Sunday, July 29, 2012

There's A Place For Us

A year ago this time, I had just returned from the first ever Reece's Rainbow Reunion. The event was held up in Edmunston/Cooperstown NY, with events rotating between Jellystone Camp Grounds and Pathfinder Community for People with Down Syndrome. Coming off of that experience, I felt like I had seen a brief glimpse of Heaven. Having just stepped into the world of advocating, it was an experience that bolstered my passion for the cause and a sense of camaraderie in the world of Adoption I had never experienced before.

As that time rolled around again this year, I was off to the Reece's Rainbow Reunion again, but not in Upstate NY. Andrea had decided to combine it with the National Down Syndrome Conference held in Washington DC this year, which provided a great opportunity to attend multiple great events at the same time and tour the capitol. As I reflected on how much my advocating had changed, it was crazy to think how much change a year had brought. While my blogging hasn't been as proficient as I wish it had been, I've gotten to do a lot of real-life advocating, from traveling to Texas to constantly telling people in my everyday life what I've been up to, as well as connecting with Advocates through other social networking forums. In the last year, I realized, advocating has taken on a whole new level of personal involvement in a lot of ways for me.

With all of that in mind, I was anxious to get down to Washington DC, to meet new people, reunite with old friends, and experience new things and places. I quickly fell in love with the City of Washington DC itself. While I've gone down every year for the March for Life since I was in 7th grade, you can only appreciate so much of a place on a cold January day for a less-then 12-hour period. The architecture, memorials, and quieter nature of DC as opposed to my times in NYC felt so new and exciting.

What I fell in love with even faster, though, were the fellow adoptive families and advocates I got to spend the next few days with. The experience you have when you're amongst other people that understand what it is like to raise an adopted child/children, especially with special needs, is an experience I have come to love and appreciate more and more every time I get the chance to be a part of it. They know and have experienced all of the same joys, ups, and downs of Adopting that you have. That forms a bond you can't replicate anywhere else. With all of that in mind, the following days were filled with plenty of laughs, happy and/or deep conversations, and so many chances to share in the joy of Down Syndrome, Adoption, or both with a fantastic group of people. I got to meet people I've gotten to know over the internet like Sarah B. or Laurie Maddex, whose son Zeke was in the same orphanage as Julia, Sonya, Dusty, Hannah, and Naomi (Shawna and Lindsay). I got to meet new families like the Whitmire's, the Boroughs, Nalles, the Basiles and the Zoromski's, while reuniting with dearly beloved friends like  Reece and Andrea, the Hinzes, and the Spitzes. I got to meet personal role models like Brady Murray for the first time, and meet so many beautiful families who had a child/children with Down Syndrome also attending the NDSC who were so warm and welcoming. I could go on for pages about all of the fantastic times that all of us at the NDSC shared. Like.....

Cramming over 20 people into one hotel room......

Cramming WAAAY more than 20 people into a tiny pub-style restaurant for a big ol' party time......

 Getting to see all of the amazing milestones Belle has crossed since the last RR Reunion

And getting to meet the newest Spitz! 

Seeing how much precious Sonya and Dusty have grown

Or my new buddy Ruby (and sister Lil)!

Or, as I mentioned before, getting to meet my brother in arms in advocacy, Mr. Brady Murray! 

And then, of course, there's always me and Reece :) 

Or my partner in photographing and advocating since last year's reunion, miss Molly Conley ;) 

Events like the Adoption Reunions and the NDSC give me hope. Hope for a future where adoption and Down Syndrome live in all their glory. Hope that there will come a day when adoption is even more widely practiced and accepted than it is now, and where people with Down Syndrome aren't just seen for their flaws, but for their strengths and the kindness and love they're capable of. Hope that the ideals and the sentiments those of us within those communities strive for will reach even greater fruition. Hope that we aren't alone, that there is a place where we belong. 

That there's a place for us. 

There's a place for us

Somewhere a place for us

 Peace, and quiet, and open air
Wait for Us

There's a Time for us

 Some Day, a time for us

 Time together

 With Time to Spare

Time to Love

Time to care

There's a place for us 

A time and place for us 

Hold my hand and we're halfway there

Hold my hand and I'll take you there