Sunday Morning 5/24/2020:

We got three beautiful sunsets before bad weather rolled in. 

The beaches may have opened last week but the weather conspired in every way possible to make getting there nearly impossible – we had high winds, cool temperatures, and rain, rain, and more rain down on our part of the island. On Thursday the wind was so strong it blew the rain sideways all day. We’re planning to go today but this past week was sadly a bust.

Some stores have opened back up, albeit with shorter hours. I think about half are opened in the Kukui’ula Marketplace now, outside of restaurants, although more of those are offering takeout. We went up to Kapaa yesterday to pick up a couple of things we needed and saw that more stores were open up there as well. There are still no tourists though so there was no traffic – that still feels a bit odd, although it was nice zipping through town for a change. Kapaa was also much warmer than it is where we are now and there was less of a breeze. Word is that hair salons are supposed to be opening soon – I sure hope so because my hair is driving me a little more crazy every day!

It’s been another frustrating week though as far as our Aeromexico refund and getting our storage items here. It’s been three weeks since I last spoke with the moving company in San Diego who was going to “get right on it” and neither I nor Joan have heard anything from anyone since. So, I will go back on the phone this week, although I’m not quite sure who to call this time – should I start with Royal Hawaiian here again, since the move is being done under their auspices, or should I call the company back on the mainland who is supposed to coordinate getting our stuff there? I have no idea anymore. Aeromexico continues to dig in their heels as well when it comes to our refund. This past week I received an email from them in response to the DOT telling them I was owed a refund. Aeromexico claims that because I also filed a dispute with our credit card they do not have to follow DOT’s ruling; the issue is now strictly between me and my bank (although of course, a dispute means the bank has to deal with them and I’m pretty sure Aeromexico is making that as difficult as possible). I spoke with the bank and they are “working on it,” but they did ask for more documentation which I happily provided. DOT also (supposedly) got a copy of the same email I was sent and I have a feeling they’re not going to be happy about it, but what do I know at this point? We are owed less than $500 but I have read complaints this past week where Aeromexico customers are out thousands and have been refused refunds for their canceled flights.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I finished The Yellow House, and started American Dirt, by Jeanine Cummins. I’ve had in on my Kindle for a while but had lots of other books came in from the library so it sort of got set aside. But, I’m ready now. I’m also still reading The Dutch House and should finish it this week.
  • Listening to: After all the howling wind we listened to these past few days, this morning is a blissful change. There’s a breeze, but it’s barely rustling the trees – I can actually hear birds singing. YaYu is still sleeping, and Brett is reading so it’s very, very quiet inside as well – my kind of morning!
  • Watching: YaYu and I started watching Tiger King this past week. O.M.G. Neither of us is ready to say whether we like the show or not, but it’s compelling, just like a train wreck is compelling, and we have had some interesting discussions. We also started watching Best British Home Cook on Hulu, which is OK. It’s definitely no Great British Baking Show, although Mary Berry is one of the judges. A new British crime series has arrived on BritBox (with four seasons!), so Brett and I are going to give that a try when YaYu and I finish Tiger King.
  • Cooking: I did a little bit of baking this past week: banana bread with chocolate chips (YaYu’s request). My loaf pan in storage so I instead, necessity is the mother of invention and all that, baked it in a 9″ square pan which worked pretty well. I broke down and ordered a new rice cooker because making rice in the Instant Pot has not gone as well as I had hoped. The results from the beginning have been very inconsistent, and we usually end up with mushy, overly sticky rice and lots of it stuck to the bottom of the cooking insert. It may work better with less sticky rice, but we prefer Japanese-style rice, and we eat it frequently enough not to want to deal with the mess anymore. Anyway, tonight we’re going to have spicy steak pizzaiola with grilled flank steak with some vegetable and garlic bread. Also on the dinner menu this week will be bacon-blue cheeseburgers; breakfast for dinner (eggs benedict); tuna melts; chili shrimp and fried rice; and a chicken, rice, and broccoli casserole.
    We have only seen the nene flying overhead on our walks – they are noisy! A mom and her babies though are best avoided – get too near and mom will take. you. out.
  • Happy we accomplished this past week: Next Sunday would have been WenYu’s graduation from Wellesley, but since that’s not happening Brett and I put together a box of WenYu’s favorite Hawaiian goodies (butter mochi mix, Kaua’i Kookies, macadamia nuts, mango jam, Maui beef jerky, and a few other things she loves from here) – it will be on its way tomorrow morning. My daily checklists have kept me busy all week – I got everything filled in, walked four days out of the last seven (thanks to the weather), and earned 479 Swagbucks (my goal each week is 350).
  • Looking forward to next week: Hopefully, the weather stays nice so we can get to the beach! We are heading up to Kapaa tomorrow afternoon to go the newly reopened farmer’s market and see our favorite farmers again, and get together with friends Alan and Cheryl for a little while.
    The craft gins we enjoyed in the UK spoiled us. We have a cocktail just three evenings a week, so our supply should be good for a long while now.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: Brett and I discovered a few bottles of a limited edition Tanqueray gin, Rangpur, at our local Big Save, flavored with dark rangpur limes. Since G&Ts are one of our favorite things, we bought ourselves a bottle, and it is delicious! We’re good to go with gin now for the next few months. We stopped at Wailua Shave Ice when we were up in Kapaa to get a couple of things for WenYu’s graduation box and enjoyed our favorite flavors – tables were all spread apart so we could take off our masks and not worry about being to close to anyone else. In an effort to use up leftovers in the kitchen one evening last week, we created a “quesadilla bar” and each created our own masterpiece. The results were amazing and we now want to make it a regular thing – it’s a great way to use up leftovers. The back yard got “manicured” again this past week (they worked in the rain) and looks wonderful.
    There is nothing more refreshing than icy shave ice on a hot day!
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: This was not a particularly frugal week because we went food shopping and bought the rice cooker (and also the specialty gin, although it was marked down and we were given an additional discount on it for some reason). We still seem to be in pantry item acquisition mode, and having to buy those things (vinegar, sugar, oats, etc.) always seems to add a little extra to our bill, but we know once they’re purchased they will last for a while and will only be needed occasionally, and not always at the same time. With our small refrigerator and freezer, and without our storage containers for things like sugar, flour, etc. we currently have to buy smaller items versus larger sizes which is more expensive because we have no way to store bigger items. It will all sort itself out . . . eventually. On the plus side we ate all our leftovers this past week, didn’t throw away any food, and put $7 away into the change/$1 bill jar. Meiling also paid us for her annual phone service and that went right into our travel account.
  • Grateful for: Both Brett and I are feeling very thankful for our new mattress, a memory-foam hybrid. We are sleeping so well these days, and waking up feeling more rested than we have for a long time. We slept on comfortable mattresses in most of the Airbnbs we stayed at, but the mattress we had during our last Japan stay ((extremely hard) followed by the one in the north shore condo here on Kaua’i (extremely soft) about did us in – they were the worst we experienced, and my back hurt every day we slept on those, so we are grateful for and appreciative of the comfortable sleep we are getting now.
    Pizza is my favorite food, and these Alsation-style pizzas, tarte flambée, knocked it out of the park for me. I had a three-cheese version with roquefort and brie, and Brett’s had tomato and herbs – both were amazing. Yes, we each ate the whole thing (with a knife and fork, as you do).
  • Bonus question: What were your favorite foods/dishes you enjoyed when you traveled? We did not eat out very often while we traveled – most of our meals were very simple and eaten in “at home” in order to keep our spending in check. Our favorite meals, especially in France and Italy, were simple cheese, pâté or salami, and fruit platters along with a glass of wine (mirabelle plums are at the top of our list for fruit). Still, we did go out now and again to experience and enjoy the local cuisine. Although we ate a LOT of good food in a lot of different places, I think both Brett and I would agree that the traditional Alsatian meals we enjoyed in Strasbourg were our favorites. I absolutely loved tarte flambée (flammekueche), and we both loved our meal of charcroute garnie (pork and sausages with sauerkraut). The baba au rhum I finally got to enjoy in Bordeaux was pretty amazing too, and we enjoyed stopping at the local boulangerie almost every day for a baguette while we were in France. The cacio e pepe along with fried artichokes I ate in Rome are also at the top of my list, as are the pizza and daily gelato we ate in Florence. And don’t get me started on Japanese food – it’s still my favorite cuisine of all. I would also love to sit and enjoy tea and fresh-baked scones served with clotted cream and jam again, or with a slice of coffee-walnut cake. Brett said I can’t forget Cornish pasties either – they were amazing, especially eaten freshly made from a shop. Oh, the memories!

