Sunday, May 31, 2009

Wonder and light

It's the Feast of Pentecost!
Mexican Icon of Pentecost.

I think this is some cool feast. This is the day the apostles experienced the fire of the Holy Spirit in a great rush of wind and light. With a mind blowing arrival of Grace Himself, they could stop grieving in the upper room, hiding in uncertainty and worry and fear. It had been a wild ride for seven weeks, Christ was crucified, rose, appeared, cooked them fish, noshed with them, instructed them, chided them, comforted them, hung out..and then left. He promised to go prepare a better place for them and to send a Comforter and Counselor.

How confusing! So they huddled together, to wait, to pray. Were they confused about just what that meant...a comforter? Waiting is extra hard when you don't know exactly what you're waiting for...think any of those in that room maybe had control issues? Ok, well, I like to think so...(no, I'm not projecting, whatever do you mean?? Ahem.) I love imagining the scene of it, the rush of wind, the light, the understanding, the terror, the amazement, the joy. Were they knocked down, covering their heads and eyes in shock and maybe some primal fear? Ecstatic with, finally, full understanding, crying and laughing with joy? Wide eyed, holding on to each other?
I don't know, but you gotta admit, it's a great visual, very Cecil B. DeMille, don't ya think?
I love Pentecost.
To think that the Holy Spirit, that ineffable Grace, is there for the asking, or begging and pleading (ok, me again). And what amazes me, every time, is that it really IS!
That just blows me away.

Sometimes things are hard. Sometimes things are utterly confusing or just deep down scary. Thankfully, enough, not too often. But. When I get to the point of being unable to even construct proper sentences and word phrasings, when my prayers of deep fear and worry are the most primal and I've lost proper adult speech patterns but still have the deep need urge push compulsion to pray - somehow ....I know that I am still heard. I know, that God knows my deepest longing and fear and can move past my babbling blathering gabble and the Holy Spirit can intercede on my behalf in prayer.

And He does.
That's pure gift.
That's Grace: the Holy Spirit, Comfort, Counsel.
And, why, yes, in the past six weeks I've been relying on that Grace a fair lot.
And for that I am grateful.
And that is joy, the deepest most wondrous kind.
To borrow a word from a dear blog friend, it's wonderment.

That sums it up for me: Pentecost is Wonderment.

So today I like to think of that wonderment of the apostles at Pentecost. I love a feast day. I imagine the apostles were filled with sheer wonderment, and in that amazing ecstatic electric event, they were then sent out to face the world....but not alone.
In my self absorbed microcosm of life here, I'm not thinking anyone is gonna be able to see any flames above my head {unless it's my temper having gotten the best of me, again}. But for me the Holy Spirit is such a gift and I am so grateful for being able to call on that Grace when I need it {And to rely on it in my typically thoughtless way for the rest of the the time}. I don't know what I'd do without it. And really, who wants to face life alone anyhow???
So, here is the prayer of the day, for me:

Come Holy Spirit

Come Holy Spirit, and fill the hearts of your faithful,
and kindle in them the fire of Your Divine Love.
Send forth Your Spirit and they shall be created,
and You shall renew the face of the earth.
Oh God,
Who by the light of the Holy Spirit instructed the hearts of the faithful,
Grant, that by the same Spirit we may be truly wise and ever rejoice in His consolation.
We ask this through Christ Our Lord.
Amen.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

I do, too. Every day.



May is the month of Mary, and the rosary.
I would challenge you to try it if you don't already.

It's probably the best thing I do every day, even when I don't do the best one ever.
Doing this makes every day just a little better, on all levels. Period.
So. Yeah.
I pray the rosary.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

First Garden

This is what we did last weekend: finished my veggie garden, a kitchen garden!
Coffeedoc made the lovely raised beds from found wood (by which I mean, free! yay!).
My brother and the boys and Coffeedoc all worked hard to put in the edging and fence and pea gravel, in between downpours.
I got to do the fun part: planting and placing my Mary statue to "watch" over the veggies.
(Right then, just to clarify: I don't think the statue is real, it just makes me happy to have and see this little statue in my garden with my veggies and flowers, ok? Good then, happy to clarify further if needed, just email please.)
It's my first 'real' garden, instead of only pots.
It makes me ridiculously happy.
Thanks guys!

{And yeah, I know, Michelle Obama has one now too....
so hey, Michelle, give me a call, just one more thing we can chat about...
kids, TB protocols, organic gardening...it'll be fun!}

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Ascension

It's Ascension Sunday.
Well, officially the Feast of the Ascension was last Thursday....but here in the U.S., in most dioceses, the celebration of it is moved to Sunday.
Perhaps a touch confusing, yes....but really, the Ascension can be too.
How did He go? Floating serenely, in a flash of light, a crack of thunder, or just, gone? (I know, goofy, but I'm a visual gal, I think about it!)
I always wonder, how come the apostles weren't crying, Mary weeping again?
I would be! I cry every time I have to say goodbye to most anyone, especially my son. But, apparently, they did not. Not ugly crying anyhow. I'm sure it was bittersweet though, it always is, isn't it?

