Birth Mom …

(Been kind of a nutty past couple weeks .. and I haven’t had a good chance to sit to write like I’d like.  Such good intentions last week, especially.  SO playing catch up yet on the final two posts from my week of talking about my Moms.)

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I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know that I was adopted ..

I just always knew.  From the time I was a very little girl.  My parents wanted me to know that someone loved me enough to have me – and at the same time, know that it was in my best interest someone else raise me, because it wasn’t the right time or place for them to have that job.

At a very young age, I believe I came to realize just how fortunate I was, that I found the family I did, that I was even on this earth, and how painful a decision that had to have been to make.

I knew at some point, I would want to meet her.

If nothing else, to say thank you for the life I have been blessed with.

……………….

“I’m ready to look,” I said to a friend who worked for the State Adoption Agency.  It was probably 11 years ago.  And my own mother was dying of cancer.

It wasn’t long, I got a call back.

“They’ve been waiting for you,” my friend says .. “Her parents still live in the same home they did then.  It didn’t take much to find them.”

I wasn’t ready at that point for many reasons, to make the call.

So I wrote a letter.  I told her I would be in touch when the time was right.

I wanted so much for the two of them to meet, my two mothers.  The one who gave me life.  The other who gave me a life .. and if I was ever to meet my birth mother, I wanted her to know my mother-mother, the woman who had raised me ..

My mom-mom .. wasn’t sure it was what she wanted.  In fact, I know it wasn’t what she wanted.  I still remember one of the only conversations we had about it.  The two of us had just left one of her chemo appointments.  Things weren’t going well.  And we were sitting in front of Babcock Hall about to go in for an ice cream cone.

“I just don’t want to do it,” she told me through tears.

I never brought it up again.

While I am sad there never was that connection, I feel even worse about what I believe the reason why … out of fear she would lose a piece of me or perhaps even all of me, if I ever made that other connection.

I knew that would never be the case.  No one could ever come close to replacing my mom-mom.  But I also knew, nothing at that time, or perhaps ever, would ease her mind.

…..

My mother passed.

My birth mother stood in the back of the church and cried.

We have since spent some wonderful time together.  Talking.  Crying.  Getting to know each other.  Reminiscing about my life and hers .. since that day she let someone take me from her arms and put me into someone else’s.  I stood up in her wedding.  I have met her siblings (my aunts and uncles).  Spent time with her kids (my siblings).  Her parents (my grandparents).  Seen a couple births.  Deaths.  Dropped my daughter off with her for a sleepover with her cousin who she adores and is the exact same age as ..

Had some regrets I haven’t had more time with her.  But most importantly, appreciation for the time we have had.

I love her dearly for the incredibly tough choices she (and her mother) made.  Choice or perhaps better said, what was expected of her.  Life since then, I know, has been tough on her.  And she, tough on herself I believe for having let me go.  I know she never wanted to.  But when you are 16 .. and at that time in our society, the early 1970’s .. keeping a child wasn’t something many looked upon favorably.  I was told out of several other pregnancies in her school and class at the time, I was the only child born that year.

There are no words I can ever say that will fully encompass how grateful to my b-mom for my life.  And the life I’ve been given because of her sacrifices.  But I try.  With thank you’s and I love you’s, as often as possible.

And I know deep down, even though they never met, the woman I will always know as my mother, the woman who raised me.. most likely feels the same.

Best Friends Mom …

I was five, I think when we moved into the house that I eventually grew up in..

I knew there were some other kids in the neighborhood .. and my brother and I were excited to explore.  The neighborhood.  New friends.  The woods behind our house.  The rope swing over the pond.  The sewer treatment plant (that at the time, didn’t have a fence around it).  Disgusting, I know.  But at that age, the dirtier, tougher and grosser we could be it seemed, the better.

We had a blast.  It was small town living at its best.

Growing up, I would almost always choose hanging out with the boys versus just about                                                                                                                                    any girls.  I don’t ever remember anything different.  In part, because there were just fewer girls.  But I wanted to play football or baseball, golf, run and jump and build forts and climb trees, bike everywhere I could and go into that one old house we all thought was haunted and our parents told us never to approach.  Not just walk by and wonder.  There was no playing dolls.  In fact I still remember having to apologize to a girl in the neighborhood we first lived in because I ripped the head off one of her dolls.  I’m not sure I meant to, it just happened.  I think.  I had little interest to sit around and watch tv.  Or be giggly and put on make up and talk about boys.  No thank you.  Not at that time.

