Beautiful Boy

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This is our beautiful boy Eric during “Snow-ma-geddon” here in Charleston a few weeks ago when we enjoyed a record snowfall.  Even though he didn’t want to touch the snow, he was in awe looking around him, and I was lucky enough to snap this photo – my all time favorite one of him.

 

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans” – John Lennon

The day I took this picture of Eric a few weeks ago, I randomly came across a journal entry in one of my notebooks from October 2011, and it went straight to my heart. It starts with this line: “I feel it is inevitable that I will adopt a child one day.” I wrote about how I had discovered that the deepest longing I had been carrying during and after my failed marriage was my desire for a family. In that journal entry, I wrote to process my fears as a single person, and remember finding the courage to pursue my dream – and to “put it in the realm of possibility and explore it.” And I did just that – not having an idea that it would lead me one day to Eric.

In 2012, I did pursue adoption – I completed a home study and right before submitting my application to adopt in Russia, Putin shut the door on American adoptions from Russia. I created an adoption profile and pursued private adoption. My friend Diane helped me get “clear.” She asked me…”What is driving you – that you want to be a mom, or that you want to save a life?” And I immediately answered,  “I want to save a life.” So as I entered this journey, I considered all kinds of scenarios including foster care and older children that were in need of a home.

There were ups and downs, and then I met Jerry in March of 2013 after a possible private adoption had just fallen through. At that time, Jerry’s twin daughters Chelsea and Kaitlyn were 19 and lived with him, and Eric was 15 and lived with his mother in Columbia. I immediately bonded with the twins – we have developed wonderful, enriching relationships over the years. It has been my pleasure to have entered their lives during such a dynamic time – to help mentor and love them as they “adulted” over the last five years.

Eric came to live with his Dad (Jerry) and I a few years ago after their mom passed away tragically, and after living with Chelsea and Kaitlyn for some months (you can read more about that in this Post and Courier article). I distinctly remember telling my parents that I was “all in” and that was all they needed to hear from me. We welcomed Eric and life as I knew it changed immediately and forever.

It is not lost on me that I had a choice with Eric. People have said all kinds of things…I don’t know how you do it…are you sure you want to give up xyz…what will you do when Eric gets older…you should look at group homes for Eric to live…

My friend Megan got it immediately. She has a beautiful six year old daughter with Down’s Syndrome and has been a tremendous support to me. She nailed it when she told me: “for most people it would be a choice – but for you there was no other choice you would make.” Nailed it. She gets me – the real essence of me.

I have spent of a LOT of time thinking about my needs, my wants, my values and my fears. I do not want sympathy. I do not want to hear doubts. Those things are not helpful to me – because I am all in. I feel that the people who say these kinds of things don’t really get the real me. Thankfully, I have a great deal of people who do “get me” and see that I am living true to myself. For my oldest childhood friends – my current situation is no surprise to them at all! I was wired for service at a very young age and won citizenship awards in junior high AND high school… Making a difference has been important to me for my entire life.

I know most people mean well. I know that because of my wiring for fixing, controlling and helping that I sometimes take on too much, get out of balance, and over-do it. I continue to work on myself, to recognize the signs of my co-dependency, and practice self-care and making sure my needs are met. Of course I get stressed. Of course I have doubts and fears – I think that is a universal challenge for ANY parent! When that happens, I want support, encouragement and acceptance – not sympathy or doubt and definitely not judgment. I don’t expect people to understand – who could? Not many people have shared the same experiences that I have had!

I want to inspire other people to do hard things in the name of love and for the greater good.

I am not just a step-mom to Chelsea, Kaitlyn and Eric. I will never replace their mom, but I am their “bonus” mom – their “Mamelle” (which is the name I think we may have settled on recently.) Over the last five years, Eric, Chelsea and Kaitlyn have become the children I always knew I wanted to adopt. Technically they are all too old for it to be “legally official” but there is nothing that will break the bond that we share. In my heart it is official, and that is all that matters to me. I have what I always wanted – a family.

Eric brings out the best in me and Jerry.

