‘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, October 18, 2013

Cure for "A Lot on My Plate' Kind of Days?

It's one of those days. You know the kind where you wake up and - faced with all that is on your plate - wish you could climb back under the covers? I woke to ome of those days today, and wondered aloud 'how do other people deal with days like this?' My default response is usually this:

#1 Stay in bed an extra ten minutes and pray for guidance, then:

#2 Clear my head of everything and just breathe deeply for awhile, then:

#3 Subconsciously (and that's they key word!) find ways to avoid 75% of what is on my plate.

Sometimes we can't help it, we end up with days that involve far more to do than we have the means to tackle it. Sometimes it's due to procrastination, other times it's just plain tough luck. I think mine is a combination of both. 

And I'm thinking right now that if I type out my 'to do' list here, I might be shamed into getting more of it done in a timely fashion. Here is my 'must do today' list, in no particular order:

  • get car-inspected
  • pay overdue oil bill
  • respond to jury duty notification
  • make appt for sick cat at the vet
  • respond to multiple school inquiries about potential residencies
  • talk to Virgin Atlantic about my group reservation for 30 to England in April
  • finally make overdue 'new' neurologist appt
  • get toilet fixed
  • replace broken showerhead!
  • pick up meds at pharmacy
  • drop off invoice at next scheduled school
  • set up have-a-heart mouse-traps ASAP (it's that time of year...)
  • Start online financial aid form for colleges for Nastia
  • Make final college visit appts for this month
  • pick up chair ordered at Staples 3 weeks ago!
  • send monthly stipend to Anya & Sasha

And here is my 'Can Wait a Day or Two but Must Be Done Soon' List:

  • Clean and organize M's room so it is ready when we come home!
  • insulate downstairs room & replace broken door
  • Winterize the house - take out all air conditioners and screens
  • Get new glasses so I can see!
  • Plan for final performances for current classes
  • Pack suitcase for Latvia so I'm ready to go!
  • Find someone to stay with Nastia while I'm in Latvia.
  • Replace broken stove
  • Make appt to have suspicious black spot on leg looked at!
  • take apart trampoline
  • pay parking tickets!

This, of course, is not a comprehensive list, but it covers the most important stuff. It is only on days like these that I really feel the burden of being a single mom. Most of the time I love it -- but when my 'to do' list gets too long I feel very aware that I'm on my own. I have so many overdue bills sitting on my kitchen table right now, it is anxiety-provoking to just walk by it. It's time to take the bull by the horns and just tackle them. It's my least favorite things on earth to go - anything involving paperwork and/or accounting. I'd honestly rather have to get bloodwork.

So what kinds of tactics work for you when you feel overwhelmed by the tasks at hand? How do you clean off that plate faster and more efficiently? I need some pointers. I should be heading overseas any day now, so I definitely feel the pressure. Your advice or recommendations are really appreciated!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Joy Joy Joy!

I advocated for some of the girls, and I'm happy to say ALL THREE GIRLS I posted about yesterday have sponsors! Nastya already wrote to me this morning expressing her disbelief and asking me to tell everyone how grateful they are:

'Dear Keri, please tell me how I may express my gratitude to these women for helping me and my friends. I do not know how! It is so generous!'

 Nastya promised to keep tabs on everyone and make sure they are writing back to their sponsors and being good stewards of the money. She is such a gem. She ended her message by thanking me for having confidence in her :)

So now I have three more girls I'd like to tell you about. First up is Sveta. Sveta is 16 and just aged out of the orphanage in June. Nastya tells me she is in school, but I do not know more details about what Sveta is studying or how she is getting by. I do know Sveta is a kind, quiet, thoughtful girl. I first met her in May 2009 when she was 12. She spent most of her time reading, and was overjoyed to receive a barbie doll to play with that summer! The caretaker I trust most says that Sveta is a girl who is "going to make something of herself." She is very level-headed and manages to still be kind and open-hearted while having lived in the hopeless and chaotic environment of the orphanage. This photo is from June of this year:

Next is Tanya. She is 17, and aged out in June. She was a top student and is much-loved by the others girls. She is one of the girls everyone goes to for support and guidance. She is a helper by nature and was always looking out for the younger girls in her group. She is also incredibly friendly and upbeat - something you don't often find in the orphanage population. Here is Tanya in June 2013:

Finally, there is Natasha. Natasha is dear to my heart because she has gone out of her way to watch over my Daniel ( the little boy I was adopting before the adoption ban was put into effect.) She is very serious, hard-working, very private but always ready to help. I had a hard time convincing  her to accept help from a sponsor. I talked with her online for an hour last night, and she was very resistant, because she said 'there are others so much worse off than I. I cannot accept help when there is a bigger need with ______ and ______.' 

