Adopting Tracie

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Note from Elaine: ELISE ROSENHAUPT and I became friends through the “Homegrown Authors” table at Santa Fe’s Farmers Market. In talking, we concluded that “adoption” has many meanings. Elise’s guest post will be of great interest to anyone who’s cared for others, not necessarily in an official capacity, but as a compassionate human being. If you’ve ever helped someone who’s dealing with an a hospital hierarchy, you will relate to Elise’s story.

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In my book, Climbing Back: A Family’s Journey through Brain Injury, I write “there should always be two people with a patient – one for company and love, and a second as the patient’s advocate.”

In a clinical situation, having a friend as advocate makes a difference.

In a clinical situation, having a friend as advocate makes all the difference.

 

This story starts with a letter from a mutual friend:

Tracie has been very sick for the past several months . . . .  (dizzy, fatigued, slow speech, forgetfulness, and more). For the past 6 months or so she has been shunted from one incompetent-sounding doctor to the next with still no proper diagnosis or plan of treatment! . . . . you could be a temporary advocate.

 

What follows is a summary of what happened next.

 

At our first visit to the University of New Mexico Neurosciences Center, the physician who came in was a neurosurgeon, not the neurologist she wanted to see.

 

“You need your doctor to refer you to a neurologist,” he said. I asked the doctor to write the referral then and there.
“Now we can go down the hall and make the appointment with a neurologist,” I said.

The technician who’d emailed the referral said, “They won’t see it for a few days. Call at the end of the week.”

Tracie was ready to give up and go home.

 

I asked, “Can you print it out so we can hand carry it?”
When the scheduler gave Tracie an appointment for May 16, five weeks later, Tracie was thrilled – five weeks was sooner than her previous waits for appointments. I thought it was too long to wait.

 

May 16, I wandered the Neurosciences Center’s maze of hallways forays to find out if we’d been forgotten, during the three hours we waited, in our windowless room. The neurologist finally arrived. He thought of two likely explanations for Tracie’s troubles. He ordered an LP (lumbar puncture, or spinal tap) to learn more.

 

On July 11, the morning for Tracie’s LP, I was not allowed to accompany Tracie when they took her in for the LP, a “sterile procedure.”

 

But there had been a “mix-up” and the doctor who was to conduct the spinal tap had “gone home.” Another doctor disagreed with the first neurologist’s thoughts about the causes of Tracie’s problems. He didn’t think a spinal tap was a good idea, and wanted to explore some other possibilities.

 

When I learned this, I asked to be allowed in with Tracie.

 

“Do you have her power of attorney?” the gatekeeper asked. I didn’t, and was told once more to sit in the waiting room. Tracie was on her own.

 

The new doctor thought that Tracie was suffering from migraines. Tracie told me:

 

His recommendation was, right now, some shots which were a mixture of steroids and a numbing medication . . . .. 

Oh, my gosh, that was wicked. . . . [It was] like when you get your teeth pulled – the shot goes in, and then they move it around and shoot a little of the medicine in at a time. About three different places on each side of the base of my skull, one syringe for each side. . . .

 

We still don’t know whether Tracie was indeed suffering from migraines, or if it’s something else. I’ve learned how hard it is to be an advocate – respecting Tracie’s more forgiving temperament while having a sense of urgency on her behalf, wanting to ask more questions and to demand more responsiveness from the medical establishment.

 

I didn’t have her power of attorney! I wonder, can I adopt her, make her my sister or my daughter, so I can stay beside her through the medical maze.

 

You can read the fuller story, or watch for the updates, on my blog (see website below).

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Elise Rosenhaupt, author of the recently published memoir Climbing Back: A Family’s Journey through Brain Injury, blogs about her experiences as a patient’s advocate on her website, http://www.ClimbingBackMemoir.com. A graduate of Radcliffe and Harvard, Rosenhaupt has lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico, since 1969.photo

 

Elise Rosenhaupt

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Join me on Mondays for reflections on adoption, hiking and life. My newest book, Santa Fe on Foot-Edition 4, is due out this Fall. -E. PinkertonSFOF cover twitter jpg

 

Adopting the Environment

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Note from Elaine Pinkerton: Today’s guest blogger, attorney MARIEL NANASI, writes forcefully about a topic dear to my heart. Protecting our country’s great outdoors—saving the air we breathe and the earth we walk on. Read of the  battle she is heading up against the Public Service Company of New Mexico and their continuing coal and nuclear resources. Her story is educational and inspiring!

