Why Can’t I Visit Them?

It has finally happened. The questions I have been dreading for the last four years. My daughter has started asking why she can’t see her “other parents”, her biological parents. I partly blame myself since I have been talking about the fact that I have most likely found my birth father in Korea. The thought of explaining to her why she is unable to have any contact with her biological parents is something that has weighed heavy on my heart.

Recently it has been brought to my attention that I claim to be an “adoptive” parent however I am not on my daughter’s paperwork. This is true, and if I have misled you in any way, you have my apologies. However it does not change the fact that paperwork does not define a family, that is exactly what it is, just a piece of paper. Throughout my life, I know families whether, through law or otherwise who aren’t on each other’s papers, that doesn’t make them any less family. If you ask my daughter she will tell you I am her mother. To HER I am her mother, that’s all that I need.

Since she has come into our care, we have always kept things at her level. We try to explain different situations in a way that she will understand. When the topic of biological parents would come up, she typically would use the term “other parents”, a term she continues to use. It what makes sense in her head. Eventually, I know there will come a day where we have to the hard conversation about why she can’t see them and the circumstances that lead her to come into our lives.

From the very beginning, being adopted, I already know the type of questions that she is going to ask. I know the type of information she is going to ask. As of right now, she continues to have a relationship with her maternal grandmother, however eventually I know that will not be enough. As she continues to watch me walk down my journey, there are going to be a lot of similarities and differences. There will be questions that I won’t be able to answer and ones that I never thought she would ask.

Over the last four years, I have gone over and over in my head the type of information that I would want in her position and go from there. Like any good parent, I have wanted to do everything possible without hurting her to shield her from her previous circumstances. There are experiences that a two-year-old should never be exposed too, words that they should never hear and situations they should never be placed in. I know that one day, I will have to answer the hard questions and walk beside her as she slowly starts to discover the truth. My only hope is that I can be the mom she needs and use my experience and journey to help her when she walks through the valleys.

Always,

J

Toeing a Fine Line

Over the last few years and more recently the last couple of months, I have added a piece to my identity. There were times where I would put other’s needs first. It was my thought that doing so meant that I was selfless, that it made me a good person. As the years wore on I led myself to a place where I lacked self-respect, when I put other’s needs before mine, it didn’t make me selfless but rather passive. Slowly as time wore on, I found that it would become a lifestyle rather than a choice.

It has taken a long hard tear filled journey to get where I am today. There are times where I still continue to lack any sort of self respect and my first thought it to lay down and let other’s needs, goals and priorities become more important than my own. I have learned that it is self-respect not selfishness that allows your to put your goals and priorities above others.

I realize that by saying this, that I may appear to some as selfish. There is a difference between being selfish and having self respect. Being selfish is when you constantly think about yourself, meaning that in any situation including ones where we are hurting others, we only think about ourselves. How is this different then self respect? It appears as if these two concepts are the same. Self respect is when we choose to make our dreams, goals and aspirations a priority. I will admit these two sound very similar, however when people choose to make the conscious decision to go and hurt other people because they are hurting, that is selfish.

Hurt people hurt people. The concept is that simple. When we hurt our initial selfish nature is to stop our hurt by hurting those around us. There have been times where I have done this in my life, a pattern that I would not rather continue. It continues to be a long journey, to choose to look inward instead of lash outward when I am hurting. It is only when we love ourselves enough to look inward and reach into our depths to heal old woulds or even fresh wounds.

Have enough self respect to reach inward, to look into the depths that we hide from others and choose to love ourselves enough not to lash out when we are hurt. Respect yourself and be confident in who you are and not what others may say about you. I am not perfect, I have never claimed to be. I have only stepped into this new identity and become more confident in who I am. I will not be defined by what other people may say about me, that is not self love or self respect. You are not the opinions of others. Remember that.

Always,

J

Adoption Awareness Month

I have shared this picture before, not recently but I feel since it is “National Adoption Awareness Month” it needs to be shared again. Both as an adoptee and adoptive parent, this quote resonates with me on every level. Like everything and everyone, there are vast varieties of feelings adoptees have with regard to adoption. There are “angry” adoptees, adoptees that have no intention of finding their roots, others choose to address any and all issues that have come from their adoption.

