‘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

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Without Words

I am without words these days. I have struggled these past few weeks with what to post. I've been straddling two worlds -- in one I am quite joyful and very much at peace, and in the other my sorrow at being separated from those I love is holding me hostage.

I like to be inspiring. I like to uplift others and give them a reason to feel joyful. So, when I am struggling myself, I find it difficult to share it. It's not pride, and it's not embarrassment. It's that I simply hate bringing other people down or adding to the unhappiness in the world. And it's ok -- I have my God to turn to. I don't need to share it per se, but I feel guilty not explaining myself. So I'll try.

I'm feeling very pensive and sad these past few weeks. I miss Anya. I miss D. I miss all the kids at the orphanage. And, if I'm perfectly honest -- I miss Dasha a whole lot, too. My thoughts circle to each of them throughout the day. I think of times I shared with them, I pray for them, I imagine what each of them are doing in this moment in time. And I cry.

I'm waiting for the sadness to lift, but it hasn't. I'm not wallowing, and I'm not being overly sentimental. I simply love them so much and so deeply that being separated from all of them at once feels like I'm missing a limb, or a good chunk of my heart. It probably doesn't help that Nastia has been away this week.

So, my question is, what does God want us to do when we miss someone this much? What are we to do with the pain? I lay it at His feet. I ask Him for peace over and over again. But, as for right now, the pain still stays. It actually feels like a heavy rock lodged in my chest. It's stuck there and I can't seem to get it to move.

So, I may not blog much for a bit. I don't want to fill the air with empty words. I don't want to speak just because. When my heart feels on fire again, I'll write. For now, I am guessing God is calling me to silence, inward and outward. But I hope He speaks soon.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Blizzzzard Photos.....Brrrrrr

We got walloped. I couldn't even get out my front door for the life of me. I had to sit against the inside of the outer door and push and push. After twenty minutes of this activity, on and off, I made enough headway to squeeze out!

The photos are grainy because all I have is my phone:

I gave up shoveling the walk pretty quickly. The snow was all the way up to my hip and that is way to much shoveling for my liking!

Yes, for those of you with a keen eye -- my house has been repainted. It used to be a weird pumpkin color that I actually ended up really getting used to. The landlord had it repainted while I was in Siberia. It's kind of a blue-grey, but looks more purplish in person.

Because my  house faces the end of another street, the wind whips down through that thru-way and always causes drifts in the front. Look at this one by my front window...yikes! to give you perspective, if I am standing on the ground, my head is level with the bottom of the window.

This lovely snow sculpture is my mailbox. I'm still wondering how that tiny finger of solid snow grew on it:

I managed to dig out one stair so the mailman won't break his neck, but I got tired pretty quickly. Here is a very forlorn looking me resting on the one cleaned-off stoop:

Believe it or not, I'm headed back out now at sunset...trying to make a dent in getting my car extricated. I climbed on top of the drift and dug my way down to the front license plate, but the rest is rock solid. I've decided to wait for the shoveling-fairy to make his rounds....

Meet One of My Very Favorite Bloggers!

One of my favorite blogs has nothing to do with Russia or orphanages or adoption. It is written by a delightful woman in her 80s named Lorrene. I love reading her accounts of life during the depression and her early struggles as a new war bride (at 17 years of age!).

Do yourself a favor and add Lorrene to your list. There is a sweetness about her I just can't describe. And funny, boy is she funny sometimes! This is Lorrene at 8 years old. I love this photo:

Lorrene, hope you don't mind I shared this photo!
Here are some of my favorite Lorrene posts. Do yourself a favor and check them out:)

My Long Sad Tale
Not to be Published...
Pearl Harbor Day
The Day The Lights Came On

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Blizzard! Woo Hoo!

I guess I'm giving myself away as a lifelong New Englander when the word "Blizzard" in the news makes me jump for joy. I love winter storms -- the bigger the better. The Blizzard of '78 was, of course, my all-time favorite. Everything came to a stand-still, and we kids took over the neighborhood. We had tunnels criss-crossing our streets, as no cars could travel on them. We built magnificent snow forts, and igloos and complex tunnels from one yard to the next. It was heaven. I remember neighbors taking sleds and walking the many blocks to and from the nearest grocery store. I remember my Dad building fires in all our working fireplaces. We didn't have school for what seemed like a month. It was as if the whole world took a vacation. I'll never forget it.

So, I didn't know about this current blizzard coming until I read everyone's status on facebook. Everyone in my vicinity, anyway. So, I trudged upstairs and turned on the tv begrudgingly ( Nastia is away, so I am revelling in no tv for a week!). Lo and behold, there is our governor announcing the storm of the season -- 70 plus mile per hour winds, and -- in my area -- 20-24 inches of snow in one fell swoop! I'm only a few blocks from the ocean, so that means two things: maybe an inch or two less snow that they'll get inland, but probably a LOT more wind. There goes my rickety fence!

I'll keep my blogger friends updates as the storm settles in. My dogs are already giddy -- they can feel the storm coming. I need to go find Nastia's camera so I can take photos with something other than my phone.

Happy Blizzard Fellow New Englanders! If you haven't run out for an extra shovel and flashlight, this is your last chance!

Nastia enjoying the last big storm - 2008

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Heard From Anya!

It was brief, but it was very positive! Anya wrote on my facebook page today and said she is good and has everything she needs, and that she loves and misses me. What better Christmas gift could I ask for? ( Besides her being home, of course!)

Before we left Russia I set up a facebook account for her and showed her how she could leave messages for us. So glad I did! She loves to look through my photos on facebook, and it's easier for her to feel connected to us with facebook rather than simply email. She even posted on my mom's wall!

I know she doesn't find internet access often, but I'm so grateful that she took the time to write me when she could!

OK, back to adoption paperwork:) Nastia is in Florida with my entire extended family for Christmas. We'll have our own little Christmas when she gets back in a week.

Happy 'Day before the Night before Christmas' Everyone!

PS: If you know that song, then you are dating yourself! The only people I have ever met who know that song are a select few born in the 60s or early 70s!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Week of Highs And Lows

Quite a bit happened this week, and I realized I don't often post about anything but the orphanage anymore! So, here's a quick peek into our week -- the good and the bad.

