My not so empty nest

On August 12, 2017 I drove down to Paso Robles and got my oldest son situated in a beautiful Mediterranean-style villa.

He was signed up to take three classes – two Criminal Justice classes and one Biology class.

Not too hard, if I do say so myself.

On October 5, 2017 this same son showed up on my doorstep.

He had quit college and wanted to move back home.

In case you didn’t calculate yourself that is 53 days.

My son lasted 53 days at college in luxury accommodations.

Now, you might think I’m disappointed in him.

But you’d be wrong.

My oldest is very young for his age and I’ve always thought that he needed more time to mature before tackling the challenges of being an adult.

I welcomed him home and fed him without reprimanding him or grilling him.

I did however advise him of my expectation that he will find full time employment.

This I do feel strongly about.

As soon as I finished school, I was given three months to find a job in my degree field.

Same thing goes for him.

He has a high school diploma, it’s time for him to find out what jobs are open to people with high school diplomas.

I’m at a little bit of a loss for what he should do.

On the one hand, I want it to encourage him to go back to school and get a degree.

On the other hand, I want it to have potential to become a career for him should he not go back to school.

Suggestions?

FIRE!

My birth family lives in the North Bay.

Specifically the Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park, Windsor areas of the North Bay.

And unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that the North Bay is ON FIRE right now.

It has officially become the WORST FIRE in the history of California fires, surpassing the 1991 Oakland Hills fire.

I knew there was a fire when I left to go to work, some 90 miles away from the devastation.

I could smell it in the air.

I assumed there had been a fire locally until my friend Barbara texted me, “I hope your family is safe.”

What?!

I called her immediately for an explanation.

“Santa Rosa is on fire,” she told me.

I immediately hung up and began texting and calling my relatives.

It took a while but everyone was safe. . . except my birth mom, who I couldn’t reach.

Finally my sister got in touch with me.

It didn’t look promising that our mother’s house was still standing.

She texted me a photo later.

Charred remains of a building.

I immediately started crying.

Mom’s house!

Oh no! All the memories! All the gatherings! The golden nuggets of life that intersected at that home!

10 minutes later my sister told me it was a picture of her school and MOM’S HOUSE IS STIL STANDING.

I went from the depths of despair to the wings of angels in a moment, only tempered by the fact that so many people in the North Bay have lost their home and belongings.

I texted my mom that I loved her and she texted me back.

Coverage is spotty but for the time being, EVERYONE IN MY FAMILY IS DOING FINE.

Hug your loved ones extra close today.

They are our biggest blessings.

Santa Rosa Fires

I have two lovely sisters. One I grew up with and is my best friend, the other I met when I was 22.

One lives in Reno, the other lives in Santa Rosa.

I was desperate to get in touch with my birth family while fires were raging in Santa Rosa, Napa and Sonoma.

My sister was the first person to respond.

She told me that our mother’s house was likely burned to the ground.

I was heartbroken and yet I didn’t cry. . .

. . until she sent me a photo of a gutted building.

I burst into tears.

All I could think of were lost memories. The history that house contained. How special it was to me because it was where I reunited with my birth mother’s family and met my stepfather and his enormous family.

I cried and cried.

I forwarded the photo to my boys and my family.

I sent it to everyone who mattered to me to let them know that the house was gone.

10 minutes later I got a message from my sister.

It was a picture of her school and MOM’S HOUSE IS STILL STANDING.

From the depths of despair to the wings of angels, I was lifted up out of sorrow and so thankful for this miracle.

How blessed are we?

The house survived. All my family survived. Their pets survived.

What more could we ask for other than to mitigate the suffering of those who did lose everything in the fire?

I could KILL my sister for letting me think Mom’s house had burned, but I’m just too happy that my family is intact to stay mad about anything.

Really at times like this you realize that we all have each other and that’s all you really need to be happy.

God bless the families who lost property or loved ones in the fires.

Up in flames

As soon as I stepped outside the house, it hit me.

The overwhelming scent of fire.

One thing was clear: Something had burned during the night.