I tried to explain why it was important we send money to those we know can 'handle' the support and that she was welcome to help her friends, too. But sending money to some of the more destitute girls actually backfires, I've found. They do not know how to handle the money and end up spending it wastefully  or gorging on too much food all at once. Natasha is very practical and will be careful with every penny. Here she is:

If you would like to sponsor any of these wonderful girls, please let me know. I'm happy to tell you more about them, too! I just ask that those willing to sponsor make a 12 month commitment, so the girls can have some stability for an extended amount of time.

Thank you!

Edit: As of 9pm tonight, ALL these girls are sponsored! I'll be posting about the final 3-4 in the coming week!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

These Girls Need Help

Meeting some of the girls outside the orphanage, late June 2013.

As most of you know, I continue to stay in touch with a number of the girls who aged out of orphanage #5. Some of them have sponsors, and this help has kept a few of them from both hunger and homelessness. It is hard for some Americans to believe that $50 a month could literally save a life, but it can. And it has. And since this money goes directly from you to them, there is no waste. There is no organization taking a percentage for advertising or salaries or in-country bribes. I give you the full name of one of the girls I  know to be responsible and trustworthy enough to be a good steward of the money. You commit to sending them $50 per month for 12 months. You send the money to them via western union, and the girls report to you monthly on how they are doing via email or Russian FB (your choice.)  In some instances, you are welcome to send a bit more if you wish, but it truly depends on the situation. For some girls, more than $50 a month would be too much to handle. However, there are other girls who are trying to stay in school and a bit more would keep them there. I cannot post their full names here, but I'll give you their full name if you are matched with one of them.


Ksusha on left, Nastya on right.

First is Nastya K. Nastya currently has a sponsor, but she is in need of additional support as she is trying to secure safe housing so she can remove her younger brother from the orphanage. Now that Nastya is 18, she has a legal right to take in her brother, but she must prove she has safe housing first. She wrote to me last night and said she has found a small apartment in Prokopyevsk that is about 4 miles from the orphanage. To rent it, she must pay a year's rent in advance. The rent on the apartment is only $100 per month, but for her that is a fortune. If I can find a sponsor, or several sponsors, who can provide the funds for her to rent, her little brother will be able to join her and have a much better quality of life. Her brother is friends with my Daniel, and is 14 years old. He's a GREAT kid, and is desperate to live with his sister. 

Ksusha, who appears above with Nastya, is the next one I hope to find a sponsor for. Ksusha has had a very hard life and is finally starting to see that life can bet better than it was in the orphanage. I have been supporting her on and off for the past year, as has an online friend of mine. I now need to find a permanent sponsor for the next twelve months. Ksusha is attending school, but is forced to live in pretty horrible conditions. She has been known to starve herself, sometimes days at a time, just so she could afford school supplies and bus fare to school. She finds it hard to accept help, but is finally more amenable to it. When I visited in June you might remember it took me hours to convince her to buy a few things for herself when I took the girls shopping. Ksusha wants to succeed, but has had so many strikes against her, she is very cautious. She dreams of being a teacher. I want to see this dream come true for her. When she was at school #66 near the orphanage, she was the top student. I'd like to find either one sponsor to send $100 a month, or two sponsors to send $50 each. This will afford Ksusha not only money for food, but also for school supplies, bus fare, etc. 

Finally, the last girl I'll write about today is Angelina.

The photo is from two years ago. When I saw Angelina in June, she had lost significant weight. she had very pale skin and dark circles under her eyes ( see the top photo in this post. That is Angelina, crying.). She seemed very depressed, too. Like Ksusha and Nastya, Angelina is a very bright girl and was one of the favorites at the orphanage. She loves fashion and art, but is currently attending a trade school because she couldn't afford to go anywhere else. The government is paying for her trade school tuition. Angelina stays at the orphanage every weekend because her current living quarters provided by the school are not safe. She is only 17 years old. I would like to find a sponsor to send $50 a month to her to help cover the cost of food and necessities.

If you are interested in helping any of these girls, please leave a comment with your email or a way to contact you. Alternatively, if you would like to help but cannot commit to $50 a month, feel free to make a smaller one-time donation via the paypal like on the top righthand corner of my blog and I will use it to send funds to the girls this month, while I still try to secure a longterm sponsor.

I'll write about the other girls tomorrow and Tuesday.

Thank you!

Monday, October 07, 2013

This is What I Know

This summer I was asked more than a few times, by people who really care about me, how I could handle the loss of Daniel and the separation from Anya. 'You seem so together...' one young friend said brightly.

I was thinking today about how easy it is to slip on that mask each day - the 'I'm fine!' mask that we all keep close at hand, every hour of every day. I tread a fine line each day between wanting to be positive/inspire/be grateful and the desire to be as utterly honest as is possible. The two don't coexist very well together. And so I find I am either pushing the sorrow to a far, far corner of my mind, mustering every bit of gratitude I can, or I am flooding my conscious mind, and so the world, with the dark sea of despair that my heart often swims in.

