When Junk Becomes A Treasure

What Happened To My Adoptive Mom’s Wedding Ring…and Me

Okay, so i’ve been tearing around the house looking for something I usually would have cared less about.

Was it in coat pockets? Could it be in my bedside table? Did it fall from my skinny fingers without my knowledge?

This lost something remained in my jewelry drawer, and frankly, until lately, I considered it junk–two silver bands, filthy from age, with the main diamond missing.

Oh, God, please help me find it.

I couldn’t believe myself.

Up until then, when and if ever my thoughts turned to mom, I remembered only the shouting matches at lunch hour and her obsessive smoking, like a smoke stack.

I came from a hard place, from desperate beginnings.

My adoptive mom was insecure about who she was as a person, but even more so about her ability to parent me.

I grew up with a mom who was hard to love.

And, she raised a daughter who wouldn’t bond with her, no matter what.

There were no warm memories.

I wonder if she had any warm memories?

So, what was going on inside me?

Why the desperation over old, tarnished pieces of junk?

Let’s back up to a few weeks ago when I spotted those rings buried beneath other jewelry.

Taking them out, something strange started happening deep inside me.

I thought about my late Dad picking them for Mom.

Where did he get them? And, why did he pick this design? And…what was it like for both of them when he asked her to marry him? Did they hug, kiss? Did he get down on one knee?

And, for her?

What was it like when he placed those rings on her hand?

Was she surprised? Was she full of dreams for what their future might hold?

Then, came the thought–get them cleaned and repurposed. A beautiful new diamond for the main ring and tiny diamond chips for the band.

Husband, Bob, loved the idea and was in agreement that it would be a special investment.

These rings could be daily reminders to me of the hard places I’ve come from as well as the new places I’m now experiencing.

Let me emphasize–

Never. Never. Never have I had these kind of thoughts. Thoughts that looked at life from a different perspective. Thoughts that brought those I once knew to life.

And, so you’re probably wondering what caused the shift in perspective? What caused pieces of junk to become treasures?

All I’ll be able to share now is that a major overhaul has been done inside of me.

I’ve been forced by current circumstances into a crisis of forgiveness, which has required deep, heavy recovery work.

Bottom line?

I believe adoptees and their moms can heal from painful beginnings.

And, I continue to be surprised by my new perspective on life and my past, down to the last detail…a junky ring becoming my treasure.


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Where Is Your Legacy, Adoptive and Foster Mamas?

How Adoptive and Foster Mamas Can Discover Their Legacy

Recently, my husband and brother cleared their late parent’s dilapidated  work shed on the family farm.

After hours of sifting through cobwebs, rat droppings, and bat nests, they discovered two glass objects wrapped in yellow, moldy newspapers.

While wondering if they could be extremely rare pieces of Steuben glass, a memory of their late uncle popped into their consciousness, for he once collected such valuables.

Of course, they loved the glass, but many questions remained.

Imagine how meaningful it would have been for my husband and brother to find an accompanying journal, explaining where their uncle got these collectables and why they had such personal significance.

This is a lovely picture of what it means to leave a legacy.

Up until lately, whenever I heard the word “legacy,” I envisioned a family seated around a desk in a lawyers office, listening to the last wishes of a departed love one.

However, legacies aren’t just about funerals and caskets, but about living life to the fullest. 

Legacies are living, fresh, and active, encompassing everyday life in our memories, whether negative or positive.

Legacies are heirlooms, or gifts, passed on from one generation to the next.

Legacies are a wake-up call, reminding us of life’s brevity, for none of us know when we’ll exit.

Legacies can be positive or negative, teaching us that we learn what to do from some people and what not to do from others.

Legacy isn’t passive, but active, for we can proactively create our legacies now.

Now, don’t get nervous thinking legacy is something you must achieve or accomplish.

You need not rumble through grandpa’s old papers to find it, for it’s closer

than the air you breathe.

Could it be that you’re a beginner at this, like me?

Frankly, I get enthusiastic thinking that even though the first part of my legacy—my life lived now—is showing my legacy, I can do something else to create documents, gifts, and photos for my children and grandchildren.

Let me ask: Could your gift be hidden in an old shed of shame? Could it be wrapped with the yellowed, moldy newspapers of discouragement and exhaustion?

Would you come to the shed with me?

If I hold your hand, would you be willing to open the creaky door and push away the cobwebs?

