Poem: It Works This Way 


To all the Mothers out there

and to how we toil

and care

would give our

Life

for their life

and sometimes do

in child birth

in war

sometimes just 

to give them a better 

Life

If they are happy 

we are happy 

So Mother’s day can only really be 

Happy 

if all the children of the world 

were

too

Connection 


This amazing painting was created by the most  important, talented and influential person in my life. She has been an artist for many, many years working in all sorts of of mediums from oils to stone, much of it self taught. This talent moved her to become a teacher herself where she was respected by a host of adults who never dreamed of creating gorgeous stone sculptures prior to her tutelage. 

I have always believed she could do anything she put her mind to (except maybe fix a leaky faucet, but that’s another story) and felt if you could read you could do anything. 

This painting is her latest, started before she became quite ill. It sat for some time and she feared she wouldn’t finish it, but it’s a testament to her strength and perseverance that she did. 

I’m blessed with it’s beauty now on my wall which will be a constant reminder of her beauty. It’s intricacies remind me too that we all have depth that is worth exploring. 

It is with gratitude that I accept such a gift and love is what I return. And whenever I look at it I will always feel my deep connection with this most special person, my Mom. 

Choices


How does one tip toe around their disapproval of someone’s choice in something they feel is unwise, or even potentially harmful–especially if it’s someone they love? It is so easy to come crashing into this person with all your advice, or even anger when wisdom may have shown you that the other person’s decision to do something most likely will have a negative outcome.

It could be because you know this person, and have for years: maybe it’s a family member and you’ve seen them make unwise choices in the past. Or you know that they are mentally, financially, intellectually or physically challenged, so the thing they want so much may end up hurting them more than helping them.

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But in trying to help and guide them, in the end, only ends up making them angry and defensive. It can be such a fine line one walks in trying to help within one’s disapproval. And I’m not sure I do such a good job…at least not at first.

As a Mother, I certainly come up against this all the time. Most certainly with my middle daughter, who is developmentally and health challenged besides. It has been an ongoing challenge for me to try to help her with major life choices the older she gets. She is stubborn and strong willed, not necessarily a bad thing, but she also can have a hard time asking for help. And sadly this is something we all need at times–and certainly something that would benefit her.

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Because of her fierce determination to ‘go it alone’, she gets herself (with her challenged boyfriend) into some spots that aren’t great, and then we end up bailing her out anyway. But now they have made a huge ‘decision’ that really scares all of the family and I feel they have no idea of the consequences.

When you have two people that have a hard time thinking past today, it makes it tough to plan…to plan for the life of someone else. And as we all know, being a parent is a life long job.

So I am trying very hard to wrap myself around how to best tell her about the realities of Motherhood, without making her defensive or frightening her either. It’s not all about pink dresses and pigtails–sometimes it’s about crying, illness, money and kids not listening to anything you say (even when they are grown).

And it’s also about being a Mother and loving that kid no matter what, even when she’s maybe not making the right choice.

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Who Am I?


This is the unending question of an adoptee. We go through life trying to figure out where we belong, who we look like, how do we fit in and who we are… It does not matter if we come from loving homes (as I did) or if we ended up in less than perfect ones. Most of us have this hole that just can’t be filled by the families that picked us.

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It’s no-one’s fault. It’s just this genetic thing I feel that most of us yearn for deep down, adopted or no–to want to know who ‘our people’ are and what ancestral pool we crawled out of that made that person staring back us look the way we do.

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Well, because of that longing that I’ve had just about as long as I can recall, I took the plunge, and sent in some saliva to a company a couple of months ago and got some DNA testing done. It’s a simple, but accurate test from what they say. I’ve had friends do it and while it cost a little, for me, it was worth every penny.

