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Adopting a new way of life December 21, 2009

Posted by paulstella in Uncategorized.

Austin and I quickly hit it off during my weekend visit to Lexington, Kentucky.

At times my heart felt like it was in my throat. And as I stood there, it was difficult to sort through all the emotions. “Within the past half hour, I’ve almost cried twice,” I said to my friend Kelly. She and a large portion of my family were on hand to lend their support.

We had all gathered at the Rochester airport Saturday to welcome a special guest. I had only met 16-year-old Austin for the first time a week earlier during a weekend trip to Lexington, Kentucky. Having him come spend time with me in Rochester was the next step in what we both were hoping would be a lifelong journey.

Outside the Ralph prior to the Bills-Patriots game

What I haven’t been telling you is that, for the entirety of this past year, I have been preparing for the opportunity to become a father through adoption. Careful not to create too many expectations along the way, I’ve kept it a closely held secret—sharing with only a handful of family and friends who, in some cases, served as references and, in all cases, provided support and encouragement.

I could feel the excitement practically burst inside me as I watched Austin come into view. Seeing the smile on his face as he walked past security filled me with joy, and I immediately gave him a huge bear hug. It was now time to meet the Stella entourage, and he handled all the attention like a champ.

Not even 48 hours have passed since Austin’s arrival, and we’ve already packed in a lot. Yesterday we went to the Bills game at Ralph Wilson Stadium. I thought Austin might enjoy attending his first ‘professional’ football game. But, since it’s the Bills, I’ve already joked with my family that he’s still waiting to see his first pro game. And last night we stayed up past 1 a.m. to watch the sequel to Night at the Museum. Hysterical! And give me some credit here—surviving well past 10 p.m. is a show of great stamina for me. 🙂

Austin is a remarkable young man. At no fault of his own, he has been in and out of foster care since the age of 2. Despite that, he is intelligent, athletic and very charismatic. And, as I have become fond of saying, he has a ‘killer’ accent. Although, of course, it’s debatable which of us has the accent. I’ve introduced him to the ‘Rochester r,’ so now I can’t even say ‘car’ in his presences without feeling self-conscious, and he’s not shy about exploiting this weakness.

He thought it was cold. You ain’t seen nothing yet, kid!

Over the next two weeks, Austin and I will have a tremendous opportunity to build our relationship and talk about the future. At this point, I feel comfortable in saying that neither of sees a future without the other. For me, the question becomes how to best manage our relationship so that I can help Austin realize his potential. What now feels more like ‘friend’ or ‘big brother’ must evolve into ‘mentor’ and eventually ‘dad.’ The responsibility is humbling, but I truly look forward to the challenge.

I know that many of you who read this will be filled with questions, and I look forward to sharing more on how I got to this point in future posts. I’ve learned much, and I hope one day to be a resource for others who might consider a similar journey.

My thanks to Pattie Stella, Kathy and Mickey Lapp, Jean Kase, Frank Battaglia, Kelly Downs, Bob Finnerty, Kim Slusser, Jody Levinson-Johnson and Kathy Carcaci. Through their support and guidance, these individuals have played a particularly important roles in helping me prepare for this moment. I know that they, and so many others, will continue to sustain me through the many ups and downs that are ahead.

Merry Christmas everybody!



1. Tom Proietti - December 21, 2009


What a beautiful story and turn in your life. And what a great turn for Austin. This makes me beam with pride at being your friend. I look forward to meeting Austin with his new Dad.

Merry Christmas. What a gift this is. What a gift you are.


2. Wendy - December 21, 2009

Stella – you are awesome! Congratulations.

3. Susan Moses - December 21, 2009


There is a special place in heaven for those who give these loving, wonderful kids a home. Congratulations to both you and Austin!

4. Rachel Pikus - December 21, 2009

Congratulations, Paul! You’ll be a great dad. 🙂

5. Ron - December 21, 2009

Congrats again! This is a very exciting time in your life and for your future with Austin! When you told me last week the excitement I saw in your eyes was beyond words! Hopefully we will get to me Austin soon, freezing him the first weekend I am sure was an experiece! Let me know if u need anything!

6. haqi jamison - December 21, 2009

why did you decide to adopt a child so old? i honestly ask only out of curiosity and not any indication that his age might be a limiting factor. i also think it may turn out to be a very interesting story and give more insight into why you wanted to adopt in the first place. thank you for sharing.

7. Lisa - December 21, 2009

This is a beautiful holiday story — one that will celebrated all year long. Congratulations to you and Austin!

8. Lisa Stein - December 21, 2009

Congratulations Paul and Austin! Bob just told us the news. You make a beautiful family!

9. Kelly - December 21, 2009

Dear Austin –
Congratulations to you and welcome! While you and Paul take time to get to know each other, I hope you get a chance to meet his friends and colleagues here at RIT. We adore Paul and anticipate that you will too!

In the meantime, the happiest of holidays to you – best wishes for a fabulous 2010!

10. sue - December 21, 2009

Your blog entry is so touching, Paul.
What a wonderful gift you’re giving each other.

