So Shine the Light

RIP Levon Helm.

The Light is stronger than  the darkness. My intolerance and irritation are the darkness. They are ephemeral. I don’t have to give over to confusion and doubt, just experience them and carry on. The Band has helped me carry the weight most of my life. What a refreshing burst of joy to see the love and affection sending Levon on his way.

another turn

This post is an attempt to have a conversation I missed yesterday, the third day of my visit to my youngest. We were getting a little edgy with our familiarity. Ezzie tossed out a saucy little comment about how I might not like one of  her friends.

Not wanting to be pigeonholed, I answered maybe I would.

No you wouldn’t. She’s pro adoption.

Ok, that would be a likely conflict, not so sociable meeting point. You are right again. Let’s get these veggies home and in the fridge and change the subject.

Back home this morning, I woke up wanting to have taken that conversation deeper. How could this friend of my youngest daughter really be pro adoption? Is she a happy adoptee? What does she even know about adoption?

I suddenly did want to talk to her about it and ask her these questions. And then the remembrance of Ezzie’s throw away comment about the growth of love based activism circled back around. How do I bring love into the conversation?

What questions can I ask? How many happy adoptees does she know? How well does she really know them? Those obvious questions put her on the defensive, make her an easy adversary.That’s habitual and not what I want. She’s likely bought into the PR machine and thinks she’s idealistically speaking up for gay rights or something like that.

What does being pro adoption mean to an idealistic artistic gay woman? (Disclaimer: There has been much awkward mother/daughter stumbling about the labels I am supposed to use or not use: gay, queer, he, she, they, trans, etc. They’re still working it out so I know I haven’t got it right.) They are so busy trying to get their identities figured out, being true to themselves; I suspect them of overlooking the identity issues of adoptees. Now I sound patronizing. Yuck.

I just let out a deep sigh, a heaviness that crosses the room to my husband and my dog, as I sort out my thoughts and feelings, frustrated at my inarticulateness.

How can you be pro adoption of you’re pro woman? How can you be pro taking people’s families and identities away from them? How can you be progressive and not see neo colonialism in adoption? Adoption is not just about seeing how cute babies are and how everyone deserves a loving family. Oh to be more articulate and specific and enlightening is so much WORK. Does she work with foster kids? Does she get a sense of ambivalence there?

How silly is this conversation I’m having in my head without knowing her at all. I’ve seen her smiling picture and I know she’s been supportive of Ezzie when she needed it. It’s really a conversation with myself. I’m getting to set the scenarios and set up the remarks, the questions, the insights. It’s all my own BS. It’s good to have these little chats with myself. It helps me listen better, think and speak better.

Maybe I’ll get to meet her next time.


I’ve got to pay attention now

The best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up.  ~ Paul Valery

Round and round and round we go.

DD introduced me to blogging about adoption in 2006, a safe place to explore myself and adoption issues was a revelation.  I learned a lot through reading others’ experiences as well as hashing through mine.

Now, the more things change, the more they stay the same. If there was a honeymoon in our reunion,  it came in late, when I started blogging. It also marked the first time I really tried to integrate DD into my now grown up family. Things seemed to be starting to resolve. Some heavenly moments fed delightful fantasies.

The fantasies fed delusions about my ability and influence.

I’m weary of reacting. I’m looking out for a new vantage point. Getting up off my duff and letting go of the way I thought things were supposed to be.

While I’ve been waiting for things to “get better” I missed a lot.  I wish I’d taken more risks and worked my relationship with my grandson separately from my relationship with his mom.  It wasn’t entirely up to me. But I could have taken more initiative. I could have been more courageous. I could have been more courageous in a lot of reunion issues.

Hoping things will get better, waiting for things to get better, expecting things to improve in reunion is wearing thin. I found myself thinking maybe I should quit blogging — until things get better in our reunion (!?!)  Those anticipated future fantasies aren’t real.

I have spent more time and energy trying to figure out how to build, improve, nurture reunion than I have on  anything else in the world. Yet the sense of trust and safety DD & I have with each other seems to see no improvement. We do truly love one another and we don’t get on well.  Are we too much alike? Or too different? I don’t know. For one reason or more, the damages or the differences or the whole shooting match, it’s still beyond me.

It is time to quit waiting for things to change. Time to embrace reality. This is our reunion. This is our relationship.

