The Waiting Period for my Birth Certificate

I received another email from ICAB on June 28, approximately 15 days since I’d emailed a signed form requesting the retrieval of my birth certificate. This email had the subject: “Post Adoption Concern” which made my heart flutter since it sounded so serious and official. The content of this email basically said that ICAB has acknowledged my receipt for request sent on June 22.

ICAB said they would also retrieve my folder for the photocopy of my birth certificate and request the security paper copy from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). ICAB would inform me once my birth certificate becomes available.

In this waiting period, I’ve felt isolated but my life in the United States (U.S) has shifted and blossomed into new pathways. I’ve started a new job at a different school here in Northern Arizona, still close to the Navajo Reservation where I’m building a small, specialized library for K-12 grades, at a fully sustainable charter school. I finished with a mixed media art series that will be shown at a downtown restaurant on a First Friday Art Walk in August. I was able to move into a bigger room in my house for the same rental cost, so I have a more spacious bedroom now for myself and my plants.

I’ve been able to realize my dream even more–of wanting to live in Hawaii one day and work at a library there. I’ve been tweeting obsessively about the children being separated by immigration at U.S borders and forcibly brought into the U.S foster care system. Oh! And I also started wearing contacts, which has been awesome for me since I’ve had glasses all my life.

Personally, I still acknowledge there are missing pieces to the fabric of my identity in some ways. Culturally, I’m estranged. Family-wise, I still live life mostly single and wish to one day have a family for myself. But the good thing is that creatively, I’ve been able to restructure some of what I’ve lost having been orphaned as a baby. And, professionally, I’ve found the best outlet in the work that I do, as the profession I’ve chosen mixes well with the introverted personality that I’ve developed as an intercountry adoptee in the U.S.

I can’t say that everything is fine, because it isn’t. There’s much that still needs to be fought for, shared and brought to awareness. But on a positive note, I think we’re at a better place than a few decades ago when all we had was an old-fashioned mailing system to rely on. I look forward to what innovations life and the rest of our adoptee community can create, especially if we keep believing that our voices matter in this world.

Immigrant Children Being Separated and Placed into U.S Foster Care

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Since May, over 2,300 immigrant children have been forcibly separated from their parents at the Mexican border due to President Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy. When I watched the news, I was speechless. I was terrified for the children being placed into foster care because they don’t belong there. These children belong to families, they are wanted and certainly aren’t in need of new care. And I believe foster care should never be used in this way–their services shouldn’t be used to house children who belong to families.

How was this even made possible? I wondered.

And another thought struck. Where is this leading to?

I read recent news to find out how the funding evolved. It looks like back in 2014, the Obama Administration created a network of foster care programs back when immigrants and unaccompanied minors were crossing the Mexican-United States border. Now, in the wake of Donald Trump’s recent “zero tolerance” immigration policy, these foster care facilities are being used to house the children who were forcibly separated from their families too.

This is what shocks me. Back in May, 2014, it looks like the federal U.S government gave a US$2.28 billion budget to help set up state-licensed shelters and foster care agencies around the country, for these unaccompanied minors. From this Newsweek article, I learned that the White House established a linked network of foster care programs to cater towards these immigrant children too. Thus, now presently, these foster care programs are funded in the same way that state or county laws and regulations govern domestic foster care.

Additionally, the news article states that the children who are removed from their parents by ICE are still legally considered “unaccompanied alien children.” Because of this technicality, these children could spend an average of 51 days in a temporary shelter before they are put into sponsor homes with relatives already living in the U.S — or be placed into the U.S foster care system. And this is where my horror turns into anger since the immigrant children at the border were accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.

I’m shocked because the U.S is not being truthful in its own administration–which from experience can be extremely damaging for these children in the future when they become adults. This detail is also destructively misleading, assisting children into dangerously enter the world of foster care and the adoption industry where so many risks are involved.

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My Personal Statement

As a Filipino-American adoptee, I was orphaned at birth because of destitute poverty. My birth family couldn’t take care of me. I was relinquished and had to live in an orphanage until I was two, then adopted in the U.S, where I grew up experiencing the hardships of my displacement and my adoption placement. I wouldn’t want to wish this on any child especially for those that aren’t a part of the intercountry adoptee realities.

