I had some dreams ... they were klowns in my koffee.

(With apologies to Carly Simon)

This is my journey through job transition from a toxic environment to a better life. Join me for a few thoughts and a few laughs along the way.
What are "klowns in my koffee"? They are the factors large and small that make you less than you are. A "klown" can be a grossly incompetent boss,
a short-sighted policy or a moronic coworker. They won't kill you, at least not immediately, but they abrade the soul
as you scrape past them to get through the day. Sometimes it's best to dump them out of the cup.


Day 217 - Halloween Eve Eve

Daily Kup (What I Did On My Midlife Vacation)
Daisy meeting numero dos was this morning. One little girl burst into tears in the middle of my reenactment of Girl Scout founder Juliette "Daisy" Gordon Low's visit to Lord Baden-Powell in London to study his concept of Boy Scouts. She said she missed her mother but I'm not completely convinced that the off-key rendition of "London Bridge is Falling Down" didn't push her over the edge.

We took advantage of the 50 degree weather to get the leaves off the front yard and into the trailer. We'll dump the trailer at the city's collection point. They will compost it and next spring we'll pick up the compost in the trailer. One loop from producer to consumer and back again could be saved if I composted the leaves myself but my two composters are already full. Usually, I wait until it's really windy and the leaves blow into my neighbor's yard. When we dug the rain garden, a depression with natural plantings designed to reduce runoff and absorb rainwater back into the water table, it provided a nice bunker in which to gather my neighbor's leaves. Drat!

My Little Town
When Simon & Garfunkel sang "Nothing but the dead and dying back in my little town," I thought when I was 15 that they meant Watertown, New York. In a weird twist of fate, my holiday tradition is a Halloween miniature town where there's nothing but the dead, dying and undead.

And every Halloween town needs a giant cat.

When Jimmy Buffet was asked where Margaritaville was, he replied, "Anywhere you want it to be." The same is true for any "Little Town" that may be living in the back of your mind.


Day 216 - A Little TOO Much Reality

Daily Kup (My Midlife Crisis is Going Well. Thank you for asking.)
The weather taunts me with its sudden jumps to 50 degrees that suddenly seems like beach weather after the last couple of windy and cold days. It whispers tantalizingly, "Not quite warm enough to paint" and smirks through falling leaves. It will be the right temperature to mow and pull out annuals, however, so my exciting weekend is planned.

I spent most of the day bringing my Daisy obligations to completion. Troop 15350 now has a splendid if a bit cookie cutter website. Booya!

Second Acts Part 2
Yesterday we talked about Vanilla Ice and other marginal or post-bloom performers who have managed to branch to unexpected careers with an associated reality TV series when their day day job quit them.
How about the career shifts that we'd really like to see? Who could not resist these reality TV shows:

Florence Henderson, America's favorite TV mom according to her website, as the new boat captain on Deadliest Catch.

Mrs. Brady runs a clean ship she does ... because guest star Ann B Davis as "Alice" vacuums every day. But Florence can swear with the best of them when a net gets a hole in it. Hilarity ensues when the crew of the Time Bandit pledges that Davy Jones will perform at the prom. Marcia, Marcia, Marcia.

Woody Allen as the host of the Marriage Ref.

The aging director explains how his personal relationships have been so successful and coaches others on his upbeat and optimistic approach to life.

Roseanne Barr and her Kvetching Workout.

Lose weight the way your grandma did, by complaining loudly and poking your finger in people's faces. Those jowls and upper arms have never looked so taunt!

Sly uses weaponry to straighten out unruly toddlers ... and their parents, too.

Two problems -- the little dog freezes to the tire when he pees every 30 miles and Paris gets tired of explaining that it's pronounced TRucker.


Day 215 - Ice, Ice Maybe

Daily Kup (My Life Wandering in the Desert for 40 Years)
As the Midwest sinks into winter, we gather our scarves and jackets around us like life preservers and resolve to cling to the side of the boat resolutely until the arrival of spring.

I made a cloak today for Attila the Son's Halloween costume. He has a shiny red skull mask and a sickle. With black sweatpants and a black overshirt, he is ready to reap.

This was another day of solid progress, alternating between some solid writing, job hunting, and some home clean-up. Tomorrow is Daisy prep day to get everything ready for Saturday's first real troop meeting. The troop has grown to give-or-take 14 little girls from the 3 we started with. I have a day to get the troop website implemented and populated. In March, I wouldn't have known where to start but now I'm comfortable to take this on. Every once in a while, I have to stop and marvel about everything that I've learned since leaving the bondage of Porkus. On to the Promised Land!

Pimp My Career Transition

Have you noticed the commercial for a home improvement reality show on DIY Network starring 90's rap singer turned home contractor Vanilla Ice aka Robert Van Winkle? The show, The Vanilla Ice Project, follows Mr. Ice as he renovates a 7,000 square foot mansion.

