Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Openning the Circle Wider. A Story about Forgiveness. By Henry Amador-Batten

"The following is a story I shared with a group of wonderful people.
I share it here today and with you in the hope that even just one person sees themselves reflected in the words and perhaps finds some healing and some peace."

Henry




few evenings ago, while tucking my youngest into bed we fell deep into one of those beautifully special and intimate conversations, you all know or remember those talks with your kids, in the dark, snuggled under blankets, when all the world feels fast asleep and nothing but nothing bad could possibly penetrate that little sacred space right?


As we lay there, he asked me to tell him the story, yet again, about the man I had spoken about in my *Spiritual Odyssey at our UU Fellowship.

I've also been given permission to share this with you all.

Let me back track for just a moment.

While writing my talk I had to dig deep into my past and all the how’s and whys and who’s that I had encountered on my journey.
I even titled my speech “Follow the Yellow Brick Road” because of how Dorothy’s journey back to her home or herself is so familiar to so many.

And of course because I'm gay and I love all things Judy.

“Everything you were looking for was right there with you all along,” remember that line?
















Well one of the men I had encountered on my journey was a Faith Healer and Television Evangelist named John Wesley Fletcher, some of you may remember him being involved with Tammy Faye, Jim Bakker and the PTL scandal in the early 1980's.
















Well he figured prominently in my youth, in my life's story and in my presentation research. I began to wonder what had happened to him and I also could not remember the last time I had even thought about him.

As a young man growing up in South Florida, I was desperately and secretly struggling with my sexuality. My mother was raising me as a single parent with no man in the house and I'm sure she found solace in the fact that he had found me, taken an interest in me. 

I spent a lot of time with that man praying for some divine intervention. 

Something, otherworldly that would come down and because of my faith, or more so, if I only had enough faith, would change who I was.

It would cleanse me of the parts of me that felt shameful and wrong.

I believed it would happen and my rise in his youth group was another indicator that if I only believed more and trusted more, I would find the cure I was looking for, the one that John had promised me.

But we all know how those stories end don’t we?

I involved Ben in this part of my journey because, believe it or not, we found the end of John’s story right here in our present home city of Durham NC, at his grave site in the Maplewood Cemetery where he was buried.















He passed away from Aids related complications in 1996 at the age of 56.

I will be 56 this October.

You see, he was and always had been the exact thing I was trying so desperately to pray away.

Finding him in the cemetery was an adventure within itself.

They gave us a grave number and a map. It felt a bit like we were searching for some star’s home with one of those cheap maps you can buy on the corner of Hollywood and vine.

He was a larger than life figure to me, especially in my younger minds eye and I was certain we would find him easily by the grandeur of his monument, but this could not have been further from the truth.

No, his simple marker was barely visible to the naked eye, had obviously not been visited in a very long time and was completely overgrown with weeds and grass that had crept up and all around it with time.

I knelt down in front of it and instinctively began to pull the weeds and clean it off. I think I told myself that it was so that I could take a photo but truthfully, I felt surprisingly sad for him.















It reminded me of those moments after my mother had passed where I calmly and seemingly without thought got a warm washcloth from the hospice bathroom and washed her face, her hands and then her feet. 

It felt cleansing and meaningful, for me.

You could call it a story of redemption, a story of not abandoning, of going out to reclaim myself and perhaps in turn, him. 

I'm not certain, but I do know that he died alone and broke and broken and that by showing Ben that simple act of kindness we, together, brought him back into the circle of human love and care. 















He had done so much wrong to so many but now through different lenses I can see that he was just another human being doing what he could with what he had.

And no-one belongs outside the circle, not even him.


I shared this story with Ben to help him understand that we can never run from who we are and that we are all worthy of compassion and of understanding and yes, of forgiveness.

I had, without even knowing, closed a wound whose pain I had apparently grown numb too.

And I had the honor to close that very deep and profound chapter of my life with my child by my side.

I would be having these conversations with our children regardless of the city we lived in or the fellowship we belonged to because this is our truth.

