June 29, 2008

Our poor kitty

There's a reason for my absence the past week: we've been nursing our kitty Saja, who has been really sick. He got some kind of infection about six weeks ago, which was alternately diagnosed as congestive heart failure, pneumonia and kidney disease. We've done everything possible to save him and help him get back to a relatively normal state, from admitting him for treatment to long-term antibiotics at home. But he took a really bad turn this past week, and is now unable to walk and is pretty much unresponsive. He's conscious, but has simply stopped reacting to us and his surroundings. We have to have him put to sleep tomorrow.

Although we know it's the only thing we can do at this point, we're all absolutely sick. Our first two cats died when the kids were very little. Machka died when The Boy was a baby, so he has no recollection of her. That was before The Girl arrived. Sneeze, our one-eyed yellow stray, had to be put down when The Boy was four and The Girl was two. We got Saja a few months later. He's been with them throughout their childhoods.

Saja has always been a bit of a lump. He loves to sleep on his back, which none of our other cats ever did. Sometimes he sleeps that way in the middle of the living room floor, legs splayed like he owns the place. He loves peanut butter, too - I'll never eat it again without thinking of him. And chips, although we didn't let him have them very often, just a nibble now and then. But if you opened a chip bag in the kitchen, he'd hear it on the other side of the house and would come running.

Saja's a pretty big cat, and in his prime weighed around thirteen pounds - not huge, but pretty substantial. At the vet last Monday he weighed 5.03 pounds. It makes me cry to look at him.

My poor Saji-kitty. I think we're all in a bit of shock, because he declined so quickly. And even though he's pretty old, without this infection he had a few years left. I'm just so damn sad.




Saja slipped away in his sleep this afternoon. I'm glad it was peaceful and we didn't have to euthanize him. But I'm so sad he's gone.

June 25, 2008

Dance like no one's watching


I LOVE this!

More of Matt's experiences in Korea are on his blog, along with his impressions of the gazillion other places he visited, too. Past dancing videos are here.

June 24, 2008

Who's going to KAAN?

Back from a weekend trip to visit family in Ohio. I love my family, but how does the saying go? Something about fish and relatives? I think you get my drift. It was more stressful than fun, so I’m glad to be back home.

Anyhow, I’ve got something more important to talk about – the KAAN Conference. This year it’s in Chicago, at the Wyndham O'Hare Hotel from July 18th through the 20th. There are sessions on all kinds of topics, many tailored to a specific audience: adult adoptees, kids and teens, adoptive parents, and college-aged adoptees. Books for sale, movies, entertainment and great camaraderie round it out.

The KAAN Conference is remarkable, too, for the very fact that it’s still happening ten years after the first conference took place in Los Angeles. Fundraising for a conference like this is no small feat, which is why two authors need a shout-out: Terra Trevor, author of Pushing Up the Sky, and Chris Winston, author of A Euro-American on a Korean Tour at a Thai Restaurant in China. Both Chris and Terra donate the proceeds from their books to KAAN, which no doubt contributes to the conference’s durability. Although both books are available on Amazon.com, I learned recently that Terra’s is out of stock. If you are planning on reading it, please don’t wait – you can order it, and Chris’s book, too, directly from KAAN.

So who’s going? It would be great fun to meet some fellow bloggers there!

June 19, 2008

In praise of the fighting spirit

It's been another grueling work week, primarly because I had one of the most boring projects that man could devise to torture man on my plate. My brain is therefore cooked - there isn't an erudite thought to be found.

But there is this.

My online world is filled with people fighting the good fight. Some of you are fighting disease, others the pain of your past. Some of you are fighting for your identity. And still others are fighting injustices of all kinds.

You fight with words, you fight with actions. You work long hours, you sacrifice your time. You share your experiences, even when they are painful and it causes you more pain to do so. You stand up for what's right.

Some of your fights are public, some of you keep them close to your hearts and let us only see the pain. You fight for your families, your faiths, and your lives.

Losing Julia taught me a valuable lesson about you all. The internet isn't a vast, unconnected wasteland - it's where real people come together to share the battles they are fighting out there in real life, often because real life is unforgiving.

So today I just want to offer my respect to everyone here who's fighting the good fight.

You inspire me.

June 15, 2008

Adopting in the name of God

This post has been on my mind for awhile. I've had a hard time figuring out how to talk about this subject, as it has the potential to hurt and divide, and neither is my goal. My goal is to raise awareness about a sensitive issue that some may not have considered. I have done my best here to do that with respect.

