‘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

Friday, October 31, 2008

An Answer to Anonymous

"Without courage, wisdom bears no fruit."

I need to blog about this, because it's still REALLY bothering me. I received the anonymous comment below to a recent post. As a rule, I don't post anonymous comments (I think they're cowardly) but I really wanted to respond to what this person said, so I did post it. I'm sure there might be some of you who agree with anonymous, but I do not. At all. Not one tiny bit. And I felt it was an important enough issue to address, so cut & paste her comment & my response here:

Anonymous said, about my post Your Prayers are Needed:
"Please..You are putting yourself and your daughter in grave danger by inserting yourself in this womans life.For your daughters sake remove yourself from this situation ASAP! Your daughters safety is your priority.."
10:05 PM

Here is what I wish I could say to her face to face:

"Anonymous, I am only posting your comment so you may see my answer. As a rule, I do not post anonymous comments. However, as you left no other way of contacting you, here is my answer to your comment:I will NEVER ever let fear stand in the way of helping others. I'm not stupid. I have many family members and friends who spent their lives in law enforcement (including my Dad.) I know what is safe and what is not. But to deny this woman help and friendship simply because her husband is making verbal threats is cowardly and selfish to me. You are entitled to choose otherwise, but please do not post your fears on my blog. If I wrote a post asking for opinions on the matter, I would understand your comment a little more. But I didn't ask for anyone's opinion on the matter and I never will. I asked for PRAYERS, and only from those who would choose to offer them.

I live my life according to my personal beliefs and I happen to think that caring for another human being, however uncomfortable or scary it might be, is the highest good. My daughter is safe, thank you, and she is learning incredible life lessons thru this experience, lessons about doing unto others, about caring for those less fortunate, about true love and compassion, and about how WE EACH can make a difference in this world, if we just STEP PAST OUR FEARS and do the right thing. I am sorry our situation scares you. It does NOT scare me, or my daughter. What lesson would she learn from seeing her mother walk away from a situation God had laid in her lap - A chance to really help someone? Not the lesson I would have her learn. I ask God to give me chances to help others, and when He gives me these chances, I will embrace them and trust HIM. Perfect Love casts out fear. I choose Love over Fear."

So I ask you all....

If we do not step out of our comfort zone to help others, who will? How can any one of us lament the state of things in our world and yet sit idly by, waiting for someone else to clean up the mess? I don't get it, I never will. I choose to live a messy, sometimes painful, sometimes confusing life. I CHOOSE it. I choose it!!!! Would life be less stressful if I walked away from people like N? Hell, yes. But I won't. My Dad taught me to never walk away from anything. He taught me to face things head on, and get my hands dirty. God bless him for that.

You know what? I think I'm grateful that anonymous wrote, because she has now inspired me to write about all the other experiences in my life that I have not walked away from. I've had lots of people like anonymous in my life - people who tell me "Please don't do that! It's dangerous/scary/ not your business/ fill-in-the-blank with your excuse here". I take those moments as chances to educate those people about their own ignorance. So, thanks , anonymous. I now plan to blog about this all week.
Hope you have strong stomachs, people :)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Why I am 'FaerieMama"

Someone asked me why I use FaerieMama as my blogger identity, so I thought I'd explain, for anyone who is curious. And no, it is not because I am a closet lesbian, as one of my online friends joked. (Not that there is anything wrong with that, Seinfeld fans....)

Anyway, there are several reasons actually. The first is that my email address for decades had "faerie" in it. I was given the title by a group of my younger students. I was directing a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, and the seven and eight-year-olds were die-hard faerie believers. They were convinced that I was secretly a faerie, pretending to be a human. There was a huge rumor going around that whole year with the little ones that I only pretended to be mortal, but that really, I was magic. I couldn't help fueling the rumor a bit with some magical experiences I created for them, and the label stuck. Even now, some of them (they are now all in college) tell me they really, really believed I was a faerie back then. That summer is one of the most special times I've ever had. We spent our days building faerie houses out of twigs and moss and seashells, we sang faerie songs, and made up faerie dances, and we built wings out of coat hangers covered in giant leaves and shellac. We ate faerie food (mango tea and little cakes), and we tried as best we could to live the faerie life - all in an attempt to "get into character." It was bliss.

I still have a thing for faeries. I collect books on them, I still build little houses out of twigs in the woods, I have faerie cards and cds and, well, you get the idea.

And now I'm really going to incriminate myself: I even am pretty sure I might have seen a faerie once. Scoff if you must, but I was a full ten years old at the time. I was no baby. I was wide awake and not in a particularly imaginative mood. It was during one of my dad's campaign parties. Our house was full of people...and I mean full to overflowing. There was a band in the yard, and there was singing and laughing and drinking and talking. Much too late, my mother finally told me to head upstairs to sleep. I was sitting up, all cozy in my canopy bed, and I was watching a slow trickle of rain make a show outside my window, in the soft glow of the streetlight. I noticed the drops beading on the screen, and slowly making a path down to the sill. Then I saw it. One little drop of rain with a little faerie person inside. I blinked. I blinked again. I remember rubbing my eyes and looking again. She was still there.

A tiny raindrop woman inside the bead of water. She had long whitish hair, parted in the middle, and she wore a silky looking dress, and her wings stuck up behind her shoulders. I was mystified. dumbstruck. scared. And elated, all at once. I debated running to get my dad for what seemed like hours but was probably a few seconds. She was still there floating inside, the drop clinging to the screen. The need to share this experience soon won, and I raced to my door to get my dad. But as I opened the latch, I had a terrible sadness wash over me. I thought, I will never see something like this again. I dashed back to the window, and scanned the screen. She was gone.

So maybe I was hallucinating. Maybe I was more sleepy than I remember. Maybe it was an insect that just looked like a tiny faerie woman. It doesn't matter. The adult me may think these things, but the child me knows what I saw.

So, here I am, FaerieMama, some thirty-odd years later. I'm still just trying to share the magic I knew then - but now with my daughter and the rest of the world. You have to admit it, we could use some faerie magic these days.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

And Now For Something Completely Different....

I think I'm going to make this a weekly post theme ( see this post's title). My life has gotten so crazy and stressful lately, I find a need some time each day to completely redirect myself. For me, one of the easiest ways is looking at old photos. I love to revisit great moments I've experienced. I decided to go find 3-4 pictures in my picasa albums just now that make me smile. Here is what I came up with:

I take about twenty to twenty-five of my advanced students to England each year. Here we are on a very rainy Monday on the silly touristy bus tour they insisted on taking. I LOVE M's grumpy (paranoid?) expression in the front row. It cracks me up....
And yet another one from this trip. I think this one looks like the album cover of an up and coming grunge band...lol...not. I'm in the middle....( we were told to look serious, btw)
Ahhh! My favorite! Anastasia on Halloween last year. She insisted on taking her puppy along...

Anastasia came upon this wall sculpture on our annual camping trip to Martha's Vineyard. She couldn't stop laughing about it, all day. Every time I see this photo, I think of that day full of laughter....

Ok, we now return to our regular programming....

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Your Prayers Are Needed

Things are only getting worse for N and her family. Please, please pray. I have never in my life heard a life story as horrific as hers, and I have heard more than my share of terrible childhoods in my past work with child victims of sex abuse. N needs more help than J or I can give her, and more help than DSS and the Domestic Abuse advocacy group is willing to give her. She needs deep heartfelt prayers, in the worst way. I know some of you are not the praying kind, and I certainly respect that. But for any of you who pray daily or even once in a blue moon, I BEG you to hold this woman up in your prayers.

