The “pin” is out

I’ve done a lot of thinking – wow, how dysfunctional am I? You probably don’t realize the last blog I posted was in October 2013.  That was nineteen months ago! What was I doing those nineteen months, thinking about my family and all the emotions meeting them stirred up? Nope, I can tell you truthfully that I’ve spent most of that time efficiently and effectively avoiding all of it. And I’m very good at it. Most people disseminate information quickly. You want to get married? Well, let’s go get a marriage license and tell my family. The process is simple. Not for me. When it comes to my emotions, I compartmentalize everything. I “put a pin in it”, so to speak, then really try not to think about it again.

That’s not entirely true. I do think about things very much but it’s always on my time and in my own way. I have a very passive-aggressive personality. I may not tell you to your face I’m upset but my Facebook will look like a page from Psycho. Not pretty and truthfully, I’m not that bad. This inability to talk about my feelings has always been there. I can talk about anything on the surface – what I call “fluff” – church, my books, my family, and my friends. However, when you bring up my adoption or my biological family then you’re venturing into emotional territory and that’s an area under heavy guard. No one goes in there and sometimes not even me.

It seems a counter-productive way to figure things out but it works because I have gotten a lot of thinking done. Much has happened since the last time we spoke. My children and I drove to Oklahoma for Thanksgiving that year and I met three of my biological sisters. It meant so much to me because the information I got from the state said I had two older sisters only. That wasn’t true. In total, I have four sisters and a bunch of nieces and nephews. We kept the gathering small because it was very nerve racking for me and for them.

I got to see many more pictures of my mother, G, and found out that she too liked to write. I even read some of her poems and for me, that was a phenomenal moment. To know that not only did I look like her but that I took after her. I saw my family resemblance in all of my sister’s faces and found out the color of my eyes – which have always been unusual, not brown and not hazel – were exactly like my grandfather’s, Jack Buergey. I could go on and on with what I experienced but I won’t. It’s very personal. But I will tell you one more thing. I met an older lady. I don’t remember her name. She was in the kitchen at the Quapaw lodge and she was present when I was born.

There is so much that I still don’t know, about my family and my heritage, but I don’t think I need all the answers right now. I’m Indian but I was raised white, completely off the reservation with no concept of what everyday life is/was like on the reservation where my mother lived. I’m a child coming home and all the feelings I had as a kid are still there. What will they think of me? Will they like me? Am I one of them now? Who am I really?

That’s what I’ve been thinking about and I’ve come to a decision. I may not think of myself as an American Indian but I am one. I may not fit in there or anywhere but I’m going to try. I’ve had the paperwork to become a member of the tribe on my desk for a year. Last week, I filled it out and mailed it in. I got a call on Monday to tell me the tribe will meet at the end of the month, and at that time, I’ll be enrolled. This has been a long time coming for me, but it’s time.The “pin” is officially out.

This summer, my family and I are going back to Oklahoma and attending the annual 4th of July Quapaw pow wow where, for sure, I’m going to meet many, many more family members. And find out more information than I could ever possibly handle but I have a compartment for that. I’m sure nineteen months from now I’ll be ready to talk about it.


My Great-Grandfather

William Victor Griffin was born in 1873. Everyone called him Vic. He was an orphan his father killed in a dispute when he was twelve. He was Quapaw American Indian. He was raised by his ‘Grandmother’ but Grandmother in Indian terms means ‘Elder’ and in this case meant his aunt, Mary. Mary Stafford was William’s mother’s sister.

Vic went to school in the Quapaw Indian schools where he was taught English at a time when Indians still wore their hair long but Vic wore his short. He was a fast learner speaking English more fluently than anyone else in his tribe. He spoke Quapaw and acted as an interpreter for the elders in the tribe through the years. As a young man, he got to meet President Roosevelt and spoke on many Indian issues in Washington but he spent his lifetime in and around a small town named for his tribe, Quapaw.

