The Black Girl in Maine Podcast has arrived

The podcast has dropped! In it you will hear MamaC speak from the heart as you would expect.

I first met Shay Stewart-Bouley aka Black Girl in Maine through her writing, and presentations on antiracism and decentering whiteness. We have been on panels and symposiums together and share our stories of raising Black children in Maine, the whitest state in the country.

Shay and I get raw and real on transracial open adoption, impacts of daily racism and microagressions on the boys, unpacking whiteness, and why I left my 9-5 as a newly divorced single parent. The episode explores if and why I’m qualified to do my work as an equity and inclusion facilitator in schools, and as a 20th centurty family formation coach working with individual clients.

This podcast marks the true arrival of me knowing what I do best, and how I choose to share my unique and valuable experience with the world.

Please consider making a contribution to support more podcasts from Black Girl in Maine Media if you like what you hear. It was indeed an honor to be invited to participate on this nationally and internationally recognized platform. I look forward to hearing your impressions after you give a listen.

Keep questioning how your beliefs are serving you, and hold your littles and your loved-ones close.

Don’t touch his/her hair. Admire it instead!

Over the weekend Marcel and I bought two children’s books featuring Black protagonists, written by Black authors to enjoy and then pass along to one of the preschools in the city to support their diverse libraries. One other unifying characteristic of these two books is that they are also a celebration of Black hair.

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes and illustrated by Gordon C. James, (picture book ages 5-12) winner of the covetted 2018 Kirkus Prize is described as; “One of the best reads for young black boys in years, it should be in every library, media center, and, yes, barbershop.”

I certainly learned early on the necessity and importance of Black barbershop culture for both Sam and Marcel. (In fact so much so is the setting of one of my most well-known and widely published poems; Black Enough.) This story vividly captures the ritual and deep importance of the barbershop hair cut and culture to a young African-American boy. The dynsmic illustrative painting style matches the celebratory poetry of the narrative.

“Don’t Touch My Hair” by Sharee Miller is as much a story and celebration of beautiful hair and identity as it is a vehicle for introducing empowered language for young girls in particular to have control of their body and what and who touches them. Courageous young Aria takes us on a realistic and magical journey of self-discovery and finding her voice to help the reader understand what she needs and how to arrive in a similar place of self-advocacy and joy.

Call to Action: Would you consider calling your local bookstore and ask them to order three copies of each if they don’t already have them? Explain that you’re getting a set for yourself and giving a set to the local elementary or preschool. (They can keep a set on the shelves.) This will remind them how important it is for them to support Black authors, publishers, and have Black protagonists in the children’s books available to their audience. At the same time gifting these books to the elementary school gives the message how important it is for all children to see Blackness centered at story time. It would also be a really helpful conversation starter for teachers who are managing successfully (or not) the “don’t touch my hair” request of students in the classroom.

According to Marcel he still manages and deals with this all the time in middle school. He shared that his friends are allowed to touch his hair on the first of the month only-and only once. But they still have to ask he said. He was relieved to see his experience both at the barbershop and in the hair patting captured so well.

If you have other hair related children’s book titles featuring protagonist’s of difference please share them in the comments below.

Here to help you

I am delighted to call your attention to very exciting news: my coaching and facilitation practice is now my full-time work in the world. I am here to help in real time too.

A month ago I made a massive leap of faith to leave my secure and treasured position as a director of community engagement and education at a national arts organization to launch my own coaching and facilitation practice. I have never looked back. I am my own plan B! I have new clients and contracts presenting themselves at the perfect pace. The validation I feel for my choice is immensely gratifying.

In addition to being able to be here when the boys (now 11 and practically 14 as Sam likes to say) arrive home and need me the most; I am living into my truest calling of the work I am meant to do.

Having 15 plus years experience as a single adoptive, and biological -via a known donor- transracial parent (that’s a mouthful) I have a perspective to share. As a reader you already know that I’ve got knowledge. I bring my experience in cultivating open adoption, navigating racial awareness and whiteness, and advocating for children at all stages developmentally to my work with individual clients and groups.

