It was Wednesday, March 17, 1993. Not more than two months before, all 50 states celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. Day for the first time and then inaugurated one of the youngest Presidents in its history, Bill Clinton.

In Los Angeles, four of the five officers accused of beating Rodney King were on trial for the second time.  Whitney Houston’s version of Dolly Parton’s country classic “I Will Always Love You” had just finished a 14-week run in the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 playlist.


The siege at Waco, Texas was 18 days old. On February 28, a gun battle had erupted between the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) and the Branch Davidians, a Seventh Day Adventist splinter group. Four BATF agents and eight Davidians died during the initial raid. FBI authorities had been in negotiations with them for nearly three weeks but the leader of the sect, David Koresh, and his followers at the Mount Carmel Center showed no signs of backing down.

The news reporters said there were women and children in the compound – Koresh had asked for milk for them.

I watched the events unfold on the nightly news, riveted to the story that gripped the nation.

I knew what those mothers were going through, under siege and trapped within a religious community that values conformity more than compassion.


I am ashamed to admit I don’t remember with any extreme precision what words were exchanged that night in Bishop Felix’s office there at the Orem Institute of Religion.

In fact, for many years I have struggled to remember if I even have the date correct. Was it March 16th or March 17th? Tuesday or Wednesday night?

A deep shame rises up from the seat of my soul. How does a mother not remember with unyielding certainty the exact date she last held her daughter in her arms? Intellectually I understand the psyche’s need to repress such events and I have worked tirelessly to forgive myself for this all too human reaction to the trauma of losing a child, but still…the question lingers.

I have carried a heavy burden knowing I may never be able to pinpoint the exact moment in time I last saw her, what she was wearing, or how she physically got from my arms to her adoptive mother’s.

Did she crawl to her? Did I hand her to her soon-to-be adoptive mother? What did I say to her as I stood to leave? What did I say to my daughter? I know what I felt as I am feeling it all again at the moment I write this, but what did I do? Did I place my lips to the downy soft curls on the crown of her nine-month old head to give her one last Judas-kiss? What did I do in those last moments with her?

Dear God, what did I do?

As I try to write about my last hour with my daughter there in Bishop Felix’s office, I can find very few landmarks to help me recall the order of how things unfolded.

Those minutes have stretched into an eternity and are a vast and empty desert, the salt flats of my life. Memories struggle to put down roots in the alkaline soil.   For the past two decades, I have not allowed myself to linger in this parched and blinding landscape.

This is where the bones of my motherhood were picked clean and left to bleach white under the intense heat of the Great Basin sun.

Bonneville Salt Flats 3

When I do visit, I am like a driver at the Bonneville Speedway. I only catch brief flashes of landmarks as I race onward at the speed of sound.

The color of the thread in the hem of my pants – orange against a weathered blue.  The small scrap of paper that has fallen underneath the edge of Bishop F.’s desk. The dusty leaves of the artificial plant on the shelf just behind him.  The dense weave of the Prussian-blue fabric on the chairs.  The small hairline crack in the cover for the electrical outlet to my left.  The smudge of a hand print on the dark brown door frame.

The unimportant and trivial visual minutia surrounding me that night are the things I remember.

It is strange what the human mind will do to ensure our survival, and stranger yet is what trauma across the decades does to a person’s mind, how it distorts and plays with patterns, colors, sights, sounds and memories.

The fact I remember those things but cannot remember the more threatening event of discussing the plans to hand my daughter to these strangers – is because my amygdala took over, a residual survival trait left over from tens of thousands of years of ancestral women living in fear of annihilation.


I can not remember leaving. My mind will not allow me to go there, even two decades later.

My memory always skips ahead five miles to when I am in the parking lot of the North Orem LDS chapel where my sister Carolyn’s funeral was held three and 1/2 years before.

I sit slumped over the steering wheel, sobbing in deep guttural gasps while the windshield wipers struggle to push away the heavy slushy spring rain, thick with the chill of the Rockies in March.

“The Absent are Ever Present”

Dear Ms. Feverfew –

Way back in junior high school, I learned a really cool trick from my home economics teacher (do they even teach that class any more? What is it called nowadays, anyway? Certainly not home economics – that phrase must have gone out of a favor for something more politically correct by now, yes?)

The cool trick? Crushed up candies melt in the middle of sugar cookies.  (These pictures are from a year or two ago – I forgot to get the camera out this year!!!)

bighearts_2They’ve never failed me yet – these are cherry Life Savers and some flavor of Jolly Ranchers. Year in and year out I can trust them to deliver gorgeous results. And the sugar cookie recipe I have is to DIE FOR, but I promised my niece I would never share it because it is the one she developed for her business, Snickety Snacks.

bighearts_5I’ve remained faithful and never shared it, even with the darling 12-year old who wanted it from me today!

bighearts_3Today has been a good day – lots of sugar cookies with the small ones and then a party with other home-schooling families from church. Tomorrow I head to University of Alabama to visit the pain management clinic there to see what they can do to help me…well, manage the pain caused by this craptastic medical device I have inside of me. (Thirteen weeks until it comes out, yahoo!!!)

lifesaverheartAnyhoooooo, as I wandered through today, I couldn’t help but think of you. I hope your mom helped you build family traditions, whether it be baking sugar cookies every Valentine’s Day or something else, like making Valentine cards for all of your older relatives. I am sure she did things like that. Well…at this point, I have to choose to believe she did – it’s my own version of fairy-dust and adoption-mythology, as it were. This fairy-dust is the only way I can endure a day full of Matthew, Luke, and Poppy laughing and giggling and carrying on like siblings do. It is on days like this that your absence in our lives is so noticeable to me.

Much love –


Next Post

Your sister has some pictures of the three of you little girls posted on her (very public and very open) Facebook page. One of them is a picture taken when you were about the same age as little Poppy is right now.

Your little sister looks so much like you. You have the same sweet gap-tooted smile, the same lovely cheekbones, the same gorgeous eyes, the same lovely lips.

I can’t stop crying.


Leaving Penelope Rose

Today, I took little Penelope Rose over to the world’s most awesome baby sitter. I take her there a couple of times a week so I can get some pointy-headed writing done on my dissertation proposal/schoolwork. I discovered very quickly that it’s nearly impossible to write when she is awake or at 4:00 a.m. when she is sleeping. Taking her to Kim’s is the only way to get through this process.

Most days, I am just fine – I know she is in excellent hands over there and it isn’t like this is a forever arrangement. But these past couple of days have been tough.

And this morning, I totally fell apart when I dropped her off.

See, here’s the thing. Little Penelope Rose is now the same size you were the last time I held you in my arms. And leaving her at Kim’s this morning felt like leaving you that night so many years ago.

I am horrified to think of what mental state I had to have been in back in March of 1993 when I did that to you. I now understand that I have a tendency towards post-partum depression that really hits full stride at about 7-9 months. I know now that is when my hormones are really in their wildest swings as my body readjusts to a baby that isn’t nursing as much and I still am in a sleep deficit. It happened with Captain Knuckle (hospitalization and meds saved me from post-partum stupidity that time), it happened with the Professor (an amazing husband and sister-in-laws save me from stupidity that time), and I can feel it happening with little Penelope Rose as she nurses less because she is getting more solid foods.

But there was no safety-net for you and I.

Between the untreated post-partum depression and a Bishop and a mother who were working overtime to convince me that I was not enough, would never be enough, and you deserved – no, were entitled – to more than my love, I made what can only be considered as the stupidest decision of my life.

I sat there on Kim’s couch this morning and sobbed. She knows about you and was so understanding and supportive. I am grateful for that but it was so hard to leave my little baby there this morning. Rationally, I know I am going back for her and she knows I am coming back for her. But I was just overcome with grief for what I did to you.

Oh God, I am so sorry for leaving you that evening. I left you and I never came back. The only solace I have in such a wretched, horrific act is that I thought I was doing the right thing. Not to be overly dramatic, but as God is my witness, I truly thought it was what was best for you. Afterall, the two people in my life I should have been able to trust were telling me it was the best thing.They told me that wanting to parent you was just my reaction to the abuse growing up and that I didn’t need to prove I could be a good person by parenting you – in fact, by relinquishing you for adoption I was actually proving that I was a good mother.

How sick and twisted is that reasoning?

I now know how completely wrong and un-Christlike that line of reasoning is, but at the time…I trusted other people instead of my own heart.

And I am so sorry for the legacy it has created for both of us.


National Adoption Awareness Month ~ Day 18: J’avais rêvé d’une autre vie

Dear Ms. Feverfew –

Last night, I dreamed  I had another life.

It was a life that included meeting you for lunch between your classes. It was a life that included you playing Call of Duty on the Wii in the family room with Captain Knuckle as The Professor practiced the piano and Princess P sat babbling by your side. It was a life that included all of my children around the dinner table, laughing at little Princess P’s surprised look as she tastes a new food for the first time.

It was a wonderful life.

Don’t get me wrong, the life I have now is good too. I have an amazing husband, two incredible sons, and a baby daughter who delights me with every look, laugh, cry, giggle, coo, and sigh (oh, and she has green eyes like her daddy!!!). My husband is well employed and his income allows me to stay at home and be a mom. I am within months of finishing my PhD (not to shabby for a girl who dropped out of high school, eh?). I have good family and friends who make me laugh frequently. I have a great ward and fulfilling, meaningful callings within the ward. I live in a lovely home in a lovely setting in perhaps the safest location in the United States. Seriously, living here is like living in a national park version of Mayberry with the security of Fort Knox. I have a year supply of food. I have enough water stored for our family to survive for a month if needed (darn those hurricanes!).   I have two very well maintained vehicles at my disposal. A closet full of clothes and shoes. Bookshelf upon bookshelf of books.

But…I don’t have you in my life.

And in case you are ever wondering, even though I have carved out a corner of happiness and success in my life, I would be even happier to have you in it. I have had a good life but if would have been better if you had been here too.

Much love,


National Adoption Awareness Month ~ Day 10: Why Princess P.’s Little Head is Covered in Tears Right Now

Dear Ms. Feverfew –

Today  your little sister Princess P. turns 6 months old. At the moment, her 18 1/2 pounds of squishy, snugly adorableness rests comfortably in my lap as she bats at anything within reach, grabbing at the mouse, and trying taste anything she can put her mouth on.  The desk, my watch, a CD case, the remote control – she’s a non-discriminatory taster.  She squeals with delight whenever I talk to her, her chubby arms and legs waving madly as a smile makes its way through her entire body.

In short, she’s perfect.

I lean down and rest my lips against her warm peach-fuzz covered head. And I start to cry, anointing her head with the tears of a mother’s heart.

Oh how I miss you in moments like this.

I know you are a grown woman now and not a baby but you were a baby once. I should have held you on my lap and kissed your peach-fuzz head instead of giving you to strangers, all in the name of love.

Adoption awareness isn’t just a month in my life, it is woven into the sinews and fibers of my soul. And sometimes…sometimes my awareness hurts like hell.

Much love,


The Waiting Place

Dear Ms. Feverfew –

Dr. Seuss was right. The Waiting Place is “a most useless place.” It’s a place…

“…for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or a No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.

Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a sting of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.”

That’s where I am right now. Though I am not waiting for my hair to grow or for my Uncle Jake, I am waiting for the phone too ring. I sent you that message over a month ago, which is nothing in the grand staircase of Time, but still…it feels like an eternity.

I dreamed of the grown-up you last night. When I woke up, I found a text message on my phone. My heart leaped and I thought, “Oh, it’s her!!!! She sent me a text!” Needless to say, it wasn’t from you. (But hope springs eternal in this mother’s breast).

I am not sure how to navigate here in the Waiting Place or how to even find my bearings. Most of the time, I am strong, confident, and have a clear vision of where I am headed but sometimes, like this morning…I am hopelessly adrift.

Much love,



Seuss, Dr. (1990). Oh, The Places You’ll Go!. New York, NY: Random House.