Finding Kajal
Finding Kajal

Life Update

I'm so sorry, I know I've said it before  but as you've all guessed I'm not the best at keeping this blog the priority it should be. This is the longest I've been gone and recently I heard from someone on Facebook who happened to connect with me through a friend. She mentioned she had followed the blog and missed it and it seemed a sign that I should give it a go once again.

More days than I can say I thought of signing on and posting something funny that had happened, or something challenging.. just to share. Eventually I started a list of things I just had to share when I got back on line but the list grew and eventually became intimidating, how do I catch up I thought? I finally realized in recent weeks that it just doesn't matter how or what I write, just that I do. So many of you were so supportive for so long and that support I'm very grateful for. As well, I've heard from many people around the world exploring adoption who found this blog helpful. Hopefully, you can learn from my experience and if nothing else, find something to smile or laugh about along the way.

First, most importantly, Kajal is doing great, truly! She was placed in the gifted program at school and tested as gifted in all subjects which was amazing. I didn't realized how much it meant to her. The first year she was placed in the program not due to test results but due to her teachers recommendation. The second year, this past year, she placed by test scores and when she found out she danced through the door of our home. She takes education very seriouslly and is highly competitive. She's very hard on herself and I often have to remind her that as long as she tries her best, everything will be okay. That we'll celebrate what she accomplishes. In her mind though, an A is an A and 100 is 100 and anything less just never seems 'good enough'.

She's also taken to the piano and in just over a year of lessons (at her request) she is playing absolutely beautifully. She finds the piano is her place of 'peace' where as she describes she is in the moment, just 'a girl at a piano' nothing else. She also feels it's the place she is the closest to God... the most connected spiritually and truly the most happy. I could listen to her play the piano for hours and as her music fills our home it's brings with it joy I never imagined.

It has been a tough year, last April she was hiding away in her room all the time and I though she was becoming more introverted. I assumed she was getting addicted to technology and started to set serious boundries with her iPad and ipad... all technology to try and control it. She continually told me she was simply 'tired' and it took one day at dinner when she told me she wanted to go to bed that I really sat up an noticed that something wasn't right. We went down a list of potential symptoms and she used the word 'weak' to describe how she'd been feeling. I rushed her to the hospital and of all things she tested positive for Mono. She spent most of the summer in bed and missed the last month of school as well as summer camp. By fall she was feeling better and returned to school and her soccer team when in late September she had a soccer accident that resulted in a broken foot, sprained neck and ankle and a concussion. She then missed almost 2 months of school and only started back full time just before this Christmas break.

I was terrified, this child had survived so much in India how could a soccer accident get her down... but to say she bounced back would be putting it mildly. The school district approved home bound medical teaching which she had just started when she had to sit for her mid term tests... once again she came home from school dancing with joy, the results were in and she achieved perfect scores in all subjects. It seem impossible... how could this child who missed most of her first half of the school year still perform so incredibly? I spoke to one of her teachers who shared that she'd never seen a child with such focus, so serious about learning...

She's very hard on herself but also truly has learned to celebrate her accomplishments. I work from home but can work very long hours and Kajal and I are blessed to have my mother here helping with us, doing homework with Kajal and making sure a good dinner is always ready to go. Kajal and my mother get along incredibly well and their laughter greets me often as I sit in my home office working. We are so blessed...

A woman wrote to me recently about older child adoption and my advice to anyone who is considering it is that, no, it's not easy... our children have been neglected and often were left to survive on their own. They've often lived through nightmares most adults we know have  never had to face... they are sensitive and insecure, fragile and stronger than you could ever imagine, at the same time. If you can look in a childs eyes and commit to them, truly commit... take them as your own to love them through the good and yes, the tough times then your family could end up blessed in more ways than you could ever imagine.

People meet Kajal and I and they don't always realize that we are 'adopted'. It doesn't matter that we are clearly of a different race, they see what they believe is the same smile, the same long curly hair even if it is a different color.. the same mannerisms and way of speaking. The see a daughter and a mother who have a great relationship and are bonded, truly bonded as only a mother and daughter can be.

You can have the same thing, just open your heart and be willing to do the work to help a child find a safe and truly loving, forever home.

How to tell when your child is becoming a beautiful Human Being

Kajal and I were hanging out by the pool when she introduced me to one of her best friends in school. Why is he one of your best friends, I asked? What do you like about him?
He's kind all the time and he's smart too. She answered.
Healthy reasons, I told her, good reasons.
He had a bad day, she said. Someone was mean to him.
What happened, I asked.
He was sad and I asked him why.
He told me a boy said something mean to him.
What did he say?
He told him that his family was poor. He was really sad.
That was mean. What did you say to him?
I told him his family wasn't poor, they were AWESOME!
He liked that.
I'm sure he did, he's really lucky you know that, Kajal.
Why mom?
Because he has a really great friend, in you.

Learning from our #Mothers

Okay, for those of us 'mothers' out here who think we know it all and find ourselves frustrated when our mothers are trying to impart their wisdom on us, I wanted to share a little story with you. As most of you know, I'm a single mother raising my precious daughter Kajal, now 10... yes, double digit, very emotional, ten. My mother moved in with us a few years ago. I always wanted to be able to take care of my mom but some days, there is no question... she helps take care of us. I work like a maniac and my mother throws meals together, literally it seems sometimes... out of thin air. When I'd be thawing out a frozen pizza she is pulling off a three course meal. She's raised 5 children and Kajal is her tenth grandchild. It's taken practice for me to sit back and listen to her when she offers advice, because more often than not... I think I know better, after all, she's my daughter right? My mother finds herself walking on eggshells some times, wanting to impart her experience but also wanting to give me room to make my own choices.

Kajals had a cold for the last few weeks. Runny nose, congestion... just when I think it's getting better she seems to take another turn for the worse. Her nose has been blown so many times the edge's are chapped and raw.

Last night, Kajal came out into the room with a look or terror on her face. Mom, she whispered, I need you. What's wrong? I asked, fear creeping into my heart.

Mom, my nose was bleeding and I couldn't stop it. I tried to use kleenex but I lost some.

Lost some?

Mom, it's up my nose, it disappeared. I can't get it out.

Okay, honey, let's take a look, I'm sure I can get it.

I looked, no sign of kleenex.

Kajal, are you sure it's in your nose?

She looks at me, very, very seriouslly. Oh yes, Mom, it's definitely up there.

I look again... no sign of anything. I'm ready with tweezers but, nada. My mind starts racing, where would it go? Is it up her nasal cavadee? Would it be sucked back into her throat, her lungs.. her brain????? My heart starts beating faster... I grab the phone. Kajal, it's okay, I'm going to call the doctor, everything's going to be okay. I starting dialing the doctor, considering racing her to the emergency room.

My mother calls out to me.

Did you ask her to blow?

What, Mom? Blow? Oh, hmmmm... no... blow...

Kajal, hm, could you try blowing your nose.

Kajal blows, nothing.

My mother calls out, Do it again!

She blows again, nothing.

Mom: hold one side and blow hard.

She blows, out comes the wadded up ball of Kleenex.

Pure relief spreads on her face and I can breathe again.

I look at my mother with pure gratitude.

Next time my mother tries to tell  me something or offer up her advice I pray I take a breath and remember that very simple, single word.


