Introducing a new fresh look for MamaCandtheBoys. I love how aligned it feels with the new direction my life has taken. It is hard for me to express all the gratitude I feel for the many opportunities I am being invited to explore for my work in the world around race, equity, supporting 20th century families and our schools. So naturally I decided it was time for a little line up and a fresh coat of paint!
Did you know there are over 1000 MamaC subscribers? I am so thankful for this growing audience each time I send out a new post. To celebrate I am running a special PremiumCoachingPackage for anyone who signs up by December 15th, 2018 for 2019 Coaching. I wanted my subscribers and long time readers to know about it first because the slots will go quickly.
To learn more about what my coaching practice is about and the special offer please go here. The recent opportunies to work with clients has been the most exhilarating shift. It’s like my blog coming to life through deep listening, personalized support, and sharing.
I asked one of my newer clients Emily if she could explain what it’s been like working with me. In her own words; “Working with Catherine has been an incredibly supportive experience. Catherine will skillfully guide you to uncover your own answers to some of the toughest questions surrounding trans racial adoption, race, birth family relationships and more, by guiding you deep into your own heart. Catherine is thoughtful and efficient in her work as a coach, drawing from her skills in guidance, deep listening, and her own experiences, she will help you to not only feel supported in this new adventure, but challenged in beautiful and meaningful ways.”
Bonus: for the first three new clients I register I will include a fifth session free! Imagine that.
Take great care and continue to hold each other close.
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.
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.
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:
With your arrival, comes an incredible milestone: it has been a decade since I have had the honor, the blessing, and the test of a lifetime: parenthood. It was New Years Day 2005, when I arrived home to Maine from the Carolinas with Sammy. A few years later, by some miracle I still marvel at, I gave birth to my first born, but my second child, Marcel. Then just a few months ago, I welcomed Shrek’s commitment to me, to us, into our lives, and ours into his. In yet the most radical act of my tenure on this earth in some ways: to chose to marry.
This was a decade of remarkable change, transformation and surrender to all that you intended for me.
You have been BUSY with me!
Here is my ask of you now in 2015; bestow upon me the grace, the patience, the trust, and an ever increasing capacity for love, so that I may begin to detach a little from all of my attempts at controlling the outcome of all these remarkable lives.
Universe, let this be the decade that I may reap the benefit of arrival where I have earned the right to, and departure where I have determined it is time to.
Most importantly, guide me closer and closer to ways that I may use my experience, voice, and honesty to participate more fully in the disruption of oppression in every way that you deem I am able.
It was a joyful, profound, and deeply loving day. Our magnificent and remarkable seven children and our extremely dear and supportive family and friends made it off the charts memorable.
It signifies, I imagine, the greatest shifting moment in my life second only to Sammy being placed into my arms. (By the time Marcel arrived, my knowledge of myself as a mother was fully under development…). To become a wife, in my case anyway, may possibly be one of the most radical things I have ever done. How can that be? I am working on a piece about this for the Huffington Post. When I publish it, I will link to it here. Suffice it to say, I have plenty of material.
Even with the transition back to full-time-everything around here (Shrek and I have seven jobs between us, and the boys are at two different schools, with six after school activities between them) we are still deeply dropped into the mystery and ease of this being married thing. This weekend we were able to take a “mini-moon”, a term I coined to describe what newlyweds with seven children between them do, to have a nano second to say; “That was an incredible wedding. I am the luckiest person in the world. I love you too. Goodnight. Want another cup of coffee? We have to be back to the soccer game by noon. Can you start the car?” We went to the lake. It was perfect.
I had to be at work at 6:30 this morning to set up for writing group. Lunches were in the fridge, everyone’s clothes were set out, and the the coffee maker with two individual cup holders had my husband’s coffee waiting for him when he woke up after I left.
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…
A week ago, Shrek and I went on an international adventure, alone, for three and half days. We dropped the boys off with Uncle and my father and his wife on a Thursday in Massachusetts and drove across the Canadian border the next morning.
We spent three days and two nights in Quebec City. We had not spent more then one night together alone, without any of our seven kids in the entire two and half years we have been together.
If you are trying to navigate the richly rewarding and intensely complex world of a blended family follow our lead and plan a get away trip as soon as you are able. If you have been with your honey since before the littles came onto the scene, I bet the same logic applies.
