Bring all your #BrownBoyJoy

As back to school day pictures flood the social media channels, I feel tender-hearted looking at the three of us. Having taught middle school for fourteen years I know full well that this picture may become more precious to me than most.

Marcel’s sweet hold on me, and his joyful innocent anticipation of all that middle school could be will soon shift. A former principal I worked with for a decade would always start the 6th grade back-to-school night the same way; “You are going to witness the greatest change in your child this year since they started their school career. So buckle up. It’s going to be a great ride.”

As his mother I want to protect that innocence and joy with every ounce of Mama-bear I have in me. As an educator and parent of a now 8th grader too, I know my effort will be better spent accepting, adjusting to and celebrating all that he will become.

As a mother of two beautiful brown boys I start the year with a larger prayer that they are seen and safe in their #BrownBoyJoy by their teachers and peers. That I will not be called in again this year to navigate how the school could or should have handled that racial slur differently. Or find myself on the phone carefully laying out how the curriculum does not accurately represent people of color, or does so in a demeaning or destructive way. Mostly I pray my sons will always walk through the halls standing tall and proud in their glorious bodies with their full hearts and hopeful and hungry minds.

May all of our babies believe in their potential to achieve whatever they imagine their highest version of themselves to become.

(Seven years ago today.)

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.

Talk About It

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We will keep you safe.

On Sunday, my first attempt to talk to Sam about what was going on in Charlottesville and around the country did not go well. We were walking to the Y, and after he heard me say; “KKK” he said; “Enough. I’ve heard enough.”

He is absolutely right. He is twelve. He does not need to hear his white mother talking about how the KKK and Nazi party is marching, beating, and killing people south of us. I felt horrible. But I also knew I had to frame this for him, and Marcel before the world did. So I took space, read a few articles, talked to Shrek, and asked God for help. Then I started from this premise: What do they he need to hear?

So, when we sat down I started off this way; “Our country, our state, our city, our neighborhood is populated by people who believe in every cell of their bodies that all people are created equal. They believe that all people need to be and feel safe, and are determined more than ever to making certain that such a place will be the country, and the world they leave to their children. Your parents, your friends’ parents, your extended family, your teachers and so many of the people we interact with all the time are deeply committed to keeping the world safe for you and all those under attack. We will not allow hatred and ignorance to intimidate or attempt to harm or take away the rights of people who do not look like them.”

From here we talked very briefly about how a small group of people who live with hatred and fear in their hearts for reasons we can only imagine gathered in Virginia seeking audience for their beliefs. We talked about how five times as many people showed up to show them that their beliefs are backwards, unwanted, and not welcomed.

The boys asked questions about why these racist ogres were allowed to be so hateful, and why the police could not stop them from yelling violence inciting slogans and words. We wondered out loud how they learned such hatred.

We talked about going to the rally that evening in town, and they were both afraid of going, which was completely understandable. I could not promise them they would be safe there. I didn’t try to. That night both boys woke me up with more questions and need for reassurance.

While this conversation was going on Marcel was surrounding a group of Playmobil characters with his police characters. He has begun playing with them again, and the only characters he has been drawn to this time around are the police force. They are constantly catching bad guys who are breaking out of jails. So yesterday I found this for him at the Reny’s in town. He was the only officer on the shelf.

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If you are looking for resources to help you feel as if you are riding one of those in your conversation, here is a great starting place. I would also encourage all of my readers to craft a letter to your child’s teacher, with that link, or this one (The first thing teachers should do when school starts is talk about the hatred in America-Here’s how) and why you believe this is necessary. Make sure to copy the principal, and members of the school board. Then follow up the email with deep gratitude for the hard work they do. I would also bring in a coffee gift card, flowers, and a huge box of pencils.. But that is just me.

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

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:

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.

 

 

MLK Day: An opportunity to start our own Courageous Conversations

noticing the dream in the Trader Joe's
Noticing the dream in the grocery store

Yesterday Sammy and I were at the grocery store, when we had the good fortune to be introduced to this little beauty. Her name is Aggie.  She is brown, and her doting but shy four year old white mama was clearly pleased by the attention her little baby girl garnered when we halted our cart and immediately started gushing.  “You have the most beautiful little baby girl,” I said kneeling down in front of her kid sized cart. Her mother immediately accepted the invitation to celebrate with us, and told us that this was her daughter’s most beloved doll, and that her name was Aggie. I wasted no time expressing my joy that Dr. King’s dream was alive and well here in Trader Joe’s and that she made my day, no my week, because she knows how important it is to love people who don’t look like us too.

