So. Many. Ideas.

I noticed a recurring issue when I would schedule a time to be blogging or when I would sit down with my tablet or at a computer to write a blog post. My recurring issue is this: I have so many ideas yet I don’t know what to focus on. My site is called AdoptionEtc., so really, I can write about anything and tie it to adoption. But that can be paralyzing because what do I choose?

Do I choose to write about how adoption is a blessing?

Do I choose to write about trauma?

Do I write about life as an Asian-American raised in a White family?

What about writing about raising a half-Filipino?

What about being a stepparent?

Who is this blog for anyway? Is it for fellow adoptees? Is it for prospective adoptive parents or parents actively fostering or adopting their kids?

Do I speak to an audience that focuses more on racial injustice or do I speak to an audience that focuses on how we are all Americans?

I am a Christian. Am I writing to a Christian audience or to everyone?

Throughout my life, my narrative had to be right. My mom was a hero and I hid my pain. Because my story was hers and my new opportunities came at her cost.

My story has to glorify God. Does God still get the glory if I share that I am not all the way healed from my pain? Does God still get the glory if I share things I wish my mom would have known before adopting me? Because if I share those things, does that make adoptive parents who read this question their choice to adopt even though they believed they stepped out in faith?

I suppose my story is just like everyone else is origin story in that I suppose my story is just like everyone else’s origin story in that we are all messy human beings with lots of questions. Yet we all have access to the same loving God and we all are trying to figure this out together.

So it’s a post comes off polished and put together, that is part of my life or a piece that may be more fleshed out at the moment. If a post is rambling or raw, that’s a piece in progress.

This is a journey. My ever changing journey. My hope is that my readers learn something, are inspired by, or helped somehow by joining me.

Thankful for Adoption

I have about half an hour to write a blog post before the toddler and daddy get home.

This will be my third blog post within the same month woo hoo!

I am thankful for my adoption. My mom gave me a chance at life.

I am thankful that I knew with certainty that I was part of a family.

I am thankful that I was wanted by someone.

I am thankful that my mom had a small college savings account for me upon graduation from high school.

I am grateful that she believed in me enough to push me to succeed in school and in life.

I am thankful for my adoption because I finally had access to the healthcare that I needed.

I am thankful Mom could afford the really strong prescription lenses for my glasses. Mom is thankful that the lenses could be molded to fit in the cute pink frames she picked out for me when I was little.

I am thankful for my numerous ear nose and throat surgeries because I don’t get sinus and ear infections as much.

I am thankful for my adoption because it made me open to being a stepparent.

Looking snazzy on the light rail
My guys! Brotherly love!

Daniel was the first kid that I carried in my heart. My first parenting experiences were of being a stepmom before I became a bio mom.

He is looking (and acting) more like Bri-Bri every day. I’ll take it – fart noises as the dinner table and all – if that means he has another adult in his life that cares for him and loves him.

I am thankful even for the hard parts about adoption.

I am thankful that dealing with a disability has made me more empathetic to others with disabilities.

I am thankful that I can empathize with Daniel if he ever says that he wishes his life story was simple like other kids’ life stories.

I am thankful that I have learned a lot about coping and that humans are pretty darn resilient with the right resources as I’ve worked through different issues around my adoption (see other posts)

I am thankful that I have this blog to share such thoughts in hopes that it helps other adoptees and their families understand the full adoption experience.

I am thankful that I am adopted.

I am thankful that so many people have helped and continue to help me heal.

I am thankful that I am loved.

Your first home

Little man will be leaving his first home in 1 week. We are moving to a new place so our place can get renovated. We are also going from a 3 bedroom to a two bedroom place because rent is expensive.

My little guy is moving out of his first little home he has known, but he has been so lucky to live there for so long.

In contrast, I did not experience this kind of stability as a toddler. By the time I was 26 months old, I had lived in two orphanages, one foster home, and had extended stays in the hospital. At 21 months old, I finally flew from Manila to snowy Denver, Colorado. I snuggled into my mom’s arms before she buckled me into the car to drive me to my permanant home.

