December 30, 2008

Incredibly belated holiday greetings

My! I'm unbelievably late wishing everyone the best of the holidays! I hope your celebrations have been safe and happy, and that you are looking forward to the New Year with the same excitement and hope that I am.

Although I thought I was perfectly prepared for Christmas and our trip to Ohio to visit my family, there were so many little things to do before we left last Tuesday that writing and reading anything but a few lines before bed was out of the question. We had a really good time with my Mom, who is doing much better post-knee-replacement than she was at this time last year. We stayed with her, but saw all the family who made the trip to Cleveland or lives there - my brother and his family, my aunt and uncle, and my cousin and her new husband.

It was relaxing to the point that I need to shake myself out of my trance and get back to work. I'm sure the reality of the New Year will sink in this weekend, and I'll get back in the swing soon. But until then, I'm enjoying this little hiatus from blogland. I'm using it to get a few things done at home, too, so the time's being well spent.

I'll see you again next year!! Be safe on New Year's Eve!

Oh, before I forget - anyone coming down here for the inauguration?

December 22, 2008

Miriam Yung Min Stein's trip to herself

The fact that Third Dad is German, his family is there, and my education is in German language studies, I found this article particularly interesting.

Genes, Schemes and International Adoption
Solo show 'Black Tie' puts Korean adoptee Miriam Yung Min Stein's search for identity on the stage


In the Old Testament, Miriam is the Hebrew woman who hides baby Moses in a reed basket at the shores of Nile and watches how an Egyptian princess finds and subsequently adopts the future prophet. The story of another Miriam begins quite similar, but it did not happen in biblical times.

It was in 1977 that Park Yung Min was found in a cardboard box, standing in front of the city hall of Daegu, South Korea. Terre des Hommes brought the infant to Germany where a family adopted her and expanded name to Miriam Yung Min Stein.

The practice of international adoption of children, although common until today, has long been a taboo in Korea. For some years, however, stories of Korean adoptees that were brought to Europe and America and, having grown up, struggle with their "hybrid identity," regularly pop up in newspapers and on the Internet -- there is even a TV show that reunites Korea's "lost children" with their biological parents.

Miriam Yung Min Stein chose another way to deal with her unknown provenance: Using a wired glove to pile up pictures on a screen she presents her research live on stage. "Black Tie," thus the title of the stunning performance lecture, premiered last week at the Berlin theater "Hebbel am Ufer." The evening was very informative, yet deeply touching and at the same time critical towards "easy solutions" like the aforementioned TV reunions.

"Some children come from the belly and some come with the airplane," Stein's adoptive mother once said to her.

The feeling of being different accompanied her since early childhood. Browsing through family photos that show the little "Asian" girl between her blond siblings and adoption forms that describe her character as a one-year-old, she vividly remembers an evening at a Chinese restaurant, where "everybody was trying so hard to pretend they like it."

To attain clarity about her past, Stein takes various courses: First, she inscribes her personal story in the history of modern Korea. Her adoption is the last link in a chain of events that includes Japanese colonisation, the Korean War, Harry Holt, who organized the first adoptions of South Korean war orphans, and the dictatorial Park Chung-hee regime during which thousands of homeless babies were sent abroad.

She also imagines an alternative biography that later turns out to belong to her friend Hye-Jin Choi, who appears on stage as a counterpart to the restless Miriam. Choi came to Germany eight years ago to finish her studies. She is working in politics now and has a picture of her family hanging on the wall. She tries to teach Korean to her friend and puts some of her rather stereotypical views on Korea into perspective.

Stein is not only harsh on her "home country," but also rants and raves about the institutionalized altruism that brought her to Germany, highlighting the dark sides of feel-good charity.

"I am not ungrateful, but international help makes me puke. People like Angelina Jolie or Bono make me puke."

While she knows that her German parents meant well and gave her more than she can ever return, it is also clear that the act of adoption affected her life in incalculable ways.

When Stein visited Korea for the first time in 2006, she had an epiphany when looking at the shiny windows of the shuttle bus at the airport: "In the reflection, I could not single out myself instantaneously. Finally I was one among many."