I cannot go into much detail, but her husband has been laying some major traps for her these past two days. He is far smarter than I thought and he has been using the police and DSS to his advantage. He has the twins so terrified, they are lying to protect him. He has made verbal threats against her life, and against the people who shared his "business" with DSS ( me and J.) He vows he will find out who we are.

N was inconsolable tonight. She wept and wept and cried " I just want God take me now. Please God take me." Everytime a car drove by, she froze in terror. She still refuses to get a restraining order because she will have to tell the court what her husband has done to her. She said " God do what He want with me. If God want me live and stay in this country, He do it. If He want me die or go back to Haiti, He do it."

Pray for enough of her fear to be lifted that she can think straight. Pray that she be protected from her husband. Pray that she accept the help she is being offered. Pray that she feel the love of God embracing her. Pray that her children be protected through all of this. Pray that these stupidly indifferent and careless authorities DO something. Please, please pray.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Deeper Down The Rabbit Hole...

The more I talk to N (the mom of the past few posts), the deeper I feel I'm falling into this endless rabbit hole. I have to be careful about which things I post here. Still, I'm sharing what I can because I think it is only right that the world hear these stories. Even if it's my little blog world. At least someone is hearing and, hopefully praying and sending light their way.

N went looking for her mother yesterday. The mother who abandoned her, the mother who later disowned her, the mother who cut all ties with her. Yes, I know there is more to the story and that this mother feared for her own life. ( Her husband had forbid her contact with N five years ago.) But this is a mother we are talking about. Anyway, N spent the entire day trying to track down this mother, whom her sister had said died in May. N says her heart told her that her mom was still alive. In a last minute reprieve, the sister (out of guilt, I'm guessing) brought the mom to the train station at 7pm to see N before she headed home. They had a 15 minute reunion on a train station platform. N said her mother was bald, skinny and very aged. (She has advanced breast cancer.) From what I could gather from N's rambling, her mom is going into hospice care soon. When I picked her (N) up at 9pm at the train station, she climbed in my car and just wept. My daughter was in the back seat with the baby and kept stroking N's arm telling her it was ok, that she had a bad birthmom, too, etc. It was very bittersweet to watch my daughter comforting this young mother. She told her over and over " It's ok, you're safe now, It's ok." These are the words I use to comfort her when she is crying. So incredibly sweet that she used the same words for N.

N came home with us, because she was too scared to go to her home. We had heard from a neighor that her husband was uncharacteristically home, with the lights on, sitting on the couch...for hours. He was obviously waiting for N. We made up Anastasia's bedroom for her and the baby, stayed up and talked a bit, and then went to sleep. In the morning more sharing happened, and by 1pm she said she was ready to go home. I did not think this was a good idea. I knew her husband would be very angry by this point. She insisted, so I called to inform the neighbors so they would be ready to help her. She had me drop her off with the baby a block away. I tried to get her to keep the baby with us, but there was no convincing her. She felt she had to confront her husband about everything before she could, in good conscience, get a restraining order. Nothing would convince her otherwise. I called the advocacy group and DSS immediately, and I went to my friend J's house , so I could be nearby if she needed help. Within ten minutes we heard three cruisers racing down the street. They stopped outside of N's house. I was terrified. However, it turned out that a neighbor had heard screaming, yelling and banging and called the police. When they got there, N refused to tell them anything and after 20 minutes, they left.

This morning I had confronted N about some facts I had learned. I heard that just 2 days ago the husband, in anger had thrown a heavy ceramic mug at her head - she had ducked, and it hit one of the twins in the eye socket. She denied it and denied it, but I wouldn't let up. She finally admitted that it had happened, but that it was her fault. He had been angry because she was talking to "white women" in the neighborhood. " If I no talk to people, he no throw that."

Tonight my friend J went to the house with her boyfriend and insisted on seeing the twins. The husband was gone & N was scared to let her in. " They tell father everything and he be angry." She said. J would not go away until she saw those kids. Finally, N let her in, and she and her boyfriend went up to the room where the twins are kept. She had snuck in food in her purse, and the kids wolfed it down as fast as they could swallow. J asked them if they knew it was wrong for them to be kept in that room all the time. They said they had to stay there, or their dad would be angry. She saw the gash on the boy's eye socket and asked him about it. "oh, I just fell." He said. J told him she knew what happened and that it was ok to tell her the truth. He looked at the floor and would not answer. The girl, too, had a bad cut on her face. " I fell, too" was her response.

Tomorrow J, another neighbor and I are going to bombard DSS with all this info. We are calling the police, too. We are not going to stop until SOMETHING is done. This is ridiculous. These kids are prisoners in their own home. They are not fed, they are not cared for. N is so traumatized she cannot even get herself to take out a restraining order. She would rather live with the abuse she knows than enter the unknown. And the baby. What happens to the poor baby?

I can't think about it anymore because it's too painful. I give it up to God. God, PLEASE take it. Please get these kids out of that h*ll-hole. Get N the help she needs. Get the husband OUT of there.

He told N on Saturday morning that he knew what she was doing and to "just wait till Monday." He told her last week that he would kill her if she told anyone else "his business." The police know this, the advocacy group knows this, DSS knows this...and still those children and that mother live there in fear.

Last night N was sitting in Anastasia's bed feeding the baby. I asked her if she needed anything else. " K, I sleep on floor every night with my baby. I no need nothing. This what you give me very good." I tried to get her to stay tonight again, but she said no.

Tonight I am in my palace of a house ( that's what it feels like now) and I will sleep in my warm, comfortable bed, with a full stomach. Only five minutes from my house, N sleeps in complete squalor, on the floor with her baby, with an empty stomach. Upstairs from her sleep two children in a dark room with no blankets, no pillows, on two urine stained mattresses, The shades are drawn down, the door is kept shut, and they will remain there until SOMEONE rescues them. God help them. Please pray.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A Little Light, To Brighten These Dark Days...

Anastasia is positively blissful with baby Ariella around. Yesterday, when she was at our home, the baby's mom asked Anastasia to be Ariella's godmother. She said " You love my baby. I see you love my baby. I have no family here. You be my baby godmother?"

I'm sure you could hear the bellowed 'YES!" from wherever you are in the world...lol.

PS: That's a temporary tattoo on Anastasia's hand. She got it from a gum machine.

Ok, I've pretty much fallen in love with her, too.....

Anyway, even the worst of weeks can be redeemed simply by holding a newborn....there is truly nothing like it in the whole world....

And we have her until 10pm tonight!!!

Friday, October 24, 2008

I Need A Reminder: Where Is God In All Of This?

I feel spent. Completely exhausted, worn out and oh so sad. I think I need a good dose of love from friends - I need a reminder that there is good in the world.

Today was supposed to be a carefree day of catching up on emails, phone calls, laundry. I know, it doesn't sound so carefree, but I was actually looking forward to one of those catch-up-on-everything days. It didn't happen. I mean, I'm glad that I was able to help someone, but I'm also feeling overwhelmed with all that I learned today.

The mom (of the last two posts) needed a ride to a doctor's appt. She did not ask me for a ride. Her plan was to take her newborn on the bus and then walk the rest of the way to the clinic. I offered and was delighted to take her, and I actually enjoyed the doctor's visit - learning that 'Ariella' was healthy, gaining weight, and doing fine. What a relief to hear! The doctor even said that the swelling on her ear looked ok, and should resolve itself. It was a great chance for me to get to know the mom better, too, and we talked at length for the ride to and from the clinic. She was really starting to trust me, I could see, and she started answering my questions with much more relief in her voice than fear.

