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!

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!

Keep your chin to the sunshine

While this holiday portion is thrilling and filled with excitement for children, the rails of the ride in December sometimes quake unnerving-ly beneath us.  We’d like to think Ohh… Jingle Bells! Uhm NO, the shaking intensifies and it doesn’t stop and you feel it in your chest.  It’s not audible happy jingle-jangling associated with reindeer or the big man in red, it’s a general butterfly nervousness… x 100.  It’s anxiety on crack!  While it seems most hear joyous Christmas bells, we often don’t – oh we want to, but Christmas is a time of family and that can be hugely hard!  (That has to be another post for another day.) I’m going through hugely hard with my brother and his family right now.  (I deleted that at first, and then I realized none of them read what I write anyway, so it stays.)

This relationship will always be a work in progress, as it should.  I truly love my brother Bob.

Sister & Brother

Bob and I

Sometimes I need extra warmth in addition to M.A.S.H.  (That’s; Mike, Ash, Sue, Hayden. – collective core since 1989.) For me, this time of year it is necessary to lean on my “special family”.   I hold dear those special ones who understand adopted me and know where I am coming from.  They “get me” and that fact often makes it all a-okay.  It’s as if they lift your chin up to face the warm sunshine, giving you warmth and peace.  When mine is nearly stuck to my chest and I’m feelin’ low, a “special family” person lifts my face with ease by sharing her soft loving words.  She always takes the time to share her wisdom and reminds me; KEEP YOUR CHIN TO THE SUNSHINE! Yes Sondi, my chin is up… and you’ll never know how perfectly wonderful your words are to me.

My Christmas wish is to find a new roller coaster in 2011 where the majority of it is  SUNSHINE! You may say, life is just not that way.  But why not?  Or at least why can’t it be that way more often?  We each have control how we react to any situation, right?  We can decide who we surround our selves with.  We have the POWER.

I recently read a post where a guy said that “adoption crap” had ruined yet another relationship.  He and his girlfriend had broken up after many years together.   To that, I must share this:  “Adoption crap” can’t ruin anything, only you can make or break a relationship.  It’s how you choose to interact with loved ones, friends, co-workers, or strangers on the street that matters.  Yes, they can stab ya in the back, take the last cup of coffee, or steal your parking spot – but you are in control with how you react and how you conduct yourself the rest of the day.  If ya got adoption issues, work on ‘em – face them head on.  But this person only see’s the wreckage and then defines it – after the fact.

That’s just my perspective from where I sit, from where I’ve been, and from my view behind special glasses I own.  Sure we all have out of control moments, hopefully not out of control years.

Something to remember is this great quote:  A man is what he thinks about all day long.  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

I was recently told that I make pain look pretty, and that made me stop and really think about what I write.  I felt like Pooh Bear sittin’ on a log, “Think, think, think.”  Well, I totally disagree because it infers that I’m not telling it like it is.  Or I’m dressing up “pain” to go out for a night on the town.  Or I am painting over it with words and passing it off as something else.

My example of pain would be when a loved one dies.  There’s no making that look pretty.  I am not a believer in, “Well… they had a long full life” or the one I hear all the time, “They aren’t suffering anymore.”  Those things are all about the other person, like my mom for instance.  She did have a long life and no, she isn’t suffering any more.  But that has nothing to do with me, here alive today without her.  I don’t have that one person I shared everything with.  She is in a good place, but what I have felt is painful. There is her loss and then there’s all her complexities that I learned about after she was gone.  To say there were things un-said states the obvious.  It was heartbreaking and I had to make massive adjustments just to breathe.  Now, it’s just sad, hard, and it has taken a long time but I do cry less.

Mom

My mom in Maui being goofy on a granola high.

Oh… wait – maybe that part was “pretty” to say, I cry less? I deal with it (and there’s many ways I do that) and then find a place for it and move on best I can.  Am I drawn back there, sure… but less and less often.  Maybe I make the journey look pretty?  I wouldn’t ever define a roller coaster as pretty, but that’s just me and I guess I haven’t seen EVERY coaster…so?

