Pardon my French.

Monday, November 4, 2013

I've seen some interesting comments come through recently on my blog. In full disclosure, I absolutely moderate comments because it's my blog and I can. Unfortunately, there are people who choose to write hurtful things about our open adoption. I know there is tremendous hurt and pain for anyone who has had a negative experience with adoption - whether an adoptee, a birthmother or an adoptive parent - and I would never want to diminish that or cause more hurt to someone already hurting, but I do want to address a comment from someone who asked for me to respond publicly on my blog.  

The writer says this: 

"How wonderful. I can see how poverty prevented you from raising your fist daughter. You really seem to have a hard time making ends meet. How do you explain to your daughter why you gave her away? I'd love for you to share that with your readers." 

Sure, I'd love to share my response with my readers. First of all, I think it's poor judgement to make an assessment of someone's ability to make ends meet based solely on reading their blog. Nevertheless, at this point in my life I'm not having a difficult time making ends meet. And the reason is because I had the opportunity to earn my college degree, to complete multiple unpaid internships, and to serve as a leader with several student organizations on campus - all of this while supporting myself financially for four years - so that when I finally did graduate, I had the education and experience necessary to land a great job that enables me to pay my bills each month. Yes, there was a time when I had trouble making ends meet - and that time was when I was 18-years-old and pregnant.
Since that time, I have worked really, really hard to get to the point where I am today, and I'm not ashamed of the hard work I've put in or any of the things I have accomplished. 

I'm not saying that I couldn't have earned a college degree or accomplished great things while raising a child singlehandedly - I know plenty of capable single parents who have done it and done it phenomenally. But I sure as heck am saying that I would not be where I am today, and more importantly, Deanna would not have had the quality of life or opportunities she has been provided with either.  Not to mention having two parents who have been fully committed to her well-being and emotional growth since before she was born, and too-many-to-count people who love her and have positively impacted her life in some way. 

For most of the first few years after placing, I was consumed with guilt and depression. I cried often (in private), wondering how Deanna would feel about her adoption. Would she hate me? Would she want to have a relationship with me when she got older? What questions would she have about her placement and how would I answer them? My faith has gotten me through those difficult times. When I made the choice to follow Christ, I realized that there was a bigger plan and purpose for my life and that sharing my experience with open adoption could help others. Because of Christ, I know that I have been forgiven, redeemed, restored, and made new. Sitting around and feeling sorry for myself was no longer an option. Philippians 4:13 says "I can do all things through Him who gives me strength."
 That verse gave me strength in those hard times.

To suggest that placing my daughter would only be justified if I weren't able to "make ends meet" - eight years later - makes no sense to me. If someone is truly curious and wants to gain insight about something, by all means, please ask questions. Ask, ask away. I encourage it, and I appreciate an open and honest discussion. But please don't (try) to post anonymous comments with the purposeful intent of making someone feel bad about the choices I have made. By the way, I do have a personal email address that is published on my blog, so you don't have to remain anonymous.   


Something that really bothers me is the public's perception of birthmothers. We're not poverty-stricken, uneducated morons. We're smart, courageous women who made a selfless choice to give our children something we could not provide at the time. We each have our own unique set of not-so-pretty circumstances that played a role in our decisions to place. And our decisions are not always based solely on finances. Society tells us: If you have the finances to raise a child, but you decide to place, then you must be really selfish. Yes, finances are an important factor in deciding whether or not to place a child for adoption because let's face it... you have to be able to support yourself and another human being, but there is so much more to it than that. So much more. There are plenty of people who have more than enough money, but may not be capable of parenting. I can tell you that at 18, I was not financially or emotionally capable of being responsible for the wellbeing of not just myself, but another human being. An incredibly precious one at that. And that's the bottom line. 


