Sunday, July 29, 2012

Life Vision - Then and Now

Today's question for the Summer Blog Challenge asks: "How does your life measure up to the vision you had when you were younger?"

When I growing up, my parents didn't have my sister, brother, and I envisioning our future and creating life plans for ourselves. They had us focus on living in the present moment - going to school and doing after-school activities. I don't ever remember them encouraging us to actively envision what life would be like as an adult.

That being said, they gave us many opportunities to explore potential careers. Programs like Junior Achievement and Medical Explorer Post introduced me to careers in the business or medical fields.

During junior and early senior high school (when I did these programs), my strongest interest was in neonatology. (Neonatology is a subspecialty of pediatrics that focuses on the medical care of newborn infants, especially the ill or premature newborn infant.)

By senior high school and going into college, my focus shifted to being an occupational therapist. (Occupational therapists treat patients with injuries, illnesses, or disabilities through the therapeutic use of everyday activities.) After my first semester in college and taking a biology course, I realized that being an O.T. was not something I was called to do.

I changed to being a Psychology major since the general psychology courses I was taking were very interesting to me. I chose to double-major when I realized that to do anything professionally with a psychology degree, one needed to go on to get a masters or doctorate degree. Financially, that wasn't an option for me.

So, I chose Theater, Communications, and Telecommunications as my second major. I did an internship in each of the subcategories to help me determine which path I wanted to pursue. Although I enjoyed the backstage elements of theater (e.g., costuming), there weren't courses at college that specifically would have prepared me for that field.

So, I focused on the communications element - public relations and advertising. After graduating from college, I began working for Jim Fish who was well-known in the the field at the time. He hired me as an assistant and then helped me get my first job in a field I had not even heard of: fundraising and development.

This became the field I worked in from 1989-2003 - working in art, education, environmental, and agricultural non-profit organizations. From being an administrative assistant to founding and running my own non-profit organization, it was a journey that I didn't envision for myself, but was very happy to have been involved with for 14 years.

Children learning how to do Taiko drumming
during the Create & Cultivate Art Camp.
I hired artist-educators to work with children at the 
camps that were held at the farm.
(Original photo taken by me, and 
then modified by MRAC.)

During that time, I became a mother to Sophia and Olivia. Being a parent wasn't something I envisioned growing up. In fact, when I was 13 years old I didn't think I would have children. I couldn't see myself as a mom. It wasn't until a couple of foreign exchange students - Ruth and Bel - suggested exploring adopting children in Brazil (where they were from), did it even cross my mind.

Ruth and Girls in Osceola
Ruth came back for a visit and 
was able to meet Sophia and Olivia.
(May 30, 2009)

Originally, Limiar (a non-profit organization that helps facilitates adoptions through Brazil) was the organization that referred children seeking permanent families. There were many referrals - individual children and sibling groups - that were suggested as good matches.

After many referrals, there was a sibling group that was suggested - a girl and her two brothers. They were willing to be separated, they said. As I watched the video of the three children (about 9-14 years old), the interviewer asked the girl a question about going to the United States..alone. For a split second, her facial expression changed indicating her discomfort with the idea.

I contacted the agency and said, "I don't think Rejane wants to be adopted without her brothers. Could you please ask her specifically if she does or prefers to stay with her brothers." So, they asked her and, sure enough, she did not want to be adopted alone. Understandably.

Back to the beginning...with more referrals. Finally, a girl without siblings was suggested. She was living with her grandmother since her mother had died from natural causes. Her grandmother was aging, and was concerned about her granddaughter's life once she died. She wanted to make an adoption plan for her. The granddaughter understood and was ready to be adopted. She was 10 years old.

The adoption was ready to move forward...until the government officials in Brazil stopped all international adoptions. (Up until that point they were allowing parent-initiated adoptions. The government wanted all international adoptions to be supervised by a Hague-certified U.S. international adoption agency.) Even though we were working through Hague-certified adoption agencies, it didn't matter. There was no estimated time when the situation would be resolved. 

After several months of waiting, I let the adoption agency know that we would not move forward with an international adoption. On that particular Mother's Day, I gave my niece all the clothes I had purchased for the girl who would have been part of our family. 

