January 27, 2014

TWO Blockbuster Adoption Books in One Week?
My Cup Runneth Over!

Fate would have it that two hot things in adopt-o-world are happening THIS WEEK!  It’s the release of two breakthrough books, and my only dilemma is which one to talk about first.  These books will change the world as we know it! I truly believe that.

I’m so honored to be a contributing author to both books. Both are anthologies and feature some of the most incredible people I’ve ever had the privilege to know.

The two amaaaaaazing books are:

Adoption Reunion in the Social Media Age,  the brain child of my bestie, Laura Dennis who compiled and edited this masterpiece.  


 Lost Daughters: Writing About Adoption From a Place of Empowerment and Peace edited by Amanda H.L. Transue- Woolston, Julie Stromberg, Karen Pickell and Jennifer Anastasi, published by CQT Media and Publishing, LGA.  

Already, the Lost Daughters book has hit #1 in Amazon's adoption hot new releases and #4 in adoption bestsellers!

Both books are a MUST HAVE for anyone who cares anything about adoption. 

Right now they are both available on Kindle and in the months forthcoming they will be available for paperback purchase.

On Wednesday I’m going to share more about the Lost Daughters book. And on Friday, I’m doing an interview with the lovely Lori Lavender Luz, one of the authors of Adoption Reunion in the Social Media Age. She's someone I've grown to love and respect, a lot. 

Here at Adoptee Restoration, I’m going to be talking about both books in all of my posts this week, because I believe strongly in both projects. When you read these books, you'll see for yourself that every chapter in these books is a home run.

With Laura Dennis’s permission, I’m going to share a portion of my chapter in the Adoption Reunion in the Social Media Age book, in today's post, below.  

My train ride, home...

Last year, Laura asked me to be the writer of the chapter, “When a Reunion Isn’t a True Reunion.” I knew it was going to be one of my toughest writing assignments ever.  But I never imagined that I'd type it out while riding on a train back home from my natural mother's funeral, with tears streaming down my face. 

When my natural mother passed away, I had what I now refer to as “The Casket Chat.” There was a private family viewing before she was cremated. Her soul or spirit were not there, but it was symbolic for me, and very important. I shared with her how I felt about what transpired on February 28, 2013, and the months following up to the present day and the choice she made. Although other family members were in the room, I had my time alone at the casket with opportunity to quietly whisper what was on my mind. 

A contemplative breakfast by myself on the train

During my almost 23 hour train ride home. I typed out everything I remembered from the Casket Chat, with it still being fresh in my mind. I promised Laura that her book would be the exclusive place I share "The Casket Chat" it in writing. She didn't ask me to do that, but I wanted to -- in order to give something to this book that I would give no where else -- because I believe so much in Laura's book.

So without further adieu, the following is my chapter in the book, up to the Casket Chat.

When a Reunion Isn't a True Reunion

The unknown.

It haunted me most over the years as an adoptee.

Who and where did I come from?

Why wasn‘t I raised with my original family?

Was there no one, absolutely no one, in the large maternal family I come from, who could step up and care for me, to keep me with the family?

Why was it determined that I would be better off raised with strangers outside the family, and not my kin?

For years I fantasized that if I could just meet my original mother, all of my questions would be answered. The unknown would suddenly be known. 

Leaving the prison of secrecy would finally be a reality for me after almost three decades of life.

Living with so many unanswered questions was the most difficult aspect, although I almost never spoke of it. Like many—perhaps even most—adoptees, I kept all of my feelings about this to myself. There‘s an unwritten rule that we‘re just supposed to be okay with all of this and maintain a thankful heart just because we are alive.

One thing I have sensed from countless adoptees is that it‘s hard sometimes to overflow with thankfulness for being alive when being alive hurts so much. 

And, most people don‘t understand what we need to heal and in fact, tell us we don‘t have a right to it nor will they give it to us.

