January 31, 2008

Friends

For the past year or so, my best friends and I have been planning a getaway weekend. Finally, last weekend, we made it happen. Although I wouldn't put Ocean City, Maryland at the top of a January vacation list, we got a great deal on a timeshare ($27 each - and that rented the condo for an entire week), planned a bunch of indoor and outdoor activities, and hit the road.

Our group began way back when with nine of us; there are eight now. The fact that we're all adoptive moms and our kids are all Korean formed the foundation of our friendship, although it no longer defines it. Some of us knew each other before we adopted, some of us have worked together or have been neighbors, too. Over the years these connections grew and grew until our little group became very tight, and we realized we had something really special.

We literally wrote our friendship in stone climbing to the top of Soraksan when we traveled to Korea together in 2001, and toasted it with soju to celebrate the climb. When we returned home, we promised to keep our friendship alive forever.

We aren’t all that similar. Our personalities run the gamut from off-the-charts A-type through down-to-earth to laid-back hippie. We have different professions, jobs and passions. We practice different faiths and none at all, although our politics , interestingly, are almost identical. But I think what binds us more than anything is the fact that we all acknowledge, and are willing to say out loud, how special our friendship is.

You can find us on the first Sunday of almost every month at a pastry shop we love, drinking coffee and tea and talking about what's going on in our lives. We cried a lot together after our dear friend MG passed away on January 31st, 2005. Mourning her loss made us realize just how important it was for us to nurture our friendship, and to never take it for granted.

In some ways, our weekend on the eastern shore was nothing special - we did a little shopping, some cooking and eating, and a lot of talking and laughing. But in fact it was very special indeed.

I love my friends – they are the truest blessing there is. I hope each and every one of you has friends like these, too. If you do, waste no time – tell them you love them, today. Call them, invite them over, organize a get-together. Just do it.

Because as I learned the hard way, sometimes the opportunity is lost forever.

January 24, 2008

Let me ask it another way

My last post talked a little about some of that activities I am up to in real life (which is why I haven't been able to post this week), and at the end I asked for you all to share what it is that you're doing in the adoption community. Now, I KNOW that many of you are doing incredible work, in your real-life and online adoption communities.

I really do want to hear about it, and I know others will, too. So please - toot your own horns!! Tell us what you're doing, why you're doing it, and how we can join in if we'd like. Share!!

January 20, 2008

Volunteering is hard work - but do it anyway!!

It's 5:15 and I'm wrapping up what's been a very productive day. I didn't set foot outside of this house (yet - going out a little later), and tackled a couple of projects that I haven't been able to get focused on. I started with my linen closet. Now when I open it up, I'm don't get draped with tablecloths and kitchen towels. I paid some bills and caught up on my checkbook. I did a little laundry.

Then I moved to Korean Focus. My dining room table is no longer covered with piles of KF paperwork. It has all been sorted, and put into binders or the recycle bin, as appropriate. I figured out a new way of organizing it all so I can keep up. I've now got a main folder with everything I am likely to touch or need on a weekly basis, plus several additional folders to organize the information that comes in from the adoption community. The files all fit in a bag I can carry with me every day, too. I also put soft versions of the key files onto a flash drive that I carry with me on my key ring. I can now do a little every lunch hour to keep up.

Doing all of this reminded of how hard it can be to give our time to the causes we care about. It takes time from already-overloaded schedules, and keeps us from other things we might want to do. Sometimes it feels just like work. But if my experience with Korean Focus is any gauge, the rewards - knowing you've contributed to your community, accomplishing something out of nothing - outweigh the effort.

Adoption is an issue that gets no support from the mainstream. If we in the adoption community need support, we need to provide it ourselves. And so, my fellow adoptive parents, I encourage you to do just that. Get involved. Find an organization, found an organization - get involved.

I know many of you already are working hard for the adoption community, and I'd like to hear about it. What issues are you working on? How? Where? With what organizations? Tell us all about it!!

January 18, 2008

The Surrender Survey

Another important PSA: the Surrender Survey for parents who have lost children to adoption. Roberta McDonald, Chairwoman of the NC Coalition for Adoption Reform and NC state rep for the American Adoption Congress, says this about the survey:

There is a new survey out on the web, which I am proud to be a part of. It is for birth parents who have relinquished or had their rights terminated.

We believe that if we get the required numbers of birth parents to take this survey, that this can be the MOST comprehensive online birth parent survey to date.

