April 29, 2008
Those of you who know Julia know that she is struggling desperately at the moment in her battle with leukemia. I don't think I truly understood the seriousness of her illness until the past couple of days, during which her friend John provided updates of the perilousness of her condition.
It scares me. And if it scares me, I don't know how Julia and John are handling the challenge. But they are, and if you visit Julia's blog post for today, you'll see that they are asking for us to laugh, and gave us something to laugh at, too.
Julia, John, I'm holding you both in my heart and ask everyone who reads here to do the same. I'm praying for a miracle, period.
April 27, 2008
We were also busy getting Third Dad ready for a trip to Germany to visit his family. I feel so bad for him - his connector out of DC was delayed, which made him miss his flight to Germany. Northwest put him on an Air France flight through Paris, during which they lost his luggage.
I have to ask: What is the freaking purpose of barcoding luggage when the first thing they tell you when they lose it is that they have no idea where it is???
And given that it's Air France, if they find his bag just hanging around somewhere it could be lost forever. Last time Third Dad flew Air France to Europe, some poor guy left his briefcase unattended for a couple of minutes and an armed bomb squad ran it out of the terminal and blew it up on the tarmac.
On a positive note, they gave him a toothbrush.
Really, I'd rather have a root canal than fly anywhere these days.
April 24, 2008
Memory and comfort, too. I'd bet that everyone reading here has a favorite comfort food. Mine is a dish called sarma, Slovenia's and Croatia's version of cabbage rolles. If you're Slavic you may know it or something like it by a different name. It's homely peasant food, and I'd rather eat a dish of it than anything else on the planet.
What about you? What foods conjure up memories and comfort for you?
For those who think they might like it, here's Mom's recipe. The photo is actually of the Hungarian version, but it looked the most like Mom's of any I found.
1 large head of cabbage
2 lbs ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
2 or 3 cloves of garlic, minced
2/3 cup rice, uncooked
1 can condensed tomato soup
1 beef bouillon cube (optional)
1 medium or small package sauerkraut
2 tbl flour (for roux)
2 tbl butter (for roux)
Core and parboil the cabbage. Separate the leaves to cool, trimming the tough veins from the outer leaves. Saute the onion and garlic. Mix them, the ground beef, rice and egg well. Roll up the meat mixture in the leaves, securing each roll with a toothpick. Chop all the leftover cabbage and mix it and a medium can or package of sauerkraut in the bottom of a large soup pot. Layer the cabbage rolls on top. Mix a can of condensed tomato soup with water and a bouillon cube (use two cans of soup if you want a lot of sauce) and pour the soup mixture over the rolls. Either simmer on the stove or bake in the oven until the rolls are tender. Make a roux from the butter and flour, and use it to thicken the sauce. Be sure to remove the toothpicks before serving. Serve with good crusty bread.
My Polish relatives and friends add sour cream at the end instead of the roux. My mom's first cousin uses cream of mushroom soup instead of tomato. Both variations are delicious, but I love Mom's best of all.
April 23, 2008
So I talk about adoption reform, as I care deeply about it. And I often write about it from a personally-culpable point of view. It might therefore be easy to read and go away thinking I'm consumed by guilt, anti-adoption even. It's just not that simple. Way back I wrote a post in which I asked myself the question "Would my husband and I have still adopted had we known then what we know now?" I answered by saying "I honestly don't know. But to cast that decision in today's light would be a betrayal of the commitment I made to my children then to love them for all time."
If I dig very deeply, I frankly know I would still have adopted, and from Korea again. If someone back then had said, "Don't do it, you're perpetuating Korean attitudes toward single mothers," it wouldn't have been enough to change my mind. I wish I were that noble, but I'm not. No, I would have believed that societal changes were out of my hands, and would have moved forward.
Maybe - definitely? - it's this feeling of hypocrisy that pushes me to keep talking about my role in it all. It it painful to acknowledge that I've been part of a system that has hurt many, many women and men and children. It's more painful still to acknowledge the hypocrisy of talking about adoption injustice and also saying I would still have adopted my children. But this inner conflict is simply the way it is for me.
