Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Meet Little Miss Mira

I have been crazy busy the last two days trying to get the Holiday Auction's web page all organized before I launch it on Thursday ( fingers crossed ) that I almost forgot to get my weekly post introducing a new kiddo and family finalized!   Too much to do and too little time, right???  Well, like the precious orphans that you have met ahead of her, meeting Mira is well worth your time.

It is difficult for me to write about this part of my life.   I have never attempted to put into words our story.   What was supposed to be a happy beginning has turned into many tearful days and nights.  I am only happy that I did not know what was to lie ahead.

I met my oldest daughter on April 5, 2008 at the Bishkek Baby House in Bishkek Kyrgyzstan.   It was one of the happiest days of my life.  I instantly fell in love with the tiny baby girl named Mira with big brown eyes.  She was only two months old when we met.  She had been born premature and was so tiny.    I was allowed to visit Mira two times a day every day for a week.     I was head over heels in love, and completely overjoyed.    She seemed to know I was her mother perhaps she could read the love on my face or feel the love in my arms.  The orphanage doctor told me she would now really thrive and grow since she had a mom.     During our visits Mira and I would quietly study each other’s face.     My adoption coordinator said we seemed to have our own secret language.  We did.  It was the language of love.    Many at the orphanage even commented that we resembled each other.   It seemed we were a perfect match.  
Mira with the quilt Angela made for her after her first visit.
At the end of my one week visit I had to return home to await a court hearing followed by a 30 day wait.   I believed I would be able to bring Mira home early June 2008.  Leaving Mira was very difficult.  I told her to be brave and I would be back in 6 short weeks. Tearfully I walked out the gates of the orphanage thinking the next time I walked out of these gates Mira and I would be together.   Although I refer to Mira as my daughter she is not legally mine.    We never were scheduled a court date. We never did walk out the gates together to start our new life together.     Although I did complete and submit all the required documents for adoption a court date remained elusive.  I kept asking my agency if I had received a court date yet.  At first my agency and I believed it was a small delay but as weeks turned into months I began to realize there was a big problem.   Unfortunately adoptions were stalled and then finally stopped completely.     There were 65 American families stuck in adoption limbo.    

Watching your child grow up from 8000 miles away is difficult to say the least.   Mira will celebrate her fourth birthday without a family on January 22 of this year.     Although Mira has not grown up in my arms she has certainly grown up in my heart.  I often wonder if she can somehow feel the love from so far away.  I have seen her go from a crawling baby to a toddling tot and now a preschooler.   The first time I heard her sweet voice was on a video she was saying she was two and holding two fingers up.      Each picture is a bitter sweet gift reminding me of what I am missing but also letting me know she is okay.  There is not a minute that passes where I am not wondering if she is happy, and healthy.   

Her room sits ready waiting for her filled with many clothes she has long out grown.   There are books waiting to be read and dolls waiting to be played with.  The felt animals I bought for her in Kyrgyzstan patiently wait for her to come home.  Most importantly I along with her new baby sister from China are waiting for her.   Not to mention all the family and friends who are waiting for her. 

The moratorium has now been lifted on International Adoption in Kyrgyzstan.  I am hoping someday soon I can bring Mira home and that she will be resting comfortably in my arms again.  What a miracle it will be when we do walk out the orphanage gates together hand in hand.  

Angela Sharp

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Week of Thanksgiving and Fund Update

It is this time of year that truly makes me take a huge step back and think about how incredibly lucky I am.  I have an amazing husband, three precious, healthy children and I am surrounded by incredibly suppportive family and friends.  The last three months I have been blessed with the creation of Altynai's fund and serendipitously surprised by the joy it has brought me.  They always say, "it is better to give than receive" and I agree but what needs to be added to the end of the statement is " .... and the more you give, the more joy you will receive in return."   The irony of it, is that it is not the size or cost of the gift that is important, but the unexpected nature of the gift and the need involved.  Those features are paramount to it's impact.

Over the last week, I had the opportunity to "give" a great deal.  I bought eggs for a stranger in the grocery store check out line on Thanksgiving Day.   I gave out $900 worth of jewelry to three amazing women, one of which re-gifted it, so four ladies were blessed.  And.... $4800 in grants was given out to the first four families that have been approved by Lifesong for Orphans and Altynai's fund!   After months of fundraising, the first of the funds are finally being distributed and by the end of the month, ten more families should be approved!  I want you all to know that other than the eggs, none of the other "gifts" would have been possible if it was not for your incredible generosity.  Isn't that amazing!!!  Thank you, thank you, thank you!  Whether you participated in one of the first two fundraisers or gave a direct donation, you are making Altynai's Fund a reality and it is already impacting the life of an orphan and their adoptive family.  In fact, here is a fun way to think about it in tangible terms, the $4800 that was "gifted" last week will buy each of the four orphans a one way plane ticket to their new home here in America.  I love that!

