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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.

 

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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!

In Pursuit of Roots

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Dear Readers: Family matters have lately consumed me and there’s been no time to write. Enjoy this re-posting of thoughts originally published in 2012. The lack of “roots,” though I’ve come to grips with it, continues to be a challenge. If you’re an adoptee and have ever felt the need for a family tree, please send your feedback. Like other adoptees I’ve met, I’m still searching for the answers!

Last night I watched a program on public television that reminded me of being an adoptee. The emptiness and longing for a tribe of my own, a feeling I wrongly assumed I had put to rest, was back with a vengeance.

“Finding your Roots,” which featured three celebrities exploring their family trees, was all about searching to find a place where you belong, piecing together the past, and learning where and how your ancestors lived. The show was well presented and dramatized the interviewees’ journeys to discover their their true heritage.

imagesMy outsider status syndrome immediately kicked in. How fortunate, I thought, to even possess a genealogy that you could call your own. Growing up as an adoptee, I longed for years to claim a so-called “family tree.” I’d been to Italy with my birthfather Giovanni Cecchini. After our reunion, we travelled to Abruzzi, where he was born. I met my non-English-speaking cousins, aunts and uncles. Following the journey to Italy, my birthfather’s second wife (not my birthmother) helped me secure a detailed listing of paternal relatives.

With my adoptive mom’s help, I’d was able to chart out a family tree for my ancestry record, going back just a couple centuries. Those two charts were intellectual exercises, but I couldn’t relate to them.

Two family trees, but neither really fit who I was. Though I had the DNA of the biological parentage, I was shaped and molded by my adoptive parents. Rather than give in to an emotional meltdown, however, I thought long and hard about why the “Finding your Roots” program tried to break my heart. Tried but failed.

When I was young, I made up a myth about being adopted.The underlying theme was “Oh, poor me.” That was a way of reacting to everything, seemingly as fixed as the stars in the Big Dipper or the belt of the constellation Orion. However, I was not a fixed star and I could shape a new truth.

Juniper Tree

Juniper Tree. Everything, seemingly as fixed as the stars in the Big Dipper or the belt of the constellation Orion. However, I was not a fixed star and I could shape a new truth.

 

I decided to emulate the indomitable juniper tree. It will send roots down 25 feet in order to survive. Here’s a description from the National Park Service’s website:

“Junipers grow in some of the most inhospitable landscapes imaginable, thriving in an environment of baking heat, bone-chilling cold, intense sunlight, little water and fierce winds. Often they appear to grow straight out of solid rock.”

This is the kind of family tree that will serve me well.

Join Elaine on alternate Mondays for reflections on adoption and life. Your feedback is invited!

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On the Trail Again

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As an adult adoptee, I’ve learned that inward healing leads to outward recovery. Along the way, I found that the obstacles in my path cause regression. Whenever life presents a new crisis, I’m thrown off balance. Because of last Fall’s serious injury, I experienced not only a physical but an emotional setback… a “pre-adoption recovery” state of mind.

After all four of my parents died, I found that looking into the past helped me move into the future.

Balance ~ that’s what I lost eleven months ago, when a hiking injury threw me totally out of commission https://tinyurl.com/yb2ruz3k. Months of physical therapy and healing techniques such as acupuncture, Feldenkrais, water aerobics, strength classes at the gym, stationary cycling and neighborhood walks helped lessen the pain from a compression fracture. However, until I faced the main culprit – anger – I would not really get better.

Why anger? I fell during a hike, something that could happen to anyone in difficult terrain. My anger was mainly aimed at myself. For taking my eyes off the tricky uphill path. For a disastrous moment of inattentiveness. For not taking an easier hike, which half of my fellow hikers had opted for on that September 22nd of 2017. My anger was about the injury itself – a compression fracture that would take months to heal and would lead to related lumbar and joint issues.

Anger is a terrible thing. Unless one deals with it, it corrodes. It can seem there is no bottom to the Canyon of Despondency and that one can never escape from this negative emotion. Until I admitted that unresolved issues about adoption were the root of my unhappiness, I was doomed to be under the cloud of angry, hurtful emotions. Only when I looked the demons in the eye could I begin to recover.
I had to admit my sadness that I did not grow up in a biologically related family
Only after meeting my biological parents, (who were not “parent material”) did I fully realize how lucky I was to have been adopted. After five years of being shuffled about in foster care, I landed in a forever home. Adoption adds so much to a child’s life: parents who chose her (or him), security and stability, a room of ones own. But it also takes away: blood ties, growing up with people who share your DNA, a family tree that is connected to you. As a baby, you, the adopted one, resided for nine months in your mother’s womb; you were connected at a primal level.

