Fording the River

We were on the third day of our trip through Southern Utah when we arrived in Capitol Reef National Park. We were extremely excited to check another National Park off our bucket list.

We knew we wanted to see Cathedral Valley, but to see that part of the park required driving 57 miles on a dirt road…….one that required a high clearance vehicle and often 4-wheel drive, especially after a rain storm and it required fording a river. But, it had been raining over the past few days and had rained quite a lot the night before our arrival………and it was getting cloudy. Since we could see the building thunderstorms moving our way, we thought it would be best to stop at the Visitor Center first to check on the condition of the dirt road and the river.

The park ranger at let us know that the river was running higher than normal and the last report on road conditions was from the day before we arrived and before the overnight rains. That report was that the road was muddy and required 4-wheel drive. I figured after hearing that from the ranger and since more rain was coming very soon, that we would NOT be driving across the river and into Cathedral Valley….at least not until the next day when it was expected to be sunny…….

But, my husband had other ideas.

He wanted to see the river for himself and then decide whether or not we would go or wait.

So we drove to the dirt road that would lead to the river ford.

It was getting darker…….the storms were getting closer. I was panicking………

I did NOT want to drive into the river or across the river.

The river was running too fast for me………

And how many times have we heard that we should NEVER drive into running water, especially during or after a summer rain storm? I began to think my husband had lost his mind. And even if we could safely ford the river, how were we going to navigate a muddy, dirt road, through washes filling with water from the rain and not get stuck? There was no cell phone service and if we got stuck out there who would come get us? How would anyone know where we were?

Yes, I was in a panic!

My husband checked the river and then said we were going through. He knew it would be safe and we would make it.

And we did. I recorded us fording the river, panic coming through in my voice, and tears flowing down my cheeks. And then we were out of the river, safely on the other side.

I could breathe…….maybe…….

We drove a couple miles down the dirt road and the rain started coming down faster…….in the distance we could see the pouring rain………too much rain, coming toward us. My panic grew.

Thankfully my husband decided we would be safer driving this road the next day when it was expected to be sunny and warm and we turned around.

But turning around meant going back through the river……I couldn’t stop the panic swelling deep inside me. I couldn’t stop the fear. I couldn’t stop the tears.

My husband asked me as we drove back toward the river what was scaring me, did I not trust him to keep me safe or trust his abilities? No, that wasn’t what scared me. I trusted him. I knew he would always keep me safe.

It was deeper than that.

As we approached the river, the realizations were hitting me square in the face.

If we got stuck, out there where no one would find us……if we slid off the side of a bluff on the slippery, muddy roads…….if the rushing water of the river washed us away………I would not live past the age my mother had been when she died. I would not get to my 52nd birthday. That thought paralyzes me. I HAVE to make it to my 52nd birthday. I HAVE to live to experience the things my mother never got to do. I CANNOT leave my boys at the same age my mother was.

In that moment fording the physical river became so much more for me. I was fording my river of fear. I was fording the river of this year……the year of learning to breathe rather than holding my breath.

Fording the river of my biggest fear is scary, difficult and at times paralyzing. But just as my husband kept me safe while we forded the physical river, I know that as long as I have him, my family, my friends and God by my side, I can and will ford this river and I can and will get through this year………one river ford at a time.

IMG_6169And just to let you know, we did go back the next day and we successfully forded the river. And I did not panic…..as my husband said “the third time’s the charm”.  This is the river……not too scary, is it?

 

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Facing Fear while hiking in a National Monument

When my husband planned our vacation for this summer I was ready for an adventure. Our vacations are not relaxing vacations, most of the time, anyway. Our vacations are more of an adventure, an experience, and after our adventure we usually need a vacation.

And sometimes on our adventure vacations, I learn new things about myself and I often face my fears.

This adventure had me facing my fear of heights, again, and my fear of lightning storms…both at the same time on the same hike.

I am scared of heights………I approach overlooks and edges with caution, often standing back far enough to not feel as if I will fall to what I know will be my certain death. And my husband loves to find ways to push me into facing that fear. So, with shaking legs and hands, heart beating out of my chest and a feeling that I may just pass out, I went with my husband on the hike he had chosen for us.

