‘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, November 30, 2008

Tornado Warning

So, there is a tornado warning in effect right now, here in central Florida. Two tornadoes have touched down a few miles away. I've never been here during a tornado warning. It's pretty surreal. Some internal house alarm keeps going off and reminding us that the warning is in effect. The wind is whipping around the house, and the rain pouring into the porch, sideways. It's actually pretty cool. Anastasia is hiding in the guest room watching Lord of the Rings. She doesn't like entertaining the idea of a tornado. It conjures up images of witches and houses falling for her. She'd rather hibernate and immerse herself in Middle Earth until the wind stops. I've been standing on the porch watching the weather do its' thing. If I only listen, it's like being home in Massachusetts during a nor'easter. I love the sound of the wind howling. There is something very primal about it.

Anyway, this computer is so very slow it was only today that I had the patience to use it. I've already reached my limit after one paragraph! I miss blogging. I miss reflecting about our life and chronicling it each day. I feel like I'm kind of floating in space without it -- no anchor, if that makes sense. The trip has been a mixed bag for both of us. There are alot of heavy drinkers in my family, of which I am not one. It's hard to watch the disappointment get the best of my daughter, with uncles choosing nightly binge drinking over spending time with her. She cried all the way to Target last night about it. She is confused and sad, and I don't blame her. If only they could see the pain they are causing. I'm done with talking about it. It does no good. If they only knew how one or two hours of their time and attention would feed her. She craves it and feels so unworthy when they ignore her. 'Mom, they don't call me anymore, they don't try to hug or kiss me. They don't hardly look at me..." was some of the conversation last night. I wish I could take the pain from her.

One a better note, her relationship with my mom has grown and deepened. My mom is giving her attention and support and they are spending time talking and playing games. I'm so grateful. Anyway, apologies for the depressing post. I'm pretty down this week. My family is so distant these days, and their priorities are very different from mine.

I'll likely delete this post later, but for now I needed to speak this. I needed to acknowledge that things are not great and I'm praying for eyes to be opened. Anastasia deserves the attention, love and support from all of my family. If only they knew how much pain their indifference and broken promises cause this damaged little girl. They have the power to be part of her healing. I want them to make that choice.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Florida, Here We Come...

I'm not sure if I'll have access to a working computer while we're away. My mom's is so slow that I'd rather experience chinese water torture than use it. So, if I can't post till December 8th, my heartfelt apologies. I'm hoping I'll find a good internet cafe. I think there's one at DisneyQuest, if I remember correctly.

Just to satisfy your curiosity, here's what we plan on doing: eat lots of turkey, rummage thru my dad's files, lounge by the pool, take long walks in the woods, ride bikes, swim, and, of course, visit the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, MGM studios, and Animal Kingdom. (Don't worry, one of my brothers works for Disney, so we can get in free.)

There are miles of trails in the town where my mom lives, and we often see alligators on our walks! We've also seen owls, hawks, wild boar, deer, strange birds that are taller than me, snakes, armadillos, and all kinds of other 'critters.' Anastasia is both scared and exhilarated by these encounters. I'll make sure our camera is with us this time!

Hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving!

(and Happy 74th Birthday , Dad!)

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Joys of Living with an ESL Learner

Anastasia says things that crack me up every day. I just forget to write them down. The slip-ups with English are getting more scarce, so I want to jot down a few recent ones while they are still in my head. I am dreading the day when these mistakes don't happen anymore!

Of course the best ones happened when she was just learning English. Like 'Chicken tree' for "trick or treat' and 'condom' for condo. I loved the look at my mom's face when Anastasia asked to go to her 'condom' sometime..lol. Anyway, here are a few from the past 2-3 weeks:

"Mom, you crap me up." (And I thought I was being funny...)

"Mom, can I get plastic surgery? I'm really subconscious about my boobs." (self explanatory)

"Mom, you are getting on my last straw. Leave me alone!" (She gets last straw and last nerve confused all the time...adorable)

"B always has a ship on his shoulder." (that must hurt.)

"He's just playing the devil's avatar." (Could she be watching too much of a certain cartoon? She meant to say advocate, of course.)

If you have any to share from your own kids, I'd love to hear them!

Thanksgiving and Giving Thanks... For You, Dad

(Photo: taken at my parent's home last Thanksgiving: l-r my cousin Nora, brother Steve, me, my SIL Jana, and "Captain" my uncle and godfather.)

Anastasia and I are heading to Florida for two weeks. (Yay frequent flyer miles!) We'll be visiting my mom and having Thanksgiving with her and at least two of my brothers. It will be the first Thanksgiving without Captain, my uncle and godfather, who died of cancer in February. It will be strange, as he had become the patriarch of the family since my Dad died two years previously. I miss both of them so very much.

Thanksgiving usually falls on my Dad's birthday, too, so it was (and still is) always a very special holiday in our family. As bittersweet as it is, I'm still looking forward to going, because it has been over a year since I've had the time to visit there. And I love to poke around my dad's office and library. He was a writer, among many other things, and we still have file cabinets and desk drawers full to the brim with his notes, story ideas, research, etc. I even found his high school diary on my last visit while hunting around in his papers. It was so fun to read! My dad kept notes on his life starting when he was about ten. I probably know his childhood better than my own. He had just finished a book on his childhood when he died. He had been working on it on and off for a decade. My brother and I had hoped to get it edited and to the publisher by now, but life has gotten in the way.

My dad never met Anastasia. But he had been ready for her. He had a photo of her next to his bed, a closet full of gifts wrapped and ready for her, and even a nickname. " I'm calling her Annie, whether she likes it or not." was what he had said. He had loved the Little Orphan Annie cartoons when he was growing up, and that, he said, was why he would be calling her Annie. I told him she may not like it, but his answer was " Well, she'll get used to it." Anyway, it was not to be. He died on Father's Day, three weeks after I brought her home. We had plans to fly down the following week to see him. Instead, she met him when he was lying in his coffin on the very day she was meant to meet him in Florida. At the wake, she put a dollar in his pocket and a green apple by his side. She told me ( in Russian) it was in case he got hungry on the trip to heaven.

His death was actually the first experience of bonding I had with my daughter. For those first three weeks home she was the poster child for RAD, and I could not get within a few feet of her without being hit, pushed, scratched or otherwise abused. Emotionally, it was the same story. She would not let me in. But when my dad died, I fell apart. I mean, I really fell apart. I guess seeing me so vulnerable struck a chord with her. She reached out to me, in her own way, by being a little more tolerant of me. She even held my hand the day of the funeral, which was a huge victory to me. Of course, she did this in private. Once we were in public view, she took that hand right back.

So, in many ways, my earliest memories of my daughter are forever linked with my grief at losing my Dad. When I think of her coming home, it is all tied in with picking out his coffin, and choosing the right burial plot, and writing his eulogy. I am glad she was there for such a defining moment of my life. She feels close to my dad because of it. She talks to him before she goes to sleep at night. She asks him advice. She dreams of him. I even found an old photo of him hidden inside her pillow once. And I know, somehow, he hears her. They would have been best buddies. They were, by everyone's account, two peas in a pod. My Dad was tough, opinionated, gutsy, rebellious, and boy did he love to stir things up. He would tell others exactly what he thought of them, no matter how dangerous that might be at times. He sucked the marrow out of life. And he never, ever stopped asking questions. His granddaughter was cut from the same mold.