Are you exploring if single parenting is right for you? Have you been wrestling with the ethics of transracial adoption? Are you considering a known donor conception? Are you already parenting, and needing a check-in on some new concerns about your child’s current or future educational setting? Are you and your partner having trouble talking to those closest to you about the unique needs your twentieth century family has in today’s world? Whatever you may be wondering- if I can I am here to help.

Our first conversation is free. So reach out now and let’s explore how I can help you discover what your next step will be. Please go to my “Coaching and Consulting” tab to learn how to book our first conversation.

But you don’t have to take my word for it. Elizabeth Greason of Maine Intercultural Communication Consultants recently shared;

I have known Catherine for nearly 20 years, as a fellow educator, then mom, and now as a fellow woman creating a heart-centered business committed to social change and growth. You’ll experience her expertise around cross-racial adoption, family formation and equity—based in deep personal and professional knowledge—with passion and compassion. I have recommended her and her writing time and again to friends and colleagues seeking to more deeply understand how to advocate for their children and to navigate thriving in a multiracial family. Hiring Catherine will give you skills and understanding that will help you transform the way you parent and educate.

Keeping them safe (Part I)

When something happens to your kid every cell goes on alert. This is the basic rewiring of parenthood. It happens before birth, before you ever meet them.

The strartle, the call to action, the profound need to be with them to comfort, to soothe, to protect, to make right is a drive that builds daily and there is nothing that takes that ferocity of maternal (in my case) caring away from you.

I would like to tell you it is the same feeling for every child, and does not discriminate between biological or adopted offspring. But to me that is not necessarily true. With Sammy, I have an extra super hero power and drive-as I am not only answering to God or myself when responding to a situation. I am answering to all of his family, past and present. In addition as a white woman I am carrying generations of historical oppression into the story as well. The very oppression that causes adoption to need to take place at all in this culture. All of these layers are at play.

I am not raising him in the religious tradition, and a million other ways he would’ve been had he been raised by his mother and family. This is a huge loss for him, and them. And while he and I spend time with them each year it is not the same, and never enough.

So as an adoptive parent my vigilance for keeping him safe, and holding those accountable who intentionally or otherwise harm him is thus deeply magnified. This is not to say I’m not AS driven to protect Marcel. It’s more about the consequences and aftermath. It is also of course magnified 1000 times because I am not Black, and so far neither is the person (or institution) causing the harm. This is hugely impactful in my assigning meaning to events that transpire around both my sons.

In a subsequent post I will share a few examples of what holding others accountable looks like from here, and how it has evolved for me over time. So much so that recently when I asked Sam; “How did I handle that?” He said; “Great. I can tell you things again. Not like when I was in 5th grade. You were out of control.” More on that, and how accurate Sam’s observation is next time.

In the meantime, let’s keep doing EVERYTHING we can to keep them all safe, all the time, and not just while they’re sleeping.

That newborn will wake up in a man’s body before you know it.

When you make the decision to be a transracial adoptive parent to a newborn, or infant, you may not realize at the time that they will grow up to become transracially adopted teens, and adults.

At our house, at this moment we are navigating the world of being a brown-skinned teenager in the body of an adult brown-skinned man.

All the rules have changed. My son is being seen as a man, long before he has the understanding of what that means.

When him and I walked into town to celebrate his successful first week in 8th grade with a slice of pizza last week- the looks I received were completely different than the looks I received when he was in the stroller or in my arms or running ahead of me or at leaat not as tall as me. I picked up on sneers, glares, and projections of discomfort and dis-ease that I had not seen before.

Just when you think you have some understanding of the work ahead of you everything changes. Spoiler alert: you never really had any idea of the work you needed to do.

My son recently began dating a 13 year old white girl. I met her parents. I wanted to make sure they knew who their daughter was dating. I make sure he sends me a picture of him with her and their friends if they are at a football game, or the mall. And when they go out I refuse to let him walk home in the dark with her alone. To do so could be risking his life.