My little man has lived in one place for his entire life. My little man has experienced stability his entire life. Every morning he enjoyed cuddles with his mom or dad. He had a steady supply of milk and formula in the fridge. Later, he could ask for crackers or cookies as he wished. My little man has never wondered if he had a home because he came home from day care to the same place every night. Every night, he could lay his little head down next to mommy or in his crib and feel safe and secure.

This is a gift that we have given him and I do hope we can teach him to appreciate it and not take it for granted.

Immigrant Adoptee

I had this nice long “How the view of my adoption story changed throughout the years” post to kick off November as adoption month, but in honor of the midterm elections, I’ll write a burning post I’ve had about immigration.

In the year 2000, I saw the line of people waiting outside the United States embassy in Manila, Philippines. My mom and I were part of a Motherland Tour group hosted by our adoption agency. When I saw that line, I knew I was one of the lucky ones because someone in America spoke for me. While I waited for a home, my mom filled out paperwork to make me hers and to make me a citizen of the United States.

As an immigrant, I have access to healthcare that many people in the world go without. I have a strong prescription that corrects my eyes the best it can while many around the world do not have access to basic eye care.

My son is a child of an immigrant. When I hear or read stories about parents crossing the borders with their children, I know they want what my child has: a childhood in America that gave them more than what they had in their country of origin.

To the immigrants waiting in line, I had to wait in line. My mom had to pay my way. Some of you have to do this. Others of you do come across the border quickly, but in exchange, you live life in fear.

To the immigrants coming to America, however you get here, you come because you want my life. You want to be the immigrant that achieves an education and gets a middle-class job. you want to be the immigrant who raises your children to not know hunger, fear, sickness from lack of medical care, or any other problem you are escaping from your country.

Our country is not perfect. I am not perfect in opening my arms to you. I sometimes resent you if you found a home here without waiting because I had to wait. My mom had to wait. My mom had to hire a lawyer and go to the state and federal courts to complete the adoption paperwork. I expect the same from you.

Yet, I look at my own story and my own son who will be a child of an immigrant and I understand why you come. Why you wait in line. Why you cross the border and live in the shadows of the legal system. You want hope for yourself and your children. You want what my mom gave me. You want a chance at the life I am living in America.

Identity Politics sorta works for me?

I’m a paralegal because I always thought current events and government was interesting.  As a kid I enjoyed learning about America because this was the country where I was given a chance at a better life. Also, my grandparents both served in the Army during World War II so patriotism was a large part of both my mom and my upbringings.

Growing up I would have probably identified as a democrat because I believed the government should help people if they were having problems.  Later I realized that government had its own problems. When my uncle graduated from Metro with his BS in Computer Science, the Mayor of Denver spoke.  At first I thought, “How cool is it to be in the presence of the Mayor!” Later I thought, “Hey wait, he talks a lot about his accomplishments.  Isn’t he here to congratulate the grads such as my uncle?” My uncle broke the news to me that politicians start out with good motives, but they have to campaign to keep their jobs. Therefore, selfishness is inherent in government. My uncle enjoyed poking holes in my ideological bubble, but he made me think critically about what I believed.  So I considered myself a moderate when I first registered to vote.

In college I joined a Christian college group and to belong and conform, I thought I had to go full on Evangelical Christian Values Voter.  Not wanting to lose my new found friends and not wanting to have my beliefs go against God’s commands, I went full on Christian Republican. It was… interesting and my college friends who believed differently than I did put up with me.

As an adoptee, I needed that sense of belonging that my college group gave me. I needed that sense of solid identity, and I needed to feel like I belonged in my Christian family (the church members often referred to each other as brothers and sisters). Wait, haven’t I said that already? Oh yes, in the Conform to Belong post. That’s why I didn’t question a lot of my switch until I moved from Fort Collins to Denver.

Not to get into a political debate, but I found myself swinging back toward the center. My disability keeps me from having some jobs (any that require driving and I probably shouldn’t go into surgery haha), I take public transit, so yes, I think government safety nets and government organizations are good where they need to be. As a paralegal, I also know government can equal a ton of paper pushing, so it really shouldn’t get too out of hand. Also, yes, government should protect people’s rights to safety and access to fairness in things like housing, safety-net programs, employment, education, etc. because people are naturally selfish and we all tend to carry our prejudices and we treat others with our own assumptions in hand whether we admit it or not.

