Monarchs and Viceroys: Interracial Couple Issues

IRM 1

I remember learning about Monarch butterflies in college as a Biology Major. Birds and other predators refused to eat Monarchs because they tasted bad from their consumption of milkweed plants. Because of the low predation rates, other butterflies took advantage of this and learned to mimic Monarch’s coloration and design. The most famous of these impersonators of a Monarch is the Viceroy butterfly. To the untrained eye they look identical but today, we know today they are a different species.

This type of mimicry where an edible animal is protected due to its resemblance to another species avoided by predators is called Batesian mimicry. Only in the human species do we find the reversal of Batesian mimicry where the species are the same but the culture, logic, thinking, and behavior is totally different. This is what occurs when an adoptee marries or partners long term with a person from the same birth country.

IRM 3

I am a Korean adoptee and I was raised on a dairy farm in the heart of a little Scandinavia town located in north-central Minnesota. I met my wife when I was stationed in South Korea as a young lieutenant in the US Army. I lived in South Korea for nearly 8 years and I remember having conversations with other servicemembers who had Korean brides and were involved in interracial marriages and I thought to myself, “Wow, I can really relate to the issues that they have.” The men whom I had shared conversations with assumed my marriage was easier because my wife and I are ethnically the same. Yet, I had many of the same issues and problems these men talked about.

These men assumed the relationship between my wife and I was easier than theirs because we looked similar, as does the Monarch and Viceroy. However, as we know, these two butterflies were different species, biologically diverse from one another. My wife and I also look the same racially, but our culture, logic, thinking, and behaviors are totally different. This is why I classify my marriage as an interracial marriage even though we are technically both from Korean descent.

IRM 5

Here is a sample of some of the issues we face as an interracial couple:

Children: My wife is that classic Tiger mom. She is fierce when it comes to my children’s studies. She hovers over them as they do their French, piano, and math lessons. She runs them to karate, boy scouts, girl scouts and numerous other extracurricular activities. I have to navigate our family trips around the school and planned school activities. I see my kids sitting at the table for hours on end and I have to step in as the voice of reason and allow them to have breaks and go to bed. It’s different to the way I was raised and we have to make compromises on how they are to be raised.

Holidays: It was March and my wife was happy with excitement and she asked me to come to the dinner table. I sat down and excitedly uncovered the lid to see what was inside and to my horror, there was a pot of hot slimy green and viscous sludge. She proceeds to tell me it’s Myong-gook, or traditional Korean seaweed soup, which was served after women gave birth and on special occasions. It just so happened to be my birthday and I was fed this special meal whereas, at the time, I much preferred to go out and eat KFC or Thai. There are duplicate holidays that we celebrate such as Choo-suk, also known as Korean Thanksgiving, and there are changes to the traditional menu. It’s not unusual for us to serve the smelly fermented, spicy cabbage called Kimchi along with the mashed potatoes and gravy.

Values: I feel my wife is obsessed with saving money. In the past, she has returned gifts that I bought for her on her birthday, Christmas and special occasions. She tells me not to buy flowers, chocolates, jewelry or anything else because she believes spending money on lavish items is a waste. She would rather see the money pile up in our retirement accounts and do with less. On the other hand, I believe life is about balance. Live a little and enjoy the fruits of our labor as we age. We often have these money talks and come to a compromise. I show her the statements of our retirement account before I ask her about planning a family trip.

IRM 2

Crossed wires: Often communication can end up in a conflict. I’ll be talking to my wife about something at work and she will cut me off to talk about something with the kids. To her, that is more important. She had no idea that she cut me off mid sentence.

Another example is when she asks me if I there is anything she can grab for me while she is at the grocery store, I may pause a few seconds to ponder and return to her with my list. I may respond a half a minute later and ask her to get me my favorite snack and she looks at me with a lost look in her eyes. I have to coax her back into the conversation that we had previously. In her mind, I wanted nothing and was already thinking about something else.

The communication patterns are different and I have learnt to repeat myself over and over again. She also misplaces words by mistake as she translates things inside her head.
“Hey, remember to take the cat to the veterinarian” when she really meant to say to say, “Hey, get some cat food when you’re out”. The crossed wires happens inside her head as she translates and the same happens in other normal conversations.

Name Change: I get a lot of questions and quizzical looks when I introduce myself as Mr Hansen. My name doesn’t match my looks and I’m expecting someone on the US Airlines to pull me off my flight one of these days for impersonating an American. My wife has a similar issue and many people assume she is married to a Caucasian because of the name she took after we were married. We thought about changing our name to my Korean family name but to change all my documents over to a new name seemed exhaustive and we have decided to keep the name for now.

Other Couples: I hate going to another Korean couple’s home when they have a hard time communicating in English. I run out of things to talk about after 5 minutes of conversation which also exhausts all 7 words I can speak in Korean. Many Koreans keep me at an arm’s length away because I’m not a “real” Korean. I feel as though I am the outsider looking in. This also holds true for my wife. She hates attending large groups and intellectually stimulating lectures. She feels as if the whole world is focused on her and when she accidentally slips with the wrong English word – people will make fun of her. I re-charge my batteries being around people and I love to dive into deep conversations.

IRM 4
Life can be extremely stressful, complex, and exhausting at times when married to someone from a different culture. What I found is, it is both rewarding and difficult, just like any other thing worth pursuing. In my education pursuits, for example, it was tough and there were times when I questioned why I was pursuing the degrees that I chose. However, the pursuits ended up well worth the pains and sacrifices I made. Some of the best moments I had were in the dorms of college and the life-long friendships made there, are as meaningful as ever.

The same holds true for a marriage or long term partnerships. I have encountered different issues being in an interracial marriage compared to what I might have experienced if I’d married someone of my adoptive culture and country. But I’ve learnt, not to make assumptions about my partner based on her culture. I also realise our relationship is one in which we are both forever teaching and learning from each other. Like all long term relationships, I will always have to compromise and learn to adapt to changes.

IRM 6

Additional Thoughts: What differences and issues have you seen in your own interracial marriage or partnership?  Do you think the I am correct to call my relationship “interracial” when we are ethnically the same?

Further Reading: Monarch vs Viceroy: https://www.learner.org/jnorth/tm/monarch/Viceroy1.html

The Other Half Left Behind

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Many adoptees were sent to orphanages before they were adopted and many do not remember the experiences they had before being sent to their forever homes. At one time, we adoptees may have begun the same journey in life as one of the millions of orphans placed in orphanages. However, a choice made by someone across the globe or down the street changed the course of our lives forever. What started as the same path in life bifurcated into contrasting lives.