But here is the cool thing of Ascension, for me.
Ascension is all about preparation and promise.
Ascension is about home.
Yes, Christ had to go, we are left to walk this on our own in many ways.
But not really.
Because He promised to go to prepare for us to join him, to prepare us a place, a home, with Him, left us helpers and each other along the way.

And as a mom, as a mom who is awaiting her daughter to come home....soon soon please....this really resonates with me.
My Marta can't really KNOW we are coming back to her, except we've told her so.
She has to be there on her own, but with our far-away-support and love and prayers and helpers...for now.
And we are prepared, have prepared, a place for her: a new room to share, fresh paint, new furniture, new clothes. We've carved out a spot in our home and hearts for our Marta, our new daughter.
We are all anticipating bringing her into her new place.
She is. We are.
And we wait for it.
She does. We do.

And even in this, this hard time.....if we look, once again, the family can model the most real thing in life: faith and love.
We can't do it as well, or as graciously, or widely, as the Church.
But we can stumble along trying.
And today, I think about the idea of preparation; what it really is.

Today we are reminded that Christ prepares a place for each of us.
We prepare a place for each of our children and each other.
Doing so, even the small tiny mundane things of sippy cups and diapers, groceries and clean sheets...it's all love in action.
Happily, we have feast days like today so we, (ok, I mean me) can see it more clearly through all the hubub of our busy days.
To remind us.
To say, "Remember."
We each have a place.
It's home.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Open letter to Michelle Obama

This post is an open letter to Michelle Obama.
I know, I know...another letter. Really?
And to Michelle Obama?
A joke right? Um, no.

Yes, I wrote a letter, here, and Coffeedoc wrote a letter, here, with the details about this whole situation.
So, yeah, you could say we are on a letter binge...
But I prefer to say that we are determined to let no avenue shut down before we've tried it, no stone be unturned, or miss shouting from a rooftop.
My best rooftop, right now, is a cyber roof.
And this is mine.

Lest anyone forget, this is my beautiful daughter, Marta, above.
And that picture was taken this past Saturday, the 15th of May.
That's an notable day in that I was in DC, hoping to meet Michelle Obama. {no, really....} Michelle Obama was in Merced, speaking. We missed each other.
Yes, I'm kidding. Mostly.
But the 15th is also a day when my Marta was supposed to be home and we were supposed to be pantomiming to each other in a desperate bid to communicate, and laughing as we failed once again.
But she is not here. So I have decided to shout from my cyber rooftop and send an open letter to our First Lady. If any of you are good pals with her, please pass this along.



Dear First Lady,

I am writing to you out of sheer, shimmering, waning hope. It is the hope of one mother, reaching out to another mother.
It is, to steal a phrase, a call to hope. A call to change.
But this time, the change and hope are those of a mother, of a family, of a girl. That one, in the picture above.

That is my daughter, Marta. She is currently in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. On March 31st, 2009, she legally became our daughter. She was so, in our hearts and souls, for the past year. She is staying in a foster care home until our government allows us to go and bring her home. You see, she got stuck in the rollout of the new TB screening protocols of the CDC. But this is the catch: she doesn't need screening. She's had TB. She has successfully completed documented treatment for TB. But since she will always show a scar on her xray, the CDC protocol shifted her forward to the sputum culture requirement and that takes eight weeks to clear. And so she is stuck, away from her home and family.

We have spoken with as many people as we can find about this at the CDC and US Embassy and many have agreed that it is an "unfortunate" snare. But we have also been told that this sort of protocol certainly can't just be changed for one girl, or, as we also believe, that an adopted child can be considered a different class of immigrant and be allowed to come home. That just can't be done.

Mrs. Obama, respectfully, as a mother, I ask you, "Why not?"

Why can't we change this?
It's a bureaucratic hitch. It's not what anyone intended. It's not what is best for the child or any children who are affected by this. My husband (a physician), the W.H.O., even the man who wrote the instructions for this protocol at the CDC, agree that the data shows that a child who has gone through TB treatment is no risk to the public, and suffers by being kept from the love and care of their family. Instead these children are kept for months in orphanages, without the level of love, care and provision they would have here at home where they could begin to grow and thrive and learn to love in a family again.

This protocol for immigrants is an effort by our CDC to lower the incidence of TB. That is an admirable effort. However, in this application, to the adopted children of U.S. citizens, it becomes instead a trap. It is a trap for our children that does nothing to lower the incidence of TB in the world, rather it might even make it worse by keeping vulnerable children in difficult conditions; those not conducive to optimal health or healing on any level.

It puts our children in the category of "other." "Stranger." "Risk."
They are not "other." But they are being treated as such.
They are not a risk or threat. They are OUR children. America's children.
Already.

Mrs. Obama, you are the woman who represents hope and change and action in our nation.
So, I want to ask you if we can look at this closer...indeed, if we can hope?
Can we dream and make change?
These are our children. The children of U.S. citizens.
They are our hope, as all our children are. These children are the embodiment of hope, for our families, for our country, for each other. They are living waiting breathing hope; waiting for their families, their legal, matched, real families, to come and get them to bring them home.
They wait.
They dare, still, to hope.
They dream, even so, of change.

