Tuesday, January 30, 2007

we aren't supposed to tell you

we woke up early this morning to get out on the trail. i have been dreading this because it is supposed to be really cold. but then i learned that it is supposed to rain today and tomorrow. cold, rainy camping. sleeping on the cold hard ground. i think there may be some divine justice in this... paulette at least is going to get us back...

Thursday, January 25, 2007

paulette's response to us

Dear Kimberly and lindsay.

How are you? What are you doing?

I just got through talking to [my shadow] and reading my letter. I was really shocked when I read that I'm going to get adopted by the Anasazi nurse (Nurse Debbie). I really do think that she is the perfect mother for me. After reading the letters that her and her husband dave sent i decided that i am going to pray to see if she and dave really are the perfect family for me to live with.

[My shadow] told me to read the letter in front of him. I couldn't even finish your letter. i cried so so hard. After reading your letter i immediately went back up to the group to tell the other girls I had to have another young walker read the letter aloud to everyone who was there. i was really blown away. one of my trail walkers started to cry. i really now do believe in the power of fasting. Two days before i found out I fasted that I would find a family and then BAM it happened. I really do appreciate fasting.

It brought great joy to my heart to know that you guys were working hard to find a family for me and that hard work paid off.

you don't know how much crying I'm going to do at family camp next week.

i have tons of questions to ask about the school I'm going to and whats going to happen when I'm done with the school.

please write down all the information about the school and then give it to me at family camp.

love always,

paulette mason

(there are lots of hearts all over this letter)

Get a box of tissues.

Our only communication with Paulette comes through the weekly exchange of letters and, as you know if you've been following the blog, ours have been a little less than stellar.

This week, however, was different because we had big news to share. We asked Dave and Debbie to write letters to Paulette, to introduce themselves to her, and to share with her some of their feelings about inviting her into their home and family. They wrote beautiful letters—letters that made Kimberly and I tear up—and included some pictures that we will, hopefully, post on the blog soon. We also wrote Paulette a letter to tell her about the life-changing news.

The following account from Dave, who heard it from Nurse Debbie, who was up on the trail for her weekly check-ups when the mail arrived.

Before the letters were delivered, Paulette met with Nurse Debbie for her weekly physical exam. Afterward, Debbie asked Paulette some questions about herself, like what Paulette likes to do for fun. Paulette looked at her sideways. Debbie prompted her: "Do you like camping, outdoor things?" Paulette said she did, but that she was "kinda tired of it now." Debbie asked whether Paulette like music, and playing instruments, like the violin. (Before Anasazi, Paulette was first-chair violinist in her 6th grade orchestra). Paulette looked suspicious. She said "Yeah, but why are you asking?" Debbie said she was "just curious". A few more questions passed, including about piano lessons, and Debbie said good-bye to help the other kids.

At that point, Paulette received her first letter: the one from Kimberly and me. She sat down, opened it up, and started reading. A stunned look crossed her face, but there were no words. Then, as the letters from Dave and Debbie were delivered, she stood up and walked over to join the rest of her group. "I can't read them," she said. "I'm shaking. Can you read this letter for me?" The other girls, who are much older and have really taken a liking to Paulette, read her the letter aloud. All the girls were squealing and crying, telling Paulette "Congratulations!" Paulette just listened, taking it all in, and said she felt "so happy." When the girls said, "this is everything you said you wanted: you get to live with a Mormon family, and you get to be close to your sister!" She added, "I get to go to school in Utah!" (A lifelong dream of hers, and a reference to the time that she will spend at the Westridge Academy before moving in with Dave, Debbie, & co.).

After receiving the letters, Paulette visited with Debbie again, this time both of them knowing the big news. Paulette was fairly quiet, but asked questions. They talked about Dave and Debbie's family, their grandchildren, their home, what the family likes to do. They talked about the time Paulette would be in Utah (Dave and Debbie had been worried about how Paulette would respond to knowing she had a family, but not being able to live with them straight away. Fortunately, Paulette actually sounds excited about it for reasons noted above.) At good-bye, they hugged, and Paulette rejoined her group, where she spent the rest of the afternoon talking with the other youngwalkers, and trailwalkers, about how happy she was.

