An Adoption Story: The Final Pieces – Part 2

 

adoption quote

While my parents had years to ponder my “foundling” beginnings, to conjure up scenarios about the who, the when, the why,I have had but a few months to imagine the details surrounding my being left on a doorstep. I have to agree with my mom’s repeated murmurings as the pieces have fallen into place. “This is not at all how I envisioned it.”

We peer at pictures of my birthmother who passed away twenty-six years ago—pictures we’ve studied for months—now placed next to a new-to-us picture of my very much alive birthfather.

This final piece of my adoption puzzle fell into place just over a month ago wDSCF8697 (2)hen my birthfather’s sister appeared as a “close relative” match on Ancestry.com. “Aunt Donna” broke the news of a long ago doorstep baby to her brother who knew nothing of a pregnancy or a baby girl.

At her urging and with his blessing, I sent him a brief email message that included the newspaper clipping and the link to the letter I posted in area newspapers last August, looking for anyone who remembered the doorstep baby from 1963. I struggled with what to say, and although I wasn’t thrilled with the final product, I hit send anyway. His response was quick and accepting of the situation. My loss-for-words condition remedied itself as we exchanged many get-to-know-you messages in the days that followed. He didn’t shy away from my questions which required him to sort through long ago memories and try to fit new pieces into a puzzle that he didn’t know had holes.

Despite the fact that the situation was anything but expected and is the furthest thing from neat and tidy, he’s been very welcoming. He brings four biological half-siblings as well as two adopted daughters to the equation. Add my two maternal half-siblings and my three adopted grew-up-with-me-my-whole-life brothers and that makes a grand total of eleven siblings. Eight brothers, two adopted sisters, and one biological sister.

siblings

Yes, I have a sister. And yes, we look alike. (From an earlier post:  What if I had a sister out there somewhere? What if she looked like me?)

I also look like my birthmother.  And paternal grandmother. And even Aunt Donna. My son shares a strong resemblance with one of his maternal uncles. There’s actually quite a lot of family resemblances all around confirmed by several picture montages comparing me at various ages to my new relatives.  And I’m loving it. To finally look like someone is incredible.

Immediate family and very close friends have oohed and ahhed over the picture comparisons. But I won’t be sharing them here. Not yet. Maybe later, maybe never. Out of respect for all involved, I’m not revealing the names, the pictures or even the small Midwest town where the story unfolded. As much as I’ve enjoyed sharing this journey with you and would like to share the pictures, I’m very aware that this story isn’t mine alone.

Neither is the decision to share the “news” with my half-siblings and new extended family. While I get one vote, it’s not the deciding vote. Would I like to meet them? Yes, I would. But I won’t insist nor will I approach any of them on my own. This story of decisions made long ago has the potential to impact a host of people’s lives. Should connections and relationships develop, I will welcome them. If some never learn of my existence or choose to remain strangers, those are choices I will respect.

howWhile this ends the search for the “who”, many questions remain. Like how did she conceal the pregnancy, when and where did she give birth, did anyone help her with the birth or walk with her through that difficult time? It’s looking like those questions will never be resolved because the one person who holds those answers no longer has a voice. My greatest concern as I uncovered the truth was that no part of this journey bring judgement upon my birthmother or the decisions she made.

As a close friend listens to the latest update, her head shakes and her eyes widen. “So what’s the why?”

As in why now?  Why after all these years are the answers lining up to questions I barely knew to ask?

“That’s what I keep wondering,” I murmur.  Now it’s my head that’s shaking, moving back and forth in a kind of circular, what-in-the-world-is-this-all-about motion.

Because now that there’s no one to tell, “You did what you felt you had to do and it turned out okay,” the why of this journey is looming large. I felt certain whythere was someone who needed to hear, “It’s fine, really. The story had a happy ending.” That surely someone had been waiting fifty-three years to know what became of her/his baby girl on the doorstep. But no.

