Monday, February 17, 2014

Happy 41st Birthday, Halis!

About a week ago, I had lunch with my dear friend and fellow photographer, Jim Counihan. This sweet man described a gift he had created for his best friend's birthday. This best friend loves Maine but does not live here. So, Jim created a photo album full of pictures of some of his friend's favorite Maine spots ... and in each frame, Jim incorporated a Happy Birthday message to his friend. I loved this idea ... and immediately began to imagine how I could create something similar for Halis.

Halis is not a huge fan of birthdays ... and even less a fan of parties. He is a loving and loyal friend to many but prefers hanging with people one-on-one and not very frequently. (Do I need to mention that this is the opposite of me, who can't go a day without enjoying a friend?) With this in mind, I thought it might me a great idea to bring the party to Halis in the form of a photo album full of pictures of his family and friends sporting handmade Happy Birthday signs. Turns out this was a fantastic idea!

I put the call out via Facebook, text messaging, and e-mails ... requesting that loved ones take pictures of themselves ... with birthday wishes for Halis ... for inclusion in this project. And they did it in the most wonderful, creative ways! For those who preferred for me to take the photo, I invited them to meet me downtown to snap their smiles.

Pictures came in from Turkey, Haiti, & Canada ... from his workplace ... from his family ... from old high school friends ... from the local movie theater ... from people who he hasn't met yet.

Here are a few of the 70+ photos that were included in his birthday book:

Most made him smile ...

Some made him laugh ...

And these two ... well, these two made him cry ... 

Why did the above photos make him cry? He misses these people so much ... and was shocked to see their faces in his birthday album, as it has been so long since he last communicated with any of them. The lack of communication was not for lack of want or love ... but rather, due to distance.

The two gentleman in the above photo set are in Haiti. They are the directors of the St. Joseph's Home for Boys ... the place where we stayed whenever we went to Haiti ... the place where Halis spent a month trying to bring Isaac home ... a place where miracles happen on a regular basis. These are Halis's heroes.

The two women in the above photo set are in Turkey. They are Halis's paternal Aunts. They love him with wild abandon. They long for him to visit. And Halis wants nothing more than for them to finally meet his son, Isaac. These women have been through much in their lives. They are strong, they are resilient, they are a connection to Halis's father ... whom he lost at such a young age. These are Halis's heroines.

Halis is not one to cry easily. In fact, in our 25 years together, I have rarely seen him do so. Clearly, this gift touched him greatly. He laughed out loud, he smiled big smiles, he "ooh"ed and "aw"ed, he cried. And he was so very thankful. To everyone involved. And so am I. 

Thank you dear friends (and strangers!) for taking part in this. And perhaps each of you can borrow this idea as well and put your own twist on it. The memory of gifts, trinkets, and cards may fade ... but positive experiences and gestures of love do not. This gift will be treasured throughout his lifetime. 

With Love,

P.S. To see the entire album, minus a picture or two ... click HERE.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Remembering Our Journey to Isaac - As We Take the Journey to Our Next Miracle.

Today, a dear friend of mine posted this as her facebook status: Tell me a story.

And so I did:

On August 21, 2005 - I made a trip to Haiti to meet my son for the first time. He was 5 months old and living in an orphanage in Port-au-Prince. I had seen photos of him and already loved him with all my heart but had never held him or heard his voice.

After a long and scary drive to the orphanage - in a small van filled with at least 6 other couples hoping to meet their children - we arrived at a gated and guarded building full of children.

As soon as we all got out of the van, every couple rushed into the building to meet their kids. I asked Halis to hold back and wait with me. I didn't want to rush in and meet my son in chaos. I wanted it to be calm. Halis was impatient, but he waited outdoors with me until we felt it was time.

After several minutes, I heard a baby wail. I immediately began to cry. I turned to Halis, grabbing his hand tightly and said: "That is my son! He needs me!" He replied: "Babe, you can't know that. The orphanage is filled with babies." I ignored him and began to make my way to the entrance saying: "I know it is him! What is wrong with him?"

Just then the orphanage director came out into the porch. She was holding my son. She said: "I am so sorry. Watson (my son's birth name) is sick. We just had to give him a shot to reduce his fever." Isaac was wailing. It was him all along.

She then placed Isaac in my arms and he immediately stopped crying. He just stared into my eyes for what seemed like hours. That was the moment that bonded us for life.

My husband turned to me and said: "I will never doubt you again. You are his mother."

And then the orphanage director snapped this photo:

This is one of my favorite stories to tell. It is the story of how we became a family. My high-school sweetheart, my husband, and now the father of my son ... he and I ... and this magical baby boy ... we became a family in that moment. Like so many birth stories told about hospital rooms or birthing tubs, labor pains, umbilical cords, new Daddies and new Mommies ... this is our birth story. It is a different story ... and one filled with both heartache and joy. I have reduced it to a small tale here ... but it was a story that was two years in the making. And sadly, after meeting Isaac ... it would be another 9 months before he would finally come home to us on May 10, 2006.
We visited him a couple of times during that wait ... and here are a few pictures from those visits:


And now ... eight years later ... we are taking this journey again. A journey to our next child through adoption. My heart could explode at the possibility of sharing our family with another wonderful soul. We have already been so blessed to become parents to Isaac. And this time, this journey to find our child is made all the more special by being shared with an enthusiastic 9-year old who is so excited to become a big brother. Absolutely nothing in the world means more to him than this. As some of you may remember, Isaac has already worked hard to fund raise toward this effort.  And he continues to do so. Last night, he and I set up a Facebook page in order to let folks know about upcoming fundraising efforts ... including fundraisers at local restaurants, yard sales, lemonade stands, and even a GoFundMe effort.
Halis and I have had to discuss with Isaac the hard facts of financing an adoption. As you likely know, it is quite expensive. Our adoption of Isaac was approximately $27,000 from start to finish. (And worth every penny!). Isaac believes we can do this again. We paid for Isaac's adoption without any outside help. But this time, we are simply not in a position to do so. Halis and I know that we will have to appeal to our beloved community of friends, colleagues, and neighbors in order to finance this addition to our family. This is not very comfortable for us. And we feel strongly that any donations to our effort should be reciprocated with a good or service. Therefore, we are choosing fundraisers that reward our donors ... with yummy food, goods, photography services, artwork, etc.
We have decided to begin our adoption journey with the services of Saint Andre's Home in Biddeford, Maine. Our giant application package is half way completed. And Isaac has set up an account at TD Bank in Bangor to keep and accept adoption donations. He is so very ready to do this! And so are his Mom and Dad. 
Thank you all for reading and sharing in our journey.
With butterflies in my stomach,