Duplicity?  There are a few sides to that issue.

I was brought up in a household where manners and courtesy were expected and practiced.  As I grow older, I am so thankful for that training.  I’ve long been an individual who despises phoniness and subterfuge.  It’s difficult for me to comprehend some of the gyrations and ridiculousness that individuals perpetrate on others.  I’m not one to participate willingly in some of the psychological games people play, but don’t think I don’t know how it’s done.  

Passive-aggressive individuals pose unique challenges in society.  Why do I see them as duplicitous?  It’s simply that some of them present themselves in a certain light and then do something entirely different.  Some would say they’re hypocrites.  They’re not.  They’ve chosen not to be confrontational and then done what they’ve wanted anyway.  In other words, they go along with a situation but then subvert the actions after the fact.

One of the areas I’ve found this to be prevalent is while serving on various committees throughout my life.  During my teaching career, I served on two bond issue committees.  The second bond was huge ($91 million dollars).  I was one of 22 committee members.  Always present in the back of my mind was my home training to be conscientious and to put forth my best effort.  Knowing I represented a few constituencies, faculty and fellow twin residents, I took my role seriously.  We met on 16 consecutive Monday nights for a few hours at each meeting.  A large issue arose, midway through the 16 weeks, over school buildings and handling a growing population.  We had it figured out.  There would be an addition to one elementary school.  The committee was in agreement.

The very next week after our meeting convened, we were told that we needed to plan for a new school to be built.  It wasn’t a question of discussing the issue, it was an order.  Naturally we were aghast and upset.  But administrators deftly steered the bond issue in the direction the Board wanted to take all along.  There is so much more to this story but suffice it to say it was the last time I served on a district committee.  Committees are formed to satisfy a requirement.  The work done is seldom reflected in the outcome.  That is duplicitous.

I’ve headed committees where the members were in agreement in meetings as to the issues and forward momentum, only to have one or two members later undermine the work of the committee in their own fashion.  Why not indicate disagreement during the meeting itself?  These same people are often the ones who have not thoroughly read the meeting materials or read the background information pertaining to the committee’s purpose and/or role.  That is passive-aggressive behavior and it’s duplicitous.

As one who is organized and takes my responsibilities seriously, these folks frost my cupcakes.  And I’ve allowed them, over time, to suck the joy and enjoyment for some activities from me.  It won’t bother them.  They don’t have a capacity for empathy.  I was taught not to stoop to the levels of poor behavior.  And I won’t.  However, that doesn’t mean I won’t defend myself.

Posted in Duplicity, Manners, Phonies, reality | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The past has passed…

imageI’ve spent far too much time living in my own past.  Granted, it was a time of happiness for me.  But if it deters one from moving forward, it’s time to shut the door on its examination and to forge a new path.  I know I’m loathe to refer to Jay Gatsby and his experiences too much, but Nick Carraway really grasps the obvious when he states, “He talked a lot about the past, and I gathered that he wanted to recover something, some idea of himself perhaps, ….”  My mind frequently revisits my childhood in Vermont.  Granted we moved when I was entering the second grade, but those few years in Burlington are forever cemented in me.

However, they’ve become a standard against which I measure myself time and time again only to find I don’t measure up.  I have to leave the past in the past now.  I’m not who I once was.  And I’m learning it’s okay to be a different person.  Would I prefer to be the slimmer, more athletic person I was in my youth?  Sure, I would.  But it’s impossible to ignore the water that’s gone under this bridge in the ensuing years.

The other day I drove past my childhood home in Burlington.  I’m always struck by how much smaller the dead-end street appears, how much closer to the street the house is positioned, how “tired” the whole scene appears.  Though I wouldn’t want to live there now, I still enjoy what I experienced there when I was young.

I was a happy-go-lucky kid, quick with a goofy smile and equally quick to go running off into the woods to reenact some television show I’d watched.  I could swim, skate and ski with ease and had no trouble keeping pace with the boys on the baseball field.  Throughout my teenage years when I visited Burlington every summer, I could still swing myself into a saddle with ease though I can see from photographs that the goofy smile had disappeared and was replaced by more of a brooding countenance.

