building on the journey

building on the journey
Our family...just waiting to add our sweet smiling little girls!

Friday, January 11, 2013

a day of down

You expect a roller coaster to have ups and downs and twists and turns, but this is insanity...


Straight up yesterday; straight back down today. Uuuuuuu....that was the drop of my stomach as this ride took a major dive today....uuuuuuuuu...still waiting for this drop to stop.... you know the feeling, you are terrified, but excited. For us, this ride, when it takes a down is only a feeling of terror. I am terrified. And, I mean TeRRiFieD that the drop won't be that exhilarating swoop and feeling of actual physical, screaming joy that is a roller coaster ride, but an actual thud. An end. A stop predicated by a solid brick wall. WHAM! Joy over.


Here is where we are: ANALYSIS PARALYSIS! Stop for a moment and riddle me this, what is your definition of "in process?" What? Not something you've spent a lot of time thinking about?? Me neither, not until today at 3 p.m., 4 p.m. Eastern. Look, I'm not being picky, I'm being black and white. Read it yourself...
            proc·ess 1  n. pl. proc·ess·es 1. A series of actions, changes, or functions bringing about a result

...did you catch it? Are ya with me? "bringing about a result." Hmmm, you mean a result like bringing home a little girl with Down Syndrome who if left in her current situation will be great for the next 2 years and will then be sent to an adult institution where she will most likely not live to the age of 10 years old. Heck, if she makes it past the first year it would be a flipping miracle... a miracle!

10 years old!! 10 years old. Do you know what the current life expectancy is for individuals with Down Syndrome? 60s, plus. Here in the United States individuals with Down Syndrome are driving, running their own businesses, marrying, leading a long, fruitful, fulfilling life. Leaving her there is literally a death sentence. She will be drugged and kept immobile for easier "management." She will suffer malnutrition and eventually starvation. Her heart and kidney issues will be exacerbated by the drugs, the malnutrition, the stress, the abuse. I'm heart sick. She will go in as this beautiful little 4 or 5 year old girl with Down Syndrome and she will literally experience hell on earth. Her crime? Being born with an extra chromosome.

How do we possibly move forward while she is just stuck there? I know we are not defeated, it is not over, but that call today... well, depressing as hell. Listen, I don't want anyone to blow sunshine at me, but come on, really??? 

It hurts too much to think about the reality of just what the future might be for this beautiful little girl who I have been dreaming of rocking and teaching to sign and walk and run and throw and play and hug and giggle and what it's like to have a family and all the wonderful, joyful, crazy that comes along with it. I try not to think about that, but it sneaks up on me. It wheedles its way into thoughts when I least expect it. All I can think about is how these children must constantly wonder why this is what they have to endure, why no one cared or came for them. We all deserve to be loved and cared for. We all deserve a Mommy.

My 3 year old daughter, almost 4, with Down Syndrome, says Mommy like this, in a soft little whisper, with that look of me being this most amazing creature, she says, "MuMmiiee," like she's British. It's adorable and beautiful. It brings this warmth to my world every single time she says it. I want that for "Tabitha." I want that for every child that is being left in an orphanage because of politics. I want that for EVERY child.

Don't get me wrong, we are not beat, just a little bruised. Bruised and afraid, but not done fighting.

That little girl is going to be our daughter. Some how, some way. We will get her out of there.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

fools and children

I adopted my dog, Lily, from the shelter in Humboldt County, California on Christmas Eve after receiving a call from a vet friend that this amazing dog was going to be put to sleep the next day...on Christmas...because the shelter was just too full.

...it was Christmas Eve...the shelter was a couple of hours away on the other side of the mountain pass. But, here I was on the West Coast, away from my family, anyway, and I really, really did want a dog. And, an expert opinion that she was phenomenal... So, off I set. I met Lily, we were soul mates immediately, and she became mine. I spent that night in a rather seedy hotel in Humboldt County, because EVERYTHING else was full, with this new dog that seemed lovely, but that I really knew nothing about. I remember thinking as I fell asleep, "well, I hope she doesn't eat my face..." I woke up Christmas morning, with my face intact, and this beautiful dog who the night before still cringed in fear everytime I moved my arm higher than my hip, curled up against me. The bond was sealed.