I've done a good bit of surfing adoption agency websites in my online life. I've seen a fair number of agencies use a religious belief to promote adoption; quoting particular scriptural passages is a common way to do this. The ones I see most frequently come from the New Testament of the Bible: Romans 8 , Ephesians 1 and Galatians 4.

These are by no means simple passages; they speak to God's spiritual adoption of humanity. This concept of biblical or spiritual adoption, and the most appropriate translation of the original Greek word often translated as adoption, huiothesia, are both subjects of considerable scholarly discussion. Add to this the historical context for adoption in Greece, Rome and Israel at the time the Bible was written, and it becomes arguable at least that God may have had something other than modern-day adoption in mind in these Pauline letters.

It's tempting, though, to seek one's personal convictions to a particular passage of a particular religious document. Finding words that raise our deepest convictions and desires to the level of God's word is comforting and inspiring. No doubt this is why these particular texts get so much attention in the adoption community. But there's risk, however, that seeing this one message in these texts, in spite of the fact that this may not be the right message at all, may send us down the wrong adoption path, and may even cause us to miss deeper, more subtle message.

It is just my opinion, but I think there's a much stronger message about adoption in the Bible, in Matthew 22:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Loving like this opens our eyes to the pain our own actions may cause others. When we look at adoption through this lens, and think about it from the perspective of our neighbor - our child, for example, or our child's mother or father - our attention will naturally turn to practicing adoption appropriately and making it ethical and just. I think that would be very pleasing to God indeed.

Interesting reading on the historical context of adoption in ancient Greece, Rome and Israel:

Jacob Adopts Ephraim and Manasseh
Marcus L. Burstein

The Cambridge Dictionary of Classical Civilization
Scroll down to the sub-heading adoption

To the Dads

Here's to a day like this - or whatever equivalent floats your boat - for all the dads. Third Dad's plans are very specific: 1) Indian brunch 2) loafing .

Special thoughts and prayers going out for dads separated from their children by conflicts around the world.

Prayers, too, for dads who are no longer with us. Thinking of you, Dad.

June 12, 2008

Human nature

Two weeks ago today, just a few hours earlier, I was on the phone with Julia. The past couple of weeks have a surreal quality; I still haven't fully grasped her loss. I look for her to come online when I'm in email or facebook. When one of the kids sent a text message the other day, there was a split second when I thought it might be her. Intellectually I know it won't happen, but emotionally I keep hoping. Human nature, I guess.

It's human nature, too, to seek out others who share the difficult experiences we face. Who better to support us than those who are facing the same challenges and feeling the same pain?

Mutual support is synergistic, and can grow beyond the simple act of asking for, giving and receiving help. Consider the new blog Mothers with Cancer: We are sixteen moms fighting cancer. Some of us have been in remission for years; others are newly diagnosed, or battling a new recurrence. All of us have something to say. Sixteen women, once alone with their diagnoses, found each other, and now are sharing their experiences so ever more women can find them, and find support. One of those sixteen women is our Judy, whose introductory post is here.

The sharing and telling and supporting going on at Mothers with Cancer is human nature at its best. It's salve for my sad soul.

June 10, 2008

Forums and I ...

... just don't mix.

I put my foot in it again. I honestly didn't mean to, I didn't think the issue was inflammatory, but I did it again. It’s frustrating, because I really would like to find a place where I feel comfortable talking about issues, not debating them. But, alas, the nature of the internet is such that I always seem to rub someone the wrong way. So no more forums for me.

What got me into trouble this time is an idea that’s been rolling around in my head for a long time – the possibility of starting a site along the lines of Christina’s Voices for Vietnam Adoption Integrity, but focusing on adoption from Korea. When VVAI started up it struck me immediately that the Korean adoption community might benefit from a similar site, where news could be shared, issues raised, and resources posted. I set up a placeholder blog for it, but time being in short supply, I haven’t thought much more about it. If there’s interest and enough motivated folks to contribute, maybe it could happen, though. So I pitched the idea.

And got a surprisingly negative reaction. Yes, I'm a big girl, I know that people are entitled to their opinions in an open forum, and I should have expected it. But it still surprised me, because there was an edge to it, a sort of pre-judgment that my intention was to bash, and I had no right. That was most definitely not what I had in mind, and honestly it was painful to be viewed that way by someone I don't even know.

Edited to add: Please don't misunderstand! I was, shall we say, rather abruptly dismissed, but not attacked.

