Dear Teacher…

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To My Child’s Teacher:

I wanted to make you aware of something you may not have considered in regards to these “Where I Came From” type of assignments. My daughter does not have a birth picture as most international adoptees do not. This can be very painful to some adoptees when class assignments such as this come around. My daughter was born in Korea where children are adopted in a very legal and orderly manner with children being placed with agencies after birth. Yet, part of her past is missing. And some kids from China are left in public places as it is against the law for parents to abandon a child and in that culture the gender of choice is male. Therefore, often girls are abandoned. In addition, due to the one child policy; abandonment happens to females in high numbers. These children often struggle with the fact that they were “left” somewhere.

In addition, having to include a story of their birth is very difficult because many children who are adopted have no clue about the story of their birth. They can’t say things like my mother ate pickles during pregnancy and cried and cried when I was born. They have no idea of the circumstances of their birth except that in many countires it is one of disgrace and shame. Instead of their birth being a happy time many adoptees feel that it is a time of sorrow where they lost their identity and their heritage.

My daughter cannot answer the questions of the hospital where she was born and who came to see her and how her mother felt. We can answer those questions from when we first saw her picture at three months and when she came home at almost 8 months but this seperates her out from the other kids. In addition, we only encourage her to share what she knows of her birth story with people she wants to and frankly it is not appropriate for just anyone to know nor it is not everyone’s business to know the circumstances of her birth.

These kinds of assignments can be hurtful to adoptees or children who come from “different” families other than a two parent mom and dad type of family. Many kids now come from gay families and may not be comfortable sharing that. Many kids now come from single mother with unknown fathers and may not be comfortable sharing that. Many children come from foster families and had abusive first parents who may have told them over and over things like, “I wish you had not been born.” Many times the birth of a child is not a “happy” time in a family and a child may know that. While the jist of these assignments are made with the noblest of intentions, in reality, these types of assignments are often uncomfortable and hurtful for children.

Just wanted you to consider this from another point of view.

It’s Been A While

So it’s been a while since I have blogged. Life has gotten in the way. One of the reasons I have not been blogging is because I have been so ill and when you feel that sick just putting one foot in front of the other is sometimes the only thing you can manage to do.

The other reason I have been absent is that I just returned from South Korea. It was a blast. That is not to say that autism didn’t rear its head like a dragon…it did but we managed to keep the fire contained within the dragon’s mouth.

I love Korea. Not just because it is where my children were born but because of the numerous surprises that greet you while you are there. Like it raining and someone just hands you their umbrella and continues on their way. Like the fact that my children are now old enough to sit away from these two big white folks so they can blend in and become part of the majority instead of always being part of the minority. I wish I could give them that freedom every day of their lives. And I like the fact that pumpkin is valued and eaten in so many different ways.

I love seeing the small boats out with the huge freighters as they ply the waters for fish along the coast. I love the hidden temples and that sort of foggy mystical reverence that permeates the air.Riding the bullet trains are almost orgasmic with their down the the minute time tables and the snack carts that sell dried squid. I also love the open markets in which you can find the mass-produced and the antique amongst all the noise that radiates off of the stalls. And the smells of noodles of all kinds, ginger, kimchee and steaming hot bean buns bought just as they come out of the molds are to die for.

There is something about Korea…a people who have been taken over by invaders again and again. Who have known war too often the results of which allows them to then hold the holy and the beautiful above all else…even their pain. Same goes for my children whose understanding of their short lives here is bittersweet. Joy and pain sometimes it is one in the same.

And then we came home and I immediately went in for an endoscopy because I have been so sick with severe reflux for so long. And while I await the results I decided to try the anti-reflux diet and stop drinking coffee…and the next day feel so good that I don’t take the prescription medicine that never makes me feel great. And the next day I feel great. Better than great. And so I stop coffee and pills and one week later I feel better than I have for the past two years.

So now I rejoice. For travel. For discovery. For the happiness of my family. And for my health. And for the oh-so painful re-discovery of myself, my husband and my marriage over the past 18 months.dsc04814

I’m thinking that 2017 is going to be a pretty great year! I hope it is for you too!

 

Busan

Today we took the bullet train south. I love the train system here and wish that in the States we had a great train system like they do all over Asia.  In 2 1/2 hours we were down at the opposite end of the country and it was a great ride. Smooth, fast and comfy and in a blink of an eye we were there.

I love Busan, South Korea. It is a very special town to me because one of my children was born here. I first visited it about 15 years ago and I have to say it has changed. No longer the sleepy port city it once was, it is now a vibrant, racy place with a touch of its past tucked within its alleys.

