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What is your purpose?

Really? Why are we here? What are we doing?

I’ve known for a long time that my purpose here is to be a light and resource for people. A person who connects people to other people or information that helps them find happiness or health or connections to whatever they’re seeking.

But I haven’t always been faithful to that purpose. True to myself. Haven’t always felt worthy of the time and effort to develop myself in this way. Anyway, it’s weird to think about purpose…Like, did I really have to go through the pain of being surrendered? Couldn’t I have fulfilled this purpose without having gone through all that? Or not? I’ve lived in this self-sabotaging thinking for a long time. I’m not smart enough to make a difference. I didn’t study the right things to make a difference. I’m not a good enough writer. I’m not good at anything! Doubt, worry, and fear have occupied many moments in my mind, and this past fall, I decided I was done with it.

I joined a part-workshop, part-class kind of program that focuses on personal development and growth. I’m learning all kinds of amazing things, but something I heard last month really hit me. It related to being alive on purpose and taking up space on purpose. Seriously? I started crying after hearing this. I don’t know if non-adoptees feel this way, but I’ve always felt like I needed to justify my existence. I called my dear friend, who is also adopted and introduced me to this group (…in fact, she and I have technically known each other since we were babies), right after this profound moment. We cried together and after some discussion, she blessed with me these kind words, “You’re like a bridge that connects people.” YES! That’s exactly how I feel! And it felt super validating for her to reflect that back to me. That conversation was part of what convinced me to start writing this blog again. And thus fulfilling my purpose.

Anyway, I’m excited to write more about recent epiphanies and manifestations as a result of this mindset group. And how this new knowledge applies to grief and being adopted. Stay tuned for that!

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Do you still miss your dad after 6 years?

Yup. In fact, I wrote this post late one night at the beginning of December 2020…

I miss my dad. I feel like he’s slipping away from me. Like in a dream, when you’re running and the ground is a treadmill and you’re not getting closer but actually farther away from the thing you want. Dad’s face isn’t as clear in my mind anymore. I’m losing his voice in my head…the sound of it anyway. And thinking about the holidays coming up, I say I miss him, I feel like I miss him…but I can hardly picture him. And THAT makes me sad. I miss the life we used to have. The security of knowing my parents were there for me. Both of them. I miss feeling less responsible for Mom. Maybe that’s selfish, but there it is. I miss our beautiful home. I used to go there when I missed Dad and feel like the house was a warm hug from him. But now that’s gone too. I feel so alone. This year is especially hard in that COVID has shut everything down. I don’t feel like it’s even responsible to go home as often as I want, even if it’s to a place that isn’t REALLY my home anymore but just Mom’s house. I’d almost rather go to my aunt and uncles’ houses. At least there I can remember good times with Dad. Our whole family together and having fun and playing games and opening presents. Feels more like home than where Mom lives now. Because Dad has never been to the new place. This sucks so much. I was hoping this wouldn’t start until closer to the Accident Date. But alas, here I am. It’s a Saturday and I’m bawling my eyes out typing this. And I’ve got like, a week and a half to go. And then another week. And then Christmas. Six years. So much has changed but the feelings remain. Scared out of my mind that we’d lose him. Immeasurably sad that things changed SO fast in such a short amount of time. Angry that it happened at all. Angry that the Fiancé didn’t have more time to get to know Dad. Angry that our honeymoon period of dating came to such a screeching halt. Sad for Brother who was even younger than me, not even 30 and already lost his dad.

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What happens when a(n adoptive) parent dies?

It sucks. That’s what happens.

Dad’s accident occurred at his work. Much of that day is seared in my mind. Each month after the accident and after his passing, I would get super anxious near and on those dates. I kept thinking, it’s been two months since that date. It’s been five months since that date. After a year, I finally quit marking the month.

