Archive for the ‘family issues’ Category

Where Are You From? or How I Chose Adoption as Career

November 18, 2011

I went to a writing workshop last week.  The topic was “Where are you from?”  I wrote that I am from the flat West Texas plains; I am from the salt of the earth, and I carry the saltiness of rebellion; that I come from listening audiences and the spotlight of a stage. And it went on (3 or 4 handwritten pages) from childhood to adulthood, ending with I am from the longing of parents who cannot make a baby and I am also from the loss of women who find themselves pregnant with a child they cannot keep, as well as from the seeking of roots by children who want to know their origins.

When I started to sketch out how I wanted to illustrate this ‘place’ from whence I come, I drew a flat horizon line, with rows of irrigated crops in one-point perspective. My intent was to add clouds to the sky and give them a silver lining. Then I picked up a Phoenix Garden magazine and immediately found a photograph of some fields near Casa Grande with reflected sky in rows of irrigation — at the EXACT ANGLE AND SCALE I had sketched.  There were other photos that I wove in:  a magician, plants, and in a segment at the back called “options for infertility” that was illustrated with newborn baby’s feet cradled in an adult hand. Pink feet became clouds in the sky and strings of silver sequins were the silver lining.

In the same magazine there was also an interview with local Radio Personality Beth McDonald of Beth and Bill, about continuing her program [now known as Beth & Friends] after Bill’s death from cancer. One of the interviewer’s questions was printed: “Death can remind us of our need to live.  What things do you still want to accomplish?” So I cut that out and placed it on the page because I, too, had a Bill in my life whose passing made me know I need to write and distribute my books on adoption. This is now in a journal book that will become part of a project for the Scottsdale Arts.

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Finding My Marbles

May 25, 2010

From my journal of 2001: All my life my mom has used the phrase ‘losing my marbles’ as a metaphor for going crazy. At 90, Mother says it about as often as I call her on the phone. Her memory is what she’s losing, and it’s sad to witness. But while Mother is losing her marbles, I’ve been finding them!

It all started when my neighbor Sheila invited me to see John Edward, the famed medium; she had tickets to his local talk. It was about a year after Sheila’s husband Richard died, and we had had several discussions about the After Life and whether we believed in connections with those who’ve gone ahead. We both held hope, but professed a healthy skepticism.

At the event in Scottsdale, John Edward scooted around the room like a psychic Phil Donahue, microphone in hand, foreshadowing his performance on his TV show, Crossing Over with John Edward. At the end of the evening, he said to the audience of about 750 that we might be disappointed because no one had come through to speak to each of us, then he led us in a group relaxation exercise, then advised us to think of a loved one who had ‘crossed over’ and ask them to give us a sign: something concrete: something to hold in the palm of our hand. He said it could come within a few days or a few months, but we would know when it happened. In the exercise I tried to think of various people, but the first person who popped into my head was my dad, who had died in 1984. I put on my standard skeptic role and went on with my life, not telling a soul of this experiment.

Several weeks later I stepped out of my car at mid day in the parking lot at Costco, and spied an iridescent marble on the ground. I picked it up and put it in my purse, thinking of 8 year old Shon, whose mother had told me that the Big Boys took away his pouch of marbles when they moved to a new apartment complex. When I came back out of the store, I found another marble like the first, and put it with the first, confirming mentally my plan to give these to Shon to start a new marble collection. Within a couple of weeks I had lunch with Shon and his mom; afterward, he played with the marbles, allowing his mom and me to talk in peace.

I thought nothing more about marbles. For awhile.

Then about a month later, I pulled into my driveway in a rental car, pending a business trip the next day. Because I parked behind my own car in the driveway, when the door swung open, I was in a different location than my usual place. In the dust next to the cement was a half-hidden piece of glass. Still sitting in the car, I reached down and picked it up. When I saw that it was a cat’s eye marble, blue in color, sitting in the palm of my hand, something clicked.

When we were little, my sibs and I played with a toy from Daddy’s childhood: a big cat’s eye marble about 1 ½ inches in diameter. It was chipped by the time we were around, and flat on one side, but we liked to heft it and look at the swirl of colored glass captured inside the globe. Sitting there in the car, I thought, “Could this be the sign from Daddy?”