Busan is a town that reminds me of another…San Francisco. Hilly, temperate and scenic this city is a place I could spend a lot of time at. One of my favorite things about it is the food. I love Changseondong Meokja Golmok food alley. Here you will find live eels, octopi and other sea creatures ready for the grill…or not. One of the delicacies here are live octopi swallowed whole which I am told tickles when it slides down your throat. I do not think I will be that brave but I wish I was.

But rather than tell you about Busan, here are some pictures to show you what a great food town this is. Bon Appetite!

 

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Heart And Seoul

Those thirteen hour flights are killers especially when you have three kids with you who didn’t sleep a wink. Ugh. But there is something about Seoul that takes over and propels you out into its sweet arms. What a city! What a place! I love it here.

This time I decided instead of the hotel route we would do the AirBnB route and it has worked out great. Just a short walk from the subway and we found our place with no problem. It is a small three bedroom apartment located in a great part of the city with lots of shops and restaurants.

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After getting situated we walked down the street and found a great grill place in which you grill your own food over hot coals. We chose bulgogi…yummm! Slather it in pepper paste, sesame oil and something we couldn’t figure what it was and well…. it was fabulous!

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I love how they heat the coals and get them a fiery orange/red that shimmer as you just watch. Something about it is just magical.

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But now as I type the hours have caught up to me and I am falling asleep as I write. Night night!

Seek And You Shall Find

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In a couple of weeks we will be leaving for South Korea. This is a trip which will take our three children back to their homeland. Back to a place where they will “look” like they belong but will not understand the language nor the customs that an individual would who had lived there for their entire life. This will be a trip, unlike the last time, where they will be able to understand the ping-pong looks and stares that people will inevitably give us as they size us up as a family; most smiling but some frowning; as they label our children different from “them.” It’s a trip where they will be in the majority, while we, their caucasian parents, will be in the minority; a role reversal that they can see occur right in front of them with their own two eyes…one which may have epic implications.

I hope that my kids will see the beauty of their first country and begin to feel pride in themselves as Korean-Americans. I hope that the anxiety of autism will not overtake my sons as we walk through crowded markets and experience new ways of doing things. I hope that these amazing children will become stronger in their belief that we humans are essentially all the same and that we share many of the same hopes and dreams as everyone else on the planet so we must treat others as we ourselves want to be treated. And I hope that they find the things that they are looking for, both big and small, that will fill the holes in their hearts that adoption itself creates.

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My wish for them is that they realize that the circumstances of their birth are just that…circumstances… that have nothing to do with them and that these circumstances do not determine whether they are “good” or “bad”  people. That they are who they are… not just due to their early experiences but mostly because of what they have put into themselves to create the work of art that they hang on the wall to show the world.

Korean…American…Californian…Autistic…Thoughtful…Creative… Intelligent…Giving…Athletic…Charming…Inquisitive…Happy…Caring…Interesting… all despite being raised by lovingly flawed parents.

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I hope Korea gives them the chance they deserve and I hope they give the same back to their Motherland. I hope the rich culture, the old stories, the ancient temples, the colorful folk songs and the flavorful food etch themselves into our children’s psyche so that they can reach for them in the future when they need a bit of understanding about who they are and who they can become. Because finding a bit more of yourself and what you are made of is a gift no matter where and when it happens.

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So my hope is that they find those gifts that will be abundant and ever-present as we tour their homeland. May they recognize what it is they need to witness and take it away for themselves and their souls. And may they find these gifts as freely as one finds shells laying on a sandy beach, so that they may they gather them up in their pockets and examine them on another day as they are needed throughout their lives.

Find what you need my sweet children, be happy, and be free!

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Letting Go Again

It’s been going on for over a week now.

“I’m nervous!”

“I won’t know anyone there!!!”

“What if I get lost???!!!!!!”

“What if there is nothing there for me to eat?”

“What if I land wrong on the board and hurt myself?”

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This is what I have been hearing from Gracie lately and it intensified as the day drew closer for her to attend diving camp at a large university four hours from home. These are the words of a child whose age is between the first double digit and her teens. Excited but scared to death especially because she knew no one who would be attending camp with her.

She’s good at what she does so I wasn’t worried about that aspect. She has accomplished in three years of doing her sport what it has taken of most of her competitors 6-8 years to do. Learning and practicing wasn’t the issue but being away from home was.

