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I'm a 30-something wife and mom. My boys are my pride and joy. Together, we are navigating being a forever family post international adoption.

Friday, January 30, 2015

The Missing Piece


 

   


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Next Week...

Next week, I'm going to get the Christmas decorations put away...

Next week, I'll to call the dentist to re-schedule my appointment that conflicts with Buddy's school schedule...

Next week, I will tackle that mountain of paperwork on my desk I've been putting off...

I am, perhaps, the world's worst procrastinator. The degree to which I can put something off would be impressive if it wasn't such a terrible quality. It's a bit against character, because in most every other aspect of my life I am very organized and conscientious.

My first year of University was extremely stressful. I was away from home for the first time, in a new city, living in a dorm without my familiar support system. I wanted desperately to follow in my father's footsteps and be accepted into the same program he had taken. I studied too hard, slept too little and made myself sick.

I did get into my dream program, but it still took me another couple of years to learn that life is too short to stress myself out over things beyond my control. So in some regards my pendulum swung the other direction and I developed a habit for procrastinating.

When I was finishing up my University program, I had to take a 3 day comprehensive written and oral exam in order to be licensed in my profession. Some of my classmates started studying months in advance. I, on the other hand, chose to wait until the week before.

I passed, by the way, but I'm pretty sure it was by the skin of my teeth.

Now that a few (many!) years have passed, I think that I benefit just as much from my procrastination as I suffer from it. Yes, I sometimes having to bust it into high gear to finish things I have been putting off. But I have learned not to sweat the small stuff, to take time for myself and to breath.

These qualities have been immeasurably important since I've become a Mom. If I was still rigidly type A, I don't know if I would be able to cope nearly as well with all the ups and downs of being an adoptive parent.

But seriously, I've got to get these Christmas decorations put away.

Next week...
It's a start... Right... ?

Monday, January 26, 2015

Buddy on Ice

Buddy is a very energetic kid. He gets restless if he doesn't have a chance to be physically active and blow off steam.

In the summer time, this was pretty easy to handle. He wanted to play soccer, which we eagerly signed him up for. He was excited to have a bike, skateboard and scooter of his own and would amuse himself for hours. We could take him to my Mom's house to swim in her pool. Plus, we were happy to do outdoor family activities in the warm summer weather.

In the winter, things were a little bit more difficult. It gets really cold here and last year was particularly brutal. We couldn't just send him outside to play. He took swimming and yoga lessons, but he didn't particularly care for either.

This fall, we decided to find another activity for Buddy. Hubby thought indoor soccer would be good. I was pushing for boy's gymnastics. Buddy didn't like the sound of either and was pretty vocal about it. He would whine and complain every time we brought up the subject.

Finally, after listening to him lament for the millionth time, we told him he had to do something over the winter but if we were open to suggestions. Off the top of his head he told us he wanted to take ice-skating lessons.

We had never considered skating, which is actually strange because it is a very popular here. But Buddy had never been ice-skating before, it wasn't even an option before we adopted him. Regardless, we decided to let him give it a go.

Buddy is naturally athletic, but ice-skating didn't come easily to him. He spent his first lesson doing what resembled to be an impression of Bambi on ice. But, when it comes to sports, Buddy goes all out regardless of his skill level. Every time he fell, he picked himself. Every time he struggled with his technique, he kept pushing.

Buddy started walking to the outdoor rink at the end of our block during his free time. Even when it was frigid outside he was eager to lace up his skates. He kept improving and we could see the difference with each weekly lesson.

Then a note came home from school that Buddy's teacher, Mr. Black, was starting up a speed skating team. In order to make the team, students had to try out and qualify. Lots of kids who had been skating for much longer than Buddy were planning on trying out.

Buddy started practicing even more, skating around the rink over and over. Despite only having been skating for a couple of months, he made the team.

Sometimes I focus too much on the skills Buddy lacks. It is times like these that remind me of the qualities he does possesses. Determination, focus, drive. They are innately in his nature, I can claim no bragging rights.

I can, however, be the cheerleader he has never had. It is a role I'm proud to fill.

