‘What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men …… That is what love looks like.’ - St. Augustine

Sunday, June 18, 2006


My dad died on Father's Day 2005. I'm thinking of him today. Here is the eulogy I gave for him at the funeral mass:

Hi Dad. I know you’re there, because you’ve told me a thousand times you’d be sitting in the last row at Immaculate, making sure we gave you a good send-off. I hope you approve so far. It’s hard to top you, but we’re trying. Well, Dad, I want to tell all the people here about you. The you I knew. I had forty years with you, so I count myself very lucky….of course, Danny had almost as many, but since age is a sore point for him, we won’t go there. So Dad, sit back and enjoy… and everyone else, listen up.

My dad was a pirate. Not many kids get to be raised by a pirate, so I know it was a very special experience, and it's one that needs to be shared. I loved my dad fiercely, and as you all know, we were a lot alike. My dad loved a good story -- and a good fight-- and so did I. We spent the better part of my adolescence trying to see who could raid whose ship the most…and, of course, who won the right to be captain. Dad, I’m going to swallow my inherited Irish pride here in front of all your friends and confess that, despite my fighting it to the death sometimes, you always managed to keep your crew in their place.

But what a time we had! Growing up with a pirate for a dad means lots of adventures, lots of storytelling, and lots of chances to prove our bravery to the captain. I remember the summer nights we used to spend walking through Greenlawn Cemetary with you, Uncle Jim, Mark and Krissy.

I’ll give you fifty cents if you go up and kiss that gravestone, all by yourself,' you’d say with a grin. Uncle Jim would always double it to a dollar, so we’d fight our fear left and right to get it. I’m proud to say I always took the challenge. I scared myself half to death, but I never let you know that. We spent a lot of time there, which is funny, because now a part of you will be spending a lot of time there. You used to say “I want that spot, right down by the water.”

“But dad, that’s so spongy. They can’t put a coffin there.”

“Sure they can. I’ll just slip out and go swimming every night” you’d insist. I have to admit, I loved imagining that as a child – you swimming with the fishes. It gave me a peace that you would never really die.

Now that you’re on the other side, I guess I can finally tell some of those funny stories without you getting in trouble. Like: remember how you used to have us duck under the seats of the sheriff’s car to drive us on errands? You hated the traffic on North Street, so we’d hide and you’d light up the siren, and we’d laugh all the way there and back. And remember all those times you'd take us out of school to see the best movies on opening day: Star Wars, Jaws, Indiana Jones? You understood that some things were just a little more important than school.

How did you manage to make everything such an adventure? And you never minded the odd dozen extra kids along for the ride. In fact, I can’t remember much of my childhood without Mark or Krissy there, the Huuskonens, Mark Tuttle, or Brim and Craig . Our house was really just a massive pirate ship where the captain always had room for more crew.

And you had no problem forcing your crew into slave labor: weeding the yard, carting boxes in and out of the screen-house and cellar. We hated it, but every one of us can thank you for our tireless work-ethic.

( I wrote more here to sum things up, but I lost the draft, and forget how I ended it!I'll add it if I ever find the ending!)

Anyway, I miss you Dad.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

A bit about me, thanks to Nani's Moon

I really love browsing all the unschooling blogs. I'm quite addicted. I feel like they are the grown-ups I'm looking up to, hoping for support and encouragement. I haven't started unschooling yet in the strictest sense. It's a dream right now, but I'm working towards it. Anyway, one of the blogs I love, called Nani's moon, has posted a series of questions for anyone who reads her blog. Here are my answers:

1. Name? FaerieMama..... on blogspot, anyway!

2. Were you named after anyone? No, my Dad wanted an Irish name and picked it, and my mom was fine with it.

3. Are you married? Nope. Never. Not sure if I ever will be...only if I meet a man who loves children as much as I do, and is committed to being a dad to mine!

4. When did you last cry?Last night, watching my grandmother's sister dance with her husband at her 90th birthday.

5. Do you like your handwriting?I used to, but now its not so great because of arthritis...grrrr.

6. What is your favorite lunch? Probably a tuna sandwich with cucumbers and sprouts, on a bagel.

7. Where is your favorite place to eat lunch out? Local place on the beach. You can feed the seagulls your scraps :)

8.Names and ages of kids: Anastasia, adopted May 2005, she's now 13.

9.If you were another person would you be friends with you? If I could ever get a hold of me, yes.

