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.


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.

Adopting Life in the Slow Lane


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Last Fall, I went from being physically fit to feeling 100 years old…

I expected to be much better by now. It’s been eight months since the hiking accident that laid me low. On September 22 of 2017, I lost my footing and fell on my back into the Nambe River. Then, with the help of friends (they were further ahead on the slippery uphill riverbank but quickly responded to my shouts for help) I was able to stand. They fished me out of the Nambe River, where I’d landed on boulders, and walked me a torturous three miles from forest to parking lot. Next stop, the Emergency Room, where it was declared “No broken bones.” I was told to get physical therapy, which I did twice weekly. After two months, I was worse than ever. Finally, my doctor ordered an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). Voila! There it was: a compression fracture in my lower spine. I opted against surgery, instead letting the vertebra heal naturally. The neurosurgeon told me the vertebra would take several months to mend on its own. I fully expected that I’d bounce back. After all, I was one who’d endured injuries from nine marathons and years of skiing. Surely I would improve with time and physical therapy.
Instead, the months dragged on and I got worse. My back had a mind of its own. The lumbar region rearranged itself (for lack of a better way to describe the situation) and I developed a pinched nerve. Help!…Was there no end in sight? I’d tried every therapy in the book, and fitness still eluded me.
I’ve had to say goodbye to the old ME and realize that with age comes much, much longer healing time. Gone are the days of hiking to Spirit Lake, Deception Peak and Santa Fe Baldy. Or even Atalaya, Picacho Peak and Sun Mountain. All of these are favorites of Santa Feans, and they used to be mine as well.
Whether I like it or not, now begins a new normal. Maybe not forever, but at least in the near term. I’ve been limited to routes that have little up and down. One such discovery is the trail that goes along the railroad tracks for the Santa Fe Southern. The line used to run from Lamy to Santa Fe. It is now defunct, but the tracks remain. Better known as “Rails to Trails,” it is-conducive to peaceful rambles. It’s also a popular byway for mountain bikers. Last Saturday, my friend Joalie and I walked the Rails to Trails for half an hour before seeing anyone else.
Finally, another traveler. It turned out to be Hope Kiah, a friend from long ago. Hope was my first webmeister. We’d met in the 1980s, a time when I promoted the first edition of Santa Fe on Foot, a guidebook that is still in print. Having a website then, long before everyone had gone online, was a big deal. Hope, who was riding a super-cool electric bicycle, was as amazed to see me as I was to see her. We stopped and chatted. It had been years. A wonderful reunion, out there in the middle of nowhere. The distant Sandia Mountains and high desert all around us, we caught up on our lives before she motored on to her home, some ten miles south and Joalie and I walked the mile back to our car. Life in the slow lane has its gifts.


Join Elaine on alternate Mondays for reflections on the world as seen through adoption-colored glasses. She is currently writing a sequel to her latest novel All the Wrong Places. Your feedback is always welcome.

An Afternoon of Music


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When I was adopted at age five, I went from being “nobody’s child” to being the daughter of an esteemed college professor and his wife. My brother Johnny and I were given every advantage that my hard-working parents could afford. Looking back across the decades, I feet that though we weren’t extremely wealthy, the cultural advantages of growing up in such a family were great. Mine was a “rags to riches” story, and though my adoptive parents, Richard and Reva, passed away decades ago, hardly a week goes by that I don’t think of them. I’m grateful for having been featured on my Dad’s “book TV” program at the University of North Carolina, for dance and drama lessons, and most of all, for piano lessons.

Because I loved playing the piano, I fully intended to continue lessons. Life, however, took me in other directions. It took me away from piano playing. I became the mother of two sons, and I began to devote time and energy to marathon running. Training involved running 30 to 80 miles a week, leaving no time to practice piano. I felt that without practice, I was wasting my piano teacher’s time. On the afternoon of what would be my last lesson, I had to tell Mrs. McHugh that I was quitting.

