The “Heart Work” of Resuscitation When Life Knocks The Breath out of You

September 19, 2016

I’m now recovering from a “Prozac” week–or two.
Even healers need to “resuscitate and breathe” to heal and re-heal for optimal health when it feels like the wind has been knocked out of you and like you’re suffocating.

Experiencing both human and non-human losses (relative and pet), while witnessing others maneuvering through their losses as well as fighting not to lose themselves and their own lives can at times be, and has been, overwhelming. Each loss we experience  accumulates on top of others.

Not only are there the loss of lives, but the the loss of connectedness with friends and family; loss of value, quality and security of life amongst our children and youth, our families, our communities, our leaders, etc.

Sometimes it’s necessary to just shut it down for a bit–which I’ve pretty much done over the past couple of weeks.

This morning I awakened to the sun shining and a warm breeze from the oscillating fan which remained on throughout the night.  Many don’t appreciate the higher temperatures, especially this time of year, and long for Winter to come, but this is like a warm embrace to me in what can sometimes be experienced a cold world–both literally and figuratively.

As I started my day today I discovered some previously unseen messages in my FB inbox.
In them were messages from total strangers commenting on the positive impact my online presence and audio messages had on them; and an invitation to speak to a parent organization–all breaths of fresh air.

Then I read an OWN article written by Glennon Doyle Melton, which contained so many nuggets, however the following paragraphs spoke directly to me about who and what has come and gone from my life:

“Who do I love? but also What do I love? What feeds my soul? What is beauty to me and when do I take the time to fill up with it? Who is the woman underneath all these roles? What does she need?  [This applies to men too]

I want every woman to answer those questions now, before the tide comes. Building sand castles is beautiful. We just can’t live inside of them, because the tide rises. That’s what the tide does.

When it rises for you, remember—you are not the sand castle. You are the builder. I am not, at the end of the day, a mother, a wife, a writer, an activist, a friend. I am a Child of God. That’s who I was when I came into this world and who I’ll be when I leave it. No one can take that from me. ”

And so I continue the heart work:  breathe in, breathe out…
Who is the person underneath YOUR roles?

heart-resuscitation-image

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Mothers, Foster Care, and Mental Health

May 8, 2016

Brave Heart Lioness-Reduced

Having not blogged in quite some time, I decided to “recycle/re-purpose” a previous blog. 🙂
Happy Mothers’ Day to all who nurture and mother. (l)

OCTOBER AWARENESS

October 14, 2013

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October being National DOWN SYNDROME AWARENESS Month is extra special for me this year having recently published my fourth book “Entertaining Angels Aware: I AM My Sister’s Keeper”.   Entertaining Angels… is about growing up with and now caring for my only sibling who was born with Down Syndrome. I never get tired of celebrating her being in my life, and others who have touched our lives with a special love.  To learn more about my Angel and Me, visit our facebook page “Entertaining Angels Aware”

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Another cause which is celebrated during the month of October is that of DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AWARENESS   During my early years in practice as a licensed Marriage, Family & Child Therapist, the idea of a man putting his hands on, or mistreating a woman, was so foreign and distasteful to me, I had difficulty conjuring up enough compassion and patience to work with women who refused to leave their abusive spouses/partners.  However, my love for and work with children—especially those in the foster care system, and my tenure of watching more than one generation evolve, have caused me to become much more understanding and compassionate in working with both victims and perpetrators of domestic violence.  I now know that, as with most any other expression of powerlessness, “hurt people hurt people”.

In addition to my ongoing clinical work with those who are broken (or doing the breaking) I see the signs and symptoms of violence, not only domestically but through the verbal, emotional and physical abuse depicted throughout societal “norms” in professional workplaces, educational settings, and morphing throughout all avenues of entertainment in comedic, dramatic and reality TV shows, films and music. How can it NOT be in our homes?!

Being “The Heart Lady” I am constantly appalled by the negative and hurtful things I see even in comments posted in response to articles which were intended to be heart-warming stories—revealing a widespread attitude of anger and violence.  Where is the LOVE?

I’ve learned that LOVE means different things to different people, which when it all boils down, really has nothing to do with love at.  LOVE doesn’t hurt.  That’s all I have to say about that for now.

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Last but not least, the biggest cause acknowledged during the month of October is National BREAST CANCER AWARENESS Month.  This is a cause I’ve been pretty “mum” about. For the past six years I’ve both consciously, and subconsciously chosen not to speak about it because it was 8 years ago that my “bestest” friend Val, began her battle with, as she referred to it “the pink ribbon thing”.

For two years we talked about and explored complementary treatment which included Western as well as Holistic medicine.  We even laughed about the day during testimonial service when she was going to hang her bra on the wall of the church like those who had been healed of other maladies had placed their canes and crutches!  🙂

Unfortunately, Val passed three days following my own mother’s funeral, which she’d argued with her doctor to be able to attend just prior to her final hospitalization, and two and  half weeks before my 50th birthday.