Since then, finding marbles has become a regular thing. I found a marble in the parking lot next to my car at work. I found a marble while on the way to pick up lunch at a conference. I found another one alongside the roadbed while on a walk.

When I next visited Mother in Texas, I opened the kitchen drawer to look for a flipper to turn my fried egg, and a light blue marble – the color of Daddy’s eyes – rolled loudly from the back to the front of the drawer! When I went to Alaska (a state my dad had wanted to visit, but never did) I woke at 3 AM to see the Big Dipper framed in the door of the tent where we slept – exactly like the Alaska State Flag! When I got to the bath house to relieve myself (the reason I had awakened) there was a bud vase on the counter that held not flowers, but cat’s eye marbles. A week later, after meeting with a new client, a Mexican National whose husband had perished as they crossed the border in the 120° heat, leading her to make a voluntary adoption plan for the baby she would not raise alone, I was astonished to see a lone marble lying on the floor of her kitchen. When I asked how come it was there since there are no children living in her apartment, she commented (through the interpreter) that it must have been left there by the little boy whose mother was her friend and lived in another apartment nearby.

When I find my marbles, I always feel loved, and like my dad is sending his approval. Sometimes, I keep them. So I have marbles tucked away in my purse, in my desk at work, in the container here at my home desk that also holds paperclips. Sometimes I leave them alone, like the one in the client’s kitchen or the one in my mom’s kitchen drawer.

MARBLE JOURNAL

My friend Diana suggested I start a ‘marble journal’ so I can record these reminders that I am loved. Here goes . . .

11-26-04 At Mother’s, in Texas. The clock next to Mother’s chair hasn’t been working; the reason was that the extension cord mounted next to her chair was plugged into itself. After she went to bed, I found that to fix it, I had to pull Mother’s chair away from the wall to reach the wall socket. There, buried in the carpet under Mother’s chair, was a light blue marble—the color of Daddy’s blue eyes! I was comforted by a sign that he’s watching over her.

1-13-05 Following Mother’s funeral, we sibs began to break up the household: boxing things to save, to take, to store for future retrieval. We family members were all working different rooms, different areas of the house. We found marbles in various places: in her bobby pins, in her junk jewelry tray, inside a drawer. Mid-afternoon, my sister Nita (who knew I was ‘finding marbles’) walked in and handed me a soft case meant for cosmetics. I opened the clasp, and inside there were about 40 marbles, many of them cat’s eye marbles. I carried them home, and they are near my computer in my home now.

5-13-05 When I was on Nantucket Island visiting a family I helped form, I was assigned to Tink’s bedroom. It was peaceful to sleep with windows wide open, a sea breeze blowing through the room and to hear the foghorn at night. On my first morning there, I was lazing on the bed, looking at my surroundings. There, in a small vase, was a bunch of marbles. Later in the day, I told my marbles story to Tink and her family.

4-12-06 I went to Missouri to visit my brother and sister-in-law for my birthday this year. We were at the Lewis and Clark exhibit in Nebraska City, and there was a bag of marbles for sale. I didn’t buy it; just seeing it there made me feel better.

6-24-06 Today Sheila wrote that she wants to get together when she gets back from her summer trip to NH. She found a marble and saved it for me. “I figured this time I am the messenger.” (I used to take her son Drew change I found, which Sheila identified as their message from Richard.)

8-31-06 My surgeon confirms that the gall stone she removed from my diseased gall bladder last week was round and black, 1.7 cm in diameter. “It looked like a big black marble,” Dr. Laura said cheerfully, with no knowledge of the meaning of that statement to me. I feel I have lost my ultimate (self-made) marble.

9-21-06 I met my Flagstaff friend, Janet at The Cheesecake Factory and we had a nice visit while we ate supper. I told her my marbles story, a followup to her forwarded email which incorporated marbles that appeared and disappeared in the text. As we left to go to our cars, we made a rest stop. Exiting the restroom, I noticed the graceful handle on the exit door that incorporated six or seven marbles in the design

7-10-07 Heather went with me to Payson on a business trip. While I worked, she took the car and explored the town which she had never before visited. When she picked me up, there was a marble she had found next to the car in the parking lot at the hotel that morning.