The fact is that I did adopt. I promised to love my children for all time. I promised their mothers and fathers and country that I would cherish and respect and nurture them. I do, and I always will.
But early on, and unexpectedly, I found I loved the women who gave birth to them, too. I loved the men who helped create them, even though their role may have been more fleeting. I loved their brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents. The loss of these has created holes in my children's identities, and holes in my heart. In loving my children's families, I've understood more clearly just how my willingness to adopt has perpetuated the system that separated them in the first place. For me, adoption is now a strange mix of love and joy and hope and despair. I comfort myself by questioning, seeking, digging deep into feelings that I sometimes don't even understand myself. And by loving my kids.
Mostly by loving my kids. Please don't forget that when I'm off in some dark place thinking out loud. And don't forget that I welcome a helping hand in bringing me back.
April 19, 2008
Attention DC-area residents! Don't miss an incredible opportunity to hear one of Korea's top fusion groups, and support Korean Focus Metro DC in the process!
Through the support of the Korea Foundation, the Embassy of the Republic of Korea, and the Korea Daily, the Washington, DC area has an opportunity to hear the acclaimed Korean group
April 30th, 7:30 pm
Kennedy Center Terrace Theater
Tickets: $20 per person
HaegumPlus is a hybrid fusion group that performs with traditional Korean and western instruments. The group is led by Kang Eun Il, accompanied by nine accomplished musicians. Ms. Kang is a pioneer of "cross-over music" with the Korean traditional instrument called the haegum. Along with the Yoshida Brothers of Japan and the Twelve Girls Band of China, HaegumPlus is one of the most prominent musical groups representing Asia.
Korean Focus Metro DC offers information, support, and friendship to families with an interest in Korean culture and the Korean American community. Our members and friends include adoptive families, adopted Korean Americans, and Korean American families. Chapters in Northern Maryland, Cincinnati, Seattle and Indiana.
The Kennedy Center
2700 F St., NW
Washington, DC 20566
Map and directions
Parking available in the Kennedy Center parking lot. Nearest Metro is Foggy Bottom-GWU.
April 17, 2008
To me, hope is the ability to open our minds to the resolution of our challenges. We all need hope, at a minimum it gets us by, and at its best it sustains us through the unbearable.
Keep the faith, Julia and Judy. I'm sending my best and brightest hopes to you both today!
April 16, 2008
I also remember a 33rd life lost in this tragedy, that of a Virginia Tech senior who was afraid that people might mistake his Korean face for that of the shooter, Cho Seung-Hui. Daniel Kim's reaction to the tragedy was depression, which ultimately consumed him. Daniel took his own life on December 9th, 2007.
Deepest sympathy to everyone who lost a family member or friend that day.
April 14, 2008
I'm hoping you all will stay with me on this one a little longer. You've undoubtedly guessed that this topic is incredibly important to me.
Before I start, a word about my context. In talking about this subject, it is not my intent to attack anyone's right to believe or their personal beliefs. I am a practicing Catholic, my faith is important to me; however, I expect no one to share my beliefs, nor do I push them on anyone. It's my personal church, and I keep it separate from the state, adoption or otherwise. I expect the same from others, period. This has always made perfect sense to me, but it clearly doesn't to others, based on the number of people I've ticked off trying to make this point.
Anyhow, back to the subject of adoption and religion. This and my last couple of posts are a long-winded attempt to say this:
There's a greater opportunity for adoption abuse, including the unwilling separation of women and children, because we’ve allowed adoption to live in the realm of religious charity, rather than law.Now, the long road I take to get there:
We live in a diverse country with diverse religious and philosophical views, from deep belief in an organized faith to complete dismissal of the possibility of any god. We’re all in there somewhere. The way each of us views human behavior and responds to behavioral events will be influenced by the particular set of beliefs to which we ascribe.
