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Whoa, Easy Girl

Is it weird to associate our inner selves with animals? Well I do. A spirit animal, if you will. Or a patronus for any other Harry Potter friends out there. Mine has always undeniably been a horse. When I was a girl I used to draw horses obsessively. I have always been compelled to them; drawn in by their muscled frames, long beautiful manes, and large intelligent eyes. I read books about them, and Black Beauty was one of my most favorite movies as a girl. Now, the really sad part is that I have only actually ridden a horse maybe twice in my life. So the fact that I have always felt this deep love for horses, and have barely any experience riding them is a bit odd. That’s something I would like to change- who wants to help a girl out??

Partly, I think I have always felt this pull towards horses was because they are such wild spirits. Sure, horses can be tamed but it would still run free if it had the choice. Many times in my life I have come to crossroads wanting to follow the unpaved path, and have to reign myself in. I am more of a free spirit and have such a laid back attitude with life that I know drives my husband crazy sometimes. He is very disciplined and always has a plan. I never have a plan and often just wing it, or just want to completely do away with any plan and run away. It’s a struggle sometimes for me to balance it all out.

As a girl, I always wondered, and often fantasized about who my biological family was. Sometimes I would dream of setting off on an adventure to find them. I loved (and love) my adopted family but sometimes it was obvious that my sister and I were adopted. Not in a bad way, necessarily, but there are definitely traits that we inherited from our biological families that we had even without knowing those people. Now that I know my biological mother’s family, there have been so many “aha!” moments when we realize the similarities. I now know that so much of the free spirit in me is from my birth mom Sherri. She too, loves horses and even had one of her own when she was a young girl.

It’s crazy to think about how woven together we all have been- even though it took us almost 30 years to meet. Life is so funny.

Running Wild

I found my birth mom Sherri in 2007. My twin sister Aly and I had joined a reunion website (Adoption.com) on a whim once we had decided to start looking for her in 2005. After a while, we stopped checking it because we were pretty sure we would never be able to find her. We had no information – none. All we knew was the city and hospital we were born in. It was definitely frustrating. At one point we even thought about hiring a private investigator but even if we had paid one they would have had an extremely hard time as well with the limited information we had in a closed adoption.

By chance in April of 2007 Aly called me in a panic. She could barely speak over the phone and all the words were spilling out at such a fast pace I had to get her to calm down. She was finally able to inform me that we had a response to our profile on Adoption.com! I told her to not get excited yet- it may not be her. I didn’t want to get my hopes up even though my insides were all screaming and wanting to jump through my skin.

Miraculously, when we asked her to send some photos, she emailed pictures of us at birth that we had copies of too as well as some of us with her the day we were born. It was a very unreal experience. My brain was having a hard time handling the fact that we had indeed achieved the impossible and found her. When I got home from work that evening in Ellicott City, Maryland, my entire body was buzzing with this energy I could not make stop, so I put on my running clothes and I ran. I ran until my lungs hurt and  I threw up. Running seemed to be the only thing to keep my heart up to speed with my brain which was going a mile a minute. I flung myself in a grassy field near my apartment complex drenched in sweat until my head stopped spinning.

We had done the impossible. We had found her.

Putting on the Blinders

When I called Mom to tell her the incredible news, she tried her best to pretend that she was excited. She could not, however, hide the fact that she was very upset. She actually started to sob over the phone and it made me so confused and sad. When I asked her what was wrong she told me

“I am happy you two have found her, but I am afraid you will leave me and Dad behind.”

My excitement was quelled by this. Of course I would never do that to my family, the thought had never occurred to me at all. No one was being replaced or being left behind; this was such an incredible moment that I thought would bring people together not apart.  Looking back and understanding more than I did at 22, especially now that I too am a mom, I can see where my Mother’s fears were coming from. It’s very normal for any adoptive parent, (I know my Dad had similar fears), to feel this way about their child searching for their birth family. But in that moment I just felt pain. I was confused why she wasn’t more excited for me and Aly. I knew we had a right to do this and it didn’t feel wrong. But seeing how upset she was and because I loved my mom so much, I decided to stop telling her information about our birth mom. It was not an easy decision to make, but I have never been one who enjoys or tries to harm people, especially those I love, so I felt it was the right thing to do. I would continue my journey to discover my birth family alone.