We would like to see OVER 600 birth parents take this survey by December 1, 2008.

Please go to the link below and take the survey and thank you in advance for your cooperation:

Surrender Survey Project

Take a moment and take the survey!

January 16, 2008

Taking Control: New Post at ARP

I've got a new post up at Antiracist Parent about The Boy's first few months of college and how he is seeking, finding and embracing his identity as a young Korean American man. I hope you go over and read it, and add your comments there, too!

January 13, 2008

The ultimate cultural appropriation

I have a little pendant that I've worn for many years. It's tiny thing, a little gold filigree oval with the word 어머니, omoni, which is Korean for mother, in the center. I don't remember where I bought it, from an online store I think. But I do remember that I fell in love with it when I saw it. I wore it because it reminded me of the most important role in my life, being a mom to my children.

Never, as I wore it, did it occur to me that I might be crossing the line between cultural respect and appropriation. Believe me, I've crossed that line, mostly unknowingly, but I am sensitive to the issue. I didn't think in cultural terms when I wore it, I thought in terms of the fact that omoni is the Korean word for the most important role of my life.

It goes to show that even when we think we "get it," we may miss the mark by a mile. I certainly did. A post at Sang-Shil's that I read yesterday is what pulled me up short. Go read, and come back.

My husband and and I never have asked our kids to call us appa or umma - I want to make that clear because wearing my pendant was never about that. The point is that it was about me - my thoughts and my ideas on how to respect and honor their culture. In honesty, I didn't question for a moment that my kids or any other Korean adoptees might find it odd, uncomfortable or offensive to see a white woman wearing a pendant proclaiming herself omoni. I wore this little pendant for close to fifteen years because it made me feel good - proud and sentimental, too. I also believed my children would see it as a sign of love and respect for them, as well as their culture, people and language.

I failed, however, to see the obvious, which is that I'm not omoni - my children have omoni in Korea. Those women have missed an entire lifetime of being mom to these amazing kids. While I've had the joy of watching them grow up, they have had to bury their losses and pain in wondering. The very, very least I can do is give them, and my children's aboji, their rightful titles. This changes nothing about the relationship I have with my kids - I'm mom, we love each other as deeply as people can, and I'll be there for them as long as I'm alive. I think, actually, that respecting the people who gave my children life makes our relationship that much stronger.

And so I've put the little pendant away - I won't be wearing it anymore. I thought about sending it to Korea for my son's mother, as I bought it when he was very small. But I think instead I'll give it to my daughter. Perhaps she'll wear it someday, when she's an omoni herself. Or maybe, if she is fortunate enough to find her omoni, she'll choose to give it to her.

Somehow that feels right.

January 12, 2008

Go Claudia!!!

If you read Claud's blog, you know this. But if you don't know it (you'll read it when you do), or you are utterly behind like me (I've read nothing online or in print from the week before Christmas to, oh, about NOW), you may have missed this, too. All I can say is, Claudia, you rock!!

Claud's got an awesome article in Adoption Today's December/January issue, Waiting Through Life, Treading Time. You MUST read it - and you can do that online here. If this link doesn't work, just go to Adoption Today and click View Magazine in the left column, and you should be good to go.

There are several other articles by first parents which you'll want to read as well. I commend Adoption Today for publishing this series - and I challenge them to expand the series in the future to include articles by mothers from other countries. We need to hear their voices!

January 10, 2008

The luxury of adoption avoidance

I've noticed in the past that there always a little time after the holidays when part of me wants to run away from adoption issues and hide in the cocoon of my family. I wrestle with myself - I tell myself one person can't make a difference, I convince myself that my kids are old enough for me to back away from it all, and tell myself that I'm too old, too. I always feel guilty when my thoughts head in this direction, but I can't help myself. Sometimes I just want to get away from the debate and dialog and thinking about adoption, and facing the reality of unjust laws and unethical agencies.

This year, it took the post I read today at Suz's to kick me back into gear. While Suz and gosh knows how many other first mothers and adoptees struggle through their sadness, particularly during the holidays, we adoptive parents generally can put it all aside and suspend adoption's presence in our lives for awhile.

Adoption didn't cross my mind too much this holiday, I have to admit, and I feel incredibly selfish admitting it. Certainly being offline and away from my normal sources of adoption reading played a role, as did my kids' disinterest in adoption issues at the moment. It didn't come up. I didn't think about it much, either. Even after we returned home and I was able to get back on the net, I found myself avoiding adoption blogs and forums and emails.

