My Last Name (Ode to Stepparents & Nurturers)

I find our histories, our coats of many colors, so utterly beautiful—they’re real and they’re ours and here we are being exactly us, doing what we’re able to do with the those very threads of life experience (and the *people* who loved us) living inside us —

“So, it says Mandel page 1 and Mandel page 2 in the header, but how do I get it to…”, he said to Josh…

I heard that and paused the work I was doing and took a photo to remember the thoughts/feelings that shot through me in that moment (that pic in the comments).

I couldn’t help but focus on the name (his last name) that came out of Nolan’s mouth as I watched Josh help Nolan with a science lab report that’s due today before he starts Spring Break.

For some reason, likely everything happening right now and my heart further opening to all possibilities and realities around the world, I focused on the last name that came out of Nolan’s mouth.

I kept watching my husband — the present father who lives in him — made up of all his specific life experiences, help his son, who also, (already) is made up of *his* own specific life experiences…

I felt gratitude.

Josh was adopted by what you and I might call his stepdad — Josh took his last name when he was 18, and I, too, was adopted by mine around the same time, taking on my own new last name.

Though we each felt pain at not having the relationship we wanted with our biological fathers, here we are and there we were with men who showed up in our lives to s h o w up.

When Josh and I met 22 years ago, we realized we had these similar threads to our greater life stories and in that, we felt seen and connected to one another…

But, before the connection to one another, we had already felt deeply connected to what happens inside of a human (or, a pup — Holland is adopted, too,✌🏽) when you feel a part of something.

Our names, each of them, no matter what the exact story is they hold, do exactly that ~ they hold the range of available rays of the realness of life…the pain, the grief, the joy, the hope.

I’m holding onto that last one for longer (always)…hope.

Deep to our core and held by names given, taken, changed, or added (and by people gone and come and stayed), as well as held inside the history of each of our family books had that key ingredient baked into it –


Of that I’m sure.

We wouldn’t be here otherwise.

Make happiness (or peace or gentleness) your business — especially now during quarantine.

Life is good,




Michelle Ghilotti
Success Designer, Brand Activator & Social Entrepreneur 

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