Connected and #inspiredby (People who have made a difference in my life)

ImageI was inspired to write today’s post by Hoda Kotb’s examples of inspiration from the Today Show.  She was told by Ken Duane, “Don’t hog your journey,’’ and  “Share your journey with others, and you’re a power of example. Think of what you are able to accomplish.”

On Sunday, I had brunch with a good friend of mine; she asked me, “Does keeping a blog help you?” Of course, my response was, “YES!”  For as long as I can remember, writing helps me process life, but I also want to be “a power of example.”  I hope my openness helps someone each day (and maybe my son someday); that’s what I truly want to accomplish when I write, but I dream of accomplishing more with my life (that’s another post).

The intention of today’s post is to honor five people in my life who have inspired me on my journey and changed my life.  I’m sorry, I couldn’t list “just” one; I have decided to list them by year, in the order that I “met” each of them:

Right in my own backyard, she inspired me to redefine family…

In 1996, I was in my college cafeteria, standing by the cereal bar, when a random girl came up to me and said, “Do you know who I am?  I’m your cousin!”  That moment catapulted into an incredible friendship; we lived together during my junior year and have been friends ever since.  I have learned that being family has nothing to do with biological connections; my biological mother was adopted; my cousin and I are not related by blood, but we are definitely family; she has always been a confident and one of my friends, but she is my “cuz” and one of my closest allies; we have a special tie that bonds; I believe this tie exists because our grandparents were siblings and they instilled within us the fortitude to value the connectedness of family; for this reason (and many more) we are connected through our family tree and love.

No matter the distance, they inspire me to be authentic…..

During college, in the fall semester of 1998, I met two guys at an informational meeting for a trip to Italy; the trip would be for a class, “Art in the Western World.” During the month-long class, we traveled to Italy for two weeks and explored the sights; I’m so thankful that our friendship has evolved over the past 15 years. Truly, no matter the distance, we’ve always had this uncanny ability to stay connected; I can honestly say that I have been able to be my most authentic self with them (and I hope they can say the same about me). The longer we know each other, the more I appreciate the early days of becoming friends. For example, I was recently reprimanded for calling one of them my “former apprentice;” oh, but I loved the days, they would visit me in my studio and talk. In my jewelry box, I still have a little yellow ring that was made for me. I am a sentimental fool- but I think they love me for it. We have lived all over America (California, Colorado, Tennessee, and New York), but we still manage to have had countless laughs, pep talks, critiques, real conversations, etc.  I am so thankful to be connected by a nexus of artistry, faith and veracity.

From here to there, she inspires me to pay it forward…

After college, while serving with the AmeriCorps in 2001, I had an additional opportunity to work as an intern for a not-for-profit; while working there, I met a beautiful person; she once planned a surprise birthday party for me in February (my birthday is in June!).  She is a beautiful person for so many reasons, but most of all, I have to say that her heart of compassion truly revolutionizes my life; she has made personal sacrifices in her life to help me (whether it was money, a bag of necessities from target or a fun umbrella for a new job); she has always given me her time and truly cared about me.  She is the woman I mentioned during today’s introduction; she treated my son and I to brunch (and she survived a trip to Target with my son-she bought him play-dough for his upcoming birthday). More than our Target adventures, she knows my story, I have felt her empathy, but never any pity; she inspires me to pay if forward. When I moved back to Columbus a few years ago, she relocated to Cleveland for a job. Even though we have been far apart, the distance between us  is too narrow to measure; from here to there, we are truly connected by nostalgia, creativity and love.

Across the miles; she inspired me to find my way…

In March 2010, I called one of my best friend’s (one of the two guys from college-described above) and told him about my pregnancy; he connected me to one of his friends in Colorado who could offer me support; she counseled me and delivered words of wisdom and guidance. She shared her own story and sewed hope into my heart and womb. At that precise moment, I was broken emotionally, yet she didn’t try to proselytize or fix me, even though I could tell that her faith was very important to her; she simply expressed compassion through her words and actions. She was the second person who knew I was pregnant, yet, ironically, we have never met in person (I hope to change that someday).  I am forever grateful; we are connected by the information highway, motherhood, and faith!

Okay, that’s five out of possibly a hundred (or more)!

Who inspires you? Please share!

Purposeful Beginnings (Via Family Tree)

ImageFYI: This post was inspired by National Adoption Month!