This feeling lasted only for a moment, however: When the bus driver asked here where she wanted to go she could not understand him. Strolling through downtown Daegu, Stein hoped to run into her biological parents by "genetic incident."

After her return to Germany, she approached her roots by means that appear less random at first sight: She ordered personal DNA analysis from biotech companies in California and Iceland to find out more about the traits her parents passed onto her. But the results are scarce -- besides the fact that she is not genetically related to Bono, Stein learned about a slight risk of prostate cancer as wells as Alzheimer's disease.

In the end, the "black ties" that link Miriam Yung Min Stein to her origin remain in the dark. In the theater, however, the lights turned bright after her last words on memory loss and shyly she accepted much applause from the sold out auditorium.

Her authentic life presence backed up the informational input that could sometimes be overwhelming. But what about the theatrical potential of this form of one-woman-show?

The organizers of the project, Swiss-German performance group Rimini Protokoll, are renowned for their collective productions with so-called "experts of everyday life." These amateurs in acting contribute their job experiences to the creative process and also appear on stage -- in a sense playing themselves and reflecting on their professional role at the same time.

Earlier works presented different perspectives on subjects such as funeral services and the industry that provides them ("deadline"), the process of jurisdiction with its various rules and rituals ("Zeugen," witnesses), the outsourcing of commercial service hotlines to low-wage countries ("Call Cutta") or the global circuit of TV broadcasting ("Breaking News").

With its focus on an individual position "Black Tie" marks a break with Rimini Protokoll's documentary approach. Not surprisingly, a German review criticizes the "polemic onesidedness" and the "judging perspective" that was characteristic of Stein's performance.

Indeed it seemed as if she was given every liberty in designing her self-presentation. Her autonomy in using the given room, her oscillation between insecurity and self-confident jockeying with the traces of her own past as well as the straightforward egocentrism of her performance that is reflected early on when she mentions that she will use the word "I" 276 times...

All these gestures of self-empowerment make "Black Tie" a very convincing event -- not as theater in the classical sense, but as the subjective expression of one person's opinions on a matter that is essential to her existence. The theater offers a stage for a statement that made this evening a memorable one.

* * * * * * *

Following six performances in Berlin this December, "Black Tie" will be shown in Zurich, Rotterdam, Wien and New Delhi in 2009. So far, a presentation in South Korea is not planned.

For further information on Rimini Protokoll and "Black Tie," see www.rimini-protokoll.de (in English and other languages).

Miriam Yung Min Stein's personal website offers some information on her work as a journalist: www.miriamyungmin.com (German only).

She also published a book on her trip to Korea this fall:
Berlin - Seoul - Berlin: Auf der Reise zu mir selbst (on a trip to myself), ISBN: 978-3810519382 (in German).

December 17, 2008

Attitudes change toward adoption in Russia

Anne Gerrols has been doing a series on Russia on NPR this week, and today's topic is adoption. Read the article and find a link to hear the piece here.

A commenter made this point:
I understand that some Russians feel that it is a bad thing for these children
to be sent out of the country but until Russia can adequately care for all their
children, international adoption can provide them with safety and opportunity
far beyond what is available for them in their birth country.
Adoptive parents have to stop using this line of reasoning as a justification for our adoptions. There are thousands upon thousands of children here in the U.S. who live in poverty and are hungry. We're doing a pretty poor job of taking care of them, but adoption of these children out of the U.S. is far less common than it is from other countries to the U.S. And yes, American children are adopted to other countries - often African American children, and often to Canada. We are a placing country, and therefore, in my opinion, in no position to judge other placing countries' care.

When I remove "a better life" from the list of justifications for my children's adoptions, I can look at the actual reasons with greater clarity. I'm left with what I've come to accept as a sense of paradox that simply has no explanation. Our family's happiness has come at a great price: the permanent grief and loss my children, their mothers and families do or may experience. I've come to accept it as a part of my family's life. But in any other life experience, we would question such pain and such a paradox. We need to do the same in adoption, intercountry adoption included.

December 12, 2008

Don't Misses 12-12-08

Friends and the news have provided some thought-provoking reading this week.

