Sunday, May 26, 2019

THIS YEAR WILL BE MY BEST BIRTHDAY PARTY EVER!

Every year I have a big birthday party. It's not because I think I'm so great, but because I have a perfect timed birthday: June 8. It's after school is out, but before vacations get started. And it's not cold anymore, but it's not hot yet. Besides, what's the point of having a Party House if you don't have parties? 

And all I ever want for my birthday, every year, is people. I don't need anything, and I already have more "stuff" than I know what to do with -- but I'll never have too many people in my life. (And I'm very blessed to have some pretty amazing people in my life!) So I love the chance to spend a wonderful evening with people that I love -- and my birthday is a great excuse to invite a bunch of great people over.

when we met for the first time
September 2018
But this year is special. 54 years ago on June 8 I got to spend a few moments with someone very special. And then this special person gave me the wonderful gift of a wonderful family and wonderful life that she just wasn't in the position to provide to me herself at the time. And now this wonderful person is back in my life -- and 54 years after she celebrated my Birth Day with me, now we are going to share my Birthday together. And I couldn't be happier.

I have lots planned while she is here visiting for my birthday, but mostly I'm excited that I get to share with her how blessed my life has been -- and that the choices she made so long ago really did turn out to be just the right ones for everyone. For everyone involved, things turned out pretty great.

So if you want to come share this extra-special birthday with me, please do -- my parties are always open to everyone. And if you want to come meet this incredible woman who has brought so much joy to my life, please do. And if you've always wanted to come to my party, but haven't made it yet -- this is the year!

As a cherry-on-top, one of my new sisters will be coming with her family too! And I'm so honored that these new family members would take time out of their hectic schedules and travel so far to come celebrate my birthday with me. So, come be part of my life-long family and my birth-family meeting each other for the first time. It's bound to be a fun and very special evening.

(If you missed my last blogpost on Mother's Day, you can read it here: https://my-blogworthy-life.blogspot.com/2019/05/twice-blessed.html)


