How to Adopt Winter

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Today we awakened to fresh snow. It continued, for hours, snowing off and on. In the high mountain country of the Southwest, snowfall brings a welcome transformation. Instead of autumnal brown, sere, scruffy terrain of the recent months, we now view snow-covered pinons, the nearby Rocky Mountain foothills hooded in white, everything fresh and pristine.  I am drawn to Robert Frost’s musing on the silence of the woods, the solitude of his horse-drawn sleigh journey, the temptation to linger in the stillness contrasted with the needs of the day. So here on this snowbound day, I offer you, dear readers, one of my favorite poems…
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Path to Raven's Ridge, Santa Fe, NM

Path to Raven’s Ridge, Santa Fe, NM

By Robert Frost
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Winter often arrives early here in Santa Fe. This Autumn, it came just in time for “Take a Hike” Day, officially November 17th. Whatever your favorite seasonal way to be outdoors, put on your skis, snowshoes, or your best hiking boots, and tromp away those Monday Blues.

Follow Elaine's Monday musings on adoption and life.

Follow Elaine’s Monday musings on adoption and life.

My Magic Mountain

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To celebrate National Adoption Month, I hereby adopt a mountain.

Monte Sol gives "old as the hills" new meaning

Monte Sol gives me inspiration for writing and a new appreciation for simply being alive.

. Allow me to explain…

Readers may know that my favorite short day hike is Sun Mountain, often called by its Spanish name, “Monte Sol.” Along with three other prominent foothills of the Rockies, it offers a distinctive silhouette. The skyline of southeastern Santa Fe goes like this: Picacho Peak, a near triangle topped by a slanted nipple shape; long galumphing Atalaya, a favorite five-mile hike; and Monte Sol, the most perfectly symmetrical of the three.

Monte Sol is beautiful and convenient. I go there almost every day. When the City of Santa Fe gained permission from landowners for access from the road, they established a trailhead to Monte Sol. It was a landslide victory for local and visiting walkers. The path up Monte Sol became more accessible to not just me (I happen to live practically next door) but to everyone in the world. Often it’s an up-and-down affair, but when I have time, I take advantage of rocky outdoor seating that’s perfect for sunning, meditating, eating a sandwich, writing, or simply watching the clouds drift by.

Though it’s only 8/10ths of a mile to the top of Monte Sol, the elevation gain is nearly

Almost there!

Almost there!

1,000 feet. The steepness makes for a good workout. The final third of the ascent involves over 100 switchbacks and requires one to step up, up, and ever up.

The hike proceeds in three acts: a beginning, middle and end. The first section of path is curved but gentle. The second takes the hiker up a series of large rocks and to a view less of the city below than toward other, unnamed foothills. The contours became darker as the day advances. The final act, most demanding, requires careful footwork as the path narrows, at times disappearing. One mounts a virtual rock staircase, finally reaching a ten-foot wide rock that looks as though it might have been an ocean floor.

From then on, it’s a mostly dirt walkway until the “Ah Ha” moment of reaching the top. Surprisingly, the summit of Monte Sol is a flat area the size of a couple football fields. A panoramic view unfolds in every direction, and one can understand why early settlers compared the high desert terrain to a kind of inland ocean. The southwestern palate of green, sage, tan, brown and purple stretch beneath one in layers. Huge white clouds billow overhead.

There, with the city stretched out below, the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and the Pecos Wilderness to the North, the seeker can find peace and serenity. On warm afternoons, it is often tempting to stay awhile, basking in the sun like a lazy lizard.

That said, though one can find solitude here, on this particular Sunday afternoon, I encounter a dozen other hikers. There’s the man with the Irish Setter with a yellow bandana around his neck (the dog’s neck, not the man’s). Along come the mothers of small children who’ve managed to train their little ones to tackle the arduous walk but to make it fun, and the young woman with headphones who is running rather than walking. I can’t imagine how she would jog the steeper boulder sections, but assume she pauses to pick over the rocks before continuing her fast pace.

Then I remember my younger self, a Me who was always running and training for the next marathon. I would not have been daunted by a few precipitous passes. A lifetime ago…I miss those running days. And yet, I’m grateful to be covering the same territory. I’m glad to be out here, slower but still strong.

