The whole kit & doodle!

Linky Links Part II

As promised, here's where you can get the code for the links list I use. I'll update the code every so often to reflect new sites I've added. When you look at the code, you'll notice several lines without links – those won't show on your blog, they just give you some extra space to add links of your own.
Make sure you read through this completely!

Edited – please read my update "Linky List Part III" for information on changing your code!


January 31, 2006 Posted by | Geek Stuff | Leave a comment

Custom Google

I swear this is relevent to this blog. LOL

I've used Google as my home page for I don't know how many years. Long time, though. It is one of the few megabillion dollar companies whose business practices I generally agree with. (Good thing since Google owns blogger, 'eh?) And I probably spend 20 hours a week using Google for web searches. I'm always looking up new stuff. I love Google! Ok, so anyway, back to using it as a home page.

Google started this new thing where you can totally customize your "Google Experience." Follow this link – Customize Google – and you'll see what I mean. I like this so much that I'm going to give you a quick overview of how to customize a Google page – and no, you don't have to have a Google Mail (Gmail) account to do it. No, Google won't spam you. And no, there is no spyware garbage.

Now, why would you want to do this? Because one of the very cool features of this customized page is that you can set it up to have RSS feeds. "HUH?" you might ask? Let's say "The Adoption Void" is one of your favorite blogs. (You know it is!) You want to know when I've updated it. You want to know when there is some cool new thing here to read. (You know you do!) You just can't get enough of "Da'Void." (You know it is true!) But what a disappointment it is when you eagerly click on me in your favorites, only to find -GASP- nothing new to read!

You can forever more avoid said disappointment by using a "Feed Reader" to keep you abreast of what's happening on your favorite blogs. There are a lot of feed readers out there, some are better than others. I don't like most of them. I'm extremely picky about what I allow on my laptop. Feed readers full of advertisements or conditions in the "fine print" are definitely not on my list. A customized Google page is a nice solution.

Here is a screen shot of what greets me each time I open a browser window. (Yes, I use Firefox – you should too, you know!) These are just thumbnails, so click on the images to see the full sized version – it will open in a new window.

Isn't that pretty? Do you notice some familiar names down the left side of the picture? If you were able to scroll down further, you would see that I'm able to view the title of the first three posts on a whole bunch of blogs – basically all the blogs I have linked to over there on my links list. On the right, you see my current weather, a neat new "word of the day," and some of my favorite bookmarks. Basically, the ones I visit every single day (and usually several times a day). Plus I have the news. Which isn't actually usually there – I'm not too keen on having headlines blasting me with mayhem and death every time I open a browser. I put it there just so you could see it. In actuality, I usually have the RSS feeds from blogs over there as well. With a quick glance, I know when Kim Kim or Wraith or Cookie or any of my other "blogger buddies" have updated their blogs. I love it when I see an unvisited link showing up! There are other cool things you can add to your custom page as well. Certain little games, cute little clocks, googley eyes, etc. Depends on what you like to see. I like to see what my "blogger buddies" are up to, I like to know the weather, I like new words. I also get three "quotes of the day" and a news feed from Rueters – their "Oddly Enough" news. Usually full of humorous news stories. That's the kind of news I like!

So how do you go about setting up one of these pages? Go here – Customize Google – and click on "Sign In" next to the big red arrow in this picture –

On the next page, you'll see this on the right hand side –
Click on "Create An Account Now" (also next to the big red arrow)

Then fill out the form. Like I said, you don't need a Gmail account to sign up. (If you want one, however, drop me an email and I'll send you an "invite" for a free Gmail account – love that, too.)

Ok, so now you've created an account which allows you to customize your Google home page. Now you want to make it nice and pretty, right?
So here's what you do. Go back to – Customize Google – and click "Personalize Your Google Homepage." Suddenly, the page is going to do this neat little shift thing, and a section will open up on the left side. That's where you're going to start selecting what content you want to see on your page.