Of course, the talk of Paulette's big news dominated the day. At one point, all the girls were saying to Paulette: You get to be a sister! And have another sister! And have brothers! And you get to be an Aunt! (Paulette was pretty excited about that last one.) Someone asked Paulette what else she would be. She was quiet for a time, and then said "Well, I guess I'll be the baby of the family. I guess that will be okay." For Paulette—a little girl who took care of herself, her sister, and her mother from the time she was four years old—we think it will be precisely what she needs.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

in answer to your questions

i keep getting emails with all these questions...hopefully this will help.

here is what follows:

lindsay and i leave on friday to go to AZ. we will have family camp starting monday. please note the weather: the nights will be brutal. i hate the cold! if paulette decides to become part of the nurse's family, mom and dad will join us on the trail for family camp. part of family camp will just be the fRamily, the nurse mom and dad will come and we will all camp together, then we will leave and paulette will have some time alone with her new parents. the whole thing is like 3-4 days.

then we will all go to dinner, hang out with jen, etc. on sunday we will go to Salt Lake City.

you may wonder why Salt Lake City? paulette is going to go to the westridge academy for about 18 months. it will piggy-back on the progress she has made at anasazi. it will provide time for paulette to get some help and a bridge for the new family. we don't know how long she will be there, but as soon as she is ready she will move back home to arizona and live with her new family.

the westridge academy has a school that is well regarded and a program that appears to have great success. she will wear a uniform all the time, which she won't love. but we all feel like this is an answer to prayer.

can you even beleive this? i wanted so desperately for a nice pretty bow to go around this experience, and it did! i am astounded and thankful!!!!!!!!! the truth is, there aren't the right words for these emotions.

Monday, January 22, 2007

arizona: the new dc

God has parted the red sea once again. this experience has been one heck of a spiritual experience; so much is difficult to record in this forum. we will do our best to keep sacred, sacred and private, private.

as the nurse at anasazi admitted paulette and gave the weight okay, she also felt compelled that there was more she could give paulette. paulette is a compelling personality, a joy to be around, and her story is tragic. these factors have led many to be interested in rescuing and helping this little girl. she kinda tried to brush it off, but that evening she shared paulette's story with her husband. he too felt like they had something to offer her; they could help. they both felt like paulette needed a family. one like theirs.

this is their story. i am going to leave it for them to tell, if they so desire. suffice it to say that last night they called to tell us that "paulette has a family." lindsay and i burst into tears of joy, that frankly haven't stopped. we can't believe it. but it is true.

a weight has been lifted. as our friend michelle told us: "you're done". there are not words in my language to describe how i feel or how i have felt. joy that does not begin to be able to be measured. i keep thinking about something c.s. lewis wrote in surprised by joy: "the pain then is part of the joy now, and the joy now is part of the pain then."

we so desperately wanted a happy ending to this story. and though the story is far from over, this crucial, pivotal chapter is and it feels wonderful. i try not to be overtly spiritual on this blog, but i just want to say, that this is nothing short of a miracle. that His hand made all of this happen. 4 years + ago lindsay and i were asked to be their mother's "visiting teachers" (a responsibility to ensure for her spiritual and temporal welfare). at that first encounter we both, without telling each other, felt like the girls were the real reason we had the calling. mom just didn't have much hope. but the girls were both so bright and promising. we had to do something.

it is like getting the star of david to shine the night Jesus is born. this stuff was set in motion so so long ago. and through much trial, error, longsuffering, patience, impatience, hand wringing, air punching, kneeling, begging, and an enormous increase in faith and knowledge about the nature of God, He made this miracle. probably so we could all know that He loves each one of us, and knows us as individuals. and that He has a plan for us. a precise, accurate, thorough plan that, in the end, if we trust will bring us joy.

lindsay woke up singing this song: fairytales can come true, they can happen to you. its true.

Friday, January 19, 2007

a quick letter to paulette

this is the last letter we will send to paulette before we tell her what her future will hold. we are both super stressed out. so much about this just is really really crazy. we feel bad putting this much pressure on paulette, we feel bad that there is this much pressure on the prospective family. and we are so afraid of what might happen. both lindsay and i have been sick the last couple of days and i am pretty sure it is stress and anxiety (or maybe the norwalk virus. so, hopefully something wonderful will happen. we went from baited breathe to not breathing.

you usually can only get one letter out to a young walker per week. they are making a special exception so that we can get this message to her.