Sammy tolerated the entire interaction, as this is what he is used to by now. Mommy sees a race positive potential conversation with a stranger and she grabs it.

In our family “MLK Day” has come to mean: a three day weekend that is kicked off each year by an incredible  gospel music celebration at the performance hall in the city, and an awareness that what we talk about all year other people seem to have more permission to be talking about too.

In honor of this day when areas in the United States gives pause and consideration to the Civil Rights Movement here, I am writing to invite you to do the same.  To give yourself permission.

Permission is something granted to you. I’m formulating an opinion that much of the ability for creamy colored white people to talk about their own implicit bias, or internalized racism will only happen when they are invited to do so in a very explicit and controlled way. I can not imagine how maddening this is to the people who do not have the luxury of not talking about race and racism. If you do not go to a special MLK breakfast today, or a symposium on the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative in your city, or have the benefit of having a magnificent teacher in your child’s school starting the conversation for you, there are many things you can do today, tomorrow, and every day you chose to from now on.

Here are a few examples of ways to give yourself permission, to jump on in, on behalf of your children, your neighbor’s children, and the legacy that you are going to leave behind to the world. Period. It’s never too late.

1. Listen to the I Have A Dream Speech with a kid. A young kid, and older kid. Listen to it over coffee with a friend. Talk about it. Pick one message in the speech to write down and put up in your kitchen to take in every day. Have everyone chose a quote that resonated. Listen to other speeches. Give this day meaning. Give every day meaning.

2. Listen to Safe Space Radio’s series on white racism. Bookmark it, and pick an episode to listen to at the gym, or on the way to church. Share something you learned with someone else. I am featured on this episode talking about my own racism.

3. At the dinner table, talk about a memory you have about a time when you did not understand something you witnessed, or saw on television, or read in the paper that had something to do with race or culture. Talk about how not understanding why a person or group does things differently then the way you do it, does not mean it is wrong, or not normal, but means it is not your experience. Ask your family if they can relate.

4. Go to your library, local video store or Netflix, and find a few books and a movie that features kids of all sorts of color doing really groovy fun things too. For a million great ideas for books go here. One of our favorite feel good flicks is Jump In. Here is clip to preview.

5. Read a book by an author of color, about anything you enjoy. Talk to someone else about the book.Want a radical suggestion? Start here by reading How to Be Black.

6. Find out when Alvin Ailey Dance is coming your way and take a friend, or a kid. I took Sammy when he was six. It was mind bogglingly amazing. He still talks about it. We are all going in March.

7. If you are affiliated with a school, make an appointment with your child’s teacher, or better yet the administrator to ask them to share with you the school’s vision for making sure all staff are grappling with cultural competency in and out of the classroom. If they look at you blankly, or say it is too expensive to begin to tackle, send them here to Teaching Tolerance’s Anti Bias Framework.

8. Find other blogs that are talking about race and culture and difference and leave a link on this blog, or on your FB page. NPR’s “Code Switch” is an amazing resource too. My Brown Baby is a go to for me.

9. Have athletes under your roof? Or who often sit next to you in the synagogue or in church? Or living across the street? Challenge them to research an athlete of color and share out their accomplishments by the end of the week.  Musicians? Scientists? Poets? Kids love a challenge. Make it a monthly event.  Have a potluck.

10. Look in the mirror and say; “Self, I give you permission to talk about race today, and every day for the rest of your life. I give you permission to be curious, confused, baffled, and muddled. I give you permission to mess up and say something you regret and learn from that. Self, I admire your courage.”

P.S. The title for this post was inspired from the book by the same title; Courageous Conversations about Race: A Field Guide for Achieving Equity in Schools, which I just ordered for myself.

 

 

 

 

 

Looking forward, looking inward

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Dearest Universe in 2015,

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 is time, and I am ready.