Mariel on Raven's Ridge

Mariel on Raven’s Ridge

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I’d never written an appellate brief to a Supreme Court before. More than 56,000 pages in the record. PNM (Public Service Company of New Mexico) submitted more than ten rounds of testimony by a dozen witnesses. The task seemed insurmountable; yet I knew the case better than anyone else and there were people dedicated to co-production and others offering assistance and cheering us on!

PNM, the state’s largest electric monopoly was forced to close half of its coal plant because it was polluting the skies as far away as Utah and Arizona with its toxic emissions. In real life there are no borders, pollution travels unrestricted. The contested issues central to the brief related to PNM’s selection of resources to replace the lost capacity from the retirement of the two coal units.

It is perhaps true that every generation feels that theirs is fraught with the most trying challenges, yet somehow I am convinced that the consequences from a warming planet, are more existentially baffling and crisis laden than any other.

So there I was 8am til 11pm or 1am day after day for more than two weeks glued to my office chair, papers strewn all over my desk, staring at my wide screen computer. Opening up countless files on my computer, searching through transcripts, reading and re-reading Orders and digging to find exhibits, weaving in the law from legal precedent, and trying to conjure up the perfect words to convince the highest court in New Mexico that the agency whose responsibility it is to regulate the most powerful company in New Mexico had failed to do so. PNM chose to replace the closing of coal with the purchase of more coal and more nuclear. The Public Regulation Commission (PRC) is supposed to regulate PNM on our behalf, but it abrogated its duties when it agreed to waive Commission rules in order to approve PNM’s coal and nuclear purchases.

The Public Regulation Commission must make decisions based on “substantial evidence”. Sounds reasonable. And, yes, in order for the PRC to approve PNM’s coal and nuclear acquisition PNM had to ask the PRC to waive its own rules and analysis requirements designed to protect ratepayers, and adopted as consumer safeguards. You may ask: how can there be “substantial evidence” if the PRC had to waive its own standards in order to allow PNM to generate electricity from the burning of more coal and nuclear? That’s the essence of our appeal.

My eyes were tired. The white in my eyes were graying. We filed the brief in the New Mexico Supreme Court at 4:56 pm on the date it was due. I texted my friend, Charlotte, to see if she would hike with me and we hiked the Raven’s Ridge trail, in the Santa Fe ski valley the next day.
I was so grateful for the softness of the million tones of green in the forest. Nothing was uniform: the multi-layering of tall plants, short ones, wild leafy bushes and shady protective trees was easy on my eyes. I felt held by my surroundings as if the green beauty was actually healing the strain in my cluttered mind and calming my heart. The gentleness was profound and I was grateful for my friend’s patience with my slow pace. Aah, this tranquility is what we are fighting to protect.

Reciprocity empowers.

Mariel Nanasi is an attorney and the Executive Director of New Energy Economy, an environmental advocacy organization based in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She is the co-author of the brief New Energy Economy v. New Mexico Public Regulation Commission, which can be found on the organization’s web site: http://www.NewEnergyEconomy.org

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Elaine blogs about adoption, hiking, and travel. Her guidebook Santa Fe on Foot, published by Ocean Tree Books,  will be out this Fall.  SFOF cover twitter jpg

Adopting the Positive

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We know what we are, but know not what we may be. -Shakespeare
I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always

Simply taking a walk around the neighborhood can open the door to gratitude

Simply taking a walk around the neighborhood can open the door to gratitude

reach my destination. -Jimmy Dean

Welcome, dear readers, to my blog. If you’ve been following me, you know that I was adopted and that I write about what it’s like to see the world through adoption-colored glasses. I’ve moved beyond feeling that being adopted is a curse, toward the realization that it is a blessing, Still, I’m always striving for new ways to re-calibrate my emotions. Recently, I completed an online meditation course. The theme: “Getting Unstuck~Creating a Limitless Life.” It lasted the better part of the month, and began with lead-in talks introduced by the supreme Oprah Winfrey and led by the amazing Deepak Chopra.