Avoiding adoption is a luxury only adoptive parents can afford, though, and I know that. My children and their mothers don't get a break, and neither should I. Plus, the very worst thing adoptive parents can do for adoption reform is to avoid adoption issues. We've got more power and voice than we deserve, and we absolutely have to use them.

The first thing I want to do with my voice is to say to each and every adoptee and first parent is that I hope the holidays were good to you, that the new year reunites you with your families if you, too hope for that, and strengthens your relationships if you've already reunited.

The second is to share my hopes for the entire adoption community:

I hope 2008 is the year that citizens and legislators realize that closed adoption records are an affront to human and civil rights, and do what's necessary to put it right.

I hope every mother, father and child who seek one another find help and comfort in their families, among friends, and in their communities.

And I hope adoptive parents stand up in droves in support of both.

When we adoptive parents feel the need or even right to step away from adoption issues, let's think twice. We are needed, and we can make a difference. I encourage you all to share what you're doing online or in your communities to support adoption reform. Let the world know - I guarantee it will encourage someone else to jump in and make a difference, too!!

January 8, 2008

Blitzpost: I’m still here!

Although you may think I’ve abandoned my blog, I haven’t. I’ve just been up to my eyeballs with stuff out there in the real world. Good stuff, by and large, and plenty of it. Here’s what’s keeping me busy and away from thinking out loud here:

Book reviews I’m working on three little book reviews that I committed to do last year and failed miserably on. They’re all for kids’ books, and it’s really fun to have the opportunity to look at children’s books from the point of view of a parent with grown children. One of them is about a girl who does martial arts – The Girl and I are going to review it together.

House stuff Nothing major, just a lot of cleaning and organizing. I had to the shampoo the carpets in our rec room, thanks to our demonic cat. Third Dad and I organized a bunch of Korean Focus stuff and found a nice home for it on shelves in the garage. We’re starting to clean out our junk room downstairs bedroom, in the hope of turning it into a guest room and library.

Planning Korean Focus’ annual Lunar New Year celebration KF, with the help of a wonderful Korean American community organization, has been sponsoring a Lunar New Year celebration for ten years or more. It’s always in early February, and gets bigger every year. Planning has begun, and will keep me busy until the event on February 9th.

Catching up on paperwork I wish I could describe what a NIGHTMARE our paperwork and bills had become. No more – I’ve got them cleaned up, up to date, and organized. I set up automatic bill pay at our bank, which takes care of a bunch of them, and bought a nice old-fashioned tickle file to keep the paper ones straight. I also shredded an entire kitchen trash bag full of old stuff. Man, that felt GOOD!!

Recovering from the holidays Well, that’s not done yet, but that’s this week’s project. I hate this part of the holidays, it gives me the blues. Yesterday our house was the only one with a Christmas tree and Christmas lights on. Bunch of Scrooges. I’d keep them on until February if I could.

Work Lordy, lordy, lordy. We have seriously reorganized again. I’m in my fourth (fifth maybe?) reporting structure in six months. It’s insane, and should explain a lot about my inability to remember the day of the week, date of the month, or what I had for lunch yesterday. So I’m starting a little personal project here to GET. MYSELF. ORGANIZED. in a way that is re-org proof. It’s hard work, let me tell you.

Family!! I’m trying to be more of a BE HERE NOW kind of mom, and figured the holidays were a good time to start. So I’ve been hanging out more with Third Dad and the kids, have been doing more cooking and baking and stuff like that. I think the biggest thing I’ve lost from blogging is time with my husband and kids, and I’m not going to let that happen again. I figure if I get stuff like the bills and work more organized, that’ll free up other time to write. I also need to start getting more sleep, I’ve been seriously sleep-deprived, and that’s not good.

What else? Nothing much. The Boy leaves for school again next Tuesday. The Girl has a busy tournament schedule through February, three trips to Colorado Springs and one to Iowa. Third Dad is up to his usual tricks. My Korean class starts next week, I' m on the fence about taking it again but probably will. On the fun front, I’m going to the Eastern Shore with my best friends for a weekend later this month, and cannot wait. These are the moms from the Korean homeland tour we took in 2001. We were friends before the tour, which absolutely cemented our friendship, and have been getting together every month for coffee since then. I can’t wait.

