Above and Beyond

After weeks and months of preparation, Friday arrived. With just a few hours to go, I wondered what would happen. How many people would come? Would they buy? Would folks get the connection between the cups and kids?

My friend Gary posted on Facebook “It’s going to be a HUGE success. Better than your wildest dreams!!!” I wanted to believe him. The last minute worry and anticipation was killing me.

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Photo courtesy of Beth Reynolds

I had no idea how right he was.

The show was to start at 6pm. At 5:30 folks began arriving. We weren’t even open yet so this was a good sign! At 6:05 a stream of people came in. By 6:10 twenty cups had sold. Twenty! By 6:30 another nineteen had sold. This thing was on fire.

Then something happened that I won’t soon forget. My friend Nancy wanted to introduce me to a family she had invited. They had come with their three adopted children to pick out cups for their birthparents. My heart swelled for them, their kids, and their birthparents. A friend came I hadn’t seen in a long time and told me for the first time that she was adopted. I learned another friend’s mom was adopted and how it has impacted her life. This happened time and time again throughout the evening. Friends came with their foster kids. Stories shared, hugs given over and over.  This was the celebration of love shared with arms open wide that I hoped for.

Celebrating with Janice Halpern and Maurine Albano of the Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange Photo courtesy of Donna Gulow

As the evening wore on it became clear that it was a success. On multiple levels. Janice Halpern from MARE gave a compelling and succinct presentation about the work MARE does. We learned a youngster that had been photographed as a foster child by our own Beth Reynolds had been adopted. Two of my friends were considering going to the adoption party on Sunday.

Since Friday more cups have sold and I think we only have eleven left to sell. I was asked “why continue to stay open for the whole month if all the cups sell?” Because this is not just about selling cups. This is about awareness. That is why I didn’t want to sell cups online. You can buy anything online and it isn’t a meaningful experience. It doesn’t present an opportunity to walk into a space full of beautiful handmade work AND see a connection to young, hopeful faces of children seeking a family so desperately. They are forever linked in this project. Each person who goes home with their cup at the closing party will be bringing with them a memory of those faces, a keepsake of having done some good in the world with their purchase.

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Photo courtesy of Don Treeger

The other key piece I can’t stress enough is the supporting of artists in the pursuit of their livelihood. They will each be compensated for their labor. They deserve it. They’ve earned it. And perhaps if their cup sold before someone else who wanted it could purchase it, that person will contact them and they will sell additional work as well.

Greg and I didn’t do this alone. We had an incredible team of volunteers who made this thing sing come Friday night. We had Kickstarter backers who saw the potential and propelled this project past just a possibility. And what great cheerleaders from Facebook to email and texts, the support has been stupendous!

Will I do it again? Without hesitation, yes. We are already talking about next year. In the meantime we can finally rest. We did it! It worked. Beautifully. Whether you purchased, submitted work, gave advice, volunteered, donated goods, shared posts, interviewed or photographed us and the cups, I am forever in your debt for your role in making this is a success. This wouldn’t have been what I envisioned without all of you. I do hope you’ll stay involved. I look forward to making this even bigger next year.  In the meantime lets make more purchases with purpose. I know I will seek them out and make my dollars do more work for good near and far.

Read all about it! And Why

16137312-standardA great article came out about the cup show, first of two. I hope it gets the word out to a demographic I am anxious to reach about the cup show: adoptive and foster families.

I want you to know you are being celebrated and honored. You are truly saving lives. The lives of children who might otherwise be lost. And by lost I mean the young boy who never gets a chance to find out what he really loves to do and be and instead has to find his way alone on the street. Or a teenage girl who thinks the only way to be loved is to have a baby to take care of not having been loved wholly herself.

I wanted to be a parent, have a family. It didn’t matter to me if my kids were girls, boys, brown, white, birthed by me or not.  It didn’t matter. I wasn’t thinking that I was doing a great thing or saving somebody. I mean, on some level I knew that to be true I guess, but it wasn’t my motivation.

As time went on, the intensity around what it would mean and who our children would be grew. The process was complex. There were interviews, background checks, letters of recommendation and home studies. A ten-week course educating us on the process, the kids, and the foster care system. We wrote long essays about who we are, our families, our goals, beliefs, you name it. Then we had to answer a long list of painfully difficult questions about what we could and could not handle in a child’s mental development, potential health issues or family dynamics. This stands out in my mind as one of the most difficult pieces of the process. How could I say I wouldn’t accept a child into my family if he or she had a disability, an alcoholic mother, or mental illness in their family’s history? I didn’t know who they could become, neither did anyone else and to judge who they are sight unseen by these things was mind blowing to me. I met a foster mom who took two children with feeding tubes into her care. One was in a wheelchair. I knew I couldn’t handle that, but for her, as a nurse, it was exactly what she wanted. Who she wanted.