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I’ve waited patiently for the results to come back and while some of them corroborated what my adopted Mom said to some degree, some of them surprised me. Here is what I found out:

Europe: 79%

  • Italy/Greece: 61%
  • European Jewish: 8%
  • Iberian Peninsula: 7%
  • Trace Regions: (Europe East 3% and Great Britain <1%)

West Asia: 21%

  • Caucasus (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey) 14% Note: also places like Bulgaria, Jordan, Greece, Italy, Kuwait, Palestine, Romania, Turkmenistan
  • Trace regions: 7% Middle East ( Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Oman, Yemen, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Lebanon, Israel, Pakistan and Iran)

My adopted Mom had told me about my Italian heritage long ago and more recently that there might have been some Jewish background (although I still think of this more as a religion personally), so now it is all confirmed! It is very exciting to have some concrete information. She thought it was very interesting too.

But all the other cultural information was amazing. It kind of puts so many deep seeded things about me together now. Because as I’ve gotten older, and actually raised an adopted child, I have begun to believe that nature has much to do with how we turn out vs. nurture. We can’t get away from our genes, no matter how much we may think so. What is tied to our DNA is real, ALL of us. That is why we as a species have survived and do what we do all the time.

So then too, it is why we as individuals act a certain way, crave things, miss things, need things, want for things, feel certain ways, act a certain way, are shy or bold, crave a big family or like small family gatherings. I have always wanted to be a part of a huge family and now I wonder if it is my Italian/Greek/Mediterranean background??

It also seems to hurt me on some soul level when refugees from these areas are suffering; it’s like I’m suffering–maybe I am on some genetic level.This is the beauty of humanity and the binding of our molecules and atoms. We are all one when it comes right down to it.

Maybe this is the start of a journey to a distant place, a land and history that belong to me. A part of me that has not really forgotten. Because within my DNA my ancestors are carried: the memories of their lives, their footsteps, their journeys across land and oceans. Journeys that eventually brought two people here in the US together,  combining their DNA creating me.

And now I carry DNA and I gave it to my daughters who carry it on filled with all the ancestors from the ages. May we do them all honor.

 

 

 

Visitors


One wonderful perk of being closer to my Mom is that family visits her, therefore I get to see family members that I don’t normally see. When I was younger, much younger, we all lived closer, so my cousins and I used to see each other a lot. We played and bickered (mildly) as cousins will do, but I recall a general feeling of closeness.

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This meant a lot to me, as I was always looking for this feeling of closeness, being adopted. It was easy for me to feel alien or the odd one out. But I never, ever got a sense from my family that this was the case. Just one of the gang–that’s who I was as I ran around with the rest of them.

So seeing my first cousin yesterday, his wife, her Mom and his 22-year-old daughter for (I believe) the first time–it felt pretty natural. He was one of 4 siblings–the quiet one as I recalled, but now, being 60, there was no hesitation on his part (or mine) to talk about old times.

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His daughter is my youngest’s age and amazing: beautiful, talented and all the qualities one wants the youth of today to have. It was so easy to be with her, and his wife, who I barely know! Being spread out all over the place–they live on both coasts and his daughter in Israel–it’s years in between visits.

But I was reminded that family is not about blood ties. It’s about love, memories and caring. My cousins did a wonderful thing for me when their Dad, my Uncle, died a number of years ago. Something they did not have to do, but something that family does for family.

My own adopted daughter often feels outside and left out. I empathize with her and we probably have not done as good a job at making her feel a part. Divorce, lack of closeness of cousins didn’t provide the same kind of broth to grow the wonderful taste of love I have felt, even if it’s infrequent. When it does cross my path and my chosen family gets together, I recall the warmth, the sense of normal and the simple gestures of kindness that make life good.

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I hope my own birth daughters can reap the rewards of this family someday too! So far they barely know them….

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On another note: we had another visitor today. Luckily only my mellow cat and I saw it. Quite bold and inquisitive… checking us out. I snapped a few pictures before my dog or my sour puss saw this visitor, because then there’d be heck to pay.

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This visitor would NOT be welcome I’m sad to say…..!!

