How Does It Feel To Be Adopted-Patrick Hawes

This adoption reunion story is both tragic and beautiful. It breaks my heart when a parent (grandparent) forces their pregnant daughter to give up their child!! How can anyone turn away their child and grandchild? How is having strangers raise your blood, your family, better? Adoption is meant to provide a home for orphans!

FullSizeRender My sister Tracy & I

HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE ADOPTED?

BIO:  My Name is Patrick and I am a 45 year-old adoptee in Virginia but born in North Carolina. I was adopted at the age of five weeks old.  My adopted parents were older at the time they adopted me (father was 47 and mom was 42), I was an only child. My adopted mom was Japanese, so there was no way to hide the fact that I was not her biological son!  My adopted father passed away when I was four. I had a nice, wonderful childhood and never really thought about searching for my birth family growing up. I am married to a wonderful woman and we have one son who is almost 8. My adopted mom passed away 11 years ago and that’s where my journey to find my birth family begins.

THE JOURNEY BEGINS

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The Secret Life of an Introvert – The Dinner

The pain wasn’t unbearable. It was uncomfortable. The bloating. The heavy feeling she had in her abdomen. The numbness in her legs. Jessica was tired too. Always tired. She Googled. Of course she Googled. What did these symptoms indicate?

Oh my God. Everything she read indicated ovarian cancer. It couldn’t be. She always worried about cancer. This was one of the cancers that was hard to diagnose. Is this the cancer that killed Gilda Radner? Is this the cancer that Fran Drescher had? That Fran Drescher beat? She Googled that.

She didn’t know what was causing this extreme fatigue and pain, but she knew one thing. It needed to be diagnosed. She called her gyno and made an appointment. They didn’t have anything available for several months. That’s ok, Jess thought. She could wait. Ovarian cancer often takes a while to diagnose anyway. She has already saved months by being able to tell the doctor what to look for. She possibly had saved her own life.

She couldn’t sit around Googling anymore. She had to go out shopping. Looking for something to wear to her husband’s business dinner that she agreed to attend. The business dinner for which she had nothing appropriate to wear.

A suit? Would look like she was trying too hard. A dress? No. Not an option. Like Hillary, pants are more Jessica’s style. A sweater? Yes. But all her sweaters were too casual. Yes. That’s what she would shop for. A more tailored sweater to wear with black slacks. Perfect.

Success! She found the perfect sweater. The evening will be a success!

Getting dressed, the fatigue is overwhelming. The bloating, the pain and numbness in her legs were more than usual. She shouldn’t have put off that doctor’s appointment. If this is cancer, it could kill her. Then it wouldn’t have mattered what damn sweater she was wearing.

The night of the dinner arrived. Jess was good. She plastered on a killer smile. Accepted a glass of Chardonnay, her least favorite wine but that was all they offered. She engaged in small talk as if she were a politician working the room. No one would know that this is the last place she wanted to be. She succeeded. Dinner over, they left. Went home.

So wound up from the night out, Jess couldn’t go to bed for hours. Even after a four-course dinner, she needed to relax in front of the TV and polish off the leftover salad, wilting in the fridge since lunch the day before, and a few cookies.

By 2 a.m. she was ready for bed. Finally. She drifted off. The evening was over.

The next morning, Jess awoke refreshed and full of life. No more bloating. No more leg pain. No more fatigue. Damn. It wasn’t cancer at all. It was the dinner. On the back of her mind for weeks. Even though she didn’t realize it, her body did. Her body never let her forget for one second that something stressful was coming up. Something she didn’t like. Something she was not looking forward to. Yes. She is an introvert. Even when she doesn’t think about it, it’s always there.

I understand Jessica too well. While my kids will do anything to go out with friends, go to a party, I am most happy to stay home. Alone is not lonely.

 

15 Times My Educators Failed Me as a Transracial Adoptee

Although this piece was written by a transracial adoptee, I’m sure many others can relate to the blatant insensitivity by educators and the general public regarding adoption. I’ll never forget those family tree assignments, being told how lucky I was that I was adopted, and being asked what life was like in the orphanage. Note: I was never in an orphanage.