To date, the fund has raised a little over $16,000 and as mentioned above, there are14 waiting families that the fund that the fund anticipates assisting.  The initial $16,000 will be divided evenly amongst the applicants so $1200 per family which is a wonderful start. Additional monies donated from this date forward will be distributed based on need.  As you may remember, the anticipated cost to complete the adoptions will be at least another $20,000 per child which is why I set the fundraising goal for the fund at $40,000-45,000.

In an attempt to reach that lofty goal, I have several "events" planned for December.  Starting Dec 1st, I will launch the fund's first online silent auction and there are some amazing items that have been donated.  The Thirty One sale ( www.mythirtyone.com/70174 ) is ongoing through Dec. 8th and just like the recent Silpada sale, the representative is donating her earnings to Altynai's fund ( Thanks Heather!) and of course, the Zazzle  store is up and running at ( http://www.zazzle.com/bringhomethekyrgyz65 ).  The grand finale for this month will start Dec 10th and we will be raffling off a Kindle Fire that has been donated by one of the waiting families!  It should be a lot of fun and hopefully a good deal of money will be raised.  And of course, I have several more children and waiting families to introduce you too!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Orphan Crisis

Dr. Jane Aronson is a woman who is taking her knowledge as an international adoption pediatrician and doing her best to make an impact in the lives of orphans around the world.  Please read the commentary that she wrote for CNN.  It is well worth your time.


Adoption is clearly only a small part of the solution to get these orphans out of the vicious cycle that tends to propagate itself.  Society needs to step in and make the un-parented a priority, not outcasts.  What are you willing to do to help?  There are so many opportunities....

Monday, November 21, 2011

Silpada Success and Lots More to Come

The Silpada fundraiser that finished on Saturday was a huge success so thank you to everyone who bought jewelry and helped spread the word!  Here are the exciting results:


     ***  40 people participated with online and party sales.

     ***  $900 in jewelry was given away!  Three $300 gift certificates for jewelry of their choice was given to our big raffle winners!
            CONGRATULATIONS to Jes Scheel, Lisa Reickerd and Kim Humphrey!!!!  By chance, they are all part of the Kyrgyz 65 which was so fun.  I wanted you to enjoy the video of the drawing but blogger seems to disagree with that plan.  Maybe tomorrow it will let it go through....

    *** $300 of additional jewelry was also earned.  Jill and I will use that to chose some pieces that will be used on the blog for additional fundraising in the future.  The goal is for this fundraiser will propagate itself :) and don't forget that Silpada also donated a beautiful necklace and bracelet so stay tuned for more information.

DRUM ROLL PLEASE........................

     *** $1200 was donated to the fund!!!!  Can you believe it?  The thanks goes to Jill Vodicka and her upline, Kathy Zimardo's, for their incredible generosity.  Jill gave all  of her proceeds except a small amount that covered her expenses.  I can't thank her enough for all that she has done to support me and this fund since even before it was launched. What an amazing friend!!!

So what's next... there is a lot more in the works.  To start, there is a Thirty One sale going on right now if you are interested in buying some adorable bags.  Ann Bates, one of the waiting moms,  has a friend who is a representative for the company.  Heather has offered to have an online sale from now until December 8th with a portion of the proceeds going to Altynai's fund!  Here is the link to the sale : http://www.mythirtyone.com/70174 .

Ann also has a Zazzle store that has Kyrgyz 65 t-shirts and other items for sale.  They are adorable and the proceeds of all of the Zazzle store sales will also go to Altynai's Fund.  Here is the link to the store front :  http://www.zazzle.com/bringhomethekyrgyz65 .

Last thing, any crafters or Etsy store owners out there....  I am dreaming of a Holiday craft fair for December's main fundraiser and it is shaping up nicely.  So far people have donated a great variety of items, from a wooden toy box to hand crafted shoes to quilts to personalized Dr. Seuss wall hangings, just to name a few.   I would love to have a few more handcrafted pieces if possible so let me know on the blog or via private email at scbilyeu@gmail.com if you are interested in donating.  It should be fun!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Party is Starting!

The Silpada party is starting in about 15 minutes!  So far there is over $600 in free jewelry to give away and that number is only going to go up.  The raffle drawing will be at 6 pm EST so you still have time to participate.  Online and Party purchases count!

Click here to shop:  www.mysilpada.com/jill.vodicka

Friday, November 18, 2011

What's in a Name?

Happy Friday everyone!!!!

Well, 4 a.m. came and sure enough, I was awake!  This point must be important because I woke up thinking about it and haven't stopped.  I want to clarify and explain the name - Kyrgyz 65.  At this time, it is the name represents the group but numerically, it should not be taken literally.  When moratorium was placed on adoptions in Feb 2009, there were 65 orphans/ US families that became trapped.  Hence the Kyrgyz 65.  We do know the names of all those children and we know the gravity of what the delay has meant to them.  At this time, there are over 40 of the families that have remained absolutely steadfast in their committment to bringing home the child that they were matched with 3-4 years ago.  They are the families that I refer to all the time.  The others have had to make very difficult decisions along the way OR life has dealt them a card, that made staying on this journey absolutely no longer feasible and/or, in most cases a combination of both.  Lastly, there are a handful of the waiting children that have since been able to leave the orphanage with other biological family members.  So to date, the "waiting" is really not 65 but the name stands strong to reflect those that have been involved over the years.  Hope that makes more sense....