Brett and I seem to have settled into our new Hawaii lifestyle. Unlike when we lived here before, there is no running around every day or adjusting our day or desires to fit the girls’ lives and schedules, and we get up, eat, and go whenever we’re ready. Along with not having visitors crowding the island, it’s really lovely. I know we’ll be out more as things open up, but for now this lifestyle is exactly what I imagined retirement to be. YaYu seems to be managing okay as well – there have been no complaints other than she misses college and her friends there, but she stays busy communicating with said friends, watching shows in Mandarin to keep her skills up, reading, and exercising. Besides watching TV together every evening, she and I continue to study Japanese together, and we each bring our own strengths to the process. We gave up on FluentU, and are back to using Memrise. It’s not perfect, but we feel what we are learning is more useful.

As promised, here are a few more of the gorgeous hibiscus we discovered over at Kukui’ula the other day. Finding new varieties has become sort of a treasure hunt for me these days.

That’s it for this week. Here’s hoping you all had a good week as well (and better weather), had lots of good things happen, and are looking forward to the week coming up!

Back to the Future: Half-Way There

As I was looking thought posts I had written in May of 2011, I almost skipped over this one post on May 10, but the first paragraph grabbed me and shook me up a bit, especially the fact that we still had over $33,000 worth of consumer debt at that point (outside of my student loan). In almost a year and a half we had paid off an equal amount of debt but we still had such a long, long way to go. In other words, we had reached a point of celebration, but one strongly tempered by the reality of what still needed to be accomplished. I knew what lay ahead and was dreading it.

All the feelings I carried back then came rushing back as I read – especially the sense of anxiety that always seemed to hover over me. I remembered feeling proud of all we had accomplished at that point as well as feeling very motivated to continue, but also feeling tired and overwhelmed by what we still had to do to get to the end. Of course, I know now that we did finish, and accomplish our goal of moving to Hawaii, but at the time I honestly felt anything but accomplished.

Fast forward to the future though, and I remembered that we saved a little less than $30,000 in the same amount of time for our Big Adventure, but only by selling most of our stuff and our car, so I am amazed by how well we did in our first 18 months of debt repayment. The amount we paid off from January 2010 to May of 2011 was something to be celebrated, especially after all that had been thrown at us in 2010. What I know now though was that it never really got any easier, and that slog is the perfect word to describe the journey. And, that we didn’t quit.

I don’t remember searching for employment at this time, but I guess I was. And, Hawaii must have really been coming into focus at this point, although I still don’t think we had made a final decision. What we were focused on at this point on going to Japan to meet our first grandchild!

Half-Way There

As of this week we have paid off more than half of the debt we started with in January 2010. While paying off more than $33,000 worth of debt in less than 18 months is certainly a milestone to be celebrated, it’s also extremely sobering to realize that we still have that much to go to become debt-free.

I told Brett last week that while I want to feel like we’re standing at the top of a mountain with an easy downward walk to the finish, it instead feels like we’re at the bottom of a deep valley looking up at a difficult, vertical climb to our goal. In other words, the “easy” part of the journey is now over, and the real work to the finish begins.

I have created a budget to get us to the end of the year, and with everything we have coming up, the amount we can put toward our debt is going to slow up some. So far I have not found any additional employment, although I’m still keeping my fingers crossed. We no longer have anything as major as a second car to sell, but hopefully, we will be able to find additional items around the house that we can part in the coming year to bring in some extra funds.

In spite of what we still have to accomplish, we remain extremely motivated to be debt-free by the end of 2012, for several reasons. Brett will retire then, we want to take a special family vacation, and we are now focused on relocating (to Hawaii?) in 2014. In the meantime, the slog continues!

Travel on Our Minds

It’s going to be a while before Brett and I travel again, at least another two years. We love being back on Kaua’i but our time on the road was magical and meaningful, truly a dream come true, and we weren’t ready for it to be over, especially not in such an abrupt way.

We can and will travel again, but we know it will be different in the future. Although we enjoyed being on the road full-time, we have decided that going forward we’d rather have a home base and then focus on making an annual trip to Japan (Tokyo) to spend time with our family there, probably for around a month; taking another longer six-week to two-month journey each year, either overseas or back on the mainland; and making a shorter visit every year to one of the other islands here.

The Covid-19 pandemic and YaYu’s upcoming college expenses are the big factors keeping us from traveling right now. However, rather than sitting around and feeling sorry for ourselves about not being able to go anywhere for a while, we’ve figured out there are lots of things we can do during this “downtime” to keep us focused on the future, motivated, and well-prepared once we’re ready to hit the road again.