The Land of the Free

I've been travelling on business every now and again and as I headed out of town for meetings in Philadelphia one day, Kajal said to me "Oh, Mom, you're going to the land of the Free".
I realized that she'd been studying the Civil War and the Underground railroad and I knew immediately where this was coming from.
We're all the land of the free now, honey....
Well maybe, she responded, but sometimes I feel like I'm on the wrong side.
Hmmm... the South certainly has been a bit different than living up North, but the wrong side?
Kajal, we're all on the same side now, we're on the side of Freedom, I told her.
Will you see the railroad?
The Railroad? Oh, 'The Railroad". No, baby, that existed a long time ago. It isn't needed anymore. Remember too, that the railroad wasn't a real railroad. It was a series of homes that were secret, that helped the people who were slaves as they were on their road to freedom. 
The stories of the civil war hit home with Kajal, in many ways. When we travelled for a visit to Boston and she had a chance to visit the American Girl store, I gave her the opportunity to choose a new doll. After reading many of their stories, she found herself identifying the most with the stories of Addie. A young girl who had been a slave and escaped with her monther, to the North. Hence Kajal's excitement over the 'railroad'. 

Why did you choose Addie, I asked her.

Because Mom, she's like me. Her life was very sad at first,  but then it became happy... and she's a kind person, too. Just like me!

Kajal with her Grandmother picking out her new American Girl Doll, Addy

Bullying follow up

Sorry I've been out of pocket for a while... it's been a crazy time. I just signed on to several hundred comments waiting for me, please be patient... I'll reach through and respond in the next few days. I've also taken tons of recent pictures that I'll upload and share with you all as soon as possible.

First, to follow up on the last post about bullies... my Aunt Louis (who is an expert in education) shared some wonderful insight on techniques that the Massachusetts school system has used effectively to counteract bullying. I will  post these within the day to share with you all.

Prior to sharing these insights with our principal, Kajal's teacher chose to take action. I've talked before about working in partnership with teachers... it's so easy to end up in an adversarial position with them but when we step back and put our frustrations aside and reach out with the sincere desire to work together, so much can be accomplished. Kajal's teacher responded to my concern immediately. She called the 'mean girls' in to a group meeting with Kajal and addressed the problem straight out. The children admitted to calling Kajal names and when the teacher asked the group if anyone didn't feel like they fit in... Kajal was brave enough to raise her hand.  The teacher laid out the rules, no saving seats in the lunch room, no more games that only involve two people and no more name calling, period. She had the girls all play a game together at lunch and watched over them and she asked them each who they'd like to be friends with. To Kajal's surprise, many said her name and by the end of the day she truly felt 'one of'' vs. seperate. Since then, there haven't been any problems and Kajal has been so much happier and more secure. Thank goodness...

Give your teachers a chance, don't ignore a problem and brush it aside.. it's worth it to address it and focus on solutions... most teachers really do give a hoot... they want to help, they just don't have the time or energy to figure it all out on their own. In my case, I was lucky, Kajal's teacher did have solutions and she put them to work right away.

Bullying in school

On the drive to the school bus yesterday morning, Kajal asked me a question that for a moment, left me speechless.

Kajal: Mommy, will you miss me if I die?
Me: (after a moment of shocked silence) I wouldn't even want to live with out you Kajal, you are the center of my universe
Kajal: would you want to be in heaven with me?
Me: if that's where you were, yes, I'd want to be there with you. Why are you asking this? What made you think about dying?
Me: Are you worried about dying?
Kajal: Would anyone else miss me, Mommy?
Me: Everyone who knows and love you, would miss you. (and then I list all those in our family and friends who love her)
Kajal: No one would miss me at school Mommy.
Me: why do you think that?
Kajal: because I have no friends there. No one likes me.
Me: But what about (list a few of the friends she's connected with)
Kajal: They're not my friends anymore. Nellie (let's call her that) says that I'm nasty. She tells everyone that I'm nasty.  She tells them in front of me. Now when I try to play with the girls at recess they tell me no.
Me: Oh, Kajal, I'm so sorry that's happening. Have you mentioned it to your teacher?
Kajal: Once a while ago. She talked to the girls and they said they were sorry. Then they started doing it again.
They call me nasty. I don't know why.
Me: There is nothing nasty about you. You are amazing. This is not acceptable behavior on their part, honey. This is bullying.
Kajal: I don't know what to do anymore.
Me: That's okay. Just remember though, you don't need to have everyone like you to be happy. You only need one or two good friends and then those friends can really love you and that love can last a life time.
Kajal: like your friend Holly from kindergarten?
Me: Yep, just like that. She was my only friend for a long time and we're still friends. We've never said a cross word to each other and we're always kind to one another. That's what friendship is really all about. Always being kind and caring for each other.

The bus pulled up and we blew kisses to each other as she ran off to start her day in school.

I sped home to write an email to her teacher.

Kajal's teacher was aware there had been problems and she thought they'd been resolved. She agreed to reach out to the girls leading the pack and investigate to better understand the problem. I believe she truly cares about seeing positive change happen.

This is so unacceptable though. Bullies. I've watched the specials on them, read the books. They're as young as 5 years old and as old as... well, they're all ages. They pick a target and go after them, they charm those around them and recruit them onto their 'side'. I'm dealing with this with my irrational neighbors and Kajal is dealing with it in school.

Alot of people believe that putting up with bullies is a way of life. I don't believe that. I don't believe any of us, children or adults should just 'put up' with being treated cruelly or unjustly. I believe we need to teach our children to stand up for themselves and ask for help if they are the victims and teach them to not just 'stand by' if they see it happen to someone else. To stand up for what's right... not quietly watch and in silence, support what is wrong.

Spring, Beautiful Breathtaking Spring

I wish you could see, what we see.  It is so absolutely breathtaking here... as we drive down the street the whisteria forms canopies, draping over the trees, whispering as it gently sways in the wind. I find myself stopping on the quiet country roads and gazing up above me, watching the lilac colored blooms swinging, dancing to their own private songs. White dogwoods are in bloom everywhere you look, azaleas line the streets in vivid pinks and fushchias. Yellow Forsythia's grow 6 feet tall, wild and beautiful. Everywhere you look through out the town, flowers are in bloom. They tower above you and around you... it's truly breathtaking.  

Spring...  beautiful breathtaking, Spring.ty

Mind of Body... Mind over Mind

Wow... we have received so much love and encouragement from so many friends, known and unknown. Your prayers and good wishes have surrounded us with kindness and support during such a stressful time. This past weekend I chose to focus on the love, the great gifts in our life and to completely ignore the negativity that surrounds us. 

We had a good weekend. We focused inward... on ourselves, on our family, our pets, on our garden. We watched movies, played games (Kajal absolutely loves Uno) and focused on us. Every time a thought entered my mind relating to recent challenges with our neighbors... I literally wished it away. 

It felt great. 

To not worry, not stress... I remembered a book I read,  a series of lectures by a Buddhist monk, a scholar and peace activitst, Thic Nhat Hanh.

Thic Nhat Hahn teaches that to create peace around us and in the world, we must first be peace... 'awaken the peace with in us.' His book and his words teach us how to focus on our breathing, be in the moment... feel the peace which lives within our deepest being.

I remember his words of gratitude for the simplest things... reminding us to be grateful for something as simple as washing the dishes. In one of his lessons he tells us to practice this. To stand with warm soapy water running over our hands and instead of rushing through the process... thinking about what we'll be doing when we finish the dishes he suggest to enjoy the act, the act of washing. To be grateful that we have two healthy hands to hold the dishes and feel them, feel the fingers that move without pain, feel the warm water and be grateful that we have clean water with which to wash. 

