December 10, 2014

Santa's Antithesis?

Santa Claus
© Photographer: Aguirre_mar | Agency: Dreamstime.com

(Originally published in 2010...we ate at the same restaurant today and I was reminded of this day...)

Something happened today that I still can't believe...the timing, especially.

I had been wanting to pay the attorney that was involved in my adoption way back in 1968 a visit for a long time, but it was one of those things I just kept putting off. I knew he was still "in business" and wanted to talk to him personally while I still had the chance...to see if he might remember something...anything...about my original mother. She died at the age of 32 while looking for me but was somehow under the impression she had given birth to a son.

The only other contact I had with this attorney was several years ago when I was trying to get my adoption records opened at the court house. I had already obtained a court order for my obc and reunited with my entire original family years before. But I wanted the adoption records themselves...

The Judge had approved my request, but every time I called to see if the records were available yet, the clerk stated that they could not find my file. Finally, after several calls I started to panic. They kept saying it could not be found...

So...I called this attorney to see if there might have been a chance that the adoption was finalized in a different county. As soon as I told him that I was reunited with my family and explained the situation about the file not being located at the court house, he became defensive. He asked how I ever got the information to find my original mother and then said, "If I had done my job right, you would have never been able to find out anything." Needless to say, he wasn't much help.

I made one last attempt at the court house and finally they found my file "in the basement." It was so surreal reading my own file...my parent's home study (barely 2 typed pages), and my mother's signature on the consent.

I had to give all that background information to get back to my story...So today my husband and I had met for lunch at one of our favorite Thai restaurants. The tables in this place are really close together and it was packed. I noticed a nice-looking older gentleman at the table next to us, but didn't pay any attention to him. He even offered to share his table with another man who needed a place to eat (it is a great buffet), and I guess my husband overheard them introducing themselves to each other.

He didn't mention this to me until we were up at the cash register paying for our meal...casually, he mentioned, "Does the name O.G. mean anything to you?" What?

Why yes...immediately I told my husband I had to go back and find out if he was THE O.G. who had done my adoption...

Sure enough, he was. He invited me to sit down and we had a wonderful conversation...I'm sure it was a huge surprise when I pulled out of my purse a picture of my first Mom...He slowly took his glasses off and examined the picture, but said he couldn't remember that far back. He said he did 35 adoptions a year back then...and "did everything possible to keep things secret."
He said he wrote the same non-identifying information on every file...all his "birthmoms" were 5'3, weighed 120 pounds and were Baptist. It hit me that is what was in my file, and I always wondered why my first Mom's pictures made her look taller than that. Now I knew.  I was so flabbergasted that I forgot to ask him why my First Mother thought she had given birth to a boy.  She was awaiting the return of her son, up till the day she passed away.  That makes me so sad.

I have heard other reunion stories where the first mother had been told she had given birth to the opposite gender as well.  Some have been livid that their names were changed on the birth certificate, and dates of birth as well.  All to prevent the first mother from "interfering" or "coming back". 

He admitted that back then he "didn't even think about" the consequences of his actions. He said he gets calls all the time from adoptees and first mothers, but cannot help them at all. That's when I gave him my card...he seemed genuinely pleased and said he would definitely give them my name. It felt so good to "come full circle" yet again and have this chance encounter. Especially right now...the week of a great conference being held in our state..."Life...Adopted!"  

(This is now 2014 and I have yet to receive one call from anyone he referred to me for search help.)

As he drove away in his shiny, white Lexus, I tried hard not to be judgemental.
How could a man, so polite and warm (he reminded me of a small-statured, sweet-mannered Santa Claus) have done what he did so many years ago...I have to believe it was ignorance. Society dictated so much (see "The Girls Who Went Away")...and yet was so wrong.

He is still a practicing attorney and has been for 52 years he said. I'm sure for many adoptive parents O.G. WAS Santa Claus...at some point, however, we all must grow up. Santa Claus and sealed records create quite an illusion, one more innocent than the other.