Sunday, May 12, 2019

TWICE BLESSED


I have never been a mother, and my own mother passed away almost 20 years ago. But this year I have a whole new reason to celebrate Mother’s Day — because I have been able to find and meet my Birth Mother, and it’s been an incredibly blessed experience.
   I’ve always known I was adopted, but I never really knew many of the details about my birth. I’d always assumed it was a young woman that was in a difficult situation — which turned out to be an amazing blessing for my parents, who very much wanted to adopt.
   When I was age 30, my Dad told me that they had met her — my Birth Mother. This was the first time I’d ever heard that — and that she had a few kids too. He didn’t remember too many details (and I was to stunned to dig deeper) — but it created an imagine in my mind that has stayed with me. 
   My sister, Fran, was 13 when I was born — so she was very involved, including getting to pick my middle name (which I love!) She even adopted 3 children, 3 siblings (although I’m pretty sure that was way more work that I had been as a newborn). And since she remembers so much about my birth (and she is my biggest supporter) — a little while back she bought me an Ancestry DNA kit. 
   I wanted to do it, and even thought I was ready. But there are a million emotions that happen when you start down that path — and I felt all of them, especially fear. What if she wasn’t looking for me? What if she didn’t want me to find her? What if finding her would cause her some distress? What if I couldn’t find her at all?
   So that DNA kit sat in my living room for 5 months — a simple box that truly intimidated me. But finally (after a few miracles), I spit in the little cup and dropped it into the mail. Then I waited, and waited. 
   After 6 weeks I got an email that my results were in. I was excited and terrified. I opened the link, hoping to have all of my parents, grandparents, siblings, etc. — all perfectly listed there. But no — only a few “matches,”and none that seemed particularly promising.
   But I had started down this path, so now I was determined to continue. There were just too many questions that I really wanted answers to — that I needed answered. So I pushed forward. And along the way, there were times that it was truly Emotionally Overwhelming — times I had to just stop for a few days to let my heart catch up. But I persevered.
   After just a few short weeks, there was a name. And after a few more miracles, I found her — and a few miracles more, and I even had a way to contact her.
   I’ve written a million emails in my lifetime, but never one more overwhelmingly intense than that one. I didn’t exactly ask, “Are You My Mother?” — but I did provide enough info that if I was right, she’d know that I knew. Standing at that door, not knowing what was on the other side — it just takes so much courage to knock. The chance for rejection and hurt is very real — but the longing to know, the longing for answers, is too overpowering to not see this through. It took 6-hours to write a 2-paragraph email, and even then I needed significant encouragement to click <SEND> (thank you, Fran). But finally I got up the nerve. And then I waited.
   This time I didn’t have to wait very long, and less that 24-hours later I had a reply. An AMAZING reply. A heartfelt, full-of-love, “I’ve been looking for you too” reply. And I cried and cried.
My Birth Mother, Beverly Jacobs
   That started a string of emails back and forth, that led to long 4-hour phone calls (every week, for months), and eventually, “Should we meet?” So last fall I hopped in my little car and drove to Southern California to meet her. 
   I wasn’t sure what to expect. And even though we’d called quite a bit, I was still nervous. Sooooo nervous. I drove myself crazy on the drive down there. But suddenly (12-hours later), I was in her driveway and walking up to the door.
   Then I saw her. For the first time. In.Real.Life. I’d wondered about this moment for my entire life. What if I wasn’t enough this or enough that? What if…? What if…? 
   Admitted it was a bit awkward at first — to meet someone that you don’t know yet somehow also know completely. I didn’t know what to say or how to act. For about 90-seconds. Then all the fear melted away, and we were instantly connected. 
My Mother that Raised Me, Lela Roe
   And it’s been amazing. Truly amazing. And so full of miracles. 
   I feel so incredibly blessed. Blessed that I have a new family. A new Mom — plus a brother and 3 new sisters. And they’re all so fabulous. And I see little bits of myself in each of them.
   My Mom that raised me was always afraid that I would go looking for my Birth Mother, and that she’d steal-me-away or something. But quite the opposite actually happened. All of this has led me to an even greater appreciation of my parents that raised me. 
   I have truly been Twice Blessed. First by being raised by parents that loved and sacrificed for me my entire life. And now for being blessed to reconnect with this amazing woman that gave me life, and then had the courage to let me go — and now has the courage to let me into her life, after I had been a life-long secret. 
   Not everyone gets to have a loving mother in this life — and I get to have two. And although they are incredibly different, still both love me completely — as only a mother can. 
   So on this Mother’s Day, I am grateful for both of these amazing women who are both so much of who I am. The one I look like that has opened her heart and her life to me, 50 years later. And the one that was there through all my crazy antics. Maybe God knew that I was going to be such a handful that I would need Two Mothers. And I know that I wouldn’t be the woman that I am without both of them. I’m so grateful for all the sacrifices they have both made for me. And I’m grateful that I get to call both of them Mom.



Sunday, June 3, 2018

ROADTRIPPIN - THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE HOME


Ok, so admittedly I got a few days behind on my blog. But there it is – the bulk of my trip. There were a few other great stops that I just ran out of time to blog about, like: the Sugar Creek Covered Bridge, a beautiful old wooden bridge now about 200 years old; a 1.4-mile stretch of hand-lain Brick Road, on Route 66, done during the Depression; the John Wayne Museum, the American Gothic House, an old WWII German POW Concentration Camp, three Mormon Temples, a Sunken Garden, a Giant Lincoln Head in Wyoming, and Truckhenge – among others.
   I drove more than 3500-miles roundtrip, and went through 8 states. I made a million stops, saw a bunch of fun stuff (more than I could ever blog about), and really just went everywhere and did everything. And even better than the sites were the family and friends I saw along the way.
   But after a few weeks away, there really isn’t anything like sleeping in your own bed – because, after all, there really is no place like home.





