Adoption Can Be Funny

By: Jordan Tate

Jordan Tate

We all know that adoption is a joyous occasion, and also a heavy one with many challenges. It’s a true rollercoaster with peaks and valleys and slow turns and fast hills, but I think we can all agree that, for the most part, Hollywood has shaped many an opinion about adoption for those who don’t have a real connection to it. And it can be stinking funny. So today I thought I’d invite you over to have a silly little chat about some funny things we’ve experienced in the world of adoption in hopes that you’ll laugh a little. If nothing else, you’ll quickly learn what not to say to your friends who have adopted or will adopt in the future.

That said, I’m curious, how many of these have happened to you?

We get asked frequently if we’re going to tell Shepherd he’s adopted. You guys…we get asked frequently. To be fair, it always seems to come out rapidly and clumsily and without much forethought, which is very good news. Usually I’m like, “No, we planned on turning his life into an actual Lifetime movie where the ‘big reveal’ happens on his wedding day or something.” Or wait until the day someone else, who is not us, tells him that his parents are white and he is not. How fun does that sound!? Not fun at all. Not fun at all.

One of my favorite things ever is when people ask me, when out and about, if I’m his “real” mom. I respond by telling them I’m actually a robot, so no, I am not real, and if they do not back away slowly, the laser beams will commence and then I’ll be forced to self-destruct. Okay, I know, I know, it’s just semantics. We try really hard over here to encourage others to use terms like “Biological mother” and “Adoptive Mom,” but I’ll be the first to tell you that if I’m feeling especially feisty I’ll just stick with the robot scenario. That, or scream loudly as I stomp away,  “What would it even mean to be a fake mom?!”

Oh, man! I said the previous situation was one of my favorites, but now I’m remembering another favorite, and that’s when everyone and their brother asks me if I’m the babysitter. I mean, okay, fair. I look insanely young and fresh and like my life has been nothing but rainbows and butterflies and look at me, I’m just babysitting to kill the time before my next semester of college begins, why thank you. While I daydream about actually traveling to Europe, I blubber something like, “Do you see the bags under my eyes!? Two of my children died and this is my son who I adopted just 4 months after burying my second daughter. So no, I am not the babysitter unless you want to offer me extra money because you feel bad for me.”

Ha…haha…sigh.

On a lighter note, how about when strangers ask very, very personal questions about the nature of his adoption? I’m over here like, “Umm, how about we start by you telling me your entire life history, including the moments you’d only share with family and close friends?” It’s weird, though. I usually don’t get a response when I say that…

Trust me, I could go on. But let’s end on this one:

“So, is it hard to choose which baby you want?”

And then it starts.

“First…adoptive parents don’t choose their babies.”

“What!? How does it work then!?”

“Well, after a family is licensed to adopt, they make some sort of profile that highlights various traits about their story and their family. Ultimately, the biological parents choose, from a group of licensed families, who will raise their child.”

“So then the families all go and meet her and she chooses one of them?”

“No, that would be so weird and so not okay. The birth parents usually look through profiles. Like books. About the families.”

“Whoa, no way! So you aren’t choosing the child at all.”

*silence*

“No. I don’t walk up to a precious birth parent during one of the hardest moments of their lives and decide that I like their baby best and that I believe that I would raise them in a way that would make the birth parent most comforted, and then take them without input from the person/people who made/birthed them. Make sense?”

How about we end there? I suppose if you don’t learn to laugh you just end up crying, amiright?

All in all, I think these comments and questions truly are an amazing way to education more effectively on the process of adoption. But having a good laugh at the end of the day doesn’t hurt, either. 😉

New Year, Old(er) Me

By: Rachel Sircy

Being born in December is weird. You don’t start the New Year looking forward to a birthday. Instead, you start the new year having recently survived a birthday and all of the complicated tangle of emotions that go along with that. At least the emotions that follow me after my birthdays always seem complicated and tangled.

But, every January I – along with countless others – put the cherry on top of our emotional confusion sundae by making New Year’s resolutions. I have so many this year that if I achieve them all I will be a completely different person by my next birthday. Like Invasion of the Body Snatchers different. That will really complicate my emotions. But what’s life without a little melodrama, right?

Anyway, personal goofiness aside, I have made some New Year’s Resolutions that I intend to keep, especially those relating to health. I have retained all the baby weight since my gluten free weight lossdaughter was born. She was also a December baby and just turned two. I am ready to lose some weight and get healthier. And so, for those of you out there who, like me, are attempting to get into shape this year and have to also remain gluten free, I wanted to write some words of advice and encouragement.

Firstly, for those who are unaware, a gluten free diet is NOT a low calorie or low fat diet. Gluten free convenience products (such as breads, cookies, pasta, frozen entrees, etc) are usually higher in fat, salt and sugar and have far less fiber than conventional products. I have been approached by a number of people who have told me that they are “going gluten free” in an effort to lose weight. Unfortunately, switching to gluten free convenience products will only help to keep you from losing weight and they may cause you to gain weight. In the case of anyone who is not a celiac, it may be better and healthier for you to eat whole wheat products than to turn to gluten free options.