Vic was taught Indian tradition by his grandmother. He also learned the ways of peyote by John Wilson, known as Moonhead who was extremely influential in the movement known as the Ghost Dance. When the tragic end to the Ghost Dance came about at Wounded Knee in 1890 Vic was seventeen years old. He remembered what he was taught and was mainly responsible for incorporating the use of peyote as an Indian sacrament under the Oklahoma laws in 1911. It is still used today.

His personal life held some tragedy. He married twice before and both wives died from unknown illnesses. He married Minnie Track and had six children:  Martha, Sidney, Hayes, Wilfred, Ardina, Victoria. He was a member of the Baptist Indian church in Quapaw and was also a Mason.

When Vic was fifty-six years old, he became Chief of the Quapaw and remained Chief for twenty-nine years. He was known as ‘The Short-haired Chief’. He was one of the last full blooded members of the tribe. Toward the end of his life the Quapaw tribe had roughly 600 tribal members.

In 1956, he stepped down as Chief for health reasons and a Tribal Business Council was elected as federal Indian affairs officials thus making William Victor Griffin the last traditional Chief of the Quapaw Nation.

Vic died two years after stepping down surrounded by family and friends. He is buried in the Griffin family cemetery in Quapaw, Oklahoma. His daughter, Ardina Griffin Greenback Buergey was my grandmother. Her daughter was my mother, Geneva. I was given up for adoption in 1970. When my mother became ill in 2010, diagnoses with pancreatic cancer, she found all her children she’d given up except me. She couldn’t find me but now I know she was looking. My mother died August 2012.

All of Vic’s children have passed away save one, Victoria. My Aunt Victoria aka my new Grandmother.  I will meet her and the rest of my Indian family this November.Griffin

What the past will reveal

who am iMy family history has always been a mystery to me. When asked about my medical history I can say ‘I don’t know, I’m adopted’ generally about twice a year. I’ve never known but now I do.  I have gotten more information on my lineage in the past few weeks than I could ever have imagined. My sisters have been supplying the information.

They have been shining a light on our mother’s history and leading me on a path back through time. Knowing who my family is has always been important to me but only recently has the past come to light. I found my family August 22nd and I have a family tree that goes back hundreds of years. My poster board and markers haven’t even begun to crack the wealth of information my extended family can provide me on who I am.

Some people don’t need a family tree to tell them who they are. Some will never know it and until recently I was one of those people and I can tell you that it didn’t affect me much. I was confident I would never know and that part of my life would go unanswered. How wrong was I? I am working on my family tree but the Indians will know more. My sisters have informed me that the Quapaw have kept a very good genealogy record that one day soon I hope to be added to. I am related to the Quapaw by blood. My mother was half Indian and depending on who my father was will determine how much Indian blood I have.

I have sent away for my original birth certificate. Soon I will the last piece of information needed to become a member of the tribe and my children will be given the same opportunity.  You need two things to obtain membership: an original birth certificate and be able to trace your lineage by name to a full standing member. Meaning you have to be related by blood to someone who has a roll number. My mother has a roll number as did my grandmother.

My sisters do too and I love the tidbits of Indian everyday life I glean from our conversations. My sister Season tells me she is busy making moccasins and purses and was pleased to know that I loved fry bread (my Mom made fry bread a couple of times growing up, it is good).  Most of what I know about Indians is having known a couple of them throughout my life. It is respectful to give something when you first meet an elder either tobacco, sage, or sweet grass and you never know when you’ll meet an Indian. I met Samuel Holiday, one of the last Navajo Code Talkers, back in 2005. I met Marcy Tiger, Muscogee Creek Nation and his lovely wife, Sandy, last year when I arrived in Washington.

As I said you never know when you’ll meet one so I keep a stash of sweet grass with me at all times. I’m sure if anyone saw it, in the trunk of my car, they would think it was marijuana but no one has ever asked me yet, what the heck is that?!

I think history is as relevant as you want to make it. For instance, you might not want to dwell on history if you happen to uncover a serial killer, but medically it can be really revealing. You might find depression runs in the family. You might find schizophrenia there as well or diabetes or cancer. Things you might not have known were hereditary and therefore you should be watchful of.  My mother died of cancer. My Mom’s family has a history of breast cancer so each year my Mom, my sister and eventually my niece get preventative check-ups.  I will have to do that too.

