Tuesday, June 19, 2012


for one year, two months, and 14 days of my adult life, i had a Grandpa.  and not just a Grandpa, but an amazing, gracious, loving, warm and wonderful man who embraced me as family from the moment he set eyes on me on April 4, 2011.  i suspect he had embraced me as family since June 4 of 1975, but April 4, 2011 is my only real reference point.

the night i met Archie, he was spectacularly excited--especially for a midwestern man of Norweigian descent.  he hugged me and asked me questions and told me about his life. he showed me hundreds of photos of the family we suddenly shared.  he gazed at me with wonder and joy.  he smiled and laughed.  he was dazzled.  he was grateful and excited that the infant his beautiful daughter had created so many years ago was there, in his home, in his presence as a grown woman with questions and information of her own.

every visit with Archie was a continuation of that night.  he lit up, he sparkled every time i entered the room.  he embodied a love for me that i can only assume had been privately and preciously nurtured for 36 years. every interaction began with a big smile and the sweetest, most genuine greeting: "helloooooooo, Shelly!!" he never failed to remind me of how important i am and how glad he was that i was back in his life, in his family's life.

last night, as i watched my beautiful and kind and generous Grandpa pass on from this life, i was flooded with joy and gratitude for the time i had with him, pain and loss for the conversations we hadn't yet had, love and contentment for the tiny bit of peace it brought him to know that i was ok.

i loved him. i will always love him.  as an adopted person, i have become quite accustomed to noting that family is so much more than blood or genetics. the last 14 months with Grandpa Archie made it ultimately clear to me that this part of my family is blood and genetics AND so much more!

Rest In Peace, my sweet Grandfather. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

adoption cult

if you've been reading this blog from the beginning, you know that i went to the adoption reunion support group on march 14, and that within the hour following the meeting, Julie the social worker had contacted Susan and told her that i was searching for her. if you are good at tracking details, you also know that by the time the next Adoption Club meeting occurred, Susan and i had already met and spent several hours together. at that time, i was worried that Susan was completely freaked out by the whole process and the reunion support group seemed the obvious place to process whatever reaction she was having to meeting me. so in april, Susan attended the meeting and met some other birthmothers and listened to their stories.... i think she enjoyed it. by the time the second monday in may rolled around, we had already spent a lot of time together, she had introduced me to some family members and co-workers, and we had spent a wonderful Mother's Day together. so on may 9 Susan and i attended the reunion support group together... wearing our puzzle necklaces, of course. a detail that Julie the social worker observed right away.
we had so much fun attending together, providing an update on how our reunion is going, offering some support when we could to others who were scared and overwhelmed. i hope that we can continue to be in contact with the others from the group. apparently the village family service center is suspending the support group for the summer, but i do hope they start it again in the fall. the experience of adoption and then reunion truly comes with its own terribly unique set of emotions and reactions and anxieties and it is really quite wonderful to have a place to visit with other people who understand those issues. besides that, it is just a damn lot of fun to talk about it.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

surprise, it's a girl!

i was still all crazy in my head when i was last maintaining this blog, so i imagine there are not many details about what we have actually been doing during all of this time that we have spent together... perhaps i should provide a brief summary of activities and introductions.

since the initial and immediate introduction to Grandpa on April 4, i have met several more significant people in susan's life. most of whom will likely become or have already become significant people in my life....

April 12 i went out for dinner (and margaritas) with Susan and met her husband, whom we will call D. it was a lot of fun and happened just in time- before we both went completely nuts with the rejection worries. i remember that the conversation between Susan and me that night began with more talk of fears and worries that we would be disappointed in what we find/learn about each other, blah blah blah... but that truly didn't last beyond that night (or at least that week) because worrying really is a dumb thing to do. especially if you don't have to do it. D was fun and funny and told a really lot of stories. he was kind to me and showed an impressive degree of excitement for this reunion. all in all, it was a great evening that ended with a lovely stroll through a beautiful neighborhood. and the moral of that story... wanna tear down some barriers, just add tequila... apparently.

April 22 i got to meet Susan's very best friend in the whole world... we'll call her... Lulu. because i like to say Lulu. we met at one of my favorite places to drink beer/scotch/bourbon/whatever... and had a terrific time! well, at least i did. i can't speak for Susan or Lulu :) but based on the size of the smiles on their faces in the photos from that night, i think it is fair to say we all had a lovely time. Susan and Lulu have been friends since about 3 years after i was born-- which is a long long time if you do the math-- so i imagine the news of a 35-year-old daughter was a bit jarring. it is always fun to talk to the people i meet and ask them about that moment when Susan first told them about our reunion. there is a lot of shock, some confusion, many tears. these days i often get to be there to watch her tell people who i am and i can't think of many things in my life that have been more fun than those moments! but i am getting ahead of myself. Anyway, Susan's best friend is a wonderful woman and a lot of fun! really everything a best friend is supposed to be. i hope she wants to be my friend too.

that's enough for now...

