Sunday, November 30, 2008

I Sleep Well at Night

The big day is finally here. It's cold and gray, but I'm strangely at peace.

Although I fought the idea at first, as the adoptive mother I am pretty well powerless. Surrendering to that has advantages.

When I was a kid, we had a book of bedtime stories, morality tales, all. My favorite still intrigues me. It's set in a farming community. A stranger arrives at a farm, looking for a job. When asked for his qualifications, all he says is, "I sleep well at night." No one understands that, but they need help and he looks strong.

The young man turns out to be a hard worker and quite pleasant. The spring planting season passes and summer comes on. Late in the summer, a terrible storm blows up. The farmer's family and all the other farmhands wake in the night and run all around, checking their haystacks and making sure everything is covered and secured the best ways possible. Only the young stranger remains in bed.

The next day, the farmer asks why he didn't get up with the others. "I told you when I came here," he says. "I sleep well at night. I work very hard to do things right the first time so I don't have to worry, no matter what happens." When they went out to check how the farm had weathered the storm, they found all this young man's haystacks in tact, all his areas of the barn still ship-shape.

I've already built my haystacks. The only thing left to do is try to sleep well at night.

Saturday, November 29, 2008


As the minutes tick by until Katie meets N on Sunday, I needed some wood to chop. My brother and his wife invited me down to their hobby farm for the weekend.

This morning Jeff and I fired up the tractors and maneuvered the chipper and dump trailer into position. Wearing hearing protection and safety glasses and gloves, we fed branches from downed trees and garden detritus into the chipper's maw and watched it spit mulched bits between the screen walls of the trailer.

The hickory trees produced thousands of nuts before a storm destroyed them. The okra that produced stunning blossoms and bags and bags of produce now nothing but dried stalks. Tomato and tomatillo and basil, once brilliant and flavorful, now dead and gone.

It's noisy, messy work and strangely sad.

At the end, we dumped the trailer onto the compost pile, and suddenly, everything looked different. Even though their initial seasons have passed, care and attention and time will transform what remains into fertile soil in which something new will grow.

Sounds good to me.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Giving Thanks

Two doors opened for me yesterday.

The day started with coffee at my mom's house. Mom and my sister and I were organizing ourselves for Thanksgiving dinner and talking about the holiday. Talk to turned to Katie and her planned meeting (the first) with N. this weekend. Mom's face tightened with disapproval.

And then a miracle occurred.

Rather than absorbing her disapproval and doubting myself, I spoke up. Quietly. Calmly. Simply. "Mom, I know you don't like the way I'm handling this, but I'm doing what I believe is best for Katie and best for me."

Mom shook her head and murmured that I might be right about not going to Minneapolis this weekend to "protect my territory," but it was too much that I've invited N and her husband and her parents to brunch at Christmas.

"They're welcome in our home anytime," I said. "I want Katie to see there's room for everyone. And it may be selfish, but I want N and her family to see that we are and always will be a family. I want them to see the art projects from 3rd grade on the bookshelves and the framed drawing from junior high in the hall. I want them to see the photographs everywhere."

Mom shook her head. "Well, that's all right. But I know you. You'll give them copies of those pictures and share the art projects."

I looked her right in the eye. "Yes, I will. I've had all the joy. How could it hurt me to give them paper copies of things I've gotten to live? If they want a picture of her wearing the dress my sister hand-smocked for her first birthday, they're welcome to it. I got to help her blow out the candle. And every picture is a reminder she has a loving family, a history that can't be replaced. I hope they want them. "

Faced with calm, irrefutable logic, Mom backed down. "Maybe you're right."

I heard angels singing. Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah, I believe.

Recounting the event to Bryan later, something he said opened another door. I suddenly understood that I am the voice in my daughter's head, just as my mother is the voice in mine. The voice in my head says things like, "Who do you think you are?" and "Don't get on your high horse." and "Never enough."

