What A Difference A Year Makes!

In my world, this past year has been filled with major changes and accomplishments.  While my late discovery has often felt like the worst thing that could have ever happened to me, it has also proved to be quite the rebirth. Like a nudge to move forward, a poke, or even a kick in the pants- I’ve been guided to new directions.  Like a birth, it has been bloody and painful!  Sometimes it’s been a quiet voice, no go this way, other times a freight train dragging me along the right track. Whether one calls it luck, serendipity, or God’s plan; I’ve been blessed and I appreciate it all, the good, the bad, the great, the sad.  Possibly, this folab blog needs to be changed to rebirth on a roller-coaster?

One year ago:

The book I had been working on felt like it was becoming out of reach and I considered the fact it may not get published.  At least not the way I had hoped and planned.  The publisher, Daniel & Daniel, moved Late Discoveries, my baby, my blood sweat and tears (overly dramatic?) under the Fithian Press umbrella. Which was something they could legally do according to the fine print, and in hindsight has been no issue.  Next problem- the book cover design; horrible southwestern art with colors of the earth and cacti. Sounds like a beautiful landscape vision, but no… it was not, and I don’t even like the desert.  After a few other changes, and then the design, I was ready to pull the plug.

An added rub; I wasn’t completely happy in my volunteer positions, not enough here and too much there.  Things fit and then they didn’t, blisters of confusion grew.  Did I need to resign from one group and do more in another?  Was there too much “adoption” in my life?  Who really had my back?  Overall, feeling like you don’t fit in, well it’s the worst!  Enough said!

My girls, daughter Ashleigh and wife Teri, had two little foster kiddos last year.  I don’t think I’ve ever known them to be so sick, so often, and well, vomitous.  New word; meaning to vomit a lot, having vomiting occur in your home often.  To say the placement was a challenge, for many reasons, is a gross understatement.  To be the mom, only helping on occasion because of our distance, killed me!  So, of course I advised too much, and offered, “If it were me…” suggestions, and well… it was just damn hard!  With many CPS problems, hurting babies, challenging parents and caseworker- it was a miracle that all thrived.  Emerging from the chaos, two amazing women who took on challenges that most adults will not go near, my girls. Such incredible young foster moms, who didn’t give up.

And finally, Hayden,  he was graduating from ASU, getting his degree in Film and Media Production.  His future a bright Los Angeles blank slate, or maybe a NYC crowded-life-slate… either way, it was open. Wide open to hopes of a job in production on a series, or if need be- a job in production of cocktails, aka bar tender, while waiting.  With a great resume of film and photo, he was prepared.  He was open to whatever…  I was open to worrying about all of it.  He had the world at his feet, but also his feet (and the rest of him) vulnerable to the world.  As I’m sure all the parents of adult kids will agree, we worry as much now as we did when they graduated from kindergarten.

I’m omitting the details of my husband, Mike for many mortgage related reasons.  Plus, he’s not even adopted, who’d be interested to hear about his changes? Lol… Actually he’s the cheerleader behind all of us.

In comes 2012! BANG!

My girls said goodbye to their kiddos as they returned home to their mother.  At the same time, after many attempts they announced that Teri is pregnant!  Much to our delight, our granddaughter will be coming into the world in late August.

In addition, they started a company, One Little Starfish.  They design, hand craft, and sell amazing things.  This organization was created to support best practices for adopted/fostered children by granting companies who promote ethics in adoption and foster care.  

They have a unique STAR which has been added to necklaces, pins, key chains, ornaments, and bookmarks.


Hayden
 achieved working in production for the ABC series, “Cougar Town”, and then the show ended early.  Blessing in disguise, for sure!  From Culver City, CA back to Arizona with work on reality TV, the “Ice Loves Coco” show, in between.  My Documentary Filmmaker-at-heart is now a Mortgage Banker, licensed in eight states and federally, and rocking the mortgage world.  My words, not his of course.  Whatever he does, whatever he “produces,” be it movies or loans, maybe a family in the future, my goal is his happiness.  The same is true for my girls.  Just want happy campers!  I did so much for too long that wasn’t for my happiness, so my kids hear it… all the time.

And for me, my book, Late Discoveries is out, being bought up in stores, online, and electronically.  It has lovely cover art taken/edited by my son, Hayden. Whew!  However, the biggest accomplishment has been interacting with other LDA’s, adopted kids and adults, mothers who lost their children to adoption (much like mine did), and learning from each and every one. While I hope my book helps someone, I must say,  I’ve been helped beyond belief.  (Pictured with me are clockwise from the top left corner; Mary, Lin, Kathy, and below me is Sue, Colleen and Martha.) I am looking forward to new adventures and branching out to help fostered/adopted youth learn and grow from their experiences.  This is where “openness”  is leading me, back to foster kids, but in a different way this time.  My program (in the works) I’m calling, Letters To Heal, is part art therapy, interactive workshop, and a new way of working through the complex issues of being fostered/adopted, and all while trying to be a kid.

What I’ve learned this year more than anything else; you get back so much when you give.  Life is a “one day at a time” event, a process where we are given all we need once we are open to it.  Be sure to visit my new blog over at Blogher where I was chosen as a spotlight blogger.  Often times, its not what we wanted but what we needed, in order to grow and to learn.  We are, after all, continually fine tuning ourselves to be the happiest most productive people we can be.  What a difference a year makes, and I can only imagine what a difference a granddaughter will make!  I can hardly wait!