I remember saying that evening, "If I'm meant to be a mom, the only other country I'd consider adopting from is China. I'm sure the adoption fees are too high. However, if they aren't, then I'll take a look at it."

The next morning, I went on the internet and did a search for adopting children from China. I can't remember the specific keywords I used, but America China Adoption Agency (later renamed American World Adoption Agency) came up as the first one on the list. Its rates were affordable because their focus was on uniting children who were living in Chinese orphanages with families. It had the right philosophy.

As a side note, I did the same search many other times in the months that followed, and ACAA never came up again as the first one on that list. I took that as a sign that this was the path that was meant to be.

Sophia was adopted through ACAA in 2001.

Sophia as a Rose Princess
Sophia in her rose princess costume.
(Taken on October 31, 2007, when she was 6 years old.)

Olivia was adopted through Great Wall China Adoption in 2003. 

Olivia Resting on Hands
Olivia wanted some pictures taken of herself.
She enjoyed posing and thinking of 
different ways to sit and place her hands.
(Taken on January 31, 2008, when she was 5 years old.)

Both girls have been huge blessings. I can't imagine my life without them in it.

When they were young, I took them to ECFE and early childhood programs at the Waldorf school. Both girls went to preschool - Sophia at the one held at a local church and Olivia through the school district where she also received speech therapy.

By 2004, I decided that homeschooling would be the best match for the girls' educational needs. This is not a path that I envisioned taking because when I was growing up homeschooling was illegal. In fact, in Minnesota, as late as January 1984, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that a mother was found guilty of homeschooling her children without a teaching license.  (I graduated from high school in June 1984.)

Now, eight years later, I am still homeschooling Sophia and Olivia and couldn't be happier with that decision.

Sophia Measuring the Jaw
Science is a favorite subject of both of the girls.
Sophia is measuring the jaw of a skull to 
determine what animal it is from.
(Taken on April 21, 2008, when Sophia was 7 years old.)

The joy of helping them learn new skills and build their knowledge about a wide variety of subjects is truly a highlight of my life. It is a great fit for their learning styles, abilities, and interests.

Feeding a Baby Goat
Olivia enjoyed visiting a dairy goat farm and 
feeding some of the baby goats there.
(Taken on March 19, 2010, when Olivia was 7 years old.)

Has my life turned out as I thought it would? Am I a neonatologist, an occupational therapist, or in public relations/advertising? No. Yet, my life is even richer and more rewarding than I could have even imagined it.


Jeanine Byers said...

What a fascinating post!! I loved reading your story, how your life changed in ways you couldn't have planned or predicted.

What Remains Now said...

What a beautiful story of your life.

Mandy Currie said...

Ann, I've got to tell you how much I admire what you're doing, I learn so much from your blog. Your girls are amazing and it really tickles me to watch their activites. My parents never gave me an option, I was told I was getting married so education wasn't important. I never learnt anything in further education, the man I married didn't believe women should work so I was a homebody and had 4 miscarriages so no child of my own. My marriage lasted 10 years of misery and hardship. Then I was thrust into the working world, to survive. The only skills I had were typing and basic bookkeeping, but I did ok and have now been married to a wonderful man for 21 years. We moved from South Africa to England 4years ago. Now I'm disabled in my 50s but struggling in the UK. Sorry I guess the story is too long for such a post. I still find lots of things that I need to learn but I now have faith that things will become better. God bless you for all that you do for your children, at least you're giving them good opportunities to grow. It was Your opening question that got me thinking..... Thank you for listening. Regards Mandy Currie

Anonymous said...

Great story! My parents asked us often what we wanted to be when we grow up... either way, asking or not we really do not know when we are 6 what we want to be or how and when we will be parents! said...

Thank you for sharing this story! I am so fascinated by international adoption, and hope that someday it will be a possibility for me. What beautiful girls!

Anna Murphy said...

Thank you for this fascinating story. Actually, you are the fascinating center to this story. What an amazing journey you've been on.

Nicole GF said...

What a great's funny how karma works!

Shannon said...

What a wonderful story! I have a friend who had recently been researching international adoption and there are so many rules for each different country and they are young, so they were having difficulty with that. Then all of a sudden they found out she was pregnant, so now they won't be adopting for a few more years.