A Valentine Gift for YOU!

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Healing the Power in You-Tapping into Courage, Hope and Resilience is a unique and very personal book on wellness. And for today only, author Dr. Joalie Davie is offering a free download. Newly published, Healing the Power in You combines the best of two worlds. Written in a gentle, conversational tone, the book combines medical science and holistic treatments. Through true accounts, starting with her own case history, Davie shows how people can and have healed from within. Accounts of her patients’ successes with physician-led holistic approaches build a powerful case for using the power within each of us.

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Letting Go of Letters

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“Things are in the saddle and ride mankind.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson
January has flown, but February is also a great month for new beginnings. Inspired by Marie Kondo, queen of the Declutter World, I vowed to sweep through the entire house and prune the excess, reduce the redundancies, eliminate the irrelevant. It’s not the first time I’ve embarked a declutter campaign, but this time, I am being non-negotiable. My new motto: OHIO (Only Handle it Once). Years of selling stuff at neighbors’ yard sales, donating to charities, giving things away: I still felt hopelessly cluttered. The “things” grew back, multiplied, maybe even reproduced at night while I was sleeping.
Correspondence collections are close to my heart, harder to part with than books, photos, or just about anything else. Because it would be tough, I decided to start there. I recently tackled a column of banker boxes that resided in a closet, unopened, for several decades. I’d do my heirs a favor by going through, keeping a precious few letters, and taking the bulk of them to the recycle bin.
As an adult adoptee, I’ve always believed that the best way to know where to go, one must see where one has been.
“The past is not dead. It is not even past.” —William Faulkner
Not surprisingly, most archived letters were from my parents, both biological and adoptive. Giovanni Cecchini, the birthfather I got to see three times after I was adopted, was a Navy photographer during WWII. When he and his new wife Margaret moved to Amelia Island, Florida, he became a well-known photographer in the town of Fernandina Beach. He gardened and photographed for many years before his death in 1998. I travel yearly to Amelia Island to visit Margaret. On 12/29/91, Giovanni wrote “Another letter from me — lucky you (I guess).”
My birthmother Velma and I had a long correspondence, and I came across her epistle of 2/13/94. She wrote “Dearest Daughter, I had to peek at my Valentine on Friday (I sent one to her every February) but put it away until Monday…Your four parents are very proud of how you grew up to be beautiful with many talents.”
My adoptive dad’s WWII letters provided the material for my book From Calcutta with Love-The WWII Letters of Richard and Reva Beard (published in 2002 by Texas Tech University Press, due to be re-issued by Pajarito Press in 2020). He also wrote to me every Sunday until his death in 1997. His letters were filled with reports of his life with my adoptive mom Reva, observations about everything from world events to the weather. On February 18, 1990, he wrote “Dearest Elaine: This week has featured several wonderful springlike days, but today and to some extent yesterday were more like typical February weather. It has been dull, overcast, and just cold enough to be raw and uncomfortable outside — I know, I tried walking around the lake and even the Canadian geese looked discomfited.”
I am reading through the boxes of letters, keeping a precious few but relegating most of the epistles to the recycling bin. Typed and penned words from the past made time fall away. I was reminded of a time when letter-writing was the way to keep in touch. Those missives kept us close despite the miles in between. Now, with Email, Skype, Facebook, WhatsApp and other channels of communication, letters are nearly obsolete. With their passing, we will have lost something irreplaceable. On the other hand, think of that person who’d love to hear from you, not instantly. Perhaps it’s not too late to revive the custom of letter-writing.
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Join Elaine on alternate Mondays for reflections on life as seen through adoption-colored glasses. Do you enjoy writing letters? Comments are welcome!

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

Book Review: Sing for your Life

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“I know why the caged bird sings.”—Paul Laurence Dunbar

As a writer of novels, I find life stories endlessly fascinating. That said, some are more interesting than others. As told to and by author Daniel Bergner, Sing for your Life, the biography of Ryan Speedo Green, is definitely in the latter category.
Ryan Speedo Green, a man with the heart and voice of an opera singer—a voice to be recognized only later—grew up in hard scrabble circumstances. Neglected son of mostly absent parents, he began life in a trailer park and later in a house across the street from drug dealers. Until music became part of his life, he was wild and out of control. By age twelve, he was in solitary confinement at a juvenile detention center. His future looked bleak.