Here are the things we’ve either already started or will be incorporating in the future:

  • Save for travel: One of the best things we did before we set off on our Big Adventure in 2018 was to have at least six months’ worth of travel paid for in advance. Things are different now in that we won’t be giving up our home and car in order to travel full time nor will we be selling our stuff, but as we did in the past, all extra income will be dedicated to travel savings so that our travel expenses can be met without racking up debt.
  • Set budgets: We want to take our first major trip in the fall of 2022, around six months after YaYu’s graduation. We want to make our first visit back to Japan in the spring of 2023. About a year out from those dates we will begin setting up the budgets for those trips based on our research of what we expect it will cost.
  • Create itineraries: We have already picked four places we’d like to go to once we can travel again: Ireland, New Zealand (north and south islands this time), Southwestern U.S. national parks, and West Coast national parks. All four would be driving trips. We haven’t prioritized any of them yet, but both Brett and I are currently getting started on what we’d like to see and do in each place, how long we want to stay, and so forth. He is looking into Ireland now; I am focusing on New Zealand, and after a while, we will swap and then combine our information and ideas and go from there. This part is going to take a while but it’s a lot of fun and we’re learning a lot.
  • Setting a foundation: This is the fun part for me, but we’re a ways off from this right now. This is where once an actual itinerary is set, I get to find lodging, compare rental car prices, search for airfares, and so forth so that everything fits within our budget. Airfares are going to be tricky this time around – they’re all over the place right now (if there are even flights available), and there’s no way to estimate where they’ll be when we’re ready to travel again. Frankly, I can’t even imagine getting on an airplane but it’s something we’re going to have to deal with eventually.
  • Edit our travel wardrobes: We are fortunate to have a dedicated and dehumidified closet in our apartment to store our travel clothes (cold-weather items we don’t need here). Both of us felt after getting everything hung up and put away that maybe we have too many things (me in particular), so that will be a task for us in the future, to go through what we have and downsize if necessary.
  • Edit our travel supplies: We took along so many things (for health care and otherwise) on our Big Adventure that we ended up not ever using, and we both said several times, “there has to be a better way to do this” while at the same time feeling afraid to get rid of anything in case we did need it. During the next two years, we’re going to work on making a list of what was important, what wasn’t, what we didn’t have that we could have used, what things we could have picked up along the way if necessary, and then come up with a better system for carrying that stuff along with us.
  • Make reservations: This will happen as we get closer to actually traveling, and will be coordinated with setting the foundation, but making reservations is always something to look forward to – it means we’re really going! Some reservations, like at the New Sanno Hotel in Tokyo, need to be made a year in advance as rooms sell out quickly (we’ve already decided to stay there again versus renting our own apartment).
  • Stay in shape: It’s a constant effort but we’re determined to be in as good a shape in two years as we were when we set out in 2018.

There will be other things we can do along the way, but for now, our goal is to create a path to not only keep future travel on our minds but keep us moving toward them. Two years seems like a long time away but we know from experience it will pass more quickly than we imagine. In the meantime, we want and need to stay motivated so when the time arrives we’ll be truly ready to hit the road again.

Sunday Morning 5/17/2020: Opening Up

Sunsets were all over the place this week, from mild to spicy.

Ever since I set up those cards last week I haven’t had a moment to feel bored! So far things are going well and I’m getting everything checked off, but I’m seriously having trouble finding time to do things that aren’t on the cards! YaYu and I have had mixed feelings about the Japanese program but we are going to work with it for a while and see how it goes. Neither of us is exactly a beginner, but we’re not quite at an intermediate level either so we find some of their examples easy and other things very difficult. YaYu is also using the program to review Chinese every day (advanced) so that she stays up to speed for when classes open in the fall, whether that’s on-campus or remotely.

Kaua’i beaches opened up on Friday for island residents! The local government wants to see how it goes for a couple of weeks, so there are rules to be followed, but this coming week we will finally be able to pitch our umbrella and chairs, and sit outside, read, and enjoy the sunshine and views! The visitors’ quarantine is still in full effect (until the end of June. The quarantine is taken seriously here, and because of previous infractions things have really tightened up for visitors: some hotels are not giving visitors keys anymore; they are let into the room and then given the key after their 14 days are up. Visitors are also not allowed to rent cars and have to use Uber or a taxi to get to their lodging. In spite of all these restrictions and monitoring, some visitors are still being cited and fined, and some have even been required to leave the state. Figuring out how to get the tourism industry restarted and back on its feet is going to take a long while after restrictions are lifted, with visitors expected to be only 40% – 50% at what they were before the virus arrived. In spite of the financial hardships the quarantines and shutdowns have caused, it seems that most island residents are still fine with the visitor restrictions, at least for time being – no one want the virus to get a hold here.