Any mom, but most certainly an adoptive mom, lives hope every day.
She dreams of and for her children.
She sees the challenges and faces them as clearly as she can, even while she yearns for the best for her child.
You are the First Lady, as well as the "First Mom."
You understand this.
You see the challenges of our nation's children, face them clearly and you hope and work for change and for them to live to their fullest potential.
These children, the orphans who have been adopted into our families, are our children, our nation's children and all of our future as well.

So, I am appealing to you.
Some will laugh at me, again, and point and say I am a fool.
But I don't care. I can take it, I am a mom.
Any mom will advocate - as far and high as she must - for her child, for her children.
Marta is my daughter, my child. And she needs to come home.
The other children caught in the trap of this protocol are the children of American moms, our children. And they need to come home.
You are a mom. You are the "First Mom."
I think, if you can know of this, you would understand... so, foolishly perhaps, I appeal to you.
You know that any mom will try to change the world if she has to, for her child.
Because, we can. Yes, we can. We are mom's. And we hope.

Thank you for your time and attention reading this, if you do.
Thank you for your willingness to step out to face the challenges.
Thank you for being willing to make change happen.
This may be a ridiculous shout into the cyber void.
But thank you for the hope.

Respectfully,

Michele Gautsch
schoolmom5@comcast.net

I went to DC but I didn't see Michelle Obama


But I DID get to see my nephew graduate!

David is our first college graduate of this generation. Frankly, none of can quite believe he is, or we are, already that old!
Ah, but we are all so proud. He's graduated from Georgetown and he's going to South Africa this summer for the second time/year in a row. He is working with a community-building foundation there and is now doing fellowship with them; fundraising as well as hands on work on the ground. His younger brother (19, Matt, shades, below) is going too, six weeks of teeny township and community living. I am one proud aunt!

And I did get to go to a swishy ball at Penn Station and have a fun two days with my only sister and her family! Crazy crowded (this pic is before it got crowded) and great people watching, music, food, bars...
Cool decor with living statues of important historic figures and models of buildings....turning the lovely Penn Station into a faboo swell party. But the best thing about the party was hanging with my nephews (Michael and David, below, Matt came later) and my Sis and bro-in-law.
Graduation was on the lawn, it was the perfect afternoon in that the rain held off and I got to hang in the fresh air with my favorite sister!
We had a big time. Two old middle aged moms, watching the world pass by, having a nice afternoon in the sun, saving seats, smiling at nervous grads. Lovely. Just a lovely proud afternoon.

My sis and I kept scanning the crowd for "very important people" to accost, erm, politely approach and speak to about the TB protocols. But we didn't see anyone we recognized. I had hoped to get a meeting with Michelle Obama, but she was in Merced. Something about a commencement speech.... I've been in Merced. I got a speeding ticket there once...hmmmm. Anyhow, so we just missed each other. But I can hop a plane back anytime...so Michelle, give me a call!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Dads United. Coffeedad's letter

This post is from Coffeedad. It's his turn. This letter is his, the dad side of things, and from his perspective as a Father, and also as a physician.

This letter is an open letter to anyone who has a heart to hear us and also wants to know why we are pushing so hard.
Why don't we just quit and accept that we have to wait?
Stop being so pushy already...sheesh. Right???
NO.
We are advocating for our daughter to come home because she needs to be home, because we love her, because it is right to allow her to travel to join her family.
We are advocating for this protocol to change in it's application to adopted children because to apply it to adopted children, especially those who have already completed treatment for TB and/or who are HIV+ is, simply, wrong.

So we won't quit.
We will fight for our child.
We will fight for these children.
Here is Tom's letter. Please read it. Please forward it, along with mine, to anyone who might hear or listen or get it to anyone who can.
Thank you!

To Whom it May Concern:

This is a picture of my beautiful daughter, Marta, above.

My wife Michele and I have recently become the parents of my new 12 year old daughter Marta. Marta is Ethiopian, and sadly left orphaned by the ravages of AIDS in her country. Without any family, she was taken into an Ethiopian government run orphanage in Addis Ababa. Somehow in her young life, she also contracted tuberculosis for which she has recently completed eight months of standard tuberculosis treatment, with thankfully good response and several follow up sputum smear tests, all of which were negative. On March 31 of this year her adoption was finalized and we legally became her parents. Both Michele and I are United States citizens. Had our adoption become finalized just one month earlier Marta would be home with us now and I wouldn’t be soliciting your help.

The day before we were to travel to Addis to pick her up and bring her home we were notified by the Embassy through our agency that she would not be cleared to travel for a minimum of two additional months, and perhaps longer, due to very recently implemented new CDC Technical Instructions for the Screening of Immigrants. This new protocol requires negative sputum cultures in anyone with any suspicion or history of tuberculosis, without any regard whatsoever to whether it was known or unknown, treated or untreated, successfully or unsuccessfully.

This very burdensome and overly stringent requirement has been implemented only by the US and only piecemeal, in regard to some countries, despite the fact that the CDC and World Health Organization as well as the American Thoracic Society and the Infectious Diseases Society of America all individually or in collaboration have reported that:

“patients with drug susceptible pulmonary and other forms of infectious tuberculosis rapidly become noninfectious after institution of effective multiple drug chemotherapy” – A.T.S., CDC, I.D.S.A.

