July 31, 2017

Another year

Today’s my birthday.  

Over half a century has gone by. 

Yes, it's really been that long. 

I am still searching. 

And I wonder how many more birthdays will go by before I know, and if you are even still having birthdays.

July 3, 2017

9 Things I Learned in Search of the Perfect Life

I figure a lot of things out as I go along. I believe everyone does, and if they tell you otherwise they are just fooling themselves.  And furthermore, they aren't growing as a person. We didn’t know what we didn’t know, before we knew. 

Today I want to share something I have been trying to coming to terms with. 

I asked God why He allowed me to have anything less than a perfect life after relinquishment and adoption. To me, that was enough pain for a lifetime. I had the attitude, “Hey God, I did my time.” I really believed in my heart that this loss and living as "the different one" my whole life was enough for anybody to face, and that God should have understood that. And He should have acted accordingly. It never works well to tell God what He should have done.

I was mad about this for a long time. I was confused about the losses that just kept right on coming.  (The dysfunction and eventual breakup of my adoptive home, etc., the loss of our first baby after we got married, the pain of things not going the way I dreamed of in the first church we pastored, etc.)

One time I was being prayed for during an altar service. To my recollection I was 17 or 18 years old. I was still in bible college when this happened because I remember talking to my best friend Joanne Greer about this. And the pastor who prayed for me, having heard a bit of my situation made the statement that he was surprised I hadn’t committed suicide by that point in my life. He was saying he sympathized with what I had gone through in life and was surprised I hadn’t given up. Then he prayed for me to be healed of what I was feeling inside. It wasn’t a bad experience at the altar, in fact it was kind of healing in itself to just have someone validate what I was feeling when for so much of my life nobody affirmed any of these feelings.

So fast forward a few decades and even more loss, and with it a few friends gently spoke into my life, sharing with me that many people – adopted or not adopted, face hurts and losses. That pain is not unique to adoption. At first I got upset that they said it.  I felt dismissed. (And maybe I was.) I tried to get out of the conversation as quickly as possible. I wanted avoid more pain as well as preserve the relationships of people who I had this conversation with.  But I still thought about it all the time even though I didn't talk about it. Some things are hard to hear but we still need to unpack them, nevertheless.

This was something I needed to come to terms with, inside myself. Because with each loss that would come my confusion grew. Did God not understand that I now deserved something different? Maybe not more in life but something different than what I was getting?  

I'm careful to use the word deserve, because when it comes to work and outcomes, we typically get what we deserve. "You get what you put into it," we hear. I've found that true. The harder I hustle, the more the return. Success only comes before work in the dictionary. But on these random things like losses and pain and grief, I can't work my way out of them or control them. And I felt like I had already fulfilled the trauma quotient by birth. But God didn't feel the same. After about four years of thinking A LOT about this, for probably thousands of hours -- here’s what I have arrived at.

People face multiple traumas in their lives. No one is immune. I have many friends whose spouses have cheated, abandoned them, and then they have cancer. I have one friend who has been abandoned by her husband and has now faced cancer not once but twice. And the heck of a lot more. And she is NOT adopted. Is my loss worse than hers?   Truth be told in most of my friends who are not adopted I can name multiple traumatic circumstances in their lives -- children dying, cancer, abandonment of spouse, etc.

So how am I any different as an adoptee? This is what I’ve wrestled with.

Many of my non-adopted counterparts outnumber me in traumas. Nobody gets a guarantee of having only one trauma in life, even adoptees. And sometimes our non-adopted friends will outnumber us in the amount of things faced. I have come to understand that my loss feels worse because I have faced it longer than most of them will face theirs. 

My loss started before I was even born. 

Who else on earth can say that but an adoptee? Who literally felt their loss before they breathed their first breath? 

My mother knew she was giving me up even though she vacillated at times, and didn’t sign the papers for 47 days after I was born. She was at the maternity home four or five months after she got pregnant – because she had no where to go. She was homeless...having been kicked out of the house once her pregnancy was revealed. So from April of 1966 to August of that same year, she was living in a maternity home – moving toward relinquishment. Scientific studies show that stress that an expectant mother is under affects a child in the womb.

I was affected by all of that trauma before I exited my mother's body. Then, I continued to be impacted by it once I was born. I was a baby and couldn't control any of that. It was what it was. My mother and I never had contact while I was in the hospital. I was never laid on her chest – there was no warm contact of human being – no skin-to-skin nurture, for a long time. From as long as I can remember, I rub my feet on the sheets to soothe myself to go to sleep, even as a married fifty year old woman with a husband who is affectionate with me, and gives me all the skin to skin contact I could possibly want. 