The voice in my daughter's head says, "You can do this." and "Keep trying. " and "I believe in you." (I know this to be true. I've asked.)

To be fair, Mom's messages to me were a good deal kinder than the ones she received from her mother. Mine to Katie were kinder still. It's a process. The real point here is that genetics is vital and knowing N gives Katie access to her heritage, but it does not and cannot replace her history.

We will not settle the age-old questions of nature/nurture. We don't need to. As my dear friend and counselor Sandy always said, "And both are true."

Dawn hasn't quite broken, but I'm ready to start cooking and I'm already giving thanks. I am grateful to everyone who has commented, emailed or called through these last weeks. You can't fully know what your loving support means, but I hope you know how grateful I am.

Blessings to you and those you love. Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


How about I write a book: Tales of a Real Mother: A View from the Not-So-Cheap Seats.

Too on the nose?

My aunt Connie told me "mother" was a bad word when I was 12 or 13. She said if a boy said it, I should slap his face and tell him not to talk like that around a lady. It was a long time before I got the difference between you mother and my mother. Kind of like dam and damn.
Life was so simple then.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Don't Count Your Marabous Before They Hatch

Caution: wild mood swings ahead.

So there I was, wearing my I WIN hat, getting ready to stitch some marabou feathers onto a pair of spanking-new pink rubber gloves. (BTW: who decided to use the feathers of the hideous creature above to make things prettier? Now, that's some vision, there.)

Mid-stitch, Katie called. We were chatting about what her boyfriend will eat (he's coming with her for Christmas), when she blurted, "I'll call you back," and hung up.

You know that feeling of dread that fills your body—the one that drips from your forehead to your feet, chilling you and filling you with knowledge you do not want to possess? I knew N was on the other line. I tried to convince myself I was overreacting, but I knew.

45 long minutes passed before Katie finally called back. As casual as can be, I said, "Everything ok? You hung up so suddenly."

Bless her heart, she was honest. "Oh yeah, It's just that Nancy called."

Crushed is the only word for it. Well, there are others, but they're even more melodramatic and absurd. After all, I am not a hopeful suitor and N is not a rival for her hand. She may be, however, a rival for her loyalties. I had so hoped N and I would become friends, that we would work together (at least a little) to help Katie with all this. Apparently, she has a different plan in mind.

I have not heard a word from N since she left my house that first day. I've sent two short, casual-friendly emails but received no reply. I fear that just as I needed to ignore her existence to get what I wanted in the early years, she now needs to ignore mine. Karma's a bitch.

Face it: I'm a shabby old skin-horse and there's a new bunny in town.

It hurts like hell, but in reality, this is simply one more step along my daughter's path, her life independent of me. Motherhood is the only job on earth where the task from day one is to make yourself redundant. That was easy to understand and fairly easy to practice until the path opened so wide, so fast.

After talking to a dear, dear friend last night, I realized the skin-horse probably didn't sit on the shelf waiting to be noticed. He was patient and all that, but I'll bet he took his tattered old butt out to green pastures for a few adventures of his own. Makes the time pass faster.

I've got to get out of my head and into some fun. Stay tuned. It's going to take a hell of a fairy to make this mother real.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

True Confessions OR Potty Time at the I'm OK, You're OK Corral

I am a petty woman. It's terrible, really, the smallness of mind I exhibit given half a chance.

Yesterday—in crisis with a clogged toilet—Katie called for advice and guidance.

Lest anyone miss the salient point of this story--SHE DID NOT CALL HER FATHER, who lives less than 10 miles from her and considers himself the handyman for the ages.

She did not call her grandfather, who IS the handyman for the ages.

She also did not call her boyfriend or his mother or his father, her best friend or her best friend's boyfriend, her upstairs neighbors or her landlord, any of whom would have come to her rescue.

She is this mother's daughter: she took care of it herself. she called me to hold her virtual hand. She trusted me to know what to do and to understand how revolting it is to touch a toilet with anything other than her rosy cheeks or a scrub brush.

