To view the slideshow that was part of the program at the reunion, click on the link right below the picture at the top of this page. You may be asked to install or download some viewing software. If so, it's harmless to do! Email me if you have a problem. Thanks!
Saturday, June 23, 2012
Saturday, September 11, 2010
The following is an except from Guardian Neighbor, by Lynda Barry
While Mrs. Yvonne Taylor's life isn't an exact parralel, if you know Regina, if she's touched your life, or those of your children, you'll understand.
"... I grew up on the last street before a garbage ravine where people from other places drove up to dump old refrigerators and mattresses and bodies of dogs and other trash. My parents needed a place quick and a real-estate man directed us to a run-down house with broken windows in a yard full of sticker bushes.
You can bet that, like most kids in disintegrating situations, we needed a guardian angel. She came knocking on our back door the next morning, Mrs. Yvonne Taylor with a welcome cake in her hands and her sons, J.J. and Sammy, peeking at us from behind her legs. She had dark hair in a bun and pointed glasses and she was married to a Negro man. A white woman married to a Negro man! With two kids to prove they really meant business!
I knew right away there was something different about her. It was a look she had when you talked to her that we had hardly ever seen on an adult. she looked like she was actually paying attention. I soon followed the lead of other kids who had a ritual for visiting Mrs. Taylor. First you stole flowers from someone's yard. Then you hid them behind your back, walked into Mrs. Taylor's and stood around like you weren't doing anything big. When you whipped out the flowers, she acted like she had never seen anything so beautiful in all her life. Even if you were handing her yanked-up plants with dirt clods hanging off them, she still said, "Well, God bless you!" And then she put her arms around you and held you tight.
Most of the kids on my street saw things like this on TV or read about it at school, but for the most part it seemed like a lost practice from an ancient tribe. Almost all of us had parents who were deep in various sorts of trouble and they could not remember how to do this anymore. Mrs. Taylor was about the only remaining evidence of purely affectionate contact for no good reason between adult and child, and I have no doubt that a lot of credit for the sanity of the kids who grew up in my neighborhood is due to her.
One day I asked Mrs. Taylor if I could go with her to her church. Morning Star Congregational was a Baptist church in an old store. I couldn't believe it was even a church because of the hanging light bulbs and beat-up chairs and actual Scotch tape on the picture of Jesus. Also, people were talking pretty loud and laughing.
Then the service began. The choir I had felt sorry for because it had only nine people and their robes didn't match started singing and moving sideways back and forth. Then a regular-looking teenager with a blue plastic headband stepped forward and the whole congregation started shouting, "Yes! Tell us about it!" She looked so normal and this voice as good as a record was coming out of her mouth. She started going faster and faster until she jumped and pure music shot out of her mouth like a light, like wild electricity jumping free of the wires and shooting into people who leapt up shouting, "Thank you! Thank you! Yes!" And tears were coming down their faces and suddenly it got me! Lifting and holding and shaking me in the most powerful, beautiful, terrifying way I didn't know what happened but for years after that I could not sing or listen to live singing without crying, even if it was "Farmer in the Dell." No music ever sounded the same after that because I could always feel it like it was touching me.
We invented a game called "Church" in Mrs. Taylor's front room. We dragged out her huge Bible and took turns playing the preacher, the lead singer and the lady whose wig was on crooked by the end of the song. And the greatest part was Mrs. Taylor leaning out of the kitchen to tell us that our sins had been washed off us and they were laying all over the rug so would one of us please vacuum.
I loved going to her house SO much that one day I sneaked over at dawn. I stood on her porch knocking and knocking and knocking, weighing how much of a bother I was becoming against how badly I needed to go see her. finally the door opened. Mr. Taylor in his bathrobe looked down at me and said, "Now, girl, what are you doing here?
"Who is it, John?" Mrs. Taylor stepped out from behind him with robe on and for the first time ever I saw her long hair down. The whole picture of it make me unable to speak.
Mr. Taylor was getting up for work anyway and Mrs. Taylor was making him breakfast. When I told her my mom said I could eat with them, she laughed and pushed open the screen door. I'll never forget that morning, sitting at their table eating eggs and toast, watching them talk to each other and smile. How Mr. Taylor made a joke and Mrs. Taylor laughed. How she put her hand on his shoulder as she poured coffee and how he leaned his face down to kiss it. And that was all I needed to see. I only needed to see it once to be able to believe for the rest of my life that happiness between two people can exist.