In 2013, I finally met Sherri in person along with her husband Rick. It was such an extraordinary evening that is impossible to describe with words. Seeing her and actually putting my arms around her fulfilled this sense of purpose I had been searching for. I felt a missing piece of my heart that I never knew to be missing was now replaced. It all felt so right and was such a monumental, emotional event that I felt I could not share with my family. It broke my heart to not tell them, but because I loved them so deeply, I didn’t want to cause anyone harm. Over the next three years as my mother’s health declined, it only further solidified my choice to not tell. The last thing I wanted was for her to feel like she was being replaced as her life on Earth was quickly coming to an end. There were many times that I wanted to tell her, and even started to, but would quickly decide not to. My fears of hurting my already sick mother who had been through so much always stopped my lips from moving.

Two Worlds Coming Together

My in-laws lived in Dayton, Nevada for about five years. In November of 2007, Jess and I drove out there from Utah to celebrate Thanksgiving. The day after the holiday, we packed lunches, bundled up, and drove on four wheelers into the mountains to find some petroglyphs and enjoy the beautiful scenery. On the trip back down from exploring we saw a herd of wild mustangs from the top of a ridge we were on. I was able to snap a few photos of them, and was so excited to see some in the wild because it’s pretty rare to do so nowadays.

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I was feeling on top of the world after that! The little girl inside me was screaming because I had actually seen wild mustangs in person! A few more miles out we stopped for a few minutes for a break, and to our surprise, a different group of mustangs appeared out of nowhere not 10 feet from where we stood! I audibly gasped when a dark brown one came within 5 feet of us, ears up and forward, curiously looking us over, and then wandering back to the herd. He apparently had determined that we weren’t a threat, because they stayed right where they were, completely unbothered by our presence. My heart was pounding out of my chest, and I quickly snapped a photo before we moved on, but even the photo does not do the beautiful moment justice. Wild mustangs are usually quite shy, so the fact that this family of mustangs came close to our family group was exciting. It was a beautiful moment where our two worlds came together.

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My mother did not live to see my birth mom like I had dreamed. She passed away in February of 2015 – finally succumbing to 18 years of hell that cancer wreaked on her body. A few months after she was gone, I decided to tell Dad about Sherri. I was nervous, but Aly and I decided he needed to know since we never got to tell Mom.  Understandably, he took a while to digest the information, but he handled it very well. I was so excited and so relieved. In January of 2017 a dinner was set up in which my dad and his new wife, my stepmom Christy would be meeting Sherri and Rick as well as my biological grandparents DeVon and Dianne. The night was wonderful; it was another beautiful moment of two families coming together. It made my heart so happy, despite the dull pain that my mother was not able to be there too.

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Left to Right: Devon, Dianne, Me, Rick, Sherri, Aly, Christy, and Dad (Doug)

 The Movie that Broke Me

When I finally watched the film “Lion” about two months ago, it wrecked me to such a spectacular degree that I felt physically sick. In fact, I had to quickly turn off the movie when the credits started to roll, and rush upstairs to my bedroom where I continued to cry. I did not want to disturb my basement renters whose bedroom is directly below our tv room. I had previously read the book the film is based on “A Long Way Home” by Saroo Brierly, which was emotional in itself to read, but something about seeing it playing out really hit home for me.

Although Saroo and I have very different stories, his much more tragic than my own, the root of what he was needing to do was the same as mine: a need to find where he came from. He needed to find his family in India whom he had gotten lost from by getting on a train that took him across the country. Saroo was never educated enough to know the different dialects so he could not tell anyone where he was from, and eventually got put into the system after living on the streets in Calcutta for months. A kind couple from Tasmania adopted him, and he was flown across the world to live and grow up. Once he was grown, he had all but forgotten where he came from, until in his late twenties, he was suddenly bombarded by memories, and was then determined to find his family.

