#FliptheScript

Through my eyes

I don’t blog. I’m not really good at writing. I’m not good with words. I always hated English and was never good at it. I went back and forth on whether or not to write some blogs about my adoption journey. It’s a very personal subject. Things I mention are things I have never shared with anyone. But with this month being National Adoption Awareness Month (NAAM), I felt challenged to add my voice to the conversation. A voice that for years has remained silent out of fear of upsetting others, ruffling feathers, making others uncomfortable, and bringing judgement upon myself. I have realized that for far too long the voice of the adoptee has remained silent. My voice has remained silent.

I began asking myself why I was allowing others to speak for me. Adoption agencies cannot speak for me, yet they do. Birth mothers cannot speak for me, yet…

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Why Hearing Loss Advocacy Is So Important

Living With Hearing Loss

Advocacy is defined by Merriam-Webster as the act or process of supporting a cause or proposal. Dictionary.com defines it as the act of pleading for, supporting or recommending, but my favorite definition is by Wiktionary which says that advocacy is the practice of supporting someone to make their voice heard. What is more important than having one’s voice heard? 

Advocacy raises awareness, it breaks down barriers, crushes stigma and helps further the cause, any cause. And it works. That’s why I will Walk4Hearing again this year. The theme is Communication Access — one of my favorite advocacy initiatives.

IMG_5300 HLAA’s NYC Walk4Hearing in 2015

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Adoption—“The Best of Times…the Worst of Times”

Adoption Detective | A True Story by Judith Land

There are times when I pause to wonder how the 50,000 adopted children who enter the American child welfare system this year, often due to abuse and neglect, will refer to the best of times and the worst of times, knowing that many of them have suffered traumatic loss and have special physical, learning, behavioral, and health needs?

adoption-detective-judith-land-celebrity-author “In folk belief, the notion that a portrait falling from a wall as an omen of impending death remains one of the most widespread modern superstitions. Tabloid news values for providing a good story frequently override accuracy and truth telling needed to comprehend serious social issues, including adoption and single parenthood, and the enduring consequences of social ambivalence.” —Judith Land

The number of children born to single mothers in the United States increased from five percent in 1960 to 40 percent in 2014. It is the most impactful, tragic, far reaching, and…

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Going Back in Time (Adoption Awareness)

This is always a hard time of the year for me.  It is coming up on the anniversary of the relinquishment to parent my second son.  I am not alone in feeling this PTSD.  It is a known fact that birth mothers suffer during the anniversary of their child’s birth or relinquishment date.

The Damage to Relinquishing Mothers

Without fail, this time every year which is a joyous time of the year for many, I get emotional without warning.  Tears fill my eyes unexpectedly and without immediate cause.  I get irritated easily and anger quickly.  I become withdrawn and sometimes unapproachable.

In about one month, my office is moving to another building in the same city as our current office location.  Late last year, our management began talking about moving to another building.  They wanted it to be somewhat close to our current location, within 10 miles or so.  They looked in nearby cities and also in our current city for a new place to call home for our Service Center.  Employees waited impatiently at times curious as to where this new office would be.  Many worried if their drive would be longer while others hoped their drive would be shorter in this very populated metropolitan city with hefty rush hour traffic patterns.

So we waited and waited while our management team looked for a new office building in the Dallas/Ft Worth area, assuring us every few months that they were getting closer and closer to a final decision.  Needless to say, the possibilities were endless.

The city is the main cultural and economic center of the 12-county Dallas–Fort Worth metropolitan area—at 6 million people, it is the eighth-largest metropolitan area in the United States. – wikipedia.org

Earlier this year, the management narrowed it down to office space they had found in three different cities.

In April, during an all-employee meeting, they finally announced our new location.  An exterior frontal building picture flashed on the projector and I couldn’t help but notice how familiar this building looked.  As I continued to listen to our VP speak, I kept staring at the picture.  I was pretty sure I recognized this new office space but waited patiently to be certain.  Then the new address of our new location popped up on the screen.  I was stunned.