Life can wear us down and suck the joy from any activity.  Reality tells me I’m far too overweight to try to swing into a saddle.  It would not be fair to the horse, I’m told.  Skiing and skating on a permanently damaged ankle, from an icy fall thirty years ago, would now be difficult but not altogether impossible.  Burned out from teaching tennis for over thirty years, with practice I could probably still slam a tennis ball fairly well.  I’d be slow on the baseball diamond but could still catch, though with bad shoulders I now throw like a girl.  Put me in the water and I can still swim like a fish.  I’m so thankful for that.  And thus, I look to the water for continued healing.

What’s the point?  Instead of reliving my past in the comfortable world of a child, I’m able to see a path that leads me to that happy-go-lucky kid…the one who didn’t care if her hair was a mess, the kid who protected other kids who were bullied, the kid who immersed herself in books.  Wait a minute, I’m still that kid.

Posted in challenges, Change, childhood, inspiration, learning experiences, nostalgia, Reflections | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Did I do enough?

imageIn the wake of the most recent school shooting, I’ve been so proud of the young people in our country.  They are showing the adults how to effect change in a peaceful manner.  They are so articulate and are using their collective voice for the common good of all of our country’s citizens.  They understand change may not come quickly, but they also understand how votes may affect outcomes.  I like that.  These kids finally understand the power of the vote.  Good for them.

I turned 18 in 1976.  I was a freshman in college.  Our political science professor asked the class how many were registered to vote in the upcoming election.  All of the students raised their hands, with one exception.  I was the exception.  The professor called me out.  In a quiet voice I admitted I wasn’t old enough, my birthday was two days after Election Day that year.  He proceeded to make fun of me and called me a baby.  It turned me into a committed voter.  I don’t like to talk politics but I never miss an opportunity to vote.  I could have let that negative experience dampen my desire to vote.  It shows how teachers have the potential to impact our lives.  That professor appears occasionally on the local news as a consultant.  I’m proud to say I laugh each time I see him and I blow a huge raspberry at him.  I love my inner child.

Back on task.  The other day I was in a local market.  A young man at the cash register called my name loudly and proceeded to tell everyone within earshot how proud he was of his group’s effort on the Cleveland Torso Murderer’s project.  He felt they solved the mystery.  The young woman at the other register said, “Oh my God!  I did the Jon-Benet Ramsey case.  It was so cool.”  Granted some of the customers were dumbfounded by the somewhat graphic discussion that followed.   In my head, the critical voice said, “they really learned.  That was several years ago and they remember details.”

The cold case squad project in my Detective Fiction class was my sneaky way to get a bunch of checked-out seniors to research…and they had to do extensive research.  They didn’t even know they were researching.  In order to handle the antiquated language of Edgar Allan Poe, I broke down “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” into multiple sections.  There are at least a dozen witnesses in the story and they each had conflicting information.  We made a grid on the board and filled in information each day, like a real case board that detectives use.  There are plenty of other stories about dozens of lessons and units.

Let me tell you this, I learned so much from all of the kids who passed through my classroom.  They humbled me, they challenged me, they enriched my life beyond my wildest expectations.  I loved teaching and sharing my passion for literature and writing.  At times like the other day, I felt good about what I’d done.  Even though I’ve been retired for a couple of years, I still rehash lessons and think of better things I should have done.  It’s time to let that go.  I gave them all I had and I’m so glad some of them were impacted in a positive manner.

Posted in education, inspiration, life lessons | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A few NBA players, a few million people, and me…

What could I possibly have in common with all of these people?  It’s pretty simple:  depression, anxiety, panic attacks.  And thanks to three prominent NBA players it’s finally getting some press.  Kevin Love is the latest to discuss his mental health issues.  DeMarcus DeRozan and Channing Frye have already discussed their challenges.

Like any health condition, if one hasn’t experienced it, one cannot understand it.  There are so many people in our society who firmly believe those with mental health illnesses possess the ability to “buck up” and act normally.  Do they honestly believe that we enjoy feeling horrible?  It isn’t like a broken arm that is easily fixed.

