October Update

They say winter is usually the source of blues for many people, but for me, I’m feeling a little down this fall. This is particularly strange since fall is my favorite season (which is weird considering I hate pumpkin-flavored anything). So, instead of being bummed out and unproductive, I figured I’d be bummed out and write a blog post instead lol.

 

Chicks Before Dicks

I hosted my first visitor in my new home this past weekend. My best friend Natalia made the six-hour drive from New York to spend two whole days with me and it was perfect in every way. Sometimes, you don’t realize how much you miss someone until you see them again after a long while.

One of the truest indicators of friendship, for me, is how the passage of time does or doesn’t change your relationship. Even though Natalia and I don’t talk every day, we don’t have to. When we are together, we pick up right where we left off talking about everything from work to boys to life.

When she left on Monday, I was overwhelmed by how sad I was to see her go. I know she’ll be back to visit, and that I’ll be back to Long Island after the winter, but it just reminded me there’s a part of me missing…the part I left at home.

Home Sweet Home

When I was younger, my family had this tradition of going for a bike ride in Eisenhower Park. To be honest, I hated it. My parents have always been physically fit people, and the only shape I’ve ever been in is round. It seemed no matter how much I pedaled, the bike ride was never over.

Normally, once we were actually finished, my dad would pack the bikes up and we’d head home. But once it got a little chilly outside, we took the highway to 106, parked on alongside a dirt road in Jericho, and stopped for apple cider at the Jericho Cider Mill.

I literally have to make zero effort to imagine it’s sweet yet tart taste right effing now. OMG, what I wouldn’t give for a sip! And bagels – oh how I miss bagels. So, wait till you hear this. The past few Saturdays, I’ve been working overtime from 8am to 12pm. On my way to work, I’ve noticed there is an Einstein Brothers Bagels across the street. So, on my first Saturday of OT, I headed to work early and figured I’d stop for a BEC before work.

IT WAS CLOSED! Now, granted, it’s located in the tower across the street from my building and that tower is closed on Saturdays, therefore the business is closed on Saturdays BUT COME ON. What self-respecting bagel place is closed on a Saturday? Seriously…

I also really miss Chinese food. Bryan and I have yet to locate a suitable Chinese take out place that makes decent dumplings. And don’t even get me started on pizza. Did you know they don’t quantify pizza in slices here? They’re called “cuts”. You can get a 6 cut, 8 cut…etc. Not sure who came up with that logic.

I’m beginning to see a theme here…

 

There’s No Place Like Home

Bryan has pointed out to me that I have yet to call our apartment “home”. Whenever I talk about “home” I’m always talking about Long Island. I imagine it will be that way for some time. After all, most of my family and happy memories are there.

But as the season has begun to change, I find myself to be enormously homesick. The only time I hear my parents laugh is on the phone. I put their picture on the fridge, but it’s still not the same as seeing them every day. I worry about how they’re getting on without me – particularly in the technology department, but I’m hopeful the kids down the block are quick to lend a hand.

And, as if all that isn’t enough, I was denied time off for Thanksgiving. I mean, we all have Thanksgiving Day off, but I wasn’t permitted to take any additional days outside of that. Originally, Bryan and I had bought tickets home for his brother’s wedding, which is the week before Thanksgiving. We figured since we would already be home, we should just stay the week and come back to Pittsburgh on Black Friday. Granted, I was working a different job then with more flexibility, but I didn’t anticipate it being the problem it’s turned out to be at my new job.

So, Bryan will be going home but I’ll be coming back to Pittsburgh after the wedding. Bryan wanted to come back with me but I told him to stay behind. After all, we already paid for the tickets, and Lord knows I’d want to stay home if it were me. I also couldn’t get the time off for Christmas, but at least Bryan and I will be together for that.

Even as I write this, I’m tearing up a bit. While I love our new life here, and it’s been so amazing, I wish I could have stayed closer to home. I wish we weren’t priced out by the absurdity that is the Long Island real estate market, I wish our NY salaries were enough to live on, I wish…

Mostly, I wish I could be home just for a second. I wish I could walk up my driveway, up my deck, and into the kitchen to find my mom making a meatloaf, trying to give her a hug before she tells me to get out of her kitchen, and my dad yelling about how badly The Jets suck (something that never seems to change) in the den. I wish I could go up the two flights of stairs to the attic that was my room for the past several years and run my hands along the posters I left behind. I wish I could get in my car, pick up Natalia, and drive to one of our favorite haunts with the windows down and the music up.