Corruption in Intercountry Adoption

First, an excellent article on corrupt intercountry adoption practices, including one of the clearest descriptions of child laundering that I've seen: The Lie We Love by E. J. Graff, associate director and senior researcher at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis. The Schuster Gender & Justice Project has also begun a website to follow Corruption in International Adoptions.

Edited 12-17-08 to add: Another article by E. J. Graff, The problem with saving the world's 'orphans' from the December 11, 2008 Boston Globe.

Also, a 2002 New York Times article on Cambodian adoption: Where Do Babies Come From?


N
orth Korean Oppression

Yesterday's Washington Post features the story of the only known escape from a North Korean prison camp: Escapee Tells of Horrors in North Korean Prison Camp. The article, which tells an absolutely terrifying tale, prompted me to do something that I have been meaning to do for some time: make a donation to LiNK, Liberty in North Korea, in support of their work. LiNK has begun a holiday exchange to encourage those of us with plenty to sacrifice some to help North Korean refugees. There's an option on the exchange site to set up a recurring donation at any amount, which is an excellent way to give more. Please PLEASE consider supporting LiNK this holiday season and in the future!

For those who are interested in learning more about oppression in North Korea, I recommend The Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag. Stories like those of the Kang family of Aquariums and Shin Dong-hyuk of the article in this week's Post make the horror real, and must be read.

December 9, 2008

Help Origins-USA Produce an Educational Video

Please share!

Adoption is not about unwanted babies, it’s about unwanted mothers. We know this and now we have an exciting opportunity to tell others.

Award winning filmmaker Sara Aderhold has graciously donated her time to produce an Origins-USA promotional video featuring mothers telling their stories of surrender, loss, and reunion. Presenting these experiences is the most effective way to change societal views about adoption and birth. Messages of the video include:
  • The power of the bond between infants and their mothers.
  • Adoption should be a last resort.
  • Options to adoption that preserve natural families.
  • Adoption does not guarantee a better life, just a different one.
  • The right of mothers to know their children.
  • The negative impact of adoption on mothers and their children.
  • The extensive and expensive marketing by adoption industry to coerce mothers into surrendering their babies.
  • Open adoption is not a solution.
The video will be distributed to national news media, posted on the Origins-USA website and YouTube, and linked to blogs and other websites. It will also be sent in DVD format to Origins-USA’s members to share with family planning clinics and civic groups as well as women considering surrendering their baby for adoption, mothers, and their family and friends.

Origins-USA cannot complete and distribute this very important video project without your help. Although Sara is generously donating her time and talent, there are additional costs for transcribing the interviews and duplicating the final DVD.

For as little as $20 per member, Origins-USA can cover these costs. The names of those who donate $100 or more will be listed on the film credits.

Make your tax-deductible donation through the Origins-USA website, http://www.Origins-USA.org/. Just click on the “donate” button. Or mail your donation to Origins-USA Treasurer Kathy Aderhold, 2961 S. Kearney, Denver, CO 80222 and mark it “video”.

You can also help by donating some of your time to do some of the transcribing from video, as Origins-USA member Kay Johnson has generously done.

And, as you do your holiday shopping online, please be sure to use Origins-USA's CafePress, iGive and Amazon links.

Sara Aderhold - Producer & Director / Writer / Editor
Sara has been producing and editing award winning programs for six years. She was honored with a Heartland Emmy in 2004 for her documentary work and nominated for a National Emmy for co-editing a special for HBO. You can see her work on PBS, HBO, Comedy Central, MTV, Disney, and in educational settings around the nation. She is dedicated to storytelling and thrives on shedding light on otherwise unnoticed parts of the world. Sara has firsthand experience with adoption loss. Her mother is Origins-USA Board member Kathy Aderhold. Kathy and Sara have reunited with Sara’s half sister.

December 7, 2008

Deportation irony

Awhile back I wrote a post about the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, the law which grants citizenship to transnational adoptees upon finalization of their adoptions. The law excludes older adoptees who didn't meet the age and other requirements at the time the law was passed, which has resulted in a number of deportations, one of which resulted in the adoptee's death.

The gaps in the Child Citizenship Act certainly must be filled, but the overarching problem is with our immigration and deportation policies. An article in the November 30th New York Times provides a great example: U.S. Deportee Brings Street Dance to Street Boys of Cambodia.