When all that was said and done its time to choose.  How do you choose which child you want? Such a bizarre thing. Phonebook size binders full of photographs, paragraphs of stories. Each and every one wrenched my heart. I wanted to take them all home. I cry now as I remember the picture of the triplet toddler girls, so perfect in their Sears portraits, needing a home and a place in someone’s heart. They are still in mine apparently. It was so, so hard and exciting at the same time. We learned about the Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange (MARE) at this time. MARE has an online database with a more comprehensive reach than a binder we might see.

Here’s the part I get asked about somewhat regularly.  But how did you choose your kids?  By now we had decided it was a sibling pair we were searching for.   Not babies, not teenagers, but toddler to elementary school age kids. That was the criteria really.  We looked on MARE and found five sibling groups of varying ages and genders. Some had photographs, some did not. (This is due to what the child’s legal status is at the time they are posted for adoption). We took a deep breath and wrote to each sibling group’s social worker and waited.  We learned from their social workers that three of the sibling pairs were in the process of being placed so they were no longer seeking a family. One pair has a child with significant difficulties we didn’t think we could handle. That left one pair whose pics we hadn’t seen. The worker responded with two pictures and a short paragraph on each child.

We opened the email attachment. My hand went to my mouth, my heart leaped. (Yes, I’m tearing up now folks). It’s them! That’s them! Those are my children! I knew it immediately. We jumped up and down. Freaked out really. After that it was all system’s go in finding out how to meet them and what to do next. We couldn’t wait.

These were the two people who would change my life forever…..

9 Days to go

for blogThe last of the postcards are written, the artist database is up to date, and almost all the posters we have are hung. There are a ton more details, but I feel a bit of relief getting over this hurdle.

What an amazing process this has been. Yesterday I was interviewed by Baystate Parent Magazine. It was interesting to talk through how all this began and where we are today. I am still just as passionate and committed today as I was a few short months ago when I started talking about doing the exhibition.

The anticipation is building now. How many people will come? Will we sell out the first night? I can’t wait to find out and hope there is a line to get in the door!

Eaglebrook Presentation

Today I was invited to speak before the Eaglebrook School community about the Finding Forever Project. At 8:30 a.m. a room full of middle school boys grew quiet and I was introduced by their teacher and my friend Jaye from Good Dirt Pottery. I was inspired to hear a bit of her story and to feel part of the community of potters she described. Watching it later today I kept coming back to the young boy at the end who asked about why I chose to adopt. “Normal people don’t adopt kids.”  He seemed uncomfortable when he asked. I did my best to describe how I came to view adoption and my kids, but in retrospect I can’t stop thinking about him. Was he adopted? In foster care? Is he feeling not wanted or ‘not normal’?

His question brought me to a new place about this project. We as a culture don’t talk about the impact of being adopted. It has only come up in my children’s school as a result of some difficulty that they have when being asked to talk about their lives as small children. There is no sensitivity towards what it means if you don’t live with your birth parents. Many children in our community live with grandparents, aunts or uncles, in foster homes or are adopted. And yet it has never come up in the seven years that my children’s early life or part of their identity is any more unique than anyone else’s.

As we move forward to launching the opening, I feel a more pressing need around creating awareness, validation and acceptance for the kids in foster care and who are adopted. The fact is none of our stories is easy, they are all messy in different ways. And all of our stories are unique; ours alone. They deserve to be recognized and respected. I hope in some way we bring these kids the kind of dignity they should already have.

If you’d like to see the talk where I explain how this came about and why Finding Forever is so important, you can do so by clicking here.

Three short weeks….

Busy, busy, busy over here as we move through the physical action phase of Finding Forever. This past weekend we had a terrific cleaning crew join us at the gallery space to get ready for painting. They did a fantastic job!

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In the meantime behind the scenes we have been working on signage, posters, and postcards to spread the word…..

opening poster
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We were delighted to be interviewed by two Massachusetts papers this week, to be invited to speak at a private school about the project and gained a sponsor to help with expenses and site set up. Things are heating up!  And to top it off, two more mugs received today, one to be picked up tomorrow, and others in the mail!

To print out a poster and share in your community, click below.

Finding Forever Poster

Next Phase

As we begin to wind down from the excitement phase of receiving so many diverse and absolutely stellar ceramic mugs and cups, it is time to head into the nose-to-the-grindstone phase of putting all the necessary pieces in place.  This past week Greg Aubin, my creative partner in this venture, designed and had produced the first banners for the exterior of the space. At a major intersection in town, it is quite visible and beginning to spread the word to a wider audience.  OnFriday I was also interviewed and the mugs photographed for inclusion in the local paper. We hear there may even be a call from the Boston Globe! How amazing that would be 🙂 banners on railing When I think about a possible Globe article, I really only think of one thing….the potential for more people to understand how the adoption of a foster child works and become connected with MARE. If just one child, one, was to be adopted as a result of the awareness raised by this event…my heart would burst with the joy of having helped make that connection. It is my hope that will be the case.

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