And the one girl who lived just a few doors up the street, closest to my age, felt exactly the same.

In getting to be fast, best of friends with Amy ..

I also became very close to her family.

Even her brother who used to site me in the eye of his slingshot, chase me home, hide in the woods knowing I was heading home to scare the bajeezus out of me, lock me out of their house if he knew I was coming or once I got in, not let me leave.  And then find a way to put his underwear over my head.

Perhaps I got close to their mom, Peggy, because she felt terrible for me and it was out of pity over all of that.

But I’m pretty sure it wasn’t.  Peggy was just kind of, like some of the others I have mentioned the past couple days .. mom to all who knew her.  The door was always open.  Food or a meal to be shared.  Drinks in the cooler.  There was always time for a late night chat.  A hug.  A phone call.  A walk around the block.  An invitation to join whatever it was the family was doing.  Always.  I loved her and still do so much that at times, I believe my own mother felt very slighted.  Because Peggy was in many ways to me a resource I wasn’t sure how to completely find in my own mom.  Someone I could talk to about anything.  Not feel I was revealing too much or be judged.  Or who would ground me for any of it.  There was just always sage advice.  A kleenex.  Understanding.  Empathy.  Love.  Laughter.

And Cheetos.  There was always great junk food in the cupboard up the street .. stuff we rarely had at home.  (A tradition much to my daughter’s dismay I now carry on.  Very little junk food ever in house.)

I would usually stay to a point where – we knew the phone would ring.  And when it did, we would all look at each other and say, ‘my mom’, and chuckle.  Sure enough, my mother would be on the other end of the line, when she could have shouted up the street, saying .. “Ten minutes, honey.  You need to be home in ten minutes.”

I hated leaving, always.  And still do.

Peggy and her beautiful family have always made me feel at home and been home to me as much as I have a home anywhere.

And because my parents sold our home years ago .. when I get back to my hometown, which isn’t often enough ..

Main Street in our small town

I find myself mindlessly, always pulling into their drive.

………………..

So much has happened recently I want to write more about but I don’t want to say too much.  What I do want you to know is the difference you have made in my life.  My time here.  That I am reminded everyday of the importance of time together and family and good health and paying forward so many blessings like time together and laughter, a door always open and so much love to be shared..

I love you dearly.  So many do.

I think I may go today and buy Cheetos for the neighborhood …

Cowgirl Hall of Fame ..

I was assigned a story my first summer working as a reporter in Missoula, Montana:

Head to an area about 3 1/2  hours southeast of town, called the Big Hole Valley and catch up with a group of riders on that particular year’s leg of the Chief Joseph trail ride.

Courtesy:  West Yellowstone News

http://www.westyellowstonenews.com/news/article_2a8c9da8-cc3b-11e0-8016-001cc4c002e0.html  (Photo above courtesy:  West Yellowstone News)

And since I was going that far away, yet it was still in our viewing area, I was to come up with a couple additional stories to film while there.

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“I’m looking for Sheila,” I called and asked for the woman I had been reading about was a famous hatter from that area.

http://montanahats.com/category/newsworthy/

“Hang on just a minute,” I remember a woman’s voice on the other end of the line.  I heard the woman call for her.

“This is Sheila,” I’ll never forget the deep, slow and deliberate, sweet yet strong voice that answered a few moments later.

“Sheila, my name is .. ” and I went on to explain who I was and that I was coming to her area to film another series of stories.  I knew she had made the Cowgirl Hall of Fame for her cowboy hat making.  Would she allow me to film a piece on her?  She happily obliged. We agreed on a time and day to meet.  And I believe from the moment I walked in the door to the hat shop that day, we have been friends.

Courtesy: Seattle Ray

Well, actually it was probably more over beer later that night and some dancing at the Antler Saloon..

But friends.

And then it somehow, quickly become more than that.  She and her husband at the time, and her daughters took me in, as family.  Not uncommon for Sheila.  The woman has wrapped her arms around many besides her own children, and made them feel like one of her own. We have visited as often as possible, since.  Spending a lot of weeks and weekends together, a few holidays, moves, weddings, deaths, a graduation, nights around the fire, new babies, a divorce, another wedding ..