Now not only do I have a medical history but I also have names for unknown faces for family living in and around Oklahoma. My ancestral tree resembles a Redwood! And guess what? It includes a Chief, the last traditional Chief of the Quapaw Nation. How cool is that?

What do you see in Silence?

Postal receiptIt is done. I don’t think there are very many times in our lives when we knowingly change our fate. We make decisions willy-nilly often without thinking of the consequences. I think if we really thought about each decision we made before we made it we’d all be very predictable people, Lol.

I am not predictable. I wish I was….sometimes, but more often than not I am content to be just a little off.  If I was twenty years older the term might correctly be ‘eccentric’ but for now I prefer weird. I gripe so often of rigid, narrow-minded, inflexible people that I think I’ve become one without even knowing it.

I’m hard on people and I don’t meant to be. I pray a lot on my own weakness and I try to follow my mother’s advice, if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all. I find myself quiet A LOT.

I do try to fit in. I do lunch dates with friends and night at the movies, attend church- you know, all the usual stuff people usually do but then I withdraw. I like going to the movies alone. I don’t mind staying at home and skipping lunch and sometimes I do play hookie from church (btw, it never fails when I do skip church my Mom calls me – sheesh!)  When I was younger, I was never alone.  Is being alone so bad, so taboo that you absolutely need someone with you all the time in order to do things?

I found out something about myself recently, I don’t mind eating alone. I’ve been opposed to eating alone all my life. When you eat alone you look lonely and pathetic. Who wants to be that? But lately I’ve shed a new skin; I am officially one of those people. Why should I miss a good meal just because I don’t have anyone to join me? So Sunday afternoon after not going to church I went to Ruby Tuesday’s and ate alone. It felt good like I’d accomplished something I didn’t even know I was trying to achieve. Was it a test? I don’t know but I sat there and ate a very nice meal.

For me, my life has been a blur. I’ve been going non-stop for so many years that complete silence turned out to be a good thing. The silence put me in tune with the off things I needed to see in myself (and it’s an ongoing process. No one is perfect). Now I have no trouble sitting quietly reading, writing or just drinking a cup of coffee out on the balcony. Silence was a nice change of pace for me from the drama of the last few years.

But I guess I’m made for drama because I’ve done something again that will cause the waters to stir. I just mailed my court order to OKDHS to open my adoption records with the sole purpose of obtaining my original birth certificate. If I don’t do it, I’ll never know and I need to know everything now. It might shed some light on who my father is but for sure I need it to become a member of the Quapaw tribe.

Have you found yourself in the silence? or does the silence hold secrets even you don’t want to hear?

‘Silence might be a foreign land to you but sometimes it is good to leap into the unknown. Practice leaping’- Macrina Wiederkehr


hawkeyeIf you have crazy friends like I do you’ll understand this. I’m a little melodramatic. I’ve been stuck the last few days wondering if the recent events in my life forewarned an early grave.  I’m 42 years old, fairly healthy – I don’t know, I don’t go to doctors but I did go to the doctor for a full check-up about two years ago. I had to, I lost hearing in my left ear. After that I decided to get a complete physical, just in case.  It turned out to be an earache, nothing major, but I had built it up in my mind to this horrible possibility; I thought I had a tumor. I see clouds and I think it’s a storm where others simply see rain.

Friends sometimes take these short depraved opportunities in my life and run with it and depending on which friend it is will determine where I end up. Like the friend who propels your fear even further – it’s not a tumor, it could be a blood clot. Really? Or the friend who instills fear when you didn’t have any to begin with.

I worked as an intern for the Kansas City Zoo back when I was in college those two short years in the cornfields of Iowa. I got to work with each section of the zoo behind the scenes cutting  up food and cleaning cages. The fun stuff. There was this camel, a Bactrian, named Richard. He was beautiful and BIG. He was so tall and majestic, he could see me coming from any point in the zoo. He was beautiful. He was in a large enclosure but there was a part that only had electric wire between us. I met with Richard every day.

