I still haven’t compiled all my thoughts after my recent trip to Ecuador - although I have so much I’m eager to share with you! And our fall line launch is coming up August 1. In other words, there are great things coming soon.
And this post is no exception. I met my dear, dear friend Jess when her friend Amber hosted an adoption trunk show for Jess. I remember thinking, back then in September 2017, how tough Jess was through a long (almost a year at the time) foster-to-adoption process. Now, nearly another two years later, she’s still in the thick of it, with a resolution finally on the horizon for her now-2.5-year-old’s future. And I’m honored she’s sharing on the blog about how important community is when you are going through a hard situation, and how her experience as a Noonday Ambassador has brought joy and community beyond what she’d imagined.
Read on for a peek into our sisterhood - and 3 practical ways to move beyond “how can I help?” and into action.
Guest post by Jess Sampolinski
“Be kind. For everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” - Unknown
No one is going through life untouched. I promise. I also promise you that your struggles are not ‘less than’ or ‘more than’ anyone else’s. What you are going through is hard and stressful and not making life enjoyable at this moment. And that’s true in all battles worth fighting for.
In December 2014, my husband and I were able to adopt our first son. He came to us after years of infertility and multiple failed match adoptions. We thought once we were parents, the easy part could begin. How funny to think about that now. Our son struggled with multiple food allergies, he was a poor sleeper from the get go, and when he was about 18 months old, we learned he had some developmental delays. Parenting a child with special needs was a whole new level of stress. We learned about IEP meetings, a laundry list of specialists and doctors, and all the therapists. My job as a full time registered nurse seemed to be the easiest part of my day.
Then in November of 2016, we met our second son. He came to us at 8 weeks old as a private adoption placement. We spent 10 months working with our adoption agency, our attorney, and his biological family to finalize his adoption. For reasons out of our control, on his first birthday, we became his foster parents instead of his forever parents. We entered a world we knew nothing about and were unprepared for. In the first 60 days that we were working with the foster care system, we had 26 visitors in our home. Multiple case workers from multiple agencies, nurses, attorneys, guardian ad litem, and licensing workers.
I still live in a constant state of fear that my son will be taken from me. I spend hours at night wondering how to process that myself while trying to maintain a state of normalcy for my family. I get heart palpitations hourly thinking about having to explain to my son why his brother no longer lives with us. I get a stomach ache picturing my baby crying at night knowing I won’t be there to comfort him. We didn’t enter this relationship thinking it would be temporary yet have to learn how to live as if it is.
For the past two and a half years we have been juggling visitations, CPS visits, therapies, doctor’s appointments, and work. I stepped back from my job as a full time nurse, something I loved and was proud of, to be the best mom I could be for my boys. Somewhere along the way, I lost who I was. I struggled to feel like I was doing enough for either of my boys or my husband.
I spent all my energy to learn more about being a transracial family and understanding racial injustices while at the same time learning to parent a child with special needs who needed someone to advocate for them at every turn. I found myself in circles where I was the only mother parenting outside of my race; or parenting a child with special needs; or working with the foster system.
And then October 2017, I learned about Noonday Collection and met Julie.
A friend hosted a Noonday Collection party as an adoption fundraiser for my family and Julie was the ambassador. It was there I realized that Noonday Collection was bigger than sweet earrings. I learned about Jalia, in Uganda, and how she pulled-in her employees like family to ensure they all felt loved and safe. I learned about mothers in Guatemala who beaded bracelets and earrings at home between cooking and caring for their children. I looked across the globe and saw women so similar to myself. Women who found themselves in situations beyond their control, but working with all they have, to make things better for others. To pave a path. They didn’t let their struggles stop them from having dreams and goals and to do whatever they could to reach for them.
When I joined Julie’s Noonday Collection team as an ambassador, I knew I was going to be helping others feel beautiful wearing amazing handmade accessories. I knew I would be supporting other hopeful adoptive families. I knew I’d be working in countries around the globe to encourage family preservation, education for women, and better working conditions for all. And being completely transparent, I knew I’d be making some money to help pay the never ending fees were were accumulating in attorney and therapy fees.
What I didn’t know was what I would be getting for myself. I had no idea that I would soon have women all over the country praying for my family by name. After joining Noonday Collection as an ambassador, I started looking at where my food and clothing came from. It was only then that I found myself as a worthy member of my family. I was encouraged to take care of my own mental and physical health. I met women through trunk shows and other ambassadors that have become some of my closest friends. It was through this community that I have found books and resources to help me grieve. This sisterhood has saved me in some of my darkest moments.
With a lot of therapy and support, I’ve learned that what I’m going through is trauma. Here’s the thing. You may have friends in your life who are also going through some pretty big things. Maybe even trauma of their own. And I’m sure you’ve said to them, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do.” You want to help but don’t know how.
Here are 3 easy ideas of things you can do to help others going through tough times.
1. Keep showing up.
Set a reminder in your phone for once a week to text them and see how they are doing. Send a funny meme or gif before bed to make them smile. Set reminders about important dates and remember to reach out leading up to them. Drop a card in the mail that simply says “I see you. I love you. I am here for you.” Don’t be offended if they don’t respond. Don’t think they don’t need you. They may be overwhelmed with life and just don’t have the time or the words to say thank you. But I promise, they will be grateful. In our situation, there is a lot we can’t legally share so our silence isn’t because we don’t want to share, it’s because we can’t. I got a card in the mail from an older lady from our church the week of a big court date. I hardly knew her but she knew our story. Her card caught me off guard and meant the world to me. Our older son’s birth mom had a garage sale and sent us a check and a card with the money she made to help with legal fees. We didn’t ask for it. We would never have asked her to do that, but she did and it made her feel good and it made us feel less alone.
2. Send dinner, groceries, or simply a gift card.
When we had a particularly bad court case, a dear friend ordered pizza and sent it to our house for dinner. I was barely functioning through the heartache and that meal fed our family for two days. My boys were so excited for the special treat of pizza and I felt so relieved that I didn’t have to think of what to make. Another friend shipped us a box of groceries. She had no idea what we’d like so she sent staples; noodles, sauce, peanut butter, and jelly. It was a box of snacks and things that were easy and thoughtless to prepare. It was AMAZING. Often times when I’m deep in my grief, even the idea of going to Target for shampoo seems like an impossible task. Send a gift card to places that deliver so if they just can’t get out of the house, they can still get what they need. Maybe you feel like you can’t do enough but I assure you, a $5 gift card to Starbucks may be the only thing that gets them through that tough appointment. When they drink their coffee they will feel less alone. Less isolated. Less scared.
3. Rally the troops because sometimes, we need an army.
Encouraging others to help your friends will mean so much to so many. You see your friend caring for her aging parents without a break? Get her Venmo or PayPal account and start a petition to send her family to the waterpark for two nights. Post on social media how you have a friend in need and what you want to accomplish with your goal. Be specific as possible. You can include your friend but don’t expect them to know what they need. Sometimes when we are deep in our own grief and trauma, we forget what it’s like on the other side. Post it on their page or tag them. Members of your church or work may not even know them, but often are willing to help others in need. Recently we got a check in the mail with a simple letter. My Noonday Team rallied together and got my family enough money to take an overnight trip to a hotel. They wanted us to use the money to create memories and just be a family. It made us tear up and remember to make our family a priority again.
I don’t know what is going to happen to my family or how we will heal or grow but I do know that I don’t have to struggle alone. We are all Better Together!
Thank you, Jess! I know this will inspire others to show up in practical ways to make their friends feel less alone.
To learn more about joining this special sisterhood, to support women near and far, click here, and choose “reach out” to get in touch - or contact your Ambassador!