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!

This Too Shall Pass

Last night as my cart rolled in for the evening, I over heard my husband as he was getting into bed.  He was talking to the dog.  Well, not just any dog, it was our “Princess.”

“Mom’s gonna be a famous writer.  Maybe she’ll write about you one day.  Yeah…” he paused and then spoke in this adorable soft-spoken voice, “It could be called, ‘Ramp it.’  Yeah… and maybe she’ll even tell how you fell in the pool today, poor baby girl.”

Bicki

Bicki

I asked from around the corner, “Are you talking to me? It kinda sounds like you were talking to me… or Bicki?”

I got in bed and he said, “uhm… yeah I was just talking to Bick.”

I hold this sweet man’s face.

“I know, I heard you tell her about the book,” I say, “I love you, and thank you for being so proud of me.”

I’m thankful, at peace.

“Ramp it,”  is a term we use to tell Bicki to climb her ramp, make her journey up to the bed.  I also “Ramped it” the past week or so to get here myself.

Such a flurry of activity the past 10 days, and I see that there’s many more miles of ups and downs on this ride.  At first, I thought – Has there been miles and miles of track added?  And, where am I going now? I had to completely put away the book I was reading, The Help (by Kathryn Sockett I believe)-  and hold on!  (I don’t want to forget what was happening with Miss Minny.)

As I neared August 26th I realized that two years had passed since I sat at my mom’s and learned about the DNA results.  It was a foggy-realization day until my email messages popped up on my computer.  One at a time, revealing the last one, received at 9:04 a.m.  It was a message from a publisher discussing their proposed contract.  My index fingers cleared my eyes, once and then twice.  After a hard blink, I read it again.

“We look forward to working with you and publishing your fine book.” He wrote.

Oh good God, thank you – someone thinks I have a fine book.  I danced around, I have a fine book. I felt like Rudolph, “She thinks I’m cute… She thinks I’m cute…”

I have a fine book!  I have a fine book!

On August 27th it was my 27th anniversary with Mike, and together in my sapphire blue cart we had a lovely weekend away.  Surrounded by cool thin air, we climbed to 11,000 feet to gaze upon the beauty of Northern Arizona.  Ha, bet you didn’t know my cart could jump the track and hop on a ski lift?

Once back in oven-of-the-valley where I cannot even touch the sides of my cart, it feels like I rolled into a hurricane. There’s mess everywhere and you feel like you want to crawl away over the debris, and find a safe place to hide.  Or at least sleep for a few days.  What didn’t frighten me in those few days, exhausted me.

Thankfully, as I push my “rosies” back up onto the bridge of my nose, I get it together and one would hardly know of said difficulties, exhaustion or storm.  Thanks in part to a half-day in Paradise.  There’s nothing like a friend who’s on your side to lift your spirits.  This friend, by the way, will make the best pre-k teacher around.

My cart maneuvers me through every bit of joy and difficulty that I need.

I learn lesson after lesson of what angry people look like and how to bravely pass by them.  When I truly see them, with lowered glasses, I can only feel pity and want to be far away.

I grow as I find ways to cope with losing my mom two years ago September 5th.   (Hmm… A cope-tini may possibly be a new annual spirit to enjoy.)

I’m less angry at her for not telling me I was adopted, yet still conflicted about whom she really was and how she could keep such a secret.  It is all embraced as my path, my ride, and I accept and love who I am today.  What she did, well – that’s on her, and I can’t change a thing.

However , it was a time of rebirth this late discovery and loss.  If it weren’t for the DNA results, or my mother’s passing I would not be a writer with a book deal.  Those events were like Miracle Grow.

(Late Discoveries will be published and at your local bookstore and Amazon.com next fall.)

Beginning in 2009, I was propelled like no coaster could with nuclear drive and energy.  As I look back at early chapters, the date/time stamps – I’m even impressed.  I may have gained a little secretary spread, but I created hundreds of documents and told beautiful stories.  The images blossomed and my creativity kept me excitingly alive.

Yesterday, I got the final contract – it was so fun to look over all these pages and investigate what I was getting into.  Mike and I researched, Googled and asked others for help.

When something didn’t sound right, I just smiled and thought – this percentage for subsidiary rights in my contract doesn’t sound right.  Oh my God, I have a contract and I’m learning about subsidiary rights!

I’m basking in the glory, for I know THIS TOO SHALL PASS.