One has to wonder WHY the adoption industry fights so hard against restoring the civil right of adult adoptees to obtain their birth records...especially when we find story after story of past and current unethical practices being perpetuated against first mothers, adoptees, and even adoptive parents in adoption. (See "The Girls Who Went Away" by Ann Fessler, or "The Baby Thief" by Barbara Raymond.

I can only pray that as adoptees and original mothers continue to tell our stories that laws will be changed so the actions of ignorance cannot continue to affect those "touched" by adoption. We can't rely on piece-meal legislation and adoption codes that fail to protect the identity rights of adoptees (both the generations of the past, as well as today).

We need laws to ensure ethical practices are being followed...not just hope against hope that adoptees will even have a factual birth certificate on file. Ensure that right for every adoptee and individual born through assisted reproduction...genetic truth, heritage, and history.

Amazing day indeed.

December 7, 2014

"Sorry Veronica, Santa Isn't Real"

 
 
 

In honor of Veronica...

 

 Don’t steal the land of defenseless orphans
by moving their ancient boundary marks,
for their Redeemer is strong;
He himself will accuse you. 
Proverbs 23:10-11
 
 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

As difficult a year it has been for the Brown family
and all those who care about Veronica...
how much harder it must have been for her

We cannot even fathom.
   
 
A year ago she wasn't worth an interest hearing
or civil rights lawsuit filed on her behalf. 

(see Adoptive Couple versus Baby Girl). 

Baby Girl is a picture of what adoptees endure their entire lives...
 silencing through the sealing and erasure of our very identities.

Our God-given personhood is stolen. 

  She was silenced in the back of that car on September 23, 2013
and must continue her dance of loyalty in order to survive. 
Eventually she may forget what really happened and her little mind will be forced to live inside narratives completely incongruent with her inner reality.

 
She now has an amended birth certificate,
and an adoption decree which forever defines her.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 
 
As I was pondering this sweet child, I was reminded of another little girl made famous, named Virginia O'Hanlon who wrote a newspaper in 1897 asking about Santa. 

 
"Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus ...
Papa says 'If you see it in The Sun it's so ...
please tell me the truth."           
 
A man named Francis P. Church, was working as an editor for his brother's
(William Church, a commissioner and founder of the National Rifle Assoc) newspaper,
the New York Sun

He was asked to respond, and, of course, his definitive editorial became famous.
   
"Yes, Virginia, there IS a Santa Clause."

"Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. 
It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIA'S." 
 
Although Virginia had specifically asked for "the truth"...she,
along with the rest of the nation, was led to believe a lie. 
Just an "innocent" fantasy. 
A warm and fuzzy, feel-good myth.  
A man in a suit who could give us anything we want.   
 
The sweet little narrative missed one thing...the truth.
Back in 1897, Virginia, and the rest of the nation, 
ate it up like cookies and milk. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~     



 
  In 2014, I worry about the not so innocent myths
Those so powerful, they erase little Veronica's...
no longer nourished by God-given identities and bonds;
 surrounded by strangers throwing gotcha parties;
fed sugary sweet tales that can't satisfy.   
 
Crisis-pregnancy and adoption agencies continue to recruit
 and even coerce vulnerable mothers
with promises of "openness" (which are legally unenforceable)
 and the heroic belief she is giving an ultimate "gift".  

That's the sugar-coated version.

We fail to address the underlying motives of highly profitable
and politically well-connected "professionals" 
helping themselves to babies...
even if the child's family gets in their way.
 We legalize recruitment strategies to increase
the number of "available" children,
rather than serve those who already need homes.
 
In current adoption law, infants and children are used as commodities
to supply the discontented...those willing to pay into unethical systems
for a child to call "their own."
Some believe they are saving the world.

Truth be told, we'll never really know how many children truly need homes,
until adoption no longer functions as an economic "family building" industry
with no regard for human rights.

Our legislators across this nation legalize a business model to "serve" children, 
complete with "experts" whose real customers are shiny new "psychological" parents.

Re-defining, for their own purposes, terms such as "family",
"attachment" and "best interest";
but stripping the God-given right of a child to their own lineage and kinship.


      

If for some reason a child must be cared for
outside their family of birth, 
shouldn't it be a last resort? 

