Tag Archives: acceptance

The Sisterhood

Summer brings sunshine, happiness (from the sunshine) and movies! This summer in the spirit of my daughter (aka #feminist9YO), I have vowed to see movies with female protagonists, or as she calls them, “movies with strong female characters.”

This week, it was The Heat.

*spoiler alert*

In it, Sandra Bullock’s FBI character reveals that she was a foster child and a young girl who had few friends. When this played on screen, I cringed. “Great, another Hollywood slap in the face for child welfare,” I thought. I had reported on the abuse adoption received in The Avengers here, and I braced myself.

However, this movie plays out quite differently. At the end of the movie, Melissa McCarthy’s character signs Bullock’s character’s old high school annual. When the audience was able to read it, her words took my breath away. In that moment, when McCarthy’s character refers to Bullock’s as her “sister,” I felt the acceptance that the character felt. My vitamin D-deprived psyche shed some negativity.

In the adoption/foster care world, we talk so much these days about loss … the loss of families, the loss of self, the loss of racial identity. I have cycled through this loss and am still circling back as my children cycle.

But this reminded me of the things that make me truly happy … relationships, and more specifically, my female relationships. The women in my life who have helped me through the loss, the hurt and the anger. My mother taught me the importance of friendships. Hers is the strongest I have ever known, and I model my friendships after hers.

My sister, while younger than me, has also enriched my life. I often find myself looking to her for guidance. She is my sounding board.

So many wonderful women have held me up and given me strength. I consider my “little sisters”: Jenny (my Frances Ha, another excellent movie), LaDawn, Nicole and Jessica. I cherish my relationship with Marlene, who I called my “other mother,” as she nurtured me when I began my life as an adult in the workforce.

There are my other sisters, Kathy and Kayla, and my twin sisters, Katherine and Adrienne, who have tutored me in all things Asian and helped me form my Feeling racial identity. They reassured me that my common childhood anxieties were theirs too.

All these women have cycled through my life, and while they are a big part of my life still, they live so very far from me. Our lives are so busy and finding the time to talk is a challenge. The Wisconsin winters and my move here lead me down a few dark paths, but now, another sister has entered.

This sister has a positive outlook. This sister has an appreciation of my feelings on adoption. This sister is also adopted. There is much to be learned from this next chapter of sisterhood. We all need a “sister.”

On the sunny side of life?

What a week it has been! I began my week helping at an adoption conference, WISE Up.

I met some incredible young adoptees … all third graders. The conference allows the kids to talk about their adoptions and feelings in a safe place. It also gives kids the tools to respond to outsiders’ questions. They can walk away, say, “It’s private,” share something about their adoption story, or educate others about adoption and adoptees.

As you can guess, I personally advocate the last two. I understand the need to walk away if a question is offensive, and many of the younger kids just need reassurance that they have the power to control the situation. Unfortunately, when acting out some of these scenarios, more often than not, the children chose walking away. Some scenarios just involved something as simple as someone asking if they were adopted.

That had me thinking … is adoption a negative thing? Why do young children feel negatively about their adoptions? One girl mentioned that she felt jealous of those who asked her why she was adopted. She wanted what she perceived as the normalcy of a birth family. Looking back, I had some of the same feelings. They were often rooted in experiences in public or at school. In the comfort of my home, I would feel reassured that my home was indeed the place for me.

Perhaps what needs to happen is a better atmosphere in which kids can feel proud of their adoptions. As children, we look for a clan. As I have written, there are many of us.

In this conference, I introduced the kids to Kid President. His effervescence, his optimism, his generosity … they speak to us. We watched his pep talk, and then I explained to them that not only was he in third grade, but he was also an adoptee. One little boy excitedly said, “We just watched an adoptee on an invention of an adoptee!” (Of course, I had told them about Steve Jobs too.)

In my childhood, I wasn’t aware of other adoptees. It took close to 40 years for me to understand that my experience was not unique. Adoption seems better supported than it was in the 1960s and 70s. 

But as Kid President says, “We can do gooder!”

 

 

 

 

Wait … I’m Asian?

Take yourself back to the most memorable day in your life. Remember the elation? Remember the sheer joy you felt? Remember those who surrounded you?

This past weekend, my boy and I felt that feeling again. A couple of years ago, on a cold weekend (Aren’t most days cold in Wisconsin?), with the man away, I set out a Times Square 1000-piece puzzle.  I said to the boy, “If we put this puzzle together before your father returns on Monday, I will take you to Times Square.”

He worked diligently and completed it. So, last weekend in celebration of his journey into teenhood, we met up with our best friends from Virginia, Adrienne and her son, Nick. Our relationship with this family is like a favorite pair of pajamas … immediately comfortable.

Adrienne picked us up from our hotel in DC, and we set off to Gettysburg to pick up Nick from a school trip. 

As you may recall, Adrienne and I are both Korean. We both married Englishmen who studied at Cambridge University. Essentially being of the same genetic background, we often joke about Asian myths. Of course, the jokes this time were rooted in truth. It took us well over an hour to exit DC, despite having paper Google directions and two iPhones running Apple Maps and Google Maps. Adrienne describes this fiasco here in her own blog.

We arrived in Gettysburg at a small motel to pick up Nick. The lobby was simple with a small “Retail Therapy” shop. This shop did not put us at ease with its Confederate flags flying. Another reality … uneasiness in rural areas where few Asians live.

This uneasiness was quickly dispelled as we made our way to the Big Apple. We arrived in New York City and immediately, Adrienne and I began documenting the boy’s trip! We were fulfilling the next Asian myth … obnoxious camera-slinging mothers.

These boys are no strangers to this behavior. My boy carried his camera around as well, and eventually the boys captured us.

Adrienne also writes in more depth about our photographic obsessions in her blog. We continued to document our travels around the city that never sleeps.

 

 

Back in the days of my youth, I hated the references by others, mostly Caucasian, to those Asian myths … good at math, poor drivers, obnoxious camera carriers. 

 

Today, I relish these commonalities with my Asian friends, and I am comfortable in my own skin. I see the same things in my son and daughter.  Their love of paper, Asian design, Asian foods and Asian trinkets emphasizes my connection to them. 

 

New York City was the perfect place for me to connect with our friends, my son and our Asian side. In that vast city, we discovered Pearl River, Chinatown, and Uniqlo.  Asian myths … bring ’em on!