For those of us who are celiacs and can only eat gluten free products, we all know that cookies and waffles are never the key to losing weight anyway. Unfortunately, the best way for celiacs to lose weight (and to make sure that we stay safe from contamination) is to cook for ourselves. Of course, that is probably true for everyone. If celiacs want cookies or pasta, it’s better to make our own and control the amount of fat, salt, sugar and fiber that we put into these foods. (Fiber can be added to foods in the form of ground flax and by making sure that we try to use whole grain pasta like brown rice or quinoa.) And there are cookbooks available that have recipes that are both sugar and gluten free. For Christmas I received a cookbook by Kelly E. Keough titled Sugar-Free Gluten Free Baking and Desserts, which offers healthier recipes for things such as pizza crusts, cookies, and cakes by using alternative sweeteners such as fruit juice and stevia.

Secondly, better and healthier products are available to celiacs (and gluten free enthusiasts) for less money. I used to pay approximately $12-13 per week for two loaves (small loaves!) of a high fiber gluten free bread. Who can afford that? But if you have no other choice, then you have no other choice. Here is where I am going to shamelessly shill for Aldi BECAUSE now we do have another choice. Aldi sells really good bread, both white and whole grain, for half of what I used to pay for my high fiber bread. Now, that is still not dirt cheap since they also sell regular bread for less than a dollar sometimes. However, 3.99 for a loaf that is big enough to last me an entire week is the best deal I’ve found since I was diagnosed. Also, most Aldi stores sell ground flax seed and good quality organic brown rice and quinoa pasta. Healthy gluten free eating is becoming easier and more affordable.

So, go out and conquer your healthy New Year’s resolutions! You can do it!

Feeling Grateful in 2017

By: Ashley Whisonant

The beginning of a new year is exciting. I love the fresh start and new beginnings. Instead of the usual New Year’s resolutions of losing weight, saving money, eating better, etc.….I decided to do something different than I have ever done. I want to focus on being grateful for the blessings in my life. This certainly does not mean everything is wonderful and picture perfect 24/7. We are all dealt tough hands and have not-so-great-things happen. My goal for this year is to change how I view the negatives in my life.

While getting ready for work this morning, I noticed my few gray hairs. They were shining so proud in my mirror under the bright fluorescent lights. Old Ashley would have freaked out and made the fastest hair appointment. With my new outlook, I tried to focus on the positive. Having gray hairs means I am getting older. Look at all the amazing things getting The Gratitude Diariesolder has given me: financial security, a strong, healthy body, a loving husband and two great little boys. Getting older is not too shabby.

I recently finished reading The Gratitude Diaries by Janice Kaplan. Her year of grateful living has been an inspiration for me. She has seen improvements in her marriage, work life, and health. This book is certainly a must read for the New Year.

Will everyday be perfect? No, impossible. But in 2017, I am going to focus on making my outlook more grateful.

My Goal is No Resolutions

By: Jeanne Reynolds

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. Don’t believe in ’em.

But I do like to set new goals every year. Semantics? Maybe, but I think there’s a small, important difference between resolutions and goals.

Most people’s resolutions seem to be about fixing what’s wrong with us. Losing weight is the most popular New Year’s resolution in America according to most lists, while the very vague “get healthy” tops others. Get organized, quit smoking and get out of debt are also up there. And guess what? They’re also the most commonly broken resolutions, so come February the house is once again a mess, the credit cards are maxed out and we still can’t button our pants.

New Years Goals

Goals, on the other hand, are about accomplishment, building on our success and reaching our dreams. They feel positive instead of punitive. I may not achieve all — or any — of my goals in any given year. But thinking about them and putting them in writing helps me clarify what’s important to me.

So — in no particular order — here are some of my goals for 2017:

  • Run a half-marathon in under 2:05.
  • Paint our bedroom and get new linens and towels.
  • Obtain and complete at least 3 freelance writing jobs.
  • Lower my golf handicap to 14.
  • Finish the first phase of landscaping in the natural area of our Cat Island home.
  • Take a special getaway trip to celebrate a milestone birthday.

I’m far from perfect and there are many things that need fixing around about my person. But I’d rather focus my energy on the things I enjoy. That word — “enjoy” — has hidden power in it. Webster’s defines it as “to experience with joy.”

And if I were going to make a resolution, it would be to let myself experience more joy in life.

Back-to-Work Blues

By: Chaunte McClure 

How many of you spent Sunday evening dreading the fact that you had to go back to work this week? I wasn’t exactly dreading it, but the extra hours snugged in bed for the past week were much appreciated, and I’m not opposed to having more of those opportunities.

back to work blues

Remember how the week before Christmas you could hardly wait for your week off to begin so you could complete your Christmas shopping, run last minute errands, leave for vacation or just enjoy some time off? Then in seven, six, five, four, three two, one . . . it was time to prepare your mind for your normal routine of waking up to an early morning alarm and pressing snooze time after time before finally making your way to the bathroom.

With the rain pounding on the roof Tuesday morning, that made getting up a little harder, but I rolled out of bed, determined to get to work on time. I knew wet roads meant a higher possibility of accidents and traffic delays, so I made sure I had extra time for my morning commute.

