Our Family’s Gift: An Adoption Story

I thought I knew what a family was. I had a mom and a dad, an older sister three years older than me, and a younger sister two years below me. My sisters and I were all born from the same parents in the same hospital and lived and were raised under the same roof. That’s what a family was: people who shared the same blood, had the same parents, and resembled each other.

Flash forward ten years and I’m standing against the hustle and bustle of the Orlando Airport watching people frantically scurrying to security, pulling their luggage onto the moving ramps, and stressing over flight cancellations. In the midst of it all, I see a woman holding a “welcome home” poster and that alone brings me back ten years. I am my seven-year-old self standing amidst the stress and chaos of the Boston Logan Airport, not letting it affect me in any way. My excitement is at its highest as my sisters and cousins sip IBC root beer, giggling while my grandpa tries to eat crab cakes without his teeth. It didn’t matter that we were tired. It didn’t matter that my extended family took up an entire three large tables at the airport restaurant and told stories too loud while other customers were trying to enjoy their dinner.  All that mattered was I was meeting my new brother today.

A year or two before this day, this wouldn’t have happened, but plans change and things happen. My mother was expecting a fourth child. Our new addition to the family was going to be just like us- a baby boy or girl born from my parents, sharing my blood. Family. But the tide turned and a storm came. My mother had an unfortunate miscarriage that devastated her and our family. We thought that dream of a fourth sibling was lost forever.

Healing time passed and I learned that dream was not unattainable. My parents looked into Wide Horizons, an adoption agency connected with countries all over the globe, and talked about welcoming a baby into our home. After contacting people and searching all over, they finally received word on a three-month-old baby boy from Ethiopia that was put up for adoption by his aunt, after his eighteen-year-old mother left him in her care and ran off. My parents eagerly accepted the offer. His name was Sintayehu. But, I know him as Ty.

After what seemed like light years of waiting and preparing, my mom told my sisters and I that my dad and Uncle Sean were coming home from Ethiopia the next day with the now six month-old baby. My seven year old self immediately scurried over to our PC with a piece of blank white paper and a box of crayolas. I searched “Ethiopian flag” on Google and began my masterpiece. It would hang next to our “Welcome Home” banner in our living room, right next to the American flag: our two worlds collided.

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Ty and I on Christmas Eve in 2015.

Ty still has my crayon Ethiopian flag, my welcome home present. He keeps it in one of the three drawers under his big trundle bed in his room, along with his birth certificate, his Baptism candle, and the Ethiopian outfit he wore when he met my father. When he was still small enough, he’d put the outfit on sometimes and excitedly show us all. Ty holds pride in his story. Even as a toddler who didn’t truly understand, Ty never held back from sharing his background. My mother would push him in a grocery cart and if someone complimented him or started conversation, he’d reply, “I’m from Ethiopia” with a beaming smile.

That beaming smile brought a whole new element to our family. We had brought home this tiny little baby with a huge personality. As he grew older, more and more characteristics of his personality began to show. Ty was happy. He had this huge smile that brought dimples to his cheeks and started a chain reaction of smiles throughout our house. He was very smart. He could hold conversation with anyone and was able to absorb facts like no one else I knew. One morning I woke up and Ty recited an entire infomercial to me he had just seen that morning. Ty was gentle and kind. Most boys in our family had gone through a tough stage where they would push, shove, or punch everyone around, but Ty never did. He didn’t push or shove. If anything, he just used his words. Ty was funny. He’d walk around the house wearing costumes and his dancing alone could bring tears of laughter into one’s eyes. Even a dim-lit room would shine bright when Ty walked in.

I never thought I needed a brother. I thought I could get along just having my sisters around, and maybe I could. But there is something so different in a brother-sister relationship. I was blessed with my grandmother’s patience, which allowed me to see beyond a young boy’s irritable habits and immense amounts of energy, and see Ty for his heart, mind, and intentions. Ty showed me a whole new perspective on life through his own lense. He had the ability to bring my mind at rest, especially in moments I needed it the most. Throughout high school, I struggled with anxiety, which interfered with my ability to sing and perform on stage in musicals, plays, or choirs. When the going got tough, I looked in the crowd and saw Ty’s wide eyes and familiar smile staring back at me whispering “go on Hayley”. I’d roll my shoulders back, stand up straight and tall, and perform because my little brother, our family’s gift, was out there watching me, so I could get through it.

Ty’s adoption brought some conflict. My mom would push her African American son around in a stroller and receive cold stares and grimaces from some onlookers. For them, even in the twenty-first century, it seemed odd to have a child of a different race in your family. However, for my family, these cold stares brought laughter. It was hard for us to picture our lives without Ty. I didn’t wake up every morning and think “this is my non-biological brother.” Ty was my family. I often forgot we came from different blood. He fit so well in our family’s jigsaw puzzle that he had completed after so many years.