Friday, January 23, 2015

#TakingCare 100 - The First 10 Days

I had so much fun participating in the Twitter #Fo5Photo challenge before Christmas, I decided to join Three Pink Diamonds and a Blue Sappire when she suggested something similar. It's a take on the 100 Happy Days photo challenge that you can follow on Twitter by searching the hashtag #TakingCare100. 

The idea is to take one picture every day of something that makes you happy. It doesn't have to be anything big, just something you found pleasure in. The point is to encourage all of us to appreciate what we have that is good even during the hard days.

Here is what I have done in the first 10 days to #TakeCare. All captions are clockwise from the top left, BTW.

Day 1: Movie night. And yes, we haven't taken down our Christmas decorations yet. Don't judge.

Day 2: Blogging. It's my therapy. On top of my real & very expensive therapy.

Day 3: Apple crisp a la mode with some milky chai tea. Back on track tomorrow. 

Day 4: You guys! Thanks for great advice, some laughs and lots of understanding. Love my Tweeps! 

Day 5: Hubby's making dinner & I'm checking out the highly recommended @BroadchurchTV. Mysterious... 

Day 6: Grem & I watch Buddy go to school. He half-walks, half-dances and it makes me smile every time.

Day 7: Nothing like a tasty breakfast to end a medically ordered fast. So yummy!

Day 8: Another Friday #DinnerAndAMovie. Eastern European and Premium Rush.

Day 9: Spent all day cooking but it's worth it for an adoptive family potluck this evening.

Day 10: chocolate, home made bread, blackberries & the penultimate episode of #Broadchurch. And wine.


As always, if you aren't following me on Twitter you can find me at @MamaBearPAL.

Since there is no start or end date, I would love it if you'd join us for the #TakingCare100 photo challenge. The more the merrier!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Important: Please Remember

Buddy has a horrible short-term memory. He has issues with his long-term memory, but that is another story for a different day.

He still forgot 2 things...
Buddy is the kid who forgets his lunch-bag at school for days on end with leftovers inside. He is the kid who wears his indoor shoes home because he forgot to change into is boots at the end of the day. He is the kid who gets home late because he forgot to wear his watch and also to ask someone else for the time. A very common answer to questions in our house is: "You know... mumble, mumble, mumble... I forget."

There are many layers to this one. When it suits him, Buddy can remember the tiniest detail, so we know he is capable. When he isn't engaged Buddy doesn't retain instructions. He has a hard time remembering things if he doesn't see the importance in them. When there is something he is interested in going on Buddy forgets the task at hand. He has a hard time following a list of tasks and will generally forget a step or two. He has also been known on occasion to conveniently forget things when it is to his advantage.

Buddy has also never had to remember things before. He didn't have many personal possessions before we adopted him, and those he had were often traded away or stolen. His days were scheduled for him and all he had to do was follow his group from place to place inside his orphanage. He didn't venture out of the orphanage all that often and if he did there weren't shoes and bags and toys to pack up and remember to bring home. Remembering and personal responsibility are very new concepts to him.

I am a list person, and so is Hubby. We keep shopping lists, chore lists, to-do lists. Hubby has even been known to create documents and spread-sheets of work and home tasks. We enjoy being organized, and ticking our completed projects off our lists. This is not true for Buddy. He finds list making tedious and boring. He hates little more than doing the same thing every day. He loves surprises and appreciates when we shake up our routine and do something different.

Neither personality type is good or bad, right or wrong. I need to remember that although remembering things isn't Buddy's strong suit, he has lots of other admirable qualities that I lack. We will keep working to find ways to help Buddy to remember, but even if Buddy never gets the hang of remembering his lunch-bag, it doesn't mean that he is doomed to fail in the adult world.

I am choosing to celebrate what Buddy can do instead of focus on what he can't.

Monday, January 19, 2015

The First 100 Hours


I almost can't believe that after over a year of preparation it only took 100 hours from the time we first saw Buddy's picture to the time we committed to adopt him.

