I was born in 1955 in Albuquerque, NM. My biological mother, Jane Anderson, was not yet 19, came from Liberty, MO. and gave me up for adoption to a young couple, Ron and Deanie Dean, who had been trying to have a child. 4 months after they adopted me, my adoptive mother became pregnant with my sister, Lori. We moved to the north valley of Albuquerque, NM, when I was 5, and I grew up next to an irrigation ditch. I spent my childhood outside with horses, riding my bike, playing in apple, cottonwood and elm trees, and catching grasshoppers to feed to the toads. We rode horses, made current jelly and apple pies and picked wild asparagus. My father owned a service station. My mother was a homemaker. She was an alcoholic and my sister & I grew up running the household. I was good with math and balanced my dad's ledgers. I had a brother, Alan, who was born with fetal alcohol syndrome in 1969, due to my mother's addiction. I was a tomboy, not particularly interested in dolls. Most days you could find me holed up somewhere in my room or outside in a haystack with my nose buried in a book, riding my bike, climbing trees or playing in the ditch banks. Reading was an escape from my parent's fighting and I could feel myself transformed to another place and time. I was a good student and escaped into my studies as well. I earned extra money mowing lawns, ironing and babysitting. I loved Superman and Superboy comics, Star Trek and anything science fiction. I would record the show and then listen to the audio tape until I fell asleep at night.
I was bullied at the end of elementary school, all three years of middle school, and into high school. I got my driver's license when I was not quite 15. My first car gave me respite from being terrorized on the school bus, when I could drive myself to school. My first job was for an elderly veterinarian who took me under his wing and taught me how to assist him. I learned bookkeeping, receptionist duties, how to take and develop x-rays, among many other life skills. My favorite part was suiting up and helping with the many surgeries at his busy clinic.
My biology teacher in high school began to teach us about genetics. We came home with questions to ask our parents: hair color, eye color, blood types, tongue curling, etc. Nothing jived for me. I was a B+, both my parents were O-. They were all tongue curlers. I wasn't. One night when my sister was out on a horseback ride, my father told me he had something to tell me that was very important. He told me I was adopted. I thought he was kidding, but then he began to cry. I was completely shocked. I had grown up never knowing their big secret. "Your sister, Lori, was born so soon after you, we did not want you to be raised differently," he explained. He gave me the option to tell her or not. I chose to tell her immediately. We cried, hugged each other and nothing changed in our relationship.
I excelled in academics in high school, taking every math and science class possible, and was a member of the National Honor Society, graduating 11th in my class. I delved into politics and joined the student council, eventually being voted secretary, my senior year. I was honored by the local newspaper in their "Salute to Albuquerque Teenagers" column.
My parents' marriage was crumbling and I applied and was accepted to Florida Institute of Technology, in Melbourne, Florida. I wanted to become an astronaut. They were not accepting women at any of the military academies at the time, so that was not an option for me. I had never been in an airplane nor seen the ocean. I was awarded an astronaut scholarship and with grants and student loans found myself 2000 miles from home. I majored in Space Sciences and worked in the registrar's office part time. Less than 3 weeks after I left for college, my parents divorced and remarried other people. My mother married another alcoholic. My father married a wonderful woman, Ilene, with three sons of her own, Michael, Joe & Pete. I joined the women's crew team. There had been no girls sports programs in high school and this was my first experience with any athletics. We struggled for two years to be respected and finally my third year began winning races, taking state, the southern small college championships in Atlanta, and rowed in the prestigious Dad Vail Regatta in Philadelphia, the first year they had allowed women to compete. We had car washes and bake sales to pay our own way up there and with our own oars and a borrowed boat, placed second. Our hard work paid off. We were finally being taken seriously.
That summer, my mother's health had seriously deteriorated, due to my parent's divorce and the progression of her alcoholism. Money was especially tight, so I decided not to return to school. I had continued to work at the vet clinic during my summers home from school, and went back to work there full-time. My mother died the following summer. She was 46 and looked 30 years older. My little brother went to live with my sister and her new husband in AZ. Lori and Paul raised three children of their own, and still have Alan living with them. Having a person in our family with special needs has been a hard road for them.
At the end of the following summer, I started bartending. The money was good and I was able to have my own apartment, buy a new car and go back to school at the university here. The following year I approached my father about searching for my biological mother and he gave me his blessing. I contacted the widow of the judge who had signed off on my adoption and she led me to a garage full of files. I found my adoption file hidden backwards in one of the file boxes and my search began.