“Did your mother leave you in a box at the store?”

A friendly reminder: just because your teenager is not telling you that they are hearing the same hateful things they heard in elementary school around adoption doesn’t mean it stopped. Negative adoption talk (and even more so with the transracial adoptee) potentially becomes even more prevalent in middle school when the notion of difference is so deeply amplified.

I learned from my younger son that my older son was asked if he was; “Left in a box by his real mother?” last week. What the child added after that was too ugly for me to leave on this blog.

How my son handled these comments from the other child (who was, it has been suggested, jealous of my son for his performance on the basketball court), was completely justified in my opinion.

My younger son chose to connect with the child who made the comments and let him know that an apology was necessary. Because of my younger son’s social capital that apology was delivered. (My younger son said he could not be friends with someone who could hurt his brother that way.) As a family we talked about how we can help create a deeper understanding of what adoption really looks like in the moments that follow. For example did this young man know that my son spends time every summer with his family in Washington State? Did this young man consider how fortunate my son is to have so many parents and grandparents and siblings love him as family?While that is helpful and informative for next time it does not address the pain and discomfort my son experiences every time this happens.

As a transracial adoptive parent is our job to be vigilant and aware that these types of attacks are ongoing and impactful. Thankfully I was given a reminder to check in and let him know that I still want to hear all of it, and at the very least be able to offer my compassion and understanding, to the best of my ability. At thus age, that’s likely all I can do. But, if he needs something more, he’ll let me know.

Mama C Calls It Forth

Recently I went away to one of my favorite places in the world (so far) for a weekend with a single-mama friend to meditate, write, swim, laugh, and listen to God.

I connect to my visionary spirit, and my soul in this healing spot that I’ve been coming to since I was seven. When I get quiet, and a respite from my parenting modality I return in a palpable way to what I know to be true.

This time that truth cleary took shape in three distinct areas:

  • First is a deepening commitment to my sons feeling celebrated and accepted for exactly WHO THEY ARE today. (Middle school requires ferverent monitoring. Who are you-vs. who do you begin to believe your peers/teachers/ society or family says you SHOULD be.) This demands my being fully present, compassionate and flexible.
  • Second I heard that I will return to my dream of creating a one woman performative event (monologue/story telling+poetry) celebrating and exposing my first fifty years on the planet, and the events and people who shaped it.
  • Third, a new direction calls for my fifteen years as a transracial adoptive, biological, single and partnered parent. I will be unveilling this in more detail soon, but for the time-being it is already thrilling to announce it simply as a “Coming soon: Mama C Coaching and Consulting”. How can you help? If a particular post, conversation, article, or anything “Mama C” has been of help to you on your transracial/adoptive single or partnered/parenting/blending/ donor or other journey will you consider leaving me a comment I could use on my promotional materials?

I look forward to hearing from you, and hope everyone can create a little quiet space for themselves in the near future.

Reunion (poem)

Yesterday a copy of my most recent publication in a poetry anthology arrived in the mail. This poem feels like an arrival on so many levels as the readers of this blog can well imagine.

Keep writing. Keep telling your story. Hold the pencil and let God do the rest! We need to hear what you have to say.

Reflection

Being in a moment of expansion and contraction simultaneously is a complicated and thoughtful space to be.  I find myself turning to the camera to capture and chronicle our world- even if I always see  it as clearly as I may appear to from the photographic capture I share with you here.

With tenacity and fervor I have been writing more and more poetry with greater ease and clarity as well as submitting often to journals, contests and the like. I participated in my first public poetry reading this week. After the poem, a woman in the audience came up to me, tearful. “I am a birth-mother, ” she said. “I placed my daughter for adoption when I was 17. Your poem gave voice to my experience with a truth I have never heard in a poem before.”

I left the reading, racing home, tearful too and in the dark reminded that art heals, enlightens, bridges, sustains, and connects all at once.