This is a brief overview of the timeline:

  • Thursday, 9:00 AM: We have our appointment with the government adoption agency where we are shown Buddy's file, among others.
  • Thursday, 10:30 AM: We leave the appointment after deciding to meet Buddy.
  • Friday, 5:00 PM: We pick up the government document that officially allows us to visit Buddy in order to determine if we will pursue his adoption.
  • Sunday, 11:00 PM: We board an overnight bus to take us to Buddy's region.
  • Monday, 10:00 AM: We have appointment with Buddy's orphanage director to determine if she will allow us to meet with Buddy.
  • Monday, 10:30 AM: Buddy is called into the meeting from his school lessons.
  • Monday, 11:00 AM: We are permitted to take Buddy into the court yard to play and see how we get along.
  • Monday, 12:00 AM: We leave the orphanage.
  • Monday 1:00 PM: We decide to pursue adopting Buddy.

I was prepared to be confused and uncertain at our appointment at the adoption agency. Hubby and I had been told by our social worker, adoption agency and in-country facilitator that sometimes the decision of which child to visit was difficult and unclear.

For me, the opposite was true. Buddy's file was the first we were shown and Hubby and I were immediately drawn to it. We didn't want to make any rush decisions, though, so we looked at the other files that had been set aside for us that day. But we kept coming back to Buddy.

By chance (or by design, I don't really know) our facilitator had just returned from Buddy's orphanage where she had been helping another family adopt their daughter. She was well acquainted with the director and was able to call her and get a verbal OK for us to meet Buddy.

Although the director agreed to our coming, we still needed a government document to allow us to move forward. The document takes time to prepare, and since our appointment was on a Thursday, we had to wait until Monday to have our first meeting.

After an 8 hour overnight bus ride, we arrived in Buddy's home town. We took our suitcases to our rental apartment, ate breakfast, showered and dressed in the nicest clothes we had brought. We also tried to mentally prepare to meet Buddy's director and Buddy himself. To say we were nervous would be an understatement, but we were also super excited.

At the orphanage, we were shown into the director's office and our facilitator translated the director's questions for us. Why did we want to adopt, why internationally, why Buddy? What kind of people were we, what was our home life like, what kind of parents would we be? We tried to appear calm given her stern demeanor but probably failed miserably.

After she was satisfied, Buddy was brought into the room. He was still in his school uniform and was clearly as nervous as we were. After a bit of a visit, the director gave us permission to take Buddy into the courtyard where there was a large open play space.

We had brought a tennis ball and Buddy went off into a treed area and came back with a stick. Hubby tossed the ball and Buddy swung the stick like a baseball bat and cracked it over Hubby's head. Our first exposure to Buddy's stellar athleticism.

We played baseball for awhile then switched to tag. The mid-day sun was beating down and Hubby and I were getting sweaty running around in our dress clothes and shoes. Buddy's uniform pants and socks were covered in burrs from running into the scrub.

At noon, our facilitator told us Buddy needed to go inside for lunch. Before he left we tried to pull the burrs off his clothes, worried they would reflect badly on us as parents. Our facilitator told Buddy we would be back later in the afternoon and he ran off to the orphanage, turning back to wave at us and flashing a big smile as he went.

After Buddy left, we went back to our apartment. As she dropped us off, our facilitator told us the sooner we were able to make a decision the better it would be for everyone involved. We didn't feel pressured though, maybe because we had both independently come to the same conclusion.

After a conversation and some serious soul searching we decided that Buddy felt like a part of us. We officially said "yes" to him joining our family.

I don't know how it was possible to go from not knowing Buddy existed to loving him in 100 hours.

I just know those first 100 hours were the most life-changing hours of my life.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Current Beauty Favorites

Things have gotten a bit heavy lately, so I'm going to end the week on a frivolous note.

I love watching YouTube beauty guru videos. I swear I could waste hours doing it. For me, it is the perfect time-killer because all I need is my phone and a WiFi connection. It requires zero brain power.

Many beauty vloggers have been posting their 2014 favorites lately. It has inspired me to comb through my makeup stash and find my current most loved products.

