Monday, February 25, 2008

JasonSmells…all the love, Baby!

Many of you know that one of our shameless fundraising tactics for this adoption has been making and selling Jason’s homemade candles, all different sizes and scents. Except skunk. Jason hasn’t yet sprung for the 1-oz jar delightfully, though perhaps overenthusiastically, marketed as "oil direct from the scent glands of a skunk."

And bacon. Not sure why he hasn’t sprung for that one yet, though… For a while there he had a bacon air freshener for the car, and he wanted to add Sizzling Bacon to his official “mandle” (man-candle) collection.

Anyway, I have a friend (Sarah) in California who has been madly selling our JasonSmells Homemade Candles. It amazes me. I just kept getting order after order after order from her. A couple weeks ago, after the big Christmas rush went out, Sarah sends this package. I think to myself, "Huh...?" since I wasn't expecting anything. I open it up and you know what she did? She put together a photo album of her friends and family all over California who had bought our candles (I'm talking upwards of 6 dozen candles...) to help support our adoption.

On the inside of the cover she wrote:

“Here are photos of some of the California contributors to Dang Yong’s arrival into the Hendrickson home. Not all are accounted for, but know that the contingency was here only by God’s hand. Thank you for allowing us to support your family in a small way. The candles – and the opportunity – are phenomenal. I am privileged to have you as my brother and sister.”
She ended with this Bible verse: “In the same way, your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.” (Matt. 18:14)

Each time I turned a page in the book, I saw another new face, split into grins, with each person holding one of the JasonSmells candles they'd bought. Ha! We're becoming a national sensation!

Most of these people were total strangers. As I kept turning page after page, it suddenly hit me and my eyes brimmed. That's the body of Christ!!!

So many people have contributed toward our adoption in whatever ways they could. We have a friend who is amazing with carpentry and remodel. One guess as to who it was who did the bulk of our home renovation, at a fraction of the cost. We have a friend who is a genius with computers. Guess who spent hours upon hours (we HATE Vista) setting up our laptop with all the functions we needed?

Through a yahoo adoption chat group I’ve struck up a friendship with this wonderful lady named Michele. Neat thing is, she’s adopting a little girl from Dang Yong’s orphanage. Our adoption processes were at about the same point, so we had good intel that we’d probably be traveling together. Due to a variety of circumstances, her paperwork got through faster than ours. She got her LOA (that’s the letter Jason and I are still waiting for) about 5 weeks ago, about the same time we were hoping to, and today she received travel permission!

I am psyched that she got this wonderful news. I’m totally excited for her with every ounce of energy in my body. For one thing, I have finally accepted that obviously God’s timing for us is different than what we expected, and I’m better with it. And second, she will be at the orphanage in mid-March and she will get to see Yong! I made her SWEAR she will take lots and lots of pictures and video. (Actually we made each other promise, way back when, that whoever got there first had to switch into paparazzi mode and get as much as they could for the other.)

So, anyway, in all her excitement and WILDNESS of today's news, she took the time to e-mail me, telling me, "I earnestly prayed for you today, that God would work a miracle and still let us travel together...." Hmmm. I don't think of myself as an especially selfish person, but I still think that would be the last thing on my mind if I had just gotten news I had permission from China to go get my son...

So, yeah, I readily admit we’ve been a little disappointed, especially initially, when we learned everything was getting pushed out a little further than we anticipated.

Sometimes when you’re bummed out, you try to put on your best poker face and forge ahead as usual. Unfortunately, I have a rotten poker face. I didn’t realize how see-through I really can be until we went to our mailbox yesterday. There was this card from a woman at church. She wrote:
"You guys looked a little down at Weds night Bible Study, not knowing for sure when you will be able to bring your son home. But we know God is in control of this whole adoption and there is some reason why things happen the way they do. We know our God is an awesome God and can change and do things if He sees fit to, if it is His plan."

So to all of you -- yes, you! -- sitting there reading this wherever you are, thank you for your part encouraging or helping us, large or small, because even the small things feel really, really big on days when you’re feeling, well, kinda small.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Kitty Heaven

This post has no real purpose other than to demonstrate that our strange cat can, indeed, be happy on occasion.

I know both Jason and I have mentioned our almost-feral 5-pound cat Akira whom we rescued at the age of about 4 weeks, near starvation and with a pitifully broken tail. This April she turns 7 years old and is only just now allowing us to pet and talk to her. (Previous attempts resulted in a disappearing cat act.) For many, many years she actually remained unseen, both by guests to our apartment (then house), and by us. She would emerge about 7p.m. for dinner and then vanish to who-knows-where the rest of the time. She really was the Invisible Cat.

