though the freezer was working fine again, making ice and everything, and we haven’t had a problem since. We’ve learned this week that this has happened to others during the summer – we’ve heard about others’ freezers mysteriously going into defrost mode and then back up again, including our landlord’s. He was right on the problem when we called, and we were glad we weren’t the ones having to set up repairs (if they had been necessary) or pay for them.

For now, I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to write in the coming week, but I’m taking along my trusty MacBook and will blog when and if I can.

Anyway, this afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I finished both China Rich Girlfriend and VB6 (Vegan Before 6) and just checked out and downloaded The Sound of Broken Glass by Deborah Crombie, and The Little Friend by Donna Tartt, to my Kindle. Two very different books, but I love Crombie’s mysteries, and Donna Tartt’s books are wonderful reads. I read The Little Friend several years ago and have been wanting to reread it for a while, but I’m starting with the mystery first.
  • Listening to: WenYu and YaYu are chatting away, planning a trip into Kapa’a Old Town for lunch together and to walk around and look at the shops and spend some time together. It’s an absolutely love day here, and surprisingly quiet outside.
  • Watching: I’d like to watch the Olympics closing ceremony tonight – I always feel sad when they’re over, but tonight is also the final episode ever of Lewis, so we’ll watch that instead and then get back to the Olympics. I’ll hopefully get to see the Japan part of the ceremony, as they always highlight the next host country in the ceremony, and Brett and I hope to be in Tokyo in 2020 to see some of the games! WenYu and I also watched every episode of Stranger Things, a new Netflix series, last week. If you like creepy mysteries, you will enjoy Stranger Things – it’s very well done and leaves questions for another season. One big reason I am going to miss WenYu is that she has always been my viewing buddy for these kinds of shows. She loves the creepy/scary as much as I do.
  • Cooking/baking: I’ve got kalua pork going in the slow cooker right now, and will get the macaroni salad going in a little while. I’m also going to bake a pan of brownies this afternoon, so that they’ll be available for YaYu’s lunches this week as well as for snacking.
  • Happy I accomplished last week: WenYu and I got everything coordinated for packing; later this afternoon we will start, with Brett’s assistance, making sure it all fits into her suitcases. But, everything is ready to go! We also finally fit in a family stop for some yummy shave ice last Friday. There’ll be another review in the near future!
  • Looking forward to next week: I’m definitely not looking forward to saying goodby to WenYu next week, but I’m greatly excited about getting together with Denise, and reconnecting with my childhood neighbors and friends. I am also looking forward to stopping by the J.Jill store when we’re in Massachusetts. J.Jill is my all-time favorite brand, and their sales rack has always been filled with good deals. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that there will be a nice selection of summer items on sale as they transition to fall styles.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: WenYu had a very busy last week at work and made a boatload of tips. She earned enough this summer to be heading off with more than enough to cover her miscellaneous expenses for the year. This may not sound like a good thing, but after reading VB6 I tried adding a small amount of dairy (cheese and sour cream) back into my diet in the evenings. The dairy items tasted good, and it went OK so I now know I can have them in occasionally in small amounts. I still have no interest in meat though. Our weather has been very nice this week, both cooler and with a lot less humidity. We put $8.26 in the change/$1 bill jar.
  • Thankful for: I got both Kindle downloads above for free from the library. While I occasionally buy books, it’s so easy to download from the library website, and the three-week checkout time provides great motivation to not let myself get distracted and not get the books read in a timely manner. I am beyond thankful for all the services our libraries provide, and all for free.
  • Bonus question: Do you remember a time five years ago when you were extremely upset?Three years? Does it matter now? While I do get upset about things from time to time, I rarely get extremely upset about anything. However, five years ago a situation occurred with my siblings, and the fallout from that still reverberates and affects our relationships to this day. The situation was very upsetting at the time, but the changes that have occurred since have turned out to be positives for me, which I could not have imagined at the time. For the most part though I don’t (and can’t) remember things that happened even a year ago, so nothing else in the past five years has been as serious or upsetting as it seemed at the time.

That’s it for this week from Chez Aloha! I hope you’ve all enjoyed a very nice week, and had good things happen for you.

