mamculuna: (Default)
( Oct. 31st, 2005 09:24 am)
Lydia on Halloween!

lydia in costume
Back, briefly at least, to my nice happy computer where I can dawdle all day and my lovely fast connection—but soon to leave again, since I’m going to the beach for all of next week. I did get to look in occasionally, but not regularly, so hope I didn’t miss too many important events in the lives of the flist.

Very nice month in Chicago. Many visitors, including babyLydia )

I also went to a very wonderful but incredibly hard yoga workshop )

And I went sailing, for the first time ever! Here’s the Chicago harbor (Belmont) as we return at sunset—just putting the sails down:
sunset from the boat
It was exciting, glorious, scary, exhilarating—the boat heeled over a lot more than I’m used to, and the waves were much bigger than I expected in a lake. But now I want to do much more! The harbor’s close to where we live, and the lessons aren’t too expensive, so I definitely have a plan for next summer.

And we went to an amazing show at the Museum of Science and Industry: “BodyWorlds.” It’s anatomical dissections of real human bodies, that have been plastinated, a technique that replaces the body fluids with plastic. It was fascinating to see the details of muscles, nerves, arteries, bones—but also very beautiful. If you’re not put off by what’s under your skin, you can see some of this at

Of course there were other visitors, plays, dinners, visits to the South Shore, etc.—-and we've been trying to be good users of public transportation since it's available, so I spend more time getting everywhere, but that's fun, in good weather at least--so I didn't get much writing done, sad to say. But have gotten some extremely helpful comments on most recent story and am more than ready to plunge into revisions when I’m back here for a while, so everlasting thanks, you wonderful beta readers, esp. Lynne and Angela. Very insightful and helpful comments. Can’t wait to act on them.

So this is a sort of drive-by, but hope to catch up a little in the next couple of days, and hope everyone is well and happy.
mamculuna: (Default)
( Mar. 21st, 2005 09:13 pm)
Today was a Lydia day. She's such a sweetie, even a tiny bit sick (we're thinking she's running into every virus in the US, but nothing has been serious so far).

She's discovered "no." I'm sure we'll get tired of it, but it's so cute right now. I told her that she'd have had a tough time if she'd stayed in Hunan, since Mandarin doesn't have a word for no (or yes, for that matter).

Today was a real language breakthrough! She'd already progressed to two-syllable words (na-na for banana and py-do for play dough) but today was real syntax. We looked out the window for birds at the feeder and I thought there weren't any, but little sharp eyes found a tiny finch and announced "A boo!" (boo is bird) I could accept that as just another two syllable word, but later she looked out and saw the feeders empty and said "no boo." Since her mother and I are both linguists of a sort, we were excited, because that's the point where speech becomes real speech--being able to combine words in new patterns. Children always start with the two word combos, usually a noun and an adjective or noun and verb.

Also we saw a picture of a toothbrush in a book--she was very interested and I asked if she wanted to brush her teeth. She said yes, and I asked her to take me to her toothbrush--and she did. The change from one or two words to real communication is so amazing! It's like seeing the mind blossom.

Of course this is all made so much sweeter by her loving, charming smiles and laughter. Not a tear or frown in three hours of play (of course, I'm not trying to do anything but watch and have fun with her, and since I see her only once a week or so, I'm never bored. Wasn't like this with my own kids, sadly. I see now why grandparents are such great things). Anyway, here she is (briefly--I'll take this down in a couple of days):
mamculuna: (Default)
( Jan. 22nd, 2005 12:13 am)
I haven't updated on Lydia, my Chinese step-great niece or whatever, for a while. The news is great. She's happy and healthy. Every day I thank whatever can be thanked--her own karma, most likely--for her unknown and wonderful foster family in China for giving her such a boost in life. If you have a way of sending good thoughts to unknown strangers, send some to them. She's bouncy and smart, joyful and eager to please, just as a baby should be. She's gotten past her sugar addiction and eats well--veggies, noodles, meat, eggs, yogurt, kiwi fruit, you name it. She has a love for music--we put on a CD and she starts boogying up and down, and she sings "Row, row your boat" (well sort of, mommies and aunties can tell). Her gorgeous smile (with at least 12 teeth!)would knock you down. When she was first here and we went outside, she was afraid of all the fallen leaves, but now she likes to sit and pick up pine needles, and go "bow wow wow" to the dogs in the yard next door.

