10 Questions You Should Ask your Mom

#10 made me choke up – Read Judith Newman’s questions and answers here. Then go call your Mom.

1. What’s the one thing you would have done differently as a mom?

2. Why did you choose to be with my father?

3. In what ways do you think I’m like you? And not like you?

4. Which one of us kids did you like the best?

5. Is there anything you have always wanted to tell me but never have?

6. Do you think it’s easier or harder to be a mother now than when you were raising our family?

 7. Is there anything you regret not having asked your parents?

8. What’s the best thing I can do for you right now?

9. Is there anything that you wish had been different between us―or that you would still like to change?

10. When did you realize you were no longer a child?

The Teen Mom Effect

A friend at work got me hooked on Teen Mom, the tv show on MTV that follows the challenges and rewards of being a young mother. A.K.A. the spin-off of 16 and Pregnant. Even though there are tons of reasons to be cynical about people who go on reality shows, I am impressed with the women who share their stories on this show.

The two I followed the closest this past season were Catelynn and Tyler who gave up their daughter for adoption. In Season 2, we watched the young couple form a very close relationship with the adoptive parents. All four play with their daughter on the playground and pose for pictures together as a family. Watching it, I felt both emotional and a bit confused. I wondered at the strength of both couples. The separation between my parents and my birth family is all I know, but it’s also the only way I’m most comfortable. When I finally made contact with my birth family I was extremely protective of my parents. I really wasn’t concerned with myself. I was more concerned about my mom and dad. I still am.

While I was watching Catelynn and Tyler from one perspective, a friend of mine watched them from an entirely different one. She watched the couple with interest as a woman waiting to be a grandmother. She shared the story of her daughter and son-in-law with me, and theirs is a story of patience and faith. I also learned how different adoption laws are in each state, and how every adoption agency is not the same. I have a lot to learn…

Getting back to teen moms… before I contacted my birth family, I did wonder how my birth mother turned out. She was 16 when she had me. I wondered if she had moved on. I wondered how she had moved on. And now, I wonder if she had watched 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom, would things be different?

A Real Simple Story

Last week, I went to the Research Triangle in North Carolina to attend a conference for people working in communications. It was my second business trip ever. My first was to Oklahoma City and I knew no one. This time was different. I visited with family and friends in the area who I’ve known since I was 11 and another who was one of the first faces I ever saw my first year of college. Despite feeling like I had known them forever, life caught up with all of us and time separated us in more ways than just by miles. I think the sign of a true friendship is how easily those separations disappear. And in the past week, as expected, the past distance was non-existent.

We asked each other for all the exciting bits and pieces of life we’d missed over the years, and time after time I kept forgetting one of my bits: that I contacted my birth family. The whole event has been completely pushed to the back of my mind. When I did think about it and spoke those words aloud to my friends, they demanded, “why didn’t you say something about this sooner?!” I could only shrug my shoulders. I don’t know why I never do anything sooner than I probably should. Funny enough, the friends I saw in North Carolina were without a doubt the friends who would have wanted to know that information first. For several reasons, being adopted had always interested them… but I still didn’t think about it.

I recently wrote about the experience in an essay I submitted to Real Simple Magazine’s Third-Annual Life Lessons Essay Contest. The competition asks writers to finish the sentence, “I never thought I would…” I started the essay as, “I never thought I would contact my birth family.” As I wrote, however, the tension came to a boil and I knew the true crux of this story. When I submitted the story, I had filled the prompt with: “I never thought I would contact my birth family and not tell my parents.”

The shame I had carried those 14 days when I did not tell my parents about contacting my birth parents had settled into my heart without me noticing it. Over two years later, I realized that shame had become a permanent fixture. Why I never spoke of the topic made sense.

Submitting an essay about it to strangers and sharing the story with friends this past week have felt like steps to recovery. I write “recovery” and yet I don’t know what I’m really recovering from – regret? Maybe sometime in the near future, I’ll write more about it here. But first I’ll see if my simple story makes the cut. If it doesn’t, I’ll post it. If it DOES, I’ll be shocked.

There’s more to it than meets the eye

Part of moving out is growing up. Wait. Reverse that: Part of growing up is moving out.

I just moved into the second apartment that I am paying for entirely on my own, and I already see it as more of a blank canvas than an abode. I am not ashamed to say that I am an avid HGTV fan and dream, off and on, about being an interior decorator. Genevieve Gorder is my current all-time favorite. While I may never be as patient with a paint brush or as savvy with color as Gen is, I find great moments of calm bliss just from rearranging furniture and staring at paint chips or fabric samples. I’ve gotten a good start on my new place with beautiful chairs from Crate & Barrel that I saved up for; boxes of flawless hand-me-down glasses from my grandparents that are now proudly displayed in an on-loan buffet; and brand new navy blue curtains that were a bargain at J.C. Penny! Slowly, but surely, I am making what I believe is the first place I’ll stay in longer than a year, a home.

