Born with Teeth [Book]

My Facebook feed alerted me today to the soon to be released memoir Born with Teeth. I immediately wondered where I have been that I did not know Kate Mulgrew was a first mom.  My friend Joanna is a HUGE fan  (she is s also an adoptee in reunion).  HOW did this not come up in our many meetings, dinner dates and martinis? Jeez, I know one of her photographer friends has rad purple hair but I do not know her buddy Janeway is a mother in reunion?

No matter. Joanne confirmed it for me and I wandered off to the book site.  I then pre-ordered it on Amazon.   The book is due out 4/14/15.

From the book site:

“…As her star continued to rise, her life became increasingly demanding and fulfilling, a whirlwind of passionate love affairs, life-saving friendships, and bone-crunching work. Through it all, Mulgrew remained haunted by the loss of her daughter, until, two decades later, she found the courage to face the past and step into the most challenging role of her life, both on and off screen.

We know Kate Mulgrew for the strong women she’s played–Captain Janeway on Star Trek; the tough-as-nails “Red” on Orange is the New Black. Now, we meet the most inspiring and memorable character of all: herself. By turns irreverent and soulful, laugh-out-loud funny and heart-piercingly sad, BORN WITH TEETH is the breathtaking memoir of a woman who dares to live life to the fullest, on her own terms.”

Let Us Talk Small World

The email came from my boss late on Wednesday.  The subject read “Interviews”. Upon opening the Outlook message I discover boss is conducting a series of interviews for a new role in our group. He advises that I and several key personnel will be asked to interview candidates for the role. He stresses that he is looking predominantly for a creative person. The position is a highly creative one and he wants someone oozing creativity.  He is not overly concerned that the person will be supporting our mobile apps. He wants design and creative talent above mobile experience.

Interviews are conducted and as of this morning I have seen three of possible six candidates.  I am the content queen in that I manage our team of writers, editors and content managers. I also manage our site search and specialize in things like metadata, folksonomies and the like. I would provide resources/input to the person hired for this mobile role. My opinion is valued.

First candidate? Maybe. Second and third. No.  Fourth candidate? Interesting.  As with all others, I am sent the resume, agenda and links to URL in advance. I check out the candidate. I also view Linked In.  I am prepared. I have formulated my questions and reviewed the form HR provided as a guide. I am first on the agenda and expecting security to call me to sign the person in.  Arrival time passes and I am confused. I begin to walk downstairs to security.  Walking downstairs requires me to walk by my boss’s office. As I walk by, I peek in (as I always do) and recognize the candidate in his office.  Ah! Clearly he has commandeered my time slot.  The door is open so I walk right in and give him a look that clearly says “HEY! What the hell. You took my time slot!”.  He smiles.

“Suz! Come in. Suz this is Candidate.” he says. I smile and say something like I figured that out, or I recognized her.

“How about I ping you on Lync in a few minutes when we are done?” boss asks.

“We are scheduled for 319. I will go there now. Why don’t you bring her over there when you are done?” I suggest.

“Great. Will do!” he smiles. Candidate smiles as well.

I make my way to the conference room and situate myself with my laptop and the candidate materials.  I reach out to the coworker that is scheduled to interview Candidate with me. He is working remotely. I message him on Lync and let him know I am going to call and conference him as soon as candidate joins me.

In relatively short order, boss shows up with candidate.  He reintroduces us. Candidate sits down.  Boss leaves.  Candidate speaks.

“I think I already know you.” she says.

Befuddled, I pause. I have never met this person before.  Do not know her. Never heard of her. She flew in from the Midwest for our interview.  How can she know me?

Candidate proceeds to tell me that she has been working on a novel. This is not news to me. I visited her site. I read some of her manuscript.  Acknowledging that, I shake my head. She continues.

“So, one of my characters, the mother, has an adoption theme.  So I google and do some research and I find your blog.  I have been reading you blog for some time now.” she offers.

I am surprised.

“Wow. Really? Oh my. That is a coincidence.” I respond.

She continues talking. I don’t really hear it. I am conscious of the fact we are supposed to be conducting an interview and my colleague is listening in via speaker phone.

Candidate says something about that topic perhaps isn’t appropriate and suggests maybe I don’t discuss it at work.

The interview begins (and goes well).

Synchronicity or Something Else

Yes, a stranger was flown out from the Midwest to meet with me and five of my professional colleagues and unbeknownst to me she is a reader of this very blog.