Because I had never stopped loving piano music, it’s been particularly joyous to take a music history course. from my friend and neighbor Fred Kronacher. Fred is an accomplished pianist and dedicated teacher. He is author of a fascinating memoir: Piano Variations~ A Musical Odyssey of Self Discovery. (More about that later.) He also teaches classes on music history and appreciation. Last Sunday’s class on the Baroque Era was splendid. To a group of a dozen, Fred illuminated musical highlights of Scarlotti, Handel and Bach, all of whom were born in 1685. Fred’s classes are entertaining as well as illuminating. He plays the piano throughout; He also plays cd recordings. We learn about the life and times of the Italian and German musical greats of the Baroque Era. It is a delicious medley.

Before our break, we are treated to a recital by one of his star pupils, a seven-year-old Chinese student named Stephanie. Dressed in a baby blue kimono, the poised young girl treats us to “Plum Blossoms.” After the mini-concert, we break for refreshments.. The treat of this afternoon, in addition to black coffee, is exquisite bread pudding. Hearkening back to the European influences in his life, virtuoso Kronacher is also an superb baker.

Fred’s memoir Piano Variations is great fun to read. It comprises vignettes about his piano students, mostly children. The stories of their challenges and triumphs are engaging, as varied as the young students themselves. In the introductory chapter, Fred says “To light the lamp in the soul of one’s neighbor is a privilege not given to everyone. A good teacher, once himself ignited, may pass the flame to another.” If I’d had him as a teacher during my formative years, I know that despite life’s interruptions, I would still be playing the piano.

If one cannot be a musician, perhaps the next best thing is being an appreciator of music. If you live in Santa Fe or Albuquerque, please be advised that Mr. Kronacher is accepting new piano students. For music aficionados, there will be opportunities to hear him lecturing before selected operas this summer at Santa Fe Opera. In August, he will be presenting a seminar on all five operas of the 2018 season.
Anyone interested in learning more about this Santa Fe musician and teacher, feel free to contact him at



Join Elaine on alternate Mondays for musings on adoption and life.



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April is National Poetry Month. Not only that, it’s the BIRTHDAY month of the great English poet and playwright, William Shakespeare. For me, it means ADOPTING SHAKESPEARE- HIS LANGUAGE, HIS PLAYS, HIS SONNETS, and you’re invited to join in. In a week, the Sweet Swan of Avon (who lived from April 23, 1564-April 23, 1616) turns 454! To celebrate Shakespeare’s Birthday, please send favorite quotations, thereby entering my annual Shakespeare contest.   Tweet them, using my twitter name @TheGoodbyeBaby. Quotation competition takes place during the month of April. The prize, a set of “The Shakespeare Papers” by PhD Shakespearean scholar Robin Williams, will be sent to the top contributor via snail mail. Past winners include poet/memoirist Luanne Castle (@writersitetweet). To honor Shakespeare and celebrate poetry month, read Sonnet 18 aloud to someone you love.

William Shakespeare



Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimm’d;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st;
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

The contest ends May 1, after which copies of brilliant Shakespeare scholar Robin Williams’ “The Shakespeare Papers” will be mailed to the top two best entries. So, as the song goes, “Brush up on your Shakespeare…start quoting him now!”

Join Elaine on alternate Mondays for musings on adoption and life.

The Angels of April


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NOTE: Taking a brief blog-cation, as I’m spending time in Florida with my 93-year-old stepmother. Enjoy one of my favorite posts from the past, and have a beautiful April, more awesome than than anything else!

“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.

Homeless and a Vet


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An icy wind chilled the March day. Dressed in torn jeans and a threadbare blue parka, the tall, blond beggar kept watch at the grocery store entrance. In his gloveless hands he held a crude cardboard sign that read, “HELP.” At his feet was a second sign, “HOMELESS VET – Will work for food.” Exiting, I handed over a few dollars from my wallet. The man smiled, thanked me, and asked, “Do you have an extra blanket? Someone stole mine last night.”
“No,” I replied, “but I’ll try to bring one next time I shop.” Of course he probably wouldn’t be there, I thought ruefully. The man’s face though young, was deeply etched with worry lines. A handsome face, old before its time.
I cried as I drove home. The cold spring day was a carbon copy of the time I opened the dusty box of my father’s World War II love letters. He had been a proud veteran, and in a way he had become homeless, and now he was gone. I blamed my melancholy on the homeless man, but it was deeper than that. The tears were for my father Richard, who had died of Alzheimer’s Disease decades earlier. At the end of his life, he was sentenced to the dementia ward of a nursing facility, shut away from my mother, his children, and all he’d known. Like the hapless grocery store sentry, he also was “homeless and a vet.”
We like to think that those we love will pass away quietly and with dignity. Certainly my father did not deserve such a harsh ending to his exemplary life. Richard, so dutiful and devoted during World War II, a distinguished college professor, was now a man without a country. Mentally alone and bewildered, he might as well have been back on the streets of Calcutta. Renamed Kolkata, that teeming city was where he’d served for 18 months as a clinical psychologist in the 142nd General Hospital. He wrote to his beloved Reva, my mother, every day. Years later, I would turn those letters into a book. Unlike his overseas stint during the war, however, this isolation could not be relieved by writing letters.

