By Lara Trace Hentz (poet-writer) (founder of Blue Hand Books)
I am remiss in mentioning I’m in the new poetry anthology IN THE VEINS (released 2-1-2017) and last year I did mention the poetry book TENDING THE FIRE by Chris Felver that is coming out in 2017. Louise and I are both that book. NICE!
Louise’s bookstore BIRCHBARK BOOKS (top photo) in Minnesota carries some of our Blue Hand Book titles. I am very grateful to her for this. Supporting me as a small press and publisher helps me publish new Native authors.
click logo to visit them
I founded Blue Hand Books in 2011 to give back to my community, right after I did my memoir One Small Sacrifice. Since then we have published 18 books, with four volumes in the Lost Children of the Indian Adoption Projects book series. (TWO WORLDS was the first anthology.) In the Veins is Volume 4. A portion of the proceeds from this poetry book edited by Patricia Busbee will be sent to the Standing Rock Water Protectors Camps (#NoDAPL).
Here is one of my poems from IN THE VEINS
…When People of the First Light saw ships and strangers disembark
…When the conqueror ran out of the woods firing loaded guns
…When they loaded some of us onto slave boats in shackles
Then a trickle becomes a river then a flood
…When an Indigenous mother loses her child at gun point
…When her child is punished by a nun, kicked in the neck
…When her child dies in residential school, buried in an unmarked grave
Then a trickle becomes a river then a flood
…When a black sedan enters the rez and children run and hide, afraid
…When a Cheyenne adoptee is a small boy, watching westerns on TV, he is told he is Indian
…When a Navajo adoptee is taken at the hospital and disappears, raised by Mormons
Then a trickle becomes a river, then a flood ….. of tears.
The people who chained, who murdered, who hacked, who raped, who hated their way across North America… they are still here, too.
Read an IN THE VEINS excerpt HERE. My Ojibwe scholar friend blogger Dr. Carol A. Hand (who I interviewed on this blog) and my dear friend and Unravelling anthology co-editor MariJo Moore and many many other Native American and First Nations poets (some of them famous or soon-to-be) contributed prose and poems for this beautiful new book. If you love poetry, you will love this… LINK to BUY from BHB.
COMING SOON! Blue Hand Books is publishing a brand new novella by Barbara Robidoux, author of Sweetgrass Burning.
(New Yorker excerpt) …On a cool evening in early November, I rented a car in Wichita, Kansas, and drove north from the city through slanting sunlight, across the suburbs and out beyond the last shopping center, where the horizon settles into farmland. After a couple of hours, just before the town of Concordia, I headed west, down a dirt track flanked by corn and soybean fields, winding through darkness until my lights settled on a large steel gate. A guard, dressed in camouflage, held a semiautomatic rifle.
He ushered me through, and, in the darkness, I could see the outline of a vast concrete dome, with a metal blast door partly ajar. I was greeted by Larry Hall, the C.E.O. of the Survival Condo Project, a fifteen-story luxury apartment complex built in an underground Atlas missile silo. The facility housed a nuclear warhead from 1961 to 1965, when it was decommissioned. At a site conceived for the Soviet nuclear threat, Hall has erected a defense against the fears of a new era. “It’s true relaxation for the ultra-wealthy,” he said. “They can come out here, they know there are armed guards outside. The kids can run around.”
We stopped in a condo. Nine-foot ceilings, Wolf range, gas fireplace. “This guy wanted to have a fireplace from his home state”—Connecticut—“so he shipped me the granite,” Hall said. Another owner, with a home in Bermuda, ordered the walls of his bunker-condo painted in island pastels—orange, green, yellow—but, in close quarters, he found it oppressive. His decorator had to come fix it.
That night, I slept in a guest room appointed with a wet bar and handsome wood cabinets, but no video windows. It was eerily silent, and felt like sleeping in a well-furnished submarine.
In the first seven days after Donald Trump’s election, 13,401 Americans registered with New Zealand’s immigration authorities, the first official step toward seeking residency—more than seventeen times the usual rate. The New Zealand Herald reported the surge beneath the headline “Trump Apocalypse.”
“…We are clearly living in dangerous and changing times that the uninformed will never understand until the threats are evident. We cannot predict, but we can prepare,’ the company said in a statement to MailOnline. The biggest facility is in Germany – Europa One – and is ‘one of the most fortified and massive underground survival shelters on Earth, deep below a limestone mountain’ and ‘safely secured from the general public, behind sealed and secured walls, gates and blast doors’.
…Journalist Lynn Parramore visited the facility in Indiana, US – and reported the gigantic bunker was like walking into a hotel, describing it as the ‘Ritz Carlton of doomsday shelters’. The cheapest of the bunkers will set you back $35,000, while the most delux costs up to $3 million. The state of the art facilities also include a hospital, and armed guards on duty to keep the 99 percent from breaking into the hideaway. To avoid a Lord of the Flies scenario, the designers have also implemented a handbook that outlines by laws for the bunkered community….” (Top photo of Europa)
I have been wanting to post about bunkers a long time. My good blog buddy Dan who blogs at TUBULARSOCK (see my interview) has his own virtual bunker tour. It got me thinking.
