Ordinary Day

Today is a snow day and it’s an ordinary day.  I’m home with the toddler who is snuggling on the couch while I type this.  Spongebob is on in the background.  The tot is wearing his new cloth training pants. He is on his way to being potty-trained.

I have learned not to take ordinary days for granted.  I remind myself not to take my tot’s milestones for granted because I was not where he was.  When I was his age, I was still catching up in development and having at least 20 hours of OT / PT / Speech.  My mom still worries about my tot meeting his milestones because she worried so much about me meeting mine.  I am grateful that my little guy is developing like a typical toddler. I am happy for his ordinary days because when I was his age, doing ‘ordinary’ toddler things required an extraordinary effort.


A reminder of loss with every victory

Something got me thinking while I was watching The Mandalorian.

Our main character, Mando, watches the welder in his Mandalorian village cast a new shoulder plate from the Beskar metal he received as a “retainer payment” by his contact at the bar. As the welder hammers this new piece of armor into place, the clangs of her hammer against the metal take his mind back to the gunfire and/or explosions heard in his flashbacks to his childhood. We are transported to his memory where his parents place him in what looks like an air-raid shelter during a battle in an urban setting. It is assumed that someone from the Mandalorian tribe finds him and he is raised on their planet with their customs. We assume, as the episodes go on, that we will learn more about his past through these flashbacks.

These flashbacks have, so far, all taken place in the welder’s shop. As Mando earns more raw material from his missions, the welder creates new pieces of armor. Again, each time she hammers a new piece, he flashes back to his war-torn country of origin.

As Mando progresses in his victories as a mercenary, it opens up another part of his past. Part of it is a clever narrative device to tell his back-story, but another part of it resonates with me.

As I go through life and see what I’ve gained: an education, a career, a spouse, a stepson, and a son, the more I see what I lost. I lost the chance to bond with a parent from day one. I lost experiences like someone celebrating me rolling over, sitting up, etc. that most kids experience in infancy. I didn’t have proper medical care until I came to the US.

I am grateful for the victories I have in life, but as I reflect on those, the losses become real. As I tell my stepson that I know he works hard at school through his mild learning-disability, the loss of having the burden of feeling that my own disability caused mother pain is highlighted. As my toddler went through his first 18 months of life, every hug and every kiss he had since day 1 reminded me that I did not have that until my mom took me in to my forever home.

Yes, I move forward, but I can’t escape my past. Do I let it wear me down, or do I let God reshape and transform the pieces so I can move forward, accomplish more, and move toward being more whole?

Tell my mom to send me back

So…. this happened over the weekend. Our President told four members of Congress to go back to their countries. They are all citizens. Only one representative was not born here. Granted, he inserted himself into a disagrement between these four Congresswomen and their boss, but he looked at their foriegn sounding names and brown skin and told them to go home.

I’d like to see him tell my mom to send me home. Would he? If I worked for the Washington Post and asked him a question he didn’t like or if I was a paralegal on Capitol Hill and somehow got on his bad side, would he only see that I’m from the Philippines and tell me to go home?

If he did, I’d tell him that a Colorado-born white Christian American citizen spent a lot of money and time to adopt me and make me a citizen. I’d tell him to tell my mom to her face to send me home.

Then I’d step back and let my mom yell at him.

But seriously, I’m concerned that the leader of my country has such a low opinion of people that he doesn’t see as fully American.

A Deep Need for Love

My bank account was debited for my annual WordPress subscription this month reminding me that I have not been using my money’s worth on a regular basis.  I seriously need to get better at blogging more regularly.

Now that the toddler can keep himself entertained in the living room while I type at the dining room table, my posts will be more frequent.

Recently, I was having a conversation with someone from college and we were talking being part of a group that we didn’t realize had really unhealthy group dynamics.  This was a church group, so we thought it was legit. Many are, but some aren’t.

I longed to be part of something.

I longed to be accepted and loved.

I longed to make a difference.

This group gave me the promise of all of that.  This group promised that if I did the right things, said the right things, acted in a certain way, God would truly accept me – not just merely die to redeem my soul  – but count me as one of the good kids.  Doing things His way means that His sacrifice for me was not in vain.  I believed saying and doing the right things within the group would land me one of the cute Christian college boys that I had my eye on.  Because I wanted to get married.  I wanted that deep connection with someone.  I was taught that for women, marriage was what we were made for, so I would not be complete until I was married.

I wanted to feel complete because I had a giant hole in me for my whole life.

The hole of being abandoned as an infant.

The hole from insufficient emotional care I received in an institutional orphanage.

The hole of unresolved trauma as I grew up.

This group could fill it so I didn’t think anything bad about it.

I am not part of that group, but not because I was mad at them. I left to pursue a career change.  I only saw the negative influences of the group once I had some distance.

That got me thinking about how else can holes left by loss and trauma be filled? Can they be filled with entertainment, by success, by a spouse, by children? These things can’t fill us completely, and in some cases, if we use a person to fill that hole, our need takes away from the other person.

Only when we are truly on the path to being healed can we find a group, a spouse, a person that we can truly healthily love.  Only when we are on that path to being healed can we recognize what is true love and what is harmful.

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.