I approached my weekend this way. I stood outside in the sun one afternoon. I watched Kajal play with a few of her friends... laughing and eating watermelon. The juice dripped down their arms and faces as they laughed and played a simple game of tag. The dogs running, nipping at their feet... prancing in the air. The colorful birds singing, eating happily at the bird feeders swinging in the air.. the sound of windchimes, dancing in the breeze. 

Simple. Joyful. Peace filled. 

It is true, we can be surrounded by chaos and feel peace. Living in gratitude... feeling the warmth of the sun and love around us.

Easier Said Than Done

No matter how hard I try to ignore the hostile environment my neighbors have created, to focus on the positive in our lives and those in the world around us that are in greater need... I can't block it out. Every day it's something else.. they're doing something else. This woman is so irrational that every day she's chasing down someone else, trying to file false harrassment charges against me or dig up dirt. She and I have had almost no direct contact for what seems like months and yet behind the scenes she's working to destroy my reputation, my relationships with my neighbors, my credibility. I'm stunned that this is still going on.

I chose to set a positive example for Kajal, to stand up and go before my fellow HOA board members. They told me the accusation against me (that I'd misused my board position and threatened someone with it) I shared my emails and told my story. Answered the questions they asked me. As easy as it would have been to walk away, that just didn't seem like the right thing to do. The board backed me up and agreed that I had done nothing wrong. That the accusations against me were unfounded. They notified the neighbor who has continued to rant and rave against me... she claimed she was filing a harrassment suit against me. Huh? We don't even communicate with each other, how can I be harrassing her?  I've asked for peace... I've told everyone that will listen that all I want to do is live in peace, to surround my family with a peaceful neighborhood and yet these people will not let it go.

It's frightening and deeply disturbing. I'm so saddened by all of this. I moved here, built a beautiful home and wanted nothing more than to take care of my mother, raise my daughter and adopt more children in a neighborhood filled with friendship and love. Now I find myself surrounded by hostility and hatred. Is it because we're a bi-racial family? Is it because I'm a single working Mom? I know I shouldn't spend the energy wondering but I can't help it. There are neighbors near me who I have taken in their children when they showed up at my door crying after school because no one was home and they couldn't get in their homes , I took care of their children happily, there are neighbors who I drove to work when their cars weren't working or that I brought flowers to when they first moved in. Our only contact has been positive, we've never exchanged a cross word... and as I walk down the street they turn their backs on me and act as if I don't exist. They stand in groups, laughing at the edge of my driveway only to silence as I walk out my door.

How do you explain to a child why you no longer are able to wave hello to every face you see, as you drive down the street. Or that when you did wave, people don't wave back.

I've never been on the receiving end of such blind hatred... it stuns me.  I wont be forced to leave the neighborhood... I don't know how people can look themeselves in the mirrors at night when they gain such pleasure at the expense of another but I still, desperately try to pray for them and for us, that peace might enter their hearts and our homes.

I am so frustrated, angry and sad. How can I even think about starting the adoption process again when I am living in such a horrible environment?

We spend as much time as we can at Church and I am beginning to build friendships with some wonderful women outside of the neighborhood. I've even met some wonderful folks in other parts of our community... I know I need to focus on this. I'm trying...  but when I get the calls that this woman, this crazy women is continuing to threaten to come after me, accuse me of things I haven't done I wonder if prayer.. .is enough.

Adult Bullies

It's been a tough week. Dealing with these neighbors and the hostility, coldness that has spread from them to other neighbors. I've been trying to focus on all the good in our lives. I've been on two business trips in the past two weeks and work is truly better than ever. Kajal is doing amazing in school, I mean AMAZING! She tested for reading and her goal was a score of 28 and she came home radiant.. I scored a 44 MOM! My mother has been reading with her every day to help increase her comprehension levels and the results have been tremendous, in a really short period of time. It's almost inconceviable that Kajal didn't speak English 3 years ago. 

The weather has been beautiful and we've been out gardening together, several times a week. Planting a garden and watching it grow... so simple and yet we've had so much joy, every day... by looking to see what surprises await us in our little garden.

We're headed to Boston this spring for a visit and Kajal can't wait to see her friend, Manisha. We're so blessed to still be in touch. Kajal thinks of Manisha as a 'sister'.... and in many ways they are. Sisters of the heart, sisters from experience. They both lived in the same orphanage, shared some of the same story.

Kajal has been troubled by what has been happening with the neighbors next door. At first I tried to shield Kajal from what was happening but it was impossible. Voices carry and she's heard my mother and I talking, overheard telephone calls. I sat her down and explained the truth of what happened... why do people lie she asked me. Again, I explained that we have to believe they have their own challenges. Their own problems... sometimes they are just so unhappy they need to take it out on others. Place the blame of their own lives, on someone else instead of looking in the mirror and taking responsibility for themselves.

I don't know what the right answers are anymore.

I still don't completely understand what's happened myself. They aren't letting it go either.. public humiliation wasn't enough for them, they've been chasing down our HOA board demanding my resignation. This week  I'm having a meeting with the board so they can review what transpired and hear my side of things. Thank goodness most of it is in black and white, emails between myself and the neighors.

The truth is there.

One of my neighbors suggested I resign, make it easy on myself, my family and everyone around us. I've thought about, it's not like I have the time to serve my neighborhood anyway, I'm working a full time intense job, single mom and all. There are many other ways to be of service... I could just walk away.  The problem with that is what lesson am I teaching my daughter. I've taught her to stand up when she see's injustice happening, to stand up for herself and others.

If I let a neighorhood bully, and an adult one at that... decide that because they don't like me I shouldn't be allowed to serve my community then what example am I setting?

I've struggled with this... unfortunately, asking for peace doesn't always work. I'm not sure these folks will let things go. They've got too much hatred in their hearts.... I keep praying that they find peace... and I keep trying to forgive them for what they've done. It's not easy. Boy it's not easy.

But then I watch whats happening in Japan. I am humbled by the serenity I see exhibited in the faces of those we watch on the news every day. The prayer circles the workers stand in, before they return to the work that will most likely cause them death by radiation. The families standing in ruin, searching for one another...

My problems are so trivial when I see what else exists in the world. When I take a moment to look outside myself and my own little world.

I try and avoid the news some days, it's almost too much to take in... but then I watch the people of Japan and I find myself crying for them. They are the ones who need our prayers and are thoughts, who need our help.

Then I remind myself that what we're going through in our own lives, 'this too shall pass' and it really is, so very unimportant.

Pain in Words

I've been sitting here... struggling with the pain of this experience. I should feel sorry for these people. I teach Kajal that when people lash out cruelly at others, try to hurt others or cause pleasure from causing them pain it is because they must be in a painful, sad place themselves. 

The woman that stood before my community and spread untruths about me was someone who once came to me to help take care of her children. Who asked me to watch over her husband when she was out of town because she was afraid of what he might do in her absence. Insecurity is a dangerous thing... it breeds drama and discourse. I've always felt that the most insecure individuals can be the most dangerous... if they don't have a truly kind soul.

Earlier this evening I saw my neighors husband outside. I lashed out, 'How could you have done this I cried.. how could you stand up and lie in front of everyone like that?' he smiled ... that smile terrified me.

