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

Sunday, June 30, 2013

I'm Really Missing My Anya Today....

...so here are a few photos of her from our recent visit:

Nastia feeling the baby kick!

They love each other so much.
My ancient hand, blessing baby Sasha.
Anya cooking shashliki for their cousin's birthday.

Anya in her 'new' maternity dress from my friend Kim.
Anya with Oksana ( their Dad's cousin) and Nastia, on the front steps of Oksana's house.
The most beautiful mother-to-be I think I've ever seen...

I love you, my beautiful Anoushka. I wish you were here...

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Sneak Peak

Exhausted and soooo ready for bed after a very eventful ten hours getting D home. I'll post more this weekend, but here is a photo of her, fresh off the plane from Latvia. So happy she's here, even if I did just have to read her 5 bedtime stories and scratch her back for 40 minutes while wanting to hit the pillow myself the whole time!

And here is her arrival home, about 6:40pm tonight:


Life is Beautiful

Ksusha and Nastya K on their visit to Kemerovo City
It's 3:30am right now.  My brain still can't seem to sync with US time yet, so I'm ever-so-slowly working my way back to it. This is the first day I've managed to sleep past midnight!

In just a few hours I'll be heading to Logan Airport. I'm headed to JFK for all of two hours on the ground. Why? To pick up Daniela, of course:) I know I haven't posted much about her arrival, but I'm still feeling scared on jinxing anything. Knowing how quickly roads can be blocked in Russia, I fear the same thing in Latvia, but I am doing my best to have faith.

I'm cautiously excited about her visit. This time it will be 5 weeks instead of 3, so that's a blessing! My best guess is that my court dates in Latvia will be in September. Still have a few small hurdles to jump. Daniela tells me it will be on her birthday :)

Although I'm back in the States 5 days now, my heart is honestly still in Kemerovo. I've dreamt of Anya and/or Daniel every night since I've been home. I miss them. Now when I feel that ache I don't allow myself to be sad, but I channel that love into prayer for them. Last night I managed to pray the rosary over and over for Daniel and then the entire orphanage for over an hour. We haven't been able to reach Anya since we've been home and that is always scary for me. More so now, with baby Sasha on her way soon. Nastia plans to empty her savings account and fly back over by herself on August 16th. She has managed to save about $2,000 over the past 6 years. She's very proud of that. And this week she is going out to apply for her first 'real world' job. She wants to be able to send Anya money every month like I do. I"m so proud of her.

In other news --I've received no less than three 'thank you's from Nastya K and Ksusha this week. They are still revelling in the two days they got to spend in the big city. It was such an amazing day! As you know I had planned to take a larger group of the girls shopping in Prokopyevsk, but that didn't work out, so instead I gave money to my intermediary  to give to the other girls, and then I paid for Nastya and Ksusha to take the bus up to Kemerovo. They stayed with us overnight, which was so much fun. I listened to all three girls (my Nastia included) giggle for hours. When we woke up, we hit the ground running : first a big breakfast, then shopping for clothes and shoes, a well-earned lunch, then shopping for books.

Ksusha had a hard time spending money. She had never been shopping before, according to Nastya. It took half the day to convince her to spend some of the money. It finally took my Nastia strong-arming her to do it..lol! She actually yelled at Ksusha ( I know that sounds harsh, but it worked) and finally Ksusha could see that we weren't going to let up. She bought two adorable shirts, and I bought her some socks and undergarments since she was too embarrassed to. Her favorite part of the whole day was the book store. We spent well over an hour in it. Ksusha found one book she wanted and clutched it to her chest the entire time. I told her after 20 minutes that we would not leave the bookstore till she chose at least FOUR more books. I told her she needed enough to keep her busy till my next visit!

Nastya K had an easier time and bought a dress, shoes, socks and little hair clips. She thanked me very sincerely every time. They were so proud to carry those bags! After shopping, we stopped for milkshakes at my favorite cafe, Chokoladnitsa. I ordered them a chocolate fondue with lots of fruit. It felt so wonderful to treat them!