Every year, millions of children worldwide remain in orphanages while 40,000 children are moved between more than 100 countries via intercountry adoption. As children, our lives are intertwined and as adults, our lives unravel into separate groups and we do not include the orphans who remain in orphanages when we talk about our journey. When we do talk about orphans who remain behind, we imagine the worst and assume we would have been far worse off than we are now, as adopted people. I hope to discuss the possibilities of being left behind versus the path our lives took as adoptees.

Bad Orphanages Exist

During the past 25 years, I have logged thousands of hours as a volunteer inside over a dozen orphanages located on 5 continents. Many of the places I saw were deplorable and evidence shows that many orphans will suffer from poor health, have underdeveloped brains and experience developmental delays and psychological disorders. The outcomes are bad for many of these children because they will have lower intellectual, behavioral and social abilities than children growing up within a family. These issues seem to be permanent after the age of three and almost every orphanage where I interviewed staff, the orphanage was overwhelmed and poorly equipped to give the one on one individual attention required to promote social and intellectual development for positive outcomes.

Kenya Orphanage 3

Bad Adoptions Exist

If you want to read cases of adoptee abuse, neglect, and murders all you have to do is take a look at the Pound Pup Legacy repository that contains nearly 1,000 horror stories on neglect and abuse. The US Government provides an estimate that 75% of children in foster care have been sexually abused, whereas only 8.4% of investigations of the general public conducted by US Child Protective Services were determined to have been a result of sexual abuse. Adoptee Facebook groups or attendance at adoptee events provides you a learning experience about multiple stories such as mine, of neglect and abuse in adoptive families.

Great Adoptions Can Result in Negative Outcomes

Even when adoptees have loving and nourishing families, they can still end up with negative outcomes. In a recent ten year study published in the online journal Pediatrics, their report stated that adoptees were 4 times more likely to attempt suicide than non-adopted children. Other studies state that adoptees have a higher incarceration rate and suffer from greater mental health issues than the general public. There are preliminary studies from Canada and Sweden showing the damage is done in-utero and pose lifelong consequences with poor health outcomes and even permanent changes to genes.

Despite the popularity of adoption, there is a persistent concern that adopted children may be at heightened risk for mental health or adjustment problems.
Margaret A. Keyes, Ph.D., of the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis

Orphanage KoreaOrphanage Korea 3Orphanage Korea 4

Great Orphanages Exist

I have learned that one should never generalize any group and this holds true, even to orphanages. In my 2.5 year tour as a diplomat to Kenya and as the CFO for medical research labs, I ran across a modern saint by the name of Sister Placida. Sister Placida is a Scottish nun who has been working in the remote town called Kericho, in Western Kenya. She has lived in the area for over 40 years and was taking care of individuals dying from AIDS and giving them proper burials before the disease became identified.

The outcome of the disease left thousands of children as orphans and Sister Placida found a program that helped surviving family members take care of the orphans. Later after the United States had promised to provide billions of dollars worth of free retroviral medications, she started an orphanage to provide food, medicine, and a nurturing environment so those street children had the best chance of survival.

Sister Placida expanded the program and offered training programs to spur entrepreneurship in the local economy as well as educational opportunities through the Live with Hope Centre in Kericho.

Placida

Orphans Can have Positive Outcomes

Being adopted doesn’t necessarily mean our life was spared. I see many adoptees cling to this narrative even when they do not know if this is true or not. I think many Sth Korean adoptees would have had productive and meaningful lives if they had stayed in Sth Korea instead of being adopted. My point of view comes from my eight years of experience living on the peninsula as an adult and the lengthy conversations I had with one of Sth Korea’s premier economists while I was working with him in Afghanistan.

South Korea’s economy is ranked as the fourth largest in Asia and ranked as the 11th largest in the world. South Korea broke out into high-tech industries and has become a leading producer of ships, automobiles, cell phones and other consumer electronics. Currently, South Korea had the fastest average internet connection in the world and enjoys having one of the lowest levels of unemployment. This doesn’t apply only to South Korea. I learned about an orphan from Rwanda when I was working in Kenya by the name of Immanuel Simugomwa who became a millionaire in an impoverished country with the aid of an NGO. I have heard numerous stories all over the world where orphans were thriving within their own country, despite the bad hand life had dealt them.

Kenya Orphanage 2

Adoptees can have Positive Outcomes

One of the perks I have in working for the DNA testing NGO to match adoptees with their biological families is meeting thousands of adoptees all over the world. The adoptee community is as varied as the general public. Someone who works in my lineNaja West of work is LTG Naja West. She is the current Army Surgeon General, a three-star general and the highest ranking officer in the US Army Medical Department. LTG Naja West is also an adoptee.

LTG West is one of the numerous successful adoptees whom I have met. Others are a professional musician, a prominent actor, globally renowned artisan and author, film producer and successful businessman that runs a multi-million dollar firm. Successful adoptees represent a varied cross-section of life and many are successful in their own rights by achieving their goals.

We shouldn’t drive ourselves crazy about what could have happened instead of being adopted. The simple answer is we don’t know and what we think of as truth may be far from reality. The possibilities could have been endless and I wanted to remind my fellow adoptees that we often overlook and exclude orphans out of the equation when we speak. We often gravitate towards relinquishment, adoption and major highlights of adoption.

Sharing: My question is, where were you placed before you were adopted? Do you remember the other children or have any memories of them? Do we forget the other half?

Love to all my fellow adoptees and orphans.

Jayme Hansen

Kenya Orphanage

For additional Reading:

https://www.livescience.com/21778-early-neglect-alters-kids-brains.html

http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/article/1649441/orphanages-damage-children-life-says-group-founder

https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/810625

http://edition.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/04/13/children.adoption.mental.health/index.html

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/080505162858.htm

https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/canstats.pdf#page=2&view=How many allegations of maltreatment were reported and investigated?

https://adoption.com/sexual-abuse

http://www.wvi.org/rwanda/article/vulnerable-orphan-millionaire

Cuts You Deep

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Whilst studying for my undergraduate degree in History, I found the similarities of my childhood and reading the history of Nazi Germany opened up my old anxieties. The interrogation methods of the SS were like pages read out about my own childhood. My adopted mother acted like a Concentration Camp guard, always on the lookout to entrap my sister and me in some wrongdoings. She would face the label of the ice cream carton inside the freezer at a certain angle to see if it was ever moved. If it was, we were chastised for stealing food.