“after 14-21 days of treatment, infectiousness averages less than 1% of the pretreatment level” -- A.T.S., CDC, I.D.S.A.

“as yet no case of clinical or bacteriologically confirmed tuberculosis disease associated with exposure during air travel has been identified”
-- W.H.O

“the overall public health importance of such events [potential transmission of tuberculosis during air travel] is negligible” -- A.T.S., CDC, I.D.S.A.

Three weeks before our scheduled Embassy Visa appointment for her, the CDC implemented their new guidelines in Ethiopia and a few other countries only. If Marta were from China, India or Russia or any one of a hundred other countries, her negative sputum smears would be sufficient for the CDC, and the State Department would issue her Visa and allow her to travel. What is more, if we had given birth to her while living in Addis Ababa and she was now coming back to the United States with us for the first time, she would not be subject to any kind of screening at all. If she was coming on a student Visa, a work Visa, a visitor’s Visa, a diplomat’s Visa or any one of 50 other Visas she would be here now and also subject to no screening.

The injustice of this situation is compounded not only by the very questionable medical basis for subjecting her to it in the first place, when virtually every one of the other 300 plus passengers on any flight here from Addis Ababa is not subjected to any kind of medical screening and statistically at least one of them or more will have active tuberculosis, and dozens are likely infected, but the situation is further worsened by the Embassy’s false assertion that no one there has the authority to waive her CDC required two month long sputum culture test for any reason and the CDC’s Department of Quarantine assertions that no one there has the authority to direct the Embassy to waive the requirement since the CDC is only advisory to the State Department.

I had a long conversation this week with one of the head doctor in the Atlanta Office of the CDC Division of Quarantine who could not refute any of my above assertions, acknowledged the inconsistency with which this screening algorithm was being applied and even that the legally adopted minor child of US citizens was a very different “immigrant” than the general immigrant population for whom the Technical Instructions were written. Nevertheless, he also told me that they would not waive the testing requirement for Marta or anyone else and that they would also not process our I-601 medical waiver “for persons with Class A or suspected tuberculosis” on the technicality that until the two month test was over, her medical evaluation was still incomplete. If after the two months that the test takes, it came back positive, then we could use the waiver. This loop invalidates the use of this waiver; it negates it's use.

My request for your help is two fold. First, please help us get this test waived by whoever has that authority and get my Marta, child of US citizens, home now. Second, please realize that many, many other families who have or are in the process of adopting orphans are caught in the same net since all children with positive HIV tests are also subjected to it and that an ultimate solution is to recognize these legally adopted children of US citizens, as “US citizens” when the adoption is finalized not after they have come to US soil.

I can supply copious medical documentation of the marginal impact of this sputum culture requirement on the importation of tuberculosis and the negligible or non-existent risks of infectiousness to travelers and our citizenry for persons who have received or are receiving treatment for tuberculosis and have negative sputum smear tests.

Please consider this letter with a mind to what is right and decent, and with the medical data supporting our case. If you are a father, please consider if this was your child and what you would do. Please help us bring our daughter home and change this policy for adopted children, our children.

Sincerely,
Thomas L Gautsch, MD
tlgautsch@comcast.net

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mothers connected united

It's Mother's Day. And I'm missing my daughter.

So, I'm stewing and reaching further and further the only way I can in my effort to bring my girl home. I'm sending this out to the world of moms, a plea that is relying on our connectedness, our unity as moms.


You see, you all know that we are having a hard time getting the right person to hear us. To HEAR us, see us, really look at this as a real live girl who is stuck away from her family, her mom....


And so today my mind is spinning..who can help people be heard? Who gets heard and seen?
If Oprah Winfrey had a daughter stuck in this, would she be heard? Would Hilary Clinton be heard? Would Michelle Obama? Do you have to be a major world leader or celebrity to be heard or seen?

I don't know....but I do know the power of connection.

I know the power of women to reach out to each other.

I know the amazing surprising connectedness of the blogosphere.


So, I'm taking a giant step. I'm posting this letter. It is a letter that was sent to join with other stories of the human cost of this policy. It's about us. It's about what this means to my family.
This letter IS about us, our family, our daughter. However, this policy will snare other families, it already has and it will more. This policy has to change. So this letter is for the families coming behind us too.

And if you know anyone who might be able to hear and see this and make a difference, or just plain care....to try, to pray, to help - us or the next family snared by this..then please, pass it on.
Because we are united, we moms, I think...in wanting our children to be with us, safe, happy, ok. We want all the kids to be home, to find a home.
To come home.

That's what we moms do....every day.


It's long...but it's real. It's not meant to be along whining rant: it's an attempt to show the layers of personal cost. Thank you for indulging a mom who will do whatever it takes to get her daughter home safe, now.


To whom it may concern:

We have a daughter in Africa, an AIDS orphan . . . placed in limbo by our own government. We are Tom and Michele Gautsch, we live in Tennessee. Tom is an Orthopedic Surgeon and Michele is a full time mom. We have a total of eight children now that we have adopted Marta (12 yrs old) in Ethiopia. Three of our children are biological and now five are adopted, three from the U.S. and two from Ethiopia.

We are very, very anxious to unite our family. We had the unfortunate timing of our court date being scheduled just behind the new TB screening regulations and we have been stopped in our effort to go and bring home our daughter, Marta, from Ethiopia.

