Raw

You never know quite how personal to get with a blog, especially when most of your family and friends read it (thank you Facebook, twitter and the rest of it…).  and I suppose it`s the strange freaky artist side of me, or maybe it`s my recently deceased mother`s birthday tomorrow, or maybe its because I’m living with her twin right now…but I like what Sherwin Nuland said:

He said `The more personal you get with your writing, the more universal your writing becomes`.

I suppose this is because every human being, at the very base of it, goes through some similar transformative life events – births, deaths, marriages, new jobs, ,ost jobs, school stuff…life.

 

Sometimes we have very unique stories that really help to carve the fabric of our lives.  I think I am lucky to have such a story – but I may not be as unique as I have believed.

I think most people that hear my story get confused, and I really can`t blame you. get a pen – be ready for a flowchart.

In brief and in the most confusing way possible I will tell you: I was adopted at four days old and was the seventh child of seven. Four sisters and two brothers.  I had something like 14 nieces and nephews. We were a prolific bunch. Until I was twelve all I knew was that I was adopted and that this was a cool thing. I had a nice childhood, interspersed with good people and some (ok…allot) of alcoholism – notably my mother. One October night when she was laced enough I asked her to tell me who my `real mother`was, and to my stunned amazement she told me it was one of my four sisters.  In fact, it was one of the twins – identical twins.

You have to understand I loved all of my sisters. We had great relationships. i was much younger than all of them and basically they all just adored me. Especially my mother – but she traveled often and I didn’t know her as well until later in my life when I had seven children of my own and she embarked on the messed up road of parenting with me. We had a blast.

So basically this news from my mother had creating a small confusion for me: let me get this straight… biologically my brothers were my uncles, my sisters my aunts, my parents were really my grandparents, my nephew and nieces were my cousins and really…I only TRULY knew who the dog was for sure. But even that felt questionable at times.

 

Did you know…

Between 1961 and 1972 there were 150000 babies born in quebec and adopted out by the church like I was.  I ahve a baptismal certificate saying that my grandmother is my biological mother and my grandfather is my biological grandfather. A priest in his great wisdom – signed it. I have been told by highfalutin lawyers that the process of having a proper certificate made showing that my birth mother gave birth to a child a) was extremely cost prohibitive and b) may not even be granted by the courts if they go by `relationship`rather than biology.  This world is so fucking crazy.  In my case, only a couple of my brothers and sisters knew. The rest were just as surprised as i was.  They called it the `Baby Scoop Era`where the church and families conspired to `hide`church decreed immoral (unwed) births.

But here`s how I see it – I am a very unlikely human. Statistically we are ALL very unlikely humans – given that the chances of the particular sperm and egg that made you is like one in a kabillion zillion – but the fact that I wasn`t given away to another family and that I had a mother not only brave enough to have me but to watch me grow up outside of her reach – is to me absolutely extraordinary. That i had grandparents willing to take in a new born after raising six kids to near adulthood – simply astounding.  I don’t know if I could do what they all did.

In early september last year, my biological mother passed away of lung cancer at only 65 years old.  She had an amazing life, and left behind a big loving famly, grandchildren who worshiped her and a devoted and awesome loving twin sister.

I think its hard for everyone who looses some when these anniversaries come around. But I can`t imagine what its like loosing a twin.  This whole thing has made me wonder what kind of experience souls that choose to be born together are looking for.

Tomorrow is my mother`s birthday. My heart is heavy and full all at the same time. I wanted to share my story only because I think there may be others who have had similar experiences.  So far, I have not been able to find one book on this kind of adoption.  There is no real research or statistics Its all been swept under the rug.  It`s very important to know where you come from.  I know many adopted people who love their adoptive families very much, but have a sure and certain yearning for their origins.  I think this is a normal human compunction.

I am so grateful for everything about my life, I am very aware though always of how unlikely`I am – and I try very hard not to waste time, on resentment, or anger cruelty, excessive material gain – these would be a waste of tiem for me.  I only hope I can keep doing whatever it is I was meant to come here to do, with all the people i love.

Peace

GREAT VICTORIOUS SPEAR OF MOTHERHOOD!

images0G56APY3  This thanksgiving was something of a victory for me both as a mother and as a daughter.

As I arrived from work finding my kids having made dinner for us, the house was FULL to overflowing with people – dear friends, seven kids, three grandchildren, cars, basketballs, food, good smells and happy people – coming home felt wonderful.

We sat around the table, and each spoke our traditional words of gratitude – my m,other’s tradition that we love and adhere to.