2-18-08 On a work holiday, I decided to pull weeds while the ground was soft from recent rains and the weeds were tender. Soon I was sitting on a palette of wilted weeds while I pulled the plants within arm’s reach, enjoying the smell of the earth and the sun on my shoulders, and a mockingbird sang from a nearby tree. I was thinking about my mom, who spent many hours of her last years contentedly pulling weeds in her yard. I spied a marble buried in the mulch. It was a blue cat’s eye marble, with one side sheared off so that it doesn’t roll. It was just the shape of the big marble that we used to play with as kids.

2-21-08 I drove to Casa Grande today, to meet with the family from Nantucket who had come to Arizona to visit Jackson’s birth family. Tink handed me four marbles from her collection, so I traded her two I had in my purse. It felt good to have my marbles story validated this way.

6-26-09 In Montana, at Gloria’s rental house, we were climbing the back stairs to go inside. From the landing, I noticed some color in the thick grass. When I investigated, I found a bright yellow marble!

8-5-09 At my new office, setting up new furniture. One of the lamps has metallic marble pulls at the end of each chain. An office suite-mate gave me a small, hinged-lidded trinket case, perfect for displaying the gift from Janet, from the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show.

First Mother’s Day

May 7, 2010

Mommy, what was it like on the day I was born? Oh, Little One, the sun was shining and the flowers were in bloom! The world was crisp and new!

Mommy, what was it like on the day they told you I would never be normal? The clouds gathered, Little One, and blocked the sun from my tear-filled eyes. For awhile, I thought the sun would never shine again!

El Paso, Texas. Mother’s Day. The newborn baby would remain in the hospital for another two weeks while tests were done. The New Daddy was determined to not be like other daddies – anxious and worried — so he took the car and went to Juarez with friends. Defiant, The New Mother took a short-cut through the scrub desert, down the steep sides of a sandy arroyo and up the other side, to stand on the veranda of the Army hospital and peer through the nursery window at the tiny baby girl. The New Mother’s arms ached to hold the baby she had not yet touched – if you don’t count cradling with her insides for nine months of pregnancy!

How strange it must have been to be on the inside of the hospital, looking out at this chubby woman in a pink tent dress, her only dress that fit. It might have made someone uncomfortable to see the tears rolling down the cheeks of The New Mother, but no one offered a word of solace or advice. The New Mother peered in at the baby, sleeping with an IV needle in her freshly-shaved scalp, the needle pumping in medication to control the seizures that started shortly after delivery. Whenever the baby moved a smidgen, The New Mother tilted her head like any new parent, to glimpse a nose, an ear, and identify whose looks the baby inherited.

An hour was all the time allotted to The New Mother to observe her child on this Mother’s Day. Then, it was home again, through the sand, with grit accumulating between her toes in the pink, open-toed sandals that matched the tent dress.

Such emptiness. Such utter loneliness. The New Mother wailed her misery. She cried in anger and frustration. “IT’S NOT FAIR!” In self-loathing, the New Mother pulled scissors from her sewing basket. What would she do? Without looking in the mirror, she cocked her head sideways and whacked off her shoulder-length hair below her ears. More wails. Now what had she done!

A knock came at the door — the door with the ill-fitting frame inside the 18” thick adobe walls, where the wind let in the sand. The door made a scraping sound as The New Mother opened it. There on the threshold stood a wizened Old Crone – the only words to describe this hunched-over dark woman with a shawl over her head and shoulders. She spoke not a word of English, but consoled The New Mother in soft Spanish. The New Mother was at last soothed and relieved. Closing the door, saying adios to the only person who came forth to say she cared on this, her First Mother’s Day.

The Rush is On!

January 21, 2010

Amidst all the terrible news from Haiti, an awakening of interest in adoption is taking shape. I’m getting calls (as are other people in the adoption world, I am sure!) from a variety of people — Where can I go to adopt from Haiti?