Hurting - I'm still so sad about my friend who hurt me. I keep praying to accept it, but I'm still so very sad. I forgive her -- that was the easy part -- but I am still so confused about her behavior and she has chosen not to respond to me. Nastia is devastated by it, and I hope you'll pray for us. We need healing in this area.

Healing - Being able to witness from afar how perfectly Dasha fits in her host family brings me incredible joy and healing from our grief at not being able to adopt her. We spoke to Dasha last night, which turned out not to be the best thing. But it shed light on the fact that she did attach to us, which means she will surely bond with this family, and my greatest hope is they will decide to adopt her. The host mom is incredible. I love her. And I see her love for Dasha and, honestly, do not feel any jealousy as I thought I might. I just feel sooo grateful that she ended up in such a loving, caring, awesome family. We won't be speaking to Dasha again like that  for the near future ( if at all)-- it was too painful for all involved -- but I do get to keep in touch via photos and messages from the host family. God, I thank you for that!

Hoping -- I feel like I am performing a balancing act -- waiting for news on the host program, waiting for news on Anya, waiting for my call to get fingerprinted for my USCIS forms, waiting for a delayed paycheck to arrive so I can buy some Christmas gifts for Nastia...But all this waiting means hope is in the air. With so much to hope for, something is bound to go right, don't you think?

Honoring -- God, that is. A miracle occurred this week. I can't give many details, but I don't think the person will mind if I share the basic facts. A woman recently stumbled upon my blog ( I'm guessing  she googled Kemerovo.) Anyway, she had adopted a child from that region and found out at court  that there was an older sibling. (Sound familiar? That is how I found out about Anya!)  She immediately inquired about the child but was told she could not have contact. (Again, sound familiar?) Well, she did searching of her own and found him on the Russian database but it only showed the child to be in the Kemerovo Region. She was stuck. Until this week! She found my blog and saw a photo I had posted that looked EXACTLY like the child she had found on the database. Could it possibly be her child's brother? She contacted me, and a string of emails ensued. She gave me all the info & I contacted the Director of Orphanage # 5 and guess what?


They are interested in adopting, and are preparing a package to send him as we speak! Is this not a miracle??? I'm telling you, I have been praying day and night that God would make a way for these children to be adopted. But I never imagined it would be via such  miraculous means! Amazing!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

These Kids Want A Family!

I feel compelled today to remind everyone who reads my blog that the children you are sending gifts to have one gift they desire more than any other -- a family. More than half of the children at orphanage #5 are currently available for adoption.Why aren't they being adopted? Many reasons, but the primary one is that they are not babies. Adopting an older child is not for the faint-hearted, but I cannot imagine anything more rewarding in life than giving a home to an older child.

I am not in the adoption field, but I do want to do everything in my power to advocate for these kids. As you can imagine, many of them are very jealous that D is being adopted, and wonder why no one has come for them. Are you the person they've been waiting for? Are you willing to do what it takes to bring them home? Here are a few random things you absolutely need in order to adopt:

1. Infinite Patience: it can take as little as four months but as much as a year or so (longer if complications occur) to bring a child home. It depends on so many factors that it is impossible to gauge a time frame. But isn't a child worth the wait?

2. A Lifetime Commitment : Older children come home with many problems. They are damaged and hurting and it takes a great deal of time for them to heal but again, isn't it worth the time and effort? I know my daughter was and is. You cannot adopt these children expecting gratitude from them. You need to be the adult who leads them to healing. You cannot give up on them. Ever.

3. A Loving Heart : And by love, I mean the action word. You need to have enough love to put someone else first. You need enough love to say goodbye to your former life and welcome a whole new type of life in -- one of sacrifice and some suffering. (Sorry, need to be honest here.) You need to be willing to make this child your life's work, the work of your heart. You need to be willing to let go of expectations, and just allow that child to move at his or her pace in healing. It can take a lifetime.

Of course there are other practical requirements -- You need to be healthy, you need to make enough money to qualify, but that's fairly easy. I only made $30,000 a year when I adopted Nastia. You don't need to be married (I'm single) You do not need to own a home (I don't.) You do not need to be rich (I'm not.) You do not need to even have a college degree. ( I do, but not everyone who adopts does!)

If you want to adopt, and you meet the above criteria, you should adopt. Plain and simple. Too many people let either the financial concerns or the fear of the paperwork get in the way. It's hard, I won't lie. It took me five years to save the money to adopt Nastia. Five years. Filling out the paperwork was one of the most difficult things I've ever done in my life (I'd rather climb Mt Everest, to be honest) Having ADD made it very difficult to get through all the documents, but I did it. Slowly and painstakingly. You can, too.

Don't let age be a deterrent either! In Russia you can adopt well into your fifties, as long as you are no more than 45 years older than the child you are adopting. Meaning, I can still adopt children ages 5 and up . But Latvia has no upper age limit! My friend Jama is adopting a 14 year old right now, and she is 61! ( Hope you don't mind my sharing, Jama!)

Here's the thing -- I truly believe that there is nothing more urgent and important in this world that finding homes for orphaned children. These are real flesh and blood children we are talking about. I met them, held their hands, wiped their tears, and listened to their desperate pleas for families. I met hundreds of them in Russia, and yet there are millions more throughout the world.

Lives matters. Souls matter. Christmas presents, houses, ipads and ipods, vacations, jewelry, fancy clothing, spa visits, -- Do NOT matter!


Every extra dollar you spend on things you don't need could be making a difference in the life of a child. Strike that -- it could be the difference between life and death for them. Truly - life or death.

Can't adopt? Why not give to someone's adoption fund? I plan on committing a monthly donation to adoption funds once I get D home. Why not commit to raising a specific amount for a family that wants to adopt but needs a little leg up financially?

Here are some of the kids waiting at Orphanage #5. They are even 'advertised' on the new orphanage website. They are waiting, waiting so very long to have someone to love them enough to climb that mountain for them.

C, outgoing and curious

V - kind, generous and thoughtful.

D and A ( not related, just in same photo)

R, a firecracker, and lots of fun!
Pray for these kids. Advocate for them.

