The real purpose of my trip to Portland was to help out at the FSA (Families Supporting Adoption) Regional Conference. I was asked to speak way back in July (by the co-chairs over the conference, the Harrisons, who just happened to be in Carol's ward, which is how I ended up there in the first place). In July, November seemed so far away! But those months just slipped by. I was excited to do it- it was my third conference, and my second birthmother panel. And so glad to have a reason to visit Carol at the same time. Just a perfect opportunity!
The theme was "Families by Divine Design". And it was pretty emotionally and spiritually powerful, as always. This was the first time though that Wendy and Roman were not with me at an FSA conference. Wendy so badly wanted to be there but it just wasn't possible this time. I did miss them! But with that exception, I think this was honestly the best conference I have been to so far. (maybe that also has to do with the fact that I actually stayed for the whole thing? Well, most of it) Highlights for me were: a beautiful and tear-jerking arrangement of "From God's Arms, To My Arms, To Your's", Elder Brinkerhoff's address, speaking with Melissa and Lindsey (more on that below), meeting and hearing from Monica Blume (more on that too), and meeting new friends! I love the bond that seems to come so easily within the adoption community. And speaking of new friends....
This is Melissa and her mom. Melissa was part of the adoption triad program on Friday evening. She was adopted as an infant through LDS Family Services and spoke about her feelings and insights about having being adopted. She's really amazing. For only 18 years old, she is very mature and insightful (and a great speaker!). I also got to meet her family and in particular I really loved her mom. They are all just sweet, wonderful people! (And do you love how we're all coordinated in black, white, and gray? Haha)
Saturday morning I was on a birthparent panel with the ladies above, Annie and Nicole, and one birthfather, Steve. Each told their stories and then answered some questions. I loved hearing their stories! I was particularly impressed with how brave Annie was to come share her experience only a few months after she placed her twins. (Twins!) I was so privileged to meet and speak with these wonderful people.
I have to say the biggest highlight for me over the course of the conference was hearing from and meeting Monica Blume. (Once again, color coordinated-- I swear there wasn't a color dress code for the conference!) Remember when I said I was excited to meet her? I went to a couple of sessions that she presented, one of which being specifically about birth parents. I learned a lot from those sessions. I just love her perspective and understanding. And turns out she's a marathon runner, so she gave me some tips for when I do mine in January!
I am so grateful to the Harrisons for flying me up to Portland and giving me this opportunity. I had a wonderful, memorable time and learned much more (I'm sure) than what I was able to share. I'll be working on adapting my talk from Friday night into a blog post for a birthmothers' blog, so be looking for that if you're interested in what I had to say.
I love adoption. Love it. Why? Because it involves all different types of people who seem to have one thing in common nearly across the board-- they have big hearts. I find that anyone involved in a positive adoption experience has been able to turn huge amounts of pain into beauty and joy. And I love that. I love living for today (vive in praesentia!) by learning from the past and hoping for the future. It's a beautiful way to live.