‘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

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Doing What I Love

'Orphanage Invasion' Update

Ksusha on the left, and the Assistant Director, Katya R, in the center.
This morning I was able to chat online with three of the girls who aged out of the orphanage in June -- for two whole hours! Ksusha Novikova, Nastya Krasilova and Natasha Chernova were all on at the same time via a school computer! I was able to ask them many questions about the current state of things at the orphanage and what they need.
Nastya Krasilova, who is acting as the main 'messenger' to the orphanage for me. She aged out in June and is currently trying to find a place to live. She is attending church weekly and says it helps her
to keep perspective when things are bad.

All three girls said there is a great need for shoes right now. There are not enough shoes to go around once again, and there is simply no money there to buy new pairs. Second to that they said there is a need (as always) for warm socks, hats and gloves. So if you are sending a Christmas package, please include some of these items if you can.
Natasha Chernova on the left, with one of her teachers, at her graduation in June 2012.
She keeps an eye on Daniel for me.

Sadly, they told me that multiple staff members had quit the orphanage recently. They couldn't speak to 'why', and my guess is the girls were scared of speaking about something they shouldn't. But they did say that they were all still in touch with Ekaterina R, the Assistant Director, and that - though she quit this week,too - she promises to pick up all the packages at the post office and deliver them to the children directly, as long as needed. I have known Katya for 8 years. She is a woman of her word who simply adores the children. I know they will receive everything if Katya is in charge. (She is in the top photo.)

They relayed that things are not great at the orphanage, but that they all visit often to check up on the kids and relay messages. These girls are so thoughtful, that they refused to tell me anything they might need or want and instead kept urging me to 'please send shoes' to the kids at their former orphanage. I hope to send these girls all care packages of their own soon. If you'd like to join me, I can share their address with you via email. I just don't want their public address listed here.

All the girls were delighted to hear that many of you will be sending care packages to the kids for Christmas. They know too well how lonely Christmas usually is. The only gifts they will receive are the ones you send. Please remember that photos and cards mean almost more to them than anything else. Consider adding a few family photos and a simple card in Russian to your box. (You can use google translate.)

The address to use when sending your package is listed in my last blog post. Please be SURE to include a copy of the Russian letter I mentioned! I have only received three requests for it via email. I cannot post it here because it contains personal information that shouldn't be shared publicly. but if you email me, I will send it to you!

On a final note: thank you to the 5 people who sent donations for the Thanksgiving Feast to be held at the orphanage next week! $283 has come in!
I sent them $500 this morning, and Katya R is scheduled to pick it up Friday, so the Feast may not happen until Monday. I'll keep you posted about when it occurs.

Thank you to all of you who are taking the time to send a package. I know it was much easier to get people on board with this in past years when I could post photos of the children, but until I go back there again, you'll just have to imagine the joy you're creating:) I can't tell you what a difference it makes in their lives to know someone cares. This morning Natasha ended our conversation with "Thank you for being so faithful in your care of us. It was not expected. We feel very grateful to you."  So -- Know that your care really does make a difference!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Finally Reached The Orphanage!

Persistence pays off! I crafted a desperate letter and sent it to every single young adult I know who has aged out of the orphanage. I contacted them via Russian Facebook, knowing that they are not accessing it very often, but hoping I'd hear from at least one of them. I heard from three today! Nastya Krasilova spoke directly with the assistant Director and relsyed all my information. It turns out they have not receive even one of the emails I sent to the orphanage email address, and they were actually wondering what happened to me, as I always send them funds for 'American Thanksgiving.'

Katya, the Assistance Director, said they are more than grateful to have packages sent over for the Christmas Holidays and she promised she would do her very best to see that the items go to exactly whom you specify. I had related to her that packages would be sent with a letter included detailing what gender and age each box was for, and she said that would be quite helpful. However, if you have been sending packages for the past few years to one particular child, you can still do that. However, you must include a photo of them and their name in a prominent way within the box,so they know. Those of you who have sent packages for years should still have an old photo of your child. Please use that, if possible.

For everyone, here is how to address the box and send it:


Go to your local post office. You will need to fill out a customs form. You will need to say the contents are worth under $25 even if that's not the case. (Otherwise the orphanage will have to pay on the other end.) You'll have to wrap it REALLY well to prevent theft along the way. (Think duct-tape.) You will need to address it VERY clearly. Write what appears below in BIG BOLD LETTERS. 



Ekaterina ( Katya) is the Assistant to the New Director. I have known katya for 8 years. She is a wonderfully kind person who loves the children. Whatever you send, she will make sure it goes to the children - this I can guarantee! 