Photo Credit: PeWu, Flickr

The Long and Winding Road

Mine was a rocky road to the actual reunion with my original mother. The first time she had any contact regarding me as an adult was with a confidential intermediary through the reunion program of the adoption agency that I was placed with.

Very long story short—she said no.

And I cried myself to sleep for two years.

During the day I was managing two babies who are a year apart in age, as well as holding a demanding position of staff pastor of a mid-size church. I held myself together during the day for the sake of my husband, children and church and at night I would sob until I was wrung out like a dishrag. There were times I sensed I was going to sob and lose control during the day and I‘d quickly get to a private place where no one would have to witness my pain. After two years of crying and hearing from God in prayer, I decided to continue searching and ultimately approach her myself.

I believe every human being has a right to look into the eyes of the two people they originate from, at least once. And if they are not still alive—a name and a photo of the persons they come from. I don't believe they have a right to bombard them after that with further contact, to stalk or harass them. I do however, believe that if you birth a child—it's the humane thing, the kind thing—yes, the right thing to do, to give them a face-to-face with you at least once, if they request it.

My plan was to meet her once, say what I had to say, give her a journal I had written for her over the years and then ask her if I could have one photo to remember her by if she never wanted to see me again. I took a camera just in case she was not willing to part with a photo.

Upon finding out my mother‘s name and address, I drove the eight hour trip to knock on her door unannounced and meet her.

Yes, it was the scariest thing I ever did.
Yes, my legs were like Jello walking up to her door.
Yes, it was extremely awkward at first.

Our conversation that night resulted in what is now a twenty year relationship with she and my step father, and (half) brother and sister.

Even though I entered into an active relationship with the maternal side of my family, I learned quickly that reunion doesn't magically solve everything. Something inside me did settle down to a degree once I met my mother and siblings. But so much never settled down.

Many who are not adopted fail to realize that adoption is not a thing of the past for adoptees. You wake up adopted, each day—for the rest of your life. Even in reunion! I have been told, ―You aren't adopted... you were adopted. That is past. Now, you just need to leave the past behind, and move on. The fact is that I will always be adoptedeven with the knowledge and relationship with my maternal family—reunion does not change that I am still an adoptee. And, many of my questions go unanswered.

Photo Credit: Electric Eye, Flickr

 The Missing Piece

At peace with the knowledge of who my mother, sister and brother were—and my active relationship with them, there was still part of me missing.

My natural father.

Twenty years of reunion on my maternal side passed, without knowing who my original father was.

My mother made it clear from the first night of our reunion; he wasn't a subject up for discussion. On the night of our reunion she told me my father was Greek, in fact she referred to him as a ―Greek God.  I was told that I looked like him. She expressed obvious distain for him, saying that he did not acknowledge nor help her with the pregnancy. She inferred in our talk that night that he refused to believe that I existed. For all these years my husband has jokingly said, ―I can assure everyone she exists. I pay her bills!

I was so grateful to be in relationship with my natural mother and siblings that I did whatever it took to keep the peace and not keep asking about my father, though my questions churned inside.

It was hard for me to mount up the courage to go there again. After everything I went through to gain not only knowledge of, but an active relationship with my maternal family, I didn't want to ruin it.

My natural (half) sister had inquired over the years, asking my mother about my first father.

She believed that it was very important for me to know.
And, she told our mother that she felt I needed to know the truth.
Yet this part of my history was a vault—sealed up tight.

When dealing with the subject of a father, mothers need to realize that it‘s not just a part of her history but the adoptee's history too. The mother and daughter or son are co-owners of this history. Observing my own family dynamics, as well as many others, shows me that many others do not realize that someone else is also the rightful co-owner of this information.

The years were going by and I realized my original father, if still alive, was not getting any younger. Time was running out, to find him. I try and try to imagine what he looks like. What his voice sounds like. Apparently I favor him, this Greek God.