Things Are Getting Real

We are well stocked with snacks for the airplane!
We are well stocked with snacks for the airplane!

One week from today WenYu and I will arrive in Massachusetts, and it is really starting to sink in how much we both need to do to get her ready to go (I can pack my bag in about 15 minutes). This morning WenYu is renewing her passport, and this afternoon she and I both have appointments for haircuts (same stylist) among other things that need to be taken care of. Every day now she will be setting things out to be packed, and she has three more days of work to get through as well.

At least all our travel snacks are ready to go! WenYu and I went to Costco on Monday to pick up a couple of things she wants to take with her, and when we saw the bag of Kona Coffee Macadamia Nut Brittle we knew we had to have it, even if it wasn’t on our list. What’s not to love about coffee, macadamia nuts and brittle? WenYu is set with her pork jerky, Pringles, Chimes ginger chews and Sour Patch Kids to get her through the long flights, and I’ll make do with the ginger wafer cookies and brittle (and maybe a couple of Pringles). We’re going to pick up a couple of sandwiches on Monday to take along for lunch on our way over to San Diego, but unless we can find something in the San Diego airport before we depart for Boston we’ll have to buy our lunch onboard for that leg of the trip on Wednesday.

On a different note, Brett and my retirement in Hawai’i was highlighted yesterday in Bob Lowry’s wonderful blog, A Satisfying Retirement! If you’re starting to think about retirement, getting close or already there, Bob’s blog is a fabulous resource, with a wealth of information about how to truly enjoy a more satisfying retirement no matter where you live or what you plan to do. I encourage you check it out (if you’re not already reading it, that is)!

This Week’s Menu: Rustling Through the Cupboards

Love making our own kalua pork "plate lunch" at home
Love making our own kalua pork “plate lunch” at home

It’s getting to be time for Brett and I to do our big monthly shop, but with WenYu and I leaving next week Brett and I have decided to postpone the shop-athon until after I get back at the end of the month. This next week, and while Brett and YaYu are holding down the fort the week after, we’ll be using up more of what we have on hand, which at first glance didn’t seem like very much, but as usual turns out to be more than enough to put some tasty and healthy meals on the table.

It’s humbling to realize that when I’m thinking “there’s nothing here to make a meal” the truth is we have so much, sort of like walking into a giant closet full of clothes and telling oneself, “there’s nothing to wear!” Millions of people around the world, and right here in the U.S., feed their families with far less than we currently have, and many in the world would consider what we have in our pantry, fridge and freezer to be an embarrassment of riches. Add in not having to worry over our steady supply of clean water right from the tap, and uninterrupted electricity to run a big refrigerator and a freezer, and we really do live a very privileged life.

I also want to sit down with YaYu before I leave and listen to what she wants to eat and cook before making a shopping list. With her being our “only” at the dinner table from now on, I feel she should have a greater say in what we buy and fix.

Here’s what’s on the menu this week:

  • Tuesday (this evening): Chicken yakisoba (no chicken for me)
  • Wednesday: Vegetable lo mein; potstickers; steamed rice (vegetable potstickers for me)
  • Thursday: Spaghetti with classic marinara; grilled Italian sausages (vegan for me); grilled zucchini; garlic bread
  • Friday: Chicken fried rice (no chicken for me)
  • Saturday: Slow cooker Kalua pork; macaroni salad; steamed rice; cucumber salad (everything but the pork for me)
  • Sunday: Leftovers
  • Monday: Eating out somewhere

We really do have plenty on hand, and won’t need to make any trips to the store until after I get back. There’s also more than enough for Brett and YaYu to fix while I’m gone.

As I said, an embarrassment of riches. I’m really wondering why I ever thought we didn’t have enough to get through this week or the next.

Another One Is Leaving the Nest

WenYu and I had a great time on the south shore this past Saturday, finishing up the last bit of shopping that needed to be done before she leaves for college next week. We had a fun time together, and enjoyed our lunch stop at Puka Dogs in Poipu.