My father documented his Calcutta experience by writing daily letters to mom.

As a light snow began falling, I somehow managed to get home and put the groceries away as I pondered my father’s leaving. With Alzheimer’s Disease, we lose our loved ones before their physical deaths. Triggered by the homeless vet, my thoughts travelled back to the last semi-lucid talk I’d had with dad.
For years, I flew every spring from New Mexico to see my parents in Virginia. On the morning of this particular visit, I found my father Richard dressed to go to the UVa School of Education. For 35 years, he’d been a professor. Prepared to teach his classes, he wore slacks, coat and tie, nice-looking oxfords, and on his balding head, a dapper felt hat. Only there was something wrong with this picture. My father had retired eleven years earlier.
In the bizarre manner of someone no longer in touch with reality, he sat in a livingroom chair, staring into space. As the saying goes, “all dressed up and nowhere to go.”
My beloved dad was a shadow of himself, a hollow mockery. Mostly silent and confused, he expressed an occasional insightful comment. My heart aching, I sat before him, hoping to communicate. He did not know the Me of now but remembered the orphan I’d been when he and my mother decided to adopt me.
“I remember you as a little girl,” he said. “You were running around and around, like a wild pony.”
Memories have it in their power to hurt or heal us. This recollection cheered me. I was five years old when I first saw the man who would become my father. After World War II ended, my brother and I were shuffled from foster homes to relatives, a haphazard arrangement at best, and we were officially “up for adoption.” Apparently sensing that I could trust the kindly man who’d come to the unwanted children’s home, I put on my best “Please Adopt Me” act. Reva’s health was fragile, and they’d planned on one adopted infant rather than two older children (My brother Johnny was 17 months old.) I imagined Richard, his heart full of love, sweeping aside his misgivings and agreeing to take us home.
Later during that same Virginia visit, Reva said that Richard liked to go for walks but needed accompaniment. Outdoors we went, but soon it became clear that he couldn’t walk more than a hundred yards. As we sat to rest on a wooden bench, he began talking about Calcutta and his work with rehabilitating soldiers suffering from shell shock.
I wanted to shout, “Dad, it’s me, your daughter Elaine.” I wanted him to be there with me. But he was too far away and I was too late. We walked very slowly back to the retirement home, our arms locked. He had, it seemed, grown smaller. He felt light as a child.
A character in Ruth Prawer Jhabvala’s Heat and Dust says “…one has to be very determined to withstand – to stand up to – India. There are many ways of loving India, many things to love her for: the scenery, the history, the poetry, the music, and indeed the physical beauty of the men and women. One should never allow oneself to become softened like Indians by an excess of feeling, because the moment that happens, the moment one exceeds ones measure, one is in danger of being dragged to the other side.”
My father was on the other side, floating further and further away from me. I could not bring him back.
Elaine Pinkerton’s From Calcutta with Love – The World War II Letters of Richard and Reva Beard was originally published by Texas Tech University Press in 2002. Currently, the book is being acquired for republication by Pajarito Press. You’re invited to comment and to share your adoption stories on The Goodbye Baby website.

