115 [Healing Series] Anchored with Macy Oosthuizen, LCSW

Transcript

Full show notes: https://www.adopteeson.com/listen/e115

Episode Transcription by Fayelle Ewuakye. Find her on Twitter at @FayelleEwuakye


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(intro music)

Haley - You’re listening to Adoptees On, the podcast where adoptees discuss the adoption experience. I’m your host Haley Radke, and this is a special episode in our Healing Series, where I interview therapists who are also adoptees themselves, so they know from personal experience, what it feels like to be an adoptee. Today we are going to meet a new to Adoptees On therapist, and do a hybrid episode. We’re gonna hear her story and then dive into some wisdom on identity development and how to feel connected. Let’s listen in.

I’m so pleased to welcome to Adoptees On, Macy Oosthuizen, welcome Macy!

Macy – Thank you so much Haley!

Haley - I’m really excited! So you’re gonna share your story with us, so why don’t we get started with that?

Macy - Sure! Um, first I just have to say I’m so honored to be on the podcast. The members of our South Florida support group and I have been fans since the beginning, so I just wanna thank you for that.

Haley - Aw, thank you! That’s great, love that.

Macy - So my story starts I guess with the adoption at one month old. I was adopted from Spence-Chapin Agency in New York City, in 1970. The peak of the baby scoop era. I was adopted into, you know, into a couple, I was the oldest child, their first child, to a couple in New Jersey and I have a younger adopted brother, from Bogota Columbia actually. And he is also a therapist.

Haley - Really?

Macy - Yes. In New Jersey. And even though I was in the baby scoop era, my first parents were actually on their honeymoon when they relinquished me. And my mother was not single or young, or too young, or financially struggling, she was 24. He was 27. He was from a wealthy, large Catholic Mexican family. And it’s like, it’s just a kooky story, but um—

Haley - Wait. They were on their honeymoon?

Macy - Correct.

Haley - Married, together, when they relinquished you.

Macy - Relinquished me, yes. So the information that I got was that they got pregnant while engaged and decided to bump up their wedding and make it earlier. And they married when she was four months pregnant, near their home in Mexico City. And they lived in Mexico City, Mexico. And they kept the pregnancy secret from everyone. And a friend of the family had given them a trip around the world to use as their honeymoon, right? Must be nice. And while on their months long honeymoon, and her pregnancy continued, they actually tried to arrange my adoption in different countries in Europe. But no one would give them the time of day and would kept sending them along and saying no, we don’t take babies from married couples on their honeymoon. And they found an agency in London, England actually. And that agency said, you know what, we have a sister agency in New York City, and my mother was an American Citizen, a dual, she had dual citizenship, grew up in southern California. And they said, since she’s American citizen, why don’t you go to this agency in New York City, they will take care of you, you’re gonna have to go early though, they’re gonna wanna talk to you, you know, extensively. But they’ll probably help you. And so they went to New York City and later I had found out that the London agency kind of wired Spence-Chapin and said, this is the strangest situation we’ve ever come across. And essentially like, good luck with that. You know, with working with this couple. And so they traveled to New York City, a couple months before I was born, to meet with the agency and they were still on their honeymoon, so they were still calling home and pretending that they were off skiing in the Alps and doing all these things. And the story they were telling the agency was that since I was conceived while they were still engaged, they were concerned I would be shunned as he was from a very prominent Catholic family in Mexico City. That was the story that they were saying. And so after they relinquished me in New York City, they immediately, and I mean the next day, they went back to Mexico and pretended like nothing had happened. So the agency then told my adoptive parents, what they said, the agency said that I was European, quote unquote, and didn’t tell them anything about them living in or being from Mexico. And that my first parents were two, what they did say was that my first parents were two kids from Columbia University who got into trouble, quote unquote, and were not ready to be parents. So the agency lied and I grew up not having a clue, and my parents, my adoptive parents not having a clue. And when I was 26 years old, like, you know, as we do, as adoptees, the stirrings start happening and I’m really, you know, questioning who I am and where I come from. So I petition the agency for my non identifying information. Which is the crumbs that we get as adoptees, right?

Haley - That’s a good way to put it, crumbs.

Macy - Yeah, like they throw us a couple of crumbs about our identity and hope that this will help us and meanwhile that just threw me into, like a tailspin because when I got this information, you know, you get this letter. And it just so happened to arrive, I had asked for it in like, February of that year and it arrived like exactly the Friday before Mother’s Day which was 26 years to the day that my parents brought me home. So I just thought that was really strange. But anyway it arrived that day, and reading that letter, I was like, completely dumbfounded. My whole world came kind of crashing down and to find out my parents were 24 and 27, and on their honeymoon just totally threw me.

Haley - So this was a letter that they had written?

Macy - No, this was the letter, like Spence-Chapin had sent me, ‘cause when I said, can I please have my non identifying information they said, oh yeah we’ll write it all in the letter for you.

Haley - Oh okay, okay, okay.

Macy - Yeah.

Haley - Okay, oh my gosh.

Macy - And that was the letter. So I got it and it was like, that letter to me was everything. Like I had waited my whole life to find out like who I was, you know. And, you know and I really got the story, like you can get on board with kids in college you know, and oh, like, I’m on board with that story. The story, the other story of them being 24 and 27 and on their honeymoon, and I was 26 at the time, so I was thinking, I wouldn’t, no way, if I was on my honeymoon, be giving up a baby for adoption. Like this doesn’t make any sense to me.

Haley - Well and also, like, when you said they were traveling the world. I know it was a gift but it sounded like they had means. Like this wasn’t like—

Macy - They had means, oh yeah.

Haley - This was not a financially impoverished couple.

Macy - Absolutely no, they had a lot of means. My mother didn’t come from much, but you know, his family was wealthy, they had, they definitely had means. This was not a financial situation in any way.

Haley - So bizarre.

Macy - Right? Well it gets a little kookier. But anyways. So you know I kind of, I went into emotional tailspin. You know I really just did not have anything to hold on to. And talk about, you know I was feeling completely just like, literally like floating off into space. And so I grabbed on to a first husband that wasn’t the healthiest situation for me. And I just grabbed on to all kinds of things that were around just hoping it would help me feel anchored and nothing really worked. But, so because this information was so shocking and like I didn’t know what to do with it, you know, I mean, I was also raised Catholic. So part of me really understood some of that. But like, this was you know, it wasn’t 1950, you know. I just couldn’t really wrap my brain around it. Now looking back on it now, it feels and seems obvious why they gave my up. But the funny thing is it didn’t click with me at all. Because it turns out I was the result of an affair.

Haley - Okay.

Macy - Right? And so my mom and her husband or fiancé were engaged, they had a fight, an argument or whatever, she decided to fly home to her parent’s in southern California and decided to take some time to cool off and while there, she met my actual father, had an affair with him, and then her fiancé flew to southern California, wooed her back to continue, like, let’s continue our wedding planning, and brought her back unknowing that she was pregnant. But he knew that there was an affair. So went back to Mexico, and oopsies, there’s a baby. And so instead of, so what I found out also, is that her husband said, let’s raise this baby as our own, like no problem. And even when I went to, I eventually found the doctor who delivered me. And he said I will never forget your parents. And he said, you know, it was weird. And he said, I told them, that they cannot leave you here and that I will write a letter to say that you are premature even though I was 9 pounds, I was almost 10 pounds, I was a large baby. But he said you know, I will write a letter saying that you’re premature and so that you cannot leave this hospital without this baby. And my mom, when I reunited with her, did confirm that story, I mean she told me the story without me even prompting her. So she just was hell bent on not having me. Not raising me.

Haley - Did she think her husband would just like hold it over her or something? Even though he was willing to parent? I mean.

