amo.says

my life in my words


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Celebrating the annual Easter Reunion from a distance . . . in a coffee shop (naturally) ;p

Celebrating the annual Easter Reunion from a distance . . . in a coffee shop (naturally) ;p

 

Our family and extended family gets together every year for an annual Easter Reunion where we barbecue, have an egg hunt, and smash cascarones down peoples’ pants until the day is done! Now, one thing you should know about our family is that we are a rowdy bunch and we make ourselves KNOWN everywhere we go! So naturally, we gotta represent at these reunions and one of the ways we do that is by wearing shirts to show off our family. For the past few years, I’ve had the opportunity to design our family reunion T-shirt. This year I got to do it again and had so much fun playing around with the design. When my Auntie “O” sent me the design request e-mail, her idea was this:

 

This is the thought that is coming across for this year’s shirt. Two Coconut trees with Mamo on one and Papo on the other. Nuts in the tree could be the Kids, John, Josie, Olga, etc. and on the ground under the trees could be the rest of us “nuts.”

I knew immediately that I was going to have fun with this one! One of the things you have to think about as a designer is how your design can loan itself to the atmosphere of the event and the personality of the people you are designing for. Luckily for me, my family has a great sense of humor—you CANNOT spend more than 5 minutes with my family without cracking up at something that someone says/does—it’s awesome! So I took that idea that coconut trees were associated with the water, and the fact that we spend each Reunion at the beach. I think you know where it went from there 😉

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That’s right, I went there. 😉

In the initial design, I decided to put the parents along the rope line, under the two big coconuts that represented my grandparents. Then, I wanted us grandkids to kinda be piled on top of each other because we’re very close. I thought it would be super cute to make the cuzzo cubs into starfish because they’re so playful and their personalities stand out so boldly. The sweetest part for me was adding the two seagulls flying above our family. They represent two of our family members that have died and are watching over us from Heaven.

After this initial design, I sent it off and awaited the critiques and changes. I know it sounds crazy and a bit masochistic, but I LOVE critiques. I think my worst nightmare would be for someone to say, “Hey that looks great, let’s go with it!” and deep down inside, they’re saying, “Y’know, it’s an okay design, but it’s not my favorite and I probably won’t want to keep it in eyesight of others cause it’s not that great.” Nightmare city for sure! I love critiques, especially from friends and family because it helps me grow and become better, allowing me to see things from a different perspective so that I can create something we’re all proud of. So I welcome and look forward to the process of making edits to my designs. The e-mail I got back after the initial design said:

Fallon’s sons name is Elijah. Can you make the 2013 a bit darker – as I need the screen to be able to pick it up, since it will all be a one ink print.

Right on! Let’s try this again . . .

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We’re getting there . . .

Hey, I went by the tshirt guy tonight & he loved your design. He did ask that we make a few changes though so that the printing would be a bit crisper.

On the coconuts, we need to take the gray shading off  &  just leave it white. It is just a 1 color screen & the color will be black and the shading might mess up how the names look. Also is there a way to make the starfish a bit bigger and stack them, since they will be bigger?

The names are so small inside the starfish that when it prints they will barely be seen, if they are seen at all. If we make the starfish bigger, made me wonder if we needed to make the coconuts bigger so the starfish dont overplay the coconuts?? He also asked if the title could be a thicker or bigger fonts so that it would catch one’s eye. If not, then that will be fine.

You got it!

WINNER, WINNER, CHICKEN DINNER!

WINNER, WINNER, CHICKEN DINNER!

Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Squirrels, we have a WINNER!

This was the final design that left both camps happy as a clam! I was so excited to be able to work with my Auntie “O” again to make a shirt that everyone could be proud of. Now comes the kicker . . . when I say we like to make ourselves known, I mean it. Folks, our shirts this year are theme park friendly and kinda takes me back to island life . . . so fresh and so Kiwi Greeeeeen! 😀 I love it!

AGReunionShirt_Kiwi

If it’s one thing that makes me happy, it’s bright colors . . . which is weird because when I was younger, I only wore blacks and grays and HATED bright colors. Nowadays, I love sporting hot pink, electric blue, highlighter yellow, and the like. And now, I get to add a fun addition to the collection! You can imagine just how happy it made me to get my shirt in the mail on Thursday:

Thanks for shipping my shirt to me, Auntie "O"!

