Thoughts

My Mom

One of my first memories of my mom was when I was around ten, maybe eleven.  It was Christmas time.  I heard a knock on the door and I ran to greet our visitors.  I opened the door and there were two women standing there with gifts in hand.  Lisa and another family friend of ours.

“Merry Christmas!”  They sang out.

Lisa handed me a rectangular box wrapped up in shiny paper.  I remember wondering why she got me a Christmas present.  Who was she?  I didn’t get her anything.  I wasn’t quite sure what to make of her.

A few years later, Lisa became a more active roll in my life.  I remember when I was around 12 years old, she took me and her boys to the movies.  I can’t remember what we saw or where we went to eat, but I remember feeling special and loved that she would think to invite me to hang out.

A few years after that, I was 14 or 15 and I had a slight pretty big attitude problem…. that was probably fueled by a little bit of anger.  There was a lot going on my household no kid should ever have to face.  That’s when Lisa swooped in.  I don’t remember where we went, if it was a restaurant, a park, or just sitting in her car.  All I remember, is that she gave me a journal.  She told me it was called an Angry Journal.  She explained that any time I felt angry or upset, write it down.  Write what I’m feeling.  Use whatever words I need to use to get it out on paper.  That was probably the first time anyone had given me permission to write whatever and however I wanted.  I remember feeling empowered that day.  She gave me the gift of a healthy outlet to express myself.

A few years after that, I moved to Virginia for college.  At this point, my parents had divorced and Dad moved to D.C. to be with Happily Ever After person…. which happened to be Lisa.  I used to go up and visit them when I lived in Lynchburg.  I remember thinking, at first, “This is a little weird, not bad, just weird.”  But changes are always weird and uncomfortable.

A few years after that, I was about 20, maybe 21, I went up to visit Dad and Lisa.  We went to Baltimore for some reason.  There was a restaurant that they wanted to take me to and it was a part of a plaza with a bunch of other stores.  Lisa decided we should visit some of those stores while we wait to be seated.  By “we” she meant me just her and me.  We left dad waiting with the restaurant buzzer.  We went from store to store, talking, and laughing.  She wound up buying me two sun dresses at a really cute little boutique.  I remember thinking, “Is this what it’s like to go shopping with your mom?”

A few years after that, I was 25 years old.  I was standing outside of a hospital in D.C., crying uncontrollably and tightly holding on to Lisa.  Dad was gone.  The cancer had invaded too much of body.  I remember hanging onto her and feeling her arms tighten around me.  There were too many thoughts rushing though my head to remember any specific one.  However, even though I had just lost my dad… I don’t remember feeling alone.

I had my mom.

Mom is a special title.  It describes a woman who gives unconditional love, has an abundance of understanding, challenges herself and others to push forward despite circumstances, provides a safe space to come home to, and it describes a woman who lends a listening ear and a compassionate heart.

That’s my mom, Lisa.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

Thoughts

Change is One Thing We Can Rely On

Change.  It’s the one thing that we all have in common.  It’s the very thing that either pulls us together, or tears us apart.

Change is inevitable and uncontrollable.  The only thing we can do is secure any loose items, hang on to the handle bars, and remain seated until the ride comes to a complete stop… or slows down enough for you to tuck and roll and get the hell out of there!  Either way, it’s usually better to adapt to change than to try to stop it.  Trying to stop it would be like trying to paddle a raft up stream on the Amazon River.  It’s just not going to happen.  You’re arms will cramp up and you’ll probably get eaten by snakes and piranhas in the process.  Not a great plan of action…. not to mention very messy.

Change brings ups and downs and both are necessary.  You can’t go way up high without experiencing the lows…. and what go up, must come down.

Mid 2014 to mid 2016 was on the low end for me.  I was living in Georgia at the time.  In the two years I lived there I had three different jobs, three different apartments, I went into debt, drained my savings, and was battling with myself about whether I was doing what I was made to do in life.