Which is right? Which is good and true? How does one find balance between these nagging opposites? And so I equivocate and slide back and forth between the two.

Nastia has been having a really hard time making sense of the world lately. She is finally at an emotional age where she is looking beyond her own experience, and out into the greater world. 

She doesn't like what she sees.

'Mom, why is there so much hate in the world? Why can't people forgive each other and move on?' She asked last night through sobs. She has reason to mourn.  She's experienced more loss than anyone I know, and she has been given little along the way to prove life can be anything but a string of losses and heartache. She's seen the effects of unforgiveness and hate in our own extended family. It devastates her.

Last night she cried for hours. She cried for her sister, her lost childhood; she cried for the little girl she was and the little girl she never got to be. She grieved for so many things at once, I thought her heart would truly break open from the weight she was carrying. I held her, and listened. I listened as deeply and as gently as I could, side-stepping my own desire to 'fix' her feelings. I let her feel, because in feeling those painful emotions, we also release them. She was purging a well of sorrow she had carried for a long time. She fell asleep, exhausted, at about 4:30am.

Mornings often bring perspective, and so today she was solemn and pensive, but better.

'Mom, I still don't get why the world is so messed up, but at least I always know I have you, and Anya. And Sasha and Grammy.'

I try to share my own perspective without becoming to preachy. I try to tell her that, yes, the world is 'messed up', but also so very beautiful. On bad days, we just have to look harder for the beauty, I tell her. On bad days, we sometimes need to lean on someone else's perspective.

This is what I know, my dear daughter - our world is broken. It is broken in a way I cannot imagine ever being fixed, and yet we are here, now. We live here and there is no honest way to cast off what mantle the world wears at this time. And yet, we must live in the midst of all these terrible truths (millions of children without families to love them, thousands of wars being fought on land and in the hearts of men, exploitation of vulnerable people every single minute of every day, starving millions, indifference to suffering by those who have the power to fix much of it...) while still finding a way to have hope. That is why, I tell her, we trust in a God who loves us and works for our good. He bridges the gap between what is and what should be. He points towards light and hope and complete healing. And when we have bad days, we can lean into Him, and He will delight in holding us up.

I don't have answers for her about why her sister is still so far away. I can't explain how their birthmother could make a choice that would destroy their peace all those years ago. I can't fix any of it, but I can take a step every day towards what is good and right and true, and I can teach her - my beautiful, precious, loved-beyond-words daughter - how to find that same path, and tread it, however slowly, towards all He has waiting for us.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

What's Going On

Anya sent us updated photos of Sasha today, and they are so beautiful! I can't wait till she gives me the okay to share some publicly. Until then, you'll have to just imagine the most exquisite, chubby-cheeked cherub, with soulful eyes, a button nose, and the sweetest little lips that look just like Anya's. In every photo she is staring adoringly at her mama, and her mama ( Anya) has the biggest, most joyful smile on her face. I could burst from happiness. I honestly did not know how Anya would take to being a mom, but by her own admission, she is in love!

No adoption news this week, just more not so patient waiting. I talk to my little miss sunshine today ( I call her every week) and she was chattering away about school, her little foster brother, her after school sports program, and how cold it is getting there! 'You better bring every warm thing when you come!' she  warned me.

Nursing a sore throat/sinus infection today that I caught from Nastia, which is annoying, but should be short-lived based on the amount of healthy things I am taking to fight it. I just have much to do, so I get frustrated when I'm slowed down like this. I'm trying to make the best of it by catching up on reading, since all I feel like doing is drinking tea, sleeping and lying in bed!

My whole life feels like it is in a holding pattern while I await the court dates. Hard to make any plans when you know you'll be heading overseas any minute. so I'm focusing on cleaning and organizing everything, but one can only do so much of that without going crazy!

I miss the summer already. I miss the sun, and long days outdoors. My body and mind seem to be craving more light. I'm trying to convince myself to get up at dawn every day (when I'm feeling better) and walk outdoors while the sun is first coming up. Thus far I have only managed to hit my snooze alarm until 7am every day. I'll make a renewed commitment once I'm feeling less blah.

I haven't forgotten about supporting the 7 older girls who aged out of the orphanage. I sent money for them to share last month, and I hope to match them with people soon. I'm just still struggling with how best to help them, and finding better ways to send them the funds other than western union. But haven't found anything better yet. Keep them in your prayers as winter approaches. They are all doing ok for now, but winter brings its own set of challenges there, and I know they need more support in the coming months than they have needed this summer.

I'm hopeful that the next time I post will be good news of travel abroad, God willing!