Book Review: Bonded at Birth: An Adoptee’s Search for her Roots, by Gloria Oren

Gloria Oren’s memoir, Bonded at Birth: An Adoptee’s Search for her Roots is quick and engaging. I am also an adoptee and writer, so I value what my adoptee colleagues have to say. Her story focuses a lot on her life growing up as an adoptee and what her adventures and challenges were as a young Jewish only child female from Brooklyn, New York.

While some readers / reviewers might criticize Ms. Oren for focusing so much on her childhood, coming of age and young adult life pre-search and reunion, I totally understand this. She wrote the book the way she did to show her appreciation of her adoptive family and how they shaped her life. (Let’s face it, adoptees are products of both nurture and nature, and one is not more important than the other.) How she was raised would have influenced how she searched for and initially connected with her biological family members.

The search and reunion part of an adoptee’s life is just a part. The fact that we LIVE with the adoption branding while we work, play, socialize, marry, divorce, parent or raise a puppy is a bigger thing.

In the book, the author discusses her concern and curiosity regarding accurate health history, which was denied by the state of NY for this writer / adoptee. This is an absolute basic necessity, which all adopted people should be allowed to have, but many state laws still sadly subscribe to the outmoded notion of privacy and secrecy when it comes to providing adopted citizens their original information. Her story does not address many specifics of health concerns she learned about after finding her bio-relatives, and this is one area where the author could have elaborated on the outcomes.

While reading this book the reader feels as though they may be sitting at the kitchen table chatting and sharing coffee with Ms. Oren. Her style is descriptive yet direct. The book is also flavored with family photographs which help the reader feel connected to the writer.

If you enjoy concisely-written memoir, appreciate Jewish culture, are influenced by adoption or generally like stories about family dynamics, this is an excellent choice.

Whaaaatttt????

“They may be mom and dad but they are NOT her parents,”   Al Trautwig

Whaaaat????

Semantics has gotten this NBC Gymnastics announcer in some huge trouble because he tweeted that Simone Biles’ parents were not her real parents.  Simone was adopted by her biological grandparents. Legally and morally, Ron and Nellie Biles are her PARENTS. The reporter should have stuck to the sporting facts and focused on Simone’s achievements and talent instead of who is who on her family tree.

As a fellow adoptee, if I were Simone, I would feel disrespected and violated to have had such personal information spread all over the news and social media, (especially with distorted facts). When I was a teenage adoptee, those kinds of details about me were very personal and not for anyone else to share. As a teenager I refused to let adoption define me. If I were Simone right now, I would do my best to only focus on my goals at hand, (being a gold medal-winning gymnast on Team USA in the 2016 Olympics), and to not let this reporter’s comment annoy or embarrass me. Has anyone asked Simone how she feels about Trautwig’s remark?

If I were Simone’s parents, (yes I mean the mom and dad who has raised her for all these years), I would try not to take offense and instead try to laugh off the ignorant statement. I feel bad for them having to cope with the publicity caused from Al Trautwig’s hasty and thoughtless words. They don’t deserve that.

Her birth parents should also not be shamed for past events. It’s over.

As much as I am for adult adoptees having full access to their truthful birth information, I do not believe that adoptive parents should be slighted or discredited, especially if they have faithfully dedicated their resources and efforts to raising a child. I believe Ron and Nellie Biles did / are doing this. I don’t think my mom and dad would have appreciated Al’s phrasing either.

Yes, I mean the mom and dad who raised me.

Finally, had this commentator stuck to the actual news story, many folks in the adoption community could just enjoy the Olympics and focus our wishes and efforts more on adoptee rights and concerns like accountability of governmental and other adoption services and congresspeople when it comes to laws, citizenship issues and family preservation.

Al Trautwig maybe was trying to make a technical point with his sentence. (It wasn’t a total lie, but it was tacky the way he said it.) However, we should all be focusing on and celebrating this young woman’s skills and success above anything else.

Congratulations, Simone! You make the USA proud!

 

We Just Want to Know

My husband and I recently watched an episode of 20/20 on Friday night. The whole program was dedicated to a story about three half / birth siblings who were raised apart found one another through DNA testing and shared an amazing connection and back-story. All three of these siblings, (born in the mid-80s, one brother and two sisters), knew they were adopted as foundling infants. All three were given the story that they were left on someone’s doorstep or near a busy area, where they would be discovered in reasonable time by someone who could help them. As newborn babies, all three were placed in paper bags with their umbilical cords still attached.

As the first sibling in California found her brother living in Wisconsin, they compared notes regarding their start in life. They shared a desire to find their birth mother, and were delighted to finally know one another. After more DNA research at additional sites, the brother and sister found the third sister, and the three of them met up in California to trace their start in life which happened outside of Los Angeles, as foundlings in a brown paper sack.

Apparently their birth mother had, not once but THREE times, given birth and left her babies to be found by others, and they all wanted to know what exactly happened and what would cause a birth mother to do such a thing. They begin their search by visiting the people who first found them and took the babies for help long ago.

…..No more spoilers for anyone who hasn’t seen the whole episode / news story….

My husband, married to an adoptee who searched and found over 25 years ago, asked, “Why would they want to know more?” He wasn’t judging. He was just wondering, but that question surprised me since I more or less did the same kind of search for my true origins back in 1987, and he was the one who supported me then.

All I could respond with at the time was, “We always want to know. We just do. You know about your start in life. Our kids know about theirs. Why wouldn’t adopted people NOT want to know, even if the news is bad? My friends Lynn and Becky wanted to know. Your (adopted) cousin “J” wanted to know. Everyone else gets to know their story. Adopted people want to know as well what happened on the day they were born and about the days leading up to that time.”

Admittedly, my husband has one adopted male cousin who has no interest in the subject, but he’s rare.

We 99.999% of the time would prefer to know. Even if the truth contains harsh words or bizarre plot twists, (and truth can be stranger than fiction a lot of the time.) We want to know. We need to know. The desire to understand what happened to whom, how and when is like a non-stop motor. It runs 24-7, sometimes at a greater intensity than other times, but the yearning runs perpetually until it is satisfied. Adoptees often never have newborn baby pictures like the ones the hospitals all take, and we frequently never have the delight of seeing a familiar resemblance in another family member’s face and essence, (especially those adoptees from closed adoptions, which were plentiful back in the Baby-Scoop Era.)

There is strength and empowerment in knowledge. Sometimes that knowledge is joyful and filled with blessings. Sometimes that knowing is tainted with sorrow or disgust. Mostly there is an element of both because what we learn is more about the human condition as a whole. Still We want to know. Knowing the factual story of our origins makes us more connected to humanity, and most adoptees crave a feeling of genuine connectedness. If we are super-fortunate, we also gain new (re)connections with people from our first-past that enhance and add value, love and more meaning to our lives.

AW

PS: The episode is called, “Since the Day I Was Born”, but, at the time of this writing, it is not yet available for viewing at the abc.go/shows site.

Writing and Playlists

What do you do to get your writing inspiration going?  Here are some things I do when I want to bring about the Muse, get in the Zone or whatever you call it:

 

1- Read other blogs or posts re similar topics to my own to get ideas of what to say.

2- Read  or reread a book by an author I adore…even just a part of a book can trigger the spirit.

3- Watch a movie that inspires me to write.  (similar to the read-a-book idea).

4- Discuss w other writers / Attend my monthly writers group.  I can’t say enough good things about how those guys “life me up”, if you will.  I always come home “all fired up” to write stuff or at least start with a little editing and work forward. I will add in here, attending my adoption group meetings too! It’s almost like going to Writers’ Group!

5- Reread my previous written work and then proceed forward to continue a thought.

6- I always pooper-scoop my cat’s litter boxes before I head to the keyboard because, well, I don’t want to smell that while writing and I do have standards…LOL. I also top off their little food dishes, so that I know the fur-kids are not seriously neglected in any way while I toil away in the other room.

7- I have a coffee, Diet Dew or whatever drink of choice ready to go.

8- I sometimes use a play list, (iTunes).  Not every time, but sometimes.  This especially applies to my book writing. When I wrote Akin To The Truth: A Memoir of Adoption and Identity, I’d formed a list of songs that “called out to me” at various times between the 1960s-1987. (The time period in which my book is set)  It’s over two hours long! Sometimes I would play it while writing and sometimes BEFORE writing to get warmed up. I’ve also listened to my writing play lists while driving to spark thoughts for future writing. In that way, even when I am not physically writing, I am writing!

I have another playlist set for my sequel book, working title:  After the Truth: Adopted Life in Reunion.  It’s about 90 minutes long, but this book will be a bit shorter. The music comes from about 1990-2010. I like pop music and pop culture. If you’ve read the first book, you know that in my life stories I reference a lot of trends and topics from that era.

In the next book,  I work in more references to pop-life from the past couple of decades, but not as much. I think that’s because, as an adult, I’ve spent less time in front of the television and more time on the job and parenting!  LOL

In future posts, I would like to share with you about the songs which have both entertained and motivated me to write my books. Fellow author, friend and adoptee, Lynn Grubb recently shared a song which she and her husband find well-themed for adopted people, especially if they are searching for missing family or just wondering what happened long ago. (I would imagine that wondering, curious bio-family members would also agree in this case.) The song is Train’s Calling All Angels. I shared with Lynn that I also have had this one on my writing play list for a long time.

Calling All Angels is all about wanting signs and knowledge to guide us as adoptees toward successful searches and reunions. It’s about concerns for future generations and all the confusing messages people face regarding life values and truths. It’s about longing for understanding and completeness, and can be applied to many instances but certainly is applicable to the lives of many adoptees and others who lack closure and adequate communication in their lives.