Camels grind their teeth and he would grind his teeth and grumble deep in his chest when I was near him and I just stared at him in awe. I was so close I often reached out and stroked his hair, shaggy and scratchy. I was told later that I shouldn’t go near him. Richard had bitten someone and he was considered dangerous. The next day I went to meet him and I felt something I hadn’t before, I was afraid of him and I wouldn’t have been if nothing was ever said. An incredible connection was broken and it really bothered me (as you can tell, I’m retelling this story 22 years after it happened!).

The good friends are the ones that encourage you. They aren’t at the bottom of the ravine yelling Jump Jump Jump, they stand beside you and jump with you. I have one such friend. Where I saw the end of my wish list, she saw the beginning and she felt so sure of this new venture in my life that she shared my blog on her Facebook and tagged You haven’t seen anything yet!

Her kind of support is dangerous. If she had my wish list, Las Vegas would be at the very top. She encourages me to fly and when I do she’s shouting at me to go higher, to break the ties of gravity and see just how high up in the sky I can go. I love her for that.

So I’m scrubbing my list and starting a new one. Am I going to Las Vegas, doubt it. I think I’ll land somewhere between Arkansas and Texas. I’m going home.


Where is my Voice of Reason?

life sucksTake my advice and Don’t self-diagnose with the Internet!  I am now manic-depressive, bi-polar with a touch of schizophrenia (haha my ex might agree). I’m sure I’m not any of those things but I definitely have some mixed up feelings. But that’s what I get for tooling around on the Internet drinking a 44 oz Big Gulp of Mt. Dew and crashing around midnight. My eyes feel like Berber.

I was trying to read about other adopted children and the feelings they might be going through after they found their family. The process is called ‘post adoption’ and feelings range from indifference to total acceptance of their new-found family. I am holding back, I know I am and asked myself for real, what is wrong. I feel disloyal to the family that raised me. My sister said something that I remember, she said my biological mother is just the woman that birthed me, she had no part in raising me or making me the person I am today.  I think my adopted mother would disagree. I know for a fact she’s said a time or two, this is not my daughter and she’s probably wondered why I am the way I am.

Sometimes answers aren’t definite, Yes means Maybe and sometimes Maybe means No (but always, always No means No- don’t get confused!). One thing I know is true, life is not black and white. Feelings aren’t easily defined and I don’t know why I’ve wanted to reconnect with my biological family, I just do.

Are my feelings disloyal? Does my mother want me to find these answers or would she be happier if I put this behind me? And if I can’t, will this affect my family. Just like my daughter said, I don’t want my family to change and I don’t want to hurt my mother or father by pursuing this (and my sister too, can’t forget about her).

I know I should live closer to home because only the people who really know you can tell you something you should already know.  My friend, who shall be nameless (F R A N C E S), told me to talk to my mother. She said, she is your voice of reason and dang it – it’s true. Whenever I know I should be doing something I can always count on that little voice in the back of my mind to speak up and blast it all, that voice is my mothers.

Where is my voice of reason? She’s in the north country. My parents have been on a six month expedition to Alaska but I believe they come home today.  I hate to admit that I can’t work through my feelings on my own and it takes a good friend / friendS to help me out.

I need my Mom. I need to talk to her and I absolutely need her guidance in my life. My mother is my mother and she is now the only mother I’ll ever have.

When does Alaska Air land? Anyone know? I’m off.

Closer than I think

Almost everything is checked off my wish list. I have my dream job – check. I live in the most beautiful state in the country – check. I reunited with my biological family – check. I have it all………so what’s wrong with me? I haven’t been able to write a word, not one word, on my new book and I feel terrible about that but I have too many thoughts in my head. I feel on edge and whiny and I hate both. I just talked an hour to my best friend and all I felt I accomplished was how to whine better. She said, you just had all your dreams fulfilled, I don’t think I can feel sorry for you. My dilemma is not that I just got everything I’ve ever wanted, it’s what comes next.