Macy - I have no idea. Because from all accounts, he’s the sweetest, he seems like a very sweet man. And I just, I don’t know. You know, I don’t know what was going on in her brain. Because even my birth father, or you know, my birth father said, hey if she had called me from New York and said, by the way I didn’t tell you but, you know, he said I would have come and picked you up. He said, I never, my family would not have been like oh no, this is a horrible thing. Like they were very open and he said I would have come and picked you up. In no way, you know. So it doesn’t sound like from any different sources was she getting the information that she had to do this. This was, I think, an internal thing. She was from a very unhealthy family. And I think that informed her decision quite a bit. And I don’t know what she thought. But the whole scheme of the honeymoon and everything was so elaborate. It just, it’s a little bit shocking. And actually preparing to talk with you today, I went and read over some stuff and it was things I didn’t even remember reading the first time. I had, I have some notes that actually I got from the agency or whatever, but anyways, but you know it’s shocking what her, how far this scheme went. But when I, I didn’t reunite with her until I was 37. And they had used fake names during the whole process. So it was really hard finding them. But I reunited with her when I was 37 and after she moved back to the states with her third husband and my younger half-sister, and she went on to have two kids with that first husband. And when I met her, she told me those two kids were my full siblings and she kind of continued that whole story. And I kept saying like, something isn’t right, you know, but she really wouldn’t, she wouldn’t give it up. I found them because the private investigator I had hired found in the society pages, Mexico City Society Pages, a picture of what looked like me on my wedding day. And they had, turns out they had used the same first names but fake last names. So, and the newspaper, it was an extensive huge article about all the famous people at their wedding, and et cetera. And in the article it corroborated a lot of the non-identifying information that I had gotten from the agency about how many brothers and sisters and family members and things like that. And that’s how I found them and then you know, I kind of also sat on that information and waited til I felt like I was ready to you know, to contact her. But I was reunited with her for 10 years and that entire time, she kept that story going. And I would beg her, please tell me the truth, I really need to know the truth. Like, this isn’t, I don’t know, doesn’t fly. And I got to meet and I still have a relationship with my two siblings. And talking with my brother, I said, you know, I begged him to do a DNA test with me. And he put it off for 3 years. I think he knew you know, but he was so kind and gentle and nice to me. And I don’t think he knew how to tell me. So he did the DNA test, and it came back we were half siblings. So that’s when I knew something was going on. And coincidentally, not coincidentally, but through that DNA test, I also did Ancestry at the same time, DNA. And I got connected to a bunch of second cousins. And I couldn’t figure out how they were related to me. And after the second, you know, my brother and I coming back as half siblings, I realized, oh, this man is not my father who I thought was my father for all this time. Which put me in another tailspin. But I recovered from that and I reached out to these second cousins on Ancestry and realized they were from my father’s side of the family. And I found my father within like 2 weeks of knowing that this man wasn’t my dad.

Haley - So you were in reunion with your first mother.

Macy - Yep.

Haley - And for like 10 years, before you did this DNA test with your brother. Who turns out to be only half.

Macy - Correct.

Haley - Oh my gosh.

Macy - I know.

Haley - Okay so you find your dad.

Macy - I find my dad, and he explained everything to me, and I was like, oh. You know, he told me the other side of the story.

Haley - So did he know?

Macy - No he had no clue. He had no clue. Except when I found her, the thing, okay this is what really gets me going. When I found her 10 years ago from that point, now this is just last year by the way. So like, this is fairly recent, I’m just saying. But when I contacted her 10 years ago, she apparently called him and said, I think you have a daughter. And he was like, wait, what? ‘Cause he never had any other kids, and nobody in his family had kids. Like his sister never had kids, nobody had kids. So he was like, oh my gosh this would be amazing, this is fantastic. And so she was like, you gotta do a DNA test and just swab your cheek and send me the Q-tip and you know. And so he was like okay and so he did that and nothing ever came of it and she never called back and he was like, oh I guess it’s not my daughter. And she sent me a DNA kit for my, I don’t know, I think it was my 38th birthday. And said, just do this DNA test and don’t ask any questions. Well, Macy doesn’t do well with don’t ask any questions. And meanwhile I had been asking her for a year like, I need the whole story, like please could you give me the whole story. I don’t know if it was a year or two at this point. But and I said, you know, if you could please tell me the truth and then I’ll do the DNA test. So she wouldn’t tell me the truth so I was like, the DNA test is either because you’re just trying to stir the pot, or you think there’s a reason why this other man is not my father.

Haley - So when you eventually contact your first father.

Macy - Yeah.

Haley - He did have an inkling only because she had reached and asked for his swab like 10 years ago, but hadn’t contacted him after.

Macy - Exactly.

Haley - Oh my gosh.

Macy - Yeah. So I had, so after that I contacted my mom and to say, you know, hey. I found him, he told me everything, I hope this brings you peace, like this isn’t a secret you don’t have to keep anymore. And I thought it would really bring her peace. And that she would feel free, that all these years she wouldn’t have to keep up this story. And instead she just got super angry and responded with, well now you found your father and you no longer have a mother.

Haley - Oh!

Macy - Yeah. So I was like, oh. That’s tough, you know, I was kind of prepared. Because our 10 years was a really, was really hard for 10 years. You know I really struggled connecting with her. We look so much alike, like physically we are very, very similar.

Haley - Well you said the wedding picture in the newspaper looked just like you.

Macy - Yes, oh my gosh, exactly. And so physically we are exactly the same, or look very, very similar. But personality wise, you know I really struggled connecting and understanding and I really wasn’t getting it. Like am I really from these people? Like this is just not making sense to me, but I kept squishing myself into a, you know square peg into a round hole, trying to make it fit. Because as adoptees, that’s what we do. We find the people and it was great confirmation that I looked like somebody. But she didn’t have crazy hair and she didn’t, you know it was all these things that I was just so, and I was a super artistic kid. And she was crafty, but not artistic. So there was a lot of things that when I found her, you know, really, really confused me.

Haley - So did that really end your relationship with her?

Macy - Oh yeah, I haven’t spoken with her since.

Haley - Okay.

Macy - Yeah. And you know, it don’t I don’t know what else to do there. I still have a relationship with my brother and my sister although it’s very, I’m sure it will get back on track with them. You know I wanted to give them some time. And my brother and Macy - I are very similar in personality and he was somebody that I really connected with. So when I found that we were half siblings, it really crushed me.

Haley - So this happened like a year and a half ago?

Macy - Yeah.

Haley - This estrangement? Okay, and then so everybody knows because your brother, you guys had done the test, so he knew, and you kinda thought he might have known before.

Macy - Yeah.

Haley - And how about your sister? Like how did they all find out?

Macy - Well I called my sister to tell her, she still lives in Mexico with the guy I thought was my dad. So she lived, they live in the same house actually. And so I called her and skyped with her actually and said, you know, can we have, can we chat? And she’s okay with, I mean, I think she also knew somehow. But she was, you know both of them have told me, you know you’ll always be our sister, which is nice, and that’s what I really needed to hear. I just think that I don’t know, it just makes me kind of crazy that I spent 10 years not knowing this man and in the meantime, in those 10 years, my grandparents died. They died actually the year, just really soon before I contacted him. And nobody in his family, he and his sister are the only two kids. And neither of them have children so I was the only grandchild. And he’s like, they would have loved to have known you. So, you know, that’s the way it goes, you know, with our story.

Haley - Those secrets.

Macy - Right.

Haley - Come at a cost. Wow. Hey, wow. That’s a, that’s a wild and crazy story.

Macy - Yes.

Haley - I was not expecting most of that. Is there anything else in your story that you wanna touch on? That I didn’t ask you about?

Macy - Yeah, no, there’s so much, there’s literally so much. But that’s, you got the gist and that’s really what’s needed.

Haley - Okay. Just checking. So you’re an adoptee obviously, and you’re a therapist. How did you decide to go into therapy?

Macy - Well you know, when I was a teenager, I was going through some stuff. And I told my parents, I need to speak to someone. My parents were saying that I was out of control, I wasn’t doing anything, like I was just breaking curfew. Which to them, was like crazy, you know?

Haley - Shocking.

Macy - It was shocking, yes. And they said, okay, yes, we’re gonna send you to someone. And actually.

Haley - I’m sorry. We’re gonna send you to someone so you don’t break curfew.

Macy - Yes, ‘cause this breaking curfew thing. But you know actually I just remembered this story that I had not remembered up until just now and talking about this, is that I actually stole a shirt from a store while shopping with my mom. And I, like when I tell you I'm the goody two shoes, everybody calls me the rule follower. Like this is the most shocking. To me I think that was what I was doing to cry out to say I needed help. And what’s hilarious is my mom and I like, our thing was shopping, my adoptive mom and I and lunching and those kinds of things. And so we were at the store and we’re trying on tons of clothes. And it was the 80s so, forgive me, but it was a neon yellow and aqua polo shirt, like a rugby shirt, ok?

Haley - Mmhmm.

Macy - And I tried it on and she’s like, what do you think and I'm like, nah I’m not gonna take it and I put it in my bag and brought it home. And totally stole it. I went back to the store and confessed and they were like, okay weirdo. But you know like, nothing happened but anyways. But before that all happened, I left it on my floor in my room. In the middle of the floor. And like I'm a very neat person, I don’t leave clothes on the floor. But I clearly left this in the middle of the floor. And in our house when you come up the stairs, my bedroom was right at the top of the stairs. So it was just there for my mom to see. So I think it was my way of saying, I need help but I don’t know what’s going on with me. And so I think that, now I just remembered, that was the catalyst. That and the curfew breaking--

Haley - Okay.