We would be talking about diversity and acceptance and community regardless of where we are because we are citizens of this World and there will always be someone who will challenge our sons and conversely they will always be faced with the opportunity to feel better than or superior to another person who’s path they may cross. 

Yes, we would be telling them our stories and helping them understand differences and compassion no matter where we lie our heads down to sleep - but how fortunate are we to have found this loving place and all of you loving people, who fundamentally believe in the principles that we believe in and who also offer us a space to reinforce those foundations publicly.


The lives that are led here, the examples that are set here all make us feel as though we are not traveling this road alone.

I don’t only mean because flags are flown, rainbow lanyards are worn, or pride is felt for identifying as an ally - although all of those things are truly amazing.

No, but it is because I know, that late at night when you are snuggled in your beds, covered in warm blankets and all the world is asleep, that in those tender moments, in your sacred spaces, you all share our beliefs and our values and you honestly hold us in your hearts.

And that my friends means more than words can fully express.

Namaste



*Spiritual Odyssey - a talk given by members of a Unitarian Universalist Congregation sharing how thier spiritual journey has gotten them to present day.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Mad Hippie Love..




So I will be turning 56 this coming Fall.

I can hardly believe it. 
Quite honestly I have never really felt my age.

I often joke that the reason why my marriage is so successful, despite our 13 year difference in age, is that my husband is so mature and I, well not so much.

The past few years, as some of you know, have been difficult.
Unlike years gone by I never noticed the changes in my face but when I hit 50 I started to become so much more aware of my skin.

I was also keenly aware that I had not been caring for myself as I once did.
Kids do that to us right?

Not enough sleep, stress, unhealthy diets and on and on.

Well, last year I decided to do something about it.
Nothing grand nor earth shattering.
Nothing that required a moving truck, scalpel or a divorce lawyer.
It was a tiny move that has changed my life.

Mad Hippie Love...

Not this kind,














But rather this kind...















Yes, I changed my skin care..
Mad Hippie Advanced Skin Care has given me tiny glimpses of hope and excitement back.
I started hearing how good I looked again and that means so much.

I used to be that guy that thought I needed a "mens" line because, well, I am a man.
Honestly folks, skin and hair know no gender.

I was drawn to the line by it's vibe, its look and it's scents.
I've stayed with the line because it works.
I've had zero breakouts.
My dry patches are a thing of the past.
I look youthful but don't feel oily.

The products are..
Cruelty-free
Petrochemicals-free
GMO-free
Vegan, except for the beeswax in the SPF
Paraben-free
Synthetic Dye-free
SLS-free and
Silicone-free

Unfortunately the products are not free but considering how very little you need, the cost is amazing. And they don't even come close to the big ticket products that gave me no results.

And $1 dollar of every web-sale goes to conservation.






















So to all my gay dad friends and to all my non-gay-dad friends alike, you owe it to yourself to do something special for yourself.

Start simple, start small, start in the comfort of your home and you may just surprise yourself with what CRAZY MAD HIPPIE thing you might do next.

Tell em' DADsquared sent ya!

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Mirror Mirror On The Wall, Where Am I? A Look At Depression by Henry Amador-Batten





















I am a man of deep self reflection, I often pause, contemplate and when able, I try to correct.

I believe that the road to self awareness and discovery requires many moments spent looking into your own eyes and being prepared to embrace what you see.

Lately I have been all to often disappointed with the man that looks back at me.

He was always kindhearted, spirited, loving and had a amazing sense of humor.
He was the guy you turned to when things were tough and the first guy you would call when it was time for a celebration.

He was that go to fellow that would never let you down.
But now? 
Now I barely trust him to make it through a day unscathed.
I don't trust him with my own secrets and I certainly would not entrust him with anything you hold too dear.

Over the past 4 years I have been dealing with depression, apparently somewhat severe.

It is so easy to think that the root of your sadness is any one of a million things that bombard you on a daily basis.

I had a debilitating accident that took my career away and sent us spiraling financially but more importantly emotionally for a long while, that could be it right?

I have put on a good (or perhaps, not so good) fifty+ pounds, but that is probably because I became so much less active after my accident right?