Tell people about them.

If you can't adopt, try sending them monthly care packages or letters. It may be a pain to translate a letter into Russian from one of those online programs -- but it's not impossible. I do it at least once a week.

Want to adopt but don't have the funds? There are countless organizations that give grants to help. There are also amazing organizations like Reece's Rainbow that make adopting down syndrome and special needs children very affordable. If money is your excuse, throw it out the window. It is a flimsy excuse. If I can adopt as a single mother in this economy, making under $40,000 a year, you can. Start saving now! Hold yard sales, bake sales, have an online auction, sell things! I'm currently selling things on craigslist and it may end up paying for half of D's adoption costs! Look around your house -- you'll be amazed at what you find you can sell!

Ok, I am stepping down off the soapbox. But I'm not saying I won't get back up on it very soon :)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Orphanage Letter!!!

Some of the kids with a local priest who came to bless them a few months ago.

I woke up this morning to this wonderful email from the Orphanage Director!Couldn't wait to share it with all of you!

Dear Кеri! Good afternoon!

Daniel has received your letter, so many thanks! He very much loves it, because he worries and wants that you have more quickly met! He grieves without you, and he is happy to hear that Nastia also waits for him. He is a better boy because he knows family waits for him!

Кеri, MANY MANY packages come from your friends in America! We have received gifts for: Katya, Sveta, Marina, Кsusha, Rosa, Lera,Sveta, Genya, Galya, Sasha, Polina...so many I cannot speak them all!

Many thanks to your friends  from children! Everyone is overjoyed, everyone is smiling. The children see that others care about them.

Some gifts we received were from someone named Mary, still many people in English we can not read the names as they are English. Also - joy! - many friends have sent a wool, yarn and needles and spokes, hooks for circles!!! From these friends please -- too thanks huge, huge!!!! The caretakers are grateful. They need these things for children!

Too many thanks come from our hearts to the hearts of our American friends!
May God give you all strength you need. We love you!


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Russia, I miss you!

Just stumbled upon this blog post by an expat living in Russia. I read it and burst into tears. What gives? I miss Russia so much and I don't even understand it myself.
Kemerovo, home of my heart

Visotky Village, home of the orphanage


To deal with the monotony of the paperwork, I am taking little breaks and doing some nesting. Sounds premature? Well, think about it....based on the timeline I am on, I am technically anywhere from 4-6 months 'pregnant'...lol. So, doesn't it make sense that I'd start feeling that nesting urge? Here is what I have to work with:
the view when you enter the room
to the left , when you walk in

To your right when you walk in.
This is how the room looks now. It was Dasha's room for the summer, complete with dolls and dress-up clothes and stuffed animals galore. I now need to make it a little boy's room. So today I boxed up all of Dasha's things and put them in the basement. (I'll be holding on to them in case another little girl finds her way into my life in the next few years:)

Next, I need to find creative, no-cost ways of making this room more boy-friendly. The wall color works, but the bed is pretty feminine. I may have to cave and buy a cheap new bed when my next paycheck comes in. I saw some advertised at the local discount furniture store for $269 for a twin. We can reuse the mattresses.

I'm going for a nautical theme  in the room for a few reasons -- first, I live on the North Shore and that means every other shop has nautical things in it, and my family's storage unit does too! Also, I've inherited a few cool things from my dad which are nautical. Also, my Dad wrote several books on pirates and we have pirate stuff just collecting dust throughout the family.

Things I am putting on my wishlist for the room and hope to put in it before he (God-willing) comes home:
  • lots of blocks. My brothers and I LOVED using blocks well past age 10.
  • legos and magnetics. So good for right brain development
  • soccer ball, basketball, and football
  • some easy reader books to start him on English
  • some new clothes ( he's only a size EIGHT, can you believe it?)
  • tactile toys, puzzles and things to help him sensory-wise
  • inspiring artwork on the walls
If you have any other ideas, let me know! Keep in mind this is for a cognitively delayed 11 year old, who -- aside from the typical post-institutionalized issues -- has FAS related issues that I am just learning about. I want his room to be a sanctuary for him...calm and inviting, but also housing some elements that will spark his interest in learning about the world around him. Nastia has already donated her telescope to the cause:)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

From Now On...

....I cannot legally mention D by name or post anymore photos, until he comes home. Likewise, I cannot publish comments that include his name (sorry Skydancer!)  Now that I am officially 'with child', I need to follow all the rules that go along with russian adoption, including keeping his name and photos out of public postings.

I will post periodic, somewhat cryptic updates about the process, but not much past that. If you are a friend and really want to know where I am in the process, you can email or call me. Otherwise, just know I am hitting the ground running now that I've signed the agreement with the attorney and started my official paper chase. Sooooo much to do!

I'll try to write some general posts about what the adoption process is like, as many have asked. But as far as specific details go, it'll be pretty quiet here! Once he is (God-willing) home...I'll post everything!

It goes without saying that I'd be incredibly grateful for your prayers for the following things I feel I need to accomplish this mountain of paperwork quickly: a calm mind , along with clarity, focus, and energy.

Thank you!

God is Good

So, after my outpouring of all my sadness here last night, I went to my room and prayed and prayed until I fell asleep. And what do I wake to?

  • A message from Dasha's host family that she is doing well, and photos are on their way
  • A letter and drawing by D with the heading 'Mamuchka', sent to me by the director.
  • An email from the orphanage that all is well, boxes are arriving like mad and they miss me.
  • two giant boxes from Iraq on our front steps  (a brother serving there)
  • My first official docs for my dossier arrived from my attorney - hurrah!
  • A good friend dropped by a massive bag of dolls for the orphanage - including two more American girl dolls and bags of accessories for them!
This all occurred before 10am, and now all I need is word that Anya is alive and well, and I'll be deliriously happy.

Thank you God, for putting my heart at ease!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Finding It Difficult

 I haven't wanted to write at all since we've come home. Even these words , I am pushing out onto virtual paper because really, I don't want to write. It's easier to keep everything in and not think about all that has me sad, especially during this Advent season. But today I took the time to catch up on the blogs I read, and several women were sharing the sadness they are experiencing right now -- one from a failed adoption, another from a foster child being reunified with her birth family, another with her two beloved children still trapped in an orphanage -- all moms grieving like me.