- Estee Lauder Double Wear Light foundation: It helps control my oily t-zone but is sheer enough to let my skin shine through. It has no fragrance and doesn't clog my pores. It is also long wearing and smudge-resistant.

- Bobbi Brown Corrector for under-eyes: This product neutralizes dark under-eye circles because of it's peachy base and can be worn alone or layered under a concealer. It's a staple for me given my hereditary blue under-eye circles.

- Nars Radiant Creamy concealer: I love this concealer for redness and blemishes, but it can also be used under the eye to conceal and highlight. It is creamy, doesn't crease and hydrating.

- Hourglass Ambient Lighting blush pallet: These blushes are not cheap but they are beautiful. There are three shades (peach, rose and plum) and each is marbled with a highlighting powder which give a luminous glow to the cheek.

- Tarte Colored Clay eyebrow gel: This gel shapes, defines and fills in my brows but doesn't make them look crazy. The applicator is tiny so product doesn't go everywhere and the finished look is precise.

- Clinique 8-pan eyeshadow in Black Honey: Good for every day use and buildable a night out, this pallet has warm browns and purples which are my two favorite shadow shades. They are smooth and don't give me any fallout.

- Kat von D Tattoo liquid eyeliner: The brush of this liner is a superfine and flexible bristle tip that glides over the eye and doesn't fray over time like felt-tip liners. I am horrible at liquid liner, and even I can make a nice flick with this one.

- Dior Iconic Overcurl mascara: I have a sample of this one, and I will be sad when it is used up because I love this mascara but can't justify the price. It curls and volumizes the lashes without clumping for a natural yet dramatic look.

- Georgio Armani Si eau de perfume: I didn't think I would like this scent, but I really do. It is modern and yet feminine, slightly floral and a bit sweet. There is a warmth to it, as well. It is described as having notes of chypre, blackcurrant nectar, airy florals and musky blond wood.

- Nails Inc Gel Effect nail polish in Porchester Square: This is a nude polish that wont give you dead-hands. It's a cross between light grey, taupe and violet. The gel effect formula gives a glossy, streak-free finish without the hassle of a true gel polish.

I really like makeup but my 2015 goal is to refrain from buying any new products until I finish some of my old ones up. I need to evaluate why a girl who hardly ever wears foundation has 6... But, at the same time, it's kind of like collecting classic cars you hardly ever drive, only much less expensive.

At least, that's what I tell myself.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Case of the Missing Snow Pants

It's cold where we live. Maybe you're thinking to yourself "oh, me too" but I am going to have to disagree. You don't known cold unless you have spent time in our city. It is C-O-L-D here.

Buddy is not a fan of dressing for the weather, which I have already told you about. Now that it is hovering around -40 degrees, I don't give him a lot of choice in what he wears. The other day he was insistent he didn't need to wear snow pants on his short walk to school, so as a compromise he put them in his backpack. 

That day, Buddy came home with a note from school explaining that someone in his class had lice. The regular after-school routine was abandoned as our lice-prevention plan was rolled out, yet again. Part of the routine that was skipped was Hubby double checking that Buddy remembered to bring everything home from school.

The next day was relatively warm so I let Buddy forgo the snow pants for splash pants. That evening, my two boys were bundling up to shovel snow when we realized that Buddy's snow pants were nowhere to be found. 

I told Buddy that until he brought home his snow pants he wouldn't be able to do any outdoor activities. He looked me in the eye and told me it wasn't his fault they were missing, he brought them home and Hubby must have misplaced them.

I pointed out that IF the snow pants had come home, they would have gone into the dryer with the rest of his school stuff to kill any lice. If he didn't leave them at school, he was the one who would have put them away afterwards. This stumped him. He was caught holding the responsibility, reacted with indignation and refused to accept responsibility.

Hubby played good cop and told Buddy he would pick him up from school the next day and they could look in the lost and found together, just in case. When he showed up at school, Buddy came running out the front door holding the snow pants and flashing the thumbs-up sign.

Hubby and Buddy had a conversation about accepting responsibility. When I got home from work I asked Buddy what he had to say about the situation. He turned his back to me and crossed his arms.

