The Misguided Sainthood of Mrs. Kleiner

Trying to get it right with the best of intentions.

Location: Seattle, Washington

I have been married to the delicious Joe Kleiner for 6 years. I got preg in 1999 & miscarried at 17 weeks. I was depressed for a very long time. I now know I have PCOS, an endocrine disorder and leading cause of infertility. Joe and I both felt compelled to adopt foster children so we called ANTIOCH ADOPTIONS. They are committed to helping normal people adopt & to getting kids out of foster care. Our kids came home in the fall of 2001. Bret (8), Nene (7), and Tony (5). In 2004 we were contacted because the kids had a new biological sister and through God's amazing providence we now have her too. Yes, that's four-ages 12, 10, 9 and 1. This is where the mythology begins. Often people who don't know us hold to an erroneous and misguided belief that I am special, a saint if you will. That THEY would never be able to live my life. That God has not CALLED THEM to fostering or adopting. I disagree with every cell of my being. I am no saint. But I do believe that Jesus calls us ALL to care for the fatherless, to love the unlovable, and to die to ourselves. So this is my attempt to set the record straight.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005


Today is the one year anniversary of the hardest decision of my life.

August 31, 2004 was the day we decided to put our dog down. I could barely stand the void that I felt once he was gone. I raised him from a puppy. That dog brought life to our home when I was so stricken with grief I could barely function. We picked him up the weekend I was supposed to have given birth, the weekend of my grandfather's funeral. So you see there was a connection between he and I.

A connection that was never quite the same after we adopted 3 kids and my attentions became divided. He was loved and he loved greatly. But he also became aggresive. He nipped at my son in the face and then finally he bit a foster child who was provoking him. In the face. Blood everywhere. Terrifying night. I would have killed him with my hands that night if I wasn't holding a scared, bleeding little boy.

I begged my Dad to come and get him. To take care of it the way we country folk do. In the woods. Never to return. But my dad couldn't come that night. There was a blizzard. And then he didn't. I felt let down and hurt by my unmet need. My need was deeper than the dog. I needed my Dad to take care of me. To do the unthinkable.

So we waited. We knew we needed to do something, but we were so to devasted by any of the options. We tried to find a place for him to live. But we had to be honest about what had happened. Then we were distracted when our baby Nor came home a few months later. I was in heaven. I didn't want to confuse the joy with grief. But it nagged at the back of my head.

And then came the wake up call. We couldn't get our foster license renewed and keep Nor with Mo in the house. The state refused all of our attempts. We tried one last time to find a new home for him and moved him to a friend's kennel while we tried. I never saw him again. I didn't want to see him there.

August 31st. I called my dad and begged him to take Mo for a little while until we could find a place for him. My dad was unwilling to take on the responsibiltiy. Something about homeowners insurance, rottweilers being of the devil, and his new girlfriend. I freaked out on him. Eight months of disappointment and sadness came blaring out. It got ugly. I wanted to be protected from the pain and responsibilty. To have the men in my life be strong and wise for me when my heart was dying. In the end Joe made the decision and Joe carried it out. I love him for that in a way I can't even express.

I want to think that someday I will learn how to grieve better. To embrace the pain while it's happening so that I can let it go. I've grieved many things in the last decade and none of them well. I tend to run. To vacate. To empty myself of any emotion to avoid the pain. But the pain always finds you. You can never really be free until you go through it. Experience it and trust that God will be enough in the midst of it. I will tell you if I ever figure that all out.

But here's to Mo for many years of love, protection, and faithfulness. I still miss you, you big ox.

Saturday, August 27, 2005


I have a daughter who will be 13 in January.

I can barely comprehend that statement.

I remember the moment I saw her face. We were in the playland of McDonald's and my husband and I had just driven the longest 20 miles of my life. It was familiar. I had seen pictures of the kids and I had even eaten at that McDonald's before--in 1994 on my way to work with in Mexico with orphans. But the feeling was new to me. Intense and instantaneous. Even with her Dad it was a gradual, building kind of love.

The sight of her light brown hair and eyes the color of Godiva sent a shiver through my body. Love flooded my chest. She had an impish smile and a deep sadness in her eyes. I knew there was a sparkle hidden deep. I knew she was mine.

I have seen that sparkle many times over the last four years. Every time we go to a pumpkin patch and she looks for the biggest pumpkin. Flipping rocks at the ocean and searching for creatures. The night she met her baby sister. Standing in line at the Hollywood Hotel Tower of Terror with her Dad knowing she would be in the front row. Meeting Emmylou. She has life in her eyes again.

I wish I could say I always love the sparkle. Sometimes it is accompanied by great mischief and irritated siblings. I get frustrated by her lack of control and tendency to go over the edge. I forget that she is 12 and only beginning to know herself.

We have a deep and often terrifying relationship. I have failed her with my impatience and anger. I am usually quick to repent but I hate myself for hurting her. I want to be enough for her. To bring healing and help her forget her life before. I'm finally realizing how unfair that it. For both of us. She will never forget--and neither will I. We are both wounded by the events that got us here. And yet, in her I see God's redemption so clearly I almost believe it for myself.

Last night we hung out with new friends and bowled. I watched her teenaged angst turn to sparkle as she forgot herself and rolled the ball. She is so devastatingly beautiful. At age 12 I had a bad perm, new glasses and a shaker knit sweater in teal green. She is light.

She is also clumsy and silly and managed to get a gutter ball while using bumpers. On the next lane. But she was so sweet last night. So tender. I forgave myself for a few frames and forgot all the work, all the prayers, all the investment of love at first sight. She sat on my lap and my chest was flooded again.