I want to let you all know I’m NOT going bonkers for bunkers. Yet it haunts my sleep. I would not be any good in one… Claustrophobic? That would be me.
But a compound might work! Above-ground would be good, right?!
Many years ago, my aunt in Aurora Illinois told me she’d heard that the BUSH dynasty had a ranch aka compound in Paraguay, next door to the late Rev. Sun Myung Moon (former Head of the Moonies). I’d heard the southern hemisphere would be best to relocate on the globe if our planet took a big revolving turn.
Why Paraguay? Here’s some fun facts about Paraguay.
Then it’s reported everywhere but here in America:
… astonishingly large land purchases (298,840 acres, to be exact) by the Bush family in 2005 and 2006. In 2006, while on a trip to Paraguay for the United Nation’s children’s group UNICEF, Jenna Bush (daughter of former President George W. Bush and granddaughter of former President George H.W. Bush) reportedly bought 98,840 acres of land in Chaco, Paraguay, near the Triple Frontier (Bolivia, Brazil, and Paraguay). This land is said to be near the 200,000 acres purchased by her grandfather, George H.W. Bush, in 2005.
So the Bush people want their compound to be above “WATER” which some might call the new “gold.” What? Are they planning to sell water to Texas or to the world?
WAIT! Didn’t the Nazis relocate to South America?… “…Paraguay…where Simon Weisenthal famously hunted down Nazi fugitives? The story gets wierder….”
So we’ve got panic in the rich who are relocating to Paraguay and New Zealand or buying bunkers in Kansas, Texas and Indiana plus the chaos that it’s getting even weirder with Trump at the helm. Some guy has his helicopter gassed, ready to evacuate?
Since 2013 I’ve been developing a book project on the relationship between Indian treaties and Native American sovereignty and Origins magazine asked me to write an essay on treaties, tribal sovereignty, and the #NODAPL protests in North Dakota. I’m pleased to say the article is now live at this address, and I trust my readers will find it edifying. READ brilliant Dave Nichols
Last year saw a victory for a US President running on a platform of hatred, and a UK vote to leave the EU on a platform of fear. Both campaigns painfully revealed how deeply divided both the United States and the United Kingdom are, and how conflicted our ideas of justice have become. But 2016 also marked the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare. And if anyone understood what comprises the bedrock of justice, Shakespeare did: Love.
How about this… the CIA dumped truckloads of files onto the ‘Net in early January and all of a sudden people like you and me can read just how spooky the CIA has been and could be (of course secretly). This is where our tax money goes?
If you don’t believe me – watch a clip The Men Who Stare at Goats… 🙂
CIA Docs Reveal Agency’s Longtime Obsession With UFOs, Magic
(REPORT) — The juicy bits of the CIA’s massive document dump may have centered on their overt use of torture against detainees and the internal debates underpinning that policy, but it’s far from the only thing in there that warrants a second look. The documents also include substantial information about CIA obsession with UFO sightings, policies for using invisible ink, and their determined investigation into magicians.
Reports on the UFOs described some 20% of sightings as “unexplained,” and sought more cooperation from the Pentagon in documentation of such sightings, particularly pushing to ensure that all high-ranking Air Force commanders were briefed on the rules for reporting about them.
The CIA showed concern both about the “national security” implications of flying saucers, and the intelligence ramifications of them, with the advisory committee urging “close attention” be paid both to Russian actions with respect to UFOs, and public opinion within the US about them.
With respect to magic, the CIA appears to have become intensely interested in the phenomenon in the late 1960s and early 1970s, with one 1969 document about a “self-educated magician” in Soviet Georgia who was able to perform “miracle” healings through the laying of hands.
The CIA’s interest in magic got a lot bigger in short order, and within a few years they were bringing in television psychic Uri Geller, who famously used to bend spoons on TV with the power of his mind.
Incredibly, the CIA was quickly convinced that Geller had real powers, and tried to move into remote viewing, the attempt to conduct surveillance on sites they don’t have access to via supernatural means.
By Lara Trace Hentz
So why are we hearing about all of this now? (My brain beeps… the CIA is unleashing secret files we never thought we’d see. Woohoo, maybe t-rump scared them silly…)
I am sure many of you are already FULL of news, as in brain bloated and ready to explode. Me, too.
My cousin Charlie and I have been emailing tidbits and I wanted to share a quote that I sent to him:
“…Trump’s behavior is so upsetting to his opposition that our elected representatives are willing to sign off on people they might ordinarily see as excessively radical because they’re so terrified of what Trump might do without an experienced and paternal figure like “Mad Dog” Mattis or Rex Tillerson in there to reign him in.
