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.


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.


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,
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: 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.


Join Elaine for Monthly Blogs on the world as seen through Adoption Colored Glasses

Goodbye, old Home


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I’m saying goodbye to my home of 45 years. Hard for me believe, but I’m selling the house that’s taken care of me all these decades. The housing market here in Santa Fe, New Mexico is excellent. I can do without five extra rooms to heat and clean, without two acres to tend and without closets for a family of four. Last month I located a nearby townhouse, still in my same neighborhood, but with charm and virtually no maintenance, I decided the time had come. My realtor and I made an offer and it was accepted. The die is cast…

I’ve loved it but I’m leaving.

If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I’ve been endlessly decluttering. Or at least since January. Purging and more purging, but still way too much of everything. But the need to upgrade my current house to put it on the market: that’s a motivator. As the saying goes, I am putting the pedal to the metal.

Time is of the essence. My life has become all about de-acquisition. Packing to move. Room by room, I am emptying every shelf and cabinet. But then there’s the question: “What to do with EVERYTHING?” A garage sale here and there, some things put on consignment. A lot of donating. Once I started to dig, I learned who can use what. Barkin Attic, a charitable resale store that benefits homeless animals, has been wonderful. So far, I’ve given them two desks, a large bookcase, two couches and boxes of kitchenwares. The Barkin volunteer staff is very professional. Two muscular people and a U Haul truck arrive exactly when scheduled, give me a receipt for tax purposes and – voila- the stuff is gone!

Every possession is a responsibility.

Casa Familia, a local homeless shelter, has also been the recipient of my excess. Perfectly fine clothing, in good condition. Office supplies, cleaning stuff, cds. The public library in Los Alamos, NM, has a thriving Friends of the Library resale store. A volunteer named Kevin drove here to pick up 100 of my favorite books. Though it hurt to see them leave, I loved the fact that someone else would read and appreciate them and that the money made by the Library Friends would help.

Speaking of friends, last weekend, Richard and Kathy came over to help me pack. We all worked for hours and finally had to take a break. Richard relaxed in the recliner and I told him that he could have it. Turns out, the couple had been thinking of getting a recliner, and mine (barely used) was perfect. It fit in their car and off it went. One less item to shed.

Still mountains of possessions to review, metaphorical miles to go before I sleep…so I’ll bring this post to a close. The next yard sale will be Saturday, August 24. We’ll offer rock-bottom prices and some giveaways. Wish you could be here!

The Dad I Scarcely Knew


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Note: Adopted people have two fathers: the original and the adoptive. On Father’s Day I thought about Giovanni Cecchini, the original, all day. Lately, as I massively declutter, I’ve come across albums with photos of my original father and me the few times we met. I’ve come to realize that Giovanni, my original father, did the best he could.

The stated mission of my memoir The Goodbye Baby: Adoptee Diaries is to “let the past be the past.” In my concluding essays, I suggested that “bygones should be bygones.” Since the publication of The Goodbye Baby, I’ve had second thoughts about those “bygones.” In the case of understanding ones adoption, the “bygones” adage may not be entirely true. History has been coming back to me, and I’m seeing things differently.
During this season of Father’s Day and the upcoming Summer Solstice, I’m thinking a lot about Giovanni Cecchini, my birth father. These are not comfortable thoughts, but rather regrets and self-recriminations. My birth father and I were never really together, as WWII was raging when I was a toddler. He was always out at sea, and the ill-fated marriage between Giovanni and my birth mother Velma was unraveling even as it was just beginning.

At age five, I was adopted by new parents. My adoptive father Richard, until his death a decade ago, was a major influence throughout my life. A professor of guidance and counseling at the University of Virginia, he was my advocate and hero. I deeply admired him. Giovanni was a shadowy background player, someone I saw just a few times in my life

The occasions I saw that original Dad, I was so full of hurt and resentment that I blew it. After we’d made contact (I was 40; he was 75), I accompanied Giovanni to his birthplace, San Martino Sulla Marruccina, Abruzzo, Italy. We stayed with my aunt and third cousins, my own flesh and blood. I was thrilled to be in Italy, in the land of my father’s birth, and I was hoping that we could get to know each other. I expected him to be the father I’d always been missing. It became obvious that he was hoping to see the four-year-old little girl he’d left behind.

We were sitting one morning at the tiny kitchen table of Cousin Josephina and I asked, “What are your memories of my mother, of Velma?” Giovanni replied, “Well, to tell the truth, you kind of remind me of her.” Retreating into a curmudgeonly silence, he did not elaborate.

I took the remark as a slap in the face. I was hurt beyond words. Father/daughter interactions went downhill from there. The Italian cousins were delightful. It was wonderful meeting them, but the father I’d hoped to bond with eluded me. He put it this way. “Too much water under the bridge.” I did not see him after our trip to the old country and he passed away a few years later.IMG_1329

In retrospect, I would change that moment at the kitchen table in Abruzzi. I might have changed the subject, been more open and loving, transcended my “poor little me” attitude. And if only I had. In the case of these fragile reunions with birth parents, there may not be second chances. A saving grace is the relationship I have with Giovanni’s second wife Margaret. Family members, no matter how distant or difficult, are to be cherished.

