I received a beautiful piece of scripture on Christmas Eve, 2017. The words were written on a white piece of paper that had been folded into a star. The star was hanging on one of several sparkling Christmas trees that dotted the space where my church was holding its last worship service for the evening.
My pastor for the past five years, Jon Ireland, spoke to those of us in attendance about how true peace is from God: a gift that the world cannot offer. Then, he invited each member of the congregation to go to a Christmas tree in the room and choose one paper ornament. We were to wait to open our chosen ornaments until everyone was back in their seats.
I am an explorer. As an adoptee, I have explored the depths of my soul to find a meaning to the earliest parts of my history. I have ventured out, and within, to seek unknown parts of myself. I have tracked many a mile to uncover my identity and to dismantle the titles given to me by others. Titles that did not serve me in a positive life outcome.
I believe that all adoptees are explorers. In some way, we are all searching, seeking, and looking for answers to who we are and why we’re here. We’re trackers of truth. At some moment in our lives, a severing took place that catapulted us into a situation we had no control over. Free falling — or so it seemed — we landed into lives that we were not born of, but were destined for.
I write this post during a time of great loss and devastation in my community of Santa Barbara and Montecito. A catastrophic mud slide, caused by a powerful storm, has destroyed lives and property.
Hundreds of rescue workers continue to search — round the clock — for the missing. Seventeen people are confirmed dead and this number is expected to rise.
A community that just came through the largest fire in California’s recorded history has now been hit with yet another natural disaster. The Thomas Fire planted the dangerous seed: buckets of rain poured down, early Tuesday morning, on freshly scorched terrain … triggering the massive mudslide.
Light the sparklers and slip into your sequins, we’re getting ready to say goodbye to 2017 and welcome in a new year. As I look back on this year, I can truly say that I’m grateful for each and every moment. No matter the challenge or the triumph, I’m learning and growing into the person that I was created to be.
I’ve learned a lot this year about the importance of community. We were created, each of us, for relationship. We humans cannot thrive alone, in isolation, on our own. In other words, we need each other.
The past eleven days have been uncertain ones. There is a 240,000 acre California fire that has burned from Ventura County and into Santa Barbara County. Some 8,000 firefighters are battling this blaze and working 24-hour shifts to keep the flames away from homes.
N95 masks have become the new accessory for Santa Barbara residents, like me, due to the unhealthy air from this monster fire. There are days when ash falls like snow.
As I write these words, the Thomas Fire is roughly 30% contained and more dry Santa Ana and sundowner winds are in the forecast. These are uncertain times, indeed.
I just launched a new podcast series called, The Greater Than Podcast. The release of this project is arriving at a time when our nation is facing serious conversation of what has been a sad history of silencing women over their claims of sexual harassment, in the workplace. This dialogue, as painful as it is, is long overdue.
My podcast focuses on how we rise up in the face of challenge, adversity, disappointment and trauma, to be better—greater—as individuals and as a society. In the case of sexual harassment: how can we cleanse this cultural malady and heal, as we share our experiences in a way that is respected and safe? No doubt, answering this question is on the minds and hearts of millions of individuals across our country today.
If there is one thing I know for sure, it’s this: the adoption community is a healthier one when its experiences and stories are shared out loud. We’ve learned, over many years, that silencing the voices and perceptions of those within our community will never help to forge deeper levels of understanding and inclusion.
What was once thought as a healthy choice: distancing adoptees from the truth of their birth stories, is now known to be of great disadvantage to their overall well-being. We’ve learned the importance of supporting and hearing all members of the adoption triad. We’ve arrived to an empowering place within the adoption conversation as we speak this declaration: the adoption community will no longer be treated as a secret society.
I once believed that adoption was my weakness. I no longer think this true. Adoption has become my strength.
There was a time in my life when I thought of myself as fragile. I had been internationally adopted out of foster care, as a child. I viewed myself as broken. After all, I questioned, what parent would leave behind a child that was whole? There must be a kind of brokenness about me. I was convinced that the shattered pieces of me were the driving force behind my parents’ decision to walk away. I had done something wrong. I must have committed some sin that mom and dad could not forgive.
November is National Adoption Awareness Month: an initiative of the Children’s Bureau with a goal to increase national awareness and bring attention to the need for permanent families for children and youth in the U.S. foster care system.
On any given day, there are over 400,000 children in U.S. foster care. Over 100,000 foster children are eligible for and awaiting to be adopted. The average age of a waiting child is 7.7 years old and 29% of them will spend at least three years in foster care.
This kid, my son. He’s always had a “bigger than life” way about him. From the very day when we left the orphanage in Russia, I knew that my Vitya was made for incredible things.
Vitya’s caretakers told me how he was known as the “pacifier thief” within the orphanage baby room where he spent the first year of his life. He’d pluck the pacifiers out of the mouths of other babies and stuff them into his own. It was common to see my boy, on any given day, contently sucking on three pacifiers at one time. He’s always been a bold boy. And, we’ve always had a special bond.