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spring planting

Although the life of a person is in a land full of thorns and weeds, there is always a space in which the good seed can grow. You have to trust God. ~ Pope Francis

“Land full of thorns and weeds” – whatever could he mean??  HA!  I know this is a concept that we have all experienced in different ways.  However, this week… a good seed was planted – and that seed was the idea of adoption.

Now truthfully, I didn’t really think about this until we made the decision to move forward with Michael.  You see, with the Ukraine adoption… the kids are in an orphanage.  They know what adoption is… they know what a U.S. adoption might mean for them.  And they want it!

However, with a foster situation, particularly with an 8-year-old kiddo who started with family foster at 6-months and has been in state foster care since they were just 5 – the idea that the family you are living with today can be your forever family, if you play your cards right, would be a logical one.  Foster parents and social workers know that this isn’t the case… but that’s not really the message that you want to send to a little boy who has been through things that most of us would shudder to imagine.  You want him to feel loved and secure – the same things that an adoptive, forever-family would give him.  And there you have the big… giant… gray area.

and so…

Just this past Monday, Michael’s therapist – Ginny – met with him to talk about adoption.

And after speaking with Ginny for quite some time Monday night, I would say, the conversation went well… the seed has been planted.  When asked if he knew what adoption was… he did not.  When he got a general description of adoption, that being a family that you would live with forever… he responded “like the family I live with right now?”  And this… is a good thing.  It shows attachment and it shows that he is being loved.

But Ginny moved onward… she next mentioned that there might be families interested in adopting him.  And then she said… “and perhaps you will get to do some visiting” – to which he replied – “oh yes, my dad said that if I am good, I might get to go visit those people who were here after Christmas.”  Now that was music to my ears!  And so… “those people” entered the conversation.   And just by chance, “those people” had sent some pictures to his therapist… just in case “those people” got brought up.  Here’s what we sent…

Those People – Take 1

And the reaction to these photos… was exciting to hear and, I think, telling in some ways.  We made the decision (with the advice of the folks in North Carolina) to talk about the boys from the beginning.  And, most all of you who are sucking up their valuable time reading this know one thing about me… I always want to lead with this story.  Because… if you don’t, there is inevitably “a question” which, if you are honest, leads to “an answer” which makes the asker feel really bad… and then…well, sometimes they cry and then… I always cry. So deciding to do this… was good for me.  And young Michael got teary-eyed when Ginny told him the story of the boys and that tells me that he has empathy which is a good thing.

He also got very excited about the picture of the lake… how pretty it was.  But then, he got worried that there might be snakes.  And Ginny took a good 15 minutes to discuss this with him and to assure him that parents protect kids from snakes… well, actually “dads” protect kids from snakes… which I  totally agree with.  The good news here… this child will not want the “snake” pet.  YAY!

And, of course, he loved the last picture of Rachel.  Good news here is that I have so very many photos to choose from… so I can always end our photo shows with something like this.  Rachel, loves taking pictures of herself… YAY!

So, that’s about it.  I am so interested to know what questions he has asked at home this week… and I will be sure to call his foster family this weekend and report back.  They are such wonderful people who have totally opened themselves up to Michael and to us.  It takes really special people to do what they are doing and I am honored to get to know them better.  I feel pretty confident that they will be part of Michael’s life forever.

I have had many beliefs shaken over the past 6 years but I do believe that God brings people into your life at different times… for different reasons.  I am glad to have all these people AND all of you in our lives right now.

more to come…


buckle your seat belts… this ride will begin in a few moments

“A ship is always safe at the shore – but that is NOT what it is built for.”  ~ Albert Einstein

So… follow-up with psychiatrist… family meeting… foreseeable pros and cons discussed… and the decision is YES!

Yes, we will open our home and our hearts to Michael… 8 years old… afraid of the dark… delightful southern draw… looking for a safe, forever home.

Michael who lives just a 6 hour car drive away from us.  No dealing with another language, no 8+ hours of flying, no bribing officials for a predictable process and no civil war.  My heart  aches for all those children in Ukraine who will likely not escape but I breathe a self-serving sigh of relief and know that our decisions were the best not only for ourselves but more importantly for Rachel.

Michael who LOVES superheros… most likely because they promise him protection.  Did I mention that he is 1/2 Hulk?