Gosh.  It was a tough two years.  I did a lot of growing.  I think my skin got a little tougher, maybe with a few new wrinkles.  I got a little smarter and a little wiser.  I made some great friends, but I probably made some great enemies.  Yes, there were a few highlights and a handful of people I met in GA that I still hold dear to my heart.  I also met my boyfriend while I was in GA.  He is one of the silver linings.  Though those two years were my lowest of lows, they propelled me into the beginning of a major upswing.

I moved to Illinois back in May.    At that point, my life was not secured, I wasn’t hanging on, nor was I sitting down and I was thrown for a loop!  I’m just now getting myself together.  I’m finding a routine in my new environment, the dust is settling, and I finally bought a hair brush.  I mean, if my life can’t be tamed, at least my hair will be!

I keep wanting to find a comfortable groove, but I keep wondering if that is what change is really about?  If it propels us into greater versions of ourselves, then is finding a comfort zone a smart move?  I think welcoming change and the challenges it brings… good or bad… is SO vital.

Life isn’t about becoming comfortable with what changes may come, but becoming comfortable with change itself.

Thoughts

9 Things Not to Say or Ask an Adopted Child

Me and my dad!
Me and my dad!

I’m adopted and over the years I’ve been asked so many questions concerning it.  I’m pretty open about my adoption and I love educating people about adoption.

I’ve seen a lot of posts on what not to say to adoptive parents and was inspired to put my own twist on the topic.  It’s important to know how to lovingly interact with the people around us.  So I’ve come up with 9 things that people commonly say or ask.  People are curious and that’s great, but let’s tweak a few words and phrases ;-)

9 Things Not to Say or Ask an Adopted Child

1.   “So, have you met your real mom?” or “Do you ever want to find your real mom?”

My adoptive mom is my real mom.  It says so on my birth certificate as well as by the judge who legalize my adoption.

Do you mean biological mother?  Yes, I have met her.  I had the opportunity to meet her earlier this year.

2.   “You’re adopted?!  That makes sense, you look nothing like your mom and dad.”

Way to state the obvious!  I would also like to remind you that there are plenty of biological children who look very different from their biological parents.  They might look like that long lost great uncle.  Genetics is the luck of the draw.

3.  “Do you have any real siblings?”

My sister, Laura, and I being carted around by Dad
My sister, Laura, and I being carted around by Dad

I’m never sure how to answer this, but yes, I have a sister named Laura.  She is very much real.  We grew up together, fought together, plotted against our “real” parents together, got in trouble together, played together, and the list goes on.  I also have a biological half-brother named Lee.  Since I just met him earlier this year, I don’t have a history with him… but so far, he seems pretty cool ;-)

This question is usually followed up with, “Are you other siblings adopted too?”  This is a fair question since there are adoptive couples who are unable to have children, but this isn’t every family.  Some people see a need for adoption and then adopt.  AND the answer is yes and no, my sister is not adopted, but I do have two step brothers who are both adopted.

4.  “When you say ‘mom’ do you mean your adoptive mother or your biological mother?”

“Mother” is a special word.  It’s given to the woman who raised you, cried with you and for you, taught you the ways of life, took care of when you were sick, encouraged you, protected you, disciplined you, fed you, clothed you, and you get the point.  There is a special place in my heart for my biological mother because she gave me life, but I call her by her name, Joy.  To me, she is a woman who gave me a tremendous gift.  It would be weird if I called anyone who gave me a huge gift “mom.”  Awkward.

I also want to tag on to this topic that every family is different.  Sometimes a mom or a dad may not be present in a child’s life.  A mentor, step-mom or a step-dad might be the bearer of the title “mother” or “father.”  My adoptive dad is my dad, but I also have another father figure in my life, Tom, who I consider a father.  Family isn’t always blood.  Sometimes A lot of times, family is found.

5.  “Do you remember your mom?”

I really hate this question.  I tell people that I was adopted at birth and 9 times out of 10 people still ask this.  I have no clue why!  I want to look at them and say, “I was a baby.  Do you really think I have the ability to remember her?”  The answer is no.  However, I do understand the question.  If you are speaking with a child from the foster care system, then this is still not a good question ask!  If the child remembers his/her parents, they may not want to bring up subject pending the circumstances.  It’s best to let them bring it up if they want to share with you.

