Listening 101

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The most basic and powerful way to connect with another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention.
-Rachel Naomi Remen

Listening deeply opens up whole new worlds.

Listening deeply opens up new worlds.

It’s been said that life is a journey.  We spend the first part of our years on the planet moving toward an elusive “something” and the latter part facing it down. One thing I’ve learned is that what we have to face is often ourselves.

I’ve met many adult adoptees—fellow travelers on the mysterious, meandering quest toward understanding adoption. We seem to be revising our thoughts about the “adoptee” status. We strive toward relaxing into acceptance and moving beyond old, tired hangups about being adopted. As one blogger in the online adoption community observed, “You wake up and you’re still adopted.”

One of my discoveries is that by putting my own adoption issues to rest, as in “Enough, already…go back into your cave,” I find the energy to focus outward. This new attitude includes refreshing my listening style.  Instead of preparing a response to whatever is being said during a conversation, I’m work on paying full attention to the speaker.

Whether or not you’re dealing with adoption issues, here are ten
Basic principles of more effective listening:

1 Stop talking.
2. Concentrate on the message being communicated.
3. Help the speaker feel free to speak. Use eye contact.
4. Remove distractions such as gazing out a window or checking for text messages.
5. Empathize. Try to understand the speaker’s point of view.
6. Be patient – a pause does not necessarily meant the speaker has finished.
7. Avoid prejudice. If you disagree, use the transition “Yes, and…” rather than “NO!”
8. Listen to the speaker’s tone and volume.
9. Listen for ideas, not just words.
10 Watch for non-verbal communication.

Silence can be golden. Epictetus summed it up: If we were supposed to talk more than we listen, we would have two tongues and one ear. 

Join Elaine every other Monday for reflections on Adoption and Life.

Join Elaine every other Monday for reflections on Adoption and Life.

Searching for a Family Tree

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NOTE: This post was originally published last year. Adoptee Elaine Pinkerton is visiting her grandchildren (who turn four and seven this month), and she is happily immersed in family matters. In the midst of a new “family tree,” she feels the question of “roots” is more relevant than ever. Dear readers, adopted or not: please comment on what your family origins mean to you.

What does an adoptee do about the Ancestry Question and matter of ROOTS? While

Will the real FAMILY TREE please become apparent?

Elaine asks, Will the real FAMILY TREE please become apparent?

others can trace their family trees, the adoptee has to choose between the birth family and the adoptive family. Do we adoptees even have a family tree? If you’ve grown up with adoptive parents, is THEIR family tree yours? If you’ve been lucky (or unlucky) enough to meet your biological parents and learn about that family, do you BELONG to IT? Could their family tree be yours?  How does one claim ancestors?
These are questions I’m no longer willing to sweep under the rug. I’ve decided that instead of a family tree, I’ll settle for family records, those of my adoptive mom and dad. The letters they exchanged (before they became my parents) during their long WWII separation reveal their search for me. In 2005, I gathered these letters together for a book: From Calcutta with Love-The WWII Letters of Richard and Reva Beard.
Richard and Reva Beard were separated by 6,000 miles and 18 months during WWII.

My Dad wrote home every day.

My Dad wrote home every day.

Richard served as a clinical psychologist in the China-Burma-Theater (CBI).  To imagine my mother’s search, I re-read the letters that deal with adopting a child. One of my favorites …
August 1, 1944

My Darling, We chose what turned out to be a very warm day to go to Toledo. I was very warm
and perspiring all day — to my amazement the big stores there aren’t air-conditioned. I got a purplish wine shade. I thought a red would be too bright. This is really a
pretty color but I’m afraid you won’t approve of the style. I couldn’t’ find a pattern that I liked in a fitted coat to use my fur to an advantage. So I got a tuxedo on the strength that you will like it when you see it. The fur will be down the front you know. I hesitated, knowing you don’t care so much for them but if it is really made to fit me maybe you will change your mind. I visited “The Child and Family Agency” 1035 Superior St. Toledo. They feel that they have to supply Toledo people first but said that their number is increasing so that they may be able to go outside of the city. I had a nice interview and they gave me an application blank to fill in which requires both our signatures. The first part is data concerning our religion, finances and references. I have copied the last two paragraphs which I think necessitates your signature. I suggest you sign it and send it to the agency, providing you agree. Of course they would probably like a letter from you too. I will sign the application and return it to the agency. Most of their children come from the Crittenton home. So naturally most of them are
young babies. (You have them 1 year before adoption is competed.) … I’m watching for the mail man these days.
These days certainly will make me appreciate days of common ordinary living. Goodnight My Darling and
Loads of Love and Kisses,