But this time on our hike, as I faced and conquered my fear of heights, I had to also face my fear of lightning storms, a fear brought about by a severe thunderstorm that produced a tornado when I was in first grade……….a long held fear that has me hiding under my blankets at night when lightning strikes…..a fear that grips me and keeps me from venturing outside or near an open door when I hear the first clap of thunder. I am so scared that I will be struck by lightning that I run as fast as I can if I am outside, seeking shelter from the storm……..on this hike, I couldn’t run….I was hiking and going up a steep trail when thunder came rolling in.

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Going down the stairs near the beginning of the hike.

We were in Natural Bridges National Monument. It was evening, close to sunset. And it was cloudy and lightly raining when we arrived. The rain slowed and then stopped so we headed out on our hike to Sipapu Bridge. The hike down to the canyon floor under Sipapu bridge was not long, it was only .6 miles. But it was steep, descending 500 feet in the .6 miles. There was a set of steep stairs and 3 wooden ladders along the trail to help us get to lower sections. The ladders scared me…..not being able to see where I was stepping, nor how far the ladders descended had me frozen on the rungs, unable to take that next step…..until my husband guided me, making me feel safe enough to travel down the rest of the ladder.

 

There was a moment when my fear told me that there was no way I was going down those rocks and that the view I had at that moment was close enough. We had reached a point on the trail where metal railings had been cemented into the rock so that we could hold on and not fall as we descended down the steep rock…..ugh! I saw that and froze. Nope! No need to go any further. My fear said to just look at the natural bridge from here and wait for my husband to finish the hike and return to me.

And then I realized that fear is irrational and illogical. And I was not going to let it stop me from experiencing the view from underneath the natural rock bridge. So, with my husband’s guidance and reassurance and despite my legs feeling like jello, I grabbed that railing with a grip so tight I thought I just might pull the rail out of the rock and I finished the hike down to the bottom.

It was worth every shaky, anxiety filled moment! The view beneath that bridge was breathtaking. I felt so small standing under the rocks. And I felt so proud of myself. This was one of those moments that had me glowing!

And then it was time to climb 500 feet back up out of the canyon on the return .6-mile hike. It was steep. It was scary. And my legs shook again as I walked along the edge of the rock, up the ladders and grabbed the railing with a death grip. My heart beat fast and hard, from the fear and from the exertion of climbing up the 500 feet.

We made it half way up and stopped to take in the view. How tiny we felt standing there, awed by the stunning beauty that lay before us.

And then………the thunder. My heart jumped, my body shook. I still had a long way to climb up…….a ladder and the steep set of stairs between me and the safety of our vehicle. No way was I going to stick around for lightening to strike me, or the trees around me, or the rock that I was hiking on. Time for this girl to move and move fast.

And fast we went. I forgot about the height and the drop off next to me and moved quickly up the trail, praying I would reach the top before the lightening got me.

I was almost to the top…….I could almost touch the top and could see the SUV but I couldn’t breathe, my heart was beating so hard and fast I thought it was going to jump out of my body. I reached for my husband and let me hold onto him as he helped me to the top. And once we were there, next to the SUV and finally ready to jump inside to safety………and then he made me walk some more to slow my heart rate before climbing into the safety of the SUV…..…..really? in the thunder and lightning?

I did it. Despite my fears I hiked to the bottom and back up.

I did not fall to my certain death. I did not fall and injure myself. I did not get struck by lightning and I did not die of a heart attack.

Fear is irrational, fear is illogical and fear is born of our past experiences.

But facing my fears and pushing past them allows me to see just how strong I can be and lets me experience things that the fear would have had me miss.

I survived. I took the leap. And the experience was amazing!

Clutter and my Mind’s Eye

Lately I have felt as if the “powers that be” at Weight Watchers have been reading my thoughts and creating meetings for our members that go along with my thoughts and my struggles.

Or maybe, just maybe, I am not the only one who has these thoughts, habits, behaviors and struggles.

Knowing that I am not alone is one of the many reasons why I have always loved going to my meeting and why I believe that the magic in the Weight Watchers program is in the meeting rooms and in the interactions between those who sit in the chairs every week.

This week’s and last week’s meeting topics have had me contemplating my journey and the struggles that I still have every day……struggles that I never imagined I would continue to have once I reached my goal and achieved Lifetime status with Weight Watchers. After all, I REACHED my goal, I changed habits and lost the weight……I got to the finish line…….

In reality, there is no finish line. There is no end to the journey or the realizations that we come to about ourselves. And that is why I will ALWAYS attend a meeting as a member. In the meeting room, sitting in that chair, I feel safe…..it is where I know that I am not alone. It is where I know that others are having the same struggles, understand my small victories and celebrations, and where others understand what I am going through and the difficult journey that this is.

