May 31, 2008

The light that is Julia

will shine forever.

May you have eternal rest, Julia. May perpetual light shine upon you.

To Julia's family and friends, may God comfort you among all the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.



"On Eagle's Wings" was sung at Mass today. It is the hymn I chose to be sung at my father's funeral, because I wanted to remember him soaring through eternity. This is how I will remember Julia.

And He will raise you up on eagle's wings,
Bear you on the breath of dawn,
Make you to shine like the sun,
And hold you in the palm of His hand.

May 30, 2008

Pull, pray, anything, everything

For Julia, please.

Lee Herrick's tribute to Julia, Light, is a prayer. The article in today's Yonhap (and below), is a prayer, too. Although mine feel feeble in comparison, believe me they are going up for you today, Julia. Send your good thoughts, positive vibes and prayers to Julia, too, OK?

Edited to add: Theresa (thank you so much Theresa) has linked to this post on Digg (as you can only read part of the Yonhap article on their website unless you have a subscription which you get by emailing them not online form good grief!) in the hope that Julia's story can get more exposure. Take a moment to Digg it!
Korean adoptee with leukemia seeks bone marrow donor
By Kim Young-gyo

SEOUL, May 30 (Yonhap) -- Ku Ji-hye celebrated her 25th birthday this week in bed at a Jerusalem hospital, continually fighting for her life with extensive chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

Ku has acute lymphocytic leukemia. If she does not receive a bone marrow transplant she will die, doctors say. There is not any member in her family, who has human leukocyte antigens, the components in blood that indicate marrow compatibility, suitable to hers. And it is because she is an adoptee.

Born in 1983 in the South Korean capital city of Seoul, she was adopted almost immediately through the services of Holt International.

She was raised in New York and graduated from the University of Buffalo in 2006. It was in May of 2006 that she was suddenly diagnosed with an aggressive and life-threatening leukemia.

Ku underwent immediate chemotherapy at a U.S. hospital, but was unable to attain remission.

As a last chance, she entered aggressive experimental treatment at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem at the end of June 2006. Her best chance for full recovery is to find a bone marrow donor from Korea.

Leukemia patients are mostly likely to match someone of their same race or ethnicity, as tissue type is inherited, according to medical authorities.

Some of the online and offline communities of the Korean adoptees worldwide hope that a drive can be organized from Korea to find a compatible donor for Ku.

"Brian Bauman, who was also an adoptee, survived leukemia, after finding a match in South Korea. We are praying that the same thing could happen for her," John Arbour, who is also a Korean adoptee residing in New York, said to Yonhap News Agency via e-mail.

Bauman, born Kim Sung-duk in South Korea in 1974, and who had been adopted at the age of 3 years to Minnesota, was diagnosed with leukemia in 1995. After the government-funded Korean Broadcasting Service ran a one-hour documentary on Bauman, he found an unrelated donor from among thousands of South Koreans who volunteered to place their names on donor registries.

Those who volunteer to be a donor for Ku will at first undergo only the simplest, painless procedure --the drawing of a small blood sample from the arm. That blood will be tested, and if the necessary elements are compatible, more tests will be taken. Finally, if the donor is a match for the many who need bone marrow, they will be hospitalized for a short period of time. During the procedure to withdraw bone marrow, they will receive mild anesthesia, and a doctor will use a needle to extract the bone marrow from the pelvic bone. The procedure has become more and more advanced, and discomfort for the donor is minimal.

ygkim@yna.co.kr

May 29, 2008

Oh, heck, I'm starting over

That was the most screwed up excuse for a post I've ever posted. So it's gone. Blech.

What I was trying to say was this.

I don't think my kids are second best, and when I hear someone say they might be, I react. Strongly. That said, I know this really isn’t about me. It's about adoptees, about my kids.

But being an adoptive parent, I react like one. Unfortunately, in this situation, reacting like an a-parent with declarations of love for my kids might just dismiss their experience. I don't want to do that.

I honestly don’t know a better way to respond, though. Should I remain silent? Should I continue to say what I'm saying and risk invalidating an important part of the adoption experience? My gut tells me that silence is as bad as saying the wrong thing, and equally dismissive.

What then? Is there anything I can do better? Anything I can say that would be neither patronizing nor dismissive?

Only adoptees can say. I'm very open to coaching and welcome your thoughts.

Happy Birthdays!

Birthday greetings - on time and belated:

To Julia, whose birthday is today: Happy Birthday, Julia! Demand cake!!!