It’s Been Three Years…

From as far back as I can recall I wanted to have kids.  I baby sat for everyone in the neighborhood and adored every child in a stroller at the mall.  When I became Aunt Sue, thanks to Daniel Westby coming into the world, I was awestruck.  I’d never been around a new-born before and he was joyous life itself.  (Dustin soon followed and, well…  he was colicky so not quite as joyous.) 

Thrilled with anticipation I dreamed of the day I’d be a mom, and thankfully in 1986 Ashleigh was born.  She had emotionally grown inside of me for as long as I could remember.  I’m sure I drove Mike crazy having her name already picked out, he had zero input.  We’d been married a little over three years when she was born, and I knew every thing would change once I held her in my arms.  And I was right, it did.   Life as we had known it was over, we were in love and mesmerized by this tiny person.  Just two and a half years later, Hayden joined us and our days together as MASH began.  It was exceptionally great on most occasions.  I’ve shared that my kids are my greatest joy and accomplishment, and I truly feel that part of my purpose in life was to bring them into the world.   Mike and I could not be prouder to be their parent’s!

I share about my family unit today, because honestly, my life began to flourish once it was in place.  Throughout all our family difficulties, and we’ve had some doozies, the four of us are solid.  Sure we have had a few shaky occasions, but never for one moment did I lose sight of our connection, our strong bond.  It’s that bond that got me through the life changing events of three years ago.  I’ve been amazed at how incredibly supportive the three of them have been;  shocked even.  They explain that not only did it affect me; it affected them, almost as if they had also learned they were adopted. Seriously though, they act like it is no big deal.

So, today exactly three years from getting the DNA test results on August 26, 2008…

DNA Results

…I have my advanced copy of MY BOOK in my hand.  (MY BOOK… for real, my name is on the cover!)

Late Discoveries

Late Discoveries, An Adoptee's Quest for Truth

I can hardly type the words.  I’m still stunned when I consider the journey, the changes, the discoveries, and all that has happened in the past three years.  It’s been horribly painful at times, and the process of living, searching, and writing a book has been uniquely challenging.  None of which I could have gotten through if it hadn’t been for Mike, Ashleigh, and Hayden.  They have supported me, mended my heart as needed, and encouraged me in unimaginable ways. They remind me of all the important lessons, things like “this too shall pass.”

While I’m proud beyond measure of Late Discoveries and look forward to sharing it, I want the world to know (okay the several who read my blog) what a difference it makes when those closest to us, never give up on us.  They are the “For sure” and “I’m with you 200%” kind.  I’m so grateful for the outstretched hand, the return phone calls, and even the quick text responses… all adding up to this amazing showering of love.  Honestly, when I’m gripped with confusion or sadness – I get a glimpse of who I am through their eyes and I stand taller, feel hopeful, and press on.  I want to be that person. 

It’s all about now – today, living in the moment and going forward.  I can’t change anything in the past, or adjust what other people did (or myself for that matter); I can only be who I am today.  And today, I’m grateful and proud!

I want to shout from the roof tops how incredibly amazing my family is, and give thanks to them for every single supportive moment, especially in the past three years.  Mike, Ashleigh, and Hayden ~ YOU FILL ME UP! 

Thank you, Hayden for taking such a keen interest and giving us your Documentary Short, denied.

and Ashleigh (and Teri)  for beautifully commemorating my journey.  

FOLAB in stained glass~AMAZING!


Dog Goes to California

Not long ago I sat in a board meeting while a debate of definitions carried on like determined ants getting their sole piece of kibble up a hill.  All on the same side, yet a struggle when the hill is steep and the load is heavy.  My mind wandered as the voices ran together.  I put my pencil down and turned the page as these words did not need to be written, their dialogue dance was not needed in the minutes of the meeting.  I looked down at my notebook and noticed something written on the divider.  A last-minute addition to my notebook, it came from one of Hayden’s old high school binders.  Thankfully it had been easy to snap, grab, and put into place. I had renamed it, Board Minutes.  On the back of the divider there were lines for notes.  Hayden had written, “The Lexus and the Olive Tree”  *GREAT!!!

Huh… I wonder what that is, and I grabbed my phone and Googled.

It’s a book written in 2000 by Thomas Friedman.  I read the synopsis and learned a bit. As the Foreign Affairs columnist for The New York Times, Thomas L. Friedman has traveled to the four corners of the globe, interviewing people from all walks of contemporary life – Brazilian peasants in the Amazon rain forest, new entrepreneurs in Indonesia, Islamic students in Teheran, and the financial wizards on Wall Street and in Silicon Valley. Basically, it’s about globalization.

I sat there at the table with a perplexed look on my face reading from my phone as the President asked if it was a good time to take a break?  I agreed, and closed my book on the minutes and the curiosity of what Hayden was reading ended, until now.

As I sit and text with him about “Floaters” from Iowa, I’m reminded how vast his experiences are and his depth of knowledge for being a young man of just twenty-two.  Not to mention his sense of humor, love of movies & TV, history, and all the small things about him that only a few know.  He’s really complex, one in a bazillion-million and I love him beyond measure.   I can offer up this one question and you will also understand his uniqueness.  How many people do you know working a retirement plan with a financial planner at twenty-one?  Not many, right? That was him about a year ago.

He often reminds me about what he wants to do, and that is to make a difference.  Does he want a great job, work hard,  make money, and one day retire with plenty of money?  Of course.  But, I’ve never seen him go too long without witnessing that special part of him that  reaches out to do something for someone else.  He’s a “Pay It Forward” believer and owns, “To those whom much is given, much is expected.” — John F. Kennedy  I know he’d love to be some what of a Oprah, a game-changer.  It’s true, I’ve heard the words come out of his mouth.

