Day 26 – Time marches on

One of the interesting side effects of all the writing and the letter writing I’ve been doing the last few weeks is a clearer realization of just how easy it is to fall out of touch, how quickly time is passing. It hit me this week that Henry is just about the same age my youngest brothers Beau and Collin were when I reunited with my birthfamily and met them for the first time.

Blows my mind to think those little boys are in college now, that’s been more than 17 years since I stepped into their lives.

How things have changed! There have been a lot of twists and turns in the 17 years since, but the best part of the reunion has been building new relationships and watching my three different families slowly melt into one. I was having a conversation with some folks at work a few weeks ago, and they were intrigued by my very unique definition of “family,” as I explained that my family doesn’t just include my husband and kids and my closest biological and adoptive relatives, but all of the close friends and people in my life that I feel a deep, emotional, and somewhat inexplicable connection to. My family is the people I was born to, the people I was raised with, and all the people that I invest my time in and love deeply.

And it strikes me sometimes, as time keeps marching on, that I have been unimaginably blessed.

Day 18 – My unfinished story

In 2008, I sat down and started writing a story. My story. Bits and pieces of my childhood, my struggle through adolescence and my college years, my adoption and reunion. It’s one those projects that nags at me. It bothers me that I haven’t finished it. But it’s also one of those projects that I can only handle in small chunks.

There’s something about delving back into some of the worst moments of your life that really drains you. And even now, this far removed, with a whole lot more perspective and distance and wisdom, I prefer to take it slowly, wading back into the memories like a tepid pool.

But the reality is, it’s been 11 years since this project started, and it just might be time to kick it into a higher gear and actually try to finish it.

Plus, I’ve apparently got some readers who are finishing their edits. Nothing like a little accountability to light a fire under you, am I right?

A Damn Good Place To Be

I can give you a long list of reasons why I haven’t finished my memoir–we moved (multiple times), bought a house (or two), got a dog, had a kid. We both have full-time jobs. Steven took a class two nights a week. I started a photography business and have a pretty regular influx of freelance writing jobs. On top of that, I like to hang out with family and friends, and actually spend quality time with Steven and Cadence when we can find a few free hours in the chaos.

There’s always something standing in the way, always some excuse.

But what I have realized, more and more, is that there is a part of me that has given into the excuses, a part of me that always willingly pushed aside the project. As much as I long to tell the story, I know it is also going to take me back to some of the darkest, loneliest, and most uncomfortable times in my life. I know it’s all in the past. I know that I’m in a different place. I know that I’ve worked through my issues and successfully battled the demons that I ran from and fought for so long.

But even if my brain knows that I’ve moved passed it all and found balance, there is still that part of me that is terrified of descending back into the abyss, even if I am walking in older, wiser, and fully-armed.

And it’s that part of me that has been quick to put the project on the shelf and tuck the manuscript away in the drawer anytime some relatively valid excuse presents itself.

So why haven’t I finished writing my story?

Yeah, I have no good excuse. I have allowed my fear to get the better of me.

It’s time to stop running.

With the dawn of this new year, I’ve decided that enough is enough. I’m calling my own bluff. The only thing standing in the way of me finishing and publishing my story is me, and I have stood in my own way long enough.

The past can’t hurt me. In fact, I am thankful for it, because every experience, every decision, ever step I took (not matter how painful or difficult) was one step on the path that led me to this place I am right now…and this is a damn good place.

So, I hope you will all come along. It’s been one helluva ride, but it brought me here. And I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that this is exactly where I’m supposed to be.

You can follow my memoir project as it continues to take shape on the In a Sea of Strangers page on Facebook.

In a Sea of Strangers

And feel free to drop by my latest post and let me know what you think…

June 1998 – Dear Mom

365 Project – Day 267 – An Introduction to My Story

As a child writing my first story, I always dreamed that one day I would be a writer. I imagined myself the author of dozens of stories and books, each with characters and plots more complex and intriguing than the one before. People would wait impatiently and then rush out to buy my newest masterpiece, and I would smile when my name topped the New York Times Bestseller List.

Yet, not once during all those years of dreaming did I ever imagine that I would be the central character, or that my mundane life would be the inspiration for the plot. Not once did I think that the story I would one day be so passionate about writing would be my own, but when I reunited with my birthfamily in the fall of 2002, I knew that I finally had the story of stories to tell.

I must admit I was almost scared to try and write it. I’ve been starting and stopping this project for the past three years, unable to get myself motivated enough to really let go and dive in. Don’t get me wrong, I think it is a great story, one that certainly deserves to be told, but I sometimes wonder if I have the words to tell it. There is a division between words and emotions, a chasm that is sometimes impossible to overcome. The human soul is so complex, the human heart so intricate that I believe there are some emotions that are truly too complicated to be accurately explained. And mine is a story full of emotions.

