“Adopted—going topless in Tahiti”

“Going topless in Tahiti” is another way of saying, “going native” which means a person living away from their place of origin who abandons their own natural family, culture, customs and way of life to adopt those of the country and region where they are currently living. In order to imitate the homegrown domestic, they must lose some of their own character traits and behave the way of the local culture. Adoptees placed in alien families must react by doing the same. To have a successful integration with their adoptive family, they must assimilate with the people around them; imitate the lifestyle and outlook of the local community, dress, language, accent, etiquette, diet, and religion; and behave according to the traditions and customs taught to them by their adoptive parents. When an adoptee becomes successful in their new culture and well integrated into society, possibly better than they might have been back home, going native is viewed in positive terms.

Tahitian Dance Festival

“Some adoptees dance to remember, while other adoptees dance to forget.” Judith Land

The word native is derived from the Latin word for natural—traits and behavior belonging to a person’s character from birth rather than those that are acquired. A native is a person associated with a place by birth with an inherent ability and a natural grace indigenous to a particular region and cultural group. They are identifiable based on habits, diet, art, music and dance, way of life, customs and dress and other characteristics associated with the group that distinguish them from strangers and foreigners. The rich diversity of unique plant and animal species across many parts of the world exists because large rivers, seas, oceans, mountains and deserts separate bioregions. Humans, migratory birds and ocean currents have transported many species to lands in far away places that have never met in their evolutionary history. Humans in particular are moving species across the globe at an unprecedented rate. Animals are placed in zoos and aquariums; exotic plants are uprooted, cultured and hybridized in greenhouses; and immigrant children are intentionally removed from their natural family, place of origin, and native society. Adoptees are willfully placed in new surroundings where they are forced to adapt to alien customs and practices. They are thrust into awkward situations and forced to learn new customs, languages, habits and religions through total immersion methods.

Going native may be a good thing in fiction and academics, if you are Lawrence of Arabia or a military commander fighting in a foreign land, but for many adoptees the unexpected change in surroundings and sudden displacement from their natural parents is shockingly traumatic. Children are innately frightened by the faces of strangers; adjusting to the nuances of new parents and alien surroundings creates severe emotional stress. Prayers and hugs may provide a benevolent head start, but they are not the ultimate solution for resolving issues associated with post-traumatic stress syndrome. Adjustments in the behavior of the adopted child may be subtle, but the motives and reasons for the changes are profoundly deep and emotionally intense. The challenge for the adoptive parents becomes the development of a heightened awareness of the depth of feelings adoption generates and an accurate perception of the long-term psychological effects likely to occur to their child. The development of positive long-term relationships and the promotion of a curative breakthrough reality needed for a successful integration presents a tremendous challenge to the adoptive parents.

Judith Land



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“Adoption story—the old wedding shoes”

The last few years I have had some stunning breakthroughs in knowledge about my family history. When I began my adoption search I didn’t even know the names of my birth parents. Finding them seemed like an impossible task, but after I finally found them my life was significantly enriched. They had many stories to tell about family history, cultural traditions and ancestry. The retelling of these stories about their happiest moments and how they bounced back from the difficult ones are interesting and likely to continue for many more generations.

Judith Land | Adoption Detective | Author

“The retelling of old stories unique to each family helps us thrive and reminds us who we truly are.” —Judith Land

I was most enthralled when hearing about the nearly two hundred year old wedding shoes in our family. Eight generations ago two brothers married two sisters. The two boys lived on a farm on the east side of a lake on a high rocky peninsula that jutted out into the water with excellent views of the lake. Every evening when their chores were finished the two boys viewed the fiery red sunsets silhouetting the opposite shore where two sisters lived in a farmhouse in a small sheltered cove protected by large trees; and every morning when the sisters awoke at dawn they looked across the lake and viewed the darkened shape of the peninsula where the two boys lived framed against the morning sky.