Then you can drag the content wherever you want on the page for placement –

Now, if you want to get the feed from some of your favorite blogs, all you have to do is click "Create a Section" in that section on the left side. A small text input field will appear where you can type in the address of the blog you want to read. But the address has to be formatted in a particular way!!!

Let's say you want to get the feed from "Da' Void" (you know you do!) You can't just type in http://adoptionvoid.blogspot.com – it won't work. It will tell you it has encountered an error.

Instead, you would use this URL – http://adoptionvoid.blogspot.com/atom.xml

Notice that "atom.xml" on the end? That's what blogger.com uses for feeds from their server. If the blog you want to link to is not on blogger, you'll need to visit the blog itself and look for something that says "RSS Feed" or "Syndicate" or "Atom" or something similar and use whatever URL that offers. Assuming the blog you want is on blogger, all you have to do is add that atom.xml tag on the end of the URL when you type it in to the text field on Google. They'll do the rest. You'll then notice that the blog has been added in the pane on the right and you can drag it around the screen and place it wherever you want.

Now if that isn't cool, I don't know what is!

Remember when I mentioned "other cool things you can add to your custom page as well"? Well, you'll notice that at the bottom of the little pane on the right (when you are in "Add Content" mode), there is a link for "More Content." Follow it and you'll find things like this:

and lots more!

Have fun with it, that's what is most important!
Oh, and two more things – don't panic if you occassionaly get a message which says that certain content is temporarily unavailable. When sites are updating or having server issues, their content won't display on your home page. This is completely normal and nothing to worry about. It will fix itself soon. Also, every once in a while I have to log out of my personalized page, close the browser window, open a new one and log back in because changes I've made to the layout, etc. don't seem to be sticking around when I save my changes – this has happened only twice. It's not a big deal, though, takes me 30 seconds to fix it. Google HAS saved my new page, it just isn't displaying correctly on my computer.

I hope you'll consider using this feature. It is such a simple way of keeping track of what is going on with one another and remaining informed of new blog entries. For me, it is also a reminder to keep track of what is happening with all of you – otherwise, I tend to forget to view my favorite sites.


January 30, 2006 Posted by | Geek Stuff | Leave a comment

This is worth a read (Thanks, Kim Kim!)

If you haven’t seen this piece by Ben Hoyle, check it out. “Where I Could Have Been” – Thanks Kim Kim for the link!

January 29, 2006 Posted by | General | Leave a comment

Linky links!

I'd like to ask my readers a big favor – if I am not already hosting a link to your blog on this site, could you please add a comment to this post and include a link to your blog? I would really like to gather up as many adoption-related blogs as possible. Please also include links to other adoption-related blogs you know of. No reciprocal link is required, incidentally. You do not have to link to me in order for me to link to you! If for some reason the "comments" don't allow you to include your links, would you please take a moment to email them to me? heartened1 at gmail dot com (at = @ and dot = . with no spaces!)

I feel it is really important to gather as many links to these blogs as possible.

Once I have a pretty good list, I'll be happy to provide you with the raw code for you to paste into your template so you can duplicate the link list in your own blog. I'm happy to walk you through how to do this if needed.

Also, if you feel there are adoption and/or search related sites which are a "must see," please send me those as well. I would really like to see us networking the sites which are most useful to us all.

By the way, my friend Adam arrived late this evening. Ah, it is so wonderful to see him and to be surrounded by his energy. It always amazes me that no matter how long we go without seeing each other or talking on the phone, we're able to pick up right where we left off. The three of us ended up sitting up late talking, then decided to go get a bite to eat before we turned in. He and hubby were having a great time chit-chatting with each other and I was just happy to sit there and listen to two people I love a whole lot enjoying each other's company. How blessed am I?!

January 28, 2006 Posted by | Geek Stuff | 9 Comments

Just some chit chat and random thoughts.