I believe these immigrant children do not have the same qualities surrounding their displacement as intercountry adoptees.

These children belong to families who want them.

They had not been abandoned or relinquished and they should not be termed “unaccompanied” when they were accompanied. These children were forcibly separated by the U.S government, a traumatizing action which will need healing and repair for each family that this is impacting.

Shame on the U.S government for creating a funded system in place that would even begin the process of orphaning these immigrant children at the border. In my opinion, the U.S. government should be reprimanded for the mistreatment of children and for the flagrant misuse of today’s foster care system.

And, I think we should all care about this issue–because the misuse of the foster system and the systematic funding that allows this, especially in a leading developed country like the U.S, jeopardizes today’s foster care system and adoption industry on domestic and international levels.

My Plea

I urge spotlighted attention to be placed on the immigrant children being placed into foster care and shelters. I am asking journalists, writers, social media networkers, lawyers, caring citizens, adoptees, non-adoptees and everyone to watch the news and make sure that these children are being treated well and will not be placed for adoption. We need to see that these government funds will be used to reunite these children back to their families.

Discussion Prompt

Intercountry adoptees and adoptive families, what are your views? Do you have feedback, or ideas of what can be done or ways to keep an eye on each immigrant child that is placed in U.S foster care and shelters?

 

Requesting my Birth Certificate

I wrote an email to the Intercountry Adoption Board (ICAB) in the Philippines yesterday introducing myself and requesting my birth certificate. It turns out, this significant birth document hadn’t been with my adoptive family my entire life. And, it turns out, I need this birth document for dual citizenship to prove that I was born in the Philippines. So I can re-assert my citizenship in the country of my birth which I feel is an inherent right.

After I sent my email, I received an automatic reply that stated:

Your email has been duly received and recorded. It will be referred to the proper party for appropriate action. Your message is important to us and will be responded to as soon as possible.

Thank you.

Records Section
Intercountry Adoption Board 

It’s been almost thirty years and it’s taken me this long to ask. When I did, I found out that my family possessed a certificate of birth facts. When I went to the Philippines Consulate in Los Angeles last summer to show them my legal documents and apply, my certificate was denied with a momentary glance at the papers and old Philippine passport that I had. I had to go back to Arizona to find my birth certificate and inquire about this to my adoptive mother, who I’ve been trying to gain distance with for years. It was stressful and disconcerting, that I wouldn’t have this document in my possession. I angrily wondered why my family didn’t have this item that was so intrinsic to my identity and proof of being born in the Philippines.

I also didn’t understand why I have to re-apply for my citizenship.

Yesterday after I sent my emails, I thought, does being adopted into another country for a child strip them from their own citizenship of their native place of birth? Why did this happen to me? Why does this happen to any vulnerable child in their birth countries? Why do I have to re-apply to citizenship? Why was that taken away in the first place? My questions led me to realizing how this administrative process has a lot of cultural and social implications that would create grievances for an adoptee later on.

After requesting my birth certificate at ICAB, I went out to my favorite place in the open ranges to meditate. I realized then, how much I missed my natural connections to my birth country, to my heritage and native culture. There are ancient mysteries and missing stories hiding in my brown skin and my soul longs to recollect this. I also realized a grave, quiet and devastating silence within me, that has been lifelong, which echoes from this systematic, governmental erasure of my human past.

Step by step, I will continue to find my way in this world. I will rebuild my identity by recovering what it is I’d lost so long ago. This process takes time. Psychological, emotional and spiritual healing. Patience. A support network of other adoptees. It takes perseverence to see past the cloud of my own mind and find clarity. I hope I receive my birth certificate soon so I can apply for dual citizenship in my birth country of the Philippines. There is so much to do in recovering from my intercountry adoption process.

Chronicles of an Adoptee in Transition: Living My Dreams

Have you ever had a goal or a dream that you’ve aspired to since you were a child? For me, it’s always been the same one. My dream was to start my own life in a coastal place in an environment similar to my native place of birth. Finding a place I could call, “home,” and be happy.

I had never found that home on the coast. Instead, I’d mostly been an Arizona resident, living in a small town in the mountains.

I wonder, why hadn’t I lived my dreams yet? Maybe because of my circumstances?