I am SO buying that girl some rubber gloves for Christmas. Pink ones. I'll attach some maribou feathers to the cuffs, maybe glue on a gem or two.

Might even wear my I WIN hat while I work.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Night and Day

Although Katie figures in many of my posts, Evan does not, mostly because the challenges he faces are his stories to tell, not mine. At 26, he has not found his way. He's smart but won't apply himself to anything unless there's a girl involved. If he's got a nickel, he spends a dime. Angry is his standard operating mode.

Have I mentioned how fiercely I love him?

He is my first child, the treasure at the end of a long, hard road. He was an easy infant, a sunny, delightful toddler, a fabulously fun little boy. By 5 or 6 he'd become occasionally difficult. After a traumatic head injury in a car accident when he was 10, he developed epilepsy and serious emotional and behavioral problems. His teenage years were torture for us all.

During the dark years, his weapon of last resort was, "You're not my mother. You're just some woman I live with."

He once threw a battery from a school bus window and broke the windshield of a passing car. I made him pay for the replacement and insisted he deliver both the money and an apology in person. Driving through a bitterly cold Minnesota night to meet the car owner was one of the most painful half hours of my life. "You can't make me do this. You can't make me do anything. You're not my mother."

"I may not be the mother you want but I am the mother you have, and I am the mother responsible for helping you grow up. I can't make you do anything but you will not get back in this car until you apologize and shake this man's hand."

On and on it went. The Explorer was a missile of misery screaming down the freeway. The lights of the suburbs glowed warm and cozy in the distance. They taunted me, those lights. They whispered stories* of happy, unbroken families gathered around dinner tables with sweet smiles on their faces and linen napkins on their laps.

"You're not my mother. You're not Katie's mother, either. You don't have anybody."

It was—it IS—my deepest fear. Then. Now. Always.

As the kids reunite with their birth families, memories haunt me. With Katie, it is the sweet moments I fear will be brushed aside and lost. With Evan, it is the painful ones, the many times he so clearly longed for something—for someone—I could not be. Now he's searching, and I am afraid what he finds will not be what he wants.

Actually, I know it won't because what he wants is someone to take away all his pain, a common hope among adopted kids. It never happens. It can't. Not for any of us.

The day he started the search, Evan said, "I've always hoped my real mother lives in Europe."

Yeah, I'll bet. In a big tower with a moat and everything. But haven't we all wished for a better family? Remember Frances Hodgson Burnett's A Little Princess? I spent years hoping my real family—or at least a little monkey—would show up at my bedroom window.** Photographs of my mom pregnant with me dashed those hopes. I was only and exactly who I seemed to be, and so was my family.

That will turn out to be true for Evan, too, in its way. I pray he can come to peace with his truth. And I pray that truth will always and forever include me.

* Even that night, I knew the stories whispered by those lights weren't true. Every family has its moments, even in beautiful houses with warm glowing lights.
**I can't be alone in this. A Little Princess was first published in 1905. 103 years later,
eleven different editions of the story are available on Amazon.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Too Much Information

The best thing that's ever happened to my writing is some editing I've been doing lately. The writers are fairly new to the business and boy, does it show. Master's degrees, judge's robes, television careers--these folks have street cred, but they never use four words when 12 will do.

They "that" me to death. In fact, I'm considering a petition to remove the words "that" and "will" from the dictionary. No one ever "needs" something, they "will need." And good points may lurk under those tangled skeins of prepositional phrases, but damned if I can find them.

"There are." Do NOT get me started on "there are."

It's the writing equivalent of "What Not to Wear." Every twisted sentence reminds me to write tighter. I've seen Robin Hood's barn. Where's the Promised Land?

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Yesterday was Mom's 75th birthday. Mid-afternoon, I went to the grocery store in preparation for her birthday dinner. The clerk who checked me out was purely fascinating: an African American woman in her mid-20s, I'd say. Let's call her Shayla (we might as well--her nametag did).