Reva

It turned out that my mother’s queries at various Ohio adoption agencies came to

Meanwhile, my Mom never gave up on finding a way to adopt.

Meanwhile, my Mom never gave up on finding a way to adopt.

naught. They waited until after the war ended and my professor dad started a teaching job. Amazingly, and lucky for me, my soon-to-be parents found me through a student (my birthmother Velma) at Iowa Teachers College. I was five years old and my brother Johnny was seventeen months. Products of a short-lived wartime wedding, we had lived in a series of foster homes. Our biological father had disappeared. During this drama, as revealed in this and many other letters, my adoptive mom-to-be was working hard to find a child. As it turned out, parents and children did not come together until after the war ended. The fact that we did was a miracle, one for which I will always be grateful.

Trying to find a family tree no longer, I’m settling for a grove of wartime letters.

Marvelous May

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The month of May casts her magic spell as spring’s promise is finally fulfilled.
 – Sarah Ban Breathnach

As an adult adoptee, I’ve always looked at the world through what I call “adoption colored glasses.”  In my experience, we adopted ones seem to invite drama and extremes into our lives, maybe even more than those raised by their original parents. Take, for example, a milestone event that befell me three Mays ago. One of my worst challenges—life-threatening surgery—turned into a blessing.

May is a time to appreciate everyday epiphanies.

May is a time to appreciate everyday epiphanies.

May is magical for me not only because of spring’s blossoming, but because it is the month that kept me alive. I was given a new lease on life. Allow me to explain…

The surprises began in late May. Just as I was retiring from my job as elementary school librarian for Santa Fe Public Schools, I contracted an intestinal flu that resulted in multiple visits to the doctor. Blaming my “bug” on elementary school germs, I assumed that I would eventually get better. Despite antibiotics, however, I felt worse by the week. My primary care physician ordered a CT scan, and the scan revealed a seriously advanced abdominal aortic aneurism. It would have to be repaired; time was of the essence. A few days after the diagnosis, I had surgery.
I vividly recall operation day. I felt a deep sense of impending doom. As I traveled into the surgical theater on a gurney, I noticed all the details—shiny surfaces, lots of white. Soon, anesthesia took over, and I was OUT. Working for several hours, the brilliant surgical duo Doctors Poseidon Varvitsiotis and Gerald Weinstein replaced my defective aortic section with a dacron stint, sutured it in place, and sewed me back together.
My next moment of consciousness was in the Intensive Care Unit, where I would spend the next two and ½ days. Despite exhaustion and a morphine-induced stupor, I was amazed and grateful. My life had been saved!
After six days at Christus St. Vincent’s, I was allowed to go home. Friends rallied, a different pal spending the night in my guest room for a couple weeks, just to make sure I was OK. For a month, I was very feeble and could get about only with the help of a walker. It was a chore to eat, to dress, to do anything at all. Following doctor’s orders, I took a siesta every afternoon. When I was at last able, I took a daily half-hour walk outdoors. Along with resting and walking, I edited, proofreading the final galleys of my memoir, The Goodbye Baby. Though later than I’d intended, the book was finally ready for publication. Front Cover- JPEG
So, my surgical event is history. The operation and ensuing months of recovery made me realize that, in the big picture, it does not matter if I meet personal deadlines exactly as I’d envisioned. After my brush with mortality, I adopted a new attitude. Every day, I celebrate the gift of life. And it all happened in the month of May.