Ten reasons to leave the kids behind and get away together now:
1. Being alone in your own house (for even one night) without the kids in the next room allows you to feel like a grown up in your own home. How you spend that time is up to you. We chose the station on the radio, and didn’t have to worry if the music was too loud after 8:30pm. A cuddle on the couch was not at risk of being interrupted.
2. Planning a trip without one whit of consideration about what we do with the kids once we got there, meant we didn’t really have to plan a thing! I checked out a book about Canada from the library the day before we left, because I could. I haven’t allowed myself that kind of “ease” or lack of planning in a decade.
3. A six hour road trip can be leisurely. You can have NPR on, lingering uninterrupted adult conversation and no prepared snacks. It does not include fear of dead gadget batteries, DVD players malfunctioning, or sudden panic struck forays into unknown strip malls for a public bathroom because I HAVE TO PEE RIGHT NOW MOMMY!!!
4. The car stays clean.
5. When you pass through customs, there is not confusion about if the kids are your kids, or his kids, or someone else’s kids. There are no letters or birth certificates to provide on demand, or explanations of what a donor is or isn’t, or why there is no father named on the birth certificate of the one you adopted or birthed.
6. At the hotel, you actually get to choose to sleep in the same bed as your husband, fiance, or partner. You do not have to promise to sleep next to one kid on one day, hold hands with the other the next, or give them all your pillows, and leave all the lights on to make sure they can go to sleep.
7. You can eat whatever, and whenever you want. You can be the quiet table. You can wander slowly in the streets afterwords, and be the sweet couple in the window of the bar where the local blues musician is playing some deep and slow wrap your heart around these notes rift that is wafting onto the cobble stone street. You can look into your honey’s eyes for an extended period of time, and realize you had no idea they were that green.
8. When it is raining out, you can still hold hands and walk along the river for several hours in a frightfully American looking parka that could be mistaken for a tent, and compose an entire poem in your head because you have space remember it.
9. A museum does not have to have the word children in it anywhere to be on your list of possible destinations. You can stroll through a gallery in a museum and actively loathe the painting you see, and not need to explain that while the artist may have been trying their best, you do not actually have to agree that it is worthy of an entire wall. You can sit in the cafe and eat all of the cookie you bought for yourself, or share some with your honey. You can linger in front of one image for twenty minutes, and even come back to it, and not have to thank the guard for helping you find your missing child, or be horrified when she asks you to leave because playing tag in front of the Degas is forbidden. You can put your head on your sweetheart’s shoulder while he talks about why they like a print, and notice that they are kind of sharp in a way you hadn’t noticed before.
10. After almost four days of uninterrupted time with your partner, you remember the sixty-two original reasons you fell in love with them, and add at least seventy-three more. In a way it feels like I finally met the man I have been waiting to fall in love with for the last two and half years. Or, I finally recognized in myself, a woman who was ready to deepen and deeply trust in this relationship. But, for me, this had to happen independent of parenting.I didn’t realize just how much more to us there could be when we finally created the chance to find out. Or maybe I was afraid that I wasn’t ready to show up as a partner, and a woman independent of my super woman single mom identity? That identity was formed long before Shrek came into the picture, so it was critical for me to get outside of that me, in order to lay down a solid foundation for loving Shrek as Shrek first, and then as Shrek the bonus dad, and father.
What you might be thinking: Take away the necessity of caring for the kids and what will we discover? What if we don’t enjoy each others company when we are alone? What if we don’t know how? Is it a skill we could learn? I now in my case, it wasn’t until we were on the road, with passports in hand that I knew we were about to find out. Bottom line? I couldn’t be more happy that we did.
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-
Adoption, blended family
transracial, known donor insemination,
divorce, first marriage at 46, second
marriage at 61, run of the mill,
kind of thing
Everyone look this way
On 3, 2, 1:
See-family is click click
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.
Clearly this year has big designs on Mama C and the Boys. For starters, Shrek and I are getting married this year. This means, among other things that I can no longer say; “We’re planning on getting married sometime next year.” Never has the switch from December to January seemed so significant.
Shrek presented me with a stack of the final old school co-designed and home printed “Save the Date” cards wrapped lovingly in plastic wrap yesterday morning. I’m mailing them out Catherine. I am marrying you. It is happening you know.