We are still in the process of getting things set up and taken care of here. Brett has an appointment to get the car’s biannual inspection done next week, and YaYu and I were finally able to get an appointment with the eye doctor. After two years without an exam, my glasses are not strong enough anymore, and YaYu has just one more set of contacts left and needs a new prescription. Hopefully, the Costco optometry section will be open by then, but if not, I’ll order my glasses online (with help from YaYu). All three of us also still need to find a new physician down on the south side. We loved our former doctor but he’s up on the north shore, over an hour’s drive away (when there’s no traffic) so we think it’s best to find someone located a bit closer now.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I finished The Last Chinese Chef mid-week but am still reading The Yellow House. The Last Chinese Chef was a fairly quick read with a romantic storyline but contained a lot of fascinating information about Chinese cooking and the philosophy behind it. For example, food in China is all about people eating together, with dishes never plated individually but always served for the group. I have picked up The Dutch House again, starting from the beginning again as I couldn’t remember much of anything of what I’d read earlier.
  • Listening to: The wind is howling again outside. We had some calmer days last week but then yesterday it got crazy again. The temperature and humidity are increasing, although nothing too bad yet, but the continual breeze has kept things nice. Brett and YaYu are rustling around in the kitchen fixing their respective breakfasts, and there is a rooster going crazy off in the distance. 
  • Watching: YaYu and I are almost done with Top Chef Season 14, and are thinking about watching Tiger King next because Meiling and WenYu keep asking us to watch so we can all chat about it. We’ll see. Brett and I are finishing up Season 2 of Trapped – maybe he’ll watch Tiger King next too.
  • Cooking: We’re having grilled Polish sausages, macaroni and cheese, and coleslaw for dinner tonight. I’m hoping to pick up a chuck roast this week to do a Mississippi Pot Roast – we made it when we were in Japan and have been dreaming of having it again and then using the leftovers for French dip sandwiches. Other things I plan to fix this week will be grilled ahi and vegetable kabobs and California BLTs (avocado added) with chips. We’ll figure out the other nights’ dinners later.
  • Happy I accomplished this week: So far I have been able to finish all the tasks on my card every day, so I’m pretty happy with that. Sunday is a notoriously difficult day to earn Swagbucks, so probably won’t make my goal of 50 today, but I have already earned 279 “bucks” this week so I should make my weekly goal of 350 by Wednesday.
    We’re down to the bottom of the bowl. These were all that were left on Thursday evening.
  • Looking forward to next week: Going to the beach! We’re going to get a beach chair and an umbrella at Costco and a couple of straw mats at Walmart this week so we’re ready to hang out and relax. Something we are not looking forward to next week will be the end of all the KitKats we brought back with us from Japan. We’ve had a lot of fun trying all the different flavors, some of which I have to admit were a little strange this time. Rum raisin has been bumped from the top spot on my favorites list though and replaced by yuzu green tea. That flavor was amazing – so delicate.
    My yummy birthday cake – Yayu topped it with a perfect ganache!
  • Thinking of good things that happened: I had an absolutely lovely birthday this year. The last couple of years it has been a travel day so I have been too exhausted, jet-lagged, etc. to enjoy anything about it but this year I got to relax while Brett and YaYu spoiled me a bit. YaYu made me an amazing cake – a Boston Cream poke cake. So good! Our new felt coasters finally arrived this week and I am thrilled. They’re such a simple thing, but cold drinks always sweat here, usually heavily, and these coasters are nearly impervious to water – it neither pools up on the coaster nor soaks all the way through, big issues and problems with previous coasters. They felt ones are pretty too – I chose a set in “ocean colors.” Our Penzey’s spice order arrived as well – their quality is outstanding, and cost much less than we would pay here in any supermarket. Brett and I went to the Kukui’ula farmers’ market this past week and really enjoyed ourselves. There was lots of social distancing going on, and everyone was wearing a mask, but there was also lots of amazing produce available at great prices, and live music too. We only spent $15 but tried to spread that around to different farmers.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: I noticed last week that what we were being charged for the big laundry rack I had ordered seemed much higher than what I initially paid and discovered that Amazon or the vendor had dropped its Prime status and free delivery between when I ordered and when it was being sent and we were being charged (a lot) extra for delivery. I was able to successfully cancel the order and get a refund. We will manage for the time being with the smaller rack we already have. Our only spending this week was a stop for Mother’s Day ice cream last Sunday evening (my scoop was free!), the trip to the farmers’ market on Wednesday, and the Puka Dogs for my birthday dinner, coming to less than $55 total. We finished up all our leftovers, didn’t throw away any food, and put $4 into the change/$1 jar this week.
  • Grateful for: Both Brett and I are so thankful for the Hawaiian spirit of aloha working its magic once again. This past week we went to check out some hibiscus at the luxurious Kukui’ula development (cottages start at $3.5 million!), located near to where we live – a parking lot near the country club had been recommended as a place where I could find some unusual and beautiful varieties. As we were walking back to our car, the security manager arrived to let us know we were in a private area. We explained why we had come and how we heard about it, and ended up having a lovely 20 or so minute chat with her about the area and more (all of us wearing masks). We learned some of the hibiscuses had been used at the big Merrie Monarch hula festival in the past, about her grandfather’s farm stand located just down the road from where we live, and she also recommended several other places in the area we should get to know. It ended up being a purely Hawaiian, purely Kaua’i experience, and we were invited to come back any time. Lucky (and thankful) to live Kaua’i!
  • Bonus question: What are your favorite tropical fruits? Of all the things I missed about Kaua’i after we left, the abundance of fresh, year-round tropical fruit was near the top of my list. I tried so many new and different things here, and while there are definitely some I don’t care for (egg fruit and sapodilla come to mind) the ones I do like make up for those. If I had to name a favorite it would be lilikoi (passionfruit) – it’s both sweet and tart, and while I enjoy lilikoi products, from pie to mustard, I especially love having it fresh, spooned over vanilla ice cream or vanilla yogurt. Right below lilikoi would be papaya, which I didn’t initially like but now love, especially for breakfast or in a smoothie. I have also come to love dragonfruit, breadfruit, litchi, and rambutan and am looking forward to their arrival this year! I will eat mango but am not a huge fan which sort of surprises me as I thought it would be something I love. Bananas are ubiquitous here but the varieties are so tasty that I can no longer eat “store-bought” bananas anymore. I miss peaches, plums, berries, and melons (we can get them at Costco but they’re expensive) but the tropical fruits we can get here are a wonderful substitute.

I am wearing my hair in a ponytail these days . . . yikes! I had forgotten how fast my hair grows here. I don’t think the ponytail is a good look for me, but I am very tired of my hair exploding into a giant puffball whenever we go out and then whipping around my face or getting in my eyes (and by the end of the evening, ponytail or not, it’s still a puffball). Hopefully, it won’t be too long before hair salons are able to open again and I can get rid of this mess.

Above are a few more new hibiscus I found this week. We discovered a lot of very beautiful ones at Kukui’ula – I’ll post more next week.

That’s it for now! I hope this past week was a good one for you too, that lots of good things happened and that you’re looking forward to the week coming up!

OK, maybe this is the reason why there seems to be a whole lot fewer chickens than there were before.

The B Word: Boredom

I did not think I would ever get to a place where I felt bored, not after the last few years anyway, and certainly not here on Kaua’i. But I woke up yesterday and realized that I was indeed bored. Very bored, in fact, and feeling a bit depressed as well.

Two months ago Brett and I were walking around and exploring our immediate neighborhood in Tokyo, discovering all sorts of new things right around the corner or just down the road from where we lived. We spent time with our family and felt like we were contributing something important. We were excited about our upcoming visit to Mexico, seeing Meiling in NYC, attending “Hamilton” on Broadway, and then heading on to WenYu’s graduation in Massachusetts. We are blessed and thankful to be healthy now, and safely back home again on Kaua’i, but I’m just beginning to realize what a shock it was to our system to have to have all the plans we had carefully put in place discarded and changed so abruptly.

The moving, shopping, and setting up our house is finished. No more packages are expected except for a spice order from Penzey’s, but I think YaYu is more excited about that than I am. The house is as set up as it can be until our shipment arrives, but there’s still been nothing happening with that. We walk most evenings, and although the view when we arrive at the beach never gets old, the walk itself sort of has. We’re stuck at the apartment almost every day unless we go for a walk or go food shopping but neither of those outings lasts very long. We do have a wonderful deck to relax on, and we thankfully all get along very well, even in our small space, and still seem to have plenty to talk about.

The potential was there though for me to mope, grow bitter, or even more bored, so I spent a good deal of yesterday reflecting on what I could do to change my attitude, as well as how to use my time more effectively to improve the situation. Just telling myself to snap out of it is not an option, and it’s still going to be a while before we can get together with friends or go to the beach. Our budget is going to be tight for the next couple of years as well so I have to deal with that as well.