So to answer the question, what will I say to my daughter to explain my decision?  To be honest, I'm really not sure.  Will I say the perfect words to make it all better?  No, probably not. But will the words I say come from the depths of my heart and be the complete and honest truth?  You bet. Because of open adoption, I have the privilege of being able to answer any of Deanna's questions at any time. Whenever she wants. Or maybe never if she doesn't want to talk about it. But that choice is ultimately hers now.


That's the beauty of open adoption.  

Our Wedding Day

Friday, October 4, 2013

Our wedding day was absolutely fabulous!  Both Aaron and I felt so incredibly loved by our families and friends that we didn't really have time to think about anything else. Since July 11, 2005 - the day Deanna was born - I knew I wanted her to be part of my wedding.  Eight years ago, I didn't know who my husband would be, but I knew wholeheartedly that I wanted Deanna to be by my side no matter what. Another reason why the openness part of open adoption was so important to me.

I will post some updates later about how our open adoption has been going eight years in, but for the purposes of this post, I'll be brief.  Don, De and Deanna recently moved to California for a job promotion that Don received.  Sad, yes.  It was tough, but ultimately the right choice for them. Anyway, it meant a lot to me that they made it a point to be at my wedding, even delaying their move to California a few days to make sure they were there for me.  Deanna was a flower girl, along with Aaron's niece, Zoe, which was a special memory I'll never forget. They became fast friends and even looked like they could be sisters.

Although the day felt perfect, not everything went exactly as planned. But we do have some funny memories to look back on. When Aaron and I were attempting to cut the cake, nobody told us that there is a freaking LAYER OF CARDBOARD inside the wedding cake to hold up each tier. I suppose that should be obvious, but who would be thinking about cardboard when you're trying to co-maneuver a sharp object with 170 people staring in your direction? Aaron and I just kept sawing the knife, trying to cut through the cardboard, smiling, smiling... smiling.... nervously laughing. Finally, we realized what was happening and moved the knife up a layer so we could cut through the cake.  Ta-da!  Magic.

Did you know that some garters are less elastic-y than others?  Neither did I.  Until Aaron and I were leading the way up to the buffet, with a large pack of guests following behind us, and I felt something slither down my leg. Whaaaaat the heck was that?  I realized that my garter had gotten stretched out and had slipped down my leg.  I stopped right then and there, halting the entire buffet line, reached under my dress and pulled the darn thing off my leg.  I quickly balled it up and shoved it inside Aaron's suit pocket. Later, I had to put the garter back on, but the only way it would stay on my leg was to literally put it alllll the way up there as far as it would go, making the garter removal portion of the evening very awkward.

Two additional debacles that weren't quite as funny: Our  DJ cancelled on us two weeks before the wedding - via snail mail letter. Yeah, that happened. Luckily, we have a friend who is a DJ was able to fill in at the last minute, but holy crap, who does that?!  Also, our limo driver crapped out on us and didn't show up at the end of the night to pick us up.  Fortunately, the reception venue had a golf cart that was available for us to use, so nobody even knew that we had a different exit planned. On a positive note, after we drove off in the golf cart, my sister and her boyfriend met us on the other side of the building and agreed to chauffeur us to our honeymoon villa (5 miles away). Before we left, I made a special request for my sister go back inside and run a recon mission. I asked her to fetch us some leftover cake since we barely had time to even taste the most expensive dessert we had ever and will ever purchase. Michelle didn't disappoint; she emerged with a huge smile on her face and about 12 takeout boxes full of leftover wedding cake. The unreliable limo driver quickly became a distant memory, as we realized that our impromptu golf cart exit was obviously meant to be.

Our wedding day was pretty awesome and we couldn't have been happier with the way everything turned out. Looking back on the day, and thinking about the series of events that led me to where I am today, I'm realizing more and more that the sweetest surprises and the greatest blessings often come from the things we haven't planned for ourselves.

Finally, here are some our favorite pictures, taken by the amazing Haley George Photography.

