Adoption—On a Wing and a Prayer

“Are there similarities between glider pilots and adoptees who unexpectedly find themselves in foreign lands surrounded by strangers? Glider pilots landing in unfamiliar surroundings suffer from disorientation and arrive with no possible way of getting home. Perplexed adoptees arrive as anonymous newcomers in foreign environments where they are automatically expected to cope with entirely new circumstances. They both wake up in the morning facing a diverse group of people with dissimilar backgrounds, unconventional habits, and speaking different languages.” —Judith Land


“Glider pilots and adoptees have no alternative other than to face adversity, danger, and great risks with no second chances or alternative choices—their fate is determined by the wind.” Judith Land

“On a Wing and a Prayer” is a modern idiom meaning to initiate action with only the slightest chance of success with the hope and expectation that you will succeed, even though you are relatively unprepared for the consequences of what could happen.
If you initiate an irrevocable action based solely on a wing and a prayer, you have the aspiration of succeeding in the face of great difficulty under dangerous and risky circumstances—hoping that God or luck will be on your side.

Gliders have few provisions for safety and none for comfort. There is no shortage of headaches and more than a few tragedies. Landing is a planned accident. When a glider pilot is assigned a mission his or her chances for success are often very low; many things may go wrong and they often do, including fatality. When a mother agrees to relinquish responsibility for her biological child and place it in the care of an outsider she is also taking a potentially unassailable risk and neither she nor the child can ever be guaranteed the outcome will be positive.

The phrase “On a Wing and Prayer” hit a chord with the public when gliders spearheaded nearly every major allied assault during WWII. Landing was a planned accident. If you survived the landing in foreign territory you first had to orient yourself, then find, assemble and set up your equipment. One-third of all allied glider troops were killed or wounded. The United States built more than 14,000 gliders and trained 6,000 pilots to fly the “flying coffins” as they were called. Never before in history has any nation produced so many aviators whose duty it was to deliberately crash land, and then go on to fight as combat infantrymen in unfamiliar fields deep within enemy-held territory, often in total darkness. They had no motors, no parachutes, and no second chances, or alternative choices. With only a one-way ticket and a slight chance of success many arrived in very bad condition.

Perhaps, the next time you hear the phrase “On a Wing and a Prayer” you will also think about present-day adoptees and their mothers hoping that luck and God are on their side, as well as, the aviator heroes of WWII.

Judith Land




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Pets benefit adopted children…

“Pets are mood-enhancing and benefit adoptees in many ways by improving mental health, cheerfulness, feelings of psychological well-being, and self-esteem. The presence of animals fosters positive social, cognitive, emotional, and physical development. Pets relieve stress by lowering blood pressure, feelings of isolation and loneliness, and increase opportunities for exercise and socialization. Pet ownership is associated with better physical and psychological health, and fewer doctor visits. Pet owners feel closer to nature and all living creatures.” —Judith Land

Everyone knows that kids love animals because they offer companionship. Animals are the focus of storybooks, music and movies. Children confide in their favorite pets, whether real or imaginary, because they are nonjudgmental. Bedroom decor and clothing honors them. Closets, shelves, and toy chests are typically littered with toy collections—fuzzy stuffed animals and critters of all shapes and sizes. Children love animals because they teach and delight and offer a warm special kind of friendship.

pets | Judith Land | Adoption Detective

Pets enjoy love and attention. Always nonjudgemental, they offer fun, random excitement, and excellent companionship. They help reduce stress, improve self-esteem and make kids lacking social support more approachable. These are my puppies “Cha Cha Bandita” and “Lily Amora.”

The emotional benefits of pets are well known. It is impossible to stay in a bad mood when petting a soft kitten or playing with a small puppy. Children learn that pets enjoy love and attention; they are excellent huggers. Animals rely on their owners for food, water, shelter, and exercise and the accepting of responsibility triggers empathy. Pet therapy opens tremendous options for adopted children who have experienced psychological trauma. Educators have long known that therapy animals help challenged kids relax and become better readers. Pets offer love and companionship. They are good listeners. They keep secrets and enjoy comfortable silences.