Even with treatment and medication, these conditions may persist in a lesser form.  I’m glad it’s finally getting some press but it’s taken public figures, in this case professional athletes, to lend it some acceptability.  Because our illness isn’t tangible, it’s misunderstood.

I’ve had people behave awkwardly toward me only to find out they had never spoken with a person with an anxiety disorder.  What?  I communicate just like everyone else.  It’s when I’m quiet that I’m waging an internal battle.  Once, while attending a graduation ceremony, I confided to a “friend” that I wasn’t feeling well and was having an anxiety attack.  I was told to go outside, get some fresh air, and get hold of myself.  I found another ride home for my “friend” and then went outside, got in my car, and left.  But this is what happens.  People don’t want to deal with us.  It was a tough lesson.

If it takes celebrities to help enhance the understanding of the plight of depression, anxiety, and panic attacks, then so be it.  If you know someone who is afflicted, please don’t make light of it and lose your patience.  No one feels worse than we do when we are unable to do the things we want to do.  And whatever you do, don’t ever tell us to “suck it up.”

Posted in anxiety, depression, Illness, inspiration | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Let’s get real, people…

Kids are dying unnecessarily in our country.  These mass shooting tragedies do not have to happen.  They just don’t.  I’m certainly guilty of putting my thoughts and prayers out there but the folks in Florida are correct…we need action.  Writing to our legislators is one way to do it but they are too fearful of losing their jobs so most will not stand up to our current President.  Our current President doesn’t have a clue about the realities of day to day life amongst us “common people.”  He was raised in a vacuum of privilege, attended private schools and has people who do everything for him.  I’m not sure when he last stepped into a public school.

Though I stay away from political discussions for the most part, this whole mass shooting issue has me disgusted and upset beyond reason.  I’m not a total anti-gun person but I am an anti assault weapon person.  There is no reason for individuals to need to possess an assault weapon.  But let’s talk about the real problem.

There is no quick fix for this issue.  Banning some types of weapons, advocating for mental health treatment and having resource officers in every school are all starting points.  However, there have been huge changes in our society in the last few decades and those have not been taken into consideration.

Speaking as a retired teacher, who taught high school English for 25 years, I’ve watched our young people become desensitized to many things.  As a kid I watched plenty of television but was fully aware of what was real and what was fantasy.  Because of the advancements in technology, the television and films kids watch today are ridiculously realistic and horribly violent.  Naturally they seem to assume this is how life is conducted.

Our nuclear family structure has also changed drastically.  Our society has become one in which people value and prize material items to the extent that they don’t want to make economic sacrifices because they want to have “stuff.”  This often requires both parents to work outside of the home.  Children are not as closely supervised, are indulged, and are largely not held accountable for much of anything.  Look at the role models they have in professional sports and the entertainment industry.  Look at the fashion trends for young women.  If they don’t dress in a trendy fashion they are ostracized.

Social media has created a new level of viciousness in bullying.  Kids are bullied and where one or two other kids might have known about it, now entire schooldays and communities become aware.  Naturally teen suicide has increased along with teen depression.

I’m too upset to continue.  I’m well aware my opinions will not be agreeable to all.  They are my opinions, based on my experiences in a community similar to that of Columbine or Parkland.  There is no simple answer but we are existing in a society where our leader is a huge schoolyard bully.  Just look at the names he’s given to individuals through his social media participation:  Lyin’ Ted Cruz, Crooked Hillary, Sloppy Steve, Rocket Man, Sneaky Dianne Feinstein, Lightweight Kirsten Gillibrand, Dumb as a rock Don Lemon, Little Marco Rubio, Crazy Bernie Sanders, Psycho Joe Scarborough, Cryin’ Chuck Schumer, and, of course, Pocahontas.

I’m going to be thinking long and hard about how I can effect some change.  Our legislators certainly don’t have it within them to be of help.

Posted in frustration, loss, reality | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Best laid plans…

As most of us know, we can plan, plan, and plan some more.  And, as most of us know, plans don’t always work out.  I adhere to a firm belief that things happen for reasons so when things don’t pan out as I feel they should, I force myself to stop and take a deep look at the big picture.  In other words, God is trying to tell me something and I darn well need to stop and listen.