“…It’s classic good cop-bad cop. The more unhinged Trump appears the more comforting his generals look, the more reassuring a three or four-star general appears… And the people who need to know that know that (like the CIA who use that.)
T-rump is already 10 steps ahead of us, and it’s remarkable (and not) to see how he was (s)elected…
But I have this really sick feeling ::: they start a fire in your front yard (24/7 news, KellyAnne/Spicer weirdness) while they do their work in your backyard. We are seeing this in action now. It’s actions not words (and executive order signings) that we need to watch… Distraction is rampant…
They have used this tactic on Indians since treaty times. I learned about this from a Northern Cheyenne friend in Seattle. It really works! He used the example of the Indian Barbie doll (in the early 90s) which had people really upset while sovereign treaty rights were being violated. Now Winona LaDuke is signalling this:
Winona LaDuke: Trump's Push to Build Dakota Access & Keystone XL Pipelines is a Declaration of War | Democracy Now! https://t.co/863SGINmc8
We are dealing with a ROGUE (a real mobster with no training to be president). He could be manipulated (even blackmailed) by other rulers to commit human rights horrors (and vice versa – t-rump has cameras in his hotels too.)
This guy REALLY has the nuke codes… the most terrifying thought of all…
P.S. On another note I read an old playboy MUST READ interview where t-rump listed off men he looked up to… all studio heads and business guys from the golden age of Hollywood and show business..
Aaaah, that figures… (it’s insight into who t-rump really is)
RUMBLE: The Indians Who Rocked The World / Canada (Executive Producer: Tim Johnson, Mohawk) This powerful documentary about the role of Native Americans in contemporary music history—featuring some of the greatest music stars of our time—exposes a critical missing chapter, revealing how Indigenous musicians helped shape the soundtracks of our lives and, through their contributions, influenced popular culture. Category: WORLD CINEMA DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION
Until the advent of genetic genealogy, knowing your ancestry meant combing through old records, decoding the meaning of family heirlooms and listening to your parents and grandparents tell you about the “good old days.” For anthropologists and archaeologists interested in going back even further in time, the only reliable means of understanding human history were trying to interpret ruins or remnants of skeletons or other information uncovered at the site of remains.
DNA testing has changed all that, allowing us to delve far deeper into our past than before and with a much higher degree of accuracy. Although there are many issues stirred by DNA testing, none is more provocative than interpreting our family and tribal ancestries.
Nowhere is this more apparent than among the Native American tribes in the United States. I recently wrote about a large-scale genetic analysis among the American population by personal genetics and genealogy company 23andMe, using its extensive database to begin to decipher the ancestral origins of various ethnic groups in the United States.
Though the study involved more than 160,000 people, less than less than one percent of those who participated self-identified as Native American. Rose Eveleth, a journalist writing for The Atlantic suggests that this lack of participation may have a lot to do with how Native tribes perceive genetic testing:
But when it comes to Native Americans, the question of genetic testing, and particularly genetic testing to determine ancestral origins, is controversial. […] Researchers and ethicists are still figuring how to balance scientific goals with the need to respect individual and cultural privacy. And for Native Americans, the question of how to do that, like nearly everything, is bound up in a long history of racism and colonialism.
[…] for Native Americans, who have witnessed their artifacts, remains, and land taken away, shared, and discussed among academics for centuries, concerns about genetic appropriation carry ominous reminders about the past.
Eveleth references the widely publicized case where the Havasupai Tribe living near the Grand Canyon sued an Arizona State University scientist for using genetic samples collected from the tribe to conduct research outside of the purpose of the original study. The crux of the issue was the consent form, which covered a broad range of uses for the samples—a fact that the tribes claimed was not explained to them appropriately.
Although the tribe won the case, reclaimed the samples and settled with the university for $700,000, the issue captured the front page of the New York Times and put “every tribe in the US on notice regarding genetics research” as Native American tribal research ethics expert Ron Whitener quoted in an article titled “After Havasupai Litigation, Native Americans Wary of Genetic Research” published in the American Journal of Medical Genetics Part A.
Around the same time that the genetics of the Havasupai were being studied, another high profile issue bought Native American tribes in conflict with researchers. The Kennewick Man, an approximately 9,000-year-old skeleton was discovered by accident in 1994 in Kennewick, Washington. The Umatilla Tribe, who were indigenous to the region, sought to reclaim the remains under the 1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act to bury it in accordance with traditions. Anthropology researchers who wanted to study the skeleton however, argued there wasn’t enough evidence to convincingly show that the remains were Native American and therefore should not be returned. This resulted in a widely publicized eight-year-long legal dispute between scientists and the government that ended in 2004 with the court ruling in favor of the archaeologists, a decision that the tribes were expectedly unhappy with.
Now, the issue has come under the spotlight once again with the Seattle Times reporting last month that preliminary DNA analyses indicated that the Kennewick Man was indeed of Native American ancestry.
