Calling all my reader/reviewer friends:

by JoAnne on January 16, 2015

Owl tree

After my adoptive mother passed away, I learned that she had been secretly working with one of my cousins to put together a book on her genealogy. For much of her adult life, mom had walked away from her strong religious upbringing. However, apparently, placing the information in the prestigious Family History Library was important to her, even if she wasn’t a member of their church anymore. Genealogy would have meant little to her had she not been trying to make things right with the church towards the end of her life, as genealogy is an intricate part of their religious beliefs.

Although the reality did sting, quite honestly, it didn’t come as a surprise to me to discover that she had purposely left my adopted brother and I off her genealogy. I knew it was done with malice in her heart; the name of my first adoptive father, an alcoholic, was also missing from her genealogy. But the name of her only biological child, who she had raised in the church, was right where he should be on the correct branch.

When I have shared my sadness and disappointments out loud, I get a mixed reaction when it comes to adoption and genealogy. One will say, “Well, you really shouldn’t be on there anyway; you are not blood,” while another person will say, “That is so wrong.” I am torn! The deepest part of me wishes that someone from the tree I am really supposed to be on would come alongside me and somehow make it right. Being excluded from my adoptive family tree deliberately, and complicated with not knowing my birth parents (like thousands of other adoptees), intensified my feelings of not belonging. The lack of empathy and silence from many of my adoptive mother’s family in a difficult situation has made the emptiness hurt even more.

Up until recent years, I felt so alone as an adoptee. In getting the opportunity to meet and talk with other adoptees, many I now call my friends, I realized that no matter if our feelings and struggles are each a little different, we still share a common thread. We want our voices to matter and for others to understand that our journeys don’t miraculously become easy once we are placed for adoption.

I love contributing my writings to books I believe in – at the end of January, I am proud to have my newest essay coming out in my good friend’s book, “The Adoptee Survival Guide.” If you would like to read an e-copy now of the book, and write a review to publish on Amazon upon its release, please let me know. I will gladly have a free e-copy sent to you by the editor, Lynn Grubb. Your reviews would be greatly appreciated. Visit the Facebook page for The Adoptee Survival Guide for more information.

I am certain not only will the book be a helpful resource for adoptees, but enlightening for those who want to challenge themselves to see life from different perspectives. Thank you :)!


Those Deep Breaths …

by JoAnne on January 5, 2015


I am hardly ever left speechless, but for a few minutes tonight I was. My adopted brother who passed away last year had two sons. Unfortunately, I never met my nephews. Not too many years ago, my brother shared a sad story with me that his boys’ mother would mail our parents Christmas gifts from the kids and they would return them unopened. I can’t fathom how anyone could be so cruel to children, no matter if the relationship with my brother had been strained for whatever reason.

We only met my brother’s wife one time and all of our family liked her. I truly believed she would have been the one person to help my brother finally turn his life around. As his sister, my heart’s desire was for him to know how it felt to be genuinely loved and accepted, something neither of us had experienced while growing up. I remember crying with disappointment when I learned that they had divorced.

After hearing the nonsense of the unopened gifts, I felt so bad that I sent his older son a letter and apologized for my parents’ unacceptable behavior, and said that I would love to stay in touch. I’ve learned the hard way that trying to cover for my parents’ many poor choices usually backfires on me. My brother relayed a message from his ex-wife that his son didn’t want anything to do with me. Actually, I didn’t blame him for lumping me together with his uncaring grandparents. The truth is — I wasn’t even aware that my brother had two children because he had been such a lost soul for many years.

My late brother’s FB page came up tonight when I was bringing up a friend with a similar name. I decided to look at his oldest son’s FB page. Oh, how exciting for him and his wife — not too long ago they had their first baby :). I had to take a deep breath when I read what they named their precious son because it had such a deep significance to me as well.

My brother unexpectedly learned back when he went into the service that he couldn’t legally use our stepfather’s last name: Bell. Our stepfather had never adopted us like our parents had always led us to believe. My brother would be required to go by our first adoptive father’s last name: Starr. As it turns out, my predicament was a little more complex than that of my brother’s. When I was searching for my birth certificate, the courts concluded that I wasn’t adopted by my first adoptive father either, and, for legal purposes, my maiden name would have to be that of my birth mother’s. Neither of us could use the last name we thought was ours since we were the age of 7. Sadly, my brother and I didn’t have each other to lean on through such a difficult revelation.

I don’t quite understand why my brother went by the last name Starr, yet his sons go by our stepfather’s last name: Bell. His oldest son must have given his first born the extra measure of adding Starr to his name. It would have made my brother happy to know his son recognized that his life mattered, even if he struggled so to find himself.

