Review: The Lies That Bind by Laureen Pittman

Recently, I read Laureen Pittman’s memoir, THE LIES THAT BIND: An Adoptee’s Journey Through Rejection, Redirection, DNA, and Discovery. It is the story of her search and reunion experiences with her biological parents. Her writing is clear, educational yet warm, descriptive and humanistic.

Pittman’s desire to search is sparked after an opportunity to travel to and study in the United Kingdom as a college student. Her adoptive mother is excited because she has ancestral ties to Great Britan and expresses this. Unfortunately, as an adoptee, Laureen has no idea of her actual heritage at this point and feels an emptiness, (although she does appreciate and enjoy her trip abroad). She is struck by a sense of “hiraeth”, a Welsh term associated with longing and homesickness for a person or place that does not seem to exist. I found this item and many other “nuggets” of information in this book very relatable and worthy.

This is a great book for a non-adopted reader to self educate about the adoption experience from a well-versed, honest expert: an actual adoptee. Pittman cleverly weaves in teachable moments regarding typical adoptee thought processes and perceptions while artfully unfurling her personal tale. Specifically, Chapters Five and Fourteen stand out as great learning sections regarding Baby-Scoop Era adoption/ adoptee background and psychology.

You can read this book for fun (because it is a fast-moving page-turner), read this book to learn about the adoptee experience, or you can just read this book to feel connected. It does not disappoint.

The Lies That Bind is available at Amazon.

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Adoptee Thoughts on National Siblings Day

I’ve seen a lot of posts recently on Facebook about it being National Siblings Day. I checked, and it is indeed today (April 10th). I have one brother by adoption, five birth sisters and one birth brother. (Biologically we are halves, but we never use the word “half”.)

I love all of my siblings. My A Bro and I share many childhood memories of holidays, birthdays, weddings, playing with kids in the neighborhood, the time the dog puked in the back of the car, the afternoon our family station wagon overheated on I-75 in Lexington, KY on the way to a family vacation in Florida, graduations, when our grandparents died…

I have been in reunion with two of my sisters on my birth mother’s side for almost 31 years. (It is already 31 years if you count the phone calls and letters. In July it will be 31 years in person.) I have been connected with them for more of my life than not, and I feel wonderful about that. We have used our time, (in spite of living thousands of miles apart), to build our own memories plus embrace the fact that we have separate memories from one another, because that’s just how things worked out. I have relived as much of their pasts through stories and photos as I possibly can. We have a lot in common now, and I am forever grateful for that. They and their respective families are fine people.

I have been connected with my birth father’s family since 2002. We are getting up there in time together. They live locally, so we have a lot more chances to be together. Since 2002, we have had the privilege of blending Thanksgivings and Christmases and even a few Easters. It’s great to take part, and I feel very welcomed and accepted. Our biggest challenge in spite of living locally is time due to work, and other obligations with our kids, in-laws, etc. Again, we lack a childhood together. We barely have had a young-adulthood together, but we focus on now mostly, and when one of them tells a story about their past, which is not a part of my past, I listen and absorb. I learn whatever I can learn.

Privately I have grieved about time lost, but there isn’t much we can do to reverse that. It sucks, but it is what it is. We move forward. We laugh and sometimes imagine what if I had also been a part of an x-remembered scenario, what would I have been doing?  Ignoring everyone and staying in my own little world? Sassing back? Cracking a joke, taking sides, sneaking dinner food I hated (like stuffed peppers) to the dog?  (Let’s be honest, if dogs or cats were involved I would be their sympathizer every time!)

Would I have been a pesky brat sibling? a leader-type sibling? Would I have taken one for the team as a sibling? Or, would I have split and let everyone fend for themselves? Who would have been my school friends, and would I have been more or less popular?  I do think about these things, but I cannot change any of that. For me, there is no use in being mad about the lost past I never experienced any more than it is for my siblings to grieve or feel guilty because I was not there at the time with them. We all know we would have had a lot of fun together no matter what, (because we are all by nature fun-loving people), and we probably would have all had our fighting times too, because what siblings don’t fight?