You know what I mean, just life.

A lot of life.

And while I’m not sure what Sheila has ever gleaned from me ..  I have at times, besides just enjoying every single moment I’m able to spend with her, leaned on her hard.  Even lately.  She has always been there for me, usually giving me the straight shoot, calling me out on anything necessary, helping me set upright again and always move forward with a better perspective for having spent any time with her.  Teaching me new things.  And some old things I need to be reminded of, like, sometimes it’s important to slow down and appreciate this life.  I tell her, usually in-between laughs, I try and appreciate it too much, which is why I’m always so busy.

She also let’s me know when she thinks I’m doing a few things right. And she’s been telling me since meeting him last fall when we were in town for a visit and the 4H Rodeo ..

.. that the Cowboy in our lives is one of those things.  And, she mentioned she’s been saving up for a trip she hopes (and now knows), is coming soon.

Even when my own mother was still alive, I was so incredibly grateful for Sheila in our lives… but over the years, I have grown to appreciate the woman she is, the examples she sets and the time and love extended us all the more.

Missoula ..

I’m pretty sure I met her one of the first few days I was in Missoula, having just landed the first job of my career.

I didn’t know anyone out there, which was fine.  I rather enjoy being an anonymous soul at times.

But for some reason .. this wonderful woman, a woman I know others (at least in the role I was in) felt could be gruff, easily agitated and not someone you could get too close to .. took me under her wing.

Chari is her name ..

And every year when we return to Montana to see friends, who are like family ..

 

She is always one of our stops.

Chari was behind the counter at the police station the first time we met.  Every time I would go over for a beat check on the crime scene, we would end up talking about one topic more often than not, but usually there was a little bit of everything under the sun.

Chatting over the counter quickly turned into coffee every Sunday night after we would get off of work.  We would pack up and head over to a little 24 hour restaurant that sits over one of the creeks that flows through town.  It was quiet, out of the way .. and the staff let us sit for hours ordering maybe only toast and refills, while we talked about life.

It was something we did for over at the very least, a two year stretch.

If I were ever heading in any way astray, she would and still does quickly put me back in my place, with a lot of love .. or if I were troubled about so many of the life decisions one has to make at the tender age of 25 about life and love and career and where to live and all that stuff .. she would offer perspective and allow me gracious room to make my own (mistakes) decisions.  And she has supported me however any of them have turned out.

We still get together for dinner or coffee.

Not as often as I’d like, though.

Not nearly as often as I would like.

Although we only talk a few times a year outside of any in-person visits, I think of her always and love her dearly.

A Godmother ..

I want to be sure my daughter knows who the important women are in my life ..

And I am so very fortunate that there are many.

My mother, grandmother and great-aunt, who helped raise my mom.  They are now all gone.

For now though .. I want to at least say a few words about the various women who are my mothers, by different definition, or who have stepped into that role for me willingly or otherwise and are as close to my own mother as they come.

The days leading up to Mother’s Day, I believe, are as good a time as any to share those thoughts.

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godmother is a female godparent in the Christian tradition.

God parents are responsible in nurturing the spirtual growth of the child. The parents guide the child in day-to-day functions, but the God parent guides the child when it comes to their relationship with God. It is actually a very big responsibility and an honorable position to hold in the childs life.

Godmother may also refer to:

  • A female arranged to be legal guardian of a child if untimely demise is met by the parents
  • Godmother (cocktail), a cocktail made with Italian Amaretto liqueur and vodka

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(When you look at the word Godmother too many times it starts to look weird, doesn’t it?  Anyway …)

I don’t remember ever not knowing my Godmother.  She has been a part of my life always.  I don’t know how she was picked.  But I called her tonight, told her I was writing about her and asked if she remembered what that moment was like .. the moment my parents asked her to be my Godmother.

“Who is this?” she first said.

It’s been awhile since we’ve talked, obviously and at the very least, I learned my number isn’t programmed into her phone.  I feel bad about that.

“It’s me.  And I’m writing about you tonight.  Tell me about ….”

She laughed.

“It’s you? .. How are you?  I can barely hear you,” she said.  “What was the question again?”

Anti-climactic, I guess.

She went on to tell me that she and her husband, my Godfather were thrilled.  She said they had seen me, and were so excited to have been asked.

