November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving ramble

Wishing everyone a warm and restful Thanksgiving. We'll be spending the afternoon with friends, but that hasn't stopped me from cooking my own turkey, purely for leftovers, which is in the oven as I write.

Third Dad and the kids are still asleep. I love to get up early, when everyone else is still in bed; I find it particularly peaceful to be up when my family is still snoozing. I don't know, it's just a very cozy feeling. My big cup of cinnamon coffee doesn't hurt, either.

As I said, we'll be with friends this afternoon, and have divided up the menu. They're providing the turkey and potatoes; another friend is bringing veggies, rolls and wine; and I'm bringing stuffing, homemade cranberry sauce, sodas and pies. Although I used a frozen one for the apple, the pumpkin are homemade from the good old Libby's-Carnation recipe. I did cheat on the crust, though; anymore I think you can't beat the crusts in the dairy case.

The Girl and I have a bunch of college apps to finish when she gets up. I finished reviewing her essays this week, so we're going to talk through my thoughts and then wrap up the applications. They're all due by Sunday, which is actually good - with The Boy they were all due on New Year's Eve.

The three of us are planning a shopping expedition tomorrow. The Girl and I have been doing this for several years. We go to one of the outlet malls near us and make it a day, with lunch and dinner out. The Boy wants to come along, and has added a couple of stops. For me it's largely a trip to shop for the kids' Christmas gifts, because I'm pretty much done with everyone else. Since Third Dad couldn't find this blog in a million years, I can tell you what I found for him: A turntable with a preamp built in and an USB connection that lets you convert your LPs to CDs. We have a TON of really good music on vinyl, so this will be a great way to recapture our favorites. Yes, I know you can always just download or buy them on CD, but I did some checking into some of the real oldies that he likes, and they were pretty expensive. This little device will pay itself off in about 10 LPs, and trust me, we have a whole lot more.

I will not say what the kids will be getting, because they might just know the blog is here. So if you've wandered by, kids - nana nana boo boo!

I hear a door opening. Signing off with a huge cyberhug to all my online friends, and an equally huge wish to you all for a wonderful Thanksgiving.

I know this holiday is hard for many of you. I wish I had a magic wand to wipe away all the pain. That's not in my power, but what IS is to send you a hope and a prayer that the future brings healing however your heart desires.

November 26, 2008

Can you help me test something?

I've been doing a little blog housekeeping, and was able to correct two very annoying things yesterday: My post titles are now linked to their individual pages, and I now have a inline comment form. It's taken Blogger forever to implement it, and there have been a couple of false starts. Because I have a custom template, there was a period in which I couldn't get it to work at all. So yesterday evening I replaced all my custom code with plain vanilla code to get it working, and then tweaked the format to what you will now see when you comment.

There are a couple of things I could not get to work well, though, so I'd appreciate it if you could do a little testing and let me know the results. The first has to do with Wordpress; my login ID doesn't match my Wordpress blog name (I have a Wordpress blog to back this one up), and although I was able to comment using it once, it failed after that. So Wordpress users let me know if that works.

All those special IDs are really irrelevant, though, with the NAME/URL login option. Apparently there was a bug that prevented people from logging in with name only, but that has been fixed. I was able to log in with name and URL, as well as name only, but would like to confirm that's working, too.

And yes, I've backed up the new template.

November 25, 2008

A Catholic misconception

11-26-08 edited to add: Thorn has written a wonderful post about this topic, please be sure to read it. It reminded me that there ARE individuals (like Father Tom Brosnan) and organizations under the Catholic Church's umbrella that DO understand adoption. I need to keep looking for more.

An article on the Catholic exchange by Heidi Hess Saxton is making the rounds of blogland. The article sums up a prevalent Catholic point of view on the relationship between adoption and abortion. It is a frustrating read, loaded with attitudes that I cannot reconcile with the Catholicism that I know: judgment, shame, and error. There is no mention of the Church's role in unjust adoptions, like the warehousing of young pregnant women in Church facilities, or the force Church agencies have used to women to relieve them of their babies, or the secrecy and lies that sealed such adoptions. It is rank hypocrisy for Catholics to claim any moral high ground in adoption, and wrong of us to use it as abortion's silver bullet. Precisely because of our adoption history, we more than any other church should be leading efforts to make adoption ethical and just.