PS Pictures have been rendered silly to protect the innocent 🙂

Family


There are moments in this new life that catch me feeling like I’m down the rabbit hole. Everything can feel so strange and unfamiliar; the streets like an unsolvable puzzle and faces from an alien world.

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With no work yet it’s easy to become listless and start feeling of little value. It’s spooky and not emotions I’m used to carrying after a career as a paramedic for so long. Although applying for jobs online these days is practically a job in itself, taking hours for one job that may include a test, video and personality quizzes that leave you exhausted by the end.

But even with all these challenges facing me here in my new home, there is one very sure and satisfying part.

As I was driving to my Mom’s for dinner tonight  (trying not to use Google maps ), I realized how really wonderful it is after 40 years to be able to drive 15 minutes to have a meal with my Mother. And the more we hang out, the more natural it is and the easier it feels.

We are past the awkward stage and seem now to really be enjoying each other’s company. She did the shopping and I made the dinner–she even put away the quiche for herself and enjoyed what I made instead. The conversation was real and not awkward. She gave me leftovers to bring home. And she made me laugh with the coffee she bought.

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So whatever else I may feel here, I have family. We are catching up on lost time. And this is such a beautiful thing.

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Poem: Forever Stunted


There are two of you

One that lives and breathes before me

And one that resides within

She is made up of dreams and stories

Of cells and mirror images

(The image that is hard to look at)

But that stares at me in my daughter’s eyes

She is the one that gave me away

Who may have been torn between worlds

Or simply happy to skip town no toddler in tow

Handing her off-

Tears spilling down the unwanted cheeks

But the new one

Waiting to see what I’d do

My arms reaching for solace

Dazed and confused in a tiny pink dress

A life once known

Then gone in a beat

Facing faces unfamiliar

A child’s seedling of trust

Forever

Stunted

 

Where Has Empathy Gone?


Recently, I put a pattern in my life together and came up with something odd and rather sad. It appears that everyone in my immediate family is lacking a trait I consider vastly important. I’m not sure why this may be true, although I have some theories. But I do know that I find it disturbing on some levels for sure.

As a young child, I had a very hard time reading books like “Bambi” or watching movies like “Lassie” because I found them so upsetting. Even though I knew on some level things might turn out OK, the in-between parts just tore me up.

When I got older, reading “Black Beauty” had the same effect, or watching certain TV commercials. I was always a sucker. And now as an adult, it’s almost impossible for me to listen to the news dry-eyed.

This is all because my empathy meter is off the charts. I’ve never figured out if this is a blessing or a curse. In my job now as paramedic, I’m with people all the time in various degrees of suffering, so you can imagine how this takes a toll on me. But it also allows me to be a decent provider because I truly relate to what they are feeling–and honestly, it’s real.

But it is draining being this kind of person. Not only that, it has always been disheartening when others are so unlike me. And so, the fact that my family is thus, it’s like being surrounded by aliens. It’s as though someone plopped me in the middle of another country where I don’t speak the language. Where everyone is looking at me like I have three heads. It leaves me feeling out-of-place and out of sorts.

It started when I was young and my adopted mother’s reactions were often quite different from mine about things. And when I had ‘too strong’ an emotion about something, this somehow was labeled as being unwieldy and uncomfortable. Sharing these feelings with others was not tolerated either if I happened to find someone (an adult especially) who might be more like me.

And throughout life people would often tell me: calm down, why does that bother you so much, you shouldn’t let these things get to you. These were constant mantras folks put in my ears, but somehow they didn’t feel right to me! They DID get to me, and why shouldn’t they?

As my kids have gotten older, I see the trend continue with them. This really surprised me! I figured given the fact that I had raised them, they for sure would have some modicum of empathy in their bones. But emoting on my part either sends them huffing off to their rooms, ringing off their phone or thinking I’m ‘over-reacting’.