Every year I would proudly support National Adoption Awareness Month, a month that I would celebrate my adoption and the pride I have from it. Which I still do, however, there are a lot more issues that usually aren’t addressed. When I was younger, I always wanted to foster/adopt, mostly because I wanted to give a child the same opportunity that I was given. I still have that desire, however, I feel as if I have come full circle and have been able to see adoption as a whole in a completely new light.

When I was younger, I wanted to adopt a child of a different race, I never really knew the reason why but looking back from where I am today, it was because I didn’t want to be the only non-white face in a crowd. I thought that my entire life I would constantly be in the minority and I used to have a sense of loneliness that came with it. Growing up there were other adoptees, several in fact but all of us never really would hang out or even talk about what it felt like to be adopted. Maybe it was because we never knew how much adoption can impact someone.

Once I started fostering my now daughter my viewpoint started to change. During the adoption process I found myself wanting to ensure she would be connected to her roots, even if that just meant appropriate pictures I could find on Facebook or anything really. These were some things that I never had and I wanted to make sure some of her eventual questions would be answered. It was then that I ran across this quote.

I never really looked at it from another perspective. I had just always assumed that I was given up for adoption because that was the “best choice” at the time. However after speaking with some adoptees, ones who have reunited with their biological families, mostly Korean adoptees, I know that some were relinquished through coercion or some were taken away and given up by extended family members. These ideas had never crossed my mind. I guess I had always had a rosy picture of adoption, at least until I met my daughter and walked through part of her journey.

There is a weight that comes with adoption, for the children and the parents. I know that I will be questioned as her mother because we are different races and that there will be some questions that I may not be able to answer. There is a weight that comes with knowing all of that and knowing that she will have her own unique set of struggles. I know that I cannot protect her from everything and that eventually, she will have to walk on her own journey through adoption as I have.

Some adoptees have used National Adoption Awareness Month to advocate to keep biological families together. I am neither pro or anti-adoption, my situation is not the same as all other adoptees, we can relate on similar feelings and have a “me too” moment but our journeys and struggles are not all the same.

Instead of using this month as a way to advocate one way or another, I want to use it to bring other adoptees’ voices to light. It’s time to listen about the impact that it has on us, that some of us were not adopted into loving homes, some are estranged from their adoptive families, others have suffered neglect and abuse, some international adoptees have even been deported because their adoptive parents never completed the naturalization paperwork. These are the voices that you need to hear. It is their stories that matter. Not all adoptions have happy endings some are short stories and some tragedies and those stories need to be told.

Anxiety Never Stops

I know it’s been a while since I published a new blog. Honestly, I was just enjoying the feedback and the pre-orders starting to come in. I thought today would be a good day to write again. This afternoon I will get to see an uncle (first cousin once removed, I think) in the first time in a very long time. Frankly, I barely remember him and I guess the last time I saw him I was very young most likely younger than my kids are now. This morning after my kids and their dad left for the morning, I was alone in the house and frantically started getting dinner prepped and looking around to see what else needed to be clean before family showed up.

This used to be one of the biggest stressors, family visiting. If the laundry was neatly put away, my kids’ rooms weren’t clean, or the house hadn’t been dusted, vacuumed and the kitchen was a mess then my anxiety would have kicked into high gear and I would have started to panic. This morning the kitchen had been cleaned, the floors freshly swept, although not washed, the entryway swept, hallway swept and the “guest” bathroom cleaned. There are two baskets of laundry that still haven’t been put away and even thought there are dishes in the sink they are drying and waiting to be put away.

As I was preparing dinner for this evening I started to go over different topics of conversation I had in running through my head and already had my defenses lined up. I had created a list of topics to avoid and readied excuses or explanations for why these topics were to be avoided or why certain things weren’t done that had been “expected” of me. That is when it hit me. The expectations I was holding myself too were all in my head. My family wasn’t coming to make sure that the house was clean or that the laundry was folded or that my kids always made sure their rooms were clean. Trust me when I saw that the house is generally clean, however, I am not a fan of dusting and only do so when necessary.

I’m sorry to disappoint some of you, but I don’t weekly dust my house, vacuum or make sure that laundry is always done, folded and put away. That’s not me. It’s never been me. Now don’t think that I have dishes with caked on food laying around or garbage that hasn’t been taken about because that’s the case either and that’s not the point.

