Foster-adopt expert Trey Rabun writes a moving essay about his own experiences as a parent in the foster care system.
My husband, Phil, and I talked about having children since out first date over 11 years ago. Like many other gay dads, we waited to start the journey to become parents until we felt secure with our careers, finances, and home life. This meant we didn't start the partnering journey until 2016 when we were eight years into our relationship.
When we first met, I was completing my graduate studies in social work and subsequently started a career working in foster care and adoption. This made our decision to pursue foster care-adoption as our path to parenthood a fairly easy one. In fact, I can't recall us discussing other avenues to parenthood, but I'm sure we briefly discussed them before solidifying our decision to become foster parents.
On the 14th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, a Erik Alexander remembers the event that shook the South
August 29th will always be associated with a series of devastating events brought on by what is often considered the worst in US history- Hurricane Katrina. If you had've told me then that in less than a year's time I'd find the love of my life and legally married husband, I would have laughed at you. But if you said that in just 10 years time that I would be a dad, I would have broke down and sobbed-uncontrollably. Life has a funny way of working out, even in its darkest time. This is my Katrina experience. This is my account - a refugee's story.
It's been 14 years and it still feels as if it happened a couple of years ago. Hurricane Katrina shook the entire South to its core. It single-handedly uprooted thousands of people, many of which never returned home, and affected the lives of everyone here in some way. The livelihoods of countless people were ripped away and tossed into the flooded streets glistening with oil sheen under the hot August sun.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia
Hurricanes are a way of life down here, right? I mean, we deal with storms every year. So how in the hell could this happen? How could we let our guard down? Both are very good questions. It still makes me wonder because power outages, minor street flooding and evacuations are second nature to most New Orleanians. But Katrina was different. She was a monster.
The day before mandatory evacuations, I remember waking up after a long night of partying and seeing that my mom had tried calling me multiple times. I called her back and, through my hangover, I could tell that she was completely stricken with panic. "Come home now!" she screamed into the phone. "The storm has turned and it is heading right for New Orleans!" Through the night, the storm had shifted from a northwesterly path to due north--straight for New Orleans.
I had lived in New Orleans for about 4 years at that point. My family still lived in Oak Grove, a suburb of Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Like I said before, we deal with this sort of thing all the time during hurricane season. But unlike all the other times, this particular instance was like a series of unfortunate events that enabled this storm to be catastrophic. The water temperature in the Gulf and the jet stream were two of the main culprits. Usually, it seems like storms shift away from us, not toward us. And as the events unfolded, it was like the whole city of New Orleans held its breath. You could hear a pin drop. Then, once we all realized this was really happening, everyone scattered.
The silence gave way to the sounds of construction as homeowners and business owners nailed up plywood to protect their property. The people that stayed rushed to the grocery stores and the people that left sped to the gas stations. I will never forget how long the lines were. Waiting to fill my car up with gas is one mistake that I will never make again. Little did I know that waiting an hour for gasoline was a cakewalk compared to what would be in store 2 days later.It was really tough leaving home. This was different that any other time I had evacuated. It may have been because of the ominous path the storm was on. Whatever reason it was, it was very emotional for me. I remember making sure that my house was nice and tidy as I picked up the living room, Weather Channel blaring in the background. My mom had always instilled in me that when I came home from evacuations, it would be nicer to walk into a clean house rather than having to clean when I got home. Little did I know, I wouldn't be coming home for a long, long time. I packed my little car with a couple of duffel bags, secured my garden and lawn furniture, and off I went. It took about 4 hours to get to my mom's house, a trip that usually took 2 hours. Given the amount of cars on the road, that seemed like a success to me.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia
As the next day approached, it was pretty evident that Katrina was going to hit New Orleans. However, we didn't have any idea that there was a warm pocket of water in the Gulf she was about to churn over that would spike her windspeeds even higher. All of us were frozen. As the winds became stronger, she began to shift east. Wait, what? East? Now, she was predicted to make landfall in south Mississippi. So I left my entire life behind, and for what? To go to ground zero.
We all know how it played out. Katrina was a direct hit for south Mississippi. It literally annihilated the Gulf Coast. We were about an hour inland, but that didn't stop the massive winds. Pine trees snapped and crashed down all around us blocking everyone in our neighborhood. I had never seen trees bend like that. It was horrifying. The rain blew sideways for days it seemed. The wind howled like rabid wolves in the night. Then, the lights went out. And they stayed out for 2 weeks.
