Z is for Zany

Z

za·ny
zānē/
adjective
1. amusingly unconventional and idiosyncratic
noun
2. an erratic or eccentric person


As I mentioned before, I have been a lifelong lover of NPR and a devotee of WNYC, and that means I get my news, entertainment and conversation starters via that medium. One of my weekly listens includes something called The Moth, a storytelling podcast. I had been hearing strangers stories on,  for years and at the beginning and end of every one, there is an entreaty for more. You can call the pitch line, give a short summary of your tale and hope for the best.

Have you ever had a moment when it all seemed to make sense, as if you stood outside of yourself and could see beyond your own internal dialog? At my daughters 4th birthday, that is what happened for me, as I watched everyone enjoying the sunny day and good company.  I was momentarily overcome by seeing the proof of what we had built, this shining thing that was something I never thought I would have.

During this moment of internal jubilant peace, I decided to call and pitch the story of my journey between one child and the next. It had all spiralcome together for me, in one hippy dippy moment, becoming a perfect circle. I called, I pitched and hung up in a panic. I called Robyn and told her I had done this incredibly idiotic thing.

A week or so later, I got a call, they liked my story, they wanted me to put it on stage.

What follows can be read elsewhere in this blog, but I can not articulate strongly enough, how amazing this experience was.  If you read back you can find out more about it here and here. It has put me in the company of people I admire greatly and shifted my perspective yet again. I found a new fight/drug/meditation to make the world shiny.

I didn’t find space to talk about my job in this month, so here’s the short explanation; I run an office that focuses on Transgender health, we provide the counseling and medical care for the transition process. I started working there because another adopted family member Dr. Lisa, asked me to run her office and I have been there for the past 6 years. I tell you this only to provide some background.

I get to help people everyday, through some of their hardest moments, I have a beautiful, weird, safe and healthy family and on top of that, I got to share my story with the world on a show I have been a fan of for years. It’s been a pretty zany, lovely, heart-growing ride.

I told my story in The Boys city, with all of his clan in the audience. I think that moment will be in my personal jewel box until the day I leave this world.thestory