10. Do you have a journal? Piles of them, real and virtual.

11. Do you use sarcasm a lot? Only when I'm in a really good mood.

12. Would you bungee jump? I did once, on New Year's Even 1999...but never ever again .

13. What is your favorite cereal? Not a cereal girl, sorry.

14. Do you untie your shoes when you take them off? I don't wear shoes with ties :)

15. Do you think that you are strong? No, I know I am.

16. What is your favorite ice cream? Coffee with reese's peanut butter cups mixed in.

17. Favorite TV Show? Don't watch much, but...anything on BBC suits me.

18. Red or Pink? Neither. How about periwinkle?

19. What is your least favorite thing about yourself? MY A.D.Dness. I wish it didn't affect my life so much.

20..Who do you miss most? My Dad. alot.

21. Do you want everyone you send this to send it back? Sure, though I'm not sending it out.

22. What color pants and shoes are you wearing? black flowy yoga pants and bare feet.

24. What are you listening to right now? My daughter humming to herself while she draws.

25. If you were a crayon, what color would you be? Black, since it is all colors.

26. Last person you got an e-mail from?My friend Kim Conzo! It made me happy :)

27. Favorite Drink? Raspberry iced tea.

28. Favorite Sport to Watch? The squirrels trying to empty the birdfeeder.

29. Hair Color? Very dark brown, almost black. Sister Julian called me Ravenhair, which I loved.

30. Eye Color? Brown.

31. Do you wear contacts? Nope. nor glasses.

32. Favorite Food? chocolate.

33. Scary Movies or Happy Endings? Definitely, Happy endings .

34. Last movie you watched? Amelie, for the third time...

35. Favorite Day of the Year: The one where I'm the happiest.

36. Summer or winter? Summer.

37. Hugs or Kisses? Hugs.

38. Favorite dessert? My Grammy's brownies.

39. Furthest you've been from home: Siberia...three times this year...yikes.

OK, after this I lost interest and cut out the rest of the questions.... Nitey Nite!

Saturday, June 10, 2006


I'm listening to thirties music today. I don't know why I love it so much. It reminds me of my Dad and my Nana, and I can picture sitting on the porch in her cottage by the sea whenever I listen. Or sometimes I think about my dad as a kid, huddled in a corner of his cellar on Lafayette Street, listening to his dad's collection of 78s. He said he used to wear gloves and a scarf and sit down there for hours listening to Hoagy Carmichael, Count Basie and Benny Goodman. I don't know why I love those guys so much, but when I hear music from that era it puts me in this really great place: content, buoyant, productive...I get alot of cleaning and laundry done! I can also hear my dad whistling the tunes when he would work in the garden.

I'm heading to a family reunion of sorts in an hour. My Nana's little sister is turning 90. I haven't seen her in twenty years. All these cousins are attending, people I haven't seen in decades as well as people I had only heard my dad talk about over the years: Orlo Ellis, Sister Kathleen, Ruth Hereford.... I'm feeling very pensive about it. It's strange that it's almost a year to the day after my dad died. I wish he were going with me.I'm glad I'll be able to talk with people that loved him. I think my friends and students get tired of hearing me talk about him all the time. Oh, the photo above is of my Nana, Mabel Veronica, taken when she was my age (41). I think she's beautiful.

Friday, June 09, 2006


us, on a windy beach day.

My Girl

Here's my sweet Siberian princess. I guess I finally figured out the photo posting process on blogger. Anyway, I'm new to motherhood, new to so many things lately, and am excited to journal about them. I adopted my daughter a year ago from Siberia in southern Russia. Now I'm on the journey to bring her older sister home.

This photo was taken after she had been home four months. She had already gained fifteen pounds from the 72 pounds she weighed when I first met her. We went apple-picking with friends at a local orchard. It's exciting to get to know my little girl. I still can't believe I'm a mom!

Monday, June 05, 2006

My Daughter, My Hero

Wrote this back in March. Still getting used to blogger. Trouble posting things, hope this works..
The morning I met her.

This week marks a full year since I first met my daughter in the remote Siberian orphanage she called home. I couldn't stop crying today, meditating on this gift God gave me. I wrote this in honor of my daughter, and am sharing it with those of you who either supported my efforts to bring her home, or whom I know will hear the words & understand.

My daughter is at school right now. That might not seem like a miracle to anyone else, but I know what it takes for her to walk in those doors every morning.

My daughter is my hero for so many reasons, and my only sadness is that no one else sees. She should have football stadiums full of cheering, adoring fans. Yes, she is that amazing.

My daughter was physically abused and neglected throughout her infancy. We'll never know the details, but the physical scars remain to remind us both. My daughter was abandoned by the only mother she knew at two and a half years old. By her own birthmother's account she was left outside alone, with her sister, waiting for a mother to return who never did. By this same woman's account, my daughter was later taken in by an abusive neighbor who later tried to kill her. My daughter is my hero, because she fought that day. With her little two-year-old spirit, she fought to live when some sick person placed her in an oven. She fought when 3rd degree burns covered her arms, legs, head and back. The pain must have been unimaginable, but this little soul wanted to live. According to the police reports, a neighbor somehow heard her screams and rescued her just it time. My heart sinks as I type these words.