“I am grateful that my family is always there for me”,

“I’m grateful for this food…can I eat now?”

I am grateful for my hot boyfriend…”

I am grateful for my job and food and you guys – this is the best family eh?”

And finally my youngest daughter at the very end with tears running down her cheeks

“I am so grateful we could find a way to be happy again after nanny…”

After Nanny passing away.

After nanny not here at the table to lead prayers and talk about corn fritters

After Nanny…

there is NO after nanny!

She helped us build this solid tribe – this certain community – this massive group of love.

There is a continuation of Nanny –

in my children’s words, in our food, our traditions and in our deep love for each other.

I am blessed beyond description.

and overflowing with gratitude.

I walked into the kitchen just so I could listen to them laugh – their beautiful voices.  Oh so happy.

I felt loved and surrounded by a solid tribe – my own tribe.

images6TQOHGBJFor 25 years I have been parenting these humans.  I want to make good people. I don’t care what they do for a living. I don’t care if they are “successful” (whatever that means) I don’t care if they are renown and I don’t care if they are respected in their field.

I care that they know how to love themselves, each other and the world around them. Period.

My only hope in all of that effort (and yes HUGE effort) was that at the end of the day three things would happen:

1- my kids would all like each other enough to hold each other up through this life

2- we would enjoy each other as a family because we really like each other – not just because we have to

3- that they can tell my husband and I anything and not be afraid of rejection or pain

OK…we did it.

I feel like Mother Zeus standing victoriously on a gigantic mountain brandishing the great flaming spear of motherhood and I am declaring -YES! IT CAN BE DONE! Behold – the awesome children!! They are AMAZING !

ANd my voice would echo throughout the lands so moms everywhere would know – there is alight at the end of the tunnel and that light is BEAUTIFUL.

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Thanksgiving – Mom’s Attitude of Gratitude.

I am 581933_10151470627203633_1947530459_nGrateful for what passes and what stays…

This has been a really weird year. Full of loss and victories all at once.

Normally on this day (our thanksgiving at home in Canada) I would be on the phone with my mother right now, trying to figure out who is making the potatoes and what time she will be here with homemade delicious corn fritters. We decided early on when my kids were young that we really loved traditions and we would create a whole bunch for different occasions. Maybe because she didnt get to raise me and had never gotten to create together, we just picked up where we left off.  Over 20 years we had a blast!  Her traditional contribution was delicious cornfritters  which my youngest daughter has now picked the reins up on and will be making! She even made some for my mom the day before she died – which I must add she enjoyed heartily. I kind of like that she went to heaven with corn fritters in her belly :).  Mom always arrived with bags of toys and wonderful magical things from the dollar store (her favourite hang out), popping things at christmas and most of all, dinner prayers.

284885_10150717521390230_6646268_nMy kids (all seven of them) will remember well sitting around a huge table filled with gobs of all of our favourite foods, drooling and waiting to eat while we say a prayer of gratitude.  We aren’t a praying family, it’s just not how any of us were raised. But they all would gather their hearts for the most important prayer we did, led by my mom which was when she would ask us all to talk about what we were most grateful for that year.

2012-04-08 19.17.15Her question…”ohhhkay everyone…tell me now, what are you most grateful for”, and she would point to the first child to have to speak.

answers like ..

I am grateful for my bike, for my friends,for the food ont he table, for my family ….285612_10151470629868633_928841401_n

recognition of the things that we have in our lives every day that serve us well and make our lives joyful. It’s a good idea.

In Canada thanksgiving is a religious holiday, not a political statement (we don’t presume to have taken land from Native folk and make a meal to celebrate it…sorry.)  We call it “action de Grace” in french. – Action of thanks…literally.

Grace is what God gives us. Action is what we do with it.

My mother taught me that gratitude is an action word – not just a fluffy statement that requires no activity.  If I am grateful for my kids, I like to make them good food to fill their bellies and hearts – because I am grateful for them and love them so much. If I am grateful for my horses, I like to work hard and make sure their stalls are clean they have good food and water.  This is my action of gratitude.

Have an “Attitude of gratitude” as she liked to say, means I go through my life trying to keep my head in what is good and what is working – not what is painful or sad.

peace-quoteShe walked her talk let me tell you!  She helped everyone she could if they needed it. She had a tough time for so long, but always took all the most difficult things that confronted her in this life and turned them into gold.  She wasnt able to raise me – another mother could have used all the circumstances surrounding that to fall into a deep hole that would have been impossible to come out. Instead, she took our circumstances and created a relationship with me that went FAR beyond motherhood, sister or even friendship.She was my 2:00 am person…god I miss her.