Since then I’ve not worn, posted, or displayed the pink ribbon symbol of breast cancer, because just seeing it has only triggered feelings of loss for me.  I also think of the children who have been “orphaned” by ‘the pink ribbon” This year, however, although I still miss my sister-friend sorely, I’m making the choice to acknowledge the friends and associates who have SURVIVED breast cancer and am working on consciously celebrating their lives.

Statistics at some point indicated that one in four women would be diagnosed with breast cancer; and I recall looking at attendees of my 40th birthday celebration and realizing that FOUR of my friends in attendance either had already, or have since been a survivor of breast cancer.  I’ve also learned of childhood friends whose lives have also been affected.

Today I post a pink ribbon in celebration of the lives of Bernadette, Antoinette, Signe, Thelma, Debra, Lauren, Michelle, Gloria, and others who have and WILL have survived!

P.S. – Ironically, while going through a container of old key chains yesterday, guess what I came across?– a pink ribbon key chain with hearts.  I guess it time to open my heart and new doors.

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It’s Not In Vain

July 27, 2013

While excitedly looking forward to picking up the first copies of my latest book today, and celebrating its release along with my Angel Sister’s 45th birthday tomorrow, I am also saddened to learn the news of the passing of one of the young men I worked with as a youth. He passed a few months ago and no one informed until last night–via e-mail.

I’d just spoken of him in an interview I had on Thursday evening, not even knowing he’s no longer here. He was full of laughs which often masked a broken heart. Although he didn’t always make the best life choices he knew I loved him and I knew he loved me–he always treated me with the upmost respect and wouldn’t tolerate anyone else even looking like they were going to clown me.   He told me once “Dang, I can’t do nothing wrong, cause you’re just like the Holy Ghost, you’re always there!”   He called me his “Fairy Godmother”.  🙂

 I’ve been thinking about the last time he visited and some of the last conversations we had, including him asking me why he hadn’t been  included in my first book  🙂  Then I remembered some of the texts he’d sent me, a couple of which I saved.  Here are a couple:

“Jus checking on you.  My number is stiill the same.  Getting my life back together.  Love you super very much.  Later”

“Hey godmother I just wanted 2 say thank u4 help saving my life as a teen.  There ain’t enuff money 2 repay u.  It’s sad tho when I think about the traps satan put out there 4 me but I rejoice cuz God sent people llike you when I had  nuthing 2 offer but a microphone, a drum machine, and a dream.  You were one of the people that pushed me out of that statistic box.  Your boys got a wonderful mom–I mean great!  Thanx.”

I’m reminded of the old gospel hymnal “My Living Shall Not Be in Vain” and receiving these words I know my living has not been in vain, and I am grateful to even be able to HEAR it before going to my own grave. I’m still, however saddened to not be able to see this young man reach his peak potential.  In my sadness though, I can’t help but think I now have another “angel” above rooting for me as I continue to work at  making a difference in the lives of many more young men and women.

In light of all that is happening around us at the point in time, it’s just a reminder that our children, youth and even young adults need us.  They’re ALL our children–so please take the time to nurture and be present for the sons and daughters in our communities.  Help them to recognize the value of their lives as well as others.  In the words of Ms. Mamie Brown’s Baby Boy (and mine) Les Brown:  “It’s possible, it’s necessary, it’s hard and it’s worth it!” ❤

No Kim & ME-Glasses-Reduced

Mothers, Foster Care, and Mental Health

May 21, 2013

Brave Heart Lioness-Reduced Heart Work Photos of Bryant & Branden4

The Month of May recognizes and celebrates three important events and causes which are close to my heart: Mothers’ Day, National Foster Care Awareness Month, and National Mental Health Awareness Month. Already more than half way through the month of May, I’ve had ample opportunity to reflect upon personal experiences each of these brings  as both Mothers’ Day and Foster Care have each had a significant impact my Mental Health. Let me count the ways!

One of my earliest memories of Mothers’ Day, sheds a prevenient look at my sensitivity, as well as the temperamental relationship I had with my mother, even at an early age.  When I was about 9 years old I walked the couple of blocks to the neighborhood five and dime variety store to purchase my mother a gift for Mother’s Day. With my two or three dollars I selected a box of beautifully decorated and arranged handkerchiefs.  Somewhere between my purchase and Mothers’ Day my mother did something which made me angry (I don’t even recall what) and I decided that I wasn’t going to give her the gift so I hid it inside my room.  The details are blurry but I do recall that she demanded that I find it and give it to her. I felt entitled to give on my own terms just as she had ‘taught me’ when she withheld my gifts at Christmas because she thought I’d been behaving badly.

Most Mothers’ Days after that weren’t as noteworthy except for the sense that most times she didn’t seem to be as happy as I’d like for her to have been in my giving. Then there was MY first Mothers’ Day as a mom to my 9 year old adopted son. Dressed up in coordinating colors we drove the 50 miles to join her for Mothers’ Day service at her church. I knew it would surprise her and make her proud to have us there with her. The look on her face was priceless! This was the best Mothers’ Day ever for me, until…the minister asked for all grandmothers to stand.  My mother did not stand.  I waited for it to “click” for her that she was now a grandmother, but it didn’t. I looked at her and looked at my son and my heart sank. The gift of grandparenting wasn’t acknowledged and/or accepted by her. I felt hurt and angry and sad for my son.