Yours,

Mama C/ Catherine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#BlackLivesMatter, Positive Propaganda from DNBE, and a poem from Mama C

What the boys will be getting for Kwaanza
What the boys will be getting for Kwaanza

Last night I ordered one of each of these shirts from DNBE, a company that promotes what they call positive propaganda:

If you think about it, your t-shirt is like a billboard, and every day you’re walking around advertising something (or maybe nothing if it’s a blank tee or a meaningless design) .   That advertisement says something about the person wearing it and has an effect (conscious or subconscious) on the people around him/her.  Why waste that valuable advertising space?  Why not use it to uplift the people? … For that brief moment you know that there are other people out there that have not lost their minds.  And that positive energy is infectious and magnetic.  With enough people catching on, we can start to turn this situation around.  That’s positive propaganda, and that’s why we’re here…

To grab onto something that feels positive in the message department for young Black men today is not an easy find. I, like many mamas I know who are parenting young men of color have found myself traveling the continuum from abject despair to enraged disbelief and everything in between. I have been attending rallies, and reading my poems out loud to honor Trayvon, Michael, Tamir, Eric, and, and, and…

I have been talking to colleagues, friends, family, and anyone really who will listen and tried again to get those who don’t seem to care to notice what I am saying for a moment. At work when I am asked how I am, I try to answer truthfully; “In a state of disbelief. Crushed. Shocked that our country has such a broken judicial system, and devalues the lives of so many of the young men and women here in our schools…” I have prayed. I have hugged my boys so much more. Each time I catch myself forgetting, I notice Sammy or Marcel just walking out of the room and think to myself; “he is coming back.”

I say this to honor all the mothers who can’t.

I have also tuned out completely, because I have that choice. I don’t just mean that I deactivated my Facebook, and disappeared almost entirely from social media.  I mean that I can pop into the gas station to get a cup of coffee, and not engage with the headline on the newspaper out loud or in private, if I don’t want to. I can say; “I can’t deal today.”  I am not the one Black colleague in the school who everyone either avoids, or seeks out after another horror show is splayed across the news. I can just carry on and not engage. I can, and I do. I am not a young Black man walking down the street wondering if it is safe here, or in the convenience store being watched to see if I steal a candy bar while I am waiting to pay for my coffee.

I have accepted invitations to be on panels, and co-design Ferguson units with colleagues. I have scheduled several meetings for the next three months with various white men in positions of power in the field of education to talk about how we keep talking about this in schools and beyond, because it is one way I can use my voice, experience and privilege to promote a little more positive propaganda.

I have wondered if I would care this much today if my sons were white. I have not always answered that question honestly.

I have so much gratitude and appreciation for all the people in our lives who can listen, and who are climbing up underneath this massive weight next to us, and offering to do more than just hold it up too.

Sammy just woke up, and asked for a cuddle. I stopped writing, and crawled up into his bunk bed, rearranged his twisted up blankets and sheets, and wrapped myself up in him too. In a few days he will be ten. He will be just two years younger than Tamir Rice who was shot when he was reaching for his toy gun-most likely show the police officers it was fake-when they were all screaming at him to put his hands up. That’s when he was killed. It was a few days after his twelfth birthday.

Sammy will not be getting any toy guns for his birthday, and we have talked about why.  Sammy asked for anything in the remote control helicopter department, an x-box, and some footy pajamas-because he used to love to wear them when he was little…

hoodie and a hug
#BlackLivesMatter #BlackLivesMatter

And then all this happened.. in a week???

A little homage to hugely deserved papa love started the week.

by Marcel
by Marcel

 

There was the thrilling victory playoff game that Sammy pitched five out of six innings, and may have had at least one homer…

 

wind up
wind up

 

followed by a meeting with the jeweler to design one of these:

 

Shrek's ring design, take one
Shrek’s ring design, take one

 

Wake up the next day, and go to the championship game, and win decisively. Sam’s team grew exponentially as a TEAM. Everyone contributing something critical to the cumulative VICTORY.

post victory huddle
post victory huddle

 

where friendships were the real win...
where friendships were the real win…

 

During all this, someone else suddenly finished first grade and became a member of a PACK.

leader of the pack
leader of the pack

 

Followed by my successful delivery of this breakout session to a gathering of early childhood educators in Augusta the next morning.

Color in the classroom
Color in the classroom

And when all is said and done, I close my eyes and see this magical place.

Trees where I hope to get hitched beneath
Trees where I hope to get hitched beneath