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All posts for the month June, 2014

Writing 101, Day Nineteen: Don’t Stop the Rockin’ – Shower Power

Published June 30, 2014 by Liz Ault

Today is a free writing day. Write at least four-hundred words, and once you start typing, don’t stop. No self-editing, no trash-talking, and no second guessing: just go. Bonus points if you tackle an idea you’ve been playing with but think is too silly to post about.


I had a mom and a birth-mom. I had a dad and a birth-dad. Never thought I would meet the birth parents. Spent most of my life with a fantasy life that would sound stupid to most. I wanted to fit in. I wanted to be loved. I wanted to look like someone else.

Had a freaky call about 25 years ago. It was from a person who still belonged to the Midwest Adoption Triad that I belonged to when I lived in Omaha. She told me that she monitored ads run in the Omaha World Herald that had any reference to anyone in the adoption triad (adoptee, adoptive parents and birth parents). There was an ad in late February that said “looking for a baby boy born June 3, 1955 in Omaha, Nebraska.” This woman had called and was the intermediary between myself and the MAN who had posted the ad. The man???

I was ill-prepared for a father to search. It was always a birth-mother on TV shows and in magazine articles and books. Was freaking just a tad.

I always lied to myself that the reason I wanted to know who my birth parents were was so I had medical information. That wasn’t a lie, but was so fucking far from the truth it wasn’t funny.

Birth dad and I talked later that evening after the intermediary and I visited. This was the world after databases but before the internet. I was up all night. BD (birth dad) and I talked from about 10 pm on Holy Thursday until the wee hours of Good Friday morning.

He was newly “born again.” He said Jesus came to him in the shower and told him it was time to go find his son. Thus we come back to baby boy from the ad. He eventually contacted birth mother (not too hard since they were first cousins) and she said I was a girl not a boy, dang.

My husband, now my ex, was serving in the military as a reservist, who went to the Persian Gulf War I. He was gone when all this shit happened.

BD came here to see me and my kids. I was freaking out and afraid.  The kids and I went to the airport. I wanted to puke. I kept looking for someone who would be my twin. Twin? Damn girl. I was able to leave my kids with a teacher for a birthday party for her daughter – my kids fit perfectly in age.

We went to lunch. He started talking about this shower Jesus shit. Then told me about his dad’s and his own young sex life – in vivid detail. I didn’t want to hear about BD losing his virginity in his dad’s auto junk yard.

I didn’t want to know I had a half-brother who was six months younger than I. That after he and my BM had intercourse, he married my half-brother’s mom.

I didn’t want to know that my birth parents were so closely related. If I hadn’t already had my two kids, I know I never would have had any. My grandpa was my great uncle, my grandma was my great aunt.  I was the very stuff crazy shit was made of. I’m my own cousin and half-sister.  Okay – slightly exaggerated, but so fucking overwhelming.

I so had hoped to fit in somewhere. But turns out that was foolish. My BM met her future (and still) husband when she returned to college after giving birth. She HAD, actually HAD held me and spent time with me for nearly 10 days. Then she signed the papers and left.

When BM and I first talked over the phone, she was cautious, but warm. She shared stories, mailed me family history, etc. I flew out to meet her after I had met BD. It wasn’t long after that that she started to feel threatened by my letters and phone calls.

About two years ago, I called with an update on medical (she has 5 kids besides me and they have kids). She said to me, “What do I have to do or say to get you to leave me the fuck alone?” My reply? “You just did.”

Still trying to recover.

Writing 101, Day Eighteen: Hone Your Point of View – Twelve Sucks

Published June 30, 2014 by Liz Ault

Craft a story from the perspective of a twelve-year-old observing it all. For your twist, focus on specific character qualities, drawing from elements we’ve worked on in this course, like voice and dialogue.

Her name is Jo-Anne. I only know because my parents talk. She has a daughter, Mary Kay, who is in my class. Mary Kay picks up where the teachers leave off on the teasing. She makes sure it follows me home from school – the opposite of the lamb following to school one day.

Jo-Anne has six kids now. She is very short. Even at 12, I am taller by quite a bit. Her yard is a semi-circle, so I can sit right here and she probably won’t even notice I’m here. Today her eyes look tired. She has funny clumps of blue bulging out of her calves. I’ve heard those are called vercose vanes. Those are strange words. They mean she is on her feet all day. 

She has kind eyes. I wish when my mom looked at me they looked the same way. So gentle. 