When I was adopted at age five, which I describe in The Goodbye Baby-Adoption Diaries – I was afraid to ask questions. Instead, I grew up longing to know where I came from, why I was relinquished. Years later, I felt I’d answered the questions and silenced the demons. With my injury, however, the old anger crept back in. Only when I acknowledged my anger and worked to release it did I start to mend. I forgave everything and everybody, including myself. Last week I ended my 11-month layoff. from hiking. With my neighbor Joalie, I hiked up the Tesuque Trail in Santa Fe National Forest to a beautiful lookout point. Because I’d cleaned out my feelings of anger and resentment, the physical knots in my back left me. Being out of pain and back in touch with nature was an incredible reward.
What I learned from my injury and long, slow recovery was the importance of releasing anger. Perhaps it took the injury to make the lesson sink in. I can recommend the following. Do not take a fall, but instead spend time with your inner self to discover who you really are. YOU are worth it!

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Join Elaine on alternate Mondays for reflections on adoption and life. Guest bloggers with adoption-related stories are invited to inquire. If you’ve ever had an injury that served up a life lesson, we’d like to hear your story.

Adopting the Road to Gratitude

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“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.” – Melody Beattie

The highway from Albuquerque to Santa Fe, New Mexico

The highway from Albuquerque to Santa Fe, New Mexico

 

 

NOTE FROM ELAINE:  Summer has been hectic! House guests and helping a family member move to a job in another part of the country have been all-consuming. Therefore, I’m taking a brief blog-cation, republishing a favorite post from the past. This one contains a message that’s always relevant.

Several years have passed since the publication of The Goodbye Baby-Adoptee Diaries. My memoir comprises diary entries from years of dwelling on unanswered questions about my adoption. Most of those questions have been answered; now I am free to live my life. This journey—writing the book—has opened up a multitude of insights. Being in touch with the many wonderful adoption posts available on the Interenet has deepened my tolerance and understanding of not only my adoptee status but of the personal issues unique to fitting in with friends and families.
I feel that I’m traveling an entirely new highway, going from overcast skies to wide open sunny plains. The secrecy that surrounded my adoption caused weary decades of self-doubt and recrimination. The lack of a family tree that was authentically mine felt like a character flaw. Being an adoptee and the insecurities attached to that label defined, at least to myself, who I was.
Finally it seems possible to turn problems into opportunities. Of all the insights gained, perhaps the most stunning is this: growing up as an adoptee was the source of my problems but, paradoxically, the springboard of my success.
Through the Internet’s vast, far-reaching adoption community, I’ve met adoptees young and old, birthparents, adoptive parents, couples wanting to adopt, and people who care about adoption issues. Seeing the “land of adoption” with a wide-angle camera has opened up a new landscape.
Its been said that eighty percent of our information comes through our eyes. Since accepting  the past and steadfastly refusing to stay mired in it, I’ve gained a new appreciation for the beauty all around us. I’m fortunate to live in northern New Mexico’s high desert country, a land of astonishingly beautiful sunsets, the Rocky Mountain foothills, majestic forests and scenic plains.
Sometimes all that’s needed is to spend less time “over-thinking”—a notorious flaw of adult adoptees I’ve met—and more time simply really looking at the world.This is a step toward discovering the fullness of your life. BEING HERE is a gift.

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The Goodbye Baby-Adoptee Diaries is available from Amazon and on Kindle. Join me on alternate Mondays for reflections on the world as seen through “adoption-colored glasses.” Your comments are invited!

 

Join Elaine on Mondays for reflections on adoption and life.

#30yearreuniversary wrap-up:

How amazing to be with birth sisters! Your day together at Disneyland sounded terrific. None of my reunions with original relatives did not turn out very well, so it was great to hear about a successful reunion.

