Thursday, January 28, 2010

The people you meet........

Sometimes I'm amazed at the people I meet. Since I was old enought to walk & talk my mom said I never knew a stranger. Yes, I have the gift of gab! And if you've been following my writing for any amount of time you'll also know that I LOVE thrift store shopping!

Let me back up just a bit.... we came back to Nebraska for Christmas & haven't gone back to the cabin yet (hey! it's only been a month). The problem is... I had packed up most of my kitchen stuff & hauled it to the cabin last spring. Being in the rental house without a fully-loaded kitchen is the pits & I've had to fill in a few gaps at the local thrift stores (measuring cups/spoons, knives, mixing bowls, cereal bowls, etc.). Now onward...

One day Jer & I were thrift store shopping - I was looking at books (big surprise) and he had disappeared. He came around the corner with a food processor in his hand - like the one in the photo only not complete - and a big grin on his face! I was SOOOOO excited! You see, I have a complete one, just like the one in the photo, at the cabin & another (not complete) in the camper... both 700 miles away!

One of the gals who works in the thrift store noticed how excited I'd gotten over something that seemed so mundane & utilitarian. I explained to her that this is by far my most favorite kitchen utensil (in its entirity) and that I already have a couple of them! She asked WHY I needed a third if I already have two. I explained to her that we'd been living off the grid in a cabin and this little kitchen gizmo was a HUGE time saver. It slices, it dices, it chops & grates... this thing cuts up onions & potatoes for hashbrowns, will chop cranberries, apples & oranges for cranberry relish, slices carrots & cucumbers for salad, grates cheese... it has a little device for beating eggs or light batter. It's AWESOME!!!

I could see the wheels turning in her head. She then began to question me about the cabin & what it's like to live off the grid. One questions really stuck in my head: "What one thing don't you have that you'd like to have?" Hmmm. My answer: "Running water!" I gave her our card - that has this site address as well as our email addresses & phone numbers - and told her that if she'd like to learn more she should log on or drop me an email & I'd be happy to give her more information. She then asked, much to my surprise, if we had considered a "live off the grid vacation" - where those who want to experience living off the grid & doing all the things we do could come out & spend a week living "without". I told her we had not thought about that (except for our friends who come to visit & stay in a motel) but that would be a good idea. When I mentioned it to Jer, he thought maybe that could make us a little money as well.

Who knows if we'll do that. I've always thought running a bed & breakfast would be fun... maybe we could run a cabin & camper... the camper being our "guest house". Something to think about... all because of someone I met in a thrift store!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

ADOPTION... My Story: Part 5

By now it was about 11:00 p.m. We were emotionally drained. But we made the phone call... and she answered. She was crying, my brother was crying, I was crying. By the end of the short call we had instructed her to take a cab to the hotel where we were staying. We waited anxiously outside the front door of the hotel for the cab to arrive. When it finally arrived she jumped out of the cab, still crying! My brother reached inside the front passenger side window to pay the cabbie... the cabbie was crying... our mother had told him our story & it had touched him!

We spent the next few hours talking, asking questions, crying, laughing. We told her that both of her parents had passed away. She'd known about her mother dying - the woman who had been living with our grandmother called her the day of the funeral & told her it would be nice if she could make it! Hmph! She showed virtually no emotion when we told her about her mother (we'd find out later), however, the news of her father's death brought her to tears. We told her that his dying wish was that if he couldn't see her again, at least her children could! It seemed to help knowing that her father was still wanting to find her... still loved her!

By 4:00 a.m. we finally gave up & went to bed. Our mother slept with me, holding my hand all night. Following breakfast we spent the day visiting, telling stories, asking questions, learning about each other. My brother & I both told her of the things our grandmother had told us... things we had suspected were either half-truths or just plain lies! We were right!

We spent an afternoon at Harvard Square people watching, eating ice cream at Herrell's, a little shop that had been a bank in a previous life, attending a bar-b-que at a friend's home that night.

Needless to say, when we arrived at the airport a couple days later it was SO hard to leave. The only thing making it easier was buying her a ticket to come to Oklahoma (where my sister & uncle live) the next month for her birthday!