When he starts to search, he decides to not tell his parents what he’s up to. He doesn’t want them to think he is ungrateful for his life and the love that they have given him. While we were watching the movie, Jess turned to me and said:

“This is how you felt, isn’t it?” and all I could do was nod my head. The lump in my throat was preventing me from speaking. That was EXACTLY how I felt. Exactly. Saroo’s feelings resonated so strongly in me, and I am sure with many adoptees who are searching for their biological families.

I hope not to spoil the movie for anyone who hasn’t seen it, but he does eventually track down his family with the help of Google Earth. He then finally tells his mom and dad what he has been up to. His mom is overjoyed for him, and supports him as he leaves for India. Once there, he tracks down his old family home, and with the help of strangers is able to find his mother. Their meeting again was so emotional for me, because my meeting with Sherri was no different. There was lots of hugging and crying and catching up.

Saroo calls his mother that night back in Tasmania and leaves her a message that says he found his mother and that she understands that they are his parents now, and she is so thankful to them for raising him and giving him a good life. He also tells his mom and dad in the message that this changed nothing for him about them as his parents and that he loves them. Nicole Kidman, who plays Sue Brierly in the film, has two adopted children in real life, and has said that she made this movie for them. In an interview she said this:

‘The movie is a love letter to my children who are adopted and it’s not about anything other than, “I wanted you whatever your journey is, I’m here to love and support you.” That’s what I connected to. I wanted to make the film for them,’ she explains.

‘When you are an adoptive mother, of course you think about the birth mother  and the birth parents and what it all means and how our lives are intertwined in some way, whether the child choose to find the birth parents or not.’  – Source : Daily Mail

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At the very end of the film, they show real footage of Saroo bringing Sue to India and meeting his mother, Kamala. This was the part that really ripped me apart. Seeing these two mothers who were a part of each others lives even though they had never met, embracing and shedding tears of such happiness was a moment I suddenly wished that Mom and Sherri could have had. They should have had it. I felt responsible that this never happened for them. Choosing to not tell my parents about this journey I was on, inevitably lead to this point, where they were both denied the chance to meet and embrace and cry because Mom passed away before I could better navigate my new relationship with Sherri and introduce them to each other. I just felt sick after the movie was done, and that feeling lasted a few days. My inner horse was already spooked and  running far away, and I felt past the point of being able to reign myself in.
This feeling of guilt and sadness is something I will carry heavily in my heart probably for the rest of my life. After a few weeks, I finally brought the subject up to Sherri via email. When she responded, she said this to me and as per usual, she set my soul at ease:
“What was lost to me in not meeting your mother is restored to me every time you tell me a story about your mother. Those few hours in my car on your mother’s birthday when you told me stories of her and your childhood were so precious and beautiful. A gift to me on your mother’s birthday. It also reflects in the way you walk in this world. In the same way that we are often amazed at those genetic similarities, I am amazed at the differences that I attribute to your mother. And I remain grateful for the ways in which we are different just as much as the ways we are alike. You are gifted with a wholeness that comes from being part of two women.”
I will forever be grateful for the two women who I can call mother in this life.
XoXo,
Heather
The Raw Brunette
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The Beat Goes on

IMG_1956.JPGFrom the moment I opened my eyes this morning that famous song by Sonny and Cher has been playing over and over in my head. I have no idea why “The Beat Goes On” chose to be on repeat today but I think it may have something to do with the fact that it’s my mother’s birthday. This is the third birthday we have had to commemorate since she passed away, and the sting of her being gone is still a sharp one.

Thankfully, we were exploring the gorgeous Columbia Gorge in Oregon for most of the morning and afternoon with my birth mom and her husband so I was distracted. But now that we have been on the road back to Boise (I took the first shift driving), I had a lot of time to sift through my feelings of what today means.

