Tuesday, August 5, 2008

What If?

What If?

©2008 Celeste Billhartz

I used to be for adopting. That's what happened to me. My single 
mother gave birth to me and I was adopted. Just like millions of 
other kids. Most of us went to good homes and had good lives.

Many of us think otherwise, now. I guess the biggest reason is this: 
our mothers never got over losing their babies.

Why is it still socially acceptable to take babies from young 
mothers when we know, now, they will never get over the loss?

Think back to your first pregnancy. What if you were constantly 
badgered and told you had no business keeping your baby because you 
were single, and too young, and too poor to provide for him/her, 
that a married couple is waiting to provide him/her a much better 
life, and you are selfish for wanting to keep your baby?

What if, in that 9 months of psychological duress and brain-washing, 
you began to doubt your natural instincts to be a good mother? What 
if you believed that all the adults in your life knew best -- so, 
you signed an agreement to surrender your baby?

Remember how you felt about your baby, after giving birth? Would you 
have wanted to keep him/her – no matter what agreement you signed 
months, or weeks, or days before?

Today, as in our mothers' day, most girl/mothers change their minds, 
after giving birth, but everyone around them demands that they honor 
that agreement. The young mothers want to keep their babies! Nobody 
listens, nobody cares, because adopters -- checks in hand and names 
picked out -- are waiting for their babies.

I urge single young women to keep their babies. DON'T SIGN ANY 
AGREEMENTS, and read everything you do sign at every agency, health 
center or religious organization.

I urge /grandmothers/aunts/cousins to help young mothers keep their 
babies within their families. If your daughter, niece or cousin is 
very young -- or irresponsible, step in and file for Kinship Care or 
Legal Guardianship. Don't give her baby away! Please, don't do that 
to her. She won't be young and poor, forever.

I urge mature women to form support groups to help mothers and 
babies get a good start in life, together. Don't hurt young mothers 
by separating them from their babies.

Finally, I urge women to NOT adopt, no matter how much you want a 
baby of your own. Adopting is legal, of course, and it is immensely 
profitable for brokers and agencies -- but it is terribly unfair to 
young mothers at the most vulnerable time in their lives.

Please, don't be part of that treachery and covert theft.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Pond Scum

Pond Scum

©2008 Celeste Billhartz

 Well, I’m old and cranky so I reserve the right to say this: thieves are pond scum!!

 My friend’s purse was stolen. She had to call all the credit cards, Social Security, her bank, get a new driver license, buy a new cell phone. It has been a nightmare, as you might imagine. She’s not young, has medical problems, etc.

 The thief took her purse from her grocery cart, when she turned away to open the trunk of her car. She lives in a rural area and well, you could do that fifty years ago. Not today.

 No, today you risk losing a favorite purse, cell phone,  your cash, your vital papers and credit cards. Why? Because some low-life pond scum wanted to get easy money.

 I guess the thief pitched some of the contents along the road because a neighbor found  papers with Jo’s name on them and called her, right away. No purse, no cell phone, no cash, no Visa card.

Even if the thief/thieves don’t try to use her Visa card  -- that’s a felony, I guess  they figured that out -- they’ve ruined her sense of safety and peace. Nope, she doesn’t feel safe, anymore, not even in her local grocery store.

Oh, yeah, I forgot .... she’s also a veteran. Ssome thanks for her service ... :(

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Reunion Advice from an Old Adoptee

Adoption and Reunion

 With all this time at home, I have been visiting more with other adoptees, online. Mostly they are much younger than me, with different stories to tell, but we all share some adoptee angst of one sort or another. So, I thought I’d write a little about reunion.

 People like me, who lived before television (!), can barely wrap our palm around a mouse let alone imagine the immediacy of email and chat and the hundreds of other nifty inventions that  permeate the world of communication today.

 So, the fact that many adopted adults and their first  mothers are finding each other and emailing like crazy .... well, that is just amazing.

 It is wonderful, a blessing, a profound gift from the universe ... to have access to information that allows the secrecy of the past to dissolve in an instant.

 And, all that immediate intimacy ... like a rocket ....  is incredibly scary, fraught with unrealistic expectations and  bound to crash and burn if not dealt with, if not recognized as a possibility ... no matter how deliriously, deliciously, happy both are ... at first.

 I think reunion is absolutely necessary and owed to both the adoptee and the mother, no matter  the problems that seem to accompany so many of them. I just think we all need to deal with the realities, prepare for them, so we don’t crash and burn.

 Now, none of this was even on the radar until the internet made reunion so possible, so soon, so here-and-now. But, as thousands of people are searching and finding each other every year, we must offer a plan of action, a guidebook of sorts.

