A Tale of Two Returned Letters

I have shared here on my blog about my adoption and the search for my birth family.  And I shared how I found my family and the reunions with them.  (Finding the Missing Pieces part 1, part 2 and part 3).  I am an adoptee and that is a part of my life story and a part of who I am.  And though I have found my family, there is still so much to learn, so many to get to know…. the journey continues through phone calls, in person gatherings, laughter and tears.  This month marks 8 years since I met my siblings and birth father in person.  In Finding the Missing Pieces part 2, I shared about meeting my birth father, how I forced my way into meeting him after he denied being my father three times.

The first denial was in the form of a letter, returned to me.  It was September 2002 and I had been waiting with breath held for an answer to a letter I had sent in August to the man I believed was my birth father.

aAnd then I received this letter in the mail.  An envelope addressed to me with his return address.  I held my breath…. Could it?  Would it give me the answers I was seeking?

And then opening it, my heart fell, hard, crashing into a million pieces.  Inside that envelope was my letter and my envelope, returned to me.  And on my letter was written-

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I was devastated.  I cried.  And then I got angry.  My gut told me this was the right man because he did not want me to contact him again… and that was underlined to emphasize his wishes.  But my gut knew he was my birth father.  Why?  Because if he wasn’t he would have let me know in a kinder way and wished me well in my search, as others had done during my long search.  Underlining those words and sending me my letter and envelope told me there was much more to the story.

And I cried more.  The feelings of abandonment returned.  The feeling of having done something terrible came back in full force.  I was again that little girl who thought she had to have been horrible in order for her father to leave her and to not love her.  It had to be my fault.

It took me a really long time to get past this let down.  But I moved on.  Mostly.

And I continued to search for my siblings and my birth mother, while stopping the search for my birth father.  What was the point in searching for him, when I already knew where he was and that he wanted nothing to do with me?

My reaction to that letter was not a positive.  Despite finding a way to move on, the pain stayed with me until that day, May 9, 2011, when I finally met my birth father and he acknowledged me.

After finding my birth father, he called me many times.  We talked and he answered the questions I had.  He sent me pictures of my grandparents and of him as a child.  He sent me birthday cards.  He called on the anniversary of our meeting.  He said he loved me.  It was nice to have a relationship with him, even if it meant I could not call him and had to wait for him to call me.  He had a difficult marriage situation and he hid his relationship with his kids from his wife, calling from a cell she didn’t know about and using a post office box that we could send letters to so she wouldn’t see them.  I was okay with it, because I had a chance to meet him and the communication we had was a bonus.  Something I never expected.

Those few years of contact gave me time to heal.  I was still angry about him not giving me my birth mothers maiden name in 2002 when I first asked in that letter that he returned to me.  I was still angry because had he given me that info first time I asked, then I would have found my birth mother before she passed away.  But I couldn’t change what happened, so I learned to let it go and forgive him.

A lot had changed in me between the time I had received that returned letter and the day I met him.  I was healing and growing and learning to let go of what I could not control.

Eventually the calls from my birth father stopped.  It has been a couple of years now since I last heard from him.  The last few phone calls I had had from him were short and filled with questions about my older sister… had I heard from her?  What was going on with her?  And then he would have to go.  The calls to me stopped about the time she told him to not contact her any longer.

And it didn’t bother me.  I didn’t even notice he hadn’t called until a few months after my birthday a couple of years ago.  But I still sent him letters, Christmas cards and birthday cards.  I just wanted to let him know I was still here.  But I didn’t worry about and even wait for those calls or letters anymore.

I was okay without him.

cAnd then this past Christmas I sent him a card, like I have done the past few years.  And a couple of weeks letter it came back to me, marked return to sender.  Another returned letter.  But this time I didn’t cry.  I actually laughed.  Okay, I thought, he is finally done with his kids and moved on.  Instead of crying, instead of my heart crashing to the ground in a million pieces, I was fine.  I was okay.