We are like the definition of “hive mind”. My bio-siblings and I come together and have many similar thoughts and memories (although usually involving other people) prior to actually meeting, and now we work toward a more collective memory bank which we can fall back on and incorporate as we advance toward the future.

I totally understand how adopted people might feel sad or left out on a day like National Siblings Day. I also know that I am one of the luckier ones because  I could locate everyone successfully and my bio families were open and welcoming. At the same time, I hesitate to post pictures of us together because I do not want to hurt anyone else’s feelings, trigger someone or look like I am bragging.

So I humbly and quietly celebrate this day. I have a Brady Bunch load of sisters and brothers. That’s amazing to me. It’s something I always wanted. I am happy for those who can celebrate and revel in this SIblings Day. I respect and send best thoughts to those who are unable: (only sibs, those with missing or deceased sibs, those rejected by their sibs).

The only advice I can offer is perhaps you can also embrace best friends, close cousins and anyone else you think the world of as if they were a sister or a brother. Think of family is a global sense. In that way, oh man, I have many, many online and real-life amazing friends and family, (some whom I have met, some I have not yet met).

May you find a sense of peace and understanding in this day and in many other “special” days throughout the year.

#adoption, adoptees, adoptism, flipthescript, family, nationalsiblingsday, birthfamily, biofamily, siblings

On Being Adopted…

Most everyone in my life these days knows that I am adopted. This wasn’t always the case, because I hated the fact that it happened. It was painfully difficult to explain why I felt this way. As a kid, I did not have sufficient vocabulary nor life experience to express my thoughts. I was frustrated and fed up because I had so many unanswered questions. I knew my “story” was incomplete. I was highly ashamed of being adopted and “different” for years; decades actually. I lied through my teeth to friends, colleagues, and anyone else because I detested having to explain the lame bits of information I did have and then endure people’s responses like:

 

“You’re so lucky.”

“It was God’s plan.”

“You’re special because you were chosen.”

and my personal favorite, “You should thank your lucky stars!”

 

Those sayings only made me feel conflicted, ashamed for being curious and as if I were under par and infantile as an individual. Since I wanted to avoid those conversations, I kept my mouth shut and faked it till I made it. That plan worked for a long time.

 

Then I found a support group and I found my biological family. I wasn’t ashamed of my family, so I decided I shouldn’t keep hiding. Still, I had to learn how to do that, and part of learning how to “come out” would mean I’d have to learn how to deal with those less-aware societal comments I detested.

 

Now my adoption is no secret. It’s not a source of shame. (But it’s also not a source of pride.)

I have a rebuttal or a way to debunk each one of these one-sided remarks. For me to be lucky, at least one other person had to be unlucky and pay a helluva price. What kind of luck is that?  What if I don’t believe in a traditional G-d?  Puppies get chosen from a litter. Who should I thank?  My parents, who adopted me?  Do you thank your parents who didn’t have to adopt you but still raised you? How much more thankful than you am I supposed to be?

 

Not only can I express these feelings in writing to my online friends and communities. If necessary, I can express these thoughts in real life. My adoptee community is supportive and respects my thinking. I find that I am not alone. What I’ve discovered more often than not is that most people on the outside of the adoption community reply with:

 

“I never thought about it that way before.”

“I can see how you think that way.”

and “That makes sense.”

 

This day and age is a lot “safer” for adopted people to not just come out but also speak up about their situation. We don’t agree with 100% closed adoptions, hidden truths, adoption for major profit, gaslighting or demeaning of anyone’s personal feelings regarding being adopted. We do agree with first-family support first, providing honest medical and genealogical information and mandatory professional training specific to the adoptee experience for prospective adoptive parents, counselors, therapists, and clergy.

 

DNA testing is bringing more scientific evidence of how nature and nurture both have a place as well as the fact that missing and secret family members who were born out of wedlock and other non-traditional circumstances years ago can’t be kept in a closet any longer. DNA = Do Not Argue. Adoptees are coming out, and we are outing the secret keepers one by one, agency by agency, state by state and country by country.

