A Single Gift (my latest column on Open Adoption Bloggers)

A Single Gift

Kim column topper

Every year I dig out the boxes and the red and green plastic bins from our storage area. I haul them up to our living room and prepare for a flood of memories as I begin to relive my Christmases past.

As you might guess, the bins are filled with holiday decorations and ornaments I’ve collected over the years. Some of the ornaments are still in their original boxes and others are wrapped in makeshift cushions of paper towels, bubble wrap or newspaper. As if on a secret treasure hunt, I retrieve them one by one. I unwrap each ornament in my hands as if waiting for their story to be revealed.

You see, I’m not one to purchase the package of multicolor bulbs or to decorate with certain colors or themes each year. Don’t get me wrong. I love the look of beautifully decorated trees. It’s almost an art form, isn’t it? At the hands of a skilled decorator, what starts out as either a real or artificial evergreen tree almost magically transforms into an illuminated masterpiece.

My tree is less of a masterpiece and more of a mosaic. A hodgepodge of decorations each representing various events in my life. And each one carrying with it a special memory from the past.

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University of Central Florida – Go Knights 🙂

There’s the hand-embroidered ornament with the logo of our alma mater made by a friend and fellow classmate. I was lucky to have participated in a unique program with UCF and my employer at the time, Walt Disney World. About 40 of us signed up for this degree program that would be taught on Disney property. Over the course of the two years, our group shrunk to about 29 people or so, but the majority of us graduated with our BA in Communication in 1996 – disproving the unfortunate nickname for the college which was, “U Can’t Finish.” I met my husband while attending UCF.

The ornament my husband inadvertently stole. Which he says I stole.

The ornament my husband inadvertently stole. Which he says I stole. Um, no I didn’t.

There’s a covered bridge ornament from Vermont that we got years ago.

Somehow we walked out of the quaint little gift shop without paying for it. We didn’t realize this until we were miles away. We still tease each other about it. (for the record, HE stole it, I did not).

And there are tons of those thin, gold ornaments from our anniversary trip to Hawaii, a solo excursion to Nashville, and a visit to Yosemite. They reflect the light so beautifully.

But my favorite ornament is a delicate, pearl white bulb with a hand-painted picture of Princess Aurora from Sleeping Beauty. It’s the first ornament that goes on my tree and it’s the last ornament I put away. It means the world to me because it was a gift from my son. He picked it out while shopping with his mom back in 1992. He was four. I was single at the time and living on my own, but it quickly became the central piece of my small, but growing collection. It has a quote on it which reads,

“Each of us the child shall bless, with a single gift – no more, no less.”

When I first read the quote, it made me stop in my tracks. I’m overwhelmed each time I read it. No gift comes close to the gifts of love and family and friendship. And I’ve been lucky enough to receive all three through my open adoption relationship with my son and his family.

Over the years, I’ve kept all the cards, letters and photos he and his family have been kind enough to send me. But this ornament holds a tender place in my heart. And it always will.

sleepingbeautyornament

The One Where I Reveal My Stalker Tendencies

I’m totally duplicating efforts today. I’m reblogging my column this month from the Open Adoption Bloggers website.

On being thankful for books, the Internet and openness. And how I’m a total stalker.

 

http://openadoptionbloggers.com/2013/11/25/thankful-for-books-the-internet-and-openness/

Glasnost is Coming…

November is National Adoption Month and there have been lots of wonderful stories in the media lately. Some of them have been really extraordinary.

I believe that honest and open discussions as well as truth-telling will eventually extinguish the myths still surrounding adoption – open adoption, in particular. Over the last several months, I’ve become immersed in the open adoption community. I’ve followed blogs, chatted on twitter and read extraordinary articles, which little by little are shedding light on the secrecy, shame and stereotypes that unfortunately still permeate the adoption community. And I’ve heard horror stories just as you might have of parents who have “returned” their adopted child as if the child was some commodity purchased at the local Costco. It’s heartbreaking. And I’ve seen the ridiculous so-called reality shows that glamorize teen pregnancy and trivialize the very profound and personal choice of adoption. I’m not linking to any of these shows because I don’t want to generate any more publicity for them than necessary. But one flip to the Oxygen Network, Bravo or MTV will clue you in to what I’m talking about.

But there is one woman whose voice rises above all the negativity. Lori Holden is an adoptive mom who has embraced her children’s birthmothers. Heck, she even co-authored a book, “The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption,” with her daughter’s birthmom. It’s a fabulous read. I encourage everyone to buy it, and read it.

51I9sM6ncjL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_Today, Lori wrote a national article for National Adoption Month. She titled it, “Ready or Not, Glasnost is Coming.” Her premise is that she believes the walls surrounding adoption will come crashing down – not unlike the Berlin Wall 25 years ago. She believes in openness in open adoption (not walls of secrecy or shame.) She believes in honoring her children’s biological heritage (not building walls that hide the truth.) And she believes that all adoptees have the right to open access to records so they can know their personal histories, not to embarrass or reveal – but so that adoptees can reclaim their personal identity.