Will you be willing to search for your legacy by stomping through mouse droppings and bat nests?

If so, you’ll discover your legacy, like my husband finding the multi-faceted valuables.

Now, you’re asking, “What am I looking for? What is my legacy gift?”

It’s YOU.

Yes, YOU.

For, YOU, dear one, are the gift, the heirloom to the next generation.

Yes, every single inch of you that lives the daily grind is part and parcel of your legacy. Your strengths and weaknesses, your challenges and failures, your dreams and goals.

Maybe you don’t feel like a gift?

Since when do feelings mean anything?

The solid fact is that you’re it.

Just think, as you enter the shed, you may discover you’re Steuben after all.

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When Rocky Memories Turn Warm

One Adoptee Discovers Late Mom’s Legacy of Love

I never dreamed I’d be writing a book about her…my late adoptive mom, that is.

It felt like I never loved her…in fact, I hated her.

Now, something quite unexpected is happening.

Warm memories are surfacing. I can smell her apple pie, see her take care of my kitty, and feel her gentle hands rubbing warm oil on my childhood asthmatic chest.

Had something changed in my brain?

Why the warm memories?

After all, mom died 37 years ago and my lifelong memories of her were far from warm. Instead, I remembered  daily fighting matches.

Where did the memories come from?

Were they stored somewhere deep inside?

At the same time, I was learning about legacy and how it is a gift from one generation to the next.

Could I be discovering mom’s legacy to me at this late date–the seventh chapter of life?

A few months later, I was asked to speak to a group of adoptive and foster mamas in Pennsylvania.

The meeting planner asked about the topic and it was then that I took a leap and asked if I could share these memories along with truths about how mamas can create a legacy, even if their kiddos aren’t ready to receive it.

Before delivering my message, I felt like a scared cat delivering a dead mouse at the door.

How could these weary mamas who were parenting kids with severe behaviors possibly be edified? 

Much to my surprise, their faces were welcoming.

How amazing these turn of events are!

I thought I was done writing books and speaking, but now I’m writing a book about mamas leaving a legacy.


Why Can't I Control Anger At My Mom?

Is Adoptee Anger My Life Sentence?

Many of us adoptees wonder if anger is our life sentence. It’s been a constant companion since childhood and even though attempts like counseling have been made to quell it, it’s a strong as ever.

Once a counselor told me to just scream when I feel angry. The next time I felt angry, I screamed in the middle of a session. She jumped at least three feet.

But, screaming didn’t help.

It’s important to understand how anger manifests for an adoptee. It’s a strong feeling of displeasure and belligerence around a wrong. An adoptee becomes enraged, incensed, and downright hard to live with.

Anger says, “My birth mom gave me away and I am mad as hell at her for doing that.”

What I’ve Discovered About Adoptee Anger

What I didn’t know until recently is that at the moment my first mom disappeared from my life (at birth), something was borne within me besides anger.

This something grew quietly in my system and couldn’t be identified as a companion to anger. It just did it thing secretly. It grew beneath the surface of my life, yet it was deadly.

It whispers, “You’ve been through the worst hurt. Eventually, I will keep you from ever being free to heal.  I will leave a relentless sour taste in your proverbial mouth….I fool lots of adoptees because I grow beneath anger, like a winding root, delving deep even into your soul.”

The Bible says I’m poison and that I can defile many through you. (Hebrews 12:15)

Identifying Anger’s Unnamed Companion

My name is bitterness.

I am like a bubbling fountain laying beneath the surface of your anger. My roots don’t show but my job is to feed strength to your anger. My mission in life is to make it easy to get upset over things others do, especially your adoptive mom’s many attempts to connect with you.

My message is, “Your mother’s abandonment is the worst of pains and will be incredibly hard to accept or even admit.”

It has taken a lifetime to understand my anger and how to deal with it effectively.

Looking back on my discovery, I am sure it took a move of God to arrange circumstances that would ultimately free me.

In the weeks ahead, I will share some of this with you all.

I hope this has been helpful as you process whether or not adoptee anger is a life sentence.








What to do if you're scared about being a mama to a child with special needs and scary background

Adoptive and Foster Mamas Are Wired for This Rare Gift

Mom’s heart must have felt like it would beat out of her chest when the caseworker told her my pre-adoption story. 