As I share in my memoir, it was “Heart Work” being a Foster/Adoptive Mom myself as it was exciting, heart-warming, and challenging. Inasmuch as dealing with my now, TWO sons, dealing with the Child Welfare, Mental Health and Social Services took a toll on my own Mental Health.  Understanding that many of the behaviors exhibited by my sons were an expression of the impact of emotional and physical abuse and separation and losses experienced in their early childhoods, I found it difficult to get both the intervention and support needed to meet their needs while at the same time provide them with consistency, stability, and opportunities of a “normal” childhood. I even fought to keep my youngest son from being “medicated” for behaviors which I felt were unreasonably labeled as being “pathological”. Any of us would have acted the way he did if we’d been through all he’d been through. What did they expect?!

Feeling attacked, unsupported, and pathologized myself, depression set in and took me down a path I’d not experienced before as intensely.  I’d experienced bouts of depression before but not at this level. For the first time ever in my life, my sleep pattern was “off”, my desire to socialize with others was none, and rather than overeating, I stopped eating and began to lose weight.  I sought out my own therapist, going through a few until I found one I felt comfortable with, and who was a huge support during this time in my life. My feelings were validated, which in itself was major, as no one else seemed to understand; and I was encouraged to continue being my authentic self—which I’d begun to question.

I’d always wanted to be a mom, and thought I’d be a good one, having learned from both the good and the not so good characteristics of my own mother, who was an excellent provider but lacked in the area of “emotional nurturing”. Even in the midst of this extremely painful period in my own parenting she voiced that I’d brought it upon myself and that she didn’t think it made sense for me to invest my time and energy into them. Her advice was “let them go and go on with your life”. Of course this did not improve our relationship at all because I stopped sharing with her any of the details of my parenting struggles.

Feeling like a “motherless child” and a “childless mother” the depression deepened. My therapist explained that my depression was situational, however being in a prolonged negative situation had a significant impact on my body and brain chemistry. We also explored the correlation between my relationships as a daughter and a mother, and how my fear of becoming like my mother was a strong factor.  It was during this time the notion occurred that perhaps my mother had been depressed during my childhood. and that perhaps I was even biologically predisposed to depression myself. That made a lot of sense to me!

He recommended that I try a low dosage antidepressant, which I initially rejected but eventually decided to try.  Although I don’t recall feeling much different, I was able to get out the bed and as I look in retrospect, do some amazing things. I do know that my and others’ prayers and faith in God were all a part of it.

I’d tried to get my mother to join me in counseling previously, however was told “I don’t need counseling, you’re the one that’s crazy!”  When I shared with her my thoughts that perhaps our relationship struggles could be related to her relationship with her own mother, who died before I was born, she was in total denial, forgetting some of the stories she’d told me before about growing up. However, when I shared with her about the discussion and prescription for depression, surprisingly she was open to it and followed through with her doctor.  She later reported that she did indeed feel a difference.  Wow, who KNEW?!

My mother passed away six years ago at the age of 82.  During the later years of her life she experienced depression and anxiety attacks, which as a practicing therapist myself, I was able to recognize and discuss with her doctors.

As I’ve gotten older and experienced many losses and stressors of life as a single woman and caregiver, I have continued to battle cycles of depression which, though not as frequent, have seemed to intensify the older I become.   Being both a therapist and a Christian I’ve found myself again struggling with the idea of taking antidepressants or not.  In my journaling I frequently quote the phrase “Physican heal thyself”; and have questioned myself:  “Am I placing judgment on being depressed?” and/or “Am I placing judgment on how to HANDLE” the depression?” My conscious conclusion (which was subconsciously present all along) was that I  FEARED that others would think I was not a “good enough” Christian or Therapist if I needed to take medication myself.

My thinking is that like hypertension and many other physical conditions, there are certain biological as well as lifestyle factors which contribute to both, and even medical doctors receive diagnoses of conditions they treat patients for.  However it does no good, and can potentially become fatal, to refrain from treating those conditions—whether through Westernized or alternative medicine. We all have choices to be and feel better.

So in the midst of a recent “dark hole” of depression, the triggers of which I was very much aware and which were beyond my control, I made the choice to return to Western medicine,  in addition to prayer, reaching out others and making some changes in my daily practices. I’m glad to say I’m feeling more like my old (or should I say younger) self now!

I realize this may not be the choice for everyone, but the main thing is to choose to DO SOMETHING!  Just as with other areas of my life I’ve decided that “what you see (and don’t see) is what you get”!  Take it or leave it–no poll necessary!   The most important thing is that we make a choice that makes us feel better and stronger to fulfill our purpose and dreams—as long as it is not at the cost of the well-being of ourselves and others.