“We were thrilled,” she said.  “In fact, not too long ago, I came across the certificate that says we are your Godparents,” she added.

I asked if she might send me a copy, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it .. nor do I remember what the certificate we signed with my own daughter’s Godparents looks like.

Regardless …

I knew that if anything ever happened to me, she and her husband would be the ones to care for me.  That thought, by the way, used to scare the hell out of me.  Not that they, her name is Donna by the way .. Donna and her husband would care for me, but that they were there ‘in case something ever happened‘ to my parents.

They were always there with a good joke.  With an invite to dinner.  At school events.  In fact, Donna used to work at one of the schools I attended growing up, so I had quite a bit of time with her.  They are always there with a birthday or holiday card.  They have come to every major life event.  And many of the minor ones too.

A couple of months ago at an event in my hometown ..

No matter how much or how little we are in touch .. she, and they are here for me and my family.

I don’t know that I have ever spoken a word about God to – or with my Godmother though .. is that common for most, anymore?  In fact the last three times were were probably in church together were my baptism, my wedding and my own mother’s funeral.

Is the role of Godmother more symbolic anymore than it is about the traditional role?  Or has it always been that way?  I believe so.

(My own sweet child, I feel terrible I have no idea if you have ever had a conversation about faith with your own Godmother.)

Regardless, I am so appreciative of Donna’s constant presence in my life, and the reason why.  That she would guarantee I have a loving home if ever needed.

The peace of mind, to a parent, I believe is priceless.

And I would think, an honor to both the one asking that someone would say yes .. and to those being asked.

Thank you, Donna (and G).  Love you dearly.

And to the Godmother of my own daughter, love you for always being there for her too, more than you will ever know.

…………………

Now about that Godmother cocktail…

Day After the Storm ..

It was a day of cleaning up and assessing the damage after last nights violent storms ..

For the adults, anyway.

The kids …

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… found a day full of fun and laughter and using their imaginations in a few piles of gravel, dirt and a half flooded field.

It was wet. Muddy. And cold. But no one seemed to mind. And it was so beautiful just watching the four of them, the cowboys kiddos and my little girl, have so much fun .. be so carefree ..

And for us to have seemingly all the time in the world to be outside and just be together (and laundry soap necessary to deal with the aftermath), even though we needed to get back home to Wisconsin.

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Lessons Learned on a Rainy Saturday ..

Four kids in a small house, no matter how tired they may be, will all wake each other up.

Rain coming in through an inner wall of the house isn’t a good thing and probably means we should have already fixed the roof.

It’s good to look in the attic of an old house .. and see if for some reason you might need more (or any) insulation.

There’s a beautiful, huge greenhouse that I will gravitate toward often out in the middle of nowhere, South Dakota.  Because I love to garden.  And their stock rocks.

The Cowboy gets stressed if too many projects seem started but not finished.

Leaving a margarita out on the table with small thirsty children around probably isn’t the best idea.

Margaritas can be a good idea though and a good solution for too much stress.

I am quick to be on a horse called “I’ll have another”.

A blind pony is best led back into a pasture past the snapping electric fence before the lead rope comes off.

An electric fence that isn’t connected all the way around, may or may not be live.  But if it was, there is one tough little 1 year old in our midst.

And, proposals in the rain .. in the midst of chores .. with hands full of dirt and in front of an audience of little people .. can be beautiful.

It has been a beautiful Saturday.

Best gift to myself .. on the calendar.

Part of my to do list today (not that you can read my handwriting):

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With the smoke having mostly cleared from what seem like weeks of bang up 40th birthday celebrations .. my mind is turning back to the things I would like to do, have to do, and should do.

Especially for my overall mental and physical health.

Like .. catch up on work.  Run an extra mile each day to counteract my (I’m certain) ever slowing metabolism and the fact I’m not willing to give up good beer.  Or chocolate.  Eat more salad.  Check in with my life coach.  Catch up on email and continue to purge all this non-essential electronically and otherwise in my home/office/surroundings and life.  Finally schedule that yard sale with the neighbors, an appointment for my new crowns ..

And, a mammogram.

Check.

………………

I was waiting the other day to hear back from someone close .. on a biopsy she needed to have done to determine if the lumps she had found in her breast, were cancerous.  Or, just plain old lumps.

But at 32-years-old and with a history of breast cancer in her family we were all holding our breath, I do believe.