You are truly evil! I yelled at him.... and truly, I felt like I was standing in front of the devil himself. That someone could smile and be proud of disgracing someone else based on untruths, could be nothing short of evil. I live my life focusing on the positive, the good, the light in the world and suddenly I felt surrounded by darkness.

I felt sickened. My mother came running outside to defend me and also to pull me back towards the house.

Kajal stood in fear watching us.

I'm sorry, I told her later. I'm sorry you saw Mommy mad and sad. Why are they so mean Mommy? Why are they doing this? She asked.

Because they've done some things wrong and they are trying to cover up by pointing the finger at someone else.. I explained.  Some people are just so miserable they need to take their misery out on someone else and unfortunately that's what's happening right now with these people

I'm sorry, Kajal.. that you saw me mad and you saw me cry. Why are you hurt Mom...

Because it hurts when someone turns on you like this.... when someone spreads things that aren't true. But we need to stand strong and sure and even find the courage to pray for them. Pray for them to have some peace in their hearts... and I've really got to pray for me to let go of the hurt so I can find peace too.

I love you Mom, she said. I love you too, baby.

And then I thought about the note.. the note she slipped in my pocket for me to find on the plane yesterday. The note that told me how much she loved me and how much she'd miss me. The note that told me in my childs hand, to never forget how much she loved me.

Hm. There it is.. the peace is back.


Things blew up. My little outburst to the children at the bus stop resulted in my neighbor totally losing it. I sit on the board of our neigh Home Owners Association. I was away on a business trip (literally a one day turnaround, flew out in the morning and back in the late evening) and had to miss a meeting with the community. The neighbor I've had problems with stood up and demanded my resignation from the board. She went on to say that I'd harassed her and abused my 'power of being on the board', then she accused me of threatening her child so much so that she needed to ask neighbors to watch him while he was at the bus stop. Okay, threaten her child? Oh my goodness! I guess complaining to a bus driver that kids are placing others at risk is now considered a 'threat'.  They continued to stand in front of my community and accuse me of things that were completely untrue and I wasn't there to speak for myself. After telling my mother and I that they had wolves they went on to provide a note from their vet stating that the animals were 'dogs'. (A vet friend of mine told me that if someone told a vet their pets were Malamutes there would be no way for them to know anything else) and accused us in front of the community of spreading lies about them having 'wild animals'. Hmmm... who told who they had wolves? Never mind the constant howling.. .we didn't need to say a word to anyone to have the questions start swirling.

I've started to wonder how something like this could have happened. How could we have moved into a neighborhood, wishing for nothing more than friendship and have ended up in a position where we are targeted with hostility and hatred. This same neighbor tried to file a claim that I was harassing her. Even the Sheriff's office said they have no basis for their accusations, no basis for a claim.

I've had a feeling that I haven't wanted to voice for a long time now. When I look at my behavior, I know I'm far from perfect... but I've truly reached out to every one of my neighbors with friendship and good will. I received irrational emails from the neighbor in question and I responded again and again that I wished for nothing but peace between us (peace and a bit of quiet in the evenings).  I feel threatened and have to admit, I've been in tears most of this evening. It's crushing and humiliating. To have vicious lies spread about you and believed... to have your words twisted and misrepresented.

I know what I need to do, I need to pray for them. It's the only way to find peace but I'm struggling doing that. I'm scared... scared of what this kind of hatred can turn in to. I'm stunned that people that I've been kind to can be swayed to believe one person's accusations vs. what their personal experience has been. How do I create a safe and loving environment for my family, for a child that's already experienced rejection and pain when we're surrounded by such negatively and hostility?

I have to admit I've been so disturbed and frightened by this aggressive behavior and public display and attack that I've reached out to our Sheriffs office and asked them to 'keep an eye' on our home. They've agreed to take this seriously and to do drive by's to keep an eye on things. They were very compassionate and understanding...

Something I've wondered about, felt for a long time but wanted to ignore has surfaced as a question. Is it racism? Does this hatred and irrational behavior stem from our bi-racial family? A part of me feels a resonation of truth in this... but perhaps I'm wrong. Perhaps it's not that... it's just one person believing something of someone else that is simply, not true.

If you pray... please keep us in your prayers. Pray for our neighbor to have peace in their hearts and pray for Kajal, my mother and I, are pets and our home... to be safe.

Bad behavior at School Bus Stops

UGGGH! I could scream this morning, oh wait, I already did! Bus stops... can we talk about school bus stops?? Beware, if you don't feel like reading about someone raging against their neighbors and unruly children sign off now because the mood I'm in this morning, who only knows what will be written next.

When I first moved into my neighborhood the bus stop was an exciting and cool thing. I came from the city, we didn't have bus stops.. we just walked our children to school. In suburbia, there are bus stops. Seems like such a sweet and normal thing.. walk your child to the bus in the morning then sweetly wave goodby as they ride off into the sunrise to greet their perfect school day. I have to admit, the idealistic view held up for the first few months. There were even other mothers there to join me and we'd talk over coffee as we watched over the children. The children would some times step out of line (figuratively, not literally) they'd start screaming as they tossed a ball back and forth (mind you this is before 7 AM) or run in the streets. One of us would say something and they'd behave again. It was nice, for a few months.

Slowly the other mothers stopped coming and I became the last mother standing at the bus stop every morning. Now granted, some mothers have jobs they have to drive to early in the morning (as you know I work from home so this is a morning trek I can make) others, well, they just stop coming.

Now let me back up to some problems I've had with a neighbor of mine. This neighbor has wolves. Yes, wolves. Two beautiful animals I'll admit. Shortly after they moved in they admitted to my mother and I that the 'dogs' in their backyard where full blooded wolves (a grey and a Timberwolf). I thought that was cool,. they were breathtaking and seemingly gently animals and the neighbors were responsible and put a 6 foot fence around their property. Months later when one of their animals started howling through the night (11 PM- 6AM straight through) it wasn't so sweet anymore. Countless nights Kajal would awaken in tears and frighten because of the howling.. when I tried to talk with the neighbors they ignored me and I have to admit, I'm guilty of leaving some pretty upset messages (after being ignored upon asking nicely) on their machine.

I know you think that I'm getting off subject but let me tell you, there is a link between the wolves and the bus stop behavior I'm about to share.

I guess I'm not the only one that the late night noise was bothering as some other neighbors called Animal Control. The mother assumed that it was me as I was one of only two neighbors to ask her straight out to do something about the noise. I know that wolves aren't allowed in our community and that in the county here you have to have a license to own them but I didn't want to turn them in to the police because I know their family loves the animals and I'd hate to see something bad happen to them.

Next thing you know I'm getting raging emails from the mother accusing me of making her life miserable and placing her and her children at risk. Me? Who keeps wild animals in their backyard? All because I asked her to find a way to keep the animals quiet (not even during the day, just late at night - was this unreasonable?).

She also accused me of yelling at her son at the bus stop. Yep. Did that. Her son is one of the trouble makers, screams and yells.. runs in the street and taunts other children to play with him and do the same.

Needless to say, this neighbor and I aren't exactly on good terms. The last out of control screaming and raging email I got from her I kindly responded that I didn't appreciate her unfounded accusations and hostile behavior (this was after she and some friends also posted on facebook that they wished something bad would happen to my 'house' animals and perhaps they should have an old fashioned 'barn storming') I also told her that I wished nothing but peace in our neighborhood and perhaps we could put aside our differences for our children's sake. To raise them in a positive environment. No response as you can imagine. Quiet is better than irrational rage, at least.