Last night Nastia cried in my arms until she fell asleep. She is so sad about her sister, and worries that she'll never see her again. ON top of that, she worries that when D finally comes home to us ( God-willing), that he will 'steal' me away from her. It is also just dawning on her that  being eighteen changes things for her in many ways. She hates change.

And I so I held her and comforted her, and the whole while I was thinking how can I possibly comfort her when I am so sad myself? Guess that's just the grace of motherhood at work -- sometimes we have to give despite our own emptiness. And it's not that I am without hope. I do have hope, but it's just that the weight of so many sorrows just gets heavy sometimes and I need to "feel' it before I can move beyond it. This is one of those times.

My heart is grieving about Anya. The sense of failure in my inability to bring her home is really sinking in this week. I try to put her suicide threats out of my mind, but they come to the surface sometimes and I get really scared. I feel like such a failure to her. Even being there for her in person for three months did not accomplish what I had hoped. she needs a mom -- not money or a job or an apartment -- but a mom. I had paid for a month's extra rent on our apartment so she could remain there, but she only lasted two days before being kicked out. Now she is homeless again, and moving from couch to couch, and I look at our couch and think, 'Why in God's name can't she be HERE?' I can't even ponder it anymore. It hurts my brain.

And D --I speak to him every other day and he is so scared I am not coming back. And he is getting a little bullied by the older boys. I left him with a photo album filled with photos of us, our home, our town, family, friends, etc. I found out yesterday that most of the photos have been stolen by the older boys, and he is too afraid to ask for them back. So he asked if I could send him a second album, identical to the first. He asks if I could just come for New Year's Day, and I try to explain to him how expensive that is and how I need to use every penny for his adoption. But he is just a little boy. He wants his mom, and he doesn't understand what the hold up is.

And Dasha...I am sooo grateful she was able to host again, and is arriving tonight. But I'd be lying if I didn't tell you that today is particularly hard. Nastia cried for an hour about it. I just tried to pray and hand the pain over to God. At least with Dasha, I know that she is safe and happy and will be for a lifetime, I believe. but right now Anya and D do not have that. D waits in an orphanage, and Anya waits on the streets. It's just not fair.

So, forgive me. I'll go back to my jolly self in a few days, but today I just need to allow the sadness to just be.

I know I'm not alone. I know that millions of people grieve a hundred thousand different losses at any given moment. As sad as that is to ponder, there is a comfort in it too. We are all in this together. And, I believe, there is a very real happy ending waiting for us after all the pain. It's just a long wait.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Still Struggling

yes, the disparity is that great.
I'm making a brave effort. The bravest, in fact. I wake up about 4:30am still and spend a good few hours praying, reading scripture, saying the rosary, and just listening to God. I knew re-entry would be hard and I'd need to lean on God even more heavily than I had been. But even with all this time devoted to prayer, there is still a part of my heart deeply grieving over what I left behind and what I arrived to.

I had to go food shopping again today. I had put it off for days because I knew it would trigger some sadness. It is just so difficult to see so much abundance when you've seen the way others must live every single day of their lives.The injustice of it is simply impossible for me to wrap my mind around. And on top of  that,  it's Christmas....

I'm doing all I can during Advent to make Christmas about 'Christmas' and not presents and shopping-mania and 'things', but it is everywhere you look. My daughter, of course, embraces the materialism of our current times with two hands. After a life of such poverty, she is still grappling with wanting everything she sees. We are in two different worlds right now, me and my daughter. I try to share true Christmas with her, but its best to share it with my actions, not my words.

We haven't bought a tree yet. As maudlin as it sounds, I keep thinking of what that $50 will do for Orphanage #5 and I can't bring myself to buy one. I'm sure I'll cave as we get closer, but right now it feels like an offense, or even a betrayal, to buy one. I just can't do it.

And speaking of betrayal, I'm hurting for another reason, too. I can't post the details because it wouldn't be fair to this friend, despite the way she chose to treat me, but suffice it to say that a person I held as a very dear friend has done something pretty horrible to me, with full knowledge of my situation. Not only did she take money from me that was not hers to take, she did so when I was away and unable to do anything about it. She did far more than just this, but the hurt stems from the fact that I trusted this person like family. And she took advantage. And I'm grieving like someone has died today. I will never understand her actions. I will miss her friendship dearly, but I guess it was a one-sided friendship to begin with if she felt she could take advantage of me like this. Just praying for the pain to go away.

On a good note, I am slowly working through my paperwork for D. I've hit a few snags already, but I am not letting them get the better of me. He deserves to be home as soon as possible, so that means I have no time to be frustrated. I just need to hand it to God and move forward. And small blessings -- I dreamt of D last night and he was here, and the whole dream was just my cuddling and mothering him and him laughing and so happy. I wait for that day...

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Immaculate Conception, Salem, MA
I don't share the details of my faith here very much. I would, if God asked me to, but it seems my work lies elsewhere. However, sometimes I am so overcome with the joy my faith brings, I can't help but say something. Today is one of those days. Today is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and I woke to a great peace and sense of God's presence in my house. I have always been devoted to Mary, and recently she has worked hard in my life to bring me closer to her son. I am so grateful to have her as a model for motherhood. I strive to be more like her.

So today is her Feast day, a day to celebrate her as the Immaculate Conception. My church is called the Immaculate Conception, and it was the parish of not only my father, and his parents, but also his father's parents before him. My great grandparents helped to build this church. A generation of impoverished irish immigrants paid for its construction ( a miracle in and of itself), and they dedicated it to Mary. 

I love going to Mass, knowing that my father, grandparents and great grandparents all attended Mass here. All our most solemn family events have been held here -- baptisms, marriages and funeral masses. I was confirmed here and stood on the same spot where  where my brother and his wife joined in marriage, and the same spot where my father's casket stood in his funeral Mass. I have stood up as a godparent in this building many times. I have prayed here and wept here, and celebrated here one hundred times at least.

