Dottie, An Angel Among Us

Over four decades ago, Paul and I were house hunting for the first time. No more apartment living for us! We were lucky to find a little house in the Parkside neighborhood of North Buffalo, NY. Paul could walk to work. I was on leave from teaching to care for our infant son. The houses were close together–only a narrow driveway separated us from our neighbors. Dottie had five kids and the youngest, a son, was not much older than our son.

Dottie and I had the type of friendship that supports itself. You’ve probably heard the expression in real estate, “That house has good bones.” Our friendship was like that–solid through years of our children’s busy lives and moves by both of our families.

I recall when we had just walked into the house with our newborn daughter–Dottie’s eldest, Denise, came bounding up our front steps to see the baby. When Emily was two and I was back at work, Dottie often took care of Emily in her house–she would put Emily up on a chair so they could make mac ‘n cheese together. Emily now has two daughters. Dottie and her daughters have sent Emily the cutest outfits and toys. Emily’s youngest is just four months old, so our memories are very fresh.

We always kept in touch with birthday cards and Christmas cards. But Dottie often sent Easter and Thanksgiving cards, too. Since we returned to Western New York from Long Island about three years ago, Dottie and I have taken each other out to lunch a number of times. The last couple of times, Paul kindly chauffeured us and had a chance to reminisce with Dottie. When the kids were little, Dottie and Paul walked them together to the nearby Early Childhood Center.

During our last lunch, I gave Dottie a copy of my memoir. Not only had she met my parents during their visits so many years ago, she knew all about my search for my heritage and my identity from the beginning in May 1983. She held my book to her heart–we were both a little emotional. A month later, during one of our long phone chats, Dottie explained that after reading the first couple of chapters of my memoir about my dad’s post-WWII surgeries, she had to put the book down for a few weeks before she could finish it–Dad’s illness was simply too upsetting.

Two and a half weeks ago, on April 18, Denise wrote to tell me that Dottie died during the night. She went to the hospital only the day before. Cause of death–corona virus. How is this possible? “Denise, I am so sorry and devastated. Certain people are angels on earth, your mother was one of them. I always knew I was blessed to have her friendship and love.” Too soon.

Dottie leaves behind her children, their families, four grandchildren, and many, many friends–the memories of our dear Dottie make us all stronger.

Our granddaughter, Riley Nina,
in her fleece from Dottie. XO

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April 22nd

Earth Day is 50 years old today–first celebrated on April 22, 1970. Two weeks prior to the first Earth Day, I had turned 21. Paul and I were married in January 1970, and, yes, I was only 20 years old when we got married! It was the middle of the last semester of our senior year at UMass Amherst. Amherst was a politically active town during the Vietnam War. As stated by The Resistance Center

“In winter, 1966, Amherst, Massachusetts became the first town in the United States to form a weekly vigil protesting the Vietnam War. Standing at the northwest corner of the town common on Sundays from 12 to 1 p.m., participants sought to publicly record their political and moral objections to government policies. The vigil continued until the war’s end in 1973.” www.theresistancecenter.org

But on April 22, 1970, folks gathered to celebrate the first Earth Day. I was in town for some reason, walking up Main Street toward North Pleasant–the main intersection in town! Suddenly, how exciting to come upon the Earth Day festivities. Every year since then, it is a favorite memory from a very busy year!

The First Earth Day
We only have one earth, so we need to take care of her. That’s what Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin believed. He was disturbed that an issue as important as our environment was not addressed in politics or by the media, so he created the first Earth Day, on April 22, 1970. An estimated 20 million people nationwide attended festivities that day. It was a truly astonishing grassroots explosion, leading eventually to national legislation such as the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act.” http://www.americaslibrary.gov

April 22nd is special to me for another couple of reasons. My birthmother, Joan, was born on April 22, 1929. Twenty years later in 1949, I was three weeks old and in her care on her 20th birthday. Four years later, April 22, 1953, on her 24th birthday, she gave birth to her second child, a baby boy. (Eventually, she relinquished four babies.)