Don't forget that today and tomorrow is your last chance to be entered in the Silpada raffle ( over $400 to be given away ) - make sure your purchases are in by 6 pm EST tomorrow to be included.  Here is the link to the sale:


The sale will be open through Sunday but the raffle will be over so please don't procrastinate.

The PODCAST link has been changed - sorry about that!    Here is it :
The link on last nights post and on the right side of the page are accurate now and working great.  Please take the time to listen in.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The PODCAST is over and I think it was a great success!  If nothing else, it gave me a chance to tell those who listened about my dream's for this fund and to show off some of the amazing women that I have come to know.

So without further adieu, here is the link for you to view it :


Deanna, Lisa and Gabrielle, I can't thank you enough for helping me with this.  Deanna, I owe you a ton!!!

Of course, now that one event is crossed off my "To Do List" I need to move on to the next.  The Silpada sale is well underway and over $400 in jewelry of your choice is going to be raffled off.  The drawing will be Saturday so please participate.  This is the fund's major fundraiser for November so please don't miss out on the chance to help an orphan, do some Christmas shopping and win some jewelry all at the same time!

Now off to bed and I bet I sleep a whole lot better now that I will not be tossing and turning over all the points that I don't want to forget during the PODCAST.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

24 Hour Count Down to PODCAST

Hi all.  Don't forget to tune in tomorrow night for the PODCAST about the fund and the Kyrgyz 65!  I sent out hundreds of messages today and am hoping that people will be led to share the news so that we can have a good audience.

Click here to listen: http://www.mothertheworld.org/p/live.html

If you can't listen tomorrow, please don't worry.  The event will be recorded for your future viewing pleasure!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Reality of It All

There has been a lot of excitement this week and yet, the reality is, that jewelry sales and PODCASTS aside there are still 143,000,000 orphans in the world and there are 65 that we know by name in Kyrygyzstan. This blog post is from Lisa Brotherton, my closest "adoption" friend in all of this mess. In fact, I have known her since the very beginning of our journey.  We started with the same agency at the same time and received our referrals within days of each other.   We have had hundreds of emails over the years and shared long tearful conversations from time to time.

Lisa volunteered to write up their story early on but openly admitted how difficult it was to put it on paper so instead, she is allowing us to read what she has written over the four years.  The posts truly capture the gravity of what a nightmare this has been. So from one of the bravest and most devoted people I know, please meet Lisa, Nargiza and her family.
Precious Nargiza

My name is Lisa Brotherton. My husband Jeff and I have two amazing kids at home, and one heaven sent child that is living out her days in a Kyrgyz orphanage. I find it very difficult to put down the words to tell our story… it is painful to even contemplate trying. But for the love of Altynai and for my own deep need to have the children I have etched in my psyche released from the institution life that has been sucking away their very spirit; here is my attempt to paint a picture of our life over the past 3+ years.

I am writing this out of great love and respect for Suzanne Bilyeu, my friend. In so many ways, Suzanne is a soul mate born from mutual love and tragedy on this “roller-coaster” ride we call an “adoption journey”.
I decided it best to pull excerpts from our blog that I enthusiastically started early in the adoption process, and from other forms of communication along the way.

Early 2008:

Jeff and I had always planned on having four kids. We were barely married three months when I became pregnant with Chloe. We were thrilled!
Chloe was only 10 months old when "Surprise" I was pregnant again with Jake! We were so excited. And lucky us, a boy!
Chloe turned 2, Jake was 6 months, and “Whoa”... how could I be pregnant again so quick? But we knew it was a blessing, and we would find a way to manage...
But our third baby, Lucas (bringer of light), was diagnosed "Incompatible with life" at 20 weeks. I can not begin to explain how devastating that diagnosis was. We choose to carry him to full term. If this was all the time we would have with him, we were going to parent him the best we could for that time.
Unfortunately, I delivered him stillborn and in the process my uterus ruptured. I had an emergency hysterectomy and nearly lost my own life. Our family and friends know what an enormous toll this took on us.
But I am truly, deeply grateful for the whole experience of Lucas. We wish that it could have been different. I work hard to not question what I can not understand. But I know God spoke something powerful in my soul. It was a gift like no other. And I know I am a better, stronger and more human person because of it all.
Jeff and I talked vaguely for some time about adopting (this all happened in 1997). At the time, our children were so young. It seemed we had time to heal and process things before we took on this new challenge.
The years flew by and we had stopped talking about adding to our family. Then on my birthday last year (Jan 2007) Jeff asked me, "When are we going to adopt a baby?"
Well, the internet research began that night and continued for weeks. Late one night, I found it, Kyrgyzstan! I knew our baby girl was coming from this small country that I had hardly heard of, yet now it was foremost in my heart. I have not looked back since.
As sure as I know God sent me Lucas, I know He is calling me to our baby girl!

