My niece wrote this article about our adoption journey; and when I saw this template, I was inspired to scrap it. My niece is an amazing journalist, but I am not quite as wonderful as she makes me out to be. After reading this, I tell my friends they should refer to me as Saint Debbie(:

except for ‘good’ and ‘no good.’ That’s how we described everything.” She read to them, played with them, took them to the store, lied with them all in bed and told them stories. She fell in love with them.
The orphanage in Zhukovka had no money, not even for the basics: toys, fresh fruit or veggies. The Russian government allots $5 per month for medical supplies for the orphanage. Debbie explained that Russia attempts to hault international adoptions but does nothing to help the children, “their most valuable resource.”
It came time to leave her son yet again. She came back to America with a hole in her heart. Debbie returned on a mission, and so she became the mother of “the forgotten children of Russia.”
The community outpour was incredible. The people of the small town of Hastings, Minnesota donated thousands of dollars in supplies to the orphanage.
Debbie and her husband returned to Russia three months later for their court date to finalize the adoption. They explored the town with one of the social workers from the orphanage. She pointed out the children who had once been at the orphanage; they were drunk, stoned and barely living. Debbie explained that in Russia, when the children turn 16, they are expulsed from the orphanage with $10 in their pocket; most end up as prostitutes, drug dealers or dead.
As before, they spent day and night with the children. The social worker introduced Debbie and her husband to Masha, a quiet 10-year-old girl and their future daughter. “She wouldn’t look us in the eye, but every once in a great while, she’d flash a smile that would knock your socks off,” she said. “It’s hard to believe now; there isn’t anyone more chatty and more of a social butterfly than Masha,” she said “but I had real doubts about her ability to bond with us—affectionately know as the LOUD family by our friends.
Being at the orphanage for 10 days was the most incredible experience of Debbie’s life. “It changed me so completely,” she said. She returned with a charge on her heart; she needed to find homes for these children. She went to everyone she knew…and everyone she didn’t know to get these children adopted. “Mel [husband] kept teasing me that we were never going to be invited to another party or that people were going to start turning around and walking the other way when they saw me,” she said, “I couldn’t stop talking about them [the children]…and they still haunt me.”
Debbie described to me the children she had to leave behind: Sasha, who had the wisdom of a sage; Dasha, who had the face of an angel and the body of a linebacker; Angelica, who had heart problems but could not afford medical care; and Ilya, who would run around whispering “Dibbie, Dibbie, Dibbie.”
“Although I am so grateful for the families who found it in their hearts to adopt, I can’t forget the ones I left behind. I think of them everyday,” she said.
After years of uncertainty, three trips to Russia, a fistfight with 6-foot-6 Russian bully, 10 adoptions, tears, pain, joyousness and an ever-persevering love, Debbie Wagner has touched the lives of so many. Her journey continues to inspire others.
Amanda Sykes, friend and mother of one of the children from the orphanage, says she has Debbie to thank for the greatest gift of all, the gift of her family. She says Debbie inspires her with her intensity of love for her children—a love Amanda says she has rarely seen between biological parents and children. “Maybe it’s because she had to fight so hard to make them her own…or, more likely, it is because of the depth of her soul and the boundless size of her heart,” she said.
In a world so massive, it’s difficult to imagine that one person can really make a difference, but Debbie Wagner did. She fought for love, and she got it. “I really haven’t done anything anyone else wouldn’t after seeing Zhukovka,” she said, “It’s the kids…they are the heroes…they are my heroes. They moved me and changed me.”
Wagner’s passion, tenacity, strength and devotion are a true inspiration. She can melt your heart with just a smile, but it’s her unconditional love that will touch your soul. The saying rings true: where there is great love, there are miracles.


Katie Pertiet
My Notebook Black Layered Templates No. 01
Mapped Tapes No. 01
Roughed Up Alphabet: Flourished Red
Beyond Words Brushes and Stamps

Anna Aspnes
Love From Russia BrushSet