And that’s it for now, back soon!

January 2, 2008

Ethica's great new blog!

Ethica has a new blog - The Ethica Blog: A Voice for Ethical Adoption. It's a great place for everyone interested in ethical adoption to come together, publicize activities and events, discuss the issues, and network.

After the ethics conference in October I found myself wishing there was a central online location where those who wanted to continue the dialog started there could do that. I was thrilled when Linh Song, Ethica's Executive Director, announced the blog several weeks ago. And I'm even more excited to see it up and running!

Be sure to add The Ethica Blog to your blogroll, and spread the word!

Speaking of the ethics conference: audio CDs of conference panels, workgroups, and the Guatemala Forum are available here!

January 1, 2008

Can it be 2008?

January 1, 2008. I don't know about you, but I'm having a hard time believing it. I'm still recovering from Y2K.

First, I have to say I'm bummed about this: I missed Marsha Roberts and myself on The Adoption Show! Since our return on Friday, Third Dad and I have been beyond busy, I've been fighting the flu, so I let email and blogs go, other than to post on my meeting with Judy. In going back and catching up today, I realize an announcement went out on the 29th that Marsha and I were the guests on the 30th. The good news is that you can go back and listen - and please do, Marsha is terrific and I'd appreciate your thoughts on the program. If you don't have an account, please consider supporting the show with a donation. But if you don't feel you can, email me (see right sidebar) and I will be happy to share my login information, which Michelle has confirmed is fine (thanks, Michelle!)

I hope you enjoyed the holidays. Mine were good, although not entirely devoid of stress - nothing major, just the usual self-imposed over-doing. I'm one of those dopey people who think it's possible to get through the holidays without it, and am disappointed every year that I fail. Ha,THIS will be the year, holidays 2008-2009 will be the ones I get through with a perpetual smile on my face!

It did get me thinking about priorities, though, and 2008 is going to be a "back to basics" year for me. This year's motto is SIMPLIFY, and I'm starting with clean up at home. We have accumulated a lot of junk over the years, and Third Dad and I have decided to get rid of as much of it as possible this year. We started over the weekend, and boy does it feel GOOD to get rid of stuff! I figure if we do a little each weekened, by the end of 2008 we should be in a far more junk-free environment. Of course, we'll need to make sure we don't replace what we remove, but I think we're both at a point in our lives at which this will be easy. We need less for ourselves and for the kids, and frankly want less.

Looking at priorities has prompted me to make a few online changes, too. First, I've deactivated my Facebook account and am cancelling other similar accounts. I kind of like Facebook, but it's one more thing I don't really have time for, so I'm shutting it down for the moment. It's hard enough to keep up with the blogs I like to read, so they will be my focus - although I'm prepared to fall behind from time to time, because there are just so many. Like now - it was just to depressing to try to catch up on the over 1500 posts that have collected over the holidays, partially because I was without internet for almost a week in Ohio and partially because we've been doing a lot of housework since our return. So I've had to make them all Read, and am starting fresh.

The other thing I'm going to do this year is focus again on - no pun intended - Korean Focus. I hadn't realized when I started blogging how much time writing and reading would take from the work I do with KF. Small organizations take nurturing, and KF needs it at the moment. We've grown, but our current leaders are frankly tired after years of working on programs and activities, and we need to build up a volunteer force of folks with younger kids who have more energy than we do. That in itself takes work, and is an important goal for me this year.

What else? Well, it's good to start off the new year with laughs, and with the kids both at overnight parties and me fighting that flu, Third Dad and I decided to skip socializing and stay in (although we did go out to dinner, just the two of us, which was really nice.) He picked up the first three seasons of Curb Your Enthusiasm and we literally laughed out loud until midnight - and I could hear him still laughing after I hit the hay at 12:30.

I think the other thing I want to be careful of this year is contributing to the nastiness that sometimes envelopes the online adoption community. It's exhausting, which I say from the experience of having jumped into the fray on more than one occsasion. Purposeful dialog and debate are certainly important, but not the kind of sniping and pot-stirring that seem to thrive out here. Plus, I become too emotionally involved, which draws time from the things I want and need to be doing. So I'll be watching myself - and please when I cross the line, feel free to remind me!

So - here's to a new and improved, simplified, kinder, gentler, more focused, more productive year. And hopefully life!