It's nice to see that he decided to learn a trade and didn't waste the last 15 years.

Van Winkle has stepped into that rare pool of semi-celebrities who have bloomed outside the limelight after the 15-minute timer rang.

Another odd but successful career move: Who could have envisioned the success of the George Foreman grill? Large boxer. Oldest man ever to become the Heavyweight Boxing Champion. Ordained minister. Equals little tabletop grill? Not your standard equation.

Is there a link between faded celebrity, odd second act career choice, and reality TV?

Maybe. In addition to being America's foremost grill shill, George Foreman appeared as the judge on the reality show American Inventor.

And how about Steven Seagal? (Warning: If you follow the link to his site, the home page comes up with him singing. I mention it not only in case you are some place where blaring audio is a bad thing but also because I wouldn't want people around you to think that this is the kind of thing you like to listen to.) The martial arts expert who traveled to Japan to study and become successful for being one of the taller people there made a number of forgettable movies and a couple that I have to admit were kind of fun.

Seagal's website states that he has "unparralled {sic} passion for the arts that few can match." His passion for spelling does not rise as high. And there seems to be some confusion about what unparalleled means - unequalled, unique, unprecedented. So he is unique with some other people. Don't blame him - he's only the cook.

And, yes, Steven has waded into reality TV with Steven Seagal Lawman. This show was cancelled like poop through a goose last year when Mr. Seagal was involved in something so disturbing that I won't link to a description. If you haven't heard of the incident, then I guess you'll have to query it if you are curious.

I mention the unsavory allegations at all because the TV show website includes the opportunity to buy a bobblehead of Steve Seagal in his Lawman outfit. Hallelujah! Christmas is saved!

There are no second acts in American lives.
~F. Scott Fitzgerald

Sorry, Scott. The Vanilla Ice Project has been renewed for a second season. And good for him. We all need to think that there could be a second act ... and a third and a fourth, if necessary.

Without further ado, the first act. Word to your mother.

Tomorrow: Other Faded Celebrities Who Should Radically Change Jobs and Get Reality TV Shows


Day 214 - Keeping Track

Daily Kup (My Life as the cold wind blows)
A few snowflakes, like playful squirrels, swirled and chased each other this morning at the bus stop. We brought in the paint cans from the cold garage and sighed at the incomplete projects piled up left and right.

A few days ago, I picked up an old wooden bar on Freecycle. We towed the trailer into the city to pick it up and found that it was a little more beaten up than we had hoped. Still, we'd come all that distance so the bar was dutifully loaded into the trailer and hauled directly to the floor of my garage. It's currently a sore point at my house. I'm going to make something wonderful out of that thing even if it's knotty pine firewood.

Taking Into Account - A Low-Tech Account Info and Password Template
I use variations of the same couple passwords for most logins. This is bad and I know it. On the other hand, if you want to break into my account at Build-A-Bear Workshop, feel free but please remember to pick up the free virtual teddy bear clothes that they owe me.

While I have unwisely made it easier to hack my accounts, it seems that I haven't made it easy enough because I used to continually forget which version of which passwords I used for the infrequently used accounts. Add to that my three primary email addresses and there was plenty of opportunity to be my own self-effective security function through sheer incompetence.

There are several wonderful software utilities to handle this login ID and password problem but, in a way, they do their job almost too well by camouflaging this information from anyone else in my household who may need to reference it. For example, I pay most of my bills electronically. If my husband ever wants to pay a bill -- say I get hit by the proverbial bus -- he wouldn't know where to start.

Sometimes low-tech is all one needs. I stick 4 x 6 index cards in my printer and print a stack of Account Trackers using the template in the link below. The cards then go in a file box with alphabetic dividers kept close to my home office computer. Whenever a new account is set up, the relevant information is noted on the card and the card is filed alphabetically by the website or company name. The back of the card can be used to record any other pertinent information like account numbers or the contact's name and email.

Account Tracking Cards template

Those in the family who would likely have to mop up from the bus accident scenario merely need to know where the file box is. This technique is also useful for shared accounts like research sites or the kids' lunch money account where each adult having a unique account is simply not needed. For families with children, the same card can be used with the rule that the child may not sign up for any accounts without having the login and password on file. My son forgets his password for his baseball card site frequently; by directing him to his Account Tracker card for this account, he has the opportunity to solve his own problem -- an important skill for him to practice.

It's not super-techy but it works. What's not to love?


Day 213 - Forcefeed That Man a Pop Tart!

Daily Kup (My Life in the Middle Ages)
Heavy rains hammered. Winds shook the house. My rain barrel filled, overflowed and then repeated the process. The kids are excited to think that it may snow tomorrow. I sat inside, snug in my three sweaters and lowered thermostat, and worked on my job search and the data flotsam and jetsam of my life.