Don’t believe me?  You don’t have to but I know it’s true for me.  Case in point:  January 1977.  Midway through my freshman year of college, I was working and partying my way through the semester break.  I was young, healthy, had no clue what I wanted from life, but was attacking life in a willy-nilly fashion.  I’d just spent a semester carrying a full load of classes, working at least 30 hours per week, was trying to find my way in a college environment ill-suited for me and hanging with a whole new group of friends.  As one who chose to live home and go to college, my high school “friends” who went away to college seemed to forget I existed.  Knowing I was financially responsible for my college education, I spent most of my free time working.

Unbeknownst to me, I had just navigated a very difficult emotional few years and was ripe for disaster.  I chose to go out with some former high school friends, I was sooooooo thrilled to be included, even though I was not feeling well.  We went to a couple of bars, passed a can or two of beer between the six of us in the car, and had the kind of fun night that 18 year olds have.  The next day I visited my school’s campus and bought my books for the upcoming semester, then I went to work.  I still didn’t feel well but that’s life.  Within the week I would be diagnosed with mononucleosis, a rather serious case it turned out to be, complete with jaundice and a distended liver.  My exceedingly busy life came to a screeching halt.  I’d attended exactly one day of class for the second semester.  I wouldn’t be back in a classroom until the following autumn.

Threatened with a hospital stay, I assured the doctor I would be a model patient.  It wasn’t difficult because I was only awake for about one hour out of the day.  It was just past midterms when I was deemed healthy enough to go back to school.  Really?  How was I supposed to do that?  I accepted the semester was a wash, had no social life and didn’t know what to do.  I did what I do best, I read.  Since I read quickly, I went through the entire Agatha Christie collection within a month.  Then I discovered the work of Mathew Brady, the revered Civil War photographer.  It took all of my strength to peruse those huge books containing the collections of his work.  The tone of the photographs matched the bleakness of my outlook on life during that time of illness.  But after weeks of quiet rest, countless blood tests, and hours of introspection, I came to the disturbing conclusion that I was not happy with my life.  Well, I had plenty of time to think about how to change it.

When mid-April rolled around, I had formulated a plan.  It involved working full-time for the remainder of that semester to save even more money so I could transfer schools after two years.  As time passed, the plan became more specific but it was conceived during that time of recuperation.  It had taken a major event to allow me to stop and evaluate my life.  That isn’t to say the resulting decisions I’ve made have been stellar but I always learn something from these episodes.  This has happened a handful of times in my life.

It’s happening now.  Approaching this shoulder arthroscopy with a cavalier attitude, after all I’d had the other one done a few years ago and it wasn’t bad, I figured I’d be up and running within five days.  Yeah, well, I’ll have some coffee with that crow, please.  As much as I can plan for things, I again forgot the lesson I’ve learned from the esteemed poet Robert Burns:  “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men/Gang aft a-gley.”  No matter how carefully I’d planned, I forgot to figure in the x-factor, or the great unknown.  What I didn’t make much of an allowance for was pain.  The other one wasn’t terribly painful.  This one is.  Overall, I deal with pain quite well.  This time it’s knocking me for a loop.  Taking pain meds and driving are mutually exclusive.  I live alone.  Hadn’t factored in the non-driving circumstance.

The upside is I’ve had loads of time to reflect.  I’m so thankful to have a man in my life who seems thrilled to help me.  And he even understands that I have difficulty accepting help.  And he keeps returning even after I’ve had a meltdown, cried, yelled, and used language that I didn’t even know I knew.  This generally happens in the late morning after the shower is taken.  It’s not pretty.

But it’s canceled out by all of the good.  My neighbors and friends have overwhelmed me with meals, treats, and flowers.  I’ve had several visits filled with laughter.  And I’ve had plenty of time to reflect on the current state of my life and what needs to be tweaked.  Overall I’m very grateful that my period of convalescence will not be lengthy and that I’m so lucky not to be dealing with a far more serious issue as many people are.  Most of all I need to remember to be thankful and humble and patient.  And I need to remember that any plans may be disrupted at a moment’s notice.