And said "I was wrong."

My jaw hit the floor. He has never admitted that before. Ever. 

I told him how of proud I was of him and gave him a big hug (from behind, because he still wouldn't look at me). We both agreed that the case of the missing snow pants was officially closed.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Crying it Out

Buddy is a rough and tumble boy. He doesn't like to come across as weak or, heaven forbid, "girly." He doesn't like people to know when he is hurt or to see him cry. It's kind of interesting, because he cries fairly often, he just prefers to do it in private. He definitely doesn't like to be comforted, maybe because that acknowledges the fact that he's crying.

Buddy demonstrating Swar carrying technique
The other day I asked Buddy to put Swar outside. Swar is 14 and has little, stubby, arthritic legs, so he can't get up and down the stairs to the backyard on his own anymore. He would choose to do his business in the house to avoid the cold, but will grudgingly allow us to carry him like a baby out into the yard.

Buddy scooped Swar out of his dog-bed and started towards the backdoor. I am not entirely sure what happened next, but I watched as Buddy went from walking to tripping to falling. Swar bumped his head on our dinning room table base and Buddy smacked his shoulder into a chair.

I rushed over to Buddy, who was already picking himself off the ground holding his shoulder with tears in his eyes. I can't blame him, it looked like it really hurt. I asked if he was OK, which he said he was, then I wrapped my arms around him, rested my head on his, and gave him a big bear hug.

At first he just stood there. Buddy loves to cuddle, but only when he is in a good mood. When he is upset he has a tendency to withdraw. I figured it would be more of the same, but I wanted him to know that I was there for him.

After a couple of seconds, he started to sniffle. Then he started to cry, Then he wrapped his arms around me and hugged me back. We stayed like that for a couple of long minutes. I wasn't going to be the first one to let go! So we stood there hugging, him crying and me beaming. What a weird pair we must have made.

In the mean time, Swar stood beside us grumbling and grunting. He finally gave up his complaining, shook his head a few times, and went back to his dog-bed. He didn't want to go outside in the first place.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Second Hand Undies and Learning to Fish

We mail a package to Buddy's former orphanage a couple of times a year. Some of his friends still live there and we send it to one of his favorite caregivers. It is a nice way for him to stay in touch with his past.

We usually send some hygiene times, school supplies, and games for the kids. If there are any special requests we try to accommodate them. We also include some recent pictures of Buddy and our whole family.

We only recently started saving clothing to send, since Buddy didn't grow very much the first year we were home. In the last few months he has really shot up, and we have started setting some of the ones he has outgrown aside. We were doing a sort on the weekend and he pulled out several pairs of underwear that were too small and put them in the send pile.

I asked if people donated used underwear to his orphanage. He looked at me like I was crazy and replied; yes, of course they did. I asked if he ever had new underwear when he lived there. Again, he looked at me like I had lost my mind and shook his head no.

Then he did the thing I love, he started telling me a story from his life before we adopted him. I never know when this is going to happen, but when it does I always gain so much insight into why Buddy is the way he is.

In Buddy's orphanage, new clothes were kept aside for when the state inspector would come. These new clothes were proof that the children were being well cared for. For special occasions where "outsiders" would see the children, they were dressed in these new clothes as well. Buddy remembers going to summer camp wearing new shoes on the bus. Once he arrived the shoes were taken back to wait for the return trip.

The majority of the time, all the kids wore clothes that were in pretty bad shape. I can still remember the way Buddy's sneakers smelled when he took them off. He is not a smelly kid, by the way, so that smell pre-dated him. To think that there were new, clean shoes that were being saved for good is pretty hard for all three of us to swallow. Buddy especially seems to have some resentment about it.

I don't question that Buddy's orphanage did the best they could to take care of him. There were so many children and not enough things. I spoke to a friend who also adopted her daughter from the same orphanage and she had some wise insight:

I don't know what the solution is. The government doesn't have the resources to solve all of the problems. There is too much poverty for them to be able to quickly change the direction that led to the institutional situation in the first place. Outside donations are only temporary. Not all of the children there would do well in adoptive homes, so adoption is only the solution for a few of them.