Luckily, we had a generator to at least run the refrigerator and the a/c for a few hours. We had to really watch our generator because there were thieves that were stealing them and replacing them with lawn mowers because the motors sounded so similar. Days after the storm it seemed apocalyptic. No power, no gas to run generators, no water. There were reports of people killing their own family members over ice, food, and gas. It was 100 degrees outside and we had no electricity, no water. Seriously, what do you do?
To our amazement, it was like a guardian angel guided them to us. My parents' friends owned a furniture store in town. They called us to see if we needed somewhere safe to stay. We were so excited! This place had electricity! It had running water! We walked in and got to pick out our sleeping spot in one of the 2 different show rooms. Each show room had about 10 different room displays. I can still remember how comfortable I was with the cool air blowing on me as I lay on a big sofa. I was able to charge my cellphone and turn it on. When I did, I was flooded with voicemails. Earlier that day, the levees broke in New Orleans. Water inundated the city. Parts of the city were on fire. People were drowning. It seemed like New Orleans had fallen.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia
After a few days of sweating it out with my family, I was elated to find out that some friends of mine came up from New Orleans heading towards Memphis. They stopped by my house to see if I wanted to follow along. As I quickly as I could, I threw my bags in my car and away we went.
A close friend of mine lived in Memphis and I was able to stay with him and his family for a while. They took me in as their own and, to this day, I am eternally grateful. All of a sudden I went from being a guest in from out of town to a New Orleans refugee. Memphis picked me up and give me the tightest hug. Everywhere I went, people hugged me. I couldn't help but to cry- all of the time. All of the stores had signs in their windows reading "refugee discounts." Every time I took my license out to show them, they hugged me. Some cried. Some would put their hand on my face and tell me that it was going to be okay. Memphis will ALWAYS be my second home. The compassion, empathy, and love that radiated from everyone there still shines in my heart to this day.
One week led to a month, then to two months. Then there was talk of New Orleans allowing residents back home. They implemented the return for residents by zip code only. I waited anxiously for them to call my zip code. The city officials stressed that the city was still uninhabitable. This was just to allow residents to assess damages and grab their belongings until New Orleans was operational again. Finally, they announced my zip code and away I went.
There were many detours because of roads and bridges not existing anymore. Finally, I got to New Orleans. It was like it was Armageddon. I could not believe my eyes. Floodwaters, broken trees, debris, caskets. It was overwhelming. There were military check points every half mile. One happened to be right beside my house on Saint Charles Avenue. They walked around in their military garb wielding assault riffles. It was literally like a war scene from a movie. When I finally made it to my house I had to wind my way through broken branches and slate roofing tiles.
I was frantically trying to load my life up for the next few months. As twilight fell, everything was silent. The wind had stopped. No sounds of birds, insects, people. It was incredibly eerie. There was a sunset curfew and I had to be out of the city before the sun went down. Well, needless to say, I was running a little bit late. I jumped in my car and hauled ass toward the interstate. There was another military checkpoint before I could leave. He flagged me down and I stopped. He said I was past curfew and I had to turn around and go back to my house--my dark and scary house. At that moment I lost it. All I could do was cry. Actually, I balled. I was terrified. I couldn't even talk without hyperventilating. Thankfully, he felt sorry for me and let me pass. I felt like I was transported to Iraq. It was so surreal and overwhelming.
I went back to Memphis as quickly as I could that evening. I had nightmares for years after that. Many, many other people do too. Some, much, much worse. So many people died. Entire families drowned in their attics with no way to escape. Katrina left holes in people's lives that will never ever be filled. The images of the rushing water flooding my city will always be burned into my memory.
Every single year, as each new storm develops, we all have flashbacks of what our lives were like after the storm. If it is one thing I learned, it's that one event can change everyone's way of life- in one fail swoop. Don't take anything for granted because it can all be gone tomorrow. Every single year, hurricane season is a daunting and sinking feeling that doesn't go away until November. The longer we go with not having a major storm, the easier it is to to go on with our daily lives. But the events of what happened 14 years ago will never ever leave me. With every hurricane season that comes, and every storm that forms, Katrina will always be in the back of my mind.
That which doesn't kill you, makes you stronger right? That couldn't have been more true as we all began to rebuild our lives in New Orleans and all across the South. You can't really and truly understand the beauty of life until it's ripped away from you. It's when you have stared at what is heinously terrifying about life - and then overcame it. It's in those very moments there. That is your silver lining. It's a single seed of hope that sprouts. It's watered by faith, and grown by love, to become the blossoms of our lives.
