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!

$10.00

 

 

 

 

An end, a beginning

Adoption is very often a story of disappearance and erasure. To not hold this truth from the very beginning of the adopted child’s journey can contribute to a harmful fantasy that may impact that child’s identity formation.

In open adoption, a child may temporarily disappear from one family, and then reappear “magically” in another. But what happens when the child returns? How they are welcomed back and how space is created for them is something both families co-create.

What will happen when they steps into a space that belongs to them, but that their family, extended family and community of origin did not know existed?

The child could then experience invisibility in the very space they thought or fantasized that they would always belong. This could be an extremely painful realization. Integration of themselves at that moment is deeply layered and will take lots of time and facilitation.

I am reunited with both my sons. We stayed the night in a little Airbnb with a view of that mountain. We have all shifted and measurable ways. We are all going to leave a part of ourselves on the West Coast when we return home tonight.

I have so many thoughts to share here. But I wanted to get this out as perhaps a placeholder to return to. I am still Gathering a great deal of information about everything that’s happened in the last few days. It will probably take weeks and months if not years.

In my next post I will include a series of pictures that I receive permission to share here.

Thank you for all your love, prayers, consideration, messages, and support. Every moment of it has been felt.

Into the woods

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Brothers in the wilderness

 

Over the weekend the four of us wandered into the woods with our tent and mad determination to unplug and hold on tight before this week began. The picture above speaks volumes. (The picture after includes wrestling each other to the ground!) We all needed the escape away from the enormity of the world around us, and inside us. We laughed a lot. We left in tact in a way I almost forgot we were capable of for a sustained amount of time.

In just a few hours Shrek, Marcel and I are leaving for the airport to send Sammy on his journey home. By home I mean that he will be with his family of origin, and they are eager to have him close for a few precious days.

He will sleep in the same room as his two older brothers and younger cousin for five nights. He will play basketball, join in the prayers, eat at a new table-trying foods that aren’t familiar. He will learn to speak a new language of this first family that communicates humor, concern, upset and don’t-worry-about-it differently than we do. He will navigate all of this as best as he knows how, and this will be just right for him.

When I get anxious about how he will this, or how they will that, or what if he should this, or not be able to that… I take a deep breath and trust that this is his path. He is a remarkable young man, who wants to know who he is in his full glory. This journey is one more sizeable leap into those woods.

So much more to share, but for this moment one last ask–as we are so close to meeting our large goal of $2100.00 for our tickets (only $690.00 to go on GoFundMe). A few people reached out asking to sponsor a particular event or part of the trip which I thought was a great idea. So here are a few concrete ways you can still be part of the tour, and really support the journey.

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

Pay for a fresh cut and line up. You will get your very own image of the hair cut sent to you directly as a thank you!

Barbershop Benefactor

$25.00

Breakfast with Marcel’s donor and family in Oakland on Saturday morning. We will send you a capture of that moment that will not be posted online!

Brunch Benefactor

$40.00

Chauffeur for the day! Cover the cost of the rental car from Sea-Tac airport to Spanaway, and all about the town and back to the airport for our red-eye flight Monday. You will receive a family portrait, via email that came together with ease thanks to your help with the car! (The family only has one care and four adults who need to use it. Renting a car was a necessity.) Thank you!

Patron of the Pedal

This is the full price of the car including taxes for thirty-six hours.

$88.50

A whimsical contribution to create enormous ease and spontaneity.

Spirit of Mount Ranier

Your generous contribution will go to an unplanned special family event, that would otherwise not be possible. You will receive a personalized series of text or email describing the event, and how your patronage supported this magical moment.

$200.00

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!

$10.00

 

Two weeks and counting!

Sammy and Mama C in California in 2005

Soon Sammy Sammy will be flying across the country on his own to spend a few days alone with his family in Tacoma, Washington.

I’m really curious and a little nervous about how this will shake out. He is closing in on 13, he is an old soul, the child has lived. But he is a child, still. He is a child moving between two mothers, two families, one love. He is journeying at a moment where the world feels volatile and unsafe. But his is the world he is entering into as a young adult. It is what he knows, what he must know. He is no longer that little in my arms. His will always be that little in my arms.