Enough of Monte Sol musing. It’s time to leave the summit and head back down into the real world. I watch gigantic black birds circling overhead and take a final look at the distant road stretching south to Albuquerque, then hike down to the flatlands. I know my adopted trail much better now, and I feel completely ready for an afternoon of writing.

Do YOU have a path that leads you to serenity and healing? Please let me know about your best hiking trail, and, without mentioning your name, I’ll be happy to share your reflections with my followers.

At the top of Monte Sol, Atalaya Peak in the background.

Elaine at the top of Monte Sol, Atalaya Peak looming in the background.

A is for Ascending

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Rising above adoption injuries may be the work of a lifetime, but it is work worth doing.

November is National Adoption Month, and in that spirit, I’m re-visiting some of my earlier realizations about recovering from the invisible wounds of adoption.  As every adult adoptee realizes, the deep-seated after-affects of adoption don’t go away. Impossible to change the past history that so shaped us as we grew up. What we can change is how we regard that baggage. It is something we must bear, and the stronger we become, the lighter seems the burden. I think of it as ASCENDING.

Here, slightly altered, is my realization about the anger that arose from my “adoptee status.” It was originally published on this website two years ago. Happily, I spend less and less time in the Canyon and more time, both metaphorically and actually, climbing mountains.

Anger is a terrible thing. Unless one deals with it, the feeling can deepen into a Canyon of Despondency. It seems there is no bottom and that one can never escape this negative emotion.

Until I admitted that unresolved issues about adoption were the root of my unhappiness, I was doomed to be the victim of angry, hurtful emotions. Because I had wonderful adoptive parents, it was very hard to blame them for anything. I admired and respected them. Only after they were gone did I realize how much the shame and secrecy about adoption had drained my self-confidence.

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Separation at any age leaves invisible scars.

Adoption adds so much to a child’s life: parents who chose him or her, security and stability, a room of one’s own.
But it also takes away: blood ties, growing up with someone who shares your DNA, parents who probably look like you. As a baby, you resided for nine months inside your mother’s womb; you were connected at a primal level.
The adoption that followed your birth also represents a LOSS.

During the long years I dwelled on the loss of connection with my birthparents, I wandered a bottomless pit of unhappiness. I could never resolve my feelings of deprivation. I’d been part of my birthmother. I spent the first few years of my life with her. Didn’t that bond us forever?

When I was adopted at age five, which I describe in my memoir The Goodbye Baby: A Diary about Adoption, I did not ask questions. Instead, I grew up longing to know where I came from, why I was relinquished. I desperately needed to parse out what part of me was nature and what was nurture.

To articulate my anger would have seemed ungrateful; Depressed and resentful, I was a wild and uncontrolled adolescent. Re-reading diary entries about my teenage escapades, I pitied my adoptive parents. The diaries revealed an unflattering truth. They showed how slow-burning rage drove me to recklessness, to throwing myself into dangerous situations. All the outward successes—good grades, a nice appearance, friends and a social life—were a facade. I felt I had no value, which deepened my sense of loss.

As I entered adulthood, I began to realize that my outlook on life had developed around a perceived loss. Never mind that I had wonderful adoptive parents. I pay tribute to them in From Calcutta with Love: the WWII Letters of Richard and Reva Beard. However, they either could not or would not talk about what happened. I had to accept their philosophy, that I began life as the “born again daughter.”

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Join Elaine every Monday for reflections on adoption and life.

Anger, unchecked, tends to grow.  At least, in my case, this was true. It intensified over time. Before I looked back at the past revealed in diary entries of The Goodbye Baby, I wandered the canyons of despair.  I had to climb my way out to release my anger. For me the path was, and still is, writing. Spend time with your inner self to discover who you really are. Dig deep and then ascend. YOU are worth it!

Carrying a Heavy Sack

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Carrying a Heavy Sack
“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
― Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

Remembering family history can weigh heavily.

Remembering family history can weigh heavily.