As the behavior at the bus stop became increasingly out of control, I called the school. The Principal confirmed that bus stop behavior was to be maintained at the same level the children are expected to behave at school. Then she also stated that it was the parents responsibility to watch over the children at the stop. They suggested I called the Transportation department who then told me to call the school back.  The school suggested I call the police. Well, that didn't feel right. Call the police because kids are unruly, screaming and playing in the streets? Nope... I might be mad but I wasn't going that far.

This morning the same child (of the neighbor you've just heard about) got the other children playing, screaming and again, was running across the street. Maybe it doesn't seem like a big deal but when you've got cars pulling out for their early  morning commutes, I get concerned it puts all the children at risk. I could just imagine a car swerving to hit one child only to hit the others standing quietly, at their bus stop.

I've ignored this child for the last month because of his mother's temper and the fact that in one of her raging letters she asked me not to speak to her child but this morning my patience wore out. Especially when he called another child to play with him, putting them now at risk.

Stop running in the streets and screaming... be considerate of your neighbors and be safe! The bus stop rules of behavior here are the same as at the school. No screaming or running/playing in the streets, I snapped at him and the other child now also, involved.

I'm the only parent here today, I continued, and if you want to behave like this ask your own mother to come and watch over you! This is unsafe behavior!

He rudely responded, I never heard of that, I never heard there were rules for this stop.

When the bus driver pulled up (and she's a bit scary herself) I addressed the issue with her loud enough for the other children to hear.

Are the rules of this bus stop the same as the rules of the bus line at school? Are the children expected to behave without yelling and running in the streets?

Oh, yes, she replied, the rules remain the same... (loud enough for all the children to hear).

Then she leaned over to me and suggested I speak with the boys parents (she's had lots of trouble with the same child and knew immediately who I was talking about)

That's not an option, I replied. Perhaps the school could send a note home to them instead.

I pray this doesn't start up another war with the mother next door but I am so frustrated. I'd like to let me daughter walk to the school bus alone but I truly don't believe it's safe. I've seen bullying at these stops, kids pushing other kids off the curbs into the streets. I've seen them playing chicken and soccer, running in the streets when it's still dark out and cars are pulling out to go to work. They're rude to adults and often rude and insulting to one another.

No one wants to take responsibility for what goes on at these stops. It's not on the school or even the bus company, they are only responsible for what happens 'on the bus'.

I lead the crime watch in my neighborhood and the officer I spoke with from the local Sheriffs office told me that it is the parents responsibility. That what ever their child does, they are fully and financially responsible. But who cares about that when a child gets hit by a car?

Maybe I just haven't had enough coffee yet this morning... I'm just so mad and feel so helpless.

The bus stop, like school, should be a safe and happy place... but things aren't always the way they are supposed to be, are they?

Sleeping Peacefully

Simon is truly a blessing. Kajal is still sleeping peacefully, one week after bringing him home. We had tried it all, as you know... homeopathic remedies, mediation, yoga, ocean sounds, reading, music, backrubs, lullabies.. nothing worked for any extended period of time.  Kajal could't fall asleep alone and once she did... she rarely slept through the night and she couldn't sleep in her own room for more than a few nights in a row...

Now, not only can she fall asleep in her room, she can do it with out me by her side. She sleeps happily through the night and wakes up refreshed, rested and after the sun comes up. This is incredible! Simon continues to sleep in her arms, purring happily.. one newly cherished tabby cat.

We went to the SPCA and rescued Simon, now Simon, has rescued Kajal.

Ode to Moms

Mothers day is coming.. Kajal came home with a flyer from school. Pay $7 for a cake from Publix and your child can decorate it in school and bring it home on Mothers day.  It's a PTA fundraiser and the school gets part of the money for much needed supplies and programs.

It started me thinking about mothers day and my relationship with my mother.

Many of you don't know what I do for a living... I try not to bring work into what I write here but since I want to share something related I'll give you a little history. I currently work for one of the largest workforce solution companies in the world. I'm very blessed. I manage national recruiting efforts for them and am abe to work from home, managing my teams from computers/phones etc. Although I started in the recruiting field right out of college, I always had a creative soul. For 5 years or so I worked in the independent film world. It started when one of my best friends from college, Kelley, approached me with a script. I'd had many years of fundraising experience and they were trying to raise money for a special little film project. I thought it sounded interesting and I trusted Kelley so I went for it. She gave me a 'book on 'how to produce an independent film' and the script and days later I was 'Executive Producing' the movie "The Autumn Heart". The film ended up staring Ally Sheedy and Tyne Daily and went on to be selected to premier at the Sundance Film Festival. It opened to sold out, celebrity filled audiences. The film also went on to win the Nantucket Film Festival and have a limited theatrical release.

Around mothers day you'll often see the film playing on Lifetime and it's available at Blockbuster and Netflix etc.  It was a truly inspiring film that reminded us that we don't always know what our parents have gone through. It helps us see life from the 'other side'.. from their side.

After the films release we received letters and calls from countless people who were touched by the story. The writer had truly captured the essence of complex family relationships and helps remind us that we all tend to make assumptions, build hurts and resentments over 'partial' information. The audience that reached out to us told us stories about how after seeing the film they would be motivated to pick up the phone and call a family member they'd lost touch with or had a serious falling out with. They thanked us for helping them regain some clarity about the 'truth' of their life and who their parents were versus who they thought they were.

Relationships with parents are complex. We build our perceptions based on our experiences with them, often, at the expense of knowing the full story from both sides. Our parents wish to protect us so they let us walk on in life with misperceptions, anger, misunderstanding.. hurt and resentment and they often do this to their own detriment.  Let them resent me, vs, know the truth etc.

I think the truth is healing to uncover, whatever the truth might be. Let us learn to love our parents as humans, as people who make choices in hard situations who most often have our best interests at heart. Let us be willing to hear their side and understand what they lived through, what they faced... before we sit in judgement of them.

Where is this coming from you wonder? Me, life, my relationship and my siblings relationship with my own mother. 

Let me tell you about her.. as we approach Mothers day I want to write a posting to honor her and all she's given me. Without her, I wouldn't be a Mom and I certainly wouldn't be the mother I am today (or should I say, strive to be).

My  mother had a tough beginning in life, to say the least. She was burned over 85% of her body with third degree burns when she was just a toddler. A pot of boiling water fell over her, resulting in horrific burns that left her hospitalized for most of her early and teen years. She underwent painful treatments and surgery after surgery... most experimental, to give her the ability to function in life. Anyone who knows my mother, who meets my mother doesn't even notice the scars.  We just don't see them... she is so beautiful in her own right. She has a radiant smile, beautiful face and personality and outrageous sense of humor. But she sees them, feels them and in a way.. they've always left her feeling, different.

As challenging as her early life was she went on to study ballet, in NY as a teenager with the NY Ballet. She became a show girl at the Latin Quarter in NY.. a place where only the most talented dancers in the world made the stage. She went on to marry and have five children. She was a smart young mother and selected a home for her family that was located in one of the finest towns in Massachusetts. A town that offered one of the best public school systems in America. She and my father struggled financially. My siblings remember the extra ketchup and sugar packages she'd take from McDonalds. I remember how embarressing that would be... until I grew up and realized we wouldn't have had ketchup on our hot dogs or sugar on our oatmeal if she hadn't swallowed her pride and 'asked' for extra. We had the best of everything as children, piano lessons, guitar and drum lessons.. ballet lessons etc. We didn't know my mother went without buying even a pair of socks for herself, for years on end.