I remember someone meeting Anastasia after she had been home a few months. I don't remember who it was now, but I do remember it was an old family friend. After meeting her they quipped, " Geez, you went half way around the world to find a kid and you came home with your father!"

That's the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Just Do It

Take a moment, right now, to just breathe and empty your mind of every worry.

Remind yourself that everything is ok. Remind yourself that you are loved by someone.

Remind yourself that you matter.

Step out of your present circumstances and know that 'all shall be well'.

God holds you in His hands. He will not let you fall.

There...now isn't that better?

Friday, November 21, 2008

To the Hundreds of Pro-Gun Men From Ar15.com Currently Reading My Blog

So, some man decided it would be fun to post my profile and blog address over on a very pro-gun, pro-hate, anti-everything I stand for website and forum. They had great fun picking apart my profile and making fun of it. It sent literally hundreds of these guys to my site. I went to statcounter and suddenly I had over one hundred hits in less than thirty minutes.

I momentarily got scared and put my blog on private mode. Then I thought, what the heck am doing? Many of the men on that site talk about defending rights and the right to this, and the right to that ( that is, mingled in with all the hate and anti-gay stuff they are posting.) Anyway, if they really are as 'American' as they say they are on that forum, then they should be my biggest supporters in my right to post whatever I want to here on MY blog.

So, to all you guys who have been having a laugh at my expense, I hope you'll acknowledge that in defending your rights so vehemently on your site, you are, in turn, defending mine. Yes, I choose to blog about kindness and caring for others weaker than I, and about things you deem to be "hippie crap". You seemed particularly bothered by my profile stating I "look up to Gandhi and MLK." I hope you will allow me the very 'American' privilege of "agreeing to disagree."

Although it was upsetting to read posts with so many of you degrading and poking fun at my beliefs, I support your right to do so. I hope that you'll leave me in peace now and move on from this bit of 'fun' you had. I write this blog to support other moms like me. I am a single adoptive mom whose daughter lived through 12 years of hell before she came to me. I'm doing everything I can to help her to become a good person. I may seem like a 'hippie' to you ( that was one of the nicer sentiments anyway...) but I , like you, am far more complicated than a profile.

if it helps you to feel less bothered by me, I come from a family of veterans. One of my brothers currently serves, and I, like you, am indebted to him and others like him who defend our country. But remember, they are defending ALL of us...me included, and all those inalienable rights that we all enjoy as Americans.

Hope you will leave me in peace.

Beyond Consequences, Logic and Control...The Answer To So Many of Life's Problems!

For those of you who are a Heather Forbes' groupie like me, do you ever imagine what the world would be like if everyone read her books and lived the BCLC mindset? I know I may be sounding a bit naive here, but I do think about that, alot. You see, Heather and Bryan (Post) have not only transformed my relationship with my daughter, they have transformed my relationship with the world. It is impossible to practice their methods and not see a marked difference with how I interact with the world, and how the world, in turn, responds to me.

I also practice Heather's methods in my classes. Yes, sometimes I am working with at-risk children, RAD children, PTSD-diagnosed children. But most often, lately, I am in your typical public and private school classrooms. I choose to interact with every child using what I have learned from BCLC. Not only do I notice the difference, but so do the children.....and their parents.

'How are you so patient with them? I would be pulling my hair out!' said one parent this week after observing my class of ultra-rowdy 2nd and 3rd graders.

' You seem to honestly love them and connect with them on such an authentic level. How do you give them such focused attention without going crazy?' asked another just last night.

I want to start carrying copies of the book around with me so, in such instances, I can just pass it on to others. I want them to know it is simply a shift in perception, really. A willingness to be fully present and, for me, it has much to do with being willing to face my own crap. Yup. I've found that eighty percent of what I do that is different now, is simply getting my own past out of the way -- recognizing my own triggers and fears that get in the way of truly connecting with other human beings. Believe it or not, it has even helped me with my landlord and my oil company! Instead of being on the defensive when I get a call about an overdue bill, I listen. I take it in, and respond with truth and kindness. (Kindness solves a multitude of problems, surprisingly.)

I so want to go to one of Heather's seminars and learn to be a practitioner. I know I will someday. I believe in her method so much, and I believe it is the answer in so many other spheres as well -- not just with RAD kids.

If you are a new visitor to my blog, the book I am speaking of is here. Go read it if you haven't. I want to remember to post more about Heather's book, because it is the single most important influence on my daughter's and my life. (Well, besides God and prayer.) I just take it for granted often, because I've been practicing it for three years now. Time to be grateful again, and pass it on!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Transitions and Nightmares and Hugs...Oh My!

Anastasia had a nightmare last night. It's been awhile, but I knew it was coming. Whenever we approach a new transition, the nightmares come: Start of school? A week of nightmares. End of Grammy's visit? three days of nightmares. Vacation coming up? One nightmare and counting.

Next week Anastasia and I head to Florida to visit my mom and two of my brothers. Nothing delights her more than going to Florida, but the anxiety of the transition there is always really tough for her. The first sign of trouble is the mania. Lots of silliness, laughing, goofing off. Then a need for extra cuddling on the hour. Finally, the nightmares. They are always the same theme: the orphanage, physical abuse, and my abandoning her.

This one bears the telling, as some of you might have insight into what is going in in that little head. Ok, in her dream, she was back at the orphanage and the staff was chasing after her and trying to beat her. She decides to hide outside, and stands still in a garden, pretending to be a plant. The staff runs right by her not seeing her, but there is a very old woman sitting on a couch outside in the snow. She has a lamp there, too, but no walls or anything. She lives outside. She stares at Anastasia for "hours" and finally Anastasia can't be still anymore, and takes a breath. The old woman sees her and says " Ahh! I knew you weren't really a plant!" Anastasia is terrified that the woman will tell the staff about her, but the woman says she is very lonely and if Anastasia will be her friend, she won't tell the staff her whereabouts. Suddenly I am there at the orphanage, and Anastasia runs to me crying saying she missed me and hugs me tight. She thinks she is going home, but then I tell her I have things to do, and I leave her there and fly home alone. Somehow the staff come back, and she runs and hides in the orphanage basement, curls up in a corner and sobs. She wakes up crying (in real life) and calls to me...

Of course I listen and help her to process it. I remind her that she is never going back to the orphanage, and that I would never leave her. She asks me to hug her really tight. She says "My awake mind knows you would never do that, but my sleeping mind still thinks you could."

Then, out of nowhere: "Mom? Am I a bad person? I feel like a bad person on the inside."

"What makes you feel like a bad person?" I ask.

"I don't want to visit Anya in Russia. I'm scared. I don't want to see her again until she is living here. It's too hard. I'm a bad sister."

Now, we have no immediate plans to visit Anya. We simply don't have the funds right now. But somehow, I think this trip to Florida is connected in her mind with not going to Russia.

Then she adds, " Mom, I think part of this dream was about baby Ariella. I let my heart love her and then she was gone. I don't like that feeling. It feels empty in my heart. I think that old lady in my dream is me wanting Ariella back."