Joan was required to care for her son and me for our first six weeks of life. Today, I wish him a Happy Birthday and hope we meet some day. We were both relinquished into closed adoptions. After years of searching for understanding how she was able to make these decisions, I have developed a deep empathy for Joan. I listened to other birthmothers in books and blogs and support groups. Relinquishing us was painfully traumatic. Relinquishing caused grief and suffering, illness and death too soon. Empathy is the key to understanding.

Young Love ~ An Adoptee’s Memoir takes you through my search for my birthparents, for my identity, and for an understanding of the heartbreak experienced by unwed women forced to lose their infants into closed adoptions.

Identity is Sacred
Handmade Card

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Social Distancing verses Physical Distancing

Someone on the news today distinguished the terms, social distancing and physical distancing. I thought, “What a smart idea!” The term, social distancing, has become part of our vocabulary the last few weeks. But I think it is more accurate to say we need physical distancing to slow down the pandemic–we need to stay at least six feet away from each other. That is a physical distance, along with other very important physical behaviors, like hand-washing and keeping our hands away from our face. So, enough about physical distancing–let’s just do it!

Socially, we need each other, more than ever. We are in a unique and dangerous and scary time as the virus moves across our communities, our states, our country, and the world! Hospital workers and people in “essential” jobs are risking their lives to keep us healthy and safe.

However, every day, I am heartened to see how folks are responding with acts of kindness and appreciation for the hard work and sacrifice of others. I see cheering and clapping and singing. I see people reaching out to help neighbors and check in on one another. Through these acts of kindness, we are increasing our social connections–we are pulling together–in a good way.

We need each other. Life is precious. And with each other, we will get through this.

Cards and letters “send a little love”–another way we pull together.

Handmade Friendship Card
Handmade Friendship Card

Hoping you are safe and well. Love, Bonnie

Find the “Staying-In” Sale in my Etsy shop, MyAdopteeMemoir. This is the only place where you will find the “Staying-In” Sale!

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My "Staying-In" Sale

“Staying-In” is the new normal! Each day brings smart and creative ways people are moving their outside world in: exercise videos, games, movies, art and music, to mention only a few.

Reading a good book can be a welcome distraction, today more than ever! With that in mind, I have reduced the price of my book, Young Love ~ An Adoptee’s Memoir, in my Etsy shop. I am calling this my “Staying-In” Sale. The paperback is now $14.99, down from $19.99. The hardcover is now $29.99, down from $34.99.

Enjoy the distraction of my 35-year search for my birth families. I craved to know who my birthparents were–what did they look like, did we have the same interests? Curiosity led the way and I never gave up! This story will pull you in–you will want to know the answers, too!

Each book will be gift-wrapped and includes an autographed copy, a handmade bookmark, and free domestic shipping. I am also happy to include a personal message, perhaps a reference to our “Staying-In” new normal!

Here’s how you can take advantage of my “Staying-In” Sale.

Simply visit my Etsy shop, MyAdopteeMemoir.

This is the only place where you will find the “Staying-In” Sale!

https://www.etsy.com/shop/MyAdopteeMemoir

2020 “Staying-In” Sale

Who Was I?…Who Am I?

It’s odd to imagine receiving an infant from a foster parent without any background information on the baby. We always got our pets from the Erie County SPCA and they came with medical histories, special needs, perhaps even pedigree documents! An infant can’t yet talk, but s/he does have a medical history, and biological parents and relatives who know their family background. In 1949, in a closed adoption in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, my parents knew almost nothing. A couple of tidbits of information they were given were actually untrue. (Thankfully, adoptive parents today are more informed.)

Here is an excerpt from Young Love ~ An Adoptee’s Memoir

“I have a large ring binder with all my documents and notes on my adoption story. My search began in 1983. Ron was 5 and Emily was 3. We visited my parents in Morrisville, Vermont for Easter, which fell on April 3rd that year. I am sure of these details because the first document in my binder is a letter from my dad written on my birthday, April 7, 1983. During our Easter visit, I finally pulled myself together and asked my parents if they knew the name of the agency that handled my adoption. I explained that I felt it was important to get my medical history—for myself and the children.