Possibly the issue is in defining pain (or pretty) right?  Well, I’m not gonna go there – it’s totally subjective.  So if you think I make your pain look pretty, maybe you need to have another look and realize that I’m not talking about your pain.  Or if one thinks I’m glossing over my pain, possibly consider that I don’t see it, feel it, or own it as “pain.”  I don’t know, and honestly it doesn’t matter – pain (pretty) is relative, isn’t it?  If you have glasses like mine, well then that changes things too – there’s an awful lot of pretty out there.

While I share my journey on this complex coaster I have chosen to put it out there for you to do what you want with it.  Love it, hate it, or something in between – ultimately I hope it encourages you to find your way  ~as healthy as possible~ on your coaster.  (And if you’re at all interested, journaling and/or blogging is a great way to share and to look back to see how far you’ve come.)

Safe travels this holiday season to everyone; especially my fellow adoptees, adoptive moms, first moms, and “special family.”  May your Christmas coaster glide to a soft spot on December 26th… Ahhh, and may you have many moments where you’re able to KEEP YOUR CHIN TO THE SUNSHINE!

How to send Africanized bees on vacation and Happy Thanksgiving!

Today I coast, slowly … everything is quiet and still, except for what is on the inside.  Outside, blank stare – inside, thoughts acting like Africanized bees; chasing something.  Maybe it’s the frustration over a relationship, which now has to become a fringe one.  I exhale, “Add it to the pile.”  I’m seeing more and more fringe in my life, I realize.  “Fringe may come and fringe may go…” (You gotta laugh right?  What else can you do?)

Maybe the bees (and I think these should be spelled, beez…) are chasing around fear? That would not be surprising.  I can share all day long the importance of not having fear in your life.  It’s the opposite, or absence of faith.  I know that, but for some reason I tend to disguise it and let it in.  And then the beez move it around until it’s too tired to continue, or until I realize it is indeed fear.

The beez really know how to work on, “The great unknown.”  (Think loud male voice, bit of an echo.)  One may think that the great unknown is space, nothingness, or a void.  But this specific unknown, as it pertains to my simply wonderful created family, is the GREAT unknown.  The word great meaning – of high importance and also conveys the great-est things in my life, my kids.   AHHH… young adult kids can be challenging, they can be so amazingly spectacularly great, but then hard at times too.

I do believe that so much of my inner challenge today, i.e. beez,  is adoption related.

Before I confirmed that I was adopted, I was pretty-calm on the path of: I did my best, raised my kids with love, and now they’re adults and have to find their own way.  I always hoped to have them in my life, often as possible, and be close.  But, it was somewhat like watching a newly born butterfly soar from his chrysalis.  It was filled with a few winces, but faith and amazement were a big part of the view.

Now – Oh my prayer-flattened knees, it feels so desperate sometimes and, well, shhh… I think I’m “too” crazy about THEM! Thankfully I have two kids, and they seem to ebb and flow at the right times with challenges, or quietness – alternating for the most part.

Wow, amazing how the beez leave or give up, just the thought of MY TWO.  They are so different, yet were so similar growing up.  Just pondering the key strokes to press to brag about them, gives me peace.  Huh… the beez have left the cranial space.  Or at the very least they’re on vacation, on little insect lounge chairs sippin’ a cold one.

As we near Thanksgiving, and the end of November (say it with me, National Adoption Awareness Month) please join me in being thankful.  However you get there; through the good the bad the ugly, end trails you have to squish through… whatever  to get to the happy-tracks in life, may we be thankful.

Things I’m thankful for:

Foremost, God and faith, without them I’d be lost.

Mike, Ash, Hayden – easy ones… gotta shoot them out first.

"Shootin" Mike, Ashleigh, & Hayden

People in my kids life who love them and care for them.

Family, new friends, old friends, and those “fringe” friends/relatives.

A book deal ~ woo hoo!

My four-legged family: Bicki, Arby, Ozzie, and … well not really so thankful, he’s been a pain, but because my mom loved him – Petey aka The Kraken.

But mostly – Bicki…

Bicki

Bicki

And all the totally great every day things in life, no matter how small; thick fuzzy warm socks, peppermint mocha creamer, No. 2 pencils, multi color file folders, vanilla chai tea,  giving the dogs a bone first thing in the morning, Brooks shoes, tv shows, great books – currently “The Help”, wine, Burt’s Bees lip moisturizer, music and dancing through the house, coffee, painting something, the way Bicki perches on my shoulder, Sunday morning paper, pancakes, and Facebook. (Yes, it’s true fb.)