From 2003 to 2010, I moved to a new place about every 365 days. But while things came and went and the decor changed significantly almost every year (In 2003, I had a palm tree lamp and a poster from An Endless Summer. In 2009, my posters went behind custom frames and look like art), one thing remained the same:

The above image is of a framed vintage poster I have hanging in my apartment. This poster has been on a wall of every single one of the places I’ve lived over the past 7 years. The art was created to promote Pan Am’s flights to the South Pacific by Paul George Lawler. Lawler is an artist I haven’t been able to find too much information on, but my limited research shows he made other ads for Pan American flights to places all around the world. You can buy the above image almost anywhere that sells posters and postcards online, but I can guarantee that as mass produced as this is, no one looks at it and sees what I see.

This poster is a drawing of Samoa (or Western Samoa, as it was probably called when the original drawing was made). The image of paradise is not fictitious, it is a real place. In fact, the bay that appears to be just below the plane is the bay where my parents and I spent our first moments as a family.

When my mom and dad found this poster, they realized almost immediately where it was. They saw the beach where my mom sat on a plastic, outdoor recliner to feed me bottles. They recognized the shallow waters where my dad took me for my first swim with him, supporting me on his knee with one hand as he made ripples in the water with his other. That was back in 1985; I was six months old and  the three of us had only known each other mere days. But we were, of course, already a family.

My framed poster has traveled from Texas to Pennsylvania to Ohio to Indiana… and now it’s back in Texas again. Somehow, the glass survived college, though I (AND my dad…) did duct tape it to the cinder block wall of my sophomore dorm room, thinking it’d stay put. It, of course, fell on my head and laptop one night during an intense studying session. I took that as a sign it was time to give up on studying.. and that I should never duct tape a large, framed picture to anything ever again. But I’m pretty sure the poster is indestructible, which is, perhaps a good metaphor for the ties that bind a family, no matter how that family is created.

I probably would have started writing earlier if I had gone to camp…

Going to camp was one of those rites of passage I never experienced as a child. The closest I came to it was an overnight stay at Girl Scout camp, and that was a disaster.

First, I got stuck in a canoe in the middle of a lake during a thunder storm (imagine three 9 year-olds dropping their paddles and screaming for help while the fourth paddler tries to convince everyone to abandon ship). Then I braved the dark outhouse and was bitten by a bug. I never wanted to go to the bathroom again… And finally, I spent the night beneath my mosquito net begging for it to end. Thankfully, the camping experience was too short to get out a letter, because believe me, I would have sent pages and pages…

However, thousands – if not millions – of children do write letters home from camp. And writer Diane Falanga captured the essence of those in her book, “P.S. I Hate It Here,” which was featured on today’s CBS Sunday Morning. The letters of desperation from youngsters claiming to be held prisoner in a hell filled with cafeteria food, outhouses and creepy crawlies made us laugh and commiserate with them at the same time. Falanga was inspired by her own child’s letters and soon found that almost everyone she knew had similar pieces of paper stored away – and that’s how books are born. She wrote the book to share hilarious stories with other parents who she thought would understand, but both parents and their kids find the humor. They also both use the book to help them cope with the first tough days apart. Well done, Falanga!

Blogs for Adoptees (according to Blisstree…)

OK, I swore I was going to sleep, but then I found the list, “The Best of the Best: Top 50 Adoption Blogs” from Blisstree. Seriously, how could I pass this up?

They even did the hard part for me and separated the blogs by category, one of which is “Adoptees.” Check out these four blogs by adopted children  (note: I didn’t list the others b/c they’re private):

  • Harlow’s Monkey is written by a social worker who is halfway through her doctoral program and who believes that social work goes beyond saving and helping people and into reform, empowerment. She’s currently continuing to strive to be an agent for change at the University of Minnesota. She was adopted when she was 3, and she is unapologetic for her thoughts and views. I like the way she thinks
  • Ethnically Incorrect Daughter – I got so caught up in her stories right off the bat that I didn’t really think of how I’d describe this, so I let her say it for herself. From her profile: A Vietnamese adoptee and her thoughts about the past, how it’s shaped the present and what it could mean for the future.
  • 3 Generations of Adoption – again, these writers can speak for themselves (and very well, I might add): Adoption from two sides of the triad over three generations. Not just one stance on one issue, but stance after stance after stance after stance…..
  • Ungrateful Little Bastard is written by an adoption rights activist with awesome resources, check it out.

The blog also led me to blogs on the topic of infertility, another reason I’m here. I’m adding those blogs to the mix, not only because I am proud of their bravery in sharing their stories, but they also are some of the most heartwarming journeys. To start, here are a few…

  • Turns out you can be a little pregnant.
  • So Close: Life after infertility
  • Musings from Lollipop who is joined in life (and blog) by Josh, Chickinob and Wolvog (her husband and their twins, respectively).
  • And this became my personal favorite the moment I read the title (gotta love women who keep their sense of humor): And I Wasted All that Birth Control. The blogger is a self-proclaimed unsafe mommy blogger. You’ve been warned.

Now I’ll turn off James Koo’s (sick) beats and add these and more blogs to the links tomorrow. Stay tuned.

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