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05 November 2013

Going BIG or Going Home

My husband, Todd, and I met in 1992. He was just home from the Navy and I was home for college summer break. He persistently (and thankfully!) pursued me until we married in a sweet ceremony in my grandparents' backyard 7 years later. Never taking measures to prevent starting a family, we also hadn't made it a priority. Add even more years onto our history, my biological clock was definitely ticking, so we scheduled our first appointment with a doctor and began our journey into parenthood. 

Soon afterwards, I was diagnosed with unexplained infertility. We were given options, and decided to start in vetro fertilization. After months of tests and physically, spiritually, mentally and financially preparing, I unexpectedly lost my 6-figure income and work-from-home job. Without the funds to continue our current path, I saw this as a sign that maybe children weren't in God’s plan. So I moved forward in life with a little bit of my heart left behind.


I found a new corporate gig that allowed me to bury myself back into 10-12 hour days working with challenging projects that I loved. My hard work was rewarded by quick promotions directing a scrappy marketing team from brand awareness to the sale of the company. With a few corporate wins under my belt and resources coming in from our new parent company, I found time to breathe and revisit my family situation. I was told by doctors that my window of opportunity was closed and the only option for in vetro, at my age, was to now accept a donor egg. 
(PSA: I interrupt my own story to encourage anyone experiencing infertility to PLEASE do your own research and get multiple opinions from referred and trusted doctors!)
My husband wasn’t comfortable with this idea...or any idea that produced a child not 100% of both our DNA. And so I started, again, down the road of grieving the loss of never having kiddos of my own; mourning over babies I would never get to meet.


Months later, my husband and I went to see the movie “We Bought a Zoo” about a dad trying to cope with raising his children after the death of his wife. One scene flashed back to a memory of the entire family on the beach one happy day. I felt my chair and my arm shake. When I looked over to see what was happening, I found my husband weeping uncontrollably. In this breakthrough moment, he apologized (needlessly so!) for being an obstacle in my dreams of a family and told me he was ready to consider adoption. He told me he wanted kids.


WOAH! I had already put that part of my life behind me! He was asking me to dig back into my now hardened heart to find the courage and hope and desire and…


..and so we started again. We found an agency that we loved and poured over heavy folders of information and exhausting paperwork. In the meantime, my job had become increasingly stressful with reorganizations and shifts in culture. I had committed myself to at least 2 more years in order to maintain the stability required by the courts to process our impending adoptions plans. Simutaneously, Todd had been presented with an opportunity to join Nerium International as a way to earn more money. He signed up, we researched other financing and scheduled an appointment with a lawyer and a banker. 

This had become our “WHY”.



I went to work a day before those appointments feeling AMAZING. You see, I had founded an employee-driven corporate responsibility initiative that had finally gained HUGE momentum and blossomed into a robust community outreach program - today was our in-house blood drive and our participation numbers were off the chart! The sea of teal staff volunteer t-shirts took my breath away as I walked into our make-shift clinic.


Then, at 5pm, suddenly and without warning, I was called into the president's office where I was relieved of my executive position. The meeting took all of 15 minutes. There was a lot of talk, some options and decisions, a piece of paper to sign and barely a wave goodbye. I’m sure I said something back and I know I drove myself home, but the news launched a black-out period that lasted several weeks.


Twice I had been on the verge of having a family complete with children. Twice I had been financially shut down. What was God trying to tell me here?!?!? What clues had I been missing?!?!? 

Had God not gotten the memo about my “WHY”?!??!


As I lay in bed, I remembered that my husband had ‘this Nerium thing’ on the side. I knew I should take a closer look and get to work..but I just couldn’t lift myself out of the darkness. What I could lift were my hands, and my hands had wrapped themselves around a book called The Slight Edge. I was tired of TV and even more sick of the voices in my own head. So I read.


I read. I started eating right. I started to run. I started taking calls again. I went to a few Nerium meetings. Still, not having the heart to dive in, Todd and I attended the Dallas Fall Bash. Partly to see what it was that we had in the business. Mostly just to get away.


With my wall still up and my head in a million other places than in the moment, I sat among 10,000 of the most positive people in the world - yet still felt all alone in the big state of Texas. I had listened to Mark Smith talk about finding your “WHY” and it tugged at my heart a bit, to which I promptly crossed my arms over my body in a decidedly defensive move. Negativity quickly took over my mind and told me, "Gina, you have taken all the “Purpose Driven Life” classes, you are in touch with your spirituality and yourself. Nobody knows like you know...that... know...that...