This year we won’t have my mom at the table although I’m sure she will be very present. She has been so convincingly present during this past year, especially lately. I think she knows I need her more right now.   I will set a place for her and we will tell her how grateful we were for having her beautiful joyful soul with us in her body – and now free from pain and suffering but still around.

My heart is full! garden.jpg

I am so grateful for my family, my children, my friends, my husband, my animals, living in a beautiful place, everyone is healthy, I get to play music as a career. What  an awesome life she gave me.  I can feel her on the other side with me often, helping me move along to keep going forward.

This year I AM the grandma – I have three beautiful grandchildren and my own children – that’s TEN!! She would say I was the luckiest woman in the world…and she would be right. 🙂 This year, Ill EXTEND our traditions AND even try and find a new one to do with my own grandchildren!  MAybe the tradition will be that the kids make ME dinner every thanksgiving?…hmmm…I like it. 🙂

Yes, my heart is full – and soon – my belly will be too.

Happy thanksgiving everyone.  I really really love you and am so grateful – even if we have never met – for our connection in this life.

Peace

Island Time…

10710844_10154725267120230_5630421732310980176_nThe Caribbean islands are basically a bunch of volcanoes that exploded and cooled off.  Eventually, the islands were exposed by the receding ocean and poof…tropical paradise – surrounded by razor sharp rock called Ironshore.  This stuff fascinates me.  Ironshore is black and porous, jagged and deadly looking. It was used as a way to keep slaves from trying to escape the island – all you had to do was take away their shoes.  NO ONE can walk on Ironshore – not even the birds land on it.

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But there are places where the Ironshore has been smoothed out, by days and weeks and years of moving ocean. I see the ocean like life – day after day events happen, choices are made and we are washed with the waves of these events, thoughts, incidences and choices.  Over time, and over many many waves, the roughness of our exterior is worn down to a smooth more approachable material. However, on close inspection you will find that Ironshore is deeply beautiful in all of its contours and curves, fine sharp edges and black to white variegations. 10686916_10154725266900230_3191245413478023651_n

The Caymanian people come from a long line of pirates as the ships crossing the Caribbean would crash and wash up new residents on the shores. In the years of slave importation in the 1700’s the islands were settled by British and Scottish gentiles and pirates alike who would go to west Africa and import humans as slaves to populate and work the sugar plantations on the islands.  Eventually, the slaves and non-slave populations mixed up together, creating as in  Cayman an island full of Scottish black folk – quite a  mix of cultures I’d say.  I met a man named Chris Mactavish once who at 6 foot tall, with dreadlocks down to his knees and skin the colour of beautiful mahogany, showed me a picture of his first cousin in Scotland, a short little skinny white guy who practiced accounting, wore dark socks with sandals and a big wide smile with curly red hair. I said the family resemblance was startling. He thought I was funny.

I like Island people.  I get them and I feel comfortable around them.  Their rules are easy; When you are respectful and polite, you do well with other people. On the island there are real rules in as to how to treat your elders, using for example always Sir and Ma’am. For native Caymanians, time has not passed so quickly as it has for their American counterparts, and many still live in the same way people did a hundred years ago.  In my travels I meet so many interesting people.  The conversations are usually the same from one interaction to another; where are you from? How long are you here? What do you do in your “real life” – cause we all know vacationing is pretend life. One lady I met will leave an indelible impression on me…

She called herself Mrs. Shirley Jackson.  She is comfortably seated in a wheelchair and is equally brandishing a cane.  A younger man pushes her chair slowly.  We are standing over a pool of sharks, talking politely like vacationers do.  I tell her I find these two sharks very interesting and gentle – nurse sharks they call them. They are like gigantic toothless bottom feeders. Anyways calling a shark a nurse makes it seem so much more friendly.

She tells me boldly that she is 80 years old and asks how old I am. I tell her 48 – and make the appropriate “no way!” response in regards to her age – but really she looks 80 right now.  She tells me she has just buried her husband yesterday, and the man pushing her wheelchair is her son.  A white man with a Caymanian accent – I think that is so cool.  He looks at me with sad eyes and nods. I tell her we saw the grave site, and without knowing who they were said a prayer as we drove by. She thought that was nice and smiles a wide grin at me.  She has a nice smile.