Babies. Oh my.
mamculuna: (Default)
( Dec. 5th, 2004 08:37 pm)
I've posted more about my trip to China at

Scroll down if you just want to see the pictures.
mamculuna: (Default)
( Dec. 2nd, 2004 09:58 pm)
I'm back from China (wondeful!) and California--also great, but missed the really good part of seeing two of you :o(

Sadly, I'm on the road again, this time to Tennessee and southern Indiana--Bill finished his book and wants to get out of town, now that I've been playing for months. So I'm still not really online again. But briefly, the adoption trip was incredibly moving--beautiful, brave babies and parents. Lydia, my friend's baby, is clearly one of the Chosen. You can see a few shots here (

This is very quick and dirty, all the moreso because the camera is new to me, so forgive the quality and size of the shots. I'll tell more when I get back for good. MIss you all!
mamculuna: (Default)
( Oct. 27th, 2004 03:19 pm)
After seeing the poor old folks with walkers and wheelchairs standing in the supermarket for hours to get a flu shot, I wouldn't take one even if I could get it (unlike the football team at our local U). But since I am headed to the source of most flu, I thought I'd at least get a pneumonia shot. And gamma globulin. So I made my appointment with the travel doctor, drove way across town (45 minutes) to his office, waited half an hour. Oh, says the nurse, I forgot to order that vaccine. Why don't you come back next week?

Never mind, I say. Just give me the gamma globulin and I'll take my chances. But grrr. What are appointments for?

Meanwhile, lots of packing. Trying to travel light to leave room for baby stuff but still have something to wear everywhere, from Beijing where it could snow to Hong Kong where it's still very warm--plus must carry supplies of mystery paperbacks and locarb snacks, also my complete stash of emergency provisions for every possible eventuality. Whenever I'm traveling and run into a problem, I add something to my pile when I get back and take it on the next trip. So I have clotheslines, reading lights, peptobismal, matches, candles, pillowcase and washcloth, sleeping pills and dramamine, vaseline, and enough hand cleaner to wash the city. And I still know I'll find something missing just when I needed it. Give it up, Nancy. Travel is unpredictable--you'll never be prepared for everything.

Trying to refresh my travel mandarin, still not getting tones right at all--and anyway we'll be in other dialect regions most of the time. Review charcters instead. Woman--very important word to know when looking for the loo--also difference between eel and fish (but in China, I actually eat first and then ask. Otherwise I'd miss some amazing things. Jellyfish and porkstomach can be tastier than you might imagine).

Talked with another friend who just completed the same trip and he says food in Hunan is wonderful, and tells about the babies and suddenly I can't wait. Add squeaky ducks to travel pile, and go by Laurie's to see the baby's room, all blue and green with a wonderful rocking chair. Can't wait.

This time next week I'll be eating salty scallion pancakes. I wonder if there will still be old men with sewing machines and umbrella repair kits working on the sidewalks, and men in the streets driving tricycles piled high with furniture and bricks and grandmothers? Will it still smell like coal smoke and cabbage, and will the ladies in the market lecture me in local dialects when I try to buy the wrong kind of doufu? Will I get to burn incense to the 80 foot tall Buddha at Yong He Gong? Will mules be fighting Mercedes in the streets and the bicycle bells jingling like Christmas? I know it's changed...

Already can't sleep at all. When I went to China before, I couldn't sleep for days, I was so jacked up. There's something about the energy there.
mamculuna: (Default)
( Oct. 18th, 2004 05:49 pm)
Well, at last my China travel plans are set. We'll leave on Nov. 1, spend a week in Beijing, then go to Changsha in Hunan Province to finally see Lydia! Then we go to Guangzhou for citizenship, and finally fly out of Hong Kong on Nov. 17. That flight home is long, and it's going to be hard for all of us, but especially Lydia. She'll be 15 months old and will only have been with us for a week or so. We don't have a separate seat for her, so we'll take turns holding her on our laps.

What makes it even harder for me is that I want to be in San Francisco by Nov. 19 for a big gathering, so I'll arrive from China one day and then fly back across country the next. I guess I won't even know how to get jet lagged!

I've started reviewing Mandarin CD's but probably won't have much language regained by then, especially the characters. Will have to rely on the kindness of strangers, as usual. In Beijing we'll be staying with L's sister (L is the adoptive mom) and in Changsha we'll hook up with a group from the adoption agency, and most of those people will not have been to China before, so we'll probably be taken care of. I've never traveled with a group like this before--hope I won't find it too frustrating.