If you understood me at all you’d see that I do have a plan of action. My plan takes me from A to Z on the journey of my life and I think I was somewhere between J and K hoping to end the journey alphabetically X, Y and Z being accomplished when I’m around 80, 83 or 85– when suddenly I’m catapulted to O. I found my family! O M G

I thought I had a little more time but even the next thing in my list was conveniently taken care of.  I recently had a realization of sorts, not on my part but on the part of my children. Our plan for so many years was wait, wait until they were old enough to go for a change in custody. This summer changed our plans. I talk with my children probably more than I talk to anybody in my life. I relate to them on a level that’s as genuine and real as it gets. My daughter, who is more mature than I will ever hope to be, told me she didn’t want our family to change. Going back to court for a change in custody would change the dynamics of everything and it would change her relationship with her father. When I asked my son if he felt the same way he said, Dad, needs us more than you. I wanted to remind them my life crumpled when they were gone, I was so far down the bottom of the barrel you had to scrap the edge to even find me. But I didn’t have to tell them, they knew. We had suffered a mighty blow but the beauty of it was, we had survived and understand them. I couldn’t have been more proud. We are a modern family but in their decision not to change their life irrevocably changed mine.

So not only do I not have that, I also don’t have my next course of action because my biological family beat me to it. I guess I thought my journey was longer. I thought I’d be made to suffer through pain and regret until my life ended accordingly and right on time. I told my friend when I turned 40, that’s it– I’m halfway there. Maybe I’m closer than I think. Maybe I don’t have all the time I thought I did and my wish list has turned into my bucket list.

If this is my final day at the bottom of my final hour know this……………………all my passwords are kept on a sheet of paper in the back of my writing book at work – Jiminey Christmas, don’t leave me out in cyberspace!!  Have my friends write my obituary, have my family burn me away and tell Mojo I love him!we out

The Countdown has begun

countdownIt has been nine days since I was reunited with my biological family! It started with a comment posted on my blog, this blog, and things are getting real. I told a friend of mine it has been the most amazing few days but the adjective I should have used was MIND BLOWING!

It hasn’t been without heartbreak. My mother, whom I dreamt about all my life, is gone. I’ll never look into her eyes, never say the words I’ve wanted to say all my life. Only an adopted child who was given away and unable to express their deepest most profound desire to stay can understand my feelings. Please keep me. Don’t let me go.

For every lost child still out there searching, keep going. Don’t give up. Even if you never find who you’re looking for, you’re here for a reason – Believe it!

My biological family is out there and they hold the key to another part of my life gone unexplored, my Indian side. I am at least a fourth Quapaw Indian. I may be more. Right now, we don’t know for sure who my father is but my sisters and I have decided to get DNA testing. My older sister, separated by only nine months, may be my whole sister. It really doesn’t matter what the DNA tests prove. We all know we have one thing in common, our mother.

Belonging has always been key with me. One of the most important bonds I’ve ever established was with my fellow soldiers in the Army. MP 1992-1997 changed my life. For all the years I underscored myself I knew I could be better.  It enabled me to see my potential.  And like the Army, I want to belong to the Quapaw tribe. They have always been a part of me because if I couldn’t have my biological family, I could have them. Sort of like a substitute family. However my letters to the Quapaw council went unanswered. I wrote them several letters throughout the years and I understand their silent response. They could not give me the answers I was seeking even if they knew my lineage. I harbor only a small grievance. Any kind of response would have been appreciated. Thank you for interest in becoming a member however you do not meet the requirements. Here’s a Quapaw pin and a tribal tattoo. Have a good day! I couldn’t make the requirement. I need my original birth certificate. I petitioned the courts once before, I decided to petition again.

The other day, I called OKDHS and inquired what I needed to open my adoption record. They need a court order and then it might not happen. So just to see what they would say, I called the country clerk’s office in the county where I was born and told them what I wanted. They took my information, didn’t ask a lot of questions and said someone would call me back. I didn’t expect a phone call. I for sure didn’t expect the letter I got in the mail today.

The Comanche County Courthouse mailed my a court order to open my adoption records. How astounding is that?!

So the countdown has begun. The doorway to my heritage is in sight. Let’s see if I can open that door!