Shayla augments her own hair with hair manufactured from resources lying deep within the earth, the stuff we fight wars over. How she attached the petrochemical-based hair is a mystery because it appeared to originate in about 5 different places. The effect was quite unstructured (think windblown model) except at the crown of her head, where she had constructed a poof engineers should study. A headband lay delicately atop the creation: two narrow bands of plastic flocked with black velvet, accented with tiny rhinestones and a black velvet bow. 

Her black plastic glasses were accented with more rhinestones. What was behind the glasses was truly extraordinary: two separate lines of eyeliner, one black and one white, curled at the outer corners of her eyes in dramatic upward swoops. The eyeliner drew attention, but the false eyelashes brought it home. 

Shayla wore a black t-shirt over bright pink pants; shiny patent heels at least 3 inches high. A cellphone bejeweled with pink rhinestones dangled from her waist. Her fingernails were long and square, and the tips were decorated with black, white and pink lines accented with rhinestones. Every finger was adorned with a silver ring, two teeth adorned with gold.

I laid zucchini and grits and onions on the belt and cards on the table.  "How long does it take you to get ready?" 
This young woman has two children. She gets up and dressed, then wakes the kids and gets them ready, too. The process adds two hours to her day, which must already be long given that she stands on high heels behind a cash register for eight hours of it. 

"What gives you the energy to do that every day?"
"I go to bed early."

Like all of us, Shayla must have her challenges, but she meets them with a smile on her face and a bow in her hair. I admire that kind of optimism and determination.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Yesterday was a tough day.

*My son decided to search for his birth mother.

*A neighbor stopped by mid-afternoon to scold me for leaving my garage door open. "It was open when I went for a walk. And it's been open all afternoon, every time I checked," he said. This man is 70ish. He has the puffy nose and ruddy complexion of a drinker and his ears give proof to the idea that certain body parts never stop growing. He was quite agitated over my garage door. "You shouldn't do that!" Long pauses and trailing sentences told he how badly he wanted to scold me for the sad state of affairs inside my garage, too, but he restrained himself.

Me? I apologized. Several times. I thanked him for his concern for my safety (which clearly had no part in his indignation) and agreed that I should not leave the door open. Every time he restated the magnitude of my offense, I apologized and said I hadn't realized my mistake. I even waved and thanked him again as he waited on my driveway to make sure I closed the door.

*My mother called. Her response to the news about Evan was this: "It won't that bad if you don't make it worse, Jerri." I agreed, telling her over and over how fine I am and how well everything is going to work out.

*My cell phone suffered a mysterious and untimely death. I was in the Sprint store for an hour and a half. The conversations there don't bear repeating except to note that I was entirely docile while being TOTALLY SCREWED by a company I've been handing piles of money to for over 15 years.


I tell myself to find my Buddha-nature, to see these people as my teachers, to rise above. But maybe the lesson is not tolerance and forbearance, but boundaries. Maybe the point is to learn to say "Shut the *&$# up!" Maybe this stuff will keep happening until I give voice to the roar building inside me. Lord knows my doormat impersonation has not led to peace or happiness. Maybe a few well timed roars would do the trick.

I recommend ear plugs if you come over here today to point out any of my more glaring flaws.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Had to Happen

Evan came over this morning and I told him Katie found her birth mother. We hadn't said anything to him. I guess I just wanted to put it off as long as possible. We've never heard from his birth mother at all and based on the letters she sent with him when he came to us, the story is not likely to be as positive. She did not tell his father of the pregnancy.

His first words: "How? I've always wanted to find my real mother."

It felt like he slapped me, even though I know that's not how he meant it. I held myself together long enough to put a package together like the one I made for Katie. All he has to do now is write a letter to her and drop it in.