Akin to the Truth: A Memoir of Adoption and Identity

I just got home from all my worldly travels this month. It will be a while before I get to go anywhere outside of driving trips again just because of real life. July has been a blast. What a privilege to see all the sights and be with the people I have been with this month.

The trip to So. Cal. w my two sisters (on my birth mother’s side) was beautiful and jam-packed with activity. I’m still processing, but it’s all good. This was our #30yearreuniversary of me finding them and connecting w them in July of 1988. Each time we get together we learn a little more about one another and realize that together we do possess a “Power of Three”. (“Charmed” reference)

On this trip, we saw older houses where my sisters once lived. How the homes look now are not the way they used to look…

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Adoptee Travels: Beadwork & A DaVinci Day

While I love exploring distant parts of the globe, It’s also fun to “vacation” in ones own home territory. This month, I visited two exhibits -one at Santa Fe’s Museum of International Folk Art, another at Albuquerque, New Mexico’s Museum of Natural History.

The Museum of International Folk Art (MOIFA), established in 1953 by folk art authority Florence Dibell, is one of my favorite Santa Fe attractions. MOIFA’s vast collections hail from dozens of countries. They include a stunning variety of costumes, Navajo pictorial weavings, Swedish folk art, New Mexican carved santos, African and Arabian items, toys from the Caribbean, musical instruments from the Indian subcontinent, just to name a fraction of the total immense collection. MOIFA occupies the entire Northwestern end of “Museum Hill.”


My friends, all part of a women’s walking group called “Glow Club,” and I went to MOIFA to see a special rotating exhibit of beadwork. From a beaded stethoscope to beaded wedding dresses, the variety was astonishing. We learned that just about anything can be (and is) a palette for beading. It is an art form that spans cultures throughout the world.

On another day, a few pals and I drove the 60 miles south to Albuquerque, New Mexico to the New Mexico Museum of Natural History. The exhibit “DaVinci The Genius” was calling us. The ultimate Renaissance Man, Leonardo DaVinci was an artist and inventor whose iconic masterpieces are rightly held in awe. The masterpieces on display are digitized versions of paintings too precious to be moved from their European galleries. One entire room of the Albuquerque display is devoted to an in-depth study of the Mona Lisa, showing what the original colors would have been before the fading of years and countless restorations. The exhibit’s second floor comprises DaVinci’s inventions, from wings to “instant” bridges to be used hastily during battles, and numerous devices for moving and carrying water. Made of wood, they are based very precisely on the originals.

The walls are filled were replicas of Leonardo DaVinci’s drawings and notes. Selected from 6,000 pages of originals, they are displayed throughout this amazing exhibit. Of the many quotations calligraphed on the museum’s walls, these words seemed to best convey the Italian genius’s spirit:

It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.

Though uttered over five centuries ago, these words are appropriate for today. I plan to adopt them for my summer slogan!

*********************************************************************Join author Elaine Pinkerton on alternate Mondays for reflections on life as seen through adoption-colored lenses. Your comments are invited!

Adoptee feels at home in Ukraine

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St. Sophia Cathedral in Kiev is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its 13 glimmering domes are visible from all over the city.

Good to be back!
I’ve just returned from an unforgettable journey: 11 days sailing up the Dneiper River in the mid-section of Ukraine. The largest European country, Ukraine is a beautiful, fertile land known as “the breadbasket of Europe.” This was a memorable trip filled with beauty and history, much of that history quite sobering. “Ukraine” means “border,” and the unique position of the eastern country of Europe has shaped its destiny. The Russian empress Catherine II annexed Ukraine in the 18th century, but, under Nikita Kruschev, in 1954, it became its own country in 1954. With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the far eastern edge of Ukraine became increasingly unstable. A large part of this “edge territory” is Russian-speaking. However, it is part of Ukraine. The “Revolution of Dignity” in 2014, a statement of Ukranian pride, resulted in violent deaths in the center of Kiev, the country’s capital.

My travel buddy and I decided on Ukraine while it was still a possible destination. But this is a post about the bright side of Ukraine, not its struggles. There is much to learn, much to admire. In Viking River Cruise style, we sailed mostly at night and explored cities and countryside by day. Our first port was Odessa, built on the site of an ancient Greek colony. Many cultures settled here – Crimean Tartars, Turks, Russians and Germans. Our ship docked, and we spent several days tooling about the city, admiring its elegant Baroque buildings, elaborate facades and balconies, tree lined boulevards. The variety of huge old trees (chestnut, poplar, acacia, linden) rivaled the architecture. Roses of brilliant hues rule the city’s parks and gardens. We spent time going up and down the Potemkin steps, mostly by funicular.