I’ve arrived at a place of understanding that my loss feels so much more profound than my friends although it may not really be more profound, because I’ve experienced it for even longer than day one of my born life. I use the word feels because I’ve come to understand it’s a feeling, not necessarily reality though it is my reality it may not be reality for the rest of the world.  This trauma I have faced feels like the absolute worse thing anyone in the world can face. But is it? I've been grappling...

Perhaps my friend facing multiple cancers does have it worse. But then we are getting into comparing pain. Which never leads to anything productive. I’ve come to see that pain is pain and the person who faces it just feels that theirs is the worst because it’s their day-to-day reality. And here’s my point – this loss has been my reality and most any adoptee's reality for longer than we've been alive. And as soon as I came to be able to realize what happened I felt like enough was enough and I didn’t deserve any more loss in life. And, it’s not the way things work. Life isn’t fair. The fair is where you get cotton candy. 

What hurts the most at times isn’t that I believe my loss  is more profound than anyone else’s but that it is dismissed as nothing and unacknowledged and worst of all mocked or even praised by some. Yes, the praising kills you. That is what is so painful at times.   

After letting all this percolate in my mind for so long one thought I have is that I don’t want to be someone who mocks a loss, especially one I haven’t endured. I pray I can be the healing hands of Jesus, not someone people avoid so as to not endure even more than they have already faced.  

A lot of things happen to all of us that we don't expect or deserve. Life is amazing AND life is hard.  

My thoughts today probably seem like one bit fat nonsensical rambling. Maybe people who read this will think I’ve seriously gone mad. But here’s what my takeaways are from today’s blog post…

  1. Everybody faces pain. 
  2. It does no good to compare pain. 
  3.  Relinquishment and adoption are some of the most complicated losses to  try to explain.
  4. Adoption loss feels the worst because we experienced the loss and were affected by it before we even got here.
  5. It will be hard for anyone else on the planet to understand the day-to-day reality of those who have known this particular loss that affected us even before birth. We can't expect those who haven't endured it to understand it. It's rather incomprehensible for those outside of it and all the more reason we need each other.
  6.  Our reality can feel like it’s the worst simply because we’ve faced it for so long and don’t know what it’s like to live any other way. 
  7.  To have your loss go unacknowledged or mocked may even be worse than the initial pain itself.
  8.  Life’s not fair. You can go through what you feel is the worst pain of all yet it may be far from the last loss you will ever face.
  9. Nobody has a perfect life. Yet, we can all strive to build a great one despite whatever losses we have faced.    

    All photos by me 

June 13, 2017

The Story of My Life: Waiting on Another DNA Test Result

I’m waiting on a DNA test! Again!

I’ve been doing a lot of advertising in the area of Highland Springs - Richmond, Virginia, where I come from.  I have reached out to former classmates of my mother's, and anyone in the neighborhood who may have known her. I have even had a phone call with a 91 year old man in the community who reached out to me to help! He was a delight. In sharing the details of my story in the neighborhood – I have gotten literally HUNDREDS of responses and leads as to who my father may be. 

I saw advertising - putting everything out there in the community with names, dates, locations that I do know - to be a last ditch effort. But maybe this should be the first thing we do in a search? Perhaps we hold back because of fear. It's fear of what people will think. But that shouldn't be a factor in simply trying to discover truth. Truth that belongs to you and me. And the fear is unfounded. It’s amazing the people who have written, emailed and called me who lived in the neighborhood at the time (or still do) and actually knew my mother and want to help me.

It was interesting certain last names that kept coming up again and again. One woman who is related to my maternal family saw one of the advertisements and reached out to me to try to help. We have never met before. I sensed right away that I could trust her. I mentioned to her about one of the last names that kept coming up repeatedly among the leads. She was so excited and said, “Oh my gosh, that’s my husband’s family!!!” I asked if she thought someone in the family would DNA test and she said, “absolutely!!!”  So, I paid for the test and had it sent and now we are just waiting. I am hoping for a cousin match.

There are multiple men in this particular family who could be my father, some dead – and some alive! If a first cousin match comes back on this test, then I would need to start going through the cousins and having them test to see which one might be a half-sibling match. The person who tested believes if it comes to that point, everyone in the family will cooperate. We will see!

The two cousins I have spoken to are very excited about this and think others will be too. Of course you never know when you get right up on the moment, but I have faith. There are caring people out there. I find this out in searching, all the time. As many roadblocks as you face, you also meet so many kind souls that are willing to do anything to help another person. Sadly, many of them will immediately reach out to do more than your own family!

So here's a word for those of you who are running into obstacles. We are all familiar with these challenges if we've been searching for very long. Obstacles are generally "secret keepers" who feel it is their mission to protect what should never be protected. (They protect/conceal truth of who you are and where you come from.) People who even go as far to try to protect the dead in some fashion. Have you ever heard of anything so bizarre? Well here's the thing -- for as many of those secret keepers that are out there, there are even more kind souls with open hearts who will do anything to help. Find them! Keep going. Whatever you do - do not quit!