We passed court successfully March 31, 2009, after just short of a year of work in the extensive adoption process. According to the Ethiopian government, Marta is our daughter in all ways, most certainly, legally. We know she is our daughter not only legally, but spiritually, morally, ethically - in all ways, she is our daughter. However, on March 23, 2009, the U.S. CDC began phasing in new TB SCREENING requirements, and it is the rigid interpretation of this protocol which is preventing us from bringing our daughter home, for at least two more months and possibly many more. Marta is a post tb patient, however her tb left a scar on her lungs, and thus on her chest xray. It will never be normal. The rigid application of this screening protocol doesn't allow the panel physician to clear Marta to travel, even though she has a known tb status: post treatment. This protocol was for screening unknown tb status. Our Marta's status is documented: adequate treatment, successfully completed.

The screening that Marta is being delayed for has never been proven to effectively reduce the rates of tuberculosis in the immigrant population. In fact, the vast majority of first world countries don't do this screening at all, and the ones that do, screen the immigrants after they arrive in the country. If we were British, or French, or Norwegian, Marta would be home with us, right now. The CDC has arbitrarily decided to implement this policy in only twenty countries. There are seven countries with a higher endemic incidence of TB than Ethiopia, where the CDC does not require screening with TB cultures. If Marta was from China or India, both countries with ten times more TB prevalence than the U.S., she'd be home right now.

Our family was supposed to travel Saturday, April 25th to Addis Ababa to meet our daughter again and bring her home. We had an Embassy appointment for our visa scheduled on April 29th. On Friday afternoon, April 24th, the day before we were to travel, we were called by our agency and told not to come. This news, to say the least, was devastating. We had spent the past many weeks organizing and preparing for our trip. We had to make arrangements for the younger children to have a good caregiver in our home, plus of course prepare them for our time away. We had been gathering and organizing and packing our donations and humanitarian aid for many weeks. Thomas, the dad, had to make extensive arrangements to be away from his solo surgical practice, schedule patients for surgery around his planned trip in order to maximize their care as well. By Friday we were packed and ready to go, the excitement at the house was at a peak for all...until that call came. Then it all came crashing down.

In disbelief, Tom started manning the phones, trying to find a way, any way to talk to someone about this. Michele was simply devastated, crying, trying to console the kids while her heart was breaking. Tom spent until almost four a.m. researching the protocols, the actual risks of a post TB patient and learning the data on TB in immigrants in the US and around the world. He spoke with contacts at the CDC, as far away as Kenya, and everyone said, "This is silly, she should be able to travel, she's post treatment." So, until sometime after 4 a.m., the morning of the 25th, (we had to leave by 5:30 a.m.), we hoped to still make our flights and go meet our girl. However, we hit a wall of bureaucracy and were told, again, in the early hours of that morning, "don't come."

And so we did not go. Full stop. We have been wracked with worry over our daughter and depression over the situation. This manifests physically, in all the normal ways. It is hard to not be depressed, it is hard to kick back into the regular cheerful routines of a busy family life.

On a practical, material level, this has also had a tremendous cost. For Tom, he lost a week of work. When you schedule 10 days out of a solo surgical practice, it is not a simple matter to just fill your work schedule back up on the spur of the moment. You lose the days and the income that would have been generated. In fact, you continue to pay the normal operating expenses, but are not, literally, operating. This would have been a planned financial cost. But now, having to plan for an entire new trip, we will have to incur it twice. That is a very significant, large, financial burden. Of course our plane tickets, six of them, had to be returned, with penalties for cancellation and changes. Many other summer plans have had to be reworked and still have not been able to be figured out; this delay affects our children and extended families and their plans - put on hold - as well. Our bags of humanitarian aid remain stacked in our foyer. Our suitcases with personal clothes have been unpacked, but our smallest children still ask when we are going, confused.

For Marta's health, she needs to come home and have adequate nutrition, safe surroundings and the love of a family to help her heal from the many traumas she has experienced in her life. Staying in an orphanage, half a world away from her parents and family, does nothing to help heal the heart and body of this child, our daughter. Even several months away from her family makes a difference to a child, especially one this age and with her life experiences.

The hardest part, perhaps, for our hearts as parents, is Marta's experience. Marta is not a toddler or infant. She is an older child. She is twelve. So she has awareness of what is going on, but is not yet old enough to fully understand the details. Any older orphan, in particular, is going to really wonder if it could possibly be true: "do they really have a family? For real? Is it really going to happen?" Because to an orphan, one who has already lost both her parents and everything she ever had, ANYTHING can happen and NOTHING is forever or for sure. And this is what our Marta now has experienced: she wondered if we were really coming...they said we were. But - we didn't show. And that was explained to her, they said, and they tried to make her understand the delays and that we would come as soon as we could. However, even if her head can hear and understand a bit of the explanation, what is imprinted on her psyche and her heart is the confirmation of her deepest fear: we didn't show. Period. And that will have a long term cost to this young girl, and our family, that you can't measure in computer data.

The CDC cannot measure the scar that is left by this. They can quantify the scar left on her lungs by the TB. But they cannot, nor do they care to, measure the scar left by this unwarranted delay. We can, we will live with it and try to help her over it. But this didn't have to happen.