One of my favorite moments of the entire day - my dad walking me down the aisle. 
the first kiss
My father-in-law, Jim and three beautiful sisters-in-law, Jenny, Hannah & Anne



De, Aaron, Amstel, Don & Deanna

Friends: Jena, Angela, Caitlin  |  Sisters: Laura, Michelle, Anne, Hannah, Jenny  |  Niece: Zoe

























Deanna sandwich!

















Father-Daughter Dancing!






My sisters, Laura & Michelle and flower girls, Zoe & Deanna


Deanna and Zoe twirling around the dance floor


It wouldn't be a wedding reception without Cotton Eyed Joe!
As you can see, Deanna is now strong enough to pick me up!
Our awesome friends from Raleigh came all the way to Pawleys Island to celebrate with us!

All muuuuuurrrried up! 


Amstel Got Muuuuuried!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Good news, friends.  I am officially a married woman!  Aaron and I tied the knot on June 22nd in Pawleys Island, South Carolina.  The whole entire week was just perfect.  Aaron's dad, who also happens to be the pastor at our amazing church, Covenant Church International, performed the ceremony. Having Aaron's dad marry us made the ceremony even more special and meaningful.

Something else really special was the beautiful double rainbow we saw the night before our wedding on the way to the rehearsal dinner. Rainbows have special significance to Aaron's family. When Aaron's dad and mom were dating, they had prayed a lot about whether or not God was calling them to join their lives together.  One day, when they were on their way to the beach, they were talking about what God wanted for their relationship, and they saw a huge, beautiful rainbow and believed it was a sign that God was confirming their relationship.  When Aaron's mom passed away a few years ago, rainbows became especially meaningful.  All three of Aaron's sisters and his dad have spotted rainbows during some big life events, confirming even further that their mom is smiling down on them.  I always had wondered what Aaron's mom would have thought of me and wished that I had been able to meet her.  When we spotted the beautiful, double rainbow the night before our wedding, it confirmed to all of us that God was with us, Aaron's mom was with us, and that she would have approved. :)

Instagram photo compliments of my lovely friend, Melanie!

Aaron's sister, Anne, and his dad, Pastor Jim!

Belated {Birthday} Visit Post

Friday, December 14, 2012

Well this post is a few months late - but what the heck I'm going to write it anyway.  Back in September, around my birthday, Don, De and Deanna came to visit me and see my new townhouse.  It was really great to see them and to be able to show them around my first real home.  They brought me a birthday card which was really sweet.  Here are some pictures from their visit.  They were on their way to an NC State football game, and I just got home from the gym - hence the sports-themed attire.  Go Pack!

{The gang's all here!}
{welcome, welcome, welcome}
{stairs slidgeage}
{Deanna insisted on cleaning my entire kitchen with a sponge. De looks amused.}

{whoa there! missed a spot...}



















{now smile and say "Type-A!"}



















{moving onto bigger and better things - like couch modeling}













{sweet little thing}














{a little monkeying around}













{Hawaiian Punch - my beverage of choice when Deanna was in the womb and now she loves it too!} 

You look really familiar...

Thursday, September 20, 2012


Since the beginning of Amstel Life in 2009, I've kept pretty mum on the details of my love life. For privacy reasons, I rarely blog about specific people, situations and circumstances involving my love life - until now.  On this very rare occasion, now that I'm engaged (typing those words still brings a smile to my face), I want to introduce this very special person to my readers, share how we met and finally became engaged, and explain how he fits into our open adoption journey.