OKAY, this is not, “Look how cool my kids is!”  I promise!  I’m saying, “Look at what a difference anyone can make in the life of a young person. ”

Many have made a difference to Hayden and in a short time created this special person who’s about to set off for the beginning of his career in film/media production. From his teachers,  friends, neighbors, coworkers, parents,  foster siblings, auntie, sister, girlfriends, aunts & uncs, cousins, to Holocaust survivors and his Japanese host family; each person left an in print that has shaped him.  Hayden is who he is because of what he’s learned from so many and how they’ve impacted his life.  From his childhood nick name, Dog (which came with a great logo drawing of a flaming claw) to his proud professional name Hayden M. Bennett, he has been touched by many great individuals.

Lessons come in all shapes and sizes, and growth happens from nurturing but also from pain and heart ache.  You know, it’s often the refugee from a war-torn country who makes magnificence from his life.  It’s the great American dream proven over and over again by immigrants. In upper and middle class America many young people have lost sight of the American dream and the hard work it takes.  It’s often hoped for as the American hand out, or “I am, therefore I deserve.” In many instances parents take pride in choosing to do things different, and give their kids everything they didn’t have.  Mike and I did that, daily.  We often did/gave too much, and therefore life was pretty easy for our kids.  So, we sent Hayden away.

Hayden in Japan

Okay, we didn’t.   I just thought that would be a great shocker to write.  We were spoiling him, realized it, and then sent him to another country to dig deep and find his American spirit!  Noo, but we did encourage him to find what he loves and what he’s good at and work at it.

These pictures are from when he lived with a family in Osaka, Japan.  He  competed and won out of thousands to be the state’s Sugihara Scholar.

A Special Fate

On that journey he learned from a great teacher/mentor and many masked Japanese students.  But it was the planted seed of Sugihara’s story that grabbed Hayden’s attention.

His host family listens to him speak about diversity at the local school

“Even a hunter cannot kill a bird who comes to him for refuge.” ~Japanese Proverb.  Sugihara was the Japanese Schindler of his time and saved thousands.

The event at the Holocaust museum in Washington, DC ignited a humanitarian passion.  Hayden met so many incredible people and I know the trip had a role in shaping this young man.  The stories he shared when he got home moved me to tears.  Such a fortunate young man to have this experience that he will remember always.

Paul (mentor) and Hayden at the airport.

Hayden and Senator John Lewis

Being congratulated by Dr. Santa Cruz, Principal

Hayden has experienced so much, and learned lessons from others.  And maybe we did give him a lot or helped in too many ways, but he is still able to feel what is right in his heart.  Greatness doesn’t come from how your parents see you or treat you.   It comes from how you see the world, and what you do with your talents.  And I truly feel like this guy is going to be great.

Okay, I totally take credit for drilling in:  A.  Do your best, and then some.  B.  This too shall pass.  C.  Fit most of the moments in your life into one of these three categories; Acceptance, Enthusiasm, Enjoyment.  And D.  Follow your heart.

But the rest is him – his life, God’s plan, and every single person he’s met along the way has nothing to do with me.   Of course I’m proud and excited for him; one of the greatest things in my life is watching my adult kids and how they live.  But I’m also joyful down deep in my soul for the differences he will make in other people’s lives. I’m grateful for those of you reading this that had a part in Hayden’s life; whether big or small, your kindness to my son means a lot to me.

In a short time he’ll be off to get a job in the industry he loves and hopes to impact one day.  No big farewell party, just a M.A.S.H. dinner to reconnect, have the original four back together.   I hope no one has their feelings hurt, and can understand what it may be like to be excited, hopeful, and nervous at the same time.

Ashleigh and Hayden

The goal is set, his game clock starts very soon and all focus/attention is the starting line.   He’s gathered love, ideas, courage, strength, and a sense of purpose from many.

And yet, I must share that it seems like such a short time ago we were yelling from the bleachers, “Throw ’em the CHEESE, Dog.”

“CHEESE DOG! “CHEESE DOG!”

(He even had a flaming claw stitched into the back of his baseball hat!)

Ashleigh & Hayden, 17 yrs ago... just about as great as TODAY!

I’m WINNING!

She’s still here; I still hear her voice in my head.  She’s with me sometimes for better, sometimes for worse.  It’s like the mother/daughter marriage that does not end with, “Until death do us part.”

Hayden

Hayden M. Bennett, graduate

When Hayden graduated from ASU, “Go get’em Hayden,” my mother’s voice merrily skipped through my mind.  She really loved him, and hoped to see him graduate.

Her ultimate goal was to see my kids get married, but that wasn’t meant to be.

At times I’m chased by her words  or advice, like an anvil falling on me; I feel flat as Wile E. Coyote.  She spent significant time spreading thick layers of doubt about what I couldn’t be, how I should look, and how early I should wake in the morning.   It was clear she wanted me to be like her, and I could not have been more opposite as a child or an adult.  I always thought there was something wrong with me.

However, rounding out the memories of Mother is the clear message she gave to me within a dream over a year ago.  It was like a precious gift.   She was the very best version of herself, happy and carefree with her mom and gramps by her side.  That would be her ideal eternity.

In my dream she wasn’t angry or rude in any way.  No signs of controlling things or being passive aggressive. All the bad behaviors must have been left here on earth.  Maybe in her belongings encircling a ring, or folded into a pocket-book.  She was as clear and warm as Arizona in early June.  I’m not gonna lie, the dream was the turning point for me.  Whether it was created in my mind, sent from my mother, or God – it was the single most important moment for me since my mother passed away.