I’m also so thankful that all of this is possible in every way.

Marcel and I leave on our journey two days later to visit with his donor and family in California. (Knowing that I will be on the same coast as Sammy is going to bring us all ease I suspect.)  I’m equally curious how this Marcel moment will unfold, and what new understanding Marcel will gain about who his radiant, beautiful poetic self is in this lifetime. He will hold his little brother, who just turned one. He will be with his donor and his donor’s family. He will be invited into a new layer of understanding about what the word “family” holds for him.

Marcel and “Tree” in 2011

I’m also so thankful that everyone involved is all about the YES in this moment too. The everyone includes my husband who has been holding the YES in his own way.  I can not begin to imagine what his experience will be having us all across the country navigating this extended family foray away from him. (Of course he was invited to come, and would very much like to join us another time.)  And, yes,  part of this story began long before he came into our lives. One day we all hope that those markers will fade into the background, allowing this to just be a shared breath at any one moment of who we just are.

A dear friend reminded me to reach out on the blog to readers encouraging them to contribute to the GoFundMe campaign.

Or, for those of you who prefer to use PayPal and make a donation to this epic adventure that way-you can do so here for a generous $10.00 donation:

or here to pay for the pre-travel line up for both boys, or the tank of gas for the rental car for $25.00:
or a day of driving from the airport to Sammy’s family and back to the airport thirty-six hours later with $75.00 here:
or several hundred miles on the airplane for one of us with an over-the-top hugely appreciated $100.00 donation you can do so here:
Or finally because you just feel crazy moved by all us on this courageous, family-making, more-love is more-love adventure and want to support this being paid for outright with ease and love with a $500.00 donation here:

Can I say that?

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After my last post, a reader who knows me and my family very well wrote to me with the following questions;

Do you just witness and validate? I think you also do your best to provide him with people, role models, etc that he can draw from. Also, how does the pending visit effect his search for the desired look? And why did you think Marcel would be fine? And how are you waking up to his journey now?

I was moved by her questions, and wanted to return to the blog that instant and answer all of them in depth on a follow up post. But within hours I found myself knee deep in that gnarly bramble in my blogging brain that looks like this: Is what am I doing here potentially harmful to my kids? Is this my story to tell? Am I using their stories to make my own more interesting or dynamic?

I remembered it was after I had read The Ethical Implications of Parents Writing about Their Kids by Phoebe Maltz Bovy in The Atlantic, that I seriously considered taking down the blog. Other bloggers I followed and admired in the adoption blog-o-sphere had come to the conclusion that this is their child’s story to tell if they decide to later on. One by one their blogs disappeared. They had integrity, and I had a link to nowhere on my blog role.

Was I ready to go to that extreme? Unable to decide at that moment, I stepped away, hoping something would convince me to keep blogging, or make it crystal clear that MamaCandtheBoys was headed for the archives too. Before I could answer the reader’s questions in their entirety I had to reconcile where I was today.

So, last night I returned to the article which ends like this:

Where, then, should a parent-writer draw the line? The simplest way is to ask if a given anecdote would be appropriate if its subject were not your child. Would you publish that essay about your colleague or sibling? About a friend’s kid? If you consider the power dynamics between parent and child; the childhood secrets only a parent can know; and the trust children have in their parents, you see why parental overshare, however well-intentioned, is unethical.

Bovy does not believe that children should be asked if the content we want to publish is acceptable, as they are neither developmentally able to make that call, nor should they be put in a position of censoring their parents. So, is there a middle ground? Is it possible to parent-blog with integrity?

Here is where I have landed today, with a set of guidelines for moving forward. This may change. So much does. I welcome your thoughts on the matter.

