November 24, 2010

The Flexibility Factor.

There's nothing new about being flexible. It really should be a way of life. For years, in the corporate world, those who remained the most flexible (open to change) usually survived most layoffs and restructurings. So long as you weren't overly "attached" to your current role there would always be a good chance to land somewhere in the organization.

But while layoffs and restructurings continue -- especially at large companies -- it is now more difficult to demonstrate your flexibility and openness to change, as most workforce reductions have completely removed the human element in the decision. I've even heard the sanitary explanation, "you're just in a bad cell on a spreadsheet" to explain "rightsizing" (another great PR word for layoff). In any case, whether by human evaluation or spreadsheet, becoming a new job seeker forces you to take on an entirely new attitude -- one of flexibility and creativity.

There is no telling how long your search might take, and in what directions you may go. Perhaps this is the perfect time to do something completely different, or to at least adjust your goals to allow you to get to where you want to be. At the very least, this is the time to consider all options; to dream a little. Who knows, perhaps you may find yourself doing something you never would have expected and having the time of your life.

Imagine that.

November 23, 2010

Giving Thanks.

I always enjoy Thanksgiving. It gives me a brief taste of the holiday spirit soon to arrive with the onset of Christmas. It gives me time to spend with family and friends and enjoy a laugh or two while eating some of my all-time favorite foods like stuffing and pumpkin pie. Most of all, it helps me reflect on all the ways my family and I have been blessed over the past year. Admittedly, I should remember to be thankful each and every day, but that is often not the case.

We have maintained a tradition within our family (thanks to my lovely wife), that on the Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving day we go around the dinner table and fill out a piece of paper with 4 or 5 things we are thankful for. Then, one at a time, we read the myriad of ways God has watched over our family. Some revelations, we discover, have been forgotten over the past year. This tradition is a great way to count our many blessings, specifically, and for our children to be reminded of God's faithfulness to us, in both prosperous and more challenging times.

Spend a moment this week doing the same. Think about it. Be reminded. Be intentional. Most important, be thankful.

November 10, 2010

Goodbye To Old Friends.

These are some of my best and most cherished long-term friends. Saying goodbye will be hard, as we've spent much of my adult life together. For the most part, it's been a stable and peaceful relationship. I've had little to complain about (other than a couple of extra pounds now and again).

I've seen the movie, Food Inc.
I've read the best seller, Fast Food Nation.
Yet in spite of the hard (as in arteries) facts presented, I have continued to indulge in a regular diet of fast "food".

It's time for a clean break. A dramatic detachment.
I can no longer continue eating a "heart attack in a sack", or a "double coronary with cheese". For the love of my family, and for the improvement of my inner and outer man, I must take immediate steps.

So...goodbye, golden arches. No more Jack. Adios', your majesty.

Those days are over.

October 24, 2010

Developing Great Relationships.

Crucial to any goal (job search in particular) is making great contacts along the way. "Great" contacts being defined as those who can provide significant forward momentum to your search. It's a big plus if they know you personally.  Better, if they know your industry and are well connected themselves.

But there's more. Much more. The key to forging great connections is being a great listener. That may sound elementary, and it is. But it's not natural. In fact, it's hard work. Building solid, long-term relationships (both personal and professional) takes time and commitment, and an ongoing effort to keep quiet.

We must continually find ways to step away from ourselves and into the shoes of those we meet, asking great questions and waiting for the response. In turn, others will have more of an interest in what we are saying. It's simple. But it's not easy.

Practice. Ask great questions.
Then remain silent.

October 9, 2010

Watching. Waiting. Working.

Much of our lives is spent simply...waiting. Waiting in line, waiting in traffic, waiting for a phone call, waiting for the mail, waiting for the weekend, waiting to get married, waiting to have children, waiting for retirement, waiting for the lottery, (fill in your favorite here). I remember a song from decades back called, "Waiting on Someday". It always saddened me as I was, in fact, waiting on so many things back then.

Truth be told, I'm still waiting today...some 20 years later. Oh, perhaps what I'm waiting for has changed to some degree, but I'm waiting still the same. In some cases that can be a practical and perfectly harmless endeavor, but the downside to all this waiting is that we can linger in mediocrity or languish in laziness. Not good.

What to do?

For starters, we watch. For opportunities. For changes in circumstances. For any light at the end of the tunnel; anything to provide an incentive to keep moving forward. All the while making ready to take advantage of any particular situation to turn it to our advantage. The key is that while all this watching and waiting is going on, we're not idle. We're not mulling around, lounging our lives away.

We're doing something. We're active. We're engaged. We're working.

Today is our "someday". Now let's get to work

September 28, 2010

The Ideal Job, revisited.