View from the balcony, Immaculate Conception Church, Salem, MA

I love that my parish church is devoted to Mary, The Immaculate Conception. I turn to her in so many difficult times, and she is always ever patient, gentle, understanding...always pointing towards her son, whom she so loves. It was Mary who lead me back to my Catholic faith after many years of drifting aimlessly and searching for answers. It was Mary who comforted me when depression was getting the better of me. If you come to my house, my devotion to her is evident in everything from the artwork hanging on my walls, to the statues hidden in corners, to the prayer cards by my bed. She has been there for me, even when I have ignored her.Her love is unconditional and incredibly healing.

For some reason speaking of my incredible love for her and my faith is difficult. Not because I am ashamed or embarrased. On the contrary -- it is because it is so essential to who I am, I find it impossible to articulate its true place and meaning in my life. no matter. I do not believe in preaching. I only strive to be more like her. May my love and devotion to her and to her son be evident in my actions.

Thank you Mary, for all you have done for me! I honor you this day!

" I am the Immaculate Conception."

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Check In

D took this of me, as I walked him to school last week...
So sorry to be MIA lately. As you can imagine I have MUCH on my plate right now and it's been difficult to find time to blog! I'm currently busy getting my dossier together, trying to find ways to raise money to keep supporting Anya, preparing for work, getting ready for Christmas, staying in touch with the orphanage, cleaning house....well, you get the picture. Jetlag is still an issue, but I think I'll be on a normal schedule within a week. It was a week ago today we arrived back in the states. (And no, my opinion has not changed -- I'd still rather be back in Kemerovo!)

Quick update on things that matter:

Anya is not doing well. We have skyped with her a few times and she just cries and cries and begs me to come back to her. She says she wants nothing anymore from life but to be with me. I'm still fighting tooth and nail to get her here, but I still am unable to really talk about the details on this blog. Your prayers are desperately needed. I also need to find a way to support Anya more than just the $300 a month I send. She is now able to move into a kind of "guest house" in her village, but I need to pay the rent there on-going. Any ideas are appreciated.

My adoption of D is proceeding slowly but surely. I will have to be cryptic from now on since we are in process, but suffice it to say I have GREAT people standing ready to help me, and the plan is to submit my dossier in person in February. If it is accepted, I could have a court date as early as March or as late as June. Pray that it is March. I need something to go smoothly and quickly for once! I speak to D every other day and aside from missing me and wanting to be home with us NOW, he is doing ok. He had a tough week, and told the director he thought I would change my mind. Don't worry, I surely set him straight on that one!

I am in touch daily with the orphanage via email, and the director is going to take a photo of each box label as it comes in now, so I can inform you all when your boxes arrive! We have been unable to skype yet, but hope to within the week. I have discussed the 501C3 option with many people and as soon as I have my dossier finished, I will start on the paperwork for the non-profit. I just can't get caught up in that until my dossier is done...too much on my plate!

I personally am doing well, only through the Grace of God. I was elated to go to Mass at my church on Sunday, and received a warm welcome from Father Murphy and everyone. I am getting up at 4am each day and praying the chaplet to St Michael along with the Rosary, and sometimes a litany or two. It brings me great peace and comfort. I try to keep my focus solely on Anya and D and getting them both home, and of course, keeping Nastia happy. I try to envision next Christmas with all of them here. I know it seems silly to wish this for the 6th Christmas in a row for Anya, but all I have is that hope. I need to cling to it.

I am loving all your ideas and comments. Forgive me for not being able to respond to all of them right now. But I'm ready them, acting on some, and remain inspired by all of you! I'll leave you with a verse that is helping me to stay positive right now:

'So do not fear, for I am with you;

do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.'

~Isaiah 41:10

Oh, how I miss them...

Friday, December 03, 2010

Thinking Outloud -- Orphanage Ideas

Our early morning trek to school this past Saturday.
Here are some of the ideas that are filling up my head the past few days -- ways to better serve the children at the orphanage. Some I've actually started on, some will take awhile. All are open for feedback!

Problem: Aside from some drawings the children made, there is not artwork or wall decor in most of the rooms at the orphanage. The bedrooms are particularly dreary.  Solution: I'm thinking of contacting my favorite photographers on flickr to each send one inspiring photo to the orphanage that they can then hang up on the wall!

Problem: The kids don't feel especially loved or 'remembered'. Solution: I am making a brief call to the orphanage every day and asking to speak to a different child each time I call. Already started!

Problem: The children want to learn English but, no offence, the teacher at the school is really not qualified. Solution: Seeing if I can get Rosetta Stone to donate 2-3 sets of their English language program and convince the orphanage therapist to allow some kids access to the one orphanage computer to practice.

Problem: The children have no clean water to drink and therefore drink no water AT ALL! Solution: See if I can find enough people to donate so that I could set up a weekly delivery of fresh water to each group that they can access whenever they want. My friend Svetlana gets a giant container of water delivered to her apartment there every week, so I know it's do-able.

Problem: The children have no working knowledge of the outside world. Geography is foreign to them. Solution: In an effort to widen their scope, I want to see if I can get some big colorful globes and maps donated, perhaps get a church to take on the project.

Oops! Gotta run! More to come!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

The Ups and Downs of Post-Travel Delirium

I am so completely overjoyed and happy right now I feel like my heart will burst! I know, I know, after the last few posts that is quite the jump. But God is so good and so loving and so faithful, there is really nothing to be sad about. I am processing the past few months, and I am just so grateful, I cannot even sit still. I have been jumping around my house singing and praying. Here are just a few reasons why:

1. I am going to be a mom again. Total gift from God -- unexpected and overly wonderful. I am more happy than I can possibly express in words.I love D more than I thought possible. I ADORE HIM!

2. I am in contact with the family that is hosting Dasha this month, and it seems like the PERFECT match for her! I am so grateful that God has moved mountains to let her come again, I  am just crying like a baby. Dasha deserves EVERY good thing, and she is getting it!

3.I have endless people who love me on both sides of the world, and instead of feeling torn, I feel love coming at me from all directions. I am realizing I can go back there any time I want...it just takes committing to it. I need to work and work to raise more funds, and then I can go back!

