Meet Our Members

Meet Our Members: A Story of Intentional Family

It is no accident how Patty and Chris Flanagan-Linderman do family. It’s intentional. They were intentional about becoming a couple. They were intentional in their decision to adopt their daughter, Makai. They have even relocated their family to Costa Rica to be part of creating an international intentional community.

Patty and Chris first met in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1990, introduced by a mutual friend. Patty was 39 and Chris was 30. They shared interests in cycling and winter camping. In fact neither had a car, so they biked everywhere. They became fast friends who went on monthly backpacking trips together. They found they also shared interests in healthy eating and started having dinners together. They weren’t thinking about themselves as a couple at first, so with no fear of breaking up, they were willing to be very open and emotionally intimate with each other.

On Thanksgiving 1991, discussing where this friendship might be headed, Chris was hesitant to become romantically involved. Patty had been married and divorced, with two teenage sons. Chris had never been married, and was feeling concerned by the age gap. (Now he can’t even remember what it was he was afraid of!) It was painful for Patty that Chris was stopped by their age difference, so she prepared herself to call off the friendship. Fortunately, before she did so, Chris had an epiphany when an old girlfriend called him up to reconnect, then complained that all he wanted to talk about was Patty. This gave him clarity.

They transitioned from friends to couple intentionally, espousing the belief that you don’t just fall in love; you decide to love. They took things slowly and deliberately, holding off on their first kiss until Valentine’s Day 1992! By 1993, when Patty had enrolled in a graduate program in Colorado, Chris was ready to move there with her. In 1994, they married and moved to Seattle.

In 2010 Patty started volunteering with an organization that found people to hold and comfort drug-exposed babies. This started Patty and Chris down a path to becoming intentional parents. In 2014, at the age of 63, Patty decided to increase her volunteer commitment, working at home part-time while providing foster care for drug-impacted babies. Chris, who was working for Boeing, was supportive of Patty’s commitment to this work. This same year they were called on to provide temporary protective custody for Patty’s nine-year-old grandson. In order to strengthen Couple in the face of the stress and responsibility of bringing all these children into their lives, they joined the Seattle CCC circle in 2014. They knew children can often cause couples to become merely roommates.

Fostering children called to Patty because of her own experience of being a foster child. Her father died when she was seven and her mother when she was nine, leaving eight orphaned children. Patty and two of her siblings were given into the care of her uncle. Being a Trappist monk, he was not well equipped to be a parent. The three young sisters ended up at boarding schools and with foster families during school breaks. Many of those foster family experiences were bad, ranging from neglectful to abusive. Patty wanted to provide the children she fostered with the safe and loving care she had lacked. Chris was inspired to share her commitment and extend his love to the children they were serving.

A commitment to parenting

The third baby they fostered, three-month-old Makai, wasn’t easy at first. For the first five weeks she screamed at bedtime until they figured out she wasn’t comfortable without background noise when she slept. After nine months with Makai, Chris particularly felt tremendous parental love for her, but the state made several attempts to reunite Makai with biological family members, only to return her to Patty and Chris each time. These experiences were clearly stressful for Makai and impacted her emotional security and development.

Chris asked Patty why they couldn’t adopt her. At first Patty felt it was impractical, given her age, but they kept discussing and eventually concluded that there was enough love in the world, they were healthy and active, and they could commit to providing Makai with a stable, loving home. When she was 22 months old, they decided to pursue adoption. This process was slow and wasn’t finalized until Makai was four-and-a-half years old. One of the sticking points was Makai’s grandmother, who feared that she would never see Makai again if she were adopted. Patty and Chris reassured her that their intention was that Makai have contact with her biological family. They arranged for Makai’s grandmother to visit them regularly, and for Makai to know her uncles and aunts. Makai has had regular contact with one of her sisters who was adopted by friends of Patty and Chris.

By Roxanne and Bob Duniway, Seattle Circle

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