I assumed that searching out faces in public places to find features like mine would leave when I reunited with my mother. It doesn't. I still stare into men's faces everywhere, especially ones who are elderly Greek men, focusing in on their unique features, wondering if they are my original father. I try to look away nonchalantly, if they notice I am staring at them.

Great Rift Valley ~ Photo Credit: Deanna Shrodes
The Great Rift Valley

I‘ve been to the Great Rift Valley in East Africa, and stood over the vast expanse. I‘ve stared down and imagined what it would be like to fall from there, and taken many photos of its beauty. Even so, I‘ve emotionally experienced a much more traumatic fall than what I‘ve ever envisioned as a possible fall into the Great Rift Valley.

I mounted the courage to ask my mother for my father‘s name.

Not only did she decline and say she wasn‘t willing to give me his name, ever, although she most certainly knows who my father is… but it resulted in a horrible falling out. It was the Great Rift of our relationship, creating a huge valley of pain between us.

The breach was so traumatic, the words spoken so painful; I ended up going to therapy to be able to move forward. I worked for four months on healing for me, and on mending our relationship.

When the rift between us first occurred, I would often ruminate with my circle of friends that, ―I never asked her for anything before… only my father‘s name. I‘ve expected nothing of her… and now… this!!!   Upon asking my mother to verify this, she even agreed with me that I had never asked her for anything and said I had been a blessing for twenty years.

Truth be told while I didn‘t ask her for anything, I came to realize that I did have unspoken expectations.

After she agreed to come into active relationship with me, I was looking to my natural mother for what I perceive as motherly attributes: unconditional love, acceptance, understanding, the willingness to do anything within one‘s power to take away a child‘s pain. These are all things I would give and do for my kids, and so naturally I just thought, ―This is what my mother will do for me...

And that‘s not what happened.

It seemed so simple, this asking for my mother to give me two words, a first and last name.

I wasn‘t asking her to see him, talk to him, or have anything to do with him. I only wanted his name and I would take it from there.

I chose to go the route of DNA testing, with three companies. At first when I let her know I had chosen this path, she told me our relationship would be over if I pursued it. She later changed her mind but our relationship never healed although I did make an effort.

Four months after the rift between us, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. She died just two months later. I never received his name from her. She took her secrets to the grave, just as she promised me she would. What resulted was not only a process of healing I had to embark on to move forward from her death, but I also needed to heal from her refusal to give what I needed most.

My dreams of reunion were many.

I wanted to finally get out of what is known by adoptees as the Ghost Kingdom.

To have all my questions answered about my history.
To know my natural parents‘ identities.
I am over twenty years out from reunion, and this has not happened.

Disappointment in Reunion

A lot is said about ―angry adoptees. Frankly, the anger is justified in that we have not received basic human rights extended to those who are not adopted.

I would not describe myself as an angry adoptee, yet I would describe myself as a disappointed one. Therapy has been invaluable to bring me to a place of peace and joy in my daily life, particularly with the family my husband and I have created, and our many friends.

I could wallow in my adoptee-disappointment daily and make no personal progress. This would be very easy to do as some days it‘s overwhelming. But I‘ve chosen to burn the disappointment, and yes, some days the anger, as fuel for the journey.

My disappointment burns as fuel to light the fire of my legacy. I‘m determined to live differently than those who have gone before me.

I spent my mother‘s final hours with her at hospice, having ample time alone with her. I never brought up the subject of my father during that time, as I didn‘t want to put any stress on her in last moments, not to mention she was unable to speak. However when we had the private family viewing before she was cremated, I went to the casket alone and shared my feelings, in an act of closure for me. I know she wasn‘t there—only the shell of her body was there, but for me it felt like she was present, because her body lay before me. I quietly stood over her casket and declared who I was and why. I shared with her about decisions I‘ve made for my life, influenced heavily by decisions she made about hers.

This is what I said…

Casket Chat

To read the rest of this chapter, the infamous “Casket Chat” – and 20 life-changing chapters altogether -- purchase the book here.