I’ve been through this so many times before, so I am trying to guard my own heart and keep it from breaking again if it's not a DNA match. And yet it's hard to not be excited about the possibility. So I consider what I will do in the event that it's not a match...

What will I do? PRESS ON. I will never give up and will advertise even more.  A few months ago I was so discouraged and said I didn’t know if I could do this again. My heart was shattered in pieces when the last DNA test came back not a match. There was a family in Virginia who sent me pictures at Christmas and said the only thing missing was me. They were already planning our vacation together in Gatlinburg. (No, I am not kidding.) They cried as hard as I did when the test came back not a match. In my lowest moment of bawling over this non-match, my husband looked at me and said, “You don't mean this that you are quitting. I know you. You will keep on. That’s who you are." He was right.

And I say this to any of you who are waiting for breakthrough in your own search and discouraged – I understand. But don’t give up. Press on. People are finding their truth all the time. And DNA is yielding more results every single day. Millions more are testing and every day holds the possibility of a match! And by the way, if you haven't already tested or uploaded your raw DNA to myheritage.com, do it today! I did and have many new matches I am working through. So far I don't have any close ones, but nevertheless I have some new ones.

Everybody pray hard! I may just have a reunion coming up, after 50 (count ‘em 50) years!!! In a few months I could be taking a train to meet family. 

I will never lose hope. 
Don't you lose hope, either. 
We got this.

June 8, 2017

When This Adoptee Faces More Than She Can Bear

I have an incredible life. I admit it.  

I have a fabulous family.

Loving and loyal friends.

A job I love that is more than a job - a ministry, a passion that sets me on fire.

A beautiful place to live.

And at the same time I have gone through so many changes in the past six months it felt like it would kill me at times. 

Where does it show the most? In my dress size. Just keeping it real. 

I can remain stable in loving my family...in managing my job like a pro, in leading a team...but trying to lose five pounds? Yeah, it's up there with asking me to be the one responsible to find the cure for cancer.  Or solve immigration. Or something equally as lofty.

I tell myself if I made it through the past six months of big changes, what else can’t I do?

Change is so hard for me as a person and as an adoptee it is at a whole ‘nother level.

Some people say they thrive on change. The truth is, absolutely no one I know thrives on change unless they are the one making it.  Who do you know that thrives on change that is completely out of their control?

For an adoptee change not of your own making can feel like the world is ending.

It’s not just uncomfortable, it’s terrifying.

Like you wonder if you will survive.

Or if you want to.

So here’s what I know about this. Sometimes we do have more on us than we can bear. 

Did you know the Bible never says we won’t have more on us than we can bear?

Yes,  I know Gospel singers say differently. I know lots of old wives tales and sermons down through the years say the opposite. But the truth is, the Bible never promises, “He will never put more on you than you can bear.” It says you will never be tempted beyond what you can bear. There is a difference between temptation and hardship, or trauma.

I often have more on me than I can bear and you know what? That’s why I need Jesus.

I am thankful for the power of the Holy Spirit that helps me every day through challenges and changes that I could not bear otherwise. 

There have been a lot of them over the past six months and every one of them He is helping me through. 

Now if He can only help me lose a few dress sizes. It will just take time but through a power greater than my own, I can do this. For a while there, I didn't even care. At all. The fact that my dress sizes were going up was inconsequential compared to the loss and pain I was feeling and the insane desire to feel better if only for three to five minutes while a piece of cake went down my throat. 

So here's to caring again.

I pray that while I'm starting to care again, big changes can just stop for a while.

Just stop.
Unless I like you...
Unless I asked for you...
Unless I welcome you...
just stop it already.    

Photo credits: All photos by me  

March 17, 2017

Looking for My Natural Father in the Mirror
Can You Help Me Find Him?

Do you know a man whose face resembles the one above?

If so I need your help...

He might be the man I have been waiting to meet for 50 years.

One day as she was shampooing me, my hairdresser Ada said, "you should start wearing your hair natural more often."

 Although she’s also a good friend I secretly wondered whether she was saying this because of all the extra effort it takes her to straighten my hair. I was always willing to take the time at home. The main reason was that the natural curls were accompanied by frizz.

On this day as Ada finished trimming my hair she said, “Let's try something new. Let me put some product on you to tame the frizz and then lightly dry it with the diffuser and see what you think...” 

When she finished her first attempt at this technique and turned me around to look in the mirror at the finished product, I started to cry. 
"What's wrong?" she questioned. "Nothing is wrong," I answered through tears.

I explained that I realized I was looking at a part of my natural father.

The father I never knew.

There are parts of me that look like my natural mother, who died in the summer of 2013. But many things about me are not like her at all, and my curly hair is one of those things. She had straight hair and so does my sister. And every day I wake up with this mop of curls unless I take the time to straighten them out. 