Although our beliefs differ, we understand, or should, that there are civil and human rights that transcend our particular beliefs. These may be found in our constitution, or in global documents like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But sometimes our religious or philosophical beliefs conflict with accepted human and civil rights. When that happens, we debate it in our legislatures and in the courts. We may not all like the outcomes, but we recognize that there’s a process in place to work through our differences.
There are, however, no laws on the books to protect that a woman's right to parent her child, although there's plenty of US history to suggest that although single parenting and "illegitimacy" have carried stigmas, the relationship between mother and child has generally been respected. After the end of World War II to the 1970s (often called the "baby scoop era"), strange brew of attitudes and behaviors replaced those traditional beliefs. That time was a kind of perfect storm of adoption abuse, one that young pregnant women had no hope of surviving:
- Child law gave parents the ultimate authority over their daughters.
- Rigid religious beliefs painted young pregnant women as immoral and incapable of parenting.
- Those same beliefs offered women redemption if they did God’s will and offered their baby to a deserving couple.
- Social work practice embraced the notion of “getting over it and moving on.”
- Legal abortion didn’t exist.
Trace that rhetoric back to its roots and you won’t find much concern for a woman’s human and civil rights – you’ll find the religious judgment and shame that drove the baby scoop era. It's institutionalized now, and will continue until we put laws and practices that protect the rights of pregnant women to parent their children on the books. And to do that we have to bring the adoption discussion out of the realm of charity and religion, and bring it into the realm of justice and legislation.
Which, of course, brings us back to the top.
Although it's taken three posts and gosh knows how much confusion to get this onto paper, there aren't many thoughts in my head that are clearer or more self-evident than this one.
Or more frustrating. Frankly, I'd much rather be talking about what the law to protect a mother's right to parent should look like, than why we should have one.
April 13, 2008
The problem starts with the fact that discussions of religion and adoption tend to polarize along these lines:
I believe deeply in God and believe he has a plan for me that includes raising the child of another. I believe that those who work in support of adoption are doing God's work. There are many scriptural passages that support my beliefs.Although the words may be a little different, I hear the gist of these all the time. They generally spark a support-fest or food-fight that sends everyone away thinking they're "either-or" issues. They are not. One is a personal view of adoption, the other is commentary on its public face. The coexist as separate facets of the adoption experience. Think "personal church" and "adoption state."
Religion and adoption do not mix. Anytime religion has been present in adoption, it has led us down a dark path and caused terrible pain for many women and their children. Religious adoptive parents are all a bunch of hypocrites.
We separate church and state in this country for a reason. We need to do the same with our "personal churches" and "adoption state." Doing so would take the discussion of human and civil rights in adoption a long way down the road. Yet it would take nothing away from the individual beliefs we hold dear.
Sounds so easy. Why is it so hard to do?
April 11, 2008
I find it interesting, when I’m blog surfing, to see how divergent other transnational adoptive parents’ thoughts are about their adoptions. Some approach adoption with respect for their children and their first families and heritage. Others view it as fate, and meant to be. Some see a religious angle – God wants me to have this child (which must mean they believe he intended all the bad things to happen to the first family, too.)
Edited to add: A mom I respect a lot pointed out something to me that I must clarify. The attitude I describe above is a particular one that I see all too frequently. It's one in which the (prospective) adoptive parent sees God's hand in placing a child in their home, but doesn't question why and doesn't think about the impact of their joy on their children's first families. There is a world of difference between that attitude, and one that sees God's presence everywhere in life, including adoption. The latter brings you to a different place, I think - one of humility and respect toward our children's families, heritage, and countries, and as Gwen said, of responsibility for our actions as adoptive parents.
Where, I wonder, do all these different points of view come from?
If you’re an adoptive parent, stop for a moment and think about how you first opened your mind to adoption. Was it at a RESOLVE meeting when you were working through infertility? From friends or family members who adopted before you? Maybe at your church? Or even the internet? Somewhere else?
Now think about the attitudes you might carry into the future from each of these starting points. You might, as I did, see adoption first in medical terms, as a solution to your infertility, an alternative to giving birth. Or you might think of adoption as an act of charity. The cynical among you might even see adoption as a moral duty, the necessary response to an unmarried pregnant woman’s “dilemma."