Why ask any fellow human-being to give up their identity
 on an "amended" birth certificate? 
The practice of "sealing" and "amending" birth certificates,
along with monetary incentives that create an environment 
riddled with conflict of interest and profit, 
turns the very definition of "adoption"
into glorified child-trafficking and "ownership" of a human-being.
Whose interest does this serve?

There is a relatively new term being discussed in our world of 2014..."identity privilege".
How appropriate for the millions of adopted individuals who are deemed
identity(less) through "sealed" and "amended" birth certificates. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
 
             

On that cool September evening in 2013, we, as a nation, 
watched in horror as a four year old girl was stripped unnecessarily 
from her home and family. 

We will never understand how this so-called "adoption"  
could be "finalized" on July 31, 2013  
in a state and by people Veronica had not lived near for two years.
Without a "best interest" hearing.

Veronica's father, Dusten Brown had fought for the right
 to raise his daughter since her infancy and she had been living in Oklahoma,
surrounded by the love and security of her real family for almost two years.   

Sadly, the demand for babies and children
 is legally protected in this country. 

The entire situation was fraudulent from day one.
Veronica is paying a life-altering price
for the unregulated and unethical business 
(we call "adoption").  

And so...like every adoptee, Veronica Brown is now legally non-existent.
Adoption "flips the script" of our very lives, telling us we are born of strangers with whom we share no genetic ties.

Adoption tells us we are not related to the family from which we came, and with whom we share the generations.  How truthful is that?       
 
We can only speculate of Veronica's emotional existence...
merely a shadow of her true self
Since her government-sanctioned abduction one year ago,
we cannot even imagine what she has been asked
 to believe.
 
Whatever she is being told,
it must grate against everything within her. 
Not only has her civil right to identity and family been stolen,
but also her inner congruence.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 
 
If her fellow Lost Daughters could write a letter to Ronnie,
it might sound something like this.
 
 "Yes Veronica, You Are Real"

 
 
Santa is just a tale, Sweetheart, but you are very real. 
In our world, some people in suits hide behind masks of greed. 
They have stolen our dignity and sealed us to a lie. 

Although the world may seem like merely a stage;
and you may forget who you really are,
Please remember this.
 
No matter what role we are asked to play,
you and I are not the imposters.    
Deep inside, though we hardly recognize our own cries...
we still exist.  And we know.

You are deserving, Veronica, to be yourself. 
Your worth is not based on the needs you meet for others;
the daughter you can be for someone else. 

We may feel like aliens and strangers...
but we carry with every ounce of our being
 the pain and triumphs of our forefathers. 
They run this race with us through our veins.
That, my sweet Veronica, can never be taken.
 
There is a Father you will never lose.
Though He may feel far away, know that He holds you
   
Just look up
There you are, Little Star.



 
You are surrounded by a throng
who will help you find your way home.    
Lost & undone, but shining on. 
 
We love you.

November 26, 2014

Full Circle Thanksgiving

Family Tree
© Photographer: Andyb1126 | Agency: Dreamstime.com

(originally written on Thanksgiving 2009)


Te Deum
by Charles Reznikoff

Not because of victories
I sing,
having none,
but for the common sunshine,
the breeze,
the largess of the spring.

Not for victory
but for the day's work done
as well as I was able;
not for a seat upon the dais
but at the common table.


Reunion has brought so many conflicting emotions over the years, especially surrounding the holidays. Truly like trying to untangle a ball of yarn without knowing beginning or end.

For many years after reunion I would reluctantly turn down invitations each holiday, feeling strong obligation to my adoptive family. Feeling extreme guilt for even trying to see my family of birth "around" the holiday ~ so torn. Wondering and longing through feelings of self-doubt and paralyzing covetousness of those in my first families who never lost their place. Not knowing who I was or where I belonged.

This flowed over even into celebrations around my son. Birthday parties, which are supposed to be joyous times of fellowship and fun became so stressful that I would avoid planning them. So sad. Who would I invite? I wanted everyone there but couldn't stand the thought of trying to merge these segregated and conflicting families in the same place. Holidays brought up buried pain of separation, ownership, and confusion.

