Day 279: Confessions of a Sus

I play Among Us.  My name is “poptart”.  You may wonder why a 52 year old woman would want to play a real-time murder mystery set on a space ship with the prepubescent of our population,  but you’ve no need, I will tell you why I do it.  I’ve entered a very specific time in my life where I gain great satisfaction defeating children in games of deceit and strategy.  Today, however, those raggamuffins booted me out of two games in less than 30 minutes.   Don’t they have better things to do like Google history homework answers or something? I crashed on Pink’s argument that she couldn’t be the killer because “I’m only 8.”  If she’s 8, then I’m 8.  Ridiculous argument!  That pink flower in your hair only makes you more creepy, PINK!

It is 6:30 p.m. as I begin to write and I want it to be 6:30 a.m. tomorrow.  At that time I will have things to do: wake up, catch the days headlines, take a shower, have breakfast, get dressed then go to work.  When I’m at work I’ll have even MORE things to do.  Between now and tomorrow I have TWELVE hours to do something with.  At least 8 hours of that can be used for sleeping.  During COVID I’ve tested my sleeping abilities AKA: time travel.  I can fast forward about 3-5 hours at a time with an elongated blink of an eye …which is really what sleep is, one long blink. Rarely can I make it more than 12 hours in one undisturbed lay-down.  The longest since March is a good, very nice and needed 10 hours in bed.  Sleeping when bored is the highlight and delete of unwanted hours.  The “>>2x” button on your Blueray.  

What the heck will I do for 12 hours?

I started one adult task; reading a self-help book, “The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child” by Nancy Newton Verrier. 

The Primal Wound is a book which is revolutionizing the way we think about adoption. In its application of information about pre- and perinatal psychology, attachment, bonding, and loss, it clarifies the effects of separation from the birth mother on adopted children. In addition, it gives those children, whose pain has long been unacknowledged or misunderstood, validation for their feelings, as well as explanations for their behavior. Since its original publication in 1993, The Primal Wound has become a classic in adoption literature and is considered the adoptees’ bible. The insight which is brought to the experiences of abandonment and loss will contribute not only to the healing of adoptees, adoptive families, and birth parents, but will bring understanding and encouragement to anyone who has ever felt abandoned.

A friend loaned me the book.  We are both adopted children. The book helps you work through the emotional trauma of abandonment all adoptees experience.  She recommends it highly. It will be a tough read.  About 10 minutes in I begin to cry a little. 

The sun set at 4:21pm today.  I should have gone for a walk, but I didn’t. 

Tomorrow will be a better day.

‘effin Pink

DNA Part Two: The Waiting

The-Family-Tree
Family Tree. Artwork by Pauline Murphy

Part Two
The Waiting

I’m getting close to the day.  The day my 23andMe DNA test will return and I’ll know my genetic heritage.  I’ve decided to  share the results with my two children first, then my mom and brother, (my father has passed).  Then share it here.  The story will not end with the results.  The social media aspect of 23andMe may potentially link-up the results with relatives.  As I stated before it might be boring or a big mess of family drama—let me share my mess with you.

Honestly, a social DNA site freaks me out a little.  I used my real name for processing, but a fake one for the profile.  My personal photo is a bunch of flowers.  I am chicken.  Cautious.  Nervous.  Feeling the need to protect myself, and yet I have to look, I must take a peak into this unknown.

ADOPTED FAMILY TREE

Here is what I know.  My adopted parents are mainly of Irish and German decent.  My mother and her siblings were the first generation born in America, my father was his families third.  I was raised by a working class family in the suburbs south of Seattle, on the wooded plateau of Federal Way.

Around 2009 I got the bug to research the family tree.  My dad’s Irish side was a bit beat up from divorce, my grandmothers five husbands and the generational condition of not talking about the ass holes in the family.  (Would have been nice if they would of at least saved their name and date of birth.)   Mom’s side ended with her great-grandparents, the parents of the ones who made the boat trip over.  She knew it all from memory, with the help from a few notes.  That tree is a nice big full tree, with many children.  However, I couldn’t go past 1880.  Using European genealogy sites is expensive, so I stopped there.

TartansMacLaren
The MacLaren Tartans, photo credit: Clan MacLaren Society of North America

I married into the Laws family.  While researching their tree, I learned they have a long stake in America.  The first, James Laws, came over from England, landing in Massachusetts in the early 1700’s.  There was a split of some kind in the family. Many stayed in the Carolinas while others, my ex-husbands side,  went to Chicago, then Kansas, then California. Prior to England, I could only guess that Laws was a corruption of “Lawrence” a possible connection to Scotland’s MacLaren Clan.