Sometimes this journey is easy and sometimes, it is just plain hard.

Over the past two weeks, between attending a meeting as a member and leading meetings as a Leader, I have learned some things about myself and my continuing journey to be the best and healthiest version of me that I can be.

Last week we discussed body images, how we view ourselves and how to turn those negatives into positives. At the meeting I attended last week, the leader asked if, while standing in front of mirror with a friend, we would say to that friend the negative thoughts that we had about ourselves…….only say it about our friend. Of course NOT! I would NEVER say to a friend the thoughts that sometimes pass through my mind. So, then why do I say them to myself?

And then a member in that same meeting asked another member how that person sees themselves in their mind? Okay……THAT hit a button in me. How do I see myself, not in the mirror, but in my mind’s eye?

When I was at my heaviest weight I saw myself much thinner. In my mind’s eye, I never saw the huge me. And at the meeting last week I realized that in my mind’s eye I now see myself at my heaviest. It is only when I look in the mirror or see a picture that I realize that I am not that huge version of me. But when I close my eyes, I see the “before” me. Why? I am not sure why that has happened, but I do know that I am not alone, that others have found that same thing happening to them.

So now, how do I change it? How do I tell my mind that I am not that version anymore, that I am a thinner, healthier and much happier version? I am working on that right now. Awareness is the first step in making any change, and now that I am allowing myself to face how my mind “sees” me, I can figure out a way to change it.

“Change your thoughts, and you’ll change your world”……a quote my leader shared with our group at last week’s meeting and THAT is what I have been working on. It began by doing something a member in one of my meetings suggested—using a dry erase marker, write positive affirmations to yourself on your mirror. And that is just what I did this past week. My mirror is covered with positives about me and seeing those words written on my mirror makes me smile EVERY single time I look in the mirror.

It is a start.

I am changing my thoughts and with that I am changing the way my mind’s eye views me.

And then we jumped into this week’s meeting topic and another realization for me. I realized that maybe, just maybe, I still have a little bit of that mind clutter–the baggage of the past mixed with the worries of today–to sort through. That maybe, it is that mind clutter that keeps me seeing myself in my mind’s eye as my “before”. Clutter, whether in our physical spaces or in our minds can hold us back, can keep us from moving forward and can keep our thoughts stuck in that negative space.

Mind clutter, the chaos of the past mixed with the pain, anger, and shame of my childhood was what kept me at my highest weight. Getting rid of that clutter, by sorting through my excess baggage, a little at a time, was how I lost the weight and how I found myself. Writing was my way of sorting through it all, of discarding the parts that held me back and keeping the parts that make me who I am today.

I realized this week that there is still some clutter to get through and that with the turmoil of the past few months my mind is feeling cluttered and messy. I had one of those “aha” moments this week when I realized that the clutter in my mind is what keeps my mind’s eye seeing me as my “before”. So, I am taking steps now, today, to get my mind clear of the clutter so that my mind’s eye can clearly see me, as I am today, not as I was yesterday.

And that starts by taking care of me.

It starts by being kind to myself.

It starts by writing positive affirmations on my mirror.

It starts by writing in my journal, sorting through the jumbled mess inside my head.

It starts by doing things I enjoy doing.

One step at a time, one day at a time, one meeting at a time and one thought at a time.

Home

Summer, a season that conjures up time outside, long days and late nights, ice cold drinks under a tree or by a pool, and HOT days, especially here in Arizona. Summer is also a season for moving….at least in the military world that my husband and I lived in for 30 years.  And now my news feeds on facebook are filled with moving stories from my many friends and the excitement of that next adventure they are embarking on.

The past few months have found me purging closets, boxes, and rooms in our house. I have been reorganizing, rearranging, throwing things out and setting aside items to be donated.  Yet, I have NO PLANS on moving……..

Being a military wife meant moving, A LOT! My husband served in the Air Force for 30 years.  Our first military move came 4 years after he started his Air Force life.  Most of our moves were in the summer months, though a couple of the moves came suddenly in the middle of a school year.  Each move was a new adventure for our family, a new place to explore….even the places I NEVER imagined living in or thought about visiting. 