Macy - Was her saying okay you have to go talk to someone ‘cause now you’re stealing things and I was like well, you know. And she made me go back to the store and everything’s fine with the store and everything. But I mean looking back, I was having identity development issues. But at the time I had no clue what was going on and I was feeling so detached from everyone and everything in my life. And at the first session the therapist said to me, oh your parents tell me you’re adopted and I said, oh yeah. I don’t have any issues with that at all. I'm fine. And he said, oh okay. And literally just dropped it. And then he went on to tell me, at the end of the session, that I was the most well-adjusted, articulate teenager that he had ever met and that I don’t have any problems and that I don’t need therapy and that my parents just need to relax. And it was like, oh. Darn it. You know? And I was so confused. Because I felt like something was really wrong inside, you know, and then what ended up happening, is that I internalized that, that I must be just a bad person. And that began years of self-esteem issues and self-loathing. And excessive partying at that point in college and things like that. And what I really needed him to say was, oh, you’re adopted? Adoption is everything, you know. You may not realize it but this is why you feel unanchored and disconnected. Here’s what we need to work on. And so, while I did go on to do therapy at a few stages in my life, you know. My first marriage was kind of falling apart and I was experiencing distressing career confusion, and stuff. Therapy was helpful but I never thought the therapist really truly understood what I was going through. And like they kinda got me through the marriage problem and career problems. But I never got to dig deep you know, into that. And so later in life, I decided to go to graduate school, after my younger brother went to graduate school to become a licensed clinical social worker. And he said to me like, this is so you, you have to do this. And I was like, yeah, you know, I had been going to a support group for years and that saved me.

Haley - Like a support group for adoptees?

Macy - Oh, for adoptees, yes, in New Jersey.

Haley - Really!

Macy - Oh yeah, it was, and it was not, it was a triad. I guess the old term, we’d call a triad group. But it was adoptees, adoptive parents and birth/first parents.

Haley - So how did you know to go to that?

Macy - Oh.

Haley - ‘Cause Macy, the therapist is like, oh you’re fine. You said, there’s nothing to do with my adoption, it’s fine. And he was like, you're right. So how did you know you needed that?

Macy - So if we go back to when I was 26 and got my non identifying information, I was just grasping at anything. And we got this like, flyer in the mail from Spence-Chapin that said they were holding a panel for adult adoptees and you know a discussion panel of post adoption stuff. And I was like, my adoptive mom said, do you wanna go? And I was like, yeah, okay let’s go. So she and I went together. And I didn't, it was literally like, I think of a cartoon character, your brain explodes. Like my brain exploded at that panel. And there was a woman there, Betsy Forest, a therapist who was also an adoptee, she was always, end up becoming a mentor to me, but I saw her and she used the word adoptee. And I was like, oh, I'm an adoptee! Like I didn’t even know that word, you know? And then they used the word birth parent. And you know now, depending on what you wanna use, but that was, I didn’t even realize. Like I felt like I was born from a building. I really, I knew intellectually that I was born from a woman, but emotionally it didn’t feel that way. And so seeing these people talking about their experiences, like just blew me away. And afterwards, I was like, a stalker and I ran up to Betsy, and I said, tears streaming down my cheeks, and I was like, I'm an adoptee too! And she was like, oh. Yes, like I think she was used to it, you know. And I was just like, I, I, I! And she was like, you’re new right, you’re kinda just like—

Haley - You’re new!

Macy - You’re new in the whole process, right? And I was like, yes! And she said, you have to go to this support group. And I said, okay, what? And she wrote it down for me. And she was like, you have to go, it’s everything and I went and I literally cried, I think it was once a month. And I cried for I think, the first six months like, bawled my eyes out, barely could get three words out. And cried every time. And just knowing that oh my gosh, like, there are people who get what I'm talking about and I'm not crazy. And they told me to read the book Lost and Found by Betty Jean Lifton, and when I read that, I was like, oh my god! There’s people out there who get this! Who understand it! And it just began my whole like, I completely opened up. And I think through that, well my brother went back to grad, Betsy became a huge inspiration to me. I think at that time I realized I wanted to be a therapist. But I didn’t, I still, feeling, like as adoptees we’re such chameleons, you know. I was living someone else’s life. The time I was married to my first husband, he was a huge personality, and I jumped on his coattails. And so that I didn’t have to pay attention to my stuff. And my parents were big, you know they had big careers, very big careers. And my mother was a research scientist working for a big company. My dad was a commodities broker. And so I thought like I too had to work for a big company and get the gold watch, you know what I mean? And I just didn’t realize that I could actually say I wanna do something different.

Haley - So your brother comes to you and is like, you gotta do this. What did you say?

Macy - I said, you’re right.

Haley - Oh?

Macy - I said, you’re right. I knew it. And my brother and I, I adore my younger adopted brother. He has been my, he’s been my therapist all through life. I'm gonna actually tear up talking about it. But he’s such a good person and he’s been such a light in the dark times for me. And so, ooh, I didn't expect that, getting a little emotional. But when he said that, I just felt like he gave me permission, you know, to be who I truly was meant to be. And becoming a therapist has felt more like a calling than a vocation, you know? Or a career. And that’s really, and when I went to graduate school, it was like, all bets are off. Like here comes Macy. Like, look out. You know, like I just went. And it really felt so right. And I just know that this is what I'm supposed to be doing. And it’s hard, I think, for us adoptees, that we don’t get, you know it’s really hard for us to find that voice.

Haley - So how long have you been a therapist now?

Macy - Not that long actually, but it’s been I guess 5 years.

Haley - Okay.

Macy - 5 years, yeah, and I joke, I feel like it’s been longer because I've had a support group during that same time and I’ve facilitated support groups for about, over 20 years and would mentor people. So it feels like longer, but officially, you know, 5 years.

Haley - Officially with your practice.

Macy - With my practice, yes.

Haley - But yeah, wow. Okay, okay. So you have said a few things in this interview. You said you felt like you were floating off into space at one point, that you were grabbing on to anything. You used that word unanchored. What did that really look like for you and can you talk more about that? Because I think the unrootedness, the unanchored feeling is really common for a lot of us.

Macy - I agree. And when I work with adopted teens and adults now, you know I tell them, it is painful to have an identity that is based on rejection and loss.

Haley - Wow.