I told my story because it is hard to say these things over the kitchen table during a weekend visit. I told my story so that my children would always have it, which is a pretty big thing for a kid without anyone to remember her childhood story. I told my story for me too, so I never forget my blessings.

~~~~~ 5660_148666960751_609560751_3493031_2062122_n

I did this as part of a larger project, both personally and professionally, but even if some of that doesn’t come to fruition, I really enjoyed the challenge.  I found a lot of new stories while I explored the other people participating in  the A to Z Challenge, which has been awesome. I also learned a lot about the habit of writing and myself.  So, thank you for reading this and thank you for being a part of this process with me!

 

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Y is for Yearn

Y

yearn
yərn/
verb
1. have an intense feeling of longing for something, typically something that one has lost or been separated from.
2. be filled with compassion or warm feeling.


When I was a kid there were no parties, there were no presents. The first gift I remember getting was a 12 pack of Play-Doh for Christmas, that I shared with my brother, and that was it. Later (from age 9 to 13) I lived with my mother’s parents and they did give gifts, in fact they were the giftsole expression of interest and love. During a therapy session I had told my therapist that my grandparents never told me they loved me or showed affection, she insisted that I tell my grandmother.  I assume she thought it would be helpful. I told her, and her response? “ We provide for you, we buy you gifts at the appropriate times.” That’s it, that was her response, except to add that I did not react properly to said gifts and perhaps I should address THAT with my therapist.  So lets just go forward with the knowledge that I have some issues, big, cringey. pathetic issues when it comes to gifts and celebrations. 

6180_138001065751_6851742_nWhen my daughter turned 1, I made it, a big deal. My kid would always know how precious I thought she was, she would always know how celebrated her life was. Once a year, she would have an awesome party with everyone that loved her. Around 60 people attended her first birthday party, I took out a small park to accommodate it. I know this is more about me, all of my insecurities, and perceived failings, but sometimes self-awareness doesn’t even slow me down. Rented tables, crafted projects, tulle, costumes and full menus are all part of my yearly homage to the life of my daughter and she knows she is the princess of her own little tale.3oncouch

Soon after Asha turned 1, I finally kissed Robyn, who had been one of my best friends for years and secret crush for some time. She (literally) ran away, or as she says “walked briskly”, but she returned and kissed me back. We got married and she legally adopted Asha, bringing her official momma count up to, 2.

AquabatsAfter the first year, that party evolved to be both a celebration of Asha and a greeting of Spring. It’s the one time we have a big party and see everyone, especially the people we rarely get to see during the rest of the year. The Boy and Gretchen came the first year and the third, but Gwynnie was still teaching classes and couldn’t come. When Asha was turning 4, I made sure it would work for Gwynnie and they were all able to drive down. Gwynns sister and partner drove out from Brooklyn too. Asha and her cousins were into The Aquabats, so they were also making an appearance, in the form of one doting mother, and assorted Uncles and Aunt.

We had just moved to a sleepy little town on the Delaware River. The kind of place that is filled with walking and cycling paths. The weekends fill the main drag with antique hunters, bikers in leathers, cyclists in spandex and families strolling with sticky-fingered children. It was the first time since I gave The Boy up, that Gwynnie would be in my house; also the first time I was proud of where I had made a home. It even had a garden and tiny porch!

Everyone came, everyone talked, laughed, and ate well. As Gretchen sat on the porch talking music with my broth-in-law, Gwynnie chatted with her sister in the backyard and The Boy chased his sister around while she squealed, I realized some deep shit.

 I could, maybe, let up on all of the heartfelt yearning, because..here it comes.. I had a family.

It was filled with people who didn’t have any blood connecting them, and there wasn’t a language to easily explain it to outsiders, but it was strong and fierce and mine. More importantly, it was my daughters’ and her brothers’ and they would both be okay, neither of them was ever going to be alone.kisses4yrs

W is for Wayward

W

way·ward
ˈwāwərd/
adjective
1. difficult to control or predict because of unusual or perverse behavior.

I told Gwynn and Gretch about being pregnant and the reaction was….cautious. Wondering if I had thought it through, if it was the best decision for me, if I was ready. I was upset and wanted to take deep offense to this caution but after a few minutes (hours, days….whatever) of attempted self-awareness, I realized that they had every right to the questions.

storm coming

From their point of view, I had been flitting about for years, getting into trouble and then seemed to stabilize and commit while I was with Nikki. I started working decent jobs and stayed at one address. Then I just broke-up with her for no discernible reason, got rid of everything I owned and decided to move to China. All of this was within about 4 months of time and then I call and say, “ I’m pregnant! Surprise!…hold-up..why aren’t you excited??”

 

Secretbox (1)They had almost no exposure to my friends, which had shifted and matured over the years; they had no idea that the relationship that seemed to stabilize me was one filled with suffocating abuse and leaving was the best thing I had done for myself in a long time. They didn’t know, because I never told them any of this stuff. Like everything else in my life, if I was keeping this kid, I had to change my modus operandi. So I told them and asked them to trust me and to believe in me, despite all evidence to the contrary.

Despite my own surety that I was having this baby, I was a mess, because really, who knows if they are strong enough before they are tested? I had lived a rather selfishly fearless, wayward life so far and being a parent seemed more terrifying to me than any of the other incredibly risky hitchhiking-in-australiastupid things I had done prior.I had watched loved ones die, been beaten and betrayed,  I had hitchhiked across states, dove into ocean depths, taken candy from strangers, ingested unknown substances,ran with scissors, committed crimes,  fallen wildly and stupidly in love, lost everything, left everything and had often wondered where I might sleep that night; yet this idea of motherhood and being responsible for another’s life caused more fear in me than any of those adventures combined. I didn’t regret any of it, but I wondered if it was a foundation that another life should be dependent on.

belly 197

 

E is for Emotion

E

e·mo·tion
iˈmōSHən/
noun
1. a natural instinctive state of mind deriving from one’s circumstances, mood, or relationships with others.

“She has sociopathic tendencies” is what my psychologist told my grandmother.

At the time, I was around 13 years old I already had 4 years of steady weekly to bi-weekly therapy sessions under my belt. I lived with my mother’s parents at this point, and their brand of parenting could be defined by how often they brought me to therapy rather than speak with me. My grandmother also suspected a certain amount of sadism, which had some merit.  On the other hand, I wasn’t the easiest kid to deal with. Sociopathic and all of that rubbish; or at least a “tendency” towards such things.

The issues at hand were my lack of remorse or feeling about various indiscretions and inclination to get in fights. My grandmother thought something was very very wrong with me. I think she was also afraid I may turn into some kind of monster, or perhaps that I was already.

boxing fists (1)

