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.