“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.
Ever had one of those days when you say these words to yourself: “It’s just all too much!” Do you know what I mean?
That was my day on Monday. My daughter was diagnosed with pink eye and I couldn’t find a sitter to stay with her while I went to the pharmacy. After all, who wants to risk getting pink eye?
So, my girl had to ride along with me to the pharmacist. The wait to fill her eye drop prescription was slow. Like, at a snail’s pace kind of slow. I found myself anxiously counting the seconds on the clock.
I had writing deadlines edging closer and meetings to attend. I was also scheduled, on Monday, for chelation IV treatment for heavy metal poisoning (not something I could reschedule). Back at the house, the family washing machine went on the blink. My daughter’s bunny needed hay, and my younger son needed someone to plan his birthday celebration. On top of that, I was solo-parenting for the week which makes the juggle even more complicated!
When I was a little international adoptee, my parents would take the family traveling and camping through Europe. My dad refurbished an old VW van that he purchased in the United Kingdom. He and my mother would pack it up and off we’d go exploring!
Everywhere we went, it seemed I’d be claimed by the locals there. In Italy, folks would say, “Surely, she’s Italian.” The Greeks would add, “She’s one of us!” I was a European girl growing up in an American family. There’s both bitter and sweet in that statement.
I openly welcome questions by individuals in our community of adoption and foster care who ask about my experiences as an international adoptee.
Questions of how those experiences have formed my identity, directed my relationships, and shaped my view of the world around me.
Recently, I was posed three meaningful questions to explore, which I will do in my next three blogposts. The first question is from Oleg Lougheed, international adoptee and founder of Overcoming Odds.
It’s Spring Break 2019. I’m spending the first two days of the break in Los Angeles, touring universities with my High School Junior. I have to tell you that as excited as I am for my son, this is heart-wrenching for me, his mama.
Where did the time go? I mean, really, where did it go? It seems like yesterday when I was holding my guy in my arms and dreaming about all the precious years ahead of us. I know, I know—we still have more time in high school and—God willing—many more years as mother and son.
Yet, as I watched him walk around the UCLA campus, during our tour, I couldn’t help but choke back tears. It’s an emotional time for any mother. Certainly, it is for this one.
When I was younger, I dreamed of marrying my true love in a beautiful church with stained glass windows. I dreamed that I’d live in a white painted cottage-style home with a cherry-red door, and a giant tree swing would hang in the front yard where I’d push my two boys in denim overalls and two girls in matching dresses. My baby names were picked out. My maternity clothes were selected. Adoption, however, was never part of the plan.
Sometimes our most thought-out plans can be tailored to something greater than we ever anticipated. Over the years, I’ve learned to embrace adoption as a beautiful part of my life:
I am a birth mom of one college-age daughter.
I am a biological mom of three teen boys.
I am an adoptive mom of one adventurous ten-year-old son.
Will I love more kinds of people than ever before in 2019? This question was posed in my church on Sunday. I sat in my seat, closed my eyes, and focused in. Will I love more kinds of people…? It was a question of diversity. Surely my life is filled with a diverse kind of love, I thought to myself. After all, family diversity and far-reaching inclusivity are my topics of passion.
I’m an international adoptee, mom-by-international adoption, and believer in the power of embracing difference. I think we should, as my church community says, love everyone always.
“Find a way, not an excuse.”
This is the motto of Evie Toombes of the United Kingdom. She is the recent winner of the Well Child Inspirational Young Person Award.
Evie battles serious health conditions as a result of spina bifida, a birth defect that impacts the spine.
Yet, Evie lives fully and serves her community and country in beautiful ways—an elegant example of rising up over challenge and adversity.
I spoke at a conference in San Diego this past weekend. The event— Embrace Who You Are—was organized by Oleg Lougheed and his non-profit group, Overcoming Odds.
Oleg has a vision to create space for adoptees to share their experiences and overcome their challenges. He believes, like I do, in the power of story. Yours, mine, and his.
The day was transformative! It further strengthened my long-standing opinion that adoptees have a universe of wisdom to share with the world. All we have to do is assure them that it’s safe to open up and let that wisdom flow.
I’m in a small group of women that meets every Tuesday. We pray together, listen to each other, and support one another through life’s ups and downs.
I love these women so much because they’ve shown me what it means—really means—to feel wanted and included, heard and seen within an intimate group. Their hearts are filled with grace and love.
I wonder if they know just how beautiful they are. I look at each of them and see radiance and kindness. I hope they notice the same qualities, too, when they look at themselves in the mirror.