It’s been over two years that she’s been gone.  Some may feel like that’s a lot of time passed and others who have lost a loved one believe it’s still early in the healing process.  I can say that remnants remain from years of my mother plastering me with negativity and doubt.  I recognize what she did (and why), but still there are times where I roll along like an unbalanced wheel on my car.  I go through the motions with an odd jiggle or shimmy.  Usually, it’s only a big issue when I try to go too fast.  If I’m taking things slow, there’s a tiny shift, slight bump in the road (so to speak) on occasion – that’s it.  But it’s there.

Now is the time I find it necessary to proclaim to the world that I am WINNING.

I'M STILL WINNING!

No, not like Charlie Sheen,

I’M WINNING!!! GIVE ME MY TIGER BLOOD…

(bleh)

Rather more like a qualifying round for the LDA Survival Trials at the next Olympics.  My parents did what they did, for whatever reason… right?  Right.  My mother treated me many different ways for a host of reasons, and it’s in the past, Right?  Right.

I’m thankful for all I learned, the things I understand better, and knowing I am still somewhat unbalanced.  I own my jiggle or shimmy.  And that’s okay.  It has all shaped me.  Yeah, it would have been a bit simpler to start out with a better shape, but… what can I say?  Only, onward and that’s winning.

It is difficult to hold dear only certain things, the good things about my mom.  I can report that I try recalling only the best, as  I am never without my “Rosy’s.”  (You know… my favorite glasses.)  Even if I have to put mom away for a while, aka out of my head, I choose to be happy.

This HAPPEIGH reminder hangs in my office.

Do I feel different about family now?  YOU BET.   It is uber-complicated to explain?  I didn’t think so initially, but alas… it is.  To the non adopted crowd, please don’t react coldly to what is an emotional issue.  Really, for any circumstance, not just adoption.  Take a moment and think what it feels like to be in an adoptees shoes.  Or a mother who lost a child to adoption, what difficulty she must have moving forward.   Do I want to know things, like who my dad is?  YEP, SURE DO.   And finally, the big question:  Why can’t I be happy with the family I knew and focus on that?  Well, because you can’t be lied to for 43 years about who you are and your beginning and not be affected.   Whether you’re unbalanced, off the charts pissed, accepting, or have “those” days lying down with a tear soaked pillow, being a late discovery adoptee is being twisted at your core.  Think wet towel… rotate it in opposite directions until all the moisture has dripped off.  And then freeze that center twisted part.  Now your twisted core remains that way and you move forward with the uncomfortableness inside.  That’s how it feels.  At least how I describe it.

I believe many of us grab hold of the things that are near and dear in order to survive.  For me, faith is the core and I hold on to what I’ve been given.

What's your life saving ring?

In addition to Mike, my white knuckle grip is on my kids.  They are my only blood relatives, and while I know family means all sorts of things to many and comes in all forms, my two kids are golden.  It means something to me that I have this special connection to them, in addition and over and above the rest of my non blood family.  They will never be strangers who blow me off, they will fight to understand and care for me, no matter what.  What I have with them is priceless.

Not to mention my kids are incredible adults!  Take a second to read, you’ll see what I mean.

Ashleigh, Teri, Little A, and her Sweet Baby Brother are a family, for now.  And while this foursome is in place, I know in my heart that Ashleigh (and Teri) do their absolute best for the kids and love them totally.   Ash and Teri have created a very special foster home.  They both spend a significant time planning what would be best for two of “Gods greatest gifts.”  From trying to get pics of the kids parents for the fridge, to services that both little ones need.

I often hear from people whose view-point is that CPS isn’t fair to parents and that children should be kept at home and the family supported.  They feel the money used to support the child in foster care would be better served supporting the family.  To which I say, every circumstance is different and the best thing we could do is advocate for the best child protective service program in every state.   We have a VERY long way to go!  I think the parents who get the shaft is far more infrequent that the hundreds of children who are subjected to a different kind of abuse by CPS.  Whether it’s due to lack of quality case managers, or social workers who simply see this as their first job, or the issue of funding an acceptable number of case managers… they mostly do a disservice to the group of people they are supposed to serve.  Just because a child is now safe does not mean they don’t need anything else.

I can promise that my daughter and I are advocates for one reason, the child who finds themselves in care and become wards of the state.  We’ve both advocated for swifter returns home, when it’s appropriate.  It all comes down to what is in the child’s best interest.  Please, feel free to pose any questions or share your comments and continue this discussion.  Maybe there are things I can learn from you, and you may be able to gain insight from me or Ashleigh.

And next up is Hayden.  Have you ever known anyone to own a dream, one they will never give up?  I really haven’t, until Hayden.  Not only is he smart, committed to his dream, he’s an amazing person who’s filled with a great sense of humor.

He graduated Cum Laud with a Film degree from ASU, Herberger Theater of Fine Arts.  He studied film and media production and made many shorts, music videos, and his final documentary short project, denied.  Along the way he has taken incredible photos and even shot the cover art for my book.  Check out videos, http://www.vimeo.com/user2728819/videos or the rest including photos at, http://www.krop.com/hbennett/portfolio/59507/#/

Hayden loves the entertainment industry and has an understanding of the future in entertainment and what’s possible, where things are going, and how it can change people’s lives.  I’ve met some co-workers and teachers, and they all say the same thing, “He’s going to make a difference in this industry one day.”