Pets make children more approachable and give others a good reason to approach and communicate with them and make new friends. All of these benefits can reduce the amount of stress children experience in response to feelings of social isolation and a lack of confidence and moral support.

When I was a child my dog Toby had a very positive effect on my personality because he gave me something to be temporarily passionate about. He was unpredictable and fun. I enjoyed crawling after him on my hands and knees through the doggy door. He stepped on my dolls, tracked dirt into my room, jumped on my bed, licked my face, and cleaned up any food I dropped on the floor. He provided random excitement that reduced my social inhibitions and triggered feelings of being spontaneously joyful. His unpredictability caused me to smile and his easy accessibility gave me a friendly warm body to hug.

Judith Land





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“You’re Adopted!”

My eight birthday is a day I’ll never forget.

Come sit beside me on the couch. I have something important to tell you,” my adoptive mother Rosella unexpectedly blurted out while nervously extending her hand.


“Awareness leads to understanding, understanding gives rise to acceptance, and acceptance is where self-confidence and self-esteem begin to grow. Children facing the challenges of adoption want to be mainstreamed and prefer not to be separated out or have to sit on the sideline. They want to have fun and be accepted like every other child. They want to understand the simple truths—and they certainly never want to feel isolated or be left all alone.” —Judith Land

I hesitatingly complied. My senses were heightened in response to her uncharacteristic manner of speaking. The dark living room curtains were only partially open, leaving the air inside muggy and the lighting subdued. I automatically sensed that something out of the ordinary was about to happen. My mother’s odd tone of voice was much too high pitched for this to be an ordinary conversation. I sat rigidly at attention with my hands folded politely on my knees. The couch was ergonomically designed for adults and unfit for my small stature. The bristly fabric was scratchy on the back of my legs. I still remember that it was a dark, drizzly, cloudy day outside. My adoptive mother was not a warm, intimate hugger and her overbearing physical proximity caused me to writhe in my seat. She cleared her throat rather rudely before introducing the topic with a very bold statement.

“I am not your real mother. You had another mother before your father and I adopted you.”

I stiffened my back and sat upright. My mouth was closed; my lips were pursed tightly together. I had nothing to say. I didn’t know how to respond. Prolonged silence heightened the tension between us. Rosella had never understood why I had always been somber, withdrawn, and introverted probably because she had never been informed of the trauma of separation from the loving foster family I had already bonded with before I was adopted. The fact that my internal suffering had never been resolved had imposed a great strain on my adoptive mother. In response, her patience with me had often been overtaxed. I was an only child and when things went wrong and she became flustered with my inquisitiveness her normal reaction was to walk away and leave me in my room to play by myself.

She continued speaking. “You had another mother before me who gave birth to you. She named you Judith. She wasn’t legally married. You were an accident. She gave you up for adoption because you were illegitimate. She was too young to take care of you.”

My eyes became dry from not blinking. I reacted tentatively as I attempted to absorb what she was telling me. My rigid body language probably made a pretty strong statement that I was uncomfortable and confused. I had no comprehension about what the word “illegitimate” meant, and I was completely baffled about why I would ever be referred to as an “accident.” I understood the concept of adoption in an abstract way, but the underlying ramifications were more mysterious than clear. I was merely a child and stood dejectedly off to the side with my eyes lowered with an injured expression on my face. At that very moment, I needed spontaneous love and reassurance. I desperately wanted my mother to stop talking, hold my hand, and give me a big hug, but no warm hugs or reassurances were forthcoming. Our conversation ended abruptly without any sense of resolution. Rosella turned her back and returned to her normal duties in the kitchen. I could tell that she felt an enormous sense of relief now that the moment she had dreaded for so long was finally over. The events that transpired that day formed a lasting memory that I will never forget.

Perhaps, an opportunity for positive bonding could have occurred if my mother had simply hugged me and invited me into the kitchen to help decorate my birthday cake or engage in some other mother-and-daughter activity. Instead, I was coldly left alone to clean my bedroom and finish my daily chores. My adoptive mother had given me a lot to think about. I never forgot that day. I closed my eyes and pensively dreamed of my mystical connection to another mother far away that I knew nothing about.