How could someone like this rise to performing major roles at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City and in Europe? Tracing Green’s journey from the mean streets of a nomadic childhood, Sing for your Life explores the challenges facing an African-American performer in the world of professional opera.
Green’s is an astonishing journey, one that was aided by dedicated teachers and mentors. Green’s teachers have stories of their own. One of the most pithy accounts is that of Mrs. Hughes, Green’s elementary school teacher. A short Italian Irish woman, her life-long ambition was to be a teacher.

As a third grader, Mrs. Hughes lined up her dolls and stuffed animals and led them through lessons. Years later, her dream of becoming a teacher became a reality. After years of teaching “regular” classes, she was given a room of “special” students. Ryan Green was one of them. Unruly and defiant, he threw his desk at Mrs. Hughes. She refused to be upset by his behavior, commenting that if Ryan wished, “he could learn from the floor, since his desk and books were down there.”
Later in the day, Ryan turned his desk upright and began to pay attention. This diminutive woman meant business. Mrs. Hughes, who had posted a portrait of Martin Luther King Jr. in her classroom, had her students memorize the lines

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

Mrs. Hughes was the earliest of mentors, and possibly the most influential, to help Ryan on his circuitous journey to the opera stage. Others helped him with language and diction, preparing solos for auditions and eventually to becoming the opera star he was destined to be. In 2011, at the age of twenty-four, Ryan, beat 1,200 other selected singers to win a nationwide competition hosted by New York’s Metropolitan Opera In the end, his formerly absentee father came to see him onstage. From that point on, his career soared.
I especially related to Speedo’s triumph over early adversities. As an adoptee, I began life with five years spent in tumultuous circumstances. (To learn more, check out my memoir The Goodbye Baby-Adoptee Diaries). But you don’t have to be an adoptee to relish this heartwarming, inspiring biography. National bestseller Sing for your Life is a great read for anyone who relishes tales of “race, music and family.”

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Join Elaine on Mondays for reflections on life as seen through adopted-colored glasses.

Comments invited!

Decades of diaries became my memoir, The Goodbye Baby

 

Adopting a New Year

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I’ve always believed that if you want to see where you’re going, it’s advisable to see where you’ve been. This holiday season allowed me to do just that…

I’m in love with a new part of America! (New to me, that is.) My friend Deborah Aydt Marinelli, a soul sister with whom I spent years of my much younger life,invited me to spend Christmas holiday with her in Niverville, New York. Because my sons and grandchildren wouldn’t be coming to visit until the end of December, I decided “Why not?” It would be only the second time I hadn’t spent Christmas in Santa Fe. The first time was when I travelled to India to research a novel. (That’s Clara and The Hand of Ganesha, to be completed in 2019).
Deborah is one of my most brilliant and accomplished friends. She’s a PhD in literature, a professor, world traveler, author of over a dozen books, mostly young adult novels. After losing her beloved husband Larry in the spring of 2018, she came to Santa Fe, New Mexico, to revisit old, formerly familiar places. We spent time together. Our mutual Santa Fe years, in the 70s and 80s, had created in us a deep bond, one that survived the 30 years that had passed since we’d last seen each other face to face. She knew my children when they were in elementary school; I considered her son and daughter as part of my own family.

Kinderhook Lake from Deborah’s window

When I accepted her gracious invitation to visit for Christmas, I fully expected to help her with estate and business matters. Having been through the process of losing a husband, I would be the supportivel amanuensis. Instead of that scenario, however, she treated me to a tour of the area around her hometown of Niverville, New York.
We enjoyed a magical performance of The Nutcracker in Albany. Other days found us at a matinee of the new Mary Poppins movie, and a beautiful program of Lessons and Carols at a Dutch Reform Church. I went with her to a Friends meeting in Chatham, we relished lunches at little general stores and country inns, feasted on shepherd’s pie at the Beckman Arms Inn in Rhinebeck, New Yorkthrough. The Beekman Arms has hosted many luminaries throughout the centuries, including President George Washington. Deborah invited nine of her friends on the 25th and we enjoyed a magnificent turkey dinner with lavish trimmings.