Jung might call this synchronicity. Friends would call it (and have) “No surprise”. In my personal vernacular it is called Cosmic Shit.

My point in sharing this is that you never know when your adoption blog, history, story may pop up and surprise you. I appreciate Candidate was sensitive to my story however I don’t hide it. As shared last year, one of my staff adopted and I shared with her my feelings on it.  While I do not walk around my professional office with a sandwich board that says “I gave my first born child away to strangers in 1986” I am totally okay with discussing it if asked. I cannot do what I do, work towards the goals I have if I am not willing to use my name and my very real, very painful experience.  Adoption is rife with lies and secrets and shame. I am done with it.  To make change, we must all be done with it.  I am happy to start.

Use my name freely. I am not proud of what I did by any means but it happened. I did it. It is real and for me, it was wrong. For many other mothers and adoptees, it is also very wrong. Adoption will never be a good thing to any degree if even one mother and child pair  is needlessly separated.  My story is written.  I made my decision and my daughter has made hers. I hope in sharing my words, my experience, I can help to make sure future mothers stories read vastly different than mine.

(Hi! Candidate!)







Me as Mean Girl

“Some of them seem so, well, mean” says my husband. He is referring to commenter’s on my blog and others.

“Ha. That’s funny. I am aware that some people refer to certain bloggers as the mean girls. It’s funny you say the same and you don’t even know them.” I laugh as I put the final coat of white paint on the baseboard.

“Well, really, do you read some of the comments you get? How can you not find them mean?” he inquires.

“I guess because I know the people involved and the trauma behind the comments, I don’t find them to be intentionally mean. Sure, some of them could work on their words and delivery a bit but that is more about personal communication and writing style than being mean. More importantly, I don’t take them personal. Those types of comments are more of a reflection of the person leaving them than they are of me. I used to get upset, years ago; I even used to delete them. Nowadays I tend to leave them as a public service to others.” I offer.

“I say this all the time. You are too nice. I don’t know how you hold back.” Hubby says with a smile.

His comment causes me to reflect on my own online behavior, commenting style, and what I consider mean or not. Doing so reminds me of a time in my life I am not proud of.

“I was a mean girl once. Maybe not in the adoption blogging land – and even that is questionable depending on who you ask – but I was mean once” I saw rather meekly.

“You? I can’t see it.” Hubby says as he walks away to the kitchen.

I can see it. I can still feel it. I am still embarrassed by it.

I was 13 years old and in the seventh grade. It was a tough year for me. Making the transition from my small elementary school where I was the top student to a large middle school with hundreds of students overwhelmed me. Teenage girl issues, lifelong social anxiety, hormones and challenges at home all contributed to a very difficult seventh grade experience.

My best friend was a girl named Dawn. She was my friend in elementary school and also a “gifted” student. While we had much in common, we were also very different. Dawn’s family was a bit, oh unsettled. She was rarely supervised. She stayed out late, hung around with a rough crowd and smoked cigarettes. She wore dark eyeliner, a rawhide choker and had a long denim jacket. She also had a boyfriend. His name was Bob. All of these items were symbols of a bad girl (according to my mother) and being such made her oddly popular in school and even more attractive to me. I wanted so badly to be her. I was tired of being the smart nerdy girl. I wanted to be accepted and be popular. Since she was my closest friend, I spent a lot of time with her and with Bob and with Bob’s best friend, Ray.

Ray was a little strange. He was a bit unwashed and unkempt, having grown up in a rough section of town. He was poor. I wasn’t wealthy by any means but even in seventh grade socio-economic status was obvious. Where he came from? The street he lived on? Poor. Where I came from? Struggling middle class but not poor. I was able to shower regularly, had decent clothing, and had food in my stomach on a regular basis. This was not the case with Ray.

Ray liked me. I did not like him, well, not that way. He was a fun guy and we were friends. We spent a lot of time together because Bob was his best friend and Dawn was mine. While Dawn and Bob smoked cigarettes and made out, Ray and I skipped rocks on the pond and talked – a lot. We talked about other kids in school, about Dawn and Bob, about our families, about teenage trials and tribulations. In nearly every conversation, he asked me to be his girlfriend. I always said no. I did not feel that way about him. He was my friend, more of a brotherly figure, than a boyfriend. I was (and here is where I get shallow and mean) also sort of embarrassed by him. Even if I did like him that way, he was not the type of guy that I would want to be seen with. I would for sure be made fun of in school. It was okay to hang out with him after school with Dawn and Bob but I would never be seen with him in school.