4. I am learning so much these days, I feel like God is giving me a doctorate education in the most important lifeskills, and boy am I grateful. I could not have conceived of the wisdom that is being shared with me as of late. I am a lucky, lucky girl. One of the greatest lessons God is teaching me is of his incredible faithfulness. If you are open to his leading, HE LEADS!

Anyway, I need to go jump around some more. I started on Daniel's adoption and I just feel so grateful that I get to be his mom. God chose ME to be HIS mom!!!

I got an email from Nadezhda today, saying that D is crying alot because he misses me. As sad as that is to hear, it's a good thing. It means the connection I felt was not one-sided. he feels it too. I promised I will call him as often as possible, and I mean it. In fact, it's time to go call him now:)  Bye!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010


I promised a post about the amazing Thanksgiving Feast and I haven't done it yet. Sorry. My heart is just so heavy, I need time to adjust before I can post about it and  do it justice. It was the best Thanksgiving I have ever had, and it's not fair to its' memory to write about it when my heart is so burdened.  No need to try to comfort me with comments, though they are of course always appreciated. it's just that this pain is only something God can heal. And I have no doubt He either will heal me of it, or use it for His greater purpose.

I wish I could tell you all it's great to be home now that I am here, but I would be lying. I am walking around my house like a stranger, asking myself over and over how I ever accumulated so much stuff. Wondering outloud why I was chosen to be so blessed? I don't deserve it. Those 100 children I left behind do. They are blameless. They are exquisitely beautiful creations of God who suffer needlessly in a world that has MORE than enough to share with them. Why?

Why why why why why??? I could fill up a thousand pages with the word 'why' right now.

Why does Polina wake up every morning and dress herself in dirty, hole-ridden stockings and a stained old sweatshirt two sizes too big? Why does Danil sleep on a mattress that  feels like a rock and wake to shouting older boys fighting over who gets to wear the nice pair of socks that day? Why do the older girls find any bit of crayon or soot or anything with color to make up their faces for school? Why must they eat kasha every morning of their lives? Why do they get fruit only when I bring it? Why do so many of them rock themselves to sleep at night like my Nastia still does? Their needs are huge. Their poverty is real. God has blessed our country with so much, and I believe He did so that we may learn to share it with others, not hoard it for ourselves.

The past few months have been a joy of epic proportions, because I was able to witness firsthand what just a few thousand dollars can do to transform the daily life of these kids. A few thousand dollars. I'm sure Paris Hilton spends at least that every day on clothing. I've seen dinners in New York city cost as much. Where are our priorities as a nation? Why can't we get it right?

All I know is I am not even going to waste my time whining about it anymore. The minutes of my life are precious. I will no longer waste them on anything but what He calls me to. And He has called me to care for these 100 children in any way I can. I know I cannot adopt all of them, but I can do much. I can send them cards and letters, I can send them care packages, I can pray for them every night, I can call them, I can improve my Russian for them, I can go without luxuries for them, I can go without new shoes or make-up or clothing for them, I can do what Mother Theresa said " Love Until It Hurts."

Today I called D and Ksusha. They were at school during break. The squeals of delight brought other orphanage kids running, and they all gathered around the phone and talked to me " We miss you!"  and "Come back sooner!" and " tell people about us!" and other things that would make you just cry. I told them all that I loved them and would be back as soon as I was able, and that in the meantime I intended to get people to write them and keep sending things. Natasha asked " Are there other people like you in America?"
Of course there are, I said. " Then why did only you come? When will others come?" I didn't have an answer. I told her I had to think about it.

And I talked to them for 15 minutes while they waited for the non-orphanage kids to eat their lunches. ( The orphanage kids are not fed at school because they do not have the funds to pay for it. So, they just stand in the hallways and wait for the other kids to eat before they can go back to class. They must wait till 3pm when they get home.)

I have grand schemes, wonderful ideas that are percolating in my mind about these children -- ways to help them and ways to make them feel their own worth.  Please spread the word about my endeavor. I cannot do anything without a great deal of help. Therefore, more readers equal more $5 donations equal more help for these kids. I want to create a non-profit, but I need to get Daniel's paperwork done first. Just know I do know that is the next step.

In the meantime, you can help by praying  that our hosting program will be approved, and maybe start thinking about hosting one of these children over the summer. As you know, I have partnered with Project 143 to bring many of them over this summer. We will hopefully be able to post info and photos on the children in March, and hosting will happen in late June or early July. Your prayers for these children  are treasures to me.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Culture Shock

It is honestly like being hit by a truck. I'm at JFK. I didn't even think about the cultural impact of coming home. I am sitting here surrounded by so much stuff, so much food, so many shops, so much of everything, and the Christmas music is blaring and people are laughing and eating big piles of food and buying designer LaCoste shirts behind me and...and...and

And half a world away are people I love going without even the basic necessities. I don't like the disparity. Wait, no. I HATE the disparity. Do not, I repeat, do not bother to comment if you are going to tell me things like 'everything is going to be ok' or 'you'll feel better in a few days'. That's just it..I don't WANT To feel better. I want to jump on the next plane back to Russia and be with those kids. I want to care for Anya, as infuriating as she can be....I want to be where I belong.

I am listening to  'O Holy Night' blaring on the terminal speakers and it is sucking the wind out of me. The irony is too much.

My heart hurts. I want to go home....my Siberian home. I want to be holding D, and a hundred other children. I want to be playing outside in the snow with them, or holding them while they cry. I just want to be there. God, please send me back.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Eyes Wide Open

Sometimes life takes you where you never expected to go. Sometimes strange twists and turns and even unexpected obstacles bring you to the most beautiful place you have ever been. Sometimes God holds His gifts behind His back, hidden, until the very last moment when He delights you beyond your wildest imaginings. I know this, because it is my life story.

How can I possibly express the gift that these months have been? I cannot. My heart is so overfull that I am left speechless. I came here with a heavy heart and the expectation that I would simply minister to Anya's heart and come home. Instead, I find that new worlds opened to me and I not only met some of the most wonderful souls I have ever encountered, and fell in love with literally one hundred children, and an enigmatic, frustrating yet beautiful country, but I also met the son I never even dreamed I would have. It is like winning the lottery when you never even bought a ticket!