Part of our blogging deal is to be secret, an outgrowth of the original adoption pact; to never know my own daughter.  Secret identities have been part of her entire life. Secrets are not my forte. For a while I thought one thing I did right in the beginning of reunion was not keep anything a secret. But actually that didn’t go right either. I revealed too much.

This period of secret identities has been a different way of paying attention in the world, going public but undercover. Blogging about my personal adoption experience has  lessons  about being more disciplined and thoughtful. Even though I kept a secret identity, the blog has been selfish, just for me — And for myself I work at figuring out how my expression and exploration may impact DD. When the impact appears negative, I’ve wondered if I could write for her rather than for me.

Nope. She speaks for herself and I must speak for me.

This very personal blog of my own confounding reunion provided an opportunity to express and learn. I’ve learned that I don’t know what’s going on. I’m feeling complete in this space.

I am newly in love with Janelle Monae. And whether I’m high or low, I got to tip on…

shaken and stirred

My DD took offense at an impersonal pronoun in my last post. I screwed up. I was tired when I read her comment and should have left it alone. But I was going to be offline for at least five days and didn’t want to ignore her. So I jumped in and said something really stupid and hurtful.  I’ve been re looking at it for the past 5 days.

That would be HER, not IT, thank-you.

At first I didn’t read carefully enough to distinguish between her comment (above) and my own words (below) which were posted along with her comment.

“Or if they really loved their first grandchild they sure had a strange way of showing it, huh? If they loved that baby unconditionally they would have clung to it and kept it safe themselves rather than cast it out to the unknown world of people in better circumstances, better able to provide for this healthy white infant. That’s what some people say.”

It was late and I was shaken by the  capitalized pronouns, (representing a frequent accusation that I’m thoughtless and lack empathy).  I reacted foolishly. In the morning I quickly edited the post without grasping what I was doing before leaving town.

In a rush and feeling awkward and misunderstood, I had changed that paragraph from talking about my parents and an abstract baby, to be more directly about her. I hadn’t intended to be that personal.  Becoming more personally about her, I took it personally too, which can be quite troublesome. I hadn’t wanted to touch into the rawness of my reunion.

That is exactly what I was  looking at when I started the previous post. How to love unconditionally and personally? How do I love what is just the way it is? DD, just the way she is? Can I love my whole family unconditionally? Without getting confused trying to suit other people’s desires or distracted by conflicting requests?

I know from long experience feeling *guilty* is more disabling than motivating. The burning regret that I had misunderstood her and reacted inappropriately again was overshadowed by getting my feelings hurt too, feeling ignored and  insulted when I thought reaching out to her would be easier than it is.  I keep moving to find the sweet spot where I can see what’s going on and interact with compassion rather than guilt.

It takes a lot of attention. I have to stop comparing myself to any measure of reasonableness – stop  justifying choices made out of fear, jealousy or greed. Being afraid of losing her means I’m losing myself. She will always be a part of me. I just have to be open to who she is, whether she *likes* me or not.

When I am secure with myself, I see her with compassion. When I’m out of balance, the shaking wakes me up to how far I’ve drifted. I have to steady myself to look and see who my daughter is, to accept our reunion as raw and awesome and changing. Our differences, our similarities are all valuable. The beauty of who we are stirs me. And I can see her more clearly.

Reaching out and touching no matter what, that’s part of it. There is something about shaking it off and getting up and getting going that is refreshing too.

Unconditional Love, what’s that?

It’s been brought up on forums I’ve visited by both adoptees and first mothers. As Tupac Shakur said,

(What y’all want?)
Unconditional Love (no doubt)
Talking bout the stuff that don’t wear off

where is that? I see conditions in most relationships. I put out a lot of conditions in my daily life. I’ve got lots of expectations. I set conditions for my environment, for my friendships.

In a recent discussion of unconditional love I fell back to the Divine Miss M singing From a Distance. It’s so much easier to love from a distance. We can let go of our differences and align with the inner peace and harmony.

But we want it up close and personal. We want to be accepted and loved for who we are right here right now. We want to be understood and appreciated in our individual needs.

The primary example is usually a mother taking care of her infant, getting up through the night, washing, feeding, cuddling. Sometimes it’s idealized in romantic relationships. I’ve never seen that truly. Romance tends to exemplify multiple conditions of support and fidelity, etc.  So it’s mostly our parents we expect to love us unconditionally.