Thanks for shipping my shirt to me, Auntie “O”!

I am more than proud to sport my shirt today (and tomorrow afternoon) in solidarity with my family as they are at the family reunion all day today. I’m even more excited because tomorrow, I get to make cascarones with the kids in our Children’s Ministry  . . . and I’m probably gonna make some extras to crack on some heads after church!

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Family Tree

Some life events create memories and dreams that just stick with you longer and stronger than others. Like when Pacey and Joey* broke up—because that meant that Pacey was “fair game.” 😉

 

Dear Joey: Sorry, I'm Not Sorry . . . The Boy Is MINE! ;)

Dear Joey: Sorry, I’m Not Sorry . . . The Boy Is MINE! 😉

 

Then there was also that one time that I volunteered at ROYAL FAMILY KIDS CAMP. Royal Family Kids Camp is the nation’s leading network of camps for abused, neglected and abandoned children. Spending that initial week with kids in the foster care system opened my eyes and heart up in a whole new way and put a burning passion in my heart to adopt. I know I’ve shared with you before about my desire to adopt, but it wasn’t until recently that I decided to make a first move in that direction. After my big medical fiasco, I realized just how precious and fragile life is and how quickly it passes by. I’ve had many opportunities to think about the things I had taken for granted and hesitated pursuing because of fears and doubts. One of those many things I’ve hesitated on was adopting a child. After much consideration, thought, and prayer, I decided to sign up for and attend a meeting at Amara to start learning about the process of adoption in Washington State!

 

One small step for Amo, one giant leap into the next season of life! Feeling a lot of rainbows and a billion butterflies ♥

 

I want to reassure you that this was just an information meeting, designed to cover the basics of the adoption process, the history of the organization, the numbers/finances involved, etc. The bonus was that we got to hear from a parent who went through Amara with her husband to adopt a child—a beautiful little girl! The majority of the crowd consisted of couples and the questions they asked were more geared toward adopting infants and small children, so I decided to just take notes and save my questions until after the meeting. I was very pleased that the majority of my questions were answered in the meeting and the others I had were answered afterward. I left the meeting feeling empowered, encouraged, and excited for what my future (and my family’s future) will hold! Speaking of questions, I’ve shared this dream briefly on the blog, but there are still a lot of questions that others have asked when I’ve shared in-person, that I haven’t answered here. I want to go ahead and take time to do that, so here goes:

Q: Are you adopting?

A: Yes! . . . but not today. I simply wanted to attend the meeting so that I would know what I’m getting myself into, what to expect, and whether it would even be possible for me to adopt. I am currently single and while I would LOVE to be in a dating (and eventually) marriage relationship, I don’t necessarily want to rely on a marital status to get the ball rolling. Adoption can take up to a year and a half to finalize and sometimes longer depending on the adoption criteria and the parents of the child up for adoption. IDEALLY, I’d like to start the adoption process once I’m engaged to the man I will marry, but if that doesn’t happen in the next couple of years, I don’t want that to stop me from pursuing the adoption. I do know that the man I marry must be someone who is okay with adopting our first child.

Q: Wait. Your FIRST child?

A: Yes. I want my first child to be adopted. Will my first for sure be adopted? Who knows. Everything in life is unpredictable and I very may well give birth to our first child, but again, IDEALLY I would want my first to be adopted. I want them to have the experience of being THE FIRST CHOICE after a long line of events where they may have felt “unwanted.”

Q: Do you have something against natural childbirth?

A: Yes and no. It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of the pain involved with carrying a child for 9 months only to have it rip through the nether-regions like a blazing torpedo. Nor am I a huge fan of goop, poop, and baby puke. That said, if I DO end up having a natural birth, I will go through all of that with the happiest, most content heart because it will be a life-giving process to a sweet child that my husband and I made. I will forever love that child, just as much as I would an adopted child, and it will know the beauty of love and family to no end. However, I do tend to lean more toward adoption as a personal option and would be perfectly fine with never giving birth to a child.

