‘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, March 23, 2012

'Making Do' With What Is

Thoughts of summer consume me:)
I keep getting private messages from blog friends asking for an update. I'm sorry I'm not posting more regularly, but it's uncomfortable to do so right now. Things have not changed in the region in which I'm adopting, and that means I'm in a holding pattern. For some reason, blogging immediately connects me to my thoughts of D and of Anya. So, right now while things are at a stand-still, I prefer to avoid posting here altogether. I hope those reading understand. But if you don't mind a mundane update on other things, I'll gladly indulge you.

I've moved my entire focus to two things as of late: #1 Nastia's health, well-being and happiness and #2, my work. On the Nastia end, I'm learning the patience of three-hour homework sessions. She has hit a wall in English and writing that is very frustrating and anxiety-provoking for her. She is in need of so much support in this area of learning that she feels 'stupid' and balks at the help she is offered.Her vocabulary is quite advanced, so people always seem surprised that she is so handicapped in the area of writing and reading.

We learned from last year's neuro testing that there is significant damage in the area of her brain that deals with these things. Her spelling has not improved in seven years. At all. She spells completely phonetically. At first everyone thought this was due to her ESL status. It's not. Her brain simply cannot properly process or retain the information. We've tried everything. This is extremely frustrating to her, and humiliating. For this reason, she avoids even texting friends (except Bridget) and posting on FB, even at the urging of her friends. I'm trying to find ways to help her accept this area of disability, but she has dug in her heels.

On a good note, she made the tennis team and is doing surprisingly well! She had to play matches with a decidedly better player yesterday at practice, and she tied her. That was a huge confidence boost. She had played her first two years home and was very good, but that was five years ago. The local coach back then raved about her natural ability, and urged me to get her a private coach and really pursue it, but her anxiety got in the way, and she wanted no part of it. Things have changed enough that she pursued joining the high school team all on her own. She practices on her own every day at the school next door, and seems genuinely happy when I pick her up from practices. In two weeks they begin playing matches against other schools. She is worried about travelling to new locations (anxiety) but I'm hoping this worry will ease as she feels more comfortable with the team. If she feels safe in that group, the travelling will be less anxiety-provoking for her.

As for me, things are finally looking up. I not only have my first job since October starting up next week, I have four other schools vying for programs this Spring. Although it will be difficult to fit them all in, I'm doing my best. I have alot of catching up to do financially, and I can't afford to say no to any jobs. I'm praying and hoping my RA (reactive arthritis) stays in check. A big transition like this can easily cause a flare-up; just one can knock me off my feet for days. I'm trying to pace myself and also get back to doing daily yoga to help fend off a potential flare-up. Eating raw vegan is the surest way to keep one from occurring, but I've always found it really hard to stay committed to that diet. I'm compromising with having cut out all processed foods entirely. Our kitchen looks like a farmer's market. We typically eat very healthy anyway, but breads, pasta and soda are my constant weaknesses. I'm doing my best to walk away from them forever.

So we are making do with 'what is' at present. We can't get to Russia with an empty bank account, so instead we send Anya cards and talk online with her as much as possible. I can't make this adoption happen, so instead I am focusing on the things I do have control over - my work and family.

I'm looking forward to the homecoming of a very dear friend/former student who has been in India for eons. He is one of those kindred spirits that makes me feel all is right in my world. He'll be working with me all summer, so I'm revelling in thoughts of summer Shakespeare right now. It can't come soon enough.

Anxiously awaiting the blissful days of summer with these beautiful souls.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Blessed Beyond Measure

Meeting my daughter for the first time.

Seven years ago today, I walked into Orphanage #5 in Prokopyevsk, Russia and met my daughter for the first time. I still don't know how I deserved such a gift. I don't know why God chose to bless me with such a soulful, loving and beautiful daughter, but He did.

I can't put into words for you what my sweet girl means to me, so I'll just leave you with a song - our song. She sang it to me last night again, as she does for every 'anniversary', holding my face in her hands.

Yes, I truly am the luckiest.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Another One Lost Forever

Older boys from the orphanage: Losha, Sergey, Vanya, Stas and Sasha on the end.
All but Sergey (in yellow) and Vanya (black) aged out in 2011.

What timing.

I heard today that one of the older boys from the orphanage was arrested for armed robbery. Sasha, seen above, robbed a small store at gunpoint. He also had a taser with him. The timing of this news was eerie -- I had spent all week tweaking the mission statement of the very organization I've been working on to help kids just like him.

I've known Sasha since he was 10 years old. He was there all those years ago when I adopted Nastia. Until last June, he slept in the bed just opposite D in the Star Group. He had a terrible early life -- a drug-addicted mother, and an older brother who made him deliver drugs for them until he was taken to the orphanage at about age 10. He has run away many times, and has often been in trouble since I've known him. He was one of the boys that the Director had told me was a hopeless case. ' We tried,' she told me in September 2010, ' But he's too damaged...'

