Best Friends Forever

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“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”
– Marcel Proust

“Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It’s not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.”
– Muhammad Ali

“Anything is possible when you have the right people there to support you.”
— Misty Copeland

It’s been said that friends are those rare people who ask how you are and wait to hear the answer. Throughout my long life, I’ve been lucky enough to have friends who genuinely listen. Apparently I’m a good listener, because it seems that they use me for a sounding board as well. The better friends we are, the more fine-tuned the listening.

Over the past seven years of blogging, I’ve never written about Friendship, a topic dear to me. Now’s the time! Their names have all been changed, but everything else is true. Of all my friends of the past, Rebecca comes most vividly to mind. We were both writers, both single mothers, both associated with St. John’s College in Santa Fe, New Mexico…Our lives were in transition, we were going through similar passages.
I met Rebecca in 1983 at a book and author reception at St. John’s College. She was writing young adult novels for Scholastic Publishers and I was a freelance journalist who dreamed of getting a book published. She worked for St. John’s in the Admissions Office; I was a student in the Graduate Institute. Our children — her son and daughter and my two sons — were the same ages. I admired her ability to juggle a job, motherhood and writing books. She respected my juggling act, which included training for and running marathons. She understood my issues about being an adopted daughter. We were both also dating men who were friends. We celebrated holidays together, hiked and camped, immersed ourselves in the life or our city, Santa Fe: we were a family.

Rebecca inspired me to proceed with plans for a guidebook featuring walks, runs and bike routes around Santa Fe. She believed in me and my project; thanks to her encouragement, I found an independent Santa Fe publisher.l The result: Santa Fe on Foot appeared in 1986 and it has been in publication, updated every few years, ever since. Meanwhile, Rebecca sought a job that would take her closer to the New York publishing world. She landed one with the City University of New York. She and her children moved to the east coast, ending our wonderful proximity but not the friendship. Shortly after her move, Rebecca met the love or her life, Daniel. They married and began an enviable life of work, adventure and travel.

For thirty years, Rebecca and I kept in touch and spoke about getting together. Years slipped away, and it didn’t happen. It took a tragedy to reunite us. Daniel died, very suddenly, two years ago in May. The sudden loss brought Rebecca and Elaine back to a former closeness. Knowing how challenging it would be to face Christmas alone, I invited myself to spend the holiday with her. It was as though no time at all had passed. The time and distance between us fell away and as we shared the magic of New York at Christmas time. We renewed a friendship that ran deep, and it took on a new life. Truly BFFs. And thank you, dear readers, for listening.

Love Across the Ocean

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Lt. Richard L. Beard in his WWII army uniform, before he became my Dad

Lt. Richard L. Beard in his WWII army uniform, before he became my Dad

The holidays are a time for remembering, and today’s post is a tribute to my adoptive Dad. Note: When I was five, my foster child status changed. I’ve been incredibly fortunate for someone who began life as an orphan. I was adopted by a college professor and his wife, literally going from rags to riches. One of the best legacies my Dad left me was a treasure trove of letters. Below, one of my favorites.

 

During the later years of WWII, my adoptive dad served in the China-Burma-India (CBI) theater of operations as clinical psychologist at the 142nd General Hospital in Calcutta, India. Just when I think that the “Forgotten Front” has faded from public awareness, I meet someone who not only knows about WWII’s CBI arena but who is still honoring the memory of those who served in what General Vinegar Joe Stillwell called “a theater of uncommon misery.”
Yesterday I was making my way up a snowy slope to buy my lift ticket and enjoy a day of skiing. Leaving the ski area was an attractive couple in their 50s or so. They were not dressed to ski but seemed to be sightseeing. This was not so unusual, as many visitors to my hometown of Santa Fe like to come up to the ski basin just for a look around.
What was unusual was the CBI insignia on the man’s leather bomber jacket and the emblem on his armband. How often does one see honoring of the CBI, and of all places at the ski hill? I admired his jacket and

The CBI was known for the Ledo Road through Burma and the "Flying Tigers"

The CBI was known for the Ledo Road through Burma and the “Flying Tigers”

we talked briefly about “the forgotten front” and those who’d served there. He also had a relative, now deceased, who’d been stationed in that remote corner of the world. Thus the inspiration for today’s post, which is all about love across time and miles. Once again, I’m posting a letter from Lt. Richard Beard to his wife Reva written early in what would turn out to be an 18-month separation.