So, Ariella gets mixed up with Anya feelings that gets mixed up with Russia feelings that, in turn, are somehow connected to Florida (travelling, I guess.)

I hold her and run my fingers thru her hair and we talk and talk, and hug and hug, until she finally seems regulated. Suddenly, she is ok, and goes off to work on her puzzle. At the door, she turns to speak to me:

'Mom, just so you know, if I die in that plane crashing on the way to Florida next week, I love you more than anything in the whole universe."

Well, we obviously still have more to work through.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The World As Our Classroom

As you know, school has been a rough ride for Anastasia. For whatever reason, it causes her huge anxiety which nothing will relieve. Even with medication nothing changed. Yes, some of it is due to the trauma of abuse she suffered at school in Russia. School was not a safe place. In fact, some of her most vivid memories of abuse are from school. One example: She was beaten pretty badly once for stealing food from the school kitchen. Children from the orphanage were not allowed to have school food, as there was no money for it. They did, however, have to watch all the other children from the village eat at school. But they were expected to wait until they returned to the orphanage for dinner. She told me one day she was just too angry and too hungry to wait, so she snuck into the kitchen to steal what she could. She was caught and not only beaten, but reported to the orphanage, where she was beaten a second time.

Anyway, I'm sure you can see why school is considered unsafe territory. Believe me, I've tried. Her teachers have tried, the guidance counselors and social workers have tried, certain teachers have gone above and beyond trying. Still, she is full of anxiety every time she walks thru the door, and no interventions, medication, supports, or modifications have worked. So, we find ourselves homeschooling/unschooling again. It is astounding how open she is to learning when she is in what she considers a 'safe environment' -- home. She is a voracious learner when she feels safe and not on guard. Her favorite thing to do is make up math problems that are too hard for me to solve, so that she must teach me the answer. She learns well by teaching. She especially loves to learn about different cultures.

In late February I have a long break from teaching - four weeks off. We have been discussing what to do with this time. The other day I presented her with the idea of travelling to a place she'd like to learn about. I would want it to be a working/learning vacation -- not just a sit-on-your-butt kind of thing. She surprised me with a wish to go to Africa! We began researching volunteer abroad programs for families and found a great one that a friend of mine has used before. We started learning all we could, and contacted them for more information on their Tanzanian program. It is three to four weeks long and includes working with infants at an orphanage, going on safari, staying with a Maasai tribe for a few days, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro (part way), and even a side trip to Zanzibar. Anastasia was very excited to learn that she was old enough to volunteer and could work in the local orphanage. She loves the idea of helping out with other orphans in some small way. So, we are seriously looking into this. I've travelled a great deal, and Anastasia has been to Germany, France and the Czech Republic with me, as well as a return trip to Siberia. She is an excellent traveller and has no problem roughing it. In fact, all of her best qualities seem to come out when we travel.

Of course, the only issue is money. She has saved close to $2,000 in the bank, but I need to find a way to come up with $2,000 more. If I take on just one more class per week, I should be able to manage. Plus, I'd be motivated to save for such a trip. I'm great at cutting corners, so I'll just do more of that. I'll keep you posted on our plan. I definitely want us to go somewhere in that block of time. If Africa is her first choice, I will find a way to make that happen. I've always wanted to go, but I never though she'd be interested. I also never imagined it'd be affordable, but doing a service program cuts out the cost of hotel, food and transportation! I'm excited! Tanzania is a gorgeous country, and I have a good friend who used to live there. If you've ever been there, let me know!

Birth Parents

Anastasia is fortunate to have contact with her maternal grandmother. We found her, along with Anastasia's sister, back in December 0f '05. In April '06 we met her, and she gave us this photo of Anastasia's birthparents. Alex, her birth father, holds baby Anya (Anastasia's older sister.) Oksana, her birthmother, holds a small bouquet of roses. This was taken the day they left the hospital with their firstborn, Anya.

I feel so lucky to be able to have this little part of my daughter's story. Just seeing her in their faces is a gift. She has her birthmom's eyes and nose. She has her birthfather's lips and hands and coloring. I can't help feeling a great sense of loss when I see this photo, too. Although they are not smiling in the photo, I imagine the hope they must have felt bringing Anya home. I know they did not envision what was to happen two years down the road. Sometimes when I look at this photo, I weep.

Anastasia gave me permission to post this photo for three days. She said she wants my online friends to see it, but she doesn't want it there forever. So, here is the photo. It will be taken down on Saturday.

Thank you Alex and Oksana for choosing life. Thank you for the gift of your girls. I know it is not the life you planned for them, but in your greatest suffering, my greatest joy was born. I am grateful to you for eternity. May God bless you and keep you. I so look forward to the day when we will all be reunited together, and I can embrace you both and share with you all the joy your daughters have brought me. You have my forever gratitude and love.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Cutting Corners and I Spoke Too Soon...

I spoke too soon! I do have time to post before Sunday!

If you are wondering who that is a photo of, read on:

Turns out one of my classes got cancelled today and I have the afternoon free! In about an hour Anastasia and I are going out adventuring (meaning we have no plans except to have fun.) But I have an hour free to read and post!

So, an update is in order. I know I am not the only one struggling financially. It's a tough year. We all need to cut corners. Well, we are absolutely doing that around here, and I thought I'd share some of those changes with you, for inspiration --in case any of you are in the same boat!

Like Lisa over at The Grateful House, we have kept the heat off or extremely low. We are relying on blankets, sweaters and socks. But we are determined to look at the bright side of it all! It's fun to cuddle up at night with my daughter, with four blankets, two dogs, one cat and spare socks :) We could see our breath this morning in the room! (Our house is not insulated...gulp). But it was fun to stay cuddled while we waited for the tea to boil. The dogs have a penchant for sleeping on our feet, so that's a big help! I am also caulking all the windows and doors today, so that will cut down on the heating bill, and we have turned down the water temp a bit...every little bit helps!

As far as food goes, we have started shopping only at the discounted market. I hate it there because it is always so crowded, but we are trying to weekdays so it's not too bad. I cut out Starbucks...a big deal for me. I do have a few free Starbucks coupons, but I'm going to save those for moments of desperation. No more junk food and desserts either. All our food money is going towards healthy stuff.

I've also just switched all our prescriptions over to Target. I feel really bad about that, because I love my local apothecary, but I don't have a choice. Case in point: Anastasia's generic brand celexa is $32 a month. At Target? $4!!! I've also cut out our monthly chiropractic care (saves $70 per month), renting movies (about $20 per month), fancy pet food (saves about $25 per month), dry-cleaning (saves about $20 per month), expensive hair and body products (back to suave for everything :), cancelled all magazines (I used to get Russian Life magazine, Real Simple, Adoptive Families, Nick Jr, Mothering, and British Magazine) This should save me about $150 this year, I'm guessing. I also emailed every catalog I get to us purged from the list - no use tempting myself! The only exception I'm making is Pottery Barn, only because the pictures inspire my decorating. I've even cut our voice mail and all extras on our landline phone, and I'm not sending Christmas cards this year! ( That is hard to let go of...)