I quietly told the person next to me that I had worked at that building before.

The VP gave the projected date, which was initially scheduled for November.

At first, I think I was surprised and somewhat shocked by the synchronicity of it all.

As reality began to sink in, I began to process the impact of this move for me.  Moves are always somewhat stressful.  While many employees in the office were talking about this new place, both positive and negative comments, with their highest concern being about the commute, I was internalizing what this move meant for me.  I was pretty certain it was different.  It wasn’t just about packing and unpacking, or a new driving route, or a greater or lesser distance from home, or longer rush hour traffic delays.  For me, it was much deeper.  It was about a traumatic moment in time that I would much rather leave in my past.

The first time my office moved out to this building, it was back in the late 1990’s.  I was living and working in downtown Dallas.  I was a single mom to Jaren and pregnant with Noah.  And, I was on the road to making one of the most life changing decisions I have ever made.  Life was filled with uncertainty.  I was alone to care for my son and future son yet to be born.  I was castaway by many of my family and even some friends and my children’s father had abandoned us.  Life was challenging at best.

My employer at the time had scheduled our move to the new building at the end of that year.  I was also due to deliver Noah at the end of that same year.  And like my current employer, the move was set for November but then pushed back to December.  My delivery date was also set for December.

As the end of the year approached, I was released for short-term medical leave to prepare for my delivery and my choice.  I packed up my desk and went on maternity leave before the move occurred.

The next couple months would challenge my emotional resolve.  I did not have the luxury to worry or think about our new office space, my new cube or my office belongings.  My day-to-day was filled with taking care of my first born son Jaren and the future that I was considering for his younger brother.

After Noah was born, I signed relinquishment papers on December 24th of that year.  Within a week, I handed over my newborn baby to a couple that I had never previously met.  I trusted that the adoption agency had did their research and homework.

When my maternity leave was up and I was about to return to the office, I called my manager.  I informed her of my decision.  I asked her if she could send out an email to the office and inform them of my choice.  I didn’t want to have to answer those questions over and over again.  I also didn’t want to lie and say I lost the child.  But sadly, she refused.  She said it had something to do with policies.  Ironically, within a year, another co-worker returned from maternity leave.  Her child died.  This time, my manager did send out an email to the team to let them know what happened.

So after giving birth, saying hello to my newborn son, relinquishing my parental rights, kissing my baby and placing him in the arms of his new parents, I prepared for my first day back to work.

I walked into our new office space no longer pregnant and with one less child than what my coworkers were expecting.  I sat down at my new cube.  I began unpacking my material belongings while trying to box up my clouded brain, broken heart and my muddy emotions.

This is the place where I walked out to the parking lot during my lunch hour, sat in my car, and cried tears of sadness and hopeless despair.  Where I wrote letters to God asking Him to find a way to return my baby and heal my broken heart.  A place and time where I contemplated suicide just so I could stop the pain, had it not been for my son Jaren, who gave me every reason to live.

I was stripped down to my core and there was little left of me.

And now, after several move dates have changed, with one of the scheduled move dates being on Noah’s birthday and I was thinking, “Are you freaking kidding me,” we are finally moving to our new office building in less than one month.  I am bewildered.  How do I move through this?  What does this mean?  Is there healing in all this?

I’ll admit, in the early months, I was amused by the fluke of it all.  I joked about how God was playing a trick on me, all the while, reserving my anxiety.  But now that the move is less than a month away, it has become very real.

I talked to my current supervisor privately and told her my story.  I wanted her to be aware.  I explained how this is a traumatic time of the year for me and that I am not sure how this move will impact me because of all the similar details; the history of the building, the same time of the year.  I tried to make light of it and withheld my tears that were readily available to me.  We both chuckled at the synchronicity of it all.  I promised her that I am and will continue to do my best to move through this.  She did seem to understand.  She even said, “Well, this time you will be involved in the moving process rather than someone moving everything for you.”