The Egg Performance Space in Albany, NY

After Christmas day, we traveled by car, bus and the subway to meet a friend for lunch in New York City. After lunch, we walked all over Greenwich Village and the West End, including along the iconic Highline. We passed by the former brownstone apartment of poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, popped into galleries, found post-Christmas 80% off sales at small boutiques. Two sweaters for the price of one? Who could resist?
We drove through the countryside to attend events.The rolling land around Niverville and Albany is lovely. Forests, farmland, fields of sheep and llamas: a refreshing change from the high desert environment of northern New Mexico. We passed by the home of Robert Frost, Bard College, the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), the Village of Red Hook. Many villages, boroughs, and hamlets exist cheek and jowl in this corner of our country. Except for the often overcast skies of Winter (I’ve resided in the sunny Southwest too long), I could live there quite happily.

The Beekman Arms in Rhinebeck, NY

Nine days flew by. The visit, all too soon, came to an end. The best part had been reuniting with Deborah. I invited her to the sunny Southwest for Christmas 2019, and we vowed to keep in closer touch throughout the year. I’ve always believed that if you want to see where you’re going, it’s advisable to see where you’ve been. This holiday season allowed me to do just that. Discovering upstate New Year, an old friendship made new again, walking around The Big Apple: all of this comprised a grand finale to 2018.
May YOUR 2019 be full of health, happiness, prosperity and productivity. May we bridge the gaps with those who do not share our beliefs. As Gandhi put it, may we be the change we wish to bring. HAPPY NEW YEAR one and all!

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What was the best part of your holiday? Feedback invited! Join Elaine on alternate Mondays for reflections on life as seen through adoption colored glasses.

A Gift to You – The 12 Days of Adoption

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NOTE: Once again, I’m immersed in writing a novel, therefore, I’m republishing one of my favorite posts from the past. A reminder of what I appreciate, a song of gratitude. Adoption is a mixed blessing, but a blessing nonetheless. Here’s wishing you and yours a beautiful holiday season!

With much affection, Elaine

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An Adoptee’s Song:
“The Twelve Gifts of Adoption”

With Christmas and Hannukah seasons upon us, music fills the air. From the radio, Mall Muzak or live musicians, we often hear “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” In your imagination, listen to the melody… then read with an open heart as this ADOPTEE offers a different take on a familiar song…

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Join Elaine on alternate Mondays for reflections on life through adoption colored glasses. Please let us know what you’re most grateful for this holiday season!

 

Poetry Monday ~ For Veterans Day

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NOTE FROM ELAINE: Both my original and adoptive dads were WWII veterans. As an adopted child, one of the so-called “goodbye babies,” I am a product of that bitter combat. Since the publication of my adoptive father’s wartime correspondence (From Calcutta with Love, Texas Tech University Press, 2002) I’ve been studying both world wars. Today, in honor of all our country’s veterans, I bring to you one of my favorite poems from the first global war. World War I ended 100 years ago. The fight involved 32 countries and took the lives of 10 million men. Sadly, the “war to end all wars” did not. Instead the harsh years of 1914-1918 spawned new wars. May we learn from history.
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Poetry by Lt. Col Dr. John MacRae, Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
between the crosses, row on row
that mark our place; and in the sky
the larks, still bravely singing, fly
scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
loved, and were loved, and now we lie
in Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
to you from failing hands we throw
the torch, be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die,
we shall not sleep, though poppies grow
in Flanders fields.

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Join author Elaine Pinkerton on alternate Mondays for her reflections of adoption and life. If you are honoring a veteran on this Armistice Day, please let us know. Your comments are invited!

Looking at the world through adoption-colored glasses.

Adoption: Still my “Something”

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Note from Elaine: I continue to write adoption stories. Clara Jordan, heroine of my recent suspense novel All the Wrong Places, travels from Virginia to New Mexico hoping to locate an unknown birthmother. Instead of finding roots, she falls in love with a two-timer named Henry, a sly character who betrays her. She runs further into trouble as she searches petroglyphs for traces of a mother she’s never known. All the Wrong Places is available from http://www.pocolpress.com or from Amazon. My novel-in-progress, Clara and the Hand of Ganesha, takes our protagonist to the shore temple of Mahabalipuram in Tamil Nadu, India. Participating in NaNoWriMo, I plan to finish the first draft this month. Stay tuned!

