LifeWriting Competition: 2017 Winners

Here are the winners of Story Circle’s LifeWriting Competition, chosen for their freshness and originality, and the clarity and authenticity of the author’s voice.

The writers are responding to questions about Out on a LimbSometimes we have to go out on a limb to get what we want or need. We have to take a risk, even though we’re afraid it won’t pay off—or we’re just afraid, period. We invite you to write about a time you’ve gone out on a limb. This might be an occasion when you discovered that you had little control over your situation and were left hanging, with little expectation of success. Or it could be a time when you dared to stretch for something out of your reach, or you took a huge risk with little expectation of reward. Tell us your out-on-a-limb story.

  1. I’m Ready, by Leah DeCesare of East Greenwich RI (FIRST PRIZE!)
  2. Nancy, by Sarah Rickman of Colorado Springs CO
  3. The Tree of Life, by Debra Bowling of Stone Mountain GA

We know you will enjoy these stories as much as we do. Congratulations to our winners! And look for an announcement of our next competition in June, 2018.

I’m Ready
by Leah DeCesare of East Greenwich, RI

I may soon become the mother to a little boy I’ve never met. I’ve never seen him, not even a picture.

He crashed into my heart on December thirteenth while shopping for Christmas gifts for children in need with our church’s youth group. Back at church wrapping the presents, I read each of the kids’ summarized stories, one heart wrenching tale followed another. I felt a deep ache for them all.

One in the pile was short, but it reached out to me. It’s impossible to say why it leapt out, in rereading it, there’s nothing especially moving or pivotal. What drew me to it the way it did?

It said “Eight-year old boy,” it was short with few details, and the final line stated: “He wants his forever family.” I was overcome with needing to love this child. Why him? I can’t explain, it was a feeling more than a thought.

With him on my heart and mind, I returned to wrapping. I happened to be next to our agency connection to the children and I blurted, “I want to adopt that eight year old boy.” Every moment has felt like something beyond me was in control and those words, spoken aloud, were the first step on a journey we never expected to travel.

My husband, Nick, and I have been married twenty-three years and have three awesome kids who are kind, witty, and loving. One in high school, one off to college and our youngest in eighth grade. We have a blessed life, the family I always dreamed of and we’re savoring the dwindling years with them under our roof. Both savoring them and looking ahead to warmer climates once they’re all on their own. We weren’t looking to extend the years before we can travel and have an orderly house with the scissors always where they’re supposed to be and a shoe-free entryway.

But suddenly, on a regular Sunday evening, what can only be described as divine changed that. At home, I said to my ever-supportive husband, “You know how I always volunteer us for things?”
He laughingly rolled his eyes.
“This is different,” I said, “I want to adopt an eight year old boy.”

Even knowing me as he does, he didn’t think I was serious and threw out reasons why this was impulsive, impractical, and frankly, a bit crazy.

I could understand his protests and reasoning, but in every part of me, I felt peace, completely assured and calm. I felt a calling. Not to be just any little boy’s mother, but this little boy’s mother. I couldn’t be dissuaded.

I googled things like “How to adopt a child from foster care.” I read and read, I filled out online forms requesting information, printed articles and started a file. I was suddenly on a path to motherhood not everyone takes.

I laid awake that night, and the next, envisioning the emotional aspects of meeting him, building trust, and learning to parent a child I hadn’t known from birth. A child whose young eyes have seen things that I haven’t, a child whose story I haven’t been a part of. During all those nighttime thinking sessions, I considered every practical angle too, like figuring out where he would sleep, settling him into our schools, paying for another child’s activities and college. I thought of him in all my waking hours.

Nick and I talked more. A lot more. And we talked to the kids – this would have to be a family decision. Making us proud, each of our children was not just open and welcoming but eager and filled with love at the idea of having a new brother. Within one week of that ethereal December moment, we were on the way with trainings and forms, background checks and interviews, fingerprints and more forms.

Finally, we got his name. Only his first name, and I hold that name in my prayers, in my smile, in my being. I think of him – all the time. I think about him and yearn to know more. What is he doing today, right now? Does he like science and math or does he prefer reading? As I’m grocery shopping, I wonder, does he like eggplant, or pineapple, or cucumbers? I am eager to know him: When is his birthday? What makes him laugh? And what makes him cry?

I crave details about this child who may one day be my own. I hungrily absorb and record the tidbits gleaned from his counselor and agencies we’re now involved with, treasuring every nugget. We’re told he’s sweet and appreciative, an old soul.

Since the day this little guy burst into my heart, I’ve pondered in a whole new way, what it means to be a mother and what it means to be a family. I impatiently wait for the privilege of meeting him and getting to know him. And while I wait, I wonder what’s ahead.

Will this even happen? Will we have the gift of him being a part of our family? How will I jump into becoming a mother to a kid who doesn’t know me?

In some ways, mothering him will be like being a first time mom all over again. I may have over eighteen years of parenting experience but I am inexperienced at being his mom. I won’t have the baby photos or the birth story to retell on his birthday. I won’t have the details of his first steps, his first words or his first day of school.

We’ll have different special dates to celebrate and new traditions we create. I think about our family videos and the stacks of photos without him, and I think about those he’ll become a part of as we make memories together.

We may not have a shared history and I may not know him yet, but I do know that being a good mom isn’t related to how we enter motherhood. I cannot wait to tuck him in and read him bedtime stories, to hold his hand and kiss him goodnight, and good morning, and welcome home from school.

I may sound idealistic and naive, but with any decision in life, we never know how it will turn out. With our own pregnancies, our births, our biological children, our choices for schools, marriage partners, or careers. We do our best with what we know at the time. We have faith.
We calculate the risks or we dive in feet first, we wing it or we plan it, but the outcomes are never guaranteed.

Early on, I told Nick, “I hope we get the privilege of loving him.”. He said, “You already do love him.”
And he’s right. I do. I already love him.

As we move along this path, only months since I read that tiny snip-it of his story, I feel total peace, complete calm and utter love. I feel a rightness, the sense that if this is our road, we are on it and ready to be his family.

We’ve never met him, but I am ready to be his mother.

About the author:
Leah DeCesare is the award-winning author of FORKS, KNIVES, AND SPOONS and the nonfiction parenting series NAKED PARENTING, based on her work as a doula, early parenting educator, and mom of three.

Leah’s articles have been featured in The Huffington Post, International Doula and The Key, among others. In 2008, Leah co-founded the nonprofit Doulas of Rhode Island, and in 2013 spearheaded the campaign to build the Kampala Children’s Centre for Hope and Wellness in Uganda. Previously, Leah worked in public relations and event planning. She now writes and volunteers in Rhode Island where she lives with her family. Read more…