Obviously I can't go into details, but in brief, it turns out things have been far worse in her home than she had let on, and the more I asked, the more she opened up. I ended up bringing her back to my house so we could talk more. My friend J stopped by and we tried, again, to explain her rights to her and the help that a local agency for battered women could offer her. She sat at my kitchen table and talked for two hours, and we finally got her to agree to meet with an advocate of this agency. I drove her to the police station, and I attended the meeting with her.

For people who deal with traumatized women on a daily basis, these people were not that great at explaining things to her. I could see it all going right over her head. They threw out terms like "domestic violence" and "restraining order" and "judicial decree." The mom did not understand even one of those terms. She barely spoke English! I interrupted the advocate and said, I really don't think she is understanding you, do you mind if I explain it to her?" She looked bothered that I jumped in. Who was I? I wasn't the victim. What could I possibly add to the conversation? I asked the mom if she knew what these terms meant. "No , I no understand." was her response. I slowly and carefully explained what was meant by "domestic violence" and all the other terms that were being thrown around. She started to get it.

They later decide they wanted to use an interpreter to explain things in her native language, but when they called the language line, the interpreter was a male with a very deep, intimidating voice - much like her husband's. I tried to explain to the advocate that I didn't think she would be open with this man, but she ignored me. Well, what happened? The mom refused to talk with him and said " I no need him. You tell him hang up." She was now visibly more upset. She just needed someone to slowly, gently and patiently explain in very simple terms what the agency could offer her, what her options were. They didn't. In fact, I could see them getting antsy. They kept glancing at their watches. She said " Court closes in an hour, we need to get there soon if you want to get the ball rolling today." They offered her a night in an emergency shelter...150 miles away! The mom was just at the point where she finally felt she could open up, but was no where near ready to speak to the police, or move to an unknown place with her baby for the night.

(While we were there, I got a call from DSS, and they were looking for the dad and the twins. Evidently the dad had somehow gotten wind of things and had picked up the twins at school driven to the house, packed up three trash bags of goods, and left. They asked me to ask the mom if she had any idea where he might be. She did not.)

Anyway, in the end she agreed to go to court on Monday to file a restraining order. She was not ready to do it today. I will go with her and the advocate to court on Monday morning to help her fill out the affidavit. She knows that once this is done and the order given, her husband cannot come in the house. DSS plans to take the older two children into foster care, and then the mom will get services for the other two: daycare, parenting classes, etc. They will take care of her rent, and help her pay the bills, and anything else she needs. Ideally, they want her in other housing, where the husband cannot find her, but they explained to me that this would be many months away. There were simply too many other people, just like her, waiting for safe housing.

When we left the police station, where the meeting was held, the mom got in my car and put her head down in her hands. I was scared. I had no idea what she was feeling. "Are you ok, N?" I asked. " Yes, I just so happy. I never be this happy long time..." she said, and I could see her eyes fill up, and her whole body was shaking. I think it wasn't happiness she was feeling, but relief. She went on to tell me, in her beautiful broken English, that she never had a friend, and that " No white person ever be nice to me like this." Then she hugged me.

It would be great if the day ended there, and I went home for a nice long nap...lol....but instead, I ended up fielding phone call after phone call from the agencies involved. The DSS investigator called and needed more info, the caseworker called, the advocacy group called and needed more info. I had to help her call the insurance company to add her baby, which was a two hour event in and of itself. We had to go to WIC to get her formula, as she was out. We had to buy minutes for the pay as you go cellphone someone had given her, we had to call her cousin whom she had left the two year old with, to get an update. It was a long, exhausting day filled with sporadic truth-telling sessions on her part, concerning her husband and what she had experienced.

At one point in the day, when I was trying to get her to leave my car to enter the police station, she wept and told me that she was scared that God would not let her into Heaven if she told her husband's "business" to others. " When I die, God be angry. " I tried my best to explain that God loved her very much and that he wanted her to tell the truth, and that she would actually be helping her husband, in the end, by holding him accountable for his actions. She didn't seem to completely agree with me, but it'll take time. On a good note, I invited her to go to church with me on Sunday, and she said yes.

Tomorrow, Anastasia and I are babysitting Ariella again, so that N, the mom, can go in search of her mother. She has not seen her in five years, as her father disowned her and won't allow the mother to see her, but she is hoping that enough time has passed that they will accept her. These are the same parents who abandoned her and her sister when they were twelve and nine years old. These parents immigrated, and left their two girls in a makeshift shack in Haiti, where they raised themselves with money the parents mailed from the US from time to time. She talked of looking for food in garbage dumps, and of "bad men" that hurt them, and of falling asleep holding her sister, on the floor where they nightly slept. They had no bed.

I know that God is watching out for her, I do. But when I hear her life story, and see what she is going thru now, it reminds me of all the things I learned of my daughter's abusive and neglectful childhood, and it makes me positively rage inside. There are millions more like them in the world. Tonight is one of those nights where that truth is hitting me too hard. I can't stop crying and I just wish the whole world would go away. I can't bear it - the pain she has suffered.

And I'm only one person. As much as I care, and I DO care deeply....what can I really do for her? Where will her children end up? What kind of life will they all have? I'm just sick at heart. I've prayed and will continue to, but I feel bereft and utterly lost in the darkness of all this poverty, neglect and abuse. I wish I could share her whole story with you, but I obviously can't. But trust me, it would knock you over with it's power. It makes me literally sick to my stomach.

If you have words of wisdom, or if you are simply in a good and light-filled place right now, please share some of it with me. Tell me this will be ok. Tell me God is here in the midst of this, even though I can't see Him. I just want some kind of sign from Him that He is here, in this, around this, seeing this and in control. It just looks so dark from where I stand...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Wishing I Had Magical Powers Right Now...

I feel like I haven't posted in weeks, but it's only been like two days. But boy did we pack a lot into those 48 hours! Anastasia and I had a little visitor. She is the newborn mentioned in my last post. She was ten days old yesterday. I picked her up at 8:30am, and she was with us until 8pm. I informed DSS she was with us, because DSS is heavily involved with the family now. I wanted them to know the baby was safe. To maintain her privacy, I'll just call the baby Ariella, as that is what Anastasia called her all day. (She didn't like her given name, so she just renamed her for the day.) No harm in that, I figured. After all, she will not be answering to anything for quite awhile...

So, back to 'Ariella'. She is a tiny little thing, and soooooo sweet. I have to admit, although I was worried about her mom and siblings all day, it was tempered by the joy of holding and loving a little baby all day. I knew Anastasia would be fine, because she adores anyone under the age of four. She becomes very maternal around toddlers and infants....almost a complete personality shift, which is interesting. She barely put down little Ariella all day. She sang to her, changed her, fed her, rocked her, told her how beautiful she was. It was wonderful to watch. This baby was loved yesterday.

And boy did she eat! We knew she wasn't getting much at home, so we made sure to feed her as much as she wanted, and also sent extra formula home when we returned her. I hope her mom will feed her more regularly. I explained to her how important it was and that she could get free formula thru a program in her city. I made sure she had enough to last the week. Plus, I know DSS will be keeping a close eye on things as well. One of the investigators called me this morning and we spoke for close to 45 minutes. I made sure they heard every little detail I could think of.

Sadly, when I picked up the mom at 8pm and drove her and the baby home, I found that the two six year olds had been left alone by their dad for SEVEN hours. When I walked into the unit, they looked terrified. They were not supposed to be down stairs, and they were hunting in the kitchen for food. I asked where their dad was, and they said they didn't know. Later, a neighbor confirmed that the dad left at noon. These kids had a half day, so they were in the house, with lights off, from 12:15 till 8pm. (Their dad will not allow them to turn on the lights.) I checked that they had something to eat. There was some cereal.