Two weeks later my company was hosting a women's conference in St. Helena, CA at this beautiful vineyard there. The night before the event I was carrying my stuff into the vineyard hotel, too much in my hands, an extendable dog leash handle with Lily in tow, and the only hotel in the continental U.S. that still used real keys... Lily was still so skiddish, but we were making progress, I loved her. Then, it happened. My stack shifted. My stuff was slipping. I tripped over Lily, and that damn metal key clanged off of the metal plate of my hotel room, and she was GONE!!! That hard plastic handle of the leash clanging behind her as she ran, making her run faster, and she was GONE, GONE, GONE!! Top that off with the fact that immediately in front of the vineyard was highway 128, at rush hour, and a train going by on the tracks directly across the highway from the vineyard. Behind us, acres and acres of grapes and then, the foothills...and mountain lions and coyotes.

I searched for 3 days straight. The people of St. Helena, saints in themselves, hung fliers for me and searched and searched and searched.

Every weekend for the next month I would go back and stay in St. Helena and search and call and search. Always on the vineyard side because I just felt sure there was no way that do had made it across the highway and the train tracks, she had to be in the vineyard or the foothills.

I prayed. I searched. I never, not once, really lost hope. I would be sad. I had moments of logic when I thought there was no way that a dog, still wearing an extendable leash, would survive in those foothills. It was crazy. But, I was still hopeful.

My Mom, who never wanted me to get a dog, actually finally got to the point of wanting to buy me a puppy...I'm pretty sure she thought I'd lost my gourd.

People started to do that pity thing where they say, "so, I heard about your dog." or "any new news on Lily?" with that look of pity and the sad arm rub and the tilted head and the, my-God-she's-lost-it...so-sad look.

My landlord at the time loved to say to me, "that dogs not coming back... only fools and children are that stupid..." He was a jackass sometimes, but also one of those people you sort of adore for their blatant jerkiness... I know, I'm a glutton for punishment.

Then, 28 days after I lost her, I got a call from a woman who said that my dog was in her yard in St. Helena and off I went. I searched for 6 hours around her area, on the opposite side of the highway from the vineyard, then had to get back up North for an equestrian event.... I hated to leave, but I was so hopeful because that meant she was still alive... and, on the other side of the highway. There were two vineyards,  two residental areas and more foothills on that side... more people, more buildings, more places to hide, but also, those damn hills and those damn preditors. I had just arrived home to clean-up and change for the event when I received a call that these people HAD my dog!!! They had her. In their house. Off I went. Event be damned.

So, 28 and a half days after she was lost in a beautiful, yet dangerous, area, full of ticks and mud and filth, my dog was being hand fed tri-tip by the fireplace on the white silk rug in the living of the vineyard owner's home....

It took me a bit to realize that it was really her... it seemed so surreal. I had never lost faith. Not really. But, even I had started to doubt my sanity.



Fast forward 9 years....

Let's be honest, I've been on a pity party break!!

One day into my holiday vacation in which I planned to get a to do list 8 pages long cut through, this whole adoption ban fiasco hit and instead of thinking holiday cheer, I was stuck in fear. I've been stuck in a paralysis. I have always thought we would get "Tabitha" home but I had no idea how... I was confident, but also a bit at a loss on how to fix it. I'm a fixer. I couldn't do anything but wait. When people would ask, I would say, "We're getting her out of there. Somehow, some way." And, there it was, that look... the, oh,-she's-nuts look....

When the news broke today that the 1 year notice on breaking the adoption agreement between Russia and the United States was going to be honored, I realized that I'd been holding my breath since December 28th. And, I knew that I was really going to be her Mommy.

Fools and children, huh? Works for me.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

little houses made of ticky tacky

It was late in the NICU with RayLee, just 24 hours after she had been born. Our world had been flipped upside down, and that same world was now asleep, except for me, it was a feeling I would learn to embrace, that feeling of late night solitude and planning, it was to become my hour. On that night, I had this fear, this emotional fear and hurt that was physical. What could I do?? What could I do?? What could I do??