Each one of the 21 days focused on a new intention. The following ten were the ones I embraced…

“I am fulfilled when I can be who I want to be
I am never stuck when I live in the present
I embrace the newness of this day
I am in charge of my brain, not the other way around
Today I am creating a better version of myself
I am aware of being cared for and supported
My awareness opens the door to new possibilities.
My life is dynamic because I welcome change.
I deserve a life without limitations.
Every day unfolds the next step in my journey.”

Meditation is a powerful tool for keeping positive. My take-away from the online images-1sessions is the realization that we can expand our horizons and that there are powerful tools for doing that. I am dedicating the rest of August to meditating. The process is threefold: Sitting quietly and comfortably; Holding the intention (mantra) of the day fully in mind (doing this for 20 minutes); Journaling afterwards about the meditation experience.
My gratitude to Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey for making online sessions available. Thanks to them, I’ve made meditation part of my ongoing campaign to adopt the positive. You’re invited to join me. Shape your own intentions. Write them down and focus on one a day for the rest of this month. Please comment…and let us know the results!

The Goodbye Baby gives an insider view of growing up adopted.

The Goodbye Baby-Adoptee Diaries- gives an insider view of growing up adopted.

The Words of my Father

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Memory is a child walking along a seashore. You never can tell what small pebble it will pick up and store away among its treasured things.~Pierce Harris, Atlanta Journal

Today I’d like to share my memory of the last lucid conversation I had with my adoptive Dad. Richard Leonard Beard was a World War II clinical psychologist for the

Elaine Pinkerton has kept a diary all her life.

I’ve kept a journal all my life. It’s enlightening to read voices from the past…

army air force, college professor, and most of all—my hero and role model. I lost him years ago, in the nineties, but lately he has been vividly in my imagination. When going through some of my old diaries, I found this entry:

 My father and I were walking around the gentle hills of Charlottesville, Virginia. I’d left Virginia for New Mexico, embarking on my own life, but I visited at least once or twice a year. He and my mother had moved to a senior community named “Stonehenge.” I found the title amusing, thinking it conjured up the wisdom of the ages. On this particular evening, I was out walking with the wisest man I knew.
    The sun was setting and mist arose from the earth. Instead of a blazing sunset like those I experienced in New Mexico, this “sky-scape” was layered in subtle pastels…pink, peach and gray.
    Though I don’t recall my exact words, I told my father that when I was 70, his age at the time, I wouldn’t mind dying. I would, I told him, be ready to leave the earth.
    “You’ll feel differently when you’re there,” he retorted. “You’ll want more years ahead of you. Many more years.” I wanted to disagree, but I knew that argument was futile. Daddy was strong minded.
    Life happened. Marriage, children, divorce, grandchildren. Suddenly I was the age

Ahead of his time, my college professor Dad spearheaded a book TV program in the1950s.

Ahead of his time, my college professor Dad spearheaded a book TV program in the1950s

my father was when he made his pronouncement.
    He’d left years earlier, but I felt that at some mysterious psychic level, he could hear and understand me. “You were right,” I longed to tell him.

 

Poetry Monday

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A Series of Unfortunate Events

~Lemony Snickett: Book series for children

First it was a cat bite (yes, my own beloved Mr. Chapman when I was trying to keep

Even the best of friends, when engaged in a fight, becomes a wild beast.

Even the best of friends, when engaged in a fight, becomes a wild beast.

him from getting into a fight with Fred, the neighbor’s cat…don’t ask; it was a stupid mistake)…

Then it was a letter from the IRS saying I owed more money (I didn’t but the snarky missive sounded ominous and I had to take it to my CPA for clarification and a final sigh of relief)…

The last straw was a massive invasion by tiny closet moths. Those pests had laid eggs in every one of my 15 Persian area rugs and even gnawed away at wall-to-wall carpeting. (I had the rugs removed, washed and moth proofed and the wall-to-wall steam cleaned; Every closet was treated for moths; I got rid of half of my wardrobe…a massive purging.) Exhausting and expensive but a war I was determined to win.

