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

Testing the waters

I have had so many things happen to me in the last couple of weeks I’d be an idiot if I didn’t take a moment to really reflect on it all.  Yesterday after signing my contracts and sending them off I had to work. I don’t mix work with my personal life so I had to jump around in the bathroom and walk around with a Cheshire cat smile on my face all day without anyone knowing why.

My quiet time is on the bus and that’s when it all really hit me- what a bad time! It takes me a while to process things. I have to do it in my own time and in my own way and maybe God knows this. Yesterday the day was perfect, gorgeous weather testing the watersand the sun shining down on me making this moment even more precious- God really knows how to deliver, doesn’t he? Do you believe in signs? Since you are still the couch I don’t expect an answer so I can tell you, I definitely believe in signs. Signs have changed my life; street signs, horoscopes, fortune cookies and the stars in the sky. Yesterday it was the advertisements on the bus; Museum Day is coming up, 1 October bus route changes and Nike’s slogan – Just do it, Now!

I had an A-ha moment. It should have been when I found my biological family, but it wasn’t. It should have been when my family openly talked about my adoption and all the feelings I was harboring since childhood but it wasn’t. It should have been when I was offered my book contract but again, it wasn’t. Fear still holds me back and doubt is still a good part of my life.

Sitting there surrounded by strangers (bus buddies at most) I was touched by the Spirit and it broke through all my reservations and self-doubt. There aren’t many moments in our lives that are like the one I experienced and I was reduced to tears. I was afraid I’d been in the well of fear too long and if the light ever did shine down on me I wouldn’t see it; I’d be blinded by darkness but I saw the light and the promise of all I could have if I just hang on. Have faith.

How many signs does a person need to change their life?!  (I’m sure that’s what God was saying) I need no other sign. This is it! THANK YOU GOD for everything you’ve given me. I won’t waste this chance and I won’t pass up another opportunity, I promise!!

I’m done testing the waters- I’m jumping in!

Rumors of war

be kind“Have compassion for everyone you meet, even if they don’t want it. What appears bad manners, an ill temper or cynicism is always a sign of things no ears have heard, no eyes have seen. You do not know what wars are going on down there where the spirit meets the bone.” ― Miller Williams

DON’T GIVE IN TO fear

alone 5I’m saddened every day by the number of people who feel they are alone. When depression strikes where do you turn? The sad part is most of us turn inward and that’s the dangerous part. If you’re not expressing your feelings then too quickly they become dark and if we can’t stop the flow of negativity it will build until it’s overwhelming. Depression isn’t a problem for most people and how stunned are we to learn that people die every day from it? Gia Allemand from the Bachelor took her own life. She was beautiful, fun, shy with a perfect smile, her smile hid her distress. And how good are we at hiding our distress? Some of us are very good.

I’ve told this story to my children but it serves to remind me of what fear can do if we let it: When I was in high school my friends and I foolishly played with the Ouija board. We thought it was a game but eventually it was freaking us out. Now I’m not going to say that we were talking to a spirit or some wandering entity but we were talking to something and it scared the crap out of me. One night I was asleep in my bed and I woke to find a black darkness spreading across my bedroom, I turned on the light but the light did no good, the darkness kept coming. I remember I woke screaming in the hallway with my Dad shaking me awake. I had awakened the whole house- my sister said it sounded like I was getting murdered. I’m sure she still remembers that night!

My mother knows me very well (no matter how well I think she doesn’t) she asked me what was wrong and it all came out. Talking it out in the bright light of my bedroom it sounded silly to me but my fear was very real. I’m not sure exactly what she said but the gist of it was, there is only one force on earth that feeds on fear and emotions like it (depression, anger and negativity) and that’s the Devil. He’ll use any weapon he can to turn you away from light. Don’t give in to fear, face them.

That lesson back then is the reason I remain resolute in my decision to fight my fears. Listening to that negative voice in your head telling you that no one will understand, no one will listen to you, no one will be there, no one can ever understand what you’re going through- you’re listening to the Devil and as long as he has your ear the Lord does not.

Families were put on this earth for one thing to support each other and when family isn’t there you have another one. Every parent out there knows that children are only home for a short period of time and then they face the world and unfortunately they don’t face the world with you beside them, they go out on their own so they must be prepared by giving them the absolute best chance for survival. Arm them with everything you can so they are strong against the world because we all know the world can be an Ugly place.  Look at what happened at the Navy Yard and murders and abductions that happen every day.  The Church is your other family. Any church in any city will listen if a stranger walks in and needs to pray. That’s what they are there for, for you in your time of need!

You are Not alone! Don’t give in to fear and doubt! You have angels all around you so stop listening to that voice. I’m here and I- will- listen!

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

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.