I often relived the phone call that changed my life. I felt like revisiting the trauma was the closest I could get to him being here still. That’s terrifying and so sad. My foundation had been totally shattered. All the things I thought I could count on in life suddenly felt like a crumbled house of cards. Nothing felt stable. I remember wanting to keep my mom and Brother in a room with me. Where I could see them. And NO ONE was allowed to be on a ladder. (Dad fell from a tall agricultural tank.)

A few things really helped me through the first year. A few weeks after Dad passed, I found out that the local hospice center was hosting a grief group one night a week for seven weeks. I signed up. I was pretty nervous driving to the meeting place that first night, but I’ve gotten much braver in the past 10 years. I knew it was what I needed. We got a binder with handouts for journaling, quotes, and articles to read. We discussed our loved ones and processed grief out loud together. It was a safe place to cry and do the hard work of grieving, away from my family for whom I was trying to be strong(ish). I was also (oddly) blessed to have a couple close friends who had suffered similar grief in their lives. My one friend and I would call or text each other for support on days that were particularly hard or triggering. I called her my grief buddy, not a very poetic term, but descriptive nonetheless. We still check in now and then.

That first year…I never felt like I wanted to die exactly, it’s just that I didn’t want to live. I wanted to hop off the ride for awhile. Just go away, no one expecting anything from me. I just wanted to sleep. And wake up to either my dad back, safe and sound, or to the absence of the pain. So I found a therapist close to my hometown. He was qualified to do EMDR, of which I’m a huge fan. He helped me a lot. I started to come out of the fog.

I plan to do several more posts about my grief journey. Being a pretty emotional adoptee, grieving for Dad got complicated…

What is your why?

After a brief hiatus…(Fiancé Man is on the mend after a tussle with an icy parking lot, poor chap. Ice 1, Kneecap 0. It was all hands (my hands) on deck to support his healing after the injury. No time or brain space for writing or other hobbies. But, as I said, he’s healing! Woot!)

I finally have something to say again. Expanding on the topic I last posted. Purpose, passion, and an improved self-image. I mentioned a group I joined…It’s called Diamond Academy and the curriculum comes in part from the Proctor Gallagher Institute. Did you ever hear about The Secret when it came out? Law of Attraction? Yup, that’s this….except that Attraction really falls under the realm of the Law of Vibration, but that’s for another day. Fiancé Man introduced me to The Secret a few years ago. We listened to the CDs and some of the concepts stuck with me.

With the dear friend I mentioned in the last post, I’ve done a deeper dive into this material. I’m in Thinking Into Results (TIR) now, and as you may guess, it’s all about thinking and how what we choose to focus on attracts more of those things into our lives. I know, it’s a little trippy, a little New Age-y, a little out there. Except that it’s not. Ya know how it feels when you stub your toe in the morning rounding the corner of the bed on your way to the bathroom? And then you realize you’re out of toilet paper AFTER you’ve sat yourself on the toilet? And then you go to the fridge and realize your Cheerios will have to be dry because your milk is a week expired? Feels like your whole day is shot, jeez at this point, it might as well be the week! This is an example of thinking and reacting to your environment in such a way that negative things keep piling up on you. TIR lessons help us break that cycle of negativity, in this case through perspective.

TIR activities, readings, and the community have changed it all for me. I have probably mentioned that I have seen several therapists over the years. Seeking out a new one each time I’ve moved, which is about every 2-3 years. I’ve learned lots of awesome things in therapy and healed a bit, but with the support of my current therapist, my efforts with this program have helped me grow by leaps and bounds.

So I ask again, what is my why? Why did I join TIR? Why do I want to work through these lessons?

A few reasons. The Fiancé Man, my family, my future.

I recognize that if I want to move forward in my life and truly be happy, I need to leave behind the pain and the anger at my birthmother. Still, if I do let all of that go, who am I on the other side? Am I still an adoptee? Can I still relate to other adoptees? Does it make me a sell-out somehow? I really don’t want to leave them all behind because I’d rather bring them with me. And I also don’t want to give potential and current adoptive parents the idea that being adopted isn’t still hard. That it isn’t still their job to be open with information and provide rich cultural and linguistic experiences for their (adopted) children.

