My Story

This is a long one. It's quit the rollercoaster of a story, but it's what makes me who I am. The story behind Dixie Ryan.

Most people who are close to me know that I am adopted. Its never been a secret for me. It is honestly something that I am most proud of about myself. I love being adopted! I have always felt called to speak about my story bc its not your typical adopted at birth and live happily ever after story. There is a lot of pain with my story. I think it has shaped me into who I am today because without the journey I have been on I am not really sure where I would be today. Dixie Ryan Photography is a way to incorporate my story, honor two people who meant the world to me, and run my dream business all at the same time. Epic I know. Now lets dive on in.

I guess we should start with my little sister Ryan and how she plays into my story. AKA why I am adopted. I don't really remember much about my childhood except my little sister Ryan. The first memory I have of her was when I got this little dog robot toy thing and I was dying to show her. I remember she was crawling around our apartment and she was wearing this white turtleneck. I also remember my dog toy made her cry lol. I also remember her using this walker toy at my other grandma and grandpas house. I also remember going to buy a barbie radio for Ry a few days before her first birthday. I don't remember too much about her but what I do remember is very vivid to me. The most memorable memory I have of her was the night she passed away. What is funny is I usually tell people I don't remember much about this night because I like keeping it to myself. Its obviously not a good memory but its the last memory I have of her, so to me keeping it private was really important. The next few paragraphs aren't going to be nice or positive, so just a warning for you.

I remember that night in PERFECT detail. I was watching Peter rabbit that night in my bedroom. I remember I was getting tired so I decided to turn the show off, but after like 3 minutes I decided I wanted it turned back on to watch while falling asleep. I didn't know how to get the show on so I went to get my mom who was asleep in her room with Ryan. When I woke up my mom everything kinda just shifted then. She woke up and while I was talking to her she realized Ryan needed to eat. She was just going to go ahead and wake Ryan up then. I remember my mom trying to wake Ryan up like it was yesterday. Crazy what trauma can do to you lol. Ryan was not waking up. I guess I should mention I was 5 at the time so I wasn't quite understanding the magnitude of a baby not waking up. I remember my mom calling for her husband Rick (okay side note - I thought Rick was my dad like my whole life until one day in therapy I was told he was not. I think I was 9? Anyways not super important but just a note.) At this point I think my mom and Rick knew something was really wrong. At some point 911 was called and I was given the phone. The responder on the phone was literally a pro at her job. Seriously that woman deserves an award. I was talking to her on the phone while Rick was doing CPR on Ryan. I remember my mom in the kitchen crying. I remember I didn't feel sad, panicked, or scared. I was just fine. I was talking to the responder all about my favorite color, school, animals..just random things. I didn't know why she was asking me these things but looking back now she was keeping me calm. She needed a way of communication. Every few questions she would ask "is sister breathing yet?" "how is dad doing on CPR, good?" "in a few minutes someone will knock on your door be sure to answer ok." No one knocked on our door lol. I remember a very large tall man literally karate kicked our front door down and came running in followed by a few more people with bags and I was whisked away. Another note to mention was our apartment was located on my grandma and grandpas farm so they were like a stone throw away from us. I remember someone walked me over to their house to wake them up. I remember while walking over to their house I tried running down our hill, because the ambulance, police, fire team, and my mom and Rick were also down there. I remember not being allowed down there and I was starting to get confused.

At this point a lot of time had passed. It was really late. My grandma and grandpa were up with me at their house and I was sitting in the kitchen with my grandpa. He told me that we needed to start calling people and telling them Ryan went to heaven. I remember calling my aunt Fran and Uncle my mom and dad. my adoptive parents. (Another side note to help you understand my family lol. Rick who is not my dad is my adoptive moms birth mom was married to him aka why I just always thought he was my dad. The grandma and grandpa I am talking about are Rick and Frans parents. make sense?) Fast forward some time and I am at the police station. I still didn't understand that my sister was dead. Now let's intro my great grandma Marie (Dixie). Marie and Walter were like the most awesome grandparents everrrrr. They lived in this tiny old house that was super dirty and musty looking back on but I LOVED it. It was my safe space. Marie (Dixie) and Walter are my birth moms grandma and grandpa. I spent a lot of time with them when I was little. Their house was my safe haven. Ok now that you know who they are...back to the police station. So I am at the police station and a lot of people are there. Lots of family. I went into a room and there were a few policeman in there. They told me I was going to go stay with my aunt Fran and uncle Jay for awhile bc I could no longer stay with my mom and Rick. They repeated probably like 20 times that Ryan was dead. I still didn't really understand. All I cared about was why the heck I couldn't go live with my grandma Marie (Dixie) and grandpa Walter. I asked them probably 10 times if I could live with them. They simply told me they were just too old. I went to stay with Fran and Jay and the next few weeks were kinda a blur. I went to Ryans funeral. I touched her hand. I realized she wasn't coming back. I remember seeing Fran cry at my old apartment. I didn't understand why I wasn't seeing my mom or Rick.