It’s been said that “everyone is carrying around a heavy sack.” The sack, of course, is a metaphor for woes and concerns that come with everyday life situations. Some sacks are heavier than others. Not surprisingly, I feel that the sack of adoptees weighs tons more than most. The issues we adoptees face aren’t the kind that go away easily. As life goes on, the issues simply take different forms.
Such questions as “Why don’t I have a real family tree?”; “Am I repeating the mistakes of my (birth/adoptive) parents?” “If I love someone, will (he/she) abandon me?” and finally, ironically, “If I do not have to solve the problems of adoption, what’s left for me?” I am no longer an “adult adoptee,” but simply “an adult.”
What IS it about being adopted? About not quite belonging and slipping into a feeling of alienation? Picture this. The evening has arrived at last: A fundraiser for Youth Shelters. I’m at the benefit party I’ve been planning for months, and the guests are having a wonderful time. Jean (not her real name) mentions that she knows of a birthmother who had a most wonderful reunion with a son she had to give away when he was just an infant. The meeting, recounts Jean, was completely wonderful and now the reunited mother and son have a great relationship.
Immediately, I recall the not-so-satisfactory meeting with my birthmother and hardly pay attention to what else Jean is saying. Why can’t I be present? After grappling with my adoption angst for so many years, shouldn’t I be less reactionary? Less easily injured and thrown off balance?
Jean is still talking and I tune back in to what she’s saying. She wants to help the mission of Youth Shelters, which is directed toward helping homeless adolescents and young people. Another volunteer! How wonderful. I shove thoughts of my unsatisfactory reunion under the rug and put my cheery facade back into place. The evening is a success and everyone, especially Jean, seems to be having a wonderful time.
I realize that my sack of concerns may never really lighten, but that I am capable of becoming stronger. After all, the family constellation formed long ago. Changing it would be like moving the stars. This is impossible. The only star I can change is

Aspen Vista, Santa Fe, New Mexico

Aspen Vista, Santa Fe, New Mexico

myself.

Poetry Monday

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“When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

“Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.”
― Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

It seems that no matter how far I’ve come, the ghosts of my “adoption past,” unbidden, come back to haunt me. What to do about the attack? I realized that it might be a good idea to do some re-naming. Instead of “Blue Monday,” I’m choosing to call today “Poetry Monday.” The choice of whether or not to go with the painful memories or to push through them and then move on is always available. Pushing, shoving, dislodging, climbing up out of the depths. Along those lines, I offer you a poem that has provided me with great solace throughout the years…1413231694198
The Road Not Taken
By Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Do you recall roads not taken in your life? What choices and twists of fate have shaped your destiny?

Reaching out to Homeless Teens

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How can we make a difference, we who have so much, to those who have so little?

Autumn is well underway and Winter fast approaching. At 7,000 feet—the elevation of my hometown of Santa Fe, New Mexico—the nights are growing cold. Life on the streets is becoming increasingly harsh. Brutal. Dehumanizing. Youth Shelters, a local nonprofit provides a beacon of hope and a safe haven for a forgotten layer of the homeless: adolescents. This organization performs street outreach with warm coats, water, and hope. The professional staff can provide temporary housing for young people who have nowhere else to go. Because I was adopted at age five by loving parents, I did not have to suffer the fate of homelessness and alienation. Not every parent-less child is so lucky. The upcoming event is my way of trying to help: feasting for a cause, raising awareness of Youth Shelters, enjoying fine food on an October evening.

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As part of my personal mission to benefit New Mexico’s young people who have left home or who do not have homes, I decided to throw a benefit party at my favorite French restaurant.

Le Dîner Avec Elaine Pinkerton Coleman
A celebration of her new ebook
Santa Fe Blogger ~ Life After Adoption Recovery

My go to Bistro morning, noon or night!

My go to Bistro morning, noon or night!

Sunday, October 19, 2104 5:30 pm

“A touching, heartfelt book following a woman’s struggle with adoption and acceptance…Through blog posts, old letters and journals, the author traced her history, meeting of her birth parents and the love she knew for hew adoptive parents. Definitely a moving read.” ~ Author Peggy Bechko
The event will benefit the Youth Shelters street outreach programs for teens of Santa Fe and northern New Mexico.