Once I got home I called DSS and reported the kids being alone. If you are wondering how I can, on one hand, be helping the mom and on the other calling DSS every minute, you need to understand something. The mother is not completely there, to put it bluntly. She has never been to school. She seems to have a very low IQ. She has a very simplistic understanding of everything, and indeed much of what she believes seems to be superstitious nonsense that is of a cultural nature. Both parents are not dealing with a full deck. DSS knows this. An example: the dad was worried that he was not the father of the newborn, so, according to the mom, he did a DNA test. But here is how she explained the DNA test. The father cut his finger, and stuck it in the baby's mouth, and waited. She explained to me that in her country they know that if the baby 'accepts' his blood, he is the father -- if the baby gets sick from it, he is not.

On top of this, the father pierced the baby's ears at 6 days old....with the ADULT STUD from his own ear. The mom told me that the baby cried so much when he was pushing the stud in, she passed out. The baby indeed had two large adult studs in her ears when I picked her up yesterday. Her ears were a bit swollen and obviously still painful to the touch. Anastasia and I cleaned the area as best we could, without causing her too much pain. We also made a run to target to purchase a bottle, pacifier, diapers, formula, and clothes.

Last night I could not sleep. I thought of that beautiful baby. I thought of her mom, battered and scared. I thought of the twins, alone all that time and likely used to it, because it happens all the time. I wish I could do more. I've brought over clothing, and baby essentials, and toys, but much of it is refused, because the mom says her husband will throw it out in anger or sell it.

What can be done? The authorities know everything I know, and I hope, are going to be getting this family the services they need. But in all honesty, I feel like these children need to be removed permanently from the home. The mom is not mentally, emotionally or financially equipped to care for them, nor does she want to care for the older two. The father has a rap sheet a mile long and is never home - and when he is, his wife gets beaten and his children are ignored. I wish I could spirit these kids away to a new life. I wish each of them would have at least one parent that loved and adored them for the miracles that they are. I wish they knew there were people praying for them and wanting to help. I just keep praying.

God has got to be pretty annoyed with me by now, because I have not given Him a moment's peace since I met this family.

And I won't.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Giving It Over To God...

Sometimes we do everything in our power to help someone, and even that is not enough. That is when we need to hand it over to God and trust He will find a way in...

My friend J was over the other day and was telling me about a new family that moved into a housing project near her. She was visibly shaken sharing the story with me, and wanted my advice on what else to do. The family was made up of the mom (age 24) the dad (age 42) twins (a boy and girl, age 6) a 3 year old girl, and a 6 day old baby. J got involved when other women in the neighborhood shared concerns with her over the well-being of the older children. They had seen the twins staring out the same window every day and night. They had never been seen outside, except when walking to and from school . These women knew J was fearless when it came to standing up for the welfare of children. J took it upon herself to get to know the mother. She took her time: this mom was terrified and never left the house. Over time, J was able to gain entrance to the house when the father was not home. What she saw, and later learned firsthand from the mother, stunned her. J was now sitting at my kitchen table sharing all of this with me.

The father works as a prostitute, even bragging about it in the neighborhood. He is an incredibly attractive man (I saw photos of him at the home this weekend). One day this summer, J had asked him about his brand new mercedes. "Oh, one of my white women gave it to me. White women love me," he shared, laughing. Yes, this man drives a mercedes, while his wife and children live in abject poverty. No food in the house, no phones, not even a table to eat at. No toys, no clothing in the closets. Nothing but a few urine-stained mattresses and a couch. Over time the mother shared details with J: the older children were not hers. They were her husband's and she was not allowed to discuss them. Her husband told her " they not your business." These children are kept in a room upstairs void of anything but beds.....not even blankets to keep them warm. They are not allowed to leave that room except to eat, and the father makes them eat in the basement. Then it is up to the bedroom again. No toys, no books, and no light. If this werent bad enough, J went on to tell me of the abuse the mother had suffered at the hands of the father. Another neighbor hand seen the marks on her neck months ago, after the father had tried to strangle her in a drunken rage. The mother was now doing her best to care for 'her' two - the three year old and the newborn, but there was not even a crib for the baby. All three of them slept on or near the couch. The bedroom upstairs was only for the husband.

Last weekend, when this woman went into labor, her husband was nowhere to be found . She had the 6 year old boy run to use a neighbor's phone. She went via ambulance to the hospital, asking a neighbor to look in on the three children left behind. The next day, her husband shows up at the hospital with the three children in tow. He is furious the baby is another girl. He leaves the three older children with her and tells her she better be home that night. He then leaves. This woman can barely speak English! She knows no one! I do not understand how the hospital allowed her to walk out that night, but she did. A one-day old newborn in her arms, and three children in tow, she hailed a bus to get home.

I could tell you more, but you get the picture. After hearing J share this story through tears, I asked her if she had called DSS yet. She was scared. If the family found out she called, she could lose her 'in' with the mother, and what if DSS did nothing? I told her " We are going over there RIGHT NOW." Armed with clothes for the children (I had saved a closetful of size 6 clothes for my first referral), we drove to the home. The mother was just leaving. She said she had to go find a job. Where were the children? we asked. "Oh, they ok. They sleeping.." J nudged her way into the house, saying she just wanted me to see the beautiful baby ,quickly, before we left. I followed J into the tiny livingroom where the baby was asleep on the couch , with the three year old nearby. On the couch. No crib, no blanket, no barrier of any kind to keep her from falling off the couch! I felt sick to my stomach.

J said " Why don't you bring the kids and we will drive you to McDonalds. We can watch the kids while you go in." (She was applying at the local McDonalds.) She said her husband wouldn't allow it, but that he was asleep upstairs and she would bring the children up to him to watch. As badly as I felt about that, I knew we just needed some time with the mother, to get as much info as I could , so I could phone DSS later. While she went upstairs, J showed me the inside of the fridge and cabinets. She opened the door to the basement and showed me that, too. There was a half carton of eggs and nothing more. But there were countless empty beer cans stacked up by the door.

We drove her to McDonalds where she was turned down for a job, and then we sat in the car and she just poured her heart out. We learned she had saved for months so that she could leave her abusive husband, only to find that he stole all the money from her. He threatened her with reporting her to immigration if she ever tried to leave. He said he needed her to stay, because he needed a babysitter for the two older children.

We talked to her about all the services that were available to her, but she honestly seemed too traumatized to advocate for herself. I also noticed she had the same eye disorder that my daughter has. This is the disorder that the doctor told me comes from early neglect. This woman had had a lifetime of abuse and neglect herself. (She shared some horrific details with us.)

So, once home later that day, I called DSS. I had to. (Aside from the fact that I was scared, as a mandated reporter, I knew this was the best option.) I spoke to them at length, and they eventually spoke with J too. Later that day two DSS workers and a policeman were at the home. They stayed for an hour, but left alone. How could they leave the children there? Didn't they see they were in danger? Didn't they see the squalor this family was living in? The empty refridgerator? No crib? J called me back today in tears. She had gone over in an attempt to get the older two outside to play, the father refused, then left angrily a few minutes later in his shiny black mercedes. The mother then confronted J about DSS. She thought J had called, and this is bringing an end to the friendship that was developing.

What can be done if DSS won't step in? I know there is a terrible shortage of foster families in our area, but can nothing be done? The mom called me tonight to ask if I could take her baby for the day sometime this week so she could go job hunting. (I had given her my cell number in case she ever needed to talk or had an emergency.)

" I need to make money again." She explained.

I know she thinks that is her only way out of this h*ll. She told me the three year old is going to stay with a friend in Boston for the week. The twins? "They no my business." was the answer.