“This request marked a milestone moment in my life. It was Easter, after all, and for me, it was a new beginning and a new endeavor. My parents responded with compassion and acceptance. I sensed a little unease from my mother―a slight pause. However, Dad took the lead and immediately assured me that they would get the address for me.

“I asked them what information they remembered. Dad described how, when they picked me up at the agency, they were so thrilled to receive me from my foster mother that they never thought to inquire about my birth family.

“Our conversation was going well. Then suddenly, I heard myself ask if they knew my name. I hadn’t planned on asking for my name, and so it was shocking to hear my mother’s quick reply: “Betty Jean.” She had never once mentioned this during the after-dinner chats so many years before.” (I later learned my birthmother named me Betty, not Betty Jean.)

“My parents had given me family names, Eleanor Mary, but called me “Bonnie” because Dad had always wanted a daughter named Bonnie. Dad knew all about his Scottish heritage. I wonder if they had actually wanted to give me a name somewhat similar to Betty. I was almost 8 months old when they took me home, old enough to know my name.”

One piece of information Mom and Dad received was absolutely correct–my birthday! It was confirmed for me when I received my Original Birth Certificate. On the first page of Young Love ~ An Adoptee’s Memoir, I write about a special birthday tradition: “Mom would wrap nickels in wax paper and hide a few of them in the cake. Such excitement!”

But back to today’s title, Who Was I?…Who Am I? I searched until I had answers. I now have the information my parents should have been given. I know a lot about my biological families today–I’ve even met many of them! With help from search angels, social media, and DNA, I was able to complete my jigsaw puzzle. I now know who I was and who I am!

Our eldest granddaughter celebrated her 13th birthday this week–here is the card I made for her. Happy Birthday, sweetheart!

Handmade Birthday card

You can find my memoir in my Etsy shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/MyAdopteeMemoir Each order includes a matching handmade bookmark and free domestic shipping! You can also order from Amazon and Barnes & Noble online.

Turning the Tide with DNA!

I was determined to learn the identity of my birth father. I’d started my search over 30 years ago. Finally, I received a breakthrough with a strong paternal DNA match. Chapter 16 in Young Love ~ An Adoptee’s Memoir, tells the story of the DNA match that changed everything.

“I have made a number of friends through ancestry.com. We try to help each other. One of my friends recommended that I have my DNA tested with 23andMe and Family Tree DNA. She said that I might find matches that didn’t test with AncestryDNA.

“…What a great suggestion! AncestryDNA testing has only been offered in Canada in the last couple of years, and I have more Canadians than Americans in my family tree. I thought about it for a few weeks because the tests are expensive. But eventually, I sent away for both kits, hopeful for new, close matches.

“23andMe showed a second-cousin match, my closest match yet! She and I emailed and shared great-grandparent names, but we have not found closer common ancestors—yet. Interestingly, she has ancestors on both sides of her family with the same last name, as do I—the same name! She is from Marathon, Ontario on Lake Superior—a beautiful area. She told me that the Group of Seven Canadian painters painted many of their scenes from Marathon. My parents and Joan’s family both had paintings by the Group of Seven in their homes.

“Before long, I got my results from Family Tree DNA (FTDNA). I was thrilled to see a high match at the top of the list—my first high match outside of my family. His name is Marc, and he lives in Ottawa, Ontario. He didn’t test with AncestryDNA. My ancestry friend was right! Indeed, I needed to dip my toe into each pond, as she suggested!

“I emailed Marc with the FTDNA match, but he did not reply to my email for a couple of weeks. Turns out, it was an old email address he rarely used anymore. He had his DNA tested six years ago and had given up checking it because he never had a close match.

“As I waited and prayed for a response from Marc, I posted a new question to the Facebook closed group, DNA Detectives. I gave the details about our shared DNA from FTDNA and asked how Marc and I were related. The consensus was first cousins on our fathers’ side. There was an outside possibility that we were half-siblings, but more likely, we were paternal first cousins. Very, very exciting!