 I’m sure others have written such books ... and I’m sure they are very good, but I’m not sure the people who are finding their mothers/children are reading them BEFORE they actually start searching, finding, emailing, calling, etc.

 So, here are  just a few tips from an old adoptee.  I found my mother in 1976, but I didn’t meet her until many years later, two months before she died.  I wish I  knew then  what I know now...:)

 Reunion Advice from an Old Adoptee

©2008 Celeste Billhartz

  1. Mutually agree to approach all of this communication as “pen pals” who are strangers to each other ... not as “mother and child” who have always been and always will be. At least, start that way ...:)

 2.  Respect boundaries and relationships. Expect that while you once were inseparable, you now are strangers, each having been immersed in, perhaps, different cultures,  languages,  religions,  behaviors, politics. Again, this is always easier if you begin as pen pals, who accord each other a lot of wiggle room for  all the above. Right? Don’t you always stand back a bit with a new friend, give him/her a lot of leeway  so you can discover the things you have in common, the special things that will help grow your friendship? Same thing.

 3. Adoptee, you may be 34 and this may be your first mother, but, in matters of adoption/forced surrender/coercion ... she is back there, at age 16, vulnerable as hell and scared to death. Be patient, be compassionate, be gracious and tolerant.

 4. Mother, you may be 50 and this may be your first-born child, now all grown up and possibly a parent or a  PhD  ... but in matters of  adoption/having been "given away"/expected to be grateful ... he or she is about 7 years old and scared shitless that you will "abandon" him/her, again. 

 5. Not all mothers and adoptees fit that scenario. Some mothers are as self-centered at 50 as they were at 20. Some  adoptees  have so many screws loose that won’t ever be tightened, no matter how much love they get. Take time to know each other. Trust your instincts. Be cautious, be careful. Have an exit strategy. Don’t be mean about it. Compassion is necessary when you must pull back. There’s a reason your child or mother has problems. Be firm and be kind. This ps. from an adoptee: Remember too, that the bizarre feelings and actions are a result of adoption itself, and the laws, myths and secrecy that it created. Mothers, fathers, their daughters and sons have been through many years of separation sanctioned by the government. It takes time, patience and understanding when faced with situations that seem "out of the norm" - this is what adoption and separation did to all of us. There are layers up layers of unresovled grief, pain and anger that are not understood in the mainstream helping profession. 

6. Some reunions don’t get past the first email or the first phone call. Some adoptees and mothers see, right away, that they have very little in common, aside from the hard facts of  conception, and decide to pull back gradually or quickly. That’s just the truth, for them. Hopefully, they handle it with grace and bravery and, if safety is not a factor,  will have a willingness to keep in touch. This ps. from a mom: I wonder if even those who don't want a friendship could be urged to at least send a birthday card and mother's day card every year?  I think that even if reunions don't work out and either pulls away permanently they could at least have contact once or twice a year (just so each side knows the other cares enough to at least do that much. So we know the other is alive)?  It seems that suggesting that isn't too much to ask, is it?  They don't have to respect or do it but suggesting it would be so appreciated by many moms and adoptees, I think.

 7.  Let’s say your reunion is more successful, starting off. You like each other. You can tell, from pictures and voice and quirks, that you do share a heritage, ways of thinking, commonalities.  GO SLOWLY! Be honest, be funny, be all the things you are, but don’t jump from cozy to canoodle!! I mean that ... so many people describe the feelings like .... falling in love, having a crush, etc. That’s understandable. Just don’t jump so deeply into each other’s life that you abandon other people, other relationships.  Believe me, others notice and if they are pushed aside, they will bring down the hammer. Be aware. If either of you is going overboard, the other should gently slow things down ... not shut off the feelings, but slow down the train. And, do so with gentleness. There is no need to cut off all contact. Be sensible. Keep this relationship in balance with the rest of your life. Balance. That will save you a ton of argument and bad feelings and jealousy. Let’s face it. People expect two single people to be gaa gaa over each other and to focus on each other to the near exclusion of everyone else. They might shake their heads and roll their eyes, but they accept it. They are much less tolerant of a mother and adoptee having such an obviously powerful relationship and showing such preference and exclusivity ... especially when there are marriages and children and jealous other relatives and friends involved. It happens, more than you think. Their disapproval and rudeness can be devastating. Be prepared.