Dear Paulette,
We just heard a great report from Stephanie. Sounds like you are doing well, and growing closer to your creator. People are making decisions about you right now that will affect the course of your life. Please fast and pray, and explain to Heavenly Father what you want. We know Heavenly Father loves you. In the time you have lived with us, we have seen His hand do miracles. He wants you to be happy, and He will answer your prayer. We love you.
Kimberly & Lindsay
i am pinging with jennifer. she is about as cute as they get. she gives me hope and so much joy. i hope that the same thing happens with paulette.

jennifer just wrote this to me. we were saying goodbye and her sister alaina asked me what bisous was, so i explained...this is seriously a tearjerker night.

yeah i knew that because you will always say that when i was living with you and that was a lot of fun living with you and limbo i loved that a lot and thanks 4 taking me in when my real mom coudent take care of me the right way that she was suppose to i wish that this never happened to my mom and my dad to because i really miss them both the next time you and limbo see her tell her that i love her and that i will always be her little baby girl and i miss how me you limbo and paulette would play rummiekub that was so much fun but some of the kids dont understand it very well

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

in respect to raisingdc

kimberly is beginning her solo blog to record l'année de l'amusement for generations to come. if you are interested in visiting her please stop by lannedeamusement.blogspot.com/
you will probably catch must of the raisingdc cast there. only we will be sillier and less stressed. please bless.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

week 7 -- letter 3

Dear kimberly and lyndsay,

How are you? I am really sorry I didn't write to you last week, it is just that I was really upset about getting extended, But a couple of days ago I realized that you only wanted me to stay out here for acouple more weeks because you care about me and want me to learn all that I can out here. since I've been out here I have learned alot. I've learned to let people help me even more. I have also learned how to respoect and apreciate the things that you do for me. I have really learned that ther are better things that I could do with my life.

Thanks again for sending me out here.


so we are still waiting for final words from everyone. we think a million good things are going to happen, but none of them are confirmed. we vacillate from being amazed at how all this good could happen and preparing ourselves for the tremendous let down that will follow bad news. bad news also means we have to figure out how to get her into a good foster care system (read: not dc) and that is horrible too.

the major cliff hanger is will this family, who is very interested in caring for paulette, decide it is the right thing to do. i could, and have, pointed out many reasons it will be hard. they seem to feel strongly, so all arrows point to yes, but still ... we are waiting.

then there is the "will the church pay for westridge" question. westridge is vital to what making any tranistion for paulette into a family successful. without it we would really be setting the family and paulette up for failure. paulette needs some help and getting it for her now will minimize tough teen years. also, it will provide the family with the opportunity to get to know paulette better via family therapy. therapy will also give them some skills to help paulette. but it is a sizable amount of money and the Church has already invested heavily in this kid. will they keep doing it? our stake president is convinced enough that it is a good idea, but ... we are waiting.

anticipation! part of me doesn't want the anticipation to end because if it does and it the news is bad i have to deal with bad reality. and good make believe is sometimes better than bad reality. but then it also feels like i am just prolonging the pain and i like to rip band-aids off fast.

then again, if the news is good, i want to CELEBRATE good times come on! and i think i will feel like a hero if this really works out. because if the best case scenario happens it is really really really really miraculous and crazy and just thinking about it gives me chills all over.

so fingers and toes and legs are crossed. prayers are more meaningful. and anticipation is keeping me waiting.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Update on Jen and a back story

Last night Bobbie and Jen called. They had a great holiday, minus one cornea surgery (on Jen's sister, Natalie--OUCH!) and one fairly upsetting conversation with Jennifer's biological family.

Two days before Christmas, Jen was feeling a bit homesick for DC, so she asked her mom (Bobbie) if she could call some of her friends here. She tried several friends from school and, unfortunately, no one was home. So Jen decided to call her older sister. For those of you who aren't aware, Jen and Paulette have a half sister who is in her early 30s. She's got a pretty remarkable story of her own that includes being abandoned by her mother (yes, that's Jen and Paulette's mom, too) at the tender age of 12. At the time, she was taken in by Sheila's sister and raised to adulthood. Today she holds down a good job and--a remarkable testament to the resilience of children--is a pretty impressive woman, someone Kimberly and I think we could be friends with. Although she did not have a relationship with either Paulette or Jennifer until very recently, she thought seriously about taking the girls when their mother became ill. Ultimately, she decided that she was in no position to take care of them, given that she was a single woman with a job that required her to travel a large portion of her time.