This can be changed with a simple decision to see Marta as an individual, as a patient if you like, but best, as a child. Marta is not a random immigrant who will vanish into the unknown masses in our country. She will not drain the country's resources, nor will she be a risk to the health of the greater population. She is our child. She is coming into a family where her dad is a doctor. We had to prove we were willing and able to care of her, to the fullest extent, in every way and document this with Homeland Security, even before we were allowed to proceed with the long adoption process. We think you would be hard pressed to have a more documented or well tracked person come into the U.S. than an adopted child.

Marta is a child of U.S. citizens, her life and family is here. She is our daughter, and she needs to come home.

Sincerely,

Tom and Michele Gautsch
schoolmom5@comcast.net
tlgautsch@comcast.net

Happy Mother's Day Mom!

Happy Mother's Day!

Today is the day I think of all the moms: my kids' birthmoms, my sisters, my friends, my mother-in-law I miss, and of course, my own mom.
I wish I could be with her and my sibs today as they celebrate.
In lieu of that I'm putting up a few rare pictures of her.
Above is one of the rarest:
Mom and all her kids, at the house where I grew up (I'm in front in the way short sundress).

I love her and wish I could hug her today..but am saving up all our hugs and kisses for when I see her next month.
Happy Mother's Day to all you moms!
And to you, Mom, you're the best, I love you!

Friday, May 8, 2009

What's the goal, really?

As many of you know, our family is being held up in a bureaucratic snare. A trap, a mill...call it what you will. We are coming to think of new terms for it. We will admit, we are frustrated.

We are receiving the run around, ever so politely expressed, but that is what it is. Our inquiries, indeed, the inquiries from senator's offices even, are being punted back and forth like a football: "We are not in charge of that." "They oversee this decision." "That would be the __(fill in the blank: CDC, State Dept, Health and Human Services)_____ domain."

And so it goes, no one wants to own this, no one wants to really look at it and see what is being said.
And really, we have decided, that no one really wants to look at what is not being said.

So we will. It is not politically correct. I don't care anymore.
Everyone has said, "It's not personal, please understand."
I beg to differ.
It is very much personal, and I don't understand.
Not at all. Or, actually, I think, we do all too well.

Let me back up. This is the quick summary of the trap: The US CDC has determined to put in place screening measures for all immigrants for tuberculosis. This sounds like a reasonable and reasoned, thoughtful measure. Until you start examining the data. And you realize that most first world countries do not do this, rather, they screen immigrants once they have arrived. And then, if needed, they treat them.

However, our country has decided that the rates of TB have risen enough that they need to do something. And so they have put in place sweeping protocols to screen for tb. Our country has decided to screen immigrants before they arrive on our shores. These are called the 2007 technical instructions. The problem is, these do not outline what to do if a person already HAD tb, and had already been treated. [The 2008 technical instructions for immigrants already in the US expand on the 2007 and they point out that any person who has already been treated, does not need screening, and in fact, may travel freely.] Therefore, any person wishing to come to the U.S. must have a clear skin test, or chest xray or 8 week sputum culture. Period. That sounds reasonable, doesn't it?

Does it?

What is this really?
Dare I suggest, this is a case of "other."
Us. Them.
We are here safe and sound in our country. I believe this is a protective measure, but misplaced. I love my country, don't get me wrong. But 'they' are there, and we don't know what 'they' have that might hurt us. And so 'they' have to be screened, and kept there until we are sure 'they' are "ok," right? Right?

Do they? What's the goal? What does that mean?
Is this a measure to lower the levels of TB in our country, only? Is it a measure to lower the levels of TB in other countries? Or is it to keep out risk, or those who are "other?" Is this a question of comfort? Are our levels of comfort being challenged? Well, I think so. This screening is not being done, for instance, on European immigrants, nor Chinese, nor East Indian.

Should children, any of them, of American families, be swept under this measure?

The reason I question all this is because this policy is being applied to kids, without seeing them as individuals, each unique. Kids. It is not being applied foreign temporary workers, not students, not most of the immigrants who arrive on our shores: adults who can easily slip into the system and disappear. This policy, in our particular case and others too, is being applied in broad sweeping strokes to kids. Our kids. Our Ethiopian kids.

Hmm. Look closely. Who are "they?" Are they dangerous to us? Really? Is their goal to come into the country and infect us all? Or to milk the system and our resources? I don't think so. These kids have one goal: find a family. Find a safe place and a home. That's it. Do we need to think of these kids as a threat somehow to us? Um, no. Are we at risk from them, these children, really, are we? No. The data supports that. Coffeedoc is more than happy to provide it to anyone interested. The CDC should be too.

This is Christmas dinner at the government orphanage where my daughter lived. This is what
they had as a special celebration feast. Hard to get better, if you DO have tb or any illness on that diet, don't ya think?

If we were really screening for TB as a matter of compassion and concern for health, wouldn't the answer be that if you found TB, you would bring that kid home to their family so they could be treated swiftly? Really? Or is it better to leave that child who has a family here, there, alone, sick and scared where they can't even get the proper nutrition to support the medicine?