I thought about her statement.  It resonated with me.

 

Dear Adoption, I Thought I Knew You

jsl-headshot

Dear Adoption, I Thought I Knew You

I thought I knew you when I was a young girl mesmerized by the video recordings of my arrival. I’d never have let the others down by telling them it made me unsettled. I couldn’t help but notice the look of fear and confusion across my six-month-old face. Yet I couldn’t stop watching as I tried to reconcile the feelings I was too young to process.

I thought I knew you when teachers, family, friends, and strangers marveled over my foreign features. Nobody knew much about Korea—except that I probably would’ve died had I not been saved.

I thought I knew you each time it was echoed that my adopters were saints for taking in this poor unwanted child. It helped overwrite my grief with gratitude and miscredit my pain.

I thought I knew you when at a school ceremony, I recited my…

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Why We Need to Give Voice to the Adoptee Experience

Pushing on a Rope

November is National Adoption Month, and adoptees use the opportunity to #flipthescript on the pro-adoption narrative so ingrained in society by sharing their experiences and viewpoints. Here’s what I’m doing to #flipthescript:

When I tell people I’m a twice-reunited adoptee writing a book based on interviews about what it means to be adopted, they often ask questions about my journey and what I’ve learned from talking with other adoptees.

image With my biological father, Ken, at our first meeting in March.

A new acquaintance went in a different direction last weekend, launching into a passionate story about her friend, an adoptee and adoptive mother who firmly believes closed adoptions are best, and that it is better for an adoptee to have no information about her origins.

Have I come across other adoptees who feel this way? she wanted to know.

I assured her that I haven’t, that of the 83 adoptees I’ve interviewed…

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Her name was Kathy

When we think of domestic violence, we often think of a romantic relationship between two people which has become toxic in some form.  The level of abuse can vary from verbal or emotional to physical.  The impact leaves one person feeling powerless and the other feeling powerful.

Statistics show that 1 in 4 women in the United States have been the victim of physical violence.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline

That’s alarming.

But, we often do not think of the extension of domestic violence and its abuse on those around; the children and the extended families.

I posted on Facebook recently:

If you have been impacted by domestic violence, please message me.

Melissa shared, “I grew up in with sexual abuse and violence in my home. The sexual abuse caused rage in my sister who was three years older. My mother also ragged at us but she did not hit us, she screamed, and threw things like all the dishes in the house, or every piece of clothes out of our closets and then would not speak to us for days. My mom and sister would have physical altercations started by my sister and my sister got physically and verbally abusive with me regularly. When I hear domestic violence I think father beating up mother but I came to realize I grew up in a violent home that was not safe and it shaped much of my beliefs about life. Therapy and Unity have helped immensely.”

A new friend I met this summer said, “My first husband was abusive. I was married for five long years. It’s still hard to admit that to people but feels safer here on personal message.”

An old friend of mine, who was in an extremely toxic abusive marriage and is now divorced admitted that her current boyfriend has become abusive.

So for me, I can easily see how these alarming statistics are very substantial.

I remember my own mother getting threatened and hit by her boyfriend George, whom my mother dated for three years, was a live-in boyfriend and an acting father figure to her three young kids, me being the youngest.  That relationship ended when I was five.  Her next live-in boyfriend, who eventually became our step father bullied and threatened my mother and even shoved her up against the wall on a few occasions while her children watched.  As a small child, to witness the rage and anger that was shown on the faces of these men (that sometimes was directed towards us children) while our mother’s face tried to elude her fears and tears unsuccessfully left us with a feeling of helplessness.  We were powerless to make any changes.  We had been placed in a situation beyond our control or our choosing.  We had to learn at an early age how to mentally and emotionally survive on a daily basis to manage and cope in our sometimes unstable surroundings.