8. Get a backbone. I have urged that to adoptees who are so terrified of confronting their adoptive mothers’ insecurities, they stop having a relationship with their natural mothers and original families. Now I say it to mothers who are terrified of the backlash from their mates, partners, mothers, children, siblings and friends. Get a backbone! This relationship is off-limits to them. So long as you are fulfilling your duties and responsibilities as a mother, wife and other primary partner, you do not have to account to anyone for your enthusiasm about this relationship with your son or daughter. Now, that said, you do have to be sensible and reasonable with your time and duties. Just be gracious in telling others that you are happy and hope they are happy for you and your son/daughter. Then change the subject and re-examine if you are being reasonable with your time and energy. Make any changes that will ease the jealousy. If you are being as cooperative as possible, let it go, don’t beat yourself up over it and don’t allow them to hammer you.

 9. Listen, listen, listen. Each of you has a story to tell. Most likely very few  friends or family have truly listened to the truth about the coercion and surrender, and about the less than perfect life of an adoptee. Listening requires you to sit quietly and stop the chatter in your mind, the tendency to interrupt, etc. Just .... listen. Listening without interruption opens the path to honesty .... the truth as lived by each of you. Her truth in her time, your truth in your time. Each of you has this blessing of reunion to allow you to share your truth with the other. It won’t always be pretty, but it is the truth. You must speak it with a soft voice and you must hear it with a soft ear and an open mind. Just hear the other. Don’t judge, don’t challenge, don’t do anything but listen. What a gift of love.

 10. We teach people how to treat us.  My heart goes out to mothers and adoptees who are coping with terrible behavior from the other, and from jealous families, etc. Don’t stand for it! Reunion is difficult even when both parties are  kind and patient. It is horrendous when either is mean-spirited or allows others to dictate the progress of the reunion. Do not allow anyone to shame you or to  create difficulties for you. Only you can stop the abuse. Do not allow it, not for a minute. Be polite and firm. Trust your instincts. Limit your engagement with people who consistently hurt you. When someone is out of line, gather your courage and leave, if necessary. Your submission gives permission. Never permit people to mistreat you.

11.  Whatever happened to civility? In reunion, the ups and downs can be stressful. Even the best moments can be charged with triggering words, etc. Just step back from those events. Take a time out. Say so. Grant the time out when one is requested. Be very patient and understanding with each other.  Always be willing to keep in touch, to be in contact when things settle down. Promise to come back, another day. Be nice, be civil. Apologize, forgive. 

 12. Trust in the truth. Each of you has the truth from your experiences. Share that with each other, listen, listen, listen.  Life is short. This may be a wonderful relationship. Or it may be difficult, but whatever it is ... accept it, as it is. Be honest and be kind. When rough patches interfere with your safe journey, slow down, watch and listen with extra care, and have compassion. 

 I have one regret for the one time I saw my mother. I never touched her. Now she is gone. Please, be better at this than I knew how to be.

 Blessings to you, both ...:)

Celeste ..... cbsongs@aol.com

"Trying to make sense of adoption is like trying to find logic in the absurd --- it doesn't exist." 

Michelle Edmunds, host/producer TheAdoptionShow.com

A long, long winter

Thank God, Summer is here! I have decided that I will not spend another winter in Ohio. Well, I can’t afford to live elsewhere for four months, but I can take at least one vacation between December and April.

I got a phone call from my dear friend, Jim, who lives in Key West and manages a small hotel there. He reminded me that we met on Christmas Eve, 40 years ago! Well, our 40th  anniversary will be this coming Christmas Eve. So, guess where I am going for my first winter vacation ...:) Key West, here I come!!

That slip-on-ice and fall in my driveway .... remember? Well, the pain never went away and a subsequent MRI revealed a torn cartilage. I had knee surgery a month ago and am doing very well.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Grandmothers

The Grandmothers
©2008 Celeste Billhartz

In generations past, most mothers of  “unwed” pregnant daughters were frantic with fear and embarrassment, lest their neighbors, churches and communities learn the truth. So, they eagerly, quickly, quietly sent their newly-pregnant girls off to distant maternity homes where they were given false names, attended school, and gave birth, alone.

 Some new mothers were allowed to hold their babies and nurse them, others were not. Most begged to keep their babies, but were forbidden to do so. They were sent back home, warned not to search for their child and told, “Never speak of this, again.”

 Agencies, lawyers and baby brokers sold the babies to other mostly middle-class married couples.

Sealed adoption records and false birth certificates (naming the adoptive couple as the mother and father) assured adoptive parents  that the child’s mother wouldn’t find her child. The lies and myths in adoption were never about protecting the identity of the mother.

 To each grandmother of the past, I ask you to apologize to your daughter for giving her baby away.

 To each girl/mother of the past, I ask you to forgive her.

 I cannot change the business of adopting, but I can ask mothers of girl/mothers -- the soon-to-be grandmothers -- to help your daughters keep their babies.