Lastly, and the biggest change...we are getting a roommate! My friend Rhiannon is in need of a place to live for awhile, and we are in need of a roommate to help us cut costs. Anastasia is really excited about it. Rhiannon (Rae to us) is one of a handful of friends who isn't overwhelmed by her. In fact, she's really wonderful with her. It is a great arrangement for both of us. I get the benefit of Rae's influence - she is kind, helpful, intelligent, creative, resourceful, and...vegan! And she gets the benefit of living with people who love her and will welcome her just as if she were family. She is just back from the Peace Corps and is finding Boston a very difficult place to secure a job. In our area, there are still many jobs available. Plus, she will be going to school right down the street from my house. (She is getting her masters in mental health counseling.)

So..if you have any other ideas on how to cut corners...let me know! By the way, some things I won't be cutting out:

care packages to Anya in Russia
phone calls to Anya in Russia
the occasional chocolate bar
my favorite lotion
Pomegranates and avocados. (Though they're expensive, they are Anastasia's favorite foods!)

How are you cutting corners?

PS: Did you figure it out? The photo is of Rae, our new housemate :)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

I'll Be Back Soon!

My work schedule has gotten insanely busy, so I'm finding very little time to post! This will change after next Saturday, but in the mean time, I doubt I'll be able to post. I didn't want any of you wondering what happened to me. If you actually are disappointed I won't be adding much here in the next week, feel free to browse thru my 2006-o7 archives, as I'd added many posts there recently that were on another blog site. I'm closing that one down and consolidating everything.

Anyway, in the meantime, be well -- and feel free to comment on past posts! I really enjoy hearing your thoughts. See you soon! Happy Reading!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Tag, You're It

I'm very late with this, but I got distracted by this nasty stomach bug and just plain forgot! I was tagged last week by Diana at Gold to Refine. And I'm finally getting to it - sorry Diana!

Here are the rules:

1. Link to the person who tagged you and post the rules.

2. Share seven random or weird facts about yourself.

3. Tag 7 random people at the end of your post with their links.

4. Let each person know they've been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

So here are my 7 weird things, though they are not weird to me:

1. I talk to trees (usually telling them how wonderful they are) on my daily walks & sometimes hold them while doing so (if no one is around.) I can feel their gratitude.
2. I saw a fairy when I was ten years old. It was amazing.
3. I used to hear incredibly beautiful songs in my dreams as a child, and then I'd sneak down to play them on my piano at three or four in the morning. I still can play some of them.
4. I have kept detailed journals since I was ten and still have every last one.
5.I love the smell of my dog's feet. I do not know why.
6. In 1991, I lived in a medieval castle turned convent in England with a group of nuns, and briefly considered joining their order.
7. I always have to put lotion on the bottom of my feet before standing barefoot on a rug. If I don't, it hurts my teeth! ( I know this maybe borders on 'too weird', but try having to live with it!)

I now tag:

1. Lisa, my online kindred spirit. We haven't met in person, but feel like we've known each other for years. She is an amazing woman. go read her blog if you haven't. She has a RAD daughter just like me!

2. Holly, another online mom I admire for her deep deep love for her sweet sweet butterfly girl!

3. CJ., a cool and awesome RAD mom who has waaay too much in common with me..lol.

4.Matroyshka, who lives my dream life up in Maine with her beautiful daughter Jupiter.

5. JenMac, a blogging mom I just discovered and LOVE for her honesty.

6. Torina, the RAD mom I aspire to be like. Her blog cracks me up as often as it makes me cry.

7. Queen Kristina, whom I found thru Torina's blog. This girl cracks me up so badly, I need spackle after reading her posts.

Go visit their blogs. And girls, get writing!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

100 Alternatives for Young TV Junkies

First, thanks for all the well-wishes! I think I am on the mend. Spent the whole day in bed again(with frequent trips to a certain other room in the house...) I won't burden you with the details.

So....onto the subject of this post:

As I mentioned, Anastasia has been a tv junkie the past few days. She knows I've been incapable of monitoring her 'intake'. This afternoon, as I was starting to feel better, I suggested she try to break away from it a bit. "Mom, there is nothing to do! Plus, I'm not good at anything." she whined. She's an expert whiner. I took the chance to remind her of this fact. "See?" I said, "You're good at something. You're the best whiner on the eastern seaboard. That's got to count for something."

She made a grumpy face, but then couldn't help giggling a little.

I decided to drag out the list I made her two years ago. It's a list I made for just such a time like this. If I tell her things she can do, I get every excuse in the book. But if I hand her this long list, sometimes it actually inspires her a little. Here is the list. It's not actually 100, but it does the trick:

100 ALTERNATIVES to Watching Television

1. READ a book!
2. BAKE cupcakes!
3. PLAN a a picnic!
4. MAKE water balloons!
5. START a gratitude journal!
6. GO to the library!
7. BUILD a fort
8. LEARN sign language
9. START an indoor garden!
10. TAKE a bike ride
11. USE your roller blades!
12.PAINT a picture, or wood or a rock…
13. GO on a walk
14. CREATE a book from scratch.
15. WRITE your sister or grandmother or someone far away a letter
16. PLAY with your puppy, TEACH her tricks
17. LEARN a new song
18. PLAY your drum
19. GO to the beach
20.PLANT a tree
21.VISIT the nursing home down the street
22. START a dog walking business
23.VISIT Celeste or Sharon, or any other neighborhood girl
24. CLEAN your room
25. MAKE UP a song
26. DRAW cartoons
27. TAKE photos in the neighborhood
28. MAKE a movie with your video camera
29. COLLECT state quarters
30. COUNT all the change in your piggy bank
31. TRY ON costumes from my giant costume storeroom
32. WORK ON your scrap book
33. ALPHABETIZE your dvd collection
34. BRAID your hair into a million little braids
35. MAKE UP a dance to your favorite song
36. WRITE THE PRESIDENT @ The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington D.C. 20500.
37. Make a NATURE SCULPTURE by collecting shells, rock, sticks, and pine cones and things from around the neighborhood. Use glue to create a unique sculpture with it.
38. Make JUICE BARS. Easy to do with just toothpicks & an ice tray! Experiment with combinations of juices.
39. Cut out interesting pictures from magazines and organize them into the illustrations for a BOOK YOU WRITE.
40. Learn the NAMES OF TREES all the trees in our neighborhood. Or better yet, give them names yourself!
41.Make a "Family Map". Hang up a large world map and place stickers on places where all our cousins and aunts and uncles live.
42. Set up a cozy OUTDOOR READING CAVE. ( or indoors if its February..lol) Use cushions, pillows and blankets from around the house.
43. Make FAERIE ICE CUBES by freezing an ice tray ½ full and then adding edible petals (lavender, nasturtium, roses) Cover other 1/2 with water and freeze hard.
44. Make ICE HANDS by filling latex gloves with water and closing them with rubber bands. Put them in the freezer & Pull off the gloves when frozen. ( don't like them, just stick them on the front lawn & watch people laugh)
45. COLLECT ACTUAL STARDUST at the beach. Drag a strong magnet along the beach. About 20% of the nickel and iron particles collected on the magnet are bits from meteors.
46. Make your own PLAY-DO. Combine 2 cups flour, 1 cup salt, & 2 tsp cream of tartar. Pour 2 cups warm water, 2 tbsp oil, and 1 packet Kool-Aide in a pan and add the dry ingredients, mixing well over heat on stove for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat when hard to mix and knead while cooling. Store in airtight container.
47.Make PAPER "FAERIE" LANTERNS to line the front walk. Decorate the outside of lunchbags and roll down a 3" to 4" cuff. Put several inches of sand in each bag and a votive candle.
48. Build a FAERIE COTTAGE out of twigs and things.
49. Create a SCAVENGER HUNT in the house!
50. Make your own puzzle out of a photograph or big painting you made.