Since we began this quest, my daughter and I have reunited three searching adoptees with their birthmothers. One adoptee will celebrate his 50th birthday this week having connected with his birthmother who has looked for him for years. We also solved the case of the “mystery brother” for my mother-in-law and in the process discovered a plethora of new first cousins for my husband and his three siblings. A newfound niece will join the family celebration for my mother-in-law’s 91st birthday this weekend. We couldn’t be happier about connecting with this newly discovered branch of the family.

life experiences quote

Maybe the “why” of this journey has less to do with me and my story than I assumed. Maybe the purpose in my search was the opportunity it created to assist in the reunions mentioned above. Or maybe my quest was about the reconnecting with family this discovery has spurred for my new Aunt Donna. While I find myself still longing for my birthmom to hear the words, “It turned out well,” from me, the grown-up version of the tiny baby she walked across two backyards, that’s another decision that is not mine to make.

I suspect there are a variety of “whys”. That evidence of new reasons and purposes will continue to emerge. I do hope that’s the case. This experience has been, all at the same time, overwhelming, inspiring, and satisfying. And this whole business of reuniting people is as heartwarming as it is addictive.

So what’s ahead? For one, a special trip to my hometown as well as more reflections on the cool process and the incredible people that made all of this possible. While the search may be over, I’ve a feeling the journey has just begun. And I’m counting on some more “whys” too. So stay tuned for more . . . very soon! 

ScribcolumnBeth is passionate about seeing GOD at work in the “slices” of every day life AND about the saving of sex for marriage. She believes strongly in accountability and mentoring and considers herself a cheerleader for “renewed waiting” too. Because SEX is worth waiting for. She’d love to hear from you! Comment here OR email her at waitingmatters@gmail.com. Connect with her on Facebook at Beth Steury, Author.

Unraveling an Adoption Mystery: The Story Continues

When my daughter tested her DNA with an Ancestry.com, Christmas-gifted kit this past January, it was mostly to uncover her ethnicity and to hopefully add branches to the family tree she’s painstakingly built over the last five years. And for fun. A cool way to indulge her love of history in general and genealogy in particular.

dscf8661When I spit into the test-tube like container of my own DNA test kit in August, it was to seek information about my unknown beginnings and maybe even uncover the identity of my birth parents. While I’d always been curious as to the details surrounding my birth and surrender for adoption, discovering I’d been left on a doorstep, having not been born in a hospital, had piqued my curiosity to a level bordering on obsession. The who, what, how and why questions raced through my brain.

With the help of an archived newspaper article containing the brief details concerning my “foundling” status and a quick Facebook search, I discovered a granddaughter of the couple who found me that mid-November morning in 1963. She’d been eight-year-old at the time and seemed to remember the incident as if it had happened yesterday. Her barely-contained excitement as we spoke on the phone was so genuine and refreshing as she shared details not included in the short, three paragraph write up. Two weeks later we met in person when my husband, daughter, grandson, myself, and my parents made the one-and-a-half hour trip to the city where I’d been found and presumedly had been born.

As we lunched at a local diner, she shared the details of that morning, recounted time and again over the years by her family. When her grandpa let their dog, Frisky, out sometime after five a.m., he was certain there was nothing on the step. But five to ten minutes later, when he opened the door to let Frisky back in, he noticed “something” on the step. Assuming it was Frisky having rolled his small body inside the rag rug on the step—as he was known to do—grandpa called out to the dog, expecting him to shoot from inside the rug cocoon, a trick he’d perfected. But when Frisky came from the yard and jumped over the step into the house, grandpa nudged the “something” on the step with his foot and was rewarded with the sounds of a baby. He scooped up the bundle of blanket and a man’s black wool shirt that encased a 5 lbs. 12 oz. baby girl. He and his wife raced the baby to the hospital, concerned for the child’s well-being.

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front of the house where I was found

I was found to be in good health but remained in the hospital for three weeks, where the nurses named me “Susie Hope”. The woman whose husband discovered me on the step worked in the hospital cafeteria. In the weeks that followed, after her shifts, she often made her way to the nursery where she would hold and rock me. Hospital personnel heard of her frequent visits and instructed the nurses to “not let her do that anymore”, fearing she was forming an attachment to the baby … to me. The nurses, however, chose not to stop her from showering me with attention. I tracked down an employee who worked at the hospital in November of 1963. Although she worked in another department and never saw me, she remembered the doorstep baby story well. She shared that my frequent visitor, a friend of hers, also bought me an outfit. Ah … how sweet.

How I wish those kind folks were still alive so I could meet them, express my gratitude for their thoughtfulness, and share that the “doorstep baby” story did indeed have a happy ending.