 I  can ask you to learn from the millions of girl/mothers of  generations past, who never got over losing their babies to adoption, who should have been allowed to keep them – whose mothers should have helped them keep them.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


©2008 Celeste Billhartz

Awhile back, the letters were WWJD? What Would Jesus Do? It was ment to get Christians to think before doing something stupid or illegal or just plain wrong.

My letters, WWMS, stand for What Would Mardi Say?

Mardi is my cousin. Like her mother before her – who was always my model for proper behavior -- Mardi makes a lot of sense. So, when I find I’m winding my guts around my brain, and I’m about to say or write something that is true AND hurtful, I think, ”Now, CB, what would Mardi say? “

Just to be sure I don’t forget, I taped a big sign on my fireplace mantel: WWMS? I see it, every day, when I am typing my diatribes against adopting. More than once, those letters have saved me from saying – publicly – what I say in private conversations with other activists. No sense in hurting the feelings of millions of good people who adopted a baby and are being good parents. Unfortunately, their gain was a mother’s loss.

Mardi would want me to be polite.

I can do polite. I just choose not to remain silent about millions of girl/mothers whose only sin was “obedience” … that much-valued behavior drummed into the character of every middle-class girl and boy.

And, most of the “unwed” mothers who were not allowed to bring their babies homes were nice, middle-class girls.

And most of the “unwed” fathers were middle-class boys who dared not defy their parents, dared not “ -- marry too young and ruin your life, your future –“ etc. Needless to say, they were … obedient. Millions of them, obeyed their parents, their church, their culture and class.

As one mother put it, about her Catholic boyfriend who said his parents and church wouldn’t allow him to marry her, “He didn’t sin by loving me, he sinned by leaving me.”

Indeed. She had no help, no parental support. All the adults in her life and her church insisted she had only one choice: adoption. That was the saddest day of her life, 40 years ago, when she surrendered her little boy.

They reunited a few years ago. He has never forgiven her for “giving” him away.

Tell me, how do I stay polite about that? Leave it out of the story? Would that make you feel better, reading this?

It’s impossible to tell the truth about adoption coercion and not ruffle some feathers, so I guess I will just keep telling the truth … AND keep glancing up at the fireplace mantel.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Carol et al

Carol et al

©2008 Celeste Billhartz

 I’m a simple woman. I live a simple life,  apart from the hustle and bustle of work and family. I live alone, have no pets … well, I have the mouse who lives with me. She’s in my basement, in a box. I know she lives there because I have found … her … you know … droppings. Or, as I describe her … "my little shit machine.”

 I have always lived with a mouse. First there was Carol … I named her for Carol Burnett … remember her? At the end of each  tv  show, she tugged at her ear – as a signal to her daughter.

 My “Carol” had an ear that looked like somebody took a bite out of it and it was a tad larger than the other ear. I figured, well, she got the larger ear from scratching it, so much.  (Humor me.)

 My Carol went to the great cheese-fest-in–the-sky … I guess. I never found her remains and I don’t know how she got into the house or out of it. I just never saw another mouse with a huge, cleft ear.

I lost another mouse to my stupidity. I had set a humane trap – one of those that doesn’t snap their necks, but lures them into it with a food item then slams shut. I always took the “inmate” out to the woods, and released it. I just didn’t want any more “shit machines” in my house. But, I forgot I had set the trap under my dining room table, and by the time I noticed that the trap door had closed,  the little visitor was … dead … starved to death … by my negligence.

 I blessed the mouse and took it out to the woods and placed it  in a clearing … so a hungry falcon or owl could find a meal.

 I’d have a cat if I were not allergic to animals. Cats suit me more than dogs. I am not of the generous and spontaneous spirit dogs require. I am solitary, predictable and  cranky, given to bouts of  regret that are best soothed by steady purring rather than effusive, sloppy kisses.

That probably sums up my unsuitability for marriage, etc., too …J



Friday, February 1, 2008

Lucy Doesn't Listen

Lucy Doesn’t Listen

©2008 Celeste Billhartz

 We manage to have dinner about every month or so. It is always such a pleasure to talk about our very different lives, her family, her  car, her mother-in-law, her dog, my recent ---, her advice, her taxes, etc.

 I love her, of course. Still, I drove home with an ache in my heart, making peace with our one-sided chat.

 As I roam  the back roads of aging, I want to spend more time with the listeners and less time with the interrupters. I really do. And, I am not seeking to educate them, one at a time. I want to discover the listeners, one at a time. I want to find the listeners.