Joy (my biological mother) and me striking a pose!
Joy (my biological mother) and me striking a pose!

6.  “Do you know why she gave you up?”

First of all, let’s rephrase this question.  How about asking, “Do you know why she made an adoption plan?”  The words, “gave you up,” makes it sound that I’m undesirable and/or I’m just some disposable thing.

But to humor you…. I do know.  However, this is a very sensitive and often a private subject for a birth mother.  My birth mother didn’t tell anyone that she “gave me up” until 27 years later when I first contacted her.  I understand your curiosity, but keep in mind that you are asking for the intimate details of a birth mother that you don’t personally know.  If an adopted child knows the story and feels comfortable telling you, then they will.

7.  “I don’t know what I would do if I found out that I was adopted.”

I know exactly what you would do.  You would just keep living.  Being adopted would be your norm!   I’ve lived a normal life with ups and downs and everything in between just like everyone else.  The only difference is that I’m not biologically related my mom.

Adoption seems like such a life altering thing.  In a sense, it is, but it’s not as life altering as you my think.  My parents are still my parents.  My sister is still my sister.  It doesn’t change anything about who I am.  My life was not built on a fortress of lies.

Most people say this statement because not being adopted is their norm.  Being adopted is mine.  I know nothing else.

8.  “Where are you from?” or “What’s your heritage?”

For a long time I never knew how to answer this because I didn’t know.  I have very dark hair and eyes and sport olive skin, so my family thought I was Italian or Greek.

I, personally, don’t really care about this question.  However, it does elude to a clear distinction that the child doesn’t belong within their family history.  I don’t really have a suggestion on how to ask this.   I suppose it’s a suggestion to judge the depth of your friendship of the adopted before asking this.

Oh, and it turns out I’m Irish and Native American.  Crazy mix, eh?

9.  “I bet you feel lucky that you were adopted.”

Yeah... I was pretty cute.
Yeah… I was pretty cute.

First of all, I don’t believe in luck.

Second of all, “lucky” compared to what?  Having the life that I currently have is all I know!  I would have to go back in time, live life as a biological child, and compare and contrast which life would be better in order for me to answer this question.  Keep in mind that no family is perfect.  Maybe rephrase this into a statement from your point of view such as, “I’m glad your were adopted because I couldn’t imagine my life with your friendship.”  This not only edifies them, but also gives them a chance to comment.

***BONUS***This one gets asked a lot.  It’s not a bad question, I actually love this question because I get to share my thoughts concerning telling a child that they are adopted.

“How old were you when you found out you were adopted?”

I don’t remember a time when my parents sat me down and had “the talk” with me.

Not that talk!

That one was a very awkward conversation between dad and me after bed time prayers when I was twelve… hat’s off to Dad for powering through that talk.

Little Jess
Little Jess

I grew up knowing that I was adopted.  I was taught what adoption meant and I was taught what the word “biological” meant.  Both were equally special in their own and unique ways.  My parents reinforced that there was no difference between my sister and I.  I was told that it didn’t matter how I became apart of the Wright family, but what mattered was that I was in their family.

So, there you have it.  Those are the most common phrases and questions that I hear from people.  I love talking to people about adoption, so I welcome the awkward questions and phrases.  People are just curious, I totally get it.  I’m glad to have the opportunity to bring clarity on the subject.

-J

Thoughts

The Last Day I Saw My Dad

dadIt’s funny how life’s deepest questions and statements always pass through my mind at the most random times. Often at two or three in the morning. Why couldn’t I think about these deep thoughts at 9 in the morning when the sun is up and I’ve had a cup of coffee? I suppose I don’t get to choose the when life barges in.

I was thinking about my dad. This time, about three years ago, was the last time I saw my dad alive. I went to D.C. to visit him during my fall break from school. It wasn’t much of a fun filled visit as Dad was in the hospital for the whole week, but I was glad to see him. We didn’t talk much. Sometimes that visit makes me cry more than the day he died. It was then that I saw my dad as a human. He was supposed to be the strong, witty, courageous, compassionate, life giving, encouraging, and the corny joke tell dad I always knew.