My DNA results took only one month to return, less than the six to eight week timeline the website suggests. It contains lots of fascinating information that a caring and very knowledgeable genetic genealogist is helping me to decipher. In addition to the way cool detailed analysis of my ethnicity, the report also indicates a whopping 234 (and counting!) 4th or closer cousins. “And counting” because as more people test with Ancestry.com every day, new connections are discovered. I’ve already gained eleven new cousin matches in the month since I received the results.2016-10-12-5

One first-second cousin match has provided us with enough information to zero in on the family of one of my birth parents. A member of that family has submitted a DNA test, whose results will hopefully narrow down, if not confirm, either my birthfather or mother.

Friends have asked the same questions I pondered myself before even purchasing my DNA kit. Why do I want to do this? What am I hoping to gain? Other than to satisfy even a little of my raging curiosity, I immediately knew I wanted to ease the mind of those involved in what had to be a gut-wrenching decision. “You did what you felt you had to do and everything turned out fine. My story had a happy ending,” I’d say if I got the chance.

Then I’d be tempted to ask, “But what about yours? How have you been since then? Did you spend years worrying about me or regretting the decision?” I hope not. I really hope her life and his life turned out well.

What I really wish is that I’d discovered the “doorstep baby” detail earlier, when the chance of connecting with those involved would have been more likely. But I try to shoo that thought away each time it creeps in because GOD’s hand, HIS protection and timing have been so evident from the very moment I was laid on that door step, that I must continue to trust in HIS plan. I believe with my whole heart there’s a reason the pieces of this giant puzzle seem to be falling into place at this very moment in time.

Life is full of “whys”. We can drive ourselves crazy trying to unravel the mysteries, decipher the motives, and get a gasp on what the future holds. But isn’t it better to trust in HIS goodness and rest in HIS plan–even and especially when we can’t see the end game?

However this slice of my life concludes, I’ll be fine. Will I be disappointed if I don’t get all the answers I’m seeking? Probably, yes. But that’s okay. And if the reasons for now being the time this mystery unravels are never revealed, I admit I’ll always wonder. But that too will be okay. GOD’s got this. HE’s always had this situation firmly in the palm of HIS hand. 

I’ll keep you posted!  🙂 Scribcolumn

Beth is passionate about seeing GOD at work in the “slices” of every day life AND about the saving of sex for marriage. She believes strongly in accountability and mentoring and considers herself a cheerleader for “renewed waiting” too. Because SEX is worth waiting for. She’d love to hear from you! Comment here OR email her at waitingmatters@gmail.com. Connect with her on Facebook at Beth Steury, Author.

Incredible Journey

Vintage reads

Who remembers the movie, Homeward Bound, subtitled, The Incredible Journey? Yes, an entire auditorium of raised hands fills my vision.

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Now. Who remembers the book titled, The Incredible Journey? Hmmm. A few uplifted hands spike from the audience like corn volunteers in a soybean field. (Can you tell I live in the Midwest?)

Yes, boys and girls, The Incredible Journey was a book long before Sally Field and Michael J. Fox lent their voices to a foolish dog and a sassy cat. Don’t think I’m criticizing Homeward Bound. The producers and director made sure the heart of the story remained true to the book, and I love that movie. It’s one of the few I’m willing to watch again and again and again.

Sheila Burnford published The Incredible Journey, the novel, in 1960. Between the slightly foreign voice of a Canadian author and the acceptable writing style from over half a century ago, kids today will have a harder time appreciating the original story than they did back when I first read the book.

Wait a minute. I’m assuming you know the premise of the story. In case you don’t: because a family has a temporary living situation that doesn’t allow pets, two dogs and a cat have been boarded with a friend of theirs. Of course, the animals don’t know why they’ve been separated from their beloved owners, so they run away from the caregiver and head home.

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The book and both movies pull at the same heartstrings. Yes, both movies. Before Homeward Bound, there was another film, appropriately titled The Incredible Journey. It was completely faithful to events in the novel and narrated in much the same way as the omniscient narrator tells the story in the print version.

 

You would think children would not enjoy the older movie. It’s black and white, narrated, and has no animal voices provided, but my six-year-old granddaughter sat in front of the television, enthralled. Similar to the 1986 comedy-drama, The Adventures of Milo and Otis, children of today still get wrapped up in a story of real animals against the elements.