It is 7:30 in the morning, here. I'm eagerly awaiting the arrival of one of my best friends – a brother in all the ways that really matter, Adam. We've known each other for several years now, started out working together for the non-profit. We had the same job in different areas of the country and for whatever reason, just hit it off. Of all my friends, Adam has probably been the one most involved in this journey I'm on. Adam has long been a foster/adoptive dad to an incredible number of kids, and he "gets it" so completely, talking to him is kind of like talking to myself. I can't wait for him to get here today! He has had a long drive to come visit and will arrive sometime this afternoon to spend the weekend. He's also bringing my copy of the letter from IARMIE today (I use his address for adoption stuff because I'm always in hotels with my husband and it is the only way I can be 100% sure that they can ALWAYS find me). He scanned in a copy of it for me when it arrived at his house the other day, so I've "seen it" but not held it in my hands. But that gives you an idea of the level of trust I have for Adam, that I'd let him read the letter even before I did. Why I'm able to trust him so much when I have such a hard time trusting anyone else (besides my husband) isn't something I've figured out, but I think some people just make you feel like they can be trusted with anything. He's one of those people.

So forgive me if I seem to be bouncing in my seat today – my brother is coming to visit!!

I've been reading a lot of blogs from some amazing birthmoms. You'll find some of the links to your left – I still have a few to add, but it will give you a good start. I feel so frustrated for some of these moms and what they've faced. I also feel in awe of their capacity to survive.

One of these days we WILL dispell the myth that adoption is always a positive experience for everyone involved, or the equally damaging myth that adoption "in general" is positive except for a few extremely rare exceptions. I'm sorry, but spend a little time on the internet reading the stories from adoptees and birthmoms – do you think it is just a coincidence that there are so many blogs and personal pages explaining how traumatic this can be for us? If there were only a small handful of these stories, I might agree with the idea that we are "extremely rare exceptions." But it is not just a small handful. Yet little is being done to change things. Now we're dealing with a new myth – that open adoption solves everything. Yet if you spend any time reading on some of the larger adoption forums designed for all members of the plane (see blog entry from yesterday), you'll see that even open adoption is rife with issues. Only now, the adoptive parents are being exposed to the very real painful side of adoption. And maybe with all three members of the "triangle" experiencing pain, we'll finally get somewhere in changing how we do things.

If you're wondering, no, I don't know the solution. I think open adoption is a start, but not a final answer. I'm not in the "eliminate adoption completely" camp, either. But I very much support the idea of focusing more attention on helping birthparents to parent wherever possible. Let's focus on solving the issues which make adoption "an only option." I know there are a lot of adoptive parents who will feel threatened by this idea – if there are fewer babies available for adoption it becomes that much harder to adopt. I feel for them, I truly do – but I'm sorry, I cannot condone NOT helping birthparents to parent just so you can have a child. I can't support eliminating your pain by causing pain for others if it is at all possible to avoid that. I've met dozens of birthmoms and dads who would never have placed had they been given just a little help choosing parenting. I've met far more who have been very clear that they felt trapped and coerced by a system whose function is to provide children to childless couples – NOT to keep children with their birthparents. That is unacceptable to me.

Somewhere in all of this there must be a solution which brings the least amount of pain to all involved. I just hope we find it before we have yet another generation going through this same pain.

What has made me so suspicious of the adoption industry is the amount of money these hopeful parents are FORCED to spend if they want to adopt. I know my brother and sister-in-law went heavily into debt in order to adopt my nephew. There has to be a way of bringing together those who genuinely want to relinquish and those who really want to adopt, together, without one becoming financially bankrupt and the other becoming emotionally bankrupt. It cannot be "in the best interests of the child" for either parent to be so harmed by the system. There has to be a better way to do this.

I've gained a lot of respect for adoptive mothers recently. Reading some of the trials they've faced in trying to adopt, I wonder how they keep going. Of course, they have the greatest reward in the world waiting for them, and I guess that helps them to keep going. But I want to just scream and sob for them when I read of failed referrals or young women who scam them into believing a baby is going to come home with them someday.

Perhaps when we can start acknowledging the trials and pain experienced throughout the plane, instead of feeling that if we acknowledge it, it somehow "threatens" our place, we can actually work TOGETHER to create a solution. I've seen far too many birth and adoptive parents and adoptees who seem hell-bent on denying what another is feeling and experiencing, it makes me very sad. We're so desperate to bury our head in the sand and convince ourselves that all is right with the world that we literally run screaming from anything that challenges that perception. But if we could see past our own fear and embrace and acknowledge the fear of another – maybe things can change. Maybe in another 30 years we'll no longer see blogs full of pain and sadness written by moms, dads and children.

Wouldn't that be nice? Isn't that something worth working towards – together?

January 27, 2006 Posted by | Adoption Rants, General | 4 Comments

The Adoptive Plane

Woo Woo! My friend Wraith finally got around to putting up the Adoptive Plane he and “FarmerBoy” created!
Absolutely go check it out!

January 26, 2006 Posted by | General | Leave a comment

A quick thank you

Because I feel funny commenting on my own blog, I just wanted to express my gratitude to those of you who take the time to read and comment on what I write here. Those notes you post mean the world to me. It is a very validating experience for me. I smile each time the system notifies me that there is a new comment. It feels so good to be heard. So thank you for reading, thank you for commenting and thank you for your continued support. You make me feel connected.

January 26, 2006 Posted by | General | Leave a comment

“Fla. Highway Crash Kills 7 Adopted Kids”

I am feeling a bit disgusted with reporters this morning. As if this wasn’t enough of a tragedy, why is the fact that these poor little angels were adopted important enough to mention in both the headline and the story? Will their parents somehow grieve them less? Are we supposed to think, “well thank goodness they weren’t the parents’ ‘real’ kids”? What the hell is the POINT of even mentioning it? Why is this in any way relavent to the story? Is this supposed to be less of a loss because they are adopted?

Please, please take a moment and send a letter to info@ap.org and let them know your feelings about their choice to specify that these children were adopted. Ask why it was important to mention this. Ask what they hoped to convey by mentioning it.

January 26, 2006 Posted by | General | 1 Comment

“My name is Heartened and I was born at Swedish Covenant Hospital”

My friend Dan said to me today that it is like putting together pieces of a puzzle. That pretty much sums it up.

I received my letter from IARMIE today. Here is what the important part said:

the birth mother's age is given as 29 and the birth father's age is given as 31 at the time of the birth, the date and place of birth are May 17,1971 at Swedish Covenant Hospital in Chicago, Illinois.

And no, there wasn't a match in the registry.

I keep being struck by the giggles because I've been in and out of Swedish Covenant dozens of times in my previous professional capacity! How many times did I walk right past the room where my records are kept? Did I walk the same halls my birthmother walked? Have I been in the room she stayed in after she gave birth to me? Were my brothers and sisters born there as well? Want to hear a really scary speculation? I might have actually had dealings with one of them if they were still in the area.

It is such a strange feeling to know where I was born, and to know that my date of birth is correct. Most people never think about what hospital they were born in – because they already know, or at least know that they can ask their parents at any time. As an adoptee, that piece of my history was denied to me for almost 35 years. I'm glad to have it now.

I will probably petition the Cook County Courts to appoint a Confidential Intermediary in the next few weeks. I've got a few avenues I want to explore before I sink money into the CI program, particularly since they are backlogged. If that's what I have to do, however, then I will and will consider it money well spent.

They are younger than I remember reading in my non-id, so that threw me for a bit. Then again, I haven't seen my non-id in something like 14 years and some days I have a hard time remembering my own age, let alone theirs. LOL So now I'm eagerly waiting for the non-id from Lake Bluff aka ChildServ. I've learned from a friend recently that ChildServ is not "anti-search" like I thought they were. I was going on what I remembered from my last communication with them so many years ago – apparently, they've gone through some changes. For my own peace of mind, I'll wait until my non-id arrives before requesting that ChildServ send a letter to my birthmother's last known address. Not that it is likely to reach her, but I'd not forgive myself if I didn't exhaust every avenue.