I love my family, but I am unconditionally bonded to the greatest treasure in life:  M.A.S.H. (Mike, Ashleigh, Susan, Hayden)  The treasure began with Mike after high school, and then in 1986, and the last addition joined in 1989.  Over the past 25 years I can honestly say that God created something unique in us as a unit.  No matter what the four of us do over the rest of our lives, the blessing of M.A.S.H. will go un-paralleled.   I know my kids have already made a difference in people’s lives, and the best is yet to come.

The MASH unit from a few years ago.

Life’s a process, and the processes in my family are swirling around these days with so much hope and optimism. 

Mike is our rock, our core, a great husband and father who’s career has been… well like this:

For me, I’m a mom, a wife, a friend, a fellow late discovery adoptee and FOLAB, an advocate, and soon to be a published author.  For my kids in their lives and their life’s work, it’s a time of change and sometimes chaos.  Doing your best and letting your actions show what you stand for is not easy and sometimes messy.  It’s called “hard work” for a reason.  They don’t call it, “Whiny baby easy stuff.”  You know?

Having the best possible understanding of my beginnings has increased this special bond with Ashleigh and Hayden.    If I didn’t know the wrong things; the detrimental behaviors, and dream flattening hold from my mother – I couldn’t be who I am today, for me or them.

As Glinda the Good Witch explained to Dorothy, “You always had the power.”  Sometimes it takes a big event in one’s life to see what or who was keeping us from our power.

It's all about fine tuning it!

What’s the Big Deal?

At support group meetings, out of town conferences, and blogs here and there I hear about people who claim to be, “Adoption Abolitionist.”  To which I shake my head with a combined eye roll.  There are even buttons promoting such.  If one is handed to me, or put into something that is given away, it promptly makes it to the round receptacle in the corner.   In one instance, I found several left for others where I was getting ready to do a workshop.  My space, my choice to be free of this ridiculous button;  zzzing, click, clack – clunk, and into the garbage it goes .

I would however, like to ask an Abolitionist, “Why would you want to deny an innocent child, who was abused (or at the very least neglected) by their parent(s) the ability of being adopted?  Do you want every single foster child to remain a ward of the state until they are 18 and have their formative years defined by being a foster child?”  Adult fosterees claim that to be a new level of hell.

What is wrong with a foster child being adopted by a loving capable person(s) who wants to love them, give them a family, help them to grow up to be the best individual they can be in this world?  Which by the way, whether adopted or not, they will grow to be part of societies future.  Not to imply that all adopted foster kids get the perfect family, just as all adoptees do not get the best adoptive family.

Many adult adoptees feel they are continually hurt by some part of their adoption or childhood, and cannot move away from the hurt.  Whether they are not able to deal with the broken bond and realize that is the core of everything, or continually struggle with birth and adoptive family issues, it’s a substantial ongoing battle.  Now add to that, being abused (and all the forms that one singular word can take) as a child, and then eventually the understanding that your parent allowed their rights to be severed from you.  Isn’t that hard enough, isn’t that enough to deal with?  No, the “Abolitionist” wants that child to remain a ward of the state (whether they are two or twelve) and some how grow up to be a descent person.   Clearly this was not thought through.

As someone who has been extensively involved in the foster care system, I can attest that most parents are given AMPLE chances and support in which they can keep their rights and have their child returned.  I often grimace when I hear the name of the agency, Child Protective Services.  Most often, especially at the beginning of a placement, the agency could easily be named, Birthmother Protective Services.  They are provided so many services, along with a parent aide which is in place to help the mother succeed in having her child(ren) returned home.

*Side note, I have to comment that the number one reason I have seen parents fail, and horribly so, is when they are addicted to drugs and their parenthood status is blown to bits like an exploding meth lab.  Not by the state, by their own addicted hands.  I have no clue what that is like, to be able to forget your children and be all consumed by the meth-life blood drug.

I could not do foster care today.  I am not the same person; Mommy Sue is long gone!  I’m a FOLAB, who also found out I was in foster care as a stopping point on the way to adoption.  (As many newborns experience when a private adoption is not planned.)  Mommy Sue never had an infant who was “stopping by,” but even if I did – I wouldn’t see the child in the same way.  My eyes have been opened to the passing of children from one place to another, whether it’s an infant who will be adopted or a child “protected” by CPS and placed in to the foster care system.   I see so many problems in adoption and foster care that it has caused me to misplace my rose colored glasses.  It was in this depressed state that I longed to find my boot straps; only to be guided towards them with the clue ~ “They are probably near your rose colored glasses,” Ashleigh texted the other day.   Ahh, such insight!

It turns me inside out when those I’ve called, “friend” or “family” turn a cold shoulder, blind eye, or callously comment, “Yup, the system still sucks,” followed by a foolish rhetorical question, “What’s the big deal?” It is soo not rhetorical to me.  We are talking about a child, societies children – WAKE UP!

If we (in the adoption realm) believe in “The Primal Wound,” and others who understand loss, and the damage of separation, do we figure that a child is mortally damaged and therefore it doesn’t matter if we continue to inflict pain?  Foster kids who are removed from abusive or neglectful homes should not continually be damaged by those charged to protect them.  Once they are removed from danger, is it okay to move them again and again? Or place them somewhere inappropriate?

CHECK.  Placed child in temporary home. neeext.

Mrs. Clark needs the kids moved asap, they are picked up and driven to the only home who answered the phone in that hour of crisis. CHECK.

When some are in a good, appropriate foster home – is it okay to torture them with excessive visits and time in a car? (Without any knowledge of why they are in care and the case plan?)

Today, my daughter who is brave enough to do foster care these days, called with an update on her foster children.  Last night she and Teri (her spouse)

Ashleigh & Teri McGill

waited for the kids to be returned home after a visit with their mother.   They were late, long past the designated time, which was excessive to begin with, and resulted in a very late bedtime routine.