Just replaying those two days in my head is a gift. I keep thanking God, and YOU generous peeps who donated, for the chance to treat them. I can't get over the fact that it happened. I was sure, with my luck there, they'd be prevented from coming. So glad I was wrong! They had the most memorable day. And my intermediary will be treating 5 others girls to a similar experience in Prokopyevsk in August:) I didn't get to take as many photos of K & N as I'd hoped, but here are some!

Weary Travellers just arrived after a four hour bus ride, eating mushroom soup!

First order of business - they wanted a photo by the 'famous' fountain. This was at 11:45 at night!
Notice its still twilight?
Anya talks to the girls about how awful it is to be pregnant..lol.
Nastya enjoying a strawberry shake
Ksusha enjoying the same!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Home, But Not Really....

Look how they've grown!
Nastia and I arrived home late Friday night, but we're still adjusting to the time change and lack of sleep. Everytime I arrive back from Russia I don't really feel 'home' for months. A country like Russia will do that to you. I spend the first several days feeling confused and somewhat homesick for where I've just come from -- like I'm straddling two worlds and can't decide which one is home. There are so many people there I love.

There is much to tell you about this trip, but I think it will come out in dribs and drabs. I came home with the need to hit the ground running at work - no time to transition. And so I don't have the time to reflect on the trip that I'd like. I did get to visit the children at the orphanage, and it was WONDERFUL. Sadly I can't post all the photos or details here because it could hurt some people I love over there. But at least you know they received a dose of love, and boy did I make use of the time I had with them!

I was also able to meet with a former caretaker who not only filled me in on the details of how things are in the orphanage now ( terrible) but also helped me to choose five more girls that just aged out that I could match with sponsors here. The most amazing part was that I had five particular girls in mind, but I did not mention them. I wanted to see who she recommended. It was serendipitously THE SAME FIVE GIRLS I HAD THOUGHT OF!

These girls have all recently aged out ( as in the past month.) All five of them are hard-working, trustworthy girls who will be good stewards of any money sent to them. This caretaker, whom I'm not naming to protect her, cried when she realized that seven girls had already been receiving monthly stipends from the States. She thought it was only one. She cried and said ' Keri, that is the difference between starvation and living for them...' and then she continued to cry. I did not know the money made that much of a difference. I knew it was helping, but she went on to tell me that these girls were able to stay in school solely because of these extra funds. Without it, they often have to choose between eating and bus fare to school.

I have found two sponsors already, but if you are reading this and feel prompted to help and can commit to at least one year of sending $50 per month, please contact me. I will send you info on the girls, and how to send them the funds. 

More later. I just hit another wall of exhaustion...lol...time for sleep!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

HOPE for the Hopeless

Oh how I would LOVE to share what I have learned this week with you. I can share some, but not the most important parts, because it will be used against me, which means also against the children of Detsky Dom #5. I will tell you that in speaking to some former caretakers, and kids who aged out but still visit - things there have deteriorated significantly. A certain disgusting Russian-American that I wish I could name has used her far-reaching hate of me to exact her revenge .... ON CHILDREN. Some of you know exactly who she is. Well, this woman we will call HATE used her power and influence as well as her connection to the Ministry of Education in Kemerovo to have Nadezhda, the former director fired. I learned this in October, but now I see the effects of it. The new Director the children call " an ogre". They are scared of her, and she insists that the new caretakers LOCK THE CHILDREN IN THEIR ROOMS all day. This info came not only from the children themselves, but from former caretakers I know who still live in the area and know the details. This New Director refused my request to visit. She lied to me, ad she lied to the children.