Red Thread Broken

I’ve written a lot about racism I received when I was young from my peers, but I think it’s important to talk about racism and bias from teachers and other adults in a school setting. Racism is often times couched in terms of hate speech, but ignoring racism or the presence of race can be just as harmful. Moreover, many of the comments or situations that made me feel uncomfortable at school were directed at me by well-intentioned and, in some cases, my favorite teachers. Teachers are viewed as role models for their students, and that is why it is so important to address this topic at an educator level. When students of color face issues in the classroom and within peer groups that perhaps touch on race, adoption, or other identities but don’t feel a sense of understanding or validation from their teachers, where can they turn? Not only academic learning that takes place in the classroom…

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The Secret Life of an Introvert

As Jennifer stood by the window, staring at her mailbox, she recalled the thousands of times she had been in this same position…Watching the kids being picked up by the yellow bus. Waiting for them to come home from school. From dates. From college. Waiting for their cars to pull up in the driveway when they returned home carting families of their own for visits. Watching them back out of the driveway, leaving again. Missing them already, although subconsciously happy to get the house back to herself, quiet.

How many times has she waited at the window for a husband to come home from work, from a business trip, or (an ex) from God knows where? Worrying that something might have gone wrong. The what-if’s…

Today’s staring out the window is different than the other “normal” events. Every parent waits and worries for the child to come home. However, for the introvert, the worrying goes beyond the normal. For Jennifer, just the act of picking up the mail from a mailbox at the street can bring on anxiety. Has the mail carrier delivered the mail already? If not, she would look pretty silly to the neighbors walking to the mailbox and retrieving nothing. And she knows they are all watching. If she sees the mail being dropped off, has the mail carrier driven far enough down the street so they won’t notice her walking to the mailbox? Perhaps wondering why she didn’t come out when the mail was delivered, just to say hi.

However, after she knows the mail has been delivered, she still needs to know it is safe to pick up the mail. This is the event she can’t tell anyone about. The fact that her pounding heart and sweaty palms, not to mention her lightheadedness, is caused by the sheer fact that she needs to make sure no one is outside. No one is getting their mail. No one is pulling into their driveway. No one is coming home or leaving for work. She needs to know that there won’t be any chance that she would have to confront someone. To have to wave. To say hi. What if they want to start a conversation? What would she say? How would she end it?

When Jennifer is sure it is safe to go out and get the mail, she does it quickly. Head down, like she was taught to walk through the busy streets of New York as a child. Never make eye contact. Do not be distracted in your mission.

It’s terrible how a killer is described by the neighbors during that god-awful TV interview after a tragedy happens. “He was quiet. Kept to himself.” Yes, that might describe this particular individual. But most of the time, the quiet neighbor is a wonderful person, just shy. An introvert. Perhaps a very loving, friendly, caring individual who is just nervous around strangers. Don’t judge others. You never know what another person goes through just to get their mail.

Who can relate to Jennifer? I know I can.

Twitter

Twitter is the best for me

I get my news

One two three. 
I don’t have to wait

For evenings at seven

Or six or ten

Or, God forbid, eleven. 
I pick up my iPhone

It’s simple you see

No straining with newsprint

No waste, no fees. 
No cost whatsoever 

To get my news fast

Why wait for a reporter

To send out a blast. 
I want to know now.  

No patience have I 

To read lengthy stories

To strain my old eyes. 
I pick up my phone

I click on my app

Getting my headlines

Is really a snap. 
I get quite enough

Of news that I need

I don’t have to wade through 

Dribble you see. 
I don’t want opinion

Or spin on a story

Give me the facts

Not allegory. 
I’ll take my news

Dumbed down with ease

I just want your tweet

140 words please. 

An Open Letter to Ann Coulter

I couldn’t have said this better!!

The World of Special Olympics

image John Franklin Stephens

The following is a guest post in the form of an open letter from Special Olympics athlete and global messenger John Franklin Stephens to Ann Coulter after this tweet during last night’s Presidential debate.

Dear Ann Coulter,

Come on Ms. Coulter, you aren’t dumb and you aren’t shallow.  So why are you continually using a word like the R-word as an insult?

I’m a 30 year old man with Down syndrome who has struggled with the public’s perception that an intellectual disability means that I am dumb and shallow.  I am not either of those things, but I do process information more slowly than the rest of you.  In fact it has taken me all day to figure out how to respond to your use of the R-word last night.