I don’t know when my mother started dating abusive men, but I know it didn’t start with George.  While I was too young to remember, her relationship with my own father was also a toxic one.  My father was good at loving his children; he was not good at caring and providing for them; or being a daily constant, reliable father in his children’s lives.  But despite his toxic behaviors towards his lovers, girlfriends or wives, I never feared my father.  Even after I learned of his crime, where his jury spared him the death penalty but sentenced him to hard labor at Florida State Prison for the rest of his natural life.

I found out about my father’s imprisonment and crime when I was a young teen.  But I did not know the particulars, who, what, why or how it happened until years later.  I grew up hearing about my abusive father from my mother, saying he left her so bruised and battered one time that when her mother came over to visit, she had to put on a long sleeve turtle neck shirt to hide her injuries.

My parents parted ways when I was a toddler so I have no memories of that time.  But my oldest brother (from my mother’s first marriage) says he remembers.  He remembers seeing my father abusing our mother.  Once when we were talking about George and our step-father and their tumultuous and sometimes toxic relationship, he reminded me that my father “wasn’t all that great either.”  I find it ironic because it is sometimes said as if I had control for my father’s behavior.  Just because I am his daughter (I am my mother’s daughter, too), should I feel guilty for what he did to our mother?  Even so, does that mean because my father was abusive that I don’t have the right to speak about the other abusive men that I encountered during my childhood?  It’s invaliding the real issue.

Somehow, as I began to date over the years, I seemed to avoid these abusive men.  Did I have an inner knowing subconsciously of what to look for without conscionously trying to decipher those characteristics?  Heeding any early warning signs?  Lord knows, my life has not always been in a good place which could have easily led me into these types of relationships.  Or was it just plain luck?

I did have one relationship that was on the verge though.  His name was Kevin.  Kevin was a tall and handsome young man.  He was a couple years older than me.  His family was well known in our small town and their kids were very active in school and athletics.  I was working at a local bar as a bartender.  I was nineteen years old.  While Kevin and I knew each other in high school, we never hung out.  Kevin was a regular at the bar.  He was popular and very charismatic.  Shortly after we began dating each other, I heard rumors that he was sometimes abusive towards his previous girlfriend.  I assumed they were telling me this to scare me so I would break up with Kevin and then his old girlfriend could get him back.  Our relationship seemed strong and we truly did have deep love for each other.  Within a few months though, I noticed Kevin would become jealous of friends and accused me a few times of wanting to sleep with his friends.  He would become antagonistic, trying to create turmoil and doubt.  I would assure him that I didn’t.  And I truly didn’t.  I had no interest in any of his friends.  I thought Kevin was way better looking, had a better personality, was very talented in sports, was smart, was from a good family, and was a tender lover.  He had everything I needed and wanted in a man.

Then one day, we got in an argument at his parents house.  We were alone in the house and in his bedroom.  All of a sudden, he threw me on his bed, straddled on top of me, pulled his arm back with his hand in a fist and was ready to cold cock me in the face when I said, “Go ahead.  Hit me if it makes you feel like a man.”  Don’t ask me what possessed me to say that.  That could have very easily been an invitation or an instigation for him to follow through with his intention.  But he didn’t.  He stopped.  It wasn’t too long after that our relationship ended.  And in many ways I am thankful.

A couple years later, Kevin began dating a good friend of mine.  Although I had moved away, I heard about their sometimes toxic relationship.  This was not surprising news to me.  I came to realize the warnings I had heard about his previous girlfriend were probably true.  Part of the issue with Kevin was his drinking.  He could not control it.  Once he had one drink, he usually drank until he was drunk.  I recall my grandfather, who was a recovering alcoholic, asked me to ask Kevin if he wanted to go to AA with him sometime.  I asked Kevin but he never took up the offer.  And to be honest, I don’t think I took it that seriously either.  But my grandfather knew the signs.  He could tell that Kevin was an alcoholic before anyone else could.  I remember my grandfather telling me that an alcoholic is not someone who drinks every day.  Some alcoholics can go weeks without having a drink.  But when they do drink, they cannot control their drinking and will usually drink until they are drunk.