Finally walking through the pain of grief unlocked my ability to feel and embrace the love that my family(ies) were trying to show. The love I so wanted to be able to feel and embrace and return.

I want to thank God for bringing me through those crashing emotions of reunion. To a more quiet acceptance and embrace of who I am and who my family is. Amazing.

Home
by Bruce Weigl

I didn't know I was grateful
for such late-autumn bent-up cornfields
yellow in the after-harvest sun before the
cold plow turns it all overinto never.
I didn't know I would enter this music
that translates the world back into dirt fields
that have always called to me as if I were a thing
come from the dirt, like a tuber,
or like a needful boy.
End lonely days, I believe.
End the exiled and unraveling strangeness.


Yesterday was really nice. My Mom was in my home again for the first time since April, when she fell and was hospitalized and then moved to a senior center. My son was so excited he climbed all over her, even in her wheelchair. Her personality is amazingly positive and such an inspiration to me, for her to be able to weather so many months of health issues and change. My first father dropped by right when we were putting Thanksgiving lunch on the table, and I so enjoyed seeing him and sharing this special day and lunch ~ just being together means so much.

He had not seen my Mom for many years (the families spent more time "together" during the infant stage of reunion ~ I feel like the beginning of "my" reunion was more for them than for me ~ so shy & emotionally numb).

I didn't beat myself up emotionally this time for letting my Mom see the heart-felt emotion of hugs and kisses between my first father and us. Maybe he is opening up more because I am.

Then, last night I got to be an adult (not just "Mommy") for a few hours at Thanksgiving dinner hosted by my first mother's brother and sister (my aunt and uncle). We sipped white wine and feasted on turkey and dressing (yet again) all evening, enjoying each others company, getting caught up on our lives and telling stories of growing up in Tulsa (separated, yet within blocks of each other our whole lives). Uncle Ron lives on Reservoir Hill just north of downtown ~ with a spectacular view of the city lights, the moon and the stars, and a crackling outdoor fireplace.

I am so blessed to be reunited with my entire family of birth. The rich diversity and YEARS of getting to know them and the strong love that has grown. I have a beautiful heritage of faith in my family, by both adoption and birth. And also great diversity. Jewish on my father's side, and my first mother's side includes a beloved uncle by marriage who grew up in the Middle East. And yet another from Guatemala!

My young cousins, Sean & Hanna, who I was privileged to watch grow up and grew close to these past twenty years have a beautiful dual-heritage, which they are learning to embrace and be proud of. We talked about the importance of family and how we can learn so much from the strong family traditions and customs of other cultures ~ how they stay close throughout their lifetimes and help each other through hard times. How they value the little things in life, without the distraction of the "rat race" we all seem to battle in America.

I am finally more complete in my identity and families now, and am so thankful. Still growing so much and overcoming. But thankful.

Eternity
by William Blake

He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy
He who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity's sunrise

November 2, 2014

Adoption: The Solution to "Orphan" Care?

Bear saving money
                                       © Photographer: Icefields | Agency: Dreamstime.com


There is a growing trend towards "Orphan Care" in the Church in America.

In fact, I've seen posters all over town this week advertising "Orphan For A Night," a fundraiser to raise money for the adoption of "orphans".

 There's even an upcoming conference in Austin entitled "Together for Adoption".

I am so saddened by the popular teaching in today's Church inaccurately equating God's "adoption" of His children to the same "adoption" we know of in our society.

The original Greek language (in Scripture) translated "adopted" (as God's children) could have been more accurately translated as "reunited" as God's children.

As an adoptee (and Christian) I am thankful that God is my loving Father & Creator, not just an "adoptive" Father. When adoptees are expected to believe it was God's perfect will for us to be "chosen" to fulfill a new identity & role in our adoptive families (hence, lose our original family & identity) it plants confusion & distrust into our very souls.

I am comforted by the words of a famous Bible hero, Joseph, who was separated and later reunited with the family of his birth. He profoundly concluded, "What the enemy meant for evil, God turned for good."