My marriage began to lose a bit of its intimacy but that's probably the extra weight wouldn't you agree? 
I mean I hardly feel sexy, sexual.
Or it could be because of the strain forces on us by the accident and literally losing half of our income in an instant.

Or may be it's because of what began to happen to us when we brought our adopted son into our home, that's probably really it, I think.

Or it could be my Fathers passing in 2018, I always referred to our relationship as torn, tattered and taped. He left when I was very young baby and posed in when he felt so inclined.
There were probably more things I should have done towards the end of his life but I just did what I could and what was expected of me, no more and no less.

But that is part of what of what depression does to your mind, It keeps you coasting but not diving or jumping to deep or to high.

I had three surgeries in 2016 and I'm in a state of chronic pain. 
There is one last surgery available for me, a reverse shoulder replacement, but sadly I am too young for it.
This specific procedure comes with an expiration date and if I have it now, in my mid fifties, I may end up far worse than I am right now and with many precious years left of life.

So I have to medicate to feel myself or chose motionlessness which I'm rarely comfortable with, I said rarely, but not never.

So the constant pain is probably why I always tend to fall on the darker side of things right?
It's probably why I am so much less active, feel less attractive, worry about my marriage and struggle so desperately dealing with our eldest sons mental health issues, right?

Or perhaps it's because I find myself at 55 struggling with my identities, my spiritual, physical, emotional, parental, financial and marital identities.

You see, that right there is why so many people, men especially miss the signs of real depression. Men who are three times more likely to commit suicide than women, have such a difficult time asking for HELP! 

https://www.bustle.com/p/men-dont-go-to-therapy-nearly-as-much-as-women-researchers-are-trying-to-figure-out-why-5550931

There are so many other things to blame your feelings on, and its oh so easy to say that once one thing clears up you will be able to tackle another, or to fool yourself into believing that as soon as a specific problem goes away, it will some how grab a handful of others and together skedaddle off into the sunset.
Only then leaving you able to breathe and laugh and feel at peace again.

Now I am not saying that many people aren't able to deal with all sorts of thing and still function happily and naturally.

I was one of them and I rocked it for 50 years!
Here is where I stand up and take a bow.

But for so many others, those joy-filled moments lessen and lessen.
The mornings when you awake ready to tackle the day start to feel a bit abstract.
The last time you accepted an invitation to hang out with friends feels like forever ago.
The vision boards are dusty.
The Summer plans are left dangeling.
The Laundry wins.
Clean eating and cooking feels momentous and all you want to do is sleep.

Sleep is where you feel light and hopeful, sleep is where the possibilities for a different day might come, and yet they don't come, and when they may is simply an uncertainty.

No, for people like that, people like me, asking for help is the only way through it.

Look in that mirror and ask your self just how long you haven't loved who you see.
Be honest and then reach in, reach up and reach out.

We're all worth it.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline : 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
The GLBT National Hotline : 1-888-843-4564
The GLBT National Youth Talkline 1-800-246-7743

Sunday, March 31, 2019

What's left when all else fails? A dark look at adoption. By Henry Amador-Batten

devastation


















Some of you have followed our adoption journey.
You watched or read from the shadows as our little family of three grew to become four.

A little back story for our new friends.

My husband and I adopted our Ben at birth.
We were living in South Florida at the time.
He came into this world in October of 2011, almost exactly two years after we were married in Boston, MA.

I honestly can't look back on my life and remember a more happy time, perhaps our wedding day but that's a close call.

There are definitely pressures and fears that creep into most all adoption stories, especially when your a same gender couple, the year is 2010, the birth-mother has troubles and the nation had yet to legally recognize our family.
But all of those scary thoughts and memories drifted away with each of his beautiful smiles and laughs.
They took flight at each and every amazing milestone.
They never stood a chance with each year that we celebrated another holiday,
and they were certainly no match for the love that grew within us for this little human being.
A love that still brings me to my knees with gratitude.

But this is not that story.
Our family came through those trials triumphantly.
The Universe stayed by our side and guided all the powers that be so that he could be ours.
And now, 7 and a half years later, he is still a daily reminder of just how lucky we are.