Q: What kind of child are you hoping to adopt?

A: A teenager. It’s no secret that I have an undying love for teens and helping them seize life to the fullest. I love their attitudes, inquisitive minds, ability to communicate more than younger children (if given the opportunity and right), and that they haven’t been completely “ruined” by the pressures of adulthood. I love that they are big kids! I most definitely love younger children as well, I just have an extra amount of love for those in their pre-teen/teen years. Then there is also the fact that in the foster care system, teenagers are less likely to be adopted because most are looking for younger children. That means that teens spend more time in the foster care system, sometimes bouncing around from foster home to foster home with an even more deconstructed sense of home, family, stability, and security. I want to rescue them from that and show them what it’s like to feel safe and wanted.

Q: Can you even adopt as a single parent?

A: That was actually one of my big questions last night. I know some agencies that I’ve looked into that don’t support single-parent adoption. However, Amara does. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I’ll use their agency, but at least I know that it’s possible. The answer is YES, yes I can! That means that if I reach a point 2 years from now and I find myself still single, I will most likely go ahead and start the adoption process as a single parent. The cool thing is that the process is the same financially and structurally for adoptive parents, whether they are single or not. I wouldn’t be charged extra and there would be no extra hoops for me to jump through.

Q: What kind of adoption are you planning to go for?

A: I would like to pursue a “Foster-To-Adopt” plan. While I understand the beauty of simply being a full-time foster parent, I really do want a child of my own. I want to be a full-time mother to an incredible teenager who has endured the foster care system to come out on the other end knowing faith, family, hope, and love . . . permanently. I want to pursue open adoption because I think it’s important that a child who has been placed in foster care know where they came from and are able to stay connected to their birth parents, if they so choose.

Q: You do realize that you might not get to keep the kids that you foster or even try to adopt, right?

A: It’s a sad reality I’ve had to weigh-out a lot. It was reiterated last night at the meeting that there is ALWAYS a chance for heartbreak in the process and that there is ALWAYS a chance that at the last minute, the birth parents can change their minds and not release the child to you. I realize that I could go through the entire process of extensive home visits, training sessions, support group meetings, evaluations, etc. and still come out on the other end without a child to call my own. However, in the words of Julia Roberts, “I would rather have thirty minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special.”

Q: What if the child you adopt is rebellious and comes with a lot of baggage?

A: I say bring it on! I think it’s easy to forget that we ALL have baggage and no load is too heavy for love to bear. It would be the same as if I had a child of my own that grew through the teen years with baggage and a strong-willed sense of rebellion . . . I would love them through it—tough love included! I don’t actually see much of a difference between an adopted child and a personally birthed child. The only difference I see is that I didn’t actually go through child-bearing and labor to have the adopted child, and again, I’m okay with that. I can’t think of anything more worthwhile than giving a teenager a “second chance” at ‘family’ and ‘home,’ and I am MORE than willing to work through with slammed doors, late night runaways, and unwise choices to help them get to the point of knowing that they are worthwhile, loved, and wanted no matter what. One of my favorite things that was shared at the meeting last night was the speaker’s advice that, “Most likely, the child that you adopt will not look like the one you have pictured in your mind.” I think above all, that reminder coupled with an attitude of flexibility, and a dedication to love no matter what will help me (and my husband) conquer whatever situations come with the adoption process.

 

Whew! That’s a lot of Q & A . . . and I’m sure there are still more. In the meantime, feel free to ask me more questions, pose scenarios, and just talk things through with me. I mean, please realize that no matter what you say/ask, I’m not going to change my mind about wanting to adopt, but I most definitely welcome conversation about it! I realize this whole process is going to change my life in so many huge ways, but I figure, what big event doesn’t—especially when it comes to adding new people into your family. I just hope I will be able to add you to my network of emotional/mental support along the way. It takes a village, y’know! 😉

 

*Holla’ back, fellow DAWSON’S CREEK fans! 😉


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Redeemed

Although this is a heavy, serious post, I want to start it with the end in mind. I want to begin with God-given hope because that is where years spent in the darkness has led me to—so here, have a listen to this beautiful anthem:

 

 

[For those currently suffering from self-harm addictions, please read with caution, as triggers may arise.]