Go on social media and not get somewhat depressed? Exactly! I watched Twitter instead of the Big Debate, for example. I want to gauge what others are thinking. My head still hurts. (Yelling out loud may help sometimes.)
Otherwise I cuddle up and read and crochet and do mosaic coloring so I keep very very calm. I know it’s theatrics and not politics.
Native Musician and AWARD WINNER JOSH HALVERSON (Lakota) SELECTS ALICIA KEYS AS HIS COACH ON NBC’S THE VOICE: Josh Halverson (Mdewakantonwan Sioux) who won the Songwriter of the Year Award at the Native American Music Awards in 2013 for his Cd, One Shot, earned a last minute three-chair turn during The Voice Blind Auditions as his wife and young son, Thunderbird, watched backstage. Josh, who is a cattle rancher from Texas performed a haunting version of Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young”. Once Miley Cyrus, Alicia Keys, and Blake Sheldon hit their buttons, they all turned around to fight for Halverson. Although Blake brought out his best cattle talk, Halverson chose to join Team Alicia. [www.NAMALIVE.com] I don’t watch the VOICE but I love Josh.
A notorious example: NY city planner Robert Moses designed a number of Long Island Parkway overpasses to be so low that buses could not drive under them. This effectively blocked Long Island from the poor and people of color who tend to rely more heavily on public transportation. And the low bridges continue to wreak havoc in other ways: 64 collisions were recorded in 2014 alone (here’s a bad one). READ HERE
Joseph Blue Crow discovers why he has spent his life in the shadow of the raven. And now, for the first time, he feels able to walk the good red road. He will dedicate his life to recording the personal stories of the descendants of the Lakota people who died at Wounded Knee. In the light of truth, he says, may all heal. (I’m finishing up THE ROCK CHILD by Win Blevins now)
 Recognition in a tribe is not always a black or white issue and there are exceptions to this rule, such as instances where one is raised in the culture or on a reservation but does not have other requirements for membership such as a blood-quantum requirement. This statement is not speaking to those circumstances.
Interesting post, but the info about the DNA test is misleading. Due to the fact that not every child inherits every gene from his parents, etc., it is quite possible for a sibling or a first cousin to have Native American (or any other) DNA markers when another one does not. The fact that you do not have a particular type of DNA does not mean that you do not have an ancestor with that heritage; it simply means that in the gene lottery, you did not get those particular genes from great-grandma, or whoever it was who had that ancestry. That is why old fashioned genealogical research with documents and cluster DNA testing of several siblings or other relatives is more helpful for determining your actual heritage.
“Catholic Orphan Asylum. A New Extensive Site Is Selected on Fordham Heights,” The New York Times (Nov. 22, 1898).
Roman Catholic Orphans’ Asylum – Bronx, NY
Roman Catholic Orphan Asylum, 301 West Kingsbridge Road at Sedgwick Avenue
The Bronx, N.Y. 10468
St. Patrick’s Boys Asylum (Manhattan)
Fifth Avenue at 51st and 52nd Streets (1851-1902)
(c.1851) – Boys’ Chapel
Prince and Mott Streets (1826-1851)
St. Patrick’s Girls Asylum (Manhattan)
461 Madison Avenue at 51st Street (1886-1902) & Prince and Mott Streets (1826-1886)
The Roman Catholic Benevolent Society, established in 1817, was the oldest charitable institution in the Archdiocese of New York. At that time, parentless Catholic children were lost to the faith if they were taken in by Protestant orphan societies. From the beginning, the society was administered by the Sisters of Charity. The first building, located at Prince and Mulberry Streets, opened with 30 inmates, but within a few years was overcrowded. In 1826, a new building was erected on Prince and Mott Streets, but by the 1840s, it, too, was badly overcrowded as was St. Joseph’s Half-Orphan Asylum on West 11th Street. In 1845, Archbishop John Hughes appealed to the city for land on which to build a larger facility, and was offered the entire block between Fifth and Madison Avenues from 51st to 52nd Streets. The deed, signed on August 1, 1846, directed that the rent would be one dollar per year as long as the property was used to house orphans. At that time, Fifth Avenue was not paved and the area was relatively uninhabited. A few years later, in 1852, Archbishop Hughes would purchase the block directly to the south for a new cathedal that was begun in 1858 but not consecrated until 1879.
In 1851, the boys were moved into the new facility on Fifth Avenue. The first building had accommodations for five hundred boys, and a trade school wing, built in 1893, provided accommodations for two hundred more. The girls’ wing, completed in 1870, held eight hundred. There was every facility for religious, moral and social training.
A separate building for girls was built on Madison Avenue. Designed by Renwick & Sands, the five-story building was completed in 1886. At this time, the last of the girls were moved from Prince Street and the old orphanage there was converted into a parish school.