My sister stopped me one summer afternoon when I had a few bites due to my lifelong suffering from hypoglycemia and showed me how to angle or place the carton back into the freezer. I didn’t know it at the time but the low-blood sugar levels made me extremely hungry. I was forced to binge eat when I had my episodes and ate entire packets of cookies so I could immediately get rid of the evidence. I felt guilty wasting food and therefore crammed the cookies down in a couple of minutes. I did this because the first time I was caught, I endured hours of humiliation and punishment that didn’t fit the crime.

If my adoptive father was not in a good mood I was given a spanking with the belt or switch and this was followed by my adoptive mother’s tidal wave of rhetorical commentary and questions such as, “We don’t starve you, so why did you do this?” and “Your theft only indicates you will be a criminal when you grow up, do you want to go to jail?”

I wanted to reach out and talk to people about what I was going through but my family was firmly rooted as respected members of the church, work, and community. I felt the only option abuse 2I had was to remain silent. They made up logical stories and explanations to family, colleagues, and acquaintances to explain their side of the story. It involved half-truths to paint the victim as the aggressor, evildoer, and villain. They did this protect themselves. They did this to remain in the good graces of the community they lived in, even though they were the ones doing harm.

They fabricated stories that the child was the one attacking them, stating the child was unruly, dangerous, on drugs, etc. This gave them an external reason to “protect themselves” and rationalize the altercations and find sympathy from individuals who were unfamiliar with the family issues and interactions. Whenever this happened, my sister and I were at greater risk because getting away with one incident of abuse allowed the perpetrators to continue or escalate the patterns.

Abuse comes in numerous forms:

Physical abuse is violent and uses intimidation, isolation, restraint, aggression, and endangerment as a form of control.

Mental abuse gets into your mind and uses gaslighting, silence, manipulation, and victimization as a form of control.

Verbal abuse goes from your ears to your mind via screaming, bullying, name calling, berating, and blaming.

Sexual abuse is about dominance and uses jealous rages, coercion, sexual withdraw, rape, and degrading acts as a form of control.

Emotional abuse forces you into situations that produce intense anxiety, guilt, confusion, shame, anger, hostility, rejection, and fear to be used as a form of control.

Economic abuse is about limiting resources and uses stealing, destroying assets, dependency, refusing access, falsifying records, and interfering with work environments as a means to control.

Spiritual abuse is using your beliefs such as dichotomous thinking, prejudice, elitist beliefs, demanding submission, excommunication, and estrangement as a means of control.

Types of abuse

When adoptees finally confront their abusers at a time in life when they are no longer dependent upon them, they are often met with attacks from other people who may know the abuser at a distance and feel trust and admiration for them, not understanding what has really gone on.

I wrote several months ago on my Facebook page about some of the abuse and neglect that I faced as a child. My nephew shot several scathing messages asking why I was airing dirty laundry in public. I had an uncle who wrote to me and was very dismissive about the abuse stating, “he had it worse” and “corporal punishment was an accepted use of discipline”. I have long since blocked both individuals but realize these family members do not understand the full picture of what was going on.

Upon reflection, I realize they have been told years of misinformation about me from adults who were established in their community. I think this victim shaming and blaming occurs for the following reasons:

  • The abuse often takes place behind closed doors and cannot be validated by others.
  • Abusers deny their actions and when confronted individuals are met with conflicting stories, half-truths, and outright lies.
  • Abusers blame the victim when in reality they were the ones who were the aggressors.
  • Violence is oftentimes preceded by verbal abuse, this is a tactic used to keep the victim at bay.
  • The abuser needs to be right and in control, they may use their authority or moral standing to explain why they were forced to what they did.
  • The abuser is possessive and may try to isolate their child from friends and family as a means to protect themselves.
  • The abuser is often times hypersensitive and may react with rage. When they lash out – they blame you and act as if you are responsible for their anger.

Abuse

I’ve had the privilege of meeting thousands of adoptees around the world and many of them have confided in me and shared their horror stories of abuse and neglect. One of the worst experiences is a young woman who remains connected to her adopted family even though her adoptive mother overlooks the fact her husband was sexually abusing her. I met a pair of sisters in the United States who had a father that made them feel guilty to take care of him in his elderly years, even though he was often missing from their lives. Even when he was home, he ignored them and was “terse” at best. Numerous other adoptees felt their adoptive families were not invested in them, they were not “bad people” but they were not connected to them nor had close relationships.

The issue may worsen when adoptees try to sever the relationship or move away. The parents may feign sickness to draw them back into the relationship or offer them promises they never intend to keep and play a game of catch and release with their heart. They may lash out and do things to make you feel guilty or ways to be part of your life. Some of the ways they may manipulate are:

  • The abusive individual may reach out, stating they have changed and then turn on you and lash out in anger as they did before.
  • They will make promises, with no intentions of changing to draw you back into the relationship.
  • They will leverage your actions, distancing you, keeping your children away to portray themselves as the victims.
  • They will change the story of what actually occurred, stating you have an overactive imagination, that what you say is a lie or back their story with the silence of their codependent spouse.
  • They may use money and resources to leverage themselves to make demands and “compromises”.

Trauma 3

I was caught in this cycle of craziness for much of my adult years. What I found helpful was to speak to other adoptees who faced similar abuse. Some of the braver ones pointed out it was okay to sever the relationship to regain my sanity. They were the first to tell me that I was the victim. They were there to answer questions and their strength helped me to take the steps to separate myself from toxic relationships.

Years later I read an excellent book that went deeper into the issue called Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life by Susan Forward. It took someone to tell me it was okay to leave my toxic adopted family. This is a personal choice, like other things that could be unhealthy in our lives – such as smoking, drinking or staying in bad relationships. I wish you peace and sanity. I hope this helps.

Further reading:
https://www.facebook.com/SusanForwardPhD/

Bitter Medicine

bitter medicine

For me, the interactions I have within adoptee groups are like taking a spoonful of bitter medicine. The sharing I do, the reflections of my past, and all the things I have learned has healed me. It is a forum where I am allowed to share my thoughts, pains and tribulations. It opens my eyes to current issues and problems within the adoption community and learn about individuals affected by adoption and a place to find atonement, strength, healing, love, and sanctuary. However, when I’m immersed within these groups the conversation can often lead to adoptees being divided into two groups: those who are pro or anti adoption.

The adoptee experience is as varied as shoes, apples, numerous as the labels of medication on the shelves of a local pharmacy. Adoptees have their own view and outlook on what it means to be adopted. Some view adoption as something wonderful with great relationships with their parents, raised in nurturing environments, empathetic parents, and open dialogue. They may have even gone to culture camp, experiencing wonderfully happy lives, living the American dream but they can’t understand why other adoptees can be so bitter and negative about the adoption journey.