Yes, there are vulnerable children. Yes, there are many families who would love to adopt a child. Yet, I extend a caution, to ‘think before you leap.’

An excellent way to crystalize thoughts before taking this enormous step would be to get a copy of: Inside Transracial Adoption by Gail Steinberg and Beth Hall. Until the end of February Perspectives Press is making this book available for only $10 to those who write “Facebook” on the shopping cart memo line. Go to: http://www.perspectivespress.com.

Happy reading!

The Client

January 16, 2010

Most of you know that I did pregnancy counseling for many years before I started my private practice. Let me tell you this story of The Client.

It was unusual for a married woman to ask for a pregnancy counseling session, but then this was not a typical pregnant woman. Overwhelmed and just a few weeks away from delivery of her second child, The Client had come in for help in handling the burdens of her life. She had decided to work right up to the last minute before the due date because it kept her mind occupied. Otherwise she said she would worry that this second baby would be like her firstborn, a profoundly retarded blind child who at 3 ½ years was unable to sit alone, feed herself or be potty-trained. If the second baby was handicapped, what would it do to the shaky marriage she was barely holding together? Her husband had never accepted that there was something wrong with their daughter who took Dilantin-in-suspension to control seizures. The medicine didn’t mix well – more seizures at the top of the bottle and by the bottom of the bottle their daughter was sluggish and slept all the time. The husband was in denial, preferring to believe it was the medicine that caused the problem.

Yes, The Client desperately needed someone to talk to about her fears and concerns. She couldn’t afford to pay for counseling but she couldn’t afford to go without counseling! Finally she found an agency with a sliding scale payment system, something she could afford.

Her counseling had a good outcome. She got a referral to a day program for her firstborn – an ‘Infant Stimulation’ class; a state van picked her firstborn up every morning and took her to a classroom where she learned to eat for someone other than just her Mommy. The new baby arrived and thankfully was born without problems. The Client welcomed joy back into her life as she prepared to guide her ‘normal daughter’ to be an intelligent and creative child who loves life. With a little encouragement from her counselor, she enrolled in graduate school, and earned her Master’s degree.

And so, every year when United Way makes its annual appeal, I am the first to sign up, designating my donation to agencies that provide low cost counseling. Yes, I was The Client who needed counseling and emotional support to help me through a rough time in my life. And just maybe it had something to do with my becoming a pregnancy counselor.

Informed Consent: Ignorance vs. Alternatives

January 14, 2010

Recently a co-trainer in adoption education mentioned that at a recent training she encountered participants who said that merely mentioning adoption to a pregnant person was trying to ‘sell it.’
I’m of the opinion that all options should be discussed so that the person facing the choice has a clear understanding of the options.

In the 1980s the Reagan Administration instituted a ‘gag order’ that declared health care workers at pregnancy clinics receiving government funds were absolutely prohibited from discussing abortion with a pregnant patient, even if she asked about terminating her pregnancy. In an op-ed piece at the time, the writer said that by not mentioning any option, there was an implied negativity associated with that option. If it’s so bad that you can’t even say the word, then there must be something wrong with abortion even if it was her legal right to know about terminating her pregnancy, the writer said.

Something clicked inside me. As a pregnancy counselor at the time, I had pondered how rarely the word adoption was mentioned by health care people, while abortion was frequently offered as a solution to an unplanned pregnancy. By mentioning ONLY abortion as an alternative to carrying out the pregnancy, it was implied that abortion was the preferable choice.

Once there is an unplanned pregnancy, there are no outcomes without heavy residuals: Abortion, often a secret to the outside world, still weighs heavily on the person who experiences it, just as adoption may, particularly because it is harder to hide adoption than it is to hide abortion. Even parenting as a choice has its drawbacks, like the pain felt by the mother who cannot provide an active and loving father for her child. In my opinion, knowledge of all her options is the best approach to counseling a woman facing this difficult turning point in her life and the life of her child.