It has been a year and half since he proposed.
It has taken us that long to agree on much of anything, let alone a date, a place, and loosely on what such a celebration might actually sort of look like.
OK, the truth is that is has taken me that long to believe that I am really cut out for the long term committed relationship thing. I was just becoming so competent at getting along well with single mother me when he came along. I’m only half kidding. Learning how to be a half way decent (adoptive, transracial, and donor assisted) parent, with a professional life, who managed to practice a little self care, maintain a few friendships, write an occasional poem or blog post, and take care of a hundred year old house was no small potatoes. To do all that and still find myself to be agreeable company at the day’s end was heroic. I was a rather impressive solo act on the dance floor. The music doesn’t just switch from the Flashdance theme song to Louis Armstrong’s ‘Bout Time like that.
It takes time. Time, patience, and perseverance from both of us.
I am slowly realizing just how hard I have been fighting against this for the last two years to be completely honest. Having never experienced a long term committed relationship before (this is the longest relationship I have ever been in) I was, and still am very new to the lexicon of long term love. My dating dictionary was pocket sized, and honestly did not even have a definition for intimacy in it. Or at least one that applied to someone over the age of twenty-five with two kids and a whole lot of Hallmark Movies dictating her idea of the perfect relationship. I sense that I believed on some level that to lean into this relationship, meant that I had to abandon my identity as SUPER SINGLE ME which had come to be the only me I could really count on and trust. It is only in the last few months that I have experienced a merging of the capable, independent, creative, dynamic, relational, multifaceted me, with the partner, co-parent, lover, creative, dynamic relational multifaceted us. Follow me so far? It’s OK if you don’t, because I’m just getting the hang of it too.
Here’s an example: this time last year I had the HARDEST time sharing Shrek with his grown kids. I would act out when he seemed to disappear when they came into town for the holidays. I needed constant reassurance that I was important too. I put on my best bonus mom face when they were here, but then when we were alone instead of celebrating his marvelous love for them, and them for him, and all the ways everyone was thriving I would either pout, withdraw, or argue some minutia. It was as if I was always looking for evidence that he wasn’t REALLY in this with me and my kids…
Now forward a year, and you would see a completely different emotional and relational landscape. The arrival of his kids in town was exciting for both of us. It meant more connection for me and my kids, and a sense of ease and balance for Shrek for the brief time he had with them. As his relationship with each one is it’s own entity it meant seeing different sides of him too. My independent self enjoyed the alone time I had with my two when he was off with one or two of his five. My relational self loved planning meals, shopping for the perfect bonus kid gifts, and showing up for Shrek in a way that made him feel supported and loved. In turn he was of course very loving and affectionate with me while they were here and in a super happy mood for most of the last two weeks. No wonder he was all hearts and twinkles when he handed me those “Save the Date” cards.
And, all this time I really thought that Shrek was the difficult one. Huh.
Last night Shrek and I exhaled. We even shared a sense of a semi accomplishment of sorts: a very low key, and mostly uneventful blended family holiday week. With seven kids between us there is all sorts of potential for eventful… Low key may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for me these days it is a prize. It is in the calm that I find connection, and the chance to notice more of what we are capable of individually and collectively.
The last few months have been remarkable, but also very challenging and demanding. I used to find such solace writing about the hard stuff here. Then as I deepened with Shrek, my hard, was often our hard, or in part because of each other hard. This makes blogging about it complicated. SInce the hard was itself complicated, the act of writing about it became less of a way of finding my way out, and more of a way of finding my way deeper in. No thank you.
I even contemplated wrapping up Mama C, considering perhaps that an era had come to an end. Mama C and the Boys is no longer a container for who I am I thought. We are not 3.25, or 3.75, we are for real 4. But, there it is. We are four. With four comes a whole host of new ways to explore, examine, and reflect on it in this venue. Shrek is marrying a writer after all…
So here it goes, an attempt to shift into Mama C and all her boys. A dip into a new realm which looks with consideration and compassion into blended families, choosing life partnership after forty-five, shifting from single parenting to co-parenting, aging, adoption and transracial just about everything for starters. Over the next few weeks and months I’ll do my best to share some of my and our hard, and some of the ah-has here, in my singular voice that resonates with reflection, vulnerability, insight and humor. Peace.