Being born in the Philippines, orphaned, and later raised in the Midwest of the United States could have had its limitations! Of all places my adoptive family could have chosen to relocate to, it was Phoenix, Arizona.

For whatever reason, instead of living my dream of finding that home on the coast, I spent my teenager years in the Southwest. I lived in the Sonoran desert for years surrounded by saguaro cacti, shrubs and yucca plants–trying to find out who I am, and what to do with my life.

After high school came college and a need for in-state tuition. My choices for universities were limited to nearby places that were cooler in temperature. I chose Flagstaff, a small town that had a charming, historic downtown. It was smaller than ideal but reminded me of the Midwest. It was two hours North of Phoenix so it was much cooler too. And the nature there was beautiful, tucked away in Ponderosa pines and old, volcanic mountain ranges.

Little did I know, I’d be spending all of my twenties in its university–roaming degree programs and careers, trying to find myself more than anything else.

I’ve been living in Flagstaff for ten years now which hadn’t been my plan. I’d gone to visit so many coastal regions of the United States too. Even recently, I just returned from a trip to California where I had some job interviews.

I looked at housing, the cost of living, jobs and libraries. I could sort of envision myself there, but something was missing.

I recognized it was my own lack of connections there.

So, I vacationed at a some amazing beaches at the end of that trip and I returned, realizing a lot. Feeling humble, slightly sad, but content.

I have one more job interview waiting here in Flagstaff. Now that I’ve returned, I see that it might be more practical living where I am and working on what I’ve recently found I love to do–at libraries.

I could gain more library experience with this potential job and finish my Master’s of Library and Information Science degree in December.

And shift my focus to maybe not fulfilling my dreams right away, but working on what I love to do here, and maybe that will lead me onwards.

From all that I am and come from, I can admit that life as an adoptee for me has been different from the norm and challenging. I’ve struggled with identity and finding a sense of direction in life since I’d had such a conflicting past. Still, I’d grown into myself in the Southwestern region of the United States.

One main challenge here in the Southwest is that I’ve felt stranded and alienated due to its demographics, but the best things here are aspects that everyone of all backgrounds can learn to love. The nature, beauty, decor, art, culture and history are treasures we can all connect with in society.

I think that I’ve arrived at a happy medium in this time of job searching and trying to find ways to live my dreams as an adoptee with my own battles. By simply loving myself in the place that I’m in, and finding something that I love, I hope I can become more of who I want to be, wherever I am.

Chronicles of an Adoptee in Transition: My Last Day

A tiny bird found its way into the library on Tuesday. It spent the whole day fluttering around, flying and swooping in circles and ovals around the ceiling. We left a window open for it. The next day on Thursday, which was also my last day of work, a custodian asked if the bird was still there. “No,” I said, “It looks like the bird found its way out the window.”

Accidentally Messing Up my Last Day of Work

I accidentally left early on my last day of work yesterday. I was lying in bed after having driven back into town, after I’d dropped off a laptop computer to tech services and a book that I’d borrowed from a different school during Adoption Awareness month back in November, A Koala for Katie. I was lying in my bed dazed and exhausted when it hit. That the school’s calendar read, Early Dismissal, so I had thought it was a half day for me too. To my horror, I realized I probably was meant to have a full day out there.

“Oh my God,” I said, sitting up and putting a dramatic hand on my forehead, “I totally messed up my last day of work.”

While downtown with Janek, I emailed the principal a long-winded apology and inquired if I should make up the work on Friday, the next day, but he never replied. So I spent all day today mostly lounging around my house since my roommates are gone for a little while. Resting and processing my experience out at Leupp Elementary School.

Friday in a Hammock and Sending Emails

It’s Friday today and I spent most of my morning lying around in a purple hammock in the back yard of my rental here on the East side of town. I stared up at the leaves, thinking about the mixed media art that I’d like to start making all over again and start selling if I could, the dual citizenship that I still need to apply for this summer, and the writing I’d left behind since my library studies began two years ago. Listening to the breeze shivering through the twinkling green leaves above me. The birds chirping, the cars driving by.

I continued to rock and rest, and later, I sent out an email out to the principal of a different school that is also out near the Navajo Reservation.