I drove to work and was walking to my building when I got a text from Barbara.

“Hope your family in Santa Rosa is safe.”

What?

Was there a shooter? An earthquake? What happened?

I immediately called Barbara back.

“There’s fires in Santa Rosa,” she told me. “It’s bad.”

I immediately got on the phone and tried to reach my birth mom.

In my haste, I inadvertently walked into a crosswalk that was closed due to construction, incurring the wrath of a very tall, beet faced man.

He was waving his arms at me wildly.

I stepped out of the crosswalk but he continued to make wild gestures at me.

Sigh.

So this is how the day is going to go.

First, the fires, and now an angry construction worker.

I burst into tears.

My Reunion Story

Sherri, pregnant at her 8th grade graduation

I remember the EXACT date I lost my virginity.

July 8, 1989.

I was 15 years old.

It’s ironic then, that I don’t know the date for something as MOMENTOUS as meeting my birth parents for the first time.

It was spring.

I know that because all the tulips in my yard were in full bloom.

For the rest of my life I’ll always associate tulips with my birth mother.

Finding your birth parents isn’t as hard as you’d think.

At least not for me.

My mom told me she knew my birth mother’s name from the adoption paperwork.

Brandon, Brett (ex), me, Sherri and Lani

So when I was 17, I asked for her name.

My mom wrote it down on a piece of paper, handed it to me, and walked out of the room.

After a little research I finally got the phone number to my birth mother’s in laws.

I called one day and asked for Sherri or Vince (her husband).

They gave me their phone number.

Just like that.

I stared at that number.

It was burned in my brain.

It took me 5 years to work up the courage to call that number.

One day, I called the number fully intending to ask for a random name – Elizabeth.

Art, me, my dad, a friend, and Cy

When my birth mother answered the phone, she had the MOST BEAUTIFUL voice I’d ever heard and I knew that someone with a voice like that would not be mean to me.

So I asked for Sherri.

“This is she,” she responded.

“I’d like to talk to you about something personal. Is now a good time?” I asked.

“Yes,” there was concern in her voice.

“I’m looking for my birth mother. . .”

I visited her the very next day and got to meet her husband and my sister and brother.

She told me who my birth father was and he was listed in the phone book.

So instead of driving home, I called him.

His (ex) wife answered the phone.

I asked for Paul.

She asked who I was.

I wanted to tell him directly so I just said my name.

She hung up on me.

I called back.

“Just tell him it’s Sherri’s daughter,” I responded.

She repeated what I said to him. Then she repeated it again, this time with gravitas.

They knew what this meant.

Paul had a daughter.

He asked me to pull into a local Denny’s where he said he’d meet me.

He showed up 15 minutes later, with his (ex) wife and her daughter.

We (my ex-husband) and I followed him to his house and slowly, his siblings and friends started trickling in.

Someone brought an “It’s a Girl!” cigar for him.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

What can I say about my reunion?

It truly was an ideal reunion and I feel blessed that my birth mother and my birth father accepted me so openly and lovingly.

Two eighth graders accidentally made a baby, and gave me an ideal home to grow up in.

I regret nothing except perhaps that I didn’t meet them sooner.

I am blessed.

 

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Lucky baby

“You’re so lucky, Michelle.  And that’s not the booze talking.  That’s me talking.”

My Aunt Xondra was laying in bed at her 50th birthday party, recovering from one too many tequila shots and I was just hanging out with her.

I know I’m one lucky lady.

I have TWO sets of parents.

And THREE sets of siblings.

In my life I’ve been blessed with lots of family.

Xondra, who is quite possibly the sweetest drunk woman I’ve ever known, was just pointing this out to me.

When I tell people I’m a reunited adoptee, usually they ask how my adoptive parents feel about that.

My response is always, “It was hard in the beginning.  But having more people who love you is never a bad thing.”

I see my birth mother about 4 – 6 times a year, but my birth father much less.

If you ask me why I’ll say it’s because he doesn’t seem to take an interest in me.

But this weekend, I got another picture of the three of us and came across a mug in his stash with my name on it along with my brothers’ names.