Her article is fabulous. And so, I decided to repost it here. I hope you’ll take the time to read it.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lori-holden-/ready-or-not-glasnost-is-_b_4296934.html?utm_hp_ref=fb&src=sp&comm_ref=false#sb=847498b=facebooksb=1401968b=facebook

Open Adoption Roundtable #51 – “Does It Get Easier?”

The latest prompt from Open Adoption Bloggers on the Open Adoption Roundtable asks, “Does It Get Easier?”

My short answer is: YES.

My long answer is…it depends.

Here’s why. Open Adoption is about relationships with and communication between people. It’s fluid. It’s delicate. And it’s real. Therefore, it’s subject to the same flurry of emotions and uncertainties as any other relationship.

At the beginning of my open adoption journey (back in 1988), communication between my son, his family, and myself was all conducted through the adoption agency. Cards, letters, gifts, videos…all were sent to this agency first and then transferred either to me or to his family. It was a bit awkward, but it came as no surprise to me. I knew it all upfront.

Nearly one year from his placement date, my son’s parents made a trip out to Massachusetts (where I lived) for personal business. Just them – no little ones. The trip was phenomenal. Although I and my mother had met this wonderful couple, my father, sister and my son’s birthfather’s family had not. We enjoyed one jam-packed day touring Boston, walking, talking and getting to know one another. It was extraordinary. It was as if we had known each other for years.

On that very trip, I broached my son’s mother and mentioned I might be interested in taking a trip out west to visit and would they be willing to meet me for lunch or something. I remember the exact moment…vividly. She and I were seated in the backseat of a car headed back to the birthfather’s family’s house (have I lost you yet?) She and I were chatting like girlfriends. She looked me straight in the eye and said, “Let me give you our information.” And with that, she wrote her full name, address and phone number down and handed me the piece of scrap paper.

I felt so many emotions…I was stunned, ecstatic, nervous, happy, eager, cautious, overwhelmed…

Looking back, I suppose it was only natural. They had been to our homes and called us on the phone to make arrangements (no cell phones or Internet, remember, but still – information could easily have been revealed).

That day set the tone for these last 25 years.

The openness and trust that my son’s parents exhibited that day wasn’t just coincidence. It was a result of the relationship that we started to build with one another – all of us – on that day. There was just something there, you know? Something that’s kind of hard to explain. Think of your best friend. You know how you have that special something that only you two know? It’s kind of like that. We all just knew that this was right. This was good. And this unique family adventure we had just begun was going to be amazing.

And it has been.

A New Opportunity

I am thrilled to be a contributing writer/blogger for “Open Adoption Bloggers (OAB)”. My column runs once per month – and my first one ran today! It’s mostly an introduction, a bit of my story and a sort of fuzzy vision of what I hope to accomplish with this valuable space.

Also, I’m scared to death to be this open and “out there” with my story!

This blog is really my personal writing space – and some of it involves my experiences as a birthmom.

My writing for OAB will focus exclusively on my experiences as a birthmom in an open adoption. Maybe you’ll follow me there, too?

In the meantime, I’m trying to channel my inner Sara Bareilles.

Open Adoption Roundtable #50

The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of writing prompts around the topic of open adoption. It’s sponsored by Open Adoption Bloggers and is a great way to get some different perspectives from all sides of the adoption prism. This roundtable topic is:

WRITE ABOUT OPEN ADOPTION AND SCHOOL

Two thoughts came to me when I read this prompt. The first was a story that my son’s mother told me about when he was about to enter kindergarten. He’s now 25, so this was around 1993-94. He was preparing to attend a local Catholic school and was visiting with one of the nuns on the school playground. His mom was out of sight, but within earshot. No doubt she was smiling as she watched her son (our son) – who has always had a certain maturity about him – hold his own during this very important meeting.

As they walked and played, the Sister asked him his favorite colors, his favorite toys and about his family.

Then she said, “Tell me what’s special about you?” My son’s mother told me that he thought about it for a second and then smiled a huge smile and replied, “I’m adopted!” He was happy and proud and this was his ‘normal’, thanks to the openness his mom and dad encouraged and practiced.  This story always makes me smile.

The second thought I had when reading this prompt was about my fourth grade daughter. She knows about her brother and she knows his adoption story. She loves her brother immensely and although we don’t see him as often as we’d all like, we are in touch often. Every year it seems she has some school project about a family tree where she needs to list her immediate family members. Without my prompting, it makes my heart happy to know that she’s always included her brother. Always.

Here’s a project she had to do in second grade…her brother and sister are on the main part of her tree.

Family Tree

Family Tree