We lived in one of the best neighborhoods in the United States but my parents struggled to make ends meet. To this day my mother can whip up the most delicious meal from what seems like empty cabinets.. I'm still amazed at how she can do that. When my mother was unhappy with the way the school system informed parents of their children's academic progress, she fought the government and was responsible for passing bills that changed the laws. When she didn't like the way local politics ran the town, she ran for office. School Committee , Alderman at Large. She didn't win (so few women did in those days) but boy she put up a good fight.

When it came to my family, my mother stopped at nothing to see that we had a good education. She enrolled us in summer learning programs and classes at MIT.. .MIT!  She packed picnics like a gourmet chef and had my father driving through out New England to visit family and picnic near historic sights. We visited the museums of Boston and participated in cultural fairs. My parents could barely get by financially but the Christmas tree was always full of magical gifts and the holidays were always full of magic, from Easter baskets to valentine hearts left at our bedside.  It still amazes me that they raised five children on as little as they did and we all went on to some level of higher education and success. 

How often do we look back at our life and focus on what we didn't have? What our parents didn't do or (we think they didn't do). Do we take the time to ask them, what was it like for you? Why did you make the choices you did? Do we give them the benefit of love and compassion as we might a stranger or a friend?

My mother made hard choices and sure, she had her moments that weren't Brady bunch moments but what parent doesn't? Who amoung us, who are parents haven't reacted at times in ways we wished we hadn't or made choices that made our children angry.. that they didn't understand.

My mother scrimped and saved, sacrificed and ended up giving her children more than most children in the world could ever dream of  having. We turned out okay. My elder sister is about to run children's services for a major school system, my elder brother is a genius, a world renown business man and a leader in the world of technology, my younger brother is a doctor and my younger sister is a mother to three amazing children. My mother has 10 grandchildren and my mother... when she was in her seventies, boarded a plane to a third world nation... facing all fears, to be there when my first child was placed in my arms.

This mothers day I'm reaching out to all of you to think of what our mothers went through to raise us... to do the best they could. Try not to judge. Try to let go of any angers and try to put ourselves in their shoes and perhaps, to focus on what they did for us.. all the ways they were there for us, vs. focusing on the ways we think they weren't. To give our moms the benefit of the doubt... if you're carrying anger in your hearts for choices they made or disagreements you've had with them, pick up the phone or write a letter. Ask them, why, how.. what happened? Hear them out. Give them a voice.. perhaps healing for you both is phone call away.
Today, I'm blessed that my mother lives with me. As a single mother, life can be hard. We argue, we disagree.. we have our moments. I want to raise my daughter 'my way' and buck against all her years of experience. Then I try and step back and remember that she's been a mother for a lot longer than I and even though our parenting styles may be different at times... she is full of wisdom, courage and grace and if I was a tenth the mother she was, Kajal will turn out, okay.

The gifts of giving back

Kajal loves to get involved... we started our local Jane Goodall Roots & Shoots chapter and Kajal has been learning about sea turtles so she can be a 'sea turtle scientist' and work to help save the sea turtles along the coast of South Carolina. As you all know, I truly believe that it is through giving, life gives us the greatest gifts and Kajal has come to take this philosophy to heart. 

Saturday we volunteered with our Churches 'nerve to serve' program. The volunteer project was a visit to the local SPCA to give some love and exercise to the animals living there. Kajal checked out the dogs then went on to visit with some cats. The first cage she opened was that of a 3 year old Tabby named Simon. Simon pretty much wrapped himself around Kajal and it was love at first sight, for both of them. He purred, she smiled... she flopped him around in her arms and still.. he purred. I've never seen such a gentle soul in an animal. Kajal finally put him down and when the cage closed a cry wailed out that pulled Kajal back to play with him some more. Although she walked some dogs and spread her love around to the other animals.. Simon had her heart. As he purred she gazed up at me.

He purrs just like Sasha did Mom (Sasha, our precious pet that passed away from Cancer several months ago) He needs a home Mom. He needs someone to love him and adopt him.. to take care of him. You adopted me Mom and he needs me to adopt him...

The writing was on the wall.  

I'll take care of him, I'll love him... I'll even sleep in my room every night forever if you let me adopt him. He can sleep with me mom...

Stop the presses...

Kajal, are you sure? You'll sleep in your own room? If you make this commitment it's serious.. he'll be frightened in a new home and he'll really need you to stick with him.. no matter what.

Oh mom, I'll love him and sleep with him forever! I'll change his litter, I'll clean his food and water.. I'll do it all.

I'm thinking, we already have two cats and three dogs at home. Never mind the three feral (becoming more tame, I think they're now calling it 'teral' cats we take care of, that live in our backyard).

As I watched Kajal with this gentle animal, stretched across her lap... purring as he gazed up at her, I found myself wondering how can I not? We have pets, family pets and Kajal loves them but this... this would be her own special pet. I knew she was responsible, I believed she'd truly work to help take care of him.

They have so much in common these two... gentle souls who had no one, but capable of loving just the same. When  Kajal first came home she had such an open heart and so, it seems does this cat. He has nothing, but he loves like a mush.

I had Kajal sign the adoption papers with me and read through all of the information. We somberly talked about all the ways we would have to take care of him and about introducing him into our home and then we headed for home. A happy cat clutched in a cardboard box...

As we drove towards home, Kajal screamed out:

LIFE IS A MIRACLE!!!!!!! This is the happiest day of MY LIFE!

Her smile was beyond imagining... Kajal, I told her, you realize that there was a cost involved in adopting Simon. We're going to have to hold off for a little while on new toys and nintendo games. New stuff, period. We still need to get Simon a bed and a few toys to help him celebrate his new life and that's where our focus needs to be right now. Are you okay with that?

Oh, Mom, I'll never need a toy again! I have my own cat.. that's all I need.. truly.

She was so happy. Beaming, proud, in love with a Tabby. She asked me questions about cat care and the second we got home she popped in the cat care video that the SPCA gave her and she practically took notes.

Before long it was bedtime and sure enough, Kajal curled up in her own bed without an argument.. clutching Simon in her arms and the two of them fell asleep, peacefully, together.

Somehow, this cat knows. He knows that she needed him as much as he needed her. She carries him everywhere and he just hangs there, happy, in her arms. They play together and he watches as she lovingly scoops his litter and changes his food and water.

Simon was fearless at first. He approached our dogs without fear and our two cats who are around 14 years in age. The dogs give chase occasionally but it's the cats I'm worried about. They haven't responded so well and I'm afraid we may have a serious cat fight in our future.  Not Simon, he'd be best friends with everyone if he could.. my cats are on guard and have come at him ready for a fight, not sure how to improve that just yet. I just hope they don't hurt him out of fear, he's a gentle soul who doesn't have an aggressive and defensive bone in his body. He just looks at us in confusion when they hiss at him.

It's been two nights since our homecoming and Kajal has continued to sleep in her bed, peacefully with Simon by her side.. throughout the night. This has been the longest consecutive period in the three years since she came home from India that she has been able to sleep without fear, without nightmares, without running into my room.. truly sleep peacefully... for more than one night.  He sleeps by her, happy as can be.. purring away.