The children are driven three days in the week to visits with each birth parent who gets four hours of visit time.  And, when you take into consideration visits take place 75 minutes away, (with driving time) a typical visit day means they also have a two and one half hour drive in conjunction with a two or four-hour visit. Which equals between four and a half hours up to seven SEVEN and half hours.  Oh, and there’s also the time it takes to pick up another sibling who is at a different home.  Make sense?  No, because it makes sense to no one!

Birth mom and dad want visits differently during the week, and apart.  (They are no longer together.)  So the children spend a horrible amount of time in a car with two different parent aides;  who do not have the kids’ best interest in mind, they are parent aides and advocate for the parent(s).  Not sure why the neglectors get special treatment and the children are delivered for a visit nearest them without their own advocate.  

It should be deeply disturbing to all who read this that these innocent children are treated this way; it is bad enough they were not loved and cared for by their parents!  Now they are a task or a check mark for caseworkers, aides, and supervisors; just part of their job. (One that they are doing poorly, if you ask me. Certainly no one can see the big picture, at least I would hope not.)

I am still in strong support for a name change to what it really is; Birthparent Protective Services.  Hey if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck… I’m saying it’s a duck.  The offices who employ those who do their job and do what is in the best interest of the child can keep their CPS designation, would be my rule if I were the boss.

The children were placed for a month where it was easiest.  This home did nothing; basically they suffered a bit less.  But it was best for the parents, so that’s what CPS chose, a relative.  The placement fell apart, thankfully, and for a couple of weeks now the kids are in a safe, nurturing, and loving home.  Yet, their hands are tied by poor communication and decisions made that are not in the child’s best interest.

Granted, they are not being abused or neglected by this long drive I have issues with, or by the visits themselves (at least one would hope.)  So there’s a little diaper rash, inconsistent care, and lack of stability – they are safe now.  Call it good, someone suggested to me. 

Oh, it’s anything but…

A little girl comes rushing in the door, greeted by a friendly face-kissing dog and her enthusiastic foster mom. 

Ashleigh, anxiously reading her face says, “Hi, ‘A’ I’m so happy to see you, what do you have there?” Pointing to a new toy from Mom, “Ooh you have a ‘item’ that is so cute.” 

Little ‘A’ smiles briefly, seems happy to see her foster moms and the “face-kisser,” giving him a pat and a hug.

The Sweet Baby Boy – “SBB” in the family is brought in, and welcomed and loved as well.  And it is way past bed time, but thankfully they did get dinner, so it’s on to the bed time routine, about two hours delayed.

One of “A’s” favorite things is helping; she loves to help with her “SBB” and pick out the little six month-old jammies, etc.  But, not tonight.  After the smile that greeted the dog and her foster moms, it went away, very far away.  Doing simple things, fun things she loves, and all eye contact…gone! At least for the night.  In addition to her not feeling well (they all have a cold) she has the lost-stare.

Ashleigh holds her and rocks her, as she’s not able to see her books (or even Ash) past the lost-stare.  Ash holds her like a baby, which “A” seems to crave, giving her all the love and compassion she can release through her arms and body.

“I know it has to be so hard ‘A’,” Ashleigh says, “I want you to know, your mom loves you very much and it has to be hard to leave her.  Teri and I love you, too and we are here for you.  It must be so confusing, sweetie.” 

Little ‘A’ keeping her head hidden to her chest starts to tremble.  Keeping very quiet, she sobs letting her broken heart show ever so slightly.  (Why she is broken, and how she is feeling… one can only guess.)

Through tear-filled eyes, “Oh ‘A’ – I love you, I’m here and you’re going to be okay,” Ashleigh reassured ‘A’ and herself.

While Teri is getting “SBB” into bed, his flat affect speaks volumes.  This baby doll also blinks his lost-eyes while love is poured onto him.

They all welcomed their routine this morning, which will last until the weekend when it starts all over again.  Hopefully the smiles continue to return after the visits and long drives.  Ashleigh and Teri will do all they can, they will support and love “A” and “SBB” as long as they can, as much as they can, and will keep attempting communication with CPS.  They are “Foster Care” – and whether the kiddo’s are returned home or adopted, they will be loved. 

That’s the big deal, there are those who do it right, and we should all support them in whatever way we can.

Ash with our first AZ bundle-o-joy, this may have started it all!

Oh okay, there’s the old boot straps… happy to have found them. And my glasses are firmly in place, returned for my rose-colored viewing pleasure. Thank God!

The Most Interesting (hu)Man In The World?

I bet the most interesting man in the world was not adopted.   His character is self-assured, and he’s adventuresome.  Yet every choice he makes is perfect.  “Sharks name a week after him,” goes the commercial.  I am nowhere near this character, nor is my blog.  I don’t think we even live in the same city.

This blog is very similar to my soft, pale sky-blue, natural cotton-covered journal that waits for me every night on my bed side table.   It’s my communication vessel which moves information, feelings, and darkness out of me and into the information highway.   Incredible talented writers create award winning blogs, journalistic master pieces, and some have even gotten movies made from their simple four lettered format.  My unique “folab” blog is for me, and if any family, close friends, or my kids wanna know what’s up lately, they can pretty much read and know.  Maybe it’s about a movie, or insights to one of my favorite mothers, err… “flames,” I mean.  Sometimes I’ve let personal frustrations out via the sarcastic-vent, think of it as another personality, like Buck (US of Tara.)  Fears, frustrations, music and movies; it all flows out!