That was in May. Once the girls moved in with us, they tried for weeks to contact several of their extended family members--the sister among them--to no avail. No one returned their phone calls then and, to date, not one member of the girls' extended family has tried to make contact with either of them, or with us. It's tragic and, though we don't dwell on it, both girls know they have essentially been abandoned by their family.

Well, in August, Kimberly and I had reason to contact this older sister. Surprisingly, she returned our phone call. We had a long conversation with her, in which she described her own life story and the feelings of guilt she experienced because she was unable to take care of her half-sisters. That same day, she was able to even spend some time with Jennifer. They went to a movie, ate dinner in a restaurant, and bought a teddy bear for Jen. (At the time, Paulette was with her mother in the nursing home).

After that day, the sister essentially disappeared. We made no efforts to contact her, and she made none to contact us--or the girls. A month later, before Jennifer moved to Arizona, she was invited to come say goodbye. She professed wanting to come and told us she was planning on it. But when the time came, she didn't show. No one from the extended family showed. Jennifer had no word from her sister until, she (Jennifer) decided to call her sister on Christmas Eve's eve.

Again, surprisingly, her sister answered the phone. She explained to Jen that she saw their mother over Thanksgiving, and reported that her health was improving. She even said she thought that Sheila would be getting out of the nursing home sometime soon. Jen was floored--all previous reports, including from us--had indicated that her mother's health was, in fact, getting worse. (We later learned from Sheila's sister that her health was not getting better--just the opposite. She had been so ill, in fact, that she had been unable to feed herself, or even walk. ) Of course, Jen had no way of knowing the state of her mother's health while on the phone with her sister, since she had tried calling her mother faithfully every Sunday for weeks and had not been able to reach her. If that wasn't enough news for one phone call, Jen's sister then told her that if she (Jennifer) wanted to, she could come and live with her (the sister).

Of course this was upsetting to Jen. She got off the phone and told Bobbie about the conversation.

Of course this was upsetting to Bobbie. She immediately called Kimberly, hoping to find out the real state of Sheila's health, and to get some advice about how to the handle the situation. Wisely, Kimberly told her that she shouldn't get in the way of Jen and her sister. Jen would have a decision to make. Kimberly was confident that Jen would see that her life in Arizona would be more secure and healthy than the one promised to her with her sister. And, frankly, Kimberly had the sneaking suspicion--borne out by 8 months of experience taking care of the girls--that the older sister would probably never try to contact Jen again, for, in fact, she had never once tried to contact her in the first place. Kimberly was convinced that the sister felt massive guilt pangs that she was not in a position to take care of her sisters, and that this guilt is what had motivated to make the offer to Jen. However, she had her doubts about whether the offer was genuine, because she had made the same offer in August, and then had not followed through. Bobbie was somewhat comforted, and followed Kimberly's sound advice.

Bobbie gave Jen time and space to think about her sister's offer. After a couple of days, as Bobbie was tucking in Jen and her sister for bed, she asked Jennifer whether she had given any more thought to her sister's offer. Jennifer told Bobbie that she had thought a lot about it, and that she had even prayed about it. And that she had decided to stay put. She told Bobbie that she had the distinct feeling she was supposed to be a part of their family.

Although I can't imagine the emotions that Jennifer must have felt during this experience, I'm extremely proud of her for making a very difficult decision. And, while I was outraged by her sister's conversation, I feel for the sister, too. I am sure she feels a lot of guilt that she isn't in a position to take care of her sister. However, as someone who cares very deeply for Jennifer, I am confident that Jen couldn't be in a better place than where she is right now: with a loving family that wants her and takes excellent care of her. She is flourishing in Arizona--making friends and good grades, helping her family around the house, laughing and sometimes fighting with her siblings. We talk to her frequently, and she really sounds great. She reported to us in October that she reads her scriptures every day on her own, and when I talked to Bobbie last night, she said she can still find Jen in her room at bedtime, reading her Book of Mormon.

Jen loves checking email and loves instant messaging people, even more. Last night, when we were talking with her on speaker phone, she asked us to go get on our computers so we could "talk" to her. I know sometimes she's homesick, and appreciates contact with her old life. Any of you out there who know Jen, and who'd like to drop Jen a line, please let us know. We'd be happy to put you in touch.