So one night, Kevin and his girlfriend had been out drinking.  On the way home, they got in an argument.  My friend was driving and Kevin was in the passenger seat.   Suddenly, Kevin grabbed the steering wheel and jerked it.  The car crashed.  They both were seriously injured but my friend, a single mother, was left as a paraplegic, and her life was changed forever in an instant.  It was devastating news for the whole town.

I could not help but think, “Wow.  That could have been me.”

My dear-longtime friend Lee was in an abusive relationship during our senior year in high school.  Lee remembers, “That was a dark time in my life.”  Most times, the incidents of her abuse didn’t happen when others were around.  That’s the thing about domestic violence.  And why it goes unnoticed and unreported all too often.  Or the victim is ashamed to come forward believing that he or she has caused the abusive behavior or that it is warranted somehow.

Lee’s boyfriend, Pat, had jealous tendencies among other issues.  One night, Lee, Pat, and I were walking down the city street of our small town.  Something happened and Pat pulled Lee aside into a dark alley way.  I think it was something that Lee and I were talking about that made him suspicious.  I stayed on the street sidewalk and gave them their privacy for a few moments.  But then I saw Pat starting to get upset and domineering.  He began pointing at Lee with his finger close to her face and then shoving her.  I began to get worried about what may be coming next.  So I shouted at them and told Pat to leave her alone and let’s go.  And he did.

Sometimes we only have a split second to decide or choose something.  We quickly follow our gut instincts or heart.  So many things can happen in an instant.  Pat could have taken his anger out on me.  That’s the scary part about dealing with toxic people; you just don’t know what they are capable of doing.

Which brings me to Kathy, my father’s girlfriend back in 1967.

At fifty-three years of age , after reading my father’s book about all his lovers, girlfriends and wives, and the string of children he left behind, I have finally come to know Kathy.  All these years, I never knew anything about the woman my father murdered.  Later, I would find out that Kathy was an eighteen year old high school teenager who fell in love with my then thirty eight year old father.  She was a waitress at the local Howard Johnson.  She got pregnant by my father.  She considered having an abortion.  She wanted and needed out of their toxic relationship.  And… her life was taken away with five shots fired to her head because… if my father could not have her, no one would.  That’s toxic, the domestic violence abuse.

Kathy’s story has deeply touched me.  Her short-lived life and tragic death has been hard for me to overcome this past week.  She was a young impressionable teen in love with an older man who she thought would love her and protect her.  When I think of Kathy, I sometimes get emotional and cry.  And while I was reading her story through my father’s eyes, I still have come to know a piece of her.  And oddly, knowing more about her and the circumstance that lead to her death has helped me to heal.  I was four years old when Kathy’s life ended.  I had no idea at the time.  That moment not only changed Kathy’s life, her families, and my father’s, it also impacted and changed everything for his children too.

The truth is, anyone can be impacted by domestic violence, a man, a woman or a child.  And it impacts more than just two people in a relationship.  It’s a ripple effect that can have lasting consequences.

I think for many reasons, that is why I chose to remain single and not go from relationship to relationship and drag my son, Jaren (who’s now eighteen years old, the same age as Kathy was) along with all those “possibly the one” relationships that had a 50/50 chance of succeeding or failing.  The risk of him being abused verbally, emotionally, sexually or physically greatly increased anytime I dated or brought another man into our home.  That wasn’t a chance I was willing to gamble on.  I had a responsibility to protect me and my son.

Children at higher risk in nontraditional homes

This post is in honor of Kathy, and dedicated to her family, my siblings and to all the victims of domestic violence.

If you think you are in an abusive, toxic relationship please call this hotline for help.

1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

The National Domestic Violence Hotline

“You’re Adopted!”

Adoption Detective | A True Story by Judith Land

My eight birthday is a day I’ll never forget.