In it was a letter from my biological grandmother saying how sorry she was they were not able to keep me, that I would have been an embarrassment for the family. Her name was Nellie Ruth and my grandfather was H. V. Anderson. They were from Liberty, MO, a little town outside of Kansas City, and I had an old address. My parents' hair color, eye color, IQ's, and educational backgrounds were listed. My biological mother had attended the University of Missouri. There were several, 4 or 6, as I remember. I called all of them posing as my mother's long lost friend from high school. Several days later, the one in Columbia, MO, called with my mother's married name and last known address in CA. I called all of the major cities to no avail. No one knew of any "Jane Bodine". I had hit a dead end. An acquaintance of mine was dating an older man who was a psychiatrist in the prison system in Lexington, KY. He offered to help, and using his connections was able to track down my mother's location from her driver's license. He also happened to be traveling to Kansas City and offered to go to the address I had and see if my grandmother was still alive. He rang the doorbell and the lady who answered told him he was looking for Nellie Ruth Petty and told him where she lived, across town. Now I had my grandmother's phone number and my mother's number and I was too terrified to call. Finally a few weeks later, I worked up the courage to call my mother's number. A young boy answered and I was sure he could hear my heart beating loudly on the other end. I asked for her and he said she wasn't home. I thanked him and hung up without leaving a message. What if he did not know about me? What if she doesn't want to talk to me? I had seen a TV show once called "The Stranger Who Looks Like Me" and it had not gone well for the young woman who was trying to find her mother. When she found her, the mother told her she had to leave, that her husband and children did not know anything about her. I sobbed for hours. "What if that happens to me? I asked myself. Several more weeks went by. Finally, one afternoon, I worked up enough courage to call my grandmother. She answered and I told her my name and that I believed her to be my grandmother and Jane Anderson to be my mother. She said "Oh honey" and began to cry and then I cried. She called my mother and my mother called me. Three weeks later, I was on a plane to CA to meet her and my siblings. I had four of them, and when I got off the plane I was amazed to see people who looked like me. She was 8 months pregnant with her last baby. It was a wonderful homecoming. I soon found out my mother had been forced into giving me up for adoption and had been looking for me since I turned 18.
I grew to love my newfound family. I had two sisters and two brothers. The eldest, Lisa, was only a year younger than me, and we had a lot in common. We have grown very close over the years. Lisa and her husband adopted a son. My brother,Adam, was the adventurer in the family. He died in a river accident in 1999. My sister, Caitlin, who was born shortly after I found my mom, has twin girls. I have been blessed to have this family as well as my adopted and step-families.
I spent the summer of 1979 bartending at a place called the Clear Sky Lodge, 90 miles north of Denali Park in Alaska, courtesy of two dear college friends who still live in Alaska, Don & Joan Bee. I grilled steaks, mixed drinks, sold airplane fuel, panned for gold, kayaked, flew in a jet helicopter and a two-seat airplane. To this day, it was the best summer of my life. I dropped out of college (to this day my biggest regret). I bought my first SLR and had my first picture published in New Mexico magazine. I worked hard at my job at the Sheraton Old Town and became an expert skier at Taos Ski Valley. I learned to windsurf and water ski. In 1987, I was in a terrible car accident, got hit and rolled end-over-end on the freeway. By the grace of God I did not die and was not paralyzed. I began to take my life more seriously and took a new job at a local camera store.
I met my future husband, Mike, when I took a lens to a repair shop he was working at. He had two little girls, Jessica (5) and Elizabeth (3), and I fell in love with all three of them. We married two years later and have built our camera repair business together. I went back to school taking electronics classes at the local community college. We had two sons soon after, Philip and Jeremy. I was active in the neighborhood association and served as President of the Tres Manos Joint Advisory Board for several years. We oversaw the completion of a day care center for low-income children in our neighborhood. I went to Minolta, Fuji and Nikon training, and read everything I could get my hands on about fixing cameras.
The next years were spent working, raising and loving my four children. I volunteered at church, teaching Sunday school and tending the church garden. I was a girl scout troop leader and a cub scout den mother. I was a little league scorekeeper, coach and board member of the Thunderbird Little League for many years.
We moved the camera shop three times, finally settling into a building that we bought 7 years ago. I tell people "The bank owns it. We pretend to." We recently celebrated 30 years of being in business as AP-T Camera Repair. My "day" job is waiting on customers, selling camera gear, repairing cameras, running a busy camera shop and teaching digital photography. My husband and I have been married almost 28 years and have raised four children and have five grandchildren.
I have been writing most of my life, beginning with poems when I was a little girl. Growing up with an alcoholic parent was not easy and writing was a way for me to process and deal with my pain. It grew into lyrics and stories and finally my first published book, "How the Unicorn got His Horn Back" and most recently "Sea Shoes."
My youngest son, Jeremy, was born 6 weeks early, and my story "Blessings" is about him.