Posted in challenges, faith, Health | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Gadgets and gizmos and life

My two weeks with the diabetes sensor ended today.  Actually it came off yesterday when I was changing my clothes.  Try to recall the most super-duper adhesive bandage you ever wore and add a tiny needle to it.  Riiiiipppp, off it came.  I was not unhappy as it was becoming a bit of an irritant.  Overall, it wasn’t bad.

What was horrible was having to look at the results along with my endocrinologist.  It was pretty much what I expected, only worse.  The sensor disc from my arm had been continuously testing my blood sugar levels for 13 days.  Somehow they transfer the data to a meter-type device and then to the computer.  Several pages of charts and data are then printed out.

Now, I know I eat way too much in the evening and if the emotions are charged, watch out.  And when I overeat, I’m not munching on broccoli or apples…it’s usually some carb-loaded crappy food or fatty meat.  We diabetics know that carbs are not usually our friends.  Most people in general know that fatty meat isn’t good for us either.

Well, my doctor was explaining the results and showing me how the data was tracked.  We could see that things go okay in the morning and then there are some gentle ups and downs until about 5 p.m.  And here is a direct quote from my endocrinologist, “then it all goes to hell.”  I asked if that was the technical explanation.  We both had a good laugh.

Apparently he doesn’t want me living in hell which is nice.  There could be two explanations:  1). I’m not aware of the carbohydrate values in the foods I’m overeating, or 2) I’m not acknowledging the amount of carbohydrates I’m ingesting and then using an appropriate amount of insulin.  I told him there was a tiny percentage of #1 but it’s mostly #2.  There is more work to be done.  An appointment has been set up for me to meet with the diabetes educator.  Then for 1 week I will track all of my food (the good, the bad, and the ugly) and my estimates for carb values and then the amount of insulin used.

After that, we will create a fresh plan of attack which will include substitutions for some of my bad foods, etc.  since I have great difficulty facing my eating issues, by being honest about what and how much I eat, my doctor suggested the following:  he told me to face it as a number issue, like a math problem.  If I can analyze it from that standpoint, then it should be more helpful.  Makes sense to me.  I’ll work on creating that mindset.  This all happens during the beginning of February.  I wanted to wait until after I have my shoulder scoped in a few weeks.  One thing at a time.

Trust me, I’ve had tons of nutritional counseling throughout my adult life.  In the last two decades I’ve met several times with diabetes educators.  I’m not a stupid individual.  But for the last thirty years I’ve had difficulty controlling my eating.  It feels very much like an addiction.  I’m learning to change my mindset.  It has to be changed slowly and that has not been my strong point in the past.  So, I have to focus on proceeding slowly.  I’m moving forward and that’s a good thing.

The picture is one I found on the Internet but it shows the sensor with its “probe.”

Posted in challenges, diabetes, life lessons | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

You need a nudge?

I’ll nudge you.  Since people seem to like to read about struggles, I’ll throw one out to you.  I’ve talked about struggling with weight issues.  I’ve talked about struggling with overeating issues.  I’ve talked about struggling with health issues.  Let’s get real.  I will show you what NOT paying attention to your health can do.

I was a very active child and very thin.  Play was a 24/7 lifestyle for me….running, jumping, bicycling, swimming, skiing, you name it and I likely did it.  My competitive nature drove me to perform even if I was injured because, let’s face it, we are kind of stupid when we are young.

When emotional health issues kicked in during my college years, it became all too easy to “medicate” myself with food.  Food has always been a comfort thing for me and I could get away with it when I was young.  But with college and life beyond it comes a more sedentary lifestyle.  Inactivity leads to weight gain.  Weight gain causes increased “weight” on an already serious depression.  Depression causes the need for comfort.  Desire for comfort leads to eating.  Eating causes weight gain.  Weight gain causes physical health problems.  See where I’m headed?

