When you need a little help from your (blog) friends

Co5YHFzXYAAwYqd

With the abundance of “blogging schools” and the excellent WordPress advice available I was pretty sure I could spruce up my blog on my own.  I realized early on that I didn’t want numbers/stats for the sake of just having them, and that a comment, even a negative one, meant someone was reading, and that was what I wanted: to reach and feel connected to an audience. Not that the numbers aren’t nice!

A sister blogger once said she enjoyed the randomness of my blog. It is true that I tend to write about whatever I feel like writing about on any given day. One of my passions is adoption reform. I am currently working on a piece with a goal of finishing by January 2017, the proposed time-frame my personal adoption records will be unsealed, according to NJ State Governor Chris Christie. I’m not holding my breath, but keeping my eye on the ‘Gov.

I realized pretty quickly that I didn’t want to blog so much as write about adoption. (I will still be blogging about advances in brain health post surgery and of course, kittens).  I was bogged down in the blogosphere until I found FistBump Media. (Full disclosure: I met the founder when our paths crossed at a conference once, although the other few hundred attendees make the memory fuzzy for both of us).

Three things set FistBump apart from other programs out there:

  1. The information is presented in bite-sized pieces, and the assignments are manageable and leave time for writing. The folks at FistBump help focus on taking the next step. It’s easy to circle back and go over something once you get an overview of that particular lesson.
  2. The instruction is presented totally backwards from all other programs I have tried-at first I was confused by this but I immediately saw the value of taking the steps in the order they are presented. This is probably my key take-away-the concrete steps I could take in order to prevent getting bogged down so I could keep going.
  3. A program of this kind can only be as good as the leader. Here is where FistBump shines, an attentive team that provides support in a timely manner-complete with encouragement that does not appear to come from a robot. In Dan King you get a warm and willing coach/cheerleader, and that makes all the difference. A look at the videos will show you if the material is going to be right for you.

If you have any questions ask-ask me or contact Dan directly at:

FistBump Media

1988 Wood Hollow Way
Sarasota, FL 34235

941-780-4179

I tend to get overly excited about things-I’m pretty stoked about the introductory (one week) offer that is the equivalent of a couple of trips to Starbucks. I know a few of you personally who have been looking for a program like this-THIS IS IT.

Advertisements

2 Things-World Aids Day and Deanna Shrodes “Worthy To Be Found” Book Launch!

WOW!  Two things in one day! Scroll down for new content, but first, there’s this….

I wrote the following post several years ago, and I like to revisit it on December First-World AIDs Day. These days it’s all about PrEP, and a certain reminiscence, a romanticizing  of a time, that to me, was full of fear and sadness.

World Aids Day – December 1

(First published on Tumblr some years back).

michael h

Remembering Michael

We met in college, over the easy-listening jazz of Michael Franks. We had that immediate connection (I’m from Jersey, you from Jersey?) that you get when you are from NJ living in Florida. He had a girlfriend back home. I imagined I was keeping him out of trouble.  The second year into our friendship (‘78?) I was in the right place and the right time to facilitate a meeting between Michael and the guy that gave him his first restaurant job. He was always overly grateful for that, because it allowed him to stay in Florida. About 2 years went by before gradually his hair started getting blonder, he became more concerned with his appearance, Nancy stopped coming down to visit. It is easy to look back now and see that he was trying to come out to me, literally for years, but he was not really out and we were not ready to catch him.

In ’80 he got a job as a “coffee, soda, juice girl” at an Atlantic City casino.  We had a party to celebrate both the opening of this new casino and the new job. We ended up in a lounge that was not operational yet, just the two of us, when he told me he had something to tell me.  I was pretty sure he was going to tell me something about Nancy….

It wasn’t long after that, as if someone threw a switch, everyone was dancing, dressing up, doing poppers. Well, not everyone. I had two distinct circles of friends. On my 21st birthday I threw myself a party at St. Petersburg’s premier gay bar, a big fancy run down dance hall that we all loved. There were wall to wall guys, four lesbians and about 8 of my straight friends in attendance.  At first there were a handful of people who were irritated that straight people had invaded the bar, but it soon turned in to a big happy celebration. Me and my friend Sue went into the lady’s room and swapped dresses. I share this detail for my kids, who seem to like to hear about the “wild” stuff we did. We did this simply because we each liked the other’s dress better.

Fast forward and the first baby to be diagnosed with AIDS was on in the news. It was no longer a “gay man’s disease” but a “blood borne disease”. That’s what the history book will tell you but I was there, and believe me, it was a “gay man’s disease.”    I was pregnant with my first child when Michael told me he tested positive.  It was like someone telling you they had something stage 5. People heard this news and they didn’t expect you to live. I hear stories of people sitting around crying.  Michael and I didn’t cry. We were going to show this thing a thing or two about stamina and resistance!