Thus today’s poetry offering, one which reflects the way I’m feeling and also expresses love for my favorite go-to activity when life becomes too much. READING READING and more READING!

PLEASE BURY ME IN THE LIBRARY

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Lately I’ve found myself reading a wide variety of fiction and nonfiction works, often from my own at-home bookshelves

by J. Patrick Lewis:

Please Bury Me in the Library
Please bury me in the library
In the clean, well-lighted stacks
Of Novels, History, Poetry,
Right next to the Paperbacks,
Where the Kids’ Books dance
With True Romance
And the Dictionary dozes.
Please bury me in the library
With a dozen long-stemmed proses.
Way back by a rack of Magazines,
I won’t be sad too often,
If they bury me in the library
With Bookworms in my coffin.

Are You a Book Person?
A good book is a kind
Of person with a mind
Of her own,
Who lives alone,
Standing on a shelf
By herself.
She has a spine,
A heart, a soul,
And a goal —
To capture, to amuse,
To light a fire
(You’re the fuse),
Or else, joyfully,
Just to be.
From Beginning
To end,
Need a friend?

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Have you ever felt like escaping a slew of troubles through binge reading? Have you found comfort in a library? Please share your own favorite “reading escape routes.” And while you’re at it, sign up for my reflections on adoption and life— published every other Monday.

The Goodbye Baby gives an insider view of growing up adopted.

The Goodbye Baby gives an insider view of growing up adopted.

Clara and Dottie go to India

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Returning to Fiction

Returning to Fiction

Today, going from the nonfiction world (writing about adoption) to fiction (still writing about adoption), I’m presenting scenes from my longtime novel-in-progress, The Hand of Ganesha. For months, the book was orphaned. Procrastination, however, brought fresh ideas and new energy. Moving full steam ahead,  the central themes of adoption and the search for authenticity are propelling the book forward. Once a month, I’ll be devoting this website to gradual unfolding of the novel.

Here’s a brief summary: The two central characters are both adult adoptees. Clara Jordan, part Native American, loves her adoptive parents, but feels driven to find out about her origins. Arundati Ragan, known to her friends as “Dottie,” lost her adoptive parents in the Mumbai massacre of 2008. She now longs to go to India to search for her birthparents. Like Clara, she is challenged by the mystery surrounding her origins. When the two adoptees’ paths cross, they become friends and decide to travel together to India.

Scene One:

Arundhati Benet was pushed open the library’s heavy doors. Dot Benet, as she was

Searching for clues

Searching for clues

known to her friends, shouldered in a briefcase heavy with articles from magazines, books, handwritten notes. She also lugged a carrying case with a new MacBook Thin and charging device. She headed toward the nearest carrel. Dottie Benet was not her original name. Born Arundhati Rangan, she was one of two adult adoptees in the library that day..

Scene Two:

“May I help you find anything?” The reference librarian’s question pierced through Clara’s reverie.

The University of Virginia Library’s deep silence so engulfed her, she thought rather than voiced her first response. Well yes, my roots, my origins, where I’m from. I doubt that you could help me with that.

The middle-aged gray haired, bespeckled woman stood impatiently, hovering over Clara’s table, awaiting an answer.

Finally Clara answered, “I’m doing some genealogy research. Just browsing…actually, looking for ideas.”

“There are some websites I can direct you to.” When Clara didn’t answer, the librarian continued. “If you’ll tell me more about your search, maybe there are materials right here in the library that you could begin with.”

This woman looked trustworthy. Why not tell all? She was getting nowhere on her own, and the longer she waited, the less likely that she’d discover the truth.

Clara, who usually didn’t confide in anyone – much less total strangers – decided to open up.

Author’s Note: Stay tuned for monthly installments. If you have questions about Clara or Dottie, please write to me in the comment box and, as their spokeswoman, I’ll do my best to answer.