I think very highly of the fine work from all of the caregivers. I miss those children. I loved handing out candies and gifts. I wanted to do so much more, but unfortunately, there is only so much that can be done. It is said that if you give a man a fish you feed him for a day, but if you teach that man how to fish you feed him for his life. However, sometimes it's simply not possible to go fishing at all.

It makes me feel sad and helpless.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Winter Camp: I Don't Wanna

Buddy does best with structure. We have found that leaving him to his own devices often results in a bad day. So, over the winter break from school, we enrolled him in an outdoor adventure day camp.

We explained what the plan was to Buddy before we signed him up. He wasn't thrilled with the idea but agreed to go along. I should have known that meant there would be drama.

The night before his first day, Hubby went to a hockey game. Buddy and I had a laid-back evening at home. We ate left overs and watched Home Alone, one of his favorite movies. Everything was going fine until the time came to pack his bag for camp.

Then, all hell broke loose.

There was yelling and crying, throwing and slamming, hitting of inanimate and animate (i.e. me) objects, and finally a conversation. Buddy didn't want to go to a new place, he didn't want to meet new kids and he knew it would just be awful. Yes, he used the word "awful."

I am pretty comfortable dealing with a Buddy-meltdown at this point but it doesn't make them any more enjoyable. The one silver lining is that now I am able to keep myself regulated, which prevents the situation from escalating.

I told Buddy he didn't have to be friends with any kids if he didn't want to. He needed to be polite but that was it. And we made a deal that if he truly hated camp after giving it a try then he didn't have to go back.

It was a late night and morning came too quickly. Buddy and I were both tired and nervous as I drove him to the camp site. We got there early so he could scope it out and I agreed to stay with him until he was ready for me to go. When I left after 40 minutes to go to work he had my business card tucked into his backpack, just in case.

I knew he would have fun, outdoor adventures are totally in his wheelhouse. But I felt terrible and would until I got an update from Hubby, who was picking him up at the end of the day.

When I got the text message "2 thumbs up" from Hubby I felt relieved. And then a bit resentful. I KNEW he would love it, why couldn't he just have trusted me?

Buddy remembers being brought to his orphanage by someone he loved and trusted. He was told it was for his own good, and it was the best place for him to be. This was true, but impossible for a young child to really understand. He was left there for several years with a revolving door of friends and care-givers. He has met enough new people for a lifetime.

I understand why Buddy doesn't believe us when we tell him that something is "for the best." He's heard it before with not so great results. He has never gone into a new activity happily, every time it is a struggle, but I am confident that every time will continue to get easier.

Also, this was the first time he was able to explain to me what he was going through.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Growing Family Bonds

I often wonder if the hardest part of parenting an adopted child isn't about the child at all, but dealing with our extended family tree. I've talked about an incident we had with my family. We still occasionally have issues, but things have improved over the past year and my family is willing to accept our decisions as what is best for Buddy.

Hubby sat down with his family proactively to try to avoid similar problems. We thought this was both the smart and considerate thing to do.

We may have been wrong.

Over the past few weeks we have noticed Hubby's parents withdrawing, but we have been so busy with birthday and holiday preparations that we put it on the back burner. At both Hubby's and Buddy's birthdays they seemed distant. Hubby called and emailed them a few times before Christmas but didn't get any response. We were pretty sure that there was a storm brewing.

Hubby's mother's birthday is right before Christmas. We went over for cake and presents that night and everything seemed a bit off. As we were getting ready to go, Hubby's Mom gave Buddy a hug. I heard her whisper to him "Now when I tell you I love you, you tell me I love you back"...

I let it go.

Every year, on Christmas Eve, we go to Hubby's parent's house for a traditional supper with the Hubby's extended family. Buddy overindulged on snacks and wasn't feeling well, so I took him to lay down. When we left the dinning room, Hubby's mother tore into him saying she felt cut out of our family.

Hubby didn't know what to say. He didn't think this was true, but also didn't like that his mother was feeling upset. Buddy still felt ill and wanted to go home, so we retreated for the night.