However you pray, please join me in praying for my son. He acts tough, but he is so fragile. All I ask is that God be gentle with him.
A news story burrowed into my brain this morning. Authorities identified the remains of a woman who disappeared seven years ago. She wandered away during a layover at the Dallas airport and was never seen alive again. Not by anyone who knew her, anyway. It must have been terrible for her husband and daughter, for her family and friends. They have my sincere sympathies.

You know who else has my sympathy? The porter. He's assigned to take two elderly people from a plane to a gate, the same kind of thing he does many times a day. This time he takes the wheelchair-bound husband to the restroom and asks the wife to wait for them at the gate. It is a critical decision. Life will forever be divided into before and after he said, "Please wait right here." The before was whatever it was, but the after is filled with police and reporters and attorneys and death. And questions. Oh, the questions that man must have been asked in these seven years. Best not to consider the ones he's probably asked himself.

We all make a thousand choices every day. Squeak through that yellow light? One more before you go? Call mom tomorrow? We're tired and we're stressed and we rely on a razor-thin margin of safety that doesn't exist. If you've taken elderly people to gates without incident for six months or six years or six decades, how can you know that this time the person you ask to wait will wander off, lost in the fog of Alzheimer's, and meet death beside a muddy lake?

Every moment could be the last one before an after we can't imagine. We can't carry that awareness constantly—the weight of if would crush us. So we muddle on toward God-only-knows-what. We choose. We decide. We turn left or right or stay where we are. We say, "Wait right here," or we call for help. Then we deal with the consequences. There is no other way.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Lost Weekend

It's 4:30am Monday morning. I woke up on the living room sofa a few minutes ago and realized I haven't slept in my bed for three nights. Maybe four. I haven't showered or changed clothes since Friday, but I'm pretty sure I brushed my teeth on Saturday. Can't remember my last meal. If alcohol or drugs were involved, this would be a bender. Since they are not, it can only be depression.

Time to snap out of it.

It hasn't been a pity party exactly. More like a guilty party with me as the guest of honor. But this morning I realize the book that sent me over the edge is based on one woman's theory. No body of evidence, no double-blind, scientific studies. A considered opinion.

And it's partially true. After all, everyone has a wound. Some people can point to a cause, such as adoption. Others of us are left to wonder. Reminds me of a song we used to sing at St. Joan's, Anthem by Leonard Cohen.

The birds they sang
at the break of day
Start again
I heard them say
Don't dwell on what
has passed away
or what is yet to be.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.

More later. Right now, I've got a shower to take, some tea and toast to make. Soon as day breaks, I'm going to take my cracks outside where the light can reach them.

ps: I'm getting rid of all those books. Not going to read, listen to, or watch anything but FUNNY for a while. All suggestions welcome. Bring on the funny.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Heavy Heart

It's a down day here on the roller coaster of my life. Not one of the steep plunges, but a pretty-good-sized dip.

Here's the thing: W's sperm was zapped by radiation following cancer. He was 28. I was 25. We'd been trying to have kids since the minister pronounced us "man and wife." (I was too naive to ask for the equality of "husband and wife." Not that it would have mattered much.)

W got well. We signed up for adoption and began waiting. I filled the time by having every test or procedure known to medical science. I charted my temperature before raising my head from the pillow every morning, took fertility drugs, had my insides reamed out with rotary blades. Had artificial insemination. 

Whatever I might have imagined about conceiving a child, it was not that. No love. No joy. No warmth. Especially no warmth. For one January cycle, my own beloved doctor was out of town, but the temperature chart said it was time so one of his colleagues was doing the honors. I was lying on the exam table covered by a paper sheet, feet in stirrups, legs spread wide. The doctor came in, looked out the windows, turned around and walked back out. The nurses followed.

For 45 minutes I laid there like a Thanksgiving turkey waiting to be stuffed, splayed naked and covered with goosepimples. The doctor returned and got to work without a word. When he reached into my insides, I recoiled. His hands inside me were the single coldest thing I have ever felt. The nurse grabbed my arm to keep me from falling off the table.