Adoption is really none of these, yet for many people they define it. Now, if that were so only at the personal level, we might be able to deal with it. But these perceptions are deeply embedded in our national psyche and influence our laws - and like they say, perception is reality. Sealed records, adoption leave, adoption tax credits and stipends – even seemingly benign regulations come with negative fallout that trace back to misunderstanding the adoption experience. In our blindness, we futilely continue trying to patch it up. Managing this broken system keeps our eye off the real ball: changing attitudes and correcting the social and economic inequalities that lead single and poor women and families to adoption in the first place, and unethical adoption practitioners to them.
We have to tease it all apart.
I’m not a social worker, public policymaker, or legislator, so I haven’t a clue how to begin to look at adoption from their points of view. But I wonder if unraveling our tangled ball of adoption yarn from their point of view might not lead us right back to where we are. No, we need a new approach, one that strips everything about adoption back to its foundation, and judges every step of the adoption process by its respect for human and civil rights.
Daunting, no? There's good news, though. Every inequity found, every skewed skewed point of view corrected, every word spoken on behalf of first parent and adoptee rights contributes to success. We will get there.
April 10, 2008
One is fighting leukemia: Julia. The other is fighting inflammatory breast cancer: Judy. I'm angry and sad at the same time that these diseases are in Julia's and Judy's lives. I'm frustrated, too, to be powerless to help.
I'm also completely humbled by their faith and courage.
Fighting cancer isn't for sissies. It's a long, cyclical process can spiral the patient into exhaustion. Judy pointed out in one of her posts that Thursday has turned out to be a particularly tiring day for her. So from now on, to show my solidarity with Julia and Judy both, Thursday is J-day on this blog.
I haven’t met Julia in real life, but I’ve known her blog for a good year or so. Julia is staunchly supportive of the Korean adoptee community. She writes straight from her heart about her battle with leukemia and her life's experiences. Julia pulls no punches, so I warn you that when you read her blog you must be prepared to share her pain.
I met Judy online about a year ago, and had the great pleasure of meeting her in real life over the winter holidays last year. The highest praise I can give Judy is this: she would be my perfect drinking buddy - uproariously funny, but also sensitive and warm. She loves, laughs and lives fiercely, and writes with amazing wit.
Julia and Judy, you are two amazing women. I have no idea what you will find here on Thursdays from now, but whatever you do, it'll be dedicated to you and will come with my prayers.
April 8, 2008
This single example of the depth of a woman’s grief on losing her child to adoption should compel all a-parents to consider their moral obligations to their children’s first families very carefully. The fact that Cindy is by no means alone should send us all screaming to our legislatures for adoption reform, including the legal enforceability of open adoption agreements. It should also give us the guts to call bullsh*t when we see it, and any book that teaches prospective adoptive parents how to “fast track” adoption, as the adoptive mother's book does, is just that.
Think of Cindy Jordan today. Remember a woman who had a child, lost a child, and lost herself. And never forget.
April 7, 2008
You have to read this article about Theresa's recent visit to the city of her birth. There are more, and they all blew me away, but this one knocked me over. If you still have doubts about the "rightness" of open records, Theresa's series will dispel them.
In the summer of 2007, five students travelled to South Korea to document a life changing venture. Going Home: Identities of the Modern Age will be a vehicle for exploration of the story of one transracial adoptee, his lifestyleand his journey to discover his birth parents. This endeavor is in affiliation with Emerson College as an entirely student-run Bachelor of Fine Arts Project.Read more here - and subscribe to the Going Home blog.
... is a new Korean adoptee blog. It is author Kim Yoonmi's candid view of life as a Korean adoptee - much for us a-parents to learn there. Yoonmi also writes several other blogs that are great cultural resources.
April 6, 2008
So many memories. There were the kids as babies, small faces with inquisitive eyes. And then the toddler years, joyful and imaginative years of explosive growth. Slowly the photos walked me through their lives, through childhood and school years, through the gangly gawky pre-teens, and into high school, where both found comfortable identities. In the recent photos, I see the adults my children nearly are.