Chris was sleeping, our primary doctors were gone for the night and it was quiet. That calm quiet, full of activity that was, quite literally, life-saving and life-sustaining, but quiet like only the NICU can be. There were so many babies. So many ghost-eyed mothers and fathers, but not quite enough to match the infinite number of babies. So many interns pulling their never-ending all-nighters. New babies coming in. Babies with too many visitors; babies with none. Nurses working, saving, loving around every turn. Loss. Confusion. Sadness. Joy. And yet, still, quiet.

I just stood and let the still lay about on top of everything, on top of me, while I stared in that numb way you can only stare when you have wrung out every tear, asked every question you can think of and you have been awake, for the most part, for the better of 56 hours. I'd bathed, I think, but I was hardly kempt. I remember using an old hotel bar of soap to wash my hair because that was all I had and it just didn't matter, I just needed to be clean and catch a shower to help me feel something soothing. I couldn't really sleep. I thought my milk had come in, because I was starting to get real volume when I pumped and that made me feel like I was doing something. In fact, I couldn't keep up with the milk, it would saturate my shirts in seconds, and I thought, that's okay, I'll pump again. I can't help that little girl right now, but by God, I can make milk... and, I did. And then, I started to sing to her in that quiet, when no one else would hear. This is where that moment of "mother earthiness" was supposed to kick in, with a beautiful lullaby, but, well, I can't carry a tune in a bucket and the only song even close to resembling a lullaby that would come to mind was Little Boxes, the theme song to the show Weeds... and, having watched an entire season the week before I went into labor, that song was stuck, tight, in my head, but sadly, only one verse... so I sat and rocked, stood and swayed, paced and hovered; on and on for hours, rocking and holding RayLee's hand. The whole time, singing, "little houses on a hillside, little houses made of ticky tacky, little houses on a hillside, little houses all the same..." and, repeat... it was a dark place of helplessness, it was the first time in my life that I was afraid I might not be able to fix it.... and the whole time, the rest of the world just went on...

I'm back at that place right now. Lost in this moment of inability to make anything happen. Stuck in this feeling of hurt and fear and loss, although the battle is not over, and of someone I never really had. And the world goes on. Continuing to turn. How do I fight strangers to get this little girl home when people I call friend would beat up and question my battle, this very personal battle that they obviously don't understand. How do I show you that I will not give up because I love this little girl as my own daughter, already. How do I show you that it has nothing to do with the country she was born into or the cost to get her here, that it only has to do with a child, who could so easily have been my RayLee, born into a country that doesn't yet understand that Down Syndrome is not a sentence of inadequacy, it is just an invitation to see life from a different perspective. How do I show you that no child deserves to be abandoned, isolated, left to quietly take up as few resoures and time as possible. How do I show you that this life is worth saving, worth letting go of some political grandstanding to bring into a family. Everyday I watch my RayLee thrive and I have to wonder if "Tabitha" will ever get that chance.Will she get to know the hugs, the love, the fun of a family? Will that little smile get to continue to radiate or will it be snuffed out by a drugged state of quiet and isolation? Will she ever know the security of holding her Mommy's hand in the middle of the night when the dark quiet scares her with a bad dream?

I will not quit on this little girl. We will continue to pray, write letters, fundraise and advocate until she has a home and a family. We are not done.

So tonight, I sit and I think about that sad night, so lonely, and I remember how the fear crept up and haunted me, ate at me, worked to beat me, but it didn't. I will look back at this night some night in the future with my baby girls all home and all snug asleep upstairs and I will hum along to Little Boxes with the knowledge that these houses aren't just little boxes and those of us in them aren't all just the same. We each have our own battles. We each have our own wins and our own losses. The world will continue to turn but I will never forget that at any given moment, there are so many for which the world is stopped for a while, frozen in a place of hurt. I will be a friend...that's an action verb, by the way, when used this way. I will not leave "Tabitha" frozen. She will know what it is like to have her hand held when she is afraid. Every 2 year old deserves nothing less, and we will work to bring her so very much more.

"...there were red ones, there were green ones, there were blue ones, there were yellow ones. Little houses on a hillside, little houses just the same...,"       ....oh, if they only knew!!!

Smile my friends, I will share a funny one soon. Today was just a little hard, tomorrow will be better.