Somehow when we moved, my university found me. Suddenly I am awash in alumni magazines and pleas to donate time and money. The magazines hold some sort of sick fascination for me with the articles about all the “successful” (and generous) graduates. Of course, they focus on people making big name success, doing remarkable or unconventional things in a conventional world. I’ve spent the past hour musing over what an article about someone more mundane and more freaky, like me, might say. I’ve stolen mercilessly from about 4 articles in the current issue of “The University of Puget Sound Arches, Spring 2008.” I’m sure the writers hourly wage cannot touch my snark value in this one.
Sara Cole ‘91
Don’t let the girl-next-door smile fool you: Sara Cole puts the power in powerhouse. Homeschooling mother of 2, she is working doggedly to achieve what others around her ease through daily.
Cole says the seeds of her freakishness (her favorite word) were planted early and deep at UPS, where she reveled in an academic environment that “pushed your thinking, especially in Bill Haltom’s class. I was very influenced by my professors. I really learned to examine every moment in life, deeply thinking the why and how of each task I execute in the course of my day. “
The great thing about a UPS education, says Cole, is that it encouraged her – no, forced her – “to create her own model for the world. It takes big thinking to transform a very conservative and meek Pentecostal-raised girl into an outspoken, homeschooling, breastfeeding, transracial-adoptive self-thinker,” she says. “Thinking harder because I was stuck in a tiny mental box, I hatched out of my old ideas. Because I had to. This approach has stuck with me my entire career.”
Cole, whose blog is read by over 10 people a week, reads avidly and digests the information to best serve her family's changing needs. She carefully researches each choice point in her life, looking for double-blind studies that will point the way to the most helpful and healthy way to guide those in her care. Over the years she has researched homebirth, attachment parenting, neurological development and brain injury, nutrition, fitness, adoptive breastfeeding and trans-racial adoption. “She really brings her experience and skill as a former student to all she does,” says her husband, Bill Barnes. “Sara is always ready to learn and willing to tackle subjects in which she has no previous knowledge. And to convey them to me in the form of annotated book reports."
In 2001 Sara started attending neighborhood play dates with her 6 month old son, Theo. By 2005 she had taken over leadership of the local attachment parenting group, which she grew from a quiet small group of 25 families to a vibrant and active community of over 100 through her willingness to say, “What do you need? How can I support you in creating this for yourself?” One of her proudest accomplishments during this time of challenge and growth was breastfeeding her daughter, Rosie, while learning to be comfortable with public speaking. “The communications classes I took in my freshmen year really prepared me for the experience of talking before a group of my peers while trying to prevent my child from flashing my nipples for extended periods of time.”
This year Sara is transitioning into more frequent engagements with the Seattle Homeschool group. “ Whether we're viewing sea creatures at our favorite beach or organizing our spelling words,” Cole says, “we’re always trying to come up with a different or better way to do it.”
Recently quoted in both the Attachment Parenting Journal and the Seattle Times for her perspective on parenting and adoption, Sara says, “This is a wonderfully exciting time to be raising a family. Thanks to growing options, I can choose to give my children the best education possible while carefully nurturing them at home. But it is also clear that we’ve got a long way to go before we can hope to fully understand why we pit working-mother against stay-at-home mom, why the world drives young and poor women to relinquish their children, and why being a mother is an economic detriment.”
In the meantime, Cole anticipates more reading and spreadsheets, looking forward to the unexpected sleuthing and hard work that come from over-examining her existence. As she see it, her life doesn’t comply with the mainstream – it fulfills an important moral obligation to provide a promising future for her children. “I’m sure they’ll change the world.”