If you read my blog regularly, Sasha was one of the boys I got really angry with on this last June trip when he stole food I bought for the younger kids -- right out of their hands -- as they left the little grocery store on the edge of the orphanage property. When I confronted him, he laughed at me and called me some pretty horrible names. He is also the bully who used D as a kind of personal slave. When I used to call weekly after leaving Russia last December, Sasha would stand by D on the phone and demand he ask for certain expensive items of me. Once he grabbed the phone and told me he would rape D if I didn't hurry up and send him a computer.

Sasha aged out of the orphanage in 2011 and left the orphanage for good in late June. And now? Nine months after I last saw him, Sasha is headed to prison for a long, long time. The prison system in this part of Russia is described as worse than hell. Some inmates die of starvation before they ever get out. Many die of hypothermia. And an incredible number from the violence that is a daily ritual there.

As much as I dislike Sasha, I mourn the fact that he is headed to such a terrible place. I can't judge him for what he's done. His life has been one long, dark tragedy from the beginning. What would I have done if I had lived a life like his?

This is just one small example of why a support system is needed for these kids. Having a roof over their head and food to eat is not enough. There is nothing there for them. Nothing. Sasha is just one of dozens of boys aging out from this one orphanage every year. What can he do but turn to crime? With no real education, no guidance, no home, no job, no food, and no examples set for him throughout his life...what else would you expect him to do? It's either crime or starve to death for so many of these boys.

Here is the news clip. You might recognize Sasha from photos I posted back in 2010. Sasha is the one facing front and sideways and the first of the two to talk to the camera.

I've wached too many kids from this orphanage make horrible choices once they leave. I think often of where my daughter would be today if she hadn't left. Not hard to imagine where she'd have ended up. Out of all the kids who have aged out since my daughter left, I know of only two who are relatively ok. Two, out of close to seventy. Something needs to be done.

I am almost ready to file the bylaws for the new non-profit I've been working on since last summer. Filing the state papers by the end of the month and then we can file for 501c3 status. It's been hard to do with no money coming in, but it is finally happening. Once that is done, we can really start making a real dent over there. Something IS being done.

I have two former students of mine who stand ready to make significant monetary donations once we have our Federal tax ID number. I also have over a dozen people ready to fly over there and work on the house we plan to buy whenever we're ready to go. I even have two trustworthy friends in Prokopyevsk who are interested in living there and caring for the house as we get on our feet. Much to do, and it takes infinite patience. We must work with the structures that already exist, and that takes a great deal of time.

In the meantime, please pray for Sasha, and all the boys just like him in this world, too many too count.

Monday, March 05, 2012

New Orphanage Photos

The orphanage website has recently posted some new photos. I'll share them with you here. According to the brief description, the children were treated to an outdoor 'picnic' this past week. Here they are roasting колбаса over an open fire, in the side yard of the orphanage. D is front and center,of course, and still in the hat, coat, jeans and tennis shoes I bought him in October 2010. Glad they still fit!

Here are a few other shots of the outdoor 'picnic'. Do you recognize the sweetheart in pink? I cannot wait to have her in my lap again. Also, some of you may recognize some coats, hats, gloves and scarves you sent over!

Looks like they all enjoyed themselves very much, especially the little ones' group, featured below:

Next, they posted photos of an indoor event held on 2/23 that was described as an 'anti-narcotics' campaign. With the rate of drug use among children aging out of the orphanage at almost 90%, I am glad they are starting to address this problem within the system now. This is a very new venture for them. There were tug-o war games....

Dressing up in costumes...

and a visit from the local authorities (lol)...

I'm guessing that that is the new Director standing behind V And L in their army costumes. I have never seen her before, and she appears in a few other photos on the site now. They also, sadly, removed most of the photos of the old Director and even the ones she had posted of her family.

Anyway, it was great to see some new photos. (I even see one of the dartboards I bought them hanging up behind them in the last photo.) I've also heard from both Natasha and Vanya that D is doing ok, that he received the 2nd package I sent him and that he knows I am still coming for him 'when the rules change.' -- his words. Thank God he understands.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

The Missing Posts

One of my longtime readers wrote and asked me tonight why so many of my posts seemed to be missing. I'm so sorry I didn't think to explain. Since I am still in the (neverending) process of adopting D, it was important I remove any posts having to do with him until he is home. I actually did it several months ago. I hope I got them all. I removed any posts I found with his photo or his full first name spelled out. I also had to remove a great many posts about the orphanage for the same reason. Just to be safe. I'll repost all of them (about 20 in all) once he is home.

And in that vein, I would truly appreciate the prayers of everyone reading this. Kemerovo continues to put a freeze on US families adopting from the region. It's hard to know which docs to continue to keep updating and which ones to just hold off on until things clear up. I may not be talking about D very much, but he is very much in my constant thoughts these days. I haven't spoken to him since Russian Christmas. And Vanya (older boy from the orphanage) just posted a photo of him on his Russian FB page and he looks so sad and so much older, it kind of put me over the edge. I had to walk away from the computer and go cry long and hard into my pillow.

If you pray, please pray that he is kept safe. That is my primary concern. Second to that is that he not lose hope. Most importantly, please pray that the powers that be in Kemerovo have a change of heart and open things up again -- soon. I don't know how I could possibly survive another failed adoption.

Here's a photo that appeared on the orphanages website page, so it's safe to share. D is in there, too. I almost can't look at it anymore.