On a warm summer night under a full moon the two brothers asked the two sisters to marry. The oldest brother was taller, stronger and considerably more vain than his younger brother. He considered himself superior because he was entitled to a greater share of the family inheritance and property. He was the jealous type and eager to prove that his new bride was the most beautiful and worthy of the two sisters. The younger brother was hard working and earnest. He truly loved his fiancé and cared very little about the quality of her clothes or outward appearance. Both girls were eager to be married but ashamed to admit that they had no shoes to wear for the wedding. The older brother had a friend who was an excellent shoemaker and agreed to purchase a new pair of wedding shoes made from the best leather for both brides. In order to make his bride appear more worthy and superior the older brother applied extra coats of polish and buffed her shoes until he could see his reflection. He then mischievously rubbed coal dust into the leather of the other pair of shoes to dull the glossy finish and make them appear older and less valuable. He bought two small wooden boxes to store the special shoes and hired an artist to paint elegant designs with bright colors preserved with a shiny lacquer finish on the box containing his wife’s shoes and simple patterns painted with dull brown, black and dark green colors on the other box. The younger couple didn’t seem to mind and both couples were happily married and had many children. The older brother inherited his father’s farm and the younger brother inherited his wife’s farm. They both had large families and when their daughters were married they were offered the chance to wear the same shoes their mothers had worn. After several generations and many weddings both pairs of shoes became family heirlooms. The shoes and the wooden boxes were given to a local museum along with a list of the many brides who wore them, and each time a younger daughter, sister, cousin or niece was married they were encouraged to wear the legendary wedding shoes worn by their great grandmothers because all of the women before them had been happily married and bore many children.

Preserving the memories that connect us with the past is what makes each family unique. The retelling of these stories is what gives us our self-identity and helps us thrive. If you are adopted and found your roots, what types of stories would you most expect to hear?



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Adoption—Last Will and Testament and Inheritance

Adoption Detective | Judith Land | Inheritance

“Wisdom is the best inheritance anyone can receive,” —Judith Land

My adoptive mother Rosella lay quietly in her hospital bed dying of cancer. She was communicating with her eyes that she wanted to unburden her conscience. With tears in her weary eyes, she reached out and touched my hand. “I gave all of my oil paintings and my entire estate to the church—now I have nothing.” My mother had owned a new car, an attractive brick house in a quiet neighborhood with big trees, and was known to have a lavish bank account. I was crestfallen and saddened by what she told me but reassured her that my only concern was for her comfort. If she needed money to pay for hospice care and funeral expenses, I would help her. I held her hand and brushed her hair. We spent many long days together reminiscing about past events and fond memories of our lives together. Her favorite priest read her the last rights at her bedside and thanked her for her generous financial contributions. She was quietly reserved and at peace with the world.

The tranquility of the bedside scene was shattered when her outspoken sister Myna burst into the room holding a recently written Last Will and Testament in one hand and a fountain pen in the other. “Here, sign this. I want you to appoint me Executor of your Will. Judy is not your real daughter. She was adopted. I am your sister; your flesh and blood. She is somebody else’s child; she doesn’t even look like you.” Her words stung like a leather whip on bare skin. I was speechless. It was the first time in my entire life I had ever been ridiculed for being adopted. Her aggressive tone and outward display of greediness exceeded all rules of civility and destroyed the subdued ambience and quiet inner peace my mother and I had been experiencing. Her hateful words reminding me that I was adopted lingered in my memory like the smell of a hot branding iron for an eternity. She continued making a fuss even at the funeral.

My adoptive father was a wealthy man. He was a private person with complete control over all aspects of his business. He demanded perfection and total obedience from his employees. When his eye sight suddenly declined due to macular degeneration he became a changed person. He was devastated by his sudden loss of vision and inability to analyze business spreadsheets, read the Wall Street Journal and play golf. He couldn’t even bait a fishing hook. In his youth he was known to be somewhat cold-hearted, but in the end he made the decision to do everything possible to help the blind. He gave his entire estate to support eye research and the treatment of eye diseases.

I am very proud of the achievements of my adoptive parents and the large financial contributions they made to the church and medical research—but I can’t help but wonder if things would have turned out differently, if I was their flesh and blood? I wonder how many other adoptees have had similar experiences?



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“Adoption search—a sense of urgency!”

I dreamed my biological clock was hanging on the wall above my head, ticking loudly with the hands spinning around and around out of control. Hours and days were flying past at an accelerated rate. The longer I stared at it, the faster the hands moved. I was experiencing a midlife crisis.