Every turn of the page brought reminders of milestones and mundane. The kids learning to crawl and walk. Family celebrations. Birthday parties with friends. School and band and sports and drama. Vacations at the beach. Our trip to Korea. I'm indiscriminate in my photo-album-building - every shot makes it in except those that are too blurry to identify. Sometimes I'd find five or six nearly identical shots - what, I would ask myself, was I trying to capture? Why was that shot so important? Sooner or later I'd figure it out, and it was always the look on The Boy's face, or the laughter on The Girl's.
And with each photo and its memory came a pang: She missed this. He missed this. They missed this.
In my private moments I often wonder what my children's mothers lives are like. One is approaching 40 now, the other 50. I know a little about one of them from our failed attempt at contact, and wonder if she is in the same place, doing the same work. I wonder about the siblings we know are in their 20s, but know nothing about the person in America who shares their genes. And what about the other mother, the one we know nothing about? I imagine her where we think she may be, getting up each day, working, caring for a family that may not even exist.
All daydreams, the workings of my imagination, which so wants to know the truth and the women themselves.
Hardest of all is wondering what feelings these women lock away from the world each year when April 5th comes again. I hate the fact that my children are someone's secret, and I hate the attitudes that makes it so. I want to hold my children's mothers in my arms and let them cry out the years of pain, and to give them back the memories they have missed.
I've found it hard to write about my children's first families recently, something that has surprised me considering I started the blog purposely to write about them. I think it's because I'm struggling, really struggling hard, my friends, with letting go of my dreams of my children's reunion. Stepping out of the picture is much easier said than done for me. These closing doors are hard to accept.
And yet as I write that last sentence, I instantly realize that as hard as it is for me, it's nothing, absolutely nothing, in comparison with the sadness and pain and loss my children's mothers, maybe fathers, too, if they know about their births, feel every single day of the year.
April 4, 2008
I miss hope, too. For many years now I've harbored the dream that someday my children's mothers would find us, perhaps pushed on their birthdays by the overwhelming desire to know who and how and where their children are. That possibility doesn't cease just because the kids are grown - in fact I've heard that some Korean mothers, once past their own child-rearing years, reach out. So The Boy's and The Girl's chances of finding or being found are actually better now than they were when they were young. It's irrational, but there you go.
Maybe the irrationality is because the dream I'm letting go of is mine. For years I've picture a n extended dream family that included my children's mothers and siblings and all their relatives. I dreamed of visits to Korea and the U.S., and relationships maintained on the internet. It was satisfying to imagine, to just let my thoughts go to the possibilities.
It's certainly possible that reunions will happen; I'm still praying for that. I just hope I have the strength to abandon my dream if they do, and to let my children build their own realities. But since it's all happening in my head right now, I guess I have time to work through it. All the same, I'm missing my babies, and wishing their mothers could see them now. Imagine the healing it would bring!
어머니, I'm thinking of you. I know you're thinking of your children, too. Although I have to let them decide if and when to look for you now, I'll wish and hope and pray that they find you or you find them until the end of my days.
April 3, 2008
The ARD is a one-day demonstration that will coincide by design with the National Conference of State Legislatures' Annual Meeting. The NCSL is the national organization of state lawmakers, who today in the U.S. hold adoptee rights in their hands. The protest's goal is to have representation from every one of the 50 states, which will demonstrate to them that the issue of adoptee rights transcends those of the state. Hopefully every one of the lawmakers who attends this conference will go away with the knowledge that this is a human and civil rights issue.
Go visit the Adoptee Rights website, too - it's loaded with good information. Two items stand out: the state-by-state chart giving a high-level overview of an adoptee's rights in each state, and the draft of a Charter of Adoptee Rights that ties back to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that every adoptee should comment on.
I'm asking every adoptive parent who reads here to put some skin in this game. But don't it for me; do it for your sons and daughters.