Mid 2008:

Yes, today we got THE call!
The only thing holding me back from complete euphoria... she is at the Bishkek Baby House. Currently, and for the past few months, the court system in the Bishkek region, the nation's capital, has not processed any adoptions that I have heard.
We have not seen a photo yet, we are going to give ourselves some time to digest the challenges that may lie ahead before we take any big leaps. But one thing we know for sure, nothing on this roller coaster of a ride is directly controlled by us (except the option to not get on) and nothing is certain; it can all change at a moments notice with little or no recourse.
Please say a prayer for us or send us silent wishes that we can consider this precious child with a clear mind and an open heart; that we can be courageous in our decisions and have the faith to follow them through without second guessing ourselves. And that I have the patience and restraint to not look at the photo before thinking through the situation (as I know full well that seeing a sweet baby’s face will numb our minds to all reasoning).

Late 2008:

We have suffered through disappointment after disappointment as hopeful progress has continued to not pan out.
It is the strangest world we have entered into; a place where faith and hope circle along side uncertainties and fear. We can not seem to get a full grasp on either. So it is a careful dance of balance that moves us through the process.
But one thing I know for sure, that little girl needs a family, and we will not give up on her!
This is not the IA program we signed up for one year ago. We never dreamed we would go through months of uncertainty that would slide further and further from a happy ending. For all of the hope and desire Jeff and I have to bring another child into our family, I would never have signed up to have our hearts torn open like this. It feels much too similar to the grieving process we have endured over and over in the last 12 years.

So much love is yours little one. I don't know if you sense it, but it is real and it is plenty.
We miss you beyond words and wish to see your soulful eyes and tiny hands, though they have surely grown since we held them last.
Ten months of your precious life without a family of your own. You may not have a concept of what it is you are missing, but we surely do. It is here; it is waiting and will be here when the time comes. We will not let you down little one. You are loved!

One month and she will be a year old. How could we let this happen to her? A year of no family to love and nurture her. A year to learn that her cries mean nothing. A year of never feeling special and prized.
At 11 months, I could still teach her the joy of having a bottle held to her lips as she slips in to a safe sleep in my arms. At 11 months, her daddy could still play her first game of Peek-A-Boo under her favorite blanket or whatever it takes to get a squeal of giggles to burst from her lips. She could still be cheered on by her sister and brother as she learns to crawl and babble out random sounds that will be claimed as words. At 11 months, we could tell her one day that she did not spend the "entire" first year of her life without us, and show her the photos with frosting and cake crumbs covering her tiny pink cheeked face to prove the point.
There has to be a way to break through this mess and bring each of them into the one home that waits for them; to salvage us all from despair.

For God's sake, SOMEBODY explain to me why more than 65 children living in orphanages in Kyrgyzstan have been waiting over a full year to be released to the families abroad that love them and are more than willing to parent them for their lifetime? These are children that will otherwise spend their first 14 years in an institution (if they survive that long) and then be turned out, still with no family. They do not know what it is like to be loved and cherished…, yet they are, so deeply, from afar.

One of the greatest diseases is to be nobody to anybody.
~Mother Teresa

I stopped blogging at the end 2009. At that point my time was taken by the hours of daily research and direct communication between myself, the other waiting families and desperately reaching out to any and all advocates we could find to be a voice for the children. And we have found many.

And here is the foundation of my message written in early 2010:

They (Kyrgyz officials) do not care about us; they do not need to care about the PAPs (Potential Adoptive Parents) or their pain waiting to bring home the child that came to live in their hearts so long ago, because that is not their job. What we need is for them to honor the rights of these children.
These children are wards of the state. The state has signed the UN CCR (Convention on Children’s Rights) stating that all children have certain rights, rights that have been "put on hold" indefinitely. The state is underfunded to care for the large numbers of children. The increase in abandonments and decrease in the number of children being adopted (domestically as well) has created a critical mass in the orphanages and the maternity hospitals. And children can not be "put on hold". Every day their potentials are slipping away. They are aging out of who they could have been with the medical and loving interventions waiting for them.
While we agree that the corruption must be stopped and the process transparent, one thing we know is children do not thrive in institutions. Try as they might, they can not replace the quality or quantity of attention that a child gets from a one on one committed parent. And it not just for their childhood, they need a family connection for their lifetime. Over 60 of their most vulnerable children are in need and the answer is knocking at their door dawn till dusk. They have a family, it may be across the world, but they have people, mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers, grandparents that long to hold them and plan their futures and show them that they are valued human beings. This is the right of every child!
I can not meet the needs of every child, but I am waiting to do it for this precious one. No government can meet the needs of every child, but are they not called to do everything in their power to not to deny their rights?
We need someone to take a stand and look at each child as the precious human life that they are, to cut through the red tape for the sake of what is decent and good.