To Judy, whose birthday was April 22 and I managed to miss it (*hangs head in shame and frustration that I read the post BEFORE and the post AFTER and missed the one THE DAY OF - arghh*): Happy Belated Birthday, Judy! I hope it was filled with all good things, especially margaritas.

Any other birthdays out there? If so, Happy Birthday to you all, too! I say let's party!

May 28, 2008

My. Children. Are. Not. Second. Best.

First, before anything else - thank you, EVERYONE, for your pep talks yesterday. I needed them, very selfishly, and they did me an amazing amount of good. This blanket thank you will be followed by individual thanks and a little more explanation of why I'm so in the dumps, but I just want everyone to know that I really, REALLY appreciate it.

Suz and several others suggested writing prompts - yes please! Suz brought one to my attention right out of the gate, too. I'm glad Judy spoke out about it - you gave me the oomph to put my thoughts out there, too, J.

My. Children. Are. Not. Second. Best.

I say this having come to adoption from infertility, and having resisted adoption for a good bit of time while I tried to beat my body into submission. But although adoption may have been the chronologically second action I took to have children, by God the children in my family are second to no child Third Dad and I might have conceived and born.

I'd lay down my life for them in a New York second. I say that not because I'm pretending they came from my body - good grief, how do you do THAT in a transnational, transracial adoption? - but because of who they are. Children of Korean parents I hope they meet and know and love one day. Distinct and amazing individuals.

I could say I'm glad I'm infertile, but I won't. Those years of battling my uncooperative body were hell, pure hell. But with twenty years of parenting behind me, I can say with 100% certainty: Had I become pregnant and given birth to two children instead of adopting, I would have loved them no differently than I love my two amazing kids. If anything, adoption was an epiphany for me, an awakening to the fact that we as human beings possess a capacity to love that can cross any boundary we want it to - blood, race and ethnicity included. It's up to us, and having exercised it, I know that once you do, everything changes.

All this said, I know that many adoptees feel differently. That feeling of second best is a painful part of their experience. I think the typical chronology of infertility treatment followed by adoption makes it inherent, and is something adoptive parents like me, who come to adoption after infertility treatment, need to understand clearly for their children's sakes. I can't change that in my own experience, I can only love my kids with ever fiber of my being. And if someday they question why we didn't adopt first, I will tell them the truth: That like many others on the planet, my body wanted the experience of pregnancy and I tried. But never, ever have I regretted that my journey brought me somewhere else.

To have experienced the love I feel for The Boy and The Girl is the truest kind of blessing. I say this with eyes open to the losses, losses I honor and respect and hope one day are lessened in reunion. I say it loudly and clearly to prospective adoptive parents who come to adoption thinking they might not be able to love an adopted child as much as one born to them - resolve those feelings or please don't adopt. I say it to adoptive parents who are questioning their feelings for their children in light of the debate - don't question, just love. And I say it to every adoptee who lives with the pain, in the hope it gives another perspective.

My. Children. Are. Not. Second. Best.

May 27, 2008

Changes afoot

I've lost my written voice (if I ever had one), no one's reading, and there's no dialog - all my fault for being an incredibly boring blogger. Time for some changes, the first being that I've removed my other blog, Komapseumnida. I have no idea what the second will be. If you have any ideas, feel free to share them.

Edited to add: Let me explain a little more. When I started writing here, I felt I had something important to say. I fancied myself not so much a writer, but someone with the ability to write well, who might in the right circumstances become a writer. Well, to be perfectly candid, I really stink at writing. I may be able to string a few words together from time to time, but if my heart's not there, the words aren't either. And the words are gone, people. They. Are. Gone.

If they ever were there, and if I ever really had anything to say in the first place.

Edited to add more: And another thing. When I look back at what I've written, I'm always writing TO or FOR someone. TO adoptive parents. FOR adoptees and first parents. You all don't need me to do that, you're big boys and girls and can talk for yourself (see that boundary thing again.) The blogs I like to read have a much more personal point of view, but that runs me right up against my kids, who I just can't write about. I just can't invade their privacy. And there's really nothing about me to tell. I'm a short (no pun intended), completely open and incredibly boring book.

Man, this has turned into a whine, but it's been building for a long, long time, so please forgive me.

Edited to add even more: There's something else that I haven't been able to put my finger on, but it seems to be getting clearer. When I first started the blog, I wrote what I was thinking, what was in my head. Lately I find myself worrying about how this person or that group or XYZ organization will react when they read. In other words, I've lost the ability to just say what I think! Do you know how much that sucks? I hate it!