One night I went to the magnificent rococo opera house for a production of “Swan Lake.” Other highlights were the Odessa catacombs and the vast Akkerman Fortress, a 13th century citadel.

We made our way north, visiting Kherson and Zaporozhye. The Island of Khortitsa, former stronghold of the Cossacks, was another highlight, including modern-day Cossacks performing acrobatic feats on horseback. Their athleticism and commanding style was thrilling to observe.
After more village and city visits, we ended up in Kiev, capital of Ukraine. St. Sophia Cathedral was a highlight of this magnificent city. Hard to say whether it is more impressive on the outside, with its thirteen gold domes, or the inside with towering gilded and mosaic rotunda ceilings. The final tour was through Jewish Kiev and included “Babi Yar,” the site of WWII massacres. We also went to Podyl, one of the oldest synogogues in the city. The journey ended on an upbeat note, as Podyl included a school. Children preparing for summer camp were playing outdoors, a fitting symbol of hope for the future.

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Join adoptee/author Elaine Pinkerton every other Monday for reflections on adoption and life. Your comments are invited. If you’d like to contribute a guest post related to the adoption theme, please contact her through this website.

 

 

 

Lessons of the Labyrinth

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“The end is the beginning,” – T.S. Eliot
Have you ever felt blindsided by life’s events? The deaths of people closest to me, all

The Labyrinth dates back 6,000 years.

The Labyrinth dates back 6,000 years.

happening in just a few years, was nearly unbearable. My adoptive parents, birthparents and husband passed away. How could I go on living? Did I even deserve to? In 2007, following the losses, I built a spiral walking path in my back yard and so it happened that the Labyrinth gave me a way.
The simple act of walking in to the center and then back out, helped clear my mind and reset my emotions. The labyrinth, though profound, is also very simple. When you come to the center of the spiral path, you reverse directions and walk back out.
In my case, the rhythm of that slow walking, combined with breathing deeply and feeling the air around me, gradually changed sadness to something like thoughtfulness. The sharp, ragged pain went away, and a feeling of acceptance took over. Through the days, weeks, months, and years, the labyrinth has been a way for me to tap the inner wisdom that is all too easy to ignore.
So powerful an influence was the labyrinth that I studied with Lauren Artress,
President and Founder of Veriditas, The Voice of the Labyrinth Movement. I read her books on the labyrinth, became a labyrinth facilitator, and hosted walks for friends in my own spiral path.
When I “went public” with my adoption story in The Goodbye Baby: Adoptee Diaries, I wrongly assumed that I’d solved the riddle of my adoption. I’d put my heart and soul into exposing my adoptee past. Through writing the book, I was finally able to forgive myself for a lifetime of oversensitivity about being an adoptee. In retrospect, I accepted the fact that reunions with both of my birthparents, while not a total failure, were not what I’d hoped they would be. I learned to accept even that. In the dealing with adoption department, I was done, finished, complete.
A friend will ask me if I’m “cured” or “over” the issues of adoption. The answer is “Maybe” or “Sometimes.” Like life itself, dealing with adoption is a work in progress. Thanks to walking the labyrinth, I am better able to recognize the negative adoption-induced feelings that come back to haunt. I have learned that those emotions are like the weather, ever-changing. Behind the clouds, sunshine awaits.
That said, I am not sure that one ever lets go of the “adoptee” status. For me, it is who I am. Of the hundreds of adoption stories I’ve read, it is as integral as the color of ones eyes. It doesn’t go away. So, while not “cured,”  I am now “accepting.”
Much of my life was shadowed by an underlying victim mentality. Now, I feel that obstacles forged an inner strength I’d lacked and made me more who I am. I have come to regard being adopted as a gift, not a curse. In this journey toward wholeness and self-acceptance, nothing has been a better teacher than the labyrinth.

The Labyrinth brings Clarity and Peace

The Labyrinth brings Clarity and Peace. In 2008, Elaine became a certified Labyrinth Facilitator.