  • Mother raped
  • Abandoned at birth by mother
  • Father with criminal record

What fears must have surged through her, especially about the father’s genetic influence. Would her child be automatically set up for a dark future because of him?A

I am confident that she could see the depth of abandonment I suffered and my resulting neediness to be touched and held by a loving mom. Her heart bled for all I’d been through.

Many would be scared spit-less and would run the opposite way from such a scary call to mothering, seeking a “nicer back story or a candy-coated adoption they could brag about to the family and friends.”

Not my mom. She was willing to stay the course, no matter how difficult. My mom was like a mountain climber looking at a huge mountain never climbed before.

Wired to Give A Rare Gift

Adoptive and foster moms are wired for such a climb, even though they probably don’t realize it before or during the climb.

For the soon-to-arrive baby who would struggle with abandonment and shame over just being alive, the life experience of the delivery room physician would parallel mine in a seemingly invisible way. 

Only during the search phase of my life would I learn this from his granddaughter.

His warm tears landed on my newborn body, like a spring rain.

I wanted to feel them forever.

To my once-orphaned delivery doctor, life was something to be celebrated, to shed happy tears over.

I couldn’t wait to feel his tears again.

What was it about those tears that soaked into my soul? 

Were they saturated with hope and comfort? Were they bright lights at the end of the traumatic tunnel of living my first nine months of life in the womb of a mother who fantasized abortion? Or, were they seeds, sown in secret, to produce a great harvest later in life?

Whatever it was, I wanted more.

Orphan Doctor held me up, gazed into my big brown eyes, and smiled.

About that time, that the caseworker called my parents to inform them of my special needs:

  • Baby requires 10 days in incubator due to low birth weight
  • Baby refuses to eat and is considered “failure to thrive”
  • Baby doesn’t have a name and is called Baby X by hospital workers

When mom learned about special needs, all she could think about were her shortcomings and inadequacy. What if our baby won’t eat for me? What if she doesn’t gain weight? What if she resists my desire to hold her? I don’t know if I can do this.

Then in the birthing room, Nurse Kratchit bent close to Orphan Doctor’s ear, whispering.

Orphan Doctor’s eyes pooled with tears.

What did she whisper?

Was there something wrong with me?

Was I ugly? Too little?

Is that why she suddenly whisked me off to a dimly-lit room where pleading and plaintiff cries hovered over me, like smog in LA?

Where was Orphan Doctor?

Where were those large, gentle hands that welcomed me to earth with orphan tears?

Why didn’t he come back?

Then, Nurse Kratchit shoved me into a box made of glass.

I kicked and screamed bloody murder, but the sounds of my cries bounced back, like ping pong balls.

No one heard my needs.

And, so I give up and “go inside.” It’s safe in there.

Then, I hear Nurse Kratchit walking near the glass box which was going to be my dwelling for ten days.

Proudly, she announces the name she’s chosen for me.

Baby X.

 The night before my homecoming, I bet mom hardly slept. Feelings of inadequacy must have made her body tight, like a drum.

Wired With Core Belief of A Non-Abandoning Heart

When the caseworker brought me through the front door, she couldn’t help but fall in love. 

It was at that moment that one of her rarest gifts surfaced—her non-abandoning heart.

She would reverse the script of abandonment to one of safety and belonging. She would love this baby with every fiber of her being.

And so, over the span of a lifetime, mom gifted me, even though I didn’t realize it.

Wired to Pass on A Legacy

She was creating a legacy for me, passing it down, even though I didn’t want it, need it, or receive it.

That is what legacy is. Passing on gifts, or heirlooms from one generation to the next.

Mom gifted me with the non-abandoning heart over the years by living by these legacy markers:

  • I will do everything possible to connect with my child
  • I will still love her even when she rejects me
  • I will love unconditionally, knowing her back story
  • I will love her even though I am afraid
  • I will love her by telling her the truth about her back story.
  • I will keep loving her even though I never receive love in return.
  • I will go to my grave knowing I’ve done my absolute best for her.

That rare gift of a non-abandoning heart can be illustrated by this story about a forest ranger who was surveying the results of a forest fire in California. 

All the mighty redwoods were but an ash heap. 

Kicking his way through the ashes, he came upon a mysterious clump, which he kicked to the side. Immediately, baby chicks scurried out from their dead mama’s body.

What a mom she was. She refused to leave her offspring even though fire raged around her. 

She accomplished her life’s mission and legacy of gifting her babies with a non-abandoning heart.

What a mom she was to those scurrying chicks…and what a mom my mom was to me.