Having Eric live with us has added a deep dimension to our relationship, and has taught us so much. When people see me with Eric – I want them to feel inspiration rather than sympathy. Look closely because you will see how much love and joy we share as a family. Eric has helped me to be a better person – to become crystal clear on who I am and what I stand for.

Eric makes me feel like I can change the world because I have helped to change his, and because he has helped to change mine.

#bethechange

#lovewins

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Get up, Stand Up

Today I helped make history…or as Kaitlyn said, “her-story”. From what I have read by Politicususa, today’s Women’s March was the largest protest in US history. However, I didn’t march today in protest of who sits in the White House. For me, today was not about politics, nor was it about one man. It was (and remains to be) so much bigger than that! It transcends politics and the temporary power that one person has. Today’s march was about renewing my belief in humanity, my love for my country, and my commitment to embody my values. I marched to “be the change I wish to see in the world” as Gandhi taught us to do.

I marched today to demonstrate what I believe in:

  1. TRUTH: I believe in speaking the truth. The truth can be a big pill to swallow. Many people will avoid the truth because once they admit the truth, they may have to take some kind of action – or God forbid – CHANGE. I know this because I spent a lot of my adult life avoiding some hard truths of my own. As a result of facing my truth, I have had to make some painful decisions and have experienced a whole lot of turmoil as a result. Now that I am on the other side of that pain, I know in my heart and in my bones that I am a better person for taking the risk to speak my truth.  When I reflect on our recent presidential election (which I have done A LOT), I feel that one of the takeaways is the truth has been exposed. I have been pretty comfortable in my white privilege and could have easily stayed there “on the fence”  as John Pavlovitz so eloquently wrote about recently. Not anymore. I am willing to speak the truth that racism is rampant in our country. That white privilege is a luxury that too many people cling to and avoid having to change. That too many wealthy people hold the power and WAY too many people have none. That women are not treated equally in the workplace. That people with disabilities need more help. That LBGTQ right’s need to be protected. That there were more people at the Women’s March than at the Inauguration. Some of you may think this is political, and that is your right to think whatever you want. But for me, the truth is a fundamental, personal value. Now that I can speak these truths, I am ready to DO something – I am ready to “be the change.” I am ready to take action to do what I can to make my life, my country, and my planet, a better place.
  2. EQUALITY: I believe that all men and women are created equal. I believe in equal pay for women. I believe that love is love and that everyone should be able to get married regardless of their sexual orientation. I believe that black lives matter. Of course I believe that all lives matter, but I am not afraid to say that black lives matter to call attention to the hard truth that racism is rampant (see #1). I will not be afraid to embody this value of equality – even when it may be uncomfortable. I want my actions to reflect my values. That is why I marched today.
  3. CHOICE: To me, believing in choice goes well beyond a woman’s right to choose what to do with her own body. I believe that choice is a fundamental right each one of us has at ALL times. Each one of us has the power to make a choice every moment of every day. Making a choice is the opposite of being a victim of circumstance. I can’t control my feelings, and I can’t control what happens to me…yet still I have 100% control over my choice of my actions in response. By the way, doing nothing is still a choice. And the only person responsible for my choices is ME. Other people may have an opinion about my choices, but guess what – the older I get, the less I care.
  4. EMPATHY: I believe that empathy is the answer to the division in our country today. I believe that I can change the world one small act of kindness at a time. I believe that empathy makes it possible for me to have very difficult but necessary conversations about very difficult topics.
  5. HOPE: I believe that hope comes from my core belief that we are all connected in some way. I have hope that our country remains to be the best country in the world, and that it is built to last no matter who holds office. I believe that fear is the enemy of hope. I have hope in humanity – and today renewed that hope.
  6. LOVE: I believe that love trumps hate. I believe that love is the most powerful, renewable energy that not only replenishes itself, but can grow exponentially. I believe if our choices come from love and not from fear, that the world would be a much better place. I believe that the enemy of love is not only hate – but more importantly – indifference, like the wise Elie Wiesel taught us.

These are the reasons I marched today. These are the reasons I will not stay on the fence. These are the reasons I will speak up and take action. I welcome difficult yet constructive conversations.