Here’s a Wikipedia link with some fun facts about this song:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calling_All_Angels

Here is a link for your listening pleasure:  Sorry ’bout the commercial up front.

So what do you think?  What songs get you going?

 

Thanks for reading!

 

Happy Anniversary, Ohio Adoptees!

About a year ago, an assorted group of adoptees plus birth family members and many professionals in the adoption field and Ohio’s state government, gathered together in Columbus for an historic event of a lifetime. It was affectionately named, Opening Day.

 

Thanks to the dedicated work of advocate, Betsie Norris from Adoption Network Cleveland, and Ohio senators Bill Beagle and Dave Burke, their “masterpiece”, Senate Bill 23, upgraded an antiquated state law, which banned adoptees from access to their OBCs. (Original or unammended Birth Certificates). The new and improved law allows adopted adults to gain their adoption records and OBCs in most cases. Specifics regarding this new law are here:

https://www.odh.ohio.gov/en/vitalstatistics/legalinfo/adoptfnl.aspx

 

I attended this two-day event with some adoptee colleague-author/ friends of mine: Lynn Grubb and Becky Conrad Drinnen. The three of us all have our OBCs because we were all born and adopted prior to January 1964, but we came in support of others in the adoptee community and to celebrate greater unification of the adoption constellation. We walked in the drizzly morning weather with our fellow adoptees to the Vital Records building and celebrated at the Columbus State Building downtown. The sun broke free and temperatures warmed as Senate Bill 23 came to life.

 

Personally, my journey to Columbus was joyful and allowed me to revisit the excitement and wonder from the time when I also began my adoption search and first held my original paperwork. There is something very liberating, enlightening and magical about knowing yourself, and I am delighted for the close to 400,000 adopted people and their families touched by this new law.

 

This spring, we adoptees have an anniversary coming up! Thanks again to Adoption Network Cleveland, whose efforts to educate and unite the community never stop, there will be an ANC weekend conference – the Annual Adoption Gathering on March 18 to 20, 2016. It will take place at the Doubletree in Westlake, OH, 44145.

 

The purpose is to (re)connect members in the adoption constellation, celebrate our successes, process our concerns and to understand that being adopted is a lifelong experience. It doesn’t just go away because we now have paperwork. It doesn’t leave us once we find or reunite with birth family. For many adopted people and their significant others, the “What do we do now?” stage is also significant and needs to be addressed.

 

ANC succinctly promotes the activities – “We will be offering nine breakout session options and two award-winning theatrical presentations from New York City. Other highlights include – filmmaker Jean Strauss and footage from last year’s Ohio opening day events, Six-Word Stories from adoptees and found birth family members, and a time for sharing with an open mic.”

 

Here are more details: http://bit.ly/ancAnnualGatheringDetails

gatheringFB-overall3The event hashtags –

#OHadopteesSOAR (SOAR = Success Opening Adoptees’ Records)

#Journey2Unite16 –

 

Is an Adoptee a “Gift”?

Recently I read a blog post from a birth/first mother/ author I’ve been following for a few years, Denise Rossele. While I was writing my first memoir, Akin to the Truth, I read her book, Second-Chance Mother because I needed the perspective of a birth mom. (Mine is no longer living, and I wanted to find a way to connect and learn.) Denise is realistic yet upbeat and shows compassion and respect for all sides of the adoption community, therefore I value her opinion on adoption-related topics. She recently happened into a conversation about adopting children and what a “gift” adopted children are.

Hmmm…

I am not a gift. I’m a person. What’s so troubling and triggering about the word, “gift” in relation to adoption is that often we think of gifts as items. We give gifts for birthdays, weddings and holidays. We buy gifts at Macy’s, Target and Amazon.com, and we bring them home in the car or have them arrive on our doorstep via UPS. Occasionally we down-load our gifts.

Using the term “gift”, as in the “gift of adoption” reduces adopted human beings to parcels of property, given and gained through transaction and trade.

I think of my children, instead as a blessing. I also have the blessings of other family, my marriage, a home, good friends and even our family cats and dogs. My work is a blessing. No one else had to endure a loss or defeat financially or emotionally in order for me to have my blessings.

“Gift” isn’t a bad word. I’m sure the person who used that bit of language with Denise did not intend to be condescending or insulting. The lady who said it was not thinking that while adoption is a wonderful gain for some people, for others it’s a heart-breaking and bittersweet loss/ sacrifice for someone else, (Birth family).

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t use the word “gift”. (The LAST thing I want to be is the Word-Police, and goodness knows that certain sectors of the adoption community have enough of those types.) What I am saying is that we should be mindful about what we say and around whom. Open-door comments such as: “What was that like for you?”, “Tell me about your experience” and “What is it like for you now?” go a long way and invite sharing and understanding.