We all have a story to tell, we can be successful despite how we individually view adoption and it’s impacts. I don’t deny there are not problems but when some are found it doesn’t speak for all adoptees. Some people rush to stop adoption altogether but are they are essentially throwing away the baby with the bath water?

For some, the adoption experience is like the dented and discarded item you find on sale in the back of the store i.e., unwanted, abused, we are damaged goods. Many of us experience the feelings of rejection, the uneasy feelings of not being wanted, and relationships are to be thrown away. The wounds we experience can destroy our bodies, the words echo inside our minds and drives us crazy and hurtful acts cuts deeper than any knife. When we think the pain could not be worse the intensity worsens when we learn the truth about the adoption. Our life is a mere transaction within an industry of suffering and system spreads shame, guilt and pain as it took advantage of single mothers placed in precarious positions without any other options but to give their child away.  The adoption industry steal the life away to everyone involved – forces us to give up every day liberties to search for our families as our mothers lament long nights to hold their child one more time.  We over represent societies inside mental health clinics, drug and rehabilitation centres, and prisons compared to the non adopted public. Those that investigate their suspicions and confirm these facts, and decide to share, exchange or to speak out against the industry and its problems: we become labeled as angry and illogical. We are identified as malicious.  We are told that we are disrupting the Apple cart.

If we dig deeper, there are more commonalities between the two anti and pro adoption groups of adoptees. Both sides have been stung by unintentional calloused comments made by society in general. Comments like,  “Oh, you’re adopted, you must be so lucky”, “your parents are so wonderful”, or “you were chosen”. These comments infuriate us, hurt us, and overshadow who we are and generalize the issues we have to deal with. I often want to respond with, “Do you think I had a choice in this? No, I don’t feel lucky!”

Therapists, counselors and parents cannot fix our issues and more often than not, they do not have the capacity to understand the issues we have to face. Quite often, we have to suffer alone. Many of us struggle with issues of self-worth, shame, identity, and ill equipped to handle relationships. Relationships may frighten us, we allow others to take advantage of us and others replace the love we desire with intimacy. It goes without saying that our friends and lovers may never understand understand us. However, the one space where I am able to share my issues with are the adoptee groups.

In a few sentences jotted online, I can connect with a total stranger half way around the globe. The understanding can cut across educational, economic and social classes. Together we can immediately identify the faint echoes of pain and suffering painted between the lines of a message shared.

What do you think? Do you think adoptees are really this divided between anti and pro thoughts? Do you think adoptee forums help us or hurt us? Should we express ourselves without fear of ridicule from our own peers?

I have gone through many spectrums of change within my own life. I was once a staunch supporter of adoption and believed we fared far better than the alternatives. After travelling the globe and being involved with adoption issues for over 25 years, I now hold a different view. I share information as I learn it myself and I crack open another bottle of medicine and let the gooey disgusting truth flow out. I share this with other people. I take heaped spoonfuls of it from others for my own needs. I take this medicine to heal my own adoption wounds. Gulp, I swallow more bitter truth. Gulp, I join in to more sites, connect and bare more of myself. Gulp, I ingest this bitter medicine to treat my symptoms resulting from adoption.

What medicine will you share with me? What sites do you frequent to get your daily dose?

Adoption Trauma, Not Always Forever

adoption trauma

Most of us have heard the old saying, “the only thing promised in life is death and taxes”. I’m certain many of us can add one or more items that needs to be included to the list.

One thing I think should be added to this list is trauma. If you live long enough, you will most certainly face trauma. Trauma is a badge of life often carried in our minds, consciousness and even displayed by the scars and bruises exposed on our skin. My belief is we all experience things differently. Some people suffer through life-long debilitating conditions. We may have a crazy uncle who cowers in fear when fireworks go off each fourth of July, due to the PTSD he suffers from war; or we see those we love, suffer with a more benign issue such as profusely sweaty hands when having to give a public speech.

During my 45 years of life on earth, I’ve seen and experienced a lot of trauma. As a soldier, I slipped on the bloody floors of an operating room inside a military hospital that minutes earlier, had been used to save the life of a casualty of the Afghanistan war. As a young student, I pumped the chest of a dying man when I trained as a paramedic. As a nurse I observed the slow gasps of air during the last hours of life, called Kussmaul’s respiration. It was an experience that burned into my memory when I worked on the wards of a hospital.Hilo trauma

The shock of any trauma, I think changes your life.
It’s more acute in the beginning and after a little
time you settle back to what you were.
However it leaves an indelible mark on your psyche.
Alex Lifeson

trauma gurney

When an adoptee criticizes the adoption experience or speaks out against aspects within the current system, they are automatically labeled “angry adoptee”. When a successful adoptee uses their influence, money and time to promote adoptee related issues, it is pointed out they are compensating for something. Successful adoptees have some secret character flaw. Behind closed doors they must be dancing naked to Beelzebub or offering newborn kittens as sacrifices to Odin. In reality, such comments do nothing to enhance discourse and upon closer examination, are just good ole fashioned stereotyping. These thoughts or beliefs may or may not accurately reflect reality.

I’ve seen more of this type of adoptee labeling in recent years and a growing number accept these attacks as fact without allowing anyone to examine or recognise it for what it is: an attack on adoptees.

By smiling, we help them do that. Next time you encounter a “happy” and “grateful” adoptee who had “wonderful” adoptive parents and a “wonderful” life, look a little closer.
Julie A. Rist.

When read in a vacuum, this sounds plausible. There is a growing belief spread by adoption counselors that adoptees are damaged goods because every adoption is about separation and trauma.

Recently, I ran across a self-professed adoption counselor who said “Every adoptee has a trauma to resolve even when they appear outwardly fine”. The same person stated, “Another horrible shooting in Texas in a church. It’s clear, God doesn’t protect those who don’t protect themselves.” In the real world bad things will happen to good people.

Be warned about those who prey on individuals who need. I have a seen a growing number of counselors that linger on adoptee sites and peddle their wares. Self promotion of their books, counseling services and advice. Be careful who you seek treatment from. There are many simply out to make a profit from you.

The reality is, we will more than likely suffer trauma during our lifetime. It is the price of admission to life. The deck is stacked against us. Around 50% of marriages will end in divorce. Roughly 40% of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point during their lifetime. The car insurance actuary companies have predicted the average driver will be in a collision once every 17.9 years i.e., around 3 to 4 accidents during their lifetime. Knowing this, we do see people going around to divorcees recommending a lifetime of counseling. Individuals shaken up after an accident given a one-size-fits-all diagnosis. Cancer survivors prescribed to feel a certain way i.e., they must feel guilty to be alive if they beat the odds of chemo therapy.

