One Day Means Forever: Interview with Willie Garson

There are currently 107,000 children in foster care.

One in five of those children will never be adopted.

In honor and recognition of November as National Adoption Month, and on behalf of all children waiting for a family, I am thrilled to introduce to you Willie Garson.

“Willie Garson stars as Mozzie in the new USA Network original series White Collar. The talented Garson is rarely at a loss for work, appearing in over 250 TV episodes of a wide variety of programming, and over 70 feature films. His unorthodox bald and bespectacled look won over fans on Sex and the City, where he played Carrie’s gay best friend, Stanford Blatch. He is also well-known as Henry Coffield on NYPD Blue and recently re-teamed with HBO and David Milch on John From Cincinnati.

“Born and raised in New Jersey, he started training at The Actors Institute in New York when he was only 13, before majoring in theater and psychology at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT. After graduation, Garson found his love for acting outweighed his psychology studies and landed guest roles on Cheers, Family Ties, thirtysomething and L.A. Law. He has stayed busy playing several recurring characters in a wide array of TV projects, such as Just Shoot Me, Spin City, Ally McBeal, The Practice, Stargate SG-1, Star Trek: Voyager, The X-Files, Medium and Pushing Daisies.

“On the big screen, Garson has collaborated with the Farrelly Brothers in their films Kingpin, There’s Something about Mary and Fever Pitch. Garson has appeared in the quirky ensemble comedies Soapdish, Mars Attacks and Being John Malkovich, and is often used by such varied directors as Michael Bay, Mike Nichols and Spike Jonze.

“At home on the stage as much as he is on television and in film, Garson continues to perform with various bicoastal theater companies in NY and LA, and was a member Naked Angels, The Manhattan Theater Club, the Roundabout Theater and the Geffen Playhouse. He’s also involved in community and charity organizations – from Big Brothers to Young Artists United. He has read to first graders weekly through the Screen Actor’s Guild “Bookpals” program, and is involved with AMFAR, Aspen Youth Experience, LA’s Alliance for Children’s Rights and Camp Joslin Diabetes Center in Massachusetts.

“Garson, who adopted his now 10-year-old son, Nathen, from Los Angeles County foster care in 2010, is the national spokesperson for National Adoption Day 2011. National Adoption Day is one day in a year-round effort to raise awareness of the 107,000 children in foster care waiting for permanent and loving families that was held on Nov. 19, 2011.

“Aside from acting on TV and the big screen, Garson also found success as a celebrity poker player. In 2003, “Evil Willie” (a nickname given to Garson by Don Cheadle for his fierce card playing) won the very first episode of Texas Hold ‘Em on Bravo’s Celebrity Poker Showdown,”and continues to play in tournaments worldwide and through the World Poker Tour. Garson now resides in Los Angeles and New York.”  (Willie Garson: Official Biography)

THE INTERVIEW

It is truly a privilege to partner with Willie Garson and present to you his perspectives on adoption and parenting his ten-year-old son Nathen.

SH:  As a fellow adoptive parent, I know you understand the profundity of adoption. How do you explain the significance of your journey to others?

WGEveryone can give a child a loving home. The day Nathen and I become a family was the best day of my life. Every day I am thankful that he is my son.

SH:  National Adoption Day and, indeed, National Adoption Month, are important markers to help raise awareness among the general population. However, as an adoptive parent, you know that every day is “National Adoption Day.”  How do you help to spread adoption awareness every day throughout the year?

WGAs you know, National Adoption Day is one day during the year that celebrates and recognizes the efforts of adoption advocates and families throughout the entire year. Every day, truly is that special ‘one day’ for many families. I am proud to share my family’s story with others and encourage them to consider adoption from foster care. 

We spread awareness by example, and certainly I am lucky enough to be in the media almost daily, so I do all I can to mention it and discuss it. My TV network, USA, even let me write and direct some PSAs with Nathen and my cast on ‘WHITE COLLAR,” and USA Network was wonderful about airing them, as well as our great cast and crew for donating their time. You can see them on YouTube or at USA.com.

Also, considering submitting a video for the National Adoption Day Coalition’s ‘One Day Project’, and encourage people to consider adoption from foster care.

SH: When our oldest son’s adoption was finalized, the attorney, after the ten-minute session in the courtroom, asked if, after everything we had been through, the short time “to make it official” seemed “anticlimactic.”  Can you describe the importance of finalization in the adoption process and what it meant to you and your son?

WG: From the beginning to end, it took only 20 months for us to finalize Nathen’s adoption. But this process was so short compared to the magnitude of the parental responsibility you are taking on – it is forever. That ‘one day’ was the best day of our lives. Nathen was very worth the wait.

SH:  People will sometimes ask us when we plan to tell our children we adopted them. Our response is always the same—“They will always have known.”  Your son is older than my three and the circumstances surrounding his adoption are most assuredly different. What types of questions are you hearing these days from him, and what advice do you have for parents as they attempt to answer their children’s questions about their adoptions?