When I had my appendix out and when I had my car accident, there wasn’t much from any of the above mentioned. No help, no phone calls to check in, nada. It was so very odd–not to mention hurtful. But mostly, I didn’t understand it.

So what does it all mean? Is it some weird karma? Was I an undeserving human in my last life, destined now to live out being surrounded by people who don’t care? Or is it something more?

It may depend on what one believes. If it is in our genes how we act, then maybe this has something to do with things. So I will put forth some theories.

My birth mother walked away from my life when I was 18 months or so the story goes. I don’t know much about her (except she was a prostitute and Italian). Could she have been lacking in empathy?? It’s hard to say. But my 3 daughter’s Dad was not filled with it–that I will say. It’s one reason I walked. His personality was the antithesis of mine. So is this where is comes from?

Or is it the new generation? This me, me, me personality of today’s kids? That doesn’t explain my adopted Mom’s behavior though and how different we are, but that may be generational too.

In the end, I know I just end up feeling strange around the people I should closest. This bothers me. There’s a strong sense of not belonging which I always felt, and now more so than ever. Isolated and an island unto myself.

It’s not a terrible thing, but I just wonder, where has empathy gone?

Learning to Love


How do we learn to love? Or do we learn to love? Is this an ‘ability’ that is inherit within us all or is it something that we must learn by seeing others ‘do’ it? It was a question I began thinking about today after hearing a poignant interview done by radio NPR  personality Terry Gross who was speaking to Author Andrew Solomon. He had interviewed Peter Lanza, father of Adam Lanza-the shooter of Sandy Hook elementary school. His article “Reckoning” appeared in the New Yorker magazine.

It was a compelling and heartbreaking interview, and drove me to read the article too. And after reading the article, it has raised so many questions in my head. Questions about love: a parent’s love, a child’s love, love of humanity. What drives us to love and are there people who just don’t love? Are some people just incapable of caring for another human being, even when shown what true love should and can be?

Having been raised on a strange stage myself, and learning about it in my fifties, I look back on my own abilities (or maybe lack thereof) to love. As some of you know (or have read here), I was adopted at 18 months old. My adopted mother’s story to me still continues to be rather sketchy, but she tells me I was found in a prostitution house. My birth mother supposedly wanted to get out of the business, but in the 50’s a young single woman with a child would not have much hope of a future. So there I was left with a gaggle of women to care for me, until fate had it ‘someone’ tipped off my adopted mother that some kid needed a home.

What kind of ‘love’ and care I received during those first 18 months is pretty much an unknown. But what we all know is that those months are critical to human development. Tests on both human babies and primates show that lack of love and attention during these times can hamper proper development later on. While my adopted mother said I appeared fairly ‘normal’ and well cared for, who knows what really went on. And, most would agree, a whore house in no real place to rear a child.

From there I moved into a situation where my adopted father had never really been on board in the first place. My parents were divorced when I was 6 and my mother remarried a man 25 yrs her senior shortly thereafter.  He was a decent man, but so much older that I never felt a strong male figure in my life. My mother cared for me just fine, but as for love…well, that’s an interesting question. Here’s where it gets sticky.

Without going into lots of long and boring details of my growing up, suffice to say I didn’t feel a closeness. And this is where my topic originates. I’ve always been someone who struggled in some ways with love. While I felt very different from my mother in that I was far more demonstrative, I look back now and wonder if I’ve really succeeded any better at giving/receiving love. Growing up I never felt she loved me very well. It felt that the way she did it was tossing money at me. This continues to be the case even now. I’m very different and always felt love comes from the heart.

And I wonder: where did I learn this having not grown up seeing it being given that way? Or did I somehow inherit it? Did someone in the first years give me that kind of love? My adopted grandmother was very loving and was around more when I was younger. Could this have been an influence? But even being different on some levels, I realize now that maybe I really didn’t learn loving as well as I thought.

