This week I'm going to introduce Michelle Chapeau to you. She was nominated by one of our readers. She is a single mom, who adopted her darling children from Guatemala, and she's a police officer! Here are the first two questions...
KARA: "Tell us about yourself. What makes you an Incredible Woman?"
MICHELLE: "Well, I will be 43 next month. I was married in 1990 and I have been divorced since 1992. I was married to a deputy sheriff who liked to use me as a punching bag. One day I decided that I had had enough and walked out, never looking back. My parents and family got me though the rough parts or I would have gone back. No one can ever understand why an abused wife stays in a relationship and they never will unless you have been there. It took a long time to heal, but today, from the lessons that I have learned, it makes me a better police officer. I can actually look a domestic violence victim in the face and say I have been there and know exactly how hard it is to walk away. I won't say that I am completely over it because I still build up walls and very rarely let anyone get that close to me in a relationship. I have been a police officer for 15 years now. My father is retired military and a retired police chief. My youngest brother got that DNA as well. He is a state trooper. I have always wanted to help people. It's just my nature. I will go as far as I need to in order to help someone if it is within my power. It is sometimes to my detriment.
In 2003, I had to have a hysterectomy for medical reasons. Any chance I had of giving birth to a child of my own went out the window at that point. I told the doctor that I had no problem adopting. DNA was not important to me.
In 2005, my high school class was planning our 20th reunion in New Orleans when Katrina hit. Most of my classmates lost their homes and were devastated. I watched it on the news for two days and could not stand it any longer. I took a week off from work, packed up my personal car and left. I drove straight into the city of New Orleans and found the person with the most bars on their collar and told them that I was a police officer and EMT and how could I help. He told me to go with another officer and I ended up living on the floor of the police station on the edge of the French Quarter. That is one week that I will never forget. You never know just how much devastation there is and how it affects people's lives until you are right in the middle of it all. I learned a lot that week and did what I could to help the people that I was able to help. I was not always successful, but I knew in my heart that it was all a part of God's plan and that I had done my best.
In 2007, I turned 40. I decided that if I was going to adopt, I better do it. I was running out of time. So, I decided that I wanted a little girl as young as possible. Everyone always asks me why I decided to adopt internationally instead of within the US when there are so many children needing homes. I knew that Guatemalan babies were healthy and beautiful. Their birth mothers gave up their children to have a better life because they were generally too poor to raise them. I knew that the chances of one of my children's birth mothers trying to come and take them back were slim to none. They would have a hard enough time getting in the country. If I adopted here in the US, the possibility of someone showing up on my doorstep one day was very real to me. There are way too many birth mothers on drugs and alcohol in the US. The odds of my child being healthy decreased. I am not saying that I have anything against having a special needs child. Please do not get that impression. I just know that I would not be able to handle it being a full time working mother and single parent. It would just be too much. I began the adoption process adopting my daughter. Six months later, when Guatemala was closing to adoptions and there were so many babies needing homes and not enough parents with approved home studies and US Govt. approval, I decided to adopt my son. I was told that everyone wanted girls and there was this little boy that no one wanted to adopt. So, I was now adopting two babies. They are 41 days apart! My daughter came home the day before Mother's Day in 2008. It was actually Mother's Day on that day in Guatemala. My son came home on December 19, 2008, six days before Christmas. He will go on record as being my most expensive Christmas present to myself ever!! Prior to starting my adoption process, I owned a house. I refinanced it to pay for my daughter and sold it to pay for my son.
Now, I have two awesome little people who my world completely revolves around. I am truly blessed to have them as my own. I get to watch them grow and blossom each and every day. They are like two little sponges and are very smart. I have an awesome family who help me out. My parents and my youngest brother's family live close by and are always willing to look after my little people when I need them to. I could not survive without them!
My little people go to school while I work on day shift. I work four ten hour days and am off for three. They love school and are learning a whole lot! When I work weekends and when I work night shift, they have a regular sitter who is awesome. Since I work traffic, I work nights every third month. I absolutely love working nights because I get to arrest a lot of drunk drivers and that makes me feel like I actually make a difference. Having said that though, it makes it rough at home. I may get home at 6 am when I should have gotten off at 3am and go straight to bed, but my little people are wide awake at 7:30 am - 8 am if I am lucky! I have to sleep when they sleep and get what I can. I make it work, but it is not always easy. I know it is just as hard on them when I switch back to days and they have to get up at 5:30 am. Sure, I could get assigned to a regular patrol shift and always work the same hours, but I would probably be working six days on and two days off. I would not get to spend as much time with my little people I would rather just have the three days off to spend with them.
I love being able to spend time with my little people. It doesn't matter what we do or where we go. As long as they are with me, it is all good. I love my work and being able to make a difference in people's lives. It's not always easy or fun. The absolute most important thing I do every single day I work though, is to come home.
The things that make me nuts are people who lie, people who do not do what they say they are going to do, people who commit crimes against children and people who drive drunk. Those are pretty much all of my pet peeves.
I really don't think of myself as incredible. I do the best I can with what God has given me. I tell my little people just how much I love them each and every day and try to live my life the best that I know how.
KARA: "What one word describes each member of your family? Tell us something you love about each one."
MICHELLE: "There are just three of us in our little family. My daughter, Betsy, who will be three next month, and my son, Charlie, who will be three in July. One word to describe Betsy? Mini-me. That little girl is living proof that DNA means nothing. She is incredibly smart and just as stubborn as the day is long. She is so like me it is not funny. She is very protective of her brother and is very loving. She continues to amaze me every single day. Charlie? He is my little teddy bear. He is so loving and kind-natured. He adores his big sister and follows her where ever she goes. Monkey see. Monkey do. He is incredibly smart as well. There is nothing that I do not love about my two Guatemalan little people. They are the complete joy of my life."
Please return tomorrow (and each day this week) to learn more about Michelle. Tomorrow we'll talk about what it's like to be a police officer, and about what Michelle has learned from the trials she's been through. See you then!