Join Elaine on alternate Mondays for reflections on adoption and sneak previews of her newest novel, The Hand of Ganesa.

Join Elaine on alternate Mondays.

The Sounds of Serbia

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Over several years of blogging, I’ve talked a lot about adoption. As every adoptee knows, you wake up in the morning and you’re still adopted. However, with self-examination, relentless honesty, and unconditional self-acceptance, one can move on. After years of grappling with “adoption issues,” I’m allowing myself to move on in another way. Travel, destination Europe.

Along with my friend Lauren, I went in April to Eastern Europe, sailing on the Danube

Overlooking the convergence of Sava and Danube Rivers

Overlooking the convergence of Sava and Danube Rivers

with Viking River Cruises. Of all the cities I visited in the tour “From Budapest to Bucharest,” Belgrade is one of my favorites. The former capital of the state of Yugoslavia, Belgrade is now the capital of Serbia. Our guide told us that it’s been destroyed and rebuilt 20 times. Resilience exemplified. Our land tour explored the Old Town, nestled along the Sava River. (The Sava and Danube Rivers converge.) Steeped in Byzantine, Turkish and Austrian/Hungarian influences, Belgrade is a city at the crossroads. It’s been through a lot.

The Belgrade Fortress, an ancient stone behemoth of a fortification was most recently reconstructed during the Ottoman period in the 18th century. It is surrounded by the Kalmegdan Park, a grassland haven, full of flowering trees. The city, our guide tells us, has 32 hills. We climb to the summit of one such hill, and views are spectacular. Led by “Sejean,” a local man in his thirties, we make our way toward the massive gates. To our left, in a former moat, is a tennis court. Two men playing avidly. The thwack of tennis balls reverberates through the spring air.

Leaving the thwacks behind, we continue through another moat area. On both sides we see cannons and tanks from the World Wars. An outdoor military museum! The fortress is mammoth, and we ramble on through the stonework. Our guide continues to fill us with lore.

On to the National Theater and a behind the scenes tour of the Serbian Opera House IMG_0245within. Established by a ruler known as Prince Michael, the National Theater dates back

Seats are as little as six Euros

Seats cost as little as six Euros

to 1868. The building is an architectural masterpiece in stone. Inside it’s all hallways, stairwells and byzantine passageways. Our guide, a lovely college student named Tanya, takes us into the opera theater itself. Breathtaking! Gilded trim, red velvet seats, several balconies and a vast stage. The performers are so dedicated, we learn, that during WWII, they performed daily even during air raids. Today, the National Theater houses three artistic ensembles—opera, drama and ballet. All together these ensembles present more than 600 performances a year.

We are ushered into the opera’s salon, a combination museum/small opera hall. As we sip sparkling wine, two young singers serenade us with arias from The Elixir of Love, Rigoletto, and Il Trovatore. An enchanting interlude. Next, a tour of the costume shop, and a breath of air on the balcony overlooking

The opera's costume shop

The opera’s costume shop

Belgrade’s Republic Square. We make our way back to the Viking Longship docked on the Danube. The roar of late afternoon city traffic surrounds us, but the memory of Verdi and Donizetti plays even louder. The best part of travel, I’m finding, is adopting another country’s culture.

Join Elaine on alternate Mondays for reflections on adoption and life. Comments welcome!

Join Elaine on alternate Mondays for reflections on adoption and life. Comments welcome!

May 30th-The Day my Life was Saved

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Note from Elaine: When I look back over the five years since undergoing a life-threatening operation (aneurism repair) and the grueling three-month recovery period that followed, I am grateful to be here. If you’ve every had a life-threatening medical situation, you’ll know what I’m talking about! The brush with mortality that the aneurism represented made me look at my life as a gift rather than something to be endured. And somehow, magically, it brought peace and acceptance about being adopted. Amazing how that worked. So because I want to honor the anniversary of a second chance at life, and also because I’m immersed in writing a new version of my novel The Hand of Ganesha, I’m republishing a post that appeared a few years back. Please feel free to comment!