I thought first of asking whether you meant to describe the President as someone who was bullied…

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Needlessly Gendered Products: Laxatives

I was looking at laxatives today (ok the secret is out) and I noticed Dulcolax for women. Reading the ingredients label I couldn’t find any difference between the green box I have been using and the pink box. When I Googled the difference I found this wonderful article that I wanted to share with you. I’m just so tired of gender based marketing. If we want the wage gap to shrink, or disappear, we’ve got to stop marketing to men and women, boys and girls, differently. I’m sure there are plenty of little girls who would love to play with toy trucks, and not pink ones. And yes, maybe even men could use a Kotex every once in a while for leakage problems.

The Span of My Hips

Something I am fascinated by is the products we buy that are needlessly gendered (and for which women almost always pay more). So I am going to start a semi-regular, ongoing series examining the marketing and reasoning behind needlessly gendered products as I come across them in daily life.

Today’s entry is Duculax. I saw an ad that advertised Dulcolax and, now introducing, Dulcolax for Women with the always charming implication that regular (default, normal) Dulcolax is for men (who are, similarly, regular, default, normal) while us delicate flowers need our own Dulcolax. It even comes in a pink box!

product_imageproduct_laxative_tablets_for_women_lg_new

                                                                         And I was so curious. What is it about our delicate…

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Words of Wisdom in The Book of Joan, by Melissa Rivers

An open letter to Melissa Rivers.

Dear Melissa,

I want to thank you for sharing stories about your mom in The Book of Joan.

You don’t know this, but I am your sister. Although not biological siblings, we are siblings in my heart. As an adoptee, I spent countless hours wondering who my birth, or first mother was. One of my favorite fantasy moms was your mom, Joan Rivers. This was an excellent choice since I was obviously named after this famous comedian. I figured my parents named me Joan so that one day when I was ready to search for my biological roots, which we assume most adoptees will do at some point, my name would become my first clue to my origins.

As the years passed and I found no other clues about my birth, I began to take on the famous Joan’s persona. I developed her sharp sense of humor, unfortunately misunderstood by many. That didn’t matter. I figured, if they didn’t get me, their loss. My “standup” career began when I started working for Weight Watchers. As a group leader facilitating meetings in front of a room full of overweight women, potential Joan Rivers’ targets, I’d open my program with, “Can we talk?” I’d often toss out some jokes I borrowed that my members would relate to. One of my favorite lines was, “Elizabeth Taylor…we all used to want to look like her; now we do.”

Melissa, I loved reading your book. Your mom taught you about working hard and laughing at yourself. We knew the Joan whose humor was very self-deprecating. Who didn’t hold back pointing out celebrities’ flaws, giving voice to what others were thinking, whether they would admit it or not. The public did not often get to see the Joan you grew up with. The giving, loving, charitable woman you and her friends and family knew.

I was especially moved by Joan’s commencement address to your graduating class at Penn. I would like to share excerpts (that I copied from the Internet) here so people can learn a few important life lessons from the great woman herself. Lessons about pride. Failure. Success. It’s all possible.

When they asked me to speak at graduation, I thought they meant GRADUATION. I’d been looking forward to quaffing champagne and wearing a black cap and gown – to match my roots. And I thought I’d be receiving a degree! They said I wasn’t going to get the degree, then they said I was going to get the degree, then they said I wasn’t going to get the degree. It became a situation I’m sure some of these seniors can easily relate to!

It seems like yesterday my late husband and I were talking to our daughter Melissa about choosing a college. The choice was made more difficult by our California standards. There, higher education is anything above crayons; the only culture you find out there is in yogurt. The idea of a really deep, philosophical, existentialist question is, “How tan am I?” …

I’d like to tell you one thing, which is the truth as I see it. Please, everyone, look to your right, and look to your left, and look all around you – because right now, this is as good as it’s gonna get for a long, long time. I hope all of you learn to fail, and plan to fail, and fail early on. Failure is the best thing that can ever happen to anybody. Not only did each failure in my life teach me something, it made me stronger. And moved me one step closer to success. Don’t be proud. If you think the world is waiting for you now that you’ve graduated, you’re wrong. You think you’re hot. You think you graduated from Penn and Wharton: big deal. Nobody’s waiting for you. Try any path you can, go through any door that opens. Don’t wait for the right moment, because right moments come out of wrong moments.