The point is that for the first time I was able to recognize that after years of being held to ridiculous standards and causing myself unnecessary stress, I finally called myself out on it. It was the first time in a long time that I finally got to recognize it. My home may not be perfect or Pottery Barn worthy but I know that family isn’t coming to see if their expectations have been met and visit me. I get to spend time with my family because I’m me because they are coming to visit me and not have any preconceived expectations. It is one of the best feelings ever.

The anxiety isn’t going to stop, but now I know that I will be able to recognize and control it better than before. It’s taken a lot of work and money, honestly investing in my therapist was one of the best decisions I made. To be on the other side of anxiety and the mix of therapy and medication I am so much happier. Without either of those, I am not sure where I would be or who I would be. The anxiety no longer controls me and for that I’m thankful. **Reminder Pre-Orders for my debut book, Ode to Bermuda Grass: My Journey through Grief, Loss and Adoption** are still available** Click Here to order.

Always,

J

Stronger than Catastrophe

A friend of mine shared a video on Facebook. It started with the statement that every parent needs to watch this. Naturally in my half awaken state I began to watch the video. WOW, just wow. After watching this very short video I was completely inspired. All if it resonated with me which meant of course that I immediately had to post it on Instagram. Coincidentally I had found a meaningful quote, probably on Pintrest I wanted to use. I have included the link to the video here. Trust me, it’s worth the 3 min.

It begins with explaining why we love our children, they we love them because they are fragile and dependent on us. Which continuing through the video is explains that we as parents need to teach our children to be strong. We teach our children that when we fall, we dust ourselves off and continue with what we are doing. It didn’t hit me until I heard that, it made me realize that this entire time throughout my childhood and the way I have raised my children, I am teaching them to be strong.

The older gentleman speaking is Jordan Peterson, in the video he says, “It’s not that life is better than you think. Life is as harsh as you think. It might even be worse. But you are way tougher than you think.” When we are faced with challenges big or strong, we forget to give ourselves credit for facing adversity head on. I don’t believe we give ourselves enough credit for facing life head on and we don’t even realize it. We are so damn tough and we fail to realize it. Give yourself a pat on the back or enjoy a glass of wine or two, you are way stronger than you think you are. In fact, you are so damn tough you have faced all of these terrible things and are still breathing. We may be bruised, broken, and hurt but we are still here, still facing life and all that it has to throw at us.

This little bit of encouragement was exactly what I needed today. Don’t forget to remind yourself that YOU are a warrior, YOU have made it through hell, and YOU will continue to thrive. It’s okay to know you’re unstoppable, that there is something deep inside you that will rise to the occasion even when you believe you will break. In my life, I have thrived despite the adversity, loss, rejection, and grief. Be unstoppable and recognize your strength. I’m in your corner cheering you on reminding you how tough you are.

Always,

J

Grief…what it’s really like

The beginning of October is an emotional rollercoaster for me. October 1 is my mom’s birthday and October 8 is the anniversary of my dad’s passing. Grief is something that I had become accustomed too even from a young age. After losing my mom in grade school, it became something familiar. Years would pass by and the sting of losing someone you love whether expected or not still hits you in the chest. There are days where things are alright and you have accepted the great loss but you can expect days that drag you down and it takes everything in your power not to scream each moment of the day. Throughout my life, I learned that grief is not linear rather that it comes in waves like the ocean. Waves of acceptance and peace wash over you and the world around seems just as bright as when they were a part of this world. Once the waves go back out into the ocean again the wounds reemerge only to feel as raw as the day the loss occurred. Those days when the pain is real and raw are some of the hardest days to keep a smile on your face.

When you lose someone you love you want the world to remember to stand still even for a moment to recognize what the world has lost. That the loss you have suffered has affected those around you. For those that have not experienced such a loss, it is hard to put yourself in our shoes. We belong to a “club”, one where membership is involuntary. The loss of a parent is something that you can’t put into words, it is something that pours over into every aspect of your life. There are moments that I want to call my dad and tell him about the newest thing that his grandchildren are doing or ask his advice about home renovations. Some days I try so hard to try and remember my mom’s infectious laugh and continue to wonder if I resemble her in any way.