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The surprises began in late May. Just as I was retiring from my job as elementary school librarian for Santa Fe Public Schools, I contracted an intestinal flu that resulted in multiple visits to the doctor. Blaming my “bug” on elementary school germs, I assumed that I would eventually get better. Despite antibiotics, however, I felt worse by the week. My primary care physician ordered a ct scan, and the scan revealed a seriously advanced abdominal aortic aneurism. A few days afterwards, I had surgery.

As I recovered from my surgical event, I proofed galleys for The Goodbye Baby

As I recovered from my surgical event, I proofed galleys for The Goodbye Baby

May 30th at 6 a.m. at Christus St. Vincent’s Hospital: Flanked by my tall sons (who’d flown in from distant locales), I entered the surgery center, was soon a gurney and being wheeled into the operating theater. I couldn’t believe this was happening to me. To say that I was concerned would be an understatement. It this was to be the end, I worried, I had yet to finish editing my new book The Goodbye Baby-Adoptee Diaries. Yes, I focused on my book rather than thinking that I might not live through the very serious operation.
The anesthesia took over, and I was OUT. Working for several hours, the brilliant surgical duo Doctors Poseidon Varvitsiotis and Gerald Weinstein replaced my defective aortic section with a dacron stint, sutured it in place, and sewed me back together. My next moment of consciousness was in the Intensive Care Unit, where I would spend the next two and ½ days. Despite exhaustion and a morphine-induced stupor, I was amazed and grateful. My life had been saved!
After six days at Christus St. Vincent’s, I was allowed to go home. Friends rallied, a different pal spending the night in my guest room for a couple weeks, just to make sure I was OK. For a month, I was very feeble and could get about only with the help of a walker. It was a chore to eat, to dress, to do anything at all.
Following doctor’s orders, I took a siesta every afternoon. Some days I just rested; others, I actually slept. When I was at last able, I took a daily half-hour walk outdoors. Along with resting and walking, I edited, proofreading the final galleys of The Goodbye Baby-A Diary about Adoption. At last it was done: the day I received final approval from my publisher, I improved 100 per cent.
So, the operation is history. If all continues to go well, I will not need a check-up until a year from now. My doctor advised me to slow down, to continue taking a daily rest, and to take better care of myself. I’d made that decision as well. Though it didn’t have any obvious connection to the aortic aneurism, I am no longer on perpetual overdrive. The operation and ensuing month of recovery made me realize that, in the big picture, it does not matter if I meet personal deadlines exactly as I’d envisioned.
Thus begins “the new normal,” and it feels wonderful.

P.S. May 30th will always be my personal date to celebrate BEING ALIVE!

May's surgical "event" allowed me the gift of being alive!

May 30th allowed me the gift of seeing my beloved ones grow and thrive!

Baking Banitza in Bulgaria

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One of the best parts of adoption recovery is going places I never could have imagined.
During a recent Viking River Cruise, I spent a couple days in  the beautiful riverside town of Vidin, Bulgaria. Nestled in spectacular scenery, Vidin boasts medieval castle and a spectacular rock formation, Belogradchik. Those sights were wondrous indeed, but the most fun was meeting Ramona, her husband Pavel and her aunt Rosemary, who taught us—a small group of travelers who’d opted for the “extra” side excursion— a cooking class.

Entering our host's home-pleasant and airy

Entering our host’s pleasant, airy home just outside Vidin.

From Vidin, we took a van to a tiny outlying village of 100 residents. Ramona greeted us warmly in her front courtyard. We were, she told us, the first Viking visitors of spring. Each of us received welcome kisses on both cheeks and our hostess’s warm smile. Ramona’s husband Pavel offered us small glasses of a homemade vodka-like liquor called “reika,” and we entered the home’s dining room. Folding chairs awaited our band of baking students.

Ramona and Pavel extol the virtues of Bulgarian yoghurt.

Ramona and Pavel extol the virtues of Bulgarian yoghurt.