On Christmas day, after opening presents at home, we headed off to visit both sets of grandparents. The evening culminated at my mother's house with a turduken (chicken stuffed into a duck stuffed into a turkey) dinner. Everything seemed ok, but it clearly wasn't. After a few hours, Hubby's parents were making a hasty exit with his mother upset and in tears.

So, now what? Who knows. Hubby says it is best to give her a few days to "decompress" and then he will try to figure out what the issue is. I have my suspicions.

Maybe I'm wrong, and I hope so.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Saying Goodbye to Gramma Dolly

Me and Gramma Dolly
Before the New Year, I lost my Gramma Dolly.

Gram grew up the youngest child in a large, poor family. Her father was a good man and professional rent-dodger. Her mother was patient and saint-like. She was close with her siblings and had an adventurous spirit from a young age.

She lost her first husband to WWII, a fact no one knew until after my Grandfather passed away. Gramma Dolly never spoke of her loss, but saved the plain gold wedding band in her special green jewelry box for decades.

Gram met my Grandfather at a barnstorming party where he was impressed by her composure during his most daring aerial maneuvers. They were married shortly after and moved to a small northern town where Pa was a pilot for the local mine.

Gramma Dolly's adventurous spirit came in handy, because there was no indoor plumbing in her hut in "shanty town." It was a happy day when my Pa bought Gram a chemical toilet that could be emptied by the honey man.

Pa changed careers and the family (now my Mom was in the picture) moved away briefly but soon returned when he was offered a job flying with a float and ski plane airline. Their shack had been sold, so they moved in with family friends. It was tight quarters with 4 adults and 9 kids, but they were also happy times.

Finally, Gram and Pa bought the home they lived in for the rest of their life together. While they weren't rich in money, they were in spirit. When his boss retired, Pa became the owner and operator of the airline. They bought a cottage, the picture of which I use for my background.

Pa passed away from cancer 3 years ago. It became clear pretty quick that he had been pulling most of the weight at home. After a few doctors appointments Gramma Dolly was diagnosed with moderately-advanced Alzheimer's disease. She continued to deteriorate quickly and moved into an assisted living facility and then a nursing home.

When I took Buddy to my home town this past summer, I took him to meet Gramma Dolly. It was important to me that he had the chance to see her face to face. She was taken with Buddy and kept commenting on what a nice and good boy he was. And he wasn't upset or afraid to meet Gram, just a bit confused as to why she kept repeating herself over and over.

I was warned the woman in the nursing home wasn't my Grandmother any more. She didn't remember me, but I remembered her. I could see glimpses of her in the way she gestured her hands and said "Ohhh, well...." before replying to a question. She was kind to my Sweet Boy. Regardless of everything, she was my Gramma Dolly.

When Gramma Dolly died, my Aunt was with her. She was sleeping comfortably and just stopped breathing.

It was important to me to be at her funeral, with my Mom's family, to say goodbye. The service was good with lots of people from the community. The minister spoke highly of her as a member of the church and my Aunt gave a touching eulogy. The choir forgot the refrain of "Just a Closer Walk with Thee" and the minister sang the completely wrong words, and my whole family got a case of the giggles. They are my people.

The interment was moving and sad. Everyone cried. Except me. I don't cry at funerals and I have been to enough by now to know that I probably never will. I am the one who is strong. I hug the people who are crying, hand out Kleenex and give knowing smiles. When everything is done I will cry, but it's not my turn yet.

My Gramma Dolly was 93 years old and was married to my Pa for over 60 years. She had 5 children, 14 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren. She always had home-made play-dough, freshie-drink and rice-crispy squares ready. She made the most delicious chocolate chip cookies, blueberry pie and raspberry freezer jam. She was my fun Gramma who water skied, vacationed in tropical places and let us eat ice cream with tons of chocolate syrup. She collected Royal Doulton figurines, decorative spoons and crystal ornaments. She always told me she loved me.

I saved every card and letter she ever wrote me in a hallow Reader's Digest book she gave me years and years ago.

I love my Gramma Dolly and miss her so much.