I dreamed my biological clock was hanging on the wall above my head, ticking loudly with the hands spinning around and around out of control. Hours and days were flying past at an accelerated rate. The longer I stared at it, the faster the hands moved. I was experiencing a midlife crisis.

Nobody lives forever. Time was my enemy. Deep thoughts about my adoption that had plagued my psyche forever were stimulating a sense of urgency. My life was passing quickly and I couldn’t do anything to slow it down. The desire to know where I came from had suddenly become central to my thinking as a result of maturity, increased consciousness, and the ability to reach a higher plain of spiritual and mental awareness. I had prayed for confidence, wisdom, and guidance, and my prayers were finally being answered. My life was settled and predictable, and I had enough time and confidence to face the unknown. Inner feelings of empowerment were outweighing past insecurities and fears that had previously dominated my personality. I was ready to accept new challenges and find the truth about my past because my fantasy of meeting my birth mother was finally crystallizing into a realistic goal, but, if I did find her, I had no way of knowing how she would react or if we would even like each other. Consequently, a jumbled assortment of dreams and fantasies about what might happen if I decided to continue filled my mind.

I had naïvely assumed that I could research public records, find what I was looking for, and telephone my birth mother to complete the process, but ethics had become another issue that clouded my thinking. The moral dilemma of whether I should search for my birth mother and father was an idea that had never occurred to me as a child because ethics was a subject that was far too complex to understand when I was young. The large number of variables and potential outcomes made my head spin. Abstract thinking never seemed to lead anywhere, so I made up my mind to continue, regardless of the consequences. I couldn’t imagine why anyone would think it was wrong for an adult to find her ancestral roots. I consciously made up my mind to postpone all philosophical discussions until I had uncovered some concrete evidence that my biological mother was still alive.

The idea of an adoption search was invigorating and created a new energy and purpose in my life. It was an opportunity to embark on a mission to link my current life with my unknown past. It was an exciting mystery to solve and the start of a grand adventure, but the consequences of an adoption search had an equal possibility of bringing tears and disappointment and happiness and joy. I assumed a successful search would bring completion to my life. The reward would be an increased sense of personal satisfaction and  a true self-identity. Conversely, if the outcome were unsuccessful, it had potential to be distressing and sad. I was also aware that a negative outcome could significantly complicate my life. There was a risk of developing a deep psychological hurt that could collaterally affect the lives of my husband, son, and adopted parents.

If you are a “seeker”, what is your timeline? The clock is ticking!

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“Adoption—the Santa Claus Syndrome”

You don’t have to be a child to be a victim of Santa Claus syndrome. Anyone who has ever been lied to knows the hurtful feelings of deceit. “Santa Claus only brings presents to good little boys and girls. If your behavior doesn’t improve, we’ll send you back to where you came from.” The threat of being judged and exiled has a strong effect on the human soul and the fragile psyche and the spirit of an adoptee. I know this from firsthand experience.

Santa Claus Syndrome

There are things in this life that we must come to terms with at some point in our lives. Some childhood awakenings are quite simple, while others become quite traumatic. Santa Claus syndrome is the intentional deceit of others with the rationalized ideal that tarradiddles, falsehoods, untruths, lying, and perjury are acceptable behavior.

I had never had an honest or open conversation with my adoptive mother Rosella about my birth parents. Any mention of them aroused her jealousy and suspicions. She was unwilling to share my love with another person or compete for my attention. Even in adulthood, she possessively clung to me as her only child. She was opinionated, intolerant of mothers who abandoned their children, and strongly opposed to adoption reunions. The fear of imminent death by cancer motivated her to unburden her most cumbersome secrets before she died. I was startled when she unexpectedly breached the topic of adoption. “As an adoptee, there are some unique things you are entitled to know. Some organizations provide false identities to adoptees to prevent them from locating their biological parents. Sealed adoption records protect birth parents wishing to live a secret lifestyle, unwilling to have their lives disrupted by unwanted children they previously rejected. At the time when you were born, fake baptismal and birth certificates were intentionally issued to deceive adoptees,” she calmly divulged while quietly sipping her tea. “Public policy may seem cold and uncivilized to you, but that is the law. Your baptism certificate states that you were baptized at Holy Angels Catholic Church, but that is simply not true. The document is a fake. You should write to Saint Lawrence Catholic Church to request a copy of your original baptismal certificate,” she suggested matter-of-factly.