I guess now is the part where I should tell you Ryan died due to overdosing on methadone. Ryan passed away on December 11th. Her first birthday was December 14th. I grew up in a household where drugs were very prominent. My mom went to jail. I was ANGRY.

I couldn't tell you why I was mad. I just was. I had no idea why. This started the long years of me just being so lost, confused, angry, and sad. I wanted to live with my grandma Marie (Dixie), I wanted to see my mom, I wanted Ryan back. On weekends I would go to grandma Maries house and everything was better. When I tell you my grandma had the most pure soul on this earth I mean it. I felt so at ease with her. I wasn't mad anymore, I felt happy, content, loved. I felt like old me before Ryan passed. I wanted to spend every weekend at my grandmas. I did for awhile. I would go see my mom in jail on Sundays, we would touch hands through the glass. She would write me letters. I have a binder of them in my room to this day. As I got older I got anger and angrier. I was in therapy for years. learning to how to cope. I HATED Fran and Jay. It was their fault I wasn't seeing my mom right? For years this cycle continued of me being so dang angry. Our family was in turmoil for years y'all. Everyone kept telling me one day I would realize how lucky I was that Fran and Jay took me in. I didn't care, I kept treating them like crap and kept wanting to live with my grandma for years. My mom got out of jail but I didn't stop being angry from age 5 to about 16 or 17...yeah I know. In those years I got adopted but was still so angry. As a teenager I didn't know why I chose to be adopted. I hated these people. Adoption took me away from my old life. THANK GOD IT DID. My life started turning around when I got my first serious boyfriend. Couldn't tell you why it just did. My anger faded, and so did my hatred of Fran and Jay. Grandma Marie passed when I was 16 getting ready to turn 17. I was devastated. I had just stopped being angry, my family was starting to turn good, then the most important person in my life passed away. I am so thankful for the ones that were there for me during this time. I wouldn't have made it without you all. I am thankful for that time in my life looking back.

I am 23 now and my looking back its crazy what I have lived through. I stayed lost for a long time but 2020 really has been one of my best years..crazy I know. I have made many mistakes over the years but finding photography and finding a way to honor two amazing people is the best thing I've ever done. I am not angry or lost. My life now is all thanks to the people who helped me grow in a time of confusion and pain. At 23 I am compassionate, loving, smart, strong, honest, loyal, creative, and so much more.. I worked really hard for a long time to get to where I am at. Every party involved in my childhood is forgiven and amends have been made. I am really proud of myself for that. Dixie Marie and Ryan Alexandra were two of the most influential people I will ever get the honor of knowing. I am so thankful for them.

Mom - I look up to you in so many ways. You overcame so much and I hope that I have half the courage and fight in me that you did. I am so proud of you. I am glad we saw each other at the zoo years ago and now we get to be in each other lives forever. It took a lot of healing on both our end in many different ways, but we did it. I love watching you thrive.

Fran and Jay - Without you two I really don't know where I would be. I am so thankful for you guys. You saw me and chose to love me even in my lowest times. Which were real low everyone. The damage I caused is something I will never forgive myself for, but I am looking forward to watching our new positive relationship continue to flourish like it has these past couple of years. You fought for me so well. I hope I get to be even half the parent you both are to me. You two saved me. I could not imagine my life without you two in it.

Ryan Alexandra and Dixie Marie - UGH I MISS YOU. I think about you both every day. I wish you both could have made it to see me now. You left me way to soon but that is ok bc I know it was Gods plan. A plan that took me awhile to understand but I am thankful for my past now. I know you watch over me everyday and

Thank you all so much for reading my story. Do not let messy and tough pasts define you. If it takes you awhile to reach the top that is okay too. It took me YEARS. I put in the work and it was so worth it. Take time to grieve, work your emotions out and deal with them. Dixie Ryan is such an accomplishment for me and to be able to share the meaning behind it means so much. Also...adoption rocks :)