May 25, 2008

Unpressured support? I don't think so

I spent a little time browsing a small adoption agency's website today. It offered the typical services - information, a confidential hotline for "birth parents," and adoption. A statement on the front page encouraging pregnant women to call that 800 number for help making an unpressured decision caught my eye, along with the list of tags at the left. There were over 100, written or posted by agency staff. Take a look at the topics. Notice something missing?

How can a woman expect unbiased support from an agency that can't find its way to writing a single article about parenting, but had five in the category "At the hospital?"

This is why I believe adoption agencies should not be where pregnant women should go first for support.

May 24, 2008

Boundaries

An intense discussion has been underway at Nicole's about adoptees and mothers. There are several posts, and about a gazillion comments that are really worth reading, because they're a microcosm of the range of experiences and opinions on the relationship between adoptees and mothers.

As I began reading the comments, my first reaction was to rush in and voice my support for both the moms and the adoptees. Some of the comments were pretty harsh, along the lines of what I was talking about the other day. When I see that anymore, I want to remind everyone that there's pain enough in the adoption experience to go around without creating more. It finally occurred to me that there was really no place for me in this discussion at all. Since I frequently need saving from myself, it's fortunate that by the time I got to the bottom of the longest discussion, comments were closed.

I have a problem with boundaries. The fact is that I just don't see them. It's hard enough in real life to respect them, but here on the internet, the great equalizer, it's nearly impossible. When I first started reading adoption blogs online, I would jump into any conversation I wanted to, thinking that the interet made them all free game. I did finally wake up one day, after commenting in a conversation on an adoptee blog, to how inappropriate it was for me to be there. I am trying to do better, but you'll see my comments in places they shouldn't be, so it's clear I've got a ways to go.

Upbringing, innate beliefs, and a hippie past may be a part of it, but I think the real root of the problem is that I'm just plain stupidly gregarious. Really, I can meet someone and in no time establish a friendship that lasts for life. Part of it, too, is that when I see discussions on topics I'm interested in, I want to participate. So I open my mouth, sometimes to a welcome and sometimes to a blank stare. The blank stare always reminds me I've blundered in where I have no business to be.

So I'm working on it, but here's the rub. I'm definitely interested in discussion with other adoptive parents, particularly those of you who are working for adoption reform. But the discussion I really want to have is with adoptees and first parents.

This is one of the reasons I'm excited about the new blog I mentioned the other day, Parents' Corner at Grinding Up Stones. You know, adoptees don't owe us adoptive parents squat, so I am grateful to the blog's authors for taking the time to talk with us. Being someone who's overstepped her boundaries on many occasions, the possibility of a place specifically for adoptee-adoptive parent dialog is exciting.

This is an idea whose time has come in other areas, too. How about a blog where adoptees and first parents can talk openly? Or one for first parents and adoptive parents? Pro-adoption and anti-adoption - and I don't mean this facetiously? The possibilities are endless, and with good ground rules the dialog could be amazing, and we could understand each other a whole lot better.

Yeah, boundaries will always be a problem for me. I think, therefore, that this is a good place for me to give a blanket apology to any first parent or adoptee who feels I've overstepped my boundaries. I try, I fail, and am always open to coaching.

May 23, 2008

Ruby slippers

You know, The Boy will be 20 next year. The Girl will be the only teen in the family, and she'll be 20 before we know it, too. Honestly, I can't grasp how quickly their childhoods have flashed by. Too fast, too fast.

Every once in awhile I stop and think of something that happened when they were kids, a situation of one sort or another, and think that I could have handled it better if I'd only had the knowledge and experience. I think my intuition and gut are pretty good on parenting issues, but no one's perfect and I'm far from it.

When the subject is what I'd call a typical parenting issue - dealing with bedtime issues, getting the kids to do their homework regularly, and the like - there's a wealth of information out there to turn to in a myriad of sources. But when the issue is adoption, more specifically Korean adoption, the sources become fewer. At least that was the case back in the late 80s and early 90s when our children were very young. The risk with fewer sources is that the information they provide will be less proven, and more weighted in their favor. The result in our case was that we tended to accept the advice of our adoption agency and social workers on issues I view very differently today.

It comes down to questioning, I think, to the courage to ask "Why?"

I've stumbled upon a number of prospective and new adoptive parent bloggers recently, and am struck by the gratitude, awe even, in which many of them hold their agencies. I'm not judging here - it's really like looking a mirror. Adoption agencies can reach mythical proportions in the minds of people who are desperate to have (or save, as the case may be) a child, and agency staff raised to sainthood, at least to a position of such respect that it wouldn't occur to you to question their advice.