That time he wasn’t. He was really really sick. Cancer was invading his body.

I watched him do normal actives, which were challenging for him to do. I watched as his eyebrows met, scrunched in the middle and then rose when he asked me for my help. I had a mixed sense of sadness and honor as I helped him.

I haven’t written much about the details of my dad’s death until now because it made me cry. I hate crying. My face get red, my eyes swollen, and I cry ugly. I’ve heard from everyone who’s lost a parent, “You never get over the death of a parent.” Not the best form of encouragement, but it’s truest statement I’ve ever head. The truth isn’t a bandage to cover up the wound, it’s more of an ointment to help it heal.

Three years later, I’m grateful for the truth.

The last day I saw him, I watched him nap on the couch. I would stare long as I sat on pins and needles waiting for what seemed like eternity for his chest to rise and fall. I had never felt so scared in my life. I was scared he was going to die at that moment.

I hope that one day, whether I’m healthy or not, that I’ll have someone who loves me enough to watch my chest rise and fall. To care for me the way my mother selflessly, lovingly, and courageously did for my dad.

I’m not sharing my story for offerings of “I’m sorry for loss,” or cause people to pity me. I 533964_10100473527060328_24317715_ndon’t want your sympathies or pity, they’ve never helped me in the past and I’m sure they won’t be aid to me in the future.

Empathy, however, is a welcomed thought.

I’m writing this in hopes to the find the ones who’ve experienced loss.

Sometimes, it’s nice to know you’re not the only one. You’re not alone in your sorrow. You’re not the only one who wants a do-over. You’re not the only one who’s watched a loved one’s life slip away. You’re not the only who feels like it wasn’t enough time. You’re not the only one who is surviving. You’re not the only one who feels helpless.

Those who have had a life taken away, you’re not alone.
That’s the truth.

Thoughts

Why I Don’t Play for FREE Anymore

I’m playing my violin for a wedding today.  It’s probably the 50 somethingith wedding I’ve played for, but it’s the first one where I’m actually getting paid a real amount… like, more than $40 and it’s a big deal.

I don’t know the couple or the family I’m playing for very well yet, but they are all amazing and such lovely people and I hope to get to know them more!

Being a violinist means that when your friends get married…. they expect you to play for free.  So I do… I just don’t buy them a wedding gift.  Me playing is a $150+ value.  If you really want me to buy you a wedding gift then pay me my $150 and I’ll buy you a toaster.  Mazel tov!

The shoes I'm wearing for the wedding :-)
The shoes I’m wearing for the wedding :-)

I’m not saying that I’ve played begrudgingly for people who have asked me to play.  I’ve actually really enjoyed the times I’ve played for my friends and have felt grateful to have been a part in their wedding.  I’m aiming more at the mind-set of asking someone to use their talents and expertise for one’s own benefit and not compensating the musician for their time and effort.

It would be similar to your boss asking you to sacrifice your Saturday for the sake of the company, but then informing you that you wont be paid.  Your boss tells you that you’re not obligated to work, but she thinks you’re perfect for the job and it would mean so much if you specifically would be there working.

Hello?!  If your boss tells you to do something… you do it!  I mean, you do it if you want to keep your job, that is…

Whether they have been your best friend since kindergarten, a family member, or you just met them yesterday, you need to compensate them for what your hiring them to do.  They are providing a service to you in order to make your wedding sound beautiful, to help create an atmosphere, fill silence,  and to pull on the heart-strings of those coming to witness your special day.  Pay them for what they are worth because music, often times, makes or breaks your wedding.

If a musician plays for free or at a discount, it should ONLY be by their choice.  “The workman is worthy of his wages.”

If you can’t afford or you’re not willing to pay your musicians… do them a favor and don’t ask them to play.  Just break out that old school boom box and play a recording of the “Wedding March” and you’ll be golden.