I was born in Louisville, Kentucky just a few days before Christmas in 1959. I was the second child born to my mother – a young and single teenager. Her parents had seven children and they were helping her raise her first child, a son. I was placed for adoption through Catholic Charities and adopted by an older and more stable couple living in the Louisville area. After my first year, my adoptive parents moved to Atlanta, Georgia. Although I am proud of and claim my Louisville roots, I am an Atlanta girl through and through.
I grew up in an area of Atlanta called Buckhead. I went to Atlanta public schools through the 6th grade. As I entered the 7th grade, I was enrolled in Catholic parochial schools. I finished my high school education in 1977 and matriculated to Emory University in Atlanta.
My childhood passions were horses and music. I spent most of my free time at a little barn in Atlanta, working before and after school in order to earn “free rides” on my favorite ponies. I was also an accomplished violinist and auditioned for and was accepted into the adult Emory Orchestra when I was only 12 years old. Between school, horses, and my symphony commitments –I rarely had a free moment.
As I went away to college, I added skydiving, rugby, and motorcycles to my interests. I played on the Emory Rugby Team for a number of years and eventually played rugby for one season on the Atlanta Women’s Rugby Team. I began skydiving the moment I could do so without parental permission and enjoyed that for a very wild period of my life. I took flying lessons for a period of time and cut and packed parachutes to earn extra money. My transportation for a couple of years was a motorcycle and I used it to travel all over Atlanta and Georgia.
Because of difficult challenges at home with my adopted mother, after leaving at the age of 17 – I would never return home again. After three years at Emory, I was not able to afford to continue and I took a leave of absence. I got a job as an emergency room technician in a busy Atlanta Emergency Department and it was there – at that job – that I found my life’s calling AND the love of my life.
Found life’s calling and heart break
I knew immediately I would become a nurse and I began the journey to fulfill that dream. I also met my future husband and the father of my two oldest children. Charlie and I experienced love at first sight and it never wavered throughout the short ten years of our marriage. We lost Charlie to melanoma and it was the most heartbreaking period of my life. I still think of him every day and love him as much as I did the moment I first saw him walking down the halls of that ER.
I went back to school and graduated with honors as a registered nurse. I knew at the time that I would continue my education and at some point in my life – I would want to teach, research, and write about nursing. However, I had a family to raise first. I would get there…perhaps a little later than some.
I am blessed to have three beautiful grown children, Joseph, Sarah, and Paul. I am so proud of all three of them and I am excited to see where their lives will lead. Sarah and her husband, Matthew, have given me the most beautiful and wonderful and talented and precious granddaughter in the world – Posey.
A life challenge
The biggest challenge I ever overcame was the challenge of finding my birth family. I came from an era of closed and sealed adoption records. This was before the internet and this goal of finding my birth family was one that was nearly impossible. However, filled with a passion and a deep longing and desire for my family, just after the birth of my daughter, Sarah, I began my search and in June of 1988, I found my way back home. I was overwhelmed by my discovery and grief-stricken to find that my dear mother had died in 1968. Still, I found a wonderful family full of people with familiar and recognizable appearances and behaviors. I am still overwhelmed by the connections and the familiarity of those who might have been lifelong strangers. I now have a beloved sister, nephews, nieces, cousins, second cousins, uncles. I got to know my grandparents before they passed away.
After finding my birth family, I formed a volunteer organization called Missing Peace. During the next several years, I helped over 1,000 people find their birth families. I still hear from many of those people.
Just last year, armed only with the spit from my mouth, I sent in a sample to two DNA companies and through the wonder of science, I found my paternal family. Now, I have two full sides to my once empty, then lop-sided family tree.
Now, my “birth family” just feels like my “family-family”. In fact, the writer of this wonderful blog is my 2nd cousin – someone I never would have known had I not searched for my family. I treasure this amazing and diverse group of people.
My person is my Uncle – Barry Stevens. He is an amazing, intelligent, artistically gifted and talented man who I love and am connected deeply to. He is my birth mother’s oldest brother. Before I returned to school to pursue my PhD in Nursing, we talked each and every day. Now, because of my hectic schedule, we miss days here and there. I look to him for advice, for comfort, for knowledge, and for the words of wisdom that seem to flow effortlessly from him. I know he cares about me and loves me and that knowledge strengthens me and helps me to press on towards my goals. My walls are adorned with his beautiful art and one painting in particular acts as a muse to me when I am writing. I am so grateful for his guidance and his unfailing love.
My current passion
Ah, my passion is perhaps a bit strange for a 50-something woman. I am pursuing my PhD in Nursing. This has been the most challenging and difficult journey of my entire life. I am about 2/3 of the way done and now things are amping up (yikes!) and becoming exponentially more challenging with each and every passing day. I am driven by the goal of finishing my doctorate (doctorate??!!) and spending the remainder of my career writing, teaching, and researching. I have spent 30 years at the bedside and I hope I will be able to spend another 30 years as a nurse scientist. Although the goal often seems unattainable – I know and I am certain that I will reach it and I will use it to reshape, refashion, and reimagine the final leg of my nursing journey (and hopefully, the most thrilling!).
It is never too late to pursue goals. Don’t let an imaginary life timeline define who you are or who you want to become. Dream and dream big. There are no limits – except those we impose on ourselves. Don’t limit yourself! Don’t let anyone else limit you! Not family, not politicians, and not the status quo. Never stop moving forward. And in the words of Churchill…
“Never give up! Never give up!! Never, never, never-never-never-never!'”
Ah yes… one more thing. Become grandmothers – it really is the best thing in the world!
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