Since spring 2009, I have traveled twice to New York City, twice to Washington DC, and all the way back to Kyrgyzstan to meet with officials, advocates and anyone that would hear my voice speaking for these children. My two biological children have grown from grade school to high school. They spent their turbulent “middle-school” years trying to digest that they live in a world that could be so unjust. It has changed them. It has changed all of us that wait for these beautiful children.

Following the revolution that ousted the entire government of Kyrgyzstan in April 2010 here is a letter I sent to the interim president, Rosa Otunbayeva after “friend-ing” her on Facebook:

I praise you for the tremendous courage shown this year in the Kyrgyz Republic.
I humbly request that you show the same courage and leadership in resolving the 63 cases of intercountry adoption that have been held hostage by the bureaucratic process for 2 years (unofficially for 3 years). As you know, more than one child has died while waiting for action to be taken on their behalf.
The right thing to do here is to weigh the “best interest” of each of these individual children. Some one person, with the courage to do the “right thing”, regardless of the political cost, is what it will take to move the political will in the favor of these innocent ones. I pray daily that that person will hear the call of injustice and be courageous.
Imagine the future of these 63 little lives… I know I have nightmares of the futures stolen from the precious ones that have died while waiting for a family. They deserved better. They deserved someone’s courage.

After all of this time of being stuck on this nightmarish ride… it appears that finally the wheels are starting to move. The roller-coaster is headed around the final turns and the unloading zone is in sight. But for too many of our families the “fee” to get off this nightmare ride is no longer accessible to them. The thought of any one of these children being left behind after their family has fought for so long to provide a life and a future to them… it is unbearable.

Mother Teresa reminds us, “If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one”. We can not provide for every child, but these children… we, collectively we, can provide them safety, security, a family, hope…. Please consider helping these children come home. Altynai never made it to live with her family here on earth… for that injustice; I will be forever looking for peace. But I will find no peace if any one of the remaining children looses hope for a family, for a future.

Our family is contributing to this effort to help all the remaining Kyrgyz 65 come home. Will you please consider joining us?

Nargiza's 3rd Birthday - The Brotherton's were able to make it a special day for her. 
~ Lisa Brotherton

Events Update

Just a quick update....

Deanna, Gabrielle and Lisa and I had our sound check for the PODCAST this afternoon. Thank goodness because we had some technical glitches. I am so excited for Thursday night. Don't forget - 9 pm EST. Please help us spread the news and if you know any prolific bloggers out there, please ask them to post on their blogs too. Thanks in advance for the help!

The Silpada sale is picking up and so far there is $300 in jewelry ready to be raffled off and that will surely go up. Don't forget that for every $50 you spend you get entered to win.

Sorry, no links tonight because blogger is out of sorts and it won't let me insert them. I will edit tomorrow.

Exciting Week for Altynai's Fund

I am so excited because this is going to be a great week for Altynai's fund - live PODCAST and Silpada sale all in one week!!!!  Nothing but good things to come....

         THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2011 9 PM EST
         To view the live PODCAST you can click on :  http://www.mothertheworld.org/p/live.html

The PODCAST is going to be featured on www.mothertheworld.org with Deanna Jones.  Deanna is an amazing adoptive mom, author and adoption advocate and I am ecstatic that she has been so willing to help me inform other's about the waiting children and families that make up the Kyrgyz 65 and the needs of Altynai's Fund.  Myself and two of the waiting mom's, Lisa Brotherton and Gabrielle Shimkus, will be participating and I promise you that you will be nothing but impressed.

Second is the SILPADA FUNDRAISER : November 5-19th!!!

There is 6 more days to participate in the online sales and/or attend the Grand Finale Party on Saturday, November 19th.  Don't forget that that for every $50 you spend, you will be entered in the raffle for free jewelry of your choice!  Silpada has graciously donated several pieces and I am donating all of the hostess jewelry that I earn!  The amount of the raffles will be dependent on how much the sale nets so stay tuned for updates on how much is going to be raffled off!  It has the potential to be huge!  Online, catalog and party sales apply and the raffles will be drawn on Saturday.  I also want to send a huge thank you to both Jill Vodicka and Kathy Zimardo, the Silpada reps who are helping me and have both graciously donated a large portion of their profits.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!

You can directly access the link at www.mysilpada.com/jill.vodicka and shop to your hearts content AND help a orphan at the same time.  When you go through check out, a page will pop up that asks if you have been invited to a party - click "yes" and then you can choose Suzanne Bilyeu's Fundraiser.  No worries if you get confused because the only sale that Jill has going on now is mine, so ALL purchases will go to the fund.

Please help me out this week and tell a friend or two or twenty or a hundred (you get my drift)  about the PODCAST and the SILPADA FUNDRAISER!  Thanks!

Friday, November 11, 2011

My Faith

Altynai's fund has had an amazing week, filled with new opportunities and new people that have volunteered their time, expertise or products.  I thought that my "Help Wanted" ad had fallen on deaf ears, but I am happy to tell you that I was wrong.  Thank goodness because this week was filled with exactly what I have been looking for and my belief in this fund is holding strong.  Trust me, if it was not for my faith in God and what I feel he is leading me to do, I would have abandoned this ship long ago.  ( That and the fact that I am incredibly stubborn - just ask my husband. ) So I guess now that I have brought up my faith, maybe I will spend a little time, telling you a little more about myself. 