God is not the author of tragedy. Adoptees were not necessarily "meant to be" members of their new adoptive families. They landed there through profound loss, and should not be expected to celebrate with "Gotcha" parties and hurtful theological statements on how "lucky" they are to be "adopted". This just adds yet another layer of disenfranchised grief they must work through utterly alone, if ever, to become whole adults.

We also need to be very wary of the mentality in "saving orphans" by adoption (erasing & sealing their original identity) when the supply/demand princples in the business of adoption create an environment for gross conflict of interest and clouded ethics.

Adoptees are the only citizens whose identities are "amended" on their very birth certificates.  Archaic "sealed records" laws in adoption strips their God-given right to obtain their original identities indefinately.  Six US states have passed legislation restoring the unconditional right of adult adoptees to their original birth certificates, restoring their dignity and identities for not only themselves, but also their children and grandchildren. 

Are the "orphans" we are "saving" true orphans? 

UNICEF reports that the number of true orphans (the loss of both parents) may be lower than originally thought.

Are some children made "legal" orphans (on paper) for the purpose of making them "available" for adoption, when they have living relatives who could raise them?

Why is adoption so expensive? Could that same money and energy be used to help families of origin remain together?

Are children served best by being stripped of their original identity & culture or would it be more Christ-like to develop ways in which to care for orphans within their own homeland?

 These are just a few of the questions we need to be asking before the Church blindly accepts an over-simplified philosophy of "saving" orphans through "adoption".

Thank you, Mom




     Last Thanksgiving morning I held my Mom's hand as she journeyed to Heaven. 

It still doesn't seem real. 

(Originally published on 6/7/09)

     Mom has always been there for me.   

I marvel at her strength, inspiration, and tenacity, even through many medical problems in her older age.

She worked long, faithful hours for over 20 years at the same company.  She put me through college as a single parent. 


She has been my biggest encourager, and helped me believe in myself...because she believed in me. 
 
 A couple of years ago in December, she fell and hit her head on a step, and was in ICU for a week.  Laying in the hospital bed, barely able to speak, she motioned for me to bend down close...and asked me to go to the store for her and buy my son a Lego wagon she had seen advertised. 
She wanted him to have it for Christmas.  He still loves that wagon he got from his Grandma. 

When Mom went through a stem-cell transplant in 1998, she always kept a smile, even through weeks in the hospital.  I look back and cherish that time I spent with her. 
At the exact moment the stem-cells (blood transfusion) began, a song came on the radio in her room entitled, "There Is Power In The Blood". 
We all took notice and thanked God ~ she was healed from that day forward. 

My Mom is an eternal optimist and loved by many.
She gets her energy from helping others. 
It has been frustrating for me to see her neglect herself and her rest, health, and emotional healing, to be an eternal "caretaker" of others. 
She is depressed right now because she can't go to the senior center and help the "old people". 
 
She has been in the hospital for several weeks and although we finally found a doctor who is running the necessary tests that should have been done immediately, my Mom is tired.
And I am grieving to see her like this.

I regret so much. 
The times (even just a few months ago) when she would knock on my front door unexpectedly, and I would have a twinge of feeling "put out" at an inconvenient time. 
Now I cry for her to be able to do that again.

We have had to forgive each other a lot because we are very different in personality.
My Mom's out-going personality smothered me as a shy, quiet, insecure little girl.
She talked about me incessantly, causing me to retreat farther into my shell.
 
Unfortunately, neither of us got the "memo" about the needs of adopted children.
 We struggled. But we never, ever stopped loving.
 
Thank you, Mom, for letting me find myself.   

Mom is having yet more tests run tomorrow. Please pray for her strength to get through this, for the doctors to find out what is wrong and be able to help her regain her strength. She is a cancer-survivor, and they have ruled out all re-occurance. They found severe ulcers (completely missed by doctors just a month ago), which are finally being treated.
She is very discouraged and tired after a long ordeal.
My grandmother did this in her "older" age and then regained her health and lived to be 92 years old.
 
    Lord, please bless my Mom. Fill her with peace and healing and strength.
Give her your comfort right now and protect her.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
 
This was originally written in 2009. 
My Mom did recover and went on to marry at 80 years of age. 
She had two beautiful years with her husband.  They both passed away 9 months apart last year.
Our last conversation, when we both knew her time was short, taught me much.