As far as my “mothering” and foster care, my boys are now grown and not necessarily making the life choices nor as close as I would like for them to, I did speak to my oldest by phone on Mothers’ Day this year–I called him.  I remind myself that although I may not always feel celebrated, neither do all biological parents, and that my purpose is fulfilled in having given them the gift of being two less “motherless children” in the foster care system.
I remain passionate about the hearts of youth in the foster care system; and  through the texts and couple of cards I received in the mail from those I’ve loved as an advocate and mentor, it was confirmed that I will never really be “childless” because they’re ALL “my children”.
Ending on a funny note, my favorite Mothers’ Day card read:

“If it takes a village to raise a child…
…where the HELL did EVERYBODY ELSE sneak off to?”!!

Don’t sneak away—hang in there, the children and village need us! 🙂

 

 

 

 

SPEAK TO MY HEART: WHAT’S YOUR LOVE LANGUAGE?

February 25, 2013

Amazingly the new year has taken off without skipping a beat; and Valentine’s Day, my most cherished holiday being “The Heart Lady”, came and went without much more than a faint heartbeat.  As a matter of fact my heart tank has been on “E”—and that’s not for Evelyn this time.

 Not by coincidence, I’ve been recently re-introduced to “The Five Love Languages” written by Gary Chapman who identifies the 5 Love Languages as being:

            Words of Affirmation

            Physical Touch

            Receiving Gifts

            Acts of Service

            Quality Time

Re-taking the Profile Survey I realized that during the months leading up to and throughout the holidays (in addition of a physical condition which significantly altered my daily activities), my heart communication had been pretty much mute–there being little to no communication in either of my primary love languages.  

Contributing much of the effectiveness of my work in the healing profession to the genuine and authentic empathy gained from my own personal experiences and emotional pains, I often refer to myself as a “wounded healer”.  However, it’s one thing to draw upon and share one’s wounds from past experiences but quite another to share those being experienced in the present. 

Acknowledging and healing one’s emotional wounds can be very difficult because generally when others don’t see any physical evidence of pain, they either totally miss it; ignore or dismiss it, giving simplistic and superficial advice; or just back off and avoid it waiting for you to get through or “over it”.  This is even more difficult when you’re the “go to” person for others when they are in pain and/or need.

Through my prayers and introspection I have been reminded of one of my most recent inspirations to speak on the topic of “Healing Your Heart & Following It”.  I also recall a colleague’s question after reading the manuscript of my memoir “It’s Heart Work…”  “Have you healed yet?” Wow…

A firm believer of “walking one’s talk” I recognize and embrace this most recent experience as the bridge to effectively delivering that message I’ve chosen or been chosen to share. 

Oftentimes we feel unqualified to declare any sense of authority or expertise in the areas through which we may struggle, and we back away.  However, I believe in my heart that when we receive these challenges and trials as gifts and tools with which to work, they are actually the stepping stones to following our hearts and fulfilling our purpose. 

Are you ready to follow your heart? Are there areas in which you recognize a desire and need to heal in order to move forward?  Do you trust someone who knows and walks the talk?

I’d like to offer you an opportunity to be the first to take advantage of my “Speak To My Heart” coaching series and begin healing and filling the receptive and expressive love tanks of your heart.    

If you will send me an e-mail with “Speak To My Heart” in the Subject Box to ME@TalktoMsE.com I will send you information about the outline and registration options to take part in this 8-10 week series. 

I look forward to walking along side you in learning and practicing the steps to better speak to and from the heart and follow it. 

Hearts & Blessings,

Ms. E “The Heart Lady”

REFLECTIONS OF 2012: God Laughed

December 31, 2012

On this last day of 2012, as many probably are, I’m reflecting upon my life over the past year as I prepare for the the new year.

With the upheaval of tragedy and discord of the last couple of months it’s easy to become distracted and focused on the sadness, anger, and pain in the world, and possibly our own lives; and to quickly discard of the old year for the new.

I’ve taken the last few days to “Unplug” from the world of telephone and internet to just “be”.   I think sometimes we just need to do that to reconnect with ourselves and The One whom we believe to be the true source of our lives.

I’m a goal and action-oriented person (when “D” elements—depression and disconnectedness– aren’t wreaking havoc with my emotions).  I enjoy and am energized by setting goals, planning, and taking account of where I am in light of where I’ve been and where I desire to be.

Many of my goals and expectations weren’t met this year.  However, when I think about it,  in many ways, in lieu of some of my stated goals many of the events of 2012 exceeded my own expectations.  I can’t help but think of the scripture which says “Now unto Him who is able to do exceedingly, abundantly, and above what you can think or imagine”.   I use to say that God would have to be doing an awful lot because I have a pretty big imagination”.

My mentor and friend Michael Pritchard says “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans”.  Well I must say, God “do be” doing a lot; and I think He really did laugh over my life in 2012.