When I was young, I had a fear of heights. Climbing tall structures was debilitating. As an adult, I overcame my fears and learned how to repel out of helicopters, parachute from airplanes and bungee jump from structures several hundreds of feet tall. People can get over their fears. There are cognitive behavioral techniques such as constant exposure, done gradually and repeatedly exposing individuals to their fear in a safe and controlled way. I am by no means a licensed mental health professional nor am I suggesting people self-treat for diagnosed issues. Nor am I diminishing or trivializing life-long conditions. I am saying people should not automatically diagnose adoption to be life-long traumatic event for all of us. We come from different backgrounds and experiences and the outcomes will vary, like any of the traumas we face in life.

More Reading:

http://www.radiolab.org/story/251876-inheritance/
https://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/parenting/pregnancy-stress-during-1998-ice-storm-linked-to-genetic-changes-in-children-after-birth-study-suggests/article20868841/

Understanding Positive Millennial Adoptees

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I’m not a angry or jealous about positive adoptions. I don’t deny they exist. With more than 25 years experience working in adoption and orphanage advocacy, I have met some wonderful adoptive parents who have reached out to adoptees like myself. I’ve met numerous adoptees that have wonderful lives and adoptive families. Positive adoptive parents are not that much different from naturally formed families where parents sacrifice to give their children love, attention and the support needed to enhance chances of creating the best possible outcomes in life.

Some adoptees are sent to the best schools afforded, given opportunities to attend heritage camps, afforded psychological counseling and most importantly, given committed parent who foster the parent-child relationships that we were robbed of from our beginnings. I will never deny that such relationships can exist. There are deeply committed people with so much joy, love, and care who also have the understanding, discipline and patience to be wonderful adoptive parents. I am grateful that such adoptees are given this opportunity. I am happy for them!

In recent years, I have written several pieces that have looked at adoption under a critical eye. My articles are posted on the internet at InterCountry Adoptee Voices (ICAV), the Pressian online journal, Land of Gazillion Adoptees and other adoptee blogs and forums. After writing these critical pieces, I get inundated with negative emails. The backlash of criticism from the pro-adoption adoptee community has been growing over the years and it comes specifically from Millennial adoptees. What got me thinking aboutt this was the recent viral success of Simon Sinek’s critical analysis entitled “What’s wrong with Millennials in the workplace”. The video went viral on YouTube and has had more than eight million hits. I then made the connection that it was the positive Millennial adoptees who were inundating my inbox. I revisited the comments made in emails and I think I found a way to understand the disconnect between some of the older versus younger generation of adoptees.

Negative Narratives May Not Be Theirs

Even though we have this connection through adoption – the adoptee population is as diverse as any other community. Like any segment of the population, we are comprised of diverse backgrounds. Even amongst a group of adoptees adopted from the same country, e.g., Sth Korean adoptees, I still find diversity. I find diversity even in a group that isn’t supposed to be too diverse. For example, despite the taboo for Koreans to bring up other people’s children, I have found some cases. On my first return trip to Korea in the 90’s I ran into an adoptee raised by a Korean diplomat. This adoptee was the caucasian child of his American colleague, killed in a car accident. During my travels in Europe, I also met a Korean adoptee adopted into a Korean family and another adoptee raised by a Jamaican family. I appreciate the diversity found within the adoptee community.

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Hearing from all sides of the issues is important. When an adoption problem is shared it doesn’t mean the individual is attacking positive adoption outcomes nor does it negate the legitimacy of their complex experiences. I understand that positive adoptees may not identify with negative narratives on adoption but how does a lack of empathy or an inability to validate another person who is sharing from a vulnerable position help them overcome obstacles in life? Experiences that are considered “negative” may not be your narrative but these experiences have a time and location and are just as valid as the “positive” stories.

They Want to be Heard

I had a private conversation with another Chief Financial Officer (CFO) about Millennials in the workplace. He expressed his frustrations about them being vocal without taking time to understand the rules and regulations of an organization. Much of what we do is heavily regulated by Congress and the fast changes they seek are often impossible to implement. I understand Millennials are more vocal in stating they want to have their voices heard. I think bringing them into the conversation is a good thing overall. In general, Millenials are passionate and want to make a positive impact in areas they care about. I know we can mutually learn from this group along with the older generations of adoptees. Millenials have a strong understanding on how to leverage technology and social media platforms to their advantage. I think it is great if Millenials share their narratives whether these be different or similar to the older adoptee generations. I welcome their voices. We all have a story to tell.

Ignoring The Wrongs in the Big Picture

It’s been estimated by government agencies that 30% of Guatemalan children were stolen from their homes. Numerous concerned parents and several watch groups believe the theft of hundreds of children from perfectly good homes have occurred in China, India and other countries. The “happy adoptees” refuse to believe that they could be the victim of such dealings or ignore the issue altogether on the basis that they experienced a great adoption.

Can such positivity erase transgressions in the bigger picture of intercountry adoption?

Attitudes that largely ignore these issues result in human lives being placed below that of merchandise goods. For example, when a computer is stolen and if able to trace the whereabouts of the stolen merchandise, the buyer must give it back to the original owner – regardless of how much was paid. The original owner of the computer is protected by the law. In contrast, a child’s life is not considered as valuable as a computer. When a child is taken away from their families without consent, through coercion or bribery, it is largely ignored by the entire international legal system.

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The notion that goods have more legal protection than a human life also applies to identification. If a VIN number on a car is destroyed or tampered with there are legal consequences if caught. When a person tampers with an a person’s identity and produces fake paperwork identifying them as an “orphan”, the most they get is a slap on the wrist with a small jail term and/or a fine.

I find the systematic erasure of a child’s birth identity via adoption to be fundamentally wrong. Legal systems and governments around the world recognize it is a basic human right for anyone to know who they are and where they come from. Yet an individual’s birth certificate (essentially their VIN number) and adoption documents can be altered, made up and fabricated with very little consequences in place to deter. And most importantly, nothing is done for the child who’s identity has been robbed, nor the family whom the child belonged to by birth.

A car or computer receives more protection under the law than an adopted child. This lack of value on our lives delays personal healing for those impacted. It also contributes to the endangerment of hundreds and thousands of children across the globe because of the message it sends: that their histories can be erased, separation forced and enabled via intercountry adoption with no-one to investigate whether the children were indeed stolen, lost, or fabricated and even on the rare occasion when the wrongs are obvious, there are little to no consequences and certainly no justice for the child who has been removed nor the family who has lost their child legally, forever.