After deciding on some things I could and wanted to do now, I decided to go back to my old card system, at least for a while, listing and checking off tasks to make sure the things get done every day and so that inertia doesn’t set in. I came up with six items for both mind, body, and the future:

  • Drink eight glasses of water every day
  • Walk 1.5 to 2 miles at least five times a week
  • Read for pleasure 45 minutes every day
  • Study Japanese for 20 minutes every day. YaYu and I signed up for a new online program called FluentU and will be doing it together.
  • Earn at least 50 Swagbucks a day. I don’t want to spend a lot of time on this, but I figured out that at an average of 50 SB a day for two years I can earn $400 in Southwest Airlines gift cards, which will help keep the cost of YaYu’s travel down as Southwest now flies to Hawaii.
  • Spend 45 minutes a day on future travel planning (because it’s fun).

The card system has worked very well for me in the past because I’m someone that once there’s a list in front of me, I have to check off all the things. The items on these cards are all small activities that won’t overwhelm the day but will keep me productive as well as motivated and moving toward future goals within the current situation we’re in. They’ll also give each day a bit more structure.

One other thing I’ve learned from my card system is that time seems to go a bit more quickly, and before I know it it’s time to fill out a new set. Fingers are crossed that’s the way it goes this time as well, and that in five weeks some changes will have occurred and some new habits set.

Sunday Morning 5/10/2020: Happy Mother’s Day!

Sunsets were subdued this week when compared to previous weeks.

Happy Mother’s Day! Today is my traditional Day of Doing Nothing, where Brett and YaYu will take care of everything, from cooking to cleaning to laundry and so on. The family has done this for the past several years, and I prefer having nothing at all on my plate for a day and not feeling guilty about it more than any thing they could give me. Right now I’m sipping a cup of fresh-brewed coffee (TheRoyale™!) and noshing on a toasted onion bagel slathered with chive cream cheese. In a short while, YaYu will make me a banana & tropical fruit smoothie. I’ve had messages from all the kids (calls will come later) so my day is starting off nicely.

This past week felt sort of meh, but overall it wasn’t a bad one. We got together with our neighbors one evening, walked almost every day, including walks on the beach, but there were no drop-dead, gorgeous sunsets because there were usually few to no clouds in the evening – basically, on most days the sun just sort of disappeared and then it got dark. The strong winds continued as for most of the week as well which helped to keep things cool but at the same time kept things sort of noisy. In other words, the new normal continued.

I contacted the moving company again early last week about our shipment, and this time got a name and direct line for contact, but as before, after I got done speaking with the agent and getting assurances they were going to work on it . . . nothing. I think the problem may be with the moving company in Portland (the office that coordinates the mainland side of things is in San Diego). Either the Portland office is closed under the current stay-at-home orders, or working with a very small staff and our small shipment is not a priority. On the plus side, I heard from the US Department of Transportation that my complaint against Aeromexico has merit and they are pursuing it, and also from our bank that the disputed charge for the tickets is still ongoing as well. Hopefully, that refund will be resolved in the next few weeks.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I continue to have two books going, but once I get myself caught up where I’m on track to accomplish my goal of 52 books this year, I will cut back to one. My two current books are The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom (daytime) and The Last Chinese Chef (evening/night), by Nicole Mones, a novel about “friendship, love, and cuisine.” The Yellow House is an award-winning memoir about a large family and their home in New Orleans, before, during, and after Hurricane Katrina. I finished Death Is Now My Neighbor mid-week, and have just one more of Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse books to finish. I know he dies in the last book, and I’m already feeling sad about that so I’m going to have to steel myself to read it. I am so glad the woman I met in the Oxford Information Office recommended that I go back and read all the Morse books. I’ve not only been able to place myself in different locations and settings and follow Morse and Lewis through the city, but have a deeper understanding of the university culture too.
  • Listening to: There’s a nice, gentle breeze outside this morning instead of the howling winds we’ve had for over a week so it’s nice and quiet. Brett and YaYu are rustling around doing something, but otherwise it’s a lovely, quiet morning.
  • Watching: We finished all the available episodes of Shetland, and YaYu and I are now watching Season 14 of Top Chef. After we finish an episode of Top Chef, Brett and I then watch an episode of Trapped, a detective series from Iceland. I’ve seen the Top Chef season before, but I don’t remember who won.
  • Cooking: I’m not sure what YaYu is planning for this evening, but afterward we’re going to the Kukui’ula Marketplace to celebrate with some Lappert’s ice cream. Other things planned for dinner this week are omelets; mabo nasu (if we can get eggplant); fried rice; and Thai chicken pizza. We’re going to get take-out on Thursday but where it comes from will be a surprise. We never got the Instant Pot cheesecake made this week, so we will try again this week, and I’m going to have another go at making focaccia.
  • Happy we accomplished this past week: 1) YaYu finished her second year of college – all classes over, all tests taken, all papers submitted. WenYu also finished her classes at Wellesley this past week and is now officially a graduate! 2) Using yeast and flour gifted us by our neighbors, YaYu and I attempted rosemary-garlic focaccia bread this past week as it was a dough we could tackle without our big mixer and we also have a big supply of fresh rosemary in the back yard. It was the first time we’d ever tried making it, and the result tasted good and was the right consistency, but it didn’t brown enough (possibly the temperature is off in the oven). 3) I successfully pressure cooked a slow cooker recipe in the Instant Pot – I was nervous about doing this but it turned out great and I will probably never slow cook it again. 4) We walked five out of seven days this past week.
  • Looking forward to next week: We have nothing special on the calendar, but my 68th birthday is on Thursday – I’ve asked for take-out for dinner and another “day off” that day, the perfect gift because I don’t want or need anything else!
    The new sofa table – we’re really pleased with it!
  • Thinking of good things that happened: We had a long, lovely video chat with our son and family on Wednesday. K is speaking so much English now! All of them are well and managing the Tokyo lockdown. Our sofa table arrived last Wednesday and we love it! I had found four different ones on Amazon that would have worked, but selected this one for its simple, organic appearance and attractive price. Last Sunday evening we were invited to our downstairs neighbor’s apartment for a wine tasting. Our neighbor is a chef at the Grand Hyatt, and his wife is also a chef, so there were some tasty nibbles as well as good wine. We had thought the upstairs neighbor was the restaurant manager but it turned out he is the resort’s sommelier! He provided a lovely selection of wines for tasting, and we had a fun time getting to know our neighbors better. The next day, our downstairs neighbor brought up flour and yeast for us so we could bake (we had talked a lot about bread the night before).
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: I had apparently left $100 in a savings account here (I thought I had closed it), so I used that as the base for our local travel savings account. I put in $14 this past week, earned from recycling and saving $1 bills. Our total travel savings is now $164, so we’re off to a good, if simple, start. We ate all our leftovers this past week and didn’t throw anything away, and other than a stop at the farmstand, and a quick trip by Brett to Costco on Friday for toilet paper (that they didn’t have) and Diet Coke, we didn’t spend anything.
    Apple bananas and fresh mangoes from the farmstand
  • Grateful for: We’re feeling thankful that the Kukui’ula Farmer’s market opened up again this week – combined with the farmstand we now have two nearby sources for fresh, affordable, local produce. We’re also thankful that a few nearby restaurants that have been shut down are re-opening for take-out, including two of our favorites: Puka Dog (Hawaiian-style hot dogs) and Da Crack, (Mexican – their burritos are amazing). A couple of shops have also re-opened in the Kukui’ula Marketplace. The reopening will be slow here, but it’s getting started.
  • Bonus question: How do you feel about having to stay home all the time? For me, an introvert, it’s mostly a satisfying situation. I have several projects going on and manage to stay busy every day. In fact, this past week I purchased a small spiral notebook to get started on my travel planning project, and then was not able to find a block of time to get started! That’s one of my goals for this week though. I enjoy getting up when I’m ready and not having to follow any sort of defined schedule throughout the day, but I’m always surprised at the end by how much I’ve gotten done, whether that’s reading, baking, cooking, cleaning, exercise, etc. Anyway, staying at home works for me, at least most of the time. I am looking forward to getting out more though, like down to the beach for more than a walk, getting together with friends, and getting my hair cut, but that’s most likely another month or so off from now.