As to the person who is exactling her revenge: This same woman is the one who threatened me back in 2006 and told me that if I went to Kemerovo to meet Anya without her permission, she would " make sure" I would NEVER ever bring her home. Little did I know that her anger would reach  7 years into the future and affect my adoption of Daniel. Sound far-fetched? Journalist Kay Lazar of the Boston Globe was also threatened by this woman back in 06. I wish it were only us, but there are dozens of other families she has hurt over the years ( due to her greed for money and power). Since I was a small part of the reason she lost her livelihood, she is making sure she hurts me where it counts - through the children. Well, she will have to answer to God someday. I will never ever give up helping them. Right now I am already able to help those who have aged out. As you know, seven girls already receive monthly support, and one of the former caretakers told me this $50 per month has "saved their lives." She told me that they are able to attend school bc of this money. She begged me to help more of them, and, as you know, I WILL.  

I may not be able to visit the children and love them in person, but I am able to help them through a few trustworthy intermediaries. I was able to have someone give them the gifts I brought on this trip, and I have two other people who will be accepting packages on their behalf in the coming year. I was also able to pay for some of the older girls who aged out to come to Kemerovo and treat them to a day of shopping and eating! They had never been here before!
They cried when I bought them the bus ticket! Sadly I cant post their photos here, because they will be 'punished' for their contact with me, and I don't want that. I have so much I want to say right now, but the internet keeps cutting out and I've retyped this three times already. All I can say is, I am doing my best to remember that LOVE WINS. In the end, no hate or anger or evil can ever win. They may win small battles, but in the end, I am trusting that LOVE wins, and I am living my life accordingly. 

Pray for these children. Pray for the new caretakers who watch over them. Pray they don't lose hope as many have. So many suicides -- including poor Ksusha's boyfriend. Daniel has changed. His heart is walled up, but he sobbed when I told him I will never abandon him. I reminded him that once he ages out, they can do nothing to keep us apart. Pray he stays strong till then.

I spent all day yesterday grieving, but the prayers of so many wonderful people have me feeling hope again. Someday we will all live in a world void of deceit, greed and hate. I truly believe that. But for now, when so many people choose darkness over light, we need to give all we can to scatter the darkness with Love. Thank you for your prayers. They have made all the difference. Anya is doing better, and I know I've done all I can while here to show that Love is the most powerful force of all. Grateful to God for allowing me the chance to spread hope among the hopeless. May it stick.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Darkness and Light

I will have to write this later as internet is spotty. But wanted to say I'm here and it has been a very very intense trip ...  from Anya being hospitalized to being banned from the orphanage by a very corrupt and terrible woman at the Kemerovo Department of Education. I have not cried so hard since the last time I was here. What is it with Russia and tears? Anyway, some things are not safe to post here now that I found out I am being 'watched' by some nasty types in Kemerovo. How ridiculous. It turns out to be payback for testifying in a court case in the States against a very corrupt agency. Didnt take long for that news to travel here...

Anyway, my faith is sustaining me, and my love for Anya, Daniel, and all the kids at orphanage #5. One of the caretakers told me they are out of shoes again, so I am going shopping tomorrow to buy as many sandals as I can afford AND carry...lol. I cannot bring them to the orphanage myself, but I have an intermediary who is allowed to bring the gifts. More when I can....

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Anya is in the Hospital Again

Bear with me because I am posting from an iPad, which is very slow and the keyboard is not ideal.

I had hoped to post daily from here in Kemerovo, but it has been difficult to even find time to sleep. 

Where do I even begin? Anya is in the hospital again. We had to call an ambulance at dawn yesterday, when we found her temp at 104. It has been up and down since we arrived, and the doctors' suggestions on what might be causing it were bordering on laughable. He suggested it was 'too many blankets'. Then the EMT said the room was stuffy and that was the cause. I'm no doctor, but even I could see that her foot was dangerously swollen and that the problem was not excess blankets or a stuffy room.

The EMT visit would have been funny if we werent so woried for Anya. The paramedic had no tongue depressors and so asked us to find something she could use. They ended up taking her, of course, and we are going to visit her as soon as they allow it.