What has touched me most this year, Hayden – without a doubt.  While I know he’s Mike’s best friend and everyone who knows him likes him, he has grown very special to me.   I have my girl, Ashleigh – the child of my heart, my daughter I adore.  But I never expected this great thing with Hayden. He has been a shining light of warmth, compassion, and love.  Best thing of all is, he “gets me” and he’s a 21 year old guy!

He doesn’t just listen when I talk about something “adoption” he cares, he understands it, and I can see he feels it, as it does involve him also.  (While I may not know who my dad is, he also doesn’t know who (one of) his grandfathers are or even if he is alive.)  Hayden asks questions and talks with me about things I never imagined.  He’s wise beyond his years, and shared his financial plans the other day and it was impressive.

Nothing holds a candle to hearing your son share how devastated he would be if something happened to me or his dad.  I was speechless, listening to him talk and explain. And that doesn’t happen very often.  I was so moved inside, and had no words or gestures on the outside.  I wanted to say something to him, or get up and go over and hug him… but I couldn’t.  We were outside by the fireplace and it came up as part of a different discussion. As the conversation carried on between he and Mike, I could not.  Didn’t hear a word that was said for about 20 minutes.  I just stared at him and thought, You have no idea how your love fills up my soul!! Shifting up to the stars I lay my head back, with tears falling down my face. Thank you God for this incredible gift in my life, my son.

Whew!! Enough gushing – I don’t want to make all your kids look bad.  ; ) Ha ha!

What I want to share is that even when there’s beez and fringe issues, or deep sadness that’s adoption related, you should always look for and accept the wondrous things in your life.  This crazy ride moves me around, and way up… then very far down, so when I feel the “up,” I cherish it.  As, this too shall pass.

(Unless I could convince Hayden to film his undying love for his parents… hmm I could watch it every day!  I bet even the dog would want to poke her eye out at about day 3.)

Happy Thanksgiving!  May you find your blessings, whether adoption is a part of your life, or if your blessings are many because adoption has added to your life.♥

Lets shake things up… is it possible?

Sometimes a unique perspective gives birth to a great idea, a dream for the future.  It takes a calm, smooth-spot on this ride (life) for a dream to grow.  And aren’t really good ideas born from dreams?  While I can see a big hill ahead and not sure what’s on the other side, this is what came out of the calm, smooth-spot.

While adoptive families want to provide a child with a home and a forever family, they should carefully consider how the lie of an altered birth certificate may affect their child one day.  Maybe it’s the day they sign up for a sport, or get their driving permit, there will be confusion about what their birth certificate states to be true.

Adult adoptees want their original birth certificate and currently only 6 states provide a copy upon request.  If states refuse to allow adult adoptees their record of birth, then why not remove the procedure of altering ones birth certificate once they are adopted?   Adoptees deserve one or the other, but mostly they deserve the truth and to be treated just like non adopted people.

This embossed official certificate documents a human birth, the beginning of life in the world, and this should not be copied and altered.  It is about the adoptees birth, plain and simple.  It’s not about what the birth mother was going through, it’s not about abuse a year later, and it’s not about the family who is adopting.  Ideally, this document should never be altered, for any reason.  It’s an archaic practice that only serves as a token reminder that the child is part of the adoptive family. In addition, there have been instances where a clerk upon copying the information on a birth certificate has made mistakes when preparing the new one.

Possibly, an amended birth certificate serves as a catalyst for the adoptive mother to believe that the child was actually born unto her.  Of course the mother knows the adoptive child did not grow inside, nor was he/she created from her egg and her husbands’ sperm.  It may have been a dream of some adoptive mothers to give birth, and it simply was not possible for medical reasons.  However, after the adoption is final she receives in the mail a birth certificate which states that the child was born to her.

Even she knows it’s not true, but the Certificate of Live Birth says otherwise.  Anyone can see how unhealthy this circumstance is and the potential for it to lead to problems.