"Sorry," he said. "When I came in before, I saw that one of my tires was flat. It's 20 below out there. Darn cold day to be changing a tire, I tell you."

Writing this, I feel like the Saturday Night Live skit--Really? You left me there like that to change a tire? Really? Really? And I didn't walk out or at least protest? Really?

But I was 26 years old and alone in that place, negotiating the rapids 500 miles from my family with a husband whose ego was too fragile to acknowledge the rough waters, let alone help me steer the raft.

I got pregnant that cycle but miscarried a little more than three months later. Three days after the loss, even before the D&C that was required, W came home from work and found me crying. He stormed out ("You act like you're the only person this ever happened to, Jerri!") and did not come home for two days. I never cried about it in front of him again.

Evan arrived three years later and then Katie after five more: my dreams come true. And all this time I have believed them to be the children God intended for me all along. The signs seemed unmistakable: Evan was born on my birthday and Katie on her grandmother's, the one for whom she is named.

Now, reading books on adoption and reunion, I am told over and over that one mother cannot replace another, just as adopted children cannot fill the void of infertility. I did not set out to replace a mother, simply to be a mother. But according to a book often referred to as the "bible on adoption," separation from one's natural mother—even in early infancy—creates a wound that can never be healed.
My children were relinquished before I knew of their existence. I had no hand in separating them from their families of origin. Or, so I have always believed. Now I'm finding many who believe that by participating in the adoption system, infertile couples drive a demand, create a market for babies.

Perhaps for once, the answer is to stop reading. I cannot change history, cannot make us anything other than what we are—imperfect human beings, doing the imperfect best we can.

I'm trying to believe—just this once—that my best will be good enough. It has to be. It's all I've got.

Friday, November 14, 2008

New Breed

Last night Katie emailed some puppy photos and we got on another jag of phone calls and email through crazy laughter. I'm not going to repeat the things we said because most of it was highly inappropriate.

Let me just say that if ever I bring home a Jack Russell/Shih Tzu mix puppy, its name will be Don't Know.

Seriously, you could damage internal organs laughing like that.

* * *
Four or five years ago, several colleagues and I were talking about the word bitch, and the way its use and acceptance has changed, especially among younger generations. Time was, we opined, when people were offended by its use but now had become sadly numb to it.

"Heck," said one younger colleague, "I call my husband a bitch all the time. He doesn't mind. Like, I walk in the house at night and say, 'Hey. Where's my dinner, bitch?'"

We older ones gasped collectively. "Does he get mad?"

"Nah. He just says, 'At the drive-thru where you left it, bitch.'"

Her flat delivery and off-hand manner struck us all as hilarious. We laughed to tears and good-naturedly (and quietly) called one another bitches throughout the rest of the day.

I believe Katie called during one of the fits of laughter surrounding this. I'd like to think so, anyway. But for whatever reason—perhaps just plain-old-fashioned inappropriateness—I told her the story that night at dinner. For days we hardly uttered a sentence to one another that did not end in the word bitch. We laughed like maniacs at every "clever" new use we came up with.

Part of it was the shock value. She was 17 or so and although I'm sure she said a lot of things with friends, she had never sworn in front of me (still doesn't), nor I in front of her. But once we got started, we couldn't stop, and it set us off every single time. Still does.

Once or twice during tense moments surrounding Katie's search for and reunion with her birth mother, times of over-the-top drama or great fear for one of us, the other has broken the moment with, "Hey. Where's my dinner, bitch?"

Gets us every time.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Getting Juggy with It

The morning after my calendar freak out, Katie calls before heading out to take a big test. She's been studying practically non-stop for this thing, and she's frantic.

"Sweetie, you've worked very hard, done everything you can. Now you have to trust yourself and let go," I say. "If you're freaked, you can't find the right answers even when they're right there in your head."

A weird thing happens: I hear my own voice echoing inside my head, kind of like an auditory mirror. "…done everything. . .trust yourself. . .let go. . . ."