These past few days I have gotten many emails from people expressing their admiration and awe for what I accomplished here. To be honest, these left me feeling unsettled, because I know a truth it seems these admirers do not know -- we all have the capacity to do what I have done. It doesn't take riches or power or even a plan. All it takes is Love.

True love moves us to act. True love forces us out of our comfort zones, and that is the start of the very best journey of all. When we say 'yes' to God -- I mean really say 'yes', I think the Universe itself claps its' hands in delight. Love is that powerful.

It is so sad to see the world wasting it's time on 'bigger' and 'better' and 'faster' and 'shinier'. It doesn't make me angry anymore, it just makes me sad for the thousands of people who are chasing after emptiness. It is such a waste of energy and time. None of it matters. None of it. You know what matters?
G does...

And this G...

and M...

And millions upon millions of beautiful, very real children just like them. We cannot expect this world of chaos and hate and rage and desperation to ever change until we make these children our priority. And by our, I mean every one of us.

Are you one of the millions of people who mourn the state of things as they are right now? Well, excuse me for saying so, but none of us has a right to complain unless we are truly doing everything we can to change it ourselves -- and I do mean everything. When Gandhi said 'Be the change you wish to see in the world', he was not envisioning a bumper sticker. He was envisioning a spiritual revolution, an evolution of the human soul, an awakening -- but certainly not a bumper sticker.

My time in Siberia has opened my eyes to a great many things -- probably the greatest being my own ignorance and selfishness. I don't want the things I wanted before this journey. Life has become so simple and so clear. I want what God wants. I want to love like He loves. I want to see what He sees. I want the things that matter most to be before my eyes, always.

And the shocking thing is...it's easy! When you cut away everything extraneous, when you focus on Love and nothing else, there is a joy you cannot possibly imagine. Yes, the letting go is hard. Saying yes is scary when you're trying to hold on to so much. But let go, and trust Him, and you cannot IMAGINE the things He has waiting for you.

Your house will be so much sawdust someday. Your clothes, you beloved family heirlooms, your rings, your must-have convection oven, your cherished artwork, your hard-won vacation home or car ---all of it is here, and gone. But Love? Love does not perish. It does not decay. It can't, because it is the only true thing in this world (and out of it.) Love matters.

If we could only wake up. If we could only see what He sees and choose to make Love our priority over all things. Someday I will live in a world like that. It's far off, but it is coming. As Jesus so gently and powerfully told St Julian as she lay dying, ' And all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.'

V and K holding hands in their sleep...

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Update Coming!!!

I PROMISE to get an update about the Thanksgiving Feast up here before I go to bed tonight, but right now  (as we got home late last night from the orphanage) I have to clean our entire apartment, pack, say goodbye to all my new Siberian friends, feed my kitties, and prepare for the 34 hour marathon of travel ahead of us.

But I will give you a teaser: the last two days spent at the orphanage with the kids were absolutely two of the BEST DAYS OF MY ENTIRE 45 YEARS! 'SPECTACULAR' doesn't even come close to describing it. 

Thank you everyone! I couldnt have done it without you!!!!
12 years old and still wants to sit on my lap:) I love you Daniel!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Making Russian National News....Again:)

This weekend Channel One Russia will run a feature news story on our time in Siberia. This will actually mark the 6th time we have appeared on the national news here...wish our story garnered as much attention in the US! As much as I loathe being on tv, it serves a great purpose, so I've always said yes, thus far. This time, I am hoping that adoption will be the focus and the need for Russian people to embrace the concept and idea of adoption the way Americans have.  The producer is of the same mind, I'm so lucky. Also, I don't mind being on tv over here, because Russian media people are incredibly kind and true to their word. If you tell them 'do not say this on camera' or 'please, could you mention the following?' -- they do! At least that has been my experience every time.

Today was the first day of filming, and it took place at the school. They filmed us rehearsing, an encore performance of the scenes, interviewed most of the students, the school staff, and me. It was a great day, and so wonderful to see the kids so excited to be on television. After the crew left, I stayed and was the guest of honor at a Thanksgiving Day Debate where the senior class students debated the pros and cons of celebrating the day. They knew their stuff!  They discussed the treatment of Native Americans by early Europeans, the value of the holiday in general, and many other finer points -- all in English! I was very impressed. Then I was asked to speak about the meaning of Thanksgiving for Americans. Can't tell you how meaningful this was for me, as Thanksgiving is also my Dad's birthday, and it was his favorite holiday, and he even wrote a book focusing on the first Thanksgiving!

The hardest part of the day was watching some of the students cry about my upcoming departure. It was very hard to keep it together, but I had promised myself I would not cry until I said goodbye to them for good - at the orphanage.

Did I mention 5 of them are coming with us to the orphanage? I'm so excited! And Channel One will be there filming all day. This afternoon they spent the day at the Ministry of Education discussing the hosting program we are starting in Prokopyevsk with Project 143. I believe all this attention will only help our endeavor.

Well, I need to go pack. We are bringing quite an array of things tomorrow, some of which I need to wrap very carefully tonight! Here's a partial list of what we are bringing on this final visit, thanks to the incredible generosity of many friends and blog readers:

  • Toilet paper for every single child. (The orphanage budget does not allow for TP, so we bought tons of it as a surprise!)
  • A Christmas tree
  • Lots of Christmas decorations
  • 400 photos to give out to all the kids and staff ( photos I have taken over the past several months)
  •  MANY Duplo blocks for the younger group
  • 5 more dolls
  • a computer camera ( for Skype)
  • 2 dvd players
  • a television for a group that does not have one.
  • several photo albums
  • 20 more inspiring movies (including Elf!)
  • a few last books to add to the 150  already bought for them.
  • Enough art supplies for every child
  • Some American treats to share after our big Feast -- m&ms, skittles, American cookies
  • TURKEY!!!!
My deepest and most humble thanks to every single one of you here, and on facebook, who contributed. For anyone who thinks a $5 donation does not make a difference...I beg to differ. With over 100 people contributing only $5, it was enough to cover the purchase of a tv and dvd player!