Our trip was a success... it must've been in God's plan that we find her... that we'd get some answers to our questions... that we'd form a relationship, a bond with her.

There's more to the story... stay tuned!

ADOPTION... My Story: Part 4

The night before we departed I had a meeting to go to at church. Strangely enough no one told me the meeting had been canceled so there I sat... waiting. My time was not wasted tho'. I sat in the quiet of the sanctuary & prayed - poured out my heart to God. "God... I'm putting this in Your hands. You know what I want... but I'm selfish & want this for selfish reasons. If this is not in Your plan... I will understand, I won't be happy about it but I will be a 'big girl' and accept it."

Our plane landed at Logan Airport in Boston, mid-August, hot & humid. We grabbed our luggage, hailed a cab & checked into our room at the hotel. With a stack of 1000 fliers (have you seen this woman - with a photo of her from about 1973 on it) we boarded the first bus that came along. After getting on it occured to us that we should ask if this bus went anywhere near the address we had for her. It didn't... but the woman sitting behind us asked what address we were trying to get to & told us that was within 2 blocks of where she lived & she would get us on the right bus! An angel? We left a couple fliers on that bus, got on the "right" bus... left a couple more on that bus. When we got to her street we put fliers on windshields of cars parked on the street as we found our way to the address we had. Unfortunately it was a secured building & we could not get in. Down the street, where we'd gotten off the bus, there was a pharmacy. We went in to buy some tape to put fliers on doors, gates, poles - wherever we could. My brother decided to ask the pharmacist if they had a fax machine we could use to send a note to the PI. It was evident that he had told the pharmacist why we were there. As I came around the corner, having purchased the tape, the pharmacist stopped dead in his tracks. He looked at me & said, "You're Connie's daughter!".

At this point (this is before HIPPA) he told us that she got her prescriptions filled there and that he could call her & ask her to come to the pharmacy. Another Angel? He placed the call... she wasn't there but her roommate answered the phone. The pharmacist asked him if he could come to the pharmacy. He could. As he walked into the the store he glanced at me - my eyes were behind dark sunglasses so he really couldn't look at me. He headed back to the pharmacy desk; my brother & the pharmacist were telling him who we were & why we were there when I came around the corner again. I removed my sunglasses & before I could introduce myself he said, "You're Connie's daughter!". Twice in about 20 minutes! The three of us went next door to the coffee shop to visit.

We went back to their apartment... a horrible, dirty apartment that reeked of cigarette smoke & litter boxes. We spent nearly two hours there without her returning. We finally talked him into taking us to her... at a nearby hospital. It seems she got terrible migraines that lasted for days & she'd go to the clinic at the hospital to get a pain shot. He said the shots left her "foggy". He also noted that she had left her prescription glasses on the counter - they bothered her when she had migraines.

After telling the receptionist who we were & why we were there, her roommate asked to see her (she was in an exam room) and they generously allowed us to go into the exam room next to the one she was in. We could hear muffled talking - and then a scream - and the word "NO"!!!! He left her room quickly, opened the door to the room we were in & told us he was leaving. We were stunned! What do we do now?

We left... at least as far as the front door of the hospital. By now, the rain Boston was supposed to get that morning was now coming down - not just sprinkling but POURING!!! We were so hurt. Crushed. Why didn't she want to see us? We waited... and waited. Finally - from the clinic door emerged a short little woman with a large umbrella & a handbag that was nearly as big as she was! She walked to the bus stop. This was our chance... maybe our only chance? We held hands, ran thru the rain & skidded around the corner of the bus stop, sliding onto the bench on the opposite side. What do we do now? We huddled, soaked from the rain, whispering.