Lastly, you will need to include the Russian letter with your package that explains your connection to me. I can send it to you via email.  To receive it, write me at KeriCahill34(at)(gmail)(dot)(com.) The letter includes a list of ages/genders that you can circle so that the orphanage knows who to give your gift to. I broke up the ages as follows: 4-6, 7-9, 10-12,13-16. 

Finally, if you wish to send any donation towards their Thanksgiving Feast, it wil be gratefully received! I am sending the Assistant Director $500 via Western Union in the morning...on faith! I can't quite afford that right now, but I have a feeling that some readers will donate this week to help. That sum is more than enough for them to create a wonderful feast for all 100 children, believe it or not! The 'Thanksgiving Feast' will be held this Friday since I cant get the money to them until tomorrow.

To donate to their 3rd annual  'American Thanksgiving', simply use the paypal button on my blog..but be sure to specify that it is for 'Thanksgiving'! If more than $500 comes in, I will send whats left over next month so that they can have a similar feast for Christmas.

I can't tell you what a treat it is for these kids to have this big meal. I was lucky enough to be there for the 'Feast' two years ago. It was a day of great joy! here's a little video clip of that day:

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Invasion

There. Got your attention, I suspect. If so, please listen...

I want to plan an invasion. I will need at least a hundred brave souls to join the cause if it is to be successful. They must be risk-takers, bold and unabashedly committed to the cause. It will take commitment and several hours of sustained effort over the next week or two. It is not for everyone, I know. There will be no thanks, no reward, no getting back anything in return. It takes a certain kind of person to commit to such a thing. Here is your mission, if you choose to accept it:

We are going to invade Orphanage #5 in Prokopyevsk, Sibera. We are going to invade it with love and letters and gifts and attention, so that the 100-plus children there see that they are not forgotten. We are going to stage an EPIC CHRISTMAS INVASION that will leave them incredulous and shocked. Are you in?

Here's what I'll need from you: a commitment to send one box filled with anything that might bring the children and staff some joy. Use your imagination. Send what you love. There are no rules except to avoid anything the US Postal Service says you cannot send.

I will be posting information here and also in the facebook group "I Support the 100 Children of Orphanage #5". I will also post a letter (in Russian) that you should include in your package so that the new Director knows that the gifts come from someone that knows me. In the next few days I will know the name of the person whom the boxes should be addressed to at the orphanage. I will post that here and in the facebook group.

In the meantime, you can start brainstorming about your package. Make it outrageous. Make it memorable. Find a way to also include your own letter (translated into Russia) that reminds them they are loved and not forgotten.

If I am able to once again get specific names and ages, I will, but it is very likely that you will just have to send a generic message 'to a girl, age 10-11' or something like that.

Comment below if you plan to be part of the invasion so I can get an idea of how many boxes will be headed there. They will need to be sent by November 25th if they are to arrive by Russian Christmas.

The orphanage has been going down-hill according to the girls I am in touch with who aged out this year. It is overcrowded with more children, less staff and the children are suffering due to the changes in staffing there as well. Let's try to give them a Christmas they'll never forget!

NOTE: I am also currently financially supporting 5 girls who have aged out of the orphanage (though friends are taking that over this week.) I am working to get a mailing address for each of them so that some of you could send a package to them. They are 16 and 17 years old and do not have permanent homes, so it is difficult to get packages to them. But I'll do my best to get an address!

Are you ready, soldiers? Get to it!

Oops! And Scary Info

The two posts that briefly appeared yesterday were old posts. I've been slowly going through all the posts I took down awhile ago (most of my blog) and am reposting the ones I can. However, Blogger changed its formatting and it is confusing, so when I tried to repost some of them, it removed the old timestamp and posted them as new. So sorry for those who read them and were confused!

I can now tell you why I closed my blog for a bit. A commenter left a message that he had seen photos of my daughter as a young girl on a Russian child p*rn site and he even left the info on how to find it. He swore that she appeared in a particular issue. I did not go to the site, obviously, but I googled the info on the online 'magazine' he referenced and it was absolutely horrific to read. It was indeed a very active Russian child p*rn site and I had to give that info to the FBI in Boston. Nastia simply looked very similar to a young girl featured on the issue he referenced. It was not her.

But needless to say, this terrified me and I had to close shop while it was looked into, and while I decided if I could keep the posts up. I am now painstakingly going through all my posts and removing any photos or info that I feel could be used by people with bad intentions.

So, please be careful, fellow bloggers. This commenter had reached my blog by googling "young Russian girls" and his motivations were obviously bad. The fact that he had viewed the website in question is just sickening. I'll never know why he bothered to post that he recognized Nastia, but he did. Be very careful is all I can say.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Learning the Art of Humility

Times are tough. They keep getting tougher. I am not used to this.