146_MacLaren
The MacLaren Badge

After contacting the North American chapter they confirmed the surname connection.  We joined the clan immediately.  It was exciting to learn about tartans, badges and read about the fighting history of the MacLaren.  We took the kids to the Highland games in Tucson, found the MacLaren booth and told the kids, “These are your people.”  Later we visited the popular Arizona Renaissance Festival & Artisan Marketplace.  It felt like “place”.  A virtual family I am happy to be a part of, even if by marriage.  It is an identified part of my children’s heritage and I celebrate their lives as any mother would.

 WHAT IF

What if my DNA reveals something unexpected?  Of course it will.  Do you remember on the TV show “Who Do You Think You Are” when guest Spike Lee learns he is not 100% African?*  Blood has no boarders.  Do the boxes we check on a form define who we are in society?

Here’s another gem, this one from a usaid.gov job application:

“Ethnicity and race information is requested under the authority of 42 U.S.C. Section 2000e-16 and in compliance with the Office of Management and Budget’s 1997 Revisions to the Standards for the Classification of Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity. Providing this information is voluntary and has no impact on your employment status, but in the instance of missing information, your employing agency will attempt to identify your race and ethnicity by visual observation.”

“Visual observation”―What the hell does that mean?

Lets play a game.  Can you guess Keanu Reeves nationality just by looking?  Here’s a photo of the famous actor:

keanu
Keanu Reeves

He was born in Beirut, Lebanon to an English mom and an American father.  His father was born in Hawaii, of British, Portuguese, Native Hawaiian, and Chinese ancestry.  You only get to know that information when you get to know Keanu and he shares it with you (or you look him up on IMDB).

“I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin,
but by the content of their character.”
~Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

Nature and Nurture

My DNA test talks to the very old debate of nature verse nurture.  How much of what and who we are is dependent on our upbringing, and genetic makeup.

nature-nuture
photo: Simply Psychology

Saul McLeod writing for Simply Psychology has this to say:

“In practice hardly anyone today accepts either of the extreme positions.  There are simply too many “facts” on both sides of the argument which are inconsistent with an “all or nothing” view.  So instead of asking whether child development is down to nature or nurture the question has been reformulated as “How much?”  That is to say, given that heredity and environment both influence the person we become, which is the more important?”

If you are interested in this discussion, please visit the site (see link below).  It is full of intriguing arguments, especially about temperament and the “genius” gene.  To much information to share here.

Washington Adoptees Rights Movement (WARM) was my first point of contact for information regarding my birth family.  The site also included reunited stories.  Some good, some not so good.  One reunion I remember was about a daughter and her father that discover they had same mannerisms.  They combed their fingers through their hair the same way and liked the same type of food.  Makes me curious if mannerisms are genetic.

I am wondering what it will be like to meet any member from my birth family.  I wonder if we have the same eyes, smile, and laugh.  I wonder if any play the piano, sing or write.  My mind is full of wonder.  Questions my heart asks, the words go out into the universe like an echo, returning empty.

In part three of my series I will tackle race and religion.

#

Part One here: https://shannonplawswriter.com/2014/11/12/23me-it-begins/

Work Cited

McLeod, Saul. “Nature Nurture in Psychology | Simply Psychology.” Nature Nurture in Psychology | Simply Psychology. Simply Psychology, 2007. Web. 26 Nov. 2014.

http://www.simplypsychology.org/naturevsnurture.html

MacLaren Clan of North America:  http://www.clanmaclarenna.org/

To learn more about the annual Arizona Renaissance Festival & Artisan Marketplace visit:  http://www.royalfaires.com/arizona/

*http://blogs.ancestry.com/ancestry/2010/04/30/wdytya-spike-lee/

DNA Part One: It Begins

Picture 246
The Kit

I have a 23andMe DNA kit and I’m not afraid to use it!

If you follow my blog or know me a little more than most—like the way one may “know” Nutella after eating half a container—then you’ll know that I am adopted.  Orphaned, then adopted.   I literally made it 40 years not knowing anything about my birth family.

Well, that’s about the change… a little bit any way.

Picture 247
Eight Easy Steps

23andMe will provide what percentage of my DNA is from what populations of the world and allows members to connect with others that share their DNA, “DNA Relatives”, via the 23andMe social network site.

My kit is registered and my profile set up.  I’ll know more in 3-4 weeks when the results come in. “Congratulations, you’ve been cloned!”  Sometime around the end of December I’ll share “Part Two: The Results”.

To learn more about my views on adoption, please check out my post:

“Philomena / What Are You?”

Wish me luck!  I’m rollin’ for some Charlemagne!  ahahaaa!

To learn about 23andMe click here.

#

Philomena / What Are You?

Just last week I went to see the movie “Philomena” at the Pickford Film Center. Here is what the Internet Movie Data Base writes for the movie’s summary:

“When former journalist Martin Sixsmith is dismissed from the Labour Party in disgrace, he is at a loss as to what do. That changes when a young Irish woman approaches him about a story of her mother, Philomena, who had her son taken away when she was a teenage inmate of a Catholic convent. Martin arranges a magazine assignment about her search for him that eventually leads to America. Along the way, Martin and Philomena discover as much about each other as about her son’s fate. Furthermore, both find their basic beliefs challenged.”