Out of the blue she said, "Our seats are getting wet!". She was right! She introduced herself. Racing thoughts! The name she had given me, the name on my birth certificate, was not the name I have now. My brother goes by a nickname. We introduced ourselves. She didn't turn & run. Not even an eyebrow raised. We presumed that between the shot & not having her glasses she really couldn't see us very well? We began visiting - about the weather, about flying in that morning & "getting lost", about not having had anything to eat since we were on the plane several hours before. We had found out from her friend that she liked Tex-Mex food... so we asked if she knew of a good place to eat. She did... and proceeded to tell us which bus & train to get on to get there! About that time a bus pulled up & her friend got off. You can imagine the look on his face when he saw us sitting with her engaged in conversation! She told us that was her friend Steve... my brother ran back out into the rain & "introduced" himself to Steve & whispered not to blow our cover! Having made the proper "introductions" we asked them if they'd like to have dinner with us as we'd not be able to find the restaurant. She said they really couldn't afford it - to which my brother replied, "We'd love to treat you to dinner" - of course, they couldn't turn that down. We took the bus & the train then walked a couple blocks to the restaurant, gave our name to the girl at the podium & went to the bar for a much needed adult beverage!

We sat at the bar visiting... oblivious to everything & everyone around us. The girl at the podium was calling "Briggs, party of four"... it finally dawned on us that that was us! We went to our table, ordered our food & while waiting for our food my brother played "Twenty Questions" with our mother. I felt a bit left out, but I had no questions to ask that would have hinted to my identity. It was interesting to watch. We sat in the restaurant for nearly four hours just visiting. We finally decided we should leave... but not before making a "date" for the next day for sightseeing. She hugged both of us & thanked us for dinner. We got on the bus... in total disbelief. We had just spent about 5 hours with her... and it appeared that she didn't know who we were.

Back at our hotel room we began making phone calls to family members. Sometime during our phone calls we had an incoming call, our message light was on. It was Steve. "Wally, it's Steve. Call me at this number." We called... and she answered!

ADOPTION... My Story: Part 3

Hmmm. I forgot to mention that shortly after meeting my grandmother & sister I got to meet my uncle. I wasn't really sure what to think about him... his attitude toward me. He did tell me that looking at me was like looking at his sister, my birthmom. That was the validation I was looking for! He drove a semi & would stop by to see me & my family when he was in the area.

I got to meet the older of my two half-brothers (I think I mentioned meeting him) - we had spoken on the phone several times & seemed to really get along well when we met. He would be the person who told me about growing up with our grandmother as caregiver. These things made me question even more the things she had told me. He was about 5 years old when our birthmom disappeared. He told me that he had few memories of her... most of them were memories of his abusive father beating up on her. Our phone conversations were usually quite lengthy as we went over & over information that had been given to us.

On New Year's Eve 1995 (or was it 1996?) our grandmother passed away. By this time, she had pushed away everyone but my sister. She'd not spoken to me in more than a year because I had the audacity to question some of her information. Her game had become this: as she noticed the four of us (kids) getting along really well, she'd stick her finger "in the pot" and try to stir up trouble. She did the same thing with our uncle if he was getting along with us too well. Life was good for her as long as she was the center of attention. Again, by the time she passed away one brother & I went to the funeral only to see if our birthmom would show up. How sad! We scoured faces & saw no one who even remotely looked like her.

Less than a month later we would all gather again in San Francisco for our grandfather's funeral. This funeral was far more traumatic, sadder than the first because grandpa continually spoke of "finding" our birthmom. We hadn't been able to fulfill that wish while he was alive. It then became our goal!! We (the older half-brother & I) began doing as much as we could to find her... including getting a private investigator. It was in July of 1997 that we received from the PI a list of women with the same name or similar name, along with their respective addresses & birthdates. We quickly eliminated women whose birthdates did not match or were not even close. We ended up with a rather short list. We finally picked ONE... the one we thought was the best/closest match. We purchased plane tickets... his from SF to Omaha, mine from Omaha to Boston.

To Be Continued.....

ADOPTION... My Story: Part 2

I've composed myself now... ready to write more. I left off telling you about receiving the first letter from my grandmother.

Her photograph was that of someone who looked like a loving grandmother. I dialed her phone number and we spoke for an hour - all the while her photo was in front of me. I had her letter in hand & asked questions. Some questions were answered, others were quickly glossed over. The questions she didn't answer were really the ones that I wanted answers for... and it was then that I figured out she must be either holding out on me until she knew that I really was okay to divulge information to or she was covering up information. During the phone call I learned that I had two half-brothers and a half-sister. Of course, they didn't know about me & she said she'd have some explaining to do. By the end of the phone call she had invited my husband & me to have Thanksgiving dinner at her home.