Which do you want to be, Jerri? The pot or the kettle?

When the test should be over, I call to tell Katie I transferred a little money to her account so she and and her boyfriend can treat themselves to a night out.

She's standing in front of a puppy display, a Jack Russell/Pug mix called a Jug. (Sensing her distress, Craig picked her up after class and took her to a pet store, her favorite medicine.) We trade smart-mouthed comments.

You have to get two. Then you can say, "My jugs are perky today."

Or, "My jugs are just out of control."

Or, "My jugs are really getting big."

Vintage Mom and Katie silliness. Throughout the evening she calls half-a-dozen more times:
. . . to tell me where they went to dinner and what they ate.
. . . to tell me what movie they saw.
. . ask what I thought of Taylor Swift's performance at the CMA awards.
. . . to say she loves Carrie Underwood but hates the black dress.

We laugh over something or another (My jugs bounce when we run.) every time.

Letting go was an excellent suggestion.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Plucked from a House Fly's Back

This is incredible. Not just the fact that he can, but the reasons he does.

Found a link to this on Stacy's blog. Thanks, Stacy.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Did You Hear That?

That was the sound of my heart breaking in two.

I got out the duct tape because you can fix ANYTHING with duct tape. Right?

One of the best Christmas presents I ever received was a calendar Katie made when she was 15 or 16. The months alternated pictures of Katie and Evan. This was before calendar-making software. She had the idea and took photos to a print shop to get help putting it together. It was a magnificent, three hankie gift.

Katie just asked me to scan some photos and send files so she can make a calendar for N for Christmas.

It is a thoughtful, lovely idea, and I'm proud of her for coming up with it. I maintained my composure as she asked if it was okay with me. I said all the right things. AND I will scan the cutest photos I can find and send anything she needs or wants.

It is only here in the darkest corner of cyberspace that I can or will even whisper the truth: It breaks my heart.

Mars and Venus (and Arkansas)

The differences between men and women are clearly illustrated by the drama playing out in our lives. You know how emotional Katie and N and I have been. The men involved? Not so much.

Katie told her dad she'd found her birth mother. He said, "That's nice. How tall is she?"

N couldn't reach her mother the afternoon the agency first called to let her know Katie wanted contact. She finally got through to her dad. Her father said, "Well that's nice, Honey. I'm happy for you. I'll tell your mom you called."

Katie reports that her first conversation with her birth father went something like this: "I always hoped we meet some day. But you know, only when you're cool with it. I live near a lake and I work at. . .OMG! Two ducks are mating out on the lake! Wow, I've never seen that before! Oh, yeah. Where were we. . .N is a great lady. You'll like her."

Nothing wrong with the men's reactions. They're just different. Maybe our heightened emotional reactions push them into more neutral roles. If everyone was as cranked up as I've been, we'd spin right off the planet.

Yesterday I made a list of stories surrounding this. One is about the day Katie mailed the letter to her birth mother. It wasn't until I started reviewing my notes that I realized it was the same day I ended up alone in the scary B&B in Arkansas.

At 3:00 in the afternoon I asked Katie, "What are you afraid of, Honey?" as she stood at a mailbox sobbing.

At 9:00 that night I asked myself the exact same question, alone in a hundred-year-old house in a dying town in the middle of nowhere.

The Universe is handing me one hell of a story. I'm trying SO DAMN HARD to rise to the occasion. I'll post this one as soon as I get it finished. It's a doozy. I hope I can do it justice.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Not Quite a Party In My Pants

Katie talked to her birth father on the phone for the first time yesterday. When she called me later, we googled him. The picture we found—her first glimpse of the man who gave her life—showed him in a Halloween costume. The tag said something like, "A Party in My Pants."

"Isn't that great?" Katie asked. "That's what I'm going to be next year."

The irony totally escaped her. After she hung up, I laughed so hard I had to get up and go pee before I had something far less pleasant than a party in my pants.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Loaves and Fishes

Spent 5 hours with N this afternoon. Unbelievable day, really. Much to tell, but I need some time to process first.