Join Elaine on Mondays for reflections on adoption and life!

Join Elaine on Mondays for reflections on adoption and life!

The Angels of April

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“April is the cruelest month.” T. S. Eliot

April is full of dazzling sunlight and the earth seems greener

April is full of dazzling sunlight and the earth seems greener

“April, the Angel of Months.” -Vita Sackville-West

April is full of surprises: one day sunny and mild, the next day snowy.
Here in northern New Mexico, April is luminously beautiful. Fruit trees blossom, our deciduous trees turn that electrifying shade known to painters as “sap green.”  Darkness diminishes as our own special Season of Light increases in strength.

Like many in the adoption world, I’ve learned to “flip the script.” On the one hand, I will never know what it is like to have blood-related family. My biological parents were a fact essential to my being in the world.  In the final analysis, however, they were distant figures who I ostensibly got to know, but actually merely encountered. On the other hand, I was fortunate to end up with wonderful adoptive parents.

It’s been said that every problem is also an opportunity. April has proved this to me. When I recently pulled a back muscle during a yoga class, the pain was excruciating. I went to Urgent Care, then to my regular medical doctor…nothing helped. It was hard to walk. All I could think about was how much my back and leg hurt. This led to a most fortunate discovery: a community acupuncture clinic. After five consecutive treatments, the pain had nearly vanished. What’s more, the clinic’s doctor (of Oriental Medicine) prescribed various supplements and minerals.  The alternative measures, in addition to relief from the injury, cured leg cramps and dietary imbalances. I was given a regimen of back-strengthening exercises. What might have been a disaster turned out to be a blessing.

Easter brought the best gift of all. My granddaughter, age 12, chose to visit me during her spring break. She is not a granddaughter I get to see very often, as her mother and father, my son, are divorced.

Angels can arrive as the young ones in our lives.

Angels can arrive as the young ones in our lives.

During the week this lively pre-teen spent with me, we went to see “Cinderella,” lunched at favorite restaurants, read together, toured the local botanical garden, visited art galleries and museums.  The paints and drawing supplies I’d put in her room were put to good use. I gave her my favorite Walter Farley Black Stallion books. She had such a good time, she wants to come back this summer for another visit.

Since the publication of The Goodbye Baby, I’ve heard from hundreds in the online adoption community—adoptees, birth parents, adoptive parents, men and women who are still searching for reunions with their original parents. This response has deepened my understanding of why people are seldom happy that they were adopted. Even though adoption may have been “for the best,” it leaves one with  the feeling of a shaky foundation. Despite all that, it is possible to create happiness.

Is April cruel or is it, as Sackville-West maintains, the angel of months? I’ll let you decide. In the meantime, the angels are there. Even for adoptees!

Join Elaine every other Monday for a look at the world through adoption-colored glasses.

Join Elaine every other Monday for a look at the world through adoption-colored glasses.

The Double Whammy

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I have abandonment issues.

My birth mother had to give me up when I was five years old. I landed in a

Death Valley,  CA symbolizes my feelings-around being adopted and divorced.

Death Valley, California
symbolizes my feelings-around being adopted and divorced.

wonderful adoptive family, but my adoptee status was never discussed. The time: right after WWII, and closed adoptions were the rule. My college professor Dad and my schoolteacher Mom decided that it was best not to talk about the circumstances of my first few years. I had memories enough to know that the foster care situation in which they found me was grim. You might say that I was born again, but I paid a price. I grew up feeling that I had to be perfect or that I would be sent back. Never mind reality; I imagined that I had to pretend to be the “real” daughter.

Outwardly, I was an exemplary daughter, but inwardly, I feared being abandoned. Fast forward to adulthood. The feelings returned after my husband of 15 years and I went our separate ways. Even though it has been over three decades since my divorce, I still feel the sting of splitting up.

Am I over the divorce? In most ways, yes. Does it still hurt? Definitely. When I feel happy and successful, my abandonment fears are in remission. However, at other times, I feel that life has served me a double whammy. Twice trusting, twice abandoned.