Judith Land





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Adoption—“The Best of Times…the Worst of Times”

There are times when I pause to wonder how the 50,000 adopted children who enter the American child welfare system this year, often due to abuse and neglect, will refer to the best of times and the worst of times, knowing that many of them have suffered traumatic loss and have special physical, learning, behavioral, and health needs?


“In folk belief, the notion that a portrait falling from a wall as an omen of impending death remains one of the most widespread modern superstitions. Tabloid news values for providing a good story frequently override accuracy and truth telling needed to comprehend serious social issues, including adoption and single parenthood, and the enduring consequences of social ambivalence.” —Judith Land

The number of children born to single mothers in the United States increased from five percent in 1960 to 40 percent in 2014. It is the most impactful, tragic, far reaching, and weighty consequences trending today because children born to unmarried mothers are more likely to experience poverty and socio-emotional problems. Single mothers can expect lower incomes and a greater dependence on welfare assistance. The children are more likely to have low educational attainment, be absent from school, and remain unemployed. They can expect to fare worse across a wide range of behavioral and emotional outcomes. Children born into these surroundings and circumstances are at a disadvantage for achieving prosperity, education, and a Hollywood ending, even in the best of times.

Although doubt will always remain about the ultimate cause for something as widely diffuse as the evolution of social customs, there is no question that public ambivalence about out-of-wedlock pregnancies, single parenthood, and the difficulties caused by adoption has significantly changed our society by decreasing opportunities for affluence and happiness for many children. Ideally, all children would be able to grow up well cared for in their families of origin so adoption and single parenting would not be needed. Pursuing this vision is a crucial international agenda for all countries.

Charles Dickens’ novel, A Tale of Two Cities, opens with the statement, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…” His story speaks of Paris and London during the French Revolution; two contrasting situations and environments during a period of chaos, upheaval, conflicts, oppression, despair and suffering verses an abundance of human prosperity, joy, hope, optimism, and happiness. It is a cliché that contrasts and compares opposite ways of living with no shades of gray in-between that has the same meaning today as did then.

The “Good Old Days” is another popular phrase that is a product of selective memory and sentiment; a positive belief and an attitude held by people who believe that a previous era is preferable, more desirable, and less demanding than the current era. It is an expression that provides intimate and uncomplicated views of the way things were that reminds us of childhood, sunny dispositions, and untroubled relationships. It is an expression of exuberance, romanticism, and admiration characterizing a golden age when circumstances were positive, our lives were in waltz time, and everything was coming up roses. It’s easy for some people to be nostalgic for the way things were when families ate dinner at the dining room table and things were built to last. Work couldn’t follow you home on the weekend. Airplanes were glamorous and people dressed up to go to the theater. Home remedies solved health problems without the help of expensive medicines. Relationships were respectful and romantic. Face-to-face communication was normal and people knew how to have a conversation.

“What are the best years you can remember when hopes were high; relationships were positive, you had good health, energy, and vigor, and you were content with the way things were? Was it the carefree, heady, and reckless days of youth, middle-aged competency, contentment, career fulfillment and satisfaction, or was it during an era of old age bliss, comfort, resolution, and retirement? Count yourself as fortunate, if you have lived a good life and have fond memories of an interval of time you refer to as the ‘Good Old Days’ because not everyone is afforded that luxury.” —Judith Land

Judith Land




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Adoption—Self-discovery and Moral Character

“When life resembles a shipwreck, don’t forget to sing in the lifeboats—be happy knowing that it is far better to be living during a time when civilization is going to hell in a hand basket and collapsing all around you than struggling to rebuild and work your way back up from the depths of despair.” —Judith Land

Judith Land | Adoption Detective | Moral Character | Self-discovery

“‘Who are you?’ is an enigmatic puzzle that is mysteriously difficult to understand for adoptees whose lives are complicated by a clash of choices and voices ranging from the potentially intensely hurtful pains of self-discovery to the dull pain of unconsciousness that lasts forever.”   —Judith Land