  • I am thankful for folks who choose adoption, especially my grandma and grandpa, who adopted my Mom.
  • I am thankful for my foster parents who didn’t adopt me legally, but who still call me their middle daughter, 20 years after they invited me to join their family.
  • I am thankful for my cousins (via my mother’s adoption). My cousins “adopted” my son and I; they love us, just as my grandmother loved me.

When I was in my graduate school program for Creative Arts Therapy (2004/05-ish), I was given an assignment to create a family genogram. I knew my family history, but I really didn’t know the “entire” story. To explore a genogram, is to look for patterns and make connections about all the different generations.

In April 2011, I wrote a poem (see below) about my family’s patterns of connection and disconnection. One of the connections that strengthens my spirit, is the fact that a woman, my grandmother (my mother’s adoptive mother) adopted my mother when my mom was four years old. My mother gave me up twice, both when I was a toddler and then again, when I was an adolescent. Prior to my son’s birth, several folks asked me if I was going to give up my son for adoption; I respect those women who make that choice, but for me ( I was 33) , I knew that I wanted my son and I decided to be a single parent. My son and I are connected to our larger family, which ranges from biological to foster to adoptive; the definition of family is most transparent through my son’s eyes; my son doesn’t understand the difference between foster, biological and adoptive, he just loves our family as our “family.”

Tonight, I asked my son what he wanted for his birthday this month; he didn’t ask for toys, he joyfully said, “MY COUSINS!”  He said them all by name (biological, foster and adoptive). This makes my heart smile; he teaches me that “love is blind, except, blind can see hope.” I am so thankful that he will teach future generations about my grandmother’s legacy of love!

COLANDER GIRLS

We are born with bowls-

not hearts- in our chest,

naturally,

we are able to receive and contain love,

enough to overflow

and fill our souls

until life’s consequences

or pure selfishness forms holes,

one at a time,

pressing pain

like pins and needles

through what was meant to protect us

from aching.

These bowls are passed down

from one generation to another,

from one mother to her daughter,

to another daughter,

and another.

My family bowl

has seemingly

been empty and repaired for years

the strongest women

have learned how to patch up the holes

placed there by my ancestors-

if the truth be known,

during the great depression

my great grandmother

gave birth to many children

she became a widow,

she was rescued by a man’s proposal

he gave her one condition,

she could only bring one child into the marriage.

This is how the story began,

with loss and more loss,

afterwards,

however,

my great-grandmother

had two more children,

one in 1925, my grandmother,

a beautiful girl.

She grew up

and patched her colander,

finally married,

but couldn’t bear children,

found it within her heart to love a child,

not born under her heart,

but in it.

She adopted my mother,

a beautiful girl in 1960

My mom inherited a patched up colander,

but love poured through her

as if she couldn’t feel anything at all-

her own biological mother

was addicted to drugs,

abandoned all of her children.

it’s a fact,

life’s consequences or pure selfishness forms holes,

one at a time,

pressing pain like pins

and needles

through what was meant to protect us

from aching.

In 1977,

my mother’s colander

was passed down to me,

a beautiful girl,

who was physically, verbally and sexually abused

by the men my mother invited into our lives;

she relinquished

her rights to me,

her only daughter;

so my mom’s own existence

could only be validated by

a marriage to a criminal;

I was abandoned,

but I was patched up

by the embrace

of a foster family-

I was invited to become

their middle daughter;

To be welcomed-

Meant not being lost anymore-

While discovering

My identity,

I learned to be more open than closed

It didn’t happen all at once-

to consciously break the cycle,

I attempted to prove failure

wasn’t an option;

for many years,

I successfully pushed away

every opportunity

to be intimately connected

with another,

I built up a resilient shield,

until I stopped caring and

allowed one man after another

into my life

who didn’t deserve

to be there at all.

It’s a fact,

life’s consequences or pure selfishness forms holes,

one at a time,

pressing pain

like pins and needles

through what was meant to protect us

from aching.

In November of 2011,

I became a single mother

and my son was born-

I will gave him

my patched up colander

pressing my love

as a permanent patch

of healing

to protect my child

from aching,

to prevent a 100 year cycle

from being interconnected

to further victimization

and ache;

through the written word,

hope will patch and restore

our family’s colander

for more purposeful beginnings,

to receive and contain love,

enough to overflow to future generations.

FYI: Learn more about National Adoption Month at http://www.davethomasfoundation.org/.