A year ago today, little did I know that in less than 90 days I would be spending my birthday in the rainforest of Sao Paulo, Brazil as part of an International Symposium on reducing trauma to children, before, during, and after birth; and a few days later visiting an orphanage where I’d meet and fall in love with a precious little boy who shared my birthday.

Neither did I know that on Mothers’ Day, one of the most depressing holidays of the year for me, that I would be served breakfast, along with flowers and card, and spend the day with my youngest son who has spent most of the Mothers’ Days of his adulthood incarcerated, and most times my having no idea where.

Thinking about ending my bi-weekly internet radio program in October, I had no idea that the more than 3,000 listeners to my September program would be beyond any of the programs of the previous two years.

Nowhere in my conscious dreams did I see myself appearing in a “2013 Calendar of Alopecian Beauties” after watching a Sistah on PBS* who literally “flipped her wig” and released me to finally triumph in my challenge with Alopecia and “bare it all” myself, with the support of a network of sisters online who shared the challenge as well.
*God bless you Ms. Sonya Renee Taylor.

Then in November, National Adoption Month, I found myself sitting on the set of a San Francisco affiliate of  a major network, baring my heart (and feeling  no shame, my head) about the joys and pains of being a mentor and foster and adoptive parent to many youth who had/have been written off.

Just imagine…none of these were even a part of my goal plans for 2012!!! Well let me reframe that: My “objectives” may have been slightly different, but overall I believe my primary goal –to fulfill my life purpose—actually was met.

Looking at this overview of my year, one might think “Wow, what a wonderful year!”  Yes, it has been; but it has also included heartache and tears, loss, grief, feelings of disappointment, rejection,  aloneness, loneliness, fear, financial gaps and sinkholes, and sometimes even doubt.  However, even in these times, I believe the purpose of my life was/is being even more clearly fine tuned, and my goal being met.

You might wonder if I will even bother to set goals for the New Year? and if so, why??? The answer is a resounding “YES”!  Because, if for no other reason, I want to make God laugh –some more!  Because when He laughs I eventually laugh too!  😀

Looking forward to laughing with you and God in the New Year!

National Adoption Month Cont’d: “Nice Looking Kid”

November 29, 2012

As National Adoption Month comes to a close I will share with you another excerpt from my book “It’s Heart Work: Being The Village That Raises A Child”.
Last time, I shared with you the chapter about meeting my first and oldest son, Bryant.  This time I’ll share about meeting my younger son, Branden.

Although Bryant and Branden are now adults, I still remember these days as if they were only yesterday.  And even having experienced the rollercoaster ride of being a single adoptive mom, they still bring a smile to my face.  I hope they will for you too.

Chapter 13 

Nice Looking Kid

 Approaching two years together as mother and son, Bryant and I agreed that neither of us really liked being an only child.  He wanted to be the oldest, and of course wanted a brother rather than a sister.  That was just fine with me, because being a single parent, and based upon the history of my relationship with my mother during adolescence, I was concerned that there would definitely need to be more male energy in the house.  I stressed to him the importance of showing me that he was capable of being a good role model for a little brother.  

Still actively involved with the Bay Area’s Annual Black Adoption Fair, I participated in the planning, set-up and facilitation of activities for the event which was being held at a local Junior College and Bryant accompanied me. 

Busily running around all day there were hundreds of children of all ages with whom I came into contact however there was one child that captured my eye and heart off and on throughout the day.  He’d stood out in my mind as a quiet, yet spirited child whose sweet milk-chocolate skin and kissable forehead pulled at my heartstrings; and although, as I recall, we never spoke a word to one another verbally, the eyes of our souls spoke volumes. We all went home tired at the end of the day. 

 Several weeks later the fair photographer developed the photos, which a colleague and co-worker with the fair brought by my office for me to take a look at.   Guess what big brown eyes jumped out of the photos to speak to my heart once again?  I laughed as I viewed one of the photos of him posing with the “Sylvester The Cat” character.   I was told that I could not have it because she had to make sure that he got the photo which he himself had requested, sought out, and waited to have his picture taken with Sylvester- -a child after my own heart!   

I noticed his nametag, and saw that his birthdate was the same as my father’s- -interesting.  What was even more interesting was when I got home I laid the stack of approximately a hundred photos on the dining table at home while I began to prepare dinner.  Bryant decided to browse through them, and out of the hundreds of photographs, when he came to one photo, he paused and commented “nice looking kid”.  I stopped and walked over to see which kid he was speaking of, and imagine my shock when I saw that it was the same child who had caused my heart to swell! 

Following  a series of phone calls, conversations, and paperwork, I was finally on my way to my first “date” with the “nice looking kid” who’d already made an indelible imprint upon the hearts and minds of Bryant and me.

For the initial visit to meet Branden, I went alone and didn’t tell Bryant that I was going. However, he somehow instinctively knew and had told my friend “Auntie Gloria” whom he’d spent the day with while I was away, “My mom is going to meet my new brother”.   