My reaction to this second returned letter was a complete 360 from the first returned letter.  I was different and in a different place in my life when the second returned letter showed up in my mailbox.  I had finally realized that this was his issue, not that of any of his children.  I didn’t do anything wrong.  I wasn’t horrible, I wasn’t unlovable.  He had the issues.  And he was the one missing out, not me.  He was missing out on knowing his daughter and his grandsons.  And I was not the only one he was missing….. he was the one missing out on relationships with his six children, all wonderful, unique and amazing individuals.  And he was missing out on the opportunity to know and enjoy ALL his grandkids.  THAT was his loss.  Not ours!  NOT MINE.

I am very grateful for the relationship we had while we had it, and grateful for the answers to my questions.  I will always have a place in my heart for my birth father, for the man who took care of me along with my mother, the first year of my life.  And I am thankful, every day, that he gave me the information I needed to find my birth mothers family… my family.  I am happy that I got to know him and that I was able to get those missing puzzle pieces from him.

And more than ANYTHING I am at PEACE with this last returned letter.

Two returned letters….. two different responses.  And a grateful heart!

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Taking the Leap into 2019

It is that time of year again. Time to reflect. Time to learn from the past year. Time to look toward the new year with anticipation.

As I look back over 2018, I am filled with peace. It has been a while since I have felt this amount of peace at the end of a year. But after the past couple of years, well, this feels really nice.

This past year has brought more good than bad. My family is doing better this year than the last couple of years.

My son is finally getting real, effective help. He has a team supporting him. And we are no longer alone in the fight for our son. A huge burden was lifted when that realization happened right before Thanksgiving. We are no longer fighting this fight alone…. There are others fighting too. My son is happier. He is more present. He is more a part of our family than he has been in a while. And we are not forcing him to be! We are better today, at the end of 2018 than we were at the end of 2017. What a difference a year can make!

We started the year with a trip to Disney World and my first 10k race. We traveled to see our youngest son and daughter-in-law. We explored more of Arizona. We went to movies. I supported my husband as he planned and then completed one of his bucket list items—hiking the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim in one day and the bonus was our youngest son and daughter-in-law hiking it with him. We had visitors. We hosted Christmas events. We had a backyard oasis created and I spent lots of time in our new pool. And I reconnected last month with a long-lost dear friend, a sweet unexpected gift this past year.

2018 found us rediscovering “us”. And leaving the stress behind.

As I sit her reflecting on the past year, I am not only at peace, but I am enjoying the memories, the lessons learned and the personal growth that occurred this past year.

And I am ready to leap into 2019.

I am excited for what this next year holds for me and for my family.

As I have said in the past, I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions, because they just don’t work for me… I am not good at them. So instead I commit to new things, new ways of thinking and mantras. The past couple of years have involved pushing past my fears and embracing adventure. I have spent the past couple of years saying yes and pushing myself to discover what I am capable of. And it has worked. Most of the time, anyway.

So, as I look toward the new year, I am excited. 2019 is going to be a year of discovery, growth, taking chances, trying new things and change.

Change has always scared me. Change has always been uncomfortable. So, I want to embrace change and use it in this New Year to help me to grow, to rediscover or maybe to redefine who I am and what I am capable of. I know I am stronger than I thought I was and that was proven the past few years. But now I want to know what more I am capable of and what my next adventure, next calling is.

And that is what 2019 will be about for me.

I am starting this new journey with a change in the first weeks of January. I am making a change that has been a difficult decision for me but once I made it, I found a sense of calm. After 10 years, the last 4 years here in Arizona, I have decided to resign from my job with Weight Watchers (now known simply as WW) and yes, I have already let my boss and managers know that I am stepping down from my job as a Wellness Coach. I have loved helping others on their own journey to health and weight loss. And I will miss my weekly workshops. I will miss my teams. I will miss those I helped. And I will miss those I was inspired by each and every week. But it is time for me to move on and to take care of me. Time for me to focus on my family and myself. Time for me to step outside that comfort zone and make a change.

2019 is still 2 days away, but it is already getting off to a fresh new start.

And I am ready.

I am taking the leap….. let’s see where that leap takes me!

Finding Calm in the Water

Water…. soothing, peaceful, healing……

I have always been attracted to water whether it was a stream, lake, river, ocean and yes, even a pool.

For two summers in a row while I was young, my mom would take us on summer vacation to Bend, OR, and we would stay in a hotel right on the river. I loved that spot. I would walk down and climb around the river, listening to the sound the water made as it ran through, over and around the rocks. I loved that sound…. It was soothing. And there on the river I would relax.