I can't say I ever reached this point, but I certainly wasn't immune to the phenomenon, and generally took everything offered at face value. I also accepted what I was told about our children's mothers and father, about whom we heard precious little, if anything. I remember hearing at some point that a young unmarried Korean mother had no viable alternative but to surrrender her child for adoption, and that in order to survive in Korean culture, she had to put her pregnancy and child behind her.

I bought it without question. I didn't see this as fate or the will of God or anything like that, simply as a hard reality that wasn't for me to fix. But if I had just asked a few key questions, I might have had the courage to reach out to my kids' mothers earlier, and they might have had the courage to reach back.

It's ironic, too, that now that I'm asking the questions I should have asked so long ago, the answers come pretty easily. I wonder if they were there all along, or if I'm reaping the benefits of adoptees and first parents and adoptive parents more courageous than I was, who asked the hard questions and demanded answers.

Of all the things I wish I'd known about adoption when it was new to my husband and me, it's that I always had the power to ask the hard questions. The time it took me to figure out that deference is an inappropriate response to adoption agency services may have cost my kids and their parents a lot.

"Why?" was like a pair of ruby slippers that could have taken my children and their parents to the places they needed to go. I waited far too long to try them on. You go put yours on right now.

May 22, 2008

Swabs and sneaks

I've got a really supportive group of friends. Need support, help with a special project, a shoulder to cry on? They're there. It's an incredible gift to have people like my friends in my life.

Knowing how supportive they are is one of the reasons I don't like the feeling of helplessness that comes with having to sit by idly when online friends are hurting. If you're trying to support Judy and Julia right now, I'm sure you know what I mean. There are, however, some very concrete things you and I can do to squelch that feeling and make a real difference in the fight against cancer.

Bone Marrow Donation

Asian American bone marrow and cord blood donors are needed to increase the potential for matches. Registering as a potential marrow donor takes just a few minutes and a swab of your cheek. If you are pregnant, umbilical cord blood can be donated at your hospital when your baby is born, and is offering hope to patients for whom marrow transplant is not a possibility. There is a wealth of information on the National Marrow Donor Program and Asian American Donor Program websites. (You might be interested in knowing that there's a picture of Yul Kwon on the front page of the AADP website, too. Unfortunately he has his shirt on.)

If you aren't a candidate for marrow or cord blood donation (there are some health conditions that prevent it, plus white donors are in less demand), you can still help by organizing a bone marrow registration drive. I've done this twice, most successfully through my employer. The NMDP has representatives across the country who work with the community to set up the drives. I learned when I organized the second of the two I've done that a great way to increase success is to conduct the drive at the same time as a Red Cross blood drive. The publicity we posted online and in our building focused on the need for African American and Asian American donors, and the turnout was very good. Drives can be sponsored through other organizations and churches, too.

Breast Cancer Research

So maybe you're neither a candidate for marrow donation nor an organizer. Well, how about walking or running for the cure for breast cancer? You can choose from a Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, Fit for the Cure or Ultimate Drive, which take place all over the country throughout the year. The money you raise furthers research toward a cure.

I walked in the 2005 National Race for the Cure in DC, and it was incredible. I don't think I've ever felt more solidarity with my sisters. But don't think this is purely a female thing - there were plenty of guys there, too! People walked with teams or as individuals, and some of the teams made significant amounts of money. Ours was smaller and didn't earn as much, but we still contributed to the overall goal and had a great time in the process. Although the word "race" is in the title, by the way, most of the participants strolled the course for fun, not competition.

I've never done the Avon Walk, which is a much more demanding event. It's a 39-mile walk, and takes place over two days. Walks are scheduled in cities across the country throughout the year. Of course, to walk 39 miles in two days means you will probably need to train a whole lot more than you will for a 5K. But for committed walkers, this is a terrific opportunity to add to the research coffers.

So, swab those cheeks and put on those sneakers! And think of Julia and Judy when you do!

May 21, 2008

Don't Misses 5-21-08

A little bonus today.

First, run-don't-walk over to Tina-the-Wise's and read If you are about to adopt - reset your compass. Thank you, Tina, for saying in plain English what should be said to every prospective adoptive parent. I wish someone had said it to me.

Next, several blog discoveries:
  • The other is mostly photos from Korea, and is called Globe Trotters. What I love about this blog is that it's snips of everyday life, not cultural icons. It's terrific!
From Hankyoreh, A Day without Adoption features an event sponsored by Adoptee Solidarity Korea on May 5th to draw attention to the number of children that have been adopted outside of Korea, and to make the point that Korea should be focusing on ways to keep families together, including single parent families.