Michael spent the next 3 decades being the reluctant poster boy for AZT and other anti-virals, often participating in trials. He was always warm to the touch, as in feverish.  The first time he visited me after his diagnoses he brought straws, because he thought I wouldn’t want to drink out of his glassware. I said “don’t be silly” and accepted the straw. We visited almost every year for many years then our visits became sparse, me, living back in Jersey, and Michael, staying where he had health insurance and a job.

I’m not good at conclusions.  I wanted to remember Michael on this day. I remember lots of folks that I met through Michael, some who are no longer with us. If you are reading this and thinking “man, I should get tested,” go to the nearest testing center. AIDS.GOV, enter your zip, there’s a map. My nearest testing center is also my local Planned Parenthood.

Last year, (several years ago, now) after spinal surgery (that he thought was in part due to carrying all those heavy trays of “coffee, soda, juice,”) Michael passed away.  I wanted to spend some time on World Aids day remembering him.

*************************************************************************************************************

IN TIME FOR HOLIDAY GIFT GIVING!

Worthy to Be Found Cover

I’ve been counting down with Deanna and today’s the day! Her book, Worthy To Be Found, is up on Amazon! If you are inclined to read one more adoption book (I know you might be weary after November’s national adoption month #FlipTheScript campaign) please consider buying this book today so the opening day sales skyrocket! This will ultimately get the book into the hands of more people, and the book’s healing message will also make a great Christmas gift!

Put down what you’re reading and find Jennifer Laucks (book) Found.

It's a big, big, (adopted) world.

It’s a big, big, (adopted) world.

Evoking Jurassic Park-level fear, while softly reminiscent of Eat, Pray, Love, Jennifer Lauck’s memoir Found is a quick, and at times difficult read. I swore off of adoption memoirs for the summer. I had been reading them in a steady stream for 2 years, including the classics, the best sellers, the confessional, the kooky.

On the whole enjoyed the book. My buddy Luanne  who writes at Don’t We Look Alike and Writers Site recommended it and I immediately downloaded it; so much for swearing off memoirs for the summer. Addiction? I prefer to call it dedication.

I first encountered the concept that maybe historically closed and sealed adoption wasn’t always was the best thing through Deanna Shrodes excellent, heartfelt blog, Adoption Restoration.  Deanna is publishing the “book” part of her blog, meanwhile you  can read a bunch of her writing on her site.  Yes, faithful readers, this is the woman I called a nut, in print. It was akin to throwing a rock through a plate-glass window to get the owner’s attention., so  you get to say you’re sorry.

Three things stood out while reading Found:

This book is scary because she enables the reader to share her fear. Seldom do I find myself all scrunched up over a non-fiction book, but I did just that, turning the pages that wound down to reunion and ultimately, a type of rejection. There were a couple of pages where I could hardly breathe, so universal the emotions expressed, yet so distinctly singular to the author’s personal story.

The second thing that sets this book apart is the writer’s ability to cram so much emotion into one tiny book. I didn’t have heaving “Terms of Endearment” crying jags over it but it did touch me in a stony cold place where I usually don’t allow my “work reading” to go. Adoptees looking for a book to recommend to others will find something here to spark memory and conversation.

Finally, woven throughout the fairly linear story there were a few parts (when she talks about her therapy, and her relationship with one particular man) that I found to be preachy and assuming. But for the most part these moments are sparse and expert editing keeps the fast-moving narrative on track.

It is refreshing when a memoir is honest to a fault. Although her meditation journey is such an important part of the story, I found the amount of time and energy spent away from her family difficult to swallow, counterbalanced with her own feelings of abandonment. By including this in her story, she depicts herself as a flawed character, in other words, human. That is the best of what this book has to offer…it is utterly human.

 

You might like:

 

Adoption Reunion in the Social Media Age, An Anthology by Deanna Doss Shrodes, Corie Skolnick, Richard Hill and Rhonda Noonan (Jan 14, 2014)

 

.

The Perpetual Child-Dismantling the Stereotype—Editors: Diane Rene Christian & Amanda H.L. Transue-Woolston-another non-review of a book I liked!

One more anthology and promise I'll stop!

One more anthology and promise I’ll stop!

(But first, a little background and some words about another book): When it first came out, I read The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell. In it, he defines three categories of people, and I saw myself heavily represented in each.

Mavens are the information specialists that often start ‘word of mouth’ epidemics due to their knowledge and skills. Salesmen are the persuaders, while not necessarily IN sales they are influential and persuasive by personality.

While I certainly CAN sell and DO like to collect random pieces of research for cocktail party talk, I see myself, in Gladwell’s terms, as a connector. I can’t help it and it isn’t always a blessing. (Thanks Wikipedia for jump-starting my memory and the references).