In our blog posts, Akira has previously earned such monikers as "selectively incontinent" (see our very first blog entry), "cross-eyed malignant dimwit" or "insidiously destructive furball."

Though she has come a long, long way in her ability to interrelate, she continues to render us bemused. By many, many accounts, her life is enviable. She has the run of the house; she has the run of the dog (who shies away any time she directly eyeballs him); she can watch birds and squirrels from the comfortable confines of her various pillows and soft perching places.

She is well-fed, well-watered. She has TWO entire litter boxes to herself which she, for some unknowable reason, chooses not to employ for their said function, thus producing our sometimes vitriolic postings relating to her.

Well, the other day my co-worker Randi bestowed a marvelous gift to my underserving feline - homegrown catnip in a little cloth pillow with six raffia strings.

My cat thought she'd died and gone to heaven. (A happening Jason has oft pined for, in rather wistful tones...)

Anyway, it's good to know we can provide some semblance of happiness for her.

House pics!

Our laptop has been pouty lately. We've had to do several mammoth
"system restores" and only today have we been able to reinstall the picture-loading function.

We have been so excited to show you all pictures of our newly remodeled “master” bedroom, so here goes! Honestly, in comparing before/after images, we definitely think this is the most dramatically different room in the house!

As you can see in the first picture, the bedroom formerly hosted a black carpet, a built-in dresser type thing, and paneling that was bowing in in some places. Also, please note the lovely suspended ceiling. As in, “Look! It’s JUST LIKE being at work!”

This bedroom also had three layers of flooring. We quickly determined that the previous homeowners had what we call the “compounding” philosophy, whereby they simply built over things when they wanted to put in new things. Apparently they did not adhere to the common “demo before remodel” construction philosophy. (Our bathroom, for instance, had seven floors by the time we worked our way through.)

Anyway, due to the multitudinous layers of flooring (two carpets, a nice orange powdery substance that was formerly a carpet pad, one awful linoleum-type thing shellacked to the subfloor…..) our bedroom door couldn’t close unless you wedged really, really hard. The topmost layer – illustrated here – was a dramatic black carpet (and by dramatic I mean astonishingly depressing cat-hair magnet).

So, we tore the walls down to studs, demolished the built-in bureaus, and tore out the suspended ceiling, gaining us an extra three feet of floor space and an extra seven inches of ceiling space. To most people, it wouldn’t mean a lot, but with our tiny house, it opened up vistas!

The new hardwood brightens everything amazingly and we love our clean new walls and baseboard. And did I mention the AWESOME new walk-in closet?!?
So, now that we are so happy, and Ronin is (obviously) happy, you might be thinking, But is the cat now at peace? I know you have followed her travails and are concerned about her emotional and psychological well-being. Is Akira also happy, you ask, now that the majority of construction and displacement is done? Does she no longer pee in inauspicious locales?

No such luck. Much to my dismay, Akira has commandeered none other than, yes, you guessed it, our brand-spanking new walk-in closet as her new preferred loo. Go figure.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

You’re STILL pregnant?!?

Now I understand a little of what it must feel like to be nine months pregnant, and boy do you all have my sincerest sympathy.

It’s got to be bad enough feeling about as beautiful, poetic and graceful as a yak. But then you’ve got the stress and frustration of waiting and waiting for a sign – any sign – that this kid really is gonna get here one of these days, that it’s not just some cosmic fertility joke gone badly awry. And on top of all that, you get all the comments: “You’re still pregnant? WOW! I thought you already had the kid!”

Well, the good thing is, my ankles aren’t (overly) swollen, I’m not craving pickles and ice cream (well, maybe ice cream), and my belly is not so big that I cannot bend over to tie my own shoes…so far. And I’m not up every hour all night long having to pee, so overall, I think I’m still good.

But I do still get all the questions. What’s today, Wednesday? I think I’ve been asked 347 times this week, “Have you gotten the letter yet?”

(For those of you just tuning in, Welcome to the show! Today’s episode: watch Jason and Emily painstakingly wait for their Letter of Acceptance from China.)

Who’d have thought a piece of paper would get us all stirred up? But it’s a paper that says we agree to adopt Dang Yong. We thought we might get it back in late January. Now it’s late February and still not here. We need that letter before we can get travel approval to go to China.

So we’re still waiting for that little slip of paper that says all is good, that Dang Yong will really be ours.

And naturally, people want to ask us if we’ve gotten it yet, because they know what a big deal it is. My mom and dad went up to a school basketball game yesterday. Before they left, my mom said, “I have my cell phone with me, just in case…you know…in case you find anything out and want to call.”