Yesterday we had a bit of a rough evening. Before bed Kajal was hungry and asked to have an apple. Simple enough. She was in the kitchen alone and I heard her rustling about. I thought she was just eating her apple but then it hit me it was a little too quiet. Kajal... I called. I walked into the Kitchen and found her with the apple and a huge knife lying on the counter next to her perfect slices.

Kajal isn't allowed to use the sharp knives and this one, this was a huge one. I raised my voice (to say the least) Kajal! You know it's against the rules to use the sharp knives! That is so dangerous, you could have hurt yourself! Why didn't you call me and say you wanted it cut!

I was so scared and angry and she just stood there with wide eyes... I don't know mom. I just wanted to cut it.

But you KNOW! You KNOW it's against the rules,  I've told you 100 times not to touch those knives!

She didn't answer, just gazed up at me.

Okay (I calmed down, a little, not a lot) eat your apple but never, never again use those knives. Ask me if you want something cut... I do not want to see you hurt. It's my job as your mommy to take care of you, to see you safe and that means rules! Do you understand?! She nodded, no answer.

10 minutes later she was curled in a ball, hiding under a chair.

The blind fear and insecurity was back...

This is one of our greatest challenges. When Kajal does something wrong (she tries so hard most of the time to do things, right... almost too right, she puts pressure on herself to always get things 'right') and I have to correct her or in this case, raise my voice or yell (yep, I yell.. try not to, but it happens and I always.. always feel lousy and guilty after) then she goes to 'that' place. The place of self doubt and insecurity. There has to be consequences for actions but so often when she does something wrong and I get mad or even not mad, just firm... she crashes. Immediately assumes that's it, I don't love her.. her security feels at risk.

And let me tell you, it's hard when you're angry to 'reassure'. .but I try to, after I've calmed down and caught my breath. I was terrified when I saw her with that knife.

I asked her to come out from under the chair and led her to her bedroom.  She had a tantrum. The first one in a long time... perhaps not a full blown tantrum but she screamed when I tried to hold her and reassure her and cried/screamed for a few minutes. When she calmed down, I asked her, Kajal, when you do something wrong and I raise my voice (Yell, Mommy, she said) alright, yell at you.. do you believe I don't love you anymore?

Yes, she answered.

Kajal, I do love you ... no matter what happens.. I'll always...

Don't say it Mom! You always say it! Blah Blah Blah.. you'll love me forever more than all the blah blah stars in the sky.. Don't say it MOM!

Okay, so that worked well.

Well, it's true, Kajal.. it's always going to be true, but I'm still your Mommy and it's my job to teach you right from wrong and sometimes when you do something really wrong, I am going to be mad. I'm human, it happens... it doesn't change how I feel about you.

Her back was turned. Simon jumped on the bed. he walked over to Kajal, smelled her face then he licked her tears.


Just what she needed... he needed us and we needed him.

Mom, will you read me a book?

Sure, Kajal.. and so I read a book about a fox whose mother loved him, no matter what.

Her American Girl Doll, Her American Girl... friend

Kajal has had trouble sleeping on her own... the nightmares that haunt her from her life in India still leave her afraid of the dark, afraid of being alone. I have faith that it's just a matter of time. I see her confidence growing. Some nights, she doesn't hesitate to head to her room and others... she knows she just can't. I don't push her, I encourage her... motivate her, guide her but I don't push her, I know she does it when she can and I try to trust that it truly is just a matter of time. We've started talking about adopting another child, finding a younger sister to bring into our family. I've explained that it would be a good thing for Kajal to be sleeping in her room every night before we introduce a new child into the family. So that they can share a room, together. Kajal is comfortable with that idea but her struggle to sleep alone continues.

One day she just headed to her room.. no issues, no grand statements. Just, Mom, I'm sleeping in my own room tonight.

That's great Kajal... what made you think of doing that?

My doll. She thought it would be a good idea.

She's my friend Mom.

She is indeed.

Kajal's American Girl doll, "Kajal" and Mr. H junior (a copy of the stuffed animal Jane Goodall travels the world with)

Valentines Day

We all love the holidays... any holiday. I was blessed with a mother that knew how to celebrate and managed to make every holiday magical. When I was growing up I had no doubt the Easter bunny had hopped through our home, that Santa Claus had rested his feet at our fire place... that Leprechans loved to play silly tricks on us. Magic felt real in my home and I can't help the desire to continue to follow in the loving traditions that I was raised with.  Of course, my mother was smarter than I. She knew to keep it simple and managed to create magic within that simplicity. I'm trying to retain that lesson but it's not always so easy to do. It may be that I dreamed of being a mother for so long, of all the things I wanted to do with my child that when the opportunity finaly came along to be that mom... I find myself going overboard, perhaps catching up for lost time, and overdoing it in the process.

Take the Tooth Fairy for example. I was raised that when you lost a tooth you placed it under the pillow and the Tooth Fairy came. She took the tooth and left behind a quarter... maybe when we were really lucky, a silver dollar. It was wonderful!

When Kajal lost her first tooth, the Tooth Fairy came too. Kajal's Tooth Fairy left a trail of fairy dust, a note telling her how much she loved her, a dollar and a present.  Then every time Kajal lost a tooth, the same Fairy would go a little crazy... leaving her trail of fairy dust everywhere she must have flown along with her little gifts. Even the time Kajal lost 5 teeth in as many weeks, the Tooth Fairy appeared working her magic.

The last tooth Kajal lost was about a month ago. Things went a little differently. Kajal found fairy dust and a present waiting for her but she couldn't find a dollar bill and a personal note.

Kajal was very upset... ran around the house ripping everything apart. Where's the note Mommy?! She was so upset she verged on tears through out the day.

Well, honey, maybe the tooth Fairy was tired? Maybe she had a lot of teeth to pick up and did things a little differently this time...

NO MOM! The Tooth Fairy, ALWAYS leaves a NOTE!

Uh oh.

We continued through out the day to look for the note and the missing dollar bill until it was almost bed time.

Kajal! Look what I found! I called out to her.. desperate to see her smile again.

What Mom?

I found your note! It was caught up in the sheets, we must have missed it earlier.

Oh, that's great Mom... I knew she'd leave a note!

She was so happy and relieved... especially when I also found the missing dollar bill under a chair in the upstairs hallway. It even had some Indian money hidden away with it.

Wow, I wondered aloud, I wonder how it ended up here? Perhaps Amber, the puppy was playing with it and left it here earlier, what do you think Kajal?

Sure, Mom. That makes sense.. .(she's quietly thinking) but what's so strange is I looked there earlier and didn't see anything..


Oh I know Mom, the cat was under the chair too... she must have been sleeping on top of the money.

That's right Kajal, she must have.

Hm. Simple. I should have remembered that three years ago.

So that brings us to today, Valentines day. Every year for Valentines my mother used to leave a small heart shaped box full of chocolates at the foot of our bed. Perfect. It was always wonderful and perfect.

Could I follow her simple and so perfect example... nooooooo.... a box of chocolate just didn't seem 'enough' not with all those cute little Valentines gifts floating around out there.

Each year, I build a pile of silly Valentines.. .a snuggly stuffed animal, the pre-requisite heart shaped box of chocolate, fun pencils or art supplies, Valetine clothing or pajamas, heart shaped lolly pops, heart shaped jewelry.. .and so on. I arrange everything in a place I know Kajal will find it.. I love the idea of her waking up in the morning full of excitement and awe.