A little over a year ago I posed the question whether or not there was an ideal job for each one of us; a role that could match both our desires and passions with the appropriate skill set, resulting in a productive -- if not downright joyful -- work experience.

Considering that same question some 15 months later, I'm nowhere closer to the answer. On the one hand, I know many who indeed enjoy their work, primarily due to a good match of skills and passion. On the other hand, I encounter countless souls plagued by work that is mundane and meaningless (at least to them).

Where do you fall? What has been your experience with your job? A triumph? A tragedy? Or something in between?

Although the pundits tell us the dark clouds of recession are behind us (at least according to economic data), I fear we still have some ways to go before we are back at full capacity on the job front. Solid, meaningful work can and will be found by many. Some will land great opportunities through no outright effort of their own. Others only by extreme diligence, sweat and prayer (oh yes, prayer). And still others will toil in vain to find a good match.

Just keep moving forward, confident that there are opportunities out there that provide a good living while offering fulfillment and satisfaction. And maybe even a reason to smile.

Don't give up.

July 3, 2010

Citizenship Certificate.

How fitting that Eliana's certificate of US Citizenship should arrive on 4th of July weekend. She was actually a citizen of the US the moment we landed in the US back at the end of May, but we received the official document today. God Bless America, and Happy Independence Day!

May 26, 2010

Heading Home.

We are packing for our short flight to Hong Kong before leaving in the morning for San Francisco. We will arrive in Houston via United Airlines flight # 7602 from Denver at approximately 8:35pm on Friday, May 28th (George Bush, Terminal A). We would especially appreciate your prayers for the 12-hour flight to San Francisco.

See you all soon!

chris & amy

May 25, 2010

Red Couch Photos.

This afternoon our travel group got together for the traditional red couch photos here at the White Swan Hotel. All the babies and children get dressed up in their traditional Chinese clothes for a group shot. The children in our group range in age from 13 mos to 10 years, although I don't think the 10 year old ended up in the picture. He is a sweet boy who was adopted by a family from Alabama that we have enjoyed getting to know. Enjoy the photos. If you have trouble finding Ellie just look for the cutest kid in the picture : )

This morning we had our visa appointment for Ellie and all went well. We should receive her visa by Thursday evening and will be freed up to start the journey home! Tomorrow afternoon (Wednesday for us) we go to the US consulate to take the oath. We are SO excited to be just three days away from home!!!

May 24, 2010

Scrolls from China.

This morning we met a very dear man named Kenny. He is an artist here in China. He teaches art to orphans to brighten their lives as well as give them a potential skill to earn a living once they have to leave the orphanage, which happens between 14 or 16 years of age. He is here in Guangzhou displaying not only his work, but the work of his students, many of whom have limb differences. He is teaching one young man with no arms to paint with his feet....his work is amazing! He keeps track of the orphans/artists once they leave the orphanage, mentoring them as much as he can. We really enjoyed hearing the stories of many of his artists. An adoptive father who was here three years ago adopting his daughter met Kenny and now partners with him in the US to sell their work. They paint beautiful scrolls. He also partners with the Lily Orphan Care Center in Zhengzhou which is run by our agency, CCAI - Chinese Children Adopt International. His website is here if you want to take a look.

Here are some photos from his gallery, along with a few of Ellie throughout the day and finally a view from our hotel room on the 18th floor.

May 22, 2010

A Trip to the Guangzhou Clinic.

Amy posting again. We got into Guangzhou about 9:00pm last night. Ellie did great on her first plane ride! Only cried a little right before takeoff. Once we started down the runway she got a big grin on her face and seemed to be enjoying the ride. Of course this was only a 2 hour flight as opposed to the 12 hours when we head to San Francisco on Friday.

It is a busy day for adoptive families in Guangzhou. Because the US Consulate is located here, all adopting families, regardless of adopting province, have to pass through here. Our agency alone has 3 groups here right now at different stages in the process, but there are obviously many different agencies represented. Our hotel, The White Swan, caters to these families. It was fun to come down to breakfast and see so many American faces with their Chinese children...probably about 60 families just at this hotel.

After breakfast we walked to the clinic for her physical with our new guide Kathy. All the CCAI guides have been wonderful, and we are really enjoying getting to know them. She gave everyone of us a great big hug at the airport last night, saying " big very warm welcome to you". On the way to the clinic we stopped at a store to get her visa photo. The Clinic was crowded with a mixture of locals, adopting families, long lines and plenty of screaming kids who didn't want to be there. People smoke everywhere in China and the clinic was no exception. Since Beijing I think the two of us have smoked the equivalent of at least two cigarettes just by inhaling the second hand smoke. Ellie did great at the clinic. The doctor wanted to know what her SN was. When we told her severe malnourishment and delayed development she pointed to those chubby thighs and spoke Chinese. Our guide translated, "not anymore!" She gave her a good report and thought she was doing great developmentally. She asked if she could hold a pen, then realized Ellie had already grabbed her pen off her desk and was trying to pull her measuring tape from around her neck. After that she saw the ENT who gave her a very high-tech hearing test...she squeezed a squeaky toy by her ear and checked off the "hearing" box ; ) We got into another line for height and weight where she weighed in at 22 lbs.