11. debbie stendardi - December 21, 2009

Wow, this really brings the true Spirit of Christmas to life. Congratulations Paul, and congratulations to Austin that you have come into his life at this time. You will be a great Dad.

12. Norma Holland - December 21, 2009


You will be a fantastic father. Your story made me want to cry thinking of all those years you two never knew the other would one day change the other’s life. I am so proud to call you my friend. I love you and I can’t wait to meet, Austin…I can teach him Spanish!!!

Best wishes for a most magical Christmas and a adventurous New Year.
Blessings to you both!!

13. Cindee - December 22, 2009

Paul, I have always admired your spirit, your intellect and your sense of humor, but you truly are a gift to all of us–and now especially to Austin. And Austin….from a fellow former southerner…ya’ll are gonna make a great family. You couldn’t have found a better Dad! I hope you have a Merry Christmas and the best new year ever!

14. Chris - December 22, 2009


Congratulations to you and Austin! He’s a lucky young man to have found you, and I clearly you already know how lucky you are in return. As an adoptee myself, I can assure you that family bonds are tight and everlasting, no matter how they’re formed. Wishing you both a very merry Christmas and a new year filled with love and father-son adventures.


15. Laura - December 22, 2009

Paul, I am so excited for you. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to open your heart and welcome in the opportunity to share so much of yourself with someone else. I have no doubt you’ll be a fantastic dad! You have both lucked out in finding each other. I hope you two have an incredible time this holiday season!


16. Rod L. - December 22, 2009

Congrats Paul…look forward to meeting Austin and I wish you both the best!


17. pixelpunk - December 22, 2009

Awesome. Just awesome.

18. Frank Battaglia - December 22, 2009

While I’m not always the sharpest knife in the drawer, it took reading your post and the above replies to connect the dots between Austin’s introduction into your life (and visa versa) and that old Christmas magic. Not only do I look forward to meeting this young man, but I’m anxious to “experience” the two of you as *family*. Hopefully that makes some degree of sense. To steal the quote from the above poster: Awesome.

19. Matt - December 23, 2009


I read this the other day and I wanted to take the time to give a proper reply because it brought up so many thoughts. I did a story a few years back about adoption, and we talked to a woman from Children Awaiting Parents. I realized then how many kids there are out there who grow up without any parents, without a place to call home. Then last year, when a friend who never had children lost her husband, and I saw how alone some people can end up in the later years of life. It made me 1. appreciate my parents that much more and 2. want to have children of my own, and yes even someday adopt as well. My brother adopted a little girl from Guatemala and I see what a joy she is for our family, and what a good life she has with them.

What a blessing you are to Austin, and what a blessing he will be to you. I’m so happy for you to have found that. May you have a wonderful Christmas and a very happy 2010.

20. Mike Dwyer - December 23, 2009

Welcome to Austin, I am sure he will enjoy and grow with Paul!
(Oh and – go Bills!)

21. Pete - December 24, 2009

I know I haven’t meet Austin yet – but I will. I caught a glimpse of you guys when you stopped into the office last week. I could tell just from looking at you two standing side-by-side how exciting this is for you both. Congrats Paul!

22. Mark Higgins - December 24, 2009

Paul…this is truely awesome. I’m so happy for both of you. Next time, skip the Bills game and take him to a Syracuse Basketball game…they are #5 in the country and its warmer in the Dome than at the Ralph!!!

Congrats and I hope you both have a wonderful X-mas and Happy New Year.

23. jean kase - December 25, 2009

We loved having Paul and Austin join us for the Nativity Play and Christmas Eve Mass at Spiritus Christi! Like our family, our parish is “big tent” thinking about being inclusive. I already feel like our extended family includes Paul and now Austin! It’s the best news of 2009!

24. Joanna - December 25, 2009

Paul, this is great! I know you’ve always wanted to share your life with children and I am so glad for you that you’ve not only found a way to do that, but are being such a blessing to someone else as well. I am moved and impressed and wish you both all the best.

25. Maureen Caufield - December 27, 2009


I am so happy for you and Austin! Just looking the picture of both of you, I can already see that you have made a wonderful connection with each other!!! I have always thought that you were a very special person, and I am sure that Austin will be very happy being a part of your family. I can’t wait to meet him!

26. Tricia (Williams) Ziegler - December 27, 2009

Paul:; Your story is remarkable! Please accept my heartfelt best wishes for yourself and your new son!!

27. Anne Canale Stalnecker - December 27, 2009

Wow! What an incredible story.

Can’t wait to meet Austin at the Sunday K of C breakfast someday soon!

Best to you and your son,

28. Kelly Short - December 29, 2009

What an amazing and inspiring story! Here’s to a magical holiday season and many more to come for you and Austin!

29. brenadalyn somaray - November 27, 2012

i like the story very much

30. New year and no fear « Stellavision - January 6, 2013

[…] hastened the arrival of another difficult milestone—the end to my three-year adoption journey. From the beginning and over the months and years that followed, I spent a lot of time blogging honestly about my […]

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