And here is what Anastasia ended up doing today after reading this list:
~She made a 'time capsule' and hid it in our attic space for future tenants.
~She made fried potatoes but cut them into the shape of letters that are in our names.
~Finally, she found an old bottle with a stopper. She cleaned it out, and then wrote a letter and put it inside. She then called my friend Carmel and asked her to drive her to the lighthouse so she could throw it off the cliff into the ocean. And she did!

Now share some of your ideas!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Warning: Whining and Bad Language Ahead

I'm sick. Really sick. I HATE being sick.
I got some kind of flu bug and I spent the day in bed and/or feeling guilty about being in bed and/or trying not to throw up. I hate throwing up more than almost anything. Anyway, Anastasia was delighted with this turn of events - I didn't have the energy or strength (or desire!) to monitor her tv hours. She spent pretty much the entire day with the Disney channel, I think. Now she's fast asleep, and I'm wide awake, since I slept the entire day. I'm too sick and weak to do laundry or clean, too head-achey to read a book, and too antsy to watch tv. So...I came here. And, yes, I'm whining. Because it really sucks being sick! And I'm a baaad patient. Can you tell? The kind that people do NOT want to be around. I just want my mom, and lots of sympathy, but I'm getting neither.

Anyway, that's all I can muster for tonight. Send me healing/healthy energy and prayers if you have any to spare. I wouldn't wish my sick self on anyone. I'm honestly a total whiny b*tch when I feel like this. I just want to feel better!!!!

Whaaaaaaaa........ ( cue sympathy.)

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Little Visitor on the Way

I'm singing!
I'm dancing!
I'm over the moon!
I just got the news that my brother and his wife are expecting their second child!
I couldn't be more happy for them!
Or me!

(Umm, can you tell I love babies?)

Congrats Jim, Jana and Tommy!

And Now for Something Completely Different..

As per my promise, here's this week's break from blog-as-usual:

Found this picture just now. Thought I'd post it. It's my brothers and me, June 2005. It was actually taken in the days just after my father's funeral. We went to his favorite Irish pub to have dinner and reminesce. My brother Dan is the tallest and is one year younger than me, (though he'll swear to you he is the youngest.) Steve is in the blue. He's the baby of the family and nine years younger than me. I'm center, and hold the title of the oldest AND shortest. My brother Jim, dark hair & glasses, is four years my junior and the most well-travelled of us all, as he's in the military. (It's an unspoken contest in our family to visit the most countries before we die. Jim is winning.) Jim is the only one married, and Jim and I are the only two with kids.

Just So You Know...

I'm in the process of merging my old semi-private blog into this one. All the posts are mostly from 2005-2007. I'm going to delete the old blog that's on another site, and didn't want to lose all the posts, so they'll be coming here, but....s-l-o-w-l-y. It's going to take awhile, because the cut & paste thing is monotonous, and I'm way too impatient.

So, anyway, if you're noticing that my non-existent 2006 & 2007 archives are suddenly growing, don't be alarmed. It's not a hack job, it's just me adding stuff :)

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Mantras, Quotes, and Things I Live By

For some reason I feel compelled tonight to share some of the words I live by -- a few quotes that have worked their way into my soul and keep home there. These are words that comfort me and buoy me up, and challenge me daily to be better than I am. They speak for themselves, so I'll just post them without any commentary, but feel free to comment with your own linguistic talismans:)

"Be kind. Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." ~ T.H. Thompson

" To understand all is to forgive all." ~ author unknown, old French saying.

"I always prefer to believe the best of everybody, it saves so much trouble." ~Rudyard Kipling

"When you say a situation or a person is hopeless, you're slamming a door in the face of God." ~C.L. Allen

"We can do no great things, only small things with great love." ~Mother Teresa

"If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one." ~Mother Teresa

"You must be the change you wish to see in the world. " ~Mahatma Gandhi

OK, now tell me about yours.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Flashback Friday

Annie over at One Mother's Day posted about a challenge she received: share the referral photo you received for your child. I received the photo of Anastasia below on February 17th, 2005. I met her only three weeks later.

I was at my parent's house in Florida at the time, with two of my students who were (and still are!) like daughters to me. I had gone to Florida in an attempt to get my mind off the grief I had been experiencing since Christmas. I had lost my referral then, a little 6 year old girl named Katya that my whole family had fallen in love with back in September. Just days before trip one,which was to take place over Christmas 2004, I was notified that Katya's birthmother filed a motion in court to get her parental rights reinstated. I had her room completed, a closet full of size 4-6 clothes, a dollhouse, her name draped over her bed, a new bike, toys, and everything else a little six year old girl would want. I was ready for her to come home. My father even kept one of her photos by his bedside. They shared the same birthday. My parents were as excited as I was to bring her home. But it was not to be.

God had other plans. In early February I had informed the agency that I was finally ready to look at other referrals, as long as they were in the same region as Katya. I had learned so much about that part of Siberia, and had invested six months of my life imagining being there, so I felt that I was not ready to look anywhere else. They complied. I starting receiving photos and info on several children. There was an adorable two year old boy with dark hair and a great smile. There was a six year old boy named Maxim with fly-away hair and sad blue eyes. There was a four year old girl with brown hair and a mischievous grin, and finally there was an eight year old girl with a shy smile, short blond hair and big rosy cheeks. They were all in the same town as Katya. They were all beautiful. but I knew none of them was my child.

Nothing felt right. The agency started getting frustrated. " There is no one left in that area," they told me. They encouraged me to look elsewhere - there was a toddler in Novosibirsk, and another little girl near Saint Petersburg. But my heart kept saying my child was not in those places. He or she was in the same little town that Katya was in. I knew that. The agency said I was obviously still mourning the loss of Katya and I should just put adoption on hold for awhile. I begged them to give me a bit more time, and to see if there were ANY other children in that region who were available for adoption. Any they might have overlooked.

"Well, there is one more, but she is over twelve years old, and has lots of medical issues. She is not what you are looking for." they told me.

" Send her info anyway." I told them. I first received an email with no photo. It carried a litany of diagnosis (including epilepsy) and a small profile that did not sound promising. She was very shy, it said. In the fourth grade, it said (at twelve?) She liked to play alone. She had been in the orphanage her whole life. She had no siblings. She was only released for adoption at age eleven.

I knew this was her. Don't ask me how, I just felt it. An hour or two later, I received her photo.

And there she was:

I showed the photo to Deenah and Jayne, my two 'surrogate daughters'. " Oh my gosh, she looks like a young Helen Hunt !" one said. " She has really sweet eyes," said the other. "Do it." I printed out the photo to show my parents. " This is her, Dad," I said, handing him the photo.

