Claud’s Atlanta Adventure Story
I’m over the exhausted hump that is the after affects of the ARD. I’m also slightly caught up on tasks at home, minus laundry and vacuuming, like always. So seems to be time to reflect on this year’s 2013 Adoptee Rights Demonstration in Atlanta, Ga.
I’m still collecting images for the compilation video, though the project file has been started and the insanity of that creation has not really begun. Obviously, more to come on that.
Huge Thanks and Much Appreciation to All
Before, I begin to retail the glories, I must must must restate again my most heartfelt thanks, love and appreciation to the many of you who made it possible. Simple reality of the fact is that you made this all possible, you sent me to Atlanta. This is something that touches me deeply.
And if there was a theme of this year’s ARD, I think this might be it; Coming together, working together, making things possible, for while some helped to get me on that plane, others helped to keep me sane and make it work. I want to make a point of calling out some extra special thanks:
Miss Julie: AKA Wheels- who was THE transport for all things as well as being the other ARC BOD in the house. We survived a confusing GPS, the parking garage, and the WORST shopping trip on record in the BIGGEST shopping center from hell. It shouldn’t take a girl from Long Island over 20 minutes to FIND A STAPLES, but it did. And I can tell you finding the oldest, crummiest, least staffed Staples in Atlanta the day before the local school starts is a very traumatic experience. Finish that off with a needed trip to Target ( did I mention school was starting the next day?) made my local hated trips bi-annually to Wal-Mart a pleasure. And I’m not even going to mention hauling THE BOXES to the exhibit hall which was, I don’t know, like 3 football fields in the depth of the HUGE conference center.
Kat: A local Adoptee who brought her lovely family and especially her amazing daughter, Ellie, to all the events. They brought us waters and were a fine welcoming committee. I received a lovely handmade gift from Ellie and we had a great time out our last night in Atlanta in Little Five Points.
Kara: who served and roomed with me as the “last man standing” aka we were the last to leave Atlanta. As one of the prime forces in Opening up Rhode Island, Kara was great in the booth, plus it was really sweet to get one on one time together at Spondivido, Spadunadunks, Slatasuarus, Swoonpoptits? I still can’t remember the name of the place that we decided was our favorite place to eat, but the clam chowder and the Snow Crab legs were divine! Plus when the over tired delirium hit after I returned back to the hotel in my socks from both the Atlanta subway and Airport ( my feet really hurt.. the shoes HAD to go!) she did not judge, but was right there with me!
Gaye: Always great to work with her in the Lobby booth and she went with me to “Booth Bingo” for next year’s summit in Minneapolis ( AKA we sit in a room and try to get the best booth location based off an every changing floor plan–crazy!)
Julian: Another local who was all in with helping! He put his saw to work and supplied us with more sign sticks and other needed supplies that were trapped in the box. Plus a super nice guy who I was most happy to meet.
Krista: Yet another local who pulled her weight for sure! My bullhorn was trapped in a box, but she scrambled and got us TWO more.. which then, we couldn’t even use, but OH, what happened with those bullhorns gave me one of the best laughs all week.
Ava: Our local Atlanta celebrity ( former American Idol contestant!) who got Fox News there with a camera during the demonstration! That they didn’t run with the story, bumping us for a dog being dragged behind a car or something, is no reflection on her effort. And her daughter is the cutest master of the photo bomb ever!
The Neils: The family that protests together rocks together! Trisha rocked the booth and Bob was the master of the staple gun! Plus the kids were part and parcel of the candy wrapping brigade.
Our Adoptive Families! We DOUBLED the percentage of adoptive families at the protest this year and I happily applaud then with open arms. Cheers to the adoptive parents that GET IT and show their children that they are fighting for their rights. Hail to the candy wrappers.
Spencer: I do not know what I would do without Spencer. He is THE voice of the last three Adoptee Rights Demonstrations. This young man doesn’t even NEED a bullhorn to lead the way in our chants. God bless his vocal chords! I missed you Julie, but thank you for sending Spencer and Kelly!
Martha: LOVE this woman! Another mom with a penchant for research and knowledge right after my own heart. She had a horrendous drive down from Phily, but rocked some seriously AMAZING posters.. which really DID save the day as our final numbers were larger than expected ( yeah) and without her signs and supplies we would NOT have had enough! She also must be credited for creating the last minute ” Standing Our Ground for Veronica Brown” sign that was talked about after the sign making party. I knew the minute I saw the look in her eyes as we talked about it at dinner, that we would have our sign and I was not disappointed. Plus he had really great factual bits that she shared. I want to crawl into her brain and pick it apart.
