Friday, October 24, 2014

On Penning My Letter for Dear Wonderful You: Letters to Adopted and Fostered Youth

I am excited to announce that Dear Wonderful You: Letters to Adopted and Fostered Youth (edited by Diane Rene Christian and Mei-Mei Akwai Ellerman, Ph.D) is available for sale on Kindle beginning today!

Taking part in this anthology was not only an honor, but an emotional journey in itself.  Penning my letter was difficult. I had to get outside of myself as an adult, with all my opinions and ideas about the world and really take myself back to who I was then - the young, inexperienced and vulnerable pre-teen who was teased for having hair that didn't move (I was accused of using lots of hair spray because of how thick my hair was and is).  

I also experienced being made fun of in middle school for being adopted.  Later in high school I was teased when I got my hair cut into the Dorothy Hammel style that was popular at the time.  I somehow inherited the nickname Duck and in 9th grade, people would actually quack at me when I walked by (I know, it's kind of funny now!)

In school and amongst friends, I did not hide the fact that I was adopted because I actually felt proud of being adopted growing up.  However, other kids, many who called me friend, would sometimes try to pop holes in my bubble by reminding me that I was "weird" for being adopted.   So for this project, I had to take myself back to that place of vulnerability but also look at myself in a new way:  as an adult adoptee mentor -- something I had not really considered myself before taking part in this project, except in the eyes of my daughter.

I wrote one version of my letter and decided I just didn't like it. Then for my second try, I envisioned my 9-year old daughter (also adopted) reading the letter.  I really had to stretch myself to get this down on paper (or computer screen). It was a somewhat painful process which was new for me as usually I just bleed all over the page when writing about adoption from an adult viewpoint. I decided I just didn't want to focus on adoption at all.  I wanted to inspire young people to pay attention to their dreams -- to move toward those things that whisper to them and draw them close.  

My tweens and teen years were a time when I was trying on new and different creative outlets. In middle school, I took part in an acting contest and my group, randomly assigned, won.  I was (by luck) the lead role and it just wetted my appetite for more which led to signing up for acting classes. I also tried gymnastics, choir, and leather making.  I played on community and select soccer teams, sang in the school and church choirs and played in the school orchestra.

Later as a teenager, I was a member of a church youth group, traveled on several mission trips and was a member of the Dayton Philharmonic Youth Orchestra. Being part of the DPYO allowed me the opportunity to mingle with other teen musicians all over Ohio.  During our weekly practices at Wright State University, we were fortunate enough to be led by a very talented and gifted conductor. I continued my love of soccer past my teen years and into my 20's, playing coed indoor soccer.  

When I look back now, I realize how fortunate I was to be able to try all those different early loves in my life, and how they have shaped my life now.  When my daughter was 5, I signed her up for Suzuki Violin. The two of us worked together as she went through her weekly lessons.  It was so meaningful for me to be able to share that love in my life with her.  She decided to stop playing after a couple of years and now she loves singing in her church choir and playing the Recorder.

One of the loves I was never able to try as a child, I decided to go for as an adult in my 40's.  I asked my husband for a keyboard for Christmas quite a few years ago.  It sat collecting dust for a couple of years and then one Sunday I was watching PBS and saw Scott the Piano Guy.  I ordered his book and taught myself the keyboard.  That was 3 years ago and I am happily playing pop music for the first time in my life and having so much fun! (playing the violin, one had to stick to the orchestra music).

  
Of course, one of the newer loves I found in my adult life is  writing, thanks to Amanda Woolsten, the founder of Lost Daughters, who invited me to submit my first blog post.  This door which swung wide open, enabled me to find an amazing adoptee community, as several of the Lost Daughters have contributed to Dear Wonderful You.  Somehow growing up, I never saw myself as a writer, even though I regularly got in trouble for passing notes (didn't everybody?). Thinking about how adults hold tight to the dreams of their childhood and also find new dreams, inspired me to write:

"Grownups are really  just oversized kids.  We still have our own dreams inside of us.  Writing this letter to you was one of my dreams realized." 

Most of the writers who took part in this project spoke of how their lives may have been changed dramatically being able to access others like them who "got it" and feeling "less alone" had they been able to pick up a book like this at the library or received it as a gift.  During the documentary made for this book, I am quoted as saying,

"I keep having this vision of me going to my favorite library finding this book without anyone in my family knowing and taking it home and reading it in my room all by myself.  It would have been very meaningful to me and may have allowed me to love myself sooner in my life journey, feeling like I'm part of some bigger, greater support network."

My plan is to take a copy to my childhood library, that is just 10 minutes from where I live now, and my hope is that many fostered and adopted tweens and teens will stumble upon it and experience a sense of community and "not aloneness" when they read the pages in this book.

I also hope that anyone who reads this anthology of letters, will feel as inspired reading it as I did in taking part in this amazing project.



For more information about this project or to purchase your copy now, go here


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