For the past few years, I’ve focused on adoption recovery. For the most part, I enjoy a sense of progress in my adoptee’s journey toward wholeness. Some days, however, I feel like Sysiphys, the character in Greek mythology who pushes a massive boulder uphill, reaching the top by sundown but the very next morning starting again at the bottom and pushing uphill all over again.

As I talk with friends about challenges they are facing, I realize that I am not alone. One does not have to be a divorcee or “recovering adoptee” to find life full of problems to be overcome and conundrums that seem to have no end. And while I am blessed to have wonderful and compassionate friends who are never too busy to listen, the best solution I’ve found is to be my own best friend.

Having said that, I offer five ways to nurture and appreciate yourself:

  1. Let the past be the past. Do not hold grudges against yourself.
    2. Remember, when troubles seem to be ganging up against you, that “Mama said there’d be days like this.”
    3. Be true to YOU. As far as your self-definition is concerned, be an island. Quit comparing yourself unfavorably to others. Jealously isn’t called the “green-eyed monster” for nothing.
    4. Work on fine-tuning your sense of humor. Learn to laugh at yourself.
    5. Remember that YOU are not your thoughts.

Combined, adoption and divorce are potentially lethal. In fighting the abandonment trap, I’ve decided to not let either throw me off course. Life is like a river. We can either enjoy the journey, rowing gently down the stream, or we can let our emotions control our thoughts, feeling despair, a vague dissatisfaction and lack of contentment. One very powerful way to row gently down the stream is to treat yourself as you would a dear, cherished friend.

***

Based in Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA, Elaine Pinkerton is the author of seven books, IMG_3174including The Goodbye Baby, From Calcutta with Love, Beast of Bengal and Santa Fe Blogger. Today’s blog was originally published under the title “Adopted, Divorced and the Fear of Abandonment” in The Divorce Magazine.co.uk.

 

Celebrity Adoptions make a Difference

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Cate Blanchett, one of my favorite actresses, recently adopted a baby girl, Edith

Every adoptee is given a new beginning

Every adoptee is given a new beginning

Vivian Patricia. Edith joins three male siblings, ages 6, 10 and 13. In a sense, baby Edith is given a chance for a whole new life. As an adult adoptee, who was given a second chance at age five, I cannot help but be happy for baby Edith.
Recently, I’ve heard a rash of negativity of celebrity adoptions. Critics bring out the commodification of adoption, e.g. the money that sometimes enters into the “transaction.” They would say that when the stars adopt, it does not really help the overall rights of adoptees, birth parents and the adoption situation in general. I beg to differ…
There are 145 million orphans in the world today, boys and girls who will have to grow up without the love and guidance of parents. Any situation which allows even one of these children to gain a family is a victory, a triumph, a cause for celebration. Celebrity adoptions call attention to the option, when a couple or single parent cannot or chooses not to have children in a traditional way, of “the adoption solution.”
In my opinion, Celebrity adoptions have helped improve attitudes toward adoption as a viable way to build a family. Magazines and newspapers feature photographs of movie stars holding adopted children. Often these little ones were adopted internationally.  Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, for example, have several children of their own and three from other countries (Cambodia, Ethiopia and Vietnam). Madonna’s tots are from Malawi. Sandra Bullock and Charlize Theron are some of Hollywood’s adoptive moms.

Every child deserves a forever home.

Will they find a forever family?

To those who claim that celebrity adoptions do not help the overall causes of adoption, I would say this: the adoptions make a profound difference to the children who are chosen. Think of…
The Starfish Story
A ten-year-old girl is walking along the ocean and sees a beach on which thousands and thousands of starfish have washed ashore. Further along
she sees a grandmother, walking slowly and
stooping often, picking up one starfish after
another and tossing each one gently into the
ocean.
“Why are you throwing starfish into the
ocean?,” asks the girl.
“Because the sun is up and the tide is going out
and if I don’t throw them further in they will
die.”
“But, grandmother, don’t you realize there are miles
and miles of beach and starfish all along it!
You can’t possibly save them all, you can’t even
save one-tenth of them. In fact, even if you
work all day, your efforts won’t make any
difference at all.”
The grandmother listened calmly and then bent
down to pick up another starfish and threw it
into the sea. “It made a difference to that one.”