'WHY' SUCKS."


My thoughts were then interrupted as the lights dimmed to cue a new session. A video began to play on the many large screens and through the loudspeakers around room, blanketing my senses with its message. I began to get lost; lost in the words, lost in the stories, lost in a presentation about Big Brothers Big Sisters. I was moved. My eyes began to water. I reached my hand over to grab Todd's for reassurance...and realized that he, too, was crying. He asked me if I wanted to be a Big. I said yes! We were going big...or going home!


When we returned to Kansas City, I immediately contacted BBBSKC and started our paperwork to become Bigs. I had visions of a little mini-me who loved unicorns and pedicures; we would be inseparable and I would teach her so much. But we learned that there are over 500 Littles-in-waiting (more than our area had ever handled) and that there were far more boys in need than girls.  By signing up as a couple, I lost my preference of being matched with a girl. Totally bummed at first, I had a feeling that things were going according to a higher plan.


The process was easy and we were warned that it might take weeks or even months to find the perfect match. When presented with a handful of profiles, it was love at first written sight. Zachary was described as very active 7 year old, funny, a tree climber - with ADHD and anger issues - as the only male with his mother, grandmother and two sisters. We were warned that it was a tough case. But this was our little dude, I knew it in my heart!  
Todd & Gina meet Zachary!

Upon meeting the family, we knew we had made the right choice. He took to us quickly and was very social. While at their home, I noticed a waif-of-a-girl hiding behind the door from a back bedroom. As we headed out to our first outing, Zach asked, "Can Hannah come?!?" About that time, the tiny girl came running out and held his arm, peeking behind him with pleading eyes. We were told it was his sister - that she was very attached to him but that he was very independent of her. Of course we said yes.


Hannah was painfully shy and didn’t join us in any fun at first, but quickly warmed up. After the 2nd week of joining us and Zach already planning our 3rd as a group, we knew we may have a problem. We felt like we were failing Z-man by not giving him some much needed one-on-one attention, but watched as HE never failed to thoughtfully include his other half. We had decided to approach our case manager and ask for advice in talking to the kids about separation. 

Three become Four!
She beat us to the punch, as Hannah had been found a Big Sister match that she was not taking it well at all. We were told that Hannah doesn’t attach easily to other adults and that she had done so with us. I secretly could NOT have been MORE excited when they asked if we were willing to update our volunteer status. Who knew - we were having twins!

One time, we were cooking dinner with the twins. In 22 years together, Todd and I had never spent time in the kitchen together - let alone eaten in the dining room. As we arranged the table and began to pass out garlic bread to accompany our gourmet spaghetti meal, Zachary stopped our bustling and asked if he could say grace before we ate. He told us that he had never done it before, but that it just 'felt right'. So we all held hands and there, in the most common of days, my house became a home through the voice of a little...and my own heart healed just a 'little' more.

What started out as a way to fill a void in our lives has given us the opportunity to fill the voids in these kids' lives in ways we never could have imagined. We give so little time, but get back so much: In every moment we get to spend with them, with every fundraiser we champion on their behalf and every event we are blessed to share our story, with every Nerium University they attend with us and dream board they make alongside our team - they not only got US...but 10,000 of the most positive people in all the world. NERIUM is making an impact on ALL our lives!


The funny thing about finding your “WHY”....it changes. It changes because what you thought was your why in your head had not yet made it to your heart. Because, like Mark Smith had tried to tell me that day, I didn’t know! He tried to tell me that you’re WHY was the thing that you punched in the gut, that thing that drove you to be a better person and at the time, I was too stuck in a past of feeling beat up. Your WHY changes, because YOU change.

While this WHY hasn't translated to financial success for my business, I feel it...in my entire being...that I am meant for this thing: for Big Brothers Big Sisters + Nerium International. This thing that is making a better person. This thing that is so much ‘bigger’ than my ‘little’ self. 
This thing that has rippled beyond me, beyond my husband, beyond my twins..but continues to give back in unexpected and transcending ways. In the way that I now see how people and events have been serendipitously placed in my journey shining light on the path ahead. 


08 March 2013

Getting Ahead of Myself

About this same time each month, I receive a Parents magazine; and every month is pisses me off.  It is subscribed in my name and bears my home address on its hateful little label, but I have no idea how or why I ever opted-in to receive such scornful taunting.  I have tried to call and cancel.  It keeps coming.  I pick it up and yell at it and throw it in the recycle bin as hard as I can.  Still, it keeps coming.  I have tried to bury it in the backyard, burn it...oh wait...no  I haven't - what kind of weirdo would do that...