I met Aaron in March of 2009.  I was living the single life and was out on the town enjoying a few cold ones with my best friend Angela Bell (or as Deanna says, "Angi-bell" because she has beautiful red hair like Ariel) at a local sports cafe in Raleigh (sports cafe just sounds so much classier than sports bar).  I was a month and a half shy of graduating from NC State, and my life couldn't have been crazier.  I was juggling two internships, leading two student organizations on campus, had just begun a part-time job visiting medical practices in the area, and was desperately trying to get all of my school work completed before the end of the semester. Okay, so back to the "sports cafe." Angela and I were there to watch Carolina Hurricanes hockey game, and in order to get a table faster we decided to combine groups with some people we didn't know. Angela and I quickly became friends with the people we randomly got seated with. I was glancing around the room when suddenly, I noticed a very attractive stranger, a few tables away, looking straight at me. Well, actually, he was doing more than looking. He was kind of staring. We met eyes a few times, and I quickly became self conscious. Did I have something on my face? I asked Angela and she gave me a funny look because I clearly didn't. I decided to head to the restroom to double check myself in the mirror anyway. As I was coming out of the bathroom, I spotted the same guy who had been staring at me. He was in the hallway right outside of the bathroom...walking towards me!  This is my favorite part; he walked right up to me and used the old "You look really familiar...do I know you from somewhere?" line. I laughed, and we immediately hit it off.  Aaron was witty, smart, athletic, attractive and outdoorsy. He asked if I had a boyfriend, and I told him that I did not. Apparently he thought that one of the guys sitting at my table was a boyfriend, so he had decided to approach me privately instead of walking up to my table, introducing himself to me, and risk starting a bar - I mean sports cafe - fight. This explains why he believed a bathroom ambush was the best course of action. I thought that was very noble of him.

Although he was a few years older than me, it turns out we actually had a lot in common. He was athletic (he was a sprinter on the track team at Georgia Tech when he was in college), had three younger sisters, and was a Christian. I was smitten. After a while, I realized that I should probably let my friend Angela know that I was fine and hadn't been abducted.  So naturally, I sent her a quick text that may or may not have said something something along the lines of: "Met someone in the bathroom. Hot. 30." And Angela knew that I was fine.

Aaron and I talked for a while longer, and he asked for my phone number. A few days later, he called and asked me on a date. I told him I was too busy to even think about dating, but if he could wait a month until I graduated from college then I would gladly take him up on that offer.  Well, he waited. It was the evening before I graduated from NC State, and Aaron and his friends met up with me and some of my friends. We hit it off again, and later that same week we finally went on our first date. Three years later, he asked my dad for permission to marry me. Keith gave his approval.

One of the many things I love about Aaron is that even though he's rough around the edges and is one of the manliest guys I know, he is one of the most loyal and kind hearted people I know.  I have felt so comfortable and at ease around him since the minute I met him. It really feels like I have known him my whole life. A few weeks before we went on our first date, we became Facebook friends and he happened upon my blog. He sent me a little message to let me know that he thought the decision I made was admirable and he thought even more highly of me because of it. How rare for a guy to call my decision "admirable!" It was such a relief to know that Aaron wasn't going to be one of the many guys who ran in the opposite direction after learning about my past - and the four-year-old fruit of my loins.

Another reason I think Aaron and I bonded so quickly is because we have both experienced loss in our lives at about the same time. My loss was the result of me getting pregnant in high school and ultimately choosing open adoption, but Aaron's loss wasn't his choice. Unfortunately, his mother passed away from cancer in 2007 – before I had a chance to meet her. From what I’ve heard, she was an amazing, vibrant, Godly woman who deeply touched every person she knew. Fortunately, I've had the opportunity to watch a video of Myra speaking to their entire church on Mother's Day, and his three sisters, Jenny, Hannah and Anne, each have beautiful characteristics and personalities that give me glimpses of what she must have been like.

Over the past few years, Aaron has spent lots of time with me during visits with Don, De and Deanna. Recently, we took a trip down to South Carolina to visit our wedding venue for the first time, and we took that opportunity to spend some quality time with Don, De and Deanna (who recently turned 7!). We asked Deanna to be a flower girl in our wedding, and she then asked us if we could just get married "tomorrow" so she didn't have to wait until next year. We all laughed. So naturally, we decided to take her with us to our wedding cake tasting appointment. Turns out she is a pretty good decision maker. :) It's awesome to see Aaron and Deanna getting along so well, and of course Don and De love Aaron too.