Saturday, June 2, 2018

ROADTRIPPIN - OLD FRIENDS ARE THE BEST FRIENDS

L-to-R: Gena Roe, Cindy Moseley Hatch,
Fran Roe Moulton, Janae Wright Harker

When my sister and her husband left for their mission last September, I thought it sounded fun to go visit them there. Then a few months later her childhood best friend, JJ, got called (with her husband) to serve at the Nauvoo Temple. And then a few months ago, another dear friend, Cindy, (and her husband) also got called to Nauvoo – so I decided that with so many fabulous friends all there that it was time for me to arrange time-off and head to Nauvoo.
   These 3 dear friends all grew up together and were very close – and were so great at including me (or babysitting me) when I was little, even though they were teenagers with plenty of teenage things to do. Because they were so close to my sister, they all felt like big sisters to me – and still do, to this day.
   One of the evenings I was there, my sister & BIL had a meeting to attend – so they asked JJ to babysit me. Really??? (And, yes, she really used the word “babysit”.) I haven’t been babysat in 45-years! But since it was Janae, I was looking forward to “being babysat”. That evening, when I got to their place, JJ said she’d been asked to “entertain” me. I was really hoping for a little song & dance number, but she had nothing musical prepared (disappointing, huh?). So instead, we headed up to the cute little shops in Nauvoo, came home for dinner (her meatloaf is really yummy), and then played card games for a while. I’m not sure her husband had as much fun with the game (since apparently JJ and I are both “a bit” competitive) – but it was a fun evening.
   Then, as the evening came to a close, we headed outside – just as dark was settling in. And in that late-May/early-June period in Nauvoo, fireflies come out just at dark. They’re only out for about 15-30 minutes, and there has to be some tall grass or an open field – but I’d never seen fireflies before. I was mesmerized! They flash different colors, and flash as they fly. A few came pretty close to me, and I could watch them blinking as they flitted by. I don’t know how you’d ever catch one of those little things, but they are truly amazing. And it was the perfect way to end the evening.
  A few nights later, we all got together and headed to a fabulous dinner. My BIL had a Pork Sundae, which sounds weird but is incredibly delicious. And we all visited and chatted (and hooted and hollered, according to some reports) – and had a lovely evening of catching up. Maybe growing up in Oakland in the 50s/60s/70s wasn’t what others experienced, but those of us that did have a connection that you just won’t find anywhere else. And I’m so grateful for these amazing women and the incredible impact they have had on my life.
   Even though I’m now 52-years old, being babysat was so much more fun than I remember. Hmmmm, Adult Babysitting, I wonder if it could make a comeback?


ROADTRIPPIN - HANGING IN HANNIBAL


About an hour due-south of Nauvoo is Hannibal, Missouri – Mark Twain’s Hometown. My dad was a huge Mark Twain fan, and I remember him reading to me from “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” and quoting Twain-isms frequently. So I just had to go.

MARK TWAIN
My first stop was The Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum, down near the waterfront of Hannibal. There are a number of properties that are included, and just oodles of displays and artifacts. Large signs tell the story of the Twain Family, and each sibling is highlighted. And among the items on display are: the famous White Jacket he was always spotted in, one of his pipes, his very typewriter, his desk & chair, and even a bronze cast of his hand.
   As you move to the other buildings, you first go behind the Clemens’ home to the Huck Finn House, which is a recreation of the actual home of the friend that was inspiration for Huck. And the home has the history of slavery in the area at the time. (Something Twain later came to speak out against.) Included is a story he shared about a young slave that he knew, and his mother’s sensitivity to the young boy’s plight is something that stayed with Mark Twain for the rest of his life.
   Across from his Boyhood home – still surrounded by THE White Picket Fence (of whitewashing fame) – and you will cross to Becky Thatcher’s house. The character of Becky was inspired by Laura Hawkins, and this was her family’s home – now housing a Gift Shop and educational displays aimed at educating younger visitors.
  Down the street (and included in the $15 admission) is the Museum. The first floor is dedicated to the Tom Sawyer/Huck Finn background. The second floor is focused on his Riverboat Pilot days – including information on his Steamboat the John J. Roe (no doubt named after some fabulous ancestor of mine). And the third floor has the original Norman Rockwell paintings of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn – dozens of original Rockwell’s line the walls, and they are spectacular. Many of them have both the “rough draft” and “final” version – which is interesting to see the process.
   Among the humor of Twain’s life were some sad moments also. Among the displays are details about each of his four children – two daughters that died at ages 18 & 24, a son that died at only 19 months (a death mask of baby Langdon is displayed), and his daughter Clara, his only child to live to adulthood. Clara had one daughter – but when this granddaughter died, she was the last of Mark Twain’s descendants.
   But among one of my favorite displays was a First Edition of “Eve’s Diary” (which you can read free online HERE). It’s a tongue-in-cheek tale – and ends with a very famous line. “The story ends with Adam's speaking at Eve's grave, ‘Wherever she was, there was Eden.’” I’ve always loved Twain humor, and this story most especially – and it wasn’t until this trip that I realized that he wrote it shortly after his dear wife died, no doubt a tribute to her.
  