Of course, maybe there really is no point to looking at Korean adoption integrity. Maybe Korean adoption programs are ethical, and need no watchdogging. Maybe what happened to my family is a one-off anomaly. Or maybe our experience is the remnant of practices that have been corrected.

I don’t know.

I do know this, though: The smackdown hurt. And maybe now I get, if only a little better, how frustrating it must be to be an adoptee who is trying to share their experience, and is dismissed as "angry."

The fact that I am grateful to the people that brought me my family - from my children's first parents through the social workers and agency staff here and in Korea - doesn't mean that I abdicate my right and responsibility to point out where the process failed. I wish I understood why this perspective is so threatening – although a part of me really doesn’t care, because it’s just not up for debate with me anymore.

As they say, my experience is what it is, and it leaves a lot of room for improvement.

June 7, 2008

Memories, memories

It's hard to get into the writing swing again. Every time I've sat down to put a few thoughts to paper, I've found myself asking "What's the point?" Julia's loss makes me question where the adoption work should really be taking place, and most of all if the debate and ugliness that goes along with it is for a purpose. The answer to that last one is coming back "no."

I've also found myself clinging to my family this week. Perhaps it's human nature to do that when someone passes away, to retreat to the loved and familiar. I'd better snap out of it, though, because I've given The Girl so many no-reason hugs this week that she's starting to look at me the way the cat does when I come at him with his medicine. The Boy is probably glad he's had the work week from hell, because he's missed the smothering.

When my thoughts haven't been with Julia and those close to her, they've been with my kids. Sometimes the way I feel about them, this sort of uncontrollable crazy-in-love thing, is really overwhelming - no doubt more for them than for me. I do need to snap out of it, as work is suffering, but it's hard.

All week, little fragments of memories have been flying through my head, no doubt because I've found myself in the photo albums again, too. Sometimes they bring back an entire event, but more often or not they stand like little gems, bits of who my children are that I hope I never, ever lose.

This has been the stuff of my week, this and sadness.

June 6, 2008

Eulogy

From John, for Julia.

Is there a single word to capture "clear, pure soul?" Every word written about Julia comes back to this. She was a clear, pure soul in a world polluted with anger and hatred.

God bless you, Julia, God bless your clear, pure heart and soul.

June 5, 2008

J is for ...

Julia, of course.

John. If you know John, please send him some love, OK?

John's beautiful obituary for Julia will be read at the memorial service at 7:00 pm tomorrow evening at the KoRoot Guest House in Seoul.

Judy, who is under the weather today. Send her some cyber-chicken-soup, and some love, too.

Nothing pithy today, too sad.

June 2, 2008

Julia

I need to write a bit about Julia. For John and Ranaan and his family, for Ajumma and Ajossi, and Leila. So they know what Julia meant to me, and many others like me. In thanks. And selfishly, for me, too, I need to write a bit.

It's hard to write this, though, because my relationship with Julia deepened so close to the end of her life. Our paths intersected from time to time for the past year or so, but we'd go off in different directions, and it wasn't until early this year that we fell into a more parallel track. For a reason I'll never understand, Julia reached out to me unexpectedly one day on facebook, and after that in IM. We both type like banshees, and packed a lot into each conversation. I came to hope for the *ping* that meant she was on her PC and wanted to talk - many of you are nodding your heads to this, because I know she chatted like mad.

We talked about much more than adoption. She talked me through her pictures of Jerusalem and Korea. Sent me links to hilarious YouTube videos. I learned she loved the color white. I learned about her family and friends and John. I learned that she was really stubborn. And I learned a little more about the pain she expresses on her blog.

A few weeks ago I took some time off from work, and one afternoon read her blog from beginning to end. I had read many of her posts before, but not the earliest ones. I found her after she'd been blogging awhile, but I hadn't taken the time to catch up, and missed a few posts, too. So I read or re-read them all, in order, and was stunned at the depth of this young woman's humanity. You want to learn about love? Or forgiveness? Or faith? Read Julia's blog, read it, and think about it, and take her words to heart.

I can't go back yet to re-read our chats quite yet, but they line up in Gmail with their dates and their lengths, the short history of our online connection. I can't read her text messages, either, they start too close to the day she passed away. Those chats and text messages, some emails, and two precious phone calls, are the sum of my relationship with Julia. But it feels like I knew her a lifetime.

You know, her voice was exactly as I had imagined it, and was just like she was - light and clear and strong.

A young woman reached out to me, and we connected. Even now I don't fully understand how precious a gift that was. And Julia will never know how much of her I will take with me to the end of my life.