My daughter is my hero because, after an entire year in a hospital, likely left alone most of the time and likely tied to her crib, she survived and did not choose to die. God knows she could have. God knows it would have been easier than what was even to come. What was the day like when a Department of Education official came and carried her to the car for her three hour journey to the special Care Baby Orphanage in the dark and hopeless coal-mining town she ended up in? What did she see out the window? What thoughts kept her going?

After two years in this place of relative safety, what was it like for her on the day another official came to move her to yet another orphanage - the one for older children, the one without enough food or even shoes to go around? Did she get to say goodbye? Did she have a toy to hug? Was she comforted on the ride? Was she welcomed warmly when she entered the crumbling building that housed one hundred older, lost and silent children just like her? From her recollection there were no hugs, no toys, no comfort. There was only uncertainty and fear. And yet, my daughter faced these things with the courage and resolve of a soldier.

My daughter is my hero because, when she grew older and decided not to take the beatings anymore, she fought back. She fought off the teenage girls who would steal her food and rip her hair out. She fought off the older boys. She fought the bullies who gave her the countless scars that run like miniature riverbeds across her face. She fought the beatings of staff on days she was too sick to go to school, on days the staff could care less, just wanting her out of the way. My daughter is my hero because, she fought and fought at age ten when the staff decided she was not 'compliant' enough and sent her to a mental asylum for six months. Torn from the only close friend she had without even a chance to say goodbye, driven for hours into the Siberian wilderness, my daughter fought while they tied her down and shaved her bald. My daughter fought so much that she got 'big needles stuck in me everyday' that made her 'see things like through snow, blurry.'

My daughter is my hero because even in this hell of inhuman suffering, she chose to keep living. She didn't have to. She knew plenty of people who didn't. She instead, made a friend and created a make-believe world of family with this older girl that became her safety net, her solace. At night, she still wonders out-loud what happened to this sister-friend who stayed behind. We say prayers for her as we fall asleep.

My daughter is my hero because when she was returned once again to the orphanage and the girls began to steal her food again, she came up with a plan. She ran miles through the village with her friend and hid behind the stones in the cemetery, waiting. My daughter was smart - she knew that people would leave food on the graves. She hid until the mourners would leave and she could steal the food and run home, with hunger pains soothed for the day. My daughter is my hero for so many horrific events she made it through in one piece, things I cannot even write here because they are too terrible. But if you look at my daughter long enough, you can glimpse the effect of these atrocities in the way her eyes dart and shake when she feels the slightest bit of fear. You can see them in the wall she has built up around her that we are carefully, slowly, taking down.

My daughter, my hero - how did you feel when you walked into the room filled with self-important officials and stoic orphanage directors and soulless translators, and me? I saw the terror in your eyes, and yet, you did not run. When I smiled at you, you looked at me and tilted your head, puppy-like, and just stared. Were smiles so rare in your world? You grimaced when the official snapped the elastic out of your hair (breaking it) so I could 'get a better look' at its brilliance.

'Look at her hair, look at her hair - she is very healthy.' It made me sick. 'Please, please...let her be.' I pleaded. Why were they so shocked I did not want to 'examine' your teeth or run my fingers through your hair, or have you sit on my lap? Silly American, they thought.

My daughter, you are my hero because, despite all the years of hurts and abuses and terror and silent dark nights, you took a chance on me. You didn't know me. You were told that Americans chop you up and sell your organs. You were teased by the staff that I was a 'fat and stupid American' who would 'never come back for you.' The gifts I gave you that day were stolen from you. Still, the next day you came back, smiling. I watched you run down the stairs as I walked in the door. You took my hand and traced my nervous fingers with yours as we walked into the meeting room. You did not ask what presents I brought. You did not ask for food, though you had skipped both breakfast and lunch in order to sit and watch for me by the window. You just sat by me with that curious, soulful look, trying to make sense of the words that came out of my mouth.

My dear, sweet, beautiful girl. You are the bravest most wonderful soul I have ever met. I want to call it from rooftops and sing it in songs, and beat drums down my street to call out all the complacent people of the world to witness your absolute beauty. God, you are beautiful. And every time a person walks by you, not noticing, I want to grab them and cry 'Look at this girl...look!'

You are my light, Anastasia...truly, truly my reason for being, my all.

It is a year, this week, since I walked into that god-forsaken place and met you. A year. And I am here, dear sweet girl, to tell you I am the luckiest mom in the world. Oh, God yes, the luckiest.

Just before I came to take her home forever.