I told him that I was still looking for a full-time library position and that I was going to be in California next week, but I could work part-time at the school at least this summer to help with setting up this new library for them. For as it stands, their library is basically a room full of piles of books in dire need to be organized, weeded, and supplemented with materials. It needs a lot of work but I can envision that place looking exceptional and native to the desert environment. It’d be fun for me to work on this, I think. I don’t know if I’d be successful at it, but it’d be worth trying to do what I can for the school and community.

The Accidental Run In 

I’d accidentally run into this principal about a month ago, when there was construction down on the main road that you take to get to Leupp.

I was absently driving my Toyota Camry to work and found myself stationed in the middle of a popular intersection, blocking traffic at all angles, and this principal went walking up to my car window and politely asked me to pull my car up so that others would have room to go. I had Jamaican roots reggae music playing, as Marcela, a substitute teacher, was sitting in the passenger seat staring idly up at him since he was on her side of my car. The man peeked into my car and recognized me from Leupp, and that’s where he told me about a library position that was opening at his school due to recent grant funding.

I told him that I needed to know a few details, so I’d email him when I could.

A Mysterious School Called, The STAR School

The principal works at The STAR School, a small and mysterious school that is situated on the corner of the Navajo Reservation; it runs completely on solar power and is an elementary and middle school. He emailed me today and said his goal was to hire me as a full-time TA/Librarian. I replied on my iPhone trying not to sound too eager or too neutral: “Great! I will be in Cali from Sunday through Thursday, and after that, I should have open availability. Thank you!” An email where I tried to sound casual, but in reality I wrote, erased and re-wrote about twenty times before finally pressing send.

Chronicles of an Adoptee’s Transitions in the U.S.

After working as a library media assistant at an elementary school on the Navajo Reservation for a school year, it looks like I’m back to the drawing board. Back to job searching, since the school I’d worked for lost critical amounts of funding during the RedforEd strike and I won’t be able to return next year. What happened was unexpected for me. But I guess budget cuts happen a lot to small, high-needs elementary schools and other organizations in rural areas.

Now I’m facing new hurtles since I might have to move away because of limited library jobs and spiked housing costs. As an intercountry adoptee, I wanted to blog in this taxing phase because so much of my adopted life has been freckled with transitions like this. I thought it might be interesting to share. That maybe instead of pretending my life is perfect right now, maybe these chronicles could meet someone in their own transitional times too, adopted or not.

Traversing Life as an Adoptee

My life has been immersed with transitions like this so I guess this challenge isn’t new to me, although it’s still terrifying. In a way, maybe I’ve become accustomed to sink or swim circumstances ever since I was adopted and flown to the U.S. to live with white parents whom I’d never met. As a brown-skinned adoptee, I’ve lived mainly in Arizona and have had to navigate a tricky web of socio-economic terrain within the demographics of the Southwest too.

So in my adopted life, I’ve learned to view phases like this as an adventure despite my internal struggles from my complicated upbringing. Needing to view unexpected changes like this as opportunities in disguise.

Two Interviews in Southern California

I’ve been invited to two interviews since my job search started. One in National City. Another one in El Segundo. Both in California, which is awesome but jarring. Mainly because the high cost of living.

One reason why I’ve applied to these areas is to be in a city. To broaden my perceptions since I’m used to demographically limited areas. I grew up in a small Midwestern town. Later, moved to a metropolitan suburbs in Phoenix, and recently I’ve been in a small, mountainous college town in Northern Arizona for ten years. Still not making an adequate living after all these years.

Working for my own Dreams

As an intercountry adoptee, I feel I don’t have Filipino dreams or American dreams. I have maybe an adoptee’s dream, to one day have a home of my own. An idealist’s dream, to better the world. My professional dream is to work at a library and facilitate the progress of all demographics. I want to work with individuals of all ethnicities, build connections, help the youth and others like me to identify with who they are. Push society forward. But it’s scary to think of leaving my comfortable Arizona bubble behind.

I’ve lived in Arizona for so long now.

 

Starting a Monthly Intercountry Adoptee Pen Pal Effort

I love hand-written letters. I love postcards. I love old-fashioned envelopes, antique stationary, and postage stamps with its own historical references. Maybe it’s the hopeless romantic in me. But ever since I was little and learned the English language very early in my adopted life in the Midwest, I loved journals, documenting life and writing letters to friends. As a child, I had pen pals from summer camps. During high school, I’d write and notes to my friends. It always felt like secret, artful and meaningful correspondence.