Head vs Heart

Emotion Overrides Logic

Suspicion and fear drove American settlers on the path to annihilation of millions of Native Americans. The movement to relocate and fight the Native Americans was driven by emotion and fear. These feelings led to the genocide movement on American soil. Here is one account:

“On November 29, 1864, one of the most infamous events of the American-Indian wars occurred when 650 Colorado volunteer forces attacked a Cheyenne and Arapho encampment along Sand Creek. Although they had already begun peaceful negotiations with the U.S. government, more than 150 Native Americans were killed and mutilated, more than 2/3 of which were women and children.”

Members of Congress and prominent citizens across America were vocal about the removal and out right war to eradicate the Native Americans. This view remains and is held by some Americans to this day. John Wayne was asked about the removal of Native Americans and he replied, “I don’t feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from them … our so-called stealing of this country was just a matter of survival. There were great numbers of people who needed land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves.”

Statements made by proadoption movements, many made by Millennials are as equally hurtful and dismissive as the statement above. At the time of the Indian Wars, some individuals firmly believed they were on the morally right side. Many believed they were protecting settlers and companies that advanced the country to greatness. If we were to ask them today, they would not have believed they would be judged so harshly for their actions.

I believe intercountry adoption is the modern version of Trail of Tears. Globally, thousands of Native American children were stolen and killed for the betterment of the whole group. Intercountry adoptees, like the Native Americans, have been systematically moved from their homes and countries and resettled into unfamiliar territory. I understand that some adoptees can only imagine the wonderful lives they have lived and would like others to enjoy the same. We understand their positive intentions, however, we cannot override the logic with emotions to justify the means to an end.

I’m also not suggesting every Millennial adoptee has a positive adoption experience. The point is, Millennials are maturing and becoming more vocal about their experiences. It is possible a larger number of Millennial adoptees are better adjusted to their adoptions and have more positive outcomes compared to adoptees of my generation. I truly hope this is the case because this is why I speak out – in the hopes that others who follow may have a somewhat better experience.

 

ADDITIONAL LINKS

Simone Sinek: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hER0Qp6QJNU
Adoptions in Korea: https://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2015/05/economist-explains-32
VIN: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-drive/culture/commuting/what-your-cars-vin-means—and-why-you-cant-change-it/article625547/
Native Americans: http://www.history.com/topics/native-american-history/american-indian-wars
John Wayne: http://sites.austincc.edu/caddis/great-plains-wars/

Yellow Snow

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I grew up on a dairy farm in rural Minnesota. Minnesota is a state, located in the north central region of the United States and borders Canada. Most people do not know the most northern point of the lower 48 states is located in Minnesota. It should be no surprise to learn Minnesota ranks in the top ten states for being the coldest and having the most snowfall. The Minnesota winters are known for dumping heavy wet blankets of lake-effect snow and its frigid temperatures.

If you live in a Northern climate, you gain experiences that only those who live in that region can understand. One learns to watch the weather the night before to know if one should plug in their car so the radiator will not freeze overnight. You learn to bundle up in loose layers to keep out the cold. As kids you learn not to lick metal surfaces when its below freezing otherwise you freeze your tongue on the object licked. Lastly, one learns to never eat yellow snow.

The straw stain that pops out against the white background is the recording of a human or animal’s presence as they relieve themselves in the great outdoors. This mustard stain that violates the white backdrop symbolizes discarded waste and something that is disgusting. Waste of course, is thrown away because it has no value. Garbage is ugly to look at and is an eyesore to the beauty that surrounds us. We put a lot of effort to hide, throw away and rid ourselves of trash. This is the way I felt during my childhood. I lived a childhood where I was taught I had no importance or value. I was the real living breathing ugly duckling. Worse yet, I was Asian. I symbolized that urine yellow stain in the snow.

The counselor at school insisted I take an IQ test and even though I tested a couple of deviations above the norm, I was placed in a “special” class. In the 5 years I was forced to attend this class, I befriended a boy named Raymond. The general public knew Raymond was intellectually disabled. My friend’s face seemed distorted, his pants seemed bulky due to the diaper he wore and his gait could be described as a stumbling walk. Many children mad fun of Raymond’s speech, his simple, s-l-o-w, slurred replies were the brunt of many jokes. I refused to partake in the taunts because I learned Raymond was a human being and like myself, he had feelings and ideas of his own.

After spending “special” classes with him for nearly 5 years, we grew to become great friends. I learned that Raymond loved collecting baseball cards and he would bring extra candy to class to share with me. Some people have asked me whether attending this special program hamper my intellectual growth. It may have but it also allowed me to learn a valuable life lesson. I learned to have compassion for all people. Black, white, yellow, tan, brown … the color of people did not matter. I believe that individuals who have a strong support network can do anything. Nothing can limit an individual in obtaining their dreams and goals. Little did I realize that Raymond and I had much more in common. Like Raymond, I also had to cope with being different, stared at and labeled as an outsider by society.

There was a kid that tormented me on the school bus. He was in high school and I was in first grade. It started out with threats and then it turned into gut punches. He hated me for being Asian. I hid this shame to myself and it was exposed when he took a permanent marker and used it to spell “gook” and “chink” on my face. The physical torment continued on when I entered high school. I endured an occasional punch, oratory lashings, and the constant fear that I would get beaten up. A kid several grades below me would twist my tiny frame into a pretzel on the long journey on the yellow school bus. My thin, waifish 16 year old Asian 100lb frame was no match for his 6ft 2in frame. He was the corn-fed farmer’s son who took pleasure in bending my small frame into a pretzel in the back of the bus. I was forced to feel the shame alone. I felt helpless, emasculated, and humiliated.

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I felt further castrated by being taught that I was undatable. I was no match for the jocks. They were strong and good looking. I didn’t belong to the geeks because they were at least smart. I was the outsider to the outsiders. Being raised on a dairy farm meant I had to pull my weight with the chores. I had to carry heavy bushel baskets full of feed through manure covered feed lots and clean the calf pens each morning. I was the target of hate as I arrived to school with a distinct smell of cow faeces. I was the smelly kid in class because my adoptive parents did not allow me to shower before arriving to school. Then to add insult to injury, I was also the brunt of all fashion jokes. I often wore old “hand-me-downs”, garage sale and KMART specials. Needless to say, I was not popular at school.

Not only did I feel belittled but I also felt stupid. I had poor grades. I often fell asleep in class and also at night when I did my homework. My parents never helped me with my homework and without a tutor or a peer to  study with, I had nobody to learn from. Many nights I stared into the blank pages of my text books and wondered about the meanings of the literary works or the simple algebraic equations. Nothing made sense to me.