“Marc got back to me: “Hi Bonnie, WOW, if this is true that would be great! Please call me or I can call you. Thanks again.”

“Marc was adopted in Montreal and raised in Welland, Ontario in a French-speaking family. His English is very good. I was surprised to find out that French was his first language. I was so pleased that we could communicate easily. We talked and laughed for a long time. Marc and I share the belief that we have a right to our biological heritage! We don’t want to intrude on families we do not know or upset anyone. As Marc says, “…we’re looking for our roots and maybe to build a friendship.”

“In February 2017, after testing with AncestryDNA, Marc’s results showed up in my match list! There was his name, right below my daughter’s, first cousin! This was the additional proof we’d hoped for to truly believe we are first cousins. As fellow adoptees, we are in this search together, and close matches mean the world to us.”

To learn the whole story, visit:  https://www.etsy.com/shop/MyAdopteeMemoir  for autographed books, match-ing bookmarks, and FREE domestic shipping! Also available in the FriesenPress Bookstore, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble online.

Was it Synchronicity?

Young Love ~ An Adoptee’s Memoir Chapter 7–from My First Memoir, April 6, 1988

“My birthday was the next day and I was feeling desperate to connect with my birth family. I finally decided to call the Verdun number and ask if I could talk to one of Joan’s sisters. I felt more comfortable with the idea of talking to another woman, and I knew Grandma Williamson wasn’t ready or she would have called Phyllis at the adoption agency.

“I can’t remember a time when I’ve been more nervous. I had a pad ready for note-taking. At the top, I wrote “Don’t Hang Up…” a favorite song by the Orlons in the 1950s. I just prayed they wouldn’t hang up on me.

“I spoke briefly to Grandma Williamson and then Joan’s brother, John, realized that he should get on the phone. I didn’t know they had two phones. Before I knew it, John said, “Hang up the phone,” in a firm voice. My life passed before my eyes and I almost hung up in despair. Then he started talking to me, and I realized that he had the extension and had been speaking to Grandma. As it turned out, John couldn’t have been kinder to me!

“I was still nervous beyond reason, but he was calm and caring. We talked for about twenty-five minutes. I learned a lot about Joan, and John said I could write to him and send pictures of us. That phone call was my first direct contact with my original family since infancy. I had actually talked to someone who knew Joan!

“I know this is silly, but didn’t Joan work for the phone company? That call never appeared on my bill! Oh, how I wanted to see that phone call on my bill. It would be the written proof that I had talked to Joan’s family. I was dying to see it and pay it! I even called the phone company. They had no record of the call. John told me that Joan worked for Northern Electric for thirty-four years. She was a hard worker, well respected, and active in the Northern Electric service organization, the Pioneers Club.”

When something occurs that seems to be more than a coincidence, it can take our breath away. It’s highly personal, but without apparent cause. It is baffling and mystifying. Carl Jung studied this phenomenon and created a term for these meaningful coincidences: synchronicity. I have become more aware of synchronicity during my years searching for my birthparents and families.

It is not surprising that synchronicity is a common topic in adoption stories. My search angels, as well as the Ville Marie adoption caseworkers, have reported to me that they see highly meaningful coincidences frequently in searches and reunions. In July of 1983, I felt stressed and anxious. I felt an urgency to know more about my birthmother. In Toronto, we discovered that she died on July 21, 1983.

Synchronistic and paranormal events share one critical ingredient, and that is love. Even though it is difficult to prove with scientific study, love is what makes a meaningful coincidence meaningful. Is it possible that Joan’s love was with me on that day when I spoke with her brother? I believe it was.

In Carl Jung’s acausal connection, love is the intangible cause. When we lose a loved one, the love is not lost. We continue to love and adore, and we can feel love in return. My mom and Joan both died from breast cancer. This card represents all the love that will be with us forever.

Visit: https://www.etsy.com/shop/MyAdopteeMemoir for autographed and inscribed books, handmade bookmarks, and FREE domestic shipping! Also available in the FriesenPress Bookstore, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble online.