A big part of my why are the younger adoptees out there. The ones who I used to be. And the adult adoptees I was just before I started this program. Stay tuned as I share more 🙂

So, what happened to you since we last heard from you, Angela?

First, if you are new here, I encourage you to click on the menu or questions across the top, below the floral photo. It’s a start. You may also click through the Archives to read through past posts and catch yourself up with my story…

….Yeah, I took a break from the blog. It’s been a journey to say the very least…Allow me to expand on this for a few posts…

Until late 2014, I would say my story was pretty charmed for an adoptee in reunion. My (adoptive) family supported my birth family reunion. My birth mother was loving and eager to build a relationship. My extended birth family was welcoming and open. Then, the bottom of my world fell out. My dad suffered lethal injuries in a workplace accident. We spent a week at Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, hoping for good news, monitoring Dad’s oxygen levels, watching his swelling go down enough to recognize his face again… We knew the brain swelling was the reason he hadn’t woken up to tease us or gripe about his exposed feet (he ALWAYS wore socks) or sing along (badly) with his favorite singer-songwriters. When the world-class neurologists told us their findings and his prognosis, we knew what his choice would be. We took him off life-support and said our final goodbyes only seven hours later. My daddy was gone. Everything had changed.

I tried to maintain my relationship with my birthmother for the next 18 months…We had been doing weekly Skype calls, in Spanish. But after Dad died, I could barely think in English, let alone Spanish. It took several months to decide that I needed to just email with her. At least then I could use (and correct) Google Translate instead of relying on my own frazzled and grief-stricken mind to do the interpreting.

And then at some point, I just couldn’t do it anymore. It was something she said…I’m sure she was trying to empathize and relate to me, encourage me that I would find joy again after Dad’s death, but that’s not what I wanted to hear from her. Every time I saw her name in my inbox, I’d start to panic. My Boyfriend (at the time, now Fiance) could always tell that I was more anxious when she would email. I was in a fragile place and aaaaall the emotions of losing Dad and not receiving what I needed from her put me over the edge. I had to ask her to not contact me until I contacted her. I had to just pause it.

I have said for the past four years, “If I told 16-year-old me that I quit talking to our birthmother, she would cry and say WHAT?!?!” I also know that my 16-year-old self wouldn’t believe me that Dad dies when we’re 30…Would I really have been nicer to him as a teen if I had known? Damn, I sure hope so.

But back to the adoption part…. After I stopped talking to my birthmother, I was nervous for awhile that she would try to contact me. When my birthday came around, I half wanted her to reach out and half wanted her to stay away. Was I disappointed when my birthday came and went and she didn’t reach out? Yes. Was I also relieved? Yes. Honestly, the timing is fuzzy at this point. I can’t remember when I finally decided that I needed help. I sought out a therapist in my state to help me deal with the grief of losing Dad. We realized through EMDR and inner child work and LOTS of tears (me, not the therapist!) that Dad’s death and the resulting grief brought up a lot of unprocessed grief of losing my birthmother as a newborn. What, you say? You were surrendered so young, how could you possibly have known that she was missing? Wasn’t your adoptive family enough? You weren’t even in your birthcountry long enough to learn the language? The answers are yes, no, and yeah, I know, but here’s the thing: We’re not the blank slates adoption agencies, in the 1980s in particular, claimed we were. None of us are really. More on this science in a future post, I’m sure.

Since I’ve ended our contact, I’ve thought a lot about my future and my birthmother’s place in it. Sometimes I miss her. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever talk to her again. Sometimes I think maybe her role in my life is done. She gave me some answers about my past, but the real questions, the ones that keep me seeing a therapist, remain. She can’t help me with those questions. That’s my work to do.

Where have you been?!