I obviously live a pretty simple life -- small house, old car, second-hand clothes, staycations instead of vacations. I've liked it that way, and felt grateful for what I had. But God (or 'life' for my agnostic and athiest friends) has a way of moving us out of our comfort zones. Even if we have consciously tried to do just that most of our lives. Stagnant water breed disease. A strong current keeps things moving, and healthier. So, I'm viewing this as my current, even if it feels like a tsunami from my view.

After being out of work for four months, I finally had to dig into my adoption savings to pay the rent. And then more, to pay for the oil bill. And then a little more, to pay for the car insurance and then the electric bill, and then, sadly, for food. I can't begin to describe the guilt and shame that came with this move. It was the first time that I felt the sting of being a single parent. No one to lean on. No one to help me weather this financial storm. I was haunted by the voices of my more conservative friends: 

'You give too much. You're going to regret it someday.' 

'Take care of your own..you can't save all of them.'

'How can you possibly adopt again? What if you lose your job in this economy?'

Well, I don't regret all I've given this year. I calculated that, between Anya and the orphanage, I've given over $5,000 of my own money in the past 12 months. (And that is not even counting the generous orphanage donations of so many of you this year!) Pretty impressive for a single mom with a salary hovering around $36,000 a year, I'd say. And why don't I regret it? Because it's not my money anyway. In my heart of hearts I know that any money I didnt need to live on wasn't mine. You may feel different, and that's okay. But this is the heart  and mindset I was born with. It won't function any other way.

And so, yes, I find myself in quite a corner.  I've done anything and everything to salvage my own business, and watched things get worse. I've looked for work, and found none. Everytime I find a suitable teaching job in the area, it is gone before I call. I found a few elder care jobs that sounded promising, only to find I wasn't qualified, because I can't do heavy lifting. Cleaning is out because of rheumatoid arthritis. Even looked for simple babysitting jobs, but the market is saturated..so many qualified teens and college students in the area.

so I'm back to literally and figuratively knocking on doors, trying to create some school jobs for my company, and doing all I can to beef up enrollment in our summer programs. I'm finding that everyone is so strapped in the area, there just isnt room for something as 'extraeneous' as Shakespeare.

But the reason for this post is not to whine and list all the challenges I'm up against. This post is just me trying to be transparent and honest, since I know it is the most important part of having this blog. I first used it to try to be honest and transparent about raising a child with RAD. Then she grew up and didnt want me sharing quite so much. So then I tried to be honest and transparent about the struggle to bring Anya home. Then about the situation for children in orphanage #5 , and also about the horror facing those aging out of this orphanage. I guess the thing to come clean about now is my own vulnerability and how scary it is -- how terribly scary to feel so useless and vulnerable. 

Last night I was lying in bed thinking about it all, and asking God for wisdom. What came to me is what a great lesson this is for me to know firsthand the fear of poverty. I'm not stupid. I know I cannot possibly compare myself to, say, Anya or some of the people I know in Russia who struggle to have enough food for their table. My poverty is cushioned by the fact that, if worse comes to worst, I could move in with my mom or a close friend. It is also buffered by the fact that I live in a country where I can apply for foodstamps if needed. And further, that I have friends I have helped along the way, who are kindly helping me now.

So I'm trying my best to look at this experience as just another lesson. What can I learn from feeling this level of vulnerability? How can I use this experience to help others? How can I use this time to train my mind to more adeptly focus on the poitive and good? Can I teach myself to accept the unknown without this fear? I'm trying. And I'll keep trying as best I can.


This is school vacation week and Nastia has just extracted a promise from me to stay off the computer from tonight until the weekend. We've decided to do our best to pretend we're away for vacation -- no computers, ipads, cellphones. Just us taking a few days to rediscover what it is to be happy.

Its been a very stressful few months for both of us, and Nastia mentioned the other day that neither of us had laughed in months. She's right. And so, we're going to try to remember what it's like to be stress-free and carefree for a few days. And we're not going to let lack of money stand in our way.

We started today, by spending a good chunk of the day at the beach. It was that warm -- about 42 degrees! We took the dogs and watched them chase the waves. (Wish I had thought to bring a camera.) We ate a 'picnic' lunch in the car and then played by the water, watching Henry and Matilda make news friends. It was a gorgeous, blue-sky day. Here is what the beach looks like, though its an old photo - not from today:

We came home and made my mom's beef stew in our crockpot. And now we're settling down to watch the Downton Abbey finale together (I've already seen it. Let's see if I cry as hard this time around.) We're going to head to bed early, because..

Tomorrow we head into Boston. We'll take the train in and go to all our favorite places. Our library has free passes to most of them, so we don't have to pay. We're planning on going to the Museum of Fine Arts, and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum -- my favorite spot in all of Boston. Haven't been? If you're close enough to Boston, it is a great place to go in winter to be reminded of warmer days to come:
Not sure what we'll do on Wednesday thru Friday. It is the start of Lent and I won't miss Ash Wednesday at my parish, but on Thursday and Friday we may try to visit my cousins in CT or my longtime best friend who lives in the farthest corner of Northern Maine. (The gas prices alone may move that off the list.) We've got open invitations for three different places...just need to decide where to go.