I promise to take hundreds of photos tomorrow and Saturday. Please keep us in your prayers, as these kids get to have the first Thanksgiving Feast of their lives, and are given a chance to meditate on the good things in their lives.

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

You.....Yes YOU....Thank You

I have been so grateful for all the comments over the past few months. I cannot tell you how much they meant to me. This blog has truly been a lifeline for me while here...and I thank each and every one of you for taking the time to comment, ask questions, tell me you're praying, share links, tell funny stories, cheer me up when needed.  It is not always possibly to answer eevry comment, but I wanted to take a moment to tell you that I read every single one with great focus and, usually, joy.

That said, I wanted to remind anyone who is waiting for a reply from me, to be unafraid to send a gentle reminder. Having ADD is a blesssing and a curse --and the curse is the inability to keep track of so many loose ends! When you write and ask me a question, I may have every intention of answering it right away, but I often get distracted by another important item on my agenda...and then the original item is lost forever. I truly don't mean to, and I honestly really do appreciate the gentle reminders.

I know many of you have written and asked for answers to various questions : Is that girl available for adoption? Can you send me the name of a child to send a care package to? Keri, what is your address? Keri, I have a great idea for _______, what do you think?  If I did not answer, it's not because I didn't want to or plan to, it's because my brain doesnt work like a normal brain! That used to be embarrassing to admit, but now I just realize it is part of who I am, and I just need to accept it and humbly ask for help.

So, feel free to comment below with your unanswered questions. If ALL the remaining questions are in one place, it will be easier for me to keep track of! The other thing you can  do is write me an email. (But don't do both -- that'll just confuse the heck out of me!)

My email is: KeriCahill34(at)gmail(dot)com. I'll remove this after a few days so I don't get a lifetime of spam. But for now, feel free to use it.

Off to buy final items for the Thanksgiving Feast!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Found ONE Reason To Be Happy About Going Home...

The trolley I take to work everyday.
....NEGATIVE 20 degrees celsius is physically painful. If it gets any colder than this I think I might just die.

Walking home from work was like being tortured. My eyes kept watering from the pain, which made them freeze shut, with the eyelashes acting like velcro. I completely blocked out forgot how cold it can get here.

Last January it got down to negative 24 celsius in Moscow and I now remember that day -- my whole body felt like it was in a vice.

How do people live like this for months on end?

Apt sculpture they just added to our street.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Yes, It's True - A Forever Family For D!

I was hoping to forego this post for awhile. I don't want to jinx what is in the works for D. But you amazing readers (and friends) are relentless in your pursuit of knowledge...lol....and if I have to answer one more private email, skype or chat message about D, I think my typing fingers might fall off.
Yes, as many of you read on my facebook page -- D is being adopted! The little girl who stole my heart and for whom I have prayed every single night and morning since March, will have a family ...a forever family!

And before you go feeling sorry for me -- don't. More than anything else in the world, I wanted D to have a family, and she does. Of course, of course I had hoped it would be me, but God has far better perspective than I, and He has blessed her with a mom and a Dad!

Obviously I won't be posting about the family. LeAnn of New Horizons very lovingly kept me in the loop, as I was worried that D would end up with a family that was not prepared for her particular needs. LeAnn assures me that this family is aware of D's issues and is still committed to her no matter what. I am so grateful to have been part of her journey I cannot express, and I celebrate her amazing news with prayers of gratitude to God.

Love never dies. D and Nastia and I will always have a bond, because of our love for one another. Her new family will have our prayers for decades to come. And though we may not be hosting her  next month or seeing her in the  future, God has given me a great peace that I will see D again some day -- if not in this life, then the next.

Thank you to all of you kind and loving friends who took the time to write and ask about her. I hope you will join with me in praying for her new family  -- and that her transition to them will be smooth and that she will delight them as much as she delighted us (I have no doubt....) I thank God for answering my prayers, and for making this one amazing, precious, big-hearted, funny, and infinitely wonderful little girl's dream come true. Amen!

Looking For Input

(My iphone always makes me orange...don't know why.)
I'm not kidding when I say I don't want to go home. I'm not even stretching the truth the tiniest bit. In fact, I'm so stressed about it that I had a near panic attack in the middle of the night last night. I managed to deflect it with deep breathing and prayer, but the knot in my stomach stayed.

Well-intentioned friends keep telling me I will be happy once I am home, but that's not really helping  (no offense.) I also know myself enough to know it's not true. I will be sad for a very long time, because I am leaving beind many, many children that I have grown to love very much. And I am leaving before I am ready. And I am leaving with a hundred million question marks still buzzing about in my head. And I am leaving D. And I am leaving a place where I know I a making a difference. And I'm happy here. Genuinely happy.

But for whatever reason, it is evident that by my daughter's clock, it is time to go. And so we go.

In a few days we will head to the orphanage for our big Thanksgiving Feast. It is building up to be quite the event -- many of my Shakespeare students are coming to help with set up (and translating) and Channel One Russia (the biggest of the big) is sending a crew to film us and do a national news story about it. We are going very early Friday morning, so that our Siberian Thanksgiving coincides with the U.S. one. The orphanage kids are already making decorations, and the staff is slowly purchasing all the goods. Nastia and I are cooking a turkey here and bringing it, as no turkeys could be found in Prokopyevsk. Svetlana, bless her heart, found one in Kemerovo and dropped it off at our house last night.

We will buy crates of fruit as well, since it is such a treat for the kids. I'm going to try to create a fruit tower on each table. After we all eat, we will share my family's tradition of going around the table and hearing from each person about what they are grateful for. Then pie! I can't find pumpkin anywhere, so we might be stuck with only apple. We'll see.

Anyway -- the input part: in the evening Svetlana and all my students will return to Kemerovo, the camera crew will leave, and I will have that evening and the entire next day to spend with the kids. I want to make my last day with them memorable, but I'm drawing a blank on how. I think I'm just so averse to leaving, that I'm having a mental block. So, help me. What are some ways I can end my time with them that will be memorable and helpful? How can I give D something to hold onto for the next several months? What would be my best use of time that last night and next day?

Please take a moment to comment if you have any ideas. Thank you.