Once upon a time …

even if your voice shakes

The hospital where I was born freely gave me a copy of my disturbing-looking birth records, where it noted that as a newborn I had been discharged late in the evening to the doctor who delivered me. The judges in two different states granted the court’s permission to give me copies of my incomplete adoption records (from birth and as an adult). Vital Statistics helped me search for my birth certificate that my parents would only say was “missing.” Vital Statistics gave me a copy of my only birth certificate on record – my original birth certificate which had never been amended. DCFS, who was supposed to be protecting my best interests as a child, stated my file at birth was empty, except for a one-of-a-kind waiver signed by the judge stating not to check the home that I was being placed in. Catholic Charities stated that that they still had an incomplete adoption application sitting in their old records for my mother and her first husband who raised me (my father for the first 6 years of my life). Apparently, at that time, the agency had sent them a follow-up letter that they never answered. It spelled out that to be considered for adopting a baby through Catholic Charities that they must come back in and finish filling out the application.

There is absolutely no way, from the judges to the many clerks, that they could have missed all the irregularities and glaring discrepancies in the sparse court documents they kept handing me – with no possible explanation or resolution to the emptiness that I was feeling. The many chapters from my life journey were not only frustrating, but my self-worth as a once-innocent newborn to an adult clearly got lost in all the mind-boggling deception.

Since my half-brother on my newly-found birth father’s side of the family recently found me, I’ve had this question that has been tugging at my heart. My birth father’s family was Roman Catholic. He lived with his wife in the same small town where I was born, but not conceived. I always wondered why it said, “NO SHOW BABY” on the top of my hospital birth record and underlined several times. The other man who I thought was my biological father lived with his family far away in a different state. Nobody in my birth mother’s family lived close by either. I don’t want to get my hopes up, but it would have a great deal of significance that my true late birth father might have known about me and asked that I be baptized before leaving the hospital. For me, it represents that someone cared.

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Pause and Rewind

October 23, 2012

“Bursting into tears, I remember feeling like we all do at times, “I was just a number again, not a human being.” Downtrodden by her choice of words in such a delicate matter, I just handed the judge’s secretary all my paperwork and muttered something to the effect that it would explain everything. As I quickly went to leave out of embarrassment for crying, the woman reminded me that it would take a few days; the microfiche is in a different building. I remember her asking me if I was going to be okay, and, as usual, my pat answer has always been, “I will be fine; thank you.”

It felt like the death of a loved one when the judge’s secretary called me a couple of days later. The first words out of her mouth were, “JoAnne, I don’t want your heart to break anymore!” In our brief phone conversation, she had been calling to say that my adult adoption with my stepfather that I loved more than anything in this world was considered null and void in the legal system. As it turns out, my (sealed) adult adoption had been a farce too, not much different than my adoption at birth.

Over the years, I’ve had to learn to suck up the pain, but every once and awhile, I must put my life on pause. That was one of those times.”

I still get teary-eyed sometimes when I read over my posts from years past, but putting my thoughts and feelings into words has helped me tremendously to heal. I am proud of how far I’ve come in my search for truth. Thank you for being part of my journey.

What would have made the wrongs feel some better, is if the woman had also then said, “The judge would like to talk with you to see how we can help you to feel like you are a valuable, worthy human being!”


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Moving Mountains


Ever since I was a young girl, I believed I could move mountains that would change the world.

My long-time friend, Cathy, died back in 2008 from a rare, aggressive form of breast cancer. I still remember my emotional conversation with her on my last visit to see her in Sacramento, California. Sitting in my rental car on a dark, dead-end street late at night, I turned to her in the passenger seat and said, “I know why you are refusing any palliative care that might help you live longer. You still love your ex-husband and are just giving up on life.”

Between sobs, I screamed, “I am mad at you. I would have taken out a loan to pay for the medical care it took to keep you with us.”

In all the years we had known each other, I had never even whispered an unkind word to her. Our close friendship was just one thing that was always solid and right. Leaning her frail, gauntly body over, Cathy gently wiped the tears from my eyes and answered, “Oh, Annie Jo, I love you. Nobody has ever said that to me.”

Less than six weeks later, my dear friend passed away from such a brutal disease. At her funeral, I stood silently staring at this huge, beautiful arrangement of flowers sitting on display at the cemetery with a little card that read, “Love from the father of your three children,” signed by her ex-husband. A man that I believe she loved to the ends of this earth but lost him due to divorce.

For a long time, I tried to convince myself her death didn’t hurt anymore. The truth is it doesn’t hurt as much. But recently, when I was talking with a new, good friend, it brought back again all those helpless, unresolved feelings for those I love and care about. My friend explained to me that her husband had been unemployed since 2008. In over four years, she hasn’t even been able get a mammogram because of not having health insurance.

My friend, Cathy, was in-between jobs when she developed breast cancer. She had worked in Radiology for years. From her symptoms, she had an inkling that the prognosis wasn’t good.

Could Cathy’s life have been saved if she would have had health insurance early on to pay for the expensive mammograms? I believe that if she had gone in for her yearly mammogram, it would have helped detect her cancer much sooner before it quickly spread like a raging forest fire to the final stages that took her life prematurely.

Ever since I was a young girl, I believed I could move mountains that would change the world. If one says, “No, that’s not possible,” it makes me just that much more determined to persevere and succeed at reaching my selfless goals.

We all have poignant stories of losing loved ones, but I want to make sure that every woman has the means to get mammograms. It would make some sense out of the loss of my friend that I loved with all my heart and never imagined she would not be a significant part of my life always.

In honor of my late friend’s day of her birth (August 30th), I found something we can all do that doesn’t cost anything. If you go to the Breast Cancer Site (click on the graphic below) and click on Fund Mammograms, Research & Care, sponsors will pay for mammograms. Please feel free to share my post in hopes that we can make a difference. Thanks for the great suggestion Connie Arnold.

The Breast Cancer Site

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Mother’s Day 2016

Mother’s Day 2016

I’ve been thinking about my mother who gave birth to me. We missed out on getting to know each other.

Searching for her in my late 30s, I disappointedly learned that she passed away when I was just a little girl. At the time, I don’t know if I would have been so enthusiastic about finding those of my siblings that she raised had I known the truth to my beginnings.

Since that confusing time in my life, I’ve had a lot of time to better know who I am and what I need from others.

I would love to know more about my mother, especially after relatives marveled at how much alike the two of us were supposed to be.

Here are questions I would ask if I could have a do-over and erase some of the painful parts:

1. What favorite memory of our mother did each of my siblings have while growing up?

2. Did she like to read to them as young children and say, “When I was a young girl…?”

3. Did she ever let my siblings jump on the bed or not have to eat their vegetables?

4. Do they remember a special time our mother wiped away their tears?

5. When was she was the happiest in her life?

6. What song would she have been singing while holding a hairbrush or a spatula?

7. I believe each and every one of us has a gift, do you think our mother ever found hers?

8. Which sitcom was she more like? Vicki Lawrence in Mama’s Family; Roseanne Barr in Roseanne, or Marianne Ross in Happy Days.

9. Was there one defining moment in each of their lives that she missed, and where my siblings wished they could have called her and said, “Oh, Mom, …”

10. I remember when my oldest sister shared with me that she was named after our mother’s doll that had burned up in a fire. What was she sentimental, passionate, or a dreamer about in her short life?

11. What has our late mother’s shortcomings taught me and my siblings about remembering to forgive ourselves when we too have fallen short to be perfect?

choose to become

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