We talk about Island stuff.  She almost treats me like an “insider” because I have pretty good knowledge of the place and an obvious love for the culture and people having been many times.  I have a particular love for the Caymanian people who sadly are being over run by the prolific American culture which has infiltrated the Island in the past 15 years with hearty investments and real estate development.  Cultures are like spices, if one is too strong and overbearing you just wont taste the others, and the taste of Cayman is being covered in ketchup.

Mrs. Jackson and I spend a long time on the shark bridge sharing travelling stories.  She asks me if I have ever eaten Barracuda, I white lie and say I don’t eat anything with a face.  That’s not entirely true because chickens and fish have faces, but I wouldn’t eat a barracuda.  Everyone has limits.

She thinks I’m funny, and I think that’s a good thing because I would not want to be the one to piss off Mrs. Shirley Jackson.  She is a lady who speaks her mind.

She tells me she has travelled the world, and although she is American she feels much more Caymanian. I agree with her, because I can see she loves the people and doesn’t want to mold them into an Americanized image of herself. I like Mrs. Jackson. She has moxy.

She wants to know about me, I tell her I am Canadian (everyone loves Canadians you know), and that I like to write and I am a musician. She smiles and says “good for you!’, it’s important to do what you love in this life.  I agree – although not always the easy route, I say – she agrees.

She tells me she is a published author and would like to write another book one day. She tells me about her sister, a nun and bush pilot who lived in Northern Rhodesia in the 1940’s and 50’s who helped ferry out the frightened nuns through jungle and bush when the revolution and massacres began. Even when her license was revoked when she was told it was inappropriate for a woman and a nun (imagine!) be doing the work she was doing. But that didn’t stop her.  I could see Mrs. Jackson admired her sister’s stoutheartedness.

I love stories of bravery. I tell Mrs. Jackson I’d love to write her sister’s story. She agreed and said almost jokingly I should come stay with her for a month and we would write it together.  What a lovely idea.

She says she published a diabetic cookbook years ago and felt very proud of that, but that writing a real story is on her bucket list.  She is the third person I have met  in the past day that says they want to write a book.  I think everyone has an amazing story to tell that should be written. I have an idea;  we can create a series called “Life”, and each novella is a kind of memoire, where people can reflect on their experiences and what they have learned.  My imagination runs wild.

About 45 minutes have passed I think and Mrs Jackson and I are reluctant to leave each other’s company, having enjoyed our exchange so much.  I give her a hug and wish them an easy bereavement.  She tells me again that every woman should marry a Caymanian man as they are culturally raised to be so gentle, kind and respectful of women.  She will miss him so much, she says. Her son and his wife now have gathered behind me and look at me with mournful eyes I am far too familiar with.  Is it strange that I  feel a kinship with people who are grieving? Or maybe it’s that people who are in pain have less shielding to hide themselves and I find them comfortable to be around.

I share about my own grief with my mother’s death and how the past year has been a blur of unpredictable tears and strange emotions that I refuse to disallow because I know that if grief this big gets all caught up unexpressed inside of me “I will surely explode and be dead”. She smiles at this and says yes, this is the right approach.  And she adds that if people around me can’t handle my sadness, then I should “just tell them to bugger off”.  I like Mrs. Jackson.  She isn’t a time waster or a bullshit artist.

The best part of travelling is  the people you meet.  Even the ones that give you pause for concern, like the man from Chicago at our condo that was verging on extreme racism in his attitudes towards the Caymanian people.  I kept wanting to tell him that Buddha said the only sin is ignorance, but I realized that nothing I would say would ever change his mind. It takes all types to make up a world, but admittedly I could do with more Mrs. Jacksons and less dummies.

Cayman is quintessential example of the direction of the developing world and at times it makes me feel hopeless for our planetary direction. It is  being torn apart because of greed for grand landscapes and unbelievable beaches. As a tourist and a business destination, there is probably no more temperate and pleasant place to be.  But the island is mysterious and two very distinct worlds exist.  There are unfortunately many people on the island that come from other countries, often America, to develop a “new America” complete with all the luxuries and indulgences of home.  Deep fried mars bars are easier to find on west side than a decent mango, which on the east side can be picked freely dripping abundantly from mango trees.  Two different worlds.

Sigh…

I sound like my father when I start griping about “how the world is changing so fast”.  My conclusion after travelling most of the world in my short life is that development and moving forward seems to be our human compulsion, but it is not in anyone’s best interest.

I will keep collecting stories of hope and goodness and to the best of my ability will put aside the evidence I see of a developing nation out of control.  I am grateful that people like Mrs. Jackson are around to keep things real.

Namaste.