The Struggles of Making Connections as an Adult Adoptee

Now that I’m an adult, I’ve longed to make those deep connections I could make so easily as a child. When you’re new in the world, it seems to be easier to make connections. When you’re older and especially as an adoptee – it is harder to feel that open, especially after you’ve felt the world split apart underneath you, or endured treacherous heartbreak and human loss, climbed through molten trials and have come back from the hardest places, to live normally in the collective struggles of everyday life with everyone else.

The Importance of Sharing

This is why I think it’s important to keep trying, to keep weaving connections, keep living your dreams and keep sharing your life with others. What has gotten me through this life has been my connections with others, so I wanted to reach out to the intercountry adoptee community to offer my old-fashioned, letter-writing correspondence to anyone who would like to share with me.

Writing Pen Pal Letters Infused with Creative Writing 

I’m a creative writer at heart so my letters can be raw and descriptive. I started my first letter batch this month and found myself diving into how I was born into the world and what I’m doing now. I dove into my offbeat views, kindred love of romantic things, at times I was reflcting on a perplexing situation, attempting to be funny, or rattling about my philosophies. My writing dwells, explores, ventures into dreamland and then reaches high into positive affirmations. It’s non-scripted, contemplative and free-hand styled.

Open to Any Subjects or Adoptee Subjects

I’m open to writing about easy and difficult subjects. I’m open to share about the hardest things I’ve experienced and love. We can write about life, subjects from A to Z, we can write humor-filled letters or nonsense. I can bring in as much information as I can about my experience as an adoptee, if anyone ever has any questions too. I’ve also hosted creative writing and journal writing workshops and am acquainted with holding a safe, free and nonjudgmental space for those that need to express themselves.

About the Writer

I’m just here as a multi-dimensional pen pal with a zest for life. I am an intercountry adoptee in Northern Arizona, on the verge of starting my life or figuring out my life after recently being a library assistant and writer. I’m a 32-year-old woman who can admit to being a total late bloomer. I’m a spiritual-minded meditation practitioner who is working on healing from a difficult past in my own offbeat ways. I’m a soft-spoken dreamer and have a writer’s personality in real life, so this will be good for me too.

The Goal

The main thing is that I’m here to share but mostly listen to you. Learn about you. Be a friend that is non-judgmental and supportive. The pen pal effort is an international effort that hopefully will be meaningful and insightful. The pen pal writing will be here for as long as you need this in your life.

Final TidBits and Contact Information

If you’d like to be a pen pal, you can find me on Facebook to connect at: https://www.facebook.com/steph.m.flood or email me at: stephanie.flood@sjsu.edu. Or, follow me on Instagram to see my random adventures and see if I’d be a good fit for a penpal: https://www.instagram.com/diaryofmissmaru/

My plan is to write a pen pal letter once-a-month depending on our correspondence. This effort will be via email, but ideally it’d be nice to do this completely the old-fashioned way once I have a stable mailing address.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Sincerely,

Stephanie Flood
a.k.a. Miss Maru

 

Vipassana Meditation for PTSD

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Vipassana means to see things as they really are. It is a self-exploratory, observational meditation technique that trains you to navigate your body’s sensations and move through them with objectivity. This technique derives from India and is based on the principle that there are scientific laws which govern the phenomenon of what happens in our bodies. By regularly concentrating on the natural occurrences within, we find the roots of our suffering and can slowly untie ourselves from it.

I recently attended a 10-day introductory Vipassana meditation course, from 17 – 27 December at a retreat center in Joshua Tree, California. This is where I spent my Christmas.

This course was assisted by two amazingly trained meditation teachers, but taught mainly by S.N Goenka (1924 – 2013) with recordings. Goenka is a teacher who started in India, 1969, and taught hundreds of thousands of students his meditation technique which spread to the East and West.