Why do adults have to make life so unfair and complicated for children?

First day in the world wonderful boy: Caspian Ari Starr Bell

Prince Caspian (from Narnia). I hope life is good to you and your family!



The Unexpected Christmas card …

by JoAnne on December 23, 2014

lonely bearSome of my friends have been posting that the holidays are hard … Christmas time brings back memories of loved ones that have passed, broken families that can’t be fixed, difficult struggles, etc. I can so relate and sympathize with each of you personally and I am sending you big hugs.

I thought I was going to breeze through Christmas this year until I received an unexpected card in the mail today. Nope, not from my younger birth brother, or a picture of my maternal grandmother liked I had hoped for. I am still not giving up on that :).

The Christmas card was from one of my adoptive mother’s sisters; we haven’t spoken in over six years, ever since my mother died. I still remember those times when I was a little girl and being shuffled out of state from one of my mother’s relatives to the next for extended periods of time. These families were a fun and safe place for me when my adoptive parents were going through awful times in their marriage fueled by my alcoholic father. I held a special place in my heart for each of my four aunts; in a sense they felt like my rescuers.

Even as an adult, I still needed my aunts to be a part of my life but with no conditions – I wanted to be fully accepted, loved and respected without needing to be a member of their church or to be blood-related.

No one could possibly imagine how difficult it was to have been my adoptive mother’s daughter. I got the brunt of whatever was going on inside of her. Like both of my brothers said on separate occasions, “Mom sure didn’t like you all that much!”

Please just for a minute try to put yourself in my shoes. I was raised by an adoptive mother who undeniably had some serious personal struggles. And as far back as I can remember my close-in-age adopted brother was also fighting his own demons. There was a part of me that always felt somehow to blame for not being able to fix either of them. Both caused me a lot of shame and embarrassment over the years.

For anyone to insinuate or gossip about possible reasons for our family’s dysfunction, and state my adoptive mother had to be the victim in all this when she was verbally and emotionally abusive is wrong.

I too was grieving the losses of what I did not have and would never have – a loving mother/daughter relationship.

All of us can make excuses for a relative’s bad behavior and poor choices in life, up to a certain point, but when it hurts many others year after year, one would hope a caring individual would take a stand, especially when it involves children that weren’t supposed to be theirs in the first place. Sadly, my adoptive mother’s own sisters weren’t exempt from her unkindness, but as it turns out blood was still thicker than water in the end.

I am not about carrying a grudge, but I don’t know if I can set aside my hard feelings and possibly get hurt again. Please be praying. God is the only one who can help me figure this one out because I sure can’t.



by JoAnne on December 12, 2014

close some doors today

Over the years, I’ve opened up a lot of closed doors that have revealed the truth to many lies and secrets. Some of the answers quite honestly were too overwhelming and have left me with even more puzzling questions. At times, I have wondered if I hadn’t opened any of the doors would I have been better off. Not so sure about that.

I have learned in my journey that what one tries to hide from others usually has much more to do with their own weaknesses and failures. Not keeping it real has little to do with protecting someone from possibly getting hurt.

Even when I became an adult, did my parents not think that I could handle honesty better verses deception?

If you’ve never met me in person, I can be hard on myself. Regardless of how ugly things may have turned out, I feel like I am somehow to blame for even the circumstances that were obviously beyond my control. It is hard for me to put into words the unfairness in the world that has hurt me deeply.

A long time ago, a pleasant-sounding older man called a couple of times when my parents weren’t home. We were instructed to always get the name and the phone number of the caller. The guy gave me his first and last name and followed it by saying, “Oh, just tell him his son called.” His last name was the same as mine and my stepfather’s, but I didn’t even bother to ask my parents for any explanation. I knew they wouldn’t have told me the truth.

I still vividly recall answering his phone call in the kitchen, and later that evening hearing part of a heated exchange between mom and dad coming from behind their closed bedroom door. My mother was yelling angrily, “Just pay him off!”

As it turns out, that man’s name, as I still remember it all these years later was indeed my stepfather’s son. I did not know that my stepfather had been married before and had another family — an ex-wife with an adopted son and an adopted daughter, along with two grandchildren around my age.

I learned that approximately four years after those telephone calls, my stepfather’s son had passed away sadly at the age of only 37 from health issues.

With my friend’s help, I was able to find my stepfather’s daughter-in-law, his late son’s widow. What a lovely older woman! She was very kind and understanding when I, some random stranger, called her on the phone. I knew that she was answering my questions more candidly than my own parents would ever have.