Her young son, Tommy, is in the yard. “Mommy, mommy, don’t leave.” “Tom, you will be fine, your sister will take care of you, I’ll be back in an hour.”

I see fear in Tommy’s eyes, but know his mommy will never let him down.

Wow, Mary Kay just came out of the house. She has called her cousins from up the block to play baseball. Looks like I’ll be the adopted home plate. Why do I keep doing it? Why do I keep wanting to feel like I fit dam in the whorl?

Guess I’ll go in the house. Or maybe stay out and have everyone laugh. Can I be thirteen soon?

Writing 101, Day Seventeen – Scared or Afraid?

Published June 30, 2014 by Liz Ault

Your personality on the page. What are you scared of? Address one of your worst fears. If you’re up for a twist, write this post in a style that’s different from your own.

My first reaction is to replace scared with afraid. Scared by/afraid of. Very different.

Afraid is filled with fear. Scared is to strike with sudden fear or alarm.

I’m not afraid that you’ll yell boo, but just know it will scare me.

When my house was hit by lightening on March 17, 2013 I was scared enough to pee my pants – I was startled. I wasn’t afraid, because I didn’t know it was coming.

I’m afraid I can’t get past scared.

Now the question, “what are you scared of?” That would be nothing since it hasn’t happened yet. Maybe I’ll explore this one of the final Writing 101 assignments.

Writing 101, Day Fifteen – I’m Looking over a Four-leafed Clover

Published June 30, 2014 by Liz Ault

Writing 101, Day Fifteen: Your Voice Will Find You

You’re told that an event that’s dear to your heart – an annual fair, festival, or conference – will be cancelled forever (or taken over by an evil organization). Write about it. For your twist, read your piece aloud, multiple times. Hone that voice of yours.


 

Local newspaper headline: “St. Patrick’s Day Celebration Cancelled, March 17th Removed from Calendar.”

Sitting in the family room watching the morning news – it’s always been my quiet time – my son, who was working an overnight shift came bursting in the door.

“Mom, mom, you won’t believe what I just read! And it’s on the radio, too.”

My back was to him, and knowing how he likes to exaggerate (he gets that from his dad), I involuntarily rolled my eyes before turning to face him.

“What the hell are you talking about?”

“St. Louis is cancelling the St. Patrick’s parade and festival, they said it’s because of the backlash of people insisting on honesty in holidays!”

So, I started to do some research and it looks like there is a trend to rid society of many holidays. Locally they are experimenting with St. Patrick’s Day, here are some of the reasons:

  • St. Patrick wasn’t Irish
  • The four-leaf clover isn’t Irish
  • There are no snakes in Ireland
  • Corned beef is Irish-American and was a Jewish food
  • There is no such thing as St. Patty’s day – Patricia is a Patty, Patrick is a Paddy

And these were only a few. It seems politically correctness has put everything up for grabs. Heard Santa and Christmas are being considered next.

The stress caused my son to collapse. 

*Work of Fiction*

Writing 101, Day Sixteen: Serial Killer III – Amazing Grace

Published June 28, 2014 by Liz Ault

Today, imagine you work in a place where you manage lost or forgotten items. What might you find in the pile? For those participating in our serial challenge, reflect on the theme of “lost and found,” too.

Previous installments:

Serial Killer I – Lost

Serial Killer II – Found

I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see.

Seems to be pretty easy, or not, to look back 54 or 55 years and have more clarity. Felt lost most of my life. Shortly visiting my grandmother in my head, for Serial Killer II, helped me to remember that I was also found.

Great credit belongs to Hoot. She had wisdom. She knew I wasn’t treated the way I should have been, and she didn’t need to “make up for it” she just felt it. Hoot was abusive to her oldest daughter – that was long before she was “hoot.” Maybe she recognized herself in her youngest daughter’s parenting style. Wish I could ask her now.  But I also think that the relationship between parent and child and that of a grandparent and grandchild are so very different.

My preteen and teen years sucked. I cut. I picked. I lined pills up on counters. I staged suicide scenes. I privately attempted many times to die. My twenties weren’t much better. Hoot died 3 days after my 25th birthday. Her mind went several years before. BUT, I still credit my relationship with Hoot to still walking and talking today.

Lost and found? Maybe I am. Maybe I am not. But I’m still here. My kids are glad.

Writing 101, Day Thirteen: Serial Killer II – To Hoot it may Concern

Published June 28, 2014 by Liz Ault

Earlier in the course you wrote about losing something. Today write about finding something. For your twist, view day four’s post and today’s post as installments in a series.