I have started wearing my hair natural more often, for reasons having mostly nothing to do with looks. When I see my curls, I feel a connection to the father I never knew

I am not obsessed with my looks.  There are a number of things I’d change about my physical self if I could. And yet at least a few times a week, I find myself sitting in front of the mirror, staring at myself until my eyes go dry.  I scrutinize my facial features inspecting every nook and cranny, surveying the canvas of my face for clues. I gaze at the curls going around and around, trying to make sense of my very face. 

It's the strangest thing ever, trying to make sense of your own face.

People who aren't not adopted have no clue what it is to stare at your face that is half a century old and try to understand how it got that way. I literally look at myself in the mirror and say, "Where did this face come from?"

The easy answer is: "God."

I've been told this all my life.

Please understand, I love God. 

I love Him so much.

And yet I know He got two people's help in making my face. 

I know who one of those people was. 

Who was the other?

I focus in and try to block out my mother's features, making every effort to isolate his features and find his face in mine.

What does he look like...this man I come from?

On the first night of our reunion, my mother told me that I look just like him.  (The photo above was the night we reunited, when I was 27 years old. This picture was taken moments before I knocked on her door to introduce my adult self to her.) She immediately noted my curly hair and the color of it and said it reminded her of him. 

I knew he was Greek because that first night she also referred to him as a “Greek God.” My DNA tests bore that out, declaring me as half Greek.
Gazing at my face in the mirror is all that connects me to my natural father, aside from checking my results at Ancestry, 23 and Me, and Family Tree DNA on a regular basis to see if a new match came in. (I have tested at all three companies and at GedMatch.)

So here's where you come in...

Maybe you are reading this and you have a tie to Richmond, Virginia. 

Maybe you know something that you don't even realize will unlock the mystery that I've waited 50 years to finally know.

Many things that people believe are totally insignificant are the things that unlock another person's mystery and provide the piece of the puzzle they have needed.

So, here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to tell you all that I know, and maybe you will realize that you or someone you know, can help me.   

Your help is confidential. 

The details: 

My natural mother grew up on Kalmia Ave. in the Highland Springs area of Richmond, Virginia. Did you live nearby? Do you know someone who did? If so, I want to talk to you. 

My mother graduated from Highland Springs High School in Richmond in 1965.  Are you a member of the class of 1965? I'd like to talk to you.  Do you know someone who is in the Highland Springs class of '65? Can you please ask them to contact me?

My mother graduated from a beauty school in Richmond Virginia around that time, probably sometime between 1664-1965. I do not know which school. No one in the family seems to know what school. Maybe you or a friend or family member attended a beauty school in Richmond during that time.  If so, I'd like to talk to you.

My mother attended the United Methodist Church in Highland Springs. If you or a family member or friend were a regular attender there during the 1960's, I'd like to talk to you.  

My mother reportedly worked at White Cross Drug Store or another drug store in the Richmond area in 1965.  This drug store may have been in the Highland Springs area. If you know anyone who worked at White Cross drugs or any other drug store in the area in 1965, I'd like to talk to you.

I'm looking for a man of Greek descent who was living in Richmond Virginia in November/December of 1965. 

I was conceived in late November or early December of 1965. 

My grandparents may have never lived in the USA. For that matter, my father may not be a US Citizen. Or he may be an immigrant who later became a citizen. 

His name may have been Gus. (I heard this name as I prayed about it in 2013, and in 2014 a maternal relative remembers hearing that my birth father's name was Gus.)

My mother could have met my birth father through any of these avenues – the drug store, the high school, the cosmetology school, the church, etc. I am looking for people who would have been in these places in 1965 who are still alive today and willing to talk to me.

I am not publishing my mother’s full name here on the blog but I will be glad to share that information with anyone who emails me with a desire to help identify my father. 

Email me at: findingmrgreek@gmail.com

I am grateful for anything those reading this can do to help. You are a tremendous help just by sharing this post!

Unfortunately there is no other choice before me at this time but to ask the general public for help. I  have a dedicated team of people who help me search. They have followed every lead that we have received.

My adoptive father is also very supportive, and my heart is glad. Just because I am searching for my natural father doesn't mean I don't love my adoptive father. And, the fact that I am searching doesn't mean I don't live a blessed and full life. I live an incredible life, and still this part of me that is missing - I long to find.

New matches come in on my DNA results all the time. The closest I have thus far is a third cousin match. We spend a lot of time trying to isolate the paternal matches. There aren't many but they are there, and at this time all are distant.  I know one day that big break could come - but my concern is - time goes by daily and my he may still be alive. Thus, time is of the essence and I need to appeal to the public.

No matter which way the road turns, I will always cherish those who have helped me along the way. People like my family, my persevering search team, my wonderful family and everyone who reads here.

You make the broken road a beautiful one

I love you all.  

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