Jane Jeong Trenka shared a new Korea show, Five Guys and a Baby Angel, that has the promotion of domestic adoption in Korea as its theme. I've noticed quite a few shows focusing on single parenting recently, too - Single Daddy in Love, and Three Daddies and One Mommy, and of course my fave Thank You.

Is there a word for ...

"adoption battle eye-witness fatigue?"

Symptoms include extreme frustration caused by the impossible desire for dialog across painful experiences, dismay at the personal attacks that serve in its stead, oversensitity to discord, and withdrawal from the issues. The cure is progress toward ethical adoption practices and just laws for mothers and adoptees, but that is in very short supply.

I think I'll call it "Pollyanna Syndrome." And I've got it bad.

Not to turn this post into a vent, but everywhere I read lately, someone is using someone else to make a point. What is particularly disturbing is that many of the disputes aren't between the usual suspects, adoptive parents and first parents or adoptees; they're between adoptees and first parents. There is so much pain in the adoptee and first mother adoption experience already. Why is it necessary to add to it by sniping, attacking, purposefully misunderstanding, generalizing, poking fun at, and on and on?

The way I see it, adoptees lacked any choice in the course of their lives, which many face accompanied by endless and often unfulfilled searching - for identity, for family, for understanding of why this happened to them. They deserve respect and support.

First parents, mothers in particular, bore the brunt of society's judgment, often to the point of forced removal of children they wanted to parent and would have had they been given a chance. They live their lives grieving their lost children. They deserve respect and support.

Ultimately, whatever discussion takes place between adoptees and first parents is none of my business, but it's really hard to watch knowing the intensity of the commitment and underlying pain. Pollyanna here just wishes everyone could step back once in awhile, agree on a couple of achievable end goals, and move forward.

May 19, 2008

Adoptive Family Magazine call for adoptee essays

Thank you, Gershom, for posting this. Please pass on far and wide.

Hi, there,

Adoptive Families is reaching out to all agencies who may have contact with
adult adoptees. As our team is in need of material for upcoming editorials, we
would appreciate your could help in contributing any of the following
information.

We are looking for completed essays or stories by adult adoptees that may
have published in agency or support group newsletters and/or answers to the
following three questions from adult adoptees.

1. What do they remember about their adoption?
2. What advice would they give families contemplating adoption?
3. Do they plan to adopt themselves?

If answers, the adoptees can e-mail their answers directly to EveGillman, eve@adoptivefamilies.com.

Thank you for your help!

Best Regards,
Abbey Smith
Marketing Manager
Adoptive Families Magazine
New Hope Media LLC
39 West 37th St. 15th fl.
New York, NY 10018
tel: 646.366.0843
fax: 646.366.0842
abbey@adoptivefamilies.com
abbey@newhopemedia.com

May 18, 2008

Compassion fatigue

No, it's not Thursday, but you need to know that Julia needs every prayer you can send, every day for as long as it takes until she is well.

Mass ended with these words this morning. I send them to you, Julia, with my love. Keep fighting!

The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
The Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

My church ended a multi-month speaker series today with Father Ron Rolheiser. I'm glad I went - it was good for my soul. He talked about "compassion fatigue," the exhaustion that comes from working toward what we know is just but making no headway.

His message was simple: We'll spin our wheels until, like Christ, we are able to wash each other's feet. Pick your issue, pick your enemy, and think about whether you have the humility to wash that person's feet. Think about the ways we label ourselves: liberal and conservative, pro choice and pro life, Democratic and Republican, and more.

How do you label yourself? How do you label those opposite you? Can you reach across what divides you to "wash each other's feet?"

Resolving and solving the issues that divide will elude us until we are able to approach those on the opposite side without anger, and with hearts genuinely trying to cross the divide. I know I have a long way to go.

May 17, 2008

Fiesta Asia DC

Washington, DC celebrated our Asian American community today. I didn't get a lot of pictures because I was working in the KAC-DC booth most of the time, but enjoy the ones I got.

























May 14, 2008

Lucky stones

Sang-Shil has a beautiful tribute to Julia up that brought back some wonderful memories, of Korea and of something I used to do as a kid. I grew up outside of Cleveland, and for many years Lake Erie was my backyard, in Mentor-on-the-Lake. Cleveland and the lake get a bum rap, because I have to tell you it was fun to grow up there. Yes, looking back I can see just how un-diverse it was, and I couldn't live there now, but as a kid - there's nothing like having an entire lake as your own personal playground.