My Writing Life ~ From Fact to Fiction


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You take people, you put them on a journey, you give them peril, you find out who they really are. – Joss Whedon

It’s hell writing and it’s hell not writing. The only tolerable state is just having written.
Robert Hass

I’ve enjoyed a lifetime of reading novels, and for the past few years, I’ve devoted my energy to writing them. A shift of focus, closer to my heart. Previously, my writing life had been devoted to nonfiction. As a young child, I recorded the events of each day in a diary (a habit that I’ve continued to this day!) For a decade, I made my living as a technical writer in the Information Services division of Los Alamos Laboratory. In the early 1980s, my love of hiking, running and bicycling resulted in the guidebook Santa Fe on Foot-Exploring the City Different. The fourth edition was published last year by Ocean Tree Books.
In 1991, another nonfiction book followed: The Santa Fe Trail by Bicycle, an account of my 1,000-mile bicycle journey from Santa Fe to New Franklin, Missouri. Fifteen of us cycled from Santa Fe to New Franklin, Missouri. We biked from dawn until afternoon, camping every night. My book began as newspaper articles. After each day of bicycling, I’d handwrite an account and fax it to The Albuquerque Journal. The quest for a fax machine took me to some unusual places. I’d bike around whatever town we’d camped near looking for a business that had a fax machine I could pay to use. The most offbeat fax machine location was an undertaker’s showroom, the friendliest was a bookstore.
Other nonfiction books came, one after another. From Calcutta with Love-The WWII Letters of Richard and Reva Beard; The Goodbye Baby-Adoptee Diaries. My true love, from adolescence forward, was fiction. At long last, I’m realizing that dream.
I began the journey into the world of fiction-writing with a WWII suspense novel Beast of Bengal. It was inspired by a comment my brother John made about our father Richard. After Daddy died, I asked John to send me all the letters from WWII that my parents exchanged. “He didn’t DO anything,” John grumpily replied. “Nobody will be interested in these letters.” My brother was dead wrong. People were very interested in the archived letters, and From Calcutta with Love sold out. Texas Tech University Press, the publisher, returned full rights to me, and the book is currently being considered for re-publication by Pajarito Press.
In 2017,Pocol Press published my second novel All the Wrong Places, a page-turner set in a fictitious Native American school. Teacher Clara Jordan has to run for her life when her duplicitous lover Henry DiMarco realizes she is aware of his criminal activities. Moreover, she must draw upon inner strength to help her students survive the ragged remains of the school year.
One book just leads to another. Clara Jordan, my heroine, has more to tell. In All the Wrong Places, she lost her best friend, broke up with a bad boyfriend, and learned that the birthmother she’d been seeking died in an accident.

In Clara and the Hand of Ganesh, my girl moves from Red Mesa, New Mexico to Santa Fe. She meets Arundhati “Dottie” Bennett, a fellow adoptee, and they become close friends. Clara decides to help Dottie search for her origins. To do the necessary sleuthing, the two women must travel to Southern India. A daunting challenge, but as I left Clara and Dot, they were plotting and scheming for a way. What happens next? Though I have a general idea, I’m waiting for my characters to guide me. Throughout the day, I write down ideas that pop up while I’m in the dentist’s chair, in the middle of a hike, in the shower – or sometimes when I’m officially “writing.” My job is to collect the ideas and show up at the computer every day. This showing up feels like what I should be doing. Writing fiction is what I’ve been working toward for decades. In answer to the question posed by poet Mary Oliver
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
My answer is to listen to my characters and do their bidding.


Join adoptee Elaine Pinkerton on alternate Mondays for reflections on adoption and life. Please email if you’d like to propose a guest blog. Comments are welcome!

Author, Elaine Pinkerton, traveled to Italy to learn about her cultural roots



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My friend Shirley Melis observes, “It’s no so much what happens to you but what you do with it.” She’s written a best-selling memoir, Banged-Up Heart – Dancing with Love and Loss, about losing her husband, falling in love with a man who swept her off her feet, marrying him and then losing that husband to cancer. She survived those tragedies and found love a third time. Her positive attitude and resilience so inspired me, I recently added an accolade to her many five-star reviews on Amazon.