 I accept those who don’t know how to listen. I just … smile, and we move on to the topics they present. There is nothing else to do. I  will meet Lucy next month and we will love seeing each other; and I will know, going into the restaurant, that I must do so without expectations … just … enjoy her, us.

 I know she loves the “listener” part of me. She calls it my “smile” … but, it is my silence, my listening/loving she appreciates. She just doesn’t recognize that.

 Listening is hard. I didn’t know how to do it, until I was trained to do it, as a volunteer taking phone calls on a suicide/crisis hot line. I am ever grateful for it.

Here’s a mini-test: While you read the paragraphs, above … did you “interrupt” me with your words/thoughts, “Well, you could/should tell her you need to finish what you’re  saying.” Sigh …J

 See, we just don’t know how to listen.

 I don’t have a manual in front of me and I hesitate to tell you something that isn’t “by the book” … but, here are some nuggets of advice that might come in handy, sometime, when your friend just needs a good listener:

 • When someone starts telling you something, just listen. Smile, nod, say, “Hmmm” or “Uh huh” or any other  short comment that assures him/her that you are attending to the words.

 • Your mind cannot hold two thoughts at the same time, so choose to listen to your friend, not to your interior mind-chatter. Focus on his/her words, face, eyes, voice, etc. This is harder than you think. Most of us never do it right. Practice. Try it out on the next phone call you get from a friend or family member. Just … listen.

 • Do not change the subject from your friend’s topic to your topic, your thoughts, your advice, gripes, commiseration, solution, etc. This is so difficult because we are not trained to listen. We think we are being a good friend/mother/sister when we give advice, so we rush to tell our friend how we would handle the situation, or how a similar experience affected us, or what advice someone gave us that worked or didn’t work.

 Being listened to, really having been heard,  for as long as it takes to say it all, is the most peaceful feeling in the world!  When you have been heard … whether or not you solve a  problem … your energy is better, your heart is lighter, a quiet power fills your soul.

 I want more listeners in my life And, I wish that for you – more people in your life who, truly, listen. What a gift of love.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008



©2008 Celeste Billhartz

 There are companion animals, yes? Well, I have something even better. A companion tv.

 I don’t have to feed it, or walk it, or worry about it when I go out of town. It’s as close as my remote. Well, my remotes. I have two.

 One turns on the cable system and the other turns on the tv.

 Yes, I know – most tv sets turn on, change stations and get louder or softer with the same fancy cable remote …  the kind with 53 buttons.

 This puppy is so old, the cable guy couldn’t program it to do that, so I have to use the old remote – with  six buttons — to turn it on/off and to increase/decrease the volume. Works  ... uh .. worked … like a charm.

Yes, my old friend of some 25 years is  kaput.

 I can’t tell you the panic I felt. I have to have tv! Morning news, noon news, evening news, Martha, Oprah,  Ellen, C-SPAN!!

 I was really pushed off-center.

 I mean, I had to think of something, other than dashing out to buy a new tv. This isn’t like running out of milk for cereal. One doesn’t just run out and buy a new tv without researching, reading. That could take weeks. Could I go days …?

 No. I’ll ask friends if they have an extra one to lend or sell.

 Ah, then, I remembered.  I went into the basement and dug out an old … very old, very tiny, square, portable, black and white tv … small enough to fit inside a grocery bag. Small enough that I can set it on my coffee table and watch it from my sofa, without squinting.

 Good. That’ll do, for now.

 It’s so old, I can’t connect it to cable, nor can I get any station clearly, but I found the three major networks and one strange UHF station. And, there’s no color. I’m adjusting to that, better than I expected.

 I realize that it isn’t the visual tv I love, it’s the  voices, the company. Chatter, humor, ads … anything to pacify the numbing loneliness.

And, I had no idea.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Shady Acres

Shady Acres

©2008 Celeste Billhartz

 I toured a retirement living center, recently. I agreed to go as a courtesy to my younger friend who thinks it is the ideal place for me. It is very near a large shopping center and has all the comforts and amenities anyone might want.

 In our conversation about the pros and cons of such a big move, from a three-bedroom house with a full basement to a one-room studio apartment, I mentioned my anxiety about snowy driveways, falls, etc. and told her I now wear YakTrax over my boots/shoes when I must walk on a snowy driveway. She grinned and said, “Well, we know how you handle anxiety.” And she mentioned my not buying another glass product after cutting myself, badly, on a broken coffee pot, a few years ago.

I saw the shift from a glass coffee pot to a  metal carafe as good and  sensible. She saw it as over the top, excessive. She, I see, interprets my wariness about ice and glass as wimpy. I, who fell hard and had a purple leg for a month … and who had to get a neighbor to take me to the hospital at 6am because I couldn’t stop the bleeding … see my decisions as wise and sensible.

