My Orlando Experience
This simple title doesn’t even come close to capturing what Orlando did for me and I feel it is time to share although something with something that touches your spirit so deeply, the words do not come easy. Bear with me.
Before I start let me tell you just a bit about me. I am a single parent to 2 boys who came to me through Foster Care in 2008. I always knew in my heart I was destined to provide a loving home to children. I had a lot of love in my heart and I wanted to share it kids who needed it. My boys were officially adopted in 2011.
Parenting was much more difficult than I had imagined. I had already been a special education teacher in a high needs school so I figured, “how hard could it be?” Hard was only the beginning. There were LOTS of things I didn’t know. In 2010 when my son was sent to RTC because he wasn’t being safe, I had a lot of learning to do. That’s when I learned about attachment disorder and how it affects our kids. That really turned the light on for me and from there, I was not only able to advocate for his needs, but I was beginning to understand how to be the parent HE needed.
It was a rough road. My family didn’t understand. I lost several friends. The county that preached all about collaboration and teamwork was ready to take my kid from me when I asked for help. I was alone. I saw one of Christine Moers’ videos and got started on my therapeutic parenting. Things got a little better, but still, I was alone.
Some crazy people I had met through another foster parent and friend told me about Orlando. I thought they were just that. Crazy. I had never left my kids. Gosh, how would they survive? Who would watch them? Would they survive? I decided it was a dream and let it go.
The crazy started up again. I was feeling overwhelmed and I became determined to join the crazy people in Orlando. If nothing else, to just get away and get my head together. I figured I deserved that much. And so, things fell in to place and I went.
I cried the entire way there. I am sure I looked like a lunatic on the plane. I was incredibly nervous. I am a little…awkward…and am a little shy around new people. I was having all kinds of big feelings.
This is where everything becomes a blur. The welcoming committee was there. I met Christine. I went to a house that was filled with people. Lots of “hellos”. Lots of breaks in my room to compose myself. I LOVED talking to the people. I met many amazing woman that weekend. But there were a handful of experiences that really made a permanent mark on my heart.
The first was during the Friday night scavenger hunt. I was overwhelmed and really struggling inside. It was all so much. This woman could see I was having a hard time and told me to tap my face and say some words. That was when I learned about EFT. A tool that has since helped me and my children heal in so many ways and it also gave me the language I was missing to reach my kids.
On that same scavenger hunt I was matched with a very passionate woman who was really trying hard to find a home for her son. He has some pretty significant behaviors due to his trauma, but no matter what he did, she whole heartedly believed he deserved a home and a family. And dammit if it couldn’t be with her, she was going to find him one. I loved that about her, so much passion and love. We spent most of the last night talking as well. This woman had not just lots of knowledge, but enormous amounts of strength and love too. I still have not gotten sick of talking with her. I love her to pieces.
There was a dance party at the clubhouse Saturday night. I am not much of a dancer, but I have some moves. Mostly it is fun to just “be”. I could be myself and I was fine. (Well mostly fine, I was quite thirsty that day and had a little to drink). But no one needed me, no one was staring me down, no one was waiting for me to be this certain person that they needed. I could just be me.
Of all my interactions with people there was one that I think of as the most significant. One morning we were all standing around the kitchen. One of the women came up beside me, put her arm around my shoulder, and gave a squeeze. This woman is so beautiful and strong. A strong, kind woman. And that gesture. I don’t even know if she knows how powerful that moment was to me. You see in that moment, I realized I could be seen. She saw me. She touched me. In that moment my heart stopped. She saw ME.
That may sound weird to you. But you see, I had been existent in the world without really being seen. I was there, but not. I had this big heart and these great ideas and I felt like people couldn’t see me. Much of that is because of how I grew up. My basic needs were ignored. That affected me. I didn’t even know it, but it did. And I don’t want any pity for how I grew up, but now that my eyes have been opened, I surely want to embrace this new idea, this love.
I used this experience, this first year as a spring board. I made connections with people and have deepened the connection over the last year. They are my support system.
That is what I got out of my first year. My next year was much different. I realized I was no longer missing so much of myself. I have grown so much in the last year and am ready to give back. After this year I realized I want to help other people make connections too. It makes such a difference in this world where we are trying to heal our children.
Orlando is going to be different for everyone. Everyone has their own path. For me, Orlando opened up my eyes and my heart to unconditional love. Something I had never had the joy of experiencing before. It has changed me.
Orlando is a place where you can look inside yourself, you can be yourself, and you can make a better self. Or you can just be. Orlando can be whatever it is you need.
You cannot know what you are missing until it is revealed to you.
These women showed me unconditional love.
I am changed and I am grateful.
Perhaps Orlando can do something for you.