In my excitement there was a profound sadness which began to overtake me as I arrived to pick Branden up from his current foster home, which was located in an impoverished neighborhood of Oakland.  The home was dark and cool, as was the foster mother.  She opened the door to the house, which in my memory seemed colorless, with a very flat tone and expressionless face and told me to come in.  She called Branden to come downstairs and showed very little interest in my reason for being there. 

Down the stairs came that little face we’d looked at time after time over the past several months.Though still as cute as a button, there was a sense of dimness and deprivation to his countenance.

In my attempts to interact with and help him to feel comfortable with me, I him asked him what I he liked to do and what were his favorite toys to play with.  He named off some things, and when I asked if I could see them, and he said “I don’t have any”.  Not really believing that to be true I turned to asked the foster mother if he did have any in his room and  I was told that he did not- -. period.  I looked up the long, dark foreboding stairway to what I assumed were the bedrooms, but decided to not even ask to see his room. 

Branden and I left for our “date” and when we got into the car his energy immediately ignited Within a block away we were chatting like popcorn.  He asked if we were going to get on the freeway.  I told him “no” and he wanted to know why.  We continued to talk. However, when we passed the freeway entrance he blurted “Hey! Back up lady and get on the freeway!”  I laughed so hard and I’m sure he probably wondered what was SO funny!  This would be just the FIRST of the many laughs I would hold in my heart and memories during my budding relationship with my new son-to-be.

 When we arrived at the “4-star restaurant” of the children’s eateries, McDonald’s, there was the usual Saturday flurry of kids all over the place.  While we were waiting in line to place our order, a man asked, “Are those all your kids?”  I looked around and pondered the thought “they’re all our kids’ but before I could say anything, the child who had already implanted himself in my heart proclaimed “I am!” and we both knew it!

 After hamburgers and all the “trimmings” we went to play at a local park and took pictures before I returned him to the foster home. 

I arranged to pick Branden up the following day for a Sunday outing to church and dinner so he and Bryant could meet.  We were all excited! 

On Sunday morning Branden greeted me warmly with a hug and held my hand as we walked to the vehicle.  I introduced him “Branden, this is my son Bryant; Bryant this is Branden”.  “Hi”,  “What’s up?”  We were riding in the van with my friend “Auntie Emelda” so I sat in the front passenger seat and allowed Bryant and Branden to sit in the seat behind us.  “Where are we going?” Branden asked.  “To church” I replied.  “Oh” he said, unenthusiastically. 

As Emelda and I talked on the way to church, I had one ear tuned in to the seat behind us. All I could hear was Branden chatting away.  He commented on everything he saw outside the windows as we passed down the street. Bryant seemed slightly amused by him but didn’t say much.  At church Branden loved the music, clapping his hands and even dancing with a little smile on his face.  He talked out loud during the service, needing to be directed to several times to be quiet and sit down.  He decided he wanted to sit in my lap.  After church we went and got something to eat and we were all tired.   

After we dropped Branden off at the end of the visit I asked Bryant what he thought of Branden.  With a smile, he said “he talks a lot, but he’s funny” (that would be the ongoing consensus and theme of their relationship).  When I asked if he thought we should consider having him for his brother he said “yeah”.

If you would like to read more about my life with Bryant and Branden,

 Purchase YOUR copy today!

In E-Book:  http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/54353

OR

In Paperback: http://www.hearttalkpublications.com/Products.html   

Proceeds from all sales benefit For A Child’s H.E.A.R.T., Inc. , (www.forachildsheart.org) the non-profit organization which I founded to provide services to current, former and transitioning foster and adoptive youth.

NATIONAL ADOPTION AWARENESS MONTH: “It’s A Boy!”

November 8, 2012

I’m a little behind schedule calendar-wise, however when it comes to and from the heart it’s always in and on time. My blogfor the month of November is dedicated to National Adoption Awareness Month.

You may or may not know that I am an adoptive parent, and worked as an Adoption Social Worker almost 30 years ago! (Sounds ancient doesn’t it?)

I have chronicled much of my experience in my memoir:

           “It’s Heart Work: Being The Village That Raises A Child”

This month’s blog will be comprised of excerpts from my book. I hope your enjoyment will pique your interest in purchasing your own copy today, whether in

Paperback http://www.hearttalkpublications.com/Products.html                                                      OR

E-book:  http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/54353 

Proceeds from all sales benefit For A Child’s H.E.A.R.T., Inc. , the non-profit organization which I founded to provide services to current, former and transitioning foster and adoptive youth.

So enjoy your first look at “It’s Heart Work:…” 

                               Is He Talking To Me? – It’s A Boy!

“Mom!”, “Mom!!”, the young voice called out again as I patiently waited my turn in the cashier’s line at Toys ‘R Us in Monterey,  California.

“Is he talking to me?”  I heard myself say.  I turned my head just in time to see the familiar little brown face, with wide-eyed excitement, peering right at me, and waving a toy in the air.   I don’t remember any details of that toy or if we even bought it.  What I do remember, however, is that my heart leaped to a whole new dimension at the recognition of its new role: “Mom.”  And my heart hasn’t been the same since.