Having been divorced three times and having a multitude of difficult relationships points in part to a problem. Even with my daughters, my relationship with them has never been as loving as I had hoped. Even though I think of myself as this loving, caring person–when I really look at my track record what I see is devastation. But more importantly, if I really stop and be still and go way down in my soul, I know something is lacking where love is concerned.  While the ‘pictures’ of what love and loving relationships should be are clear in my mind, how to carry them out has always seemed somehow out of my grasp. Or my heart seems to not follow my head.

So what does this mean? Are we hardwired from the beginning with what we will feel or not feel? Like Adam Lanza–would anything have changed that fateful day of him shooting all those innocent children and their teachers? Or was he just destined to be a murderer? Would growing up in a different environment have helped me to love better or am I just who I am? Or does it just depend on each individual person? Some can learn things for sure, and some can’t.  A sociopath is simply hardwired I believe. There may be no helping them to be loving human beings. Or is there?

When it comes down to it fate plays such a huge part in all of life and history! Being in the right-or wrong-place! One egg and one sperm coming together to produce an Adam Lanza or Mozart. So after fate lands it icy hand on us, then how will we leap from there? Will will learn and grow, will empires fall or new ideas burst into being? And in the end, do we as human beings have the ability to learn to love? Or are some people just hopeless no matter what environment they are raised? Will they someday find a ‘murder’ gene or discover that humans are predisposed for self-destruction? Or rather will love conquer all and we and up living happily ever after? The answers lie either in the future or within the mystery of life itself. Let’s just hope it’s the latter.

Changing The Story


I’ve really been getting into my beginning yoga practice. I started with a book I had, and then I began to buy some DVD’s. These were much more helpful as you could actually see and hear what an expert yoga teacher wanted you to do. Of course going to a class would most likely be the best, but time and money predisposes this option for me. So for now I am content with slowly building my practice this way.

One of the teachers I am enjoying was so amazing that I began to watch her on some YouTube videos. Not only did I watch her doing yoga, but I have been listening to her at some conferences also. There was one in particular that struck me and I’ve been contemplating it ever since. I believe the combination of yoga and having new ‘teachers’ in one’s life, allows an opening for unexpected and maybe buried feelings, thoughts and emotions to bubble to the surface. Maybe we have been working on these things in our subconscious without knowing it and suddenly now there is a light in which they can shine their way into our mindful awareness.

And so this happened to me. Her talk didn’t directly help me come to my epiphany, but it pushed me there I believe. It was partly about how our self talk creates situations especially between us and other people. For instance, we may believe that we are having bad relations with a family member and may be putting blame on that person. Maybe we think that person keeps attacking us or avoids us or doesn’t accept us for who we truly may be. But what my yoga teacher said is that if you delve into your own behavior, you may discover that you may actually be creating the situations with this person that makes them act the way they do.

I certainly realized this about my older daughter. She is always extremely defensive with me. We seemed to constantly get in fights every time we spoke on the phone. Even if I had the best intentions, it always turned out poorly. But when I recalled our last huge fight, I had to admit that I did press a button rather than avoiding an issue. This happens with my mother too. So I wrote my daughter an email to say I was sorry. I’m trying to change that story.

But this all lead me something much deeper. And it all came to me quite suddenly as these things often do. It’s all rather personal and I’m not sure how much I will actually be able to share. It’s quite cathartic to share so I will try. It revolves around my difficulties with my relationships with men and intimacy.

I’ve mentioned in my blog before that I am adopted. In fact, there is a whole section related to this so I won’t go over it. But I will mention again that I wasn’t adopted until I was 18 months old. This I feel is significant. I personally am one who believes that much of our important growth happens in the first two years of life. What we imprint during this time may have some significant impact.

When I was about 50 (I just turned 57), I rushed down to Florida because my adopted mother had a fall. I knew only bits and pieces of ‘my story’ up until this point. I’ve had no contact with my birth family ever. My mother was in a vulnerable position after her accident, I took advantage after I helped her heal, to find out what more I could. And this is where I learned a most crucial part about my life.

