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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Thinking........always a dangerous activity....part 1....

I think I wrote a while back about the analogy I had heard of going from say Las Vegas to Los Angeles and how even if you did not know the exact route, if you knew the basic direction, and you keep going in that direction, then you will eventually get there.  The second portion of that analogy is that if you set out in that direction, and then change your mind and start heading in another direction, and then change your mind and start heading back, and so on, you could essentially be lost forever, turning in circles and never actually getting anywhere.  To way to get somewhere is to keep heading in that general direction.  It is sticking with a single decision that keeps a person moving in the chosen direction, and making each decision based on that initial decision.  If you always override your past decision in favor of a new one, you end up floundering in the wilderness, unsure of exactly where you are, how you got there, or where you are going. 

So, you may be wondering why I am thinking about that...well, I have had many pockets in my life of that aimless wandering without a real goal in mind.  I have never really liked those times.  And I feel like I am in one at this point, and have been for a couple of years.  So I am going to try to put some of my mental meanderings into words.

In 2003, I spent 7 months (May 1 to a few days before Thanksgiving) volunteering as in many ways an interim research director at ECHO ( in North Fort Myers, FL.  Their research director was leaving to move back to Canada in June and his replacement research director was not able to be there until October.  So they needed someone to learn what research was going on, and to keep it moving forward, to be able to bring the new director up to speed.  That way there would be no break in the research, no stopping and starting.  It was an amazing experience.  ECHO is an amazing organization, an amazing blend of science and spirituality.  Living with others of like mind, working side by side with people dedicated to "...using science and technology to help the poor..." which was the core of the mission statement when I was there.  The revised mission statement is "ECHO's Mission is to equip people with resources and skills to reduce hunger and improve the lives of the poor. "

It was the most fulfilling 7 months of my life.  But volunteering full time is a not an easy to sustain lifestyle, as income is a necessary part of our culture.  But I felt very honored to have the support, financial, emotional, and prayerful, of all of the people who helped me be able to do that work.  As I was nearing the end of my time at ECHO, I was trying to decide what to do next, what my next step would be. 

I am a very visual thinker (I tend to think in concepts and visuals).  As I was meditating on my path, the visual that came to me was like standing in a clearing in a forest.  It was a small, sunny beautiful clearing, surrounded by a fence with many gates.  From the clearing, like spokes of a wheel were many paths going in many different directions.  All looked inviting, all looked clear, but I could not see more than a few paces down any path.  I had a sense that I could choose any one of the gates, and by opening one the others would be locked.  It was a pivotal decision making time, but I had no idea where any of those gates would lead.  I try not to waste my time wondering how my life would have been if I had chosen a different path.  At the time, there were some easy to see paths from the point that I was at, but with each one there were so many unknowns.  I chose to return to Ithaca at that time, to return to the career field where I had the most training and experience (at that time plant genomics).  And to return to where I had my church,friends, family, and other known  entities.  In short, it was the least risk path.  I knew it when I chose it, I knew it was the path of least risk.  I also knew it was not the most potentially fulfilling of the paths that lay before me, both of the ones I could see the next steps in or the ones that were just a vague idea.

I returned to Ithaca, got a position working in agriculture at Cornell again, and decided to settle in to work towards another dream of mine--adopting children with special needs.  So I bought a house, and then I met A.  I really had never had a spousal type relationship, so this was a new experience.  I put my adoption plans on hold, and developed a relationship with A.  We had a ceremony solidifying our commitment a year later, and revived the mutually agreed upon path to adoption, with somewhat different parameters than I originally planned, as I was planning on foster to adopt, knowing that most foster children return to their parents (which is normally a very good thing).  So I was prepared to be a safe haven and support for children whose home lives had become unsafe, and to help them while their parents found stable ground.  But A felt that getting attached and losing them was more than A could handle.  So we chose to do straight adoption, looking at children internationally, kids who were already freed for adoption in foster care, and private agencies.   We began the path to adopt a beautiful boy named Rustam from Russia.  He is and always will be the first son of my heart.