There seems to be doubt about whether God loves unconditionally amongst those of us that live in fear of going to hell.

God knows I have spent my life seeking it and holding to what I’ve found because it’s rare.  It’s precious. I nurture it and cultivate it and still it slips away. I was reading today of Buddhist practice to develop loving kindness and compassion as mental qualities to turn towards love in action. The concepts and discipline for transcending suffering are familiar.  Also the reminder that it takes practice for growth and fulfillment. Ah that word again, that condition, that I must practice, practice, practice. Is practice a condition for unconditional love?

We start out with the oxytocin rush when our babes are born. That same hormone pops into action in romantic love too. For the love to get past the two year mark takes more than hormones. How do we carry on? How do we love our children as they grow and experiment; cutting holes in their comforters to see what’s inside? getting arrested for vandalism? As they break away from us and the conditions we laid out for them to find their own way?

It varies. One of the most curious bits is that I didn’t know my own parents loved me unconditionally when I was a kid. They put out their standards of behavior to guide me in the best way they knew. As a   kid I took those guidelines as conditions for love rather than guidelines for a successful life. I didn’t understand their point of view at all and anticipated rejection because they didn’t love me the way I wanted them to. They didn’t understand me. But they loved me anyway as I learned later.

Some say that if they really loved me they would have helped me to keep my firstborn child. They wouldn’t have fallen for the pap about it being best for the baby to go to a “two parent home”. They would have given me what I wanted,  a home for me and my baby.

Or if they really loved their first grandchild they sure had a strange way of showing it, huh? If they loved that baby unconditionally they would have clung to it her (my first babe was a daughter) and kept it her safe themselves rather than cast it her out to the unknown world of people in better circumstances, better able to provide for this healthy white infant, (that sweet baby girl). That’s what some people say.

I’m wondering about unconditional love. Where is it? Where have you seen it? What can you tell me about it?

Can we make it? This song is one example.

I’d really love to learn about yours.

It feels odd to be sending out for your feedback when I’m getting ready to take off in a couple days. In the meanwhile, here’s to laughter, health, wealth and happiness for you and you and you and you…

Bright Side of the Road

Although the statement “Turn that frown upside down” always repulsed me, I think it described my plan. From the start of our reunion twenty years ago, I thought that somehow I could learn to be patient enough, kind enough, and hang in long enough to change our reunion relationship to one of comfort and joy.  Based on results, I’ve been wrong all along. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.

My naïve and selfish desire to switch out her pain and avoidance through a welcoming embrace was doomed by shortsightedness.  Fumbling through the rebirth of my aborted motherhood, I took her at her word instead of looking past the façade to the frightened child. I was “the adult”, but I didn’t act like it. I acted like the scared teenager. She was the scared teenager.

As it turns out, I’m not that patient or kind. I react and get my feelings hurt very easily. I get defensive and protective. I pretend that everything is fine when it’s not because I’m supposed to be the adult. I’m supposed to be ok. Instead I get scared and wish things would be easier. I get angry feeling I’m being pushed into a box, limited and judged. And I get tired of all of it.

What I understand is she is angry about the way I make me look good.  Having goodness in my life is not the problem. The problem is that it’s “at (her) expense”. I need to accept my responsibility for our relationship. I can’t blame her for my troubles. It’s certainly not her fault when I don’t get what I want.

I am pretty accustomed to it, but you can’t always get what you want. It is NOT my daughter’s fault that our reunion has not been all peaches and cream.

Yikes. That old bugaboo of what I think I’m supposed to be (ie. the adult) is still fooling me! Good lord I AM an adult. This is what adult is. No wonder we’re in trouble.

I am still here though, warts and all. Although I do have an appt next month to get a few blemishes burned off.

Bio/Adopto interface?