Tuy Sobil and his family were Khmer Rouge refugees. He came to the U.S. as an infant, but never received citizenship, for the same reason many legal immigrants don't: They were simply unaware of the process. Others may understand it but put it off because the paperwork is difficult; still more may not be able to afford the fee, which continues to rise and puts citizenship applications for a family of four into four-digits. It's easy for the process to get lost in the shuffle.

Anyhow, Tuy ultimately ended up a member of the Crips, and became a champion break dancer, too. He tangled with the law and was convicted of armed robbery, which resulted in his deportation back to Cambodia. Once there, he used his break dancing talent to found a club that is helping young Cambodian boys learn to dance, and also provides English and computer lessons and a safe haven from the streets.

Tuy's contributions to Cambodia's youth have garnered him quite a bit of attention. A twist of irony brought him an invitation to perform at the American Embassy last December; another has brought his school an invitation to perform in the U.S. Only Tuy won't be able to join them.

Seems downright inhuman to me.

December 5, 2008

Up and running

The new blog is up! I'm calling it Fourth House on the Left; we actually live in the fourth house on the left of our street, and I thought it was kind of neat to be Third Mom in the Fourth House. It's still a little sparse, but will undoubtedly fill in with time. It's kind of fun to start fresh.

I know some of you were a little confused as to why I wouldn't just use this blog for everything I might want to say. There's actually a reason: This blog has been so adoption-focused that it's sometimes referenced on other adoption sites. I've therefore had a little discomfort writing about non-adoption topics here, particularly when they're opinion pieces - you know how opinionated I am, especially on topics like politics. I feel a little bad for anyone who wandered over in the weeks before the election, especially if your politics are different than mine. That's when the first seeds of another place to vent began to take root.

I'm feeling good about this; a little worried, too. I haven't been keeping up that well on just this one blog, so having two does seem a little daunting. But one of the things I'm going to do is just go with the flow, and post when I want to write, not when I think I have to for a self-imposed schedule.

It already feels like fun. I hope it continues!

December 4, 2008

Epiphany

As it's midnight, I hope this post is coherent.

I've really been struggling here for the past few months. Well, more than that - probably all year. It's been incredibly puzzling to me, because when I started writing I felt like I could write about adoption forever. But slowly at first, then more quickly, I've found it harder and harder to pull a meaningful adoption post out of my head, unless it's bounces off something I read or heard.

It finally occurred to me that maybe I've said everything I came to say, and simply can't find enough words to say it twice. And given the adoption-writing boundaries I've set for myself (the kids and their Korean families are off limits except for day-to-day chatter), I'm kind of limited now to commentary, which is certainly fine and can be useful, but doesn't give me the satisfaction I had earlier on in my blogging career.

All of this brings me to a thought. Now, at the same time I've come to realize that although I have fewer original thoughts to share about adoption, I still enjoy writing about adoption topics and want to and will continue to do so. But I was wondering if I should take a crack at another blog again. I did this before with the blog about my memories of the kids, but it quickly veered too close to the personal material I'm not comfortable sharing, so I stopped it.

What I'd really like to do is have a blog about stuff. Any old stuff, whatever I feel like writing. Maybe poetry (oh, that could be really bad). Or whatever thoughts are rolling around in my head. Maybe even recipes. And humor - yes, please don't roll your eyes, I have a great sense of humor but no one knows about it because the tone over here is always serious.

It's sad to realize how much enjoyment I got from writing when I started Third Mom, and how little I'm getting now. Understanding why helps; I'm sure the reason is that there are only so many ways to say that one thing you carry deep in your heart before you wear it out. I like writing out here in blogland, though, and don't want to fade entirely away.

So whaddya think? Should I give it a shot?

Good thoughts, memories and work to do

Everyone, please say a prayer, send a good thought, do whatever you do to ask for blessings or wish for luck for Judy today! She has a scan this morning, and like everyone, I'm wishing hoping and most of all praying for completely remission and healing. We're all with you, Judy!!!