By the 1890s, the midtown area had been developed and land values had increased enormously. Private institutions were enticed to sell their lucrative property and use the proceeds to relocate farther north. Nearby St. Luke’s Protestant Episcopal Hospital, located since 1846 at Fifth Avenue between 53rd and 54th Streets, sold its property and built a new facility on Morningside Heights in 1896. Columbia College, which built a new campus at Madison Avenue and 49th Street in 1857, moved to its present Morningside Heights site in 1897. About that time, a committee was formed to select a new site for the Roman Catholic Orphan Asylum.
In November 1898, the committee met at the Archbishop’s residence and decided to acquire from the Bailey estate a tract of about 28 acres, most of which was between Sedgwick Avenue and the Harlem River in the Fordham Heights section of The Bronx. Located on the highest point in New York City, the site served as a strategic vantage point during the Revolutionary War. In 1847, William H. Bailey, who was partners with P.T. Barnum of the Barnum and Bailey Circus fame, bought 26 acres of land as a country home for his bride. In 1899, the land was purchased for $290,000, and erection of the buildings began. The next year, in 1900, Archbishop Corrigan was given permission by the city and state to sell most of the asylum’s midtown property to developers for $2,100,000, although he retained the Boland Trade School that fronted Madison Avenue for his proposed minor seminary, Cathedral College. The proceeds from the sale paid for the new orphanage in the Bronx and provided a $1 million endowment for the orphans
The new Roman Catholic Orphan Asylum was built atop the summit of the high ridge immediately east of the Harlem River, about 140 to 190 feet above tidewater. There were two buildings—one for boys, the other for girls—besides the old Bailey mansion. Each building was five stories high with a basement, measured 385 long by 50 feet deep, and had two wings 50 feet by 125, and a chapel. The new buildings provided accomodations for 1,600 inmates and were occupied in April, 1902, although they and the grounds were not completed until the next year.
With the passage of the Widows’ Compensation law in 1918, the number of orphans at the asylum was reduced to about 700, which was less than half of the capacity. In 1921, the Archdiocese sold the property to the Treasury Department, who planned to convert the facilities into a a hospital for ex-service patients suffering from mental and nervous disorders, and arranged for the transfer of remaining orphans to other facilities. The purchase was turned over to the newly formed U.S. Veterans’ Bureau by Executive Order on April 20, 1922. By adding several buildings throughout the years, the Bureau made the Bronx hospital the second largest V.A. facility in the nation, with a total of 1,663 beds, and the first veterans hospital in New York City.
Jenkins, Stephen. The Story of the Bronx from the Purchase Made by the Dutch from the Indians in 1639 to the Present Day. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1912
The Manhattan Guide – Greater New York Red Book. New York: The Manhattan Guide Company, 1901.
Nelson, George. Organs in the United States and Canada Database. Seattle, Wash.
“St. Patrick’s Day Parade in NY Dedicated to Sisters of Charity,” Vincentian Family News (Feb. 25, 2009).
Shelley, Thomas J. The Bicentennial History of the Archdiocese of New York 1808-2008. Strasbourg: Éditions du Signe, 2007.
“Soldiers to Give Up Polyclinic Hospital for Home in Bronx,” The New York Times (Oct. 6, 1921).
I think adoption has left many of us adoptees frozen in time as missing children. Details of our first days and births are sealed in files – leaving us without essential details of our birthparent’s lives when they made the decision to let us go. Our adoption records are sealed so the majority of adoptees are still unable to have a copy of our original birth certificate in all but a few states in America. Why?
If we’re adults, why are we still being treated as children?
Most of us were adopted by strangers. In my case Sev and Edie didn’t choose me. I was available. I was not “chosen” or “saved” or “an orphan.” Those myths are repeated in newspapers everywhere, as part of the propaganda by the billion dollar adoption industry. This industry is not about the chosen or saved or orphaned child. That’s the selling part. Those are their sappy slogans used to convince people to continue to adopt and pay their money. It’s just a mind drug that you’ve saved someone, or rescued an orphan.
I was not saved from my birthparents Helen and Earl. They were real people, alive. My mother was 22 and my father was 27. If my mother Helen had support from her parents, instead of condemnation for committing a sin and getting pregnant, she might have kept me. At the very least my father should have had the right to raise me, right? He would have, I was told when we met when I was 38, but it was too late to change what happened.
Right now, Minnesota has my original birth certificate. They won’t release it to me. I’m 57.
All my parents are gone, all passed. It’s not that I do not know who they were. I opened my adoption at age 22 with a judge in Wisconsin. I know my names, their names and met my father. Why would Minnesota not release my birth certificate to me now?
Archaic laws. Old laws. Privacy? for whom? They are all dead. Why are adoption laws protecting dead parents?
This is my reality. I can’t change the laws myself but if you are reading this, you might pick up the phone and contact your state representative and ask them, who is adoption secrecy protecting? Is it protecting adoptive parents? Is it protecting dead birthparents? Why? Or is it protecting the adoption industry so they can continue their money making and human trafficking?