As an adopted child, this was an especially interesting movie to view.  It seemed at times Philomena, played beautifully by Judi Dench, bled out a mothers heart, washing the audience with the experience of a mother being separated from her child.

I cried through most of the movie, and as a poet and an author, I feel forced to categorize my emotions on paper.  Not even sure that’s possible.  In the meantime, below is a re-posting of “What Are You?”.  A post I wrote in 2012 on adoption and family trees.

A psychologist friend of mine shared once, the earlier in a person’s life that a tragic  event occurs, the more of an impact it has on the foundation points of the person’s character.  An adopted child is, sometimes, unwanted at conception.  It’s forming ears hear it’s mother struggle: loving the child, hating the child, doesn’t want the child, wants to keep the child, the guilt and anger.  Some adopted children end up as “transplanted fruit” attached to a new family tree, loved, cared for and happy, others may bounce around in foster homes.  I would guess that most of us have a puzzle that we carry with us, a puzzle that needs to be solved: who are my people? The family blood connection, especially mother/child, is undeniably strong.

The main point, I am glad they highlighted in the movie, is forgiveness.  It is a blessing to me to forgive. To allow myself to forgive.  You can forgive people you never met, even people who birthed you, then walked away.

My mother was 32 when she had me, information on my father is unknown.  If they are still alive, I wish them well.  Too much energy in this world is wasted on hate.  God bless you both, whoever, wherever you are today.

-Shannon P Laws

***

WHAT ARE YOU

Harborview Hospital, Seattle WA
photo taken in the same decade I was born,
from the western slope of First Hill
and part of Yesler Terrace
For the first two weeks of my life I was an orphan.  My birth mother left me at the Seattle hospital I was born in.  She walked in to the emergency room in labor, gave birth and left the next day.  Gone.  Nothing but a one page form filled out.  It’s doubtful that the information she gave was truthful, I never found out.  Fortunately, when I was just two weeks old, my future parents took me in as a foster child.  They adopted me a year later.  I grew up in a happy home.  I was lucky.

Throughout my life there were little moments when not having birth family health history was an issue, usually with trips to the doctor.  Most forms ask for family history.  For example when I was pregnant, the form asked if miscarriages, natural or multiple births ran in the family.  Always I entered “adopted” on the blank line.

My brother and I at the beach
My Aunt called us “Irish Twins”

In my younger years, growing up in an area with a low minority population, people, sometimes strangers, would ask me awkward questions.  Some people are not graceful when they ask about your adoption or race.  In America , there is still a sense of taboo about being adopted, especially by the folks from my grandparents generation.  However, the question of WHO gave me up and WHY, is shadowed by another.  The most asked question from others is “What are you?”   …’scuse me? Yes, it’s true.  Sometimes I’ll respond, “I’m human.  What are you?”  However, when I’m in a cheeky mood, I answer with the only one I have:  “Me? Oh I’m Irish and German.”, then watch them try to figure out how my features fit into those categories.  “You mean Black Irish?”

What are you?

Painted faces from the World Cup 2012

Folks are often confused by my features and can’t figure it out, and sometimes really need to figure it out.  Of all the little issues with being adopted this one is the most confusing for me.  People have guessed that I could be Mexican, Spanish, Italian, Jewish, Slavic, Black Irish, even Gypsy.  No one guesses German or Irish.  I do wonder about my blood line, but WHY is it so important to other people, especially to people that I just met, what my race, nationality or ethnicity is?  Is there a box in their head they are trying to put me in?

Over time, my position regarding what I am changed slightly.  Since I don’t know what race I am, I decided to be ALL races.  This attitude comes in handy and lightens the conversation at times.  Once I offered a friend some hummus.  They went on a rant how they do not like “foreign” food.  I informed him that he was insulting my people.  This friend knew I was adopted and joked back, “You don’t know who your people are.”  I responded proudly, “Then I am ALL people.”  We were joking around, but honestly aren’t we all a little bit of EVERYBODY?

Pedigree Collapse
The truth is that we are everybody… or I mean everyone.  Genealogy is a fickle beast.  Did you hear about the guy who discovered he was a direct relative to King Charlemagne?  NPR ran a great article about the issue of Pedigree Collapse.  It goes something like this:  if you count your direct ancestors backward through time, the further back you go, obviously, the more ancestors you have. But when you do the numbers, something strange happens.

King Charlemagne 742-814,
The “Father of Europe”

Go back to A.D. 800 and the number of direct ancestors is, well, puzzling. You start with two grandparents, then four great-grandparents, then on to eight, 16, etc., and by the time you get to A.D. 800, the number averages to about 562,949,953,421,321. That’s a lot of people. In fact, that’s more people than have ever lived.