I always loved walking the beach, too, looking for pebbles and other interesting stuff. Even now, when an interesting stone catches my eye I put it in my pocket and take it home. I once took a trip with my mom to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where she grew up, and brought back two souvenirs: two six-packs of beer from the Big Buck Brewery in Gaylord, Michigan, and a bag of river rocks from Eagle River. This was pre-9/11 and I got through, but I sure did get some strange looks. Probably deserved, as I had the kids in tow.

So when we had nothing else to do as as kids, my friends and I would stroll the beach looking for the pebbles and beach glass, all buffed smooth by the lake and sand. If you could find something other than brown stones and glass, it was a good day. For me, Coke-bottle green was a treasure, cobalt blue, too. It was also a good day if you could find a lucky stone - a small, smooth white stone that we believed would bring us luck.

When I read Sang-Shil's post, those memories came back, and I dug out the lucky stones from my bag of rocks. They're in a place of honor now, not quite in a stupa because I couldn't get them to stand up in a tower, but nonetheless near our beautiful kwanyin. They will stay there and be a prayer that Julia and Judy are healed, completely healed. I hope they bring you luck, my dears!

Pray hard for Julia right now, my friends, very, very hard.

May 12, 2008

Buddha's Birthday

Today is Buddha's Birthday - although as Korea is thirteen hours ahead it's already past there. I've never been to Korea at this time, but everyone I know who has says it's a beautiful time of the year and a beautiful holiday.

Wikipedia has this:

In Korea the birthday of Buddha is celebrated according to the Lunisolar calendar. This day is called 석가탄신일 (Seokga tansinil), meaning "the day of Buddha's birthday" or 부처님 오신 날 (Bucheonim osin nal) meaning "the day when Buddha arrived". Lotus lanterns cover the entire temple throughout the month which are often flooded down the street. On the day of Buddha's birth, many temples provide free meals and tea to all visitors. The breakfast and lunch provided are often sanchae bibimbap.

Although I'm not Buddhist, I am drawn to Buddhism for many reasons, primarily the peace and mindfulness that are important to Buddhist practice. I need them - really, the whole world needs them. I see much in Buddhism that's complementary to my own faith, much to learn from. One source of learning has been the books of Thich Nhat Hanh - Going Home: Jesus and Buddha as Brothers and Living Buddha, Living Christ in particular.

Temples are always a part of my visits to Korea; so far my favorite is Naksansa, the one you see a bit of in my header photo. I love Jogyesa, too - it's a much smaller temple smack in the middle of downtown Seoul, but I like its bustle, and the fact that people stop by to pray throughout the day. On our family tour to Korea in 2001, we had the great fortune to travel part of the way with a Buddhist monk, Sunup Sunim. Sunup Sunim was (still is?) a Korean army chaplain, who joined the tour when we left Seoul and traveled through the countryside and visited several temples. I'm glad I had the opportunity to meet him, and to learn about Buddhism from him. He was also a lot of fun - the lollipop was part of his persona.

The Lotus Lantern Festival website has lots of information, images and movies about the celebration. There's also a lot of information about Korean Buddhism at the Jogye and Won Buddhist websites. Enjoy!

Edited to add this from the Hankyoreh.

Important PSA from Ethica

Ethica needs our support. Please do what you can for an organization that is working hard on a shoestring to promote ethical adoption. You'll see a blue ChipIn in the left sidebar - click the button and give what you can. And while you're at it, go on over to the Ethica blog and join the chorus there, too! A message from Linh Song, MSW, Executive Director of Ethica follows.

On this Mother's Day, the adoption community will celebrate and honor first and adoptive mothers for the love and care they've provided to their children. These mothers might be blocks or oceans apart, but connected through a desire to ensure their children's well-being and futures. We at Ethica, ask that you help contribute to their legacies by supporting ethical adoptions, practices, and policies.

Our work reminds us that motherhood through adoption has its challenges and sometimes, heartbreak. Unfortunately, adoptions can be tainted by questionable practices and the victimization of vulnerable members of the adoption triad. When problems arise, families and their advocates approach Ethica for guidance and assistance. Their stories speak for themselves:

- An American mother calls, seeking help to recover her child, whose "adoption" she never consented to.

- An anthropologist calls seeking help for Vietnamese women who are
searching for their children. They had been given as little as $31
USD as "poverty alleviation support" by Vietnamese officials who promised that their children will be returned to them in several years, and that until then the orphanage will provide for them. The children have been internationally adopted without their consent.

- A family is stranded in Guatemala, abandoned by their adoption agency in the midst of new policy changes that essentially close adoptions while the country centralizes its process.

- A young woman adopted from Eastern Europe, and then left in the U.S. foster care system, wonders if she is a citizen since she has no immigration paperwork and needs to apply for federal assistance.