- Go over to Adoptee Rights and make a donation.
- Look for your state on the list of states that will be represented at the protest, and if it's not listed, start beating the bushes for representatives. Or plan on going yourself if you can!
- Grab the badge in this post or anywhere else you see it, and add it to your sidebar with a link to the demonstration page.
Kudos to Gershom, who maintains the Adoptee Rights website, blogs at Without a Tribe and is a driving force behind the Adoptee Rights Demonstration as well. Here she is - lots more announcements from Gershom on her YouTube page, too.
April 2, 2008
Gang Shik's The Transracial Korean Adoptee Nexus and Jae Ran's Harlow's Monkey provide more information on the Korean adoption experience than any other websites I know. I know from my lame blogging efforts how hard it is to keep up with the news. Gang Shik and Jae Ran do a spectacular job of that, and provide a tremendous service to the adoption community in the process.
Nicole of Paragraphein, Jenna of The Chronicles of Munchkinland (and several other blogs), and Suz of Writing My Wrongs are three incredibly strong and committed women. They write about the experience of losing a child to adoption with raw honesty, and teach us much in the process. They write, I read, and I am humbled. And I learn.
Voices for Vietnam Adoption Integrity is the collaborative effort of three adoptive moms who aren't just talking about ethical adoption, they're doing something about it. You may know the three founders, Nicki, Christina and Rachel, from their other blogs: Stepping on Legos; Mrs. Broccoli Guy and Cambodia Adoption Connection; and Are We There Yet? Voices for Vietnam Adoption Integrity has become a gathering place for anyone interested in transparency in adoption from Vietnam and Cambodia. It's also a great model for the rest of us to follow.
Carmen Van Kerckhove has committed herself to fighting racism. She does it in a number of ways: She coordinates and writes Racialicious, Anti-Racist Parent, and Race in the Workplace; she is the president of New Demographic, a firm that provides resources for learning about race and racism; she hosts the podcast Addicted to Race; and she guest blogs and writes all over the place. When I think about people who are fighting racism, Carmen is always at the top of my list.
My hat is off to all of these bloggers, and my thanks go to Tina for thinking of me.
April 1, 2008
There’s a lot of good stuff to focus on, too.
- I've got a job that lets me and my family live a decent life, even if it gives me absolutely no emotional satisfaction. And you know what? I'm OK with that
- I get to connect with what I care about - adoption and the Korean community - in many ways, even though I don't work with them. Korean Focus, KAC-DC, blogging here, writing elsewhere, going to conferences - they all touch what's important to me.
- I've got great friends. Some I've know for decades, some I met recently, some I only know online. But they are all important to me, and I'm grateful to know them all.
- I’m married to a guy I both love and like. Yeah, he drives me nuts. His personality is 180 degrees from mine, and keeping the peace can be challenging both of us. But he’s a good man, with a good heart, and a great father. We’re going on 34 years of marriage and that’s not bad!
- My children are a blessing beyond belief. They have birthdays this week - The Boy will turn nineteen and The Girl seventeen, can you believe it? Marriage has been good, but I have to say in honesty that nothing I have ever experienced equals being their mom. Sorry, Third Dad.
Thinking of my children invariably brings thoughts of their mothers in Korea. I have to tell you that I have been struggling hard recently with the realization that my kids and their mothers may never. I feel a sort of desperation, but have no outlet for it, because their journey is no longer in my hands. The fact is that although we do have some information and have made contact with one of the kids’ mothers, our adoptions are closed. I need to accept this, once and for all. I need to recognize that even if my children do meet their Korean families, those relationships will look nothing like an adoption that has been open since the start. The support they will need then won't look like the support I’ve imagined giving them and their mothers in an open adoption environment. I’ve got a lot of learning to do to be ready to help if they need or want me to.
Which brings me to a post coming soon about the Barker Foundation conference on mothers on March 15th (more info in Barker’s spring newsletter.) The fact that I’m telling you I went to it on April 1st and still haven’t posted about it should give you an inkling of what my life has been like lately. Nuts.