From the time I was in the 5th grade to the time I graduated from High School, I was what is commonly known as a “cutter.” I spent 8 years of my life taking out my hurt, pain, shame, and fear on my own skin. I never had the heart to hurt anyone but myself. I spent those years wearing long sleeves to hide my cuts, burns, and swollen needle-poked areas. I had such a hard time looking in the mirror because I hated the person in it. That girl was “never enough” and “a trouble-maker.” When I got upset at myself and didn’t have any objects around to cut with, I would slap myself hard in the face and bang my body against hard objects to punish myself. Through self-harm I also developed a habit of binge eating any time I felt stressed, upset, or hurt. The shame from that only led to more physical self-harm—one of the most vicious cycles I’ve ever been in. Needless to say, I could not see the light in the darkness.

 

SHADtweet2

 

I remember the brave day in High School when I finally told one of my friends about the self-harm. He had caught me reading A BRIGHT RED SCREAM, which I had checked out of the library because I knew I had a problem and finally wanted to do something about it. I still buy that book to give to the many teens struggling with self-harm that I have counseled with. After I had revealed my dirty little secret to my friend, he watched over me like only a guardian angel could. I remember one night after a  school event, he and I and a mutual friend were all hanging out on the practice football field behind the school. Earlier that morning, I had gotten into a fight with one of my parents and a lot of hurtful words were said by the both of us. That night as we were laying and chatting on the football field, I looked up at the sky with my friends and pretended nothing was wrong. All through the conversation, I was silently clawing my nails into my wrists, attempting to break the skin to bleed out the pain. My friend saw what was going on, and silently grabbed my hands and just held them down while our friend finished speaking. Shortly thereafter, he suggested we head back to the main building where there was more light. He held my hand as we walked back to the front of the building and I saw in his teary eyes, his plea for me to stop. That was a major turning point for me.

 

 

I continued to struggle with self-harm for another few years, experiencing good days and bad days. It wasn’t until I got plugged into my local youth group, in my later High School years, that I began to actually work through the addiction with some youth leaders who helped counsel me and loved me through the pain. Through their time + attention and through developing a deep relationship with Jesus Christ, I was able to feel loved not for what I could DO for someone, but for just being ME. While those mind games are still something I struggle with often, I’m gaining ground on it and I’ve been “cut-free” for the past  10 years. It’s safe to say that there may come a point in the future where I am tempted to resort to those old ways, but this time I not only have my best friends and my therapist, on my side—I also have the powerful reminder of God’s abounding love that says, “You don’t have to do that. I will carry you through this. I have already paid the price to give you the victory from that fear and hurt. You are my beloved and I have something much better in store for you.” Because of the love, grace, and freedom I have in Christ, I no longer see cutting as an option for my life. Instead, God has redeemed those years of my life and has graciously allowed me to counsel with 17 different young ladies in the past 10 years who struggle with self-harm, eating disorders, and depression. Together, we are rising up out of the ashes into a beautiful freedom.

 

Amen to this!

Amen to this!

 

With today being Self-Harm Awareness Day, I want to challenge you to not just read my story, but to offer yourself as a listening ear for a pre-teen/teen/young person in your immediate circle of friends. They may not look like they are struggling (and they may not be, but you never know) and talk with them about the topic of self-harm. Ask them if they know of anyone at their school or in their circle of friends that struggles with it. Ask them how that affects them and if there is anything they can do to share love with that person. If you do talk to someone who is struggling with self-harm, please take time to listen to them, give them a hug, and let them know that it gets better—that there is hope and that they are loved. Sometimes, that’s all we need to hear to get through the day!

 

For more information and some good resources, check out:

METRO BLOGS: Many may recoil, but self-harm’s silent screams need hearing as well as healing

NHS Info on Self-Harm

To Write Love on Her Arms — A non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide.

BOOK: Cutting: Understanding and Overcoming Self-Mutilation

Helpguide’s Myths + Facts List for Self-Harm

S.A.F.E. Alternatives Network

1-800-334-HELP – Self Injury Foundation’s 24-hour national crisis line.