*Ahem.

But something stopped me yesterday.  Something about the towhead toddler or the carefree mom, or maybe it was the bunny ears on the cover that forced me to immediately pause and take a closer look.  I carried it into the kitchen and casually tossed it on the counter with other gifts from the postman and went about my business.  Each time I walked by, pulling it a little further out from the bottom of the heap.  It teased me with it's hope and overwhelmed me with its knowledge.  I finally succumbed reading a few of the featured headlines and found myself wondering, "Hmmm...How DO you give your kids a time-out?"

Hold up.

I don't even know how to fill out adoption papers yet.  I don't have the faintest idea how to even properly warm a bottle or put in a car seat. 

This time, I walked politely over to the recycle bin and gently laid the magazine along the side to live out its last hours amongst the other paper until pick-up day.  This month, meeting Parents face to face wasn't all so bad.

07 March 2013

SUB-MIT

Submit. 

What a simple, perfectly symetrical little word.  As my mouse hovered over it, begging me to SUBMIT from my computer screen, I began to feel a bit...powerless.

Seeking to regain a sense of false control, I consulted Mr. Merriam and Dr. Webster.  Here's what they had to say:

sub-mit

transitive verb
1) a: to yield to governance or authority


   b: to subject to a condition, treatment, or operation
2): to present or propose to another for review, consideration, or decision; also: to deliver formally

3): to put forward as an opinion or contention
intransitive verb
1) a: to yield oneself to the authority or will of another: surrender
   b: to permit oneself to be subjected to something
 
 2): to defer or consent to abide by the opinion or authority of another 

...and there it was... 

Confirmation. Validation.  Affirmation.  Verification.
(ok, the thesaurus button was WAY too readily available here) 

SUBMIT was more than just the push of a cute little button.  More than a passive request.  More than a mere humble solicitation.  It was even more than first steps towards the potential of LIFE CHANGING EVENTS!!!  

It was to yield to another, to be subjected to be treated for a condition, to be judged by the opinion or authority of another, to defer consent.  By hitting submit, I lost all composure; symbolicly and literally.  Tears streaming down my face, I pondered this and after calling my husband at work like a lunatic - I lifted it up to God.  I  had followed my heart this far and now there it was, buried in all those synonyms and harsh descriptions...the thing that the heavens and the earth have been waiting on... 

Surrender
suh-ren-der

...and so I continued to complete the online request for consultation at a local adoption agency to where my research keeps leading.  But they only REALLY wanted to know one thing, and so I answered:
 
Q: What brings you to our office?

A: My husband and I are aching to be parents and fear that wehave waited too late in life.  While weare young at heart, those same hearts have grown way too big to fill with onlythe love we have for each other, our friends and family, our charities and otherpassions in life.  We have discussed andeven pursued other options, but recently have been pulled hard by the callingto adopt.   And with all the resourcesout there, we come to you surprisingly unprepared for both the tremendous anxiousanticipation of what might be...and the logistics of a solid plan ofaction.  I am drawn to, but fearful atthe same time, an open adoption on many levels and would like to find out moreabout that.  Together, we want to learnwhat type of adoption is a good fit for us, find out if we qualify, gainresources to help us with a financial and legal plan...and find hope. 

....and so I did it.  I hit submit.


 

21 January 2013

Keep Moving Forward

I spent some time working on what I hoped to be a relaunch of my blog today, but got distracted, as I often do.  Sitting at a locally owned coffee shop near my home, I saw a familiar face who asked me why I wasn't at work.

What AM I doing off work today?

Our offices are closed in observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. day.  Then it dawned on me how appropriate that is, as I reflect on my own dreams and those of others.  You see, I am not so much starting fresh, as refocusing on those things that are already a part of me; that potential inside that sometimes gets put aside.  I'm slowing down in order to go faster.

So for now, I share with you the quote, out of all of those quite powerful from MLK, that touched me the most on this day of pause - set to one of my favorite photos taken at the 2006 Susan G. Komen 3-Day.  As we walked in unison, I gradually and purposefully began to trail behind, overwhelmed by the beauty of the day and the hearts of the women beside me.  Thank you for sharing the moment with me now.

Photo edited on PhotoImpact Pro with oil paint effect
So please bear with me as I work on my public relaunch.  I have some exciting new projects and have been truly inspired, but will need you all to walk beside me as we lift each other towards flight and sometimes encourage each other to simply crawl.  I look forward to continuing our journey together!


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