Sharing what you have subtracts nothing, only multiplies. When I feel the fear rising, I say to myself, "Loaves and fishes, Jerri. Loaves and fishes."

Sunday, November 02, 2008

In the Nick of Time

Thursday: Spent some time thinking about animal totems and decided to learn more about bluebird as totem. No particular reason, I just felt drawn to it. Downloaded some bluebird photos and packed up my paints and pastels to take along to visit my brother this weekend.

Friday: On the phone talking business with a new client. Katie beeped in, but I ignored the signal. She emailed, asking me to call. I shot back--"On the phone. You okay?"

Moments later, she beeped in again and I excused myself, telling the client, "My daughter needs me. She wouldn't interrupt if it weren't important."

Returned Katie's call and heard sobs first, and then, "Mom, they found my birth mother."

We cried together and talked for half an hour. She wasn't sure what to do next. I encouraged her to call N, imagining how eager N must be for something to happen next. Katie decided she would and said she'd call me back as soon as she finished talking to N.

More than an hour later, I was pacing, crying, and feeling so alone. Against my better judgment, I tried to call Katie and got no answer. Ugly voices in my head whispered, "Of course she didn't answer, she's still on the phone with her real mother."

Desolation is the only word for what I felt. Another hour passed before Katie called back. We talked and laughed and cried. As I posted yesterday, I called N and we laughed and cried together.

That post didn't mention that as N and I talked, I was driving to southern Missouri. It also didn't mention that I cried so hard afterward that I had to pull off the highway to get control of myself or that I missed a turn and had to drive 50 miles out of my way after I realized I how far afield I'd drifted.

Saturday: No water to be carried, but did we ever "Chop Wood."

Then we made horseradish.

Then we gathered walnuts.

Then we drank wine on the patio. A bluebird landed in the tree beside me. An honest-to-God, state-bird-of-Missouri, almost-died-off-but-being-repopulated bluebird. I have not seen one in more than a decade. Maybe two decades.

Care to guess the lesson of the bluebird totem?
"When bluebird flies into your life it serves as a reminder to allow others to grow in their own way and time."

Um....yeah. Like that.

Bluebird. I'm SO going to need his lessons.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Adding to Our Family

Katie was indeed talking with her birth mother at the very moments I was writing yesterday's post. She called me right afterward, full of amazement about their similar tastes and interests. She kept saying, "She's so normal, Mom. And so nice."

At Katie's suggestion, I then called N. We talked for almost an hour, and indeed she IS so normal and so nice. We both cried a great deal, but we also laughed together at the wonder of the daughter we share. I thanked for the unbelievable gift she gave me and assured her that Katie had grown up believing in Ns love for her, believing that placing her for adoption was a choice made out of love, not convenience. We made a plan to have lunch or tea or something next week so I can share some pictures and some Katie stories.

We agreed that Katie gets to set the pace of this, to lead the way for all of us. We agreed that whatever she needs and wants is what we will try to provide. I believe N wants only the best for our girl, no matter what that may be. Me, too.

At the end of our conversation, N told me it was the best day of her life. She said she had imagined this day a million times, had rehearsed what she would say and envisioned how it would all go. But nothing she ever imagined, she said, came close to the wonder of what actually happened.

When she settles down a bit, N may come to see the yin and yang of it, as I do. Because yes, she is reuniting with her child, but she is also being made more aware of all she has missed.

There is yin and yang for me, too. It is hard to give over, even a little, my place at the head of the mother table. There is the feeling of threat and danger. But on the other hand, my daughter's joy spills over to me, and I can only be glad to have a larger circle of people who love her. And who could ever have guessed that we'd live in the same town, so far from where we started? In some great cosmic shuffle, N and her husband moved here two months before I did. I've always believed we'd find her some day. I never imagined it would be in my back yard.

God is good and I am grateful, today and always.