Fear gripped the depths of my soul. Fear of the unknown. Fear for my own future. Later on, when I became an adult I learnt the proper name of the fear that prevented me from doing just about anything. This thing that had a chokehold on my life was called anxiety. My adopted parents described this behavior as being wimpy.

When I did overcome my fears, my behavior could be described as socially awkward. I didn’t know how to act around people because I had little interactions. Other times I would ramble and stay glued to a person because I was so starved for attention. No matter what the scenario, I would act inappropriately and my parents would later reprimand me verbally for my short comings. I never had a chance to be a kid or do simple things such as go to movies, watch popular TV shows, or hang out with friends. It was never an option. I was lacking in personal skills because I was isolated. I had no identity. I was simply a small kid alone in this big world.

boy cryingMy adoptive parents never thought to teach me about my Korean heritage. It never occurred to them to buy me a book about my ethnic origins. When I inquired, they refused to allow me to look at my own adoption paperwork. I was reminded I was American and told to be grateful. I was only taught about their Scandinavian roots. Racial issues that I brought up were immediately dismissed. It was met with the question of what I might have done to provoke someone or it was replied that this was a part of life and I had to toughen up. They called it “tough love”.

When they sicked the dog on me and howled with laughter when the dog tore into my flesh, it was supposedly done out of love too. I never felt like their child. Then again, most parents don’t do these things to their kids. Furthermore, society did not view us as a family either. The mismatch of large, looming Caucasian parents and tiny Asian children looked like the giant bearded lady and dwarf in a circus freak show. I felt awkward showing my face in public. People gawked at us when we entered the room. Our strangeness gave total strangers the courage to walk up and pry into my personal life asking questions like, “Hey are you getting married to your own kind? Are you Chinese? Japanese? Vietnamese?” I have even been mistaken to be Native American, Mexican, and Eskimo. Nobody in Minnesota seemed to know of the existance of a group of people called Koreans. With all this questioning and odd looks I wondered as a child if I was the only Korean left alive on God’s green earth?

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A guidance counselor in my high school year was blunt with me when I walked into his office for the mandatory visit. I answered truthfully when he asked me what I wanted to do after high school. I told him I wanted to attend college and work in healthcare. The man told me in a stern voice that I was not college material and that I would steal an opportunity away from someone more deserving. I wondered if he would have said the same things to a Caucasian boy with poor grades? Did he take into consideration the hand I was dealt as child of being bullied, thrusted into child labor and a person who had all self esteem pummeled out of him? I have always wondered why he never offered any encouragement. Isn’t this what guidance counselors are supposed to do? To give individuals the best route towards the goals they were aiming for? Like the rest of the community I grew up in, he saw no value in me. But I ignored all the negativity I faced through out my childhood and focused on achieving everything said to be impossible.

The best way that I could explain my childhood was to compare it to a prison. A small, cold dirty Mexican prison. I was isolated from people. I was not allowed to pursue things I was curious about. My life was filled with hard manual labor, misery, abuse and filth. Despite these beginnings and the statistical chance of being successful, I persevered. I took remedial college course and taught myself how to write simple sentences. I studied evenings and learned the math I was unfamiliar with. I observed people and learned to shed my social awkwardness. I opened myself up to possibilities and fell in love. After several attempts, I married and was blessed with two wonderful children. I earned five degrees and two were graduate degrees from a reputable university. I traveled to more than 40 countries across the globe. One of the countries I visited was my birth country and I found my biological family. I have dined with presidents and met with dignitaries. I can say that I have had a fruitful life and entered into a profession as the CFO of hospitals.

I hope in telling my story, I can encourage others to take steps to push away their fears. I experienced numerous years of conditioning from others saying I was not good enough, strong enough or capable. I encourage everyone to break free from the chains of violence, hate, and anger. I tried as hard as they did in breaking me and I reached for the impossible. I made it despite the odds!

I encourage you to take a chance on yourself. You are worth the wait!

Korean Killdeers

I was reared on a small dairy farm that rested on the edge of the Red River Valley on the Minnesota side. I grew up in a rural farming community that was filled with a lush green forest of corn, amber waves of grain and intermittent dots of farm homesteads covered with thick deciduous trees. On these vast plains lived a curious little bird, in scientific terms, called a Charadrius vociferous. These small insignificant brown birds with long thin spindly legs made their nests on the ground in the fields and shoreline all over North America. The locals, where I grew up, name this bird by the falsetto cry it makes … kill deer, kill deer. I am certain, if birds could speak, they would poke fun at the killdeer’s pencil-thin legs and scrawny body.

What makes this benign lusterless outward appearance memorable are the bird’s acting abilities. This bird pretends to have a broken wing to draw predators and trespassers such as a curious dog or small children away from their precious eggs. It’s amazing to observe these birds screaming around and flapping their wings and then dart away when you get near them. The birds deserve an Emmy Award for their dramatic performances. I have fond childhood memories of chasing these small feathered friends and was tricked into believing they needed medical attention. I never located the bird’s eggs but remember seeing fluffy plumed chicks darting about like a group of frolicking school children on the playgrounds.

In my studies I learned that the killdeer birds were aboriginal to North America, so I was dumbfounded to see similar antics during my travels to Korea. At first, I thought the kids waving at the soldiers were the average child as we passed in our armored track vehicles. Moments later, I realized these masqueraders were actually professionals pulling a scam. These acting children reminded me of the pretentious wounded Killdeers back home on the Minnesota prairies. Like the birds, they played wounded. Instead of broken wings, they acted out with alligator tears and pouting faces. The familiar killdeer, killdeer cries of distress were replaced with childish voices begging for items, “M.R.E., M.R.E.,” “GI gimme M.R.E.!” The children were asking for prepackaged Army food called Meals Ready to Eat or MRE’s for short. I eyed the children with caution and was disrupted from my stare by my friend.

“Hey, Hansen! I ate part of my lunch during our drive and I’m gonna give the rest of my meal. Watcha think?” “I don’t care,” I answered. I deliberated for a second and focused the children back into view. “Hmmm, to be honest, I really don’t think they want your leftovers.” Barrick jumped off the vehicle before I could finish my reply. Barrick seemed like a towering giant compared to the two little girls and it was comical to see him trying to speak Korean with them. I watched with amusement as the little girls refused his opened MRE package. They gestured that they wanted whole MRE packages that lay on top of my armored personnel carrier. Barrick insisted that the items inside the familiar brown plastic bag were indeed still good. “See,” he contended as he held the sealed crackers in the air and made facial gestures that the items were delicious.

I could tell that the eldest girl who was around 8 years old, was getting annoyed. She huffed several times and then blatantly refused the offer by waving her hands for him to get lost. As he made his final offer, the older girl stuck her fist in the air and gave Barrick the bird!