Post Successful Reunion Wrap Part 1

Just your everyday family vacation snapshots…when your family is ALL THIS and MORE

We arrived back in Maine around 10:00AM yesterday after the red-eye from Washington State Monday night. Leaving Sam’s family was all kinds of hard, for so many reasons. For me the hard was because my own visit with them was so short compared to last year. I dropped so easily back into flow with his mom, his grandmother and his sibs that I felt cheated from the brevity of the one and a half day visit this time.

I also wanted every opportunity to see Sammy in his new flow with them with me there. Of course it is going to be immediately different once I show up, as evidenced by the “Instagram Live” broadcast from inside the car with his brothers and cousins on their way to shoot hoops  mid week. (Talk about being allowed insight into a world you are not part of!) Finally, due to the dramatically declining health of his grandfather, there was a layer to this the leaving that felt very very hard. Not only is he very ill, but the care-taking demands on his Nahnah were exhaustive. I so wanted to be there to help her in ways that I am equipped and able to do.

When I asked Sam if he was sad about leaving he said that he was fine. When pushed a little bit, he said that he got what he needed from the trip. I could go on and on about what I think that means, but that is not my place. Sammy gets to take that one out and unpack it in his memoir one day. What I can tell you is that he stayed up till 4:00am every night in a room with three boys who claim him as their own. He never opened the new toothbrush I put in his back pack. As in still in the packaging!

Leaving California was another kind of hard. Until I have had more time to integrate that into my experience of being back on the East Coast I need to hold off on saying too much here. I will say that being grounded and supported where I was staying by my dearest friend and Sam’s namesake Samantha was critical to my ability to stay healthy, focused, and in my body for the duration of the journey. From mediation, to long foggy walks, to laying on the bed and laughing and crying to eating home made soup I felt totally held.

So when Marcel’s donor and family came to pick him up for their adventuring the day after we landed they came in and stayed at Samantha’s for an hour for coffee and bagels and ease. This was normalizing and perfect for everyone.  Kids coming and going, many conversations happening at once. Samantha and Tree have known of each other for a decade, so their meeting was so important too. Marcel found his footing with his new one year old brother (pictured above, and yes there is some kind of resemblance) and his feels-like-a-half-brother as well.  I felt as if I had known Tree’s wife (who we will just call “Gorgeous” here) for a lifetime within six seconds. It was Gorgeous who said; “this visit is energizing for all of our souls.”  Indeed. Sending them all off for the day and a half was like sending your child to the favorite uncle and auntie for an overnight. Clearly we are sill trying to find the language for all of these new relationships. More on that soon.

Leaving California was not immediately hard on Marcel, as he really missed his big brother, and was eager to meet Sam’s family too. (And as you can see above, he was quite a hit!) But clearly figuring out how to stay in deeper connect with all of the love he discovered is hugely important. That Marcel came back from his time with them, and his half day alone with Tree more eager than ever for the world to know him as a young Black man is important to mention. He is so deeply curious about how people see him and know him right now.

What I keep telling Marcel is how important it is that he know himself first. Pretty much we checked that box as a big YES for  all of us in the last week. One of my favorite parts of all of this, is that now is when we all get to really reap the benefits that this trip could begin to mean for  all of us.

The journey has just begun.

Birth-family Reunion Travel Fund

We have just completed our cross country trip, and still hopeful to raise the expense of the airfare through crowd sourcing. We are only $200.00 away from that attainable $2100.00 reach! Will you please consider a $10.00 contribution? Each donation adds up and truly helps. Thank you!!!!

$10.00

Mama C and the Boys Patronage

Love what you read here? Are you a first time reader, or a long time fan? Do you look forward to opening the email announcing a new post? Has your own understanding of Open Adoption, transracial parenting, or known donor family connection shifted in a helpful way? If so will you please consider showing your support with a ten dollar fandom contribution? This allows me to be "paid" here, instead of needing to farm the stories out elsewhere. This will also help me keep Mama C add free and content full all year round! Bisous!

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