I'm grateful that Lent starts this week. Next to Christmas, it's my favorite time of the liturgical year. Forty days to reflect, heal, take stock in things and draw closer to God. I try to attend Mass daily during Lent, but work usually gets in the way. Not this time. One of the few blessings of unemployment.

For my fellow Catholics reading this: are you still struggling, like me, to remember the changes in the Mass? I catch myself saying the wrong response every.single.time. And, I'm sorry, but I doubt Ill ever feel comfortable with the changes to the Nicene Creed. I'm going to be meeting with Father Murphy soon to talk about it. I figure if he can explain the 'why' of the changes, I may be more ready to embrace them. It's hard.

Yesterday's blessing: I heard from Anya, albeit briefly, via Russian facebook. I had written her on vkontakte and asked if she had left the hospital yet. She wrote last night that she finally is out, and staying at her 'cousin's' again for a few weeks. I hope she didn't wear out her welcome at Ira's. I'm guessing she decided to stay at Sasha and Oksana's to give Ira's family a break, but I'm hoping she'll be back there soon. Sasha and Oksana's doesn't offer much privacy or mobility. Here's a shot of the kitchen there. You can see why I worry.

It's a coal stove (see the little metal door on the far right, below?) This is the sole source of heating for the entire space, though the whole place is only about 10x 14. Here is another view. See the red boards? That is the cover to a root cellar!

I hope she is back at Ira's soon.

Hope you all have a lovely week, vacation or not!

Friday, November 09, 2012

Joyful Happenings:)

I usually shy away from purely informational posts; I'm always afraid I'll bore you! But I continue to get encouragement from people reading this blog to post updates, so I defer to them!

I guess what I'd like to share is that even when many frustrating or even sad occurrences are happening in our lives, we can still find great pockets of joy and delight. Sure D and Anya are not home -- and that is a daily burden on my heart -- but I need not focus all my attention there. if it would help, I would of course! But it doesn't. So, best to lean into joy while you wait for obstacles to clear. Nastia and I found a particularly wonderful way to lean into joy this month -- we are fostering kittens and two cats for the Northeast Animal Shelter! We signed up to foster about a month ago, survived their interview process, and a few nights ago we received our first call! Here are our little ones:

The photo isn't great as I took it with my phone. But at least you can get a glimpse of them! There are five kittens - three black and two gray - and they are 4-5 weeks old. They were found abandoned outdoors along with their nursing mom and her sister (they think.) The mom was pretty emaciated, poor thing. But they are doing really well now that they've been here three days and nights. We have them sequestered in our Anya/Dasha/Daniel/Daniella room. We removed everything but the furniture, and placed lots of towels and bathmats on the floor. They are having a grand old time in there. And they are so much fun to watch.

As sweet as the kittens are, I've fallen in love with the Momma and her sister. I don't think I've ever met such sweet cats. I've been reading up on Russian Blues ( their breed) and it turns out that this is typical for the breed - kind, sweet, social, affectionate, smart. They are a delight to care for and I find myself in the room with them more than out! Here is the Momma and her sister:

If I didn't already have two cats, I'd be keeping these girls for sure! anyway, its alot of work to care for 7 new cats in addition to our already large menagerie, but its so worth it.

If that weren't enough to make this week fantastic, I'm also falling deeper and deeper in love with my new students at the school for at-risk teens I'm currently working at. Although I have always loved my job, I haven't always found it easy to get up at 6am. But these days? I am out of bed the second my alarm goes off, because I know I'll be headed to those kids. I can't share much  about them but the basics, for their privacy's sake - but they are all 16-22 years old, mostly homeless, and all have trauma backgrounds that are heartbreaking to hear about. It's taken a good month and a half to win their trust, but I *think* I'm finally there. We are working on scenes from Romeo & Juliet, and they are really starting to connect to the text and enjoy it. next week I start bringing in the weapons (stage ones,of course) to start choreographing their fight scenes. The boys are pretty excited about that, though they told me they already know how to wield knives -- "Yo, we teach YOU something. You'll see.." I've also been offered a more permanent role at the school. Can you guess my response?

Despite their tough exteriors and threatening looks, these students are incredibly resourceful, thoughtful, and passionate kids. I can't wait to see them experience the rush of being on stage, having a whole audience listen to them and take them in. They need that.

Other than this, its getting ready for Daniella's arrival, teaching my non-school classes, and trying to keep the house clean!

Hope you all are well!