I would love for you to follow our family's journey!
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Marc and Steve, who are expecting twins girls later this year, tell us how they've prepared to grow their family
Guest post by Marc and Steve
As mentioned in our previous blog it was a shock to find out that we will be expecting twins later on this year. It had taken some getting used to idea but now we are counting down the last few months before we can welcome our twin girls into the family.
Both Marc and I knew we always wanted to have more than one child, the main reason for this was so our first (Spencer) always had some company, someone to play with and so he never felt like he was alone. From around the age of three Spencer has been asking about having a sibling, we knew this day would come as inevitably he was going to have friends who had siblings, so at some point he was going to question why he was an only child. We always said we wanted to have as small of an age gap as possible but unfortunately this did not happen for various reasons. Not that it makes that much difference to us now, in fact we believe it has worked out better this way, with Spencer being that little bit older and more independent he can be a lot more involved with the care of his sisters. He is already telling us that he will help us by getting them nappies and wipes.
Erik Alexander, a resident of Hurricane-prone New Orleans, is used to media spin. But he's getting tired of protecting his kids from it.
"They grow up so fast!" I often heard that cliché when I was growing up. It was like a knee-jerk response to people's comments about us, and my mom said it all the time. But, as it turns out, that cliché is soooo true. So savor every single — good or bad — and enjoy this precious time together. Be happy and make them laugh. Guard them. Shelter them. Protect them from the difficult realities of the outside world while you can. And in this day and age, keep yourself together. Don't let the stresses of everyday life get you down, especially in front of them. I say all of this so maybe I can do a better job of applying these things to my own life.
It is so easy to get sucked down the rabbit hole of the world's social and political drama. We want to protect our babies from everything. So does that mean we have to be glued to Rachel Maddow & Anderson Cooper every night? The thing is, our news media is not what it used to be. Back in the day, our news was held to much higher standards. There were more facts and less spin. Another striking difference is that news outlets weren't constantly seeking to sensationalize the stories they were covering.
"Rollercoaster and Sons," Explores the Journey of One Single Gay Dad Through the Foster-Adopt System
When it comes to the foster-adopt system, "there is no roadmap," said single gay dad Chase Turner
Guest post written by Chase Turner
Many of us thought long and hard about what avenues were best to pursue being a dad. For me, fostering to adoption was the selected road. There is no roadmap here, many things that came my way were learned by doing. Along the way, I started wishing I had a better support group or people who could understand what it's like to be gay and attempting to adopt. Often we (people who are LGBT) feel scrutinized and judged for choices that the majority makes but for us there is pushback. Once my adoption was complete, I felt it was necessary that I put pen to paper and write this story, from a gay male perspective.
My goal was to provide a voice in the space of foster care and adoption where there is a void. Additionally, I wanted to provide an authentic look at all facets of the process, from the kids, to the obstacles and challenges that happened within my personal life. I do hope you enjoy and more importantly can relate or prepare yourself for a similar journey.
One gay dad's plea to our leaders to enact sensible gun control
My articles on GaysWithKids aspire to be lighthearted, helpful and humorous. This one won't be any of those things. Because I'm feeling heavyhearted, helpless and sad. Last week I woke up to news of yet another mass shooting. This time at a family-friendly Garlic Festival in northern California. I don't know if it's because this one hit so close to home, or if it's because the headline included a picture of the innocent 6-year old who was among those killed, but I am overcome with emotion. But mostly I am angry. And I don't know what to do with my anger.
Then, just a few days later came two additional horrific mass shootings that stole the lives of at least 32 more innocent people, many of them children. And then there's the "everyday" gun violence that plagues American cities like Chicago, where guns injured another 46 people this past weekend alone… creating so much turmoil, a hospital had to briefly stop taking patients.
How does one verbalize the collective sadness felt around the world? One can't. And that's why I am asking everyone reading this article to commit to getting involved in some way, to help end this epidemic once and for all. Even though the solution is so obvious, we can't allow ourselves to become numb to mass shootings. Because becoming numb isn't going to save anyone.
Elliot Dougherty's mother-in-law served as a gestational carrier, and his sister donated eggs, so that he and his husband could become dads
All good love stories start hot. Ours just so happened to, literally. The summer I turned 23, during the sweltering heat, I stood at an invisible crossroads. I felt a momentum pulling at me, but I couldn't tell from which direction. I had been putting myself out there as a hairstylist and building my portfolio by working with local photographers and designers. At the beginning of July, I received a Facebook message from a young man named Matthew Eledge. He sent me the script to a short film he was directing, hoping I might be interested. We met a few days later on a humid summer day at a quaint French cafe in the Old Market of downtown Omaha. Drinking wine, we discussed our inspirations for hours.
