September 27th and 28th – Michigan
We met Mary Beth on a Caribbean cruise almost 20 years ago. Seated together randomly at lunch we hit it off and asked to be assigned a table together for the rest of the trip. We turned into THAT table. People either wanted to join us, because we were laughing so loud, or they wanted to be on the other side of the dining room – because we were laughing SO LOUD.
It turned out that we had a lot in common, including our recent battles with infertility. We bonded and became instant friends. Before the cruise ended, I found out that she had relinquished a baby for adoption as a young teenager, and that her biological daughter lived in California only a few miles from where Tim and I lived.
Although she had made many attempts to have contact with her bio-daughter (Leslie), she had not been allowed.
Fast forward a few years. Leslie was now over 21, living on her own and made contact with her, saying she would like to meet her bio-mom. Mary Beth was excited and nervous. I offered for her to stay at our home, to pick her up at the airport, and drive her to that 1st meeting. It turned out to be a special, moving moment for all of us.
Fast forward once again. Mary Beth and her then husband, decided to adopt an infant from Guatemala. Their daughter, Sophia is now 12 years old and stunningly beautiful.
A few years later, Mary Beth, now a single parent, decided she wanted to adopt another daughter and invited Tim and me to go to Guatemala with her when she was to meet her six weeks old daughter, Gabriella.
So, in December 2006, I was privileged to once again be with her when she met another daughter for the first time.
As fate would have it, that trip to Guatemala had another huge impact on Tim and me. The woman seated next to MB on her flight was involved with a charity that was building schools for Mayan children, among other worthwhile projects. We ended up meeting Penny, the founder of “Miracles in Action” a few days later.
After returning to Los Angeles, Tim and I contacted Penny to learn more about the work she was doing. As a flight attendant for American Airlines, she was scheduled to be in L.A. in a couple of days, and we agreed to meet for dinner. By the end of that meeting Tim and I were invited to return to Guatemala in a few weeks to see more of the work they were doing and to attend two school grand openings.
We were asked if we would bring two duffel bags filled with donated shoes as part of our checked luggage. We were glad to do it, and agreed to meet two other volunteers near the airport where we would get the bags of shoes from them. That couple turned out to be Dick and Karen Theil. One of the schools that was just completed had been built due to a donation made by Jan and Gary Jantzen.
Anyone that has been following our blog for any length of time, might recognize those names. Since that fateful meeting, the six of us (Tim and I, Dick and Karen, Gary and Jan) have traveled together to Spain, Morocco, Peru, several times to Guatemala, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, India, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and met up in Scotland.
But back to my original story of meeting Mary Beth.
We have reunited several times in California when she has flown out to see her daughter Leslie, but I had never made it to Michigan to see her. We finally rectified that when we stopped by to spend two nights with her on Friday.
It turned into a whirlwind visit that included me getting put back together a little with a Mani/Pedi, followed by lunch where I finally got to meet her sister, Karen. The afternoon included a visit to see Meadow Brook Hall.
“Often referred to as one of America’s “castles,” the 110-room, 88,000-square-foot (8,200 m2) mansion is currently ranked sixth on the list of Largest Historic Homes in the United States., but is the third largest historic house museum.” – Wikipedia
What a magical time it was for me to spend time with a dear, dear friend and her two amazing, smart, and adorable girls!
Gratitude Moment: Today I am grateful for how things work when you just get out-of-the-way of life. One amazing “chance” meeting so many years ago has led to so much joy, amazing opportunities, and meeting other wonderful people who have also become lifelong friends.
I finally just put ‘life to the side’ and this is the blog I chose =)). Beautiful Joanne and so very happy for you to create those memories with such wonderful people xoxo
And isn’t it perfect how our kids start to resemble us <3. Marybeth and her daughter have such a close resemblance in that picture!!
They have created a loving and beautiful family. Those girls have a mother that adores them, and has made raising them her priority. It was wonderful to see them!
Loved this story Joanne. And of course you and I went on to have Guatemala and Miracles in Action connections. Amazing paths that cross! And little Gabriella reminds me so much of my Angelina at that age.
As big as this world seems, I am often reminded how we are all intertwined.
Of course I knew much of that story, but didn’t know how you met Mary Beth. Just has to be a “God thing”. What a chain of events! Sure glad Gary and I are in this chain. It has been wonderful being you guy’s friends and travel buddies. What great times we have had and will have together. Then you add the fact that we were traveling with Penny to Jordan and met Dick and Karen at the London Airport. We all were going on the same humaniatrian trip. That was almost 11 years ago. We found out on that trip that we all had a love for Guatemala and it’s people. We have made a number of trips each year with Karen and Dick and visited more countires together than I can count. At the time they lived in Calif. We lived in Ohio and Penny lived in Florida. Dick, Karen, Gary and I traveled together for 2 years were close friends before we saw each other in the US. Then about 7 years ago we met you guys in Guatemala! Now I find out it all started at lunch on a cruise ship 20 years ago.
Can’t wait to see all of you in Guatemala in November! Time for more fun and more memories.
Curtis and Augusta are two more people we have met through our travels, and now all of us will be returning to Guatemala to attend their WEDDING! Loving it!
What a fantastic story. Life is really amazing. I’m always interested in adoption stories, as we are adoptive parents too. Yesterday I went with our (biological) daughter to Edinburgh, where we met our (adopted) son. As you know our daughter is recovering from severe ME, so making the trip was a big accomplishment for her. It was amazing to see how much progress our son has made and how well he is doing. I was aware of how much healing has happened, for both my children.
I was delighted to read that the Dafter is now walking without the need of her wheelchair! May her health continue to improve!
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