There is no direct link that I have with that particular song and my mom, although I know she loved Sonny and Cher back in the day, but those four particular words just kept standing out to me. It took me back to the night that she passed away. The wave of initial shock of her passing had gone, and my siblings and I had moved to the hallway from the hospital room she had been in. I decided to go back in for a few minutes to be with her alone. It was peaceful in there now that all the machines were off and all I could hear was my steady breathing as I sat on the edge of her bed. I held held her hand in mine. It was now cold and seemed foreign without her life inside it. I couldn’t physically speak but was sending her my love through my broken heart as tears silently slid down my face.

My eyes were drawn to the watch she was wearing. It was a beautiful silver one my dad had given her a few years before. I stared at the face for a moment and watched as the second hand was still ticking away- completely unaware that it’s wearer was now deceased. The thought suddenly was impressed upon me that this was not the end for her, but just a small part of eternity. Her mortal life was over, but there was much more ahead for her in the afterlife. Life continued on. It was a tender mercy for me to physically be able to see and feel in that moment that life doesn’t end here. It goes on.

Life has continued, and even though she is gone mom lives on in us. I feel her with me so often and I know she makes it a priority to check in on us. She lives on in her three children, her six grandchildren and countless friends and family members. Her spirit and who she was and what she stood for gives others inspiration.

I know she wouldn’t want me to be sad on her birthday, and I kept feeling her presence as I watched my birth mom with the littles today. They are as much my mom’s grandchildren as they are my birth mom’s. It’s beautiful, really to think about the fact that these two women who never met have a motherly (and grandmotherly) bond. I could not have spent my mom’s birthday in a better place than I did today, and for that I am thankful. My heart wasn’t as heavy today as I was dreading it to be and I know it’s because we are continuing this  crazy journey of strengthening my bond with my beautiful birth mom. Mom would not have had it any other way. Through our hardest trials and heartaches comes change and it always opens doorways to new roads to travel down. It’s pretty crazy, this life, and I am thankful to know that life and the beat goes on.

 

Happy birthday Mom.

XoXo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette

 

“Just always be waiting for me”

My Mom was in my dream last night. We were cooking dinner together in a large white kitchen. She had on a yellow apron, which was her favorite color, and it felt like she wasn’t gone. I was so happy to be with her, and we were talking and laughing as we put something together and into the oven. I’m not even sure what it was we were making, but clearly that’s not the point. When my Mom passed away, for the first weeks, and months, even, sleep could not come fast enough because I would see her almost every night. As time went on, she visited me less and less so the occasional night when she does enter my dreams it’s extra a special.

I feel that dreams are much more than just pictures we see at night while we sleep. Sure, some of the crazy out of this world dreams probably mean nothing, but for the rest of those dreams, they are messages and have meanings.

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I have had vivid dreams since I was a small child, and I can remember most of them from about age 5 on. I used to keep a journal of them when I was younger, which I am sad I did not keep. My husband became accustomed very quickly in our marriage that every morning I would roll over and say “Want to hear what I dreamed about?!”. He’s a pretty patient guy to sit and listen to my dreams.

I have studied dreams because it fascinates me how complex my dreams are, and I wanted to know what things symbolized. For instance, once I saw Jurassic Park at the age of 8 it quickly became, (and still is), one of my most favorite movies. The T-rex, however, became a prominent terrifying presence in some of my scariest dreams. Being chased by a tyrannosaurus in a dream, represents your fears of becoming not needed, or not useful. When I was 8, my group of friends drastically changed, and for an 8-year-old who had been with the same friends since kindergarten, it was a big deal for me, and I was manifesting my emotions into my dreams. To this day, if I have a dream of being chased by the t-rex I will wake up in a cold sweat. Those things are scary guys!

Another example, is a bear. I have had recurring nightmares of being chased or killed by bears ever since I first went to my church’s girls camp when I was 12 in the beautiful Appalachian Mountains of New Jersey. It’s probably from the horrifying experiences we had every year without fail, of the black bears who roamed the mountains. Any of my fellow camp mates can attest to this as well. The presence of a bear chasing you in a dream represents you running from something in your life that causes you fear. This makes total sense to me because this was the year my Mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Clearly, I had a lot of things I was fearful of and had no control over.