It was a small thing but felt SO big to me.

It’s as if that mug legitimized me.

And he had pictures of me and my boys around the house.

Like we matter to him and his wife, even though we don’t see each other.

And. . .

He kissed the top of my head when he said goodnight to me.

It was a very fatherly gesture and I got a little choked up.

Maybe, just maybe, he does care.

Zezza Butt

At Burning Man, I was playing around with a sexy bartender at Ali Bar-Bar when he looked me dead in the eye, smiled and said, “Let me see that ass.”

“It’s called a Zezza butt,” I replied.

And indeed, that is what it’s called in my family.

Zezza butts are nice and round, a little on the larger side, but well-liked by many and appreciated by even more.

I’ve always had a nice butt.

And when I met my birth family, I discovered that I was not the only one with a nice butt:

Here we all are, mooning the camera on a camping trip. This picture includes me, my sister-cousin Jennifer, and my brother Art. The high and tight butt that OBVIOUSLY does match is my cousin’s husband.

Over the years, many people have tried to capture the charm of my butt and here are a few pictures that come close.

Hope you too like Zezza butt!

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Reunited!

Here are the people who made me.

I am forever grateful that two eighth graders fell in love at such a young age and acted WAY OLDER THAN THEY SHOULD HAVE when they made ME!

I personally think I look like my birth father’s side of the family but I have a lot of my birth mother’s personality traits.

I also have her eyes, her hands, and her legs.

There’s something about growing up not knowing who you look like that makes it ever so much more touching when you find out that yes, you do in fact resemble someone else.

And in my case, it’s nice that I take after both my birth parents.

Someday I may post the whole story because people seem incredibly interested in reunion stories.

The short version is I called my birth mom and told her who I was and I went to visit her the next day.

She told me who my birth father was and I stopped and visited him on my way home.

He invited all of his 5 siblings over his house to meet me and I’ll never forget someone showed up with an “It’s a Girl” cigar.

As far as reunions go, mine has been ideal.

I met my birth family when I was 22.

It has now been almost 22 years that I’ve known them.

Soon I’ll have known them longer than I was living without them.

But the BEST PART OF BEING ADOPTED AND REUNITED, besides finally knowing where you came from, is that you get oodles of SIBLINGS!

Here’s to Lisa, Omar, Cy, Lani, Art, and Brandon.

I heart all of you.

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A time for everything under heaven

IMG_471719 years ago today, my heart tore in half when my son Douglas died of cancer.

The hospital room was so quiet and it smelled of tears. Tears that fell from my eyes like endless rivers of sorrow.

I thought I’d never stop crying.

I stopped believing in God. Stopped singing.

My ex husband got me a dog, Mac, to get over my grief and having that dog to pour all my love into brought me back to life.

He was a four legged replacement for the son I lost.

Sadly, 9 years ago today (on the 10 year anniversary of Douglas’ death), Mac’s life ended in a freak freeway accident on Highway 80.

So you COULD say that September 22 is my least favorite day of the year.

You could say that but you’d be wrong.

Because instead of spending the day grieving, I spend the day having fun and feeling alive.

This year I’m going to be at the wedding of two good friends as they exchange their vows in Yosemite.

It’s a great opportunity to HONOR my loved ones and CELEBRATE everything that is wonderful and beautiful in my life – like wonderful friends, close knit families, and LOVE.

And I’ll celebrate the lives of the two sons that I have.

So happy September 22nd, to all my friends. I hope it’s a happy one for you too.

Happy Mommy

It’s not often that I get to share a moment with either of my sons.

They’re 16 and 18 now and a little “too grown up” for that sort of stuff.

They’re more likely to tease me or jump out and scare me, than they are to share a real moment with me.

But seeing as how I was gone for over a week at Burning Man, I think my youngest son missed me a little bit, because I found him to be awfully snuggly when I returned.

Here is my 6’3″ son leaning his head on me at the dinner table.

It doesn’t matter how old they are, they’re always our baby!

Love you sugar pie!