My stepfather’s daughter-in-law shared with me that around the time of the calls from her late husband, that I had answered as a teenager, would have been close to their wedding date. She said that her husband had always wanted to make his father proud. Apparently, my stepfather wasn’t in attendance at his son’s wedding or his funeral, and that she had never even met this man her late husband idolized.

Just wish I could have given my stepfather’s son a hug and said, “I am sorry; I truly understand what it means to have someone we love let us down.”

I know I must figure out how to close some of the doors because no matter how much I want to … I can’t change the endings to so much sadness and disappointments. Are there any easy ways? I would love to make it happen in 2015.

{ 1 comment }

I was asked if I might be interested in doing a guest post on my friend’s blog

Someone Profited from my Adoption But It Wasn’t Me

You know me; I love writing opportunities/challenges.

Lori Holden is a wonderful adoptive mother and the author of a book on open adoption. I admire Lori for her willingness to always take the time to listen to us adult adoptees and what’s on our hearts, an excellent way to understand her own children’s adoption journey’s better, as she strives to be the best parent possible.

I must admit that sharing this part of my life story makes me feel the most vulnerable.




Joy in the Moment

by JoAnne on October 20, 2014

little girl 2

The sound of other kids playing in the room seemed distant, as I attentively watched the beaming 3-year-old twin finding joy in the moment. A few minutes before, I had suggested to him that he could wear the colorful, dinosaur-print underwear, if he would like, but the little guy shook his head stating firmly, “No, I like these.” Holding his hands on his hips, he paraded around in his brand-new white underwear announcing proudly, “My daddy bought this for me.”

Sitting there with tears in my eyes, I knew from my own painful life experiences, why a small gift from a father could be such a big thing to a child.

Let me tell you, helping potty train twin boys is not an easy task. This is not my first set of twins either, but actually my third that I have taken care of in my home over the past 17 years.

I have loved being a part of children’s lives and seeing firsthand their unique personalities blossom as they grow into successful young people. And unexpectedly along the way, I’ve learned a lot about myself, too. For me, it has been healing to finally be able to put into words what I needed from those who were supposed to be my parents.

You know, it’s almost embarrassing to say that technically I’ve had four fathers, but I can only ever remember throughout my life a couple of gifts that were given to me by any father figure. My biological father was never a part of my life. The courts have tried to convince me that the man’s name listed on my original birth certificate (my birth’s mother’s husband at the time of my conception) was legally another absent father. And then there was my first adoptive father — an alcoholic, and lastly, my step dad that my adoptive mother married after her divorce.

Life should never be this complicated and confusing for any person, much less a little girl. I can’t say that I truly had even one father step up to the plate and steadfastly call me his very own with his unconditional love.

I missed out on experiencing that joy in the moment. To all fathers, regardless if your daughters or sons are small or all grown up, I hope that my story will in some way touch your hearts. It’s never too late to share with your child a small, significant gift just from you that they can treasure always out of your genuine love for them. Truly, I believe it is a big thing when it comes from their daddy, like my precious little friend parading around proudly in his brand-new white underwear.

It’s hard to believe that the twin I wrote about in my post from a number of years ago is now in the third grade.

Recently, I received a card in the mail from my close friend’s father thanking me for helping him find his birth family. It dawned on me as I was reading his thoughtful words, I never even received a card from either of my fathers who at different times had been a part of my life. Make it one of those random Hallmark moments today … go down and purchase a meaningful card specifically for your daughter or son and sign it Love, Dad.


“Do Something”

October 4, 2014

These lyrics spoke to my heart from Matthew West’s song, “Do Something!” “I woke up this morning Saw a world full of trouble now Thought, how’d we ever get so far down How’s it ever gonna turn around So I turned my eyes to Heaven I thought, “God, why don’t You do something?” Well, I […]

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Dear Wonderful You

September 28, 2014

As most of you know, I love to write and have had a number of stories published. But for many years, I’ve been equally as passionate about making a difference in the lives of our young people. When I learned my “Dear Wonderful You” letter was going to be in this upcoming book, I have […]

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Holding Onto My Childlike Faith

August 4, 2014

It was opening day of trout season. The spring weather didn’t seem to be cooperating with the anxious fishermen, as they awakened to a light dusting of snow. From a young girl’s point of view, the only problem I could see was getting out from underneath my warm blankets and facing the chilly cabin. As […]

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My Brother’s story

July 13, 2014

After my husband left early for work Saturday morning, I got up for a few minutes to read my e-mail. One message was from my long-time friend asking if I had seen the video she sent to me privately on FB last week. For some reason, I had not watched it yet, so I sat […]

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