I could go on and on. I have so many examples and crazy dreams I could write about, but it would take up so many pages! Ask me about it sometime – I would love to talk about my dreams!

Another thing I truly believe about dreams is that they can be messages or calls to action in our lives.

I started the search for my Birth Mom because of a dream. In 2006 I started to have a series of dreams about her. In the first and very vivid one, I was watching what was going on with her from a distance. I had no idea what she looked like so in my dream she was a blurry figure with shoulder length light brown hair. She was looking for something, and asking people around her if they had seen it. I quickly realized that the “it” she was searching for was my sister and I. When I woke up that morning, the dream kept running through my head over and over. I called my sister in Utah, (we lived in Dallas at the time), and told her about it. We decided that we were ready to try to find her. A few months later I had yet another dream about her. In this one, I was driving my car through a small town I had never seen before looking for my birth mom. I parked my car and started asking some locals who were gathered in the main part of town if they had seen my birth mom, although I didn’t know her name. They told me I was the “spittin’ image” of Jennifer, and surely I was one of her girls. Just a few months after that, my sister and I found her. It was fate, and another story for another post. When I told her about my dreams, and how I dreamt her name was Jennifer, (which it’s not by the way), she told me that in the hospital when she had my sister and I, she had named me Jennifer.

Chills right? Yeah, me too.

I have written before about my miscarriage I suffered in September of 2015. It wrecked me emotionally and I was a mess for weeks. About two months after, I had an incredible dream. In it, I was in a vast, white landscape that seemed to have no end. I was dressed in white, as was everyone else around me. I wasn’t scared or worried about where I was, in fact, I felt very at peace. I realized I was in the after life. Not necessarily Heaven per se, but some sort of post mortal life. As I searched the faces of the people milling around me, I locked eyes with a man probably no older than me. He was tall with dark hair and dark eyes. When we saw one another, we realized we knew each other. We embraced one another and shed tears of happiness. I told him it was so good to see him, and he said the same to me. I asked him where my Mom was and he said matter-of-factly that she was busy “working”. I was fine with this answer, because I was so happy to be with this man who I knew. He asked if he could show me around, and I said of course. He told me that in this place we were, I could think of any place in the world or history and we would go there. I thought of Shanghai, China and instantly we were transported there. We were in a market, and I could smell, touch, and taste everything as if i was really there. This was definitely one of the most vivid dreams ever. Never in my life have I been to China, but in that dream I was really there. After we explored the market for a while, we went back to the white place. He proceeded to show me some specific places in the afterlife, but I cannot for the life of me remember what he showed me. Maybe there is a reason for that? Who knows. We talked for a long time, and then he told me it was time for me to go. I didn’t want to, and began to cry. I did not want my time with him to be over, but he tearfully told me that he was good, and not to be sad.

I woke up, and the morning light was streaming in the windows. I laid there for a few minutes going over the very real dream I had just had.  A thought suddenly overcame me, tears welled up in my eyes, and my chest burned telling me it was true. I belive the young man in my dream was my child that I had lost just a few months before. My son was visiting me to let me know that he was okay and that he loved me. Remembering how long and emotional our reunion was only further solidifies that for me. I cannot wait until the day we do get to meet again, but for now, I know that he’s in a good place waiting for me.

Whether you are religious or not, dreams are something we all have. They can explain a lot of what’s going on with us internally, and are really very fascinating to explore the meanings of. Give it a try sometime! You won’t be disappointed.

 

XoXo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette

 

 

My Tribe, My Pride

They say it takes a village to raise a child. I say, it takes a pride. A pride of powerful lionesses.

Why a pride you ask? Sure, there are male lions in prides, but let’s be honest, the female lions run the show. Lionesses are strong and fast hunters, and are relentless until the kill is had. But, they are also very loving. In fact, lions are the most social of the big cats, and really take care of their families. Lions themselves are one of the most recognized symbols in human history.