Join Elaine every other Monday for her take on adoption and life!

Join Elaine every other Monday for her take on adoption and life!

 

Excavating the Real You

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bucket-excavater

Self-discovery demands some heavy lifting!

“I am the only person in the world I should like to know thoroughly.” -Oscar Wilde

Do you find it natural to be yourself or do you hide behind a facade?

What does it mean to be “authentic”?  As an adult adoptee, these are the questions I’ve grappled with for a lifetime. This quest for “authenticity” may not be true for every adoptee, but for me it is central.
That said, for the past five years, I’ve been on a quest for truth in defining myself. In my case, there was always the feeling that a biological child would have been the first preference of my adoptive parents. Even though assured that I was “the chosen one,” I grew up fearing I was a substitute for the child that might have been.
Ever since I could hold a pen, I’ve kept a daily diary A lifetime of chronicling every day generates many volumes. Four years ago, I decided to dig through my journals, particularly those from childhood into early adulthood. I pulled out the sections that pertained to growing up adopted and turned them into The Goodbye Baby-A Diary About Adoption (AuthorHouse, 2012). I’d written guidebooks (Santa Fe on Foot, The Santa Fe Trail by Bicycle), books about WWII (From Calcutta with Love, Beast of Bengal) but never a book about my own journey.
The diaries, 40 small volumes of “notes to myself,” revealed how being adopted

Decades of diaries became my memoir, The Goodbye Baby

Decades of diaries became my memoir, The Goodbye Baby

shaped my decisions and my life’s trajectory. With a sense of Duty to Self and the hope of helping other adoptees, I opted to “go public” with the past in all its aspects. I was able, after publication of The Goodbye Baby, to move forward. It was liberating; it was necessary; it was illuminating.
Whether you were adopted or not, I’d like to offer guidelines for a personal “excavation.” To gain a better understanding of how YOUR past has shaped you, be willing to do the following:
1. Dig with your pen. Trace your life. Consider the choices you have made up until now. Is there a long-buried dream that calls to you? Perhaps you now have the wisdom to make alterations in your dream so that it can come true.
2. Write a brief personal history. This could even take shape as an outline, to be expanded into a future memoir. Recall the home of your childhood, fast-forward to your teenage years, more ahead to your first home. This need not be comprehensive. Instead, pick details that resonate in memory.
3. Adopt what Henri Nouwen calls “The Discipline of Gratitude” Use your daily life as a cause for celebration. In the extreme, this could mean taking the worst moments of your life and turning them into blessings.
4. Finally, reorder your priorities. This requires peace of mind and clarity. With modern life’s fragmentation and the intrusive nature of technology, however, this task is more important than ever. Use meditation, yoga, and days spent in silence —whatever it takes—to realize what’s most important.
 In the final analysis, by excavating to see who you really are, you’ll be able to identify what truly matters in your life. It may be the most important journey you’ll ever make.

What has helped you in finding your true self? Please share your comments!

 

Haiku Monday

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Note from Elaine: For those of you who are visiting The Goodbye Baby website for the first time: my blog focuses on adoption and recovery from the early invisible injuries of separation. Though varied in many ways, every adoption story is the same: there has been a disruption of order, a yanking out from the roots, and in nearly all cases, ultimately a longing to understand why one wasn’t kept by his or her original parents. Intellectual explanations do little to dispel the conviction that you (the adopted one) were to blame–the little you who was taken from one mother and placed with or chosen by another.
In my case, though I landed in a wonderful adoptive family, the early separation brought about feelings of abandonment, anger, loneliness and alienation, emotions I swept under a metaphoric rug for too many years.  Understanding at the heart level has come about over a lifetime of searching and reinvention. We adoptees, the products of nature and nurture, do well to take responsibility for our own destinies.
Of the many routes to healing, I’ve found that reading poetry is a balm. It is with great delight that I bring you fresh haikus by my poet friend Roberta Fine. Check out her newest collection.
Twelve Graces of 2014