And I remember Sammy walking in and crawling up onto his father's lap, leaning his head into his dad's green coveralls like doing that was the most ordinary thing in the world. Even if it wasn't happening in my house, I knew that just being near it counted for something. When I got back home my mother told me she was ready to wring my neck. She couldn't figure out why in the world I kept going over there to bother those people.
When Morning Star Church needed a new sign it was Mrs. Taylor who painted it. I watched her leaning with a brush over the painted plywood, drawing the shining lines of light around the crosses. By then I already knew her secret. "I need to tell you something about Mrs. Taylor," my mom said one day in a serious voice. "But first you have to promise never to tell anyone, OK?" I nodded. "Mrs. Taylor," my mother said, "is an artist." I could tell from the way she said the word it was supposed to be pretty bad news but I just couldn't figure out how.
After that I looked at the different pictures on Mrs. Taylor's walls, think, "That one of the mill by the river. She painted that. That one of all those guys eating with Jesus. I bet she did that one, too." As I watched her letter that sign so perfectly, I remember thinking that word. ARTIST. And when she let me make one of the shining lines off the cross I made a vow in my head that that was what I was going to be. I vowed that I was going to grow up and be great at it. I was going to do something like make an incredibly gorgeous picture of her to hang where everyone in the world could see it so they could know how great she was.
I never did tell anyone her secret. For 27 years I didn't breathe a word. But now I think it's finally OK to go ahead and spill the beans."
THANK YOU, REGINA, FOR MAKING OUR WORLD A BETTER PLACE.
Saturday, May 22, 2010
In some ways it's hard to believe, but in others, it's hard for me to believe that there was a time when a WASN'T a mom. And yet, I remember with all too much clarity, how it felt to try and accept the fact that having children wasn't in the cards for me. Today is Nick's birthday, and as I thought about how much joy he has brought to my life, I remembered a poem I wrote about how I felt when we got "THE CALL" from the adoption agency. Thought I might share it with you...
I can't possibly explain how it feels
to answer the phone
and hear three simple words-
the words on which all my dreams rest.
I can't possibly explain what it's like
to once again feel the hope-
hope that had long ago been shelved
deep within my heart
in a place reserved
for seemingly unanswered prayers
and broken dreams.
I can't possibly explain how the words
"You've been chosen"
have changed my life-
how images of Christmas mornings
that have been far too quiet
for far too long,
can, in an instant,
begin to fade away.
I can't possibly explain
the despair of waiting
37 years to have a child,
nor the joy I feel right now.
I'm going to be a mommy,
And I can't possibly explain.
Friday, February 19, 2010
Friday, February 12, 2010
NOTE: This was written as a tribute to my dear friends, J and S, who have opened their home and their hearts to children in need. May God watch over them as they step out in FAITH. Swim... if that's what it takes. I love you!
Nothing has had a greater impact on my life than the adoption of my two wonderful children, Nick and Sophie. For Joe and I, deciding to adopt was a fairly easy decision to make. Maybe what I should say is it was easy for ME - I so wanted a child - and as usual, Joe graciously agreed to take the journey with me. It was scary. So many unknowns...so many what ifs. We were picked by our birthmother when she was 5 months pregnant with Nick. We had no control over her behavior or her lifestyle. We had no way of knowing that Nick would be born healthy, or that she wouldn't change her mind once he was born. Yes, it was scary, and at times frustrating, but worth it? Oh my, YES. When the opportunity arose again for us 8 years later, the decision to say YES was made in a split second.
There are some people who find the idea of adoption very painful. It is sad to think about the circumstances that would lead any parent to give their child away, and impossible for most of us to imagine. Some people doubt they could ever truly love a child that wasn't biologically their own. Most people will never know the answer to that, because they won't have to. But those of us who had no other choice KNOW the answer. For me, adoption changed hopelessness to hope. It turned grief into joy. It meant Santa Claus and the tooth fairy had a reason to visit our home...and WELCOME they were! It meant sleepless nights, skinned knees, and permanant marker drawings on our walls. It meant enduring baseball games - which I wouldn't have missed for the world - when it was freezing cold or 100 degrees and humid. Life became a whole lot less about ME, which I admit was, and still is, hard to swallow at times, but that's what being a mother is all about. I know that adoption may not be right for everyone, but I believe it would be right for most people who have much love to give, and who desperately want a child they can call their own. Yes, it can be a long and difficult journey, with bumps in the road and expenses along the way that seem ridiculous and unfair. It can leave you feeling bitter and sad when you watch those around you make the trip without difficulty. You just have to stay the course, and keep your heart focused on the destination. It's such a beautiful place.
