My trip to get Jerry is nearing it's end. I have spent two and a half weeks in New Mexico, where I was born and raised. The focus of this trip was to bond and love Jerry while we prepare to bring him home to Hawaii. Home. It is funny how that word has evolved as I have grown into adulthood. Until the end of college, home was at my parent's house in Artesia, New Mexico. As I wrote in an early post, Artesia will always represent a portion of the word home for me. But for a journeyman like me, home continues to evolve. I am a firm believer of taking every chance life gives you and that belief has taken me across the country and now an ocean. Home evolved from childhood memories and comforts to tiny apartments tucked away in New York City. Home becomes lifelong friends I have met along my journey who all represent and hold different memories and pieces of my heart. Home is the first house Derrick and I lived into together. Home is Dillon, Jerry and the love I have for them and their siblings. Home is now on old Hawaiian style home in Manoa Valley. My journeys have taken me everywhere, but I will forever be grateful that Jerry's journey led me back to my New Mexico home.
The trip was just what I needed. Rarely in my fast-faced, hustle and bustle life do I get an extended period to decompress and reflect on the journey I have led in my life thus far. I arrived in New Mexico two and half weeks ago pretty manic and wound up. I could physically feel it in my body and my mind refused to relax. The comfort of my parents and the comfort of New Mexico are just what I needed. I needed the chance to reflect on the journey that led our family to Jerry. As the weeks passed, I could feel my body and mind relax which allowed me to bond with Jerry while beaming with pride and gratitude for my husband and son back home. I am very proud of Dillon, Derrick, and myself. We are all journeymen and all our journeys have led us into our new home, The Lee Home. The Lee Home is filled with love, passion, dedication, and laughter. I cannot wait to get Jerry there this weekend.
But for the first time in a long time, as the plane circles the Sandias and heads West, I will miss New Mexico while appreciating the comfort it provided me during this powerful trip.
New Mexico will always be my "true" home.
We needed to leave my parent's house because the house cleaners were coming. Spring had finally arrived in southern New Mexico and the weather was perfect. We decided to drive to Roswell, an hour drive, to take Jerry to the zoo and pick up some things at Target. Our village only has a Wal-Mart ;)
As we approached the truck route on the west side of Roswell, nostalgia filled the car. If we turned right and headed south, we would be in my hometown of Artesia. We started sharing memories and I calculated that I hadn't visited Artesia in nearly 12 years. My parents moved from Artesia nearly a decade ago while I was in college and I had no need to visit once they left.
Artesia is a town of about 10,000 people. While the politics are scary to an open-minded, gay, liberal such as myself, the town will always hold a place in my heart. It is such a child-focused, family-oriented, wholesome place. As I have grown older, lived a life, and began a family, I have become very aware of how much of Artesia has stuck with me. I will forever be a small town boy at heart. I will always fiercely love football and will always yearn for long country drives listening to music.
The memories flowed as we drove into town. Some things have changed, but most of the town remains the same. We ate at my favorite restaurant. We drove by my favorite places, my elementary school, and my friend's houses. We stopped by my childhood home that sits behind the church my dad preached at for over 30 years.
The thing I loved most is that I was there with Jerry. When I left Artesia, I hadn't "come out of the closet" and I felt that I was running from a place I knew would never accept me. I came out 1 year later, at the age of 19, and set off on my life journey. 12 years after my last visit, I am in Artesia with my new son. We are playing in the same parks that I did when I was Jerry's age. We are eating at the same restaurants and taking pictures on the porch of my childhood home where I came out to my parents 14 years ago. Next week, I will return home to my husband and reunite my two sons. It was a surreal experience to see how far I have come.
Life is truly a remarkable journey and I was so happy we turned left on the truck route that led me back to my childhood home.
He is so much like his brother! His personality. His laugh. His smile! He has his brother's kind heart and optimistic view on life. He is helpful, respectful, and ridiculously independent. I am absolutely in love with this boy.
My heart aches for Dillon and Derrick back home, but the vision and images I have of their reunion help bay the homesickness.
This was meant to happen. Jerry is the final piece of the Lee puzzle. This was certainly a chance worth taking...
FaceTime is my new favorite technology. Watching our boys build a relationship thousands of miles apart is truly remarkable. It shows just how powerful technology is at building connections. I wish I could record every conversation so we all can remember just how amazing this process has been.
We finished up all our business here in Albuquerque and now we head to my parents house a couple hours south. This is the transition that is both terrifying and necessary. My life in Honolulu was so busy and always moving. Derrick and I work pretty demanding full time jobs while raising Dillon. We have great friends and try to keep our social life active. Our life is pretty face paced.
Now, I will be at my parents place in what is considered a "village" in the middle of New Mexico. Don't get me wrong it is a very charming village, but it feels like my life is coming to a complete stand still! I am a person who thrives on being active and busy. The village will provided me a much needed opportunity to decompress and spend my days connecting with Jerry.