Before you rush to judgement, because some of you will, please understand I’ve also done a great deal to counteract all of this mess.  Counseling has been a part of my life for decades.  Medication has been part of my life for decades.  Diets and weight loss programs have been part of my life for decades.  And yet, here I am facing a momentous “decade” birthday year as an obese person who has depression, generalized anxiety, atrial fibrillation, diabetes, and high blood pressure.  Before you rush to judgement, because some of you will, here I am facing a momentous “decade” birthday year as an obese person who has a more than competent intellect, a capacity to feel far more than the average person, an innate drive to write, a desire still to play in any body of water I come across, an ability to make others laugh, an endless capacity to get up each morning and start each day expecting to make improvements in some part of my life.  Oh yeah, I’m lucky enough to still have a mom who gets that it’s not “all in my head” and hurts for me because she understands what it takes for me to get through each day.  And I have a man in my life who accepts me the way I am and some close friends who do the same.

So, what will I be doing this week?  Tomorrow morning I will be at my Weight Watchers meeting and I hope to be in the pool at the local YMCA a couple of mornings for aqua exercise class.  Maybe you’ll be there!  I’ll greet you with a smile because I will be glad to see you.  And if you see a cool gadget on my arm, just know it’s the latest and greatest technology designed to help me manage my diabetes.  Because, you see, I’m not a quitter.  I have too many stories to tell and too many laughs yet to enjoy.  Time to quit ignoring my body when it tells me it’s tired of lugging around this overly large carcass.  I’m tuning in and it will not be a perfect journey; I have to get over that unrealistic expectation.  This is a momentous “decade” birthday year.  I don’t dread it, I celebrate the fact that I’m still here.  So, nudge this…

N.B.**This quarter-sized device is called a CGM, or continuous blood glucose monitor.  Through a tiny filament just under my skin it is monitoring my blood sugar levels for two weeks.  The subsequent printout will aid my doctor and me in future treatment to lower my levels.  Kind of cool, huh?  I’m all about cool.

Posted in challenges, gratitude, journey, obesity | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Coulda, shoulda, woulda…gonna?

For all that I preach about not “dying with your song unsung,” I’m not doing much of my own singing.  My intentions are good.  I’m always planning to finish crocheting the afghan I started about 20 years ago, or to delve into the cross stitch project I’ve prepared, to bake some Christmas cookies, to clean the house, to cook for myself, to finish the damn mystery novel already, to lose 750 pounds by next month, to live in the cabin in my head for real.

Is it too late?  Have I missed my moment?  Does it matter?  No, no, and yes.

It matters to me.  What has taken me a long time to accept is that it’s okay that this process has taken so long.  Though many of those around me have never understood what it takes from within me to slog through each day, I’ve learned to accept that I’ve done a pretty marvelous job.  I’ve also learned to accept that it wasn’t within me to:  “paste on a smile and feel better,” or “stop dwelling on the negative and think happy thoughts,” or “everyone gets sad now and then.” 

Even people who have a loved one afflicted with depression/anxiety are impatient and don’t understand why the loved one just can’t move on.  Believe me, we would love to leave it behind in a heartbeat.  Are there some who dwell on it and wallow in it?  Sure, there are.  I’m not one of them.

I’m well aware that there are people out there who would trade places with me.  I feel for anyone who is physically ill and facing insurmountable challenges.  I’m not trying to minimize any of that.  But at least it’s tangible and there is no stigma surrounding it.  Enough of that.

Visiting my cousins in Vermont a few weeks ago stirred up a lot of stuff in me.  I was truly a happy kid when we lived in Burlington.  It made me ache inside when I thought of my early life and the joyous feelings of life back then.  It made me glad to see my cousins are living what I’d hoped would be my reality.  It drove home the fact it won’t ever be my reality.

I’m kind of all over the place here which annoys me because I like my writing to be organized.  I’m blessed with so much:  a mom who has done so much for me; a guy who thinks I’m the best thing since sliced bread; a home that is cozy; an ability to use the printed word; a chance to connect with my biological family.  And yet, I feel so useless.  The brain that allows me to think and feel, the brain that allowed me to be so passionate about my teaching, is the brain that holds me hostage.  It didn’t allow me to finish my career on my terms.  It made me throw in the towel.  It’s hard for me to live with that.  I’m not a quitter.