It's so clear to me now that this is how things are supposed to be. If you had told me five or six years ago that I would be as happy as I am today, I would have never believed it. Never. I still remember the tears and the sadness and the depression and the guilt. I never thought in a million years that I would be able to overcome those things.  But here I am today, a very real testament to the fact that with a little faith, anything is possible.  It's amazing what God has done - and continues to do - in my life.  Proverbs 3:5 says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding."  I'm so thankful that even when I didn't understand why I had to go thought what I went through, God did.  He used my lapses in judgement and turned them into tremendous blessings. After all of the heartbreak and discouragement and loss, it's encouraging to know that all along, God had a greater purpose and a better plan for my life. I'm still learning to trust Him everyday and walk by faith and not by sight, but I'm so thankful to have this amazing guy by my side to help me navigate through this crazy journey.

























Photos compliments of Erin Dietrich Photography :)

Surprise!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

A few months ago I made the executive decision to finally hire {a professional blog designer} to give Amstel Life the look I'd always envisioned.  In previous months, I had played around with my template settings and for one reason or another, I just couldn't find the perfect combination of color, font, and layout to really make my blog a true reflection of myself and my story.  I knew I needed to find a blog design specialist who could give Amstel Life the visual boost needed to really stand out.

So I took my search to - what else - the Internet!  I began my search for a custom blog designer on Google.  I did lots of research and previewed a ton of portfolios.  By mere happenstance, I came across a website called Key Lime Digital Designs by the lovely Kendra John.  I absolutely loved her portfolio and her design style was exactly what I was looking for. I submitted an inquiry form and she responded almost immediately.  I felt so comfortable from the moment I read her first email.  Kendra worked tirelessly over the past few weeks, giving me mock-ups and more mock-ups and changes and more changes and edits and more edits until I finally figured out exactly what I wanted.  To say that I was a bit indecisive at times would be an understatement. :)  Thankfully, Kendra stuck around.  I'm so happy to finally have a blog design that really stands out and that reflects my personality perfectly.

Thank you times a million, Kendra!

xoxo

National Council for Adoption: the blog

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Thank you all for the wonderful congratulatory comments.  Aaron and I are so excited to start planning our wedding.  I'll reveal the full story about how we met and how I realized that he was "the one" in one of my next blog posts.

Something I forgot to mention on my blog is that my story was published on the National Council for Adoption Blog on July 17th.  Here's a link to the story: Open Adoption: A Birthmother's Story |  Maintaining Openness in Adoption and Finding a Good Fit for All Involved.

Can't wait to share more!

Ames

Truth be told...

Friday, June 29, 2012

I've written a ton of awesome blog posts lately - in my head.  Truth be told, for one reason or another, none of these posts {that have seriously been written in my head} have made it from my brain to the keyboard.  I don't know if it's procrastination or feeling too vulnerable to share what's in my heart. This blog has been a great way to share my experiences as a birthmother, but I have to admit there are times that I envy those anonymous bloggers who are free to write about whatever the heck they want without the fear of offending someone they know personally. It's much easier to be honest when you don't have to worry about offending someone you care about.  Anyone else ever feel like this?

Also, it seems like every time I even think about posting an update, I find something else to do that's "more important."  I'll blog just as soon as I fold all of this laundry that's piled on my bed... and Clorox wipe up the kitchen... and then check out the newsfeed to make sure nothing important has escaped my eyes within the last 15 minutes.  Ha.

I was sitting in church last Sunday morning, on the very last page of our sermon notes, I saw something that caught my attention. Ecclesiastes 11:4 says "If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done."  In context, this verse is referring to a farmer who is waiting for perfect conditions to plant seeds. It made me realize that if I continue to wait for perfect conditions to write a blog post - it's probably never going to happen.