The Best Pay

April 14, 2009

The paycheck is never the main reward for any of us in helping fields; otherwise, we would have chosen another field! But in today’s mail I got the best kind of pay. I thought it was an early birthday card, this small envelop that arrived four days before my 66th birthday. Instead, it is a Thank You card from a former client, with this message:

Beth. It was so meaningful that you sent me a card and let me know I am still on the right path!! I have started my undergraduate courses and will be finished in 2/2011!! It ls in Human Service / Management. I want to give back and help survivors of abuse like you helped me!!
Love always and God Bless, Charity

Exploring A New E-Book @ Tapestry

February 27, 2009

Tapestry Books sent out an announcement that they have an e-book, “A Birth Mother Perspective on Open Adoption” available on its website.   Actually, it is a Two-in-one of first person accounts by birth mothers Patricia Dischler and Melissa Nilsen.  It’s good to for an adoption-focused site to give space to birth mothers, the often silent side of adoption. For a limited time, this is downloadable for free. Take advantage of the offer and connect to these two articulate women and their personal stories.   Included are links to each author’s blogs.  Take a look.

Review: “Odyssey of an Unknown Father” by David Archuletta

February 4, 2009

Don’t be taken in by the tease on the back cover: “This book will teach you [prospective adoptive parent] what to look for to spot fraud or unethical maneuvers in the adoption process and to avoid this terrible scenario when you welcome a child into your home.” Sadly, it doesn’t follow through on that promise.
What it is: This is David Archuletta’s personal story as an alleged father whose former partner committed perjury by signing an Unknown Father Affidavit [in New Jersey] in spite of his having been somewhat involved in the pregnancy until she left her Colorado home to do an adoption — but the reader has to make it through a third of the book to learn that. Convoluted sentences, mis-matched syntax, sarcastic comments that don’t relate to the material — it’s difficult to find the meat.
Mr. Archuletta has two important messages to deliver: don’t assume that adoption is the best solution to every unwed pregnancy, and the baby’s father has important information to share, including (in his case) potentially dire medical history. Mr. Archuletta should not have been left out of this important decision for his child. Whether his involvement might have meant a different outcome or not, his rights were discounted.
Mr. Archuletta’s story should be a reminder to adoption agency workers and adoption attorneys why a best services practitioner should refuse to do an adoption when a pregnant client refuses to identify the father. To do less is to risk loss of licensure.
HOWEVER, this is one of those books that takes one situation and generalizes it to all adoptions. It well may be that Mr. Archuletta’s real intent was to scare prospective adoptive couples away from adoption all together. If that’s the goal, he may have succeeded, but not in the way he planned.
You know that saying in legal circles that “The person who serves as his own attorney has a fool for a client”? Well, meet the book publishing version: “The self-publishing author who acts as his own editor shows himself as a fool.” By the tedious end of this book, the author comes off as a wigged-out psychopath on a rant against his own personal injustice. Where I once had a modicum of sympathy for his cause, he’s done his cause a disservice by going on and on and on and on. David, get an editor!
Beth Kozan, Phoenix

Review: “Reading Adoption” by Marianne Novy

January 30, 2009

This is a unique read, much out of “the usual” in adoption books. The author, as an adoptee, admits to having been sensitive along her educational journey to themes of abandonment, parental exchanges and orphans. But unlike other students exposed to the Greek plays, Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Thackery and the Bronte novels — for Marianne Novy, the dark brooding stories of human foibles awakened knowledge of shared fate.  Ms. Novy has written a book that interweaves her professorial knowledge of literature with her personal story of search and reunion.  Her extensive exploration of Barbara Kingsolver’s The Bean Tree and Pigs In Heaven gave me a glimmer of what it would have been like to have found someone to discuss these books when I read them — and longed for that discussion!

And to think, I was under the impression that adoption books started being written about thirty years ago!  I was wrong, as Ms. Novy points out.  The theme was all around me.  And that is her point.  Our view of adoption, of the roles the players “should” play, is unconsciously influenced by what we read, even if we don’t realize it.

Let this be a good ‘heads up’ for all of us educators in adoption (and we are all ‘educators in adoption’), to be aware of the subtle influences on all students!  A great read!  Thank you, Marianne Novy, for opening my eyes!

Beth Kozan, Phoenix, AZ