We moved 13 times in 26 years. And starting a few months before every move, I would start purging, organizing and prepping all our belongings for the next house.  I hung onto curtains far longer than any one should because, maybe, just maybe, they will fit into the next house……

Moving was a way of life for our military family. And moving was a part of my early years, despite the fact that my parents were not in the military.  Between the ages of 3 and 18, I moved 19 times…..yes, 19 different homes, different cities and different school districts all in the span of 15 years.  I went to 7 different high schools but changed high schools 9 times in 4 years.  No wonder I could not graduate with my class and had to go an extra year of high school to get my diploma…….I could have given up, not finished school or gone a different route, but I persisted, and succeeded despite all of the obstacles I faced.  Even in difficult times, we can find our path, our footing and find a way to get through.

My life has meant a lot of moves and a lot of changes. And I DO NOT like change, as I mentioned in my previous blog post.  Yet, some of those changes….maybe all of those changes, have led me to who I am today and where I am today.

The longest place I have lived and the longest place my husband has lived, was our home in Virginia when he was stationed at the Pentagon.  We were there for 6 years.  After the first 2 years in Virginia, I started purging, organizing and prepping……a lot of years of moving habits had me on autopilot.  Without realizing it I was prepping for a move, one that was not coming for another 4 years.  After that first 2 years in Virginia, we started to plant some roots, and to settle in…..

Today, in this house I have lived in for almost 2 years, I am contemplating the idea of a permanent home…….a home where I know I won’t be moving again. A place to put deep roots, to establish a settled life and to make a home that feels like “home” when my adult children visit…a place my future grandchildren will build memories in. 

As I find myself in this old habit of moving preparation, I have discovered something new, something different……I am purging, organizing and rearranging, not in anticipation of an upcoming move, but in preparation for our forever home……getting rid of the things that I don’t need to keep “just in case” it will work in our next house and keeping the mementos of our life adventures, of the places we have lived, places we have visited and the people we have met along the way.

All of my life I have wanted a “home”, a house that I would never move from, that place I could feel safe and settled, that place I would spend my life, raise my kids and make lots of memories in. For my younger self with my mom, “home” was safe but not permanent….with my dad “home” was chaotic, dysfunctional and constantly moving.  As an adult, “home” was where the Air Force sent us.

What I have learned through all these years and all those many moves, is that “home” isn’t about a building or belongings. “Home” is about the people, the feeling, the connection and the love.  My home is with my husband, wherever we are.  Though I didn’t realize it, we have put down roots, in many locations, across thousands of miles, in different states and countries.  Our roots are expansive, deep in some places and shallower in others, but we have roots and they lead us to the many friends and family we have across the miles.

And now our roots are being planted here, in this community and in this house where we have mementos of our adventures and the life we have made. Our home is not made of sticks, bricks or stone.  Our home is made of love, laughter, tears, joy and memories.  Our home is built on a foundation of trust, compassion, friendship and love. 

My hope is that our move here was our last move, but if it is not and we pull up stakes and head out again, I know that “home” will be with us, is within us.

With my husband, I am now and always have been, home.

Stepping Outside My Comfort Zone

02A few weeks ago I came across this fitness journal and purchased it, thinking that it if I used it to journal my activity it just might help me in my training for my half-marathon.  And it has some GREAT quotes to inspire even this inactive, non-lover of sweaty exercise.

I have used the journal a few times, recording my walks and my short stints at running. And I have bookmarked the quotes that have touched my soul.

Earlier this week, my husband and I had decided that we would do a LONG walk this morning….and when this morning arrived, I did NOT want to get up and walk. I wanted to stay in bed longer.  But I forced myself to get up and off we went. 

I was stiff and my lower back was bothering me, but I walked. As we approached our planned turnaround point, my husband asked me how my back was doing.  And when I said that it actually felt better, he asked if I wanted to go ahead and go a little further before we turned around….uh, no!  I planned what point I would turn around and I didn’t want to stray from that plan, into the unknown………

And then…….we went further.

I am so glad we did. It was a little farther, a little more time with my husband and a little more time outside on a beautiful morning before the heat set in. 

When we got home, I pulled out my fitness journal to write down my steps, time and mileage and then I saw the quote for today—

01

 

Yes!  Life DOES begin at the end of my comfort zone!

Changing course, going farther, doing something different……all outside my comfort zone. My comfort zone is my safe place…it is the known quantity. 

 I have talked a bit these past few weeks in meetings about getting outside our comfort zone in order to make change happen. When what we are doing is not getting us the results we are seeking, instead keeping us stuck where we are, then we need to step outside that comfort zone, try something different, DO something different and then we will see the change.  We are creatures of habit….at least I am.  And change has been a difficult thing for me because, for my younger self, change often meant sadness, stress, and that something awful was happening. 