The process of living life is about weighing opposing ethical choices against each other until a pattern of moral consistency develops. Self-discovery is more complex and complicated than simply finding your pedigree and sketching a family tree. Self-discovery is about consistency of purpose, righteousness, fortitude, spiritual beliefs, and moral character. With maturity comes a passion for learning. The challenge of self-discovery intensifies with age as the thirst for knowledge intensifies. Wisdom accrues. The mental ability to comprehend complex ideas expands and strengthens. Images of historic timelines and sequencing of lineal relationships solidifies. Comprehension of abstract concepts solidifies, becomes clearer and less ambiguous. The process of living gradually evolves into a continuous exercise in learning, growing, forming habits and attitudes, and evolves into a predictable structured way of thinking.

Life is ephemeral. It is a miscalculation to assume that today will be the same as tomorrow. Preserving your childhood is not an option. People come and go. The world turns. Time is a linear conveyor belt—an endless buffet of choices. Experiences that are temporarily good today will never be the same tomorrow. Holding on too tightly or too long to the pleasant memories of yesteryear may be the very reason you don’t know who you really are; what you want to be and what you truly desire. Finding your true purpose in life requires clarity of purpose and a coherent path to success.

The purpose of education is to acquire knowledge, illuminate the process of learning, and develop character. Great thinkers, theologians and philosophers consistently persuade us to believe that the virtues and integrity of nations are determined by the loyalty, trustworthiness, temperament, and resilience of its citizens. The moral character of each cultural group is determined by the aggregation of the common habits, wisdom and moral strength of each individual. The collective personality traits of its citizens form the nature of the nation. A strong moral character results from making consistently correct choices in the continuous trials and testing of life. You are never old until your regrets outnumber your dreams.

Judith Land



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The Stigma of Adoption

A senior newspaper columnist recently asked me about the stigma of adoption.

Reporter: “There are many social stigmas associated with adoption. The unwed mother feels guilt and culpability for her actions. Family members shame her, openly disapprove of her actions, and may even ridicule her. Friends perceive her condition as regrettable and unfortunate. The stigma is even worse when she puts her child up for adoption and gives it to a stranger to bring up. Don’t you agree there is a certain amount of lack of respect for people in these situations? You were adopted. Did you feel the stigma of being adopted when you were a child?”

Adoption Detective | Judith Land | Stigma of Adoption

“Can you feel the pain the phrase ‘relinquishment of a child’ carries? The centuries old stigma of ‘unwed motherhood’ is archaic in some cultures but it remains pervasive in many others. The stigma of being unwed and pregnant seems to be lessened when the mother is ‘engaged’ to be married.” —Judith Land

Judith: “I occasionally experienced the stigma of adoption as a child. I was painfully embarrassed when strangers called attention to my skin tone and hair color, which were different from my parents. Comedians occasionally made condescending remarks about redheaded stepchildren and that sort of thing. It stung when my aunt rudely referred to me as being adopted with the negative undertone of being less deserving and behaviorally challenged. I had deep-seated feelings and concerns about being adopted that continued into adulthood but any sense of pity and misfortune that I experienced were largely suppressed. My fears and emotions largely paralleled how other teenagers feel about acceptance by their peers, achievement and social status, physical appearance, and how others perceive them. The pain of humiliation for many adoptees causes them to suffer an enduring lifelong mental anguish, heartache, and discomfort; feelings that often simmer below the surface like a magma chamber of molten lava. They are saddened, confused, and troubled by the blatant alteration of their life’s trajectory. The sting of abandonment, banishment, and the lack of a true identity agonizes them, feelings that never seem to go away. People are more accepting of adoption issues in recent years but some adoptees will always feel tortured by the stigma of adoption; sentiments that never go away regardless of how much external love and therapy they receive.”

“Unmarried pregnant women are no longer shrouded in so much secrecy as they were in the past and the stigma of treating unwanted pregnancy as a deplorable act has somewhat receded from the public consciousness but disapproval for such behavior is still viewed as disreputable by many people. Judgments about single parenting, adoption, biracial dating, same sex partners, open adoption, and other complicated social and personal circumstances don’t carry the same stigma and degree of humiliation as they once did but vestiges of prejudice and loathing still exist in many countries and punishment for these actions remains severe in some cultures. A Pew Research Poll in 2011 showed that Americans are increasingly tolerant of all kinds of families, with one exception—single women raising children alone; almost 70 percent believe that single women raising children on their own is bad for society.”