Serial Killer Pt 1

US vs. THEM probably needs to be explained a little bit. It wasn’t a child vs. child thing at all. The US’s were probably the least aware of the differences. It was strictly a mom vs. a class of child. There were two classes: adopted or birth, and gender. Two adopted; three birth; three males and two females. Sometimes the favorites jockeyed for position, but the leader board had only slight changes through the years.

With the volatility of my home life, and the horrible bullying at school (being led by the nuns), I found a place where I was number one. The favorite. Loved. That absolutely wonderful place was my grandmother’s house. Beginning about the age of five, I spent almost every weekend with her.

She had a silly nickname. A name given to her by my uncle. We called her Hoot. My grandmother had 17 grandchildren in all. I was number 7. I was the one who got to spend this private and loving time with her for many, many years.

The first two years that I spent my weekends on Lincoln Blvd., my grandmother shared her home with her aunt – my great-great aunt. She too had a silly name – we called her Kuddy. She was blind.

I loved her home and all my time there. Unlike my own home, I never needed hiding places here. There was nothing to hide from. As an adult looking back on these times, I can’t help but think that Hoot knew how bad and unhealthy my home life was. She was my hero.

Hoot was a social worker. Sometimes she had to stop at work on Saturday, and I got to play office while she did her few things. We were never there long. She also had lunches with her “cronies” one Saturday a month. I was the only grandchild of any of these women that was in attendance. It was wonderfully precious. They talked to me like I was all grown and I always felt so very special.

Sunday morning was a ritual that started Saturday night. Vaseline on the patent leather shoes and purse. Then when we were ready, no matter what time, we drove to church (two blocks away) and went in the side door. This was still pre-Vatican II, so the Mass was in Latin and the priest had his back to us. Since he didn’t know when we arrived, we walked in quite tall and proud. No matter what part of the Mass the priest was when we walked in was also the place in the next one when we left.

I went to so many funerals with Hoot, I’m sure she knew most of the deceased, but I swear she just went for the sake of going!

Found. I was found by my mother’s mother.

Writing 101, Day Fourteen: To Whom It May Concern

Published June 21, 2014 by Liz Ault

Pick up the nearest book, turn to page 29. What jumps out at you? Start there, and try a twist: write in the form of a letter.

The book I opened – Sue Monk Kidd, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter (New York: HarperCollins, 1996), p 29.


 

Dear Liz,

Was sitting here thinking about you and your journey, and finally decided I needed to drop you a note. I’m at a point in my life where I have reached the other side of the half-way point. Perspective starts to change. I’ve watched you grow up. My “hindsight is 20/20” has kicked in. So Katie, bar the door, here I come.

I listened as you were told you were less than your classmates. As you were told that because of how you came into this world that you were less than your siblings. That because you were tall, that your eyes were green, or your feet were big, something must be wrong with your genes. I even listened as those people who were supposed to be your champions and protectors allowed teachers to ridicule you in front of your entire first grade class – which, of course, continued throughout your education.

How could you not be fucked up? How could you not have zero self-esteem? How could you not hear the times you were called stupid and not take that into a job interview? I failed you. And for that I am sorry.

You will come out on the other side of all of this. You will spend most of your adult life like you did your childhood, broken. But you will find a strength that you never even knew was inside you. Please learn to be kind to yourself. It may feel like you wasted too many years doubting yourself and your very existence, but your life was and continues to be important.

Oh, and you will end up making more money than you were told you would – and without finishing college!

We will talk soon about the years of abandonment. But for now, just know I am here and I believe in you. And when you feel alone or in doubt look over your shoulder or in a mirror. I’m here and always will be.

With the greatest and most joyful love,

Liz

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road – Writing 101, Day Twelve: (Virtual) Dark Clouds on the Horizon

Published June 20, 2014 by Liz Ault

Write a post with roots in a real-world conversation. For a twist, include foreshadowing.

The house was still new to the family. We had only moved in a few weeks before. I discovered the air vent in my room was a direct pipeline to the kitchen. I would spend much time over the years, laying on my back with my head cocked just right, to hear everything. One of the first such conversations could have changed my life.

A very emotional conversation was taking place between my mom and her sister. I was thirteen and getting ready to start the eighth grade in the fall. The gist of the exchange was my aunt wanted to take me to California with her to live. It went from moving for good to moving for the eighth grade year to moving for a few months.