I don’t like change. I like staying in that place where I feel safe and have a safety net….the place that is familiar, even in its dysfunction.

Yet, some of my GREATEST moments, some of my BIGGEST accomplishments, and many of my HAPPIEST times have come from stepping outside of my comfort zone, outside my box and into the unknown…..from taking the leap.

As a child of abuse my comfort zone was chaos. And dealing with that chaos and the emotional upheaval it created in me with food was my comfort zone.  Until I stepped outside that box, allowing myself to feel, face and deal with the abuse, the emotions and the forgiveness, I could not change nor heal.  Stepping outside my comfort zone during my weight loss journey with Weight Watchers and learning that there are other ways to deal with those emotions and the pain of my childhood, allowed me to find myself and my self worth.

It is so much easier for me to go back to the comfort, to go back to old habits, to do the things that I perceive protect me and offer me a safety net…..even when that comfort zone is dysfunctional and doesn’t work. Yes, that is the known and it is easier.  Living in my comfort zone is safe…….And getting outside that comfort zone is a scary world, there is so much that is unknown and it leaves me vulnerable and exposed, a place I don’t like to be.  But change is necessary in order to make progress and stepping outside that box is necessary to REALLY live and experience all that this crazy life has to offer.

For me, change didn’t happen until I tried something different, until I truly stepped outside my comfort zone and then life really expanded for me…..habits changed, my willingness to try new things grew, and my life became more than I had dreamed it could be.

If I had not stepped outside my comfort zone—

   –I never would have left home before I was out of high school, a change that got me out of the chaos and onto a path that has led me to this place in my life now, with my best friend beside me. 

   –I never would have met my siblings, or forced my way into meeting my birth father.

   –I never would have become a Leader for Weight Watchers….the thought of speaking in front of others was terrifying…..still is…..yet I am so very thankful I took that leap…the rewards have been priceless.

   –I never would have gotten on a helicopter, with the doors off…….an adventure that was exhilarating and frightening…..and an experience I would have regretted missing.

   –I never would have gotten involved as a military spouse to help others, to take care of others and to mentor younger spouses.  As a shy person who has a hard time meeting new people, my time as a military spouse was often terrifying…..new places, new people, new life…….But had I not gone to all those places with my husband and had I not gotten involved, I would have missed out on those opportunities to help and mentor and I would have missed out on meeting and getting to know the many wonderful, brave and caring people I met through our military life.  And my life would never have been enriched from those relationships and shared experiences.

    –I never would have started this blog.  Instead I would have just talked about it and wrote in my journal for only me to see.  The vulnerability is real and the reward from sharing my world through this medium, has been uplifting for me and my spirit.

    –I never would have signed up to do a half-marathon…..the results of that decision are still to be determined…..I am going to try my best and embrace the sweaty exercise along the way.

    –I never would have taken the recent step that has taken me outside my comfort zone, yet taking that leap has made me feel very proud, no matter how it turns out.  I tried.

And the list could go on…..

I am learning in my older years that life really does begin outside my comfort zone.

Stepping outside my box has allowed me to grow as a human, as a mother, as a wife and as a survivor. It is not easy and it scares me to the very core, leaving me exposed and quite vulnerable.  It may not always go the way I envision when I get out of my comfort zone, but it is now and has always been, WORTH IT, because I TRIED

This quote was perfect for me today.

As I deal with my emotions of these past few months and as I face unknowns while walking a different path than I had planned, I will embrace the changes that come and the opportunities to try something new.

And I will continue to look for new ways to step outside my comfort zone, to take that leap and LIVE.

Finding the Missing Pieces part 3

After arriving home from my weekend of meeting my siblings and my birth father, I began the final part of my search. Thanks to the information provided by my birth father, I now had my birth mothers last name.

But it was like looking for a needle in a very, very large haystack…..seeming impossible to find….yet knowing it was there, somewhere, kept me pushing forward.

Over the next few weeks I received calls from my birth father and during those calls, he gave me little bits of information that I would then relay to my hired searcher, Julie….each little fragment of information built upon the last, until, finally, on August 19, 2011 my searcher and I realized we might have found someone.

After hanging up the phone with Julie, my searcher, I waited……would this be it? Could it finally be over?  Those years and years of searching and wondering, was this the culmination of all of that hard work??