- Adopted children in an African orphanage tell their prospective adoptive parents about being sexually abused. As a result they are denied food, and the orphanage threatens to stop their adoptions.

- An adoption agency uses a bait-and-switch tactic, offering children to prospective adoptive parents despite not having the appropriate paperwork or histories, then switching the "referral" in-country.

- A Christian missionary group questions if their donations are being used to care for orphans as the poor conditions persist.

- Families report giving "donations" of $5-7,000 to Vietnamese orphanage directors in order to complete their adoptions. And yet two months ago, Ethica was asked to provide blankets and formula for babies dying from unusually cold weather in Vietnamese orphanages participating in international adoptions.

Ethica receives 50-80 inquiries a week from adoption triad members in crisis. Over the past 6 years, we have assisted over 8,000 children and families, often advocating for them with the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and state attorney generals. currently we are actively assisting over 200 children and families in the U.S., Guatemala, Vietnam, Liberia, Haiti, and Nepal.

In the United States, in addition to answering many questions and supporting individuals through difficult situations, we have conducted a review of state adoption laws. We have testified in person and in writing on adopted people's rights to their birth records. We have worked on cases involving the informed consent of first parents.

Our work involves human rights issues such as the trafficking of children into adoption. We have carried out several successful humanitarian aid projects to Liberia and Vietnam.

It is essential that Ethica continue to assist families in crisis and expand our advocacy initiatives. Ethica is the only truly independent adoption advocacy organization doing this vital work. Ethica represents all members of the adoption triad, and has no competing financial interest. To maintain our independence, we do not accept monetary support from anyone who places children for adoption.
  • A $100 donation allows Ethica to administer our humanitarian efforts for 1 month.
  • A $250 donation allows Ethica to train a state adoption regulator on adoption fraud and need for adoption consumer protection laws.
  • A $500 donation can keep the Ethica phone lines open for 1 year.
  • A $1,000 donation can cover Ethica's office rent for 4 months.
Thank you for your past and continued efforts to promote a dialogue on ethical adoptions. Please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any question about Ethica's work. I look forward to hearing from you!

Sincerely,
Linh Song, MSW
Executive Director
Ethica, Inc.

May 10, 2008

For my sisters

I've been catching up on my blogroll the past few days, and have been struck by the number of people who are struggling with the relationships adoption has given them. So many mothers and adoptees trying to each find other, rejecting each other, or learning to know each other once found. Adoption is a complicated life to live.

Endless loss. It's one of the very first things that struck me when I started blogging. So many stories, and so much loss.

Adoption loss is painful to witness any time of the year, but takes on a special poignancy around mother's day. I don't believe it's possible for someone who hasn't experienced it to know what it feels like to spend mother's day without a child or mother you long to know. We who view adoption from the other side of that loss can only stand by and offer platitudes, our cyber-hugs and cyber-support, which all ring hollow in the face of that pain.

I know that many of you I call my friends - mothers and adoptees both - will spend this weekend in sadness. Whether you pretend this weekend is like any other to keep it together or succumb to your grief - you're my sisters. This mother's day weekend, I'm holding each of you very close.

May 9, 2008

Rain!

Yes, it's raining. It's pouring. We have no gutters. I live in fear that the sump pump, which went on in the downpour when Third Dad was in Germany and spewed water all over my laundry room, will come on again and the pipe joints I sealed won't hold. I'm giving Third Dad one week to get someone scheduled to put these gutters up, and then it's gonna hit the fan.

Speaking of Rain, did you see this on Colbert? It's a hoot!

May 8, 2008

Spirit

Judy and Julia are both spiritual people, you'll notice that right away when you read their blogs. You'll notice, too, that neither presumes that their faith should be or is better than or trumps yours. I like that combination - the courage to openly proclaim your beliefs with the humility to respect and learn from the different beliefs of others.

Too often, I think, we make the mistake that if we believe firmly in something, those who believe differently must be wrong. I look at the beliefs of others as opportunities to deepen my own faith, and in doing so have learned and gained so much.

It's not just a matter of looking at other religious traditions, either. I've learned more about an individual human being's desire for goodness from my atheist friends than any others. Maybe it's because when you remove religious justification from your actions, you have to rely on the simple question "Is this right or wrong?" There's a clarity in that question that gets lost in religious debate, I think.

Of course, I've learned much from my friends who practice one religion or another, too. From my Jewish friends, I've found respect for ritual and focus on social justice. From my Protestant friends, the courage to question and look to the future. From my Muslim friends, the importance of prayer and of placing God first. From my Hindu friends, respect for the earth and its creatures. From my Buddhist friends, the real possibility of peace.