I will abbreviate it here, but when she found out about me at 18 months, I was living in a whore house. My birth mother was a prostitute and I was being raised by many of the woman there. Supposedly she wanted out and to leave and start a new life in California and needed the money to move. This was New York City in the 50’s. She was Italian. I also learned that I was the ‘lure’ to get the ‘Johns’ to come into the place. I’m not exactly sure what that meant, but I took it to mean: a cute baby, toddler whatever. Apparently, I was somehow ‘rewarded’ for being nice to the men. So I was taught it was my ‘job’ to be a ‘man pleaser’–even at this tender age.

My mother told me I didn’t appear to be mistreated and seem fairly well-adjusted. There were a few quirky things. I have no pictures of me as a baby or very young. The adoption did go through, but there were some hitches and there is a lot more to story. But those parts are not the point to this story.

On hearing this all at first I wasn’t completely surprised. The way my mother had told the story before, even though it had been disjointed, I could almost guess. But some parts of it made my blood run cold. Suddenly all the parts of my life that had gone wrong or that I had struggled with and continued to be a puzzle to me became crystal clear! Now all the parts fell into place and I got it.

The promiscuity with men that haunted me my whole life while having no real satisfaction from most of it now became so obvious. A very large percentage of these men would tell me that I was special that way, how I knew how to ‘please’, that I gave myself over so fully and honestly and from my heart. Men would call me years and years later to tell me this and I wouldn’t even recall the event. I would have dark places in my brain where these memories should have been.  It’s almost as though I had somehow assimilated a prostitutes ability to disassociate from the act; that somehow I learned this is how sex was suppose to be. And of course, I had learned that it was my ‘job’ to please these men.

I was rarely satisfied during these times, but that never seemed the point. Somewhere deep in the recesses of what my brain and body ‘knew’, it wasn’t suppose to be about me. Sex was about the men, wasn’t it? Always about the men. They would come to this place and visit then go.  There would noises and movements of sex, and they pay and would leave. But the women would stay. The men never stayed. And this is the story that has lived with me, inside of me all these years! Like a flash, this came to me the other day. And so this is how my whole life has played out thus far: no man has ever stayed!

I have lived this story over and over. I’ve played it, created it, shaped it and breathed it. It was in me–a part of me. So much so, that I couldn’t even see it or understand it until now. I’ve put blame on the men. I’ve put the blame on me. I’ve wondered about my sexuality. I’ve wondered if I was just meant to be alone. I’ve been unraveling it for a very long time. And the parts of it have come to me very slowly. They came to me when they could. Maybe I couldn’t have handled them sooner and I know my mother couldn’t give me the information sooner. In the end, I believe it all comes together when you are ready. There is no blame anywhere. It was just the story. But now it’s time to change the story.

No longer do I have to live this story. While it’s true that woman have always stayed longer in my life and they have always been the ones I trust more, it doesn’t mean it has to be like this forever. I realized too, this really wasn’t totally my story, but one that I played in. I didn’t choose this story but it was thrust upon me. It would not have been one I would have picked for me or my child. So I can now say goodbye to it and go down a new path.

I’m grateful for those who cared for me and thank my birth mother for her bravery for trying to make a better life than prostitution. It had to have been hard to give up a child to save yourself, but I understand it. I did something near to it when I got my divorce. And she knew I was safe when my adopted mother came for me. She must have cared for me fairly well while I was with her those 18 months, along with those other women who were part of ‘the oldest profession’. I feel blessed to have been in the company of so many women–it takes a village sometimes.

I wonder where they all are now and if they ever think of that little blonde girl. I thought of my birth mom this July 1st and wondered if she thought about me on my birthday (if she’s still alive). She’d be 78. We are never too old to change our stories so maybe someday she will decide to change hers again and look me up. Until then, once upon a time…….