So somethings wrong.
What’s wrong is at some point up the line, people get counted twice, or three times. Your great-great-great-great-grandma on one line turns out to also be a great-great-great-great-grandma on another line. The same person can show up multiple times. You get duplicates. And way back, when the population of humans was much smaller, pretty much every line is duplicating heavily till at some point, everybody is your direct ancestor.
So see I wasn’t too far off.  I am related to all and all is everybody.
(…oh and don’t insult my people!)
*blah*
***

References:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/krulwich/2012/02/16/146981369/the-charlemagne-riddle
Philomena Official Movie Site- © 2013 THE WEINSTEIN COMPANY
“Philomena” IMDb Movie Page

What Are You?

For the first two weeks of my life I was an orphan.  My birth mother left me at the Seattle hospital I was born in.  She walked in to the emergency room in labor, gave birth and left the next day.  Gone.  Nothing but a one page form filled out.  It’s doubtful that the information she gave was truthful, I never found out.  Fortunately, when I was just two weeks old, my future parents took me in as a foster child.  They adopted me a year later.  I grew up in a happy home.  I was lucky.

Throughout my life there were little moments when not having birth family health history was an issue, usually with trips to the doctor.  Most forms ask for family history.  For example when I was pregnant, the form asked if miscarriages, natural or multiple births ran in the family.  Always I entered “adopted” on the blank line.

Painted faces from the World Cup 2012

In my younger years, growing up in an area with a low minority population, people, sometimes strangers, would ask me awkward questions.  Some people are not graceful when they ask about your adoption or race.  In America , there is still a sense of taboo about being adopted, especially by the folks from my grandparents generation.  However, the question of WHO gave me up and WHY, is shadowed by another.  The most asked question from others is “What are you?”   …’scuse me? Yes, it’s true.  Sometimes I’ll respond, “I’m human.  What are you?”  However, when I’m in a good mood, I answer with the only one I have:  “Me? Oh I’m Irish and German.”, then watch them try to figure out how my features fit into those categories.  “You mean Black Irish?”

Honestly, I love my family and adopted the heritage of my parents.  My mother’s parents both are of German decent, from the Northern Rhine region, came over before WWI.  Mom was born and raised on a mid-west farm.  My father is Irish-Canadian, his Grandfather moved down to Minnesota a hundred years ago to farm.  My dad’s mother was a Dunbar.  Dad was raised in St. Louis, Missouri. Perhaps you associate blond hair, blue eyes with someone with a Northern European genealogy.  In fact I have black hair and brown eyes, and tend to stick out like a sore thumb in family photos.  No big whoop.  Inside I felt, talked, played and thought like the family I was raised in.  My attitude has always been, if someone has a problem with you, it is their problem not yours.

What are you?  Folks are often confused by my features and can’t figure it out, and sometimes really need to figure it out.  Of all the little issues with being adopted this one is the most confusing for me.  People have guessed that I could be Mexican, Spanish, Italian, Jewish, Slavic, Black Irish, even Gypsy.  No one guesses German or Irish.  I do wonder about my blood line, but WHY is it so important to other people, especially to people that I just met, what my race, nationality or ethnicity is?  Is there a box in their head they are trying to put me in?

Over time, my position regarding what I am changed slightly.  Since I don’t know what race I am, I decided to be ALL races.  This attitude comes in handy and lightens the conversation at times.  Joking around aside, honestly aren’t we all a little bit of EVERYBODY?

Pedigree Collapse
The truth is that we are everybody… or I mean everyone.  Genealogy is a fickle beast.  Did you hear about the guy who discovered he was a direct relative to King Charlemagne?  NPR ran a great article about the issue of Pedigree Collapse.  It goes something like this:  if you count your direct ancestors backward through time, the further back you go, obviously, the more ancestors you have. But when you do the numbers, something queer happens.

King Charlemagne 742-814,
The “Father of Europe”

Go back to A.D. 800 and the number of direct ancestors is, well, puzzling. You start with two grandparents, then four great-grandparents, then on to eight, 16, etc., and by the time you get to A.D. 800, the number averages to about 562,949,953,421,321. That’s a lot of people. In fact, that’s more people than have ever lived.

So somethings wrong.
What’s wrong is at some point up the line, people get counted twice, or three times. Your great-great-great-great-grandma on one line turns out to also be a great-great-great-great-grandma on another line. The same person can show up multiple times. You get duplicates. And way back, when the population of humans was much smaller, pretty much every line is duplicating heavily till at some point, everybody is your direct ancestor.

So see I wasn’t too far off.  I am related to all and all is everybody.

(…oh and don’t insult my people!)
*blah*

http://www.npr.org/blogs/krulwich/2012/02/16/146981369/the-charlemagne-riddle