Come sit beside me on the couch. I have something important to tell you,” my adoptive mother Rosella unexpectedly blurted out while nervously extending her hand.

judith-land-adoption-detective-celebrity-author “Awareness leads to understanding, understanding gives rise to acceptance, and acceptance is where self-confidence and self-esteem begin to grow. Children facing the challenges of adoption want to be mainstreamed and prefer not to be separated out or have to sit on the sideline. They want to have fun and be accepted like every other child. They want to understand the simple truths—and they certainly never want to feel isolated or be left all alone.” —Judith Land

I hesitatingly complied. My senses were heightened in response to her uncharacteristic manner of speaking. The dark living room curtains were only partially open, leaving the air inside muggy and the lighting subdued. I automatically sensed that something out of the ordinary was about to…

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Dear Sissy

Dear Sissy,

It has been almost six months and I do miss you dearly.  I think of you often.  I wonder how things are where you are.  How is Ray?  We sure do miss him too.  And Jeanna.  And Patti.  And your family?  I am sure they were so happy to see you.

I wanted to catch you up on what is going on.  I can just picture us sitting in your living room and talking.  You always were a great listener and story teller.

Jaren and I are well.  We found a nice apartment and I am almost certain you guided me to it; so many coincidences.  The best part about our new apartment is I am only 4.8 miles from work.  I know you would be happy to know that.  You always worried about my long drive.

Work is going well.  I really like my new department and coworkers.  You know how nervous I was at first.  I started my new position a couple weeks after you passed.

Jaren’s graduation went well.  I know how proud of him you would have been.  He is taking online college courses and he hopes to be in a dorm soon.  He really wants to experience the college life.  I am glad he is with me a little longer.  With your passing, my new job position, Jaren graduating high school, moving out of the house and into our new apartment, I think it would have been difficult to be without Jaren too.  So thankfully, he is with me a little longer.  But I know he is ready to explore.  And I am just about getting used to the idea of him leaving home.  I can hear you giving me advice in your kind and gentle tone, reassuring me that everything will be alright.  And you are right.

So many changes in such a short time, Sissy, but considering everything, I am doing well.

Noah and his family came down for Jaren’s graduation and they stayed with us at the house.  I told Noah that he was there shortly after he was born for Christmas Eve.  Of course he doesn’t remember but maybe somewhere subconsciously it is in him.  It did feel like we came full circle.  It meant a great deal to have them stay at that house.  Noah’s parents felt right at home too.  The only thing missing was you and Ray.  But somehow, I think you both were there.  Everything in that house reminds me of you two.

The kids all seem to be doing well.  It’s hard because everyone is scattered but we do talk or txt now and then.  I know you would be very happy to know that most everything you had went to the kids or close family and friends.  I know how much you treasured your belongings.  We had fun going through your things and sharing some stories to go along the way.  Of course, you know I have many of those to share.

Sissy, you would be so proud of how your kids handled your estate.  They were so generous to Jaren and me and honored your final wishes and request.  I really got to know Danny more in those last few months then I did over the twenty plus years of knowing him.  I see what made him special to you.

Tell Ray that Jaren did his best to keep the yard looking good and he took good care of your flowers too.  We all worked together to get the house ready for market.  Danny and Judy labored hard getting the house ready for the estate sale.  And ready for the new buyers.  I even got to meet of few of the neighbors.  I guess having a garage sale is a good way to get to know the community.  One lady bought a book shelf and she said her son would come get it later.  When he came, I saw he was wearing a hearing aid.  He is in his early twenties.  I told him I was hearing impaired and we got to talking about it.  I just thought, “Wow, what are the odds.”  They were a nice family.  It made me realize why you loved your home and your neighborhood so much.

Well, today Sis, is your birthday.  And in your honor, Jaren and I are going to meet Karen at BJ’s.  I hadn’t thought about doing this until mid-day today.   I can’t think of better way to honor you and your memory on this special day.  We will be sure to put a glass of tea on the table for you, with extra ice and lemons.

Happy Birthday, Sissy.  We love you and miss you dearly.