It was that morning, and I was rushing through my morning routine and had about 2 minutes to shower and get out the door ..

I thought to myself:   When is the last time I even did a self-exam let alone think about scheduling a mammogram given I’m now ‘at that age’?

I did a quick self exam that morning, now about a week ago.  Not that I would have known if something were abnormal.

Because it had been so long.

I actually had my first mammogram a few years ago, as there was a suspicious area my doctor and I both wanted checked out.  Turned out it was nothing.  But .. I haven’t thought about it since.  Other than the fact I know I am at risk because 1.) I am a woman.  (although men can receive the diagnosis)  And 2.)  I, like my friend and so many others out there, have a maternal history of breast cancer in my own bloodline as well.

My girlfriends biopsy, thankfully we celebrated as benign.

While there are a lot of suggestions out there right now as to how often one should have a mammogram if ever, how effective they might actually be and who should get them .. mine is now on the calendar.

Finding the energy to call both the dentist and the IRS will have to wait until Monday.

Forty ..

I feel like I am supposed to have some sort of epiphany about life that I can tell you all about, because I’m now 40.

But ..

I pretty much don’t.

And I am slowly realizing .. perhaps that is why I’ve been in kind of a funk the past few days, despite the fact it was my birthday and everyone around me seemed so excited to help me celebrate.

I think I’m feeling like I should be making more of it, because, after all, it’s 40.

You know, the new 29 or whatever everyone kept saying out of kindness or .. probably not being sure what else to say to make me feel like I’m not getting that old.

Don’t get me wrong.

I am humbled and grateful for what this year was an outpouring of wonderful reminders of how many incredible people are in my life…

The comments, compliments, cakes, cupcakes, well wishes, phone calls, wall posts (what did we ever do before Facebook reminders?), surprises, the party .. flowers, chocolate, a quick dinner with an old friend, and a night with my daughter (spent sitting in a meeting we would have been fine to skip)….

There have been so many reminders of how blessed I am in this life.  I love and genuinely appreciate all of it.

But why when someone, anyone turns 40, or 50 or 60 .. does the world seem to think its more important than say 43.  Just curious.  Marketing scheme?  Can someone explain to me the significance….

I do believe now .. all the hype made me feel all the more like I should have been making a huge deal of the day, myself (when I don’t do birthdays).  The actual day.  And that I wasn’t doing a very good job of it.  Because I somehow need to really grasp what turning 40 means, that I’m supposed to be in this great place in my life and know what life is all about and the best is yet to come .. well, because I’m 40.  We have to party.  This is a big one.  You go girl.  It’s your time.  Time to conquer the world.  Don’t you get it?  You don’t want a big party? .. You must not get it.  That kind of thing.

What’s funny is .. I think I do get it.

That’s just a lot of pressure to put on one day.  And I genuinely feel every single day is worth celebrating.  Especially now.  I am in a great place in life.  Sure, I wish some things were different.  Or easier.  But at 40, I feel I am totally starting over.  With some life experience under my belt to do it better this time.

Is that what 40 is supposed to be?  I don’t know but I guess in those terms,  maybe it is the new 29.

It actually is a very cool time in life for most, I believe.  At least that’s what people who are there and have been there are telling me.  But the entirety of it .. you know, the whole year.  Not just a day.  The turning 40 thing is one of the reasons I decided to start blogging this year.  To keep track of all the awesome, beautiful changes happening.  And my thoughts on it all.

Perhaps in writing I just came to the epiphany I needed to.

Regardless.

I am still stealing moments this week amongst all the chaos of a beautiful, whirlwind, emotional few days leading up to my birthday and got back to what I like to do in the privacy of my own special day each year:

– Thank the woman who chose to give birth to me, because she easily could have chosen not to.  And for that fact, I am eternally grateful.

– Thank the family who wanted and could raise a child, and picked me.

– Hug my daughter.

– Tell those closest to me that I love them and thank them for being a part of my life always.

– Treat myself to some chocolate.  Good coffee.  And a great beer.

– And .. garden.

It may have been digging in the dirt on my little patio last night in the dark and potting a few plants and seeds I’ve wanted to get started.  But I fit it in.  A wonderful way to chill out in the final hours of a great day.   Time for myself, to think about the seeds I’ve already planted in life and what I hope grows out of another wonderful year.