And my personal rock Cheerio: We joked and said this year I was playing the part of LindaLou, so Cheerio had to be me. Which meant that when I was about to lose my mind, Cheerio’s job was to talk me down off the ledge. And she did that and so much more. My bed to sleep in: Cheerio. Every day at the booth: Cheerio. The much needed coffee runs in the morning: Cheerio. Completely ensuring that the candies were wrapped and bagged and ready to go: Cheerio. Making sure with me that people were welcomed, made to feel part of, included.. Cheerio and here, she is much better than me!
Oh by the way, here’s Kate, Cheerio and me being silly. I asked Kate if I could publish her AMAZING Adoption Graphics here and she said YES, so I will be sharing them weekly! I’m so stoked!
The Adoptees.. yes, never forgotten.
And of course, the rest of the ARC BOD who worked behind the scenes beforehand to make this work and were home support while it all went on!
And everyone else! Seriously.. it is YOU who make it all worthwhile! But that’s is what it is about at the Adoptee Rights Demonstration. We come to gather to make a our much needed voices for Adoptee Rights be heard and garnish the strength for another year ahead with the company of others who understand.
Making It Work
Like Tim Gunn, indeed, we did make it work!
Because (and I have ripped this off from the D’Arcy Family motto)…….
We are the ARC and this is how we roll!
In fact the only thing that misbehaved was the boxes. Damn boxes were the bane of my existence, but I get ahead of myself. I’ll get back to the boxes, which is more of a promise than they extended to me.
The week going in was crazy. I seriously do have nonstop running lists going off in my head; trying to anticipate everything that I will need, making sure I would have access to it all on my iPad and iPhone. The minute I think I have one thing under my belt, I think of something else that has to be added on. And that’s not even taking in regular packing and planning from leaving my family for a week. I do the whole neurotic “must do” all the laundry, must clean the house, etc. Somehow knowing that they have clean clothes and a clean house eliminates some of the guilt.
Anyway, I do eventually manage to get off without a hitch. I have a simple enough travel plan as I’ m simply flying from Albany via a stopover in Philly, and then onward to Atlanta. My flight’s at 9 something and I land by 1:30. Then I wait for Cheerio to get in and we go over to the hotel. Since I made sure that everyone registered for the demonstration had my cell number, I was already in contact with folks at the hotel who had already arrived.
Truthfully, I am more often a last minute Sally. I usually just go with the flow, so my planning, my logistics, my making decisions and even delegating and accepting help? I impressed myself. I had this handful of printed lists that literally had everything I needed in one place. I had just kept adding to it all week on my computer and then had the printed versions on my person every single minute. Between my lists and my phone I was a walking-talking information hub.
If it wasn’t for the boxes, the whole 2013 ARD would have been super smooth sailing. However, as much as I will continuously curse out the boxes until the end of my days, I would much rather have had misbehaving inanimate objects rather than people getting upset. My impression is that people were happy and that is way way more important. But, wow, I really hate shipping.
The Battle of the ARC Boxes
Which really shouldn’t surprise me as in my former life as an interior designer, tracking freight was a huge pain in the butt and something I did often, but I had forgotten about all the times of talking to shipping distribution centers in Jersey and trying to get promised furniture to a destination on time. I trusted shipping promises. Fool!!
I had the literature and signage for the actual ARC lobby booth all year in my house as Scarlett and I drove it home from Chicago. It was too much to move it by plane and so FedEx ground freight was the plan. Ok first it was UPS, but then FedEx was cheaper and quicker, so logically, I went FedEx. Supplies needed for the sign making party and the booth set up on Sunday morning were all packed up and promised by the first FedEx chick that they would be there on the Thursday before I arrived. When the guy came to pick them up, I was promised, again, that they would be there before me. I figured, perhaps they had overnighted the boxes and were going to change the ARC a few hundred more and was prepared to battle a huge charge when I called to track on Friday afternoon when they told me my very necessary on Sunday boxes would be at the Atlanta hotel on Monday.
Yeah. The staple guns needed for the sign making party. The tape to wrap the 1000 candies starting on Saturday. The actual booth materials that we set up on Sunday morning when we pick up the badges. The literature we hand out during the protest. Trapped in a truck. The banner. The bullhorn.
So…I went last minute shopping for the things I knew we could not live without. And everything else….I figured no one would die and really, what else could I do? I had the truck flagged. They knew I was desperate to get to the contents before we bordered the buss on Monday morning, but I had to be prepared in case it didn’t happen. We made more copies. I shrugged off the bullhorn. We rolled.
Then there were the boxes that had the signs in them! Jeff had sent them via ups a week earlier. They were waiting at the hotel with my name on them and so I was not bugging out when I asked the front desk to please find my packages on Sunday morning. And then Sunday afternoon after we did more last minute shopping, printing, and badge pickups.
