By Jennifer (Smith) Schuler
Those of you who read Mary Ann Filler’s blog, “Change Your Perspective,” were likely as moved as I was. Yet for me, it was more than just her message of looking outside ourselves and our world into that of others to see our blessings.
What actually most impressed me was that she had set out to write on one topic and then–bam–changed it completely because she just had to write about what was in her heart at that moment. That’s what we writers do. We see something, hear something, experience something … and we just have to write it down. Then we find that we just have to share it. And that’s what I felt like I had to do late this Monday night as I sat by the fire, warming my tired and aching back.
For nearly two years now, I have been living (sort of) and dealing (barely) with chronic pain through two conditions. To spare you the details, I will just say that fortunately neither of my conditions is life-threatening. The first actually has now been completely treated and resolved, and the second is getting there.
Although certainly this does at the end of the day make me grateful, those who have been through the same thing know that non-stop chronic pain and all that goes with it–pain management regiments, endless doctor’s visits, various treatments and procedures, and some big lifestyle changes really affects you and your family.
As Thanksgiving approaches, I am especially thankful for the endless and unconditional love, support, and grace I have received from my family. Although just a small one–comprised of my husband, son, and dog–the three of them have helped me hold my life together when I have felt it coming unraveled. The best part about my family? It was not built by blood–it was built by choice and by love.
Few of the people I consider extended family are biologically related to me. As far as I’m concerned, whoever created the expression “blood is thicker than water” was wrong. In my experience, those have generally not been the people who have been a part of our lives. Rather, it has been those who have come into our lives and stayed, who have become a part of our family by choice.
November is National Adoption Month. President Obama wrote a powerful and stirring proclamation to mark the month as such, and to let the world know what a special way adoption is to build a one’s family. I share it with you at the end of this post, and encourage you this Thanksgiving and the rest of this month to do three things:
1) Count your blessings – all of them, no matter how small.
Recently, one of the specialists I am working with delivered a difficult message to hear: I will not be able to run again. As a former avid runner, who found great peace, solace, comfort, and even triumph over life’s many trials through running, I was devastated. That is, until I realized that I have been, over time, replacing that activity with another–Middle Eastern dance. It is a doctor-approved activity I can safely do with my condition and it actually strengthens my body. Oh yeah, and I’m good at it–blessing counted!
2) Support and uplift all those people you know who have dealt with infertility and loss of children, and who have struggled to build their family. Celebrate with those who have finally done so through adoption.
Recently, I talked with a cousin of mine who had suffered miscarriages as well. For her, even though she is now a grandmother and that time of great sadness was so long ago, discussing it still brought her to tears. The pain never goes away.
Also, it hurts when an adoptive family is shut out from extended family activities and doesn’t feel embraced by those around them. It is, quite simply, not their job to have to fight to be included, or to feel welcomed and embraced. Rather, it is the job of the adoptive family’s extended family members and friends to go out of their way to make extra sure they are being sensitive to that adoptive family, and to see that they feel welcomed, embraced, and included. Your acceptance and love will mean more than you could ever know to them – please read my blog, “Supporting Adoptive Families” for some ideas on how you can be that special person in their lives!
3) Look around to find people who can fill the shoes of anyone biologically related to you who, for whatever reason, isn’t willing to be a part of your life.
For awhile, my husband and I were really feeling down about this issue in our lives. It took us awhile to process through it, yet finally we made a decision to stop wallowing in the loss, change our perspective, and begin building our family through those whom we choose and who choose us. Our spirits have now lifted greatly, our feelings of sadness and loss have dissipated, and – best of all – our little boy is going to grow up around some pretty fantastic and loving people!
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone, and happy National Adoption Month. Here’s to our families–no matter how they are built!
NATIONAL ADOPTION MONTH, 2012
– – – – – – –
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
As a Nation that believes all children deserve the chance to reach their full potential, we have a fundamental responsibility to ensure each of them grows up knowing the love and protection of a permanent family. During National Adoption Month, we give voice to children who are still waiting for that opportunity, celebrate the bond that unites adoptive parents with their sons and daughters, and recommit to providing every child with the care and security that will nurture their development and well-being.
Later this month, many Americans will also mark National Adoption Day by completing a foster care adoption and embracing a new member of their family. Driven by reasons unique to their households but united by the spirit of compassion that moves all who choose to adopt, these parents will take up our country’s most important task — the work of raising our sons and daughters. As we celebrate the contributions of adoptive parents across our Nation, let us also strive to eliminate discriminatory barriers that would separate foster children from a loving family. Adoptive families come in many forms, and it is essential that all qualified adults have the opportunity to care for a child in need.
My Administration remains committed to helping every child find a loving home. We have partnered with faith-based and community organizations across America to help connect children with adoptive parents, and we continue to work with State, local, and tribal governments to improve child outcomes; enhance safety, permanency, and well-being; and support adoptive families. I was proud to sign the Affordable Care Act and the International Adoption Simplification Act, which have made it easier for families to adopt, as well as the Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act, which will help reduce the length of time young children are without families. We have built on those efforts as part of the National Adoption Campaign, which continues to bring adoption and foster care into our national conversation.
Thousands of children living in America hope for the comfort and safety of a loving family. This month, we pay tribute to the dedicated professionals who help make those children’s dreams a reality, sharpen our resolve to find a permanent home for every child, and celebrate the stories of all whose lives have been touched by adoption.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim November 2012 as National Adoption Month. I encourage all Americans to observe this month by answering the call to find a permanent and caring family for every child in need, and by supporting the families who care for them.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this first day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand twelve, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-seventh.