 

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It’s been said that trauma is not a mystery, that it attaches itself to you in a way that’s hard to undo. My story, as related in The Goodbye Baby, offers living proof. Being an adoptee has added melodrama to my life, created a passion for writing, and ultimately inspired me to take off the masks and to discover who I really am.

Though I was fortunate enough to land in an adoptive family who loved and cherished me, it could not make up for losing that first “mother connection.” My birth mother and I said goodbye before I started first grade, and I waited 38 years for her to come back into my life. I was deeply wounded by the separation.

My struggles have been with feeling abandoned, isolated, and rejected. I’ve worried for years that I will be misunderstood and that I’m simply not good enough- as a daughter, a friend, a partner, a mother, or even as a human being.

With my infant son in Greece

Because of being adopted, I felt small and insignificant. Probably because adoption wasn’t something my family discussed, my negative assumptions became deeply embedded. Throughout my adult years, I accomplished a great deal, but in my mind, I was never admirable. Harmful pangs of inadequacy took root and shaped my outlook, my decisions, my disastrous romantic choices.  Until I re-read my diaries, I never realized that I myself had invented the self-damaging myth.

How did I deal with my adoption-induced complexes? My adoptive parents had to raise a delinquent teenager who drank excessively, stayed out too late and attracted bad boyfriends. As I grew older, I tended to be an over-achiever: running nine marathons to lower my finishing time, yet always “keeping score” and endlessly coming up short.

Thirty years ago, when I first started to write about my adoption, the title of my book was Reunions. My plan was to meet both my biological parents and write about finding the missing puzzle pieces. I met my original parents, but the reunions were not what I hoped for.  The pieces were in place but the puzzle remained. Only writing The Goodbye Baby completed the picture.

After both sets of parents died, I found that looking into the past gave me the wisdom to see where I’d been and how to go forward.

 

 

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What my adoption has taught me is that the world reflects my inner reality, that my happiness or unhappiness depend on my actions and not on outside forces. I’ve learned that it is never too late to make a fresh start.

I have always known I would be a writer. In the summer of 1962, I wrote in my diary,

“Some of this frantic recording is wasted energy. How can I have a future as a writer?…I need to find something to say.”

The theme of adoption is that something.”

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Join Elaine on alternate Mondays for reflections on adoption and sneak previews of her newest novel, Clara and the Hand of Ganesha.

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I’m working on a new edition of my WWII book of letters, From Calcutta with Love, to be published in 2019 by Pajarito Press. Herewith, one of my favorite epistles. My adoption history begins with a 1930s love story, that of my adoptive parents Richard and Reva Beard. They’d been teenage sweethearts in Findlay, Ohio, they married in 1937, and they put off starting their family until my father-to-be earned his doctorate from Ohio State University.

For six years, while Richard earned his PhD in clinical psychology, Reva taught elementary school. When it turned out that they were not able to have children, they decided to adopt. The outbreak of World War II, however, further delayed the formation of a family.

Richard was drafted and sent to India. He served as a clinical psychologist in charge of a neuropsychiatric ward at the 142nd General Hospital in Calcutta, part of the China-Burma-India theater of the WWII. For 18 months, my future adoptive parents were separated by 6,000 months. My mother-to-be lived at home with her parents in Findlay, Ohio. She continued to teach school and inquired into adopting a baby. Without a dad in the home, however, adoption proved impossible.

Devoted to one another for a lifetime, Richard and Reva exchanged letters every day of their wartime separation. Sometimes they alluded to adopting a child; Always they reaffirmed their strong love and devotion for one another. My divorced birth mother attended college where Richard was a guidance counselor. As far as I can tell, she asked him to help her by taking my brother and me. I was five and my brother nearly two.

Years later as I read through my parents’ wartime letters, I was moved and inspired by the depth of their love. Of all the confessions of love, this is the one I most cherish…

Calcutta, India
May 29, 1945
Dearest Reva,
You asked why I had white roses delivered to you on May 16. It was a sentimental and romantic gesture in which the traditional meaning of the colors of flowers was invoked. But to my way of thinking I could as well offer a white rose upon the altar of my love for you each day. Purity is as much a lovely characteristic of your being today as it was the first time I touched your hand in 1930. By some miracle, your contact with life—with me— has not coarsened you. I reflect upon you and me in the car under the moonlight, in the front room listening to “Moon River,” and in the bed we have shared, I am aware that I have approached you each time as a man who knows his love for the first glorious union of body and soul

Waiting for the war to end, Reva lived for letters from India.