Weighty Concerns or What a Friend We Have in Chocolate
My husband is minding his health. He is watching what he eats and hitting the gym daily. As he is closer now to forty than to thirty, he has come to grips with his father's tragic obesity-related mid-forties death and decided to take a different path. There's also the roughly $3000 spent last year on M&M's, pop, peanut butter cups, sausage sandwiches from gas stations, pop tarts, and Little Debbies's. I couldn't be happier about most of the positive changes and it goes to show that the motivation must come from within in order to be successful.

He says that he wants to fit into a Speedo. I've told him that he could wear one now. The only problem would be that no one could tell he had it on.

He's not keen on that joke.

He's feeling better and looking better. But Little Debbie is a harsh and unforgiving mistress and does not relinquish her minions without a struggle. Little Debbie uses psychological warfare. Chocolate and junk food withdrawal creates such an ornery person that I'm considering hiding a Hershey bar in a pocket cut in the skinless chicken breast for dinner just to mellow him out. A hungry husband does not spread joy. A really hungry husband replaces the stimulation that used to come from a steady intake of food with causing a commotion.

Over the weekend, he argued with his mother about the existence of a set of twins in his small hometown. He had not seen the two girls standing next to each other and had concluded that there was only one. That perception sort of makes sense when you don't consider that twins are almost always called "The Twins" at least some of the time. And, of course, it would be odd for one girl to be called by two different first names. Wouldn't you wonder? But I digress. The part that truly doesn't make sense is what he thought his mother would gain by insisting that there were twin sisters if there were not. Stranger still is getting hopping mad about it. "That's Mom trying to gaslight me again!?"

Speaking of gaslights, my car wouldn't start on Monday morning. The car wouldn't quite turn over even though the battery was good, no problems with the starter or alternator, the belts were tight. It was as though it couldn't get any gas ... because it was out of gas. T smirked and mentioned that he was not going to give me a hard time for my usual habit of driving around with the tank nearly empty since it finally caught up with me. Gleeful smirk.

Then I pointed out to him that he was the last one to drive the car. I was informed that this was all my fault because 'you told me to ignore the light and the gas gage." In truth, several years ago I told him to regard the light coming on with some skepticism. The first time that he drove the car and the gas light came on, he immediately pulled over to the side of the road and started to panic wondering how far he'd have to walk to a gas station. Never mind that the car was still running. My true statement was that it is not necessary to freak out. The light is a nice reminder that some time in the next forty miles would be a good time to fill up. I never said, "It's OK for the needle to go so far below Empty that there's space between the needle and the Empty line." My car does not run on moonbeams.

I'll spare you the details of two other conversations with the general descriptions "It's much smarter to get a leather coat soaking wet standing in the rain than to wear a raincoat" and "gasoline has never before evaporated out of the gas cans when I've left them unsealed."

I'd like to hire someone to get some junk food into his system. Right about now, I really don't care about the entrance point but could suggest one if asked.

I love that he's making these dramatic and positive changes to improve his health. I only hope I survive them. With humor intact.


Day 212 - Don't Quit Your Day Job

Daily Kup (My Life as a Gainfully Unemployed Person)
Nothing like a rainy day to make you reflect on your choices. I used this time to clean up some old projects and make way for some new.

Here are some perfect examples of questionable casting and/or bad choices in material.

In the first video, it's hard to say what's worse: Jack Nicholson's singing or Jack Nicholson's singing in sort of an English accent.

For contrast, just when you think that it would be hard to sing worse than Jack, Oliver Reed comes into the scene and makes Jack seem cool once again.

For those of you who have groaned through William Shatner's rendition of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, I bet you never knew that he had the sheer chutzpah to follow up with a version of Rocket Man in front of a live, and apparently magically forgiving, audience. Before you think to yourself, "I won't play the whole thing because that's five minutes of my life I'll never get back,"
hang in up to 2:04 where Bill splits into two and bandies verses with himself. If you think it can't get any worse, at 3:50, he manages to drain a little more out of the dignity pool with a further stunt.

You weren't going to do that much with those five minutes anyway.

After those two examples, Clint Eastwood manages to look pretty good in this singing role.

Poor choices, poor choices.


Day 211 - Kazakhstan Part 21

Every Sunday, this blog will describe our life-changing trip to Kazakhstan in 2005 to adopt our two youngest children. While some of our friends and family have seen a few of the pictures, we've never put it all together in an organized format. One of the reasons is that I hesitate to subject others to a 21st century version of the endless slideshow of vacation photos harking to some relative's visit and a lost evening of my childhood. Still, the story must be told before details are lost since this is my children's unique birthright. When we get to the end of the story, I'll edit the posts together into an extended and separate blog page and then have it printed by one of the blog-to-book(let) services for my kids. For people with less interest, these posts will be easy to identify and avoid. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Keeping a baby engaged in a small, overheated space was actually somewhat easier than keeping an active three-year-old content in a large room with breakable objects on every wall.

Anastasiya held her head up strongly and had an intense, if angry-looking, gaze. We settled into the upholstered chairs as though there were any other choice in this room the size of our bathroom at home. The door was open and Inna was perched on a chair outside. Particularly during the first few visits, we would look up to see some caregiver or other unexplained and unsmiling person staring in.

The baby was sturdy but didn't wriggle as much as I remembered babies doing. She stared at us and around the room.

When the attendants weren't looking, I counted her fingers and moved all of her joints to make sure that they moved in the direction they were supposed to and not any other way. Her eyes tracked. Her little gummy mouth looked normal. The bones in her head had knit completely. We couldn't see or feel any odd lumps or strange discolorations.

When we tickled her, she looked somber and a bit confused.

She sat on Terry's lap and stared intently at his beard. This seemed to be a much better plaything than the rattle and she eventually successfully swatted at it with one hand.

Inna appeared to translate a request from the baby house. "Next time, bring a big bag of disposable diapers and clothes for the baby. Each day they will dress her in whatever you bring."
Since the realization during the interviews at Baby House 2 that they were dressing the children in a special set of "visiting clothes" in the back room, we wondered what the children were wearing when we didn't see them. From the hothouse temperature in this baby house, maybe the children wore very little.

It was hot and humid in the little room. And it was glasses-steaming humid. We sat down with the baby on the rug in front of the chairs. A caregiver materialized to look disapprovingly. She signalled that the floor was much too cold and drafty for the baby. She closed the door with a disgusted look. Well, that put an end to the peepers, which was just fine with us.

Anastasiya was strong and had no neuromuscular or skeletal abnormalities as far as we could tell but her muscular development was delayed. She could grasp and hold objects but she couldn't sit by herself. She could lie comfortably on her tummy or on her back but made only slight movements to turn over. She could vocalize but didn't coo or babble.

Institutionalized children have inevitable developmental delays but it was disconcerting to see firsthand a nine-month-old who was developmentally only five- or six-months-old.

We held a toy where she could see it and then moved it to her side as she lay on her back. Not much reaction. Some more tickling met with some more glaring, but the dawn of interest.

Terry held her sitting on his lap and facing him and bounced her up and down. That move was a winner. Not a smile yet, but not a scowl either. He bounced her forward, he bounced her backward, he bounced until he was bounced out and then it was my turn.

We switched off holding the baby and walking from one end of the room to the other, about five paces. She like the window mounted way up in the wall.

Inna opened the door and said it was time to be done. The caregiver scooped up the baby who stared stoically forward with an expression a little like Leonid Brezhnev without the really big eyebrows.

We had arrived at 4 PM and it was now a little after 5. Length of visitation was supposed to be two hours or so according to what we had initially been told but this seemed to be another one of those aspects of Kazakh law that were more like guidelines. We were getting used to this and signed the log when it was pushed in front of us. After all, it was Saturday and the staff was probably eager to have their one-day weekend as well.


Day 210 - The Sasa, the Owl and a Squirrel on a Board

Daily Kup (My Life on Assignment on the Road)
Being neither Jack Kerouac nor Cormac McCarthy, I cannot claim to be "On the Road" or on "The Road," a good thing in the latter case since I'm not feeling post-apocalyptic at the moment. Does that mean I am "beat"?

We are having a wonderful visit with T's family. One of the objectives of the trip was to record the reflections of an old family friend. David had been the best man at my husband's parents' wedding and a close friend of T's father from childhood until his sudden death in his mid-forties. Attila the Son, always at odds with the world and wanting to find his place, had asked many questions about his grandfather and sparked this chance to gather the threads of the past and tie them into the untidy bow that is a survivor's summation of the life of someone never met.

In Swahili tradition, people who have died become the 'living-dead' in a state of personal immortality in the present period of time (Sasa) when there are friends and relatives who keep the person alive in their memories. Once there are none left who can recognize the name or recall the anecdotes, then the person is truly dead and moves into the past (Zamani).

We have a video recording of David recounting tales of T's father's youth and some wonderful photographs to scan - a boost to T's dad's immortality in the Sasa, some answers to a little boy's questions and maybe some more closure for a bigger boy as well.

"I hope it is true that a man can die and yet not only live in others but give them life, and not only life, but that great consciousness of life.” ~ Jack Kerouac

Two Spoons of Sugar and a Splash of Cream

This stately lady lives at the Houston Nature Center. Located on the Root River Trail, the HNC has a reputation as the best trailhead in the state and certainly the only one with a live owl living on premises. Meet Alice, the resident Great Horned Owl. She was found as a chick with a badly damaged wing. Hand-raised, she became the inhabitant and mascot of the Center. The extent of her injuries prevents her from living in the wild but she obviously enjoys her "perch with a view."

Center also features flowing prairie plantings accented with sculptures like this one made from bicycle parts.

This squirrel is facing a long Sasa tacked to a board next to a sign saying that he isn't a complete albino because he, with his brown eyes, doesn't have all the traits of albinism. If the taxidermy shop had only brown eyes in the tackle box on squirrel-stuffing day, perhaps the eye color was more the product of convenience than genetics. So, dead, stuffed, nailed to a wall, located next to a flying predator. I don't even wish that on Glen Beck.
Early tomorrow, we head back home.

“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.” ~ Jack Kerouac


Day 209 - Kurb Appeal

Daily Kup (My Life IN CAPS)
Traveling in the yellow bus with two sleeping children and one guy who is always too hot. He slowly eases the window down so that he thinks I won't notice cold air rushing by at 70 miles per hour. Yes, I'm sure that the radio station is getting too distant; it's not that I can't hear it because I'm being sucked into the jetstream.

Before leaving town for a visit to extended family, we officially completed phase 1 of Project Curb Appeal.
This was a photo that I took for my home insurance company. I was careful to have the tree branches cover the huge holes in the siding between the windows.

The Martha-ization is complete.

It's a good thing.

i can't hear you


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Day 208 - There is no ME in MEA

Daily Kup (My Life Living the Dream)
A day with two cranky children can be awfully long. With visions of forming happy family memories, I took them to pick out a pumpkin or two for the new photogenic front porch. They kicked pumpkins and poked each other with squash. My daughter has developed a fear of flowering kale. I trust this will form an indelible memory of some sort, though not what I had originally envisioned. Some therapist will one day be able to buy a boat.

It was fairly cold today so not much painting was done. I did reassemble a screen door and installed a new wireless garage door keypad. I'm looking forward to a warm and sunny day tomorrow.

The day in a nutshell:


Day 207 - Land of a Thousand Ugly Couches

Daily Kup (My Life Chasing the American Dream)
The front porch is nearing completion. The doors have been painted and all the new locksets and latches installed. There are new lights that don't give you a jolt one out of four times and a new door bell that lights up. I have to put a new screen into the screen door that the children open by thrusting their hands into the screen. There is also accent paint needed for the sidelights. After that, mums, pumpkins, a new welcome mat, and those little Martha-like touches that say "I read too many magazines."

The kids will be home tomorrow and Friday for what is called by tradition "MEA." This annual holiday for school children occurs in mid-October and allows teachers to attend the Education Minnesota Professional Conference. We'll see just how much I can get done with the extra help.

Couched in Strong Terms
When Mary Tyler Moore threw her hat in the air in downtown Minneapolis while the swelling music declared that "Love is All Around," she was optimistic but slightly inaccurate. Love is elusive but ugly couches are all around. I found these samples on Craigslist. There are dozens more like them.

Apparently, Uncle Max has put on weight.

Either these people have a garden hose and Astroturf in the living room or this puppy is sitting on the lawn.

"We found Aunt Netty's body right here."

This one's being held in some kind of dungeon. I think we can all agree it had it coming.

Something wore off

... or maybe grew on.

Anyway, it's just not right.

This was advertised as a "nice floral." Well, it's floral all right.
The four red blotches along the back cushions are troubling. I didn't know the St. Valentine's Day Massacre occurred at tea.

When I look away, I still see it imprinted on my retinas.

This one comes with a girl.
You don't see that in most of the furniture ads.
It's nice that she dressed to match the sofa.
But I still see her.


Day 206 - Talking to Myself

Daily Kup (What I Do With All This Quiet)
I am enjoying the peace and quiet as all the people and their fledgling colds have toddled off to bed. Mr. T wonders how I can stand all the silence. I talk to myself, for one thing. I was telling myself just the other day that I should stop that. That provoked a healthy debate where I won and I lost.

Maybe I should go to a coffee shop or something once in a while.

Today, I actually stopped painting and went to a hair salon. It was a nice break and I've always treated it as one of only a couple of activities that I do where I don't multitask. With my head gooped up and a stack of magazines, I sit in the seat nearest the window. They come by to refresh my cup of herbal tea while I read and chat with an array of folks with foils poking out of their heads at odd angles. Today, there was a change. The gowns and pinwheel-like foils were there but women sat at the table fiddling with their notebooks or typing frantically with their thumbs on their phone's tiny keyboards. Part of me thought, "Why don't you people just give it a rest for a while?" Unfortunately, another part thought, "Wow! I didn't know they had free wi-fi here."

Never Gets Old
I was reviewing my You Tube favorites and came across the first video that I saved to a playlist didn't involve golf balls in a blender or a squirrel on water skis. This was way back in the "before time long, long ago" and might have been the first time I had heard the term 'viral video.'

Weird, but it kind of makes me want to eat a mentos with a Diet Coke. There would be no music, of course. Just the screaming.


Day 205 - Good-bye, Old Paint

Daily Kup (My Life as a Gainfully Unemployed Person)
As the days grow colder, I'm finding more things to drag inside and paint. The cats are starting to look concerned whenever they see me with brushes, thinking that they might be next to be decorated.

In a flurry of Monday zeal, I painted the front day and installed a new lockset. The old lockset worked perfectly with the exception of not really locking. It stuck so badly that you'd think it was locked when it wasn't so the absence of actual locking wasn't that much of a drawback. As we have all become used to bracing ourselves and charging the door with one shoulder forward to get it open, anyone who doesn't remember about the new lock will find themselves launched facefirst into the closet. Ah, good times.

Attila the Son is coughing and mildly feverish. It's only a matter of a day or two until the others fall into the abyss as well if the lessons of history hold. Helpless, cranky people.

If they lie still too long, I might paint them.


Day 204 - Kazakhstan Part 20

Every Sunday, this blog will describe our life-changing trip to Kazakhstan in 2005 to adopt our two youngest children. While some of our friends and family have seen a few of the pictures, we've never put it all together in an organized format. One of the reasons is that I hesitate to subject others to a 21st century version of the endless slideshow of vacation photos harking to some relative's visit and a lost evening of my childhood. Still, the story must be told before details are lost since this is my children's unique birthright. When we get to the end of the story, I'll edit the posts together into an extended and separate blog page and then have it printed by one of the blog-to-book(let) services for my kids. For people with less interest, these posts will be easy to identify and avoid. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The morning had been consumed with our first official visitation with Nurlan. We were anxious to see what he would do when given building toys to engage his active mechanical sense. The whole visit had the overtones of patting a wild animal in a petting zoo and we were anxious to break down those barriers.

After a long nap, a quick lunch, and our first walk around the outside of the building by ourselves, we grabbed the teddy bear and the newly purchased rattle and waited for Inna and Dima to arrive to take us to visit Anastasiya.

When we first visited Baby House 1, we have been taken through the front door and waited on the shiny wooden bench in the front office. This time, Dima parked around back and Inna took us through the back door. We passed a massive kitchen and a laundry room. The smell of boiling potatoes mingled with detergent.

At the end of the long hallway was a brightly-colored room with a crib that must have been ten feet long on the sides. Babies lay on the crib on their backs and waved arms in the air. Outside the crib, some bigger babies were sitting in little wheeled walkers. Inna gestured for us to take off our shoes and leave them outside the door.

She spoke to the caregiver in Russian. The caregiver left the room and Inna told us to wait in the adjoining room. It was a very small room, perhaps 6 feet by 9 feet if that. There were two upholstered chairs with a small table between them. At head level on one end of the room was a wooden ledge and a small window. As we were in the basement, the window was at ground level and we could see a patch of sky by leaning against the wall and looking straight up.

We sat and chatted about the room. Since this was such a small room, that didn't take long and we were soon out of conversation. The room was so small that we couldn't both pace at the same time so we took turns. The little table held two photo albums. Each album followed a different family visiting in exactly this same room. Later pictures showed the children in the US in their new homes. The inscriptions were in Russian but it seemed that the albums had been sent back by the adoptive families to let the orphanage know that the children were well and happy. I recognized one set of children from an adoption listserv. They were "non-biological twins" -- children who were about the same age and adopted into a family but not biologically related. The message seemed to be, "We were here just like you. We got through it and built a happy family. And so will you."

As I finished the photo albums, the door opened as if on queue. The caregiver held Anastasiya, the baby with the somber face. She was held by the caregiver lightly. She neither clung nor held her arms out. She seemed to be wondering from a distance what was going to happen next.

The caregiver handed her to me and I could feel her wonderful weight and softness. She was heavier than she looked and her very solidness made her seem reassuring and healthy. I sat gingerly in the chair and looked at her. She stared unblinking and intently.
I checked her little hands and all the fingers were there. Her ears were nicely formed. My mother always covered her own ears, feeling that they were large and unattractive, and inspected the ears of any baby handed to her. Mom would approve of Anastasiya's ears. So would Terry's mom, who bemoaned her legacy of "Sander's ears," a trim and slightly elfin ear shape.

It would have been delightful to hold the baby between us but the small room and awkward furniture made that impossible. I handed the baby to Terry. She stared at him silently and then waved a pudgy little arm. He beamed.


Day 203 - What's Your Fortune, Cookie?

Daily Kup (The Personal Diary of my Midlife Crisis)
The first Daisy meeting went very well. We have seven girls in our troop and three to four more that will be there for the next meeting. We had posters and info packets and snacks. It really seemed to be coming together. Fake it 'til you make it.