A List of Intentions for Mama C

  1. Request their permission to approve of pictures I post before doing so. This will help the boys learn that they should expect and demand permission from others before their image is put on social medial or on a mailer or a poster at school.
  2. When sharing content that involves their experience, capture it in their words whenever possible, and let them read it over for accuracy. This will help them to feel agency, and to be thoughtful about their words.
  3. Ask myself if I would say it loud with them there. Ask myself, as Bovy suggests if I would write it about someone else’s child. Ask myself how I would would feel if I read about my child this way in someone else’s blog. If I hesitate to answer yes to any of the above: do not push play. It is a good indication it may not be the time or place to write about it.
  4. Be able to answer with certainty if I a clear why I writing this particular post. Is it to entertain? To educate? To invite dialogue? Or is it to make me look like a good mom, and my kids look like super evolved, flawless mega-humans which will in turn make me look like a good mom?
  5. When I turn this blog into a book and publish it would I be willing to keep this part in? If not, why am I willing to publish it here?

Do you struggle with the same concerns as a blogger? Have had you tackled it?

In my next post, I will address the reader’s  questions above through these new it’s-not-about-me-or-is-it-guidelines. And yes, Sammy approved the use of the image above.

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With my late night writing companion Vector last night.

Young, Black and Powerful

Yes you are
Yes you are

The shirt arrived.
He wears it well.
He knows that he is Black,
he knows that he is powerful.

But so so eager to sprint past
the young part most days.
It’s in his walk,
more like his saunter.

It’s in his raised eyebrows,
and in the seconds that now
hold a new heft,
as he holds my gaze.

The shirt arrived.
He wears it well.
His body filling more than just the space
of a young man’s form.

Filling out the promise
his birth presented to me ten years ago.
An exclamation point.
There is no period here.

Young, Black and Powerful.
Determined, deep, and fierce.
Perceptive, charming, and guarded.
A young man has arrived,

taking the place of my young son.

 

 

A Decade on a Dock: Musings of a Single Mother before Marriage Part 1

on the dock, standing tall
on the dock, standing tall

 

This recent self portrait represents who I have often wanted the world to see when they look at me: heroic, larger than life, capable, confident, and self reliant for starters. My convoluted sense of who I believed I needed everyone to think I was started to take shape almost exactly a decade ago as my journey to becoming a parent, on my own, began.

I remember standing on the end of that very same dock asking the “Lady of the Lake” as I call her, if I was ready to become a parent on my own? I had come to this little cabin for a solo weekend in June 2004, with gobs of paperwork to complete to submit to the adoption agency the following week. I knew that this was the one place that I could listen truthfully to my own fears, and leave my doubts at the bottom of the lake if I decided to say yes. I had been coming here since I was seven.  It is my spiritual home.

I showed up at the lake with a little more than a change of clothes, a jar of instant coffee, and my favorite pen. In the plastic bag that I had bawled up in the bottom of my backpack was my secret: a full length fleece bear costume for an infant-size six to twelve months.  By the end of the night, I would be dancing around the cabin in front of the fireplace rocking my imaginary child back and forth. I had placed a towel inside the onesie to give it some heft. I wanted to know what that little body would feel like in my arms. I was intoxicated with the possibility.

Like Athena popping out of her father Zeus’s head in full armor and ready to go, my single mother persona emerged from the dock certain that I could prove to the world, I had what it took to be a stellar parent all by myself. I probably fell in love with my potential and my image of my single motherhood that night. I knew I was crazy to do this on my own.  I just didn’t know how crazy. I imagined that it would be hard, and expensive, and lonely, and confusing too. But I also believed that I had mothering and loving to give to a child in a fierce way. My determination and commitment to make the  transformation from single woman to single mother was in motion, and there was no turning back.

Each time a friend or parent seemed the least bit questioning of my decision to adopt, I would get bigger, not smaller. I would smile wide, and offer them a chance to come help out when the baby arrived. I put together the crib by myself, and bought a big freezer for all the food I had asked my friends to make for me when the time came. I interviewed day care centers, and pediatricians.  I read books, prayed, and sought out others who came before me. I had purpose. I was reinventing myself for a higher calling.  I was ready.