I'd like to share a Dear Abby letter that was given to me several years ago. If you are considering adoption, or know someone who is, I hope this will mean as much to you as it does to me. God Bless.
DIFFERENT TRIPS TO THE SAME PLACE
By: Diane Armitage
Deciding to have a baby is like planning a trip to Australia. You've heard it's a wonderful place; you've read many guidebooks and feel certain you're ready to go. Everyone you know has traveled there by plane. They say it can be a turbulent flight with occasional rough landings, but you can look forward to being pampered on the trip.
So you go to the airport and ask the ticket agent for a ticket to Australia. All around you, excited people are boarding planes for Australia. It seems there is no seat for you; you'll have to wait for the next flight. Impatient, but anticipating a wonderful trip, you wait - and wait - and wait.
Flights to Australia continue to come and go. People say silly things like, "Relax. You'll get on a flight soon." Other people actually get on a plane and then cancel their trip, to which you cry, "It's not fair!"
After a long time the ticket agent tells you, "I'm sorry, but we're not going to be able to get you on a plane to Australia. Perhaps you should think about going by boat."
"By BOAT?!" you ask. "Going by boat will take a very long time and it costs a great deal of money. I really had my heart set on going by plane." So you go home and think about not going to Australia at all. You wonder if Australia will be as beautiful if you approach it by sea, rather than by air. But you have long dreamed of this wonderful place, and finally you decide to travel by boat.
It is a long trip, many months over many rough seas. No one pampers you. You wonder if you will ever see Australia. Meanwhile, your friends have flown back and forth to Australia two or three more times, marveling about each trip.
Then one glorious day, the boat docks in Australia. It is more exquisite than you ever imagined, and the beauty is magnified by your long days at sea. You have made many wonderful friends during your voyage, and you find yourself comparing stories with others who also traveled by sea, rather than by air.
People continue to fly to Australia as often as they like, but you are able to travel only once, perhaps twice. Some say things like, "Oh, be glad you didn't fly. My flight was horrible; traveling by sea is so easy."
You will always wonder what it would have been like to fly to Australia. Still, you know God blessed you with a special appreciation of Australia, and the beauty of Australia is not in the way you get there, but in the place itself.
Saturday, May 2, 2009
WHAT A DAY!
Thursday, April 2, 2009 was pure magic for Marisa, Nick and I. There are days when ONE really neat thing happens to make your day special... and sometimes even TWO things... but this day was special from start to finish.
Spring Break '09 had been pleasant, but uneventful. When I found out that Marisa had vacation days scheduled for Thursday and Friday, I suggested that we take Nick to UK and see if we could get his Patrick Patterson and Jodie Meeks jerseys signed. She liked the idea, as did Nick. Our plan was simple... take lawn chairs, sit outside Wildcat Lodge, and see what happened from there! I warned Nick that we might be unsuccessful, but we'd just try to have a good time anyway. John Calipari had just been introduced as UK’s new basketball coach. If nothing else, we knew there would be excitement in the air!
Just so you know, Patrick Patterson is Nick's favorite UK player, and mine, too. My feelings aren't so much about his basketball abilities, but about Patrick Patterson - the PERSON. He is so nice and polite off the court... so UN-full of himself. He's a special young man- and I know he makes his mama proud. I got the opportunity to take some pictures of Patrick and his teammates last fall at an open practice, and when the Wildcats played at Freedom Hall in December, Nick had the opportunity to share the pictures with them. Patrick sent Nick a really nice letter, and he'll always hold a special place in my heart for taking the time to do so. I wanted to let his mother know how much I appreciate her son, but I wasn’t sure how to go about it. It’s hard to explain, but it was just something I really wanted to do. I never dreamed I would get to tell her in person. Now on with the story...