If you haven’t read The Incredible Journey, go for it. Insist your kids read it, or make it a family read-aloud. Like I mentioned in my September 10th post, make sure your children eat their literary vegetables.

Dysfunctional Family Desired for Story Premise

Vintage reads

Remember those good old TV shows from the Fifties? Andy Griffith, Leave It to Beaver, The Lone Ranger, and a host of others. Today’s viewers say, “Boring. No conflict. Not enough action.”

 
Excuse me? While superheroes didn’t bounce out of the sky and smash a city to individual cinder blocks, the characters in those programs faced real problems and taught children how to solve them. In many family comedies, Dads led their wives and children through a jungle of moral decisions. The parents, as a team, guided their children toward wisdom, unlike many of the buffoons in today’s sitcoms.

 
Take Eddie Haskell, a problem that never stopped. Wally and the Beaver didn’t like him, but they treated him with grace. Their parents told them to, they obeyed, and further conflict was averted. At least, until Eddie tried something else, and the cycle repeated.

 
Or Opie Taylor, Andy Griffith’s son. I remember an episode where he had to choose: prepare to fight the bully for what was right or join the crowd to do wrong. Thanks to his father’s consistent example, Opie chose to stand for righteousness.

 

 

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Dennis the Menace entertained us with his inept efforts to be helpful, and his generous heart taught children like me to love our neighbors. His parents were often at a loss as to how to handle what Dennis might get into next, but they always explained to their son how he might have done things differently with less disastrous results.

 
Even westerns taught Judeo Christian morality. In The Rifleman, a father taught his son right and wrong and to use violence as a last resort to save other lives. The Lone Ranger never looked for credit for his good deeds. The rescued asked, “Who was that masked man?” as he rode into the sunset. Lessons in humility.

 
I want the same lessons of goodness in the books I read where characters solve problems in an honorable manner. It’s why I prefer the classics, books that contain intact families who love each other and face conflicts together. I get so tired of the dysfunctional families and missing parents in today’s literature. As an experiment, I went through the archives of The Scriblerians and checked the family situations in each of the books I’ve reviewed. I was dismayed by the results:

 
Dysfunctional Family/Missing Parent Intact, Loving Family
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Even if I discount the handful of books written past 1990, I found that authors use the lack of a good parent as an integral part of the conflict for the child protagonist. As much as I love each one of these stories, I’m saddened by that reality.

 

 

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Summer of the Swans by Betsy Byars is a case in point. Thirteen-year-old Sara lives with her snarky teenage sister, her little brother Charlie, and their aunt. Their mother died; their dad split. Charlie has unnamed developmental disabilities. Today we might say he’s on the autism spectrum. Sara loves Charlie; she hates his neediness. She hates herself as many young adolescents do. The novel is beautiful and character-driven with a flawed protagonist who finally realizes she loves her family as it is.

 
Most of the events in the plot could have been accomplished with a mom and dad still around. Two parents could have struggled together in dealing with Charlie’s eccentricities, and teens in their struggle for independence get in grand funks even when they grow up in wonderful, loving homes.

 
Strong families are not exempt from ongoing crises. I’m currently writing a fictionalized memoir covering the first five years of my little sister’s life. Our parents enjoyed a solid marriage, and they had to cope with the uncertainties of raising a profoundly deaf child. Heartbreaking events occurred, and comical episodes still made life fun. We were strong. We were together.

 
This is what I feel called to do in my writing, to glorify God with stories of family who strive together to overcome the obstacles in their path as they journey through life, pilgrims on the way to the Promised Land.

A Baseball Mom and the Mudville Nine

 

My initiation into the world of sports began thirty-three years ago when my oldest son ventured into the world of t-ball. As each brother reached the grand old age of four, he joined the ranks of youth baseball teams. I have no better memories than those balmy evenings in June bruising my behind on bleachers and cheering my little boys to victory.

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With spring’s arrival, we leapt into all things baseball. Visiting the baseball card shop. Practices. Washing uniforms. Games. Washing uniforms. Concessions. I even sold an article to a magazine extolling the agony and the ecstasy of a six-inning Little League game!