Catch-Up Time...

my intention when i started this blog was that i would keep it up-to-date and document the reunion experience honestly in all of its glory and terror. it is still my intention to do something like that, but there are new issues to consider. first, i started this as a person who was preparing to meet a stranger. i could tell the story in my words, from my perspective, with full ownership of my reunion story. that was easy when i didn't know the other person whose life i was about to twist and mangle and ignite. but now i know her. now she is my... friend? yes. family? indeed. mother? certainly. lest there be any doubt, i promised her i would quit smoking and i even bought a motorcycle helmet, for crying out loud! she has motherly powers, this one! :) but the point, and i do have one, is that now i am telling a story that we truly share. and other people are involved. i can and will leave their names out of this blog, of course, but it still feels kind of weird to blog the details of our journey when it is no longer just my story to tell. not to worry, though. i will still try to do it. i will do it until she asks me not to. :)

the other issue that has arisen is a simple matter of time. i have known Susan for 50 days and we have spent time together on 21 separate occasions. the only complaints about this schedule come from disappointed blog-followers... and maybe from her husband, but i am not sure. at any rate, we have been very busy girls! there is limited time for such things as documenting and summarizing.

i have added a couple of photos to bring some illustration to this little story. the first, obviously a tattoo, is the mark i chose to honor this moment in my life. as has been disclosed previously, Susan named me Julie Hope. among the many similarities we have discovered about ourselves over the course of the last 50 days, one of the first was that we have very Very similar handwriting. so, knowing that i wanted to use the middle name that she so beautifully and symbolically assigned to her tiny treasure 36 years ago, i played around with some fonts and ideas and decorations and finally settled on the simplest and most truthful way to honor this time in our lives: the anticipatory middle name that she gave me, in my own handwriting, in a location always visible to me. (with a tiny spiral to symbolize "life" and "creative healing"... a symbol i wear and use a lot.) so on April 20, i stamped this moment into my wrist. and i love it. every time i look at it, i love it more! and here is the kicker, on May 26, her 56th birthday, Susan is going to get the same tattoo on her ankle. i can't wait!

the other photo is pretty self-explanatory as well... i bought these necklaces on April 6. hoping that our reunion would continue in a way that would make it reasonable for me to give her this gift for Mother's Day. it did, i gave it to her, and we have both been wearing them every day since. i may just give away all my other necklaces... :)

more later... i promise.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


i have been away for a bit, i am aware. i was busy. :) busy getting to know susan and meeting members of my family and learning about other members of my family. and telling my friends and my other family all about what an incredible experience this has been. i am happy to report that the anxiety and insecurity moments were brief and have fully relented. thank god! i could not have handled that as a permanent or even semi-permanent state. the fears and worries that i will disappoint or will be rejected are all in the past and the last two weeks have been absolutely amazing! i have met some incredible people, i got to visit the family farm-- where susan grew up. i have had wonderful, easy, beautiful conversations with her-- conversations that feel natural and sweet and normal and nice.

i can't believe it has only been three weeks since we met. the time has gone by in some kind of different dimension-- i feel like i have known her forever and to be near her feels so natural i sometimes forget that this is essentially a person who was a stranger three weeks ago. a blaze of glory, indeed. a blaze of grace, perhaps.

on saturday, while we were at the farm, susan presented me with my original birth certificate. i knew that she had it, and i was very much looking forward to seeing it, but i never could have imagined how emotional it would be to hold it and look at it for the first time. for starters, i was not sure until quite recently that it even existed. i wasn't sure if it would have been destroyed or discarded when the amended one was created. i certainly didn't know whether susan would have wanted to keep it even if she could. but she did. and she gave it to me. and i wept. there it was in my own hands... my original name, her name, her thumbprints, a golden seal and my tiny little footprints. for anyone who has always had the same name, the same parents and access to the document that certifies one's existence, it might not seem like a very big deal to receive it. but for my fellow adoptees, i don't think i have to explain the significance of that moment. i framed it, naturally, and will treasure it more than anything else, forever.

there are a million more things to catch up on... easter, conversations with my parents, the tattoo, etc.-- but that will come later.... for now, i am going to sign off and hug my framed birth certificate and continue to stroll through yet another day with a peaceful, easy smile.