I'm really looking forward to going back to Beijiing. I know it will have changed completely from my last visit in 1994--I hope I'll be able to get back on my campus and see what things look like there, but they used to keep the campuses very shut off. We shall see.
I am getting Very Tired of Waiting to get the word from China about when we can travel (going with my friend to pick up the daughter she'll adopt). Why can't they just tell us? What's the reason for keeping the date a secret until almost time to leave, and not letting us know when they'll let us know? I really, really like the people I've met in China, but the government drives me crazy. It always hangs on to control in such petty ways--often to the point that it hurts its own goals.

When I taught there in 1994, they wouldn't tell me what I'd be teaching, so I wasn't able to bring a lot of books that would have been really useful to my students--instead I had to create a lot of stuff out of my head. And since they are (or were) really into intellectual piracy, they could have copied some really good stuff. But no. I wasn't allowed to know until the day before classes started (and since I was American, they had me teaching a graduate course in American Literature--that was wrong, just wrong. I'm a linguist--and yet I completely adored my students and spent hours and hours combing Beijing for material, anyway).

They've finally gotten the visa thing speeded up, at least--10 years ago it took months to get one, and we got them this time in a week. So maybe 20 years from now, if people are still adopting, they'll be able to buy plane tickets on less than a few day's notice.

Laurie (the adopting mother) did say that we will get travel approval this week almost certainly, but then after that we still don't know travel dates until we get an appointment with the embassy in Guangzhou for the citizenship ceremony (Lydia goes through the ceremony there and actually becomes a citizen as soon as she lands in the US).

Still hoping to go at end of October and return by mid-November, but if I suddenly vanish, I haven't gone through a portal to another dimension (no, wait, that's exactly what I'll be doing).

Grrr, though.
mamculuna: (Default)
( Sep. 9th, 2004 09:28 pm)
Bill is home, having flown successfully through the hurricane remnants. And I'm happy, double happy.

My friend L's baby's name is Shuang Fei (see icon) means double wings or double flying. What a great name--but L wants to name her, and call her, after L's American family, which I understand. So now the big decision. I suspect Fei, wing or flying, is the part that will survive as a middle name--not one that is used much.

And I'm remembering again to let things go as they will, not to put in my vote for Fei as main name. So the reading for today--Llimitation--is clear again. To be a friend means honoring the boundaries your friend sets (or knowing where they are so she doesn't have to set them):

60 Chieh: Limitation

Kan, the abysmal, water
Tui, the joyous, lake.

A lake occupies a limited space. When more water comes into it, it overflows. Therefore limits must be set for the water. The image shows water below and water above, with the firmament between them as a limit.

The Chinese word for limitation really denotes the joints that divide a bamboo stalk. In relation to ordinary life it means the thrift that sets fixed limits on expenditures. In relation to the moral sphere it means the fixed limits that the superior man sets on his actions - the limits of loyalty and disinterestedness
It's annunciation time!

I don't think I've given the back story on this. First, I have two wonderful sons and two also wonderful stepdaughters, all in their 30's, but for their own good reasons, none reproducing. And so you know how I'm looking longingly at other people's grandkids.

I have a dear young friend with whom I've worked very closely for several years, establishing an ESL program and doing other things. She was divorced about five years ago, and being in her mid thirties, decided to do a single-parent adoption of a Chinese baby (her sister lives in China). Since we were so close, she's invited me to be the granma in this city (her parents live about 200 miles away). I'm planning to go with her to China this fall to pick up the baby.

She got the call today!!!!! The baby--or little girl, don't know that yet--is called Shuangfei. Does anyone know anything about that name? What about Fei as a stand-alone name?

She's from Changde, Hunan Province. We'll probably go for her in early November. Her American names will be Lydia Susan (for mom's family) and she'll be called Lydia. One really cool thing is that the mom (the adoptive, American one) in the interim met and has become very serious with a really fine man--and he has been sterilized. She'll still adopt as single parent, but in years to come, may marry him.

Just as I was waiting for my email to download, I was doing my I Ching for today--finished it just as her message downloaded. Here it is, with no cut this time:

14 Possession in Great Measure

Li, the clinging, flame is over
Chien, the creative, heaven.

The fire in heaven above shines far, and all things stand out in the light and become manifest. Supreme success.

I have to believe my happiness is winging through the electrons to all of you.


mamculuna: (Default)


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