That was on the first day of Bryant’s and my very first face-to-face meeting.  We actually spent the entire weekend together .   Prior to that, we’d only seen pictures of and read about each other. We finally got to talk on the phone the night before meeting. I was thirty-one years old at the time, he was nine, and we both wanted a family – badly.   

During my own childhood, I was an only child until age eleven. As long as I can remember, I always loved children. People even told my mother to watch out for me, because they knew I would have a house full of children one day, and would perhaps get an early start at it. Others commented that I would probably be like my godmother, who loved and cared for tons of children but never had any biological children of her own.

From a young age, I sensed deep within that I would one day adopt children. However, in my plan, there were to be adoptive AND biological children. Well, to those people’s dismay, and mine, at age thirty-one I adored and cherished four precious godchildren, but none yet to call my own, either by birth or adoption. Even after working for two adoption programs, my friends and colleagues teased me over the fact that I’d managed to leave the agencies without “stealing one of those kids.” 

One day, while chatting with one of the therapists where I worked, she remarked, “Evelyn, you need some children.” Amazingly, less than 30 minutes after that conversation, I received a phone call from a former co-worker and friend who still worked for the county adoption agency I’d left in Monterey a little more than a year before. She told me there was a little boy on her caseload whom she was seeking a placement for, and that she and the staff instantly thought about me. I couldn’t believe it – especially since I hadn’t submitted any application for adoption. She then went on to say, “He even looks like you.” My response to that was, “Yeah, right. He’s a little Black boy, I’m a Black woman; of course we look alike.” (She and the rest of the staff were Caucasian). We laughed. 

In August 1988, I began my intimate journey into a nine year old’s heart. Then, on that beautiful, warm October day in 1988, in that Toys ‘R Us store, Bryant’s heart and mine officially entered a mother-son bond, evidenced by Bryant’s special term of endearment towards me.

Little did we know that that weekend would prove symbolic of our lives together in the years to come. It included a day of calm play and laughter at the ocean in Pacific Grove, as well as the thunderous, and sometimes scary, adventures of the Blue Angels’ air show at the Monterey County Fairgrounds. 

I stopped at See’s Candy store on the way to work that Monday morning, and reported to work with candy suckers which exclaimed, “It’s A Boy!”

NATIONAL DOWN SYNDROME MONTH: Growing Up With An Angel

November 2, 2012

[The month of October went by so fast I didn’t complete my blog series for National Down Syndrome Month.  So before beginning November’s blogs for National Adoption Month I submit Part 2 for your reading enjoyment and enlightenment]

 

Growing up with my “Angel-Sister”, Kim was an experience with which I have nothing to compare. Although she’s my sister, with the age difference and her “differ-ability” our relationship was/is not a typical sibling relationship.  Being an adoptive parent never having given physical birth to a child, in many ways I feel that she is my child of whom our mother was the surrogate parent. J

As excited as I was to have her, I would later realize and understand there were many other emotions my mother may have had having given birth to her.  Not only did she not expect to become pregnant in her forties; neither did she expect to give birth prematurely to a special needs child.  I recall over hearing conversations she had with others questioning what she may have done during her pregnancy, like drinking beverages with artificial sweeteners, to cause my sister to be developmentally disabled.  She wasn’t aware at that time that Down Syndrome is a condition in which the baby has an extra chromosome. As an adult therapist now, I can understand the guilt, fear, amongst other feelings she may have experienced.

Just purely elated to have my baby sister I didn’t question or even care WHY she was the way she was.  In my eyes, and heart, she was just perfect the way she was.  I recorded each of her developmental milestones in her baby book, and wasn’t bothered that she didn’t walk until she was two years old.  The only times I remember feeling that she was “different” was when I saw classmates’ siblings of the same age were doing more things than she was.  But I didn’t dwell on it.  (BTW, NBA player Gary Payton’s brother and I were classmates, and Gary was born the day after my sister. J)

Before Kim was born I’d met one young man with Down Syndrome.  He was the son of a family friend and was about the same age as me.  I remember being told that he was “deformed”.  Although he lived out of state and we didn’t visit often I always had a special affection for and fond memories of him.  I don’t really remember explaining Kim’s “disability” to others.  I took her almost everywhere with me and she was always accepted without question.  Probably because she was just so darn cute!  J

Leaving home to go away for college was probably the most difficult thing in our relationship for both of us.  I intentionally chose a college which was only an hour’s drive away, so I wouldn’t be too far away from her. Before then we had really only been separated from one another once, more than overnight.  We actually took our first vacation together, without our mother, the week following her first birthday.  We flew to Los Angeles and stayed with our “play Aunt and Uncle” for three whole weeks!

The first few times I came home from college it was hard because when I’d leave and not take her with me, she’d cry and most of the time I’d cry too. My mother would call to see if I made it back to school alright and ask me to speak to her because sometimes she would still be crying “I want Twee-Twees” (her word for my middle name, Louise).