Back on May 16 a blog conversation got started that I didn’t find out about until now. By the time I discovered it, it had been closed.  And I really wanted to see where it might go, so I’m hopefully moving it on over here via summarizing and paraphrasing. (If I’ve got it wrong, please correct me.)
It was sparked by a comment by a first mother, that first mothers get a lot more respect in the abstract than in concrete face to face reality. That comment was acknowledged by an adoptee, who was then mocked elicited a mildly ironic comment by a woman who is apparently successfully navigating being both a relinquishing and an adoptive mom.
The next commenter took a pragmatic approach remarking that reunion happens even in transnational adoptions and advised aparents to check their expectations of  how their children will deal with it.
Then the question of whether the exception proves the rule was raised. As the first bio/adoptive mother claims a cordial relationship with her relinquished child’s adoptive parents. She may not want her experience to be discounted as an anomaly.
The adoptee replied that she couldn’t imagine the awkwardness of having both her biological and adoptive parents in the same room. ( My own DD has expressed a similar thought, as have others.) She explained that there was interest only on the biological side and she was(*understandably*) reluctant to deal with the pressure it would put her under.
Then due to other issues the conversation stopped. And I really thought it was just getting interesting. It’s interesting to me anyway. Two things come to mind for me.
  1. First mothers in Open Adoption seem to get sold a bill of goods about the joys of being involved, watching their relinquished children grow up, from the wings. Then the reality hits that watching someone else raise your kids can hurt like hell. It tears them up when it goes well. And then there’s when it gets closed down in their faces.
  2. I’ve heard murmurs/rumors that it is extremely rare for adoptees to be able to maintain good relationships with both their bio and adoptive families. The best reunions seem to  result in major breaches with adoptive families.  Adoptees in warm loving relationships with their adoptive parents tend not to enjoy such relations with their bios.

I would really like to hear from others about this stuff.

And now just because I love to shake that thing, a little Blues Project! Yeah!


When my DD declares that I am the source of her troubles, I frequently react. It refutes my beliefs and understanding of myself as a “good” person.  I struggle to find a new balance. What is this power she is handing me? I am the source, the god, of her brokenness. I am her creator. I am the reason she isn’t whole.

Or not.

My third grade sunday school class memorized Psalm 121 ~

1 I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills,

from whence cometh my help.
2 My help cometh from the LORD,

which made heaven and earth.

It wasn’t until I was in college that I realized it said my help comes from the Lord. Up until then I heard it with a period  at the end of the first sentence instead of a question mark. My help comes from the Lord, the source of creation, that which made heaven and earth (and the hills). Well yeah, sometimes my help does come from the hills. I was in the coast range when I figured this out anyway. I was in the Sierras the first time I was aware of the creator.

Today I checked out some youtube buddhism for reassurance. I don’t fancy myself a buddhist, because I find attending to the source of all creation to be very useful and as far as I can tell Buddha doesn’t go there. All the same, Buddhist teachings are also very useful, especially in dealing with the mind. Am I a good person?  Just like my dog is a good dog, I am a good person because I am a person day in and day out. I don’t give it up for a moment.

In and ex clusion

I wish there was a guide, a handbook, a Miss Manners for reunion. Some thing to refer to when everything is upside down. I wish I had the presence of mind to realize no means yes and what we say about each other reflects what we think about ourselves. Maybe some of my mistakes can clear the way for someone else.

A couple years into reunion, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. Two years to live. Those next two years were rocky ones for DD and me with a lot of mixed up memories– trying to look like we were handling things and mistrusting each other. Our families thought we should have one meeting and put it behind us. I suppose Joy was quite frustrated; trying to bring me out of my “fog” about the way adoption worked.  I was preoccupied with Mom’s stoic and optimistic outlook.

Looking back I see the foolishness of expecting Joy to trust me. She had a lifetime of feeling abandoned by me.  I hadn’t proved  trustworthy. She withdrew from her mother/stranger, cut off contact for periods of time, and accused me of neglecting her. Last fall she described it as not having anyone on her side, as though we were opponents.

The first summer Mom was sick, Joy and I had a very unsatisfying visit.  I was bewildered with grief for both my firstborn and my mother.  I had expected Joy to accept the complications of my family with grace and ease, which was ridiculous. Joy had PTSD. Mom had cancer.  I just crashed into it.

After our “visit” I holed up in my folks guestroom until morning, scaring my dad into talking about adoption for the first time.  I listened as he explained his views on family loyalty. His views from the Great Depression as well as being drafted into WWII. He knew @#$# happened to women and children. DD and I had been protected. He had dealt with considerable family upheaval due to emotional/mental depressions.  He didn’t want to lose me again. I appreciated his concern and continued to feel disconnected.

Joy said “She’s not really dying.” I thought she meant mom’s illness was just an excuse, diverting attention away from her. (She later explained that she didn’t think Mom acted like she was dying.)  Knowing that I wasn’t going to get to spend much more time with Mom hurt. That my daughter resented my focus on Mom hurt.  Joy’s skepticism was still on my mind when Mom died.