Gracie has always had difficulty separating herself from us. I often wonder if she would have been this way if she had been born to us or if her adoption has played a role in it. Not knowing if people will come back to you or if they will stay with you does tend to put doubts in your head. And as we spent last night together in the city she looked as if she might cry. But I knew that she needed this camp to teach her about courage and accomplishment not so much in her sport but in life in general. That’s what we are suppose to do as parents. We should give our children experiences which allow them to separate with confidence so they will be able to be independent adults when they go off on their own.

Waking up this morning was hard. Her nerves were bouncing all over the place and I was watching as a “bad hair day” started to unnerve her even more. I said all the right things and did all the right things. I asked if she was okay and told her since she could do double rotations she had nothing to be afraid of.  Finally, it was time to go and check into the college dorms. Now, I was getting a little hesitant.

We drove over in near silence with Gracie taking in everything around her. After unpacking and making her bed I saw that Gracie was beginning to get her groove back. Her confidence began to soar (or at least she wasn’t going to let anyone know anything different just like she does when she dives). Just before she was to go to the pool with her group she remembered she had left her water bottle in the car so we dashed off to get it. As we walked back I took her into my arms and said, “You’ve got this baby. You will be okay.”

And with that she lifted her big brown eyes, looked up into mine, let go of my hand and said, “Geez mom, you worry too much!!!”

It was at that moment I knew she would be just fine and that in releasing my hand she was letting go of so much more.

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Traveling Fool

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I am traveling today back east to the Big Birthday Bash. As I sit here sipping my cup of coffee watching all the folks pass by, I cannot help but be amazed and transfixed by all the ethnicities and skin colors I see walking around me. It is a blessing.

Most often when I travel internationally it is not like this. The airport in Amsterdam has mostly caucasian folks, the airport in Seoul is almost all Asian, and in New Zealand, it is again, mostly white folks cruising along. I have found that usually airports act as mini countries giving you a superficial glimpse of the sort of people who live there and what the country values. Way to often, it appears that many countries value segregation to some extent, the United States included.

Here in the United States we like to try to hide our discomfort with “others” that are unlike ourselves. Yet, we do not have the luxury of continuing to pretend that racism does not exist here if we want to survive as a nation. Racism is disguised in so many subtle ways … housing, education and jobs. And in your face hate is alive and well especially when I recall the time we were in New York City and someone yelled to our family, “Take those _______ kids back to their own country.”

As I take savor this cup, I see evidence all around me, that we as a species can change. For I see a rainbow of kids who are talking and laughing with one another. I glimpse a transracial family like mine. I see a so-in-love black man and white woman holding hands and looking at each other with complete adoration in their eyes. I witness such a variety of people interacting with one another knowing that I never would have seen this 30 years ago.  I see people who are willing to give each other a chance rather than remain distant from one another. And as I sit here I am renewed in my faith in people and in my country.

I  have hope that one day soon I will visit an airport in another country that appears as diverse as the ones here do. It just needs to happen for the sake of our children. For the longevity of the world. And frankly, it is just more colorful and beautiful to see people out there in the world who don’t look just like me!

 

 

The Fallacy Of Pulling Yourself Up By Your Bootstraps

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I confess I used to be on a BB in which a majority of the people were conservative Christians. I left the group because many people on this BB have made repeated attacks on those who are down in their luck,those who are poor, and those who are anything but white, etc. They constantly espouse the belief that Obama wants to take care of all these “losers” at the expense of all these good God fearing tax payers. Of course the word, Socialism has recently been introduced to instill more fear and justify their irrational hatred of Obama. In fact one person went so far as to write:

“The poor keep getting poorer because they keep doing whatever it was that made them poor in the first place. Ditto for the rich. There is nothing at all unexpected or unforseen about the behavior that’s responsible for most of the poverty in this country. If you ignore your education, fail to develop a work ethic, do drugs, get pregnant before you’re out of high school or before you can afford to raise a child, become a petty criminal, join a gang, hang with what you obviously know to be the wrong crowd, become a drinker, or generally comport yourself like a self-loathing slob, guess what? You’re probably not going to make a lot of money!” 

The tragedy of it all…their children are ethnic minorities in this country and many insist that their white male children have it so much harder than their non-caucasian kids. WHATTTTTTT!!!!??????