Sometimes I wish I could encounter someone "unethical" in the system who could just give me enough of a hint that I could use to find them. I keep telling myself that I've waited this long, I can wait a while longer – but then I get caught up in the excitement and my ethics go right out the window. I realize how much I could do with just a name, how many doors that would open for me, how good I am at finding information on the internet. But that key piece of information is not mine to have, not yet.

I did come across something interesting earlier, however. It seems possible that I can use the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 as an avenue to my records. I know from my old non-id that I am of Native American descent. That's not something I can pursue until I have my non-id in hand again. I'll need a copy of that paperwork to present to the court in order to back up my claim.

I feel good – I learned something new about myself today. It's a good feeling. It makes me feel that much more connected.

January 25, 2006 Posted by | Adoption Void | 3 Comments

Any time now

Guess what today is? Today is Monday. Ask me how I made it to Monday with my sanity intact. I'll tell you I don't know. Ask me why making it to Monday was so important.

I'll answer, "Because today, my information from the IARMIE should arrive at my friend A's house. If he overnights it to me, it should be in my hands tomorrow or Wednesday. On the surface, this may not seem particularly significant, but there's something you maybe don't know – not only will the information sent to me from IARMIE contain details of my life I didn't know before – like what hospital I was born in – but if another member of my birth family registered looking for me, I'll find that out as well.

It also means (assuming they've registered) they have been notified about my registration. It means (assuming they've registered) they'll get my contact information. And because I have to wait for my friend to overnight the letter to me, it means (assuming they've registered) they'll know about me before I know about them.

I've been trying to focus on other things, trying to keep busy. In the back of my mind has been this thought, though, "my phone could ring at any time."

Of course, I am equally afraid that my phone won't ring. I'm equally afraid that no one has registered. Which means I have this completely weird mixture of fear and hope bouncing around inside my head. Friday morning I was in quite a panic. The implications of all this suddenly hit me really hard. I ended up spending 3 1/2 hours on the phone with my friend B – thank God she was around to distract me and calm me down. She is also an adoptee and, while every situation is different, she still "gets" it.

I almost told my father-in-law about all this last night. My husband's grandmother is in the hospital and she isn't doing very well. Gramma and I are very close, we have been since I first met her. She is "my Gramma" in every way that matters. We spent the afternoon at the hospital with her and my father-in-law. I was a bit upset that the hospital couldn't give her the time and attention she needs. I don't blame them, they are understaffed and overworked. But I still need "my Gramma" to be taken care of, so I was changing a dressing on a wound she has on her arm, filing her nails, trying to give her some dignity. Dinner time came and my father-in-law and I took turns helping her eat her dinner. We wanted to take dad out for dinner after visiting hours, but he was planning on meeting a friend so instead, he took us and his friend out. We had a really nice meal, good conversation. At one point dad said to his friend something along the lines of, "As she (meaning 'me') was taking care of my mom, I was thinking about the fact that in about 25 years, she'll (me) be doing the same for me (him)." He's right, if and when the time comes, I will do the same for him. Whatever it takes to make sure he feels he is being treated with the dignity, love and respect he deserves – I'll do it. Yesterday felt like a real bonding moment for us. Don't misunderstand, my father-in-law has always welcomed me as part of the family. But I think until yesterday, I was "his son's wife" more than I was "his daughter-in-law." Do you feel the difference in those two phrases? It is subtle, but it's there.

It makes me want to share some of this with him, to let him in to this part of my life. I think if his friend had not been at dinner with us, I probably would have. It wasn't something I was prepared to discuss with them there. (Not that there was anything 'wrong' with his friend – very nice individual with whom we got along very well!) But dad is "forever family" because his son is my "forever family," so that's different. That makes it safe to share with him – but not something I want to share with someone who may just be transient in our lives. Which is incredibly funny considering I don't even know most of you who read this! LOL But I'm sure you understand what I mean.

So anyway, today is Monday. I don't know what this week is going to bring, but I'm looking forward to it with some excitement and some trepidation. At least it will be interesting and educational. I know that at the very least, I'll have another piece of my history – and that is no small thing.

January 23, 2006 Posted by | Adoption Void | 2 Comments