But there is still enough of that little Vermont kid in me:  scrappy, happy-go-lucky, quick with a laugh.  It tells me my moment may be just beginning and no matter how much my bones ache because of the chronic sate of being overweight, I can slowly reclaim a decent level of fitness.  And no matter how I ache inside because of “lost” dreams, I have the ability to create new dreams.

Today I’m going to connect with that kid in a time-honored tradition.  I’m going to play the Jo Stafford tunes once found on an old album of my parents, as I’ve done for dozens of years, and I’m going to decorate my Christmas tree.

Posted in challenges, perseverance, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Family trees, twigs and broken branches

Family comes in many shapes and sizes these days, a far cry from the traditional four-person family of the 1950s.  How fortunate for us.  If some of you have been bitten by the genealogy bug as I have, I’m sure you’re familiar with the requisite research-based websites.  There are also more than a few television programs that discover people’s pasts.  In some cases, they reunite adopted folks with a member of their birth family.  It’s always a happy ending, on tv anyway.

From the time I was old enough to understand (6 or 7), I’ve known I was adopted.  It meant, to me, that I was chosen to live with people who could provide for me and that, due to circumstances beyond control, my birth parents were unable to care for me.  Though my upbringing was far from easy, I was provided food, shelter, love, and a chance to achieve higher education.  My “home training” was well done.  I was raised to be kind to all, to demonstrate good manners, and to do my best at whatever I tackled.  I’m proud to be who I am.

Several years ago, I was vexed by a number of medical oddities that had befallen me over the years.  Spurred on by cautious curiosity, I made the decision to search for my birth parents.  I certainly didn’t want to cause angst or to shame anyone.  However, I did want to know if I was in store for more weird medical situations and I needed to understand what had shaped me.

For much of my existence, I’ve never felt as though I’ve belonged.  I was a tomboy who thrived as a child in Burlington, VT., because of the opportunities for tons of play time outdoors.  Moving to upstate NY was a huge change and put the brakes on the development of myself as an individual.  I learned quickly to fit in and do what was expected.  That said, I wasn’t afraid to create my own niche, that of “jock bookworm.”  If I wasn’t bouncing a ball, I was reading a book.

But I yearned to ride horses, play the drums, water ski, ride dirt bikes, and many other things female suburban teenaged girls were not encouraged to do.  I loved traveling back to Burlington each summer to spend time with my friends.  We swam, played tennis, rode horses and all that wonderful outdoor stuff I missed.  As life progressed, I began to work during the summers and old friends moved on.  I passed up a great opportunity to attend college in Burlington, but I can’t cry over spilled milk now.  I spent decades fitting in.  But I still wanted to know who I am.

After many years of research, endless hours staring at computer screens and at microfilm screens, perusing newspaper archives and making telephone calls, I can say I’ve discovered my roots.  Though the one meeting I had with my one living birth parent was less than idyllic, certainly not like the tearful, joyful things they show on tv, it was not awful.  I was not inspired to pursue that avenue much further but it didn’t dampen my spirits in moving through the family tree.

And you know what?  I’ve met some wonderful people.  Even better is they are my blood relatives.  My mother is the woman who raised me.  She will always be my mother.  She sacrificed tremendously to provide for me and I will forever love her for what she has given me.  But meeting folks with whom I share genetic components has been very humbling.  My mom and I are the last of our family.  And while that’s sad, it’s life.  I go forward knowing how much family I really have.  I’ve met several cousins now, mostly first cousins.  They are warm and loving people.

This past weekend I was invited to a post-Thanksgiving celebration where I met more relatives I’d never met before.  It was truly one of the happiest days I’ve had in decades.  It’s always a risk to step into the unknown but I seem to have a guardian angel.  Those I met this weekend:  an aunt, some first cousins, and several first cousins, once removed were so thrilled to meet me it seemed unreal.  It was a beautiful experience.  And it took place at a “cabin in my head” setting, like my very own Hallmark movie.  Did I mention they live in Vermont?

Posted in family, genealogy, perseverance | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment