When Katie and Jonathan Biron decided to grow their family through adoption, Katie had no idea the choice would catalyze her to create children’s books and even change Washington State law. The couple chose to adopt through Amara, an agency that required adoptive parents to first become licensed foster parents. They went through the motions but didn’t take any foster children, staying the course to adopt. They were matched with a mom about to give birth and the meeting with her changed the direction of their family journey forever.
Up until then, Katie saw adoption as a joyful event. The moment the baby’s birth mom placed the baby in Katie’s arms, she realized her greatest joy was someone else’s greatest sorrow. The birth mom wished desperately her own mother, who was not well, could see the baby girl before she went home with the Biron’s. Katie and Jonathan reached into their humanity. Instead of sticking to the rigid rules of adoption, they offered to bring the baby, Emma, to her biological grandma.
That’s when Katie knew the traditional adoption trail was not for their family. She and Jonathan bravely tip-toed into an exploration of a different kind of open adoption. They found a far more pleasing path. While building a relationship with adoption at the center wasn’t always easy, Katie knew deep in her heart that she was doing the right thing for Emma. Her way ensured there was space for all of the important adults in Emma’s life.
A pediatric nurse by trade, Katie later regretted never fostering kids, especially when there was huge need for homes for medically fragile children. The Biron’s decided to get relicensed and care for kids with special needs. All of the events; the meeting with Emma’s birth mom, the relicensing, their experience within the system, evolved their ideas about what adoption and foster care could look like.
Maybe it’s wasn’t about “us” and “them.” Maybe instead of an adversarial relationship, parents and caregivers like the Biron’s could build a collaborative, child-centered relationship. With this belief, Katie began to facilitate visits for the family of the baby placed in their home.
Katie’s first experience with an open visit was for a medically fragile newborn. He hadn’t visited his biological family for over three weeks. The social worker hadn’t yet scheduled any visits. Believing in her heart he needed to see his mom, and vice versa, Katie gathered her gusto, and with all her children in tow, facilitated a visit with his family at a Starbucks in Target. Slowly Katie and the baby’s family built a relationship. Eventually a decision was made that the Biron’s would adopt the baby. His would be an open adoption that welcomed his family, including his mother, into their own. They now enjoy a blended family partnership and Katie’s son has the benefits of both families in his life.
Katie was convinced the traditional version and view of adoption wasn’t the best plan. She felt strongly there had to be an alternative. When she couldn’t find anything, she created it. Out of their family’s experience with two non-traditional adoptions, the Family Connections ProgramTM was born. The program utilizes the expertise of parents with lived experience navigating the child welfare system. These individuals help mentor parents whose children are currently placed in out of home care and those caring for the children to build and sustain child-centered relationships.
Political activism crept in quickly after that. Katie started talking to legislators about a better way to “do” shared parenting for children in foster care. The Family Connections Program bill had great bipartisan support and was signed into law in 2020. It was fully funded and then… COVID.
Due to the state’s emergency, the Governor vetoed necessary funding. This left DCYF (The Department of Children, Youth and Families) with a mandate to provide the Family Connection Program but without money to facilitate it. Katie mourned the developments, then dried her tears and worked with Amara to seek alternative funding sources to keep the program alive. In 2021 the pilot program was again funded by the legislature and became a permanent state program in 2022.
Like the bill, Katie’s book, The Love Tree, was born out of her family’s non-traditional adoption story. A seemingly simple school assignment required her child to create a family tree. Their family made their tree tricky. Katie wanted a way for all the important people in a child’s life to be represented. Out of that grew the Love Tree, an endearing story revisioning the family tree. Katie enjoys sharing her book and family story with schools and in classrooms. It is always fun for her to see who makes it onto kids’ love trees.
In addition to The Love Tree, Katie has plans for more children’s books. Her next book, the first in a series, will help parents talk to kids about Substance Use Disorders. She has plans for a story about attachment styles and how children grow bonds. She dreams of books that touch on really tough topics like why some people are unhoused. It’s already out there for kids to bump into and she intends to give parents safe tools to help tackle the sticky subjects.
Katie has done much in the last decade and has more in store. Ten years ago adoption seemed like such a simple path, it will be interesting to see where another ten years of Katie’s advocacy and passion lead. Katie, thank you for keeping kids safe!
For more information on non-traditional adoption options check out these great resources:
Katiebiron.com – offers workshops and classes to adoption and foster agencies
The First Legal Clinic – Snohomish – provided parent mentor and attorney to help make plans for baby’s care after birth so it’s not a traumatic removal
Amara - has done a lot of work to change their program from just foster to adopt. They’re trying to be on the prevention end of adoption and offer services to help preserve families in crisis so they don’t have to end in adoption and if they do relationships with the biological families don’t have to be completely severed.
Birth and Foster Parent Partnership – a national group with people from all different states working to build relationships between foster and biological parents so that there is continued connection and support for biological parents when kids return home.
KATIE’S BOOK STATS:
Last book read: I Am Watching You by Teresa Driscoll
Current books: The Searcher, Tana French
Her book rec: Attached. Amir Levine, MD and Rachel Heller, MA
The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff
I posted on social media recently about dreams, goals and visions. It read something to the effect of “If a dream causes more stress and tension than joy, it might be a nightmare. You better reality check yourself.” It came after a personal reality check. My dream was too big. I needed to let it go, and I thought I did, but yet I still hope...
I am a self professed idealist. I dream BIG dreams. I know no other way. I’m not Pollyanna and assure you I have bad days, sometimes really bad days, but for the most part I want the best and hope for the biggest and best. This, surprisingly, doesn’t always lend itself to a super optimistic outlook. BIG dreams don’t often come true, but often come with pain and growth and wiggling out of comfort zones and hard work and explaining yourself and defending your silly BIG dreams to the people around you. They’re not easy to keep because they’re so unrealistic. And yet… I dream them still.
My biggest dream BIG dream is, of course, to make a healthy living off my writing. But I have another dream. It’s lived inside me for decades and as I have grown, so too has my silly little BIG dream… Want to know what it is?
Ok my BIG dream is to someday own a resort where people come to rest and retreat. Yeah. I want to offer a space of refuge, a place of peace, away from the stresses of life to all who are weary. It started simple and small, after a family tent camping vacation to Flathead Lake in Montana. My children were elementary school aged, so this was about twenty years ago. The campground hosts were a lovely retired couple and I remember thinking to myself that I would like to be them one day. I wanted to keep a campground clean and tidy for the guests. I wanted to listen to them share their lives. I wanted to watch them get in the boat with their family and catch fish. Yes, I wanted to cultivate a place of rest, retreat and refuge in nature and enjoy it with others.
It’s grown BIG over the years, this silly little dream of mine. As Jeremy and I grew our investment portfolio it occurred to me that I could do more than humbly host. I could own the campground and shape it into this thing I see in my mind’s eye, this place of peace. I upgraded my dream. It grew BIGGER to the point of impossibility. There’s no way I’ll ever get it… but then again, maybe, just maybe I will.
A place popped up. Most of the boxes in my dream resort were checked. I was enchanted. It was high priced. Practically out of our possible price range. Completely impossible. I know this. I know there is no way and yet I dared to dream. I had my handsome Realtor husband show me the grounds. I wanted it. I probably even prayed for it before the harsh “no way, no hows” of reality snatched the silly dream out of my hand and threw it to the ground. It shattered into a million little shards of sure not gonna happen. No way. Or maybe just “not yet” and herein lies my sliver of hope...
What’s more, therein all that fanciful BIG ridiculous dreaming a revelation rose from the ashes. My BIG dream is only possible because there’s enough possibility from where I stand now to make it a dream to even hope for. We ARE real estate investors. We DO operate an obscure Okay Oasis that welcomes guests to rest and retreat. We MIGHT have the capital to make a deal work, if not this deal then another deal. I HAVEN’T always been this way. There HAVE been times in my life where a dream like this would truly be unrealistic, not just impossible.
The same realities that smashed the dream stirred up a song in my soul that humbled me to my core… “Who am I?”…
Who am I that I dare to dream this dream? “Who am I that the eyes that see my sin would look on me with love and watch me rise again?” Who am I that I have the nerve to dream this dream? I am a methamphetamine addict with a less than 5% chance of ever staying clean. And here I stand 24 years later clean by the grace of God. Who am I that dreams this dream? I am the batty, bruised up lady talking, okay, okay screaming irrationally to herself as she stumbles down the side of the road. Now unmedicated save for the workouts to keep my endorphins and serotonin levels healthy for several decades. Who am I that dreams this dream? A college drop-out with nothing but a two-year community college degree that took five years to earn. Who am I to dream this dream? Who am I? I am her. And yet I am here. And yes I do dare to dream my BIG dreams!
I am a child of the most high God. I am redeemed from a pit of addiction, self-hatred, mental-illness and uneducatedness. I am lavishly loved by me, and God (and a bouquet of my favorite souls too!).
By most standards I am an epic fail as far as love and life go. I know there have been laughs behind my back about who do I think I am to dream about a writing career or owning a beautiful place to let people retreat to. I know because there have been laughs right in my face too. But still… I think I’ll keep my dream! Yeah. I’ll dream BIG because if a bum loser like me can be saved from the impossible pit I came from, a safe place by placid waters might just be possible too! Ever and always, dream BIG little one ;)
Wendy Jones was reluctant to change her health, fitness or nutritional lifestyle. Her mother, gone too soon at the age of 53, lost her life largely due to the use of Fen Phen. Wendy’s boyfriend, Tim, was of the mindset that if death is inevitable, it at least doesn’t have to come from starvation. With an aversion to dieting aids and a culture of eat-what-you-want surrounding her, Wendy took the blows to her health as they came and accepted the extra pounds as part of life.
Sure, she knew that just a little bit of walking, like she’d done for one short month in her thirties, was enjoyable and netted a noticeable weight loss; but the effort and the stress of changing her lifestyle wasn’t worth the pay off. She’d tried many of the fads, the shakes, the weight watching, the pressure to try this exercise or that fitness routine. It frustrated her and turned her off. She didn’t need someone telling her she was overweight, the mirror did that just fine. She didn’t need someone to push her to do an exercise her body raged against. She just needed … to move.
There was more to it than a move, but purchasing a home and moving last summer was the catalyst that got her health and fitness on track, on her terms, maybe for the first mindful time. It’s sticking too! On a keto diet often strict, but admittedly holiday dirty (or gracious depending on how she looks at it) Wendy has lost 45 pounds in about 6 months.
How did a move motivate the change? It started when her boyfriend, Tim, passed away. The reality that life was short and her weight and health were out of control overwhelmed her. She knew she ought to do something but not what. She was grieving and didn’t want to do anything. How did she stick with healthy changes when she never had before? The overwhelm of it all stopped most of the momentum before it ever got past her thoughts.
Wendy’s a teacher and COVID sent her home for far too long. Her fit bit told her she took fewer and fewer steps each day and her seat told her she was the dictionary definition of sedentary. Anything she lost all those years ago walking, were long since put back on, along with other pounds that added on over the years and COVID months. Her dizzy spells got worse with medications meant to treat the issues that were causing some of her weight retention. Headaches and lack of motivation made even going upstairs for a charger cord nearly impossible. But she had to move, and a lack of motivation to pack and haul food from an old pantry to a new pantry got her thinking about food.
She wanted to eat what was left in her house before moving to avoid packing it. One by one, the processed foods and packaged products came out and got used up. She noticed that nearly everything was somehow processed, refined or preserved. The fresh foods were gone soon enough and she was left to use what she had. It was enough to get her beyond thinking. She looked into keto. Less carbs meant more whole, fresh food. Whole, fresh food was fancy, like the cheesy eggs she now enjoys for breakfast instead of sugar cereals.
After the move, she made a mindful switch on the foods she purchased. She bought more fresh vegetables and foods and discovered that she actually enjoys prepping snack bags for the fridge. She has healthy treats ready to grab-and-go whenever she or one of her daughters wants to eat. She preps healthy, fresh snacks and her kind of salads (the kind light on lettuce and loaded with other yummy whole food additions) on Sundays, and often reloads again on Wednesdays. She’s noticing that the girls, who she didn’t want to deprive, ask for less junk with the availability of more healthy snacks at the ready.
Her weight loss wasn’t on purpose, in fact it was so slow she really didn’t notice until she saw an “old” picture from 2019. The change was dramatic! She didn’t think she was ever THAT big. She hadn’t felt that big. She wondered what she looked like now and took a full length selfie. The difference was evident, not just to her but her Facebook following too.
It’s been all intake and nutrition for Wendy, exercise was NOT in her plan. She hated to sweat, there was no motivation to move. She knew food was the way to go for her, but oddly enough, she remembered those walks from years ago along the ACC woods loop. She enjoyed them, and after the move, she started to walk again... down random streets in the old section of her beloved town. Unscripted, spontaneous zigs and zags along friendly streets to see what the town has to offer from day to day. Sometimes it’s for her easy to get up and invite her young daughter, Dalilah, out for a walk with her. Sometimes Dalilah invites her, but Wendy is exercising, on her terms. Her exercise looks like a friendly neighbor keeping tabs on her town. She’s changing her food intake, on her terms, getting comfortable cutting veggies and the quiet joy that comes from an unexpected pleasurable activity. She’s changing her health and fitness for the better, her way, one snack, one step at a time.
Weight loss goals aren’t necessarily a focus in her life, but she does think it might be nice for once to walk the full 5k the town hosts each October. She’s thought about it for years. Maybe this is the year she does it! Maybe this is the year the scale drops under 200! No matter what, she’s proud of her changes and intends to keep at it and see where a healthier mindset takes her!
Sam Baird I learned about Sam from my husband. As an avid fisherman, he, like thousands of others followed high-school cohort, Sam Baird, on social media. Sam’s Slammin Salmon Guide Service and “anti-pro blend” scent brand has given him much respect and credit in his fishing niche. I can’t say I ever took notice, more than to marvel at how many Kokanee his guide service consistently pulls out of Lake Chelan… and then it happened, Sam Baird turned my head.
It wasn’t his fishing, although he is a master at his sport, it was his weight loss journey that eventually piqued my interest. “Look at this guy!” my husband kept saying, “He’s losing so much weight. He looks great! Some Keto thing.” I looked at the pictures. Sam Baird was a shrinking man, shaking off excess weight at an astonishing rate. When he posted that he was nearly a hundred pounds down, I knew I had to meet him. We met at Starbucks, but Sam didn’t order. Keto is his secret to weight loss success and there is no room in the plan for the carbs Starbs pedals.
True to an expert guide, Sam made me feel comfortable from the start. Conversation came fast and easy and in no time, I too felt like I’d known Sam since high school. Sam graduated in 1997 as a strong athlete at 225 pounds and the world was at his finger-tips; but injury after injury and the curse of time got the best of him. Twenty years later he was an angry, sick, depressed and morbidly obese man, weighing in at 352 at his highest. Sam admits he knew he was in poor health and avoided doctors, but was eventually diagnosed with fatty liver disease and was on his way to an early grave. He felt defeated but continued to drink a case of Mountain Dew a day, put on his charming, albeit, fake smile and trudge through one miserable, painful day after another.