Coming from an orphaned birth in the Philippines and with PTSD from my adoption, I wasn’t sure how successful this meditation would be. I’d researched the technique, plus had previous experience in Buddhist yoga practices and meditations. I believed I possessed enough knowledge and context to allow me to understand the technique. I also realised it couldn’t cure personal issues, deep emotional or mental instability, disease, chronic illness, or depression. What I hoped for was the Vipassana meditation technique might give me the ability to heal myself if I was stable enough. Learning this could help me work with my PTSD on my own. This could give me the mental and emotional tools to fight my dark battles within and cure myself of my own ailments in time, and hard work. So, I went through with my plan.

It was tough. The hardest mental work I’d ever done. It was like using the mental concentration of a Master’s program and applying this concentration to myself. I woke up at 4:00am and practiced meditation trainings until 9:00pm for 10 days straight. All in silence. My breaks were during breakfast, lunch and dinner. Stuff rose up within me. Thoughts about past lives. Romantic fantasies. Burning pain. Frozen terrain. Blissful peace.

I fought within. I struggled. I was overcome with sensations. Fears arose. I submitted. I was restless. But, I was determined. I concentrated my attention of my breathing for three full days, practicing pranayama. In the meditation hall, I sat with 80 strong women and many of us caught a cold during this time. We pushed through together.

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In the middle of the 10 days, I had a vivid dream about my older brother also adopted from the Philippines like me. In my real life, he had slowly gone insane with his own PTSD. I had loved him even though he’d been damaging to me. In my mid-twenties, he’d disappeared and scarily turned into a stranger with an off personality. The pain from losing him the way I had was devastating and these memories of him bled through the currents of my whole life.

In my dream, my adopted brother sat next to me in a booth at a restaurant. He had cuts all over his face which he had done to himself. I scribbled him a note, I will always love you. To my surprise, my brother drew over the note. He drew a large house over my words. I woke up. That’s when it struck me. The house related to an earlier teaching from Goenka. A recording of him spoke about how our suffering can perpetuate and build a house we live in. That day, I processed more emotions and hard sensations.

I bolted as fast as I could the morning of the 11th day. It has been a month and I can say my meditation has improved. I am trusting myself and my process more. I am beginning to work through emotions from the past in a more productive and objective way. I now have a tool to start healing myself of my PTSD and memories. And, I’m beginning to use this tool with more precision.

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What I’ve come to discover is the phenomenon of what happens when training in Vipassana meditation and being committed to efforts towards enlightenment, that is, a seed is planted within. The seed grows in spurts, as our thoughts and actions begin to create a practice in itself towards the goal of transcending. To me, it’s like circumambulating around a stupa, every action becomes more focused, not only of the self but also of our greater humanity. This practice changed me from the inside out.

This is why I’m preparing to learn more about meditation and cultivate a regular Buddhist meditation life. As an intercountry adoptee from the Philippines from the 80’s, having been born from destitute poverty and experiencing not only an inhumanly impersonal adoption process and trauma from my post adoption placement, the pain of what happened cannot be ignored any longer. I feel I’ve pushed this pain away all my life. My healing cannot wait any longer.

So in this new year, I’m making a decision to set a new course that grew from this Vipassana training. I’m deciding to set up my life around self healing first, allowing my work and visions of ‘success’ to come second.

This is why I’m moving to Hawaii.

More Reading

https://www.dhamma.org/en-US/about/vipassana

All That I Wish I Could Say

I’m sorry that I can’t fully introduce myself. I can’t. If I could, I’d tell you that I was born an orphan in the Philippines. I lived in an orphanage until I was two years old and this set my world on fire, forever altering my life.

I wake in the mornings as an adult and I manage my life’s loss. I confront my adoption. It wasn’t my fault. Now I live without a sense of culture or heritage. Without a biological family in sight – as if they were all dead to me.

You wouldn’t know this because I try so hard to keep myself together. On the surface, I make sure that I present myself in the best of ways.

But in reality, I was forced to live in the United States with strangers. Due to my intercountry adoption process in 1987 and the socio-economic crises in my birth country, all my past relations are unrecoverable today.

What was it like to be adopted, you ask? I wish I didn’t have to say this too. But, my adopted life in the United States of America growing up was traumatic.

I lived in the Midwest with an older adopted brother who slowly went insane. And with parents who would at times make it worse not better.