Barbra Streisand is probably one of the biggest stars in the world, right? But if you think of her as unknown – she was no beauty: ug-o nose, stupid-looking crossed eyes, great voice, but nobody cared. She would go from audition to audition to audition. Nobody wanted her. Finally, in desperation, she sneaked into [an] audition for The Sound of Music. The call was for a 16-year-old, blonde, blue-eyed, young, very pretty Aryan. They’re looking for a Nazi. Perfect for Barbra! And she has the nerve to sing for them. [Someone told her], try nightclubs, which she did, and [eventually], she was discovered. She became a major, major star. And from that day on, I haven’t heard from the bitch.

If you don’t think [love and money] are related, spend a week in Hollywood. John Paul Getty once said – and I agree – “If you know how much money you have, you haven’t got enough.” Get out there, work hard, and thank God we’re living in a country where the sky is still the limit. And the stores are open late. And you can even shop from your bed, thanks to television!

I was one who, for about a minute and a half, went around saying, “Money doesn’t make you happy.” Yes, you can be happy without it. But it opens a lot of doors…From money, I turned to love, which is money’s first cousin. Look for love, and when you find it, grab it with both hands. And if it isn’t there at the moment, don’t be discouraged, because believe it or not, love comes to everybody. Even ug-os. When love arrives, you have to make a choice: should I buy a real sofa or a sectional? A sectional is good because then you can split it up if it doesn’t work out, but I’m saying to you all, please get the sofa. Go for the gold. Don’t live together. Get married. It sounds dull, but marriage is just like living together – except you get presents.

Success doesn’t mean everyone’s gonna love you. Forget that. Success is short-lived, and you never want to trust success. Enjoy it for the moment, then, for God’s sake, go back to work. Never forget that work is the reason you became successful.. I was asked to speak her today because I’m funny and I’m caustic and I’m cheap. That’s not the reason I accepted. I came because I wanted to pay tribute publicly to my daughter and to her friends and to the institution which has supported them and nurtured them and, please God, educated them. And what I mean by “educated”: I think that means that Penn has taught all of you to see, to hear, to smell, taste and touch.

You’re college graduates now. Use your education. Remember, it’s not who you know…It’s WHOM. 

Melissa, I want you to know that I cried along with you and millions of fans worldwide over the tragic loss of a woman whose senseless passing was due to negligence. On a selfish note, I also regret that I didn’t become famous in time to have Joan tell me to put down the cookies and walk away.

With affection,

Joan

Same Sex Marriage 

Sometimes justice is served. Sometimes things go right. Sometimes it seems we wait forever to get what we should have had all along. Freedom to marry the person you love is a human right.

I’m naively surprised the decision was 5-4. The same way I’m surprised by how many people still fight to display the confederate flag. I’m saddened that there are so many people who want to keep the Constitution the way it was written, forgetting, or maybe remembering, that when the Constitution was written there was slavery and women couldn’t vote. I don’t want to go back to those days.

We, as a country of individuals from all walks of life, need to learn to love and respect, and perhaps embrace our differences.

I’m especially pleased that the SCOTUS made this landmark decision on the anniversary of the day I met the love of my life!

Next, how about the Supreme Court rules that every adoptee has the right to their original birth certificate.

What’s in Your Closet? Coming Out in 2015

Bruce Jenner came out of the closet. At sixty-five, he’d been there for a long, long time. (I’m using the pronoun “he” because, although he identifies as a woman, he told Diane Sawyer to continue referring to “him” as “he”. I assume “he” will become a “she” after the upcoming documentary.

Cristela Alonzo came out today on The View. She came out as having grown up as a poor child.

What does a “closet” hold? A lot of baggage. Stuff we don’t want anyone to know. Stuff we are ashamed of. What’s wrong with being poor? Why would anyone have to hide that? Why would a child feel shame that their parents don’t have money, you might ask? It’s not the child’s responsibility to earn a living. To provide for their family. But put yourself in that child’s shoes. Literally. Imagine for a moment how the “poor” child feels looking down at their own hand-me-down shoes with the worn-out soles glancing down at the new Converse/Vans/Sperry-clad feet of her classmates. I said classmates, not friends, because the cool kids are friends with other kids in their same socio-economic-sports-click class. Yes, kids, like adults, are snobs.

Our closets are chock full of shit.

OK, my closet it chock full of shit. My issues that I had to deal with myself as well as others issues, have been locked away, in my closet.