1944                                        At Sea
    Dearest Wife,
             This is written in commemoration of our 7th wedding anniversary, Reva, and will inadequately express my sincere happiness and good fortune in being married to you. I should prefer to look into your eyes for a moment and then kiss you to express those feelings; since that is impossible, will you accept this letter?
I was too moved to write on July 3rd, instead I sat for hours watching the waves slip past the stern of our ship. I ran over our wonderful experiences: I thought of our hard times and the troubles we have encountered; and then I reflected upon the almost perfect peace and comfort which is ours when we are together. How our eyes light, and how solicitous we are of one another’s welfare.
It is necessary, darling Reva, to refer to last summer and our second honeymoon. Perhaps six years of living with you had to fade into history before my love matured sufficiently to leave no vestige of doubt. You are my fate, dear, and I am content.
This war is but a passing shadow, Reva, in our lives. If it should prove more, and I am not to see you again, then if there is any eternity, forever you are engraved on my soul’s substance. But optimistically, I plan for the future, and I want you to do likewise. I hope that you will have a baby boy or girl waiting for me when I come home. If not then, together we shall secure the blessing of children in a family.
I love you, my girl wife, and each passing day confirms how engulfing my love is. Even now I look into your lovely face, and with blurred eyes, pledge to you again my everlasting devotion.

Your husband, Dick

Mom and Dad have been gone many Decembers below, but lately I’ve been thinking about them a lot.  I’m convinced that they adopted my brother and me mainly because of their deep love and devotion to one another. A powerful reminder. Whether they are formed in the traditional manner or forged from adoption, families make us who we are.
It’s really all about love.

A Gift to You – The 12 Days of Adoption

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NOTE: Those of you who’ve been following my blog, welcome back. Greetings to new readers. Winter finds me (at last) finishing a long-in-development sequel to All the Wrong Places. Enjoy one of my favorite posts from the pasts, as I work today on editing Clara and The Hand of Ganesh. Being thankful is a strong motivator, I have learned, in this lonely process of writing. Below, a song of gratitude. Adoption is a mixed blessing, but a blessing nonetheless. Here’s wishing you and yours a beautiful holiday season!

Love and Blessings, Elaine

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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!

Enjoying winter outdoors is a gift.

 

Adopting Autumn

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Sometimes we grow so busy, we forget to enjoy the changing of seasons. Yesterday, as I walked the arroyo near my house, I received a wakeup call. Crisp air, trees nearly bare, dazzling blue sky. On the arroyo floor, a previous hiker had left a message in the sand. It spoke directly to me, a reminder to cherish Autumn.

To Autumn
John Keats

(1795-1821)

SEASON of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease;
For Summer has o’erbrimm’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind; 15
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twinèd flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook; 20
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barrèd clouds bloom the soft-dying day 25
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river-sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn; 30
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

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Join Elaine on alternate Mondays for reflections on adoption and life. Your comments are invited. November is National Adoption Awareness Month, and submissions are being taken for guest blogs on all aspects of adoption. Length no more than 500 words, photos accepted, short bio needed. Send queries to elaine.coleman2013@gmail.com

Decades of diaries became my memoir, The Goodbye Baby-Adoptee Diaries

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. Your comments are invited!

Looking at the world through adoption-colored glasses.

An Adoptee Abroad: Ecuador

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“What place would you advise me to visit now?” he asked. “The planet Earth,” replied the geographer. “It has a good reputation.” — Antoine De Saint Exupéry

 

Before hiking, I visited the magnificent Basilica de Quito

Last month I had the opportunity to visit South America for a couple weeks.  Previously I had only been as far South as Central Mexico, and visiting a country named for the dividing line between the North and South hemispheres of the planet was something I could not resist doing.  Ecuador is the Spanish word for “equator”, and while the capital city of Quito does not lie exactly on the line of the equator it is at the center of the country as its cultural and governmental hub.  Beyond the cultural attractions and daily metropolitan activities are many active and dormant volcanoes that provide hiking and climbing opportunities to those so inclined.  One of the lesser volcanoes is Rucu Pichincha, after which the Pichincha Province is named.  Its summit is at 15413 feet, but a tram ride takes you to above 13,000′ feet from a tram station very near to the city center.

 

I decided a trip to Quito would not be complete without heading up the tram ride and trying the hike.  A fifteen minute or so tram ride ensued. This afforded views of the sprawl of Quito stretching from north to south in the Pichincha valley and brought me at last to the high station.  Disembarking, I could sense first the cooler air and following that the lack of oxygen, as everything seemed to require more energy.  The first thing you see on the nature trail is the what is supposedly the world’s highest catholic church.  A few more minutes of hiking brought me to a corral of horses and mules that are used for those that want to take the lazy route higher up.

 

Feeling only slightly lazy and interested in getting a bit of a workout, I continued up the trail.  Rather steep inclines are followed by flat areas which offer a little bit of rest for the lungs, although the altitude definitely became apparent as I gained elevation.  After a little over two hours of hiking, along with requisite breaks, I reached my high point at above 14,400 feet.  I was at the base of the rocky section of the volcano.  As the final portion required scrambling and was inherently dangerous for those not adapted, I decided to adapt to a sitting position and took in an excellent view of the city, various Andean volcanoes, unique plant growth, and spotted what looked like a hawk riding the thermal air currents high above me.  The experience of the Rucu trail was enjoyable and ultimately very rewarding.  I felt as if I had a good taste of the Andes range, as well as an excellent view of the city from above.  In addition I hiked to the highest elevation I had ever reached, admittedly with some help from the tram ride.