When the flight arrival time approached us, I remember eagerly rushing towards the gates with all of my family, holding the welcome home sign. I could barely see through the crowd of people gathered around us, but in the corner of my eye I could catch a glimpse of my Uncle Sean, sweaty and exhausted after a long flight from Ethiopia. But where was my dad and the new baby? Just as I thought that they had gotten lost, I saw my own exhausted, pale, and thin father carrying this little bundle of joy in his arms towards us. My mom hurried up to him and he placed the baby in her arms and, with a tear-filled smile, she said hello to Tyesin. My sisters and I surrounded the new baby. I grabbed his hand and saw his smile light up my world for the first time.

“Do we really get to keep him?” I repeated for about the eighth time since I saw him. As I said before, I thought I knew what a family was. But in the peace of the car ride home from Logan Airport in June 2005, I felt what a family truly is. A family isn’t connected by a blood line. It’s not sharing the same physical characteristics or even the same biological parents. A family is when you’re driving in a car, heading for home, in the quiet of a summer night and you can hear each person in the vehicle’s heart matching rhythm and the tiny bundle in the car seat next to you becomes, no longer a person, but a gift. Then in the heat of the summer air and the smell of the streets you feel something fill an absence you never knew existed. That “something” is completeness.

I flash ahead. I’m in the now. Our plane home from Orlando has just arrived and we’re beginning to board step by step, little by little. Ty takes his seat next to me, my life coach through my fear of flying. He squeezes my hand “Hayley, we are going to get through this.” He smiles at me. My brother smiles at me and I smile back. Do we really get to keep him?

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Establishing Your Mantra

Right now as I sit in my desk chair dreaming of ice cream and feeling self-defeated, I am realizing that I have two options. I can drown my sorrows in ice cream or I can motivate myself to keep going. I can do this! I’m Hayley Jasmin and I am fabulous.

My sister and I just took a trial tap dancing class. We were very excited to put our dancing shoes back on after nearly ten years has passed since we last took lessons. However, the class we are taking is at an advanced level and, having only taken a little bit of tap, we found ourselves very behind. In fact, we walked out of the studio after the class was over with tear filled eyes.

There are many times like this. Times where it seems like the better option is to just give up. The better option seems to tear yourself down rather than boost yourself back up. But this is not the way to go. Because when I saw myself telling myself that I could never catch up on tap dancing, I thought about the time I told myself I would never be able to handle my anxiety. Or that I would never be able to perform on stage. Or that I would never be able to find myself. To become the it girl.

Rather than destroying yourself over defeat. Let it encourage you. And build yourself back up. It can be as simple as establishing a mantra. When you are down, pick yourself back up by saying “I can do this.” Or “I am beautiful”. “I am strong.” “I can do anything I dream of.” “I am fabulous.”

One of my best friends uses a mantra, a quote from her inspiration, Sierra Boggess, before each and every one of her performances. Sierra says “You are enough. Your are so enough. It is unbelievable how enough you are.” So before you let defeat or failure destroy you, remind yourself about how great you are just being you. No one is more you than you are. And that’s perfect. That is enough.

I don’t need to be the best tap dancer right away; I can get there at my own pace and with my own perseverance. All I need is to encourage myself, trust myself, love myself. Be proud of myself. No one is more me than me.

Don’t drown in your sorrows, float above them.

Be you.

Hayley

Beauty Products I’m “Falling” For

It’s still been a bit on the warm side, but I can just taste the warm apple cider doughnuts around the corner. No, I literally can taste them, I caved and bought a bag as soon as I saw them at a local farm stand. But the nights have been cooler, the days slowly shorter, and I am cautiously beginning to pull out my sweaters. The summer’s been fun but I’m ready for a change.

But with the temperature stubbornly staying on the high side, I decided my transition from summer to fall will have to begin with the beauty products I am using. My routine consists of warming up the face to keep the “summer glow” alive during the cooler months.

Here are some of the products I am totally “falling” for this season:

Eyes: For my eye shadow, I use my go-to base, Maybelline’s Color Tattoo in Barely Branded, and apply it all over my lid. Then I dip a crease brush into MAC’s Mythology and work that into my crease and smudge some below my lower lash line. Then I finish with mascara. Mythology’s shimmery copper shade matches fall’s trendy neutrals while also warming up an eye look.

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MAC “Mythology”

Face: I can’t seem to steer away from the summer’s highlighting trend. I take highlighting into the fall by using my favorite bronzer and blush duo. I apply Benefit’s Hoola Bronzer to the hollows of my cheeks and contour, brushing upwards towards my temple, and warm up the rest of my face by applying some to my nose, my forehead, and my jaw line. I then use Benefit’s Coralista blush and apply that to my cheekbones brushing upwards to meet the bronzer. Hoola does the job of warming my face up, while Coralista applies a natural flush with a shimmery highlight. No additional highlight needed!