Some of my most fond college memories are taking her to stay with me during the Summer.     My friends and classmates adored her!  I attended U.C. Davis where the primary mode of transportation was bicycles, so I would put her in the child seat I had attached on back for her and we’d ride to and around campus!  She LOVED it!  If I had a class one of my friends would meet us on campus and watch her while I went to class.

One of the funniest and most fun times was when an older classmate and I decided to throw a birthday party for his daughter and Kim.   We invited our friends and we all had birthday hats, whistles, food, cake, crepe paper, pin the tail on the donkey—the whole works!  Kim and my friend’s daughter looked at us as if we’d lost our minds!  We had!!! 😀

Still today, if I run into anyone from my childhood or college years, the first question is “How’s Kim?”  Even in our adult years my identity is established as “Kim’s Sister”. Wherever I/we go, someone will say “Oh! You’re Kim’s sister!”  J Sometimes people we’ve not seen in a long time will look at us and not recognize me until they look at her and put two and two together.

Throughout adulthood, no matter where I’ve lived, she has come to stay with me for extended visits.  She enjoyed the independence I’d allow her in doing things for herself, and at one point I asked my mother to allow her to come and live with me, but she wouldn’t.  In January of 2000 I was planning a weekend visit for her over the Martin Luther King holiday weekend. I called our mother to verify the time I’d be picking her up and asked when did she want me to bring her back, she said “never”.  I figured she was joking as she often did.  However when I arrived to pick Kim up, she had many of her belongings packed in suitcases!  I was totally shocked and unprepared for this; but I felt that if I didn’t seize the opportunity then and there it might be my only chance.

It took a lot of juggling during those first several weeks to work out a plan; however, Kim was in her own words “very very happy”—so much so that when I drove the 30 miles for her to spend the night with our mother while I attended a conference she refused to stay.  So…when we’d made the return trip and drove into my driveway she said “I live here”. 

We have now lived happily together for over 12 years now.  I’d be lying if I said it was ALL “angelic” because she can be VERY stubborn at times, and has some other difficulties, but I wouldn’t trade her for anything!  Yes, it’s a lot of work but we’ve gotten a system down which works for us.  The greatest difficulty is not having any back-up for emergencies, or even spontaneous outings for myself; but God has provided, and gratefully we’ve had interim care takers whom she’s liked and I’ve trusted.

Our mother passed 5 years ago and although Kim will occasionally say “I’m sad; I miss my mudder” and shed a tear or two, she hasn’t skipped a beat and is very clear that “I want my tister”.  One of the last things I told my mother before she died was to not worry about Kim being a burden on me, because out of all the things she’d done for me, giving birth to her was the most cherished.  I think that really “released” her, and I meant it.

I’m frequently told by friends, strangers and extended family that she’s so lucky to have me, and that I will be blessed for caring for her.  What they don’t know is what a blessing she is in MY life.  It is an indescribable joy to have her express gratitude for some of the basic care, like say “Thank you Ebelyn” when I’ve given her a shower; or just walking up to me and giving me a hug and kiss for no particular reason. As tired or low as I may be feeling at the time, those words and actions melt my heart and remind me that I have been given the special responsibility and privilege of taking care of one of God’s Angels.

Sometimes she will say or do something totally unexpected which throws me totally off guard—and most times causes me to crack up laughing. It seems as if sometimes she can read my mind. I can be thinking something and she will either make a comment or ask me a question about it, without my having said a word. We continue to have that special “connection” and sometimes when I look into her eyes and embrace her I experience the same feeling I had that first day I saw her in that incubator 44 years ago.

Another one of my greatest joys is watching her dance.  Like me, she has always loved music and dancing (yes she even knows when Stevie Wonder is singing J) After watching the praise dancers from our former church, she told me she wanted to dance.  The leader of praise dance team was happy to work with her (she also had a brother with special needs), and even made dance attire for her. Because she wasn’t able to follow the other adult dancers, and didn’t really fit in with the children, she was allowed to dance individually.  It was beyond anyone’s expectations.  After that she would frequently tell us “I need to dance” and at times would be given the opportunity to do so.   Unfortunately, for some reason it was later decided that no one would be allowed to dance outside of the dance team so she didn’t get to dance anymore. 

She has danced in the talent show for her Day Program; and recently after quite some time of having not danced I watched her dance again.  After laughing at some of her antics, the tears began to swell up in my heart and run down my face.  I couldn’t help it as I was reminded once again of the fact that I AM entertaining an angel– aware.

I’ve posted a video of “The Angel Dancing”on my facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/msevelyn.theheartlady) for your enjoyment–if  you can get past the shaking and moving as I tried to hold the camera and contain my composure at the same time).

If you have enjoyed this National Down Syndrome Month blog series about “My Angel” I hope you will be interested in purchasing and reading more in my upcoming book “Entertaining Angels Aware” which is scheduled for completion and release in July 2013 in celebration of Kim’s 45th birthday!

Also, if you have an “Angel” in your life and would like to contribute your story to the book please e-mail me at Ms.E@forachildsheart.org or ME@TalkToMsE.com


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