" A twelve year old? Are you crazy?" My dad was remembering the 'joy' of raising the twelve year old me. He had barely survived. My mom was less vocal, but I could still see her worry. She knew I had dreamed my whole life of being a mom, and I think she was scared that I might be taking on too much. I insisted this was her. My parents knew me well enough to know that there would be no changing my mind. If I felt something in my gut, then it was meant to be.

I flew home from Florida a week later, and packed. I left on March 8th for Moscow, and met my daughter in Western Siberia on March 10th, 2005.

Of course she looked nothing like the photo above when I met her. Of course all the diagnosis were wrong. Of course the profile was completely off. And, of course, I fell madly and deeply in love anyway. It was meant to be. The second she walked through that door and looked my way, she was mine.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Finding the Silver Lining

I haven't blogged about N and baby Ariella in awhile. This is not because nothing has been going on. No. Sadly, far too much has been going on. I just didn't feel ready to talk about it.

On election night, Ariella was rushed to the hospital after a neighbor called 911. N had, once again, left the baby alone in the house while she left to go job-hunting and to use a payphone. A neighbor heard horrible screams coming from the dark apartment, and went in to find the baby lying alone on the couch. And she was purple. It's hard for me to even write that. I will never ever understand why DSS didn't remove the children weeks ago. Ariella wouldn't have had to endure two more weeks of being abandoned. My daughter and I had her on Friday and Saturday, but Sunday N was unreachable, and Monday I had to work a long day. Remember, she does not have a phone, so in order to reach her I actually have to drive over to her apartment (and hope her husband is not there.)

So, while I was celebrating at my house Tuesday night, my friend J came over and informed me about the baby. I called the hospital and reached a really wonderful ER doctor. I explained who I was, and he said, although he wasn't really allowed to give out any info to non-family members, he wanted me to know that the baby would be ok, and that he was taking very good care of her. I left my name and number for the DSS crisis team that would eventually arrive there. And then I locked the door of my room, and cried. I didn't want my daughter to know what had happened, and I certainly didn't want to involve the house full of people that were over for my election night party. I wept hard into my pillow and then pulled myself together and rejoined the party.

Yesterday I was on the phone all day trying to reach DSS and get any info on the baby. No one returned my calls. I tried again today. Same thing. I just want to hear that she is ok. I do know, from J's friend, that Ariella and her 2 year old sister are in DSS custody. I do know that N snuck out of her house last night with all her belongings and that some older woman (her aunt maybe?) picked her up in an old car and drove away under the cover of darkness. I am pretty sure I will never see her again. N was so terrified of being deported, and knew her husband had called immigration, so I think it's fairly likely that she has gone into hiding. There is no way for me to find her.

Before she left, N somehow managed to drop all the things I had bought for the baby on J's front steps. Everything: clothing, port-a-crib, diapers, wipes, bottles, nipples. It is all at J's house. I don't think I will pick it up for awhile. I know it will just feed another rainstorm of tears.

So onto the silver lining: I knew there would be one. I knew that some good could come out of all this heartache. I thought about it, prayed about it, and talked to my daughter about it. Then I called the DSS foster parent hotline today. I told them I was interested in getting certified as a foster parent (for infant care only.) They are having a social worker call me tomorrow. I always knew it was something I wanted to do, but I didn't think Anastasia would deal well with it. But I actually called at her prompting. She asked me yesterday if there were any way we could have a baby in our life again.
"Not kids, mom, I know I'll get too jealous, but a baby. I want to help a baby."

I have watched her interact with Ariella the past few weeks. And I can honestly say I have never seen anyone her age so devoted. She tended to every need with such love. I knew she had cared for (i.e. protected) some of the younger ones in the orphanage. But there were no babies there. She had never experienced spending time with a baby until her cousin Tommy was born. And now, with Ariella. I really think she saw herself in Ariella. She would even reprimand me for not holding her correctly or for other assumed infractions. Even when Ariella was inconsolable and I was ready to tear my hair out, Anastasia gently rocked her and told her, over and over, " It's ok, honey, you are safe. I am here for you. I will take care of you."

These are the exact same words I've said a thousand times to her, in times of great sadness or fear, these past four years. How lucky I am to hear her pass them on...

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Elephant Man of Piccadilly Circus

I can't forget him. His knotted black hair, the oily filth of his clothing, the bulbous tumors hanging from the side of his face. And the stench. The sickening stench that nearly made me vomit while I was cradling him in my arms.

I was in London. It was April 2000. I was with about five of my students and also my best friend Sara who had come along as a chaperone. We had just seen Dame Maggie Smith (my theatrical idol) in Alan Bennett's new play The Lady in the Van. It was a brilliant piece of writing, auto-biographical, about Bennett's dealings with a well-known homeless woman in Camden Town. 

He chronicled his interaction with this woman, and slowly revealed the value of her existence beneath the outward mask of homelessness she wore. This play spoke eloquently about our shared humanity. The worth of each and every human life. Maggie Smith held the audience in stunned silence by the end. I thought, this play is going to change lives. It will open eyes. It is a revelation.

I walked out with my students, rapt in discussion about the value of each human life. We were distracted and blindly followed the chattering crowd as it poured out into the street. We corporately moved past the glass front doors, out unto the narrow walkway that courses through Piccadilly Circus. And then it happened.

There in front of us, on the ground, was this man. He looked more animal than human, curled up awkwardly in a fetal pose and in the throws of a violent  seizure. From his appearance, it was obvious he was a street person. The smell lifting from his small frame nearly knocked us backward. And he was covered in tumors. 

As I pushed, straining forward to help him, I watched in complete and utter incredulity as the very people who had just emerged from the theatre, the very people who had wept at Maggie Smith's performance of such a person, stepped over this man to get to their waiting limousines and taxis.

In a rage, I lurched past the few indifferent gazers on, and I crouched to the pavement and lifted his head onto my lap. He was still seizing, and a kind of foamy spit was bubbling out from his mouth. His head, which had been banging  the pavement in rhythmic throws, now rested in my lap. I yelled for someone to call an ambulance. A few gapers right in my line of vision turned and walked away, but finally one well-dressed younger man pulled his phone out and dialed. 

I called out loud for a coat to cover him (it was cold) and one of my students whisked hers off and gently placed it on his quivering form. I remember waiting for the ambulance to arrive, and watching an endless stream of people exit the theatre, look at this man and me on the ground, and literally climb over us or very awkwardly push their way around us to get to waiting cars.

Time stopped. I just held his head and stroked his hair and tried to say comforting things. I remember his skin was very pock-marked and so pale, and some teeth stuck out of his half-open mouth. It looked like he perhaps had a cleft palate. He stayed there in my lap, writhing, and eyes closed. At some point he stopped seizing and just laid there, still. He was like a baby in my arms. He seemed so frail, so helpless, and his eyes were still closed like he was sleeping.

Suddenly the theatre staff was present beside us. I had just enough time to assume they were there to offer help, when I heard: 'Miss, you have to move him...' 

'He's had a seizure. He needs help! I'm waiting for the ambulance.' I shouted at them.