I know children will still be adopted, no question. The industry can’t be stopped overnight but if adoption is the only way for a child to be safe, find their kin and family (grandparents, cousins) to raise them.
If strangers must do it, give the child their name, ancestry, medical backgrounds for both parents, and a signed letter from each birthparent.
If only birthparents had to write that letter! Then they’d have to sit down and think far ahead when their own flesh and blood reaches adulthood. What reasons would you give your child as to why you chose adoption and handed them to strangers? What are good reasons? Religion, money, marital status, mental or physical illness?
This letter to your birthchild should be the law of the land.
(That letter would a reality check and could be a real deal-breaker.)
By Trace A. DeMeyer (author of One Small Sacrifice and Two Worlds)
Becky Drinnen and I are adoptees, writers and contributors to the new anthology “Adoption Reunion in the Social Media Age.” The editor Laura Dennis asked us to discuss our stories in the book and ask each other questions for our blogs. The new book will be released January 27 on Amazon and is available as an ebook on Kindle (for e-readers). (ISBN: 978-0985616847)
TRACE: Becky and I were both named Laura before adoption… how amazing is that synchronicity… So Becky, you and I began our search the old way, before the internet. If you were asked advice by an adoptee who is still searching, what would you recommend as far as how to search, and what about using social media?
BECKY: Why am I not surprised that we were both named Laura before we were adopted? I can’t tell you how many times I have connected with women named Laura! I think it began with my childhood infatuation with Little House on the Prairie author Laura Ingalls Wilder. (I STILL love those books!) In the past few years I’ve connected with several Lauras — including Laura Dennis, the editor of “Adoption Reunion in the Social Media Age”!
Search and reunion is a very personal experience. Every search will be unique. For those still searching, I think it is important to know that many adoptees have been reunited with their parents without access to their original birth certificates. Reach out to search angels in your state for advice and assistance. Keep in mind that at times the key to your search may be in a dusty file cabinet or sitting on a library shelf. Just because you can’t complete your search online doesn’t mean the information isn’t available to you. In my case, I didn’t even have my father’s name when I started my search. With some adoptee intuition and a lot of work, I found what I searched for. Don’t get discouraged!
The Internet has not only put search tools such as Spokeo, Google and Facebook at the fingertips of those searching, it has also given adoptees, birth parents, and adoptive parents a public voice. The Internet gives authors the opportunity to spread the word about their books via Social Media, blogs, and Amazon. And there are many, many GOOD books out there that chronicle the adoption experience and offer search tips and advice. My advice would be for any adoptee searching would be to get educated! Read, learn and participate in discussions, and get involved. And reach out to others. This will help you in your search and will help you anticipate the variety of reactions you might experience. And believe me, it will be emotional! I really can’t say enough about being emotionally prepared for whatever you might find at the end of your search. When I found my mother, I wasn’t prepared for rejection. Then, many years later, I met my father and found I wasn’t prepared to be welcomed with open arms.
Social media is widely used by adoptees and birth parents as a tool to communicate and gather information. Facebook opened doors to me and helped me learn that my brother and I both know some of the same people! So, here’s what I believe: What others post on social media sites and make publicly available is fair game. Feel free to explore what is publicly available. I also think social media is a great way to keep in contact once ongoing contact has been agreed upon. However, in most cases, I don’t think social media is a good way to make initial contact with a parent or child. Social media is a wonderful tool, but it needs to be used carefully.
TRACE: Adoptees have to deal with “the fog” and fantasy. Usually we guess or dream up what our first parents are like and only know what our adoptive parents tell us. Did your adoptive parents tell you anything about your first family and did they support you searching for them?
BECKY: My adoptive parents were always very open with me about the fact that I was adopted. However, they knew very little about my birth family. The only fact that they remembered was that my birth mother had red hair. Of course, once I learned that, every time I saw a woman with red hair, I looked for resemblance. I dreamed up stories in my head about her searching for me. As a teenager, I was obsessed with questions about my birth family. I wonder if I would have been more at ease with being adopted if my parents had been provided with more information — in writing — about my birth family.
My Mom said that my birth mother was mentioned when they first “met” me at the adoption agency, but they were so excited about meeting me that they remembered very little of that conversation. My parents kept a very extensive file of everything they received, and there was no additional information provided about my birth family in that information.
Interestingly, they were given a booklet called “All About Me”, which contained information about what I ate, sleep habits, etc. Apparently the adoption agency didn’t feel any background about my birth family was important for me to know.
I did not tell my parents prior to searching. I knew my Dad would be okay with me searching, but I wasn’t so sure about Mom. For most of my teenage years, when I was angry with her for establishing a curfew, or sending me to my room for hitting my brother, I would tell her that my “real” mother wouldn’t treat me that way. I know I hurt her deeply at that point in time. By the time I searched, I was on good terms with both of my parents, but I felt strongly that this was something I needed to do on my own.