Sometimes the deceit gets firmly planted and sets in motion a life time of lies.  This is the case for late discovery adoptees, like me, who are lied to about our birth, adoption, and history.

Standard practices after adopting are for the adoptive parents to share openly and honestly, as soon as possible, that the child is in fact adopted.  This is according to The American Academy of Pediatrics.  And this is not new information, it was mentioned to my parents (and written in the home study) back in 1964.  This recommendation comes from years of research which states that openness and honesty is key to the future relationship with your child.  “It is in the child’s best interest to know the truth about their birth.”

Yet all states and countries  amend and falsify the official record of birth to create the appearance that said adoptive parents gave birth to their adoptive child.

Many believe that this document is not only harmful to the child, as it is false, but also provides the opportunity for an adoptive parent to lie – thus keeping important information such as medical family history from the adopted person.  In addition, a host of other traumas exist for the late discovery adoptee because of the length of time and depth of the lies.

No one can control how a child is raised, whether they are told the truth or not, but the states can provide an alternate form documenting the adoption of a child.  A birth certificate should remain a true factual document of the day a baby is born, even if you are adopted.

In 2010, trying to pass legislation in states to allow adult adoptees their OBC is not enough.  The right thing to do is to stop the practice of falsifying an official document.

The question I ask, is this dream possible? Not this year or next, but sometime in the next decade can we move this direction? Why or why not?

Separate question…I wonder if there are any other late discovery adoptees who would like to sue the state in which they were born for being complicit in perpetuating the lie?  You know, for pain, suffering, the cost of therapy, health issues,  family damage, etc. etc. and so on.   If the state did not follow up to ensure that a child knew they were adopted then they are responsible for providing the golden key to the crime (an altered birth certificate.)

I mean if you’re the passenger in a get away car after a bank robbery you will also be arrested for having taken part in a crime, right?  Or maybe an insider trading analogy would be better… not sure, but you see my point.

Anyone know an appropriate lawyer to ask?

Okay, back to the issue;  adoption is part of our society, and always will be, however, we can do it better with more concern for the adoptee (who is only a child for a short portion of their life.)  I also dream that all men are created equal (fist bump – blow it up, Thomas Jefferson) and should be treated equal at birth and upon adoption.

The Declaration of Independence says:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and so on….

Ahh… Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness while having your OBC like everyone else.

Magic in the air

The journey of 9-11-10.

I’ve met the most amazing people, and I know you’ll want to learn about them and hear their stories.

As I have been on my roller coaster the past couple of years, theirs is in an entirely different park, a special outta this world place.  It’s sort of the super-coaster, one that holds the “important men” of the world.  It’s the place where heroes live.

While we each journey to the next moment and place, some folks experience incredible events.  On rare occasions we have the chance to come together from all across the world and get to know one another.  Personally, I got the better end of this experience, by far!

What are the chances that I would ever meet Kelly Hillyer, the soldier assigned to guard, transport, and befriend Saddam Hussein?  He is the first one who comes to mind.  And then there were other soldiers, with amazing stories.

As I get to know them in the priceless few moments we speak, I am truly humbled.  For who they are and what they’ve done, yes… but mostly because they don’t see them-selves as unique or particularly special.

When I first saw Kelly at the Scottsdale Princess, I thought – what a handsome guy.  I know, who says handsome guy? I guess us older women maybe.  (Shh…did I just write that, oh well.  I own it, I know I’m older than Kelly.)  He had a nice casual camp shirt on and just wandered around meeting people like the rest of us.   When I got to talk to him, he was polite and I couldn’t believe the incredibleness that is him.

At one point, while listening to him speak about his time guarding Saddam, Hayden and I looked at each other in amazement.  I swear there was a bubble over our heads that read, “Are you kidding?”  His story is remarkable, and not at all what you would expect.  (You’ll have to wait for him to finish his military career before the book or documentary comes out.)  Here he is with the opening speaker at the event, his friend John.

Kelly and John McCain

Before I go on, let me share how I began on this track.  It started with David Haddad, the owner of Fumar Cigars.