A gay dad pens a heartfelt letter to his sons before their first day of sleep-away camp
My dearest Phoenix and Sebastian,
Whether I let you leave this year or next or hold you in our nest for the next ten years, at some point I actually have to face my own fears. The past seven years have been both the most rewarding and yet also the toughest I have lived. And as any good parent tells you, it gets tougher and tougher. But through this year, I have witnessed your growths, and more so your wants and needs. With that said, it's time for you to take independence head on. Yes, you will fall and yes, you will make mistakes, but that's normal for any human. It's what you do when this occurs that makes you a gentleman. Learn from your mistakes, don't repeat them. Own them and build on them to make you a better member of society.
Why I am writing this? Well, you guys are off to sleep away camp in four weeks and every day it gets closer and closer to me losing control. So much so that I won't have any control left. And that, kids, scares me. Yes, this is the camp I went to in my teens and yes, the staff and owners are friends from the past. But seven weeks is a long time and I am losing not only my two sons for this period, but also my friends. I am now forced to actually talk to Papa (partially kidding) or probably more likely live in a quieter-than-usual house. It's funny how you yearn for peace and quiet until you have it and then you realize how deafening it is.
Now, camp was such an instrumental part of my life, shaping everything I have accomplished to date and it's such a gift to be able to provide you both the same experience. We should all feel humbled and grateful. The emotions, the friendships, and the love of the fresh air will be unsurmountable. The key is to keep your head up and your eyes wide open. Listen to what people are asking of you. If you're unsure, use your voice. Be kind every step of the way. Take risks with caution. You both are so great with making friends, both young and old. But being in a community with many walks of life, 24 hours a day, is not easy—it can be quite challenging. So, what do you do? Turn this into a positive, allowing yourself to simply work on you being you. This "you" needs to be a productive citizen within this microcosm. Look for guidance. Find counselors and kids that not only challenge you, but also help you along the way. We all need assistance, every day of our lives, and it's imperative for you to be able to vocalize this in a manner that will provide the fruit you desire.
On the other hand, there are so many things that I can't teach you. These things you must learn on your own and I do believe this environment in which you will live in is the right place for you to experience all these things. Phoenix—make right choices. You are the sweetest and kindest person I know. Open your heart to everyone. You are so good at that. But also follow instructions. Not too aggressive, my young knight. Don't deviate too much from the path, my friend. And look out for your brother. Help him when he needs it. Sebastian—we worry about you. Make the right choices. And get dressed faster! You're too slow. Also, be flexible. Life is not a race and one has to be able to separate competition and sportsmanship. If you don't get your way, you will be fine. Sometimes that's how the cookie crumbles.
But just as you are working on what I mentioned above, I will be working on not only my own inner being, but also repairing and reinvigorating daddy and papa's relationship. Although you both have and will continue to be of utmost importance in our lives, our connection has taken a back seat to your progress. And selfishly, it is time for Andy and I to just be, as we started 13 years ago. Life is funny and it's only as you age that you develop some element of some wisdom to actually see some of it. But it's the foundations of situations, like sleep-away camp, that truly build the LEGO pieces to your future.
Now, over the last 30 days, I have asked you both random questions to truly understand if you are prepared to go to sleep-away camp this summer. And to my surprise, your answers do indeed show your readiness. Some examples that have made me smile are below. The last being my favorite.
- What happens when you wipe your tushy and there's poop on the toilet paper? Seb - put the dirty toilet paper in the toilet bowl.
- If you feel a bug on your face attempting to bite you, what would you do? Phx - quickly grab it, catch it in my hand, and gently place it back on the ground, alive.
- What happens if you don't know how to do something? Seb - ask a counselor. Seb then asks - what happens if the counselor doesn't know the answer? Can they ask Siri?
So, no, Siri won't be at camp, but the resources for you are abundant and I can't wait to see, to hear, and to watch your progresses, and more so see your independence that will shape the rest of your life. So, with that, yes, I will be crying when the bus departs, but just know it's out of happiness. I know it's the best for all of us and I wish you well, my boys. Enjoy the world. Life is too short not to. And please make sure you wipe your ass clean. Daddy's a well-known proctologist. 😂