Next weekend is the Indiana Adoptee Network Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana. This is going to be a fun and informative weekend of adoption friends and colleagues who are building a like-minded community, presenting workshop talks, works of art and much more. Every time I attend one of these gatherings, I feel more validated, empowered and energized than before. If you are still undecided about attending, please consider coming. Come for one day if you can’t make both days. Just be with us. The IAN Conference is a wonderful event for building connections, exploring ideas and finding your voice.

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Why Should You Attend an Adoption Conference?

I’ve been pre-gaming lately for the Indiana Adoptee Network conference in April. (April 5 and 6, 2019 to be exact) By “pre-gaming” I mean listening to more podcasts about adoptee stories. It will help me with my own presentation and get me “pumped up” for the weekend. This annual conference is gonna be a blast. I can’t wait.

Today I spent time sipping coffee and listening to Pam Kroskie and Rhonda Churchill’s discussion about Rhonda’s adoptee experiences. I read and reviewed Rhonda’s adoption memoir, The Fifth and Final Name: Memoir of an American Churchill about two years ago after meeting her at the first IAN conference in 2017. Here’s a link to that book review:  https://stricklandp.wordpress.com/2017/07/20/review-of-rhonda-noonans-book-the-fifth-and-final-name-memoir-of-an-american-churchill/

Rhonda, (who will be a keynote speaker at the conference this April), and Pam’s chat was a great overview of her life as an adoptee who searched and found plus built a career around her adoptee interests. Pam and Rhonda also brought up an interesting point about the worthiness of attending special interest conferences or workshops. If, in this case, an adopted person felt peace, fulfillment and no need to explore adoptedness, why should they take the time to attend?

Not all adopted people feel they need to go to a conference. Others do. Here are some reasons why, even if you have all the knowledge you want and have no concerns about adoption, attending an adoption gathering like the IAN event this April is incredibly beneficial. Here’s why:

1- You can meet other adopted people. A lot of us have had zero or extremely limited opportunities to candidly discuss and bond with adoptee peers. This is your big chance to meet people like you.

2- You have two days to be yourself in a safe and caring setting.

3- You get a very well organized program to follow and lots of interesting choices for presentations.

4- You have the opportunity to see poignant and enjoyable plays or films produced, directed, and or starring adoptees. (Yes, we have super-talents!)

5- Sometimes it’s just really nice to have a weekend getaway with a change in scenery.

6- You will see and have the chance to meet artists, authors, actors and other creative folks all under one roof.

7- You might get to meet people from other countries.

8- You will learn something new; at least one new thing. Even if you know a lot about your own adoption or adoption in general, you will absolutely learn more. Also, you will feel affirmed in what you do know. It’s magical how that happens.

9- Ok, it’s a little superficial but I’m gonna be honest: a fluffy hotel bed, good food and not having to clean up after myself for a day or two is real nice. This wonderful weekend, plus a fresh mani-pedi beforehand, is a personal gift to myself. What do you do to treat yourself?

As adoptees, we all want to feel connected, involved and like we matter. We want to feel normal and “real”. It’s good to have a pack, a team or as we sometimes say in Adoptee-land, cribmates. You can find this connectedness from reading books and articles, watching videos and even social media groups, but nothing beats an in-person, real-life meetup. Local and regional meetings are great for a couple of hours, but there is something even more exceptional about a 24-48 hour event with people who have walked a similar path and have felt the same feelings as you.

Here is a link for anyone who would like more information about the Indiana Adoptee Network organization and their conferences past and present:  http://indianaadopteenetwork.org/

Fellow adoptee/colleague/friend, Lynn Grubb and I will be presenting on Saturday about the mysterious, and serendipitous concept of adoption synchronicity. We will share our personal experiences with this phenomena and are happy to have audience members share their own moments of coincidental and curious circumstances.

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#adoption #adoptees #workshops #conferences #IAN #flipthescript

 

 

 

Adoptee-Themed Books for Kids:

…They are a rare and wonderful find. Here are two:

Indiana adoption authors and advocates. Pam Kroskee and Marcie Keithley have written a delightful, insightful and uplifting children’s picture book called Frankie and Friends Talk Adoption. It is worded on an early reader level (pre-K-2nd) but can be appreciated by anyone who wishes to understand what being adopted might feel like for a child or an adoptee at any age.