I was shocked. It had never occurred to me that anyone would create false documents to protect birth parents from their own children. Hearing this information was an emotional low point of my adoption search. When I was a child, adults had bamboozled me into believing that Santa Claus existed—and I had believed them. My reaction was the same now as it had been then. Childish stories about Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, and a dozen other fairy tale characters living in pumpkins and tree houses in Neverland seemed harmless at the time, but these stories offered conclusive proof that adults lied to children to intentionally deceive them. I had been deliberately given false birth and baptismal certificates to prevent me from discovering my true self-identity. The actions of the authorities were premeditated, deliberate, calculated and cold-blooded. My adoption was part of a formal conspiracy to appease birth parents living in the fear of meeting their own children. The practice of falsifying birth and baptismal certificates was a tidy and convenient solution for everyone except the abandoned child.

I went straight to the bank vault to retrieve my baptismal certificate. I immediately recognized that something was glaringly wrong. She was right. The information was incorrect. The document was a forgery because it had been falsely issued a year before I was adopted and fourteen months before my name was legally changed to the surname of my adopted parents. Exposure of the fraud that had been perpetrated on me provided a new challenge, sparked my curiosity, and reignited my enthusiasm for continuing my adoption quest. I tried to appear outwardly calm because it was easier to rationalize my thoughts and behavior from a secular, detached perspective than the inner spiritual, existential, and emotional base from which my innermost thoughts derived. It was difficult to constrain my fears. I wondered if the early part of my life was a dark place with evil people that I shouldn’t go. Was I naively engaging in an activity that I shouldn’t be doing? Would my actions generate complications and problems as the result of my unwise interference in something tragic, misfortunate and previously undisturbed? Perhaps, I would be safer and happier—if I returned to Neverland and continued my perpetual childhood belief in Santa Claus along with everyone else in the world who was ever lied to about something they were steered into with immense emotional attachment.


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“Adoption stories—my mother’s oil paintings”

The Richest Man in Babylon is a book by George Samuel Clason which dispenses financial advice through a collection of parables set in ancient Babylon. Through their experiences in business and managing household finance, the characters in the parables learn simple lessons in financial wisdom. This painting by my mother is titled, “Seven Cures for a Lean Purse”.

My adoptive mother Rosella put a tremendous amount of time and energy into her paintings. She was a prolific artist with a collection of over 500 oil paintings. In her mind, each painting was a valuable heirloom painted for a specific wall in our house. Every holiday, birthday and personal visit was highlighted by the receiving of several more of her paintings. We hung each one exactly where she wanted but many were glaringly the wrong size, color, shape or subject matter that clashed with our decorating theme and personal taste; but she was so proud of her work that I could never refuse any of them. We eventually accumulated so many of her oil paintings that we filled an entire storage room in the basement with them. Twice each year when she came for a visit I would pull her paintings out of the storage room, dust them off, rearrange all the furniture in the house and rehang her pictures. Our house resembled a cluttered art gallery filled with an eclectic collection of oil paintings of all shapes and sizes. My mother’s health declined rapidly. She had cancer and she eventually became too sick to travel.

Each painting and antique frame had been officially appraised by a credible art dealer. My husband was looking for tax deductions at the end of the year and came up with the brilliant idea of donating some of her paintings to the local church. He rationalized, “This is a win-win situation. We receive a tax deduction. The walls of the new church are decorated for free and your mother’s paintings will be on public display for everyone to admire.” Several months passed before my mother called to inform me that she would like to make one more trip to Colorado before she died. The idea of another visit struck me like a thunder bolt from the sky knowing that she possessively viewed her oil paintings from a narcissistic point of view. I was petrified. I couldn’t sleep at night. I had dutifully always been respectful and never done anything to discredit or dishonor her or hurt her feelings. How could I ever explain to her that we had given her priceless heirlooms away? “How much would it cost me to buy them back?” I anxiously wondered aloud.