 Living alone and aging alone – falling alone/getting a terrible cut, alone – does something to one’s sense of stability, I think. I am very careful, now, on ice and handling routine kitchen duties. I look closely at motions and distances from foot to step, that sort of thing. I don’t bounce down the basement steps, anymore. Handrails – like stainless steel carafes and YakTrax -- are my friends.

 Still, after a good sleep and a day of lists marked “Sell” and “Pitch” and “Keep”, I called my friend and told her this: I am not ready for “Shady Acres” … or any other retirement center with three meals a day and housekeeping services, laundry services, beauty salon, etc.

I consider the visit to have been a  good wake-up call! Indeed, I guess I am about 10 years from taking a studio apartment there. In the meantime, I will downsize my household, do some repairs necessary for selling my home, and make my next move to a one-bedroom apartment in the city, very near my friend’s home.

 I was shaken by the reality of my vulnerability, but now I embrace it, smile at its predictability, and welcome the inevitable surprises … with as much humor as I can muster, or pretend. 


Twilight Musings

Twilight Musings

©2008 Celeste Billhartz

 I am slipping. I know it. So many forgotten grocery lists, so many missed turns on familiar highways, more and more silent moments – waiting for the fact, the name, the hundreds of things I always knew.

 Last week,  I  left a message for a friend. I was so unsure what to do. I seldom needed a friend to tell me what to do, guide me, know the sensible thing to say, to do. I used to be the wise one.


This year, a friend sent me fish oil for Christmas. She’s very poor and always sends me gifts I would never buy for myself. Meaning: if I wanted fish oil, face creams, trendy perfumes and ornate, girly things, I would buy them. 

 I thank her and know there is no sense in my reminding her, again, that presents are not necessary. She has a need to do that, so I stopped reminding her, years ago. In her hard and sparse world, health food, facials and  fashion are hidden treasures. So, I say nothing.

 I wonder what “gifts of nurturance” I give … that I most need?


I shoveled half the driveway, this last snow. Before, I always cleared the whole thing – the way into the garage and the other  half, alongside, ment for extra parking. A responsible homeowner is supposed to do that, I know.

 My alternative, of course, is to hire a man to plow the driveway. I did that for years. The last time was fine, but I don’t feel safe, anymore, walking on the thin veneer of packed snow that is left.

 My neighbor said that’s pretty standard. No reason to scrape the snow down to the asphalt and risk hitting a rock or something that would damage the blade. I see. I know it doesn’t take the fellow  but three minutes to run up and down, push and drag the blade, and shove it all over the edge of the drive. Sure, I see. Time is money. 

I can’t get it done in under an hour. One steady push of the shovel, from this side to that side, again and again. Many stops at either end, to catch my breath, straighten my back, hope to hell my heart doesn’t fly out of my chest.

 I love seeing the pristine black driveway. Safe. That’s what it means to me. I can feel safe when I walk on it.

 About two months ago, I took a bad fall on that driveway. There was a small patch of ice under the new-fallen snow. Really bad. Nothing broken, but it shook me up.

 I just wasn’t ready to deal with winter, I guess. Or, I thought there should be a lot more snow to justify hiring a man to plow the driveway.

But, that bad fall made me realize that I had to be safe. I could have all the locks on all my doors and have security lights come on every time  a raccoon waddles by at night,  and  still be vulnerable when I step onto an icy driveway, in broad daylight.

 I thought, “Why clear the whole driveway? I never use that other side.”

 I made one long clearing the width of my shovel, right down the center of the whole thing. I then shoveled the side I use to enter and leave the garage. It took about half an hour.

 So, the driveway from the road into the garage is gloriously clear, and I can, safely, walk the length of it to the mailbox. The other side is snow-covered. I didn’t feel right about it, but, at last, the task is manageable. Today, I took a picture of it. I want to remember.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Their Crime

Their Crime

©2004 Celeste Billhartz

 Let's talk about sex ... I mean, that's really what their crime was ... sex before marriage. A baby is proof of it!

 Even sex during marriage is, well ... we don't even mention it, do we?

 My friend, Gladys, said she finally had to admit that her married daughter was having sex when she announced that she was pregnant.

 Now, we know Gladys had sex, at least three times. There's Lois, and Thurman, and Millicent. Still, she acts like she's never seen a penis, let alone welcomed it into her ... uh ... nether regions.

 Ladies, what is so difficult about accepting, as fact, that women actually enjoy sex? Take our mothers, for example. Even if they, apparently, didn't ever have good sex, they certainly had a hankering for it ... a few times in their life, I'm sure.