It’s not that I’m upset that you’re asking, because I know you all are rooting for us. I’m sure my very-pregnant counterparts aren’t really angry at their friends and family for all the “just-checking-in” phone calls. Well, maybe they are… And maybe I am, a little. I mean, it’s HARD!

And I’m tired and anxious and a little stressed, like maybe China lost our dossier with the restructuring of the Waiting Child adoption department at the Chinese Consulate. Plus things are bad over there with their recent 50-year snowstorms; some orphanages are without food, electricity, water.

And I have all sorts of crazy weird dreams at night and don’t sleep well. The other night I was playing with Yong and reading to him, and he was happy, snuggling up and talking in English to me. But sometimes they’re bad dreams that wake me up.

Either way, I end up having to get up and go pee.

So I get upset, disappointed, frustrated and sad; I start griping at Jason over stupid little things; I feel raw and on-edge. I want carbs and lots of ‘em. I want warm weather and sunshine and the hope of spring – instead of this freezing cold February with never-ending snowstorms.

But yesterday we did get an e-mail update on what’s going on with our dossier in China (it is there and it’s under review) and an update on how Yong is doing at the orphanage. We are excited to learn that his language is developing well and he is progressing!

The bad news is: it looks like we aren’t getting our letter until March, and we probably won’t be traveling until April (or maybe May?).

So, yes, it feels like the African elephant pregnancy.

More ice cream, anyone?

Friday, February 8, 2008

Holding up Half the Sky

Thank you to those who have expressed concern via e-mail or phone about how the storms in China are affecting our adoption of Dang Yong! It means a lot to hear from you....

We don't know much about his specific orphanage, other than the institutions in Henan province (where he is) are generally better equipped to deal with snow and cold because they get it more frequently. I'm not saying everything is great there, but it may be a little better than elsewhere in China where some orphanages have only a few days' worth of food stockpiled, no electricity, and no heat. The trains aren't moving, so food and coal aren't getting anywhere.

Half the Sky ( is an organization I've mentioned previously that offers relief to orphanages throughout China. They reach the thousands of children who wait in China's welfare institutions, offering the love and concern of family to those little ones who have lost theirs.

During this national disaster that China faces, Half the Sky is there, working nonstop to make sure tangible relief reaches the children. If you're interested in making a donation to help get funds to orphanages in need, please consider this organization. They specifically request monetary donations d/t the fact that they physically can't GET donated items (rice, diapers, etc) to the orphanages because roads are impassable. With money, orphanage workers can physically buy the items needed and bring them back to the orphanages.

Go here: to see the specific needs of each orphanage and to get updates.

"Every child, no matter how humble her beginnings, deserves loving care, and a chance at a bright future. How easy it was to make a tremendous difference in the life of one young child! What if you could do the same for the many children in China who languish waiting for families – or those who will never be adopted?"

The organization Half the Sky takes its name from the ancient Chinese adage:
"Women hold up half the sky."

A Chinese folk tale
One day an elephant saw a hummingbird lying on its back with its tiny feet up in the air.

"What are you doing?" asked the elephant.

The hummingbird replied, "I heard that the sky might fall today, and so I am ready to help hold it up, should it fall."

The elephant laughed cruelly. "Do you really think," he said, "that those tiny feet could help hold up the sky?"

The hummingbird kept his feet up in the air, intent on his purpose, as he replied, "Not alone. But each must do what he can. And this is what I can do."

Monday, February 4, 2008

Joy Trifecta: A Praise in Three Parts

PART 1: “There shall be showers of blessing…”

Saturday I was blown away by a surprise baby shower that left me completely overwhelmed. At least 60 women came with a deluge of gifts…it was unbelievable! There were clothes and jackets, LL Bean dinosaur galoshes, art supplies, quilts, and LOTS of “my first words” books so we can actually communicate with Yong! There were dump trucks with Legos, snuggly blankets and stuffed animals, educational games & puzzles, Patriots gear (sigh…that painful sound you hear is the breaking of my heart, but I don’t want to go there).

“See if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.” Malachi 3:10

Jason and I were completely astonished by the outpouring of love and people's excitement for us. It took me 3½ glorious hours to unwrap everything. Anyway, there was so much swag that we couldn’t bring it home (our house still being in remodel). Ha! We truly did not “have room enough for it.”