Friday, June 07, 2013


This has been an exhausting but rewarding day. I've been trying to squeeze as many items into my carry-on as possible, as our two suitcases were full. Then I checked paypal, and aside from an amazing $500 in total donations that has come in this week for the older girls, there was an additional $100 from a friend with the stipulation that it be used solely for baggage fees. This means I can take an additional suitcase! Nastia is not happy about this (lol) because we have many years of experience trying to bring more bags than we can manage. I had been telling her for months that if we got to go to Russia, we wouldn't have extra bags because it's just too darned expensive. Of course she reminded me of that what she saw me packing a new bag today!

Thank you thank you thank you to the seven of you who donated this week. I would post your names here, but I know most of you prefer to remain anonymous. Just know I celebrate each one of you and thank you for allowing me the opportunity to help more girls over there! I will make you proud, I promise!

In other good news, I was on Russian facebook for hours last night talking to several of the girls. A few of them said that I will be able to visit the orphanage with no problem. Now that I'm not adopting, I guess its less complicated. Katya Chervonets, who was in Nastia's group when they lived there, has invited me to spend a night at her apartment, so I can have two whole days at the orphanage. I've told the girls I want to spend a few hours taking them shopping, too. They are giddy with excitement!

Then I heard from a few of my former Shakespeare students in Kemerovo. Most of them will be home from university and can meet up with me! We are planning a celebratory 'picnic' together early in the week. One of them wrote me and said "Keri, this is simply a miracle. I am dreamed of seeing you again for two whole years. I cannot believe I will get to see you again!" That kind of made my night!

I keep thinking of all the kids I get to see again. Seeing Daniel will be hard, but I hope it will be good for him, too. I know I'll cry - alot - but I need to remind him face to face that I am in his corner for life. I have a whole photo album for him, too. He loves photos.

Okay, I need to get back to cleaning and organizing, but I wanted to update you all. I'll leave you with a few photos of the kids I'll be seeing next week!

Anya and Galya!

Daniel and his posse!

Polina - the sweetest little love!

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

What a Week!

You'd think that after having lived the rollercoaster that is my life for 48 years that I'd be used to all the ups and downs. No such luck! This week could possibily go down in the history books as one of the most hectic and jam-packed weeks ever lived. It would definitely make a great sit-com episode. I've managed to keep positive, despite the craziness, and to that I credit God and God alone. There is no way I could weather such nonstop busy-ness without the peace that God gives.

So, we're off to Siberia in a matter of days. Although they did grant my visa, I noticed yesterday (and just in time) that they only gave me a small window of time -- not the 30 days I usually get. So we cannot stay the two weeks we hoped to, but we will make the nine days we've been allotted work to our advantage. Honestly, it just means less sleeping while there.

Of course, luck being what it is, my USCIS approval to adopt Daniela came in the mail this week (YAY!) but two weeks later than anticipated (Boo!) so I cannot get it apostilled before I go to Russia. And I realized my Police clearance may expire before my court date in Latvia, so I just had to submit for a new one. Ah well. Just have to roll with it.

And my lovely local health department (which certifies and oversees my summer Shakespeare program) has changed their rules...and suddenly I have to submit more documents, and they want them before I leave for Russia if I want to be recertified. Don't know how I'm going to pull that off this weekend, but I'm going to try my best.

Add to that two doctor appts, another orthodonist appt, registering our dogs, car inspection, and various other headaches that must be done by Friday - and you get why I am quite frazzled and sleepless lately.

I spoke to both Anya and Daniela today, and both conversations were joyful, laughter-filled, and also so full of anticipation for our upcoming reunions. These are the things that get me through these insane weeks. Hearing their voices, and knowing they are happy, and that I'll see them soon - it does my heart good.