Now, I am going to take the baby for the day, if only to assure myself that she will not be left alone on the couch for 7 hours. My hope is that I can get one of the neighbors to call DSS when the 6 year olds come home from school. They will be all alone. They cannot live like this, and the mom is not in any shape to even ask for help. She is frozen in fear. Is there any other option?

The mother admitted herself that she was considering "giving" the baby and three year old to friends in the south to raise, because she has no money. Who knows what these friends are like. Where will these children end up? What can be done? J and I were both in tears today. We've done all we can, and now we must put it in God's hands. Please, if you're the praying kind, hold this family up in your thoughts tonight. I don't see a solution, but I know that God does. I'm holding on to that.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Now I Know Why God Gave Me That Gratitude Day Yesterday...

...because He knew that today the you-know-what would hit the fan! I'm guessing God wanted that gratitude to be fresh in my mind while I was dealing with a very angry girl today.

Anastasia has dug her heels in. Ever since the fire drill episode, school has been a hard pill for her to swallow. It is not getting any easier, as I had hoped. Each day becomes an emotional mountain to climb, and I feel like I'm losing my will to get to the top! It is so hard to know what is best. Everyone, and I mean e-v-e-r-y-o-n-e, has opinions about it. All these 'opinions' do not make my decision any easier! Anyway, here is some of the history of the school situation, to give you a better perspective:

Anastasia started 6th grade in August 2005. She had been home just over three months. I had planned on sending her to the local elementary school down the street, but after an attempted visit in June, I realized that would not work for her. She was absolutely terrified - the building was too big, too noisy, the lights were too bright, the classes too large...you get the picture. She froze just inside the door and would not move. Later attempts to get her in the door proved futile. So I opted for the local public charter school. The building was cozier, more home-like, the population was smaller, the lighting was less severe, and the classrooms more relaxed. Although she missed a great deal of school that first year and I was called to the school several times a week because of her meltdowns, there were minor successes, and she did have a great teacher who was willing to go above and beyond for my daughter.

Seventh grade started badly, and only got worse. New teacher, new classroom, new format of switching classes....by January, the school felt they could not handle her outbursts. They asked me (er, insisted) on a switch to the regular middle school. They felt it would offer her more support and a more comprehensive therapeutic program. Anastasia loved the idea of leaving the charter school. She was not getting along at all with her new teachers, and had resorted to throwing chairs and slamming doors. I was used to being called to the school almost every day. She thought she could have a "new start" at this new school. " Nobody will know me!" she explained. We tried a slow transition, but, as expected, it was too much for her. I ended up homeschooling her from April onwards.

For eighth grade we homeschooled the entire year, and I was actually stunned by the results. She was more regulated, had less anxiety, was opening up more to others, was making better choices about her behavior, and generally was more fun to be around! One of the best results? I have to admit, it was that there were no more morning meltdowns. We had a great time reading together, visiting museums, making our own schedule, following her interests instead of a set curriculum. It felt like the perfect choice for us both -- except for the inevitable 'concerns' of family and friends. It really got tiring getting so much unsolicited advice about her schooling. I mean, I live with my daughter every day. I see the struggle up close. It was infuriating to me to have family and friends thinking they knew better. I never asked any of their opinions on the matter, but they gave them --and often -- nonetheless.

At the end of this last homeschooling year, she decided she wanted to try school again. She was afraid she might be missing out on making friends. She wanted to be 'normal' (her words.) Long, heartfelt discussions followed. I did not want us to be making this choice lightly. I wanted her to understand that she could not go back on her terms (show up only when she felt like it). In the end, with much thought and sleepless nights, I decided to send her back. She would be repeating eighth grade, for many reasons: The transition to a new building would be too stressful for her, she was still behind academically, socially she was not nearly ready for high school, and she needed the comfort of a familiar environment. Socially and emotionally, she was much closer to her thirteen year old peers, anyway. I worked closely with the school to create the best schedule for her. The therapist agreed that half-days were best. She would only be there until 12:40pm each day.

So, she began her 2nd eighth grade year this September with as much support in place as possible, but it is still a huge struggle. There are weekly outbursts, there are calls home most days, and there is very little academic work going on. Most of the day is spent trying to re-direct her and keep her on task. She walks out of classes frequently and goes to her 'safe' room. She refuses to do work. She screams at the teachers. She rages. She of course has had some wonderful successes there, too, but they are few and far between these days. I'm at a loss.

I've got a call into the therapist to see if I should reconsider homeschooling. I am so torn. I want what is best for her and, right now, I honestly do not know what that is. Do I take the pressure off her, homeschool her, and allow some real learning (academically speaking) to take place? Or do I do everything I can to keep her in school, facing the daily fear, in hopes she will learn it is a safe place for her to be? For now, I'm just waiting for wisdom, and hoping the next morning will offer a miraculous reprieve...

Sunday, October 19, 2008


I feel so grateful for the life I have. Yes, it is very difficult at times, and yes I would rather my daughter did not have to struggle so much and yes I'm scared about the financial crunch and yes and yes and yes, but.....

How wonderful is this life? We get to wake up everyday and start anew. We get to breathe and laugh and talk and learn new things and cuddle our children and drink tea on cold days (like today) and revel in the color of the leaves. I just feel so much gratitude today I feel like I could burst through my own skin. And all this gratitude is for such simple things. I don't have to go looking for anything -- it is all right here, surrounding me.
There is the sound of the birds chattering in the tree outside my window -- I love that sound. There is the wind rushing through the leaves and making them drop like a colorful rain shower on our front lawn, there is the tea cup warming my hands so I can type, there is my favorite dog in the whole wide world laying on my feet to keep me warm - (thanks Henry.) There is a sweetest sound in the world emanating from the next room - my daughter's laughter. There are the magical dreams I have at night that take me to amazing places and on wonderful adventures with people I do not even really know (but they seem like lifelong friends when I'm in that other world.) And there are the real friends that I get to see in my waking hours -- Carmel, Christine, Julie, Chesky, Josh Y, and all my inspiring students as well (who are really more like friends, if you ask me. )

I am so lucky. It's hard to remember that all the time, isn't it? Sometimes it feels like we are living our life on some out-of-control merry go round or roller coaster (take your pick) and there is barely enough time to even be grateful because everything is moving soooo fast. But today, this chilly Sunday afternoon, I feel like I cannot thank God enough for the gift of this life. What in the world can I give Him in return? Nothing is big enough.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

My Life Will Have Purpose, Dammit

I had an interesting conversation the other day with a friend who is in the same financial situation I am - meaning on the struggling side, relatively speaking. She was challenging my commitment to giving to charity, suggesting that I was doing my daughter and myself a disservice by giving money I don't have to causes that will always be "causes", like making poverty history, the one campaign, orphan sponsorship international. I listened to her, but in the end, had to respond that not giving was doing my daughter and myself a disservice.

Every day I am teaching my daughter to treat others as if they were her family. Why? Because they are her family, and mine and yours. Does my daughter need another pair of socks, another dvd, another trip to the movies? No. These things don't edify her, and they don't define her either. Each dollar we put towards charity, meaning towards another human life, is a dollar that is making a difference. Other friends have told me: You can't change the world." Well, you know what? I am. I am changing the world...in my own small way, I am. So maybe I don't have a thousand dollars to lend to KIVA, who cares? My $25, joined with all the other $25 donations, makes $1000. So maybe I can't send as much to Dollars For Change as I'd like, so what? My $5 joins with all the other dollars and creates a difference for those kids Katie is helping.

Yes, it is difficult at times in my community -- being surrounded by mega-mansions and lexus SUVS and women wearing make-up that costs more than my entire wardrobe. But, most of the time I am feeling sorry for them. How can you connect with the truth of this world when you are hiding behind all that expensive stuff? What a sad life. Everything they have will turn to dust one day. Everything. Everything I have: hope, joy, peace, truth...will be with me forever, and ever and ever.