Above the Clouds

Above the Clouds

January
Baldy’s white cap thins
Brown skull showing through the white
Waiting for a storm.
February
Fresh snow on Sangres
Opal tinted at sunset
Glow fading slowly.
March
Lady hawk surveys
White fields from catalpa tree
Great head swiveling.
April
Buried bulbs revive
In frozen lifeless garen
Reaching for the sun.
May
Clinging to twin trees
Raven pair tear at pine cones
Then leave together.
June
White threads vein mountainimages
All that’s left of winter snow
Garden pants for rain.
July
Fledglings line up
To take a turn at feeders
Lone bird pecks at ground.
August
Ravens’ raucous call
Splitting summer morning peace
Dewdrops shine on leaves.
September
Head held high, lone rose
Surviving frosty warning.
Someone’s chopping wood.
October
Tawny gold valley
Flaunting bold farewell to sun’s
Declining power.
November
Red chrysanthemumsIMG_0004
Capturing sun’s chilly fire
In sundown’s last glance.
December
Fuzzy moon peering
Down through tree’s bare black branches
Suggests snow tonight.
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HAIKU-short poems that use words to capture a feeling or image of nature, beauty, or a particular sensory moment.. They are usually written as three lines: the first contains 5 syllables, the second line 7 syllables, the third line 5 syllables.
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Poet Roberta Fine lives and writes in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Finding inspiration from

Roberta Fine adopted Haiku as her medium of expression

Birthmother Guilt: The Daughter Dilemma

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Note from Elaine: Guest blogger Pat Goehe is a welcome contributor to The Goodbye Baby website. Meeting her daughter for the first time after 38 years was a life-changing experience. It has been 15 months since she first wrote about their reunion (http://bit.ly/1M2dGlW). Pat is now moving forward with personal goals, specifically writing projects. Her now-reunited daughter Linda is a mother. However, adoption reunions are not without complications. So much of a life spent in separation can produce feelings of guilt. As Pat tells it…

When I made the decision early in my pregnancy to put the  baby up for

Pat's firstborn daughter was taken away from her after birth.

Pat’s firstborn daughter was taken away from her after birth.

adoption, it was made with the best possible reasons at the time.  So why then do I experience something  that I can only label as guilt?
After several  years had passed since my daughter, Linda,  found me,  I was once again writing.  This time it was a new film script which I was really excited about.  My daughter was then working as an agent for film composers.  Never  would I have asked her to help me get an agent for the script,  but  she suggested it.  I remember feeling such  overwhelming  joy,  and yet something bothered me.  As it turned out, because of other problems, the script did not get completed before she gave up that profession and moved  to Texas .  My mixed joy and guilt left.
Years later I was doing my first documentary and in discussing it with her, she offered to do the packaging  along with information that I needed for the cover and insert.  She had prefaced her offer with the fact that I always said not to give me presents.  This was finally something she could do for me, and she  really wanted to help me on the project.  I felt pretty okay about this.
There have been times when I don’t hear from her  for many months.  My mind immediately goes to, “Why should she stay in touch?  After all, didn’t I give her up?”   At different times over the years I made that comment to her which was not something she liked.  It took me many, many years to realize that the daughter I actually raised often did not stay in touch either.   Both are busy with professions,

Years later, Pat and her daughter met for the first time.

Years later, Pat and her daughter met for the first time.

family; it is my own crazy head that  kept feeling the guilt.
Recently I have been back to the “I need help” phase.   Never in my life  did I expect  to write a children’s picture book, but I have.  And now, I need help in the marketing.  This is again a skill area my daughter has.  At one point I broke down and called her to ask about one issue.  She gave me good information even though it was a very busy time professionally in her life.  Currently, I really could use her expertise and would love nothing more than to have her take over the marketing for this project.  But,  I won’t ask.   Why?  Because this book is all about my granddaughter  from the other daughter’s  family.  When I heard that granddaughter was complaining how Grandma had taken her two half brothers on many trips but she never got to go on any, I decided (because she’s a teenager these days and certainly wouldn’t enjoy a trip with me)  what greater gift of love could I give her than to write a book based on true happenings she and I shared when she was a toddler.   The reality is that I spent much time with that family over the years but not much time with the other.  So, how on earth could I ask L. to help me on this book?