Julia's been visiting recently. Everywhere I go, there are little signs of her - most noticeably on her blog, which was recently updated by someone who loves her with a song that brought serious tears to my eyes. Stranger still, a good friend of Julia's heard this song on a recent visit to one of Julia's favorite restaurants. For me the sign was small and even silly: I walked around one morning with an earring caught in my necklace, a particular earring that Julia and I had chatted about that my kids bought me last year.

Another post on Julia's blog sent me to that of a young woman, Erica Murray, who has been fighting the same disease as Julia for three years. Erica isn't an adoptee; she is biracial, which poses particular challenges in finding a match. She is at the end of her battle; friends and family are waiting for the inevitable. Reading the last post there drove me to the first, nearly three years earlier and at the very beginning of her battle.

It's just not right that the possibility exists to help save a life, but that we don't jump all over it. And so I today am making two pleas:
  • That everyone, and particularly those who are multiracial or non-white, register to become marrow donors. The registration process is ridiculously easy - the swab of a cheek. Donating certainly takes commitment and isn't without risk, but think of the benefits! And even if you have registered already, your work isn't done - we need to keep awareness high. I've organized National Marrow Donor Program bone marrow drives through my workplace and through Korean Focus, and would be happy to talk to anyone who is interested about how it's done. There's also good information on the NMDP and the Asian American Donor Program sites about conducting drives. You can also request a test kit to use at home, on the NMDP and AADP sites.
  • That all mothers bank their cord blood. In one of her last posts, Julia talked about cord blood, and how it could have helped her. It was particularly poignant because she was an adoptee, but honestly it's something EVERY mother should be thinking about. Of course, I'm saying this knowing absolutely nothing about how to do it, or even if there are restrictions that prevent some women from doing so. A quick internet search brought up a number of private registries, along with a 501c3 information site called A Parent's Guide to Cord Blood Banks, that can get you started. The NDMP and AADP sites also provide information about cord blood benefits and banking.

    Edited to add: Reader Jen made an excellent point that I pass on to you all with thanks to Jen:

    "I would challenge all expectant moms to consider *donating* cord blood rather than banking (banking generally refers to storing it for your own children's future use). The statistical liklihood of one's own children needing it in the future are so slim, but the liklihood that somewhere out there a child will need it and be a match to donated cord blood is pretty good!"
Bone marrow and cord blood transplants can't cure every cancer, nor can they cure every person even when they are appropriate treatments. But they increase chances at beating the cancers they treat. Please, please use your voices to spread the word!

December 1, 2008

Back to work after a peaceful holiday

All good things must come to an end, I know, but I wish our Thanksgiving holiday could have had a little more time. It was one of the nicest we’ve had.

We spent Thanksgiving day cooking our leftover bird and then visiting friends for dinner. These are friends I’ve written about before – the family of my dear friend who passed away in 2005. Her husband has remarried a lovely woman, and it was good to see the family doing so well. But hard, too, because it signaled a finality to my friend’s passing that I’ve been avoiding. I know she would have wanted her family to be settled as they are, though. I like to think she was surveying the evening peacefully.

The Girl and I have turned Black Friday shopping into a day-long event, and this year Third Dad and The Boy got into the act, too. We hit the electronics stores looking for some things The Boy would like for Christmas, and then Third Dad took off for other activities. The Girl, The Boy and I spent the entire day at a large outlet mall near us, and boy did we find the bargains. I was so exhausted when I got home, it was all I could do to throw something together for dinner. But the kids weren’t done yet, they headed back out to Target looking for a couple of other things. After that, The Girl decided that she wanted to wrap, so she put on the Christmas music and we wrapped – well, The Boy and The Girl wrapped and talked, and I drank tea on the sofa.

The rest of the weekend was all about The Boy catching up with local friends and The Girl finishing her college applications. The Boy left to head back to school a little after 10 on Sunday, but there were no tears from me this time; he’ll be back for winter break a week from Wednesday. By around 5 PM, The Girl had pushed the last SUBMIT button; we toasted this milestone with orange pop. And now we wait. She has applied to four schools.

As I write it up, it all sounds incredibly boring. But it wasn’t, it was a really good weekend. The best, really. That in itself is an awful lot to be thankful for.

And today I have something else terrific to be thankful for: My Mom's birthday is today, and she's an incredibly young 85. Go Mom! Happy Birthday!