I endured the worst of life’s cruelties but you don’t want to hear this. It’d be depressing to know that as child and teenager I watched the frail threads of a family that I’d needed so much, break apart. I grew up accustomed to the way the hard edges of the most bitter realities pressed down around me, as I persevered to keep my ideals strong. And that I survived my life carrying a broken heart.

I wish I could tell you all about the real me but I’m afraid you wouldn’t understand. I’m afraid you’d wrongly judge me? Or hurt me, or disappear?

So I’ve stayed mute about this all my life. But now I’m an adult, I see how this silence has become my own prison. And I’m not making any changes by covering this up or pretending this didn’t happen.

Now, more than ever, I want to speak up.

Because now more than ever, I’m beginning to realize that I’m not the only one with a voice here that needs to be heard!

 

Reflections on the Navajo Reservation and What a Smile Can Do

The Navajo Reservation looks like this alien, lunar landscape that is perfect but extreme, tough to navigate, but surreal all at the same time.

It glows with eternity on its side, in a realm we can’t enter unless we’re a part of it. There is a trailer beside an unreal hill that is towering, smooth and dark in places. It’s like an underbelly where areas are upturned.

This terrain is tough to know firsthand.

Its expansive world. Ancient canyons. Mesas towering with time.

I can relate to this landscape because to me this vast terrain shows aspects of myself as an intercountry adoptee. As an adult, I can’t take back what has changed over time. However, I can live my life and try to make it better.

And help others, especially the ones I relate to.

At the school library, at first I don’t know what to do. I start munching on these lemon-flavored potato chips hidden in one of my drawers, that I bought on a different on my lunch break at the gas station next door. I recall how these chips first tasted weird to me. Now, I’m totally hooked.

Every bite tastes tangy but good.

After eating some potato chips, I remembered a goal that I’d written in a curriculum map that I made for the school library a month ago. This month in December, I planned to introduce Caldecott and Newbery book awards to the kids. So throughout the day, I made bibliography reference guides.

Throughout the day I also had interactions with children.

One interaction that stands out most was with Lena, a kindergartener with thin glasses and a matter-of-fact tone to her voice. She has long brown hair, is always pointing things out blatantly and has a dry sense of humor.

I swiveled in my chair at the desk around 2 p.m., and there she was, standing there, picking her nose for who knows how long.

And not just picking, but digging.

“Lena,” I said, “I think it’d be good if you gained a habit of using a tissue. We have tissues right there,” and pointed to a tissue box at the desk.

Lena frowned and kept staring hard at me. She removed her finger from her nose and handed me her book. I took her book and checked it out slowly, avoiding the potential danger zones of where her boogers might be lurking.

While trying not to make my efforts obvious.

“This looks like an interesting book Lena,” I said, “Enjoy reading it.”

I slowly handed the book back to her, as she still wore a serious expression on her face. Her expression made me think about things.

In that moment, I contemplated the reasons why I’m here at this library and chose to work on the Navajo Reservation in the first place. I wasn’t here to tell the kids what to do. Or to help Lena stop her habit of picking her nose. She’s in kindergarten and I was being hard on her, the way I’m hard on myself.

These kids are Navajo. Many live out in hogans and trailers that are scattered throughout the miles of open ranges on the Navajo Reservation. Some live with at-risk family members or are at-risk themselves, as alcoholism and drugs are a few issues out here. And, the kids’ literacy levels are effected by having to learn their native language and English too.

I’m a librarian but giving them just books is not the main reason why I’m here. I’m here, to support this community in the ways I can.

I decided to smile at Lena. And this is when Lena smiled. It looked as if she were glowing herself, beaming with this wide, open smile.

“Thank you, Ms. Flood,” Lena said in a chirpy voice, and I could see true, genuine happiness in her facial expression.

“You’re welcome, Lena,” I said, my heart bursting.

At the end of the day, I’d finished my bag of lemon-flavored potato chips and my book lists, and was soaring on the shuttle back to Flagstaff, staring again at alien-looking terrain and upturned cinder hills.

In my mind, I contemplated on my interaction with Lena. I realised all Lena needed, was a smile.

Funny thing is, I think that’s all I needed too.

STEPH’S DISCUSSION QUESTION

Q: How do you feel adoption has changed the way you live your life? Has this changed any views of yourself or the world?