There are plenty of things to write about.  First, some updates from the past year.  I was able to attend the Birthmom Buds Annual Retreat this year in Charlotte, and it was fabulous.  Here's a nice little group pic.  We had birthmothers from all across the country, and it was so so so so so great to finally meet some of these women.  I already knew a few of them through blogging, and it was particularly special to have been assigned to sit next to sweet, little Leah from o-momma writes. {http://omommawrites.com/}, whom I've had the pleasure of meeting in Raleigh a  few years ago. If you haven't had a chance to read her blog yet, hit that up!
















In other news, I had the opportunity to participate in my first mission trip in March.  I went to Barbados with a small group from Fellowship of Christian Athletes.  We went down to "Bim" as the locals say, to encourage an existing sports ministry there.  It was an unforgettable experience, and it was amazing to see how God is working through sports ministry in that part of the world, and humbling to be a small part of that. We really bonded with our new Bajan friends. I think of our new friends often, and of course, I'd go back in a heartbeat.  I'll share more about my journey to Barbados, how I got involved, and what we specifically did there, but in the meantime, here are a few of my pictures:



Aaaaaaaaaany whoooo.  Oh, and I recently bought a house.  A townhouse to be specific, but a big deal nonetheless!  Here's a picture of my humble abode.  She's a real gem, and these past few weeks have been filled with painting, decorating, and moving. By the way, this is the 3rd time my boyfriend has graciously helped me to move everything that I own into a new place in the past three years - that's love. He's definitely a keeper.  

Never in a coon's age could I have imagined I'd be a homeowner at 25, but here I am, planting my roots even further in a city that I {absolutely} adore. I'll save the exciting story of how I happened upon home-ownership for another post. 



Finally, my last update is something that deserves acknowledgement because it is a part this open adoption story.  Deanna's birthfather is getting married.  I'm very happy for him, and I'm thankful that his fiance is a wonderful person who also loves Deanna very much. Since our relationship ended many years ago, a huge fear of mine was that he would end up marrying someone who didn't love Deanna as much as we do.  I am so thankful that I don't have to worry about that anymore.  As De, Don and I have always said, the more people to love on Deanna the better. 

Something I've come to realize in the {nearly} 7 years since Deanna's adoption, is that God does have an amazing plan for my life. Although I must admit that I couldn't always see that plan. One of the many awesome things about God is that He will make the plans He has for us clear in His perfect timing.  His plans are to prosper us, and to give us hope and a future. Isn't that amazing? In the meantime though, there are times where we have to walk by faith and not by sight. There have been many times in the years following Deanna's adoption that I've felt completely uncertain of what God had in store for my life, and I tried really hard to make things happen in my own timing.  But I'm so thankful that God has put me exactly where I was supposed to be at each point in my life. Ever faithful, He has opened the right doors and closed the wrong ones.     

One of my favorite verses is Isaiah 55:8-9.  “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than you thoughts. 

Thanks for hanging in there while I took my mini-hiatus.  Looking forward to getting back to writing again. 

Love, 

Amstel



BirthMom Buds Fiesta

Friday, February 3, 2012

Okay, my fellow birthmoms. Guess what's coming up in May? Yep, you guessed it!  It's the annual BirthMom Buds Retreat!  This year, the BirthMom Buds Fiesta is being held at the Hilton Garden Inn, Uptown Charlotte. We'll have weekend of activities planned beginning on Friday, May 4th - Sunday, May 6th. Limited space is available, so if you plan to attend, be sure to email Coley at: birthmombuds@gmail.com as soon as possible.

Hoping to finally meet some of my fellow birthmom bloggers this year!

Hasta Luego!

-Amstel

Merry CHRISTmas!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." - Isaiah 9:6





























Merry Christmas from Amstel, De, Deanna, Don, our family & friends... and the whoopee cushions!  Many blessings to you and your family this holiday season.

 -Amstel