I waited….and I waited…..and then the phone rang. The caller ID told me it was Julie…..Please, Lord, let this be the end of my search.

I answered the phone and then Julie said yes, this was my birth mothers brother and he and the rest of the family had been searching for us……

I cannot put into written words just what those words she said meant to me.

They had been searching for my sister and I.

They had not forgotten us.

We were wanted.

We were loved.

At that moment, I felt this immense, heavy weight lift from deep within my soul, freeing me from the pain of that very young girl.

And then Julie said the words I had dreaded…..my birth mother had died in 2007, just 4 years before I would find her. My heart sank.  I would never get to meet her….I would never get to hear her voice or hug her……I would never get to tell her that I understood and loved her. 

In the next few minutes on the phone, Julie gave me the details of my birth mothers death and birth and who she had married. And then she gave me the name and phone number of the uncle she had found.  He was waiting for my phone call.

I hung up the phone and I spent a few minutes just breathing…….

And then I dialed the phone….one ring and my oldest uncle answered the phone….he called me by my birth name, Teresa. Through the many miles over that phone line, I could hear and feel the emotion, the relief and the love.  He told me about my mother.  And he said she NEVER stopped loving me, wanting me or searching for me. 

My uncle told me that I had a really, really big family…..my mother was 1 of 8 children. And he said one of my aunts and another uncle had also been looking for me and my sister.  We hung up with promises of calling again and of finding a time, soon, to meet in person.

I called my sister to give her the information and we cried at the relief. My sister was the only person in the world who truly understood all that was going through my mind and my heart because she too, had those same feeling, needs and desires. 

Within minutes of hanging up the phone from my sister, my phone rang again, this time it was my youngest uncle, the one who babysat me as a young child. I could feel the love through the phone and my desire to meet these family members grew stronger by the minute.  And then a phone call to my aunt.   She told me about my mother.  They were very close and she had more insight into why my mother had given us up for adoption.  And my aunt said that right before my birth mothers death, she had said that she thought she had finally found me on the internet……but she died before she could reach out to me and before giving her siblings the information of how to find me.  I was getting answers from her siblings and my heart was bursting. 

My birth mother had loved me and had searched for me! I couldn’t believe it!  Truly an answer to my prayers and the start of the healing the little girl in me so desperately needed.  Until that moment, the little girl who had been separated from her momma, did not know she had been wanted.  That little girl thought that she must have been a terrible person for her own mother to not want her, she had to have been bad and unlovable.  It took a lifetime of searching for her to finally feel loved and to know that she had not done anything wrong…..those phone calls meant more to me than any words I could now use. 

It only took a short time to decide to make my way to Washington to meet this new found family.  I left Louisiana on August 26, 2011, headed to Washington state and a meeting that was 43 years overdue.  After spending a couple of days visiting with my dad and step-mom and seeing my youngest sister again, it was time to pick up my sister and go meet our aunt and uncles.

On August 29, 2011….43 years and 10 months after we were dropped off at Social Services, never to see our mother again, it was finally time to reunite with our birth mothers siblings. I picked up my sister and we drove to the restaurant up the road from her house, both of us more nervous that we wanted to admit.  We walked into the mall where we were to meet them and eat together and there they were….2 of my uncles with their wives and my aunt…..immediately hugging us.  They knew us.  And we knew them.  And yes, I cried.  Tears of relief, tears of happiness and tears of forgiveness.  I finally found that last missing piece of my puzzle.

Jones family
Reuniting with 2 of our Uncles and our Aunt

 

We talked and talked for a few hours. It was amazing to get to know these wonderful, funny, kind-hearted people…..my family.  I felt comforted and safe.  And I immediately felt loved.  They shared stories about my birth mother and about their lives.  And they told my sister and I about what we were like as babies.  Finally, the first chapter took shape and made the rest of my life’s story make more sense. 

Our aunt had brought pictures for us of our mother. And pictures of us taken months before our adoption.  I had never seen these pictures…..and seeing them was overwhelming.  And seeing the pictures of my birth mother…..I look like her.  I LOOK like my birth mother.  I have her curly hair, and her brown eyes.  I had never looked like anyone, and there staring at me was myself.  My uncles said I sound like her when I talk, that I laugh like her and stand and walk like she did.  I finally felt like I belonged.  I was complete.

We also learned during the conversations that our birth mother had had another child….we had another brother, younger than us. That story is for another day.