My sister Rachel made Veggie Tale cakes – we enjoyed Larry the Cucumber and his alter ego “I-am-that-hero” Larry Boy, along with Bob the Tomato and Percy zee French Pea. Some might say there’s something wrong with eating a sugary, confectionary delight that masquerades as a heart-healthy vegetable, but they would be wrong. They’ve never tasted my sister’s “from-scratch” cake.

BACKSTORY: In October, Jason and I scoured the Internet for every organization offering to help finance adoptions, to little avail. It was a grueling process, and most places we did find were up front about the fact they couldn't offer much, if any, help.

Many of the organizations no longer existed. Others were basically set up to help you fundraise (“Send us 200 names & addresses and we’ll help you write a campaign letter to raise funds…) Yeah, no thanks.

And then there was my personal favorite: “AdoptShare,” an agency that was touted as “Christians helping Christians share the burden of adoption costs.” Whoever listed that web site obviously didn’t do their homework, because it was really “adopts hare,” as in bunny rabbits. Seriously, come on…

When all was said and done, there were only three organizations we applied to. Thursday night we got a rejection letter from one, reminding us of how many people have requested aid, and that the “need far outweighed the funds available and we're sorry…”

Which brings me to us pulling in our driveway Saturday night, exhausted from the Baby Shower, but euphoric. We pulled in and got the mail and found a letter from Shaohannah’s Hope, Steven Curtis Chapman’s adoption aid organization. There was stunned silence after Jason read me the letter. They were, after all, offering us a grant!

BAKCSTORY: We’ve been hunting high and low for a “mate’s bed” for Yong (basically a bed with drawers underneath and a bookshelf headboard for storage). Since we have a small house, we need to economize on space.

We wanted to buy 'used' to save money, and about three weeks ago Jason found one on Craig’s List for $150. The guy said it was a little banged up, and there was a chocolate ice cream stain on the mattress, but not a huge deal. We e-mailed the guy and he said to stop by any day after 4p.m. Well, our schedules that week never worked out and when we checked back, he’d already sold it.

So we looked at various furniture stores online and in person. Anything new was going to run us between $300-$400. We just didn’t want to spend that much.

Friday night Jason found another ad for an almost-new mate’s bed for $175. No scratches, no wear... He called right away and told the woman (her name is Jill) that we were leaving for China to adopt a 4-year-old next month and needed to get him a bed. Jill said she’d already had another caller and in fairness had to let that woman have first option, and then she'd call us back if it didn't sell. Well, that woman went to see the bed on Sunday. Jill told her that if she didn’t like it, there was another couple interested, and told her about our adoption. The woman looked at Jill and said, “This bed would be perfect for a 4 year old boy. I was a foster parent, so I know what it’s like. I want you to let them have the bed if they want it.”

Prelude to Praise...

“Once our eyes are opened we can’t pretend we don’t know what to do. God, who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls, knows that we know, and holds us responsible to act.”

When you step forward to do something – something that God has made clear is His desire for you – there is great joy indeed! Gone are the musings and wonderings. You know what you are supposed to do!

But undoubtedly there also come times of testing, fear and doubt. I haven’t been a stranger to overwhelmedness (it’s my blog, I’ll make up words if I need to). Times of worry about all the things that could go wrong with this adoption, worry about the conditions of the orphanage my little boy waits in and the immense adjustment we will go through as we take him into our hearts and home.

But God has worked in my heart so that I can become so much better at giving those fears over to him and grab hold of the peace and promises He has given. I remind myself of that saying, “The will of God will never take you to where His grace will not keep you.”

Lately there have been disappointments and discouragements. China is suffering a national disaster with unending (20 days and counting) blizzards, ice and rain. Coal cannot be delivered, nor food. Trains and buses are shut down. Immigrant workers hoping to head home for the Chinese New Year holiday are stranded. (Chinese New Year is the one and only holiday they have, and for some it is their only opportunity to see their family members all year.) Orphanages around the country are out of heat, out of food, and out of diapers. It’s a crisis the likes of which we haven’t seen in America, except for maybe Hurricane Katrina.

On a petulant note, Jason and I have NOT received our LOA (letter of acceptance) to adopt Dang Yong, which we expected to receive two weeks ago. Considering what’s going on in China, it’s such a tiny, insignificant thing it’s disgustingly egocentric to mention it.

But timing is key. If we don’t get our letter soon, our travel permission is delayed. The Chinese New Year means offices are closed and no paper gets pushed. If no paper gets pushed, our travel gets pushed into April, we risk conflicting with the Guangzhou Trade Show, which means ticket prices, hotel costs, and tourism prices are tripled. No can do.

So lately our mood has been a bit glum, which makes what happened next so very awesome...