This year Kajal was really into it. She was into the giving as much as the excitement of what she would receive. At church she learned about treating others as you'd would like to be treated and the Golden Rule. She had asked me to take her to the store so she could pick out some cards and gifts. She snuck them to the register and I paid while keeping my eyes averted until her loot was hidden away in a bag.

She hid away in her room wrapping her gifts and giggled as she controled herself from giving away hints. She helped me hide away the orchid we'd picked out for my mother and we both were full of excitement for the big day.

After she fell asleep I arranged all of her gifts on the night table besides the bed, then fell into an exhausted sleep. When Kajal awoke at 5 AM she raced down stairs and I fell back to sleep for another grateful hour of rest.

At 6:30 I awoke and noticed the room was still dark. I called out her name and when she came to the room I could see something was horribly wrong.

What is it honey, what's the matter?

I looked Mommy, I looked everywhere but I couldn't find any Valentines for me. I only found Grandma's.

She looked heartbroken, shattered, sad and shutdown.

But Kajal, honey... didn't you turn on the light this morning. The light on the night table? Whe always turns the light on first thing.  I pointed to the table. There in the shadows of the room was a friendly pink bear holding a heart shaped pillow in her arms surrounded by heart shaped lolly pops, a beautiful Barbie, gifts and card.

Kajal approached unsurely.

I didn't see it Mommy, I didn't want to turn on the light since it was Valentines, I wanted you to sleep in.

Oh... the thought of her running around the house for an hour and a half, looking for gifts only to find nothing... reinforcing all those feelings of self doubt and unworthiness.

She couldn't even seem to rally herself to get excited about her gifts... she didn't trust them or me.

Kajal, I'm so sorry. I really thought you'd see them first thing, I wanted you too.

But MOM! You ALWAYS put the Valentines gifts on the kitchen table! You did it in Boston and you did it here too, every year!

Oh my.. again, I got in trouble for not keeping it simple.

Honey, I'm sorry... I forgot. I didn't realize I do the same thing every year. (I guess it's the Easter Bunny that puts the basket on the night table).


I held her and helped her open her gifts.

Kajal, did you really think I wouldn't get you something? That I wouldn't celebrate you?

She looked at me with such deep sadness in her eyes...

Yes mom, when I didn't find anything, I thought that I didn't get anything. I was sad.

I hugged and kissed her... Kajal, listen to me. I promise you. A holiday wouldn't be a holiday with out you. I wouldn't want to celebrate a holiday without celebrating you. I will always, always... find something special to give you on special days... always, this I promise you. Can you try and trust that?

She didn't answer, but I know she was trying desperately... to believe.

A little while later she gave me her present. The card was the most beautiful card I'd ever received, truly.

It was a card meant for a great love...

All I need is you
You give me warmth and tenderness
you fill my heart with pride
you give me trust and friendship
and you take my faults in stride
you add such love and meaning
to everything we do
you give me so much happieness
that all i need is you.

Then she wrote:
I love you so very much. you are the best mother i the world.  No one is as lucky as I am. Kajal.

Her gift was a music box we'd made together at a Lowes work shop... it had a heard shaped cover and played beautiful classical music.

I wanted you to have this Mom, to remember that we made it together.

She hugged me and I felt her love and fragileness.

I read these words and truly I was in awe... in awe at this precious child who'd never known love... who in such a few years has not only opened her heart but has become truly in tune with her feelings and emotions.

Her love is the greatest gift ... the most precious gift I could ever imagine.

To all our friends all over the world... may love and hope surround your heart and keep you safe and cherished today.

Happy Valentines Day...

Truth and Bonding

The other day, we celebrated Kajal's 9th birthday. In her words 'it was the best day of her whole life'. For the last few years we've done the 'birthday party thing'.  Themed parties where we invite practically everyone we know, lots of decorations, the huge cake and some form of entertainment. Each birthday has been special but this year I just didn't want to get caught up in doing a 'bigger and better' event. A birthday wasn't an 'event' when I was growing up. It was cake and icecream with family and it was always, special. I talked with Kajal about what she really wanted for her birthday this year. Top of her list is a computer which truly, I just couldn't swing in time for her big day. I told her that I was working on it and she would have one in the coming weeks but in the meanwhile we made a plan to celebrate... her. On the actual day, I took off a little early from work and picked her up from her bus stop. We hit the road and we did some of her favorite things, everything from a quick stop at Dunkin Donuts (yes, in the middle of the day) to a run to Gamestop to purchase a new video game and exchange one she wasn't crazy about. a stop at World Market so she could pick out something that was made in India (to remember where she came from) and then I cooked her favorite Indian dish (Chicken Tikka). We had a small white birthday cake decorated with pink and purple roses (I even managed to avoid the huge Disney cake) vanilla icecream and two of our special neighbors. We opened some gifts (a barbie fairy doll she'd been hoping for, Uno, American girl doll books and a few other small gifts) and we played Uno until it was time to sleep. It was a simple day and she was so happy. The next night I would be taking Kajal and her two new, best friends to a movie and for pizza... she was so excited.

As she curled up in my arms, tired from a simply perfect day.. we read the book we read every year on her birthday 'On the Night You were Born'. She loves it, the tradition feels good, safe and secure.

Tell me about the real night I was born, Mommy. She asked and I knew what she was asking. For details I couldn't give her.

Well, it was February in Southern India... near Pune. The air was probably warm and filled with some smog, the smells of Indian spices filled the air.

What else Mom?

I knew what she was  hoping for.... the same celebration of life we'd just read about in the book.

Kajal, I don't know exactly what happened that day in India but I know one thing for sure.. with absolute certainty...

What Mom?

I know that the moment that you came into the world.. that moment was the most incredibly amazing, awesome, important moment in my entire life... there is no moment to me in my entire life, in the entire world... that means more than the moment you were born.

She smiled, a smile full of peace that came from the knowledge that she was indeed loved and wanted.

Jumping Rope for Heart

Kajal has asked me to tell you all that she is 'jumping rope for heart'. She's doing her first little fundraiser to help The American Heart Association help children with heart disease. We started a local Jane Goodall Roots & Shoots program and have been spending a lot of time lately talking about the importance of helping others. She's taken this to heart, literally and when this opportunity was presented to her at school she 'jumped' on it.  She walked in the door, handed me the flyer and told me, yes told me... I'm jumping rope to help children who are sick. 

I'm thrilled that Kajal is excited about doing something to help others. She asked me to share the link to her home page with everyone we could. If anyone reading this feels like participating, even a $1 can help her, help these children.

Here is Kajal's letter and link to the American Heart Association's Jump Rope for Heart Campaign:

I’m joining millions of other kids to help save lives with the American Heart Association’s Jump Rope For Heart Program!  Will you help me?

I’m doing Jump Rope For Heart at my school and learning about kids with special hearts. I’m also learning about my own heart, and how to take care of it. And I’m getting active and jumping rope!

Some kids have special hearts – and need our help!  I’m raising money to help kids like them. The money I raise will help pay for education and for new medicines and treatments to be discovered.  It could help cure heart disease – for everybody!  

You can help too!  Will you make a donation?  It’s fast and easy to do on my personal Web page! Just use the link below.

Thank you for helping me save lives and be a Heart Hero!

To make a donation online, visit my personal page or click on the ‘Donate Now’ button to go straight to the donation form.

Special Notes:  
*All donations are tax deductible.
*You can learn more about Jump Rope For Heart, kids and cardiovascular disease and kids’ health by visiting

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