I really don’t have a whole lot of information but barring any unforeseen obstacles… which, of course, would not be anything new… more to come.  For now – we will absorb the possibilities of this new adventure.


new year… new hip… new chapter

“Letting there be room for not knowing is the most important thing of all. When there’s a big disappointment, we don’t know if that’s the end of the story. It may just be the beginning of a great adventure. Life is like that. We don’t know anything. We call something bad; we call it good. But really we just don’t know.” ~ Pema Chodron

Hi all – I am back.   HAPPY NEW YEAR!

I know that it has been so very long since I have posted… but as you are certainly aware… things in Ukraine just went from bad to worse. We kept vigil for quite some time – but finally in the fall we came to the realization that there was really no imaginable thing that could occur that would rationalize traveling to Eastern Ukraine. There is just no way that we would put ourselves in that questionable of a position… for ourselves and certainly considering Rachel.

So, we made a couple of decisions…

First of all, Bob decided that it was time to get his hip fixed. He has been struggling with it for a very long time – developing the Bob Osman shuffle. And this gate actually began to take its toll on other parts of Bob’s body… specifically his back and knees. So, he found the Docs, made the appointment and is receiving his new hip as I begin typing this entry.

It is a little hard being in the hospital again. I quietly realized as I sat with him this morning that I had really not been back in the hospital since I left Minnesota. And just looking at all the stuff that was part of our everyday lives for so long – the gloves, the iv’s, the masks, those white heated blankets… and that hospital smell – it kind of drove me back in time for a minute.   It’s the first time I really thought about how in just a day… we went from one way of living to another… another that was drastically different. And my dear Rachel was quite sad last night and this morning as she left for school… focused on all the things that could go wrong – both realistically and in her imagination. This is a tough result of our life experience – there’s really no sugarcoating medical possibilities – there are no guarantees and Rachel has learned that firsthand.

However, I am glad that Bob has taken this step… and his stay should only be over a night. All the feedback that we have gotten from folks that have undergone this surgery is that it is totally worth it. And… with Rachel and me to take care of him… I dare say he’s in good hands. Plus, we got him one of those grabber tools – 36” long… so he’ll be independent in no time!! HA!

So that’s the new hip…

So what about the “new chapter”? Well, another decision that we made in the fall was to have our adoption home study converted to a domestic home study. Now… you might wonder why we didn’t start with a domestic home study… and actually, we would have. However, after meeting with folks from Fairfax County – and explaining our family’s history (in detail) – I left under the impression that our only option for adopting in the U.S. was the foster-to-adopt scenario which, for obvious reasons, was not the best plan for our family. The last thing that we needed was to have a child come to live with us for a year… two years… and then leave.

So… off to Ukraine we went. And… off to war Ukraine went. And then… somewhere along the way doors opened here in the U.S. and resources that had certainly been there all this time became apparent. So, we changed direction once again.

And once our home study was revised we got online and made inquiries into about 10 kiddos all around the country. And, about a week before Christmas we received a phone call informing us that our home study had been selected as fitting one of the profiles. And today, we are about a week away from making a decision about a little boy, Michael, in North Carolina. We went from working with almost no information to having a boatload of information and we are using this information to make an informed decision.

What’s even better is that just after Christmas we were able to drive down to North Carolina, attend an interview with Social Services where we were able to ask just as many questions as they were… we were all speaking the same language… AND afterward, we went to a local pizza shop and met Michael and his foster mom. He didn’t know who we were, but he didn’t care and I’m pretty sure Rachel would have loaded him in the car and brought him home at the end of the evening. They had a great time playing together.

On the 28th of this month, we will get a final assessment regarding some questions that we had. And, after that – we will have a family meeting and we will make a decision.

So… a new chapter? Perhaps. Certainly lots of reasons to start writing again.

living in basements

Pray without ceasing… if necessary, use words. ~ St. Francis

Today’s paraphrased quote was “borrowed” secondhand from our minister at Idylwood Presbyterian Church, MaryAnn McKibben Dana.  I am hopeful that she doesn’t mind that I used it here… I was really at a loss and this seemed perfect.

As I have told many of you who have asked… Bob and I do not live every single moment wondering what is happening in Ukraine.  We could not possibly do that and continue to live life… live life ourselves or with Rachel.  We see the same news as you do and beyond that… we don’t often get information.  So, we continue to try to keep things as balanced as possible while still maintaining hope that we will be able to see things through to a successful adoption.