'He is upsetting our patrons. You need to move him.' The two staff turned and reentered the theatre lobby and watched from inside the glass doors.

Finally, the ambulance arrived.One medic came over and bent down to speak to the man in my lap, and it was then that I realized this man could not even talk. As the medic moved to lay him on the stretcher, I looked down to see that the tumor on his face actually fed into the inside of his mouth. The medic crouched close to his face and tried to engage him in conversation. All that resulted were guttural moans. The medics took over, and I stood up and watched as they tended to him, gently. They were quick and kind. They carefully lifted him onto a stretcher, turned to thank us, and then were gone.

As the ambulance tore away from the curb, I felt bereft. Who was this man? What had happened to him? Who would care for him? What would happen to him now? I burst into tears, and just stood, immobile, watching the ambulance make its way through the choke of traffic down towards the square.

We walked, slowly and silently, towards Leicester Square. No words.

I still replay this experience over an over in my head. I still see all those impeccably dressed theatre-goers stepping over his body. I still see others purposefully looking askance to avoid eye contact when I asked for help.
These were the same people who had sat with me inside the theatre moments ago, moved to tears over Maggie Smith's performance of a dirty, smelly, uncomfortably fragile homeless woman. And not one of them had stopped to help this man. Not one

In a theatre of thousands, how could this be?

I think of that man often. I wish I  knew his name. I wish I had thought to get in the ambulance with him.  He feels like a piece of unfinished business in my heart. I had no chance to even look into his eyes.

I have hope that someday I will meet him again, in another, brighter world. Maybe we will look one another in the eye, and we will recognize one another. We'll  embrace, his healed self and mine, and bring one broken circle to a close.

Today's Op-Ed Piece in the New York Times

This piece is too good not to share. It appeared today in the New York Times. Folks, we have truly woken up to a new world.

"Let every child and every citizen and every new immigrant know that from this day forward: Everything really is possible in America. "

Finishing Our Work
By Thomas L. Friedman
Published: November 4, 2008

And so it came to pass that on Nov. 4, 2008, shortly after 11 p.m. Eastern time, the American Civil War ended, as a black man — Barack Hussein Obama — won enough electoral votes to become president of the United States.
A civil war that, in many ways, began at Bull Run, Virginia, on July 21, 1861, ended 147 years later via a ballot box in the very same state. For nothing more symbolically illustrated the final chapter of America’s Civil War than the fact that the Commonwealth of Virginia — the state that once exalted slavery and whose secession from the Union in 1861 gave the Confederacy both strategic weight and its commanding general — voted Democratic, thus assuring that Barack Obama would become the 44th president of the United States.
This moment was necessary, for despite a century of civil rights legislation, judicial interventions and social activism — despite Brown v. Board of Education, Martin Luther King’s I-have-a-dream crusade and the 1964 Civil Rights Act — the Civil War could never truly be said to have ended until America’s white majority actually elected an African-American as president.
That is what happened Tuesday night and that is why we awake this morning to a different country. The struggle for equal rights is far from over, but we start afresh now from a whole new baseline. Let every child and every citizen and every new immigrant know that from this day forward everything really is possible in America.
How did Obama pull it off? To be sure, it probably took a once-in-a-century economic crisis to get enough white people to vote for a black man. And to be sure, Obama’s better organization, calm manner, mellifluous speaking style and unthreatening message of “change” all served him well.
But there also may have been something of a “Buffett effect” that countered the supposed “Bradley effect” — white voters telling pollsters they’d vote for Obama but then voting for the white guy. The Buffett effect was just the opposite. It was white conservatives telling the guys in the men’s grill at the country club that they were voting for John McCain, but then quietly going into the booth and voting for Obama, even though they knew it would mean higher taxes.
Why? Some did it because they sensed how inspired and hopeful their kids were about an Obama presidency, and they not only didn’t want to dash those hopes, they secretly wanted to share them. Others intuitively embraced Warren Buffett’s view that if you are rich and successful today, it is first and foremost because you were lucky enough to be born in America at this time — and never forget that. So, we need to get back to fixing our country — we need a president who can unify us for nation-building at home.
And somewhere they also knew that after the abysmal performance of the Bush team, there had to be consequences for the Republican Party. Electing McCain now would have, in some way, meant rewarding incompetence. It would have made a mockery of accountability in government and unleashed a wave of cynicism in America that would have been deeply corrosive.
Obama will always be our first black president. But can he be one of our few great presidents? He is going to have his chance because our greatest presidents are those who assumed the office at some of our darkest hours and at the bottom of some of our deepest holes.
“Taking office at a time of crisis doesn’t guarantee greatness, but it can be an occasion for it,” argued the Harvard University political philosopher Michael Sandel. “That was certainly the case with Lincoln, F.D.R. and Truman.” Part of F.D.R.’s greatness, though, “was that he gradually wove a new governing political philosophy — the New Deal — out of the rubble and political disarray of the economic depression he inherited.” Obama will need to do the same, but these things take time.
“F.D.R. did not run on the New Deal in 1932,” said Sandel. “He ran on balancing the budget. Like Obama, he did not take office with a clearly articulated governing philosophy. He arrived with a confident, activist spirit and experimented. Not until 1936 did we have a presidential campaign about the New Deal. What Obama’s equivalent will be, even he doesn’t know. It will emerge as he grapples with the economy, energy and America’s role in the world. These challenges are so great that he will only succeed if he is able to articulate a new politics of the common good.”
Bush & Co. did not believe that government could be an instrument of the common good. They neutered their cabinet secretaries and appointed hacks to big jobs. For them, pursuit of the common good was all about pursuit of individual self-interest. Voters rebelled against that. But there was also a rebellion against a traditional Democratic version of the common good — that it is simply the sum of all interest groups clamoring for their share.
“In this election, the American public rejected these narrow notions of the common good,” argued Sandel. “Most people now accept that unfettered markets don’t serve the public good. Markets generate abundance, but they can also breed excessive insecurity and risk. Even before the financial meltdown, we’ve seen a massive shift of risk from corporations to the individual. Obama will have to reinvent government as an instrument of the common good — to regulate markets, to protect citizens against the risks of unemployment and ill health, to invest in energy independence.”
But a new politics of the common good can’t be only about government and markets. “It must also be about a new patriotism — about what it means to be a citizen,” said Sandel. “This is the deepest chord Obama’s campaign evoked. The biggest applause line in his stump speech was the one that said every American will have a chance to go to college provided he or she performs a period of national service — in the military, in the Peace Corps or in the community. Obama’s campaign tapped a dormant civic idealism, a hunger among Americans to serve a cause greater than themselves, a yearning to be citizens again.”
None of this will be easy. But my gut tells me that of all the changes that will be ushered in by an Obama presidency, breaking with our racial past may turn out to be the least of them. There is just so much work to be done. The Civil War is over. Let reconstruction begin.

Martin, I Hope You're Watching

Oh, how I wish he had lived to see this day, his day. Martin Luther King Junior dug the path that led us here. His dream is now our reality. Each of us, apart from our varying political beliefs, must recognize the significance of this day.
A seemingly insurmountable racial barrier has been not only surmounted, it has been knocked down.

I am so very proud of our country this day, I cannot even put it into words. Our world is forever changed. Forever. This is no overstatement. We have woken up to a new world....