After we finished eating and visiting, we went with my aunt to make copies of the pictures she had brought and then said see you later…..never again will I say good-bye to them.

I left my sister at her home and headed to the hotel near the airport in preparation for my early flight the next morning. And then I digested all of the information, the emotions and the photos.  I did not sleep that night, trying to absorb it all and trying to make sense of everything I had learned that day and the 4 months prior.

I had spent more than 30 years searching for the missing puzzle pieces of my life and now that search was over…..what will I do now?

The search was over, and now to put the puzzle together without forcing the pieces, instead, gently putting them in the spots they needed to fill, taking the time to carefully place them.

And I needed time to just breathe…..

Finding the pieces to my puzzle has been amazing.  I have a family that has expanded beyond anything I had imagined…..and I have spent the past five years building relationships, getting answers and healing.  The rest of the story will be coming soon, the story of how I fit the puzzle together and the unexpected outcome from these reunions.  I hope that by sharing my story of searching and finding those pieces that I can give hope to someone else out there who may be searching for a way to put their own puzzle together. 

 

 

Finding the Missing Puzzle Pieces part 2

(I had intended to write and post this part of the story on this past Monday, but life happens and I was needed in ways that kept me from writing until today. So, here it is, a few days after the 5 year anniversary of meeting my birth father.)

Monday, May 9, 2011 is a day that I will not soon forget. It has been 5 years, yet still feels like it was yesterday. 

I had spent the previous day, which happened to be Mother’s Day, meeting and getting to know all my biological half-siblings, blogged about in part 1 of my adoption search story.

Monday morning, the four of us who had stayed at the cabin, rose early and went out to the lake. My sister and our older sister hopped in the kayaks and headed out onto the lake and I laid on the dock, absorbing all that had happened so far this weekend and thinking about what was to come…..

And I was feeling something that I couldn’t explain or quite pinpoint, but something felt wrong to me. Something, deep in the pit of my stomach was aching and I wasn’t sure why….

 My youngest sister and youngest brother were raised by our shared biological father and they knew where he was. In fact, my birth-father had asked her to find our oldest sister, he wanted to see her…..and that is what led her to message me and ask if we were related, since my adoption postings said I was looking for my birth parents and her fathers name was the same as the one I was looking for…..I am so thankful that our biological father asked her to look for our oldest sister, because if he had not, then I would never have known about her and my younger brother, we never would have met and the events of that Monday, would not have happened.

Things happen for a reason…..

After finding my birth announcement that summer in 1990 and finding the full name of my birth father, I searched every where for a man with his name….an uncommon first name, but a very common last name. Through the years I found bits and pieces of information but could never quite make them fit together to form a complete picture. 

Then in 2002, my sister had requested and received her case file from Social Services and she sent me copies……..reading the case file was quite emotional. They carefully blacked out any identifying information about our birth family, but occasionally missed blacking out a name…..which confirmed for me the first names of both my parents and my siblings.  More confirmation that I was on the right track.

The file also contained information I had not known…..that my parents were never married because he was still married to the mother of my older siblings, news that I was not aware of, but helped make sense of the pieces in my puzzle…..and in the file was the information that our birth father left our mother and me while she was pregnant with my sister, more information that brought forth even more questions…..would I ever know what really happened? There was more in that file, things that made me cry, saddened for the little girl who was trying to hold onto the hope that her mother would come back, that her mother loved her. And then as the social worker drove that little girl down the road to the house where she had lived with her mother….a house that was now empty….. I wept, wanting to hug the small child, the child within me, as she realized her mother was never coming back.  The case file held lots of information, and created more questions…..now I REALLY needed to know what happened…..

Shortly after receiving the case file, I located a man in Washington State who had the exact name of my biological father…..maybe I would finally have some info…..so I wrote this man a letter and put it in the mail…..and I waited….

A few weeks later an envelope arrived in the mail from Washington…..maybe…..I opened the letter and inside was the envelope I had sent my letter in and my letter, returned to me with a note saying he wasn’t my father, did not know my mother and to NEVER contact him again. I was devastated, and all hope of finding my birth mother and siblings was gone.  My gut told me that he was the right man, but I would never know for sure……until…….

When my older sister and I finally connected and spent time on the phone, I discovered that she too, had sent a letter to the man in Washington with our father’s name, about the same time that I had sent mine.  And her letter was returned to her.  We couldn’t both be wrong, could we?