I want my daughter to enjoy lasting wealth - the soul wealth that giving and selflessness and wisdom bring. Yes, I know, as another friend said, I am not making much of a 'dent' by giving and sharing of myself as I choose to. But I'm not trying to make a 'dent', I'm trying to give what I can to whomever needs it. It shocks me that people can spend their lives chasing after the next best car, house, school, boyfriend, fill-in-the-blank. What does that leave you with at the end of the day?Nothing! Nada! I join with other kindred spirits and I stick my neck out, and I don't care if people laugh at me or think I'm foolish or naive.

I want my life to be a living prayer of gratitude and giving. I want to spend every last drop of my life energy making a difference in the lives of others. I want to die exhausted, used up, spent!
I want to die knowing I have lived as a witness to my daughter of the value of each and every life. What better legacy can I leave her?

Ok, sermon over. Move on, people.....

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Love of Her Life (And It's Not Me)

If you ask Anastasia whom she loves most in the world, she will not hesitate to tell you it is her cousin Tommy. Tommy just turned three, but sadly we could not be there for the festivities, because my brother (Tommy's dad) is stationed overseas. We only get to see him twice a year, but when we do, Tommy & Anastasia are velcroed to each other. She doesn't simply love him, she adores him... She will carry him around like this for hours if he wants.....
She will feed him his breakfast...

And play silly games with him as long as he wants...

He delights her in ways not even I , her mother, can. He is her Tommy, if you ask her. She said recently, " Mom, I'm sorry but I think I love Tommy more than anybody..."
I tell her it's perfectly ok. She sometimes imitates his voice and sayings when she misses him.
He calls her Nasa, and he already knows at his young age, that she will do anything in the world for him. Can't wait to see them together again!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

And Now For Something Completely Different...

(Yes, I'm a Monty Python fan...)
Anyway, in my copious free time, I collect photos of my dream cottage. I don't have a dream home, it's a dream cottage. It's small and cozy and the floors are uneven and the paint is peeling a bit, but the fireplace is always in use and my grandmother's throw rugs are everywhere, and, well, it's perfect. Mind you, I do not yet live in my dream cottage. I may not get there till I'm eighty, but a girl can dream, can't she? So, as a little vacation from RADland, I bring you glimpses of my imaginary abode. Make yourself at home! I don't want the chandelier (I'm not the chandelier type) but I love the bed, the walls and the fireplace!
Ooh! My heart leaps for joy when I see this cozy room!

Never a more perfect staircase have I seen...

We had a tub like this in my childhood home. I miss it. This kind of charm is hard to come by in a cookie-cutter 1950's ranch.

I love this kitchen area! It makes me want to go make tea and write letters to friends far away!

Ok, we now return to our regular programing.....

Yippee!!! So Happy!!!

I received this email today from Alex C, the journalist in Russia who helped us to find Anya back in 2006, and recently visited us. He has been helping me to re-find Anya. Here's his email, typos intact...lol:


I found contacts of college where Anya studies now (phone number: ______)and talk today about Anya with director Olga M_______. She was very frendly and promised me tomorrow enquire aboud Anya and find any contact phone to call her (director can't find her at a moment because, when I called, lessons was over due to time shift, and there are more then 400 students and director can't remember all of them).

So please be patient and I hope you will talk with Anya very soon. I'll keep you informed about any new info I'll get.Thank you again for your hospitality. There are was great to stay at your home in ________.

All the best,


I am blissfully happy! I am overjoyed! I did not realize how much I was holding in until I got this email and burst into tears. I cannot wait to hear her voice again! I cannot wait to tell her that I love her and miss her! I cannot wait to find out if we might be able to visit! We have not spoken to Anya since early June. It has been devastating, but I did not talk about it much...had to hold it in for Anastasia's sake. There is still alot in the way. I need to find another agency QUICK who might be willing to facilitate this older child adoption. I need to raise the funds that I lost in our agency's bankruptcy/dissolving. I'm not going to give up. There has GOT to be a way to get her here by August ( when she turns 18). I just know she will be here in God's time.

The picture above is a photo we received this past April, from my friend in Kemerovo, when I had purchased Anya a cellphone so we could easily reach her....hence the photo of her with the phone. It was stolen from her the next day.

Keep us in your prayers! I'm sooooo grateful to be (almost) back in touch with her!!!!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Manic Tuesday, And Its Aftermath

I knew it was coming. It's been a week of relative normalcy...no tantrums or raging. How long did I think it could last? Yesterday Anastasia was manic after school. Really manic. I don't have to explain it to you RAD moms, but for others - it was an afternoon of giggly silliness, acting very goofy, no eye contact, jumping, playing rough with the dogs, playing rough with me, saying outrageous things, and generally acting like she had had ten cups of espresso laced with tequila. I tried different techniques for helping her to regulate, but nothing was working. Thank God this episode coincided with her weekly therapy appointment.

At therapy, she became aloof and sarcastic. She wasn't having any of this "How are you feeling?' garbage. She wanted to stay on her 'high'. She used every trick in the book to avoid any real conversation with either me or H (her therapist). When she left to use the bathroom I clued H in on the afternoon of mania. I told her I knew something was brewing, because these manic episodes always preceded a meltdown of some kind. I've learned these past few years that manic episodes mean Anastasia is trying to keep from feeling something. It is usually about feeling vulnerable in some way. I didn't know what was up, but I knew I would be finding out in the not-to-distant future.

So, cut to this morning. I knew from the second I woke her that things were about to get ugly. Her response to "Good morning, Honey" was " Don't tell me to get up when you're not even up yourself. Leave me alone." I was lying across the other bed in the room at the time. I told her that was not a kind way to respond to her mom who was only saying good morning, and that maybe she could try again. " I'm NOT going to school today. I don't learn anything there. It's stupid."

So, now I knew that the issue was somewhat school related. I climbed in bed with her and rubbed her back and held her for awhile to help her calm down. She continued to tell me how useless school was and how I didn't understand her, nobody did, and that I obviously didn't care about her if I was sending her to school every day. (This is the same girl who told me only last week that she was starting to like school and that math was expanding her brain.) After fifteen minutes of cuddling, I managed to get her up and into the bathroom, but minutes later she was screaming and crying. " I hate myself! I hate school! I'm not normal! Why am I not normal? I'm ugly, I'm fat, and I'm stupid!" The hardest part is that these meltdowns always involve some kind of self-abuse: hitting herself or banging her head on a wall, scratching herself or ripping clothes, sometimes pulling her hair out.

This rant went on for what seemed like an eternity, even with my holding her and comforting her. Finally, with no other recourse, I moved her back to the safety of her bed, and I held her while she rocked. She eventually calmed down and said , "Mom, can I just start going again next week?"

"Why next week, honey? What's different about next week?"

" Nothing. I just want to go after that stupid drill."

Drill? I know they had the fire drill two weeks ago, when she freaked out and had days of regression afterwards. What drill was she referring to?" What are you talking about, honey?'

She went on to tell me about the 'stupid drill'. It was an upcoming lockdown drill where the school prepared for the possibility of a dangerous person (re: gunman) entering the school. All the rooms would be locked, all staff and students would be moved to the far corner of the room, crouched on the floor, shades drawn, etc.

Now the manic episode of yesterday made sense.

" Mom, they don't even know when it's happening..."

I promised I would call the school and we would find out when it was happening and she could either stay home that day or she could know the exact time, and be in the social worker's office where she felt safest. After some prodding, and once she was calm, she surprisingly agreed to go to school, knowing that she would be warned ahead of time about the drill.