Macy - Yeah. And so you know, that’s our beginnings. And we are not really allowed to honor that and to really other people don’t really wanna honor it and people wanna skip over it. And it’s kind of like when, Darryl McDaniels talks about like having your chapter, like needing your chapter 1, you know. You need that first chapter. So when I say this to them, and then I say I bet it feels like sometimes, sometimes you feel like a boat that someone just untied from a dock and sent adrift. I mean people just look at me so relieved and they’re like, yes, that’s what it feels like. And they look at me like I just told them the secret to the universe. But it’s like someone who just gets it and then I’ll go on to say, that they feel so disconnected from their family but they love them and it’s confusing and it is, it’s so confusing. And it’s so layered. And I think it’s important to understand that this rejection and loss sets the foundation literally for the relationship to ourselves, to the world, and with our partners and friends. So that beginning, sets the tone of how we relate to ourselves, how relate to our partners and friends, how we relate to the world. And if the attachment piece of our adoptive parents, if they’re confused by us being so different from them temperament wise, or whatever, it’s sometimes it’s completely unconscious, it’s not something that they’re thinking about, but there’s this subtle rejection or not understanding of who we are as babies, that can just layer on top of the whole thing. So this is why we feel unanchored and this is why we feel adrift. And I use the phrase in my therapy work and in our support group, I’ll say, oh it’s a thing. And I use it as a way to validate adoptees and their experiences, to help adoptees know that they’re not crazy. This is something that adoptees commonly experience to your point. And I'll say yep, it’s a thing. Like feeling unanchored. That’s a thing. And there’s such a weight lifted when we know we’re not the only ones. One of the things, I'm a very visual person, I was an artistic person and it always helps me to visualize something and it kind of gives me something to sort of, I guess, anchor myself to, right? And so one of the visuals that I have keep coming back to is that, I’m the boat and our parents are the dock. And this can be your birth parents, this can be your adoptive parents, you know, we can look at it multi different ways. But let’s just call it our adoptive parents right now. And that at times, we can be anchored to that dock. I don’t know if you know anything about boats, but they have to have like the front and the back end, kind of, sometimes are anchored, depending on how the, it is. And if there’s a storm and that boat is anchored, you're good. You’re there, okay fine, I’m not going anywhere. But if there’s a storm and that anchor comes undone, for whatever reason, or that mooring comes undone, then you’re gonna be set adrift. And it is not uncommon for us to feel like someone has set us adrift. And this can happen, it happened to me again when my adoptive mother died, I felt completely, I felt like worse, like that I was, before I would be adrift and just still be in the marina. And they could just bring me back. But when my adoptive mother died, I felt like I was in the middle of the ocean. And there was no one coming to get me. And then I think also if we think about it from our birth parent perspective, is that it is just not a natural process to take children away from parents. And the people we’re given to, smell strange, they sound strange. Especially international adoptees. This is not a language you’ve been hearing in utero. This is so strange, everything is completely strange. And so we are adrift and it’s almost like trying to get on the boat while the boat is not moored. So the adoptive parents, trying to board that boat and trying to bring it in. And you know, that makes it very difficult for us and I don’t know if people really get the gravity of that. Is that we feel this on a cellular level, we feel this sense of unmoored, unanchored, on a cellular level. And like, you know, essentially, every person in the world wants to know that they’re seen and they’re heard, and simply recognized. And speaking very generally, when one is raised in a biological family, you have parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, et cetera, who are mirrors. And they reflect back parts of ourselves. So like you would, you know if you’re raised in a biological family you can say, oh I see I have my grandfather’s nose, my aunt’s laugh, my mother’s sense of humor, my father’s musical ability, oh my cousin and I both love to play sports, and you spend your life checking in with these people subconsciously and telling yourself, I’m okay, I belong. This is why I am the way I am. And that’s essentially that mooring that’s keeping us tied to the dock as people who are raised in biological families. And Erik Erikson, a developmental psychologist, he spoke about the importance of this checking in our healthy psychosocial development. And when I studied him in graduate school I just kept thinking like, well what about adoptees? Because we don’t, when we go to check in, we grew up not having these mirrors or reflections and we desperately check in with our family members and what do we find? Nothing, you know? And we don’t find any similarities. And that also helps with this unmooring feeling, you know, with this unanchored feeling. Because you’re constantly looking and checking in and seeing, you know, is there anything that I'm like. And then if there are similarities, you know if we do find something that we’re like, I mean people would say to me, oh you’re tall just like your father. And I would wanna say, it’s just a coincidence, you know what I mean? It’s not, you know what I mean? We have nothing to do with each other biologically. And you feel like a fake. You don’t feel legit. And so—

Haley - Can I ask you about reunion then? Because you said, your first mother, you look so alike, but you were like, nobody has my crazy hair, or, you know?

Macy - Right.

Haley - What was that experience like for you then?

Macy - So that, funny that you say that because it reminds me of this story. I'm gonna go around and I’ll come back. But this story makes me think of when I was about 5 yrs old, I was with my adoptive family and a stranger came up to me and said, oh look at your hair. I used to have crazy, wild, red hair which I mentioned before. And my adoptive family all have straight black hair. And I said, oh I'm adopted! And my mom jerked me away and after an awkward silence, the stranger left and my mom said, oh we don’t dare, we don’t air our dirty laundry.

Haley - Oh!

Macy - To strangers. And I was only about 5 and I thought, oh. I'm dirty laundry. And my hair also has been a thing my whole life. Like it’s very different and very wacky and until, thank everything for keratin, but I've been able to tame it. But it was really wild and crazy. And anyone who knew me growing up knew I had this Diana Ross hair on a white girl. Like it was just crazy. And it was huge. It was crazy hair, it was the 70s too, so there was no hair products to help me or straighteners, or anything. And so when I met, when I found my biological father, he sent me a picture of him as an artist. And he was doing street art and like drawing chalk art or whatever on the street. And he was in the newspaper. And he had this huge afro. And like this white guy afro. And this crazy hair and I thought, oh my gosh! There it is! That’s what I've been looking for. And it started that feeling of anchoring for me. And actually getting to know him, his personality and my personality are very similar. And we have the same really dorky sense of humor, and vocabulary, we have the same words. I found out we use the same planner you know, like, it’s, but it was just very anchoring for me and helped me really like ground myself and say, okay, I am not so floaty anymore. You know, I actually do come from somewhere. We don’t always get that, you know? So we have to find ways to anchor ourselves. That’s the tough, that’s the tough stuff.

Haley - Well yeah, I was gonna ask you. So for people who don’t have that, what are some of the ways that adopted people can find anchoring or rooting or feeling grounded? Whatever kind of lingo you wanna use there? What are ways we can address that?

Macy - Well one of the things that I do, that I have done for a really long time before non-identifying information, before that kind of stuff, is I do a morning writing meditation. Every morning. And what that is, is a way for me to get out all the gunk, that unconscious gunk that I know is keeping me, and actually that unconscious gunk we tend to fling at other people if we don’t get it out. It comes out in our relationships. We can fling it all kinds of places. And so that, just all you need is 10 minutes. You sit down. And if you get a journal you really like, I don’t particularly get fancy journals because they intimidate me and then I don’t do anything. So I get like really, literally, spiral bound notebooks. Like cute ones, but nothing too fancy ‘cause people have given me fancy journals and I'm like, ahh! And I feel like I have to perform in them, you know? So I get just a regular spiral bound notebook and you put your pen down and you literally don’t pick it up for 10 minutes and you just, whatever’s in your brain, you write out. So you’re like I don’t know what to write, this is so terrible, oh my gosh, I can’t believe I have to sit here for 10 mins. And you do that for 10 mins, but if you do that every day, you eventually get to a place where it becomes this outlet and stuff comes out that you’ll be like, whoa, I had no idea that was in there. So I have found for me, and I use it a lot in working with my clients, that it really helps us ground ourselves and get our some of that gunk so we’re not flinging it at other people. And I got this from Julia Cameron, she wrote a book called The Artist’s Way. And I don’t know if anyone else has talked about it but, it’s one of my all time favorite books and it’s essentially like an 8 week program that you can do for yourself. Or 12 weeks? I’m not sure, but anyways, you can go through it and she has you do these writing morning meditations. She calls them morning pages. That’s where I got the idea from, many moons ago, and it has helped me tremendously. My clients say it really helps them. If you’re into it, it’s a great way to anchor yourself. Because we can let some of that stuff really get in between us and our relationships. So that’s one thing. And then what I also love for anchoring is yoga. I am a big yoga person. I'm in the middle of getting certified as a yoga teacher, in Kali Natha yoga which is a small branch of yoga but it has really been wonderful for me, because it kind of pulls a bunch of different yogas together. It has chanting and meditation, breath work which is key, and also traditional yoga poses and stuff. But any kind of yoga I find, helps you connect with your body, it helps you listen to your body, ‘cause a lot of us as adoptees, sometimes unanchoring can show up is us not paying attention to our bodies. We kind of shut that whole thing off. Like no, no, no, you don’t get a voice. And part of it is, we’re so used to searching the environment for clues, that we don’t realize we have all these clues of what’s going on within us. That body work really to me, is just brilliant. And really helps you kind of connect with who you are listen to your body more. And the other thing that I love is an app called Insight Timer. And it’s a meditation app but you don’t have to meditate traditionally, everyone thinks you have to sit in like a lotus pose and ohm and everything. You can literally just sit in your favorite chair and, but there are guided meditations, there are five minute meditations, there are 1 minute meditations, there’s thousands and thousands of meditations on there. And when we get quiet, that’s when we hear our soul speak. And so I find that any time we can just get quiet, and listen to our soul, we can then anchor ourselves. And reanchor ourselves and not rely on others to anchor us. Because sometimes we climb on to a relationship, sometimes we climb to friends, and we look for these anchors everywhere. But really we have that responsibility to anchor ourselves and so then the other people around us, then feel anchored.

Haley - Wow, it’s very wise, very wise words, Macy. And you know, I like that idea of being responsible for our own grounding because you don’t know who’s coming in and out of your life, right?

Macy - Right.

Haley - You know, I don’t wanna be morbid but you know, people die, right? So you—

Macy - No, absolutely.

Haley - So the person that you can rely on is you. And hope you can be a trustworthy person for yourself. And I think that’s part of, probably part of the work.

Macy - Absolutely.

Haley - Alright. Wow. Anything else that you wanna tell? That I didn’t ask you about?

Macy - No, I think the only other thing is, I love support groups. I have one here. If you can find one, I think they’re a great way to really connect with others, that’s another way of grounding, I think of, when we have those connections, those meaningful connections who get it. You know, people who just understand, we don’t have to explain ourselves 100 ways over when you’re in those groups. If it’s an online group, if it’s an in person group, however you connect with people, that’s another way.

Haley - And where do we find your group that’s in Florida, right?

Macy - Yes! We are in South Florida, in Boynton Beach, Florida. And we have a website called, you can find us at www.floridaacts.com.

Haley - And you guys meet monthly and you’ve been going for a long time.

Macy - We’ve been doing 5 years, so this is our 5 year anniversary in February.

Haley - That’s awesome.

Macy - Yeah.

Haley - So good. Well, another place you can find in person adoptees support groups, is Adoptees Connect.

Macy - Correct.

Haley - Which is great, we have an Edmonton chapter here, which I run with my friend John. Yeah, in person is so special. Okay, I didn’t prompt you to give recommended resources? But all of those tips were your recommended resources.

Macy - Yes.

Haley - And I wanna just give my quick recommendation, is a fairly recent new list on the website growbeyondwords.com. and it’s a directory of adoptees who are therapists. And you are on this list, Macy, along with many other familiar names, people who have been on the podcast before. Yes there are of course all the, oh my gosh, the legal speak at the top. You know, of course you have to vet therapists before you sign up to work with them, but this is so cool. This full, adoptees that are therapists list on growbeyondwords.com. And I’ll have the link for that in the show notes. And if you are an adoptee who is also a therapist, you can send in your information to be included on this list. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, and I really enjoyed your insights about the unanchored part that we can so often feel. And I think that metaphor can be so helpful for people to picture ourselves as the boat and you know, what we’ve experienced. Again I think we mentioned this, just having that validation, like, this is a thing, is so helpful for us, so thank you Macy.

Macy - You’re welcome, thank you for having me.

Haley - Absolutely! So we shared where we can find your support group, but where can we connect with you online?

Macy - Oh yes, you can find me through my practice website which is centerformindfulfamilies.com and you can contact me through there and see more about the work that we do. We are also play therapists and work with young ones as well as adults and teens. And you can also email me at Macy.oos@gmail.com. And those are the two ways you can get hold of me.

Haley - Perfect, thank you so much.

Macy - Thank you so much. It was such an honor being part of the podcast, thank you.

(upbeat music)

Haley - Thanks so much for allowing me this time with you. I am so honored to be in your earbuds every week so thank you. Wherever you’re listening, if you are listening on your commute or on your, I was gonna say on your commute or on your drive, same thing, walking the dog, washing dishes, however you’re listening, I so appreciate it. And I don’t take it lightly, the honor I have to be able to share these really beautiful interviews with you. I am so grateful for my guests and how they open up their lives to us and give us this intimate view of what it looks like to be adopted. It’s such a treasure and yeah, like I said, I don’t take it lightly that I get to share that with you every week. I have some updates for what summer is gonna look like for Adoptees On. And I’m gonna be sharing that with you next week. But for now, I just wanna say a big thank you to my monthly supporters, I wouldn’t be able to do this show without you. If you wanna join them you can go to AdopteesOn.com/partner and another amazing way you can support this show is by telling just one person about the podcast and the impact it’s had on you. And if you know someone that’s adopted, I would love it if you would share this episode with them. Thanks so much for listening, let’s talk again next Friday.

(exit music)

114 [S6 E114] Inez Cook

Transcript

Full show notes: https://www.adopteeson.com/listen/e114

Episode Transcription by Fayelle Ewuakye. Find her on Twitter at @FayelleEwuakye


Haley - This show is listener supported. You can join us and help our show grow to support more adoptees by going to AdopteesOn.com/partner.

(intro music)

You’re listening to Adoptees On, the podcast where adoptees discuss the adoption experience. This is episode 114, Inez. I’m your host Haley Radke. I’m so honored to bring you Inez Cooke today, who is the owner of a First Nations restaurant in Vancouver called Salmon and Bannock. Inez shares her story with us, how she spent time searching for identity all around the world and how she came to find it back in Canada. We discuss finding out about the Sixties Scoop as an adult, the power and importance of food as a way to explore her culture and how her new book will be available to educate children across Canada about the Sixties Scoop. We do mention bannock a few times and I just want to tell you, that that is a name for a traditional, indigenous bread, and it’s delicious. We wrap with some recommended resources and as always, links to everything we’ll be mentioning today are on the website AdopteesOn.com. Let’s listen in.

I’m so pleased to welcome to Adoptees On, Inez Cook, welcome!

Inez - Hi, how are you?

Haley - I’m doing well. Thank you so much for coming on the show and I’m just really excited to hear your story, so would you start out with that? Would you share your story with us?

Inez - My name is Inez Cooke and I am part of the Sixties Scoop. I was born in Bella Coola, British Columbia, part of the Nuxalk nation, and I was taken away at age 1. I was put into foster care and you know, I’m one of the fortunate ones. I ended up in a home where this family, they had 8 children of their own, and I was the 23rd foster child that they’d brought in. And you know at the time, when they brought me, they said can you just bring her to her health and they said no, we’re full, we don’t have any space, we can’t do it anymore and we’re getting older and we grow to love these kids and then they get adopted out and we can't handle it anymore. And they said please just bring her to her health. So they brought me in and I was the last foster child that they’d brought in to this home. And I stayed with them for 2 years and then they tried to adopt me. And the government said they were too old to adopt me, so their daughter adopted me. So they became my grandparents. And their daughter became my mother. So I was really lucky in the fact that I really grew up in a family and surrounding of love which was great. And the people that were my siblings for the first two years ended up being my aunts and uncle. And my mother. So that was really, really cool, it kept us all really close which, so my story’s a little different than others. I recognize that not everybody has had such a good beginning I guess, like a good situation out of a bad situation I guess you could say? I mean of course we all have personal stories that we’ve gone through and nothing’s been perfect. But I have to say that I was given a family of love and I grew up knowing that I was adopted. I didn’t know the situation about why I was adopted or anything like that. And I kind of made up a story in my head, which I found out later wasn’t true, obviously. But I really, I was a dreamer and I liked making up stories and I was always writing plays when I was little and I loved making up stories about what really happened and why I was adopted. And growing up I was always told I was the chosen one, I was always told that. All the other parents had to keep what they had and we got to choose you. So they always made me feel really special which was, you know, it’s very appreciated especially now looking back and hearing other people’s stories and hearing other people’s experiences. You know, I really respect and value that, I had that core. I knew that I was native and when I was little, we moved up to, my dad got positioned at a job in Northwest Territories in Hay River. And I was in grade 2 and we moved up there and you know I saw drunk people in the ditch, I saw a lot of broken souls and scary people in my eyes as a little young girl. And I was like, who are these people? And they said they’re natives, and I just looked at them and I said, I'm not native. And that was the end of that and nobody was allowed to call me native. Ever. And you know growing up I used to try to fool people because my name was Inez, and I look like I could be Latina. I actually tried studying some Spanish trying to fool people, trying to pretend that I was Spanish. My document said that I was part Italian so I really worked that because of my Mediterranean coloring, I used to say I was Italian. You know, I really, I really hid away from myself. And I didn’t wanna know about my native heritage, I didn't wanna belong to it. But the interesting thing is, is that my whole life I felt like, I felt different. And even though I was in this great family filled with love, I felt like I was still different than everybody else. And it was more than just looking at the family photos where everybody’s blonde and fair complexion and I'm the dark one, it was more than that. I just felt like I was yearning, yearning, yearning, yearning for culture. And I felt like these mountains in Vancouver were stagnating me and I needed to jump higher and I needed to find culture. And so when I was 19 I guess, I must have just turned 19, I just finished studied radio broadcasting and I studied radio broadcasting in Vancouver. And I thought I would move to Toronto and go work for MuchMusic and you know I thought that was just gonna be easy and that was my calling. And I got there and I didn't have any experience, I was fresh outta school. So I said well I would work as an intern for free, and they said that it was unionized and there was no free positions to be had. So you know, the school of life came up. It was expensive, 1988 in Toronto, very expensive and I had to have three jobs just to pay my rent. And then I ended up moving to Montreal. And I studied French in Montreal. And the interesting thing was is, the reason I decided to move to Montreal and study French was because I had had a job interview with Wardair in 1988 in Toronto. And they said I got through my three interviews, and they said, you know what? We would love to hire you, but the other applicant speaks French. And we know that wasn’t a prerequisite, but it is definitely an asset and we’re gonna have to take them. And they said is there anything that you’d like to say. And I looked them straight in the eye and said this will be the last time anybody tells me that that is gonna be a reason that I don’t get a job. So I moved to Montreal and I studied French. And you know, I was still looking for culture and still yearning for this. I needed to meet the world and I needed the world to meet me and it was just, it was a strange, it was a strange thing. But, also backing up a little bit, when I was 13 my first job was at Boston Pizza as a dishwasher. And it’s hilarious because when I finished my radio broadcasting course, my best friend finished her university, her teaching course, and we went out to celebrate and I looked at her and I said, what do you wanna be when you grow up? And she’d just finished her teaching course and she said, I wanna be a makeup artist in film. And she’d just finished her teaching course. And I’d just finished my broadcasting and I said, I wanna be a flight attendant and own my own restaurant. And that was something that we said to each other, you know, when we were 18.

Haley - Wow.

Inez - So I had kept my toes wet my whole life working in restaurants. When I was in Toronto, I worked at 3 restaurants just to pay my bills. I was part of a team that opened up a 5 star restaurant. I was new to Toronto, I wanted to make friends. I thought I should go and work at a place where there’s a lot of people and I can meet lots of people and build like a little family and get in right away. So that’s what I did in Toronto with my three jobs, was all in restaurants. Then I moved to Montreal and I had to work under the table because I was getting my French classes paid by the government, 40 hours a week, 5 days a week French. And I needed to pay my bills, so I was working under the table in restaurants. And you know, so I kept my toes wet the whole time in the industry, and then one day there was a tiny little ad saying flight attendants urgently needed. Please call this number. Well I’d called the number all day and it was busy, busy, busy, busy, busy. I couldn’t get through. And at that time we used to be able to call the operator and do like a cross check with the number and get the address. So I showed up at the address, at this place. Like a stalker. And I said, hi I’d like to apply for the flight attendant position, and they said, uh how did you find us? And I’m like well, I have to go to work now, and I’ve been trying to call you all day and it’s been busy and I need to reach somebody. They said well do you have a resume? And I said, I’ll provide you with my resume when you provide me with an interview. And so they gave me an interview, set a date, and I went off to work. And then I started flying. So that was, 1989, I started flying for Nationair out of Montreal. And they went bankrupt, no that was 1990. So ‘93 they went bankrupt. And when they went bankrupt, we had had a contract in the Middle East in Saudi Arabia and a European airline took over the contract. And hired 23 of us Canadians who are now at the time jobless. So I went and I worked with this European airline and I was based in Saudi Arabia, Africa, India, you know all over the world. And the entire time I was still yearning for culture. And living in the Middle East, I lived there for 5 and a half years. And you know I can manage in Arabic now, shopping, taxis, restaurants. I love the food, I love the music, I had big, all my heartbreaks were there. You know, I tried to even pretend I was like Middle Eastern of some sort. Like I really felt like I belonged. But I didn’t. I didn’t belong. At the end of the day I just didn't. And when I quit flying overseas, I got hired with Air Canada back in Vancouver and my mom was ill and it was time for me to come home. And it had been the first time in a long time that Air Canada was hiring French speakers. ‘Cause I came home for Christmas, I did my Air Canada interviews and I moved back home. And just before I left, my friends over in Saudi Arabia, they threw a big party for me and because my dream was to still open a restaurant, but I thought it was gonna be my retirement goal. I thought you know, my dream was to take people on a journey. And I wanted to take people, I wanted them to feel like they’ve traveled and they’d been on this journey. Because I’ve traveled and I've seen the world and I really, really, really wanted people to experience traveling and a different experience and all of those things. And I started flying with Air Canada and there started to be, I started to meet lots of like indigenous colleagues. And these people were amazing, they were role models. So I used to ask them questions and I started asking little questions here and there. And just trying to understand you know, a little bit more about, and they were proud. They were so proud to be indigenous, proud to be First Nations. And I thought, wow, that’s just incredible, it’s amazing. And it was after I came back and after I actually got my status back, I got it reinstated. And there’d been a bill that had passed, because through the Scoop, through the Sixties Scoop, our families had to sign away our status. So I grew up without status and I got it back as an adult. But I got it back after I started flying for Air Canada. And so I never ticked off the box like visible minority. They said are you visible minority and I thought that’s the most ridiculous question I’ve ever heard. You know, I don’t feel like a visible minority and I don’t really know what that really is actually. So I answered no and it wasn’t until a couple years after I’d been flying that at the time Chief Phil Fontaine, National Chief Phil Fontaine was the National Chief. And he was on my flight and I said oh what are you doing in Vancouver? And he said well, I actually with a meeting with Air Canada, I need to make sure that they’ve hired enough, there’s a quota, they have to hire x amount of indigenous people. And I was like, really, I didn't know about that. Well I guess I’ll put my name on the list. And that was kind of the beginning when I started to kind of understand that I actually am indigenous. And once I got my status back, I could look at the picture and kind of go okay, like this is weird. But, you know, I didn't feel indigenous.

Haley - ‘Cause you had decided, in grade 2, you’re like, you’ve wrote this line in your book, “I knew I was native, but I did not want to be.”

Inez - I did not want to be. And I didn't want anybody to know either. That was like really important to me. So when I started asking questions to my colleagues, and you know one of the colleagues in my initial training at Air Canada, she’s native and I was like, oh my god, do you make bannock and she’s like, well my mom does sometimes. And I was like, oh you have to give me your recipe. And I started to get interested in like just little things. And little things that I remembered when I was little, they started to come back to me and I started to have like a larger interest. Then I get married, I get divorced, when I'm going through my divorce, I need a little getaway, I need to just get out of the city and just kinda clear my thoughts, and one of my best friends lives in Kelowna, so I go hang out with her and drink some wine and just chill. And she’s driving me back to the airport and I see a big sign, “Don’t Panic, We have Bannock.” And I'm like, oh my god, stop the car, I need to go there now. And so we stopped and we went and got bannock and I brought a bunch of it back and I told my close friend Remy, you know, the Olympics are coming to Vancouver and we don’t have an indigenous restaurant in this city anymore. Like it’s ridiculous. There’s one in Kelowna and there’s nothing in Vancouver. And the entire world is coming here. And we no longer have anything indigenous. Like, a restaurant that they can go to. Like when I travel the world I like to try food from the land, I like to try local food. So I just thought that was really odd. And he’s like, oh my god, I’ll work day and night, let’s make it happen. And I said I'm going through my divorce, I don’t have money, it’s not the right time. Anyways, things ended up kind of, doors started opening, and this lady that we knew basically needed us to sublet her restaurant. Like her daughter’s restaurant. I was like, how’s your daughter doing? You didn’t hear? She had a car accident, she can’t run her restaurant anymore. I wish somebody would take it over. So basically it was kind of like, what? All the doors kind of opened and we just dove in. And we opened Salmon and Bannock bistro, February 15th, 2010. The day after the Olympics started. And it was interesting because I had to, I wanted it authentic. And I still didn't feel that native and I didn’t feel that authentic. And so I went to a local community here and I asked who makes the best bannock? And I hired a mother and daughter team and we started super small with about 5 items on the menu. And now I mean, we’ve grown, our menu’s grown, our staff has grown. And it’s funny because I thought that after opening this restaurant, all the communities would welcome us with open arms. And that wasn’t the case at all, because I was a stranger. I was like an alien. Nobody knew me. And in the indigenous communities, in the indigenous world, especially the business world, you know you hear of business opening up, you would’ve hear of them, or you would have heard about them or you would have known someone in their family. Or you would have known something about them. But to see all over the media, that a Nuxalk person opened this restaurant, it caused a lot of alert and questions. Especially in the Nuxalk

community. They were like, who’s claiming to be Nuxalk? And we don’t know them? Like that’s impossible. So they sent in people to check it out and I guess the first people that came to check it out, saw me and met me and went back and reported back saying like, I don’t think she’s lying. She looks Nuxalk. So then they had so send in somebody older to check. And you know, it’s funny because Remy’s French and I’m First Nations and he used to get a lot of grief from a lot of people like, why are you a white person working at this native restaurant? And so I said well, you know what, I’m getting the same grief from the same people because nobody knows me. So it was interesting because this lady had come in and she was you know, asking me a ton of questions and I knew a couple of answers and thankfully I knew my biological mother’s name was Miriam. I went and got the lady her tea, and when I came back and I brought her, her tea, she was standing there with her arms extended saying, let me be the first to welcome you home, we’re family. And when that happened, that was really really, really the beginning of like an onion peeling back the layers of understanding who I am, where I come from, you know, my history, my biological mother’s story. And you know after that, several relatives came in to meet me. An uncle had come in to meet me and he had promised my late biological mother that he would find me. And when he found me he did a traditional blessing for the restaurant. And he looked at me and he said, your traditional name is gonna be Snitsmana. And he went back and reported to the community that that’s what was gonna happen. And he passed away shortly after so I was really fortunate that I had that moment with him, that special moment with him.

