Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Monday, September 12, 2011
I’ve been enmeshed in the many shades of love all my life. Growing up in Texas, I played with Hispanic children from my school. The African-American woman who sometimes ironed our clothes (that was a different day and time) always brought her two children to play dolls with me. No children lived in my neighborhood so this was a special treat and my mother would often invite them back for playtime. In college I was drawn to the kindness and intelligence of a good-looking young man from Seoul, Korea. Many things separated us – our cultural differences, traditions – certainly not the color of his skin. For me, love has never been a color. It is an emotion.
Therefore, in 1980, when I was seeking to adopt an infant, it was of no consequence to me that the eight-hour old baby boy offered me was Brazilian. When I first held my son in my arms in Rio de Janeiro the only difference I saw was that he had huge black eyes and mine were blue. Dark curly hair, smooth olive skin, a ready smile – wherever we went everyone wanted to hold him.
From the day he learned to walk he didn’t want me to hold his hand and that’s when I saw his first beginnings of confidence in himself. “I do it” was one of his first sentences.
As he grew I was amazed at the ease with which he moved through life. Although an energetic little boy there was always a calmness about him.
In those early years I began to emerge in ways I could never have dreamed of. When the two of us would go out, almost always, someone would say, “Oh, what a beautiful little boy.” And then, looking at my premature silver hair, would ask, “He must look like his father.”
I will never understand why I felt it necessary to answer, “He’s adopted and he’s Brazilian?” I hate to admit it but I believe I felt the need to give a reason for the difference in the way we looked. Looking back, I felt the strong need to justify us or give info I didn’t have to. I believe I wanted us to be “normal” – whatever that means.
Through the years, regardless of age, my son never once spoke up when someone said, “Look at that dark hair.” At any time he could have said, “I’m Brazilian.” Guess he didn’t feel he had to. However, I always spoke up, “My hair used to be dark like his.” Now I think back with “What did that remark have to do with my son anyway?”
From my son I learned something about myself --- that my confidence was not as secure as his and I discovered the color issue was not as settled in my life as I thought it was. I, personally, just couldn’t accept the questions about the two of us, and felt I had to give a definition.
One day I decided to quit explaining, quit justifying and just let people think what they would. My son has taught me so much and I respect, that to his core, he has always had a depth of maturity that held at bay questions from the outside.
He didn’t need me to define him then.
He doesn’t need me to define him now.
Monday, September 5, 2011
“Hello, this is the Oprah Winfrey network calling.” Yes, that was the message that was playing on my answering machine last week as I walked towards my phone in disbelief. The caller went on to say that he was looking to speak with Amy Wise about an article she wrote about tough times don't have to mean no fun. Let me just say when I first heard the words “This is the Oprah Winfrey Network calling,” I thought it was a joke. However, when the caller started talking about a specific article I wrote, I picked up the phone and he introduced himself. He was an associate producer from the OWN Network at the new primetime Suze Orman show. He asked if I would be willing to give him a phone interview so he could get some more information about my article and situation for a possible appearance on the show. At this point I was between thinking, “I just know I’m being punk’d, to, “You have got to be kidding me!” I truly wasn’t sure what to think! So I didn’t think, and instead, I talked. As I started giving him details of how we lost everything due to the crazy water issue, how we fell apart, started over, and created an even more amazing dream and stronger family, I was still thinking, “I’m soooo being punk’d!” When he asked if I was willing to go into detail about just how financially devastated we were, because of course Suze Orman’s entire show is based on finances, I was still thinking, “This can’t be real!” I told him I wasn’t comfortable sharing financial information and asked him if he would send me some credentials via email. You just never know. He promptly sent the credentials and then we proceeded to talk some more. As we talked about my situation he also shared with me that he had read quite a bit of my writing online and really loved what he had read on my blog. He told me that he was in an interracial relationship as well. He said this was the first interracial relationship he had ever been in and it was wonderful to read my blog and see how happy we were after all these years. I said, “No way, of all the producers, they chose you to call me!?” I just thought that was hilarious! By the time we were done talking it felt like we were old friends. In fact, we plan to keep in touch and I’m so looking forward to seeing his relationship progress.
Okay, back to the OWN Network call. First, let me say that I’m not the type of person that gets star struck by anyone. I have lived a very blessed life that has exposed me to everything from embassy parties filled with dignitaries, princes, and military elite, to, media, literary and sports figures. We have always taught Tatiana that no matter what type of job you have, it’s just a job. When someone is in the spotlight it has nothing to do with who they are as a person, it’s simply their career. We have made sure to teach her that nobody is better than anybody else no matter what they do or how much money they make. So, that being said, I have to say when The Oprah Winfrey Network called, I will admit, I was blown away! Yes, I admit it. Not because it was her network, but because she has been through it all and is the queen of inspiration! You could have knocked me over with a feather when I got that call. It meant the world to me because my mission and my passion is to always pay it forward. I mean every single day! Whether it’s opening a door, donating, volunteering, lending a hand…whatever the help might be….that's what I’m all about! Over the last four years we have had support and help from so many and I’m determined to forever pay that forward. Forever. That is what the call represented to me. It’s about inspiring others and being there for each other and the OWN Network and everyone involved in that network is all about inspiration and helping! I literally cried when I got off the phone because I knew the call meant that I was on the right path and doing the right things after all the madness and mayhem we have lived these last four plus years.
I have talked to the network a couple of times since the initial call and regardless of what happens down the road I will always treasure the fact that our story was, and is, inspirational to others dealing with difficult life issues.
Mind you, we are still in the middle of dealing with our case, appeals, and the insanity of the “justice” system, but we have created a new life and we no longer let the old life control our future. We control it. After all, who says we can only have one dream!? We have created new dreams and my heart literally sings when I sit back and look at how far we have come. We have been through so much and have worked so hard as a family to not only keep it together after losing everything and having to totally start over, but to make sure that we are stronger than ever before. Jamie has been our steady rock and will be starting his own business, Tatiana graduated high school one year early and is starting her new future, and I have an amazing career as a writer. We fell hard, but we slowly and methodically got back up because we were surrounded by support, love, and faith. It’s really quite amazing!
In the end, the calls from the OWN Network will always hold a special place in my heart, but more importantly the calls reiterated that dreams CAN come true, not once, but as many times as you want them to. So for everyone out there….go for it…your dreams are waiting. Now it’s your turn!