My relationship with God is something that I find personal and private.  To many, they would find my faith child-like because it is so simplistic in nature.  I have always been a Christian, attended church and have believed in God and yet, I am not one to quote Bible verses or have indepth philosophical conversations about Christianity or other religions.  But what I do know, on a very visceral level, is that God is always with me and guiding me through all of lifes ups and downs (and I have had my fair share of both).  And when I take the time to listen and truly feel His presence, I am amazed by what I learn and what I can accomplish. 
That is that - He loves me and He cares for me and always will. 

As I think back on our entire adoption journey, from the beginning til now, I have always known that we were doing exactly what we were supposed to be doing. Odd, when you consider how terrifying a good portion of this journey has been. So it is because of my faith that I continue to have this sense of peace and excitement about Altynai's fund.  Excitement because I have been given the opportunity to advocate for the orphans and families that I have fallen in love with.  Excitement because I have been put in a position where I can make an impact and excitement because I know that grand things are going to happen.  And glorious things have already occurred,  but not because of what I am doing but because of what God is guiding others to do. 

So this morning I will leave you with a great quote to ponder, “ The needs are great, and none of us, including me, ever do great things. But we can all do small things, with great love, and together we can do something wonderful.” - Mother Teresa.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Glorious work and Aman

I wrote this post last nights but somehow didn't hit send.  I guess my head really was spinning...

My head is spinning and my heart is joyous!    Several ideas that I have been working on are coming to fruition and several brand new and very exciting prospects may be on the horizon!!!  I am continually in awe of what an exciting journey this fund is providing for me and I am filled with faith and thanks, that God is allowing great things to happen.   The big news of today is that Thursday, November 19th at 9 pm EST, myself and two of the waiting parents will be doing a PODCAST with Deanna Jones.  Deanna, is an adoptive mother and author that is well known throughout the adoption community. Thanks to her kind heart, she has agreed to help me spread the word of the Kyrgyz 65 and Altynai's Fund.  Stay tuned for more details on that event and if you want to learn more about Deanna, please check out her website at www.mothertheworld.org.

The Silpada sale is up and running and the first few orders have started to come in.  From the looks of the stat section on blogger, a lot of people have been checking in, which is exciting.  I spoke with Silpada's corporate office today and they are going to donate some jewelry for the Fund that we can either raffle or auction. Thank you Silpada!!!  The sale will be going through November 19th so please take a look at what they have to offer and/or share the invite with a friend.

So now that I have brought you all up to speed, I would love to introduce Aman and the Hughes' Family.

Adding Aman to Our Family: The Hughes Family’s Journey

On a summer night back in 2007, we watched a movie which changed us forever. It was a movie with an adoption theme. At the end, there was a message about adding to your family through adoption. Watching that movie stirred up old feelings for my husband and myself.

You see, after a few years of marriage, and unsuccessful fertility treatments, we explored adoption as a way of adding to our family. Our strong desire for children led us to a private adoption plan where the birth mom ultimately decided to parent her precious little girl. After a move across our state, we again tried to adopt, this time through the foster care system. After we completed our homestudy, and were about to be introduced to a special little boy, I miraculously conceived! We later gave birth to our two precious daughters, who are now 13 and 11. Two years after our second daughter’s birth, we had a son who died in utero. This was quite devastating for us.

Fast forward to the movie night in 2007.  Again we considered adoption. We still wanted more children. We decided to pray as a couple about whether we should adopt. When we both felt confident and brave enough to go down the road to adoption again, which by now we knew was not an easy road, we introduced our daughters to the idea.  We asked them to pray with us. After much prayer and discussion as a family, we applied to our adoption agency on October 9, 2007. We flew through our homestudy visits, dossier, and immigration paperwork. We turned in our dossier in early December 2007, and just a few days later, we were blessed with the referral of our sweet boy Aman. We were smitten, of course. We said “yes” in a matter of days, and only needed our immigration approval to apply for a court date.  Unfortunately, our immigration paperwork took 13 ½ very long weeks to be approved. By the time we finally received our approval and were submitted to court, the courts had stopped accepting cases in the court district in his country.

After almost a year of delays, we were devastated to learn in February 2009 that a moratorium on adoptions had been put in place in Aman’s country, and that no adoptions would take place while his country revamped their adoption laws.

After many more months of waiting for adoptions to re-open in his country, we found out about a wonderful little boy who was waiting for his family in Korea. We found out about our son in August 2009 and he was home with us in November of that same year! That was an adoption miracle all in itself! He has now been home almost 2 years with us, and he is SUCH A JOY! He is old enough now to understand that Aman is his brother, and that he lives in an orphanage far, far away, and that he needs his family. He prays for Aman to “come home soon and share my room and share my toys and play with me”.

And that is what we pray, too!