While I do not partake, Mike does… oh and Hayden too.  This is a special soul, this Mr. Haddad – his life and adventures should be a book series.  One great thing he does is support Fighter Country Foundation by hosting an annual fundraising event called, The 9/11 Patriot Day Celebration.  Meeting David came about after an introduction from our high school friend, Fred Lanier; who I love, and cherish the time we share with him and his family.   Anyway, David, Mike, and Hayden became fast friends.  Hayden was asked to do the video production stuff for the event (and the commercial before hand.)  Mike also helped out and got Bank of America to join as a sponsor of the 9-11 Patriot Day event.  This allowed us to attend and meet so many great people at a pre-event party.  Which by the way was an event on its own.  David does it up right.  (If you are ever in the vicinity of Deer Valley Air Park stop in Fumar, or http://www.fumarcigarsusa.com )

This was the first time I met Dennis Clark.  I don’t think I know the words to express how much I like this man.  He lives in Iowa and his resume reads more impressive than any President or business mogul.

After a couple of days, when someone would ask who is Dennis Clark, I’d say, “Oh he’s the man, the king, the greatest guy.”  They’d ask, “No really, what does he do?”  I’d say, “What doesn’t he do.  Today he is here with Derrick, and can share with you the wonderful thing that his company is doing with prosthetics, just like they did with Derrick’s legs.”

Dennis Clark, is the president of  OPGA (The Orthotic and Prosthetic Group of America (OPGA) which is the largest network of independent orthotic and prosthetic patient care facilities in the nation., and POINT- Health Centers of America.  Their moto, “At POINT we are committed to our mission; to function as a vehicle for independent, ABC accredited orthotic and prosthetic facilities to compete with the large, national and regional firms in the managed care health-care environment.”  He also has Clark & Associates, Prosthetics and Orthotics. Whew…. And he’s also a friend of Fred Lanier.  So, he’s in! ; )

But that’s not what keeps him busy, he is a champion, a friend, a father, and guardian of his grandchildren.  He and his wife will soon adopt his two grand children because their parents cannot care for them. To think, he was so excited to know my affiliation with American Adoption Congress!  I twitch, move, and bounce as I laugh inside at his excitement.

Funny though, the first thing I thought, “I wonder if the kids will have new birth certificates issued stating they were born to Dennis and his wife?”  It’s an occupational hazard… maybe next time we’ll discuss that.

Dennis introduced me to his friend Derrick.  He’s like my neighbor’s son, who I adore.  Or like a friend of Ashleigh or Hayden’s.  Such a nice polite young man.

Sue & Derrick @ Patriot Day event

Susan & Derrick at 9/11 Patriot Day Event

While walking with him, two small kids about 5 and 7 years old came up and finally one took a deep breath of courage and asked why he had “those” legs.  When he explained that he’d had an accident, etc. the other boy asked what happened to his real legs.  To which he said, “Well, I’m gonna be honest – they got blown up.”

The boys, with eyes like saucers asked, “Where did that happen?”

“In Iraq.”

With a scowl, “Where’s Iraq?” And the boys looked around, like Derrick was crazy.

Derrick continued to explain as the dad came over, and while you never know the knowledge or understanding of what someone has or what a child may say, Derrick was comfortable and very friendly.  He showed them his legs, and explained how he is good as new.

While I didn’t know him as a service man, or how he got “blown up” – the guy I spent time with was the nicest person I’d met in a long time.  As time went on and I learned more about his story, I marveled at the courage and his love for life.

I thought, “I don’t want to dwell on my challenges, on being adopted and having so much death in my world.  I want to be like Derrick and think forward and be grateful for what I do have.”

Derrick is so obviously grateful for what he has, and what he doesn’t have – he doesn’t focus on.

I only wish he didn’t live so far away.  After the event he traveled back to Missouri, where he celebrated his “re-birth” anniversary and hopefully friends and family showered him proudly with love.  Then it will be back to work for him at his landscape business.  If I remember right, it was a 6 year re-birth party.

Derrick's legs

I can only imagine where his roller coaster has taken him these past years.  I know for sure that it is a proud red, white, and blue coaster with Dennis right behind him in a big white rescue-horse-cart filled with supplies such as love, care, and compassion.

The time spent with these people meant a lot to me; I knew it each moment by moment.  It was one of those times in your life that is great and you know this too shall pass.

So I took deep breaths,  smiled body and soul because I knew something magic was in the air.

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