WG: BE HONEST….always, to yourself and more importantly, your child. We talk about his parents all the time, with truthful answers, never angry, just ‘they were not in a position to care for you, but that never meant they didn’t love you.’ I think that covers even the most difficult cases because it’s probably true.

SH: My oldest son asked me once why we adopted him.  We told him we adopted him because he was our son.  At first he didn’t quite get it—thinking that he wasn’t our son until we adopted him; but then he did understand.  Can you describe the first time you met your son and that moment when you realized he was your son?

WG: I met Nathen at an L.A. adoption fair in Oct. 2008. Instantly I knew he was, “my kid.” Nathen was legally available for adoption. From the beginning to end, it took only 20 months for us to finalize his adoption.

SH: What would you like readers to know about the challenges and rewards of adopting through the foster care system?

WG: The rewards are many, the challenges are many. I imagine the same as ANY parenting. Adoptive parents have a leg up, I feel, emotionally, because the truth is that you chose THIS child, and who wouldn’t like to know THAT about themselves?

SH: I truly feel that children are our wisest teachers.  What has your son taught you—about adoption, about yourself, about life?

WGNathen has taught me the greatest thing ever, and the Beatles said it best, ‘All you need is Love.’  It sounds so corny but it’s true–we love each other so hard that it hurts sometimes, and that comes directly from him. He also is anxiety-free, which he is working on teaching me; he knows, better than me, that things CAN work out okay.

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Please take a moment and click on the link below and listen to the voices of children who were adopted as well as adoptive parents speak about the significance of adoption and the One Day Project.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DCI-sgf2SVY

THE GIVEAWAY

One lucky reader will win an autographed picture of Willie Garson!

To enter, leave a comment on this post.  To enter more than once, leave a comment indicating where or how you shared this post with others–on your Facebook page, Twitter, your own blog, through email.  Each comment and each share earns you one entry in the drawing.  There is a limit of five entries (your first comment and up to four shares) per person.  Remember: You must leave an initial comment and then a separate comment for each share.  Also, comments must appear here, on the blog My Three Sons, to qualify as official entries. 

In the spirit of spreading awareness about adoption, National Adoption Month, the National Adoption Coalition, and the One Day Project, PLEASE encourage everyone you know to share this post as well.   Every child waiting to be adopted should be adopted–and the surest path to making that happen is through increasing awareness.  You can do your part by making as many people as you can aware of the plight of our–all of our–children. 

Comments will be open through the rest of November (National Adoption Month)–that is, through Wednesday, 30 November 2011 at 11:59 PM EST. 

The winner will be drawn and notified on Thursday, 1 December 2011; and the winner will be announced on My Three Sons on Friday, 2 December 2011. 

A FINAL THOUGHT

When I first envisioned interviewing Willie Garson, I will admit that as a huge fan of his work as an actor, I was more than just a little “star-struck.”  However, the more I learned about his journey to parenthood, the more those initial feelings were replaced by nothing less than pure connection.  The words he offers in his interview could very well have been my own; the photographs he shared for this feature could have been taken at Providence Family Court or our own livingroom.  We are all connected–whether through adoption, biology, or shared experience–and once again I am reminded of one of the most profound commentaries on adoption I have ever read:   

“It has been said that adoption is more like a marriage than a birth: two (or more) individuals, each with their own unique mix of needs, patterns, and genetic history, coming together with love, hope, and commitment for a joint future. You become a family not because you share the same genes, but because you share love for each other.”–Joan McNamara, Adoptive Parent

The Beatles did say it best–“All you need is love.”  Thank you, Mr. Garson, for sharing your journey, your thoughts, and your life with my readers–and thank you for all your work on behalf of children.

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Never Again This Small

To all the photographers who have ever photographed my children, thank you!  Your images continue to mean more to our family than my mere words can ever express.

And to Deanna Dimarzio, thank you for these and for allowing me to share them here.

They will never again be this small–and for that reason alone, there can never be enough photographs.

Checking in with August

His oldest brother is the trailblazer and his next oldest has been on the front page of the newspaper–and his mother is now having an official nagging case of the guilts because her youngest has not been getting his share of blog time.

So, let’s rectify that, shall we?

Where do I begin?

He’s fierce and funny and sassy and demonstrative and incredibly intelligent.

His new favorite word is “Why?” followed by “Never!” (not a mere “no”) as a close second.  And his signature expression–make that a command–is “WANT SOME?”  (In other words, give me what you’re eating this instant!)

He has liquid brown eyes and a smile that is going to get him out of a whole lot of trouble. 

He insists on doing everything himself–from taking off his jacket to reading his own bedtime stories.

He is playful and contemplative, affectionate and independent.

In other words, he’s two–in every sense of the word. 

And a beauty–inside and out. 

 

Front Page News

I often tell my students, when the conversation turns to social networking and electronic correspondence, “Never post or write what you wouldn’t be comfortable seeing on the front page of the newspaper tomorrow.”