So let’s take a minute and examine the above statement and those types of thoughts that go with it. Let’s examine those persons in the military/captains of business and industry who have used their parents positions/connections and money to circumvent the system to get opportunities that others deserved. They use the political and economic systems for personal gain not based on merit but on these types of connections. And they use them in order to increase their wealth and to grab power or prestige . Even worse is their sense of entitlement to those positions. It is truly mind boggling. We don’t have to look very far to find examples of these types of people. Do the names Bush  and Trump ring a bell? Frankly, these are the people that are far more dangerous to me than any two-bit hooker. Plenty of rich people hang with the wrong crowd, become drinkers, fail to develop a work ethic, etc. Yet, they have the luxury of money, connections and family to sustain them and even promote them to places they do not deserve to be. A lot of people with higher grades/SATS etc do not get into Ivy League schools where these connections are further developed and strengthened because someone’s Daddy knows someone, they have donated to the school, or their parents have attended.It’s a system that serves to preserve itself at the expense of the less fortunate.

When I think about these issues I am reminded of that fact that during the Vietnam war many kids were able to avoid serving or served in positions that kept them in the states due to the positions/connections their parents held. People can become officers in the military because they can get into the academy that “normal” people cannot or someone who is truly deserving to be there is denied due to those connections. So to try to make the case that the poor stay poor because of their “laziness” while the rich get richer due to their “implied” hard work is not often true.

But even more troubling to me is this. So many of these conservative Christians tout the “Pick Yourself Up By Your Bootstraps” mentality. And finally we have a president who stands before them having done just that. And instead of giving him the kudos for doing what they insist all people should do and using his achievements as an inspiration for others; they turn around and renounce him. So what exactly is it that a black man is suppose to do? Stay at the bottom rung of society where you are chastised and beaten down? Or rise to the top and then you are labeled an elitist and a terrorist to boot. And if the truth be told many of these people don’t want people of color to succeed because it goes against their idea of ‘what things SHOULD look like if all is right with their world.

So the next time you hear the spiel about bootstraps and Obama acknowledge it for what it really is…racism cloaked in “proper talk ” attempting to hide the fact it is just plain hate mongering. And please, stand up and correct the intentional distortion of facts that are presented as “Truth” on Fox News to the perpetrators of your conversation. For the only way that all of mankind will be free is when hate is no longer  tolerated.

Transracial Adoption And Old Age

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Our three youngest are transracially adopted. This makes for good times and bad times especially when in concerns being out in public together.

When our children were young we saw a lot of what we now refer to as “ping-pong” eyes. As I was pushing the stroller someone would look at me, then down at the baby, then back at me and back down at the baby with a quizzical look on their face.

We often get the “are you their mother/is she your mother” type of questions. When we’ve had enough I sometimes reply, “No, I’m their Nanny.” Cracks my kids up every time.

Today Gracie and I were at Target when we noticed a young Asian girl about ten years of age staring at us…BLANTENTLY AND FOR A PROLONGED PERIOD OF TIME.

Gracie said, “I just want to smack people when they stare at me like that.”

” I know it is uncomfortable to be seen with a slightly overweight middle-aged white woman, I replied with a laugh. “Maybe she was just thinking you are a pretty girl,” I replied trying to lighten the mood and knowing full well that was not the case.

“No she was staring at me because I look different from you,” Gracie said.

“Well, you are probably right but since her family is Asian, and you’re Asian, maybe she hasn’t seen a combination like ours before. Cut her some slack. Or did you ever consider that maybe she was staring at me because I am a beautiful woman?” I said switching tactics.” You know when I was younger people did look at me once in a while.”

“Why, were you wearing funny clothes?” Gracie asked.

“Did your hair look weird?”

“Were you wearing hippie earrings?”

“Were you smoking cigarettes?”

“No, honey, its just that I wasn’t hard on the eyes,” I said with a smile.

To which Gracie replied, “so what happened?” (stab me with an icepick again my sweet child)

“Life, baby, just life”

“So are you telling me that it is all downhill for me? Is that what you are saying? That all I have to look forward to in life is growing up, growing old and getting (sorry mom) out of shape?” (yep, she did it again)

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“No baby. You can look forward to getting wiser, becoming stronger, being bolder, forging your own path, finding yourself, doing what makes you happy, learning to be true to yourself, falling in love, learning about what real love is, teaching your children, teaching your grandchildren, learning to look at the world and realizing it is not just black and white, practicing tolerance, having great sex with your partner, making a difference in this world is some small way, finding your spirit,practicing perseverance, learning to be content with what you have, following your dreams, laughing in the face of adversity, being more honest, and loving, loving and loving some more even when you are not sure you have it in you. And if you are lucky you will get to discover all of this and participate in some much that you hadn’t even considered. And you will appreciate and be grateful for this life that you have been given which so many people are denied. Hopefully, you will live your life to the best of your ability and when you will die secure in the knowledge that you made a difference. Yes, it’s all something you have to look forward to, everything except saggy boobs, you don’t have to look forward to that.”

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