However, Tuesday morning I received the email below from our adoption agency.  And you know, when Eric was diagnosed, I remember sitting with Bob and saying… we just need to go through this… and someday we will come out the other side and although we don’t know where that other side will be… it will be what it is and we will have to deal with it.  It sounds easy… it is not.  I will say, however, that I am having trouble believing that we (the collective we, as in the world) will see the “other side” to this violence any time soon.  And that fills my heart with great sadness.  Because today my focus has switched from adoption to just praying for the safety of people that we now know personally and people that we’ve never met.

HI All,
I wanted to write to you and ask that you keep Angelina, her husband Nick, and their family in your thoughts and prayers tonight. Their town of Gorlivka, (Horlivka),  is at the center of the fighting between the Russian insurgents and the Ukrainian  soldiers. There have been consistent bombings around her home over the last 2 days, and many local citizens have lost their lives. She has sent her son to Kiev, but by the time she and her husband tried to leave, the railways had been bombed, and there was no way to leave. They have been living in their basement, afraid to go outside. Angelina tells me tonight is the final battle.
The Donetsk airport has been bombed, the Donetsk Baby House that some of you know has also been bombed. Donetsk City orphanage #1 has been damaged, and the kids have been evacuated to another town. The kids from Nikoleyevka have been in another area, removed from the fighting in their area.
On the Internet this morning, I found photos of a young mother who had been killed yesterday in a local park in Horlivka, holding her deceased child. This tragedy is very real for people we know, including some of the kids we have met through the host programs.
Please think of them.
Thank you.
More to come as I know it.


just a couple of thoughts and a link

There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children. ~ Nelson Mandela

Perhaps those closed roads have been a blessing all this time.

 crack in the wall

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“The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.”  ~ Randy Pausch – The Last Lecture

Many apologies that I have not updated this blog for such a long time. I had all good intentions but honestly, we have been in a holding pattern since last I wrote… hit a “brick wall” so to say. There were several times when I thought we would have news… and then nothing. And, it is difficult for me to sit down and spew out continuous optimism when I just don’t know what’s really going on. However, for those of you following the news… much has happened over the last couple of weeks and especially over the last few days. Some good and some bad. But first we back up just a bit… After we left Ukraine, a decision was made that “we” (mostly meaning Angelina & Co. in Ukraine) would initiate steps to move Dima from Nikolaevka to an orphanage in Donetsk. This would have been a positive move in many respects… much fewer back roads to travel as well as distance from Slovyansk… which was a Pro-Russian Rebel stronghold. And, if we could have moved him to Donetsk, we could have traveled back almost immediately. However, roads were closed to travel… which is why we came home early and which meant that he physically could not get to Donetsk.  Then, on June 8th we received this email from Angelina…

Hi Leslie! I am super optimistic, as always, Leslie. Finally we have our official President-Peter Poroshenko, and we all hope the situation in Eastern Ukraine will be changed and fixed within a couple weeks, at least President promises the same, and I want to believe this is the only way we have. So I will keep you updated, but at the moment the highway connecting Donetsk with the camp where Dima is now (it’s very safe place) blocked and closed… We are waiting for only good news, can’t wait when you finally meet your baby boy! I am sure it’ll happen very soon! Love, Angelina

So, we waited… waited for things to change and roads to open.  Just a couple of weeks, right? But the roads didn’t open and the violence continued. And in my continuous effort to try to “fix things” – which I am pretty good at doing most of the time – I made an inquiry as to whether Dima could participate in the hosting program… which, in hindsight, didn’t really make sense to even ask.  But it was all I had.  And so, I asked.  And on June 20th Angelina responded…

Hi Leslie, Unfortunately Dima is blocked in his camp, but I will find out if we can do anything to join him to any hosting group. At the moment it sounds absolutely impossible, unfortunately. All the best!! Angelina

And so we continued to wait… for all the same things that were surely just a “couple weeks” from happening. Well, things did start happening and just last week on July 2nd as we were preparing to go to the lake to enjoy a long 4th of July weekend… celebrating our independence… I got this message from Angelina…