Rustam still resides in a place in my heart, and will always be there.  He was my one armed bandit.  He had hanhart syndrome. The amazing child with only one arm, and completely fused finger on the good arm, as well as fused toes, and some heart and kidney issues.  We had a couple of videos of this amazing child.  He was so smart and capable.  He could use his little lobster hand so well, and loved playing ball, running around, and just being a kid.  You could tell from the videos that he was a strong willed little guy, interested in exploring his world, and willing to exert his own control over his life.  He probably would have been a challenge to parent, but strong willed children usually become successful leaders as adults if their strength can be channeled properly.  So are very worth the challenge.

For a few months, we focused on talking to specialists about his issues, preparing his bedroom, and we even had the chance to send some things to him with another family who was adopting a child from that orphanage.  We had completed all of the paperwork, gotten all of the clearances, and had been raising the money for the travel expenses.  We were awaiting a travel date for the first trip to go to Russia and meet him, sign the first round of papers, have court, etc....  Then we got the call that another family in Russia had committed to adopting him.  That is the risk of international adoption.  IF a family there chooses a child they take precedence over someone who has not yet been there.  So he was no longer available...We were broken hearted, but were bolstered by the fact that he would have a family, a mom to tuck him in and give him kisses. 

We grieved but decided to continue with our plans to adopt internationally and selected two little guys from a different section of Russia--one who had been a preemie and one who had some issues with his hips and leg length.  We redid our paperwork  for the new region and began preparing for the adoption of Kostya and Andre.  My dad got his passport so that he could be an extra set of hands during the process and the travel to bring the boys home.  We altered the kids room (added a crib for little Kostya), and began getting toys that were appropriate for a slightly older child than we had planned on as Andre was 4.  While we still grieved the loss of Rustam as our son, we were committed to bringing home these two little ones.  As our original home study and immigration clearances were for up to two children, those did not have to be redone.  So paperwork did not take too long to redo.  A couple of months later, as we awaited a travel date, we got another call of bad news.  Andre had been taken into foster care in Russia and the family wanted to keep him and someone had stepped forward from Russia to adopt Kostya.  So another major loss.  It was like getting hit with a shot gun blast, as my heart was still an open sore from losing Rustam. 

But we were firm in our commitment to give a child with special needs from Russia, as children with special needs are placed in mental institutions at age 5 and are not available for adoption after that.  They live out their lives, like the US used to treat people with disabilities--hidden away from sight, treated poorly due to the belief that they are essentially of lesser value than "regular" human beings.  Not given the chance to grow, learn, and become productive members of society.  So, we lifted up our broken hearts, and committed one more time, to a little boy who was in yet another region of Russia.  As many of our clearances had expired we used a sizable portion of our saved funds (which had been dipped into for the second attempt) to redo all of our paperwork for yet another region.  This time we were hoping to bring home Kirril (whom were were going to rename Korey).  He had hydrocephalus and possible mild CP. 

We did not prepare for him.  We were too gun shy and our hearts were broken.  We spent a month doing things, only to learn that our funds were too depleted to have enough for the first trip.  We decided after a few weeks, that we were in no condition to weather another loss, and we now needed more time to raise more money.  We had already lost over $8,000 to the process of international adoption, most of which was spend on all of the document preparation, getting the right seals and stamps, translation, and then redoing it a couple more times.  So we regretfully stepped back from Kirril, something that makes me sad to this day, as I followed his picture for a long time, and learned that even though a couple of families traveled to meet him, both families turned him down.  He most likely ended up in a mental institution when he turn 5.  Having been hurt by the losses so many times and lost so much money, we decided to concentrate on  adopting from the US. 

I will have to continue this story tomorrow.  my little man J had aquatic PT today and it is tiem for me to head over to school to pick him up for that....

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