We instituted baseball traditions at home. The season opened with our favorite videos. Major League, Major League 2, The Sandlot, and my husband rediscovered his childhood favorite, It Happens Every Spring. Other baseball movies rotated in and out, but those four were the staples of our viewing diet. To gain relief from hotdogs and nacho dinners fresh from the concession stand, I could be counted on to bring the boys’ favorites of tuna macaroni salad or ham and cheese sub sandwiches to their games. By the time, the youngest was in high school, those subs had won the distinction of a home run meal for the team between doubleheaders.

hs batter

Years passed. The oldest boy dropped baseball to create a successful high school sports career in swimming. The next son earned a college baseball scholarship but declined the money once he realized baseball practice and travel to games plus premed courses and biology labs equaled not enough time to succeed in either endeavor.

With one child left in baseball, I cherished every inning. He did not disappoint. We were able to attend games through all of his college years. Even better, he coaches his own high school team now. My husband will travel out of state to visit him later this month to attend their tournament. I’m jealous.

My boys will tell you that I never truly learned baseball lingo (“It’s not a hit, Mom. He only made contact with the ball.”). I don’t mind the teasing. Even though the words rarely come out of my mouth correctly, I’ve learned a lot more about baseball and life raising my sons than the years my parents dragged me to my brothers’ games.

PleaseGodpleaseGodpleaseGod, don’t let him strike out. PleaseGodpleaseGodpleaseGod, help him to pitch over the plate. Not every one of those prayers was answered with a yes from the Almighty. Through God’s grace, this mom and her kids learned how to handle the success of RBIs and sacrifice bunts, as well as how to endure the humiliation of fielding errors and hitting the batter.

casey at the bat

All of this to say: my favorite sports-oriented poem is “Casey at the Bat.”  As literature, I enjoy the rhythms of the poem. As a baseball aficionado, I appreciate the details of the game. As a Christian, I love the spiritual lesson. If you’ve read it, you know the moral of the story.  If you haven’t, read it! Then comment and let me know what the life lesson is.

STOP BUYING THINGS (AKA How to Simplify Christmas)

Simplify Christmas 1

(I almost titled this post “Looking Past Thanksgiving,” a little tongue-in-cheek poke at Beth’s wonderful post from Tuesday.)

Over the last few years, I’ve come to dread December. Part of the reason is because I work part-time at a church and December can be like tax season for an accountant if you let it. Add to that the onus of decorating, purchasing gifts, parties, and travel and I find myself tired before the season has even begun. What should be one of the most hope filled, joyful seasons of the year has become something I’m beginning to dread. How messed up is that?

And I don’t think it’s just me. I hear people say things like, “I can’t wait for January 2nd.” Others get upset about coffee cup design at Starbucks. (Really?) Black Friday isn’t enough, now stores are opening on Thanksgiving, because isn’t that what Thanksgiving is all about? We’re thankful we have a day off work to go out and buy things?

OK, time to stop and reign in the cynical… /deep breath/

It doesn’t have to be this way, folks. Christmas doesn’t have to be a season of DOing. I can be a season of BEing.

Do you remember what Christmas was like as a child? The round-eyed wonder of the Christmas tree. Candlelight services. Family gathered around. Christmas lights.

What if we all took a step back this year?

Our kids (and grandkids!) don’t need as many presents as Dudley Dursley on his birthday! What if you gave your kids less? Good friends of ours give 3 gifts to their kids (because Jesus received three gifts from the wise men): something fun, something educational, and something spiritual. Or recently on Facebook, I saw an article suggesting 4 gifts: something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read.

What if you didn’t send out Christmas cards? Or maybe this year you skip the Christmas letter?

What if you only put out a third of your Christmas decorations? Or none at all?

What if you didn’t schedule all those parties? Or maybe skip a few this year?

What if you decided not to buy gifts for everyone you know? Maybe give a card instead? Or tell people you’re taking a year off?

What if you took a break from Commercial Christmas like some people do social media? Instead of going on a Facebook or Twitter fast, what if you took a Christmas fast? Get back to the basics. What is most important to you at Christmas? Spending time with family? Going to church? Watching Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer? Do those things.

What if you replaced gift giving with memory making? Why not write a letter and tell the person why they really matter to you instead of buying them something? Draw a picture? Send them a throwback picture. Go caroling, sleigh riding, bike riding. Make a memory, don’t give someone something to collect dust. Be creative. Use your talents.

