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Posts published in November 2009

Here’s to new adventures

By Angie Liang

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because it’s the one tradition my family keeps. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t like a holiday centered around food?

Every Thanksgiving since as far as I can remember, my family has dinner with my best friend Jen’s family. Our parents have known each other since college, so we grew up hand-in-hand. Sometimes the menu changes, sometimes more families join in, and goodness knows we all age, but every year it’s a full meal and lots of laughter.

A few years ago, Kristan and I added our own tradition to Thanksgiving. The two of us would return to Houston and run — or more realistically walk — the Turkey Trot, an early morning 10K race benefitting Sheltering Arms. Then we’d rush back home to shower, and in the afternoon we’d volunteer at the Superfeast in downtown Houston. Later in the evening, we would go to our respective family dinners.

Last year, Kristan changed our tradition. She understandably wanted to spend time with her boyfriend Andy and his family. At first I was disappointed, but I still had my other traditions. I knew I’d get to spend time with Jen, gorging on stuffing and pumpkin pie. I could deal with a little change.

Little did I know, that little change was just the beginning…

For years and years my Thanksgiving traditions were the same, and this year I was looking forward to another rambunctious gathering. However, in October I abruptly uprooted my entire life in Texas to start a new job in New York City. Given the quick timing, I found myself unable to return home for Thanksgiving.

At first I didn’t think too much of it, but as the holiday approached, I started to realize how incredibly homesick I was. Friends and coworkers talked about their plans for family gatherings and delicious menus, and I secretly envied them. Luckily though, a few New Yorkers reached out and helped me plan a new Thanksgiving for myself.

Just between us Texans, I want you to know that despite their reputation, New Yorkers are very sweet. From an Italian father with a great love of tea, to a sweet couple I met at IKEA, to my boss who I admire greatly, I have gotten to know an amazing number of very nice, very open people. In fact, after just one meeting, the IKEA couple invited me to join them for their Thanksgiving lunch.

Everyone says that when traditions end, you start a new one. But I’m not looking to start a new tradition, I am just looking to start my adventures, because who knows how next year will change. This year I am spending Thanksgiving with three different families, which also means three big meals and, of course, an overabundance of laughter. Next year, who knows?

And yes I am still a bit homesick, but I also realize that now I have many homes welcoming me. So I give thanks for all the good in my life, I look forward to returning to Houston for Christmas, and I wish all you dear readers a very happy holiday season.

WARNING: Escaped Inmate on Loose in East Harris County Nov. 30, 2009

An Inmate escaped from officers Monday morning, Nov. 30 in Baytown. Using a concealed pistol, he stole their guns and uniforms, and escaped from a transport van on foot. A search for him is ensuing, in the Baytown and East Harris County areas. Schools in the area are on lockdown. All residents are advised to use extreme caution, and report anything suspicious to 9-1-1. The inmate, A. J. Comeaux, is 49 years old, black, 6 feet tall, 200 pounds. He should be considered armed, desparate and extremely dangerous.

Moving out, moving on

By Angie Liang

This past summer has been one of milestones. Along with my own Masters graduation, my sister graduated from high school in two different ceremonies. For those of you who do not know, my sister has mild mental retardation. She does not always know how to think about herself, because she isn’t “normal,” yet her developmental disabilities are not as severe as most of her peers.

Her first graduation was at the private school she attended for high school. It concentrates on special education and has been wonderful for her development. The ceremony was intimate, and my sister spoke to the parents and teachers about her gratitude and aspirations, like attending the community college special education vocational program. I admit, as with all her ice-skating and music recitals, I teared up.

The second graduation was at the public school she is zoned to. She wanted to attend this ceremony because it was what a “normal” teenager would do. My sister has sat through three of my graduations, all of which were large, extravagant events. She understood and craved the ceremonial rite of passage of hearing her name, walking across the stage, and receiving her diploma. So my parents worked with the school and the school district to ensure her right to walk across that stage.

Thus, after 21 years, my sister graduated from high school. To be honest, I really never thought this day would arrive. The day she would finish school. The day she would decide she must go to college. The day she would move out.

My sister’s graduation and move are just a small part of our story. My family has come a long way — from bearing the burden alone and not knowing what to do, to creating a nonprofit organization and interacting with other families openly. And my sister, well, she is making decisions. She is moving into a group home and continuing her education.

Of course, none of this has been easy. Even though moving to a group was my sister’s wish, she is met with mixed feelings about it. She understands this is a necessary step into her future, but at the same time she is uncomfortable with so much change. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before — when she switched schools or a friend moved away — so we know she will adjust and be happy. As will we.

There are many families with stories of sons and daughters who were able to reach these accomplishments and make transitions successfully. I hope that they all share their stories, because I believe that this support, sharing, and understanding is what helps other families with similar situations make it through. It certainly helped mine.

It took my family over a decade of strength, perseverance, and openness to just get where we are today. Sometimes things work, sometimes they don’t. But as parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers, and friends, we all have to make the journey together. It will never end, but it will always be worth it.