Whole Life Magazine

February/March 2014

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No case is typical. You should not expect to experience these results. © 2013 Rising Tide "Cancer is not an individual sport, it is a team sport. Empower yourself to pick the best team." ~Sara Cancer Warrior Being diagnosed with breast cancer was one of the most defining experiences of Sara's life. She knew the most important decision she had to make was to assemble the right team to fit her needs. Her search brought her to Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) where our team of experts have been fighting advanced cancer for decades. CTCA® worked with Sara and her family to create a comprehensive and tailored treatment plan focused on delivering the whole person approach and quality of life she wanted. The combined leading-edge oncologic medical treatments with naturopathic medicine, nutrition, rehabilitation, psychological counseling, spiritual support and pain management met her goals. Call now to speak with one of our Oncology Information Specialists and learn how we fight cancer like no one else. Call 888-214-9488 or go to cancercenter.com. CTCA FP Whole Life Empower.indd 1 5/14/13 3:08 PM 42 wholelifetimesmagazine.com "T hat will come out with Spic 'n' Span," said Bridgett, dabbing at the spilled yellow mustard on her jacket. I'd just met the hugely pregnant 23-year-old sitting across from me in a meeting hastily arranged by our adoption social worker. I had no idea that she and Bill, the father, would become homeless, and that two-and-a-half years later they would move in with us. It was hard enough to wrap my mind around the idea that the baby growing inside her would soon become my baby, Grace. Our baby. Bridgett and Bill were so close to the edge in so many ways that they couldn't think about becoming parents. Even now, despite experience at an Ohio Wendy's and a Kroger supermarket, Bridgett hasn't landed a job in Los Angeles in the more than three years she's lived here. And Bill was fi red from his job shortly after Grace was born. They survive on periodic royalties from a Grammy-winning song Bill wrote in the 1990s. When they were evicted from their bug-infested downtown LA apartment, they fi rst went to a shelter, where they lay awake at night in their respective men's and women's areas, listening to a cacophony of bodily noises and fretting about contagious diseases. The women, Bridgett said, were unkind to her. So they moved to a tent behind a school bus depot under the 10 Freeway. At fi rst I tried to be helpful. Blankets? No problem. Here, take some movies too so you can pass the time! Need anything from the farmers market? The couple was on my mind when I went to sleep and when I woke up. When the days shortened and it started to rain and get cold at night, the thought of Bridgett and Bill in their tent haunted me. So it came to pass that after two years of Facebook contact plus a handful of playground visits, Bill, Bridgett and their bunny came to stay with Grace and me in our small apartment. We settled into a rhythm in our blended lives. Bill would entertain Grace, and Bridgett would help me with cleanup. Grace and I would get up for work and pre-school; her birth parents would wake around noon, take long walks and use the computer to look for jobs. A couple weeks and some very straightforward conversations later, we came to the realization that grownups with polar opposite circadian rhythms need to tread extra carefully in order to keep it all going smoothly. These were no ordinary houseguests, and ordinary guest- host rules didn't seem to apply. I was perplexed by some of the choices Bill and Bridgett made, and determined to help them in every way I could. I set up a meeting with someone who coached them on how to apply for grocery jobs, and encouraged them to use what they learned. I urged them to write thank-you notes for the bags of clothes and money, Target gift cards and even a MacBook that arrived in response to my call for help on Facebook. My hints about getting a job, any job, I'm sure were less than subtle, and as the days went by, probably verged on obnoxious. Through our daily life together, I gained a new consciousness about poverty and homelessness and the circumstances that can lead to it, and while it defi nitely isn't true for all homeless people, I began to see there were choices being made. And I realized there's a boundary. After 16 days, Bill and Bridgett said they'd decided to go back to the tent to be closer to the agencies to hound them daily for the housing and other services they seek. Part of me thinks they wanted to be gracious—to let Grace and me have our regular life back. Or maybe they just wanted to be in their own space again, where nobody could hear them come and go. You need to be smart and strong and resilient to survive in a tent on a gritty patch of Los Angeles sidewalk. But you need to be all those things in a different way to survive at a job or to get one, to take care of yourself so that others don't worry about you. My wish for Bridgett and Bill: That the stars align so they can wholly pursue their passion for music. That they be prosperous, healthy and safe. And that they right their ship so that when Grace is old enough to fully understand, the tale of her homeless birth parents will be ancient history, just a small part of a rich story with a happy ending. –L.A. freelancer Vanessa McGrady blogs at www.40licious.com. backwords MY DAUGHTER'S OTHER PARENTS By Vanessa McGrady When Family Ties Become Tangled WLT-FEB-MAR-1-30.indd 42 1/30/14 1:10 AM

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