One paragraph in particular grabbed my attention, and frustrated the heck out of me:
Women in crisis pregnancies who are considering adoption may have second thoughts when faced with the very real possibility that their “past” may come knocking on their door twenty or thirty years hence, disrupting their lives with demands and recriminations. Unless the records are truly sealed with a “suite lock” — one that can be opened only by mutual consent — the real danger is that these “unwanted” children will simply be aborted.
Let's count the stereotypes in this paragraph which adoption and abortion research have proven false:
  • that woman who have lost children to adoption fear them
  • that adoptees will always use their birth records to invade their mothers' privacy
  • that search is unidirectional - initiated by adoptees only
  • that if adoptees do search, their purpose is to make demands and recriminations
  • that mutual consent registries work
  • that adoption is necessarily a factor in a woman's decision to carry her child to term
  • that opening records will lead to more abortions
I'm sure I've missed a few, so chime in. Study after study has disproved these statements, yet here they are, put forward as fact. This paragraph is the best example yet of what single-issue attitudes have done to the Catholic Church: blinded it to truth.

In today's Catholic Church, if one's point of view doesn't overtly, loudly and clearly scream I AM PRO-LIFE, it is distrusted and dismissed. Abortion tunnel-vision has blinded many Catholics to adoption's injustices, and has turned adoption into a sacred cow: the ultimate alternative to abortion, and therefore above reproach, even when it's screaming for it.

To be fair, this point of view isn't monopolized by Catholics; there are plenty of people who belong to other churches who share this point of view. But I'm particularly aggravated when I see Catholics falling in line behind the notion that pro-life equals pro-adoption, which of course leads to precisely what you see in this article: the labeling of the adoption reform movement as "anti-adoption."

Adoption and abortion are two separate, unrelated experiences with different causes and outcomes. Continually connecting them only serves to delay badly needed discussion on how to improve the former and reduce the latter.

You know, I feel like a broken record saying all this, I've said it so many times before. Is anyone listening? Or, as I suspect, am I the only Catholic on the planet who feels this way?

November 24, 2008

STILL here

It feels downright weird to be writing, that’s how long it’s been.

I’ll start with an apology to anyone who has stopped by hoping to find anything about adoption. Although it doesn’t show here, I actually have been quite busy in the adoption arena recently – from mid-October through last week, I did three programs of varying types (a talk about adoption and school at one local adoption agency; a discussion of cultural connections at another; and a Korean Focus cultural program for kids). That’s a whole lotta planning and organizing of thoughts and logistics, folks, and it sort of drained my brain. One piece of writing did result, which you can check out at A Child Chosen and in a separate post today – an article on cultural connections that developed from the program of the same topic.

But all this isn’t where the bulk of my time has been focused, nor is it the real reason I haven’t written much recently. Work has been getting the lion’s share of my attention recently, and it hasn’t been good. Week before last, my boss learned that her position had been eliminated. For a reason I’m not sure I’ll ever fully understand, the rest of her team was left intact. We learned late last week that we’re being split up among a number of organizations, but are for the moment secure. And as my cousin’s son reminded me, since I’m not likely to be attacked by Somali pirates anytime soon, I really don’t have anything to complain about. Wise words from a young man who beat lymphoma a couple of years ago and knows a thing or two about life. I take his advice very seriously.

Now, if you’re astute you’ll have figured out that my absence goes back a whole lot further than October, so blaming this entire year’s silence on work stuff and three programs won’t fly. Yes, there are other reasons, but honestly I don’t think anyone would be that interested, so suffice it to say that we all struggle with our demons, and mind tend to rob me of my energy and interest. Maybe they’ll go away soon, because I must have fifteen half-written posts that I’d love to finish, but I just can’t find the energy. Maybe soon.

But first there’s Thanksgiving, and turkey to cook and pie to bake and friends to visit! I hope you all are planning something fun with family and friends!

Connecting with Commitment

Originally guest-posted at A Child Chosen.

When my husband and I set out to adopt our children in 1989 and 1991, we knew our children’s Korean heritage would become a part of our family. But I never anticipated that the journey would bring us to the lives we’re living today. It has defined us as parents, and has touched us far more deeply than I ever imagined it could.

I spent a lot of time thinking about Korea and our son’s Korean family as we wound our way through the adoption process in 1989. My visions of both were abstract, however, and I was unprepared for the force with which they became real in September 1989 when The Boy was placed in our arms for the first time. It changed everything. By the time The Girl arrived in 1991, we had figured out that one of our greatest parenting challenges would be to find ways we could teach our children how to belong to the Korean American community.

Like all families, our multiracial family was viewed by the mainstream to be culturally white. But common sense told us that this wouldn’t be the case when they were grown. On their own, society would view them as Asian Americans, Korean Americans, and would expect them to understand the culture that matched their faces.

