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.

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.

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.

Adoption and parenting perspectives

I’ve been away from my blog for a while because a certain 19-month-old has kept me busy. I also work full-time and do what I can to tidy up after the baby, the husband, and stepson. Yes I am the only female in the house.

Anyway, during this time I have actually thought about my adoption and I think my adoption has impacted how I interact with the baby. For example, I have embraced the practice of Babywearing ever since my C-section scar was healed enough not to be irritated by having a small baby in a carrier pushing on it.

(This photo was from a memory book my mom made for me for baby’s 1st birthday. Thanks, mom!)

Not only does baby wearing make life so much more convenient and is much less hassle when you need to take baby on public transit, but I am reminded that I’m giving the baby a closeness that I lacked for the first 18 months of my life. I don’t take for granted baby snuggles because I know that I missed. them as a baby, and yes, I do feel a bit of sadness that I had nobody during that time.

Also, I’m grateful for the things the baby has as part of a middle class American family. He has his own bed, eats three full meals a day, and has enough food that he can spare dropping a few Cheerios and crackers on the floor. He has had access to medical care even before he was born, and his parents and pediatrician regularly monitor his development. He has stability. He knows he goes to grandmas house while mommy and daddy work and he knows he will see both of us when we come home.

I think the fact that I didn’t have these things for the first 18 months my life, I don’t take for granted what he has and I hope to tell him when day how lucky he is. I don’t want to do it in a way that makes him feel guilty for his privilege, but in a way that encourages him to pay it forward.

Being adopted also reminds me to be more sensitive to my stepson. Even when I was pregnant, people would ask me if I was happy that I finally would have a child “of my own” God gave me grace to help me gently remind them that my first child is my step child and yes I was excited that I would be a part of this new child’s life from birth. I don’t want my stepson to feel lesser because he is not biologically mine because I remember feeling like people thought I wasn’t really my mom’s daughter because we didn’t share the same DNA. When my step son comes over, I do my best to make time for him and ask him what is going on in his life. I hope I continue to show him that he matters just like his baby brother matters to me.

It’s time to tell my story

Okay so when did I get serious about telling my adoption story? When I was in my college church youth group, we’d sometimes have opportunities to tell the story of how we saw God’s and throughout our lives.   Everyone was always intrigued when I went because my story took a really long time to tell.  I felt like it was a miracle I still had enough brain cells to spare to attend college, considering the infections and undernourishment I experienced in the Philippines. The desire to learn about both medicine and child development was influenced by my complex medical history and my adoption story. These interests influenced where I chose to study and what major I chose in college.

Also in college, I mentored this 4 year old girl adopted from China through a program set up by the Asian / Pacific Student services center. I talked to her mom about my story but I first shared my story with a large group when I spoke to a panel of prospective adoptive parents during my senior year. An adoption agency had contacted the Asian student group to set this up. I was grateful that I could talk to these parents about what life was like as an international adoptee so they could better understand the children they would eventually bring into their families.

Not much happened in between college and 2016 in terms of sharing my story to large groups. However, in about January-ish of 2016, I went to a Women’s Bible Study evening at my current church because a friend was speaking. I randomly (or provincially?) next to someone who was just starting a support group for foster and adoptive parents. Of course, she was excited to talk to me when I told her that I was an adoptee.

She asked me to come to the group where, once again, I shared my story. The parents seemed really interested and asked a ton of questions.  I still attend her group, as my schedule allows, so parents can pick an adoptee’s brain.  Joining this group helped me get serious about telling my story because it’s really seemed like people needed to hear it and they were learning from it.

The most important factor in my ability to share my story more freely was I was becoming more comfortable in my own skin and be more comfortable thinking about my story and telling it to other people. The next logical step was to start this blog.