As a community, our perspectives are diverse and often intense. Not only do we need to educate the general public about what we believe to be true and why, but we also need to educate  and support one another. It’s an on-going thing as we all begin to speak out more.

If you are interested in Denise’s side of the story, here is a link to her blog:

http://www.secondchancemother.com/disappointing-moment/

The Thankful Adoptee

There’s a clash of opinions among the adoption constellation, specifically the ADOPTEE community. Should we be thankful, and if so, to whom/ what entity should we direct our thank-yous?

In my research and interaction with fellow adopted adults in recent years, I find the topic of thankfulness, (AKA gratefulness) to be a highly charged topic, and it makes me think about HOW to feel…how I SHOULD feel, and how I ACTUALLY feel. Note that ‘how’, ‘should’ and ‘actually’ might not be the same thing.

Growing up I was taught, like many kids, adopted or not, to give thanks for my home, family, food, health and school.  OK, fine.  No arguments there.  I am deeply grateful for all those things. I could thank G-d plus any physical human beings who made these things possible. I am thankful all the time, not just on one Thursday in November, and I try to make a note of it. I’m not “churchy” in a traditional sense, but I do thank “Spirit” every day.

As an adopted person, I’ve often received the comment from well-meaning strangers upon learning this factoid about me, “Oh how special! You must be so thankful!” No one else but fellow adoptees understands that a remark like this makes adopted adults feel a little awkward and not “special”. It’s condescending and instead makes us feel like perpetual children.

Adoptees need more open-ended reactions and less of telling us how we must be feeling.  It doesn’t make us less grateful for our lives or what have you, but such comments can make many adopted people feel pushed down and as though a door has been shut in our face.

A more appropriate response might be, “Wow! That’s so interesting. Tell me about it.”

Keep that communication door open, and we might be the most thankful people you’ll ever meet!

Am I thankful for being adopted?  Some days, yes I am. I had a great house, a fine education, (Go ‘Noles!), loving relatives and even dogs! Other days I remember the flip-side. In order for me to have ended up where I did and with whom, my birth parents had to endure a traumatizing loss. My birth mother, specifically, had to sign her rights away regarding one of her children. It meant my birth siblings and I lost many years’ worth of time not knowing one another. It meant that many people had to live with the notion of “what if…”  and had to harbor locked-away secrets of shame and fear because a couple of people’s timing and luck was really lousy.

Why do so many instances of “Let’s give thanks” have to come at a price?

So am I a Thankful Adoptee? Only to a point. I’m thankful for the blessings I have had; some which are unique to only me and some which my birth siblings and cousins have also had because we all grew up in the same town during the same decades, so we have some things in common. I am thankful that I know all of my birth family now. I am thankful that many of us have been able to celebrate holidays, weddings, births and even mourn losses together. I am thankful that my adoptive and birth families have successfully blended for some of these events.

For nearly every ounce of gratitude I have, I also understand that someone else had to sacrifice dearly, and I wish they could have been spared heartache, guilt and regret. That’s why being adopted doesn’t make me special.

It just makes me me.

What Adoption Means to Me: I am honored to be a part of this project.

http://www.chicagonow.com/portrait-of-an-adoption/2015/11/what-adoption-means-to-me/

 

How Does It Feel To Be Adopted- Paige L. Adams Strickland:  Featured with an excerpt from my sequel-in progress!       #flipthescript 

Source: How Does It Feel To Be Adopted- Paige L. Adams Strickland

Adoptee Rap Inspired by Fellow Adoptee, JoAnne Bennett’s Question: “As your fellow adoptees, how can we help you to feel genuinely supported and cared about as valuable human beings in the Adoption Community?”

Adoptees through time have had a back seat.

Unknown relations we wish to meet.

Society’s said what we feel ain’t that bad.

They haven’t experienced the emptiness we’ve had.

Adoptees want our opinions heard,

and receipt of validation for our word.

It isn’t about revenge or ingratitude.

But people at large need a shift in attitude.

It’s time for laws to modernize and update.

We’re no longer children, wards of a state.

We can fight in wars and smoke a cigarette;

We get tried as adults, and lest we forget,

If we do our part with responsibility,

Then why can’t we connect with first family?

Adopted people don’t always agree,

but we need to establish greater unity

among our own awakening community.

We should celebrate our achievements without jealousy,

Unite for our causes and work as a team.

We should care and console, no judgmental disdain

And avoid competition and comparing our pain.

If we want acknowledgement, more cred and more gain

From inside

To feel cared for and valued by peers there should be no divide

The more we bond the less we will hide

yet be free to appreciate our differing views without shame

Understanding our counterparts; not placing blame

For something that happened a long time ago

Let’s honor and celebrate now, for now is what we all know!               #flipthescript