Making that Connection

being differntI’ve been busy reading emails and looking at the pictures my sisters have been sharing with me. It’s amazing to see their faces and compare the similarities in our features. You have no idea what that means to me. Being raised in a family where we all look different reinforced all those doubts I had about not belonging. When I was younger I was always searching and I think my mother feared I would never find inner peace.

Talking to them is even more enlightening because our thought patterns are also similar which is astounding because if you read any of my blogs you’d see my thoughts are pretty wild. I think that might be why I haven’t found a man. No one speaks Deborah. Being my friend is also a challenge. Which is why I don’t have very many. Don’t get me wrong, I have lots of friends but only a close few I share any details of my private life with.

These feelings I talk about (not belonging, feeling unworthy, unwanted) are feelings I had when I was younger. I don’t want anyone to think I still feel these things because I don’t but the illogical, implausible things we fear as children do carry over into adulthood but now I am old enough and wise enough to recognize them for what they are; childhood fears.

I’m not too proud to admit that I’ve had counseling regarding these feelings and that’s where I learned that adopted children have a hard time making connections. I never knew that. I knew that people passed in and out of my life without any real strife or concern but I didn’t realize there was a reason. The explanation was so simple but I never made the connection. It’s like trying to find your shoes in the dark. You’re scrounging getting frustrated and angry and then someone turns on the light- ah! Once I knew I made every effort to re-establish friendship and relationships with those closest to me. My real concern was when I had children. Would I connect with them?

I had no reason to worry because if you see my children, they look just like me. They might have my ex-husband’s coloring but they have my features and that bounds us in a very special way I never had before until now.  In these women in my life, my newfound sisters, I see the similarities in our eyes, the shape of our faces, the curve of their smiles, and in each of us I see our mother. With Season, Jackie, Tracy and LeAnn, I don’t have to make a connection, as a person on the outside trying to get in, I’m connected by blood.

Fitting in

calvinFor those of you who have not been reading, I started this blog for several reasons but the first and foremost was to shout out into the oblivion and see what shouts back. I asked the world- Who am I? And lo and behold, I got an answer.

I spent many years struggling over my feelings about being adopted and I spent many more in an endless cycle coming back to the original question over and over again throughout my life. I wanted to know who I was. I wanted to matter.

It wasn’t just a question of who my biological family was but also the heritage I missed out on. I am Quapaw Indian. Sitting in classroom as a kid we read about American history and the Indians we all but exterminated. Everyone would look at me as if I knew anymore than they did. I knew nothing of my culture being raised in a white family but I gleaned Indian way of life the same way America does, by books and movies. You might think that’s dumb but if you’re a kid in a small town in Illinois it’s hard to imagine Indians when you don’t see any around.

When my marriage was crumbling I again felt the need to find them. My thinking all growing up was that petitioning the courts was too expensive and that was the only way I’d ever be able to find out who they were. It’s not expensive – at all. But at that time I didn’t know that so figuring I’d never know I decided to drive down to Miami, Oklahoma and look around.

I had watched ‘Thunderheart’ nearly a thousand times so I was prepared for whatever the reservation would throw at me. I could have taken my best friend Nancy (she looks Indianish so we’d be okay if we got pulled over by tribal police and asked what we were doing there) but I felt I needed to do it alone. Even though I look Indian, on the inside I’m all white and I hoped yet feared that someone would recognize me.

I secretly hoped someone would and we’d have this joyous reunion yet I was afraid they would identify me as someone they had already gotten rid of – what part of ‘Don’t ever come back’, don’t you understand? Looking back, I should have taken Nancy. She would have given me the courage to get out of the car! I felt extremely out-of-place sneaking into Indian country.

Eventually I ventured out. I searched face after face looking for any resemblance but if  you’ve ever gotten a large group of Indians together you’d realize something I didn’t – we all look-alike! When the drums started I left. I figured my cover as an Indian would have been blown if I was asked to dance and I didn’t know how. I drove away with a big smile on my face. For a little while I was one of them.

I still can’t believe I found my family and I can’t wait to share all my weird and crazy idiosyncrasies with them. I just might find I fit in after all.