This will be WenYu’s last week of work for the summer; Saturday is her final day. She’s been starting to get her things organized, and packing will begin in earnest next weekend. We’ll finish that up on Monday, and on Tuesday morning she and I will leave to take her back to Massachusetts.

WenYu's referral picture, the only one we had before we met her
WenYu’s referral picture, the only one we had before we met her

Although she’s not our youngest child, WenYu was our last baby, the last child whose diapers we changed, watched take her first step and all those other milestones. Brett and I had requested to adopt an older child, a toddler between the ages of two and four because we were getting older, and had also gotten rid of almost all of the baby things we had borrowed for Meiling’s arrival. When we got “the call” from our social worker two months earlier than expected, letting us know that we had been matched with a 10-month old baby, we were told we could turn down the referral because she was so much younger than we had requested. However, Brett and I both felt there must have been a good reason this baby was matched to us, and we accepted the referral without hesitation.

In Beijing, age seven
In Beijing, age seven. WenYu thanked us for taking her when we got home, and told us “I left a piece of my heart there.”

WenYu was and continues to be the easiest baby/toddler/child/teenager/young woman to raise. There were no “terrible” years, ever. No scenes, no tantrums, no talking back, no demands, no sulking. We could have sent her to have tea with the Queen at age three and not worried about her manners or ability to make conversation. She’s always been a good listener, and able to see what’s under the surface in almost every situation . . . an old soul. She has always provided a calm, serene presence in our family. She is the child that eats anything without complaint; the one that when you ask for an opinion gives a thoughtful one, and with kindness; the student who gives a little bit more than what is asked for.

She’s never been a pushover though. She knows how to assert herself, both subtly and otherwise, and you know if she asks you stop, or says no, that she means it. One of my favorite memories was when I took her to swim lessons when she was three years old. Meiling was also learning to swim and took to it like a fish to water, moving up to the next level after each six-week session. WenYu, on the other hand, happily went along to the pool, put on her swimsuit without complaint, got into the pool with her classmates, and then did nothing. She ended the year at the same level she started because she was just not interested in learning to swim at age three and this was how she chose to assert herself. But the next year? She decided she was ready, and after that she was the one moving up after each session, and ended up surpassing everyone else. We’ve learned that she may do things on her own schedule, but she always gets done what she needs to, and always on time.

Is she perfect? Most definitely not. Her spirit animal is the sloth, and her pace can sometimes leave the rest of us feeling very frustrated. She’s a packrat and her room is always a mess, and I genuinely feel for her upcoming roommate. We’ve made her promise that she at least keeps her mess to her side of the room.

High school senior

WenYu wrote the following when she was 16:

Sometimes as an adoptee, I feel like my mosaic is flipped over, so all my pieces are undetected, mounted on a foreign substance — material that is familiar to me, but completely bizarre to some. People want to inspect me. They want to know my “dramatic” life story. They want to know about my “real” parents. Am I related to my sisters? Would I change anything? In return, I smile and shake or nod my head respectfully, but in the back of my mind I can’t help but wonder, “Why does it matter?”

I don’t mind being asked these questions. I believe curiosity isn’t something that should be held in contempt, but sometimes I am confronted by people who believe that because I’m adopted, I’m missing a crucial part of who I am. They look at me as though my picture can never be complete. My personal experiences have actually had the opposite effect. I am confident in this growing montage of myself. I know what I like, what I believe in, what I want to do with my life. I don’t think anyone can control these things. Of course our parents will influence us, but it is my own decision whether I find their opinions to be true or not.

As I’ve grown, more pieces have been added to my “big picture,” slowly covering that unknown material that is my foundation. I was born a clean slate, but it was me who found these fragments that made my mosaic strong. After 15 years of being an adoptee, I realize that everyone is defined by more than where or who they come from. I am more than blood and DNA. I am more than a pair of brown eyes. I am a mind, and a voice. I am somebody’s daughter. Someone’s sister, whether we came from the same people or not. I am—in the simplest, most true way of describing it—Me.

We are going to miss WenYu so very, very much, but at the same time we are so excited for her that we can barely stand it. She is ready to fly away as her own person, and we want to yell, “Look out world! Here she comes!”