The good Lord made us fertile and excitable at age 12 or so. Some cultures just go with the flow. Ours decided we had better not loosen our juices... until we are married.

 That marriage certificate sure works wonders for a woman's natural ... excitability.

 I am all for marriage and privacy. I just wish we'd cut a little slack to the unmarried, to the in-love, and, especially, to the pregnant. Let's just stop punishing in public what we all do in private.

 As for Gladys? Well, she's lying down with a cold pack on her head. Seems she was snooping through Millicent's night stand ... and found "Mr. Pokey."




©2008 Celeste Billhartz

 People often ask what I want to accomplish with The Mothers Project. I tell them I want to tell the truth about our mothers, the truth about adoption coercion, and I want adopted adults to get a backbone.

 Adoptees grow up thinking we were “given” up, or “given” away, so our mothers could finish school or keep their jobs or some other self-serving goal … or, they “gave” us up so we could have a better life than the poverty or misery they lived in. Summed up: we get the message, over and over, year after year, talk after talk, that we are better off with our adoptive mothers than with our natural mothers.

 Nobody ever tells adoptees the truth: Your mother was young, she wanted you, begged to keep you, and not one adult in her life … especially her own mother … would allow her to keep you, and certainly would not allow her to bring you home – to your family, in your town. 

Adoption is a middle-class issue. Middle-class kids are taught to please their parents, not to argue with them or defy them. If your unmarried, teen-mother had paraded around town with a big belly, what would all of polite society  have thought about her? If your teen mother had brought you home, what would that say about HER mother, her family?

Most likely, your mother was in love with a very special boy and they did what most girl in love do with boys … they had sex. Most likely, she was not a “loose” woman, and didn’t have a clue about how not to get pregnant. Even if she had heard about condoms, she surely didn’t know how to get them. Most girls trusted their boyfriends to “know what to do” … if they thought at all. 

Not all girls, but most. And, some were raped. I have met them, too. They would have kept their babies if they had any way to support them. Most mothers  were terrified and utterly abandoned during their pregnancies. They wanted their babies, but were not allowed to keep them. 

Single mothers were not tolerated in middle-class society, families, or churches. Unless there was a quickie marriage and a baby the family could pass off as a “preemie,”  the times demanded that  a pregnant teen be sent away to a maternity home, have her baby and sign it over to a social worker, agency or lawyer who had a married couple waiting to adopt him or her. … for a hefty fee. Adoption is a billion-dollar a year industry in North America.

In generations past, the upper-class had secret abortions, via their upper-class  physician-friends, the middle-class forced their daughters to surrender their babies for adoption, and  working-class girl/mothers sometimes got to keep their babies by fighting long and hard to convince their parents that they could handle being mothers at a young age. And, their parents respected their gutsy attitude, their refusal to take “No!” for an answer. Again, as one astute activist told me, “Adoption is very much a middle-class issue.”

In middle-class families, the only acceptable outcome was for the young mother to surrender her child for adoption. Your mother had no choice, no voice … and, certainly, no emotional support or money to keep you, feed you, educate you, etc. In fact, unmarried pregnant women were still fired from their jobs as recently as the late 1970’s.

The sad fact is, had your natural families – your mother’s and your father’s -- stepped up to help your mother she would not have lost you.

Know this: Your mother never got over losing you. She was warned never to look for you, and was assured that you will look for her, if and when you are ready to meet her. Of course, sealed adoption records and false birth certificates make that very difficult for any adopted adult.

And, here’s another fact to wrap your heart around: sealed records and false birth certificates and all the secrecy around adoption was NEVER put in place to protect the identity of the natural mother, as has been touted by the adoption industry. It was done to guarantee the adoptive mothers that the natural mothers would never find their children.

Hopefully, your adoptive mother is emotionally secure, fair-minded and will do the right thing  -- give you your original birth certificate and all the information that will help you find your natural family and get vital information re health issues, family history, traits, etc. 

Your  first  mother is no longer that helpless, terrified girl/mother of  decades ago. She is a grown, courageous woman. She, likely, will never allow anyone to hoodwink and manipulate and take advantage of her, ever again. She might be tough or tender, or both. No matter who she is and how she is today, she is owed something that was denied her for many years – the truth about what happened to her child, her son or daughter. She needs to know who you are and where you are. She needs to see you, again.

Now, to the backbone issue …J

You owe her reunion and at least one face-to-face meeting. If that can happen easily, fine. If not, you need to get a backbone and make it happen – away from your adoptive mother, despite your adoptive mother’s insecurities and whatever consequences you might have to deal with for defying her wishes. 