In the summer of 2018 Sam’s son came out of the closet and also cut sugar out of his diet. The transformation was swift and obvious and his son’s courageous journey motivated Sam to realize change is possible and there could be more to life than the misery he’d become accustomed to. Sam credits his sixteen year old son as that initial inspiration, but the Keto cult is what eventually got his fire burning.
Almost by accident, Sam stumbled across a movie called, “The Magic Pill.” Rage woke him up and fueled a desire to change his life. The Magic Pill, a pro-Keto documentary on the evils of the modern American, high-carb, low-fat diet turned him on to a new way of thinking about health and food. On January first of this year, Sam Baird, with the support and participation of his partner, joined the movement.
Food... Keto is all about food; high-fat, low carb foods to be precise. Sam eats a diet that is 75% fat, 20% protein and only 5% carbs and those are strictly from vegetables; no fruit, no sugar, and most difficult of all for the donut loving sportsman, no breads of any kind. Drinking changed too, water immediately replaced that case of soda and today Sam regularly drinks a gallon of fresh, clean water a day. The only other liquids allowed are his bulletproof coffee in the morning, a mixture of coffee, butter, cream, MCT oil and sugar free syrup, and the occasional, very occasional, drink of clear liquor.
Luckily Sam loves to cook and coming up with delicious Keto recipes is a fun challenge he gladly takes on. He often posts his beautifully plated, tasty meal concoctions on social media. Viewers palates are constantly piqued by his meat and veggie treats like: grilled asparagus with Parmesan, cauliflower rice, Keto-friendly BBQ beef burritos in cheese, folio wraps, marinated chicken breasts, pork rind and Parmesan breaded Kokanee fresh from Lake Chelan, to name just a few.
Elimination of many foods obviously affected Sam’s caloric intake, reducing it from an estimated 3500-4000 calories a day to just around 1000. Some challenge that Sam’s weight loss is more likely attributed to the mass caloric drop than Keto, but he respectfully disagrees. One of the principals behind Keto is that throughout human history we’ve been hunter/gatherers and didn’t consume large amounts of calories each day. A lower daily caloric intake is more like what the body is designed to manage. Sam says 1000 calories are plenty and the high fat diet leaves him satiated. He says he’s not even hungry through the day.
Today, only five months from the beginning of his journey, Sam is down 112 pounds. He feels stronger and more virile than he has since he was in his twenties. His sex drive is back where it used to be, and each inch he loses in his belly seems to grow his manhood the same amount he said with a playful smile and bob of his eyebrows. Then, he spoke in all seriousness and sincerity, he truly feels like he’s living life again; he’s energetic, he’s no longer mad all the time, he’s free from aches and pains he expected to deal with for the rest of his life and is learning to adjust to life in a thin man’s body. Keto is a lifestyle he has embraced and he won’t go back, no matter how great the food temptations get. He much prefers a healthy, thin life to the miserable fat life that used to be his. Sam likes that Keto doesn’t require a strict fitness regime but he still aspires to add in some strength training after getting to his goal weight of 200 pounds. Once achieved, he wants to build back to a muscle-heavy 225.
Sam’s encouragement to all is that if he can do it, anyone can. It’s OK to admit not being ready to make a change yet, it will happen when it’s supposed to. He assured me that even with the substitutions and challenges in finding Keto friendly foods all the time, it’s actually easier than people might expect. He guarantees that the trade-offs are worth the effort and a better life is just on the other side of making the change to live a healthier life.
Goals, objectives, resolutions… whatever you call ‘em it’s time to put up or give up! Some are gearing up for the best, most productive and successful year of their lives so far! These are the people I plan to be associated with this year and to that end I’ve made one of my biggest goals… to follow several people from different local gyms, studios and fitness facilities as they work for their health and fitness goals (more to come on that next week!). I believe this series will be one of the most rewarding goals I achieve this year, but I do not think it’ll be considered the loftiest goal I set...
I’m a goal oriented person and New Year Goal setting gets me giddy for weeks leading up to January and, though I don’t always attain all my written goals, I make commendable progress that I wouldn’t otherwise achieve if I didn’t have my goals written down.
Last year I approached my goals differently. Usually I write and post them where I can see them & read them every day, or at least quite often. I didn’t do that in 2017, instead I made my goal more of a directive. I wanted to “Settle down & Focus.” Whatever aspect of my body, mind, soul or spirit I was working on, I wanted to ask myself two questions and be able to answer “yes” to one or the other. The questions were:
Will this settle me down?
Will this give me/help me focus?
2016 had been a year of carefree living. My publisher went out of business so I lost my drive to get books out. I was still “choosing” a church in Wenatchee and didn’t feel connected anywhere. To avoid the loneliness of being single; I went out A LOT, I spent A LOT, I raced A LOT, I dated A LOT. It was a year of hedonistic pleasure and soothing the pain of The Leaving.
I knew, however, I was made for more than living carelessly for simple pleasures. I was made to honor God with my body, mind, soul and spirit. I was made to love and help others and serve my fellow man. I was made to write. I was made to be a productive member of society, not just a greedy soul looking for what the world can give me… I knew I needed to settle down & focus.
I didn’t not anticipate the settling down to happen the way it did. If 2016 was about living carelessly, 2017 was all about him. The Mountain Man. He who built me a snow cave and melted my heart!
I planned to put an end to seriously dating at the end of 2016. I was not opposed to it, I’d just spent so much time entertaining so many men (without sex of course!) that I was literally exhausted. Yes, their attentions and affections kept me from being lonely but it didn’t meet my need for a partner or companion, and the flirting, the figuring someone out just to realize they weren’t into me or I wasn’t into them and having to start all over again… or have two or three ongoing pursuits at the same time wore me out. I knew I wanted a life-long partner, I knew God made me with a companionable soul, but it was too much. I needed a break.
Just before I closed down my online profile I met a guy. He was nice enough, definitely had the physique, wit and personality I liked, but he wasn’t a Christian, a gym rat, or a hiker so there were too many things dissimilar that I figured it wouldn’t work out. We built a friendship on that mutual understanding. I’m not gonna lie, there was chemistry too so we were friends who also kissed, but that was it. Then somehow, maybe it was the because I had mentally prepared to settle down and wasn’t really entertaining too many other men, maybe it was because his cadence through life was something my feet could follow easily, maybe it was because no matter how hard I tried to shake him off, he still showed up in all his brawny, ‘simple-man’ glory that was so attractive to me, maybe it was that unbelievably amazing snow cave he dug out...
Whatever it was… Jeremy Worley somehow became me focus in 2017. In July we decided to settle down together for the rest of our lives! We got married, I moved onto the chicken farm and we have thoroughly enjoyed all the pleasures of newlywedding!! With the settling in came a whole lot of firsts and new revelations and filtering through our rubbish and salvaging treasures from our pasts. We’ve each had to let go of old news and bad habits and are learning how to honor what we once had, while celebrating this new life together.
My 2017 goal was to “Settle down & Focus.” I achieved it; even if it wasn’t the way I planned. I settled down with a partner for life. I focused on getting all three of my books in the Road to Love series re-published. I got my credit card debt paid off. I did try to make a career move into a job that filled my soul, but that didn’t pan out the way I wanted, so I’m currently job hunting, but what’s life without risk, right?!
In keeping with the theme idea, I gave myself a word for 2018: GROW! I want to grow in all areas of my life. I have my SMART goals written down and now that I’ve settled down with the Mountain Man and he’s given me a place to call my own, by his side, on his mountain, in the safety of his belief in me… I’m confident this year will be an astonishing year of growth for us both.
So cheers to a 2018 full of growth & success from the Chicken Farm to you!
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