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

Friday, February 25, 2011

These Kids Want A Family! (Repost)

(Urged to repost this. So I am. It's from December 2010)

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 ADHD 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! AT ALL! 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.


Dima and Angelina ( not related, just in same photo)

Rosa, who has a younger brother Vasya.

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 :)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

For You, Mary!

I am posting this in profound thanks for a great Grace I received today.
Thank you, Mary!

Hail Mary, Full of Grace!
The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou amongst women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
Pray for us sinners, now
and at the hour of our death.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Paperwork Hell

That is where I live right now. It's a scary place with no exits in view! Ahh! If you can offer up a prayer for my sanity or strength or focus, I would be incredibly grateful! I need to focus exclusively on D's paperwork this week, but it is proving to be much tougher than I remembered!!! God send me the mental strength and patience and calm to get it done!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

When No One Answers

I've been trying to reach the orphanage via phone for days. It's either a busy signal or incessant ringing that I get in response. The frustration of reaching out and reaching out and getting no one at the other end makes me feel hopeless. And then I realized, this is what these kids in the orphanage feel day in and day out. They spend their childhoods hoping someone will answer the call of their heart, and nearly one hundred percent of the time, no one does.

No one.

Imagine wanting something as simple as someone answering your phone call. Imagine trying to reach someone for days on end with no result. Frustration sets in. Maybe anger. Sometimes that nagging feeling that the world is against you. Know that feeling? We all have experienced it at one time or another, right?

Now imagine wanting someone just to love you. Wanting someone to care enough to choose YOU. Reaching out with your heart in prayer night after night, like my daughter did, asking for God to bring you a mom or a dad. 

No one answers. 

The line is busy or it simply rings incessantly for years on end. People are too busy to answer you call, or too scared, or too distracted with their own lives, or.......something.

Today when I made my thirtieth attempt to reach the orphanage by phone, I was flooded with a sense of what these kids feel every day of their lives. The helplessness. The hopelessness. The deep and utterly inescapable knowing that you are forgotten. Invisible. Unloved.

My prayer this day is that more of you pick up the phone. Say yes. Go out on a limb. Be brave. Say to one of them,

'I choose YOU.'

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Yes, Shakespeare with Kids

A couple of you have become facebook friends in recent months and have commented on how much you like reading about my work. I realized how much I tend to shut out my work life on this blog, for the most part. My last post got me thinking about that.

Anyway, I decided it was time to share a glimpse into the other half of my heart.....my work with kids and Shakespeare. Here are a few photos of my students performing over the past few years. We have an outdoor stage by the ocean. The children help build the set and costumes. It's a very magical world, if I do say so myself! Hope you enjoy this peak. This coming summer we are gearing up to do Romeo & Juliet and Hamlet.

A Midsummer Night's Dream ( Puck & Oberon)

A Midsummer Night's Dream   (The Rustics)

Love's Labour's Lost  (Costard and Moth)

Love's Labour's Lost ( Holofernes and Sir Nathaniel)

The Winter's Tale ( Leontes & his son, Mamillius)

Henry V ( Duke of Exeter and Sir Thomas Erpingham & boy)

The Scottish Play ( The three witches)

As You Like It ( Orlando and Rosalind, & Celia)

Scenes from Shakespeare for Little Ones ( Peaseblossom)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

For Want of Photos, An Occupational Sharing

I notice I tend to avoid blogging if I don't have any photos to include. Why? I guess the fear that many of us have..that our words just don't carry much worth on their own. Silly, I know. but I also know that most of you reading this can probably relate! So, I am demanding of myself a post today sans photos. I hope it meets with your approval :)

I only have a week left of my current school job. I always have mixed reactions to these transitional times - bliss and anxiety. I'm elated that I will finally have time to prepare for my upcoming trip to Siberia (and relieved I may finally have time to clean my house) but I get anxious ending things. I always have, and I'm pretty certain I always will. First, I get very attached to the kids. I know I may be part of a very small club, but I adore 7th graders. It may just be my favorite grade to teach. I love their complicated adult/child selves that at once strive to prove their maturity while simultaneously embracing that mysterious joy that only kids seem to have 24 hour access to. They are too adorable for words on some days, and I just marvel at their sweetness and courage and wonder if their parents take the time to do the same.

There are some stand-outs, there always are. I always tend to gravitate towards the outsiders, the ones who just don't seem to fit in. The sad ones. In everything I do, I try to engage them and make them feel important and cared about. There is one boy who has been so quiet and angry from the first day. I wondered what caused his pain and lack of engagement. Yesterday I found out he had lost his older sister in a car accident this fall. Now I understand the mask of anger and defiance he wears. What can I do? I pray for him, I try to shower him with attention when I work with him. But in the end, he is going to be out of my life shortly and I will wonder about him for years to come.

It's hard to be a teacher. For me, anyway. I often find myself wanting to stop all the charades, the teaching and schedules and homework assignments and just sit and be with them. Ask them questions. Tell them how remarkable they are. Share with them the secret that they have the power to make a difference in this world. Remind them that they matter - they really matter. But, in a great  twist of irony, I know that I would lose my job if I did that -- did the one thing these kids really, truly need far more than learning Shakespeare or algebraic equations.

I wish I had a dual life. This one, and another where I would spend all my time dismantling our current educational (non)system and start from scratch. One where I would devote every minute to making the children of our world marvel at their own worth and magic before they ever learned that 2 + 2 = 4. I grieve over the current state of our schools. I always have. I only really continue to work in that dysfunctional system because I know I am giving my students a much needed break from all the madness. I give the school an excuse to pull them out from behind their desks, and put them in a space where I can level the playing field and show them something far more magical and life-affirming than fluorescent lights and busywork.