It’s at times like this that I’ve learned to take a step or two back and rethink things.  Let’s face it.  Asking for help has always been difficult for me.  I’m the one who gives it!  I spent more time with the other family because it was needed then.  And that was the time when Linda was trying to desperately to get pregnant.   She did ask me later to come during a spring break and help out with childcare; I did.  I can develop skills I’ve had in the past;  they’re a bit rusty now!  Perhaps I just need to ditch the idea that I’m too old to do all of this.  I need to remember  that we can’t control outcome.  I have no idea when the book is published what  I may need to deal with.  I suspect no one will tell me if they were hurt  because of something I wrote in the book or perhaps left out or even that it wasn’t about them.  But then I’m equally certain Linda won’t feel that way.   I continue to treasure our relationship.

Pat Goehe is retired from a teaching career and devotes her time to fulltime writing. Her children’s book Annemarie and Boomer Wait for Grandma is now in production. She is the mother of two daughters and one son, and grandmother of four.img_1688

If You Could Whisper in the Ear…

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…of your teenage self, what advice would you offer? Here’s what I would say if I could travel through time and encourage the younger Elaine…

Bryce Canyon, 1970-Smiling on the outside

Bryce Canyon, 1970-Smiling on the outside

Dear Me,
Quit feeling embarrassed because you are an adopted daughter!
I notice that your parents Richard and Reva seem afraid to let anyone know that you aren’t their biological offspring. WHY they hide that important truth is anyone’s guess. I’ll keep saying this until you believe it: Being adopted is nothing to cover up.You can tell anyone you like. I give you permission.
Dear young Elaine, why not ask your Mom and Dad (calling them “Richard and Reva” sounds a bit unfriendly) how you came to be their daughter? You might actually be doing them a favor. They will not send you back to foster care, I guarantee. True, when you asked your new Mom about your “real” mother, she got tears in her eyes and said “I’m your real mother and you’re my REAL daughter.” Yes, I know you wanted to die just then. But your question was OK.
Don’t be afraid to keep up with the questions. They might act hurt and disappointed at first but they will get over it! They chose you and your brother Johnny and they mean to keep you.
I know that you have a lot of guilt about snooping in your adopted Dad’s files, trying to find letters from your birthfather, trying to learn what happened during the first five years of your life- the time before you became the college professor’s daughter. You were reprimanded and now no one will talk about it. I know you are afraid, that you feel guilty and traitorous, and I understand that you are very nervous about revealing your curiosity. Believe it or not, this is the perfect time for you to ask those burning questions. Think Pandora’s Box minus the negative consequences.

1980s-A cheery facade hid my inner melancholy

1980s-A cheery facade hid my inner melancholy

I see that you basically hate the way you look. Stop! Desist! Quit raking yourself over the coals! Even though you think losing a few pounds will make you happier, it will not. You are beautiful from the inside out. Your smile is one that inspires people to smile back. Dry your tears and spend time in nature. It is to become your haven.
In closing, I urge you to shift your perspective from shame to self-respect. Take pride in the fact that you survived the jolt of being “transplanted” when you were just past four years old. You did nothing wrong in being born to a mother who was unable (or unwilling) to parent. It will not serve you well to remain silent about the questions that haunt your every waking hour. Writing about these concerns is good, but it is not enough. Ask and demand answers. Don’t be afraid to be identified as the adopted daughter. Dear younger me, please know that you are lovable just the way you are.

The Goodbye Baby gives an insider view of growing up adopted.

The Goodbye Baby gives an insider view of growing up adopted.

 

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