I learn so much from the meaningful conversations I have with my guests on The Greater Than Podcast. I know—perhaps now more than ever—that we need each other. COVID-19 has slowed the world down. The coronavirus pandemic is real. It has, understandably, made a lot of people feel uncertain and afraid.
The response to the virus has also brought people together. Families, who haven’t connected in weeks and months, are sitting around a table and breaking bread. They’re playing board games and becoming familiar with each other, again.
Strangers are emerging on their balconies and creating symphonies of music with neighbors they’ve never met. Balcony-to-balcony they’re finding new ways to connect because humans crave connection. We need it!
Do you remember being thirteen years old? Maybe you do, or maybe you don’t want to. It’s the age of flushed pimpled faces, school bullies and desperately trying to keep a wardrobe in synch with a body that’s blooming into adulthood. It’s the age of overflowing extracurriculars, Snapchat messages, and attitude. At thirteen the world is swirling at breathtaking speed. Now, imagine that thirteen year old, the same one that always forgets their homework at home, that’s preoccupied with their Math homework, the family rules, their sibling, qualifying to be on the sports team, getting the role in the school play, making straight As. Imagine that same thirteen year old trying to wrestle with, define and navigate the complexity of adoption. Imagine the difficulty of finding the right words to express the intricate, confusing unknowns of adoption in the middle of existing as a thirteen-year-old.
“If I don’t give this work my all, I’m stealing from those who need my message the most.” It was a seismic shift in my mindset! Moving from being apprehensive to share my story to being 100% determined to share my story, and doing everything possible to make that happen.
It feels like, in the world today, we are prone to devalue our stories—our big, beautiful, important stories. In other words, I think we too easily lean toward silencing our voices. We tell ourselves that we don’t have anything important to say. What could someone like me possibly have to offer?
It’s the most common hard pass excuse we hear as foster parents or social workers.
It’s been overused as an excuse and as a blog topic. As a foster parent, you can now Google for well-crafted snarky responses to this lame excuse for not wanting to foster. We ALL know now that it is an excuse. That people who “get too attached” are exactly what we are looking for in foster parents. We all know that they just don’t want to step out of their comfort zones and into positively participating in changing the trajectory of children and bio parent’s lives.
Kelli Belt is the host of the podcast, Beauty is Rising. She’s the mother of 3 and a wife of 21-years. Kelli’s 7-year journey to adopt her daughter from Ethiopia led her to the work she focuses on today: equipping adoptive mothers with what they need to be happy right now, and connecting those mothers to a larger community of support.
“There are a million reasons why people feel broken.” This comment, shared in an email, caused me to sit back in my chair and reflect for several minutes.
“Are there really a million reasons why people can find themselves shattered and on the floor?” I asked. “That seems overwhelming….”
My friend replied, “There are people who grew up in stable, but unloving homes. People abandoned in marriage. People who never found love. People rejected for all sorts of reasons that have left them feeling worthless.”
Scars are signatures of painful events in the life of our bodies. They are a reminder that informs us that we are not always in control of our lives. I have many scars. Scars on my hands from bee stings received while playing hide and seek; a scar on the lower right side of my abdomen created by a surgeon’s scalpel to remove an angry appendix; and a scar on my left arm as a result of being “cleated” while playing football.
Of all my scars, I have a favorite, the scar on my left knee. When I was almost three years old, I was running through the house and tripped and fell on my sister’s toy sewing machine. It was made from metal and had a sharp edge on the base. The gash was severe, and the blood began to flow. My father took a sheet, began ripping it, and wrapped my knee to stop the bleeding. What I remember most was sitting in his lap with my mummified leg, being comforted by his big hands. I will never forget his hands. Those hands are forever etched into my memory as a visual reminder of my father’s love.
“Michelle, you’re back.” I heard the gentle words of my post-op nurse, Michele, waking me up after my 4-hour procedure, in Cleveland, Ohio. I recall that, in our early morning pre-surgery preparations, she and I had teased each other about the best spelling of our given names. Is a one-L or two-L spelling the best? We laughed and agreed to disagree.
I remember walking into the operating room and being assisted by another amazing nurse, Karla, as she directed me onto the table, positioning my arms in an extended position—outward from my body. The anesthesiologist began placing an IV in my left arm and instructed me to think of a beautiful and peaceful place where I would want to spend the next several hours, while under anesthesia. I told her, immediately, that my peaceful destination would be Butterfly Beach, in Montecito, California. Four hours later, in what seemed like four minutes, I was being nursed back to consciousness and away from my favorite beach, by nurse Michele.
More than anything, I want to be able to speak and understand and sing in my mother tongue. I want to be able to write poetry and love letters in Chinese. I asked my mom why I was never able to take lessons growing up and she said that it was because the Chinese classes that were offered were far away, maybe an hour’s drive, and it was inconvenient.
It hurts me that I wasn’t able to learn my birth language out of convenience.
I once read an article with research suggesting that there is something that activates in adoptee’s brain when they hear their native language that doesn’t activate for other people who didn’t grow up hearing that language as an infant. This means that my mother tongue lives not just in my bones, but also in my brain.
Yet, there has been so much holding me back. Fears like: What if I’m not able to learn Chinese? What if I sound like the white people who try to learn Chinese who don’t understand what tones are? Or what if it’s something that I can’t relearn? Maybe English has taken over so much of my brain I have no more space for that part of myself.
I stared at the form in front of me, tapping my pen. My legs shook. I cleared my throat and looked around the room. Swirly patterns of blues, greens, and browns surrounded me. Have you ever noticed how all hospitals and waiting rooms use the same neutral palette? As though, earth tones are going to help someone find their zen during a medical crisis. At that moment, the colors weren’t working.
The sterile scent of rubbing alcohol, the HGTV special on mute, the steady stream of indistinguishable chatter at the front desk…none of it helped my nerves. All 12 boxes on the form were still empty. I took a deep breath, and as always, marked every box N/A, then turned the page.