The continuing beautiful weather allowed me to finish painting the siding on the front of the house. Tomorrow, we'll work on the doors and accents like the house numbers. Once everything is back in the garage, the house will be gorgeous. Until you look at the sides.

I can live with a facade. Again, fake it 'til you make it.

Researching the Fortune Cookie Game
Have you ever heard the assertion that the fortunes in fortune cookies work as well -- or better -- when the phrase "in bed" is added? At Klowns in my Koffee, we are dedicated to rational thinking and the scientific method. Like a cheap, miniature version of Myth Busters, our crack research team decided to take on the challenge.

A package of fortune cookies was selected completely at random from a local grocery store. The content were consumed by a semi-typical suburban family for the good of science. All fortunes were diligently recorded, including the one that was partially eaten by an eager child. Duplicates were eliminated. A distinguished panel then used nominal group techniques to conclude whether or not the "in bed" addition produced a logical result.

One observation outside the scope of the analysis is that people who write fortunes don't know how to punctuate. The examples below are copied directly.

You find beauty in ordinary things, do not lose this ability.
Real change comes from within.
Your business will assume vast proportions.
To understand, listen beneath the words.
Be careful of what your wish for. You may get it.
You will be successful in your work.
You will succeed in anything you put your mind to.
Habitual patterns of thought determine success or failure.
Love is in your future.

Character is a victory, not a gift.

Doesn't work
Thrift is a wonderful virtue; particularly in ancestors.

In summary, 81.8% of fortunes from the sample population successfully met the "in bed" rule while 18.2% did not meet the rule conclusively.

Next research steps: The sample was not sufficiently large to characterize the population. As a follow-up, sufficient samples need to be taken from the products of different manufacturers including those who cater solely to the restaurant trade before a statistically significant conclusion can be formulated. Suggest that additional samples accompany mongolian beef, potstickers and a nice plum wine. In bed.

Extra cup
No less an authority than Food Network has weighed in on fortune cookies. Check out Food Networks list of the Top 10 Worst Fortune Cookies Ever: http://foodnetworkhumor.com/2009/09/the-top-10-worst-fortune-cookies-ever/


Day 202 - The Wreath of Kin

Daily Kup (Like on Sabbatical or a Sabbatical from Life?)
The usual stuff: Girl Scout planning meeting, painting the house, ad nausuem. We picked up Kollege Kid from school so tht she could enjoy a weekend at home. She just completed midterms and there are no classes on Monday, so it seemed like a needed break for her. True to the stereotype, she came out of the dorm trailing a huge bag of laundry.

The first Daisy meeting is tomorrow. It's fortunate that my co-leader seems to take everything in stride, so I emerged from our planning meeting feeling much more comfortable. During my brief stint helping Kollege Kid's Brownie troop way back when, I became known as "the mean mother" for not letting girls run up and down the hall to ransack the vending machines.

You Can't Spell Fundraising without FUN
Attila the Son and Mr. T will journey the length and breadth of our neighborhood this weekend selling Cub Scout Christmas wreaths and roping. They are actually very nice wreaths for the money, so some of the pain of door knocking is reduced. Lat year, the home team found that the best sales time was during the Vikings' games; people are home, particularly men, and men seem to like to buy Scout items from little boys. Or maybe they simply want to get back to their TVs.

So, if you need a nice wreath delivered right before Thanksgiving and live in the Twin Cities area, I know a little boy that you should meet.

La taza no está aquí
No word from the missing coffee cup. There has been an increase in hang-up phone calls though. Just my imagination? Creepy.


Day 201 - Scout Badges

Daily Kup (My Life as a Volunteer)
As a momentary break from the endless housepainting project, I worked on preparing for Saturday's first Daisy Girl Scout meeting, As a break from that, I attended the monthly Cub Scout pack meeting where parents were trained on "youth protection." Youth protection is basically a set of rules to be followed to make it less likely that some perv scoutmaster is going to molest your child. Or, other side of the coin, that some kid isn't going to make up a lie and ruin an adult's life.

I'm glad that the Boy Scouts are facing this head on. It starts to walk the talk when the parents are trained along with the leaders. As an odd coincidence, I sent in my Girl Scout background check information today. It's a rare day when multiple groups want to verify that I'm not dangerous.

Top 10 Most Questionable Boy or Girl Scout Badges
10. Wearing White After Labor Day
9. Persecuting Religions of the World
8. All about Nasal Secretions
7. Drinking Games
6. Gastric Bypass Surgery
5. Explore Flammability of Bodily Gases
4. The ShamWow
3. Vivisection
2. Sexting
1. Pro Football Quarterback Photography


Day 200 - Pennies from Heaven

Daily Kup (My Life as a Gainfully Unemployed Person)
A day dedicated both to painting the final siding on the front of the house and to exploring the new commerce. I placed three trial ads on Craigslist today and found people emailing and then showing up with money to purchase things that were in my way. (This would have been a nice way to remove my ex-husband. Simply by writing "Cash only" and "No-smoking household," I could have had some nice people loading him into a trailer within a few hours.)