I’m back. Boom baby!

I’m firing up the blog and firing up my voice. I lost it for while…but recently, I remembered where I left it…And I have something to say!

Join me as I develop, refine, and amplify my voice and others I admire and appreciate!

Expect more of my thoughts on adoption, growth, family, friendship, and anything else I decide to share.

More to come soon!

Okay, what’s your resolution for 2014, Ang?

Okay.  I resolve to go to Zumba class twice a week.  And I resolve to trade French fries for applesauce or cottage cheese or carrots or something.

I’ve been feeling a bit chubby lately.  The jeans I bought this fall are snug.  And I’m not keen on building a new wardrobe to adjust.  I’d rather just get back in shape.  I feel much better about myself and internally, especially, when I’m in a habit of exercising.  I actually feel cleaner when I exercise.

I felt like 2013 was the year I spent taking care of my emotional and mental health.  I came home from Wisconsin with a plan to surround myself with people who truly love me.  Check.  I vowed to get in shape.  Check, for about 8 months.  And I worked with a woman who became a mentor.  We gardened several times a week.  My dear friend, L, was such a positive influence on me this summer.  She helped empower me by teaching me all about plants and seasons and flowers.  I planted my own garden here and watched all summer and fall as my hard work paid off.  I felt connected to the earth, the land, Iowa, and my home.  I really needed that after 2012.  And now, at the end of 2013, I got a job.

Now, I know my problems aren’t magically solved, but having some money to put toward my student loans and such is a HUGE relief!  And it’s time to focus on my body.  I want to prepare myself for the day when I want to start a family.  I want to prepare myself for aging.  I don’t want to be 80 and look back and wish I’d taken better care of myself.

So, Zumba meets three times a week in the next town over.  If I go twice a week, that’ll be great.  I’ve done it before, I can do it again.  And the potatoes thing is that I feel like I use them for filler.  And I’d rather eat a healthier filler.  I’ll know I’ve succeeded in my resolution when I can count more weeks with 2 Zumba nights than weeks without.  And I’ll know daily if I succeed with making healthier (fruits and veggies) choices.  I do weigh myself on occasion, but I normally judge my body by which clothes I can wear.  How I feel in my clothes.  And how I feel without my clothes.  Inside, like in my digestive system.

Since meeting my birthfamily, I’ve come to terms with my body shape actually.  I used to get so frustrated that I carry my weight in my tummy region.  But after meeting my mother and grandmother, I see that it’s just genetics.  That’s where they’re soft too.  And they have short torsos.  And longer legs.  And no matter what I do, this is what I’ve got to work with.  And that’s a great feeling actually!  That doesn’t bum me out at all!

***UPDATE***

Since I began writing this post, I have since gotten a new phone.  With said phone came a $50 gift card to the Verizon store, so I bought a FitBit with it.  This is not an endorsement, but I will say that I kinda love my little pink Bit!  And I’m proud of myself for taking a real step toward my goals.  The Bit tracks my steps, calories burned, and distance traveled.  It’s kinda fun to see how many steps I can do – it really makes you WANT to move more!  I hope to use this information to target my efforts and be more aware of the types of foods I’m eating.

What are your resolutions for the year?

What’s gotten you in such a huff?

I wrote the following post on Facebook a few weeks ago.  I’d had enough.

“I just read a funny post about things adoptees don’t want to hear. Yup, it was funny, and most of it, I agreed with. But I’m starting to get pissed off about people ragging on Gotcha Day. If you don’t like Gotcha Day, or don’t want one, don’t have one! Leave me and my family’s understanding and celebration of Gotcha Day to us. And just because we still celebrate it, doesn’t mean my brother and I don’t understand why people don’t like it. That doesn’t make us bad adoptees. So there. *steps off soapbox*”

Someone asked me what a Gotcha Day is in the first place….This was my response.