It all started on Marco Polo. If you non- tech savvy people don’t know what it is, Marco Polo is an app where you can video chat, but not in real-time. So, you can record a message, send it, and your friends or loved ones can watch it, and reply at their leisure. It’s like video texting. Go download it! My sisters and our birth mom have a chat thread that is added to daily, and it’s a great way for us all to keep in touch. One of my sisters today mentioned  in our Marco Polo thread how each of us individually are so strong, but when we are all together, that we are like a lion pride, and an unstoppable force.

I have been thinking about it since then, and it really made me consider all the women who were and are in my life. They all have unique strengths and talents, and all have inspired me in my own life.

Obviously, I must start with my Mom. She gave my older brother, and my twin sister and I such a wonderful childhood. She adopted my sister and I, and loved us as unconditionally as if we were her own biological children. Our home was filled with so much love, opportunities,creativity, and freedom to be ourselves. She cooked amazing home cooked meals, and tried to be as involved with our lives as we would let her. Let me put it this way, I can literally count two hands the number of sports games, concerts, graduations, awards ceremonies, and any other events that she did not attend. Even when she was sick she tried her best to go. Besides her ability to be a mother, she was probably one of if not the smartest person I have ever met. I always told her to go on Jeopardy, because she would have won hands down. She read like two books a week, sometimes more, and always tried new hobbies and succeeded at them. She was truly an incredible, loving, selfless woman. Her example helped me so much in my journey into motherhood, even beyond the grave. My heart aches for her still everyday. Her friendship is a loss that is hard to fill. I literally called my Mom every day, and after she died, and even still today, I instinctively will want to call her with random questions or stories I have to tell her.

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My twin sister naturally, is a given member of my pride. She is my soul mate, and if that’s a weird thing to refer to your twin sister as, I don’t care. She and I have been through more together than I could ever write down. We have an unbreakable bond, and twin connection. Yes, for anyone who has ever wondered if twins really have a connection, WE DO.  She’s my person. (For any Grey’s Anatomy fans, you know what I’m talking about). I like to think that she and I loved each other so much in Heaven before we came down, that we begged to not be separated. So, we were sent down together. I honestly don’t think I could have survived this life without her with me. She has also been a second mom to my three children, and I know one day when she becomes a mother, her children will be as loved by me as my own are.

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To remind any readers who have forgotten, my twin sister and I are adopted. We recently found our birth mother a few years back, and also got to meet our three half sisters. My birth mom is an amazing woman, who has been through a tremendous journey in her life. She inspires me, as well as makes me so proud to have her blood in my veins. She and I met each other in person in the summer of 2013. It still amazes me the similarities we have, and that I also have with my sisters even though we were not raised together. Genes are a funny, funny thing.

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It was a marvelously emotional day when we met. So much, that I may need to write an entire post just on that. She is such a rock in my life now, and I am grateful that for the rest of our lives we can continue to strengthen our bond, and get to know one another. She is one of my best friends.

It was as if these missing pieces of my heart were now put back into place – that being my birth mom, my sisters.

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Since then, we have formed what I now like to refer to as our Lion Pride, thanks to my sister. Each member of our pride is different in our unique talents and abilities, but we have so much in common too that it’s pretty funny sometimes. None of us ever has to feel like we are alone in any situation. If one of us is in trouble, or just needs a good cry session, we never have to be afraid to be vulnerable and open up, because we are all there for one another. It’s the type of support system that everyone should have, and when I talk to them, and by chance get to be in the presence of all of them at once I am in awe. It just makes me so damn grateful and proud to be a woman.

When I found out my second child was a girl, I was beyond ecstatic. She is an irreplaceable addition to our family. Although she has shown her fiery personality quite early, it makes me so happy to have her in my life. If anything, her stubbornness and very strong opinions give me zero doubts that my daughter will ever grow up and be afraid to be herself. I also have zero doubts that she will be without female support throughout her life.  She is so lucky, because she has these five intelligent, capable, talented, and tough women to look up to. They will and have helped me raise her (even if they aren’t aware of their influence), and I would be proud if she turned out like any one of them. Just like I said, it doesn’t take a village to raise a child, it takes a pride.

 

xoxo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette