One’s Origins – Part One

The word ‘adoption’ has the power to evoke a variety of emotions from trauma and pain, to joy and relief, to outright ambivalence. All visceral responses are valid for their own reasons. Here, I invite you to travel with me through a few of them. We won’t make any stops at ambivalence however, because, ….well, I know nothing of being ambivalent about the word ‘adoption’.

I am adopted. In the Spring of 1967, those whom I would only ever know as Mom and Dad took me into their home. There I would find a place that would be prepared to raise me in an environment where no child would ever feel deprived of love. I was five days old and that home is the place to where my memory carries me – to this day – when I desire peace and warmth.

Meanwhile, my mother and father in the biological sense would remain a mystery for years to come. (For the purpose of distinction, I shall refer to my biological parents as ‘mother’ and ‘father’. I shall refer my adoptive parents as ‘Mom’ and ‘Dad’. There is no intention whatsoever to suggest that this distinction is hierarchical in anyway. Rather, these references are selected simply because I have lived my life referring to my adoptive parents as Mom and Dad.)

Very recently – and I do mean VERY recently! – I have come to learn a significant amount about my biological genealogy on my father’s side. This story is the beginning of what I hope unfolds to become an epic journey for me. I invite you to join me. I am sure I will be grateful for your support, even if I do not always show it. Throughout this journey, should I fail to make a heart or two skip a beat here and there, I will be a little bit surprised. Not because of an inflated sense of my ability to write, but rather because my own heart skipped a couple beats while writing this and I am kryptonite for emotions. Or so I have lived my life trying to convince myself of such nonsense.

My Mom and Dad have always been open with me and my brother about the fact that we were adopted. My brother and I are not biologically related. The man to whom I have always referred, with the utmost of endearment, as ‘brother’ set sail for life in the same boat by my side and I could have asked for no better sailing companion. I may never fully appreciate the magnitude of my Mom and Dad’s gratitude for the opportunity to adopt the two of us. I know that sounds about as self-aggrandizing as all get out, but from their point of view, they truly felt they could ask for nothing more than the two of us.

We would never go on to emulate the Cleaver household, as no family ever could. At our household the servings of tumult would be generous, and eventually overwhelming. We shall take a detour around the specifics here and visit that as a port of call in another post. For now, I shall only say with endless gratitude that the servings of tumult would eventually diminish to side dishes and then to mere garnishes. It was like a new beginning; a re-welcome into the family. Think about a couple who renews their vows.

Adoption papers

My adoption papers.

By the time I was 19 or 20 years old the mega-tumult was behind us. My Mom handed me a document that was in essence the legal papers from two decades earlier establishing me as their child in the eyes of the state. In that document I see things that suggest hints about my mother’s last name. This is not definitive, but a tidbit nonetheless should I seek to pursue further knowledge about my origins. Here again is, in my view, an extraordinary display of gratitude on the part of my Mom and Dad. They hold a very special place in their hearts for my mother as well as the mother of my brother, whom neither they nor we know. They would never discourage either my brother or me from searching for our mothers (or fathers) or engage in any activity that would honor them in some way.

This was around 1987 and at the time I did not take any meaningful steps to advance my understanding of my origins. Over the years I have made a few feeble attempts to launch a search. My understanding is that my home state of Pennsylvania is among the more restrictive in terms of privacy for all parties involved in an adoption. Since it was never a debilitating itch that fueled my curiosity, I would retreat anytime the climb became too steep.

Fast forward to 2015. Thanks to tremendous advances in the technologies around DNA fingerprinting, DNA testing services have been emerging on the market at a reasonable price point. Of course, the adoption curve of this new technology is no different than that of any emerging technology.  I believe I need to have a clarity checkpoint. I thought of footnoting this, but I feared the potential for ambiguity was too high. In this paragraph, I use the word ‘adoption’ in a manner completely unrelated to the topic of this post. Here, adoption refers to a popular graphical image used to illustrate the stratification of a market for new products or technologies. Most simply put, it is a bell curve – almost always displayed as normal or symmetric. Innovators and early adopters to one side, laggards and skeptics on the other, and a few gradations of the majority in the middle.

In early 2015 I submitted a DNA sample to one of the more popular services and had only to wait a few weeks to get my results. (There are few of these DNA testing services that dominate this space presently. Each have their critics and advocates. I have my own not-so-confluent, yet possibly ungrounded, opinions on a couple of them.) Back then, I saw little in the results giving me much, if any, encouragement that answers would be found here any time soon. I would log on every month or two and then eventually down to twice a year checking for messages and new DNA matches. In the first year or so, the closest I found was a couple people that were classified as somewhat or moderately confident of being a fourth or fifth cousin. That is not a lot with which to work.

Now fast forward to early 2019. I believe I logged onto my account once in 2018, and that was on Memorial Day weekend. In mid-February 2019 I logged on to see I had a couple new messages from other users. They were new to me although they had been sent over the past few months. The most recent one jumped out of the screen at me.

“I believe we could be brothers…”

Ok! You have my attention sir! I also noticed that the match list had a few additions to it since the previous Memorial Day. I saw three people who were classified as highly confident of being a sibling or first cousin. One of them is someone I recall having seen previously. Though it might be déjà vu since I cannot recall the DNA match rank being that high. Otherwise I would like to think I would have taken action or at least have remembered it.

A year earlier I had been the victim of identity theft. It took a few months to completely unwind the mess. Everything is clear and back to normal and my credit rating is safe and sound. I now have fraud alert protection for several years, but I digress. I share this because of its impact on the recalibration of my skepticism meter. Suffice it to say that I am wired to keep my excitement tamed until further confidences are established.

Back to mid-February, this gentleman who claims to be my brother begins to ask questions. I provide answers and I ask questions of my own. This goes back and forth, and we eventually migrate our conversation from the application’s messaging system to email. At this point I was still not ready to completely concede that all of this is on the up-and-up, so I initially provided the email address I use for online junk accounts that tend to yield a lot of spam.

Once email became our mode of communication, I received a few attachments with images of clippings and photos that began to dismiss any remaining skepticism onto which I held. I have since shared with him my proper personal email address.

I learned that on my father’s side the family roots hail from northern California in Santa Rosa. Over the span of a few days we made arrangements to meet two weekends hence. Before I was even aware that someone was trying to contact me, I already had a trip booked to Santa Rosa to visit a friend. This might well take the throne in the Guinness Book of World Records for the wildest coincidence ever. Remember, I live in Pennsylvania, on the eastern side of the state, nearly three thousand miles away. We confirmed the details, and everything was set. Now it was only a matter of a few days wait until I was to be on a plane to northern California. As we will see, this would become the most important flight I would ever miss.

In the next part, we will begin with the journey to the airport to meet the family I have always known I had but never truly believed I would ever meet in spite of often imagining what it would be like. I will share the emotions – expected and unexpected – that have and will run through me like water rushing through a valley in the immediate aftermath of a dam break. They will flow everywhere and there will likely be no stopping them.

As we draw this part to a close, I am curious as to whether any of you wonder about the impact all of this has had and is having on my Mom and Dad or on my adoptive brother; or on my relationship with them. Looking back at how open they are to everything surrounding our adoptions, it should come as no surprise that they have joined me hand-in-hand so to speak throughout this journey so far. There is still further to travel and they ain’t giving up their seats. I welcome you to save your seat as well. There is so much more to share that has yet to unfold. 2019 should be an adventure.

Thanks for your company. See you soon.

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For the Moment

Not too long ago I saw a clip from an interview with country music star Dierks Bentley. In this interview, he revealed that he still uses a flip phone as a mobile device. His reasoning is that being constantly connected to multiple mediums robs him of being ‘in the moment’ and he feels his creativity is sorely diminished. So, a simple means of communication only when communication is necessary is all he feels he needs. I can relate to the creativity comment. I am gaining some momentum with my guitar lessons and I find some forms of modern technology do take away from the ability to focus on tasks at hand – namely, creativity. Maybe I’ll get back into blogging. And maybe even a new song or two will emerge.

I’ve tried to do the one or two month social media (SoMe) detox or cleanse at times (to the relief of some :-). I did this by disabling accounts and making myself invisible and unfindable but not gone. Inevitably I return to the same old time stealing practices that ate more nonsense than not and is void of value for me.

When buried in a mobile device or almost any modern technology, you are always ‘there’, and never ‘here’.