Within a short time I got to speak with my new sister on the phone. I exchanged letters with both my sister and grandmother waiting anxiously for Thanksgiving to arrive.

During one phone conversation with my sister I got my grandfather's address... on the condition that I would not tell our grandmother that I got it from her or that I was going to try to find him. I sent him the same generic letter I'd sent in the beginning & waited. Days passed with no letter in my mailbox. I came to the conclusion that he wanted nothing to do with me. Then on November 9 my phone rang... it was HIM! We spoke for close to two hours & really hit it off! My two half-brothers were living with him at the time and I got to know them over the phone. Soon my mailbox would be flooded with letters and old photographs from my grandfather. Weekly phonecalls became the norm.

At Thanksgiving my grandmother was a gracious hostess - she was a wonderful cook! I got to meet my sister & we hit it off! By the end of the first night we were finishing each other's sentences! We had fun looking at old photographs and I hung on my grandmother's every word - hoping for any shred of information she might share about my birthmom. The only thing she really told me was that she (my birthmom) had disappeared when she was about 26 years old (the same age I was) - leaving her three children at the daycare - just disappeared. She claimed she'd not seen my birthmom since then. Red flag!!

My grandparents had been divorced before I was even born & hadn't spoken in as many years. For this reason I felt compelled to share with my grandfather things that my grandmother had told me. I understand that divorced people don't always get along & often have different stories. My grandfather refused to say anything bad or mean about my grandmother - except that her version of the truth was pretty far-fetched!

It was obvious to me from what both grandparents told me that at the time my birthmom was pregnant with me there had been a lot of family drama as she was making what would be a life-changing & heartbreaking decision.

The summer after I had found my grandmother she came to a family reunion - that of my adoptive mother's family. She & my mom had quite a bit in common - sewing & crafts, cooking, etc.

A year after meeting my grandmother & sister I had the opportunity to meet my grandfather & his wife. He was retired Army... my own adoptive dad also an Army veteran. According to their "figuring" they missed being at the same Army base by just a couple weeks. How weird would that have been?

More phone calls, more letters, more stories. Due to the them all living far away our visits in person were few & far between. But the phone calls & letters gave me lots to think about. Lots to sort out... deciding what was truth, what was fiction.



In July 1963 a 16 year girl made the ultimate sacrifice. Knowing she was not prepared to raise a baby she gave me up for adoption. I spent my first 5 months in a boarding home & went to live with my adoptive parents in December 1963, just two weeks before Christmas.

Growing up I was a pretty happy little girl. I grew up in a small town - a town where everyone knew everyone else, everyone knew I was adopted. I spent my growing up years having people tell me how much I looked like one or the other of my parents. NOT! Except for having blue eyes... there wasn't really any resemblance. One thing that always gnawed at me was wondering WHO I did look like. Whose nose do I have? Who did I inherit my cowlicks from? Where did I get my musical talent?

I went thru high school and onto college, got married & had three children. When I was pregnant with my third, the doctor found some pre-cancerous cells & started asking questions about whether ovarian/cervical cancer ran in my family. I told him that I had no idea... that I was adopted. He subtly suggested that if it was possible, I may want to find out. I had always dreamed of doing this so it wasn't a big surprise other than the fact that my OB/GYN suggested it!

After my baby was born I began my search. It was a pretty lame attempt (I didn't have access to the WWW!) but I really didn't know how to go about it - so I was just floundering around. Since I was born in Kansas & Kansas is an "open" state, I filled out the required form, sent a copy of my ID & some money to the Vital Statistics office hoping to receive a copy of my original birth certificate. A few weeks later I received it... along with the name of my birth mother. She, too, was born in Kansas & as a blood relative I was able to request her birth certificate which then told me the names of my maternal grandparents. Since they were all born in the same town I enlisted the help of a friend who happened to live in that town. She sent me pages out of the area phone book for people with the last names of both grandparents.