“Okay, essentially, a Gotcha Day is the day an adoptive family celebrates either the day the parents and child met for the first time, or maybe the day that legally the adoption passed. Some, many I guess, say that the term “Gotcha” is very skewed to the adoptive parent perspective. That it suggests a child is something to be gotten, obtained, an object. That the term ignores the whole side of the birth parent, their pain, even the pain of separation for the adoptee. Some families use the term Adoption Day or Family Day or something like that.  Apparently a lot of adoptees are quite incensed that families celebrate this day in the first place.

For me, my birthday has always been bittersweet – I’d think about my mother and what she must have been doing and thinking that day. Did she love me? Did she think about me? I didn’t have those answers until just a year ago when we reunited. But my Gotcha Day, now that was a concrete day that I knew I was loved. I was placed in my parents’ arms on November 19, 1984, and every year, even now, I get giddy and ask Mom for “the story” – the only true story until last year that I knew for sure. My parents and I have a fantastic relationship. And a few weeks ago I talked to my mom about Gotcha Days. She listened to my concerns about what so many people have been saying. She asked if I felt that way, negative about the name and the day. And I said, well I didn’t? I don’t feel like you ignored my mother by celebrating this day every year….So yeah, that’s basically the debate. I get it, for some families whose parents probably don’t have such an open relationship, a Gotcha Day might be a huge source of friction and pain for the adoptee. But not in my family. And it’s just gotten to a point, reading about it everywhere, that I had to say something.”

This is the link to the original post that got me so huffy.  While I’m really glad that Gazillion Voices exists, I do find that I don’t agree with everything they publish.  Or promote.  And that’s great.  I mean, the likelihood that all adoptees everywhere agree on every issue is…..crazy.  And we all can’t be crazy.  So anyway, leave me a message if you have any questions about Gotcha Day.  And thanks for reading.

http://gazillionvoices.com/guest-piece-by-christina…/…

Has Hell frozen over? Whatever, who cares!

I HAVE A JOB!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I’m so damn excited!!!!!  I get to use my brain every day!  I’m gonna be writing narratives for urban renewal grants, working on EPA reports, and proofreading Iowa city codes.  And guess what?  My boss treats me like an adult!  A competent, real adult!  You might not think it was such a big deal, but trust me, it’s not a given.  I am excited to work hard and earn the amazing benefits she’s giving me.  I’m excited to be part of helping citizens of my beloved state get services they need.  I’m excited for using my degree finally!  I think I’ll just wish I’d have paid more attention in Semantics…..Phonology isn’t so helpful now.  haha

The whole thing came about really organically and really quickly.  I saw my new boss while working for another local company.  She asked what I was up to, I told her, and she took my email address.  I ended up emailing her my resume and references.  Another week later she came back into the store, and we met up last week for an interview!  I started yesterday and already have responsibilities and questions and research to do!

I was quite nervous yesterday morning and had to give myself a little pep talk!  Just because things didn’t work out the last time I had a(n almost) real job, doesn’t mean things won’t work out this time!   The last job couldn’t keep a person like me around for more than a couple years, but this place has employees who’ve been there for about 30 years!  That’s really saying something!  I get a key this time around, which is cool.  I told my boss it’d be more likely that I would be the last to leave, as opposed to being the first one there.  haha  She’s encouraged me to volunteer so I’m excited to keep working at the Gardens in my town on Friday mornings.  She’s encouraged me to be on a Chamber committee!  So long as I’m trusted to get my work done.  Deal.

I’m excited to be an adult again.  Someone who can pay some bills.  Save some money.  Visit friends.  Visit my birthfamily.  Buy a bigger bed.  Treat my mom to something fun.  Treat my friends.  And generally pass on the kindness that has been shown to me by so many friends and family.  No, money doesn’t buy happiness, but it does buy a peace of mind.  A confidence.  Independence.  And I can’t wait 🙂

You’re *still* crying? What happened??