A good half of the reason I removed Nastia from school was due to my firsthand experience of the insanity of our education system. Of course there was an other half at play - the fact that she was not learning due to her own set of unique needs and learning disabilities. but even if Nastia were an 'A' student and without an IEP, I'm sure we'd still be homeschooling. I just can't see putting my daughter in that prison. I just can't.

Anyway, of course there is much more to this, and perhaps I will get to write about it at some point, but right now my life has only little puddles of free time, and I must get back to work. My students await:)

Saturday, February 05, 2011

I'm Definitely an Optimist

I already have two gigantic duffle bags filled to an epic capacity for next month's trip to the orphanage. And then there is the growing pile of donations that stands ready in D's room. You see, I just assume I am going to find a way to get everything there, even though I can barely manage the two already packed, thank you very much.

When we headed over in September, we brought four massive LLBean rolling duffles. I can't even tell you what a comedy routine it was to get them in an out of elevators, up and down escalators, and on and off of conveyor belts at the airport. Thank God Nastia was in a good mood that day, that's all I can say. but Nastia is adamant she is not going on this trip. I have no idea yet where she will go or who will stay with her, but God does. But my chief concern  (or challenge, let's say) is how this arthritic, middle-aged, height-challenged woman is going to cart all these bags to Siberia herself. I honestly didn't think about it until someone asked. I just assumed God would provide a way. And I think perhaps He has.

A very dear new friend of mine has a daughter who is more than obsessed with the idea of travelling to Siberia with me. She is twelve years old. I've honestly never met anyone quite so selfless. Well, I have...but not at twelve years of age! B is the girl who gave me all her birthday and Christmas money last month to put towards D's adoption. She reads my blog faithfully, and wants nothing more in the world than to go to the orphanage with me, and shower those kids with love and attention.  (Of course she is already bugging her mom to host, if not adopt, one of the kids, too!)

Now, there may be many that feel they want to come and help. In fact I know there are, as many people write to say 'Oh, how I wish I could find a way to go with you!'  but B means business.  She racked her brain to come up with a creative way to pay for her airfare. She decided to ask friends and family to donate their 'orphaned socks' -- you know, the ones that have lost their match and sit in the back of your drawer for months on end? Yes, those socks. So she collected a great many of these and has been using her limited free time to create sock animals that come with their own name and birth certificate that she makes herself! How brilliant is that? She sells to friends, family and even her teachers! In just a week or two, she has made nearly $100!!

Although B is selling her creations locally, I asked if I could link to her blog so you could read what she is up to and offer encouraging words! Her mom, being a good mom, worries about the whole blog thing. So, FYI, she only posts after her mom previews her writing and she does not post any identifying info.

Please take a moment to stop by and say hi to this incredible 6th grader. She is truly one of those special souls you count yourself lucky to meet. B is out to save the world, and I don't doubt that she will succeed...one sock at a time!

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Accentuate The Positive

Not going to lie. It's been a rough few days. Very rough, but most of it I can't blog about. Just imagine a whole lot of bad days rolled into one and then times it by three.

But I'm tired of being sad and overwhelmed and I find myself going in search of any blog or site I can find that is upbeat and positive. Funny, too. Funny is good. So I'm going to take a stab at sharing whatever slim pickings I can think of from the last few days of my life that are positive or funny.

Animal Farm
 No matter how bad things get, our five pets are a nonstop source of  AFV outtakes. How many cats do you know who hide in the bathtub just waiting for the chance to scare the living hell out of the dog -- over and over again? And do any of your dogs sleep upside down, with all four legs in the air all night? I didn't think so. How about a fish that tries to escape his tank at least once a week? No? You're missing out.Simply put --we have very 'special' pets.

Food Wars
Nastia has taken to secret labelling food jars and boxes when I'm not looking. Something yummy? Then she;s likely to break out her handy Martha Stewart-ish label maker and mark it in big bold letters  - NASTIA'S. Of course, she doesn't have the guts to tell me to my face that the cookies I just bought should be all hers.So what does she do? She waits till I'm asleep and labels everything she doesn't want to share. Funny, I thought I was the breadwinner. Doesn't the breadwinner make these types of decisions?

We live in an ice cave now. It might look like a house on the inside, but the outside is pure igloo. There are ice  fangs hanging along the whole eve of the house. As you walk up the front path, it looks like you are about to be devoured by a very nasty ice creature the size of a fifties ranch.
ice fangs.
My Daughter's Insane Imagination
Nastia has a very vivid imagination, which makes for strange conversations. Today she told me she couldn't wait until we were in heaven so she could perform surgery on me. What? Yes, it turns out that one of her longtime dreams is to 'see what's inside' me, but she is nice enough to wait until we are in heaven. Her rationalization:  "Mom, nothing hurts in heaven. I can perform lots of surgeries on you...see your heart and your lungs and everything --- and you won't feel a thing. I wouldn't do that to you while we're stuck down here." Gee, thanks honey.

My Dream Life
In my dream life everything is perpetually wonderful. At least lately. Every night I go to bed crying, or at least begging God for some relief from one thing or another. And every night I dream of being reunited with either Daniel or Dasha or Anya. Not kidding. Every. Single. Night. Last night it was Daniel. In the dream, I drove my Toyota all the way to Siberia, and was parking in the back of the orphanage when I saw Daniel with a bunch of kids outside. He was holding a basketball. He dropped it and ran, not walked,  to my car and pulled the door open before I got the chance to undo my seatbelt, and then he was hugging me and crying before I even took the keys out of the ignition. I woke up sobbing into my pillow, and saying  'I love you' outloud in Russian:)