It feels good to be done acquiring things for this apartment – all we need now is to get our stored stuff over here and we will finally feel settled. We continue to pinch ourselves that we found this place with its beautiful yard, great breezes, nice neighbors, great location, and all for less than we assumed we would be paying. In just a little over a month here, we’ve come to realize how truly miserable our last house here was, on top of the awful landlord. The house had high-end finishes and looked good on the surface, but it was small and a pain to maintain, and there was absolutely no airflow through the house – any air that moved inside was only because of the ceiling fans that operated constantly (the house sat in a small valley, and windows were not placed to facilitate air movement through the house – even if the wind was blowing outside no air came through the windows). I understand now why the humidity seemed so awful and caused me so much such misery – it was miserable! I’m still waiting to see how summer goes here, but I feel like the heat and humidity may be a whole lot easier to manage than they were before. We’ll see though.

I spotted a few new hibiscus varieties this past week while we were out walking, and also discovered Indian ginger, pink Hawaiian ginger, and some miniature anthurium. 

That’s all for this week! Again, a very happy Mother’s Day to all who celebrate. If the day is a challenging one for you though, I hope, as Connie Schultz says, that it lands gently for you. Here’s to good things happening, good books, getting things accomplished, and looking forward to the week that’s coming up!

Back to the Future: A Place in the Sun

Although we were already talking about retirement in early 2011, and of relocating to a warmer climate, it apparently took us until the end of April to sit down together and come up with a list of factors to consider when we talked about where we might want to go. For some reason lost to me now, we initially didn’t rank anything, and outside of “lots of sunshine” none of the items on our list was more important than any other. But, setting a target date for our move was important – we wanted to have a date to aim for.

Hawaii still appeared on our list of potential locations, which surprises me a bit as we started out considering it as something of a joke. But, three months later, there it is, still on the list, and not as much of a joke as it had been. I was also surprised that we had added Florida to the list, but it had some of the things on our list, and we did investigate it as a possible post-Portland home.

At the end of the post, I asked for what else we should be considering, and a few people mentioned taxes, so that became another factor added to our list, and it made a difference in ultimately deciding to move to Hawaii.

In the meantime, we were still furiously paying down our debt as our motivation continued to grow, especially as the amount we owed grew smaller, and as we honed in on a post-retirement location. We knew there were still going to be bumps along the way, but our post-debt future was beginning to take shape.

A Place in the Sun

Brett and I both independently came to the realization this winter that we don’t want to stay in Portland for too long after he retires at the end of next year. We’ve lived here for nearly 20 years, and while there is a great deal that we love about this city, Oregon, and the Pacific Northwest, we are both tired of the dreary winters and want to live someplace where we can enjoy the sun a bit more consistently than we do now. While we both enjoy all the green that comes with Portland, we are both weary of hibernating all winter, of walking dogs in the rain, and of everything else that comes along with all the wet and gloom.

So, we have been working on a list of priorities for where we’d like to eventually settle and have come up with this shortlist:

  • Weather (lots of sunshine)
  • Cost of living
  • Schools (two of the girls will still be in high school)
  • Ocean nearby
  • Mountains close by (less than a day’s drive)
  • Western U.S. (because our son and his family live in Japan)
  • Substantial Asian community (because our girls are ethnically Chinese)
  • Military facilities nearby

We haven’t gotten around to weighting any of these as more important than the others, except for the weather.  Probably the least important (to me, anyway) is having any mountains fairly close by – I’m an ocean person. Having military facilities nearby would be nice because Brett is a retiree, and while we haven’t had anything to do with the military since he retired other than receiving retirement pay every month and using the health insurance, we figure it’s something we might need or want to use (like the commissary) as we grow old(er).

So far the list of possible areas to consider include:

  • Southern California (various locations)
  • The Southwestern United States (Arizona & New Mexico)
  • Hawaii
  • Florida

We also briefly considered living overseas, but the language and/or visa requirements are more than we want to take on at this point.

All of these locations have strikes against them, but we are just getting started on evaluating the plusses and minuses of each and have another year before we have to make a decision and then work toward making it happen. Our target date for moving is Summer 2014: Meiling will have graduated from high school and be heading to college, WenYu will have completed the equivalent of 4 years of high school Chinese and all math requirements, and YaYu will be transitioning between middle and high school.

Our number one goal at this point remains to pay off all our debt! We know a comfortable retirement isn’t going to happen until we accomplish that. Once we make a decision about where to settle we can come up with a further set of realistic goals for relocating.

What are your thoughts? Have we missed anyplace else we ought to consider? Is there something else we should be considering at this point while we look at the big picture?

(This post was first published April 26, 2011.)

My Kind of Fun

With at least another month to go of sheltering at home, we here at Casa Aloha are having to come up with new ways to pass the time. We’re not big TV watchers, but we’re all reading a lot (I’ve got two books going at once), and we try and get out as much as possible for a walk or run. Otherwise, there just isn’t a whole lot for us to do while we’re stuck in our small apartment. Brett got a sketchbook and pencils and is brushing up on his drawing skills. YaYu spends a lot of time talking online with her friends, boyfriend, and sisters and otherwise has her nose buried in a book. 

I know how to knit but have no desire or need to do that here. I also know how to embroider but am not particularly interested in taking that up again; the same is true for hand-quilting, although I’ve been thinking I may give it a go again in the future and learn Hawaiian-style applique quilting. So, what’s a girl with a lot of time on her hands to do?