A lot of time has passed since I first learned I was adopted at the age of 12 and then reunited with my birthfamily 10 years later, and I am sometimes still taken aback at how utterly unbelievable it all is. These days, I am no longer pinching myself and thinking that I will wake up and discover that it has all been just a crazy dream. I guess I have finally learned to accept it as reality. After all this time, I am no longer searching, and that has taken some getting used to. After so many years of vigilance, so many years spent with eyes wide open, searching for something familiar in the sea of strangers around me, I have had to learn how to sit back and relax and accept the fact that everything I ever wanted, everything I ever dreamed of and prayed for, is right here in my hands. It nearly drove me crazy at first, learning to unwind.

I have spent the past eight years watching with dumbstruck fascination as my adopted and biological families blended seamlessly into one. But that is only half of the story. The other half is a story of a girl conflicted, struggling to piece together her broken identity and overcome a pattern of unhealthy relationships, eating disorders, substance abuse, suicide attempts and self-loathing. My story is a story of rock bottom and second chances, of chance encounters and extraordinary odds. And, above all, it is a story of hope.

Over 60% of Americans have had a personal experience with adoption, and that number is growing. As adoption continues to break free from its bonds of secrecy and become a much more mainstream issue, books and memoirs about foster care and adoption should finally gain some much-needed notariety. Like me, many adoptees struggle with emotional and identity issues during their adolescence and young adulthood, faced with the daunting challenge of trying to establish their identities, without truly understanding who they are or where they came from. More than anything, I hope that my memoir, In a Sea of Strangers, can provide an honest and introspective account of my own adoption as a 2-day-old infant and the long, hard road to the reunion with my birthfamily 22 years later and maybe, just maybe, help someone else navigate the journey.

I’ve been trying to get myself motivated to get the old manuscript, dust it off, and get started working on it again, so I figured maybe my blog was just the place to give myself a jumpstart. For tonight’s 365 Project entry, I’d like to share what I currently see as the Prologue to the story. Crazy as it may sound, it all started with a dream…



“It is in our idleness, in our dreams, that the
submerged truth sometimes comes to the top.”
– Virginia Woolf

 “A dream is an answer to a question we haven’t yet
learned how to ask.” –
Fox Mulder, X-Files

I stood at the back door gazing into the darkness. A million blades of dewy grass sparkled silver, like a blanket made of stars. The full moon had begun its descent in the early morning hour, but still gave off so much light that I could see almost as well as if it had been daytime. Inside, the house was cool and silent.

I stood at the back door, my nightgown (one of my dad’s old t-shirts) hanging
down to my ankles. My bare feet sunk into the knotted cotton rug just inside
the door. It was soft beneath my toes. Across the yard, our red Chevy Blazer was parked under the carport that stood to the left of the garage. In front of it sat two wooden deck chairs. At one time, the chairs were painted a dark reddish-brown, but the sun and the rain had wore them down and chipped away the varnish to a dull dirt color.

There, in the moonlight, I first saw her.

She was dressed all in white—the fabric of her skirt loose and flowing, the bottom of it brushing against her bare feet. Her sand-colored hair shone under the bright August moon, falling just below her shoulders. From that distance, in the darkness, I could not clearly see her face.

As she walked, she seemed to be studying the ground at her feet, gliding slowly through the half-light like a restless apparition. When she reached the first chair, she ran her fingers along its arm. Then, I watched as she bent down and looked beneath it, her cheek just inches from the pavement.

What is she doing? I wondered.

I pressed my nose to the cool glass window while the woman continued on her way, her eyes still roaming over the ground as she walked. Every now and then, she would pause and turn to look behind her, as if expecting someone else to be there. When she reached the second chair and stopped to look beneath it, the thought erupted in my brain. I heard it, as if I had actually spoken it aloud.

My mother is looking for me.

I reached for the lock on the door and turned the deadbolt with a snap.

I tried desperately to call out to her, Mom! Mom, I’m here!” but my jaws seemed welded shut.

I was overwhelmed by a sudden wave of urgent desperation. My stomach churned. I fumbled with the handle of the screen door, my clumsy four-year-old fingers unable to release the stubborn latch. Clutching it with both hands, I squeezed with all my might, grinding my teeth together in panic. Suddenly, there was a loud click, and the door popped open.

I watched the woman turn and begin to walk away from me.

My heart thumped wildly in my chest and my breath came in short, choked gasps. I still could not speak, though in my mind I was screaming.

I stepped into the still August morning. There was not a sound, not even a whisper as the world slumbered. The pavement was rough and cool beneath my feet.

Suddenly, a hand grabbed me firmly by the shoulder and spun me around.

“Lori, honey? What are you doing?”