By 16, I was emancipated and in my own place with a full time job. I was also knocked up by the end of that year, so I’m still going back and forth on whether I came out ahead of expectations or not on that one. I realized a few things that gave me comfort, I was totally capable of taking better care of myself than any of my previous custodians (most of the time), I could finally have a pet, and I wasn’t without emotions I was just not very comfortable with them.

 

I gave birth to my first child at the age of 17. I never doubted giving him up or thought to try to take him back. I never regretted giving him a better chance than I could possibly offer.  He was perfect and whole and the first thing I ever thought I did right. I still thank my disconnect with my emotions for allowing me to make the best decision I could for him. Yet like any dam, there is always something that can come along and be bigger and stronger than it can hold up to.

The boy was what finally toppled everything I had holding me upright and separated from the proceedings of life in general.

I don’t remember much of that day;  strapping him into that car seat and watching them drive away; sending Lucas away; being home with my cracked wallfoster-brother TJ; breaking into a million tiny pieces.


I envisioned my internal self as something like hand-made glazed pottery with many hues swirling upon it’s imperfect surface. Cracks and chips decorate it. Each event, pain or triumph, changing the whole, building, breaking, filling, emptying. I came home and the shoddy patch job fell apart.

 

STP60260_zps2be3caa8I remember nothing but pain. Falling into myself and feeling as if I could never make myself whole again. My body felt battered and broken and my mind could not fathom what I had just done, the decision I couldn’t regret but also couldn’t forgive or even truly comprehend. I had not cried this whole time, not when he was born, never in front of Gwynn and Gretchen . I would not even allow it when I was alone.

Now I could not stop, my stomach felt as if the muscles might seize, or tear, my head held stabbing knives captive and I soaked my face, clothes and the floor I couldn’t get up from in my mourning tears. I didn’t know that I could even feel this much.

 

I had always felt that emotional people were weak, constantly at the whim of this or that fleeting feeling. How did they live like that? How could they stay focused? Why couldn’t they just see the given situation as it was instead of piled under all of their superfluous blubbering? I had learned to mimic sympathy and to pretend I didn’t just get annoyed when people cried or made illogical arguments. I had learned to give the expected reactions to other people’s trials and tribulations but I had never learned to feel and react “naturally”.

 Right after the boy was born it was if a lifetimes’ worth of repression and superfluous emotional insanity crashed upon me and drowned out any vestige of my much-loved logic.

I think that if it were not for Lucas. I would have let myself die, or helped it along at this point,  simply because I had no tools to swim through my own despair. He bundled me up, expected me to pull myself up by my bootstraps, and come on the vacation he had planned for us. Which seems absurd, even as I write this detail down, but I am pretty sure it saved my life.

 

 

C is for Choose

C

choose
CHo͞oz/
verb
1.pick out or select (someone or something) as being the best or most appropriate of two or more alternatives.

Imagine your life streamlined and fitted to a tri-fold pamphlet, now add charming pictures of your life with loved ones, friends and pets. Essentially a sales brochure of your life, tailored towards selling your values and obvious qualifications to be a parent. With the trouble I have filling in an application for a knitting group that asks for my “other interests”, I have to believe putting one of these things together is an incredibly stressful and bizarre experience.

many path road sign

As the person on the other end, my thoughts were along the line of,  “what is the REAL story, what are these happy shiny people hiding??”. I have a real hard time believing the hype. Like a first date, you put your best foot forward and avoid mentioning your gas problems, love of unicorn figurines or penchant for human flesh, sauteed. I came from both homes that looked like dumps on the outside but held hard working hearts of gold and lovely over-sized homes with well manicured lawns that held cold vicious custodians. There were plenty in between and I spent a lot of time devising a strategy to get beyond the glossy puff pieces. Horseback riding, sailing, family sing-a-longs, perfect fluffy puppies and traveling frequently around the world..I mean, really?? I hated all of them and obsessed over their fold-outs with sick fascination.

I decided to come up with a list of questions, and to ask any prospective parents, to both be on the line for my calls. I figured it was easier to hear hesitation and thwart collaboration if both of them were on the line, easier to hear who was in charge and who worked together, easier to know when they had differing answers. Every couple I looked at was looking for their first child and I knew that parenting was one of those things that people thought they were on the same about but found out later that wasn’t remotely true, opening up a whole new avenue of possible discontent. I further shrunk the pool by discarding anyone too close too or too far from me geographically. I knew I had it in me to stalk out my child on  playground and didn’t want to give myself that option, yet I needed to be able to easily get there to visit.  I narrowed my pool down to about 30 couples and notebook in hand, I started calling them.

“ Why do you want to adopt?, Why do you want a mixed race child? How did you get together, and how long have you been together? How did you end up in your current location? The father is black, and I am mixed race, do you know how to deal with kinky hair? If not, how will you deal with that?, What makes you angry?, How do each of you express your anger? What’s a fight like between you? What does your support system look like?, Do you have a plan in place for the eventuality of a break-up? What would happen to the kid? What are the legal avenues you have explored for protecting him or her?”

On and on the questions went. Some eventually got annoyed with me, and really, I understood. I was a 16 year old kid asking all kinds of prying personal questions about their lives, and even if you think you are prepared for a conversation with a potential mother, I doubt any of them were envisioning my long list of detailed inquiry. I was okay with their annoyance, it was better for me to see them with their ruffs up.  Some of my questions were things I wanted actual answers for, and some were questions I had no preconceived answer I preferred, I just wanted to see how they got to their answers. As a foster kid, I knew it was the small things, like unkempt hair that were the outward signs of neglect and I tried to get a feeling for how they thought, how they worked or didn’t work together. Every couple I looked at was mixed in it’s racial composition, so that was a common reason for wanting a mixed race child that reflected their own make-up. Well, every couple except one.

That exception was also the oldest couple in the whole bunch. From what I understood that made it harder to adopt, but as it turned out the conversations I had with them were the most natural and despite their whiteness and age, I pretty quickly added them to the top three left in the running.two paths woods

Of the top three, one couple was male and the other two female. After a week of deliberation and debate I asked about meeting up with the men and found out they had been picked by another birth mother, and then there were two. Two women in Long Island, which was a little close for me but pretty good and the other couple was located in Portland, Maine. I had a couple more conversations with them and decided to meet up with the white ladies from Maine first. I was really curious about them and I liked the way they bounced between each other with thoughtful answers, no annoyance and the kind of grace that comes from stability and love. Plus they asked me interesting questions and didn’t let me be the only interrogator. I appreciated that.