She almost made two years after diagnosis.   She planned to visit us in Kansas in the springtime. I called to wish her Happy Birthday three times on April 19th. The tulips were blooming. When she couldn’t come to the cordless phone, I figured out she wasn’t going to make the trip. My brother and I were standing by her bed in the early hours of the 27th as she passed over. The day before her scheduled trip to KS.

Dad’s blood pressure was sky high and he had two herniated discs. There was too much to be responsible for at that point. I drew a picture of amaryllis blooms for the memorial program cover, borrowed a dress to wear and picked a song I’d been listening to throughout her illness, You are a Flower by Greg Brown. I love that song.  My brother, the Golden Boy, and I both did eulogies. I didn’t even call Joy.  She had not been able to make the trip to visit when Mom was alive and I didn’t realize her death was more significant than her life. But mostly I didn’t want to deal with criticism of the mother I was saying goodbye to.

A month or two later, when we did talk about it, Joy was indignant that she hadn’t been informed/included/invited. I mistakenly took it as interest in her grandmother.  I thought feeling left out meant she wanted to know what happened. So I sent her a program and a cassette recording. It wasn’t until this year that I finally grasped that  her indignation was at not being included as part of the family. She wasn’t interested in my mother, her grandmother, as a person. That was me.  She wanted to be recognized and treated as a granddaughter at a family gathering.

She wanted to know why I didn’t do that.  Simple incompetence is my answer; or lack of awareness, as my grandson so eloquently said. Spring of ’95 I was self absorbed and clueless and on my own. The internet has it’s pitfalls but it’s the closest thing I’ve got to a mentor re reunion.


I want to be so grounded in who I am that I can cooperate with whatever comes my way. I want to be able to be knocked over like this Tweety Bird Bop Bag and bounce back up singing.

I’m feeling sorry that Margie seems down for the count right now. It brings into perspective the hard times we people have trying to get along. Can’t we just get along? Shoot, sometimes time I barely get along with myself.

Volunteering at a local garden for nearly 7 years,  I’ve watched a number of volunteers get burned and burned out. One of our most valued members quit a couple weeks ago. She had been driving 1 1/2 hours round trip twice a week to nurture new plants for the garden and for sale to raise funds for the garden. She did a fabulous job in the greenhouse. But her feelings got hurt. She felt dissed by people working in other areas of the garden and she quit! She left her team of 10-15 people learning her propagation techniques on their own.  She has a wealth of knowledge that can’t be easily replaced and I really don’t understand walking away from all she had started.

As a fledgling organization we recently opened a gift shop in hopes of raising funds for more planting and more educational programs.  The first two people heading up the shop got their feelings hurt and quit without notice. I’ve got no bznz experience and my last retail job lasted 3 months in 1969. But I stepped in as temporary shopkeeper. I asked the volunteer coordinator to find a replacement for me asap. It took almost a year. During that time I kept the administration informed that I was going to leave, but I wasn’t going to leave in a huff.

I lean into things. I let people know when I’m dissatisfied and make plans for transitions as much as possible. When the replacement gift shop manager was found I was thrilled.  I gave her my number, my email, my files and offered to meet with her weekly as long as she wanted and walked away happily. She quit after a  month.

I guess that’s what people do.

Maybe I’m the kind of person that inspires people to sing, “How can I miss you when you won’t go away?”

Maybe this is the good side of stubborn?

Blogs are written by different people for different purposes. I think I remember Margie feeling ambivalent about her blog for the past season. I wonder if the woman that headed up propagation was weary of the work load she was carrying and the last misunderstanding was just a good excuse to walk away. I’ve pulled away from my very personal blog for very personal reasons at times.  Mostly I was just struck dumb with fear that what I had  to say hurts my DD. Or maybe I was feeling like I just didn’t have anything of merit to say.

What am I doing speculating about why Margie closed her blog? Why does anyone close down? What business is it of mine? I don’t feel like I knew her well enough to ask her. But I knew her blog well enough to feel it’s a loss to many people. It’s loss is to much more than me.  I do want to say THANK YOU MARGIE for the time you blogged. I’ll send that out to the universe and that will have to do.

And a little quote from a young celebrated adoptee, “People need to persevere around this town!”

Perfection may not be available. The paradox is still going for it.

The best I can end up with is excellence, and excellence in loving is good enough for me.