Now, it’s two hours before the actual sign making party and the hotel cannot find my boxes with the actual SIGNS in them. They have told me for the fourth time that they cannot find them, bt I know that they are HERE Jeff sent them out almost two weeks earlier, but now, I cannot get a hold of him to get the tracking code ( ugg I should have had that on my LIST) . So this is when I turn to Cheerio and say, “Remember when I told you to talk me down off the ledge?”. And she does, and her not panicked brain said ” Can you ask Maryanne?” YES! SO I call Maryanne who HAS the tracking information and YES< the poster boxes are HERE, but the hotel guy still cannot FIND them. And then is when Cheerio and I went down in to the shipping room with the guy and found the boxes! Between that and Martha’s signs, Julian’s extra Sticks and Bob manning the Gun table, Oh and the extra table we all stole from the room next door, the party was SAVED!
Adoptee Rights Protest Day!
The Actual Protest day went really pretty smoothly too. Despite that we did not have the express permission from the convention center or the city to be there, I got to talk to the police and they were pretty cool and we were able to do our thing in the “Free Speech Areas” . Even though the main place we protested was right in FRONT of the CNN building, they only peeked out their windows, but Fox News, as mentioned, did show up. ( Yeah Eva!) Our bus ( FILLED!!! ) was on time and the traffic light, so we actually were protesting for 2 hours and it was great.
We even had a young guy form the park, who was an adoptee, come and join us!
That’s all I’m going to say about the protest. You’ll have to wait for the video.
The Adoptee Rights Lobby Effort
Now the booth NORMALLY gets set up n the Sunday before the sign making party when we pick up the badges, BUT the booth materials were.. IN THE DAMN BOXES! Luckily, Julie and I had already determined that we could get into the hall at 8 am Tuesday morning and get it all there and set up by 10 am when the hall opened to the legislators. I was up at 6. We were on our way by 7, we were at the hall at 8 and the thing was set up WAY before 9. ( I can ROCK that booth that nobodies business!)
And that was the last free time we had the entire time the booth was open because…..
Then we talk literally NON STOP to leggies , and their spouses and their staff for the next three days. We did get more contacts than any year previously and I have to say that every year the responses and understanding of the issues affecting Adoptee Rights gets better and better.
You know it’s a good sign when you have lost count of the numbers of legislators and supporters of adoptee rights bills that were personally talked to. It’s even more impressive when one cannot pause to update all day or even snap a picture because of the constant activity at the lobby booth. And when they actually THANK us for doing this work and make SURE we know their names and give us their personal emails….. It’s pretty incredible.
One of the things that I found as a clear takeaway is that the legislators want to work on legislation that works. More than a few clearly said:
“I don’t have time to work on something that doesn’t have support and will get stuck in committee or tabled because no one cares. “
On that end, it becomes something that WE as a community HAVE to participate in. We can’t just sit back and say “pass this”.
The letter writing, the commenting in the press, the actively getting more people aware of the issue is KEY on our part. And that is something that we can all actively work on and MUST to make this happen. People need to be public, the legislators need “cases” in their states, in their districts, testimony that is emotional, but tempered, strong, but not angry, facts, figures and stats to back it up….and we have to be willing to listen to their concerns, even if we know they are wrong, without flipping out and then prove our point calmly. If we want to be successful in restoring open access, then we have to help the legislators be successful. I won’t kid..it’s work. We have to be willing to work to make it happen.
I promise to do my part, but please continue to commit to help! Comment on articles you see going around. Share and comment on Facebook posts, Ask YOUR networks to like pages and share for you. Talk about it to other people, bring it to your other adoption groups both in persona support and online. Write your letters and call the legislators. It’s not going to happen unless WE MAKE IT HAPPEN. There is no magic wand, no fairly dust, no rainbow pooping unicorns.
A final note of thanks to the clean up crew: Kara, Trisha and Karen as we packed it all up in .. yes boxes.. and sent the booth bits on their way to Jackie in Minnesota where they will be WAITING FOR US next year. Oh and guess what? FedEx didn’t come get them on time and they went out via UPS. Have I mentioned how much I HATE BOXES?
So it was a very successful lobby effort. A very successful ARC demonstration. And as I love to say to all:
Same Time, Next Year!
Planning for Next Year’s Adoptee Rights Coalition’s 7th Annual National Demonstration:
The Adoptee Rights Coalition’s Annual Demonstrations are based off the National Conference of State Legislatures annual summits. We don’t decide where the protests will be; the National Conference of State Legislatures do.
The 2014 Adoptee Rights Demonstration will be held on AUGUST 18th at the NCSL Legislative Summit (August 19 – 22, 2014) at the Minneapolis Convention Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Seattle in 2015, Baltimore in 2016 and Boston in 2017.
On a side note: Boston will be the 10th annual ARC Demonstration and also my personal anniversary; I will be returning to Boston almost 30 years to the day that I began my adoption journey. Full circle, baby, full circle.
And until then don’t forget:
Brooklyn NY Adoptee Rights Demonstration organized by Unsealed Iniatitive on 9/29/13. I WILL be there!
And ACCESS MASSACHUSETTS is taking off!