Today’s post is not about bereavement, but about losing and then regaining health and fitness. Rather than a banged-up heart, I acquired a banged-up back. Five months ago I fell and suffered a spinal compression fracture. It happened during a hike in New Mexico’s Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Inattentiveness and treacherous footing.: I stumbled, slipped into a rocky mountain stream and landed on sharp boulders(

Because of possible side-effects, I opted not to have surgery. The neurologist assured me that eventually the fractured vertebra would mend on its own. Thus began a slow, arduous healing process. Physical therapy, swimming, arnica and acupuncture were just a few of the measures I embraced. Amazingly, there was a silver lining to the cloud that now hovered over my life. Because I couldn’t hike three mornings a week, I had time to finish the novel I’d been putting off. The injury created a gift of time. I’m getting back to hiking, but in a modified way.

As an adoptee, I’ve learned that emotional adjustments are the way to succeed. At age five, I was taken from flimsy foster care arrangements to the warm, loving home of a college professor and his wife, my adoptive parents. On one hand, I felt completely abandoned. Ripped away from all I’d ever known, I had to pretend to be the “real” daughter. It’s taken a lifetime to realize that the problem (of being abandoned) was actually an opportunity. It’s taken years to shift from feeling victimized to being the heroine of my own life. The new attitude is fed by love of family and friends, nurtured by gratitude, and maintained by daily journaling.

When 2018 began, I chose one word as my new year’s resolution: LIGHT. On January 1, while cleaning the perpetually cluttered home office, I came across notes from an Oprah Winfrey/Deepak Chopra 21-day online workshop. The topic: “Getting Unstuck~Creating a Limitless Life.” Each one of the 21 days focused on a new intention. The following ten were the ones I embraced…

I am fulfilled when I can be who I want to be
I am never stuck when I live in the present
I embrace the newness of this day
I am in charge of my brain, not the other way around
Today I am creating a better version of myself
I am aware of being cared for and supported
My awareness opens the door to new possibilities.
My life is dynamic because I welcome change.
I deserve a life without limitations.
Every day unfolds the next step in my journey.

These are resolutions particularly appropriate not just for the “adoptee frame of mind,” but also for anybody who seeks to envision a personal encouraging light. It may be the light after losing a loved one, the light of healing, or simply the light of a new appreciation for being alive. Whatever your light may be, it’s worth seeking.


Join Elaine on alternate Mondays for reflections on adoption and life. Her newest novel Clara and the Hand of Ganesh, a sequel to All the Wrong Places, is a work-in-progress. Your comments are invited. If you would like to be a guest blogger on an adoption-related theme, email me at

After the fall, beginning the road to recovery

To Thine Own Self Be True


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How can you be true to yourself if you grew up not being allowed to know who you are?

‘This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man. – Polonius in William Shakespeare’s  “Hamlet”

As an adoptee, hiding behind the mask of being “normal,” of masquerading as the “real” daughter, I could never live my life authentically. Early on, I assumed that there was something shameful about not being born to my mom and dad. The best way to behave was to strive for perfection in everything.
07_to-thine-own-self-be-true-ShakespeareNo matter how I tried, however, it was never enough. In lieu of facts, my imagination took over. I was competing with that other daughter that my parents couldn’t have: A ghost of a girl who looked like my adoptive parents and resembled them in ways that I simply could not. I had to make them proud, to prove myself.

At age five, I had (symbolically) been “born again.” That old life was just a warm up and I was supposed to forget about it. Never ask about those first parents. Don’t think about those years before being “rescued.” If I wasn’t successful in my role, I could be sent back to careless people who never should have been foster parents. Maybe it was fear that kept me from pressing for answers about my first years.

That said, I had wonderful adoptive parents. They helped me accomplish and excel

Being true to myself meant writing more books!

in many ways. Striving is not necessarily a bad thing. I did well academically, worked at age 16 to save money for college and graduate school, embraced writing at an early age as what I really wanted to do. My ambition was boundless. In many ways, that has served me well.

The downside is that I never “arrived.” Instead of being able to savor my successes, I kept raising the bar. Only now can I relax and quit being an overachiever.

Do I have advice to those who cannot accept their adoption? I can offer only some thoughts I would like to share. Knowing ones parents certainly has value, but if that knowledge must be incomplete or even missing, SEARCH FOR WHO YOU REALLY ARE.

If possible, avoid people who sap your energy. Vow to do something good for yourself every day, even a small act. Try a week of being your own best friend., and see if you start feeling better, especially about being an adoptee!

This above all: to thine own self be true
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