On the day she arrived I was fidgety and nauseous. The look on her face when she walked into our living room disturbed me. Her lower jaw was protruding in a way I had never seen before. She looked angry. I was chicken. I panicked. “I’ll bring you a glass of tea and some cookies, I’ll be right back.” I executed an awkward about face and sprinted out of the room before she could speak. I felt guilty as sin. My palms were sweating. My knees were weak. I felt like a teenage girl in big trouble. I couldn’t look my mother in the eye with an honest expression. Fearing the worst. I made lots of noise in the kitchen before suspiciously peaking around the corner. My husband’s face was pale gray. His eyes were blinking abnormally. He blew his nose before gathering his composure. He was accustomed to public speaking before large groups, conducting interviews with the news media, and meeting with wealthy influential people. Yet, I had never seen him look so nervous. A false smile crossed his face. “We have some exciting news for you. I think you will be very happy.” The words rolled sweetly off his tongue. “Some of your paintings are currently hanging in our local church. Everyone has been greatly admiring your work.” She was flattered by his words. He extended his arm and shook her hand vigorously. “Congratulations! You are a real celebrity artist around here.” He sounded credible. Rosella was pleased. Indeed, she was flattered that others were expressing appreciation of her work. The pandemonium I had expected never occurred. I was overcome by the lingering effects of post traumatic stress, including a rapid heart beat, sweaty palms and weak knees. I gulped my tea instead of sipping it. Rosella was exceptional happy to be with us again. This really was her last visit.

Has anyone else ever been as foolish as me?


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“Adopted? Metamorphose yourself into a butterfly.”

Judith Land | Adoption Detective

If you are adopted, spread your wings in the sunshine. Take yourself lightly and catch a little breeze. Visit a flower garden. Remember that not everyone can be a monarch.

Butterflies serve to remind us that adoption is just the beginning of life’s big adventure, not an ending. Remarkably, there is nothing in the early life of a child or a little green caterpillar that gives a hint of the hidden beauty within. With maturity they both eventually metamorphose into an entirely new form.

The adoptee who awakens from their dreams in strangely exotic unfamiliar surroundings, isolated and mysteriously insulated from everything intuitively familiar, must learn that difficult beginnings can still lead to happy endings and successful outcomes. Perhaps, when feeling forsaken, and without knowing why this happened to them, some adoptees view the legal transfer of authority for their health and welfare to strangers nefariously. They perceive their extraction and the process of adoption as having been methodically executed and as efficiently implemented as the severing of the umbilical cord. Symptoms of the primal wound, genealogical bewilderment and post traumatic stress linger in their imaginations. They may even exhibit the psychological trauma of a hapless kidnap victim as they ponder why they were mysteriously separated from their kith and kin, native language, culture, religion and all things familiar. Their true self-identity and connections with their ancestral heritage has been legally vaporized. Their life’s trajectory has been mysteriously altered. By an enigmatic act of fate nature’s plan for them has been unpredictably revised and fundamentally revamped. Their fate is uncertain. Their destiny is unknown. Their true self-identity has vanished and their point of origin is as mysterious as the discovery of Moses floating on the Nile in a reed basket. The adopted child is assigned a new name by strangers and forced into the total immersion learning system—they must adapt to new caregivers, parents, siblings, aunts, uncles and grandparents and learn what other children already know about family relationships, lifestyle, language, climate, physical geography, ethnicity, culture, diet and religion. Altered circumstances creates excitement, bewilderment, anxiety, fear and apprehension, as well as, new opportunities for love, peace, security, and a warm sense of belonging. The transformation from their old life to the new self is in many cases as miraculous as the life of a caterpillar larva who emerges from the dull gray cocoon in the form a flighty young butterfly.

Happiness is achieved by ridding yourself of the cocoon that imprisons you, focusing on the future and looking forward to becoming a mature adult. Maturity is quickened by setting positive goals and purposefully transforming yourself into the person you would like to become. Be inspired to develop the hidden beauty within yourself. Metamorphose your lifestyle, image and personality into a beautiful butterfly—a flying flower to be admired by everyone. Wear something elegant and colorful. Add some color to your lips and cheeks. Polish your toes and fingers. Puff up your chest and let the world know you are somebody. Expand your wings. Charge your solar batteries in the sunshine. Smile and face into the breeze. Go see the world and bring happiness to others.

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