I finally made a decision to hire a professional searcher to help me find my birth mother, since I had no idea what her last name had been. I told my searcher that I really believed this guy was my biological father and she did her research and contacted him.  He once again, denied being my father, but knew my mother and gave a name that was different than the one I had…….again, I was denied……rejection is difficult, especially when it is from a parent…..

Shortly before my trip to Washington, my youngest sister was seeing our birth father, to let him know that she had found our sister and she would ask him about my mother, so I sent her a letter to share with him……again, he denied being my father but gave her a little more info about my birth mother…..but not the correct name.   My searcher continued searching for my birth mother and I prepared to meet my siblings.

That Monday morning was emotional for me. My older sister was going to go meet our birth father and I was happy for her….he wanted to see her and she needed to see him.  But something in me wasn’t feeling right…..I had planned to stay at the cabin with my sister and relax while our older brother took our older sister to meet our birth father….then at the last minute I decided I wanted to go……just to ride along and see him from a distance would be enough…..I NEEDED to go.

The ride to the meeting location was silent, the three of us did not talk, each of us lost in our thoughts about what was coming. We parked in the parking lot and our sister went inside.  My brother and I sat there and then we saw his truck pull in….we had only seen pictures of him, and we both knew it was him.  He got out and walked inside……and then he came back out, alone.  My brother was about to jump out of the car to stop him and then we saw our sister walk out. 

I watched from the front seat of my brothers car as the birth father I had always wanted to find hugged my sister……and I started to cry…..why couldn’t he hug me, meet me? Why did he leave my birth mother and me all those years ago?  He chose to leave me when I was a year old and he never came back.  And there he was, in the parking lot, just feet away from where I sat and I couldn’t talk to him…….

While the two of them were inside, my brother and I talked. At that moment I really needed my big brother and he was there, listening to me, talking with me and understanding what I was feeling.  I decided to write a note and go put it on the windshield of our birth fathers truck, so that he would know I had been there.  My brother talked me out of doing that, saying that he knew that would not be enough for me…..he said that I needed to walk over to the truck and stop our birth father before he left…..and my brother was right. 

So, we sat there talking until we saw our birth father walk outside…..and I froze, I couldn’t open the door, my heart was beating so hard and fast that I thought it would jump right out of my body……and suddenly he turned and went back inside…..okay, breathe….

When I saw him come back out, something took over and before I knew it, the door of the car was open and I was walking, quickly, toward the truck, signaling to the man inside to wait a minute….as I approached the truck, he rolled down the window and looked at me questioningly.

I told him who I was, that I was Laura Mae’s daughter and then I saw it in his eyes……he KNEW who I was. Before I knew it, he had put the truck in park and jumped out and hugged me…..and I whispered “are you my dad?”  And very quietly, he whispered in my ear “yes, I am your dad”. 

My knees gave out…..he had to hold me up. He WAS my birth father…..he Acknowledged me.  My tears flowed uncontrollably. 

He pulled away from the hug, held my hands and looked me in the eye and told me my mothers full name…..I had her last name. He told me where her family was from.  And then he asked me if there were two of us and if I was the oldest one?  Yes, and I had a younger sister.  He asked about her and then hugged me again.  He said he was sorry that he had not given me the information sooner, but that he was really happy that I stopped him.  He asked me to give my phone number to my younger sister and he would get it from her and then he had to leave……

I was shocked, shaking, and at peace. I ran inside and got my sister and then as she talked with our brother, I had to call my husband to tell him that I had forced my way into meeting my biological father and I had the information I needed. 

And then I called the searcher and gave her the information my birth father had given me…..now, hopefully we could find her.

One more piece of my puzzle was found. But there were so many more questions I had for him. 

We went back to the cabin and spent the rest of the night hanging out with our siblings…..what a weekend it had been…….I met my siblings and my birth father.

And my birth father did call me, a few days after that meeting. We have talked several times since I forced my way into meeting him and he has answered my questions, even the tough ones. 

I don’t know where the courage to confront him came from…..but I know that I HAD to do it. The feeling I couldn’t pinpoint that morning was a deep need to meet the man who was a part of the first chapter of life and I am so glad that I did it……..my brothers encouragement was all I needed to find it inside me to finally confront face-to-face the only person who could give me the information I needed to find my birth mother…………another part of my story for another day.

I am so blessed to have been able to finally put these missing puzzle pieces in my puzzle…..now to find the last piece and figure out how to put it all together.