At one point it sounded like my mom was actually considering it. Then her inner voices took over. It always came down to what would the neighbors think? How would she explain it to others?

My aunt lost. I think I lost something very precious that day, too. A chance to be part of a family where there was unconditional love. A chance to have a father figure who was present. Five brothers. I would not have been the oldest anymore, I would have been nestled gently somewhere in the middle. A mother figure who was supportive.

But I’ll never know. Once again mom’s needs came before…

Twelve and 2323 – Writing 101: Day Eleven

Published June 16, 2014 by Liz Ault

Writing 101: Day Eleven; Size Matters. Tell us about the home you lived in when you were twelve. Twist: Vary sentence lengths.

I wrote this assignment early today. I posted it as done. It didn’t feel right. It jumped all over the place. I was trying to find my voice, find my long vs. short sentences, and mostly was trying to find my way out of a corner. That corner is fear. I have to let me out, or there is no point in continuing with a blog of any sort. What good is paralysis?

I was adopted and it framed everything in my life. I’m trying to unframe it. I’m trying to finally heal while I head to my 60th birthday. I’ve always tried to be what everyone else wanted me to be. Please everyone.  But not know myself.

So at 5 pm CDT I turned on the INSP channel. It was playing the first episode of the spinoff of “Little House on the Prairie” called “Little House: A New Beginning.” It opened with Charles Ingalls moving from Walnut Grove, Minnesota to Iowa to go where the work was. The rest of the family was already in Iowa. He was making the final trip from WG to IA, and asked the new owners if he could go in and see the sod house one last time.

The look in his eyes reflected what I felt when we moved from 2323 N. 53rd to 510 S. 118th. The memories were almost overpowering. I lived in that house from the age of just under 4 to 13. Too bad my first period waited until 118th, it would have been cool to have it a part of 2323. Another passage.

What was learned the most at 2323, was how to compartmentalize life. To find places to put the pain. Got so very good at that. The infamous closet held at least 30% of the pain. Then there was the lilac trees outside, they got about 30%. The basement held the darkest ones at 30%, the balance was spread throughout the house.

If I continue to blog, one of the things that I hope to have happen is cleansing. Putting words to the things I need to and just have a funeral (not the same a burying) for the rest.

Adoption is one of the subjects I want to explore with others to see how similar/dissimilar other adoptees experiences are. My time at 2323 had the “adopted” word all over it. That is my scarlet letter.

That great address also holds the birth of my youngest brother. I felt like I was a mom, and had a job to do. He was born 10 days after my 12th birthday, and why we moved from 2323 to 510 a year later. That final year in 2323 his crib was in my room. I was the one who got up in the middle of the night and did the diaper change and feeding. The nights he stayed fussy were the nights I finally put him in my bed, and we both slept like “babies.” And I still got up for school early in the morning. The 7th grade sucked more than all the rest of grade school did (and didn’t think that was even possible), so having my baby brother in my room and my life helped me hold on to a feeling of being needed.

Leaving that house worried me in a way. It felt like it was a living, breathing part of me. I still pray, that until I’m ready, that 2323 still holds my thoughts sacred and secret.

Cream of Tomato Soup – Writing 101, Day Ten

Published June 16, 2014 by Liz Ault

Writing 101, Day Ten: Happy (Insert special occasion here)! Today, be inspired by a favorite childhood meal. For the twist, focus on infusing the post with your unique voice — even if that makes you a little nervous.

When birthday’s come around in my family, it’s your birthday you chose the food. Most of my son’s life, he requested beef stroganoff. I realized that it was because it was my birthday food of choice, he was following in his mom’s footsteps. My daughter always mixed it up.

Thinking about why my choice was stroganoff took me down a path I hadn’t traveled in some time. I was out of high school before I was given the opportunity to pick my dinner. And that dinner was always beef stroganoff, it was truly a favorite of mine.

Then I thought about food and special occasions and how they might be intertwined. Food often is associated with comfort for so many of us. My mind went down a path of food and comfort and stopped immediately on cream of tomato soup. It had to be Campbell’s condensed. It had to be made with milk – never water (water could not make cream).

Comfort went hand in hand with affection and was seldom something I received, with one exception – illness. When I look back at my little girl self, there is so much sadness and seclusion. So why would feeling my worst physically make me almost smile? There was the soft touch of my mother’s hand checking my cheeks and forehead for fever and the warm canned soup.

Guess that’s why it was the “go-to” food when my kids were sick.