I did tell them about my search about a year after I found my birth mother. She declined contact, but I had some limited contact with her sister, my aunt. My aunt provided me with pictures of my mother, my grandparents, and my brother and sisters. I started this conversation with my adoptive parents by showing them pictures! They were supportive and curious. I’ve always had quite the independent streak, and they knew I’ve always had questions, so I don’t think my search shocked them. I do wonder if my Mom would have reacted differently if I had established ongoing contact with my mother.
Twenty-plus years passed between the time I told my parents about finding my mother to the time I met my father. By that time my Dad had passed away. Once again, I conducted this search without my Mom’s knowledge. Once again, I opened up my conversation about meeting my father with pictures! After I told Mom the story about how I learned his identity, then walked up to him at a public event and introduced myself to him, her first comment was: “I wonder what he thought about how you were raised”? She is comfortable with my ongoing contact with my father.
TRACE: I grew up in northern Wisconsin and some of my first family lived there also. But I didn’t know this. I’m sure I’m not the first person to wonder if I dated someone who could have been a cousin, sibling or blood relative. You also grew up near relatives. Is it possible you met someone in your family and didn’t even know? Did that ever concern you when you were dating?
BECKY: Growing up, no, it never crossed my mind that I might date or be in contact with a blood relative. I was born in Cleveland, Ohio and grew up in a small town across the state, 200 miles away. I always felt very far away from my biological family; I just assumed that they were from the Cleveland area, so why would they ever end up in a tiny little town across the state.
When I found my birth mother in the early ’80’s, she was living not in Cleveland, but in Columbus, less than 100 miles from where I live. That still felt far away to me — I never thought it was in the realm of possibility that I would become acquainted with a family member. Imagine my surprise when, thanks to that mutual friend feature on Facebook, I discovered that my brother works with a friend of mine, eight miles from my house. In a moment, I learned that what I never imagined possible was, in fact, real. And it doesn’t stop there. As I have become more and more vocal about my experience as an adoptee, I have learned that several other friends and acquaintances know my brother through their work. I do believe that, at some point, I will meet my brother.
I recently saw or read a story about a birth mother/daughter reunion where mother and daughter realized they had been connected during the daughter’s growing up years. Mother had been a school bus driver, and after some discussion, they realized that she had been the driver for her daughter’s school bus route! I always felt like I would “know” it if I met a birth family member. This story illustrates to me that what I believed may not always be true.
TRACE: Some of us deal with rejection by our first families. My mother Helen chose not to meet me but did send my birthfather’s name after I wrote her a second letter. You have not met your mother (not as yet) but did speak to her… Do you think this new book could change your mother’s mind about having contact with you and suggest a reunion?
BECKY: Trace, I hurt for you as you ask this question. And I hurt for me. I was still firmly entrenched in the “adoption fog” when my birth mother refused contact with me. In fact, I knew very little about adoption issues at that point in my life. I SO wish resources such as Laura’s anthology had been available to me to help me through the search and reunion process and to help me understand many of the issues faced by all of those affected by adoption.
I learned how my mother’s sister perceived the circumstances of my conception and placement for adoption almost 30 years ago. However, it wasn’t until I reached out to my mother again in 2011 and had a conversation with her that I really understood how deeply affected she had been by getting pregnant and being shamed by her parents. I came away from our conversation with the realization that she has never healed from placing her first child for adoption. She did what her parents and social workers told her to do… she walked away from the hospital and never spoke of me again. Not even to the man she married three years after my birth. Yet she still remembered the name she gave me. And she told me she thinks of me every day. She didn’t forget.
I can’t pretend to know all of the thoughts that run through her mind. What I do believe is that she has a lot of healing to do before she will be in a place to be ready to meet me. And I believe that studying the issues faced by adoptees and birth parents is an important step in healing. The adoptee and birth parent community has been a tremendous source of information, support and healing for me. And I believe that, if my mother would read books like “Adoption Reunion in the Social Media Age”, she would begin to have the tools to heal. And the courage to reach out to others who share her experience. She would realize the impact of adoption for adoptees. And she would be able to identify with the stories of other mothers who lost children to adoption. If this were to happen, I believe she might have a change of heart about meeting me.
***I want to thank Becky for sharing her thoughts and story for my website and at American Indian Adoptees. Do you have a question you’d like to ask us?
I love it more than I ever imagined. I started on Blogger in 2009 and now have two wordpress blogs (including this website) and 2 tumblr blogs. It’s crazy I blog so much. It’s a good place to write and post on all kinds of things! A few years ago, I decided to teach a beginners blogging course at the local college. I also run a blog for my class. It’s a lot of blog, I know. (I also help others set up their blogs). But I am a student of life and I am still learning.