I just spoke to the school social worker, and filled her in on everything. She said the drill is scheduled for Friday. She is going to call Anastasia's therapist and see what the best protocol would be for her. Stay home? Be present for the drill and have a (hopefully) successful experience of getting through it with some measure of control --knowing the time it will happen, and where she will be?

I'll keep you posted. I'm going to go enjoy my only hour of me time for today. Coffee and my favorite blogs, here I come.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Little History...

I thought I'd share some of Anastasia's history with you, as it might put things more in perspective for some. I'll leave out most of the detailed (identifying) information, like locations and names. But I'll try to be as specific as I can.

Anastasia was born in 1992 , in Western Siberia. Both of her birthparents were active drug-users, according to the medical papers I received upon adopting her. Her birthmother was an intravenous drug user before, during, and after her pregnancy. Having done some research, I think it was likely heroin that she used, but I will never know for sure. Anastasia exhibited signs of addiction/withdrawal after birth, with frequent seizures and high temps. She was low-birthweight, and born at 38 weeks gestation...likely due to the drug use by her birthmother. With the Russian medical system being what it is, she was diagnosed with epilepsy instead of NAS (Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome), which is the likeliest cause of her seizures.

Anastasia remained in the custody of her birthmother for just over 2 years. From her diagnosis of Reactive Attachment Disorder it is obvious she did not receive proper care and nurturing from her birthmother during this time. When Anastasia was 27 months old, her mother abandoned her and her older sister outdoors. The girls were taken in by neighbors who, I believe, subsequently abused them. (I'll fill in these details at a later date.) Though the details are not clear due to the language barrier, I was shown a report that documented that Anastasia was, in early 1995, purposely placed in an oven at 27 months of age and sustained significant injuries that caused her to be hospitalized for one year. Anastasia received 2nd and 3rd degree burns to her arms, back and head. She was not expected to live and, according to the medical reports, she experienced months of seizures while at the hospital. Her birthmother was located and went to prison.

At the age of three years, Anastasia was moved from the hospital to a Baby Home over three hours away from her birthplace. She spent 12 months here and was then moved to a “Rehabilitation” orphanage for children, ages four and up. Anastasia exhibited signs of RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder) and PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) from an early age -- although that is not what the doctor called them. Instead she was simply labelled as very shy, a "loner", possibly brain-damaged, etc, etc. I do know she was often sent to a local psychiatric hospital for long periods when her behavior was too disruptive at the orphanage. There was documentation I was shown at the orphanage of a 10 month stay in 2004. Anastasia reports being restrained and medicated most of the time at this last hospitalization. She was considered unadoptable for most of her childhood, and was only made available for adoption at age 12, even though her birthmother's rights were legally terminated in 1999.

Aside from the neglect at the hands of her birthmother, Anastasia also experienced years of abuse at the hands of other children as well as some caretakers at her long-term orphanage in Russia. To protect her privacy, I won't go into detail. However, I will say that the abuse came in many forms, and she endured it for eight years of her life. Aside from experiencing all forms of abuse, she also witnessed it with other children, and even animals. One of the first experiences she told me about was watching a kitten she had rescued and hidden in her room being thrown out a second story window by a staff person (to teach her a lesson.) At another time, she and other children at her orphanage who had been feeding a stray dog were forced to watch this dog being shot to death and then thrown in the back of a truck...all to dissuade them from ever giving out food to any of the local stray dogs again. Both of these stories were told to me with a blank look on her face, as I was told it was "no big deal" and she didn't care. Stories of secret night time visits from the older boys were told with complete indifference. Watching a friend her age make daily trips into the coal store house with older boys for sex was also "not a big deal." And the list goes on.

As for the medical history I was given, there were truths, half-truths and outright lies. I'm still trying to decipher which things might be true and which are not. As for what appears on the official records, they appear below. Many things listed are awkward Russian labels, so may sound a bit strange:

Perinatal encephalopathy ( Most Russian children are given this diagnosis)
Hyper anxiety syndrome (I'm sure this is actually her PTSD symptoms)
Lambliasis epilepsy ( No sign of it after nearly 4 years home)
Disease of the lung membrane (huh?)
Organic lesion of the central nervous system (again, huh?)
Two finger fractures (true)
Foot fracture (true)
Multiple facial lacerations ( sadly true - mostly from older girls fighting her for her food)
Scoliosis (minor)
scar tissue on right arm ( This was a half-truth. The 3rd degree burns left permanent scars not just on both her arms, but also her back and head.)

A few things they didn't mention:

a mouth full of rotten teeth (6 pulled since arriving home)
knotted scar tissue on her head in three places
countless scars all over her body that cannot be accounted for
giardia (at adoption)
anemia (at adoption)

Of course, the above medical info was not given to me until after my court hearing. Not that it would have had any bearing on my adoption. She was my daughter the moment I laid eyes on her. However, the fact that this info was kept from me until after the adoption is interesting, to say the least.

Ok, I'd love to write more, but I'm being summoned for foot-rubbing duty. 'Nite all .

Sunday, October 12, 2008

RAD Is Not A Life Sentence...

What a beautiful day we had yesterday, a day out of time. Just me and my girl celebrating her birthday together. And something occured in that gift of a day that lit up my heart like a forest fire:

We were driving to buy the biggest lego box she could find at Target. All the windows of the car were open, the wind was wild and giddy, and her current favorite cd was in the cd player (The Spring Standards, if you're curious).

She was singing along with her eyes closed and the most wonderful look of contentment spread across her face. At some point she opened here eyes and took a penny out of the middle console in the car. She held it up and said, 'God, thank you for this last year! This wish is that next year is the best year of ever and ever!' She tossed the penny out the window into the woods near the golf course.

'Honey, last year was a good year for you, wasn't it? I can't even imagine what amazing things this year is going to bring your way.' I wanted to acknowledge this moment of self-awareness

'No, mom, that's not what I was saying. That wish wasn't for me, it was for the whole world."

Her empathy caught me off guard. This? My daughter? Reaching outside the walls of her self, in praise? I felt my eyes welling up. She went on to explain to me that she knew that the world 'wasn't doing so well these days' and that lots of people were suffering -- losing homes, struggling to buy food, pay bills.

'I want God to take care of everybody this year, not just me.'

And with that, it was gone...the fear, the deep soul-ache, the hypervigilance, that darkness in her heart. For a moment I was given the most beautiful glimpse of my daughter outside of the prison that RAD ever holds her in. She was free, she was hopefilled , and she was holding the world in her hands.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Happy Sweet Sixteen To My Little Girl!

Today is my little girl's sixteenth birthday. I'm in shock! She's standing right here bugging me to go out shopping, so this'll be brief. Here's a photo from last year's festivities...

Off to shop for the biggest lego box she can find! Oh, how I wish I could turn back the years.....

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Ugly Face of RAD

When I restarted this blog last month, my plan was to write primarily about raising a child with RAD (Reactive attachment Disorder). I knew how important it was for me, in those early days, to have online friends to turn to when things were really rough. The thing is, Anastasia has been home for three and a half years. Alot of progress has been made in that time. I honestly don't think I would have had the strength to write about our life during the first two years. They were that bad. I lost friends, I lost faith, I lost my life as I had known it. I have grown so very much in these past years that I honestly do not recognize myself as the same person. There is me, and there is the pre-March 2005 me.

I guess I'm writing this post for several reasons:

1. I want to acknowledge that things were not always as positive and hopeful as they may now seem from my current blogging.