 

 

Sound of Pulling Heaven Down

Currently Listening to: Sound of Pulling Heaven Down, Justin Furstenfeld

I had a long list of things I always wanted to do: fall in love, travel the world, learn how to make French pastries. But only one thing was at the top of that list – publish a book.

When I got the news last April, I thought it was a dream. There were plenty of times during the draft where I wanted to give up. And in recent months, I’ve been worrying about every possible thing that can go wrong. Despite all this, though, I can’t help but be excited.

With the publication date being announced, I’ve been able to let my hair down a bit and start planning the launch event. This morning, I picked up my cell phone, scrolled not too far to find her name, and hit the number.

“The number you have dialed is not in service.”

*

In the three years since my cousin Alanna passed, I haven’t learned how to live with grief, I merely walk alongside it. I don’t always see or feel it, but I know it’s there.

There are days when I see a bakery or a store and think, “Yeah, she would have loved that.” There are days when my heart is so heavy I can barely open my eyes. But more often than not, there are days where anger burns through me like a fever. Days when I’m afraid I’ll scream at the next person who crosses my path. Days where I look to the sky and wonder what kind of god takes a 34-year-old woman to heaven before she’s had a chance to live. But today, all I could think about was my book – my dream – and who I wanted to share it with.

In the minutes leading up to the call, I chuckled to myself thinking of all the people who told me this would never happen. My high school biology teacher, Sr. Pat, who told me writing was an impractical profession. The TGI Friday’s manager who scoffed when I told him I was going back to school and reminded me I could be on the management track in a few years time. And then I thought about Alanna.

Alanna wasn’t what I’d consider to be a know-it-all, but when she absolutely believed something to be true, she was confident and not to be trifled with.

During my second year of graduate school, I was seriously considering dropping out of my program. Alanna had come to visit my grandmother, and we found ourselves talking on my deck one night.

“I just think it’s a mistake,” I said. “I mean, I’m not getting what I thought I would out of it.”

“But you’ve been writing, right?”

“Yeah, but it’s not any good. Maybe everyone’s right. If I drop out now, I can still apply for the medical coding program at Molloy…”

“You’re not doing that,” she laughed, shaking her blonde locks in disapproval. “You’re going to stay in school, write your book, and be a New York Times Bestseller, and then you’re going to come visit me more.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah,” she smiled.

The sun was going down. I can’t be sure if it was Alanna’s hair or her smile, but somehow the deck seemed brighter. I knew she was just trying to be nice, so I decided not to roll my eyes at the ridiculous fantasy she’d laid out.

“Okay,” I agreed.

*

I think of Alanna every day. I don’t know what happened today – I don’t know why I thought I could call her to make absolutely certain she’d be free on the dates I had in mind. I don’t know how I could forget…but I did. For the briefest of moments, she was here and she was alive and she was who I wanted to share this with. And then she was gone all over again.

It took me a while to pull myself together. It took me longer to sit down and write this post. And then I remembered the promise.

“I better get back inside. Am I going to see you tomorrow?”

“Yeah, I’ll be around,” I said.

“One more thing before you go, you have to promise me that when you’re all big and famous and your book is coming out that you’ll save me a seat in the front row.”

“Of course I will! What kind of question is that?”

“I’m serious, Laur. I’m not going to be able to see over everyone if I’m in the back.”

“How would you even end up in the back?”

“I don’t know, but you need to make sure I’m in the front.”

“Like I said, where else would you be?”

As I said before, I’ve spent these three years learning to walk alongside the grief I feel each and every day. But today, I feel something else. It’s not healing or happiness…I think it’s love. And all I know is I promised Alanna a seat in the front row, and a promise is a promise.

I love you, Alanna…and I miss you like crazy <3.