2. What is your favourite way of writing?
I type most things on the computer but poems and more emotionally-based writing is still best done by my hand – pen to paper.
3. What things assist your writing processes?
Space! I had to rearrange the office and computer to be next to the window to see and hear the birds I feed – this seems to be the best place for me to start a writing project… I can work day and night and not disturb my dear husband. I also carry a small notebook for ideas that pop into my head so I don’t forget my thoughts. This all works very well for me,
4. Books or Kindle?
Both actually. I love my Kindle Fire but there are many books on my shelf that I refuse to part with. EBooks and Kindle will become even more popular in the future, I am sure.
5. Do you have a favourite place to write?
I used to sit at the dining room table when I started handwriting my memoir – without fail it was 4:30 am – this went on over two years! It was and is necessary for me to have quiet and silence.
6. When do you write?
I write day and night. Pretty much every day too.
7. Has life offered you challenges and opportunities which inform your writing?
I told myself as a 20-something that I would be a writer when I gained some life experience. I worked many years at all kinds of jobs- developing confidence and the skills that I needed to become “the writer.” Now that I am a former newspaper editor, those skills really help me finish the manuscript.
Being an adoptee and searching for so many years taught me to be patient and courageous. I wouldn’t change a thing.
8. Where do you look for inspiration?
Mostly books. I read others writing – especially blogs like Von’s and many many others. The Lost Daughters blog (where Von and I contribute) has inspired me often, too. I read lots of poetry and bury my head in history as often as I can.
I can look out my window and be inspired – so anything and everything inspires me.
That’s changing since my husband Herb retired. We walk when weather permits. We go to the Cape so he can fish and I can read, get sun and watch waves. I am working on a work-life balance now and its evolving.
10. What can’t you live without?
Honesty, I could not do all this without my husband’s love and support. So the answer is my husband Herb.
Back in 1985, I sat quietly with a Catholic priest after my adoptive father’s funeral and asked, “can you tell me, what are the exact differences between the various religions?” He answered something very vague.
And it still needs an answer.
The first priest I’d asked was in junior high school; to answer he said I needed to read a few books. What he gave me was no help at all. It seems if you want a straight answer, you don’t ask a religious leader like a priest. Maybe they can’t answer because you are not supposed to question them or their dogma?
Or even worse, bring up something like the Inquisition.
No one is sure exactly how many were killed by the Catholics Inquisition but it’s millions, and mostly women!
Raised Catholic, I was not exactly encouraged to question anything; rather I was expected to blindly believe everything they told me as their Gods honest truth. It really bothered me at mass when their readings would refer to prophecy but never give us a way to read it ourselves. No one I knew questioned anything told to us at mass.
I used to read a lot about martyrs and saints. Millions died brutally because of their religious beliefs. Some still die for beliefs today, like tribal conflicts in Iraq. Churches today remind us to be martyrs, and live like saints. Belief was/is worth the sacrifice. In the 20th Century, 160 million murders were committed in wars, often over differences in religious belief.
Religion casts a wide net, right? It has caused witch hunts, genocidal massacres and created some pretty horrific homicidal maniacs like Adolph Hitler and Christopher Columbus. Tribal conflicts erupted at first contact with Puritans then conquest and religious belief spread like disease, killing millions of North American Indians.
Religion can also cause a collective blindness and amnesia. It manages to create a judgment of “others.” Enough judgment can certainly cause war. Asking about a certain religion and questioning their belief can get you dispelled from a church, excommunicated or accused of blasphemy and heresy, even killed.
In recent times, churches would simply whisk their pedophile priests out of view, move them to a new parish and bury the evidence. Leaders of religions will often subtly excuse or elude facts, not allowing or teaching their actual history.
Religion, to me, is about practicing exclusion. They exclude other beliefs and other religious views to make theirs better, best, most favorable. And by not teaching about other chapters of history where religions were responsible for murdering others, like the Mormons for example, this makes their followers pretty ignorant of the truth, right? You don’t see many Mormons revealing the tenets of their “faith” or history and they actually exclude others from looking at it.
September 11, 1857: Mormon militia, some dressed as Indians, and Paiute tribesmen killed and plundered unarmed members of the Baker-Fancher emigrant wagon train. [*Bagley, Will (2002). Blood of the Prophets: Brigham Young and the Massacre at Mountain Meadows. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN0-8061-3426-7.]
I always felt it was my job as a journalist to look at history and religion with a lens of accuracy, not faith. It’s my job as a writer to find the truth where it exists, if it exists.
Blind Faith? I don’t think we are aware of our collective amnesia as a whole. I think most organized religions push first for forgiveness and faith while their elite peddle tidy versions of history so the masses won’t wake up, can’t wake up. If the majority of people were exposed to a timeline of religious massacres, they’d question their reliance on faith in their religions and leaders. (Read http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_events_named_massacres)
We are at a time of awakening. I only ask that you ask questions to be awake.