I spent several nights writing & re-writing a generic letter stating the facts I had gotten from the birth certificates & my circumstances. I went through the names on the pages from the phone book & sent a letter to every other name. Within a couple weeks I received a half dozen responses. Some said they had no idea who these people were but were supportive - wishing me good luck with my search; others condemned me for "opening a can of worms" that would ultimately cause nothing but heartbreak.

One Sunday evening in early October 1989 our phone rang. The man identified himself as my birthmother's cousin. His dad & my maternal grandmother were siblings. He had known my birthmom was pregnant but never knew what happened to the baby. He told me he had received the letter I'd written...and knew something was up because I knew too much (names, dates, etc.) so he gave the letter to his father. His father in turn contacted my grandmother.

The following week I received a large manila envelope in the mail with 13 typed pages (single space) - my first correspondence with my grandmother. It was a strange letter to read - like I was reading about complete strangers (in fact, I was!). What I got sounded much like a dimestore novel - told from the point of view of one who was on the outside looking in. She had included a photograph of herself and her phone number. Was this a hint?

(This is an emotional subject for me... and I'm going to end this writing here & continue in a day or so.)

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Loss of a Friend

We've all been there... we've all lost a friend.

I've lost friends because they moved to another town/state (before the miracle of the Internet) and we just quit writing or calling. I've lost friends because there were half-truths or blatant lies told & believed. I've lost friends because the friendship simply became toxic. I've lost friends because of death.

Most recently I lost a dear friend because someone in my household decided that it was not in my best interest to keep that friend. This hurts maybe more than any of the other reasons I mentioned - simply because I didn't make the decision, but it was made for me. I went along with this decision ONLY to keep peace in my household.

The friend of whom I speak - was a pet. Yes, a pet! I've always had a pet. I had a cat, Miss Ruffles, for 12 years. I came home from a funeral and found her dead on the living room floor. My heart broke as I buried her. Death of a pet, however, is MUCH different than being forced to give up a beloved pet. Death is final. In my case, death was not a decision I made - it just happened.

The pet I'm refering to is my dog Skeeter, a black lab of almost 3 years... I've had him for 2 years. Pets are a big responsibility. They take time & money and have to be cared for whether you're at home or traveling. He is 100 pounds of enthusiasm - who thinks he's a lap dog. Basic complaints from the other person in my household: he drinks too loudly, he eats too loudly, his nails click on the hard floors, he sheds, his food bill is too much, it costs too much to board him when we travel, etc., etc. Unfortunately his good qualities didn't outweigh the above complaints.

When I boarded Skeeter at New Years I asked the gals who work the desk at the Vet if they knew of anyone who was interested in adopting a black lab. They were surprised that I would even ask. They LOVE Skeeter and he loves them back! When I picked him up a few days later the Vet came out to speak with me. She said she knew of a family who had been looking for a black lab. They live in the country, have two young sons & a younger yellow lab that visits often. She asked if they could "borrow" Skeeter for the weekend to see if he would be a good fit for their family. He went to visit for 3 days... and when she called she told me they loved Skeeter & wanted to keep him.

I have to say, I never expected it all to happen so quickly! I told her I needed to spend more time with him... and think about it... although I knew what the answer would be in the end. I brought him home, took pictures of him, and at the end of the week I called the Vet back to let her know I'd be bringing him to her the next morning. I packed his treats, bowls, toys & blanket, put him on his leash & drove to the animal hospital. We spent some time visiting... she said she would take pictures of him & email them to me periodically and let me know how he's doing. After a while, my heart breaking even more, I finally told Skeeter I loved him, gave him one last hug, a pat on the head & rubbed his ears. With that, I turned & walked out the door. My sacrifice complete. The other person in my household finally happy.

I'm not sure what it is I'm trying to say... just that I made a sacrifice giving up Skeeter. Sometimes sacrifice is necessary. Sometimes sacrifice breaks your heart.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Blizzard: Bad!! Blizzard: Good!!