Barrick turned to me in shock and asked in disbelief, “Did you see that? She stuck up her middle finger!” Barrick took a few steps back toward the track vehicle and looked back once more to watch the little girl stick out her tongue at him. He shook his head in disbelief and said, “Just to think, I felt sorry for her!”

Another soldier walked up to the small children and handed the youngest some candy, she appeared to be about 5 years old. The tiny fingers clutched the pieces of hard candy and she began to place a piece inside her mouth. Then fast as lightning, the eldest child struck the littlest one with candy in the face. She landed a couple of hard blows to the small cheeks with her open palms. The eldest child’s face filled with rage. Then as punishment, the larger of the girls pulled the thinning mittens off the smaller one and stuffed them inside her coat pockets.

We all stared at the scene with horror and disbelief. I asked my KATUSA (Korean Augmentee to the US Army), a Korean National soldier who was attached to our unit, to come with me and translate for me. I kneeled in the snow and gingerly grasped the eldest girl by the shoulders and asked her why she was hitting her sister. The girl pulled away from me and put her back towards my face. I got up and walked in front of her and kneeled. This time I asked her if she loved her younger sister and if so why she had hit her in the face. The KATUSA again translated my message, and after a few minutes of questioning the eldest girl’s strong cold glare dissipated and she began to sob in my arms.

The crying girl blurted out a stream of words and left my hug to embrace her little sister. After a short conversation, I learned that the children were forced to stand outside in the twenty degrees below temperature to beg for MRE’s from the passing US Soldiers that trained near her home. Her parents were poor farmers and they supplemented their meager income by selling the Army rations on the black market. As I was listening to her story I started to see the telltale signs of neglect. I noticed that the exposed fingers were red and swollen from mild frostbite and the cheeks chapped from exposure. The hair was matted and dull flakes of dandruff were present in their hair and the horribly tight clothes barely kept them warm from the chilling mountainous winds of Korea.

So many questions fill my mind as I recount this story that happened so many years ago. I wonder what asshole would teach a little girl the meaning of the middle finger. I hope I made a better impact on her and that she has learned to cherish and love her sisters, despite the burden her parents placed on her shoulders as an 8 year old. I revisit this story from time to time and ponder on how this girl is doing. Would she have been better off adopted like me and suffer like I, or was she better off to have been kept with her poor family in Korea? The “once in a lifetime” trip to see my “homeland” taught me more about myself than I imagined possible. I hope this girl has grown up to be a strong, independent woman who has nothing but happiness.

The Janus Tree

Half dead tree

I once saw a tree at a distance and it was lush and green. This deciduous plant was full of life and filled with vibrant leaves. As I passed by the tree, I noticed the other side was scarred, withered and void of life. When I questioned people who lived near the tree, “What happened?” I was told the tree was struck by lightning and that one side had caught on fire. When viewed from the side with branches sprouting rich green leaves, one could not see the death and destruction that it hid on the other side.

This tree is a symbol of my family. My sister is my biological sibling, adopted with me into the same family. We are branches that extend from the same family tree. Today, people say I am the successful one. I have multiple degrees, I have travelled the world, I have 2 gorgeous, happy and healthy kids and I am financially stable. My sister, unfortunately, did not fare so well. She became a mother in her late teens. She married young. She suffered through multiple failed relationships. She lost custody of her children and gave them to the people who abused us as children. She didn’t use her scholarship to obtain a degree and is unable to hold a job. Many individuals would call her unsuccessful.

It wasn’t always this way. If you saw us as teens, I think 99% of people would have placed their betting chips on my sister to become the successful one. My sister’s accomplishments were impressive! She was on the A honor-roll, made it to State in track, she was a beauty pageant and the “popular” one at school. I was probably considered a sure loss. I wouldn’t have placed chips on myself either. I barely graduated high school receiving a 2.1 GPA. If it weren’t for an “A” in shop, I would have had to take my Senior year all over again. As for looks, my small waifish 112-pound frame was not built for any sports and I was that guy who never had a date all through high school. I guess you might have called me lame.

So how could a branch growing so well, get stunted so quickly? It’s due to the fact that in doing so well and reaching for the stars, her branches got struck by lightning. My short branches could never attract so much power. I had to learn to weather life’s storms the hard way. Possibly the bullying, the criticism and neglect I endured in silence toughened me up? I don’t know what happened to reverse our roles and make my little sister do so poorly in life.

It is so hard to watch the people we love suffer. It hurts to see them in pain. I wish the river of tears I’ve cried for my sister would somehow flow to her and make her sprout success and wash away her pain. But it doesn’t. I cannot live for her. She has to do that for herself. As some people can find only blame, I have strived to move on with my life. To make lemonade out of lemons. Strive to do better.

We may never know why one side of the tree bore fruit as the other side remained barren. We look to the obvious. Lightning strikes can cause the tallest of giants to become weak and wither away. The tree was subjected to destructive powers which stripped the tree of its protective bark, making it more vulnerable to disease.

In adoption, these protective layers come in the form of love, peace, and acceptance. We need these along with constant cultivation to rejuvenate our broken branches. I hope I can be that constant in her life to inspire her to heal and grow. She can sprout into the great person she was destined to be – that smart, talented and beautiful girl I knew not so long ago …  Maybe it’s inevitable. It’s been said that when 2 kids are adopted, one thrives and the other fails. I hope it doesn’t have to remain that way forever!

 

Who Am I?

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For many of us adoption is a cross we must bear alone. The deep pangs of loneliness, emptiness and sorrow lingers – even amongst the perfect backdrop of life filled with success and wealth. Even in a crowd, I can still be alone.

Who am I is not a question but rather a reoccurring nightmare that haunts me on a daily basis. No matter where I run. No matter how I hide. No matter what I do. It still remains. No matter how I change .. it has a way of finding me. It reminds me that I do not fit in. It casts shadows of self-doubt. It also fills me with shame.

I am that odd jigsaw puzzle that was placed in the wrong box. I am misplaced. Misshaped. I do not belong to the world that I was forced into and a foreigner to the world I seek to find. People call it my home land but it doesn’t feel like home to me. Strangers look at me as oddly as the place were I was raised. I look like them but looks are not everything.

They know I am different. Different language. Different mannerisms. Different smells. They know I am .. unlike them. As I pass through their space, it’s as though I am wearing a scarlet letter. During my childhood that letter is in the shape of my almond eyes, yellow complexion, and shiny black hair. I am reminded of the shame of who I am each time I stare at my own reflection. A shame for being different. Like I said. Who am I? Who am I? WHO AM I!