There was also a pool at that hotel and I swam as much as I could. My mom called me a fish. I loved to be in water, feeling the coolness roll over my skin, floating…. letting the water take all my cares away.

There have been many pool, lake, river and ocean swims since those early summers with my mom, each bringing peace to my soul.

I told my husband many times over the years that I would really like to have a pool of my own, in my backyard that I could use anytime I wanted. We both dreamed about the forever home we would one day have and the pool we would build (even if it had to be an indoor pool in the Pacific Northwest!).

And then we moved to Arizona…. a pool year ‘round!

This past week our pool was finally finished and we could swim.

I knew I would love having a pool, even with the work it would take to keep it clean and running…. I just KNEW I was going to love it…

I was right. I have been in our pool at least twice a day, and sometimes more, since it has been full of water and running. I love swimming. I love floating. I love the water.

And I have found the place where I can be mindful…. And just breathe.

I knew I would love the pool but what I didn’t realize was just how much I needed the pool and how much my time spent in it would soothe my soul, bringing peace and calmness to my crazy life.

So early in the morning, before anyone else was up in the house, I got in my swimsuit and headed out to the pool. The water was COLD! At first anyway….

I braved the cold and swam. I started out swimming laps for exercise. But soon, I was not counting the laps anymore…I was just swimming….and noticing……

The birds were serenading me as I moved silently through the water. One bird, in particular, sang to me… different notes, different sounds…all from the same bird. It was if the bird was trying out every “ring tone” it had in its repertoire, making me smile as I listened and swam. Birds were flying above me and they were beautiful.

Early morning, just me and the birds… oh and the cow! At first I thought someone was disturbing my peace and yelling, but alas it was a cow that had wandered from its home and it was talking to me through the wall. I laughed.

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As I swam one direction in the pool, I could feel the cool water passing slowly over my body. And then I noticed my shadow, swimming slightly ahead of me. Beautiful. My inner child was there swimming with me, enjoying the serenity of the morning…. Happy!

Swimming back the other direction, instead of my shadow swimming, I noticed the light from the sun dancing along the bottom of the pool, creating light green and blue designs that delighted my heart and mesmerized my soul. Stunning!

And then I noticed the sparkle of the sea glass and abalone in the pool interior. Wow! It was if there were hundreds of crystals and gems sparkling just for me. Again, I smiled.

I floated for a bit and noticed the dancing light bouncing off of the water, dancing on the wall and trees beyond. Dancing just for me, to the music created by the birds all around. Beautiful. Soulful.

This was my moment. My mindful moment. Here I was, alone with the natural world around me, soothed by the water. And I was just there. Present. Mindful.

I spent time last week talking with the members in my Weight Watchers meetings about being mindful… present….. in the here and now….. and how much our minds and souls need those moments to just take a pause, a step back and breathe.

And that is just what I did for the couple of hours I was in the pool. I was there. Present. Mindful. And I just breathed. The worries of yesterday were gone. The worries of tomorrow were gone. The “to do” list for the day forgotten. It was just me, the water, the birds and my prayers.

Mindful, present moments help us to recharge, renew and begin the day in a calm way.

Who knew that having a pool would be one of the things I would need to soothe my soul and take my cares and stress away?

You will find me, many times a day, in the pool…. swimming, enjoying, relaxing and breathing!

Finding Peace in a stressful world

IMG_4028 copy“Me time” is so very important yet it feels so selfish. 

Life can be stressful making it hard to take care of “me”, making it hard to sometimes find some peace. 

We talk a lot about taking care of ourselves in the meetings that I lead and how important it is, yet we can get lost in the day-to-day of our lives and in the stresses. 

This morning I decided I was finally going to take some time for me…..some time to do something I enjoy, simply because I ENJOY it.  I grabbed my camera and I headed out to Riparian Preserve, an oasis in the middle of the city I live in.  This oasis makes me forget about all the “stuff” that clutters my mind.  I walked the trails, sat on the benches and enjoyed the birds and rabbits that call this preserve home. 

In this place, in the midst of the city, I found peace.