And that, of course, is why the effort has been so important. I sometimes hear parents say, “My children aren’t interested in their culture, and we believe they should make the decisions about this.” But think back to when you were a child or a teen: Were you ready and able to make decisions that might have repercussions throughout your life? I think most of us would answer no. The problem with allowing our children to decide whether or not they should connect with their culture is that they may not know the impact of that choice on their future lives.

I’m glad my husband and I decided to make our children’s culture and community a priority in our lives. Today, our kids have strong Korean American identities. They’re proud of who they are, and can function comfortably within the Korean American community. It has taken a long journey to get to this point, one to which we’ve happily given our time and efforts.

Such a journey takes commitment, plus a desire to learn and willingness to get outside of our comfort zones. There are challenges along the way, no question. Adoption-related issues, peer relationships, family dynamics and conflicts, and racial attitudes within the family, community and society all play into our children’s willingness to actively connect with their heritage. We parents need to be sensitive to the ebb and flow of their interest, and alter our approach accordingly. What we shouldn’t do, however, is abandon our efforts. That will send our children the message that we don’t care enough about their heritage to make it a priority in our lives.

So how do you start this important journey? Like every other: by taking your first step, which in this case is making the commitment. After that, just jump in. Start reading and researching if you feel you need more facts at your fingertips; remember that the embassy of your child’s country will be an excellent source of information about their country, and the internet is a wealth of information. Find an organization that represents your child’s community and join; most have websites and e-newsletters to keep you informed. Subscribe to a contemporary magazine, which is also a great way to keep up with current events and issues. If programs and activities take place in your child’s community, go – that’s how you’ll meet people, including other adoptive families who may want to share the journey with you.

None of these may be too appealing to your children, however, so while you’re expanding your knowledge, look for ways you might involve your kids in ways they’ll enjoy. In our family, sports and music were the way to do that; our son enjoyed studying Korean drumming, and our daughter fell in love with taekwondo. Local adoption agencies and family support organizations offer cultural activities that are fun for younger children; older kids can often be persuaded to help out and earn their community service hours in the process. Culture camps, weekend culture schools and homeland tours also offer opportunities to immerse our children in their cultures, if only for a few days or weeks. With the cost of travel rising, the time to start thinking about a homeland tour is when your child arrives. Start a homeland tour fund: it’s a good way to save for the trip, and allows your family to plan for it together.

I sometimes marvel at the crazy experiences my family has had along the way, and the kids sometimes roll their eyes. But each experience connects our kids a little more firmly to their community and heritage; none is wasted, every one contributes to our children’s sense of self. And that makes this journey one of the most important ones your family will ever travel.

November 16, 2008

Good people

You know, anyone who thinks the internet isn't "real life" needs to get on the internet a little more.

I was chatting today with someone I met online, someone I know is a really good person. I met her through some other really good people I also met online. I find it really amazing that we can connect so easily through the internet, become so close so fast. It's more amazing still how real the relationships we build can become. They lead to lifelong friendships and meaningful work. That's something to remember next time someone yells "Are you still on the computer?" at you!

Although my life at the moment it completely nuts, too nuts to write anything worth reading, I just want all of you good people I've met her to know that I'm thinking of you.

November 12, 2008

Still here - just swamped

I'm calling this a smash-and-grab post: a few quick sentences to let you know I'm still here and that's it. The past two weeks (since my trip to Ohio, really, when I had no internet and got totally behind in everything) are a blur. Here's what I've been up to:
  • A great Korean Focus program on November 8th. It was an afternoon of Korean games for kids coupled with resource-sharing for parents. The kids had a blast, KF has some new members and, better yet, volunteers, so I call it a success. But it took a huge amount of work from a lot of folks, which is one of the reasons everything else is behind.
  • A weekend retreat in Winchester, VA following the program. I drove up late on Saturday afternoon and met my friends for our 2001 homeland tour for dinner, after which we hung out at our hotel. We spent Sunday shopping at a great bookstore in the Winchester pedestrian mall, visiting the Shenandoah Museum, and then driving home.
  • Lots of stuff going on at home. The Girl is in the throes of early applications and had an interview with a USC rep on Sunday; she has a tournament in Winston Salem, NC this weekend and is in deep training for that. The Boy and friends have been trying to find an apartment for next year - no luck so far. I built a website for our homeowner's association - like I don't have enough other stuff do to. Etc etc.
  • An incredibly hectic couple of weeks at work. Enough said about that.
I miss writing. But I'm also afraid to start writing anything serious again - is that weird? Has anyone else experienced that? I think I know why, and will write about it. But in the meantime I wonder if I'm alone in this, or if others who enjoy writing sometimes just want to stop.

That's it for now, over and out until the weekend.