Just like eBay, there's a certain exhilaration to the process. But this time, instead of spending money, I'm receiving it. I stroll through the house, envisioning the absence of items and the presence of money in my pocket. With a copy of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Making Money with Craigslist, borrowed from the library of course, I'm looking forward to practicing that bit of alchemy that transmutes crap into cash. Both Green and green!

Porkus Dedux
The grapevine has it that Porkus, my late lamented employer, had another layoff today. Just like them to milk a concept long after it's passé. It's both fitting and ironic that this occurred on the day that the Chilean miners were rescued from an unimaginable period of being trapped in solid rock with the merest chance for survival. Porkus-ites, your escape shaft awaits!

I recently found this cup that captures the true spirit:

If Only ...

Ad found on Craigslist:

FREE: Box elder bugs/leaves (Front and backyard)

Date: 2010-10-12, 10:29AM CDT
Reply to:

I have some box elder bugs and leaves for free. I also will provide( for free) nice 55 gallon black bags and a rake to use. Please leave the bags not needed and
the rake where you found it when you leave. The leaves are maple so they have a great color to them right now (many reds, yellows etc.) The bugs, this time of
the year have deep, rich tones of red/orange and black...........very beautiful. I also have a mower (just to use, don't take it) with a bagger to really help out with the
bugs and leaves to make sure you don't miss any. First come, first serve. I will delete this post when the leaves and box elder bugs are gone. Thank you.

*PLEASE NOTE* If you change your mind after getting everything bagged up, just leave the bags by my truck as I will just take them to recycling.

 Location: Front and backyard
 it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests


Day 199 - The Art of Complaining

Daily Kup (My Life as a Gainfully Unemployed Person)
Same paint, different day (SPDD). Foreign countries have factories full of six-year-olds who can caulk better than I can. Looks like I'll finish the last siding section on the front of the house tomorrow if I get an early start.

Complaining for fun and profit
Yesterday's victory that resulted in the local recall of dangerous and shoddy electronic devices given to children as part of a school fundraising campaign got me thinking about what makes an effective complaint.

If the sole purpose of the complaint is to cater to whatever your psychological problem is or to push someone else's buttons, then we all know how to do that without further analysis. If, on the other hand, the desired outcome is more tangible than inducing general mayhem, these steps will help:

1. Define in your own mind what the desirable or minimally acceptable resolution would be. The proposed resolution should be reasonable and of equal scale with the problem. For example, the response to receiving an improperly packaged order will not reasonably be free products for a lifetime; an apology, overnight shipment of an undamaged replacement part and free return shipping for the damaged part would be a reasonable minimally acceptable resolution for this situation.

2. Don't waste your time with underlings; go directly to the level of the employee who has the authority to approve what you are going to ask for. Keep track of whom you talk to and the date and time.

3. Start by being nice, if only in a no-nonsense way. You can always go crazy later, but it's hard to dial back if you've started with histrionics. It can be effective to appear as though you are struggling with your emotions, but don't lose control. "Control" is almost like a form of matter; it is not created nor destroyed, merely redistributed. If you lose control, someone else gains control, keeping the balance constant in the universe and putting you at a distinct disadvantage.

4. Be concise. Focus on what is wrong, how you are affected by it, and what you want someone to do about it. Say specifically what you want the outcome to be. Silence can be very powerful. Make your case and then be quiet. Occasionally restate the resolution that you are seeking if the conversation moves off topic even if that makes you sound like Forrest Gump. Repetition and consistency are the keys.

5. Document everything in writing when at all possible. Stick with observable facts and limit subjective opinion. For added oomph when you want to be sure and make an impression, cc: a governmental entity, press or media, or your lawyer. My personal favorite softball move is to cc: 'Legal file - {issue name}. If the contact asks, say that you like to be organized and this mechanism helps you keep everything related to this issue together "if case I need it."

6. Make it clear that you are not going to go away. This can be as simple as stating how and when you will be following up. Then be sure to do it.

7. If it's time turn up the heat, notify your contact that you have been regrettably forced to escalate the issue. Then go up the ladder or out to a government agency, a TV station's tip line, or a professional or community organization. The Attorney General in my state has an online complaint form and they are required to follow up on any submission. A phone call from the AG's office can do wonders. It's not like having a 60 Minutes camera crew waiting in the lobby, but it's a good choice for severe and legitimate issues.

8. When you get your successful result, be gracious and thank the contact. This is not the time to continue to kick them, appealing as that sounds.

Da-Dew-Run-Run-Run, Da-Dew-Run-Run

Another day without my cup. This photo appeared in my mailbox this afternoon. One of my suitcases is also missing.