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Elaine Pinkerton is a Santa Fe, New Mexico author whose works include fiction and nonfiction. Seeing the world through adoption-colored glasses, she blogs on alternate Mondays about life, travel, hiking and  Comments invited!

5 Ways to be your Own Best Friend

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Some days it’s hard to realize you are gaining on it.

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

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 being forced to start again at the bottom and push 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 “recovering adoptee” to find life full of problems to be overcome, tasks to be accomplished and conundrums that seem to have no end. And while I am blessed to have wonderful and compassionate friends who are never to busy to listen to my latest thorny scenario, one solution I’ve found is to be my own best friend.

Having said that, I’m offering 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 with 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.

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 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.

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Join Elaine in her monthly blog posts. Wide-ranging topics, from travel, hiking, nature, daily living to personal development. If you are involved in the adoption triangle (adoptee, adopted parent or birthparent) and would like to contribute a guest post, please contact her. We’d love to hear from you!

Coming Home to Myself

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‘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” **************************************************************

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

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.
! No 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 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.

October hike up Atalaya Mountain – Santa Fe, NM
Being in nature has helped me shed old paradigms.

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!

Ruminations and Rumi

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The past six months have been a roller coaster. (Read about stage one of this journey: https://tinyurl.com/yxzgdz3l) Moving, then changing my mind and un-moving. In other words, I decided to sell my house and move to a condo, then changed my mind (fortunately getting back the earnest money). The bottom line was that I would not have come out financially ahead. Too much deferred maintenance lowered the value of my house.

But even more powerful than the financial reality, there was an emotional facet to this about-face. It would have been wrenching to leave the back yard deer, the fruit trees, my labyrinth, the coldframe gardens, the view of the mountains, close neighbors who are also friends.

What followed took me by surprise and yet it made perfect sense. The next step, facilitated by my younger son: a refurbishment of the house I chose to keep. The exhausting though beneficial part is that I’m saying goodbye to too much “stuff.” Garage sales, donating, and just plain pitching   Some days I awaken with exhaustion. The ceaseless toil of clearing out the clutter wears me down…All the schlepping of papers, books, photos, office supplies and more from rooms that will get new saltillo tile and be painted from top to bottom. Other days I awaken with elation…the house will be beautiful. Like new. (When the refurbishing is done). Other days I find myself resenting the fact that I let everything slide and did not realize I should have been maintaining the house all along. Rumi’s poem “The Guest House” describes my emotions perfectly. If only I can be welcoming to all of those feelings, I will have accomplished a lot. After all, the adoptee’s journey is about being at home in ones own skin.

The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
 Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
 some momentary awareness comes 
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
 Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house 
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
 He may be clearing you out 
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice. 
Meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes 
because each has been sent
 as a guide from beyond.– Jelaluddin Rumi

*********************************************************************Although he wrote seven centuries ago, the Persian poet, theologian, and Sufi mystic Rumi provided insights that serve us well today. The “guests” are emotions and thoughts to which one awakens each morning. Rumi advises welcoming them all rather than disdaining some as unwelcome pests and others as “right” and correct. It is true that we enjoy those guests that empower, buoy us up, and make us feel successful, capable, happy. But as I’ve traveled the adoptee’s road to discovering who I really am, I’ve found that we need to accept all the feelings and learn to live with them.
The emotions that appear in our personal guest houses can, after all, serve as guides from beyond.

*********************************************************************Join Elaine on Mondays for reflections on life through adoption-colored glasses.

 

August Attitude Adjustment: Not Moving After All

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What a crazy summer! It seemed everyone around me was “downsizing.” I joined the movement. In June, I decided to sell my house and move somewhere smaller. By July, the offer I’d made on a nearby townhouse was accepted. I was in the process of packing to move. Meanwhile, even before the old place was officially on the market, I’d been getting a few tentative offers. Nibbles.

Home-Where the heart is

Along comes my son and his family for a visit. They see the new place and hear about the too-low offers made on the old home. After studying the numbers, my son pointed out that I would not come out ahead. Hard to believe at first, but when deferred maintenance was taken into consideration, the house would actually not be making money for me. Financially, I would just about break even. A two-day family discussion: Ultimately, we concluded, it would not be best for me to move. Rather, I’d invest in refurbishing the old home.
August finds me adopting an entirely new attitude. No longer will I mind the indoor and outdoor maintenance. I’ll take full advantage of the hoop gardens for growing vegetables and herbs; I’ll walk the labyrinth every day; I’ll harvest fruit from the apple and pear trees in the fall and turn the bounty into juice, pies, and cobblers. I’ll commune with the occasional deer coming to visit. I am realizing that I hadn’t really wanted to be uprooted.
The home makeover begins next week. That means that I’ll be moving out of one end of the house to the other. The section that needs paint and new flooring has to be vacated. This has led to massive de-cluttering and a donation-a-thon. Thankfully, the work begins outside, with re-stuccoing. So I have a tiny bit of leeway in clearing out of the renovation end. On the other hand, the-clock is ticking.

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