Martin, thank you.

So, now I am proud, honored and humbled to be able to say welcome to our next President:

Barack Hussein Obama.....

Make Martin proud these next four years, Obama. Lead us well...

Monday, November 03, 2008

Obama? McCain? Democrat? Republican?

It doesn't matter to me whom you are voting for, or along what party lines you tend to move. I, for one, am grateful for the differences that exist. But what does matter to me, very much, is that you exercise your right to vote. Please vote.

We are so incredibly lucky to live in this great country. It took many experiences of living abroad and visiting foreign countries (think Russia, for one) to allow me to truly, truly value what we have here. But I will never take it for granted again.

So, exercise one of your many freedoms tomorrow. Leave work early, fore-go lunch, get up at dawn - whatever you have to do, do it. Make it to those polls.

I like to think of my vote as a thank you to the country I call home most of the time. Thank you, America!

And I'll be bringing my daughter with me, so she can witness democracy in action. We'll say thank you together.

So, vote. Please vote. Go vote. Stand up and be counted. Why? Because you count.

"So long as the people do not care to exercise their freedom, those who wish to tyrannize will do so; for tyrants are active and ardent, and will devote themselves in the name of any number of gods, religious and otherwise, to put shackles upon sleeping men." ~Voltaire

Sunday, November 02, 2008

My Daughter the RAD Photographer

It's nice to use RAD in its other context sometimes..lol. 'RAD' meaning cool, awesome, groovy...

So, when I say my daughter is a RAD photographer, I mean that kind of RAD :)

When I first met Anastasia at the orphanage, she would not interact with me at all. No talking. No eye contact. Just a trembling little girl with fearful eyes. That is, until I took out my camera.

" Shto eta?" She asked. (What is it?) She had never seen a digital camera before. I showed her how to use it, and the ice was broken. She interacted with me from behind the lens. Nothing would work to get her to put that camera down.

So, it's no surprise that my daughter has discovered that she likes photography. It gives her a safe way to interact with the world around her. She can be a part of things on her terms. So...
Here are some recent photos she took . She has a great eye, I think. She wants to learn more, too, which is great!

Matilda, her puppy, is her favorite subject, The shoots this poor dog has been subjected to would put Tyra Banks to shame. Here she is posing with glasses.
Here she came in my office at 7am ( hence no make-up & messy hair) and asked me to make "a really funny face."

Here she had walked out of Bertucci's where we had dinner one night. She saw this abandoned doll and HAD to take a photo. She said it made her "feel weird" and she wanted to remember it.

This is her best friend Julia's eye. I think this is the most amazing photo and I wouldn't believe she took it if I hadn't been there to see it myself. I later showed her how to add color to just one spot with picasa. That's her favorite thing to do now with photos...

This is her foot. So artsy. My daughter is artsy!!!

Here is Julia again. I think the angle and blurriness is cool. She's really got an eye for this!

These were random older men outside of Starbucks. They were teasing me about not getting them coffee, so she took their photo. I love the different expressions on their faces (though I want to snatch that cigarette out of his hand and smash it.)

Finally, my favorite. She said " Mom, I want to take a picture of the sun!" I told her, "you can't do that, honey, it won't work." She said, 'Yes it will, mom!"

And she was right.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Caring For The Least Of These

"And the King will answer and say to them, truly I say to you, inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me." Matthew 25:40

Now, those of you reading this who know me personally know that I do not go around spouting Bible verses. Ever. I'm more likely to quote Shakespeare or Gandhi or even Buddha, if I'm honest. I still even squirm a bit when people start sharing Bible verses, but I'm starting to let go of my judgements and read it again without any reservations - just a plain read like I would any other good book. I want to see what I discover about it on my own - without anyone else giving me their spin on it. (And, yes, I've read it before. All the way thru, twice actually.)

I was brought up Roman Catholic. Like any good Irish-American girl, I knew all my prayers by the time I was eight or nine. I attended Mass regularly, went to CCD, all that stuff. But somewhere along the way I became suspect of it all. I let go of all my beliefs and "shopped around" a bit. In my twenties, I somehow ended up at an evangelical college, surrounded by mostly Southern Baptists. Boy, was I considered a black sheep! But it was fun. I liked being the black sheep ( I was used to it in my family sphere..). All told, I have spent time as a wanna-be Buddhist, wanna-be Jew, a Catholic, a Quaker, an agnostic, a near-atheist, a born-again Christian, among many other things. I've attended churches and temples of every kind. I've read:

~The Bible: the Catholic Bible, several Protestant versions, the King James version ( in a class by itself), the Jehovah Witness version (to satisfy my curiosity) the Christian Scientist version, and bits of other versions.
~The Bhagavad Gita
~The Koran
~The Upanishads
~The Tao Te Ching
~The Five Classics of Confucius
~The Tibetan Book of the Dead
~ Parts of the Talmud (not the whole thing)

I have not taken getting to know God lightly. I came at it from all angles. You see, I had my own internal experiences of God that told me that He existed in some form. I had unexplainable miracles that had occurred in my life, I had prophetic dreams, I had a strong sense, even as a child, that there was a loving presence looking out for me, even if I couldn't put a name on it.

I still struggle with what I believe. Some things are fixed in my mind and heart, though. I know I believe in kindness. I know I believe in compassion. I know I believe in "doing unto others..." My sense of what and who God is changes, but not what He stands for. Does that make sense? Sorry, I'm just writing without a filter...as the thoughts come...so it might be a bit convoluted.

Anyway, I guess what I'm trying to get at is this: In all the holy books I have read, there is an essential unity I discovered. And that is love. Each book had a different way of explaining it, and different paths to it, but it was still the same. Love. Kindness. Compassion. Caring for others. I know that this is the most essential part of God, because it is in every single text that speaks of Him, that is the heart of the message. Some go astray quite a bit. Some don't describe God exactly the way I see Him, but they all talk about Love. Over and over and over.

The part of the Bible that always made sense to me, even when I was courting Atheism, were the words of Christ about "caring for the least of these" and " do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Or " Love they neighbor as thyself." The Good Samaritan story was always my favorite. Now that resonated with me. I wish I could meet that guy. He was a kindred spirit, even if he was just a character in one of Christ's stories.

So, even when I am still questioning and searching. Even when I feel alone in the world, or abandoned by God, I know one thing that never fails to help me feel close to the Divine. And that is helping another human being: feeding them, clothing them, loving them - whatever it is that person needs. I have found that no matter how financially strapped I am, I always have just enough to share with someone less fortunate. God provides. Love provides.

So, I'm planning to blog about times I have cared for others when it was anything but easy or convenient, or even safe. I'm hoping anonymous of the previous post will hear and understand. There are some things that are far more important than even our physical lives. I'm not scared of dying, anyway. I never have been, even when facing death right in the eye . (Ok, I was a bit scared that time, but not too much.) For me dying is just moving on, graduating. It'll happen in God's time, so I'm not worried. I wear my seat belt and I do all those other things I should do to keep myself in one piece. But if I have a choice between mortal danger and walking away from someone who needs my help, I'll choose the mortal danger. Sorry. That's just me, and folks, that just ain't gonna change.