Relating closely to Bruce Jenner is my newest. No, I am not transgender. At least I don’t feel I am even though most of my thought processes are what society deems as male. I’m good at math. If you tell me a problem, I want to find a solution, not just offer comfort. And if asked what I see myself in, I most likely would tell you about a cool car rather than a fancy dress or piece of jewelry.

Society is weird. If Bruce Jenner wears a dress, he must be trans/gay/cross-dressing. If I wear pants, I’m comfortable. But I digress.

Coming out of the closet means you are ready to tell someone something they don’t know about you. Something you feel they might judge you about. Something that might make them not like you. Something you fear will change your life.

In the past I came out as a binge eater. Embarrassed to eat my  favorite foods in front of others, I literally hid food in my closet, my drawers, to eat while alone. So no one would know. I found comfort in Weight Watchers where there were other people like me. Others who could relate to my problem. Others who would not judge me, but accept me as I was; a person struggling day-to-day with an eating disorder. In turn, I spent years counseling others with their food addictions. Helping others helped me. I still have an eating disorder, but it no longer controls my life. I can accept that I have good days and bad days. Coming out of the closet made a tremendous difference in my life.

Sometimes your closet is full of other people’s issues. What is, or should our role be in coming out for someone else? Bruce Jenner felt tremendous relief coming out as transgender. No longer having to hide, he is now able to live his life as a woman. Dressing as a woman. Wearing makeup. More importantly, not having to hide from his family and the public. But what about his family? They must be relieved as well. The whole world suspected Bruce was transitioning. We saw the changes in facial features. The long hair. The nails. We speculated. So did his family. But it wasn’t their story to tell. They had to keep quiet. They had to keep his secret. Now they don’t. I imagine that would give them a tremendous sense of relief.

I don’t just imagine this. I know it.

For years I kept secrets that tore me up every day. Married to an alcoholic, I didn’t want anyone to know about the dui’s, the job losses, the car accidents. I couldn’t tell the few friends I had for fear I’d lose their friendship. And I definitely couldn’t tell my parents. They would have insisted I leave him. Since I was confident I could fix him, I led a secret life, struggling in the background, hiding money and emptying bottles. His addiction was not my story to tell. Until Al-Anon. There I could open up. There I could be myself. Share my struggles. Get advice from people who understood my problem. People who had been-there/done-that. Al-Anon members told me it wasn’t my job to fix the alcoholic. That I couldn’t even if I wanted to. They helped me break free. Eventually I realized that I could no longer subject my children to the life of living with an active alcoholic, so I ended the marriage. I was finally free to rid my closet of another large piece of baggage.

However, LGBT is different. So many people are still in the closet because of fear they will be judged. Bruce Jenner hopes his coming out will make a difference. I pray Bruce Jenner’s coming out will make a difference.

Being gay, identifying as a gender other than the one you were assigned at birth, is not a choice. It is who you are. The way you were born. There should be no more shame in being gay than there is in having blue eyes or red hair. Or yes, being chubbier than the Hollywood ideal.

The statistic that forty-one percent of transgender people attempt suicide is a percentage I can’t wrap my brain around. That figure is “attempting” suicide. Not “thinking” about suicide. This has got to change!

Why is gender so important in this society? We are all people. We are part of the human race. Get over it. People are people. Accept it.

You don’t have to be LGBT yourself to come out. When someone in your life announces they are part of the LGBT community, you wind up being part of their story. For instance, if your brother has a boyfriend, when talking about your brother’s boyfriend, you are essentially telling the world your brother is gay. The way you present that information, the way you convey someone else’s “story” tells a lot about you. Not about them. Be proud. Just as you would telling about a girlfriend your brother might have. If you don’t make a big deal out of it, others won’t. (This is positive thinking. I’m not naïve enough to believe everyone will be accepting. But I can hope.)

As I said, I am not Lesbian or transgender. However, I now feel I am part of the LGBT community. I used to have to most beautiful, talented, intelligent granddaughter in the world. Now, after a lot of reading, and with the help of outspoken celebrities like Laverne Cox and Bruce Jenner, I’m now starting to understand a little more about what it feels like to be transgender. To identify as a different gender than the one in which you were assigned at birth. It’s not my position to “out” anyone. I just want to share that I am now the proud grandmother of the most handsome, talented, intelligent grandson in the world. And he identifies as transgender.

If you or a loved one has issues that are stuck in a closet, find help. There are many support groups  online and in person that are there for you. Reach out.