Archive for November, 2011

Yana

The Sims family is ever increasing. Marriages followed by new baby Sims have left the mantel at Christmas overflowing with stockings. This year we will be adding two stockings, one for baby Brynnley and one for Yana. As thrilled as I am about the newest baby in the family, I’m even more excited about the newest addition, Yana.

Yana is a beautiful 14 year old who grew up in Russia. She lived in an orphanage in Zhytomyr, which is closing. Her only living relative is an older sister, who is 18 and just barely able to support herself.

My nephew, Bryan, and his wife, Kim, already have 3 children. Yet something was missing. They felt called to explore options for international adoption. This summer they learned of the orphanage in Zyhytomyr and asked to host a child for a three week visit this summer. Other families in the area were also hosting children from the same orphanage.

Yana traveled from Russia to the US with her friends and a guardian. Her first night in the US was spent at our family lakehouse with 20+ Sims and she didn’t speak a word of English! I could only imagine how overwhelming it must have been for her. But despite the language barrier, she played, swam, fished and couldn’t get enough of the jet skis. By the end of her visit, there was no doubt, we had fallen in love with her (and she had fallen in love with us).

Kim and Bryan began the formal process of adopting Yana, which included two trips to Russia, tons of paperwork and required an endless amount of resilience and patience. Then on November 8, 2011, Yana became one of us. As exciting as it is to get to be a Sims, I can only imagine what it must be like to start life over in a new country, half a globe away from your sister. And as if learning a new language isn’t challenging enough, the Russian and English alphabet are different. But Yana is a brave girl…and I believe that hope, love, family and friends can give her the strength to make this transition with grace.

Over Thanksgiving, the Sims family gathered at the lakehouse again. We were blessed with an abundance of turkey, the best mashed potatoes, amazing pumpkin and apple pies and love. We played ping pong, cards and farkle. We cheered for the Longhorns and made our annual trek to Fredericksburg to tour a winery and have a delicious lunch at the Fredericksburg Brewery. And…Kim, Kat, Syndey and I created an iMovie of Yana’s journey to becoming a Sims.

Kim wanted to create the video for Yana, so she would know how much we love her and how happy we are to have her in the family. The video is also for us to remember all the things that Yana holds dear, her language, her sister and all her close friends. And we are very sensitive to the fact that while this is a wonderful opportunity for Yana, it is also incredibly hard to leave all that you have known and cherished behind.

As I worked with the photos of Yana and her sister…and Yana saying good-bye to her friends…my eyes filled up with tears. I hope, with all my heart…that her transition is a smooth as possible, that she knows, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that she is loved, and that she is able to reach her full potential that honors her past as well as her present.

For me, some of the most touching parts of the video are:

  • Picture of Yana with her sister – starting at 3:27
  • Friends saying Goodbye – starting at 5:47
  • Yana arriving at the airport to a Texas size welcome – Starting at 7:20

This Thanksgiving was incredibly meaningful for me. I’ve never been so grateful for my family and friends.

My mom will be turning 80 this month. My aunt and I are cookin’ up some great plans to make her birthday as special as she is. I’ve arranged to have a hot air balloon ride on the morning of her birthday. And my awesome aunt is flying in from California to help us celebrate mom’s day.

I’m contemplating what we should do for the birthday cake. Should I get a fancy cake made at the magical bakery…or should we whip up something made with love at home in our own kitchen? I’m leaning towards making a cake mom used to make for special occasions called the Forty-Niner Chocolate Roll. It is light, fluffy oh so very delicious and holds so many fond memories of celebrations past.

Forty-Niner Chocolate Roll

Cake Ingredients

  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup ghiradelli ground chocolate
  • 1/4 cup boiling water
  • 3/4 cup sifted cake flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar

Filling Ingredients

  • 1/2 pint whipping cream
  • 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1 can (15 1/4 oz.) crushed pineapple, drained
  • 3 tablespoons rum

Cake

  1. Beat egg yolks with vanilla.
  2. Blend ground chocolate with water; beat into egg yolk mixture.
  3. Sift flour with baking powder.
  4. Gradually add dry ingredients, mixing until smooth.
  5. Beat egg whites with salt until soft peaks form.
  6. Gradually add sugar, beating until stiff peaks.
  7. Using metal spatula, fold egg whites into chocolate mixture.
  8. Pour batter into greased and floured waxed paper-lined 10 by 15-inch jelly roll pan.
  9. Bake at 325°F for 15 minutes.
  10. Run knife around edge.
  11. Turn hot cake onto cloth heavily dusted with powdered sugar.
  12. Remove waxed paper, and starting from narrow end, roll up cake with cloth; cool.

Filling

  1. Whip cream with powdered sugar until stiff.
  2. Stir in pineapple and rum.
  3. Unroll cake and spread with filling; reroll cake with filling.
  4. Chill until firm.

Cut into slices. Makes 10-12 servings.

I’m often asked to create the business case for building accessibility in to your web process. Most organizations are very responsive when I explain the benefits of universal design, the crossover between accessibility and usability, as well as accessibility and mobile design. By the time I explain the search engine optimization benefits, they are often salivating and ready to commit to accessibility. But, what happens when I’m working with a company that is inaccessible but already has decent SEO? I remind them that the litigation risks are real and the cost of retrofitting for accessibility is significantly higher than designing with accessibility in mind from the beginning. The thoughts I want etched into their minds are:

  1. Not Creating an Accessibile Web Site Today is Like Consciously Deciding to Not Pay Your Taxes – the penalties when you get caught (and you will get caught) will be far greater than the cost of building accessibility into your design in the first place. Penalties include:
    • Legal fees
    • Legal fines and/or settlement payments
    • Employee time spent responding to lawsuit information requests
    • Cost of retrofitting accessibility into your site
    • Brand damage
  2. Design with Accessibility in Mind – it is a fact that building accessibility in at the beginning of the design process is far more cost effective than retrofitting for accessibility. Accessibility experts estimate that the cost of developing sites that meet WCAG 2.0 AA increases development costs by the following:
    • 1% to 3% on simple sites built with html and css (and little to no javascript)
    • 3% to 6% on intermediate sites built with html, css and an intermediate level of javascript
    • 6% to 10% on heavy javascript sites or flash sites

    Compare these costs to the retrofitting costs which consistently come in as 2 to 3 times more. So, for a simple site, retrofitting will cost (1% to 3%) * 2 {if you are lucky} or (1% to 3%) * 3. Pay a little now, or pay a lot later.

  3. The Americans with Disabilities Act was passed on July 26, 1990 – more than 20 years ago the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became the first-ever civil rights law for people with disabilities. It is wrong to deny equal access to the web (a place of public accommodation). When you consciously choose to have an inaccessible web presence, you are guilty of discrimination.

Year ago people stood up for my right to vote as a woman. Today, I have the opportunity to help create a barrier free web so that all people, regardless of abilities, can have equal access.

All for Web! Web for All!