The idea isn’t mine, of course–and the warning appears in various iterations: “Don’t post or write something you wouldn’t want your grandmother/boss/first-grade teacher to read.” 

And though I blog here and write elsewhere about the stories of my family’s life and update my Facebook status nearly every day, I try to refrain from airing my proverbial dirty laundry in cyberspace. 

However, since this story has landed on the front page of the paper (URL below)–Saturday’s paper to be exact–I feel somewhat free to comment here.

I am grateful to The Newport Daily News for doing a tremendous job to help raise awareness on Aquidneck Island about epilepsy–not only with Saturday’s article but also the followup editorial in Monday’s paper.  And I am indebted to The Matty Fund for their unwavering and thoughtful support.

Those who know our family know we’re veritable open books but yet simultaneously aspire to stay under the radar.  We don’t seek the spotlight and, in fact, generally eschew it. 

But Edgar’s diagnosis revealed something I wasn’t expecting–that epilepsy in 2011 is still surrounded by a mystique that hearkens back to centuries past and that those who have this neurological condition are still met with fear, nervousness, and apprehension.

And as a teacher, I know there is only one way to change that–through education. 

Edgar’s neurologist told us in the Emergency Room the day he was diagnosed that as a parent of a child with epilepsy, our threshold for the symptoms of this condition was going to be much higher than the rest of the world’s.  And that, quite simply, isn’t good enough for me.  And it’s certainly not good enough for Edgar and for everyone else who shares his diagnosis. 

There is nothing about this boy that should be met with fear and apprehension:

He has epilepsy–and that is all. 

http://www.newportri.com/features/just-being-edgar/article_1b46b332-095e-11e1-a03d-001cc4c002e0.html

Music Lessons

Ah, sing-alongs in the car . . . It’s the stuff of childhood memories.  Long, rambling road trips, the CD player hard at work, children singing with all their might . . . children singing the same two songs over and over and over and over.

Two songs. 

I have a six-CD player in my car.  Each CD contains at least 20 songs, songs, I might add, carefully selected from my enviable collection of ’80’s pop, the soundtrack from Hair, and roughly two dozen releases post-1990. 

In other words, there is plenty to pick from. 

But for Oscar and Edgar, there are two songs–tracks five and six on a mix CD I like to call “CD #1”–that they want to hear; and they’re the only two songs they want to hear. 

This, of course, got me thinking (because what else is there to do after you’ve heard the same two songs roughly 412 times each?). 

It goes without saying that I like these songs (though I may have liked them a lot more prior to this recent saturation)–they’re catchy and certainly not inappropriate for young ears.  But as I listened to the lyrics, I realized something more. 

The first song–track five–is by Kaiser Chiefs, a swell band from Leeds.  The song is called “Oh My God.”  This is Edgar’s favorite. Track six is Coldplay’s “Viva la Vida.”  This is the song Oscar prefers. 

And as we have ping-ponged these two songs day after day, I realized something.  The themes of the two songs not only parallel the personalities and proclivities of my two oldest sons, but they also put forth the lessons we, as parents, endeavor to instill.

“Oh My God” is an ode to personal empowerment and a plea to flee from the drudgery of life while “Viva la Vida” is a reminder to remain humble and live simply.

As we drive along and I listen to Oscar and Edgar sing along to these songs, I know they’re too young to register what these songs are saying–at least thematically; but there will come a day, and it won’t be long, when a song’s message might be one of their most profound influences. 

So, I think for my creative boy who may need to fight to ensure that the world not discriminate against him and for my very accomplished young man who is quite attracted to material objects, I might like these songs to stay on their playlists. 

And I’ll keep playing them as long as they want to listen–because getting the message from these guys is probably a whole lot cooler than getting it from us.

Kaiser Chiefs (image courtesy of Google Images)

 

Coldplay (image courtesy of Google Images)

The Zen of Adoption

Tomorrow morning I am honored to be speaking at our adoption agency’s Annual Adoption Celebration.

When our adoption worker asked if I might consider writing a poem, I thought she might have actually dialed the wrong number.  Poetry is not my thing–love to read it, love to analyze it, and am, quite frankly, in awe of it–but write it? 

Nope.

So, I wrote piece about National Adoption Month–a prose piece–and felt I was ready.

But of course I wasn’t.  As her words so often have, our adoption worker’s wish for a poem crept into my mind and took up residence, pecking at me until I finally wrote something.

It’s not poetry, but it’s for you, Lisa Granda, because, really, after all you’ve done for us, it’s the least I could do.

 

The Zen of Adoption

Why did you adopt me?

We adopted you because you were our child.

How old was I when you met me?

We have known you since before you were born.

Do you ever wish I grew in your belly?

You wouldn’t be you if you had.

 How did you find me?

 We simply stopped looking.

 Do you think I might adopt one day?

 You already have.

 Is our family forever?

 It has been before we met and will continue to be after.

 What is so great about adoption?

 It proves the universe makes sense.

 If you had to do it all over again, would you?

 We have, and we will.