You might ask why we are holding on to the hope that Aman will join our family. After all, as of this writing, he has been waiting over 3 years, 8 months to join his forever family! We believe that he is our son, and he will always be our son, regardless of where he is living. Just a few weeks prior to our receiving his referral, I had a dream. In my dream, my husband stood up before our congregation at church and said, “We have decided to call our son Elijah, for he will be a man of God.” Later that day, we attended a church while on a trip away from home. The first song that we sang during Praise and Worship was “These are the Days of Elijah”. We believe that God hand-picked our family for Aman, and that He named him, and that He has great plans for his life.

This has been a definite faith-walk for our family. We had already paid all fees for Aman’s adoption except travel, prior to his referral. Now we are faced with having to pay all the fees again. Your giving to Altynai’s Fund will help get Aman and many of the other waiting Kyrgyz children home to their families.

Thank you!

The Hughes' Family

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Silpada Sale Fundraiser

My goal is to have one major fundraiser per month, at a minimum.  October was the $10 Challenge and November is going to be busy with the Silpada Fundraiser Sale!  I put up flyers at the hospital today and plan to put it out on Facebook and via email tomorrow.  Sorry, but some of you will get multiple invites but I am trying to make sure that no one slips through the cracks!  Below is the flyer for the sale and all the details that you will need to participate- including the link to view and purchase the jewelry.  Over the next two weeks,  I will keep the blog updated on how things are going, especially how much free jewelry will be raffled off.  I am giving away the hostess jewelry that I would earn so the bottom line is that the more that is sold, the more free jewelry there will be to give away!  Even more important, the more orders placed, the more money that will be donated to Altynai's Fund.   So please, do me a favor and share this post with your friends and family and fellow jewelry lovers.  Fun stuff and remember that there are precious children that will be benefitting from the event.....

     Silpada Jewelry Fundraiser

                   November 5- November 19, 2011
                                 In Honor of
   National Adoption Awareness Month
A portion of the proceeds will go to Altynai’s Legacy Adoption Fund – Helping Bring Home the Kyrgyz 65.
         *** to learn more about the fund check out www.helpkg65.com

Raffles for free Jewelry!!!!
         For every $50 you spend, you will get a ticket to win beautiful Silpada jewelry of your choice.  Drawing will be held on November 19th!  All purchases – online, catalog or at the party, apply!

Grand Finale Party!!!
         November 19, 2011
       3:00 – 6:00 pm
       Suzanne Bilyeu’s home

To place orders :
*** www.mysilpada.com/jill.vodicka- just click on Suzanne Bilyeu’s sale during checkout! 
*** Check out the catalog and I will get you an order form or email me at scbilyeu@gmail.com
*** Attend the party!

    Suzanne Bilyeu

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Help Wanted!!!

Hello.  I did the some math today....  12 families have asked for help, $14,800 raised.  $25-30 K more to reach my goal.  If the kids starting coming home in Feb/ March then I need to raise at least $250 per day.  Yikes!  So in honor of my higher math skills, I am placing a "Help Wanted" ad out here today to see if there is anyone out there that can put me in touch with any business, organizations or individuals that would be or are supporters of adoption.  Altynai's Fund is continuing to grow but I need help tapping into some larger resources.  I would love to find people/businesses, ect... that would be willing to support the fund either through publicity or donations.  And the donations could be monetary or through merchandise that could be auctioned or raffled?  I have lots of "little" ideas but I need a lot more and the bigger the better.  Help point me in the right direction if you can.

You can leave a comment here on the blog or email me at scbilyeu@gmail.com.  Thanks!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Mirzat and Her Mommy

Today is the day that I have the opportunity to introduce Mirzat and Teresa.  I have "known" Teresa for almost 3 years now and in fact, she was one of the first people to help me with Altynai.  God has a great way of making sure that the right people are in the right place at the right time.  That was the case with Teresa!  

Three years ago today, (October 26, 2008) I spent my forty-first birthday on two cramped flights from Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan to NYC, USA.  NOT an ideal way to spend a birthday, but I easily dismissed the discomfort as a very small price to pay to have met my daughter, Mirzat six days earlier.

I have known from the time I was a teenager, dreaming about my future family, that I would adopt a child. I was deeply affected by the stories of the “dying rooms” for abandoned baby girls in China, and the plight of institutionalized children in former Soviet nations that appeared in the press in my early twenties.  American, Canadian, and Western European families opened their hearts and their homes to these children, and inter-country adoption became a realistic and respected pathway for huge numbers of orphaned children to find loving families.  When the time was right, I thought, I would join their ranks.

Many years passed before “the right time” arrived.

I spent my twenties and early thirties raising my son, Joshua, and in college, medical school, and residency training.  As a student and indentured servant (Ooops! I meant resident) I was often exhausted, always broke, and focused on my son when I was home.  There was no time, opportunity, or energy for dating.  After I completed residency training, I spent the remainder of my thirties searching for a husband.  It didn’t happen.  At thirty-nine, after the last hurtful break-up, I decided to get off the relationship roller-coaster.  In the stillness and the peace “the right time” finally arrived.