Ah, I mentioned my own personal experiences in that last paragraph.  Well, thanks to my Transracial Adoption Perspectives Facebook Group , I learned about terms such as People of Color (POC) defined as anyone not white, and the politics of fighting against oppression that we as non-whites have experienced.  I found myself delving into identity politics.  Yes it put a voice to the feelings I felt when I experienced prejudice.  Yes, it reminded me that not everyone experiences America the same way.  It reminded me to show compassion to those I would look down upon because yes, I do have my prejudices because I grew up in a white middle class home.

However, I don’t want to be the victim of my own life.  This is why I stopped blogging for a bit. I didn’t want every post to turn into, “I’m not white so my life actually sucks in America even though I’m adopted and I have opportunities I never would’ve had and I am currently living the typical suburban middle class working mom life.”) I don’t want to look at the world like it’s out to get me. That’s just super depressing and I have enough in my past to sort out, so I don’t want to add that to it.

So I’m back to the middle. Yes, I’ve experienced people doing or saying stupid stuff because they made assumptions about me because I’m Asian. Yes, I do experience moments of racial tension where someone makes an offhand comment about race that hurts, or someone does go out of their way to tease me based on race, and yes, I do get mad. However, I have seen our country progress. It’s not perfect, and sometimes people say stuff that make me think race relations might be set back a bit, but looking on the bright side helps me see the good in other people and keep my sanity.

I know life in America is not perfect for everyone, but I see the opportunities we are given here, and I want to do my part to make it better.

Which Family?

The picture above is of my guys at the History Colorado Center, formerly known as the Colorado History Museum. We went on an outing when I had the day off but Bri-Bri had to work.

A few weeks ago my guys (minus Daniel) visited my mom. She wanted all of us to take a picture together that she could use for her Christmas cards. She got a picture of herself with Matthew and I.

Earlier this year, we all went on a family vacation to visit the Abraham relatives (Bri-Bri’s dad’s side of the family) and Simonson relatives (Bri-Bri’s mom’s side of the family) in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

At one point, we were all wearing our Wisconsin shirts at the zoo in Omaha, Nebraska.

A family near us thought we were from Wisconsin and started talking college football with my brother in law. This Denverite girl just smiled and nodded haha.

All these family things got me thinking about which family I am from. The obvious answer is all of them, but when do I focus on my identity in each one?

I’m a mom to my boys. I’m an extra mom to one and a legal and biological one to another. I’m a spouse to my Bri-Bri. I am part of the Abrahams and Simonson families through marriage. I won’t cringe if Grandma Rosie buys Matthew a Packer’s jersey. And I have grown accustomed to generous servings of ham, potatoes, and various dishes cooked in butter and cheese that my mother in law cooks for Abrahamic gatherings.

I grew up in Denver. At the Colorado History Museum History Colorado Center (seriously, why did they change it?), I explained to Daniel that the Barrel Man was a thing. An awesome symbol of Denver Bronco Pride. And heck yeah, I was proud to show him that little nugget of Denver history. Pa (Jesse O. Sutherland) was born in Colorado Springs, Grandma was an army brat, but all seven of their children were raised in Denver. And everyone except Uncle Jess was born in Denver. I consider myself a naturalized Colorado native even t though I wasn’t born here. When I visit my mom, grandma, or aunt, I remember family gatherings, life growing up, etc. and I’m reminded of my Sutherland roots.

When I read to Matthew, I know my mom’s and grandparents’ emphasis on education is what drives me to encourage him to say words and to want to read rather than watch TV.

When I look into Matthew’s Asian eyes, I’m reminded of the family I never met. I’m reminded of my family in the Philippines. I have no legal connection to this family, but they give me my genetics and they are part of the culture and country of my birth. Matthew will learn about the Sutherland and Abraham families. He will grow up a Colorado native and a Broncos fan. But both of us will have to work at connecting him to the culture of my birth. It will be complicated, but it will enrich his story.

Uncertainty and Abandonment

Within the past two months, hubs and I have had to figure out where we’re living starting in November and childcare for the toddler. Tot’s grandma was our primary childcare provider, but due to health issues, she can no longer continue in that role.

