The Next Family: How did you two meet? And how did you start your family?
Amanda: Our story is an interesting but certainly not typical one. At the time that I met Lisa, I was living in Connecticut, close to where I had grown up and lived my whole life, sharing an apartment with a friend and her young son. This was my fourth “home” since graduating college and moving out of my parent’s house about a year and a half prior. At the time, I was living through the darkest time of my life. I had disappointed the people who loved and cared about me, and even worse, I was pushing away people who hadn’t yet given up on me. ‘
When my roommate asked me if I wanted to join her, along with her friends, for a night out to celebrate her birthday, I was skeptical; I didn’t know these women and, honestly, I didn’t care to attempt the awkward situation of small talk and club hopping with strangers, so I told her maybe and avoided her for the rest of the week. When the night approached and her friends started showing up at our house, my roommate dragged me out of my “cave” and gave me no choice but to put on an old dress and my pretend smile.
As cliché as it sounds, I will never forget the moment that I laid eyes on Lisa. When she walked into the house with three or four other people it felt like my world literally stopped and I couldn’t stop staring at her, not only because she was gorgeous, but also because I knew her from somewhere.
The night proceeded, Lisa, having been unwillingly designated as safe driver, drove us to the club where we danced and had fun. The only detail about the club that is important is that, I was in the middle of a brief conversation with a girl in our party and I had the sudden urge to tell her that I was overwhelmingly attracted to “that girl, Lisa”. Normally I regret the awkward conversations I have with people, but this is one I will never forget because otherwise Lisa, being almost as shy as I am, would have never approached me had this said nosey girl hadn’t taken it upon herself to tell Lisa what I had just shared with her.
A few days later, after finding Lisa on Facebook, getting her number, and chatting a bit, we decided to “hang out”. All four of us (Lisa’s two boys, her and I) ended up meeting at Chili’s for dinner. Later, we realized this counted as our first date. Lisa went back home to New York and after a short few weeks of talking on the phone and seeing each other on the weekends, we made it official and started “dating”. We were so happy together, but the distance (about a two-hour drive) was difficult, so after only a short four months together I took a leap of faith, quit the job I loved at a school in Connecticut and moved to New York to be with Lisa and the boys.
The Next Family: Did you always want to have kids?
Amanda: I have wanted to be a mother since as long as I can remember. Like most little girls, I pretended that my dolls were real. When my twin sisters were born, I adored taking care of them. Now that I’m an adult, I absolutely love children and have made sure that I have the chance to interact with them on a daily basis through my job as a nanny and hopefully very soon, as a special education teacher. Although I didn’t imagine my first children as seven and nine-year-old boys that Lisa and I are in the process of adopting, I wouldn’t have it any other way. We have recently started discussing having a baby through IVF and I can’t wait to be pregnant and experience the joys of raising a baby. Even though I have only known our sons, Damien and Cameran for a few years, I love them with all my heart and I’m so happy that I have the opportunity to be their “Titi Amanda (second mom).”
The Next Family: Where do you live?
Amanda: Lisa, Damien, Cameran, and myself currently live in Rensselaer (upstate) New York, due to Lisa’s Air Force status. About three years ago, she volunteered to take the ROTC/secretary to the commander at RPI University. We are very proud of Lisa’s commitment to our country, but also her commitment to family. At some point in 2017, when she receives new orders, our family will be moving somewhere else.
The Next Family: What is the greatest (and the toughest) thing about being a parent?
Amanda: The greatest thing, for me, about becoming a parent to Damien and Cameran is having the opportunity to help them become the best that they can be and showing them a positive life that they wouldn’t have without Lisa and I. The toughest thing about being a parent is discipline, which is something that I have never been good at with my students, and is therefore, even more difficult with my sons.
The Next Family: Does your family feel adversity?
Amanda: Our family definitely feels adversity! Although there isn’t such a thing as a “normal” family these days, ours is about as different and pieced together as they come. I love that our family is different is 3 distinct ways- Lisa is a woman in the Air Force, we are gay, and we have adopted children. I know that many people may feel as though every child should have a mother and a father, but these boys are so loved that it is overwhelming. They have more family to love them than most children I know and we make sure that they have a plethora of male role models. There is no lack of love or commitment in this household. We feel blessed to be accepted not only by our families, but also by our community, who has shown much support in the time that we’ve spent here.
The Next Family: Do you have any advice for LGBTQ youth?
Amanda: Although very short, simple, and to the point, the biggest and most important piece of advice that we have for LGBTQ youth is BE YOURSELF! There will be times that you are going to feel outnumbered, judged, and even ashamed, but there is never a thing wrong with being yourself. You aren’t truly living if you are living life as someone you’re not. Humans have a huge capacity for love, but in order to love someone else, you must love yourself first.
The Next Family: What’s one life lesson you want to teach your children?
Amanda: Besides “be yourself,” we want to teach our children to strive for the best; always be your best self. Our kids know challenges and heartbreak all too well, so we are trying to teach them that with hard-work and determination, you can do anything you set your mind to. Your past made you who you are today, but it doesn’t define you; tomorrow is a new day.