I can make travel plans. That’s my kind of fun.

Seriously, even though the absolute earliest we may be able to travel again would be in 2022 (and that’s being optimistic) there’s nothing stopping me from putting together some trips, planning itineraries, and finding out how much such a trip might potentially cost . . . even if we never end up going. I love doing the research and estimating what airfare might be, what hotels or Airbnbs might cost, as well as rental cars, admissions, and other things we might need or want to do. It’s fun for me to discover whether a travel idea is doable, or whether I need to go back to the drawing board and rethink the whole thing. It’s also nice to have plans that can be tweaked or adjusted as needed if and when new information becomes available.

I have come up with four different itineraries, all road trips, and all journeys Brett and I have talked in the past about doing. Two are domestic, and two are international. Because we hope to eventually be able to take two longer trips each year, including a visit to Japan, I’m allowing for up to 40 days for each of the adventures below:

  • A west coast national parks trip through California, Oregon, Washington, and Western Canada
  • A southwest and mountain states national parks trip through Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah
  • A trip around the southern island of New Zealand
  • A trip around Ireland, including Northern Ireland

Planning for these will keep me busy for the next several weeks. Whether they ever come about, I know I am going to have a good time now learning new things, choosing a driving route and deciding on stops, and comparing lodging and other costs. Brett will be asked along the way for his advice and his preferences and will be included in the virtual planning as much as he wants.

Sunday Morning 5/3/2020: May Already

A few of this past week’s sunsets – the sky was on fire!

With the arrival of our coffee table this past week, we are now feeling a bit more settled here, minus our stored items, of course. There’s still been very little to no movement on getting that going either. I was able to get hold of someone from Royal Hawaiian early last week who then contacted the moving company on the mainland who would handle things there. They, in turn, called me back right away. They asked for contact information for our friend Joan to set things up with her, said they would be calling her within the hour, but four days later she had not heard from them nor had I. Sigh. I will be back on the phone again with them tomorrow.

Hawaii’s stay-at-home order will be continuing at least until the end of this month, although a few things will begin opening this month, including golf courses and car dealerships. Beaches will open for exercise but not for sunbathing. There is still no consensus for when things will open for visitors, although according to our neighbors, the Grand Hyatt here on the south shore is tentatively planning for a June 1 opening. Although people would like to get back to work, no one seems very eager about having visitors possibly bring the virus along with them again. There have been less than five cases per day appearing in the islands now with visitor quarantines still in place and stay-at-home orders and mask-wearing (socially) enforced. Kaua’i hasn’t had a case of the virus in over two weeks, and no one here is in isolation any longer. Until we hear otherwise, we will continue to spend most of our time here at the apartment, wear masks when we go out, wash and sanitize our hands, and follow social distancing rules.

YaYu finishes this term’s classes this week, so she has been thinking of what she can do to fill her time. We have given her free use of our Amazon account to order books because libraries will remain closed for the time being (and she doesn’t have a Kindle). She also wants to do some more cooking and baking. Brett plans to get a sketchpad and pencils and get back into drawing. Along with reading, I have a couple of ideas up my sleeve of things to keep me busy. Weather permitting, we all plan to get out and walk/run down at the beach at least five evenings per week.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I finished The Splendid and the Vile this past week, but I am still working my way through Midnight in Chernobyl during the day. It’s an amazing book. The penultimate Inspector Morse book, Death Is Now My Neighbor, is my current reading at night. 
  • Listening to: The wind is howling again outside. This wind speed has ranged anywhere from 22 to 35 mph this week, and there’s been rain too on a few days. It’s been hard to believe sometimes that we’re in Hawaii . . . in April and May . . . except that many of the trees being blown about are coconut palms and in spite of the wind it’s been warm during the day (although very cool at night).
  • Watching: We’re still working our way through Shetland. Thank you for the many suggestions for shows we can watch after we finish the series – we haven’t decided on anything yet though.
    Instant Pot rice pudding with whipped cream – served in one of our glasses because we don’t have any other dishes. The pudding was very creamy and delicious.
  • Cooking: Tonight we’re having patty melts, one of YaYu’s and my favorite sandwiches, along with chips and coleslaw. Also on the menu this week will be grilled flank steak with roasted potatoes and Caprese salad; CookDo sweet and sour pork; Vietnamese-style salad rolls; slow cooker chicken adobo with bok choy; and one-pan pasta. Side dishes will be determined by what we find at the farmstand. YaYu and I baked a cake this past week and made rice pudding in the Instant Pot yesterday, and this week we’re thinking about trying a cheesecake in the Instant Pot.
    We sometimes walk through the deserted Kukuiula Marketplace. Music is still playing, but the only two places open are Uncle’s Shave Ice and Lappert’s Ice Cream.
  • Happy we accomplished this past week: I finally found a sofa table on Amazon at an affordable price, and got that ordered. Yeah – no more furniture! Brett, YaYu, and I got in four walks last week (YaYu usually runs while we walk). We’re especially pleased with the amount of exercise we got this past week because the weather has been mostly awful. There hasn’t been a whole lot more to accomplish around here though – it’s been boring at times, to tell the truth.
  • Looking forward to next week: A couple of books are scheduled to arrive for YaYu, and I have a small crossover bag arriving (I don’t need my big tote bag here on the island), but otherwise, packages have slowed down to a trickle. We’re also ready to go down to the beach for some of our walks.
    The new coffee table has a “beachy” vibe to it – we love it!
  • Thinking of good things that happened: We love our new coffee table! It’s an inexpensive piece that I found on Amazon, but it’s solid wood, it fits perfectly in our living room, and we love the look of it. YaYu’s blender arrived early last Friday, so she’s having fun with that. And, Brett and I finally have actual linens on our bed! They arrived from Amazon yesterday – just four days after I ordered them! I did not realize I had ordered a gray duvet cover, but we both like how it looks so it all worked out. The vent arrived for the dryer so Brett is working on getting that installed. We still plan to line dry most things though, but it will be nice to use the dryer when we need one. I am actually starting to get a bit of a tan, the beginnings of looking more like I live here rather than a piece of shark bait that just got off the plane.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: We made two trips to the farm stand and one trip to Big Save in Koloa for a few odds and ends, but that’s all the spending we did this past week. I saved $200 by ordering bed linens from Amazon versus reordering from the first company after our original order was (finally) determined to be lost. We had been thinking about buying a sofa table from a store in Lihue but saved $800 by choosing the one from Amazon (and it’s solid wood too).
  • Grateful for: For many reasons, we are so thankful to be back on Kaua’i and so grateful our daughters told us last Christmas that this is where they wanted us to live again. Even with the crappy weather this week, Brett said he never wants to “do winter” ever again and was never so happy to be anywhere as he was when we landed here back in March. It’s not always the easiest place to live (expensive and difficult to find things, and difficult to get together with family), but we made it work for us before and we know we can do it again.  
  • Bonus question: Although outings are limited, what interesting things are you finding these days? One of my favorite things to do while we’re out and about, walking or otherwise, is to be on the lookout for new (to me) colors of hibiscus. I have always been amazed by how many different variations there are. I go through periods when all it seems I see are standard red or yellow ones (the big yellow ones with a red center are the state flower and they are everywhere), but then all of a sudden out will pop one in a new color or with a different petal. I’ve decided there are more varieties than I’ll ever be able to see, and that’s OK with me!