“When we engage in the act of judging others and intentionally shaming and hurting them by dragging their reputations through the mud our actions carry the same social stigma and negative feelings of hatred, disrespect, culpability, consciousness of wrong, and humiliation that they always have in the past. The stigma of adoption has declined but we still have a long way to go before a change in social acceptance is fully mainstreamed. Younger people are more tolerant than previous generations primarily because they are being taught that bullying others for the sole purpose of shaming and humiliating them is in and of itself a disgraceful and disrespectful act.”

“There has been a correction in the social pendulum and a societal change in the consciousness of wrong. The reduction in the negative stigma of adoption is worthy of attention, but it certainly hasn’t disappeared—I’m curious to know how other adoptees feel about the stigma of adoption? Thanks for asking.”

Judith Land





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Adoption—Shadows of Ancestors Past

An adoption reunion changed the way I look at everyone around me—the more time that passes, the more I bend my philosophy to match the story of our common early human ancestors. I find it remarkable that so much of who we are today is so deeply rooted in the past and illuminated by our consanguinity, kinship, and heritage.

Adoption Detective | Judith Land | Ancestors

“Searching for who you are and solving the mysteries of life leads to the discovery that human nature is inexplicably connected to the thousands of generations of life on earth that came before us.” —Judith Land

With age come wisdom and the ability to look at the world from a philosopher’s perspective and appreciate the mystery and interconnectedness of all people. When we initiate a quest to discover the individuality and distinctiveness of our ancestors and succeed in finding out who they were some remarkable traces of our evolutionary past are revealed and a new level of consciousness is achieved. Archeology and the history of civilization have always intrigued me. Finding one’s roots is an interesting way of weaving storytelling, history and science together. My mother was adopted. She never knew the names of her parents or where they came from which is similar to many of us who are too short-lived and far too little informed of our parentage beyond several generations back. My mother was mildly curious to learn about her parents but her adoptive parents indignantly refused to tell her anything about her past. Researching my mother’s family history later in life and the eventual discovery of the identity of my grandparents provided significant clarity and peace about my own life, my own imperfections, and my own mortality.

Being passionate about life and those who came before us leads to exciting views into the forces that shape our family pedigree. Delving deep into the origins of man and the evolutionary heritage of life itself demonstrate the intrinsic similarities and relationship of all cultures and human life. All life is finite and irreversible and completely at the mercy of time. Life is an evolutionary process that explains the basic mechanisms of evolution, natural selection, and genetics. Our past is a story of luck and natural selection that highlights the history of civilization and returns us to our origins. The social and cultural characteristics of our ancestors parallel the history of all human societies because we all share the same origins. Regardless of the region of the world where our ancestors came from, the amount of wealth they accumulated, the level of education they achieved, and their social status in life, every cultural group was exposed to the same ancient fears, grief and vulnerability to illness, complex emotions, altruism, love, and procreation. Social behavior patterns, methods of raising children, education levels, emotional intelligence, technical skills, ability to communicate, and ways of making a living are all reflections of learned behaviors from parents and cultural influences. The theme of each individual’s legacy is vividly personal but remarkably similar to the behavior and history of everyone around them.

Our genes provide an exceptional case for returning us to our true origins. They were inherited from our ancestors and they will live on in our children. Our genes provide scientific links to the past and future and help to explain adaptation in the entire human chain of evolution. They provide a slant on the dramatic way we became to be who we are and deliver an illuminating explanation for behavior manifestation. It is through the study of the shadows of ancestors past that we truly learn to understand where we come from and learn to appreciate the basics of innate human tendencies, cooperation, ethics, altruism, compassion, love, art, intellect, and caring for our fellow human beings. Self-reflection is a powerful tool for cultivating a fulfilling, meaningful life—a journey that is worth taking.

Judith Land





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