MARK TWAIN RIVERBOAT
It is amazing to stand on the shore of the Mississippi River, and incredible to dip your toes in its waters – but I couldn’t resist the chance to take a Riverboat Ride ON the Mississippi.
   There is a Mark Twain Riverboat Ride, on a boat named the Mark Twain. And it’s designed in the fashion of the Riverboats like Sam Clemen’s himself piloted. I love being on the water, even if only for an hour – there is something so soothing and so relaxing about the sound of the water and being in the open air.
   The Riverboat Captain knows every inch of this stretch of the Mississippi, including the island in the middle there which was the inspiration for Jackson’s Island (from Huck Finn). And if you can find a way across to the island, you can even camp in that very spot.
   The shores are lined with trees, and the shoreline is dotted with little inlets and peninsulas. And the Mississippi River is still a main thoroughfare for commerce – barges and tugboats move up and down the river constantly. (And apparently it’s far cheaper than trucking or other modes of more-modern transportation too.)
View from Lover's Leap, Hannibal
   They have a Dinner Cruise, but it didn’t fit my schedule – although if I go back I’m going to add that to my list. Especially if I have a travel companion next time. Dinner on the water would be fabulous date. I had to settle for a Brat with Chips alone for lunch this time.

LOVER’S LEAP
Not far from the museum is Lover’s Leap, named after the following legend:

It is said that many years ago, two tribes lived on opposite shores of the Mississippi here. One chief had a much adored daughter, and she fell in love with a brave warrior from the other tribe. The tribes fought over who had the right to fish these waters, and after the young warrior “trespassed” he was beaten and sent back across the river and home to his tribe. His chief was outraged and got this young warrior and many others to load into their canoes and cross the river in revenge. But before they could reach the opposite shore, they were met – midstream.
  The young maidens of the village climbed to a high cliff to watch the battle. The chief’s daughter, seeing her love slain in battle, it is told that she jumped off the cliff to be with him in the deep waters of the Mississippi forever. And this cliff has been called Lover’s Leap ever since.  (My own abridged version of the one told by my Riverboat Captain.)

Not only quite a tale, but an amazing view of miles and miles of the wide Mississippi River. Beautiful during the day, and probably a fun parking spot with someone you love after dark!

GIANT STATUE OF MARK TWAIN
On my way back, I heard about a Giant Statue of Mark Twain somewhere along the highway. It’s a bit hard to spot, but it truly is a Giant Statue.  It’s about 30-feet tall, and was handmade from cement – no bronze or marble here. No one quite knows what Larry Koelling was thinking when he built it, but a plaque between Twain’s feet give credit where credit is due.

QUOTES
And to wrap up the day, I skimmed through a copy of “The Wit and Wisdom of Mark Twain” – and here are my personal Top 10 Favorite Mark Twain Quotes:

1.     Never try to teach a pig to sing; you waste your time, and you annoy the pig.
2.     Both marriage and death ought to be welcome; the one promises happiness, doubtless the other assures it.
3.     Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.
4.     Of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most.
5.     Never put off till tomorrow what may be done day after tomorrow just as well.
6.     Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.
7.     Never argue with a fool. Onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.
8.     It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.
9.     Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.
10.  Humor is mankind’s greatest blessing.