No this story starts in 2016 in a completely different state with a completely different little boy and a hope that he too could be ours.

Joel and I had decided that the time was finally right for us to add to our family.
We decided that the foster care system would be the way and that just like in 2011 the Universe would certainly help us along.

We're not that tight right now, the Universe and I, but I'm working on it.

We went through the process and became foster parents.
The room was furnished and prepared for whatever/whoever may have came our way.
We had engaged in all the age appropriate conversations that Ben needed and we settled back, comfortably knowing that we were ready for this next big step in our lives.

One evening, while Ben slept and I waited for my husband to get home from work, I was occupying my time by looking at photos and videos of children available for adoption.

I ran across a little boy, just about five years old at the time the video was filmed. He sat so proudly in a crisp blue shirt answering a list of questions being asked by a mysterious person off camera.
"What is your favorite color?" he was asked. "Blue" he replied as he gently touched his blue shirt.

You could tell by the creases in the shirt that it had just come out of a package, you could also tell by the way he touched it that he felt special in it.

The rest of the questions you could easily guess yourself.
What do you like to do?
What do you like to play with?
Who is  your favorite super hero?
Cartoon?
Food?
Place to play?
And on and on.

Finally the big one, what type of family do you want?

Yes, that one got me too, brought me to tears and as if possessed by some paternal force, my fingers clicked on his link for more info.

What was his answer about a family you ask?
Something along the lines of, a family that will love me and take care of me.
He had already been in the foster care system for around two years and I'm certain he had heard those phrases many times before.

Thats where it all started.
It all started with that little boy who could make anyone fall in love with him in mere minutes.
A very intelligent little boy that that on only our second "date" asked us if we would be his daddies.
A boy that after meeting with more therapist and psychiatrist than I can count, leaves them all saying the same thing, "wow, he sure knows how to say what I want to hear."
A little person that not twenty four hours after we unpacked his bag calmly let us know that he hated everything about us and that his caseworker had made him choose us.

That statement has become pretty much his daily mantra and now all these years later, we're inclined to believe him.


So right now you might be saying, come on now, he's was just a baby, children that age are not that cunning or manipulative. 
You might want to stop reading right now but I need to remind you that this is a story about things that have gone terribly wrong, this is not a happily ever after story, yet, and it may very well never be. 

I urge you to read on for as Blaise Pascal said, "between us and Heaven or Hell there is only life which is the frailest thing in the world."


"Well Mr. Amador-Batten, I've only ever had two cases where parents chose to terminate their adoption, both times they had to accept a neglect/abandonment charge, I don't think you and your husband would like to have that charge, would you?"

That was what the newest caseworker told us ( I paraphrased) after I sent an email saying that we were ready to make him re-available to be adopted, in other words, terminate our parental rights.

This email was sent three years after he came into our home and two years after his adoption was finalized.

This email was sent after a year and a half of intensive in home therapy, after two rounds of parent and child centered therapy, after two hospital stays at a psychiatric children's unit for attempting to take his life and consequently putting ours in danger, after living in a residential treatment facility for nine months and now having challenges at a step down program.

As I write this he is being referred and recommended to go back to another residential psychiatric facility.

Does it sound like he is thriving in our home?

All of this in three short years.
He is now nine.

I know, and I can be that little voice in your head that says, how could they do that? how could they have a child for three years and want to send him away? how could anybody be so heartless?

Please know, there is not a single thought in your head that does not already reign in mine.
There is not another idea or solution, thus far,  that we have not already had or tried.
There is not another class, support group, therapist or minister that we have not already taken, joined or sat with.

No, no reasonably intelligent and loving person sends an email like that easily, its rather a last resort, it's what you do when all else seems to have failed.

It's what you do when not giving up on the one feels like your having to give up on the all.


This would probably be a good place to stop right?
We're neck deep right now in attorneys, caseworkers, psychiatrist and our hearts.

I'll be back with more soon but until then I leave you with some questions to ponder.

What do you do when you look into the eyes of the people you love and see only devastation?

What do you do when you feel as though you've reached the end of the road?

To what lengths would you go to save your family?






;'