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Benefit’s Hoola Bronzer and Coralista Blush

Lips: Once upon a time a girl named Hayley was scrolling through Pinterest and came across the most gorgeous neutral lip color by NYX and dreamed of buying it but couldn’t find it in store. Then one day she walked into CVS and bam! She bought it and they lived happily ever after. Okay, that was dramatic, but I’ve been dying to buy NYX’s Liquid Suede Lipstick in Sandstorm and I finally did. The color seems to match any skin tone. It’s a very dark, warm-toned nude with a matte finish, perfect for fall and everyday use.

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In shade “Sandstorm”

Nails: My go-to fall and winter nail color is always darker shades, especially deep plums and purples like I am wearing now. My apologies for my chipped mani. My hands got dirty tearing apart my old bed and replacing it with a newer one.

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Revlon Colorstay Gel-like Polish in “Bold Sangria”

Body: When it comes to the fall, I am a Bath and Body Works hoarder. I cannot get enough of the smell of baking cookies, spiced apple cider, leaves, and pumpkin. My wallet just cannot keep up with the amount of candles and body sprays I want. Out of luck, I came across one of the scents I purchased last year and have received many compliments. Bath and Body Work’s Marshmallow Pumpkin Latte smells sweet, sugary, and has the perfect balance of pumpkin and the vanilla-y scent of marshmallows. Perfect fall fragrance.

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I hope all of you enjoy my first beauty-related post on this blog and start “falling” for these products, too. For my regular and newer readers, stay tuned for a new post every Wednesday, from Beauty to Fashion to Lifestyle to Anxiety Coaching, each post will bring something new to the table.

Don’t forget to “Fall” in love with yourself,

Hayley

 

Breathing&Believing

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You believe in yourself. And the biggest step in this process is accepting your anxiety and welcoming it.

The first time it happened, I thought I was dying. I was in the audience of a high school musical, watching my sister perform and something didn’t feel right. I began to sweat and fidget, my stomach felt uneasy, my breathing came short- I was restless. This is where I die.

But it wasn’t death, it was worse. With panic disorder, your body is alive, but your mind is dying. It’s a rush of adrenaline that your body can’t keep up with, so you panic and are restless. Your heart beats fast, your breathing falls short, and you feel as though everyone is watching you. Eyes are on me. What if they notice? I’m a joke. I’ll have no friends. No one will understand. These thoughts all flowed through my mind during an attack. I thought I was alone.

Now I’ve come to notice that attacks aren’t apparent, but if you look closely enough, you will realize you are not alone. Anxiety is a common occurrence in teenagers, young adults, even adults. If you ever feel as though you are alone, look for the “fidgeters”- the ones who are tapping their feet, playing with their hair, looking around the room, seeking an end to their restless mind and body. Those are your companions. You are not alone.

I still panic. I do. It’s not something that just disappears. I’ve just developed ways to prevent the attacks from lasting longer than usual or to stop the attack all together before it occurs. I like to call my strategy “Breathing and Believing”. Here’s how it’s done.

Breathing: Your symptoms of panic are rising. You start to feel restless. Your vision goes blurry and your breath comes short. Control your breathing. It’s easier said than done, it’s true, but you can control it. Take a deep breath in, hold it, and exhale. Repeat about ten times, taking ten deep breaths, slowly exhaling. If this doesn’t work, try a method of breathing I picked up from a yoga video. Take your index finger and pinch one side of your nose. Breath in through the opposite nostril, uncover the other nostril, and exhale through the newly uncovered nostril. Repeat with opposite side. Do this ten times, alternating each side each time. You should begin to regain control of your breath and feel more empowered.

Believing: What do you do when all of those thoughts are rushing through your head, as I mentioned earlier? You believe in yourself. And the biggest step in this process is accepting your anxiety and welcoming it. Think about it, has your panic ever actually killed you? No. And it most likely won’t. Most of the time, an attack reaches its peak and then slowly fades away and you’re left worn out from the adrenaline rush. So, number one, accept that it won’t kill you. When the symptoms start acting up, say “I am in control.” That’s when you try to regulate your breathing. If you start fidgeting and feeling restless, welcome the nervous energy. So, number two, try to expel all of that anxious energy in another way, like bopping your knee up and down or silently counting your fingers to yourself. It sounds a bit crazy, but counting causes you to focus and when you’re focusing, your mind becomes more organized and less anxious. If you’re a religious person or a fan of yoga, meditating helps you reach this sense of self belief and will help you to relax more quickly. If you can figure out how to reach your balance, your level of calm, then it will become easier and easier to limit your panic and carry out your day.

So when the room is spinning and your head is racing

  1. Breathe.
  2. Believe. and
  3. You will achieve.

You are free. You are lifted. Go fly.

~Best of Luck

Hayley

If you have any questions or comments, or any strategies you personally use, feel free to comment below or email me at hayleyjasmin@gmail.com.