Thankfully, we do have an apartment lined up beginning in November, but having two very large unknowns happen at once really stressed me out.

I’m sure these two things would stress any working mother out, but for me, this uncertainty made my anxiety shoot nearly through the roof.

Apparently anxiety has always been a part of my life. This article on trauma, brain development, and anxiety mirrors countless other articles written over the past decade because researchers have concluded that those of us that have experienced trauma are more susceptible to anxiety. We are always wondering what’s next because we’ve experienced real fear and danger.

I spent hours alone in a crib in an orphanage.

I was sick and only had medical staff to hold me when they had a free moment.

I moved between two orphanages and a foster home before I turned 18 months old.

So, when I fear that I’ll be left alone, that I’ll be abandoned, that I’ll have no one or nothing, that really scares me.

That triggers the anxiety response.

I know I’m loved by my husband and he provides for us. I know I have a stable job. I know I’ll do everything I can to provide for my family. But the fear is real too.

Thankfully he knows that I need some time to myself when I get overwhelmed. Thankfully, he listens when I need to voice my fears. Together we work through my anxiety. And I know that because of my past, this will be a lifelong struggle.

I started out life with a lot of trauma. That will never go away. But I remember that love came into my life, and the love of people around me help get me through.

Obligatory Father’s Day Post

Daniel as the Flash with Super Dad

Yesterday Bri-Bri and Daniel went to Comicon. Every year I get them tickets as their Christmas present so they can have their annual “Geek Out Man-Time” day. I was really happy that Comicon was on Father’s Day this year because Bri-Bri enjoys being a dad to both boys and he could spend the day sharing his love of all things geek with Daniel who is quickly becoming his geek apprentice.

Today I made French Toast for all my guys after Bri-Bri opened his Father’s Day present of 2 work shirts and a Deadpool t-shirt. All three present were picked out by Daniel and paid for by me haha.

Father’s Day is the day I live vicariously through the boys as they celebrate with Bri-Bri. I didn’t have a dad. I had a grandpa aka “Pa” and I would wish him Happy Father’s Day, but it’s not the same. It comes close, but not the same as having a dad in the same house as your mom day in and day out. Daniel has that partially with Bri-Bri and Vincent seems like a decent stepdad for him.

Focusing on helping Bri-Bri and Daniel celebrate Fathers Day dampens the sadness I sometimes feel on this day. Father’s Day was just another reminder that I was different and not like other kids. Some of my friends didn’t have dads in their homes, but many of them were raised by their moms due to divorce or death of a spouse. Some of my friends lived with their moms most of the time and saw their dads on the weekends. Our stories were similar, but not the same.

Over the years, God has used this in my life. I’ve shared with others how thinking of God as my heavenly Father helps fill that gap, but some of the wound will always remain here during my life on this earth. I remind Daniel that he is lucky he has a dad, and that I know he wishes he could have his dad around all the time, it’s still special he has such a loving dad. I’ll remind Matthew that growing up with a dad is a gift. And I can sympathize with others in my situation that don’t have their fathers in their lives.

Everyday Life

If you regularly check this blog, you have probably come to realize that I do not post on a regular basis. If you were to check my calendar, you would see that I have scheduled in blogging times that I rarely adhere to.

Sometimes I find that I run out of things to write about adoption. Sometimes it seems too simple. I have two families: a biological one and an adoptive one. I have two nationalities: I’m an American citizen born in the Philippines. I have two races: I am an Asian, more specifically a Filippina, but I was raised in a white family.

Well, that about sums it up and now I can go about my daily life.

Except that adoption touches everyday things too.

I wake up and do as much of my morning routine as I can before the baby wakes up. As he bounces on his crib mattress calling “Mommy!” He looks at me with his Asian eyes – my eyes – and I’m reminded that we share physical features. This is something I didn’t share with my mom. I settle baby on my lap and I’m reminded that my mom opened her arms and lap to me when I had no one. Baby is 20 months – the same age I was when I came over from the Philippines, so I am struck by the contrast in our experiences. At age 20 months, he expects mama or daddy to check in on him if he cries, if he asks for food, wants to play, or has a stinky diaper. At age 20 months I was in a foster home and had only been there for eight months. Consistent care was still something I was probably getting used to.