In fall of 2008, I shot an email to my agency to letting them know I would be at a conference in Southern California in early October, and would be partly unreachable while there.  Almost a year after starting the adoption process;  getting a home study, assembling dozens of notarized documents, and watching the families ahead of me in the queue get referrals and bring home their children from Kyrgyzstan, I was near the top of the list and wanted to be sure that Jackie, my agency’s director, could reach me. 

One afternoon, after the day’s meeting adjourned, I decided to take a drive down Pacific Coast Highway.  My rental car had been upgraded to a convertible, it was a beautiful day outside, and I desperately wanted to avoid any news or conversation about the coming presidential elections.  I returned to the hotel after dark feeling refreshed.  In my room, I opened my laptop to check my email.  There was a message from Jackie, subject, Mirzat. 

My heart pounded as I opened the email.  Mirzat was a six month old girl with a bilateral cleft lip.  Her mother was unmarried and had been a migrant worker in Russia. She had returned home to Tokmok, Kyrgyzstan to give birth.  Initially, because of the birth defect, Mirzat’s mother decided to leave her child at the hospital.  She returned six weeks later to fetch her baby, then, sadly, returned the baby to the hospital when she was four and a half months old.  Mirzat was thin and weak from malnourishment, due to feeding difficulties caused by the cleft.  There were no other noted health issues.

“When can I go see her?”  I asked Jackie.  “Whenever you want to.”

My sister Krista, and niece Taylor travelled with me to Kyrgyzstan three weeks later.  We met Mirzat for the first time Monday, October 2nd.  She gave me a great big smile when the caregiver presented her to me.  She had sparkly brown eyes and was pinker and her cheeks were fuller than in her referral photos.

We visited Mirzat for six days straight, several hours per day.  Alert and interested in the world at nearly seven months, she struggled to try and hold her head up.  The developmental delays undoubtedly caused by the malnutrition she experienced.  We became concerned when she developed a fever and congestion mid week.  The doctor was summoned and Mirzat was placed on antibiotics.  Late afternoon the last Saturday, I held my sleeping girl in my arms.  I wouldn’t voluntarily leave; they would have to kick me out.  My driver and interpreter arrived and exchanged greetings in Russian with the caregivers.  They carefully looked my way and I held Mirzat tighter.  Finally, the interpreter said “Time to go.”  I nodded, held my baby closer and promised her I would come back and get her as soon as we could.

Literally, as we were on the plane home, an official in the Ministry of Education was sacked and the processing of adoptions, that had slowed to a trickle, abruptly came to a stop.  Instead of bringing Mirzat home in January, the Prime Minister made reality official and declared a moratorium “for a year” on inter-country adoptions in early Feruary.

That one year stretched into two, then three.  In sporadic pictures, I saw Mirzat pass through infancy, become a toddler, and now, turn into a little girl.  This is a journey I share with over sixty other families.

In 2009, determined to not let the government of Kyrgyzstan decide whether I would ever be a mom again, I tentatively began pursuing a domestic adoption.  I fell into a lucky match with an expectant young woman.  After delivery, she decided to keep her baby.  Angry and hurt, I decided I would let Kyrgyz finish playing out and then leave it at that.  Three days later, I got a call from the domestic agency.  Would I be interested in a healthy, Mexican-American boy born in Tucson the night before, June 16th, my mother’s birthday?

My son, Daniel Louis came home at two days of age.  He was a perfect, peaceful little guy.  We finalized his adoption when he was seven months old.  During those months, Kyrgyzstan sputtered, rallied, passed adoption legislation, then imploded in a violent revolution.  Watching him develop and experiencing our growing bond, I felt even worse for Mirzat for all that she lost:  Someone to rock her at night, carefully feed her the first spoonfuls of solid food, encourage her to crawl, then walk, and to laugh at her tricks.

Exactly a year to the day that Danny came home, we flew to San Antonio to pick up his two week old sister, Vivienne Rose.  Our little sissy was miserable and colicky which made the first months challenging.  We changed formulas and bottle systems, and decided to not mess with different diapers.  We tried massage, and de-gassing, and music, dark rooms, and swaddling and eventually she just grew out of it.  This too, made me sad for Mirzat and the other children stuck in orphanages.  Who takes the extra time to tend to a irritable baby?  Do they ask others for advice and contemplate changing the baby’s routine?  When all else fails, does someone just hold her until she cries herself asleep?  Does anyone reassure her that someone loves her and wants her to feel better?

It may seem counter-intuitive, but having Danny and Viv, does give me the resolve I need to keep fighting for Mirzat.  Watching them grow, develop, and form relationships with family members is a daily reminder of what a powerful unit a family is!  It is my hope that every family that committed to a Kyrgyz child so long ago, can envelope their child in the healing love of a family.  We all started this journey before the financial crisis and recession.  Families are financially strained and lines of credit have dried up and many will need help.  Please help our children come home!  Donate to Altynai’s Fund!

God Bless,
Teresa Edwards