I always laughed, smiled, thanked him and refused. He would smile back and say he was not giving up. He was confident someday I would be his “girl”. I secretly shuddered at the thought.

Months went by and I spoke with Ray nearly every night on the phone. We became closer and true to his word he continued to ask me out and I continued to refuse. I was crushing on other boys in school, Brad and Jimmy. I would tell Ray about them and he would make snide comments about the other boys being either “meathead jocks” or “burnouts”. He told me those boys would never be nice to me like he was and he proved this point in his own mind by regularly buying me presents, presents that he could not afford. I suspected he stole them. I would refuse them (my mother taught me accepting a gift from a man demanded some sort of reciprocal gesture) and he would insist I accept. Despite my refusals, he would show up when I was not aware and leave them in my parents’ mailbox, or my locker at school. If I casually said in a conversation with Dawn, I saw a great pair of neon earrings at Bradlees; they would magically appear a few days later courtesy of Ray.

In the spring of that year, Ray broke me down. After a lengthy phone call one night, he asked me again, to go out with him. I paused for a long time and responded with an “Okay”. I agreed to go out with him. Going out, by seventh grade definition, meant he could tell people I was his girlfriend and also implied he could touch or kiss me if he chose to. Shocked and not sure he heard me correctly, Ray demanded I repeat my answer. I did. He started to cry.

He told me he was so happy. He knew I would come around. I laughed and internally wondered if I had done the right thing. Part of me clearly enjoyed spending time with him, he liked me, was nice to me, I figured it might be okay to “go out”. I told him we would try. I expressed concern that we were good friends and that going out might ruin that. He said it wouldn’t. It would only make it better. Little did we know. I asked him not to tell anyone (here comes that bitchy mean girl again). I was not sure I wanted anyone to know. He was perplexed by my request and I explained that I wanted to see how it went before we told people. He seemed to find that to be a reasonable explanation.

The next day at school I got off the bus to find four of the most popular girls waiting for me. Dawn was with them. Lisa was the ring leader.

“OMG. Are you seriously dating Ray? Tell me it isn’t true!” Lisa says with a condescending mocking tone to her voice.

I stand there with a sick feeling in my stomach. Faced with the most popular girls in school, the girls I wanted to be accepted by, and the reality that I did tell Ray I would go out with him but I asked him to keep it quiet. Clearly he didn’t.

“What?” I respond feigning ignorance or lack of understanding.

“We heard that you were going out with Ray. Tell us it isn’t true. That is disgusting. Have you lost your mind?” Lisa says as the other three break out into mean girl giggles.

I start to walk away towards the school. The bell is going to ring soon and I don’t want to be late for home room. I am also hoping I can avoid the question.

They continue on as they walk behind me. Their voices are loud and other students can hear them. They are talking about Ray and how he looks, how poor he is, how they cannot believe I would go out with him.

I am fuming. I am angry. Angry at Ray. Angry at them. Angry at my life. I want to crawl in a hole.

I get halfway down the main hallway and I spin on my heels to the mean girl posse.

“Stop it. I am not going out with Ray. We are friends. That is all. I would never go out with him. He is disgusting.” I say quite matter of factly with my hand on my mean girl hip.

They start to laugh. Lisa exhales loudly and says “Whewf. Close call. We worried you had lost your mind”

Dawn looks at me incredulously shocked at the words that came out of my mouth – or so I thought. I look at her pleadingly. I was hoping she understood, that she realized my conflict, that she would still be my friend.

Dawn was actually looking at Ray, who unknown to me, was standing a few steps behind me. He had heard the entire conversation.

As I turned and saw him, I froze. He stood there, stared at me, and looked as if he were crying. As I started to say something, he turned and walked away from me.

He never spoke to me again.

I don’t blame him. I did not want to speak to myself.

Years later, at a local bar, we ran into each other. I did not recognize him. He was sitting with a mutual friend. Friend recognized me, we started chatting and friend introduced us. The moment he said Ray’s name I braced for impact. Friend said “Oh, I think you two know each other. Ray, this is Suz Bednarz.”

Ray stared at me coldly for a minute before responding.

“No, I don’t think I know her.” He said as he turned and walked away much like he had more than 20 years prior.

I did not blame him then either.