We arrived at Wildcat Lodge about 1:00 p.m., and found a parking space right away. The only problem was we had to "feed the meter," and neither Marisa nor I had any change. According to the maintenance man who was mowing, the nearest place to get change was the student center. Marisa was ready to head out on foot when the UK employee said he'd give her a ride on his cart. ONLY MARISA would be riding in a UK cart 5 minutes after we got there. :) We had just been waiting about 30 minutes when Patrick- all 6'9" of him- came strolling out of the lodge. Being his usual gracious self, he stopped to talk for a minute, and signed Nick's jersey. One down, one to go… and we'd been there less than an hour!
My best friend, Laura, and her son, John, drove over from Georgetown to visit with us for a while. When Laura told John why we were hanging out at Wildcat Lodge, his comment was, "Isn't that a little bit like STALKING?" (I told Patrick when we saw him again later in the day, "We are stalkers, Patrick... but we're NICE stalkers!") In a matter of minutes, John had gotten most of the players to autograph the back of his shirt, and it was obvious that he was a little amazed by what was happening. We were having the best time.
When Jodie Meeks showed up, we got the Meeks jersey signed, took some pictures, and counted the day a success! Nick didn't really want to leave- he'd stay there forever if given the opportunity- but we persuaded him to get in the car, and we headed to the mall to buy a "hot off the press" Calipari tee shirt. Shirts purchased, we stopped to eat dinner before heading home to Elizabethtown. It was about 7:00 and we were almost to the Bluegrass Parkway when my husband called and said according to WHAS radio, Calipari was having his first practice with the team THAT NIGHT. We were doubtful since we’d been there all day and hadn't heard the first word about it, but make no mistake, once Nick (and Marisa) got wind that there was a chance that Coach Cal was on campus, there was NO WAY we were going home. So…we headed back to Wildcat Lodge... and YES he was there, but they were already practicing inside The Joe Craft Center. We might have missed Coach Cal's entrance, but as we all know, what goes in must come out, so nothing would do but to wait. We hadn’t been there more than five minutes when a reporter from WKYT in Lexington pulled up, and asked if we were waiting to see Coach Cal. When we said yes, she asked if we would be willing to be interviewed for the 11 o'clock news. Oh my goodness... it was just icing on the cake! When they found out that we had been there all day, they asked if we would get our lawn chairs out again, and of course we obliged. I finally got around to making my sign, which read:
SPRING BREAK '09
We'd rather be HERE than the beach!
The sign made a big hit, and out came the camera, the lights, and the microphone. Nick was in Wildcat Heaven. Okay... we ALL were! (And YES, we were the lead story on the 11:00 news!) Once they finished taping, we headed down to the Joe Craft Center to wait for Coach Calipari to come out. We waited... and waited ... and waited. There were a few more fans waiting with us at first, but one by one, they gave up and went home. At 10:15 it was just the three of us. That's when I saw a couple leaving the Joe Craft Center and walking right toward us. I asked Nick if he had any idea who it was, and he said, “Mom, I think it’s Patrick's parents.”
I can't be this lucky, I thought. Am I actually going to get to meet Mrs. Patterson? I immediately had a lump in my throat.
Once I got a closer look at the man, there was little doubt that he was Patrick's dad. They walked through the doors, and I seized my opportunity. We had the most wonderful talk. Mrs. Patterson was gracious and kind- just like her son. We exchanged email addresses, took a few pictures, and shared a hug. At that very moment, I saw Coach Cal coming our way. I asked Mrs. Patterson if she thought Nick might have a pretty good chance of getting Coach Cal’s autograph since he probably could tell that she and I were such GOOD friends. She laughed, and said she was pretty sure we would get the autograph. Coach Cal came out the door, read the sign Nick was holding, smiled, and said, "Young man, would you like for me to sign something for you?" Then he suggested I take a picture of the two of them. Of course Auntie Marisa jumped in there, too. I know Coach Calipari was tired, but he UNDERSTANDS, and wasn't about to disappoint a 13-year-old boy who'd been waiting in the rain for two hours to meet the new coach. We took the picture, and then it really was time to go home. Nick was almost asleep by the time we merged onto the Bluegrass, but Marisa asked him a question anyway.
“Nick, what about this day?”
For just a second, I thought he wasn't going to answer, but then a sleepy voice in the backseat said, “Wow.”
Marisa and I exchanged smiles. “Wow” was right. We wouldn’t have traded that day for anything. What a day. What a magical, wonderful, once in a lifetime day.
Note: If you enjoyed the story, you'll probably enjoy the slideshow, too. Just follow the directions in the post below.