“Youth Shelters and Family Services delivers life-changing services to homeless, runaway, and in-crisis youth in northern New Mexico by providing shelter and addressing health, safety, education, and workforce opportunities so they may lead independent and meaningful lives.”Image 1

For more information contact Elaine Pinkerton
505.983.9747 or email elaine2005@comcast.net
217 E. Palace Ave. Santa Fe, NM 505.216.1845
Fixed price dinner $38.00

Date:
Sunday, October 19th

Time:
5:30 pm

Place:
Chez Mamou French Bistro
217 E. Palace Ave.
Santa Fe, NM

Phone for reservations (space is limited)
505.216.1845

                                                                  Menu for the evening:

Chez Mamou menu 1

Traveling the Chamisa Road

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Chamisa, also called Rubber Rabbitbrush: a perennial deciduous Native shrub, with aromatic, blue-green-grey, feathery foliage in Summer and dense clusters of bright-yellow flowers in early Fall. Deciduous shrub, 3-5 ft. tall & wide. Can prune strongly – blooms on new growth. Sow anytime.

October brings Chamisa into full bloom.

October brings Chamisa into full bloom.

Join Elaine every Monday for reflections on adoption and life.

Join Elaine every Monday for reflections on adoption and life.

Though I loved growing up in northern Virginia, with its lovely green deciduous trees and grassy lawns and hills, I willingly adapted to living in a dry land. Here in my adopted state of New Mexico I find myself surrounded by Chamisa. It is scruffy and hardy; it attempts to cover the hard dirt fields, it is everywhere. Though occasionally planted in gardens or used in landscaping, Chamisa’s favorite place is bordering roads.
Many Octobers ago when I first moved to the Southwest, this ubiquitous plant was abloom with small yellow blossoms. I made bouquets and put several throughout the house. Soon I was sneezing my head off. Lesson learned. Too pungent to be used in the house, Chamisa is best left outdoors.
This lowly “rabbitbrush” seems to symbolize the adoptee’s journey of forgiving the past and being in now.  Not resignation, but rather, acceptance. The “Chamisa Road” is about moving beyond invisible wounds, those injuries that are hardest to heal. It’s about traveling from “how to have what you want” to “how to want what you have”
In my experience, the wounds of adoption may never really go away; they simply change form. I’ve written about this in my confessional, The Goodbye Baby-A Diary about Adoption.  Similarly, in her excellent memoir Split at the Root, Catana Tully indicates that restoration may be a lifelong process. The “wounded heart” of the adoptee overrides intellectual decisions. At any time, the feelings of being not quite OK, of not belonging may reappear. They rear their ugly heads and must be stared down.
Adoption recovery, it turns out, is not accomplished by simply writing a memoir and then declaring “OK, I’m healed now.” It is a Sisyphusian undertaking that must be faced afresh every morning.  It is about walking The Chamisa Road.

Five-Step Program for Adoptees

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The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing, and face us with the reality of our powerlessness, that is the friend who cares. -Henry Nouwen, Dutch-born priest and writer

Our feelings are very important. They count. They matter. The emotional part of us is special. – Melody Beattie, Author of Codependent No More – How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself

Learning to "friend" yourself pays great rewards

Learning to “friend” yourself pays great rewards

Maybe it’s the transition from summer to autumn, but lately nearly everyone I know is carrying a heavy sack of problems that keeps life from being fulfilling. I’ve always prided myself in being a good friend “in time of need,” a resourceful adviser, stalwart and supportive pal, a woman who listens without judging. My wonderful community of “amigas” are much cherished, and we support one another in many ways.

Why, then, do I find it hard to be a friend to myself?  Clearly, a barrier is that old grief that began with the initial wound of adoption. Nancy Verrier in her book by the same title calls it The Wounded Heart.  I’ve come a long way on the road to adoption recovery. No matter how hard I resist, however, when life becomes too challenging the thought seeps in: “My mother gave me away because I wasn’t good enough.” Children believe that they are the cause of everything around them, and adopted children often become their own worst enemies.

Adult adoptees need to guard against the old grief, the invisible wounds, the doubts that spring from having been adopted. It takes special effort to befriend oneself. Here’s a list of ways to nurture and appreciate that adopted self:

1. Be gentle. If you were advising your dearest, most cherished pal about a situation, what would you say or do? Treat yourself as kindly as you would that best friend.

2. Stop depending on external validation and approval. Such seeking is Ego-based and tends to break your heart. Comparing yourself with others is bound to end up badly. (Here, as throughout my post, I can relate only my own experience).