Grief challenges you, it makes you dig deep and find a strength you never knew about, not because you want to but because you are made to pick yourself back up and continue to stay a part of the world with only the memory of someone you love. We have to find the strength in the midst of a loss to smile and enjoy life again.  If you have lost someone you love, I understand. I may not know the circumstances or can relate 100% but I can tell you that I have felt the pain and sting of loss and it absolutely sucks. I feel ya. I get it. I live with it. Hug your loved ones and never let them forget how much they mean to you.

Always,

J

Dear Adoptive Parents Everywhere,

What you have is a blessing and a curse. The mere foundation of your family is built on someone else’s trauma. This thought of happiness founded on trauma never really occurred to me. Honestly, I had always assumed my biological mother was “better off” and that her decision to place me for adoption was in my best interest and hers. After speaking with other KADs, some of whom have reunited with their biological family and others who have decided the unknown will never be known. There is a possibility that some of these birth mothers were coerced into giving their child up for adoption. The circumstances surrounding adoptions may never truly be known and the intentions unclear.

As an adoptive mom, I know some of the struggles that my daughter will have. There are times even now that I have to be very mindful of how I word things or how things are phrased. She remembers that she has another set of parents, but she doesn’t remember what they physically look like. One time she even asked me why they couldn’t keep her and when she came to live with us. After speaking with her therapist, our answers continue to be age appropriate. We have never spoken badly of her parents to her, we simply stated that they were unable to keep her safe. “Safe”, a word she knows very well and a word I still struggle to feel. My daughter likes being protected, she needs to know and feel that someone is with her, that someone won’t leave her and that either myself or her dad will return. For now, that is the best answer I can give her.

Adoptees struggle being stuck in two different worlds, at least those in transracial adoptions. We belong to a culture that we don’t identify with yet we identify one in which we were raised. There is a constant inner struggle that goes on within each of us between the two worlds. We are not white enough to be white, and yet we are not culturally Korean enough to be Korean. We may look the part of being Korean, but most adoptees still struggle with identifying with the Korean culture.

Whether you are transracially adopting or not, it is important to know that we as adoptees have a lot going on underneath the surface. We may have memories that may be triggered by smells, locations, seasons, food or even sound. Personally, I am not sure that I have any memories sounded by these but I know there are some that have them based on food and seasons. We don’t always remember events, but our bodies do, we don’t remember any possible neglect or abuse, but our bodies do, and we especially don’t always remember the trauma of being separated from our biological family but our bodies do. Please support our emotional health as well as our physical, we may not know the cause of our pain but help us get the support we need.

Remember to show us compassion and love, sometimes we need an extra hug or an extra reassurance that we are safe and secure. Remember to support us if we decide to search for our biological roots. We are only curious to see where we came from, you cannot blame us for being curious, but we would never replace you.

*This may not apply to all adoptees, but in my experience, this is what I have seen*

Always,

J

Wait…Are YOU her Mom?

While I was checking out in the grocery store with my two children the cashier asked, “Um…where does the blonde hair come from?” My daughter does not have the same physical features that I do, her hair is golden yellow, her eyes are one of the most beautiful blues I have ever seen, and her skin is milky white, she physically appears the polar opposite to my monolid eyes, dark hair and olive skin tone. During the four years, I’ve been this little girl’s mother, I always heard the same types of questions. People wanted to know how me, being of Korean ethnicity came to be the mother of a blue-eyed blonde hair little girl. As a foster parent and eventually an adoptive parent, I never want to explain my little girl’s past to complete strangers, I felt it was intrusive an inappropriate. She is still very little and she doesn’t even comprehend her history or life before she came to live with us. My response was very curt, I simply stated that she got the hair from her father, it was quite the clever answer if you ask me, both her biological and adoptive fathers have blonde hair. Technically I wasn’t deceitful, I was able to provide an appropriate answer while still protecting my daughter’s privacy. The cashier asked if those were strong genes given that my hair is so dark, I nodded and proceeded to finish checking out my groceries.

Since this little girl came into our home, she was one of the best things to come into my life. She has challenged me in ways that my son never did and gave me a lot of things to self-reflect over. Part of the topics I discuss in my book is because of her, and my desire to provide her with the best home and mental support available to her. My hope is that she would be able to process things that had happened in her past and would be able to heal from them. By this time I had also started to become part of the KAD community (Korean Adoptee), this too aided in the self-reflection and hearing stories from other people.