Love it, feel validated, annoyed, or don’t like what I share, it’s all good.  Once I put it out there, it is for you to do with what you want, and I love that!  It’s freeing for me, and healing on my journey to, “Don’t worry what other people think!”  How you feel about a topic, comment, or an ad that pops up – really has nothing to do with me.  It’s about you, your outlook and finding your way, or finding joy, or feeling your own anger.   I enjoy many blogs, and so many have cemented how I feel about something (one way or another.)   I have learned a lot, and found new ways of seeing another perspective.  I’ve especially enjoyed learning from adoptees, more foundational mortar, and I have been awakened by mothers who are similar to mine in age and circumstance.  (With her being deceased, it’s tough for me to know what it was like in 1964 for my young mother, for example.)

As my very first blog explains, this is about me, folab – “found out late adoptee buddy.”  It is what it is, nothing more.  Not the most interesting (hu)man in the world, where my legend does NOT proceed me.  And the Superbowl is NOT played during my half time show.  Or… well, have a quick look ~

This has been a testy-link, if you get an error click on the youtube box.  It’s an old commercial, sometimes old and testy go together.

However, I am beginning to give more credibility to the specialness of “orphans.”  Too dramatic of a term?  Well, I’ve felt that – adoptive parents gone, found my birth mother to be gone, and birth father “unknown.”  ( = gone)   But, I am an adult with family/friends, food and love, so I didn’t own the malnourished third world country, “Orphan” – but for a moment I was the closest to it I’d ever been.

But, what if orphans are to be someone special in the world?

(I enjoyed the movie, and found the character intriguing… for his orphan purposes.)

I wonder if we’re not part of a plan, a destiny, and we have to continually remember our importance and reignite our faith.  Not because we see ourselves as so important, but just the opposite.  We often struggle with our identity and purpose.  All the while, what if we are a priceless important being with great capabilities?  I have witnessed in the adoption community numerous adoptees with many challenges, but more importantly I have to ask; who has not met an incredible adopted individual who radiates warmth from their soul and gladly wraps all they have around you?  While they have had deep sadness and mountains of loss in their life, they gladly give, support, and sometimes even rescue those of us in need.

Rather than an outcast, an unwanted human being, is it possible we are here for a special purpose and what if our challenges, as adoptees, help to fine tune us?  I know I am no less a child of God because I didn’t stay with my mother.  I’m, “no less” because my adoption was kept a secret.  I feel unique, special at times, always blessed, and I do feel a new label of being fine tuned by my experiences.

I suppose the flip side is possible, we struggle with confidence, and a positive identity, so we visualize and grow into “pricelessness,” as a sort of a reap what you sow process.  Or, “You are what you think about all day long,” how could you be anything else? (Dr. Robert Schuller)  Either way, I choose to be sowing positive energy at a minimum, and ponder my special purpose and destiny.

So, am I like the most interesting (hu)man in the world?

Most interesting?  Hmmm… Lol, nope! But I can say, “Stay thirsty my friends.”

No, not for Dos Equis, but for seeing your own greatness. (Okay, maybe Dos Equis too, if beer is your thing.)

May we all find love and peace while we journey.

denied.

That’s the title of a new documentary short about adult adoptees access to their original birth certificate.  denied. Most adoptees in this country are denied access to their certificate of live birth; instead we get an amended one passed on to us from our adoptive parents.  It really should be theirs to keep forever, as it really is more about them than the person born.  The adopted person should be given their “factual” birth certificate upon becoming an adult.  That’s fair, right?  I mean anyone reading this who’s not adopted has theirs, and they know what hospital they were born in, what their mother named them, what time they were born, and their size (weight/length.)  I would like to have my info and my birth certificate.  denied.

I write “denied.” in this manner because that is the title of the film, “denied.”  Just FYI, for those wondering if I’ve lost my mind – or think possibly this is the “real” me writing and the rest has been a ghost writer.  ((LOL))  That was a hefty laugh out loud!

On this fragrant warm spring day, I was filmed reenacting the events of a hot fall afternoon from 2008.  It was a visit to the Vital Statistics office in Phoenix, Arizona.  Today, I had it together.  I knew where to go, what do, and it was simple recalling my then shaky request, “I just found out I was adopted and I would like a copy of my original birth certificate.”  This time there was a camera filming each step, every movement, my request, and the clerk’s response.   I had it all rehearsed in my head and there would be no surprises, this time.

It has been 2 1/2 years since visiting 1818 W. Adams St., and I’m a different person now.  If anyone had witnessed both visits to the office, they would tell of great physical differences.  Wrecked on the inside = wrecked on the out; from posture to clothes to meek anticipation.  I had felt there was a purpose for it all, hoped for the best, but feared a great deal, and then hoped again.

Driving on the 202, and then on I10 and into the dimly lit tunnel, I explained for the camera how I felt and my anticipation while we exited at 7 th Ave.  “It’s for this film, and it’s about a time – but it’s all in the past,” I whispered to my self reassuringly as we pulled into the back of the Vital Statistics office.

It was explained to me that this footage is important and sets the ground work for wanting an OBC access bill.  It also teaches Joe-not-adopted that adoptees have an amended birth certificate with little and false information.  We are to use this “less-than” document, raised seal and all, as proof of our existence.  Glenys Westby did not give birth to Susan, and Susan was the second name given to this person of record.  Who did give birth?  What did the mother name the baby? How much did the baby weigh, and how long was she?  Who knows?  But, I’ll tell you who knows:  The staff in the hospital, my birth mother, the foster home, the adoption agency,  and all the clerical staff who handled my file from the hospital to the clerk who reissued the falsified record of live birth.  They all know, all these strangers had full access to this private transaction and the details of my birth, my beginning.  So secret and sealed away from me, but okay for all these other people to see.  I hope I get to hear from some Joe-nots, and see if they can even believe it?