The second half of 2018 starts today, July 1. So I am initiating a new SoMe approach. Kinda like a mid-year resolution. I am not exiting social media – and let me be frank, I am referring primarily to Facebook and Messenger. I am not leaving altogether – at least not now. I will be removing mobile apps thus cutting my 24/7 access to it from my phone. If my current phone was paid off, I’d look into a lesser smart phone. I will still check here and there every few days – Messenger also. But, it will be on a laptop and only when I permit myself a legitimate break from all of life’s ‘in-the-moment’ moments. And there are always an abundance of those moments so visits to SoMe will, by God’s grace, be few.

Ciao for now,


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Explaining Trump Support

Many wonder how the heck any sane person could ever vote for Donald Trump. I am not a fan but I do offer one possible explanation. Remember the debacle the U.S. got into when we tried to force democracy on a people in the Middle East starting over 10 years ago under the first Bush W administration? Well it was a debacle precisely because we jammed a new (and frankly not wanted by all) ideology down their thoughts.

The United States is in a similar boat today. Our national ideologies are generally routed in conservatism. Having liberalism jammed down the throats of people not in agreement or not prepared for it is the under-current for Trump support. He is a shitty candidate for the resistance but it’s all that this group has. 

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No Joy Without Gratitude

In the aftermath of a brief recent rant on Facebook about the White House’s seemingly slow actions against terror (which I have since taken down) I have been “double dared” by a good friend Rich O, to post something positive today. I happily accept. In light of what seems to be going around “ALS Ice Bucket” style is the “Gratitude Challenge” I am not sure if there is a charity benefiting from this but I have to believe that whoever takes the time to acknowledge sincere gratitude in their life is the primary beneficiary. According to author and speaker Brené Brown, a life of true joy cannot exist in the absence of actively practicing gratitude. So Rich, here is my acceptance. There is a quote I once heard in Boy Scouts many years ago that goes something like this:

“When money is lost, nothing is lost. When health is lost, something is lost. When honor is lost, all is lost.”

I have seen this attributed to Billy Graham, Walt Whitman and an unnamed general in the Civil War. In any event, my gratitude lies in this phrase. I am healthy. Through I work at it, I know that I am fortunate to live in a civilized time and place that allows me the ability to do so. The same goes for money. I am not where I would like to be but I am grateful for what I do have and what I have earned. Moreover, I am grateful that I am physically and mentally able to learn and earn.

Now for honor. I am not perfect. I make mistakes with the best of them. I can, however, profess my gratitude that I was raised honorably and with a sound set of values. As to whether or not I reflect those values into the world, only those with whom I interact can opine on that. I can only hope I do.

In closing I am very grateful for friends and family who are willing to accept me warts, (and Facebook rants) and all. Who can ground me when needed and whose mutual respect still endures.

Thanks for reading and thanks Rich for the double dare.

Have a Great Day!

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You are not a quitter. You are grounded.

With the exception of these opening two paragraphs, the entirety of this post was written by George Bruno. I met George in the Fall of 2013 and in only a handful of interactions with him, I can assert that he is grounded in his distinction between “celebrity” for it’s own sake (i.e. ego) and “celebrity” for the purpose of being impactful in the world.  Having felt incomplete myself in an otherwise well paying and relatively secure career, I voluntarily took the exit ramp in 2008 (not the best of economic times) with only one idea – to create something new. Although that which I was to create was not even defined.

What follows is a recent Facebook post by George and his subsequent comments. It is full of such resonance for not only me, but also so many others I have come to know in the past several years.

A lot of people will eventually say “I dabbled in a little acting for a few years”, then will go back and look for a “real” job. They needed that little diversion where they actually thought they were going to “make it big”. Every city has it’s community of “superstars”. Then you dial it back to a dribble and subscribe to the longterm plan and you roll the dice every now and then. BUT you needed those few spectacular hopeful years, made a few friends, and learned to stretch your brain in new ways. It was all good. It’s OK to pull off the road to the rest stop or even just change the route altogether. You’re not a quitter. You just had a reality check. You’re smart. You’re a better speaker now. You’re fearless in front of crowds. You network better. You can go back to a career or life with some new skills. So when someone says “Oh, you’re an actor..or an artist…or whatever creative title you choose” It’s Ok to respond, “Yeah, I dabbled a little”. It’s all good.

Most actors would be better off as motivational speakers or trainers. Same skills. Same gratification. BUT ten times the income. Some people love hearing others say “I saw your commercial”, but don’t know it only paid the actor $400. In their mind, the recognition is the pay. (That pays a lot of bills doesn’t it?) Commercials seem to be the actors version of a selfie, lol. Been there. Eventually you get tired of being broke.

Want to be a celebrity? Start a business, be successful, create jobs, help others get rich and achieve their dreams.

Thanks for reading and thank you again George.

Have a great day!

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An apology to Sara Michelle Gellar

I am riveted with embarrassment and anger over a recent experience with photos on Facebook.  Because of where things stand as of this writing, I am compelled to using this platform to extend a public apology to Sara Michelle Gellar.

While trying to tag a photo on Facebook of my cousin’s dog (French Bulldog named Gellar), Facebook autofilled the name of the New York born actress Sara Michelle Gellar and I found myself technically unable to untag the photo. I have never known so much mortification and anger at maximum levels simultaneously.  While I accept making mistakes, Facebook cannot be designed to default to the nearest popular name when entering a name – and more importantly – one must be allowed to untag a photo when a mistake in tagging is accidentally made.

This post was not written to vent, but rather to try and get in front of this and offer my humblest and most sincere apology to Ms. Gellar.

(Note: I am aware that the chances Ms. Gellar even ever knowing of this is about the same as the chances of me winning the lottery. Nonetheless, I was left feeling extremely uncomfortable that this happened.)

Matt G.

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Solve for X

AlgebraAlgebra – the bane of existence for countless secondary school students. And for many, algebra is a source of entertainment in the way of puzzle solving for many others. I fall into the latter category. Engineering was my undergraduate academic path perhaps in part because, at least from my perspective, the path to problem solving was more prescribed than not. By this I mean we were taught algorithms and formulas to use when solving the myriad of problems we might encounter. When we were faced with a new problem, our creative latitude was bound by the constraints of mathematics and science. We were in a sense always guided by rules in our pursuit of a solution.

Later in my career I was involved in computer coding of moderate complexity at best to automate repetitive computational tasks. While I had creative license to derive the solution, I was nonetheless limited by the rules of logical syntax – and yes, even algebra. Any computational line of code using variables to store numbers is, by definition, using algebra.

Contrast that with what we refer to as ‘design’. Perhaps not the textbook or mainstream definition, I would not be for off in tendering a definition of design as something that is bound only by the limits of human imagination and can arouse strong and enduring human emotion. Design is manifested in so many parts in our lives: architecture, furniture, appliances, automobiles, technology and yes, even – dare I say especially – literature.

Design is what it is because of what it evokes in us. That is perhaps its most significant distinction from algorithmic problem solving. Other than a transitory personal victory, (“Yay, I got the right answer!”), algorithmic problem solving is not evocative in the way that design is. Emotional reaction to design is a highly personal matter. And since we are all different from one another, successful design can be especially challenging. It requires a level of creativity than goes far beyond the creativity required to overcome challenges of the situational and physical environment.

Building a structure to withstand the demands of its environment offers few creative options; all bounded by the rules of physics. Designing something, on the other hand, to move people emotively is to operate without rules and its limits extend all the way to the expansiveness of the human mind. Similarly, writing a collection of words to entertain or otherwise maintain engagement of an audience is one thing. To write something that shifts the way a person sees the world and how they operate in it is another. As I have suggested, there are no rules in design. There is however, a necessity in understanding and contextualizing humanity’s common denominators – whatever they may be.

My point in opining on this is personal and poignant. I am (for better or worse) in the throes of trying to bring – yet again – a new idea to the marketplace and thus into the world. It is relatively new and the even the sense of need itself requires no small amount of effort to create. At this stage, there are no rules, no sets of formulas or equations to arrive at an answer – other than a few known fixed costs. The answer is not known. The answer itself is being created by constantly moving forward. And that is a paradigm I am not used to. I am extremely grateful for the support and contribution of a few friends without whom I wonder if some days I would be overcome by otherwise feelings of despair.

I close with a quote from Charles Kettering, the famed inventor and head of research for GM. “A problem well-stated is half-solved.” Perhaps design and problem solving are two sides of the same coin.  We solve for x and we design for y, or z, or p, or q, or r, or…

Thanks for reading. Have a Great Day!

Matt G.

Image credit: pixelsaway / 123RF Stock Photo

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