Ramona passed out sheets of paper with following directions:
__________________________________________________________________________

Pavel and Ramona’s Homemade Banitza Recipe
Ingredients:
1 packet of fine layers of phyllo dough
6 eggs- whip with fork
400 gr. of white cheese
half a tea cup of yoghurt
half a teacup* of cooking oil (Sunflower recommended)
half a teacup of fizzy drink (lemonade or Mountain Dew)
half a teaspoon of saleratus (baking soda)
half a packet of butter (1 stick, unsalted)

Crumble the white cheese in a big bowl, add the eggs. Put the saleratus into the yoghurt, stir it and pour it into the bowl. Add the cooking oil and the fizzy drink. Stir everything well.
Heat the oven to 180C (350 F)
Spread some cooking oil over the pan. Put some layers of dough over the bottom of the baking tin. Sprinkle with some of the mixture. Put some other layers of dough and some mixture again and again until you fill the pan.
Don’t put any mixture over the last layers of dough. Sprinkle with the melted butter and fizzy drink. Bake in the oven for about 20-30 minutes. Leave it to cool before you cut it. Good appetite and enjoy!
__________________________________________________________________________
*Note: Ramona used what we call coffee mugs, not giant but medium sized.

The baking class was on! Those who wished to help came forward in shifts to gather around Ramona’s kitchen counter. I’d never worked with phyllo dough before so chose instead to crumble white cheese with a fork. Others beat eggs or stirred baking soda into yoghurt. Soon the banitza was assembled and popped into the oven. Later, it came out and needed to cool. Ramona served a previously baked identical pastry and we marveled at its delectability. It was helpful to learn that one could add all kinds of extras within the layering, from herbs to cinnamon sugar. In other words, one can explore banitza variations.

Hands on: we each had a task

Hands on: we each had a task.

The delectable final product

The delectable final product.

Join Elaine on alternate Mondays for reflections on adoption and life. Comments welcome!

Join Elaine on alternate Mondays for reflections on adoption and life. Comments welcome!

Since that experience, I’ve adopted banitza as one of “my” special recipes. Fear of phyllo dough is a thing of the past. I learned that one does not plop it down in a single sheet but crinkles each sheet before layering. The resulting creations, though not as pretty or fluffy as Ramona’s, have tasted great. Like life itself, my banitza baking is a work in progress.

Eastern European Odyssey~Captivated by Croatia

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On a recent cruise on the Danube River through Eastern Europe, I fell in love with each IMG_0160new place. But of all five countries—Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania—I was most captivated by Croatia. Having survived occupations, brutal wars, cultural genocide, and economic disaster, Croatia, with its beautiful scenery, young population, and neoclassical architecture amidst gutted out buildings, is an upbeat location.

My travel buddy Gloria and I are out walking. It is a peaceful Sunday afternoon in Vukovar, Croatia, a city of 25,000. Ravaged through the1990s by the Balkan Wars, the city conveys an air of survival. It offers a sobering combination: lovely Neoclassical architecture as well as gutted out buildings.

“Why,” asked a fellow travelers, doesn’t the government just raze these wrecked buildings and rebuild? Why let them fall into further decrepitude?”IMG_0149

Our guide intimates that there are two main reasons. Many of the original owners of these sad buildings fled the country and cannot be located. Additionally, there is a nationwide shortage of money. Rebuilding will take a long, long time. In outlying areas beyond the peaceful town of Vukovar, there are still minefields. German Shepherds are sniffing out explosives.

We stroll about, enjoying the open city arcade with its traditional obelisk, a monument surrounded by statues: saints, mythological figures, military heroes. The yellow and white municipal buildings lend an air of order and civility to this formerly war-torn area.

Sunday strolling

Sunday strolling in the heart of Vukovar

Back onboard our longship, theVili, we are treated to a quintet of Croatian musicians, a group that calls itself “Veritas.” Strumming and plucking a variety of stringed instruments,the young musicians serenade us. They are exuberant and clearly talented. One feels that they are living up to their name, “Veritas.” (In Roman mythology, Veritas, meaning truth, was the goddess of truth, a daughter of Saturn and the mother of Virtue.)IMG_0163

The virtue of truthfulness, was considered one of the main virtues any good Roman should possess.  The truth of Croatia, it seems, is that life goes on.

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Join Elaine every other Monday for a new post. She writes about adoption, hiking and life. You’re invited to comment! IMG_0152

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