 Hi my dear Leslie!! Oh, it’s really super hard to be an optimist in this situation but we try to overcome all these unexpectable difficulties that appeared now… Today they bombed our Grlovka city, fortunately there was an opposite side of the city, we just heard some bad sounds… Leslie, you can’t believe but I spoke with Valentina, deputy director of Dima’s orphanage half an hour ago… She says Dima in a safe place, 50 miles away from the orphanage… She says the orphanage sleep in the cellar (bomb shelter) and get used to all this crazy situation… so bad and sad… We are sure all will be fixed within two weeks, but still very dangerous and crazy… Leslie, last Wednesday (a week ago) I spoke with Tatyana, Max’s guardian, she is very upset and disappointed that our plan didn’t work. She promised to continue fighting for Max’s future, but no guarantee… need to wait. She says Max is also in a safe area, Southern Ukraine, at the camp near the Black Sea. He”ll stay there until the end of August… Oh, nobody could expected all this, but we hope we’ll winners very soon, really!! Please stay in touch!! love, Angelina

Needless to say, this wIMG_8971as disturbing news… not just on the adoption front… but we now personally knew people who live in a city that is being bombed. And there is nothing that we can do about it. So the 4th of July had a different taste for me this year. Don’t get me wrong… I had a great weekend – spending it at the lake with one of my highschool besties and her family. But I would periodically feel a wave of foolishness wash over me as I found myself struggling with decisions as critical as burgers or brats… or floating or fishing. (Rachel was successful at fishing as you can see) But that is what we love about our country, right? The very fact that sometimes… these are the most important decisions that we have to make. And this gave me a much needed re-energization on the adoption end and it filled me with a renewed sense of import to give Dima the opportunity to know these kinds of freedom… and perhaps to just be a kid. But again… all we could do was to continue to wait. And then, on July 6th, I received the following text from Angelina…

 Hi Leslie!!! Great news: Slavyansk and Nikolaevka are free from terrorists! Yesterday Ukrainian army liberated these cities!!! More than two months of occupation. Slavyansk is almost destroyed, more than half of inhabitants ran away… horrible… it’ll take time to return the city to normal life. Hope Donetsk will be also free very soon. Thank you for praying for us and Ukraine.

Finally… some good news! The news today shows that the Pro-Russian rebels have moved into Donetsk. This is not great for Donetsk, but their strongholds in the outer regions have been defeated. And it is clear that the new president is standing behind his promise to act aggressively with respect to these terrorists. Also on the bright side, it appears that, so far, Putin has ignored the rebels’ requests for troops. Ukraine has also recently signed the European Union Trade Pact which could mean financial benefits for the country and hopefully President Poroshenko will be successful in finding a good balance in relationships between Europe, Ukraine and Russia… which, in my opinion, is critical. So the brick wall isn’t down… but perhaps a crack?

u turn

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“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”  ~ Lai Tzu

Well… change in plans.  It is 5:30 a.m. and we are on our way home.  Yesterday morning, the Ukrainian government made a decision to close more than a dozen cities in Eastern Ukraine… including Donetsk and Mikalaevka… following the violence in Slovyansk.  They are not letting people travel in or out of these cities while they undergo an anti-terrorism operation. Now we weren’t going to Slovyansk but we would have had to pass thru it to get to the orphanage.  So, our permission letter was not stamped when we went back to the waiting stairwell.  And, we were left with the choice of waiting for the operation to end… which could be a matter of days or a matter of weeks or going home and coming back when travel has reopened.  So… we are coming home.  Personally, I am really happy that this travel “freeze” didn’t happen today after we got there.  Who knows whether we would have been allowed to leave??

However, this trip was not a complete waste.  Paperwork has been started and Dima has now officially been linked to us.  So, I believe that we can be assured that he will not be available for adoption by anyone else… at least that is what Angelina suggested to me.  And good things are worth waiting for… right?  Also, we now feel pretty comfortable about traveling to Ukraine in general… although I will be actively trying to improve my Russian in the coming days.  “Improve” really meaning learn more of the basics.

So, when we return – and we will return –  we will pick up where we left off.  We will go back to the stairwell… wait some more… pick up our permission letter and then be off to meet Dima.

And here are our American faces and our best Ukrainian faces… no casual smiling allowed as you pass by folks on the street.  That being said… we have met wonderful people here – so the look is just that… a look!  I don’t think we are very convincing.

And that’s it for 1 photo 2