With about eight minutes to spare, before walking into the building to unlock my office door for the first time since 2016, I skimmed my timeline and read a few posts from friends who had back-to-work blues. I think most of them started sharing days-off memes as early as last Thursday as the week gradually ended.

I survived the first day back in the office after the holiday break. I had meetings the first half of the day and I spent the second half responding to requests. Let’s see how these next three work days of the new year pan out.

The Midlands Arts Conservatory

Providing a Free, Public Education that Combines Arts and Academics

By: Shannon Boatwright

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Just one year ago, in January of 2016, I wrote this blog entry sharing news of a mission to bring an arts conservatory to Columbia, SC. With great zeal, I shared my support for this mission and why the arts are such a huge part of creating a quality, top notch education for the young minds of today.

“Amazing things happen and great knowledge is attained when the arts help to bring core school subjects to life. The joy of the arts is that they can be integrated into every subject. In a perfect educational world, every school would have a fine arts program and arts integration would be a part of every school’s curriculum. Students and teachers would only benefit; there are no negative aspects whatsoever, only the deepening of understanding. To those who recognize the benefits of, engage in and truly support the arts, bravo to you! And thank you.”
– Shannon Elizabeth Boatwright

I am thrilled to help announce that people have rallied behind the mission of the Midlands Arts Conservatory (MAC) and an outpouring of support is helping to make it a reality! Please help me continue to support the mission and share the progress of MAC. There are informational meetings being held this coming weekend that parents and families can attend to get all their questions answered. If you know of any student in the area with a passion for the arts, absolutely do not hesitate to share this info with them! For more details, please read the information below and share it in every way that you can. Let’s help make the arts shine so that young minds can be enriched, deeper understanding can be attained and creativity can thrive!

Arts Charter School to Open in Columbia:
Midlands Arts Conservatory

A committee of arts professionals, educators, parents and community members is moving forward with plans to open an arts charter school in Columbia. The Midlands Arts Conservatory (MAC) will have a focus on the visual arts, theater, dance and music.

mac-logo-squareThe school will hold two informational meetings for parents and the community: on Saturday, January 7th at the North Main branch of the Richland Public Library at 4:00pm, and on Sunday, January 8th in the second floor theatre at the main branch of the Richland Public Library at 3:00.

MAC will provide a free, public education that effectively combines arts and academics. The school plans to open in the Fall of 2017 with 6th and 7th grades, and will add a grade level each year, reaching 12th grade in 2022. The Midlands Arts Conservatory will be free for any South Carolina resident student in the appropriate grade level who has an interest in the arts and is willing to meet the high academic expectations of the school.

The school will be staffed with highly qualified arts and academic instructors in an environment that provides training, exposure and practical application in the arts and the integration of arts into the academics of the school. The student-teacher ratio in classes will be no higher than 20 to 1 and lower in specialized arts areas. MAC will have small group and individualized instruction in the arts with a wide spectrum of academic support available.

The MAC Planning Committee members understand the importance of a high-quality arts education for young people. They want to ensure that every child in the Midlands has the opportunity to experience the power of creative self-expression.

For more information, contact J Britt at (803)-630-1622 or (803)-630-1MAC; visit http://midlandsartsconservatory.org; or follow them on Twitter at https://twitter.com/MidlandsArtsCon.

Giving Thanks One Postcard at a Time

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

Writer Ralph Marston once said, “Make it a habit to tell people thank you. To express your appreciation, sincerely and without the expectation of anything in return. Truly appreciate those around you, and you’ll soon find many others around you. Truly appreciate life, and you’ll find that you have more of it.”

A few years ago, my friend Julie Turner Smith did a yearlong Thank You Project. It was a letter writing and blog project in which she recognized and thanked people who enriched her life and/or made our community an even better place to live. I loved the project and started one of my own that year during Lent. I enjoyed it so much, and I’ve tried to keep it up, though not as formally.

postcard-project

It’s been a sentimental holiday season, and though I didn’t take time to do Christmas cards, I’ve thought many times how fortunate I’ve been to have such a great support system over the past 21 months. Today, I was cleaning my office and found a book of thank you postcards that I bought months ago. A quick flip through it showed that I had not used even one. Then I had an idea to start a new project, similar to my friend’s project, only with the postcards. I have no details other than to send all 24 by the end of 2017.  With each one I send, I’ll make a note in the book cover, and that’s as detailed as I’m going to get.

The first postcard is on its way to someone I don’t know who lives in my neighborhood. Every Christmas, they have the best light display I’ve ever seen. The big bushes in the front yard are each a different color, and it looks like a Pantone wonderland. Some years they put it up later than others, but every year we squeal when we see it and ride by it countless times. It’s not Christmas until the lights are up on Ponte Vedra Drive.

So the next time I remember a kindness out of nowhere, I’m going to send a little postcard to the sweet soul(s) who made a difference in my life.

Do you have a way of tracking the people you are grateful to? If so, what do you do? Do you journal it, send an actual thank you note, or something else?