We have been told that the CDC is trying to keep our communities, our family, the population at large, 'safe' from infection. Um, really? Because on that plane coming home, it's almost exclusively a population that has been walking around being exposed to all sorts of viruses and infections, utterly unknown in type or quantity. How does letting a child who has already completed treatment for TB keep that community 'safe?'

I know. You are rolling your eyes, thinking, "she's on a rant." Maybe.
But I am tired of this.
This is a stigma.
There is a stigma against scary words and labels: "HIV+" "TB" "Immigrant" "Virus."
I'm tired of the stigma, of wondering if I can say that my daughter had TB.
Well, she did.
My daughter had TB. She was treated for it, successfully.
She's over it now.
But they won't let her come home, because of arbitrary, political, well meaning but misapplied protocols.

But look closely, just below. These aren't adults. These are children. Our children. This is their Christmas dinner, again. Do they look like something we should fear, somehow?
Are they, really, "other?"
So, I am asking again. What's the goal, really?
Is it to help with compassion, to help find and treat a treatable disease? Is it to help lower the rates of this worldwide, as the world leader our country is and should be? Is it to help these children be united with a family? Or is it, to somehow attempt to protect, ineffectively, "us." I'm asking. What's the goal?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Look closer

These are the faces of the littlest ones. Not necessarily the youngest, I mean, the littlest.

These are the ones it's so easy to pass over and look beyond. But these are our children too. We are so bombarded with causes and pictures that it's easy to get overwhelmed, desensitized, numb.

But look at these faces. Really, look at them. These are kids. They are orphans. They lost their moms and or dads to AIDS.

See them with your heart and soul. Do something, even if only to give them the dignity and humanity to really SEE them, and say a prayer for them, donate, reach out.
They are just kids...our kids....who have a future, or should.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Not So Wordless Wednesday

Well, it's Wednesday and I was up a fair lot last night, with insomnia. But, oddly, enough, with a newer sense of calm. And so in that spirit I figured I'd put up this pic today. I like it. That's my Buddybug up there with the guitar (squint real hard, or click the pic, you'll see him). This was the Eucharistic Procession up at his college about a week or so ago. It was cool and my boy and one of the music groups he plays in, the Four-Seven Band, were stationed to play at the third altar for the procession. He said it was great. Of course it was. It's always great, to carry Christ out to the world...whether in a reverent official procession, above, or mindfully in our own selves, every day (ideally).

That said, I need to give a particular nod of thanks to Fr. Gideon. Well, really, to all of you faithful generous souls who have been praying.

No. We have no news.

But I have reached a state of some peace and while still very sad that we are not united as a family yet, I am not raging to control the universe or sway God's own mind. Not today at any rate. I'll take a few days off, maybe. {And yeah, I'm sure I'll be right back at it in a day or so...old habits and all.}

My Pastor, Fr. Gideon, has been nudging me, ok, not so subtly, he's been pushing me to accept God's will and that this might well be beyond our control without the spinning twirling whirling dervish of my control buttons gone wild. He continues to point out how much more peaceful and gentle and calm life is when you do.

I know this, intellectually. It's not rocket science. It's not a huge secret.
It's just the doing that is so hard, especially for us type A gals....

He has laughed gently at me, listened to my tears, and prayed for me and us and kindly smiled at me when he saw I was still thrashing about. So. Father Gideon, just so you know: I'm there, for the moment, for today. And you're right, what a surprise, ahem..... I'll take it. Thank you. All.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Tennesh Tuesday

We are all feeling a little like this today.
{But red shoes always make things a tiny bit better
in my book...and little man's too!}

Friday, May 1, 2009

Connected. Part 2: The beauty

It's the feast day of St. Joseph the Worker.

That's the same St. Joseph that is the dad on earth of Jesus and the patron of families.
Plus of course, he was no slouch as a worker...hence a day to remember that.
And today, as our family is in a struggle and we are working hard to somehow find a way through it, I have offered up my petitions to St. Joseph, for his intercession, relying on his kindness and understanding as a father, and a worker-bee too.

That said, I have spent this past week tumbling many thoughts around in my head. And yeah, you know what that means: I gotta post. And this is a stumbling exploration of all those thoughts and yup it's centered on faith and prayer, and it's Catholic too - so fair warning. Just stop right now if you're not interested. But I gotta, I've already told you, it's how I process.

Way back in July, I wrote a post on connections, here.
And in that post I marveled at the connections we find in blogland, and beyond.
This week, I've been able to marvel at those connections all over again, much more viscerally and intimately than ever before.

As most of you know, this time, almost exactly last week, our trip to Addis was boxed. I had just finished up my ugly-crying scene at Barnes and Noble and was at home, doubled over in sobs, watching Coffeedoc turn his mouth to that determined set and get to work trying to find another way to get to our daughter. I sniffed up my tears again and again and he kept researching and calling. We are still in that same process, just beating different bushes.

This week has been one of physical grief and frustration, glimmers of hope and kicks in the gut of reality...again and again. Worry and fretting and fear.
And much much prayer.
And this is what I've been tumbling around...all this messy mass of contradiction: hope, prayer, suffering, worry, acceptance, and connections. Coffeedoc and I have been talking a lot about all this, what it means, how to walk through it.