We realized...

 None of our human foibles or misunderstandings mattered any more. 
Only the love we had always kept in our hearts. 
The important thing was that we were there. 
We never gave up on each other.

I reminded her, "He will surely make everything right".

The bitter tears after an unfair divorce and the loneliness and fatigue she endured as a single parent.  The painful disease that tried to take her life.  Even the hurts her heart still carried from childhood.  None of it mattered anymore;  she wanted to see her Savior face to face. 
The One who loved her and would never forsake.
The faithful One who had been her Father, Husband, Provider and Protector. And mine as well.
       
When the nurses came in to ask if she knew she was in the hospital, she would say,

"I'm with Sam"  

And my tears would flow. 
I realized we had given each other a beautiful gift. 
His presence had healed our hearts to the point that we could be truly present with each other. 

We spent our last days together doing what we loved.
In the hospital gift shop, we would peruse the lovely trinkets and comment on their meaning or significance.  They would remind us of a story and we would reminisce.

Our eyes were drawn to a beautiful plaque that now graces my living room wall.  

"Be Still...and Know that I am God"

  

When she felt well enough, I would bundle her up in a soft blanket
and we would stroll outside among the bright yellow autumn leaves.  They were so delicate.  
I realized how fragile life was during those times. 
And what a beautiful gift our presence is for each other. 
I never wanted to regret another thing. 
But enjoy and embrace every moment with my family and friends, from that point forward.

What I didn't realize was how deeply the pain of grief would affect me. 
With every loss we encounter, it triggers deeper losses that seem unbearable.  
We close off our hearts and put up walls we think are protective,
when really, they are suffocating us.
We spend our time distracted and numb, because it hurts too much to feel.
We feel broken. 

A grieving heart is at risk of becoming bitter. 
 
Every day surrounded by families who all look alike and support one other...
enjoying a "normal" life without the mess of reunion, radiology, and obituaries. 
Or overwhelming memories of such.

    This year has been hard for me. 
A year of isolation and sadness.  
        
I've felt orphaned.

My Pastor recently spoke of the story of Jacob and Esau.
When Esau's birthright was stolen by his brother, Jacob, he was hurt and angry.
Yet through the years, instead of allowing the pain to close his heart towards God, he trusted.
And God Himself took care of him.
Later, when he and Jacob were reunited, they ran toward each other and embraced.
They felt as if they were seeing God's very face. 
 
They blessed each other.

Lord, please help me trust You to be my Father, and take care of me.
Help me forgive everyone that has hurt me, and bless them.
Give others the grace to forgive me, as well.
Turn our hearts to You and fill us with peace, love and joy again.

Help me live life with no regrets.
Thank you, Mom, for teaching me this. 
I miss you so much.
I love you. 

"My Two Mothers"


October 28, 2014

Ties that Bind

Puppet
                              © Photographer: Limcheng-en | Agency: Dreamstime.com

                                                        (Originally published on 4/13/11)

Don't stealthily move back the boundary lines
or cheat orphans out of their property (identity),
For they have a powerful Advocate
who will go to bat for them.
(Proverbs 23:10-11, Message Bible)

Memories buried deep within my soul
Hidden from everyday existence;
To protect the mask I hold
Tightly gripped by shaking hands
That hurt and ache like frozen death.
Cover my face ~ the facade.

No life or love or personality;
the soul inside me tried to flee.
The terror of nothingness came
the day they "sealed" my name.

Lost: One "dead" baby at the courthouse;
Certificate of Live Birth "sealed" around it's neck
Tightly riveted to a desk of "this is best".

Found: One imitation life living "the lie"
Created the day they made her "sign".

Gone in a moment
Wake up to reveal
Amended reality
In courts to fulfill.

A shell of existence;
Underground hiding.
Scared to come out ~ revealing
The ties that bind.

The corpse baby comes to life
No tears it cries, it's dead inside;
Just rescued "bastard"
With no real name.

Legitimize me with
These ties that bind;
Undo the lies. 
Resurrection Power
Make me real ~ I plead.