My friend Marianne, an underwater archeologist with a PhD, put it most succinctly when she said “No offense, Jaye, but you love everything.” I mention her credentials because I am proud of her, and because she didn’t just dole out this comment haphazardly. A writer who blends memoir with just the right touch of poignancy, Mare has known me for decades. She said “no offense” because she knew I might be sensitive to her comment. It isn’t at all that I love everything, but if I don’t love it, I surely know someone who will! I enjoy making those connections between folks.

I have to tell you about The Perpetual Child, Dismantling the Stereotype. I picked up this book before my recent vacation and I could not put it down! On  on the crowded adoptee-collector bookshelf, this book fills a major gap.

I always felt somewhat like a perpetual child myself. I thought it was because I was so sensitive (don’t bring her to the funeral-she’ll only cry though the whole thing). I thought it was because I was, chronologically, the baby of the family. “Oh by the way, mommy had a mastectomy yesterday. She didn’t tell you because she didn’t want you to feel upset.”

Oh yeah, when our mother had a mastectomy, my sister sat me down and poured some wine. I don’t drink wine, but for some reason I knew I should be imbibing on something. Instead of feeling upset that my mother had breast cancer, I immediately felt my face get hot with anger that nobody told me, that I couldn’t be supportive leading up to her surgery, that I couldn’t be praying for her. Blend all that with a sense of relief that along with asthma, poor vision and a plethora of other nuisances, I didn’t have the “bad genes” associated with cancer. (When my brain cancer was diagnosed, years later, the joke was not lost on me).

*****

My heart was racing when I read the story by Karen Pickell about taking her letter to her original mother to the post office.

“The neurons under my skin are shooting sparks.”

With an economy of language, Pickell creates a moment in time that is simultaneously singular and universal for many of us, that moment when the individual decides to take the first step at reunion (or perpetually decides not to take it, in itself a decision to perpetually make decisions).

An essay by Matthew Salesses stood out for me not only by what it said regarding adoption but what it said about bullying/adoption. I started out blogging, unintentionally, by writing about the bullies on the bus. Again, I thought it was my over-sensitivity and my desire to prevent anyone from having negative feelings (or perhaps, any feelings at all) that made me a (bulled) target.

I enjoyed this book for the variety of stories it contained, many by familiar authors. If you are looking for something a little different, at times academic, always warm and thought-provoking as it is thoughtful, you will not go wrong with this book. Yes, to paraphrase Marianne, I do like a lot of stuff. If you have read all the standard adoption fare, I would seriously consider adding this to your collection.

*****

You might also like these book-related comments by Luanne at Don’t We Look Alike.

Adoption Reunion in the Social Media Age, An Anthology-A review, of sorts. Or, just read the book.

brain 2 of 3 bannerAfter reading the excellent The Declassified Adoptee- Esssays of an Adoptee Activist, I wondered, do we really need another anthology about adoption? The answer is a resounding “YES!” and that anthology is Adoption Reunion in the Social Media Age, An Anthology, written by Laura Dennis. (The book includes an essay by “Declassified” author and editor Amanda H.L. Transue Woolston).

As an adoptee with a love/hate relationship with social media, I was drawn to the book by it’s the intriguing title. Already familiar with many of the contributors and their work, I found this book to have a contemporary feel, containing something fresh for everyone.

The language used is at times neutral and inclusive, phrases like “original mom, birth mom, biological mom” liberally sprinkled throughout. While each author uses their own voice, there is cohesiveness to the entire text. One could take this highly readable book to the beach.

Why we need another anthology about adoption:

  • It doesn’t read like an anthology-this carefully edited volume flows from one story to the next, making it hard to put down.
  • It doesn’t tell you what to do-this book is not preachy.
  • It doesn’t judge-or label opinions as right or wrong.
  • It won’t make you feel bad (or worse): Without soft-peddling the difficulties that are created by even the most loving, caring individuals in the adoption cube, book leaves plenty of room for the reader to decide what to take away from each chapter.

An additional value is the section of thought-provoking questions that conclude each chapter. These questions are well thought out and beg to be added to discussion groups.

Here is a sample “clarity question” from a section by Deanna Shrodes , in a chapter entitled “Coming out of the adoption closet and secondary rejection.”

Facebook, social media and Google searches have made it a lot easier to reach out and connect. What are the potential pitfalls and downfalls to easier,  faster and cheaper access?

The questions add a nice dimension to the book, and could easily become a homework assignment.

Adoption stories tend to share certain basic elements. The stories selected here are enlightening without being didactic.  “The casket chat” (again, by Shrodes) illustrates beautifully the type of thing you’ll find here (along with poetry, prose, memoir ). It is a transcript of a conversation with her birth mother that I promise will not be forgotten.

Read this book, and then gift it to someone touched by adoption: it is sure to spark some interesting dialogue, and become a genre favorite.

 

(Portions of this review previously published at Amazon.com.)