Before we left Zhengzhou we were allowed to see all of her records, along with the original notice of abandonment ad that they place in the newspaper. This picture was difficult for both of us to see. We knew that she was severely malnourished when she was abandoned...reading about it is one thing, seeing it is another. God truly breathed new life into her, as she is not the same little girl. Thank you to everyone who sent emails! It was wonderful to wake up this morning and read your kind and encouraging words. We are feeling better now that we are on this last part of the trip and can see home in the distance. We miss Ethan, Hannah and Ben so much and are ready for them to be united with their sister.

One more note regarding Ellie's rash. The doctor thought it was probably a combination of heat rash and eczema -- but we already guessed that much.

Bye for now.

May 21, 2010

Last Day in Zhengzhou.

Hi all! Amy here...Chris is letting me post! Thus the longer wordier post : ) Today is our last day in Zhenghou. We said good bye to the capital of Ellie's home province by taking a stroll through the city park. The people here have been curious but very friendly. We get lots of intense stares but as soon as we smile and welcome them over for a look at Ellie they break out in smile and start chattering in Chinese. International Adoption is still very new in this province, only opening up in 2008. Our agency was the first to begin training the orphanages and promoting adoption. So the locals are still very curious about the process. One man at the museum yesterday who spoke pretty good English had many questions for us. He concluded by saying they had many children like Ellie in their province, and thanked us for taking care of her. We tried to explain to him that we were the ones who were blessed but he didn't seem to understand.
Each day we spend getting to know Ellie a little bit better. Her walking has improved just in the last two days. She will let go of our hands and walk a good few yards before falling down.She laughs, sings and occasionally pitches some pretty good fits : ) All in all a typical toddler. She likes to go and thinks anytime we change her clothes it must be time to leave the room.She still reaches out for Asian women and esp. our guide Yisha. The guides here say that the child will usually attach to only one parent while in china...they mystically refer to this parent as the "chosen one". When they asked us who the chosen one was, we told them Ellie has the "chosen many". Especially people who will hold her hand so she can walk around. We know once we are back home and settled we will eventually become the "chosen ones" and more importantly, Mom and Dad. Right now we are waiting on Ellie's passport and once we get that we will be able to fly to Guanzhou this afternoon where the US Consulate is located. This is the final leg of our journey!!! Tomorrow we will go to a clinic and have her physical in order to start processing her visa. We are glad to get to be able to see a doctor as she has broken out in a rash we would like to have them look at. We don't know if this is from a food allergy or what, but we have noticed that her fair skin is pretty sensitive. She has a mild case of eczema and after being out yesterday found that she sunburns really easily. Have we mentioned we are homesick? Please pray that this last week would go by quickly, and that we would also be found faithful to do all that He has called us to do while we are here. Thank you again for your faithful prayers, and to all who have sent emails...we love to get them as they ease our homesickness! BTW we cannot access our blog from here or see any comments you might post...a friend in Houston updates for us everyday.

May 19, 2010

Snickers and a Diet Coke.

We've been feeling quite homesick the past couple of days, especially now that Eliana is with us for good. We simply want to hop on a plane and return to our family and friends. Today's afternoon snack of a Snickers bar and a Diet Coke did the trick in helping us cope.

Today was a rest day. We were glad to see the sun shining for the first time since we've been here. It was very nice out and we decided to spend the morning close to home (so Eliana could keep her nap schedule) before heading out for the afternoon for a small grocery run. We walked about ten blocks or so and took in all the sights and sounds of Zhengzhou, complete with cars, mopeds, bicycles, trees, flowers and people. Lots of people. It is a very pretty city, even more so now that the cloudy weather has lifted. There does not appear to be near the amount of pollution here as in Beijing, evidenced by the blue sky overhead.

Tomorrow has a museum tour on the agenda before we begin preparations to head to our next destination south -- to Guangzhou, where we will remain for the next week as we finish our journey.

Eliie continues to make us smile, as she breaks into song on occasion with a book in her hand (as though she is singing from a hymnal). Her nights sleeping have been long and quiet -- at least 10 hours each night.

More later. Thanks for following our journey and for lifting us up in prayer.