Blizzard: Bad! The Midwest is in the middle of a huge snow storm. When we left Colorado on December 21st it was a sunny day... 60 degrees when we drove thru Denver. By the time we got to Nebraska it was late in the day & it had cooled off considerably. On the drive across Nebraska on I-80 we noticed snow... lots of snow. When we got to our destination there was much more snow than we had imagined. The front yard had about a foot of the white stuff... the back door had a drift in front of it so it was not possible to open it for Skeeter to go out. Jerry has shoveled the sidewalk & driveway every day since we've been here & is growing weary of it!

Since we got here (Nebraska) it has snowed several days, the wind has blown, the sun has stayed hidden (we've seen the sun twice since December 21... for a total of maybe 4 hours!), the temperature has plummeted! We're experiencing wind chills of 30to 40 below zero... and daytime temperatures of barely above 0. A few years ago we had a winter with lots of snow & many gray days. Each day was like the one before... it never changed... the roads were icy, there was lots of snow, lots of wind, no sunshine, more gray skies. Terribly depressing. It was like living "Groundhog Day" over & over again.

We traveled to my parents' home in Kansas on January 1st... and guess what? It snowed again! My son & daughter in law were in a car accident on their way from Kansas back to Missouri on January 2nd due to the weather. We drove to my father-in-law's home in central Nebraska on January 3rd... and guess what? Not only was there more snow there than where we are... but... it snowed again!

Tonight the local news continues to tell viewers to stay off the roads due to blowing snow; school closings continue to scroll across the bottom of the television screen. The weather man referred to this weather as "cruel & unusual punishment"! Can't say that I disagree with him on that! The furnace seems to run constantly & it's set at 68*. I can only hope that "this too shall pass" and "the sun will come out tomorrow"... but I'm not holding my breath!

Blizzard: Good! Who doesn't love a Blizzard ice cream treat from DQ? Well, maybe not when it's this cold. But I'm thinking ice cream is good ANY time of year & it's one of the things I've missed having at the cabin. My favorites are German Chocolate & Pecan Cluster! I wonder if hubby would think I'm crazy if I told him I wanted a Blizzard tonite?

Stay warm everyone!

Happy New Year... A Dog's Purpose

This is an email story sent to me by a friend. If you're a dog owner/lover, you'll understand this completely! I know I love my dog, Skeeter. Read on......

''A Dog's Purpose?
(from a 6-year-old)

Being a veterinarian, I had been called to examine a ten-year-old Irish Wolfhound named Belker. The dog's owners, Ron, his wife Lisa, and their little boy Shane, were all very attached to Belker, and they were hoping for a miracle.

I examined Belker and found he was dying of cancer. I told the family we couldn't do anything for Belker, and offered to perform the euthanasia procedure for the old dog in their home.

As we made arrangements, Ron and Lisa told me they thought it would be good for six-year-old Shane to observe the procedure. They felt as though Shane might learn something from the experience.

The next day, I felt the familiar catch in my throat as Belker 's family surrounded him. Shane seemed so calm, petting the old dog for the last time, that I wondered if he understood what was going on. Within a few minutes, Belker slipped peacefully away.

The little boy seemed to accept Belker's transition without any difficulty or confusion. We sat together for a while after Belker's Death, wondering aloud about the sad fact that animal lives are shorter than human lives.
Shane, who had been listening quietly, piped up, ''I know why.''

Startled, we all turned to him. What came out of his mouth next stunned me. I'd never heard a more comforting explanation. It has changed the way I try and live.

He said, "People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life -- like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right?''
The Six-year-old continued,''Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don't have to stay as long.''

Live simply.

Love generously.

Care deeply.

Speak kindly.

Remember, if a dog was the teacher you would learn things like:

When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.

Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride.

Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure Ecstasy..

Take naps.

Stretch before rising.

Run, romp, and play daily.

Thrive on attention and let people touch you.

Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.

On warm days, stop to lie on your back on the grass.

On hot days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree

When you're happy, dance around and wag your entire body.

Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.

Be loyal.

Never pretend to be something you're not.

If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.

When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by, and nuzzle them gently.

Always love your dogs as much as they love you!

Happy New Year to All