It's in this spirit of open sharing that I give you a hymn I love. Maybe you know it? Judy, Julia and anyone out there struggling with any kind of challenge - these thoughts are for you.
Healer of our every ill,
Light of each tomorrow,give us peace beyond our fear,
and hope beyond our sorrow.


You who know our fears and sadness,
grace us with your peace and gladness.
Spirit of all comfort, fill our hearts

Healer of our every ill ...


In the pain and joy beholding
how your grace is still unfolding,
give us all your vision, God of love

Healer of our every ill ...


Give us strength to love each other,
every sister, every brother.
Spirit of all kindness, be our guide

Healer of our every ill ...


You who know each thought and feeling,
teach us all your way of healing.
Spirit of compassion, fill each heart
Healer of our every ill,
Light of each tomorrow,give us peace beyond our fear,
and hope beyond our sorrow.

Healer of Our Every Ill is by Marty Haugen, GIA Publications.

May 6, 2008

Don't Misses 5-7-08

I probably have half a dozen posts in various states of disarray, all of which I am anxious to finish, but life is just plain NUTS at the moment. So lest you forget all about me, let me share some stuff - some new, some not so new, all for your enjoyment.

First, Suz wrote a post last week that everyone should read. It's describes how surrendering a child to adoption has long-term impacts in unexpected ways. If you still believe a woman can "get over" the loss of her child to adoption, this post will give you another point of view to consider.

Next, belated congratulations to Jenna, who rocks - and now she rocks in Redbook! Her story is part of a recent series on motherhood - don't miss it!

In the wake of the recent changes to Vietnam adoption policy, there have been a number of articles on intercountry adoption recently:
Enjoy!

She didn't really say this!

And I didn't really read it, did I?


Mrs. Bush, I applaud your efforts to give voice to the people in Burma. And I appreciate your efforts to provide aid to the victims of the recent Burmese cyclone. But really - to criticize the Burmese government's slow response when New Orleans is still in the shape it's in (photos are from the lower 9th ward in 2006 and 2007)? I don't mean to be inflammatory, but I really think we need to keep our criticisms of other governments to ourselves once in awhile.

May 4, 2008

Another weekend gone

Well, with Third Dad out of town I had this crazy idea that I'd relax and write all weekend. Ha.

Our kitty Saja had what amounts to a kitty coronary on Friday. He started the day looking tired, and by mid-day I could tell something wasn't right. In the afternoon, however, he bounced back to his old self, ate well, behaved normally. By bedtime, though, he was looking bad again, and the next day he didn't improve. So The Girl and I brought him to the vet, who confirmed late last night that poor old Saja had fluid in his lungs, most likely due to an enlarged heart.

We prepared for the worst, but a spell in oxygen therapy and a diuretic did him a world of good, and he was able to come home this morning. He will need to be seen by another vet to diagnose what's up with his heart, but he's home and doing well. I know deep down inside that this is probably the beginning of the end, as he's 16 and has been in decline the past year or two. But I'm glad we dodged it this time.

Third Dad's in flight back to DC, I leave to pick him up in about twenty minutes. I'll be so glad when he's home - on top of Saja's brush with danger, we've had water in the laundry room, a nail in my tire, and a visit to the dentist for a new temporary cap to replace the one I accidentally ate. Enough fun for one week, I think.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Third Dad's home. He arrived safely with a suitcase full of really cool stuff. The Boy got a Toten Hosen (Dead Pants - really great name for a band, don't you think?) t-shirt that says Kein Alkohol is auch keine Lösung on it. Love it. The Girl got a bag of candy (her choice) and an FC Köln shirt. I got a collection of Thomas Mann stories, Effi Briest on CD, and a box of my favorite tea, along with the book Der Gast (The Guest) by Hwang Sok-yong, translated from Korean into German. That is way cool. Third Dad brought chocolate and Simplicissimus on CD for himself, and tons of pictures.

He loves Düsseldorf, but he's really glad to be home. I'm glad he's home, too.

PS Saja is doing really well.

May 1, 2008

My daily 한복

I love iGoogle, although it's responsible for a lot of wasted time - it makes it way too easy to check email, Facebook, play games, yada yada.

But with this as my theme, I simply have to keep peeking.

Any of you ladies who love fashion must check out Lee Young Hee's website. She comes to DC from time to time and shows her work, and I was able to attend year before last. I was completely blown away. Great pictures of one of her shows are here.

Julia, I'm picturing you in one of Lee Young Hee's hanbok, and you are beautiful! Huge hugs to you and Judy today!