3. When troubles pour down, remember that, like rainstorms, they will pass. Think about this: If you fast-forwarded to a year ahead, many of today’s problems would not even be remembered. Those ills, would, of course, be replaced by new ones, which in turn would be replaced by others. To be alive is to have problems. As you face them, be a kind, loving friend – TO YOURSELF.

4. Spend time in nature and appreciate the beauty of every season. Whatever your favorite outdoor activity, try to do it five times a week. Biking, walking, running or hiking: They are good for not only cardiovascular health but also for ones emotional state.

5. Fine tune your sense of humor, especially the ability to laugh at your own foibles.

No one ever promised us that life would be easy, but it is made richer and more enjoyable with the help of friends. There just might be someone who is waiting to be your new best friend: YOU. Try including that new friend in your thoughts and actions. Practice befriending yourself this month and see what happens. You just might gain a new BFF!

Join me every week for reflections on adoption and life!

Join Elaine every Monday for reflections on adoption and life.

Welcome to Fall!

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For today’s post, I offer you a favorite poem I’ve admired ever since discovering it during college days at the University of Virginia. How, you might be asking, does it relate to the theme of my blog, an adoption recovery journey? Here’s how: After “staring down” my life and doing battle with a lifetime of invisible injuries, I found that the mental decluttering allowed room for revisiting past literary loves. John Keats, who lived from 1795-1821, created some of the most beautiful poetry of the Romantic Era. This tribute to the season has been called “the most serenely flawless poem in English.” Enjoy.

Sunrise in Late September

Sunrise in Late September

Ode to Autumn

SEASON of mists and mellow fruitfulness,

Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;

Conspiring with him how to load and bless

With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;

To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,

And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;

To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells

With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,

And still more, later flowers for the bees,

Until they think warm days will never cease;

For Summer has o’erbrimm’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?

Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find

Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,

Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;

Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,

Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook

Spares the next swath and all its twinèd flowers:

And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep

Steady thy laden head across a brook;
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Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,

Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?

Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—

While barrèd clouds bloom the soft-dying day

And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;

Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn

Among the river-sallows, borne aloft

Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;

And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;

Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft

The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft;

And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Aspen Vista, Santa Fe, New Mexico

Join Elaine every Monday for reflections on Adoption and Life

The Path to Serenity

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“Only when you are on foot are you really there.”    -Goethe

We adoptees who are now adults are supposedly “over” adoption issues.

Atalaya Mountain, 9121 feet

Atalaya Mountain, 9121 feet

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Nature shrine in memory of Ruth

While I believe this in theory, I know that when the road gets rough, the old angst comes back for a cameo appearance. The same tiresome crew: feelings of melancholy, loneliness, impatience and frustration.

Think in terms of life as a journey. Now that it’s almost Fall, I look back on the route I traveled last summer. Most of the season was a smooth highway, but the past two weeks resembled a dusty, rugged washer board of a back road. At the end of August, my neighbor Ruth died rather suddenly. True, she was a month away from turning 95, a ripe old age in anyone’s book. But the fact that I lived next door to her for 40 years, the fact that I was planning to visit her once again for one of our quarterly  coffee klatches and the harsh fact that, all of a sudden, a visit was no longer possible left me flat. I’ll admit it: Even though I know about necessary and inevitable losses, the old abandonment issues kicked in.

I’ve discovered a solution: I take myself outdoors.

Those of you who’ve been following my blog know that I’m all about not only adoption but also the curative power of nature. When life becomes hard to take, I take to the trails: anywhere outdoors that will provide a walk in the woods, a view of the mountains,
walking, strolling, rambling, climbing in a beautiful spot.

This is one thing I’ve learned. Whenever I feel stuck, down or dissatisfied, nature lifts me out of myself and helps me achieve an “attitude adjustment.” I recommend this for lifting the spirits, overcoming writer’s block, or recharging your emotional batteries.

I live near mountains in the scenic Southwest, but no matter where you are, there are sure to be are lovely places. While not necessarily a permanent solution, hiking and walking can definitely make the world seem brighter.

Join Elaine every Monday for insights on adoption and life.

Join Elaine every Monday for insights on adoption and life.

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