(This post was originally issued in 2013.)

Your feedback in invited. Please comment, and join Elaine on alternate Mondays for reflections on life as seen through adoption-colored glasses.

An Adoptee Abroad: Part Two


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Visiting a WWII site in Holland

Dear Readers: I’ve just returned from visiting Mastricht and Nimegan in the Netherlands, sites of the WWII operation called Market Garden. The operation did not succeed in turning back Hitler’s armies and resulted in some 8,000 deaths of Allied soldiers. This somber reminder of war’s futility was one of the most meaningful parts of my recent journey to Holland and Belgium. I was adopted shortly after the end of the WWII…and in a way I’m a product of that conflict. Both my adoptive and original father served. They were among the lucky ones who returned. So many did not. On this day we honor those lost and those who fought in all wars for America’s freedom.

I was deeply moved listening to the guide at the American Cemetery in Mastricht. He explained that between five and ten thousand people visit the cemetery every Memorial Day to honor family members lost during the war.


Speaking of WWII, From Calcutta with Love, a tribute to my adoptive parents, is being reissued by Pajarito Press in late 2019. More information to follow. Join me on alternate Mondays for reflections as seen through adoption-colored glasses. And please let us know if you have a WWII story you’d like to share!

An Adoptee Abroad – Part I


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Saturday, April 13: Dawn. My friend Peg and I were embarking on our fourth European adventure in that many years. Months earlier, we’d signed up for a Viking River Cruise to Holland and Belgium. Travel time, at last! Our northern New Mexico weather had been balmy, but a cold front moved in during Friday night. The world was covered in a layer of snow. In a winter wonderland we met and motored to Albuquerque by shuttle. So far, so good. Our plane was delayed, however, and the airport situation looked grim.The only way we could make our first connection was to order a wheelchair. This was legitimate, as I’m still recovering from a spinal fracture, not up to running some 20 gates to try to make the Houston connection. ( There was another wheelchair passenger, so the plane would wait five or ten minutes for us. Otherwise we would have had to start our European tour belatedly. In other words, it would have been a mess.
Miraculously, we caught the flight to Houston and then on to Amsterdam. Nine hours after leaving Houston, we arrived in Amsterdam and were welcomed on our Viking ship Tir before noon on Sunday the 14th. We settled into our stateroom. Peg went off in search of a maritime museum while I unpacked and strolled around the ship. Just 192 passengers on this journey, a good number. Dinner onboard, early to bed.

Our trip through the Lowlands

Monday, April 15/ AMSTERDAM
A city tour began the day, both walking and canal boating. From Kees, our tall Dutch guide, we learned about the city’s rich past and prosperous present. Passed by the “I” Building, a film center. Kees told us that last year, 1,500 river ships and 100 ocean ships visited Amsterdam. In the 1600s, the Dutch last India trading company reigned supreme. Spices were the main goods. By 1621, there was also a Dutch West Indies branch that traded with Africa and South America. Select merchants and traders grew extremely wealthy.

Tulips outside the Rijksmuseum hint at floral wonders to come

The canals we floated along were part of a former swamp. In today’s Amsterdam, there are 2,500 houseboats. They’ve grown increasingly expensive. What would cost 50,000 euros in the 1960s would now be 1.7 million. We passed by the famous wooden drawbridge (“Skinny Bridge”) and magnificent “city palaces.” Many of the buildings were fronted with symbols of what the dweller within did for a living. For example, a slave trader’s city palace boasted heads on either side of the front door.
The Golden Age of Amsterdam was from 1600-1700. A latter day boom began in the 1970s, when a huge cleaning effort dredged filth from canals and streets. Symbolically, that was when the first Dutch MacDonald’s opened. The cleanup effort continues to this day. Bikes, which are everywhere and being ridden by everyone, end up thrown into canals. Today, around 25,000 have to be dredged out each year.

Canals and waterways abound and are an important part of history

Back on board the ship, Tir, we were treated to an evening of wooden shoemaking. Henk, from Vollandam, carved out a pair of wooden shoes before our wondering eyes. A million and a half pairs are produced yearly, explained Henk, but there are very few wooden shoemakers left. It is painstaking work, not particularly profitable. All the tools involved in the making require special maintenance. The tools themselves are becoming rarer. Hardly any people are attracted to the trade, our shoemaker mused.
As we went from lounge to main deck, a wooden shoe dance was in motion, a most fitting end to the first day of this European get-away.
(To be continued).
Join Elaine during the next several Mondays for more about the trip of a lifetime. Stay tuned as well for news about the republication of From Calcutta with Love and the debut of Clara and the Hand of Ganesha.

The Angels of April


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NOTE: Taking a brief blog-cation, as I’m immersed in novel-writing and ongoing downsizing of stuff. (See The Great Photo Purge, published last Monday. I’m happy to report that CLARA AND THE HAND OF GANESH is moving forward. Enjoy one of my favorite posts from the past, and have a beautiful April, a month with very special gifts.

“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.