ECHO

Lauren J. Sharkey’s essay, ECHO, was selected as a *winner* in the Women Under Scrutiny:The (Dis)Comfort) of Our Bodies, Ourselves contest. Women Under Scrutiny, compiled by Randy Susan Meyers and edited by Nancy MacDonald, is an honest, intimate examination of the relationships we have with our bodies, hair, and faces, how we’ve been treated by the world based on our appearance—and how we have treated others. The women who created the serious, humorous, and courageous work in this anthology—women ages seventeen to seventy-six—represent an array of cultures and religions from across the United States. They are an extraordinary group of women who all share one thing: the ability to tell the truth.

EXCERPT:

It started small—having to catch my breath after going up the stairs, needing to recline my car seat back an inch…going up a size. “You might want to take some weight off,” said my general practitioner during my annual, never once lifting his eyes from the clipboard.

I looked down and surmised it wasn’t that serious. I mean, I could still see my feet. So, I did what everyone does: nothing. I mean, I told myself I would eat out less, exercise more, switch to diet soda. And I did all those things for about a week before going back to my routine of asking for extra bread at restaurants and late-night drives to Sonic. 

Read more at the Randy Susan Meyers’s website…


Purchase Women Under Scrutiny here and make a difference for women:

All profits from Women Under Scrutiny will go to Rosie’s Place in Boston, Massachusetts. Rosie’s Place was founded in 1974 as the first women’s shelter in the United States with a mission to provide a safe and nurturing environment that helps poor and homeless women maintain their dignity, seek opportunity and find security in their lives. Today, Rosie’s Place not only provides meals and shelter but also creates answers for 12,000 women a year through wide-ranging support, housing and education services.

 

Gogo

Lauren J. Sharkey’s essay, Gogo, was selected for inclusion in the Asian American Feminist Collective’s FIRST TIMES digital storytelling project. This personal essay details Sharkey’s own experience as a victim of the fetishization of Asian women.

I had a feeling Jeff was the one. He was smart, made me laugh, and didn’t mind that I hadn’t seen The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Unlike the other guys I met on OkCupid, he called me after I let him feel me up in the abandoned Sears parking lot and asked me to dinner.

Read more at the Asian American Feminist Collective’s website…

The Adoptee’s Journey is Lifelong

I discovered I was adopted on my first day of kindergarten – I was five years old. My mother had trouble getting me out of the car seat and had to run me into Mrs. Matthei’s classroom. The teacher’s aide had me take a seat at a round table where two boys asked for the identity of the woman who brought me in. They wondered why I didn’t look like her. It was the first time I noticed there were physical differences between my mother and me.

“She’s adopted,” said a girl at the table. “Your real mommy is in China but she didn’t want you, so she gave you to a lady in America who can’t make babies.”

Read the rest on Adoption RSS…

Words Have Power

As a writer, words are everything. They are currency, they are blood…they are life. As an adoptee, words are also of great importance. In my next series of posts, I’ll be highlighting words that have had an impact on me as an adoptee.⁣⁣ It’s my hope that by shining a spotlight on these words, non-adoptees will rethink and reevaluate how they speak to adoptees about adoption, and recognize the impact of their words. After all, words are power and we should always strive to use our power to help, not harm.⁣⁣

Illustrations and photography for this project were made possible by the amazing Martha Wasser of Amour Artistique. ⁣⁣

I’ll be running another Words Have Power campaign this coming November in honor of National Adoption Awareness Month.

DAY 1: MOM/MOTHER

In the adoptee community, a lot of conversation has surrounded the vernacular. I have always referred to the woman who gave birth to me as my biological mother. In high school, I called her “BioMom” because I thought it would hurt less if she sounded like an evil robot some villain had created. Some adoptees call this woman first mother, birth mother, or other names. ⁣⁣⁣
⁣⁣⁣
But when it comes to the woman who raised me – the woman on whose shoulder I cried whenever something went wrong, the woman whose heart knows my heart – that woman is Mom. Some adoptees call this woman adoptive mother.⁣⁣⁣
⁣⁣⁣
As a community, I think we need to respect and accept the way other adoptees identify the people in their lives – whether it’s parents, partners, siblings, or otherwise. Would it be more convenient to have an “official” name designated for each person in our lives? Maybe. But the fact of the matter is all of us are different. All of us relate to these people differently, see them differently…love, hate, need them differently. ⁣⁣⁣
⁣⁣