2. I want any struggling RAD moms reading my blog to know there is hope, even in the worst of circumstances.

3. I want to honor the journey I have taken these past few years. I am proud to have come through it. Not that we're done, by any means. I just mean I am grateful to God for seeing me through the storm (and what a storm it was) of the first two years, and for giving me hope that my daughter will someday, in some way, be ok.

I hope to blog over the next month about our first years home. It is hard to go back there, but I've been inspired by reading other blogs ,recently one called Life in the Grateful House at blogspot, that chronicle the really dark and painful stuff. (I tried to add the link to it, but it wouldn't work - sorry!)I so want to be a support to other moms just home with their little RAD ones ....or big RAD ones, for that matter.

My daughter is a far cry from the girl who hated me almost four years ago - the girl who hit me, punched me, spit at me, scratched me, cut me with sharp objects, pulled my hair, kicked me, destroyed my things, punched holes in my walls, ripped her clothes, ripped my clothes, ran away, tried to jump off the roof (often), strangled me, slapped me, strangled the dog, punched and kicked the dog, and the list could go on forever. The saddest part for me was not even all the abuse I took and witnessed. It was (and still is) losing key people in my life. As all RAD families know, no one, and I mean no one understands what we are going through. I lost friends, I lost jobs, I lost family members. God bless my family, I love them -- but most of them either do not understand or do not want to understand. My mother, I think, is simply too scared to try. She helps in ways she can handle, but was not and cannot be the kind of person you lean on in the dark times. Two brothers have been scared off by my daughter's behavior, and the one who sticks by her lives over 5,000 miles away in another country. Friends who said they would "do anything" to help when I was adopting scarcely talk to me anymore. But there are the others...

I now have two really wonderful friends who stick by me through thick and thin. One is an old college friend, Chris, who I reconnected with. Another is my friend Carmel who is going through her own private hell, but never misses calling me each day to see how I am and if I need anything. You really can get by with only one or two good friends like that.

So, enough rambling. I think I needed to vent. So much has been storing up in my heart and mind over the past few weeks. So much. I'll keep blogging about our present journey, but I think I will revisit the early days, for those who are up for it. If you'd rather avoid the gut-wrenching ugly stuff, I understand. Just skip over it. I'll make sure to label those kinds of posts so you can avoid them if you want.

Have a Glorious Day everyone. Be well....

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Mama, I'm Your Dizzy Weasel!

We just got home an hour ago from Anastasia's (minor) surgery. The doctor allowed me to be present for the whole thing. I can't believe I didn't faint. Aside from the extensive repair work on her gums, she had two extractions, one filling, a chip repaired on a front tooth, a major cleaning (the first ever), and 5 stitches. I have to say that when they first gave her a sedative to relax her before the anesthesia, she truly enjoyed herself.

" Mama, I think I'm drunk." She said after thirty minutes.

"No, honey, you're just feeling the effects of the medicine. You are not drunk."

"Mama, you have two faces and they are fighting each other for a spot on your body." Even the doctor laughed at that one. Then she tilted her head towards the nurse and blurted out " Hey, lady! Where the hell did you get that triple nose?" (I want to know where the heck she got that language from.)

" Honey, please don't use bad words, ok?" I asked gently.

" Mom, I'm trying like HELL just to get my eyes to work normally! Forget about my language!"

She tried several times to get up and walk away. The doctor was very gentle with her and explained that she couldn't get up because she could fall.

"Are you sayin' I don't know how to walk, mister?" She said, with the intention of being funny. She laughed hysterically. She was cracking herself up. After pretending that her oxygen monitor was a fish for ten minutes. She announced she had to go to the bathroom. It took the three of us to get her there, because she tried to run. " This is fun! I'm funny mama! I'm your dizzy weasel!"

I have no idea where she came up with that line.

I managed to get her on and off the toilet by myself, but they met me at the door to get her back to the chair. She tried with all her might to stay awake. It took so long that the doctor finally asked if he could clean her teeth while they were waiting.

" Sure..... what the hell...." she responded flippantly, with the toss of her hand. My daughter had turned into a foul-mouthed sailor.

Before she fell asleep, she motioned me to come closer. She grabbed my shirt in her fist to bring me close to her face. She then told me she loved me and that if she died, please give all her money to Matilda. (Matilda is the dog.)

After three long hours of watching (gulp) all the work was done. She 'came to' eventually and was asked to answer a few basic questions. What is your name? Anastasia. Where do you live? Boston. (Well, at least she was in the right state.) Then they released her to go home. She stumbled out of the building and to the car, leaning on me, and fell asleep instantly. When I woke her at home to get out of the car, she opened her eyes and smiled a huge white-toothed smile, " Hi mom!"

" Hi Honey, how are you feeling?" I asked as I slowly slipped my arm around her to guide her out of the car.

" I'm feeling like I'm not scared of doctors anymore."

" That's great honey! He really was a wonderful doctor." I agreed.

By the time I got her in the house and went to get her a glass of water, she was curled up sound asleep in her bed. (The doctor had said it was ok if she slept a few hours once we got home.) I climbed in with her and held my baby close and just enjoyed the moment of quiet, holding her and listening to the in and out of her breath. I love moments such as these.

When she wakes up I will tell her that she is such a brave girl, my dizzy weasel :)

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

We Located Anya...Again!

See that small red dot? The one marking the region of Kemerovo? My daughter Anya is there somewhere.

So, as my friends reading this blog know, we lost touch with Anya in June, when she was moved out of the orphanage. We tried calling the orphanage weekly, still, in hopes of getting a sympathetic heart on the other end who would give us an idea of where she was. No luck. Since June it has only been prayers that have helped me to keep my sanity about this. I had to trust that God was keeping an eye on her, because not only could I not watch over her myself, I had no idea where she was anymore. Scary. And heartbreaking.
Well, last night we were able to secure some basic information that put my heart at ease. You see, God works in mysterious ways. Just when I was losing all hope, I received an email from Alex, a friend from Russia. He is the wonderful man who conducted the search to find Anya in the first place. Well, he was in the States and hoping to visit the Boston area for a few days, and could he see us. I arranged for Alex to stay at an apartment my parents own nearby, and last night he came over, gifts in hand, to see us. After catching up, Alex offered to call the orphanage himself. He is well-known in Russia, as a television journalist, and I knew it might very well open the lines of communication to have him call. The orphanage staff was sure to remember him from our last visit there, when Anya and Anastasia were the subject of a tv documentary.
So, Alex was dumbfounded that the orphanage director was not letting us know where Anya had been moved. After two failed calls, we waited an hour and called back. Alex finally spoke at length to someone in charge, and was able to confirm that Anya had been moved very nearby, to a dormitory attached to a trade school. They had put her in a program for learning how to paint (as in rooms and houses, not canvases). They would not give him the name of the trade school or a phone number, but Alex is sure he can secure this information once he gets back to Russia. He will also be checking into whether Anastasia and I could visit in December, for Christmas. I am just so relieved to know she is not on the streets. I trusted that God was caring for her, but I have to admit it is much less stressful knowing the facts!
In the meantime, I am going to have a translator help me place yet another call to the Ministry of Education in Kemerovo. (They oversee all adoptions in the region.) They had given me permission to proceed with an independent adoption just before I had an agency accept us. I'm going to call and explain the situation ( the bankrupt agency) and see if, once again, they would grant me permission to do this on my own. Independent adoptions are not allowed in the region right now, but I am pretty sure the Head of the MOE can do whatever she deems appropriate. In our last conversation, she was very clear that she wanted Anya to be adopted by me. I have ten months to complete this.
Keep me in your prayers. Aside from the paperwork and finding facilitators and lawyers and translators in the region (and with my pigeon-Russian no less!), I need to also make up the funds that I lost to the bankrupt agency.
Prayers prayers prayers. I know God wants her home....