Adoption creates something within us, it leaves a scar that only other adoptees speak of and understand, some of us can instantly connect even without meeting in person. The experiences and stories that I have heard are a comfort to know that it wasn’t just my experience or something unique to me. There are not a lot of adoptees who speak about their feelings or about the feeling of being stuck in two different worlds. Being a transracial adoptee AND adoptive mom has its own struggles and stories. There are countless instances in which I can feel and see the glares, the questioning looks, and comments that have been made.

There was one evening while I was attending a friend’s church, a woman approached me from the congregation and asked me if I felt grateful that my parents adopted me. Most likely from the look on my face, this poor woman didn’t realize what she had said. Grateful? GRATEFUL? My mind could not process being grateful, I was a baby when I was adopted, I wasn’t given a choice or an option on where to go, I was just sent where I was placed. Even now decades later I can only speculate what my life would have been like if my parents would have not adopted me. The different scenarios that someone could dream up are endless.

Why don’t we, as adoptees speak out more? For me personally, I was always concerned about what people would think or how it would make my parents feel. My intentions were never to hurt them but my feelings and experiences are different than others. However, I believe that adoptees need to tell their stories, that even pain and trauma can emerge from growing up in loving two parent stable homes. That there is something significant that happens when you adopt a child or even a baby. Our experiences are unique and significant for others to hear. If we don’t speak up and use our voices to tell our stories we have failed future adoptees and adoptive parents. Without us taking the courage to use the voices we’ve been given leaves an opportunity for nothing to change. Be courageous and tell your story, experience, and feelings even just to your friends.

Always,

J

Too Damn Nice

There was a point in my life that I used to joke I was only 2% nice, 3% on a good day or if you were in my close group of friends. However as I’ve looked back, I notice that I was too damn nice to those surrounding me, to those who may have not deserved it. Growing up everyone was a critic, someone somewhere had an opinion. Hell sometimes I still second guess myself and some of the decisions I make. As I’ve walked through this journey it finally dawned on me that I was not put on this earth to please everyone. In my adolescence I would spend so much time and energy into becoming a chameleon and putting everyone’s needs ahead of mine. Maybe I wanted to be liked, or hear words of affirmation but everything changed once I stopped. Once I had my own opinions and started making decisions based on what was best for me, my family and my children the waves started to come. Everyone had an opinion, and the toxicity started to run rampant. The environment was hostile and sometimes down right nasty, even during family gatherings I would get ambushed. After putting some distance between myself and this toxic environment I could finally breath. The realization that I would never be able to please everyone finally sunk in I finally had figured out that no matter how good something was or how much people pleasing I could do, it would never be enough and that was never a reflection on me. Toxic people suck the life out of you and in the midst of it you don’t realize how much you lose yourself. Over time the toxicity takes over and you start to become the very thing you hate. No more toxic people. No more allowing people in your life to make you feel less than. My mental health and stress level is more important then living up to someone else’s expectations of me. We were created all for something different and thankfully we each get the opportunity to choose our own dreams and goals. Never in my wildest dreams would I ever thought that I would be self publishing a book, much less writing about my experiences for the masses to read. This was MY goal, something I thought up. I didn’t have someone telling me to finish this or write it, I was finally in control. Damn it feels good. Removing toxic people from your life sometimes isn’t as easy as just cutting all contact, naturally that would be the easiest. While I started looking through and weeding through everyone in my life I began to pay attention to the way people would interact with me, friends and family included. My mind would make a mental note how often I would have to reach out to people, who reached out to me and I began noticing patterns. There were some that started to respect the new found boundaries I had made while others would immediately knock down my fence and ask me why it was there in the first place. During my first few interactions my fence wasn’t very strong, I would succumb to the conflict or guilt and I would spiral back down. The less I would reach out to these toxic people the better I began to feel, I could breath again and I would notice that my stress level would decrease. My anxiety was easier to control and I found that I spent more nights getting restful sleep. If you have toxic people in your life one way to start it to put up boundaries, know your limits and start limiting how much contact you have. Wishing you all the best. No more toxic people.

Always,

J