Becoming a mother was not something I did in partnership, like most do. Becoming a single mother meant that I didn’t need a partner. I convinced everyone, and especially me, that I was so capable, and so gigantic that I didn’t need a partner to do this. I had many close friends who made up our chosen family. At least three times a week friends arrived with meals, encouragement and open arms to hold Sammy while I got a shower, or a much needed run around the boulevard. As he grew, and our family grew to include Marcel my network grew too.  I was parenting, blogging, teaching full time, working out,  accepting interviews, and speaking engagements. I was all that.

Once, I had a friend tell me in secret from the other side of the playground; “my husband is worried that if I spend too much time with you, I’ll start to think I’d be better off on my own…” I had to keep myself from agreeing, because I really did think her husband was probably right, and I liked the guy a lot.  Daycare providers, teachers, doctors, parents, and coaches knew that I was flying solo, and that was just fine. With each successful milestone passed, I grew more and more into my role. So much so, that to an extent  I was not Sam’s mom, or Marcel’s mom, I was “Catherine the single mother who makes it look easy…”  I had a lot at stake at keeping up that image, but little to no understanding of  what I was letting go of in the process: the chance to open my heart to a loving romantic partnership.

Sure, I dated a few times in the last few years. I drew wonderful people towards me and the boys. But I had no business doing so. To say I wasn’t ready would be false. I was to busy celebrating my own daily accomplishments, and those of my kids. Every letter from the tooth fairy, or successful parent teacher conference and I deserved a gold star. I was amazing. Who could possibly add up.

Then I met Shrek.

Becoming an almost  married person,  I am discovering, is not something one can do alone. In the next few weeks, leading up to the wedding I am hoping to shed a little more light on just how complex and powerful, and yes radical an act it is for me to agree and want to be married. When we were at the lake a few weeks ago, Shrek called out from the grill where he was creating yet another magnificent feast for the boys and I; “Maybe you can be a married single mother?” To be continued…

Morning coffee delivery
Morning coffee delivery: Looking at you Shrek

And we’re live: The AARP Modern Family has arrived!

Shrek!
Shrek! (outtake)

 

 

AARP photo shoot.
AARP photo shoot final shot. Photo by Gregg Segal

The story, the video, the piece we have all been eagerly waiting for is finally here. For the entire online story please go right to the source! If you are a member of the AARP family (#46isthenew50) crack the magazine and see our story in print too.

 

 

 

What a photo shoot with AARP looks like: the aren’t we FAB edition

 

Shoot location 1: the ice cream shop.
Shoot location 1: the ice cream shop.

Recently an editor at AARP magazine contacted me to see if we would be willing to be part of a photo shoot about the “Modern American Family”. After several emails back and forth, and lots of clarifying questions we agreed. The huge bonus here was the travel allowance to get four out of five of Shrek’s available children in town for the shoot. They came from as far as San Francisco, and as near as up the street for hair, make up, and click, click, snap, snap for a good part of last Sunday.

But why us? Well apparently we evened out an upcoming story for the boomers on family today-both regionally and in terms of the composition of our blended family in the making. Here’s a few stanzas from a poem I wrote to honor the occasion that might further answer the question:

Remember we want to capture
the nine of you at ease
so the rest of the world
sees the “modern family”
wait, wait that’s it-

freeze

Adoption, blended family
transracial, known donor insemination,
divorce, first marriage at 46, second
marriage at 61, run of the mill,
click-click-snap-snap
kind of thing

Everyone look this way
Relax
Get closer
On 3, 2, 1:

See-family is click click

snap-snap: synonymous
with eating an ice cream cone

as long as it complements the color of your shirt.

The experience was a complete hoot really. (Leading up to it there was definitely some free floating anxiety about just how one is supposed to present as a modern family in the making…) But once we were all here there was  some very sweet family bonding around the edges of it all. The photographers Gregg, and Tom, and Caitlin the glamorous make up artist or “groomer” were part of the blend by the time the shoot was complete. Five thousand tons of delicious food were delivered for our lunch and in six weeks or so the issue will appear.

I was also interviewed over the phone for the story, and am super hopeful that a link to Mama C and the Boys might be included in the copy. Since the magazine boasts the largest readership in the world, it might mean a little boost in readership? For our “trouble” we will also receive a few prints from the day to mark this surprising and magical moment in time beautifully.

 

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