Monday, April 11, 2011


my voice cracks when i say things out loud that make me sad. it cracks and quivers and i don't like it. my voice--and my psyche-- did a little cracking while i was talking to my friend chris last friday. there are pieces of this reunion that are exceptionally painful, and i tend to find ways other than my voice to release those parts. but with chris, i could talk about the details because he understands. so as we are talking about reunion and the sheer joy of initial contact and the uncharted territory of things like Mother's Day, all in the context of a not-at-all small flooding situation, my voice broke a little bit. i told him a little story and said, "what do i do with this? i can't change it. i can't go back and make it different. but it hurts my heart every single day." and chris, in his stellar wisdom said, "put it in the blog." brilliant. i will put it in the blog and let it go to the best of my ability and this little piece of loss (that does not feel so little when i am looking at my mother and the river is rising) can maybe be healed.... so here goes. i will put it in the blog. i will put it in the blog, likely without paragraph breaks, because that is how blogger is still behaving. grrr.... i am not shy about the fact that i did not do so well at life in 1997. and i have not handled flooding situations very well since then. i am getting a lot better... but it definitely still makes me twitchy to think too much about it or to experience the cold heaviness of sandbags and observe the red cross vehicles prowling around muddy neighborhoods. i suppose because the loss in 1997 was sudden, unexpected and very personal, i just don't feel at ease with river water so far out of its banks. in 1997, we returned to piles of wet, molding, dirty stuff--mostly in giant black trash bags-- in the front yard of the house i had been living in. digging through all of it would have been, besides traumatic and disgusting, quite futile. i just walked away from most of it, with the full awareness that it would be even more upsetting to see all of the things that had been destroyed. to this day, i continue to think of little bits of my childhood or my previous life and sometimes begin to wonder what ever happened to that book/toy/game and then it quickly occurs to me that it was most likely a part of the massive wet trash pile of 1997. it was around Mother's Day in '97... nope, probably '98... i remembered one bit of flooded rubbish that i would have given almost anything to have been able to retrieve. as i perused the Mother's Day cards and prepared to choose one that is funny and appropriate for my adoptive mother and one that would be set aside for the day that i might one day meet my birthmother, it occurred to me that that stack of set-aside Mother's Day cards was gone. i had been buying them since i was old enough to do so without anyone else knowing about it. i was going to give them to her if i ever got to meet her, or mail them to her so she would know that i had always thought about her and always loved her. but they were long gone and this realization would be the end of that annual practice. i thought about starting it again, but it made me too sad that the set wouldn't be as complete as it was supposed to be, so i never bought another one. i would still look at cards and think of her on Mother's Day, but i stopped buying them. as i began to understand that my reunion with Susan was going to be during flood season and very near Mother's Day, i got a little sad because it has been a long time since i have thought about this little bit of loss 14 years ago. so, Mother's Day of 2011 should have been the day that i could present Susan with a lifetime of greetings on the day that i have always honored her courage and love. but i can't. so i am sad.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

almost normal

susan called today. she said to stop worrying that she doesn't like me. she also said that she has the same worry and together we decided that for both of us to have that worry at the same time is the world's most unreasonable waste of time and energy. so we agreed to let it go. that should certainly help bring back my normal self. she said that she does like me. and we talked about it three times, just to make sure we could truly and legitimately put that silliness behind us. i feel so much better than i did all weekend. and i don't have a mirror in front of me, but i feel fairly certain my eyebrows aren't scrunchy anymore. last night i had really scrunchy eyebrows. stacey looked at me and said, "ick, stop doing that." and then she asked alicia, "does she do that all the time now?" and alicia said, "yeah. you get used to it." stacey also listened empathetically while i worried out loud. for a while at least. eventually she said something along the lines of: oh my god, will you fucking quit that!? i told her i would try, then i tried to accuse her of not being a very supportive friend, but we both knew i was lying. we settled on an agreement that, now that i know i have some weird anxiety about rejection, that she and alicia would nurture me through what would certainly be an ugly time in my world. then we drank a lot of Johnnie Walker. but all of that is moot now, because susan and i are no longer allowed to worry. i am still a dash edgier than i prefer to be, but i am definitely close to normal. so now that my brain works again, i think i'll go read a book...


** it should be stated that i do not do vulnerability so well. and to offer the information that i am about to offer is so against my style. but i have tried all along to keep this blog honest every step of the way and i am going to keep trying to do that. no promises that i won't come back later and delete it, though.** perhaps i should have read some books about this process. i spent so many years getting ready for this moment in my life and as it turns out the only thing i readied for was whether or not i would get to meet her. i did not consider the incredible emotional toll that any of the possibilities would take. i can't imagine how i would be right now if the answer had been "no." maybe more fragile, maybe less. i guess i can't know that. and don't get me wrong, this has been as smooth and sweet as one could even dare hope for, and i am so happy and so grateful for that. but the total domination that this reunion has taken over my thoughts and feelings is way more than i took the time to consider. i don't know how to do "insecure." anyone who knows me at all knows that. and i didn't know that i would have rejection anxiety attached to this reunion, but holy shit!! apparently i do. i am so overwhelmed by the fear that she doesn't like me that i don't even really like myself right now. and that is just stupid. i would like to be able to do normal things again. i would like to have my personality back. it is too much tension in my brain to be so incredibly happy and so anxious at the same time. does this happen to everyone? i am going to go out to eat now and try to have a conversation about something else. we'll see how that goes.