After I kiss the baby, my hubs Bri-Bri, and my stepson (if he’s here on a weekday) goodbye, I get on the light rail to go to work. I’m thankful for my job and I’m glad I can share the responsibility of providing for our family with Bri-Bri. Sometimes I wonder if I should be doing something more, other times I think “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” I have a decent salary, the job uses my skills, and the work environment is great! Yet I’m burdened with the idea that my life should be more. I was given a chance to live the American Dream. I was given a chance to be somebody, so why am I just another suburban mom with a desk job?

But then I pause.

I’m an American suburban college educated mom with a middle class job. People line up at American embassies in the Philippines to apply for work and citizenship in America in hopes that someday they can attain an American middle class lifestyle. There are children in the Philippines that need their eyes corrected so that they can read textbooks, blackboards, and computer screens if they even want a chance of getting educated and get out of poverty. There are children that succumb to chronic illnesses or malnourishment and don’t even make it to adulthood. I could have been one of those children without eye care or healthcare. I could have been a child that didn’t make it. With this perspective, my ordinary American life suddenly becomes extraordinary, and I’m reminded not to take it for granted. I’m reminded to be thankful and to use what I have to give back to others.

I sit at my desk and do my paralegal/bookkeeper/billing staff job. I read the attorneys’ notes when I create outlines of clients’ Wills and Trusts. Some clients write in their intake forms or tell the attorneys that they have adopted children. I wonder if they think the law will treat their adopted children differently when it comes to inheritance. Other clients leave gifts to organizations that do international economic development. I smile knowing their gift will help families somewhere become more economically stable and those parents may not have to make the decision to relinquish their children to give them a better life. Sometimes when I’m paying the firm bills as part of bookkeeping, I make a mental note to check my automatic bill pay to see if my sponsorship fee for Children International went through. I don’t have a ton of assets like our clients, but I am glad the little bit that comes out of my check each month helps my sponsored child in the Philippines. It gives her a chance at a good future.

I go home and have an evening with my guys. My stepson is here now and I make sure to give him a kiss and ask about his day and not just spend time with the baby. I want him to know that the baby didn’t take his place in my heart because birth is not the only way to become a parent. My guys are goofballs and they have the same smile, the same giant forehead, and some of the same mannerisms. Bri-Bri is passing down his love of superheroes to both the boys evidenced by the baby pushing a toy truck driven by a plastic Hulk while yelling, “Hulk Truck! Hulk Truck!” He stops and wants to color with mommy. I pass down my appreciation for creativity that I got from my mom as we color a picture together. My mom’s legacy of snuggles on her lap around a storybook is passed down when I snuggle the baby on my lap and read books or read the same book five times (at his insistence).

Baby is in bed, his clothes are in the wash, and I have a chance to blog. Nothing stood out to me because I’ve just been engrossed in my daily routine. But as I thought further, my adoption story, my two nationalities, and my two families can be nowhere if I don’t think about them much or everywhere if I realize how they influence every aspect of my life.

Safe Space

I haven’t written about my adoption as much because I didn’t have a safe place to explore it until now. I’m part of the Facebook group Transracial Adoption Perspectives and I joined as an adult adoptee about 6 months ago.

In this group, I’m not afraid to discuss the unique experience of living as an Asian person who grew up in a white household. I am able to share when I was affected by prejudice and when I reacted to something from a white person’s perspective. I’m able to admit that I had to sometimes remind myself that I was truly a part of my family because I didn’t look like anyone, but I was grateful that they chose me as a daughter, granddaughter, niece, cousin, etc.

This Face group is a safe space.

This group is also a revealing space. I become more aware of how racism might have affected my experiences and how I very much see the world as a person raised in a white middle class family. Some of that is hard because I realize I have not treated people right or secretly had judgemental thoughts such as, “At least I grew up in a better part of town.” “At least I’m part of the model minority (Asian)” “At least I was educated…”

I’m learning to embrace the complexities of being born in the Philippines but growing up in white middle class America. My hope is that I can use these experiences to encourage other adopteee, educate adoptive parents, and love people better.