I had my first moment of panic over things this past week. It didn’t last long but it still gave me a scare. I am very good at adjusting to circumstances, quickly if need be, but for a little while the other evening, I felt good and scared, like maybe we are in the middle of circumstances that will not be resolved and that will resist adjustment. I have to wonder how things are going to go with all the demand for reopenings currently going on, but as someone said, we’ll know in June if May was too early. Hopefully, this will be a better week coming up, from the weather to things happening that need to happen, and my general sense of optimism can take over once again.

That’s a wrap for this week! I’m hoping it was a good one for you, that you got things accomplished, had good books to read, that lots of good things happened for you and that you’re looking forward to the week coming up.

Until One Is Committed

“UNTIL ONE IS COMMITTED, THERE IS HESITANCY, THE CHANCE TO DRAW BACK, ALWAYS INEFFECTIVENESS. CONCERNING ALL ACTS OF INITIATIVE (AND CREATION), THERE IS ONE ELEMENTARY TRUTH, THE IGNORANCE OF WHICH KILLS COUNTLESS IDEAS AND SPLENDID PLANS: THAT THE MOMENT ONE DEFINITELY COMMITS ONESELF, THEN PROVIDENCE MOVES TOO. ALL SORTS OF THINGS OCCUR TO HELP ONE THAT WOULD NEVER OTHERWISE HAVE OCCURRED. A WHOLE STREAM OF EVENTS ISSUES FROM THE DECISION, RAISING IN ONE’S FAVOUR ALL MANNER OF UNFORESEEN INCIDENTS AND MEETINGS AND MATERIAL ASSISTANCE, WHICH NO MAN COULD HAVE DREAMT WOULD HAVE COME HIS WAY. I HAVE LEARNED A DEEP RESPECT FOR ONE OF GOETHE’S COUPLETS:
WHATEVER YOU CAN DO, OR DREAM YOU CAN, BEGIN IT.
BOLDNESS HAS GENIUS, POWER, AND MAGIC IN IT!”

William Hutchinson Murray

(This was first posted on January 16, 2018, but it seems timely once again, even in this time of unknowns.)

The best description I ever heard of the China adoption process was that putting the dossier together was like doing your taxes over and over and over and over and over and over . . . again and again and again and again . . . .  A slew of documents needed to be assembled upfront: a home study, birth certificates, marriage certificate, medical reports, police reports, financial statement, adoption statements, immigration forms, etc. – there were nearly 20 documents required in all. Each one of them had to be notarized in the state where they originated, then each notarized document went to the Secretary of State of that state for the notary to be certified. After that, the entire stack, by now nearly three inches high, was sent by courier to the U.S. State Department for certification, and then to the Chinese Embassy for each document’s final certification and approval. Four copies had to be made of every page of the entire dossier and only then could it finally be sent to China and put in line for us to be matched with a child.

The process took several months to complete, and along the way, there was always the possibility for China to tweak or change their requirements. For example, we were almost done with the dossier for Meiling’s adoption when China suddenly announced that physicals could no longer be more than six months old, and ours were seven months old at that point. Panic! But, our doctor squeezed us in, and every other part of the certification process worked flawlessly (for a change) and in just a few short weeks the dossier was finally complete and off to China in late May of 1996. Matches and referrals were taking only three or so months back then, so our hopes were high that by the time we returned home in August from taking our son to college we would have news of a new daughter.

However, when we returned home and called our agency the news was not good; in fact, it was very bad. China had shut down adoptions for families that already had children, which of course included us. Our agency was moving families into other adoption programs, but China had been the only program that worked for us because of our ages (we were each over 40 years old). What had happened, we later learned, was a power struggle over the international adoption program had broken out between two different political bureaus in China, and adoptions had ground to a halt while they fought it out and reorganized. (We also learned our agency was convinced at the time that the entire program was going to collapse.)

All of our hopes and love, and quite a bit of money, had gone into the adoption process for more than a year, including all of Brett’s and my work assembling our dossier. I was in graduate school at the time, and my work began to suffer because I could barely concentrate. Brett unhappily slogged off to work each day as well. Our son was at college in another state, so it was just the two of us at home each evening, and we were glum, depressed, and unsure of what to do or how to proceed.

On one particularly bad day, one of my professors emailed me the quote above, and told me to “hang in there.” I shared it with Brett that evening, and we talked about how deeply committed we still were to adopting from China and had been from the start. All sorts of unexpected and serendipitous events had happened and helped us along the way to make our adoption dream so far a reality, and we decided that rather than pull out we would stay with it to the end and see what happened, no matter the outcome. We both felt in our hearts that our daughter was waiting for us there.

The William Murray quote was a turning point for us. And, it has proven prescient ever since. When we have committed to something, whether it was adding an additional child to our family again through adoption, or getting ourselves out of debt, or moving to Hawai’i, or planning a trip – when we have committed ourselves, as the quote says, Providence has always moved too. Things we couldn’t have imagined happened to help make our plans a reality, and we were given the drive, vision, and persistence to see our dreams come true and our goals reached.

Commitment has been the step where we’ve gone from “do you think?” or “should we?” to “let’s do this” and then started figuring out how to accomplish it. The path to success has not always been straight or smooth or easy, but time and experience have shown that the unexpected does and will occur along the way to help, especially when we need it most. As each journey continues we begin to see things in different ways and act on them accordingly, with our commitment to finishing growing stronger the further along we get.

As the new year began in 1997 we were still waiting, but Brett and I had reached the depths of despair. There had been no positive word from our agency for weeks, and we felt like we were hanging on to hope by our fingernails. We had enjoyed having our son home for Christmas, but he returned to school on January 9. So, when the phone rang on the morning of January 10 I assumed it was him asking about something he had forgotten and wanted us to send. I had been lying on our sofa, crying and asking God for some kind of a sign, that if there was to be no adoption to let us know somehow and we would let it go, but if we were to continue to hope then we would continue to hang on. When I answered the phone though it was not our son but our social worker: “Laura, there’s a baby girl waiting for you in China.” On March 12, 1997, in the hallway of a hotel in China, we met our little Meiling for the first time and she was ours.

This was the only picture we received of Meiling before we met her.

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it!