Obviously, 1818 W. Adams St. is difficult for me, but I know my lines, and am fully aware of what the response will be to my rehearsed question.  Whether or not they will like the tall guy behind me with the big camera is something else.

The room is pretty full – it’s lunch time, and we enter and find the least populated row to make our way to the back, towards the line.  A woman with her two sons enter just after us, but they race up the next row over and get to the end of the line first.  The two teens are intrigued by the camera, glancing back on occasion. They poke and pull at one another, and then check the focus of the lens.

One kid punches the other and bumps their mother.  She reacts and says a few words to the boys, and then very casually turns and asks, “So what are you filming for?”

I share with great enthusiasm and an overly wide smile, “Its a documentary, and it’s an exciting day… I just found out I’m adopted and I’m getting my original birth certificate so I can know who my birth parents were, what hospital I was born in, and my weight/length.”  It’s like practicing for a play, yet the words are not playful to me.

Yes, this is it, exactly how I felt 2 1/2 years ago.

She looks a bit confused, but mirrors my joy, “Oh wow, how cool.  Uhh… I guess it’s our turn.”  The three move up to the window and like all the others before her, she provides proof of identity and gets a ticket so she can sit and wait to be called up to receive her certified copy of her birth certificate.

I stand on a black rubber mat with foot prints.  You are suppose to stand there to wait, and not any closer, as the big red letters tell you to – S T O P !

The word makes me feel 2 1/2 years younger, my head lowers and I can only look down.  I feel odd, confused, and like I want to stop.

“Next in line, next…” My eyes raise, and I’m up.  I hear her through a small hole with slats, the woman behind the glass is talking to me.

Deep breath.  I can do this.  Smile, and just say the lines.

“Hi, I just found out I was adopted and I would like to get my original birth certificate,” I say loud and proud.

“Oh, uhmm well, when you’re adopted your birth certificate is sealed from you and you have to get a judge to issue a court order to allow us to give it to you, ” she explains as if telling me about a fine for an overdue library book, while her piercing in her tongue flicks and flaps hitting her teeth on occasion.

I ask, “Is there a form or something I have to fill out for the judge?

She shifts in her chair and leans up and goes through a stack of forms in a bin.  Pulling out a pamphlet, and sliding it under the window she informs me, “You can also use the confidential intermediary program.”

“So, how do I get to this judge that will grant me MY birth certificate?”

“You have to explain to him why you want it, and then he makes a decision if you can have it,” she clicks and informs with a blank stare. “But the intermediary program will also get you what you want, so look at that information I gave you…”

And then I don’t really remember much.  I asked a few more questions, I think, and she became blurry.  I think I said, “Okay.” And then turned and walked away.  My eyelids tried to hold in the growing pain.  I was instantly back in 2008, and even though I know the law, and I know it’s not the pierced-tongue clerk’s fault, it hurt.  Deeply.  Again.

I dried my face and walked towards the door glancing to my right, to the crowd waiting for their certificates.  All eyes were on me, the men and woman who easily heard my request.  The speedy line-cutter mother had her hand over her mouth in disbelief.  They were shocked, and confused about what had just happened.  Honestly, so was I, but not for the same reason.

I stood at the door, waiting for a lady with a giant stroller to navigate the entrance, and I tried to convince the tears they were unwarranted.  My stomach felt as if I swallowed a shot-put, I grimaced and my feelings were obvious.  I shuffled outside, 2 1/2 years younger and smaller clutching the same confidential intermediary pamphlet, the panacea for all the adoptees in Arizona.  Here’s what she gave me.

WT...? Adoption Party and Records Search Program, Party, really?

They are PROUD of their program.

Apparently, there’s no form or information given regarding the special, “OBC granting Judge.”

Exhale… it’s over, I’m out of that building, keep moving…

I felt the breeze, and smelled citrus blossoms, and I began to crawl out from the place inside where the sun is only a memory.  I had more “lines” and had to step away from the feelings in order to share the pamphlet, as planned.  Even though so much of what I was feeling was unplanned.  This damn grief and reminder of loss, and lies – all too familiar.  It was easy to recall the anger I felt years ago towards my mother for not telling me I was adopted.  Cars drove past as I leaned against a half wall surrounding 1818 W.  Adams St.  A little sparrow flew over head, landing in a nearby bright green tree with its glossy new leaves.  The sweet perfumed-air rushed the hair from my face and neck.

I closed my eyes.  I’m here now, there is a purpose for all of this, and I am okay. I have Hayden with me, and I hope one day we can make a difference and change the laws in Arizona so no adoptee is denied the record of their live birth.

May “denied.” serve to educate communities across this country so they pass legislation allowing adult adopted persons their birth certificate.  And, I hope that my part of the documentary provides awareness so that years from now the term “late discovery adoptee” is only part of history, like an eight track player, an AMC Hornet Hatchback (my first car), or a rotary phone with a party line.

The best enlightened comments of the day came on the way home:

Hayden shared, “I was cataloging the film footage a while ago, and I had to take a break.  It was just too much adoption, and pain.  I couldn’t stand it.  I cannot even imagine being adopted, I’m so sorry Mom.”

That reminded me of my choice to live the kind of life I want, and enjoy all that life offers today, in the moment.  This happened to me, but it’s not who I am.  I choose to enjoy my blessed rosy-colored life, oh and one more very important thing –  do less reenacting.

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