DAY 2: LUCKY

One of the words I hear most often from nonadoptees is lucky. People tell me I am lucky to have parents like mine, lucky to have a wonderful life…lucky to be alive. But luck has nothing to do with it.⁣

The truth is I, and so many other adoptees, were separated from the women who brought us into the world – whether it was at infancy or not long after. The truth is the trauma of that separation is something I carry with me each and every day. The truth is because of that separation, I have never looked into my mother’s face and seen my own. I have never been able to physically reflect that I belong to the most important people in my life. I have never known my motherland, its history, its love.⁣

I have, however, spent the entirety of my life wondering who I am. I have laid awake at night wondering why I was relinquished, wondering if my biological mother has ever given her thoughts to me in the 32 years since we last saw each other, wondering if my biological father knows his blood runs through my veins – blood which I will pass down to any child I carry. I have been mistaken for a separate party when going to restaurants with my parents. ⁣

People tell me I am lucky – that I have been saved and given a better life. But I cannot recall what inferior life I was living before, or who had been responsible for it. They say this as if I had escaped some unspeakable fate which would have rendered me ill, wounded, or worse. ⁣

I’ll never know about if the life I did not live would have been better or worse than the one I am living now. All I know is that “lucky” isn’t a word I’d use to identify myself, my adoptee journey, my trauma.

DAY 3: REAL

As an adoptee, I’m always surprised by how strangers – and I mean STRANGERS, as in people I’ve just met, people standing behind me in line, people who over hear me talking to a friend – will ask me completely invasive and deeply personal questions about my adoption. These people approach adoption casually, as if they’re asking how my summer vacation was or what I’m going to order for dinner.⁣

The first question, nine times out of ten, is, “Have you ever looked for your real parents?”.The second question I usually get is if my brother is my “real” brother. Real as opposed to what? Real as opposed to counterfeit? Real as opposed to imaginary? Real as opposed to fake?⁣

What bothers me most about the word “real” is that it suggests the love, care, and existence is somehow insufficient or lacking. “Real” implies that the only family I have ever known is somehow invalid or fraudulent.⁣

Personally, I have only ever known, needed, and loved one mother and father in my life. I have only known, needed, and loved one brother. They are not figments of my imagination, hallucinations created by my mind…they are living, breathing, real people. ⁣

Additionally, the decision whether or not to search for one’s biological relations – whether it be parents, siblings, or otherwise – is for the adoptee to share with who they wish. It’s not a conversation piece. These are our lives – respect that.⁣

In conversation with Alyssa Waugh

Reblogged from Blind Faith Books’ Official Facebook Page:

#IAMSTRENGTH #MeetTheContributors

Lauren J. Sharkey on her essay, “What All Survivors Know.”

AW: In or two sentences, what is your piece in this collection about?

LJS: When I was in college, I found myself in an emotionally and physically abusive relationship. This piece is about how one of my friends, Erin, tried to help me get out, and how I wasn’t ready to.

AW: What inspired it?

LJS: The I AM STRENGTH collection isn’t just about one women’s strength, but also about how we make each other stronger. This piece was inspired by how my friend’s strength eventually gave me the courage to leave my abuser.

AW: Female friendship is such a divine sisterhood! Why did you feel it was important to submit this?

LJS: There are so many women who share my story, who are living my story. I hope this piece sparks a conversation on how we can provide better support, resources, and education to help women get out of bad situations, and how bystanders can intervene.

AW: This issue is SO common, and the things you’re trying to call attention to are critical. Anything else particularly interesting or important about this piece you want readers to know?

LJS: I’d like readers to know help and hope are out there, but your strength will always come from within.

Preorder I AM STRENGTH: True Stories of Everyday Superwomen (e-book) here.


Lauren J. Sharkey is currently Managing Editor and Marketing & Web Development Coordinator for Kaylie Jones Books, an imprint of Akashic Books, Executive Assistant of the James Jones Writers Workshop Retreat, and Creative Nonfiction Editor at Reservoir Journal. Her creative nonfiction has appeared in Dear Adoption, and her debut novel, INCONVENIENT DAUGHTER, forthcoming in 2020, is based on her experience as a Korean American adoptee. Lauren J. Sharkey – theljsharkey@gmail.com, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram: @theljsharks, Website: ljsharks.com

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