(I started writing this post a month ago, the last week of November.  I still wanted to post it though, b/c my Grandma deserves to be remembered here on my blog. – AO)

Yeah, still crying.  Or not.  It’s been a tough two weeks.  My grandma passed away about 10 days ago.  We’ve had the visitation and the funeral already.  Thank you cards are on their way out, and the potato salad leftovers are almost gone.  Now begins the real work – life without Grandma.

It should be easy.  Grandma’s been in care facilities for the last ten years or so.  She’s sort of been…away from home, from me, and it seemed like she was always there…down the road.  Maybe that’s why it doesn’t feel real yet that she’s gone.  Even this Thursday, when our family gathers to eat and laugh, it won’t seem real.  She hasn’t been able to travel for our holiday celebrations for a year or so, so her presence won’t be missed like it might have been.  Let me start over though.  And tell you about my grandma.  Her life and story are worth sharing because she’s had such an influence on my life, and it’s my blog, so there!

Grandma was born in rural Iowa in her parents’ home.  The family doctor who delivered her put her on the scale.  When the needle went as far as it could go, at 13 pounds, he said, “That’s enough.  No baby should have to weigh more than that.”  Classic!  She spent the next 5-7 years playing outside with her older brothers and younger sister when she came long.  One day, at her country school, Grandma was on the end of a Crack-the-Whip line.  Well, they whipped, and she cracked.  She broke a collarbone, poor thing!  Shortly after that year, her family moved to the town where she’d get married, have children, and spend her retirement years with her true love.

I forget the exact timeline, but Grandma once told me that she was a synchronized swimmer.  One of these days I’m gonna do some research into that to see if I can find a photo…I think this must have been while she still lived at home…?

Again, I’m estimating here, but probably in 1945 she met my Grandpa at a historic location in our town.  They loved dancing together and spending time with their friends.  It didn’t take them long to decide that they wanted to spend their lives together.  They married in July 1946 and started their family pretty soon after that.  My uncle was born the next year, and five years later my Mom came along.  My aunt came three years later and the little brother finished out the family nine years after that.  So my grandpa drove a bakery bread truck for the local bakery for 40 years.  For the kids’ birthdays, they’d get a yellow cake with chocolate frosting from the bakery.  At some point, they quit making those cakes, so Grandma continued the tradition on her own.  Mom remembers a seven layer yellow cake with chocolate frosting for several years’ birthdays.  Sounds amazing!  My uncle remembers that cookies were *always* in the freezer or on the kitchen counter.

All signs and stories point to Grandma loving her life as a mother.  But Mom says that once in awhile Grandma would get an “itch” to work outside the home.  She and her sister took classes at the local beauty school.  They learned to do hair and other things.  Grandma never took the test, but Mom’s younger brother definitely took the brunt of Grandma’s practicing haircuts.  After my uncle graduated high school, my grandparents started traveling a bit.  They went to Hawaii with Grandpa’s sisters and their spouses.  They spent some time on a tour of European countries and took lots of photos…that we found last week.  Us kids started coming along starting in the late 1970s and Grandma loved being a grandma!

One of my favorite memories of my time with Grandma was when she’d pick me up from Friday morning kindergarten and take me to lunch at Arby’s.  We got vanilla shakes.  We’d cruise in her red Honda and listen to Kenny Rogers.  I’ll remember so many cute things about her.  She always had tissues, Tic Tacs, and a pick in her purse.  I’ll never forget how she put her lipstick on.  Or how she put her socks on.  That she always looked nice.  Always had her hair and makeup done.  How she smelled.  How tasty her cookies were.  How delicious her potato salad was, and how almost no one can duplicate it.  She was exactly the kind of grandma everyone deserves.  And she influenced my mom to be the best kind of mom for me.  I said at her service that if nothing else, teaching my mom how to be an amazing mom is enough for me to love her forever.  I’m so very thankful for all the vacations, day trips, and sitting around watching tv moments I had with my grandma.