Our flight leaves Monday night. We have a stop in Munich for a few hours, and then a 7 hour layover in Moscow (yuck), and then the final flight to Kemerovo. We arrive in Kemerovo at 6:40am on Wednesday. I absolutely dread the travelling part, if I'm honest. I've been an anxious flyer for a long time, and nothing seems to ease it. I just try to tuned out and listen to soothing music the whole time. Nastia hates it more than I do, so I try to focus on putting her at ease and that helps me be distracted from my own fear.

The plan is to spend as much time with Anya as possible, but I'm also hoping to spend a few days in Prokopyevsk. I don't want to go just for one day, because I have so many people to see there -- especially Daniel. so I'm hoping I can stay with one of the older girls who aged out last year. I want to spend a whole day with Daniel and also a whole day taking the older girls shopping for things they need. I really hope that works out.

If you'd like to donate a few dollars towards the older girls, you can use the paypal link on the right. Right now I have $450 for them, but I'd love to leave with $1,000 so I can help a few more. I'm holding an impromptu yardsale at my house this Sunday to raise some funds.  I'm selling a vast quantity of Shakespeare items I've accumulated over the years. Let's hope many of my students show up!

I'll be sure to post daily from Russia, so stay tuned. I already warned Anya that I'll be taking millions of photos.

Keep us in your prayers and thoughts!

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Getting Ready for Russia

We miss this sweet face <3 td="">
Though I haven't received word on my travel visa yet, I know it should come any day now. My gut tells me 'soon' because I felt that inexplicable need to clean my entire house tonight, in preparation for leaving. Our bags are packed and it's just a matter of purchasing the airline tickets the second the visa arrives. I stand at the ready:)

A few people have emailed me or messaged me on facebook asking if I planned to  bring donations to the orphanage this trip. I do have one whole giant bag full of items, but my plan this time is to leave them with one of the caretakers I trust, and she can dole things out to kids as needed. I've known her (Katya) for 8 years, and she has proven to be kind, trustworthy and one who always puts the kids first. I just don't trust the new Director, and Nadezhda (the old director) lives to far from the orphanage. Katya's cottage is within sight of it.

Since I can't plan on helping the kids at the orphanage directly, I am focusing on the girls who 'graduated' the orphanage last year. About 7 of them are leading honest lives and trying their best to make something of themselves. Those are the ones I want to help: Ksusha N, Nastia K, Natasha Ch, Nastia K (red head), and three who just 'graduated' this week - Tanya B, Vika Sh, and Angelina S. I'll post photos of them below.

Although I am no longer very vocal about asking for monetary donations (my brother's 'shaming' me for it last year still hurts if I'm honest) - I am happy to accept funds from those of you who actually feel prompted or inspired to help. I am not comfortable giving the girls much, but I thought I could take them shopping as a group for essentials - underwear, toiletries, food staples, etc. You can use the link at right if you feel inspired, but please do not feel obligated in any way. As per past trips, I will blog in detail what comes in and where that money goes, how it is spent. I know I am a very careful steward of every penny that comes in, and anyone who knows me well knows that. However, to be safe,  I'll remind my readers that I have no direct access to the fund. It is managed by an accountant friend who has to cut me a check from it. I'll be doing that later this week. she'll record what the money is for, and I'll blog all the details here from Russia.

If I'm honest, this trip feels very bittersweet. Seeing Anya will be WONDERFUL, but going back to the orphanage and seeing Daniel and all those amazing kids, knowing I no longer have a direct way to support them - that hurts. I'm hopeful I can convince Katya Ivanovna to accept packages for the kids in th future. We'll see.

In other news, My USCIS approval for Daniela just arrived! Sadly, I'll have to get it apostilled when I return from Russia...but it does mean I'm one step closer!

I'll post when I buy our tickets.  Keep us in your prayers.

Ksusha Novikova, Nastia Krasilova, Natasha Chernova, Spring 2013

Angelina and the other Nastia

Tanya B,  just 'graduated' from the orphanage.

UPDATE 6/4/13: Visa arrived at 1pm! Tickets bought at 4pm! We're on our way!