I stared at my mom’s face, blinking in confusion. Her old green bathrobe was tied hastily over her cotton nightgown. Her short brown hair stood crazily on her head where she slept. Behind her round glasses, her eyes looked worried and tired.

“Come on,” she said, ushering me back inside and locking the door behind us. “Let’s get you back in bed.”

I turned and looked out the window, but the woman was gone.

Mom tucked me back into bed and kissed my forehead. On the bunk above me, Lindy rolled over with a sigh.

“Good night, sweetheart,” Mom said. She turned out the light and retreated to her
bedroom where I could hear my dad snoring loudly.

Lying in the darkness, hot tears burned my eyes as the thought played itself over and over in my mind.

She’s gone. My mother is gone.

365 Project – Day 254 – Family Ties

I’ve always been a little bit on the shy side–well, maybe not shy, but certainly reserved. Introverted. I’ve never been one that enjoyed the being in the spotlight, or the center of attention, yet that’s exactly where I found myself when I first reunited with my birthparents in the winter of 2002. I went from being a wallflower to being the main attraction at the three-ring circus virtually overnight.

Luckily, my reunion was a good one. To be honest, the story reads like something out of a fairytale. I still pinch myself regularly to make sure I’m not dreaming, because I can’t for the life of me figure out how one girl can be so blessed. Not only did I grow up in an amazing adopted family, but in 2002, that family more than tripled in size.

It’s funny how, even now, nearly 10 years after that initial reunion, I am still meeting members of my biological family for the first time. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t make me a little nervous. I think it always will. But each time, it gets a little easier as I add another name to the long list of genuinely beautiful and down-to-earth people that I am blessed to call my kin.

After spending a wonderful week with Momma Dawn, Poppa Mark, Kassie, Jeremy, Beau, and Eddie in Florence, I headed to Aunt Jen’s house in Phoenix to finish up my Arizona tour. Aunt Jen grilled some burgers and I got to meet my sweet cousin Bailey, her daughter Sophia, her Mom Mary and her sister Madison. I’d heard Bailey’s name so many times over the years, and always looked forward to meeting her, yet our paths just never seemed to cross. Finally, tonight, we were able to get together and spend a little time and boy, let me tell you, it was worth the wait.

Cadence had a blast playing with Madison. The girls hopped, skipped, twirled, danced, jumped, giggled and chased each other all over Aunt Jen’s house. Except, of course, when Cadence took a short break to fawn over baby Sophia. Bailey, Mary, Jen, and I spent the evening talking and laughing and having fun. Before we said goodbye, I certainly had to get a few shots of my newest cousins. Here are a few of my favorites…

Bailey and Sophia
Bailey, Sophia, Me and Miss Cadence
Aunt Jen and Sophia--She looks like a natural! Don't you think?
Bailey, Aunt Jen and Sophia
Ooooh! Such a beautiful girl!
Miss Sophia looks pretty darn comfortable in Aunt Jen's lap!
Now those are two beautiful girls!
Kisses from Momma
Miss Cadence has a hard time keeping her hands off baby Sophia
Just one last snuggle before we say bye-bye.

Tonight’s 365 Project entry is dedicated Bailey, Sophia, Mary and Madison. Thank you so much for spending the evening with us!!

365 Project – Day 251 – The Photophobic Gene

A lot of people harass me about the way I always seem to disappear the moment a camera is pointed in my general direction. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again–I’ve always felt much more comfortable behind the camera than in front of it, and I have honed by photo avoidance skills to the point where I am a ghost on film. You’d swear you saw me, then POOF! I’m gone.

I guess I always thought it was just part of my introverted personality. It made perfect sense that the quiet girl who embraced the solitary life of a writer would also be a little camera shy. When it comes right down to it, my aversion to being photographed is so strong that I would honestly rather walk across a bed of red hot coals than have to smile and pose for a photo. Yet, I have recently discovered that my photophobia is actually a genetic affliction, and that I have my birthparents to thank.

While my birthfather Shawn is prone to grumbling whenever I point my camera in his direction, it’s Momma Dawn that that really rivals me for the title of President of the official I Hate Being Photographed Club. After our initial reunion and all the photo ops that went with it, the next photo I was able to take of Momma Dawn was at my wedding five years later. And I can count on one hand the number of photos I have of Cadence and her Nonna together. So, I decided that, on this trip, Momma Dawn was just going to have to suck it up, stop making excuses and be in a few photos. I’m sure I’ll get more this weekend, but here are a few I was able to snap today before Momma Dawn went into hiding again.

Poppa giving Nonna and Cadence a ride on the tractor.
Nonna helping Miss Cadence get her shoe back on.
Nonna and Cadence visiting the pigs.
Two of my favorite girls.

Tonight’s 365 Project entry is dedicated to my photophobic Momma. Thanks for passing it along. 😉

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