Haley - So what does mean for you then, to have this, oh my goodness, there is a whole other family. And you had said that in your childhood you had fantasized a little bit but none of that was true or accurate. So in your adulthood then, knowing you have this other family, and you do have this heritage, what was going on for you when you’re discovering this?

Inez - So I have a biological sister, we also met as adults. And I said well, if I'm going out there, you’re coming with me. I’m not doing this one alone. And we went up together and it was a three day potlatch. We met 500 relatives. And you know, it was like extremely emotional. It still is emotional actually. But it was a little bit, it was overwhelming because it was 2 of us and 500 of them.

Haley - Was your sister taken in the Scoop as well?

Inez - Yes.

Haley - And adopted into a different family?

Inez - Yes. And she grew up in North Van. Yeah. So it’s, it was definitely eye opening and basically just the beginning of really understanding and going to Bella Coola and meeting family and just understanding. I've been fortunate enough I've been back three times now and I've been building relationships with relatives and learning more of the story which is great. And it’s helped me immensely. And the cool thing is, is that now I realize that this restaurant is actually, it’s a personal journey that I'm taking everybody on. And I'm not taking anybody traveling far, I’m taking them traveling within and inwards in my personal journey. And that’s what makes Salmon and Bannock so special.

Haley - So as you reconnect with your sister, and you find out you know, some of the things that were actually true about your past that you just couldn’t have known since you were so young, and you learned about the Sixties Scoop, what was that like for you? Knowing what was taken from you?

Inez - I think, well when my sister phoned me and she said there’s a class action lawsuit for the Sixties Scoop and you should fill out the forms. And at first I was like, no, I’m not going to, that’s just for the people that had a rough go and I had a good life and I'm not gonna fill out the forms. And furthermore, I don’t wanna throw my family under the bus. And then I thought about it and I thought no, do you know what? Like, thank goodness I had a good life. But it’s not about that. It’s the domino effect of what happened prior which was wrong. And there’s strength in numbers so most definitely I have to sign that paper. So that’s kinda where my thoughts were.

Haley - And do you know how many other children were taken from Bella Coola?

Inez - No, I never asked actually.

Haley - I wondered, I was picturing you going back and meeting these 500 relatives and, you and your sister, and wondering how many other people were impacted by losing their connection to their children.

Inez - I mean, our biological mother, she was fluent in the Nuxalk language and when she was at the Day Residential School, the Residential Day School in Bella Coola, she spoke her language and they poured boiling hot water on her.

Haley - Oh!

Inez - Until she had third degree burns. And she was hospitalized for three months. And the family would visit her daily and the government once said, oh no, this is too much family involvement. So they uprooted her from the hospital and they transferred her to the Residential School in Alert Bay. So she never got to grow up being a daughter, a sister, she never had a mother daughter relationship with her own mother. She didn’t get to grow up with her family. And you know, it was interesting, because I’d heard different stories of how broken she was. Once I started meeting relatives and you know, about, as soon as they found me, about 100 Facebook requests came up on my Facebook feed from family in Bella Coola. And I thought how on earth could she had been so broken with such a large family? You know, I just couldn’t understand it, I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. Because you can only think about the experience that you’ve had with your family. So you know, if I had 500 family members that I grew up with, like I would hopefully not be in a broken state. I just couldn’t understand how that could happen. And then when I went to Bella Coola and I met relatives and I started hearing some of her stories as well as others, you know and I started putting the puzzle together and everything started to make sense and I thought, you know what it? This little girl was worth less. She was worth less all the other little girls. And when she actually finally had a small chance, a window of opportunity, when she started having her own children, being able to start a new life, a new beginning, a new traditions with her own family, she couldn’t even do that. We were taken away as well. Why? Because she was worth less. So I think about this lady and I think about everything she went through. And I think from a little girl to adulthood, she was worth less all the other girls. And that breaks my heart.

Haley - I’m so sorry, I know that she passed away before you had the opportunity to meet her. And that’s just so heartbreaking. You know, in researching the Sixties Scoop for this series and reading more about the residential schools in Canada, it’s absolutely abhorrent. I mean the things that happened and were not just happening, but like government sanctioned and just horrendous, horrendous, it’s just such a horrible part of Canada’s history. And I, you know I want people to learn about it because, Miriam, your biological mother’s a real person. And she represents so many people who had such a terrible time at the hands of our government and some very, very horrible people.

Inez - Yeah, and understanding like as a little girl, if we drove by a man in Hastings, I probably would have locked the car door, you know? And my biological mother could have been on the other side of that door window. And that breaks my heart. It’s just thinking that. It’s just, and thinking, seeing so many people still have judgement hats on. And my mom now, she has Alzheimer’s and explaining to her that I was joining the class action lawsuit at the beginning was a little bit tough for her and then I explained, I really explained to her well. But now that she has Alzheimer’s it’s interesting because she actually understands better now. And she said, sweetie I understand, it wasn’t us. And I said no, you didn’t do anything wrong, you gave this child that needed a home, a home with love. That wasn’t, that wasn’t on you, it was prior to you. Why was my mother, my biological mother broken to begin with? Why couldn’t she look after her kids, you know? And just understanding that, because it’s amazing how many people still you know, have, wear judgement hats and they really think that the colonization way was the right way. They really, people still believe that. And it just amazes me that they think that their way is the right way. And they think, oh yeah, okay so kill the Indian, wash the Indian out of the kid. Like whatever it is, like whatever we think is ancient history books. Well the last Residential school closed in ‘96. That’s not that ancient, you know?

Haley - Yeah. And the legacy of trauma and those things like, I don’t know, I don’t even have words for it. It’s so upsetting and I don’t even, I don’t have a personal relationship or experience with that. Yeah, it’s really quite shocking. You wrote about your personal story in a children’s book. And you know, we’re talking about some very difficult things here. Why did you decide to write Sixties Scoop as a children’s book?

Inez - Well I think that you know, the schools are starting to include First Nations indigenous curriculums more and more. And now that there’s dialogue being brought up about it, I think it’s important. You know we never had these stories when we were younger. We never knew anything about this. I didn’t know until I was an adult that I was a part of the Sixties Scoop. So of course I understand that there’s other adults that have never heard of it, I’m part of it and I didn’t even realize until adulthood. And so it’s interesting because I’ve had a lot of feedback from adults of course. But recently I’ve been getting feedback from children and that is just amazing. And children can handle the truth. And they can tell when you’re telling them a story whether it’s true. And you know, what they get from it, is a little bit different than when the adults get from it. But it’s opening up dialogue which I think is really important.

Haley - So I ordered your book and I've read it a few times and I've had it sitting on my coffee table. And I have two young boys. And my older is in grade 1 and he can read. And so he was picking it up and I was telling him today, I said, oh yeah, I get to talk to Inez today, she’s the one that wrote this book. And he said, oh the book with, he was so like overcome, he was so moved by it. And I do think that, I agree with you. I think that children understand what’s true and what’s not. And they do need to hear about some of the challenging things. How can we not repeat history if we don’t understand what’s happened?

Inez - Yeah and all kids, it doesn’t matter where they’re from, they’ve all felt something, like all kids have similar feelings at some time. You know, in their life. Where they don’t feel accepted of wanted or belonging or any of those things. So me just kind of spelling it out, people kind of go oh, hey, I’m not alone.

Haley - Yes.

Inez - They can relate to different parts of the book.

Haley - Yes. And you write, as I said, some very challenging experiences in here and then you also have, you know, this really happy news of finding that you have a sister. And so there’s you know, this hopeful part of reconnection which you’ve experienced in your real life. And I found it so fascinating as you were talking through your story and how the search for culture, took you literally around the world. And it was back in BC where you sort of found yourself again. Can you talk a little bit more about that? Coming back to Canada, and opening your restaurant and can you pinpoint a moment where you finally could accept sort of both parts of you? Like I’m Inez, I was adopted, and I have this loving family but I also had a history before that?

Inez - It was gradual. But after going to Bella Coola for the first time, was the first time that, that I was super accepting about learning about it. And owning it.