I talked to my Mom about this is and she helped me find clarity. Jerry deserves to be the focus for 2 weeks. He just went through a huge life change and now I have the perfect opportunity to build a bond with him that will guide his transition to Hawaii.
So here I am, decompressing, and building a bond with Jerry.
I am in New Mexico. I am home. I am off and running!
We have 2 full days of appointments before we head to my parents home in southern New Mexico. These are the days that are so surreal! Last Monday, I was planning the end of my school year and sad that Jerry might not be in Hawaii for months!
One week later, I am completely responsible for him! It is so surreal and crazy. I have many appointments that serve as a crash course in the needs of Jerry. It is not as overwhelming this time since we have been through this before with Dillon. However, the feeling is totally overwhelming and amazing at the same time.
I am off and running here in New Mexico...
Our journey to Jerry has been a mess. It has been a rushed process. It has been the classic "hurry up and then wait". The bottom line is that Jerry needed a new placement. He has been in the same foster home for almost 2 years which is pretty awesome. The family provided him consistency and truly loved him.
Jerry was in a "treatment" foster care home. The State of New Mexico has licensed foster homes that provide children a traditional foster care experience. A "treatment" foster care home is generally part of an outside organization that provides children with a higher level of care. There was a period when Jerry was 2 when he needed this higher level of care. Now, due to the consistency and support his "treatment" home provided him, Jerry is doing amazing. He is doing too amazing in fact. He does not qualify for "treatment" and hasn't for awhile. The "treatment" organization was very patient with CYFD (Children Youth and Family Department) and continued to extend his stay. But after some very frustrating court delays, their patience ran out and they drew a line in the sand. He absolutely needed to be placed somewhere new by April 8th, period!
Meanwhile, Derrick and I have been rushing to get our home study finished so we could be that placement. However, getting 2 states to move a process along required persistence and the ability to piss people off enough to get things done. I have both (being a foster parent trained me well). So as the April 8th deadline approached and as our home study lived in purgatory, the situation became bleak. As of April 4th, everyone involved in the case resigned themselves to the fact that Jerry was going to have to be placed in a temporary placement, while enduring a lot of sadness and trauma, until our home study was complete. We were super bummed and worried for Jerry. We really wanted to be the next placement so the attachment and bonding the "treatment" foster family provided him would transfer directly to us.
The rollercoaster went full blast when our home study was approved on April 5th and moved through 2 state organizations in record speed!! On April 5th, Jerry's situation was bleak. By noon on April 6th, New Mexico CYFD was telling me I needed to be there by Friday the 8th (the day he had to move).
There was no way to get me there in 30 hours. I had to notify my workplace, plan care for Dillon, pack, and work out travel details. We had not told Dillon about the adoption so I wanted a weekend to explain what was happening and include him in the process. We spent the weekend creating "the brother's room" and preparing pictures and videos for Jerry. Dillon was excited.
But what about Jerry? He still needed to be out of the home on 4/8!
Enter my amazing parents!! They were approved to be a 5 day placement while I finalized things in Hawaii. They had 24 hours to prepare to pick up their 8th grandchild, who no doubt would be confused and sad to be leaving his home of 2 years.
They picked him up and it turned out to be awesome!! They had a fantastic weekend with Jerry and created memories they will never forget. I am so grateful to have such amazing parents. They turned their lives upside down with no questions asked in the blink of an eye. I hope to have the same attitude and mindset when I am a grandparent some day.
Like I titled this entry...My parents are awesome!!
Derrick and I have been riding this crazy foster care journey for 5 years now! The whole journey has been life changing and transformed our lives in ways we never thought possible!! We have two boys: Dillon and Jerry. We officially adopted Dillon in March of 2015. Rather then write the whole story out again, I will repost the 15 minute video I create about Dillon's adoption story.
The crazy thing is that we totally thought we were done! We survived the foster care system and ended up with an amazing son!! What more could we possible ask for? As most of you know, life doesn't really work that way :) Right when you think your life is set, something amazing will happen to set you on a new amazing path! "Jerry", Dillon's younger brother, needed a forever home. So, Derrick and I bought yet another ticket for the crazy foster care emotional rollercoaster! All Aboard...
New Mexico! Here I come...
See you soon Jerry.
Right when we brought Dillon (our oldest son) we quickly realized we needed to think of what he would call us! He quickly named my husband Daddy and upon hearing his 2 year old friend call one of his 2 dads "Doda", Dillon decided on Dodie. After years of constantly lobbying for "Papa", I have grown to love and adore my name Dodie Here is a blog about my journey as Dillon and Jerry's Dodie!
My son Dillon was in foster care for 1,377 Days. We finalized our adoption of this firecracker boy in March of 2015 a few months before his 6th birthday. We are now in the process of adopting Dillon's younger brother "Jerry" from foster care! This blog will help paint a picture of two gay men raising two boys in this every changing world.