How much our separation has meant to me I dare not put on paper. Perhaps, just before I sail for home, I may try. But rather by far that I be permitted to demonstrate in a real way what I mean. You will not have to cling to me, you are me.

Perhaps in all this I am idealizing, but I think not. this low, weary year has given me time to consider many things, the significance of which has been blurred in the past. Clearcut, sharp and pure, etched against the certificate of our union as a palm tree silhouettes against the blue of a late Indian evening, is the world-crashing, world-engulfing, between-you-and-me eternal fact: I am so glad that you married me.

Goodnight, precious Ritter. I’ll help moisten that pillow soon, from which I have so often seen your large brown lovely eyes watching me. They are looking down on me now, Reva.

In devotion,
Dick

I’ve recounted my adoptive parents’ story in From Calcutta with Love-The WWII Letters of Richard and Reva Beard. Their love for each other became a gift of love for me.

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Join Elaine for reflections on adoption, writing, hiking and life in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Your comments are invited.

 

Three Steps toward Gratitude

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Resentment and gratitude cannot coexist, since resentment blocks the perception and experience of life as a gift…Gratitude as a discipline involves a conscious choice. I can choose to be grateful even when my emotions or feelings are still steeped in hurt and resentment. – Henri Nouwen

As we begin October, I’m counting my blessings. It’s been a year since a hiking injury resulted in a spinal fracture, and for months I thought I’d never be OK. Months of physical therapy and lots of walking have made me whole again.

But equally helpful has been practicing what Henri Nouwen calls The Discipline of Gratitude. Being out in nature with daily walking, savoring the good parts of every day, and support from wonderful friends: all of that has made a profound difference.

Santa Fe Botanical Garden offers a beautiful place to ramble.

While the issues of adoption never go away completely (You wake up in the morning and you’re still an adoptee), I’ve learned to cut through gloom by using the following tools. The first two mental routines are best practiced during a walk outdoors. The final process is to be done at day’s end.

STEPS TOWARD DEVELOPING THE DISCIPLINE OF GRATITUDE:
1. Walk your brain: This is a technique developed by my friend Beth, who leads a women’s Tuesday-morning brisk aerobic jaunt. After you’ve started walking, imagine a goal and think of five things that will move you toward accomplishing it. The goal need not be lofty: Anything from a chore you’ve put off for too long to applying for a job or writing an overdue important letter. Name your intention and concentrate on the five steps to achieve that goal. Do this throughout your 15 or 30 minute walk, and put the plan into action right away.

2. Practice the “shake it off” mental housecleaning movement: This is another technique best practiced while strolling. When you find yourself dwelling on the dark side, shake either your right or left hand out into the air, as though shooing away pesky insects.

3. Every night before falling asleep, think of five things that you’re thankful for, events of that particular day or conditions of your life in general.
Author, physician, and New Age guru Deepak Chopra maintains that “a gift resides in every moment.” By practicing the discipline of gratitude, one can learn to see those gifts, to find an opportunity behind every problem, and to walk through the darkest hours and come out on the other side.
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Join Elaine on alternate Mondays for reflections on adoption and life. And check out her memoir The Goodbye Baby-Adoptee Diaries

Aspen Vista, Santa Fe, New Mexico

Poetry Monday

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As we approach the beginning of a new season, I’m adopting gratitude, celebrating health, and embracing life. If this sounds overly dramatic, let me explain…In 2017, the first day of Autumn brought a devastating hiking injury that took months to heal. That I’ve mended seems a miracle, and it fills me with appreciation for the body’s wisdom and ability to knit itself back together. In that spirit, I present one of my favorite poems…

“MYSTERIES, YES

by Mary Oliver

Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous

to be understood.

How grass can be nourishing in the

mouths of the lambs.

How rivers and stones are forever

in allegiance with gravity

while we ourselves dream of rising.

How two hands touch and the bonds

will never be broken.

How people come, from delight or the

scars of damage,

to the comfort of a poem.

Let me keep my distance, always, from those

who think they have the answers.

Let me keep company always with those who say

“Look!” and laugh in astonishment,

and bow their heads.”

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Join Elaine every other Monday for reflections on adoption and life. Your comments are welcome!