Haley - Looking at this, as I said, there’s kind of like these two parts of you. But how did you go from, you said, I’m gonna repeat this line again. I knew I was native but I did not want to be. To, I am indigenous and this is a part of me and I want to accept that and also be that.

Inez - And I am so proud. Now I’m so proud. And I'm so proud that guests can come into our restaurant and we get to showcase our heritage with pride, all of us and our whole team was indigenous. And I'm in the process of, Remy’s in the process of leaving the business so it’s gonna be 100% First Nations owned and operated. It was interesting ‘cause when I started learning about you know, my biological mother and lots of the heartaches and the things, you know there’s, that have caused so many problems across our nation, once it started learning about some of that. And I started sharing with my friends. You know my friends were like, oh my god, that’s terrible and like, very, very dramatic about it, as was I. But you know I was gutted. But I would tell my First Nations friends and they would just look at me like I was saying, I think I’m gonna have a tea instead of coffee today. They were just like look at me, listening, and I looked at one of my friends and I snapped my finger and I went, that. I wanna get there, how do I get there. And she said you know Inez, it’s simple because all of us have a story. And just remembering that, every single person has a story. And when they’re sharing it with you, listen to their story. you know, it’s not about judging, leave the judgement hat off and listen to their story. And I'm there now which is great, I've come full circle. And I think probably that the next time that I heard some shocking news and I realized that I was listening like it was a story, I think that’s when I realized, okay. I’m in it, I’m here. You know? And that was a really amazing feeling. It was really fantastic.

Haley - So can you talk to someone, an adoptee like yourself, who perhaps didn't really know the extent of the Sixties Scoop, maybe didn't really want to think about themselves as an indigenous person, can you talk to someone like that and just tell them what exploring this and embracing and being proud, like what that’s done for you?

Inez - So my whole life, not wanting to be who I was, and as an adult learning who I was and where I’d come from, you know knowledge is power. And you know that horrible feeling that you have in the pit in your stomach of not belonging or not feeling like, just feeling different is a horrible feeling. And learning about yourself and learning about your heritage and your history, it’s really, really, it’s the most freeing feeling you could ever imagine. And the funny thing is that now that I’ve been learning about it and I feel so good in my own skin. Like it’s the first time in my life, I feel amazing in my own skin. And it’s freedom, you know? Just feeling good in your own skin and owning that and then people just celebrate that with you.

Haley - I love that, saying I feel amazing in my own skin.

Inez - I do.

Haley - Again, we’re doing this whole circle thing. You’re describing this picture of your family, when everyone is fair and has blonde hair and your skin is the different thing in the picture to saying, I feel amazing this way. And this is me.

Inez - Yeah, well I think kids don’t like feeling different usually. You know, they wanna feel like they belong and knowing where you come from is already a foot in the right direction on how to belong, because you need to belong in your own skin, right? That’s probably the most important thing to really understand. And it didn't happen overnight, and I’m not gonna say that it did, ‘cause it didn’t.

Haley - Yeah, I mean, this is like, discovering who you are is sort of a lifelong process anyway, and then when you’re an adoptee, there’s just a whole extra layer on that I think.

Inez - Once I really felt good in my own skin, I thought that all the other people that weren’t adopted, I thought that’s how they feel their whole life. I didn’t realize that it’s just human nature to have different questions. But I just thought, I finally feel good in my own skin, this is how every single person that wasn’t adopted felt their entire life from birth? Oh my god.

Haley - So there’s this thing that a lot of adopted people, if you listen to my show, we call coming out of the fog. And what that sort of means is, it’s when you finally realize the impact adoption has had on your life. And you come to the realization of kind of just that, like, oh wait, other people don’t think about this? Where did I come from? They just know?

Inez - And then another thing is going to Bella Coola and meeting 500 relatives. I mean that’s not even all of them. And like, then asking them like, how are we related? And them saying, oh I don’t know, we have to check. That was like, what do you mean you don’t know? I thought that they would all know everything too and they don’t.

Haley - Yeah, well I guess when you have 500 relative it’s sort of like, are you first cousins, second cousins, all the things? Oh good well, thank you so much, I really appreciated chatting with you. Let’s move now and we’ll do our recommended resources. So this isn’t probably gonna be a surprise to anyone, I'm gonna recommend that you pick up Inez’s book called Sixties Scoop. As I said, it’s a children’s book, but it is so profound in the matter of fact way that you share your story. And I really feel that adults also will be very moved reading your story in this fashion. And oh my gosh the illustrations are really quite incredible, Inez. Where did you find your artist?

Inez - Yeah, well he found me, actually. Jason Eaglespeaker. He’s the illustrator and he also published it. And so he actually reached out to me and asked if I felt like sharing my story.

Haley - It’s really beautiful, really, really beautiful. And also I wanna recommend that people go and visit your restaurant, and I come to Vancouver semi regularly. So next time I’m there I definitely wanna come. I’m celiac, but I saw that you do gluten free bannocks so—

Inez - Yes. And make sure you say that when you reserve.

Haley - Okay, I will. I will.

Inez - If you’re around on June 21st, that’s National Indigenous People’s Day. We have a fantastic evening set up, it’s gonna be filled with laughter and delicious food. So we have two comedians coming in, there’s gonna be two seatings, an early one and a late one, and yeah, I recommend that people come in and book for that.

Haley - Oh it looks amazing, and researching you, I saw that Salmon and Bannock is in the top ten restaurants on TripAdvisor for all of Vancouver which is like, you guys, Vancouver is a huge city. There’s thousands of restaurants. And your reviews, I was getting really hungry.

Inez - Awesome.

Haley - Yeah, so, yeah if you’re around in June, that sounds really great. Now there’s also another thing that, you wanted to just give a little bit of advice. Something that you didn’t know when you were first kind of on this journey. But if you are a First Nations person, what’s something that you didn’t know, that you know now but that people need to know?

Inez - Yeah so I think the one thing that shocked me the most is that I didn't know being a First Nations person, that I could just call the Nuxalk Band Office and say, hi, my name’s Inez, and my mother’s name is Miriam, and do you know any information about her. Is she there? I didn’t know that I could do that. And learn about it, like from the beginning. I didn’t know that.

Haley - So there’s info available if you just ask. And you can just call the Band Office.

Inez - Yeah, exactly.

Haley - Yeah, great.

Inez - And like, when I called the Band Office for the first time, it was like, the girl was like, oh I’m your cousin.

Haley - Of course!

Inez - Of course.

Haley - You have 500 relatives there, right? Oh my gosh, I love that, that’s so good. Okay, where we can we connect with you online?

Inez - So I have, I’m on Instagram, I think my personal one, well if you check Inez Cook, it should come up. I think it’s, @imisky.

Haley - I will link to your social media handles in the show notes. And what’s your restaurant’s website?

Inez - www.salmonandbannock.net.

Haley - And that’s where you can make reservations, especially for the upcoming National Indigenous People’s Day which is that June 21st dinner and comedy that you were telling us about.

Inez - Yes.

Haley - That would be great, okay. And if you go, I wanna hear about it, so you gotta message me and tell me how it was. I love standup. That’s so good. And good food. Thank you, thank you so much for sharing your story with us and I just really, so impressed by your story and oh my gosh, I’m going back to now, having that moment with your friend when you’re 18 and you wanna be a flight attendant and have your own restaurant. And you’re living it!

Inez - I am living it. I’m actually going to London tonight.

Haley - Well thank you so much for squeezing me in.

Inez - Yeah! It’s my pleasure, thanks for having me.

Haley - I just wanna let you know, that Inez’s book, Sixties Scoop, is available on Amazon and it’s now on both English and French. So make sure you go check that out, it’s such a great resource and would be a welcome addition to, especially your school library, if you have children of your own, and you wanna talk to them more about the Sixties Scoop and educate them. I think this is a perfect resource for that. I just want to shift gears and say a giant thank you to everyone for listening. I so appreciate having the opportunity to be in your earbuds every week, helping you through your boredom of your commute or working out, or walking the dog or whatever you’re doing while you’re listening. It is an honor and I don’t take it lightly. And I also wanna say thank you to my monthly Patreon supporters. Without you I wouldn’t be able to keep doing this show regularly, and I'm just so honored that you support the show in this way. If you want to become a monthly partner you can go to AdopteesOn.com/partner to find out more details and the added benefits of becoming a Patreon supporter. We have things like a secret group for adoptees only and also there is a totally new Adoptees Off Script podcast. So if you’re running out of AdopteesOn episodes to binge, there is another whole podcast there waiting for you if you become a monthly supporter. Thanks for listening, let’s talk again next Friday.

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