Do things because you WANT to, not because they are expected. Not because they’ve become a laundry list of traditions.

Here’s my challenge to you: Make a list of all the things you do for Christmas, and then go through and strike off half of them. Extra points if you get rid of 2 out of 3!

Simplify. Be the dentist and pull all the teeth out of the Abominable Commercial Christmas monster. You’ll be glad you did.

Simplify Christmas

NOW YOU: On a scale of 1 (stress free) to 10 (completely crazy), how hectic is the holiday season for you? What can you cut out this year to make the season more fun and less run? What was your favorite thing about Christmas as a child?

The Bowling Ball

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Todd goes through life much like an oversized bowling ball.

Like his arrival home – heralded by the usual thumps of him kicking perennially unlaced runners against the wall, then a shoulder check to the door while twisting the knob and finally, an eruption into the house.

“You won’t believe this,” he exclaims, stomping into the kitchen in his rumpled gray T-shirt and khakis. Frayed hems flop behind his heels. He tosses his backpack onto the island. “Mr. Crowthers sprung a surprise vocabulary test.”

Our cat sidles out of the kitchen.

Todd scratches his wild curls, yanks the milk out of the fridge and slams the door. Three fridge magnets clatter to the floor. He replaces one.

So far, the bowling game is comparatively low scoring.

“Was it a surprise to everyone else?” I retrieve a magnet from under the fridge.

“Dunno. Prob’ly.” He grabs a spoon and the Almond Crisp, then scrapes a stool to the island.

“Well, how’d you do?”

He stares at the back of the cereal box. “With what?”

“You know, the surprise test.”

“Oh, not sure. We didn’t mark ‘em yet ‘cause he had some VERY IMPORTANT things to discuss. He even held us for an extra six minutes.” He splashes the milk into the bowl, and onto the counter.

“So, what did he say?” I hand him a rag.

“Something about mid terms. I think.”

He swipes once at the milk puddle then fires the rag toward the sink, but instead nails my Easter lily. It nose-dives to the floor. Head Pin!

“Oops.”

I hate that word. But, there are others – “uh oh,” “whoops”, and the ever popular, “Was that an antique?”

“Todd. Seriously! Slow down!” I rush over and groan at the severed white bloom in the pile of dirt.

“Sorry…Oh, hey, you gotta see this.” Burrowing through the contents of his backpack, he yanks out a wrinkled piece of paper. He slaps it down exclaiming, “D’ya like that?”

I recoil – it’s stained brown from something in his pack I’d rather not know about. I gingerly smooth it out and see a circled 43/40. “Wow. Nice going. But 43 out of 40?”

“Bonus points.” He pumps a fist. “I named three Roman Emperors.”

For the millionth time, I wonder how consistent he would be if he really tried.

After re-washing the counter, I bring out the dustpan.

“Hey, I can do that,” he blurts through a full mouth.

I glance at my other tender plants – more potential pins. “Uh, no. S’okay.”

Suddenly I’m in a firm neck hold. Todd delivers a smooch that feels more like a playful punch to the jaw.

“Goin’ to Brandon’s to work on a project. ‘Kay?”

I survey my once neat kitchen. This bowling match could turn out a winning score very soon. “Sure. Great idea.” I say a bit too enthusiastically.

He hauls his backpack off the counter, snagging his cereal bowl. It clatters to the floor.

“Whoops.”

“Todd!”

Strike and end of match.

 

Does this sound like anything you could relate too? I’m hoping you can say yes.

This little story was  the winning entry to a contest on personalities I’d submitted to years ago. I think I took all of ten minutes to write it, as it was crystal clear in my mind. I had, right in my own home, all the inspiration I needed to write about a boy’s personality. All I had to do sometimes (when I wasn’t scurrying off in the car to another of his hockey practices) was grab a chai tea latte, and watch. Okay, plus grab a rag.. and a broom.. and a tylenol for my headaches.

But the difference between normal people (and I use that term loosely) and writers, is that life experiences seldom go unnoticed and/or undocumented. Living life is just doing research for our books. My boys know that my characters are them in different settings. And thankfully they are fine with that.

So tell me, how many of your characters are your family members and/or friends? Or if not, where do you get your inspiration?