Get a backbone, please. If you are an adult, you have every right to find and spend time with your mother. It would be great if your adoptive mother and father stepped back and gave you total support as you and your mother work through your relationship, through the ups and downs of reunion -- and there can be many.

If they don’t, you need to be brave and risk their displeasure … even risk their overt or covert threats to not support you, financially. You must get a backbone and decide what you are willing to do to spend time with your mother and natural family, if you want to. 

Face it, there’s only so much gratitude and loyalty we can show our adoptive parents. There comes a time when they  must step back, be gracious, and support us in our efforts to reunite with our mothers and first families. We were never “gifts.”

 I support open records for adoptees. 

Yes, that can be sticky for a few mothers who have never told anyone that they had a baby 20, 30, 40 years ago.

Yes, a few adoptees and a few mothers are screwed up, mean, and are best left out of each other’s lives. 

Yes, a few reunions turn out to be nightmare experiences.  Not every mother or child  is  a sane, kind, honorable person. I have met the rejected moms, the rejected sons and daughters who tried to reunite and were turned away, some actually had the doors slammed in their faces. It breaks my heart.

This message, however, is for the other 99% of mothers and adoptees who are sane, kind and honorable, and  should never have been separated in the first place. I say, go for it! Find your mother, find your son or daughter. Start out slowly, with emails and phone calls and get to know each other, feel you  can trust each other to behave respectfully.

Then, meet! Meet!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

That's it now

That's it now

©2008 Celeste Billhartz

Well, that’s it now. I had my meltdown, I backed away from ever using electronics in my show again … and I reverted to schlepping many mounted posters -- size 2ft x 4ft --  instead of  a tiny flash drive that plugs into any computer. OK.  You win – all you 21st Century devotees. I give up. I yield. I surrender. 

Last night, I schlepped my 35 mounted posters to our local Panera Bread Company - meeting room … and presented The Mothers Project. It was billed as a “rehearsal” … just in case I screwed up the whole thing.

My trusty “roadie” did her best to get each poster up onto the easel and I did my best to tell the truth about adoption loss ... and not insult the social workers and adoptive mothers who might be present. We did a good job. Many  sincere and appreciative comments at the end.

Still, I confess that I really must change with the times. Not because electronics is better, but because I am too old and too cranky to deal with schlepping 35 mounted posters, an easel, a guitar, etc … anywhere, ever again.

You have to picture this: Ohio, winter, snow … and my having to cart two huge portfolio cases, a guitar case, a music stand and an easel from the restaurant, across a parking lot and into a very old Chevy Blazer. Like I said, I am old and I am cranky. And, when the whole load shifted off the little hand truck  -- as I pushed against a slight curb -- well, that did it. 

So, I give up. I surrender. I will put the images onto a flash drive and ask the venue to provide a computer, a projector and a screen. Just like a modern person. Sigh …J


Friday, January 11, 2008

Letter Limbo

Please ignore the gmail address above, and continue to email me at cbsongs@aol.com -- thanks, CB

Monday, January 7, 2008

Out of Sight

Out of Sight

©2008 Celeste Billhartz

When my computer crashed, I bought a new one. Then,  my internet service provider's old modem was defective -- repeatedly kicking me off line -- so I finally got a replacement. Both those incidents might seem annoying, but not worth posting about. I am writing about them because of what I learned from the experience.

See, I had my life on my hard drive. Most of my joy and companionship was with the many daily emails and instant messages with people online and when that connection ended, I was lost. When I got the new computer I had a difficult time finding my way around it, having to re-establish favorite places and create new folders, unable to remember passwords. I stayed lost.

I live alone, have no pets and am not a very social person. I really enjoy my solitude. Still, when I lost my internet connection, my life changed, instantly ... and stayed that way for two weeks. I had to own something I had tucked away: Loneliness.

I shared that awareness with a close friend who lives in Arizona. She has been quietly drowning in her loneliness, too. Her daughter died last year and she is grieving. We both admitted our need for .... something. Finally, we agreed to be each other's support system, our own little 12-step program for growth out of loneliness. 

We are going to take the initiative and call friends locally, make plans for lunch and shopping and lots of girl-things. I am not going to depend on the computer for companionship. 

I wonder, how many other older women are hidden from society -- by dependence on the easy access of computers -- and simply don't bother to make connections in other ways? I wonder about many who don't have computers -- like my friend -- and are simply out of sight, yet very, very lonely. 

"I know," she said, "my mother died of loneliness." My friend is determined not to crumble and whither away, nor expect others to come to her door. We readily acknowledge our responsibility for our own happiness; we just didn't recognize, until this conversation, today, that what ails us is loneliness and the cure is friendship.