I am particularly impressed by how aspects of being adopted, such as, not looking like other family members, curiosity about your birth story, separation worries, etc. are addressed with a question. For example, “When I look in the mirror, I wonder who I look like. Do you ever wonder who you look like?” It’s as though there could be an accompanying workbook or activity sheet to supplement questions and thoughts introduced within the book. I am also impressed and pleased by affirming statements like, “If you do, that’s okay!

This book lays out many adoptees’ concerns at all ages but keeps the focus full of acceptance and positivity. The language is simple but meaningful, direct yet compassionate. Kudos as well to the illustrator, Josh Allen, whose drawings are vivid, colorful and kid-friendly.

This is a great storybook for adoptive parents, elementary educators, child counselors and anyone interested in the adoptee point of view.

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Jack & Emma’s -adoptee- Journey is another kids’ book written by an adoptee, author, and advocate, Pam Kroksie. This book is designed for a reading and comprehension level of K-5 and beyond. Jack & Emma’s -adoptee- Journey addresses unique perspectives and concerns adopted kids frequently think about but sometimes feel awkward discussing because they lack understanding peers or parents who can relate or because they have little to no access to adoption focused counselors.

Concerns addressed in this book range from Who do I look like, Why does my birthday feel confusing? to What happened to cause my adoption?” Brief explanations and reflections to some adoptees’ feelings and questions are provided in information boxes with each scenario.

This is a useful resource book for educators at many levels, adoptive parents and even adoptees themselves because it is written by a fellow adopted person.

The tone in this book is realistic, positive and hopeful. The illustrations by Ashleigh McGill are bold, colorful and carefully detailed.

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Is Adoption Funny?

Lori Lavender Luz, aka Lori Holden, is a blogger and author about the complexities of adoption. Recently there has been a lot of “traffic” on her blog post regarding her entry from possibly a year ago regarding using adoption as a punchline. I’ve been pondering this notion myself for a while now.

Is adoption “funny”?

I think this meme is funny and cute, but then again, I’m a Cat Lady AND I’m like OMG! Penguins! Squeeee!!!!:b260ea98101b763db7e5be69eeb3674a.jpg

However, when adoption is used to belittle someone regarding their intelligence, mindset or lifestyle, it is not much different than using the “R” word. I will not bother to share a meme/joke of this ilk lest it offends and triggers my adoptee colleagues.

Bravo to Lori Lavender Luz/ Lori Holden for speaking up about the adoption joke she overheard. Her story regarding said incident can be found here:

https://lavenderluz.com/2017/11/adoption-punchline.html?fbclid=IwAR3z7j-7_3EmAxrqIAUbSnf7g8p64XqXQIwGd3qZ-fd3wJW6HTqu7Jv5rp0

Not only did she speak up, but Lori also did it with class and eloquence. I hope the parent who was innocently joking around got the point.

I hope I can follow the example she’s set should this ever happen to me.

Adoption: The Never-Ending Story

This weekend on Ancestry DNA, I found a first cousin match! ( or did my new 1st cousin find me?) 🤔 At any rate, it’s delightful. This time in the adoption story I’m on the other side of the fence. I’m his bio cousin. I’m the one holding a bunch of answers to his over 50 years of questions.

Will I help a cousin out? You bet I will!  I’m excited to “do my job” as both a fellow adoptee who gets it and as a family member, willing to be open and accepting to the new guy. I’m excited and he is ecstatic!

We are related in that our birth fathers were brothers. My bio-father had more in common with his big brother then just being in the Navy. It’s possible my uncle, this new cousin’s dad never had a clue as to what resulted from probably a brief, in-the-moment “fling”. We’ll never know how that part would be handled since everyone who could have known from that generation has passed.

Too many secrets. So much information. Our stories continue to unfold, one adoptee at a time.

One thing my new cousin and I can agree on. We’re not alone. We’re glad there are others out there just like us. We are glad to now have each other.

Book Review: Permanent Home by Mary Ellen Gambutti

Mary Ellen Gambutti’s new memoir book, Permanent Home, is lyrical, descriptive and fast-moving. It is the story of her life presented in brief but richly-worded glimpses into simpler, more traditional times while coming of age during the eye-opening, counter-culture emergent 1950s-70s. The opening section of this book masterfully sets the scene during a time when American prosperity and freedom abound and blissful acceptance of authority was the norm. This section is also about Gambutti’s loving relationship with her Nana and their shared esteem for gardening and nature.

In the middle sections of this book, the story continues as the author shares her joys and frustrations of being adopted, searching for and connecting with biological family. She describes via assorted vignettes her frustrations regarding closed birth records, missing health history and not looking like anyone in her family plus the marvels of her reunion experiences. She tells of the turbulent relationship between herself and her military-careered adoptive father, her teen angst and rebellion as she comes out of not just the usual fog all adolescents experience but the adoptee fog, which creates an additional layer.

The later parts of Gambutti’s story tie up the loose ends and take the reader into more recent times: her gardening career, survival of a hemorrhagic stroke and hard-fought recovery and her life now, filled with writing, love of plants, nature, and peace.

Permanent Home is a wonderful life story which would have appeal to any fellow adoptee, especially those from the Baby-Scoop Era, and anyone else in the adoption community, seeking research, kinship, and validation. It’s a quick read for those short on time, but Gambutti, an expert in the Haibun writing style, packs a lot of imagery and feeling into her written art.

She Has My Hands!

My daughter gave birth to my first grandbaby on Wednesday very early in the AM, the day before Thanksgiving. I saw the whole thing happen, and I feel honored to have been a part of the “team” who facilitated the arrival of this beautiful, precious miracle. We have much to be thankful for, and it is a birth story our family will be regaling in for years to come.

The umbilical cord was wrapped twice around my granddaughter ’s tiny neck, (not tightly), but the heart rate monitor told us she was fine. The doctor quickly unfurled her as she slipped forth into the actual world and placed the infant in my daughter’s arms. The baby grunted first, then cried out.

No sound is sweeter! No sound is more perfect.

When the professionals took the baby to the examining table and warming lamp for measurements and Apgar testing I followed with my camera and snapped some amazing photos. My granddaughter fussed a little. (Who wouldn’t when you have a bunch of strange people looking at your naked, vulnerable presence on a flat, white surface with big lights and instruments) and my inner adoptee brain said, “ Birth is traumatic regardless, so let’s reduce the trauma somehow.”

I reached for her hand and began to talk.

Actually, I babbled with sleepless and shameless delight, but who cares?  I talked to my grandbaby girl and told her she was OK; that she was beautiful and loved by everybody. She was fine. Her mommy and daddy were fine. Everything in her life was fine. I repeated those words over and over. She looked over at me and fixed on my voice and whatever her newborn eyes could see and relaxed instantly. She knew me! She must have!

I took her little hand in mine, and her fingers curled tightly around my index finger. Her digits were dainty, long and slender but very strong.46508750_10161009548305459_7629862672376266752_n.jpgIMG_4028.jpeg

She had my hands!

Oh my God! She has my hands!

She has my mani!  (I said it in a funny way, but it was true.)

I saw something of ME in my newborn granddaughter.

I am an adoptee who’s been fortunate enough to have birthed and raised my biological daughters, and now get to see my grandchild…another biological relative….and this kid has my nails, knuckles, and fingers! That’s not happened before.

All my sisters and daughters have shorter fingers and small hands. Mine look like Kobe Bryant’s by comparison. My grandbaby has my hands!

Mine!

Wow!

I know her body will change some as she grows and develops muscle tone and more bone density, but I saw a piece of ME in her I’d never seen before!

I’ve inserted another missing puzzle piece. (I’ve been in reunion for over 30 years, and I had no idea I still had missing parts.)IMG_4040.jpeg

I’m swooning.

I’m relishing.

I’m delighting.

I’m connecting.

I’m thanking G-d, The Force, my Ancestors,  the Universe, Spirit, etc.

I’m in awe and in love.

I’m a grandma!

Something I’m looking forward to:

Megan n Max Baby announcement 2018.jpg#Grandbaby