So, bear with me as I lurch along here:
Prayer. We have been praying. So hard. My prayers and this struggle is so much that I don't actually have real, speakable words to verbalize anymore. Those were gone, just about this time last week. We are taught that the Holy Spirit will interpret out meager prayers, with unutterable groans, and carry them to the Father.
And really, I think that at this point maybe I've saved him a step.
My prayers are sort of an unspeakable toss. They are sort of "You know what's best and You know my heart of hearts, here, here take it..it's too much for me." And after that, even then, I can't actually iterate those or any words, they are kind of silently, internally groaned. But this leaves me to question..is that prayer? Is that good enough? What if they are not? But those, that, is what I've been left with before - in those most stressful times of hospitals and threats. So, maybe those prayers are worth enough anyhow.

Suffering. You know, this is a suffering. Not nearly so deep or intense as so many out there, I so realize that. We are grateful it's not more, we recognize how fortunate we are to have this, relatively measly, suffering. God knows what wusses we are. But, even so, it is a suffering. It is full of fear and worry and physical literal hurt and depression. And for what? So many say, "worry won't change anything."
Well. Hmm. True.
However, suffering, it does.
Suffering, it transforms.
This is not to say we want to suffer.
Uh-uh, not me, um, ever, ok?
But that when we do, it transforms - not only us, dare I say it, but the world.
A little bit.
And in that, there is such beauty.

Now, before you all wig out and think I am some creepy masochist, I'll tell ya now, "I'm not."
But I have seen the beauty of this suffering first hand, intimately, both times connected to a daughter. The first time was when my little four year old girl had a life threatening status epilepticus seizure and was life flighted to the downtown children's hospital and was in the pediatric ICU for three days. (A different long story. She recovered, thanks be to God.) This time, it is with another daughter, one I haven't hugged yet and she is stuck in a bureaucratic trap, half a world away. Both times, the outpouring of love and caring and prayers and support, helped us, lifted us up, and also humbled us and blew our minds. Yup, now, I'm there.

Because here is where the transforming, the prayer, the connecting, the suffering becomes beauty. Prayer doesn't change God's mind. We are not praying as if we can somehow pick a tune on a jukebox, "I'll take Elvis, B6." Prayer transforms our hearts to grow to accept God's will, if we truly want God's will. And in the process of that prayer, we are brought closer to His heart. And in suffering, we get a chance to also come closer and have others called closer to that same heart.

Erk. I'm not saying this well, or right. {I talked about some of this to dear sweet Becca, too.}
But, through our suffering (and really, this is hardly cancer or dying or anything, it is just really really hard and frustrating and feeling so desperate....and that's our own doing, as the pills we are)....I have seen such beauty in the compassion and outreach of friends and family and most of all, the blog community. Blog friends gave up food for us, fasted, for our needs yesterday. So many have been praying, and fasting even, for us. It is utterly humbling.

But, I think, me {so really, take it for what very little it's worth}, that really is where the transformative nature of prayer - and suffering - starts to play in. By our (measly) suffering (tho doesn't feel measly, you get my drift); we offer it in prayer, and unite it intimately with the suffering Christ experienced. And that, Christs own suffering is what is calling to all of you others who are so giving and kind and supportive of US....that intimacy, that call to help, that urge to help that you/others feel is a response in LOVE which is nothing if not Christ, who IS love and so we are all transformed, and there, there is the glory of God.

It's not in having our wants/needs worked out perfectly, but in bringing more of that glory, that love, into this dark hard world. It's in each of us stretching out in love to console the other...there it is, right there.
It's us getting to participate, willingly suffer/help carry the burdens of others, so that, like a small kid, we can help, even to change the world a little bit by the effort. We get to help. I see the big huge GLORY of it even as I feel and know the small personal intimate union of it all too..... Ack.

That is the transformative nature of suffering...you get the whole package, and it calls to others and so, mirrors, images, unites, us to Christ.

So. That's just way cool to me. Even as I wallow and feel sick and so so deep blue down.....I can recognize that much, because God knows what a weenie I am and need something to hang on to. And I can, and do, and will hang on to the connections...and hope to be able to do the same for someone else, next time it's needed. I see it in many many repeated emails, the flowers Jess sent me, and in the fasting Becca started, in the unexpected, providential or coincedental (?), connections like Lori.......and it all humbles me and makes me shiver in awe.

My kids make fun of me for my blog and my blog friends. But I don't care. Because I said it last time, and I'll say it again: We are connected, amazingly enough. I, even if only I, am lifted up by the connections. Which help me to remember one of my very favorite hymns, and one of Jana's and one of it's really good lines:

"We lift our hearts before you and wait upon your word"

At the best, when we are all at our best, when we, dare I say, are transformed into our best......we can walk through this all together - adoptions or other things - suffer, wait, help bear the burden and shout with glee, as we each wind our way through this long, often difficult, road....looking for the light at the end, waiting on His word.


"and whether our tomorrows
be filled with good or ill,
we'II triumph through our sorrows
and rise to bless you still"

So, maybe this is just a very long stream of consciousness thank you, because I don't really have the words to say it well or nearly nearly enough. But for all of you, your thoughts, prayers, support...no matter the outcome: Oh, my, thank you. Thank you.