Sunday, November 22, 2009

10th Annual National Adoption Day in the U.S.

Saturday, Nov. 21, is the 10th annual National Adoption Day, which began as a coalition of law firms, state foster care agencies, child advocates and courts to complete hundreds of foster care adoptions in nine cities across the U.S. Today, hundreds of events are held in all 50 states to finalize adoptions of children in foster care and to celebrate the families that adopt. To find an event near you, visit:
To all those who were adopted yesterday and to all my friends whose lives have been touched by adoption, I lift you up and hold a special place in my heart for you.  As you continue on your journey, may your life be full of health, happiness, strength and courage throughout your adoption experience. 

Monday, November 16, 2009

Celebrities and Adoption: my personal dilemma

OK - so I was in the supermarket, saw the headline and couldn't resist purchasing this October 2009 issue of People Magazine!  Then, after I returned home to read the article, I remembered why it is that I only read People magazine in the doctor's office *sigh*.  Not quite the depth I was looking for.  If only this story could have been covered by Newsweek!  Nevertheless, I'm still intrigued by Katherine Heigl's family - past and present.  Now on a mission to discover the truth!
Katherine Heigl, best known for her current role on TV's Grey's Anatomy, is a newlywed and a new mother!  She and her husband, singer Jason Kelley, adopted a special needs Korean baby.  She even announced it on the Ellen DeGeneres Show. What I didn't know is that her older sister, Margaret (Meg) is a Korean-born adoptee, which had a big influence on her decision to adopt. "It's something I've always wanted to do...", she says. Interesting!
So this leaves me with a personal dilemma: do I think that celebrity adoption is a good thing or not?
On the one hand, I'm encouraged to see transracial adoptions get a lot of positive press.  Hugh Jackman seems to have the right attitude; when he expressed his desire to adopt, he asked, "where is the greatest need?" and adopted two multiracial kids. Stephen Spielberg and Kate Capshaw also seem like a good role models for people seeking to adopt.
On the other hand, there's a part of me that cringes when I see celebs like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie (However, in recent news, Angelina wants to adopt without Brad!), Madonna and, yes, even Katherine Heigl suddenly make headline news because of their adoption.  They make it look so easy.  Walk in and adopt.  Everyone is so happy, happy. (Although, in Katherine Heigl's defense, she does talk about the major application they had to fill out as parents.  And the agency states that their adoption was processed so quickly due to "good social work practices.").
One end of the spectrum: I have the good-intentioned adoptive parents who genuinely want to create a family by providing a permanent home for a child.  Even the celebrity can fall into this category.  On the other end of the spectrum, I hear terrible stories of human trafficking and adoption agencies or countries that exploit children so they can benefit from the money they will make off the adoption fees.
So, I really am torn.  How should I view these celebrity adoptions: friend or foe? And will the media ever provide truth and depth to these celebrity stories - or will they forever be a mystery?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Hot off the press...Beyond Culture Camp!

Well,  I've had a lot of blog ingredients for November (National Adoption Awareness Month), but it's been stewing and simmering and has not been posted yet!  So while you are patiently waiting for my new posts, I give you this exciting appetizer!

The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute has just released the results of their research: Beyond Culture Camp: Promoting Healthy Identity Formation in Adoption. To quote from their website, "This study, released in November, is the broadest, most extensive examination of adult adoptive identity to date, based on input from the primary experts on the subject: adults who were adopted as children."

The release of this report is perfect timing for my other big announcement: I'm presenting a workshop on my identity formation as a transracial adoptee at the National Association of Independent Schools People of Color Conference on Friday, Dec. 4 in Denver, CO.  Based on the principal recommendations  listed on the website, I am eager to read it and incorporate it into my presentation! 

Enjoy, my friends. 

Monday, November 2, 2009

National Adoption Awareness Month

Wow - I just found out that November is National Adoption Awareness Month.

Here's a little history from one of the MANY adoption sites:

"The first major effort to promote awareness of the need for adoptive families for children in the foster care system occurred in Massachusetts. In 1976, then-Governor Mike Dukakis proclaimed Adoption Week and the idea grew in popularity and spread throughout the nation. President Gerald Ford made the first National Adoption Week proclamation, and in 1990, the week was expanded to a month due to the number of states participating and the number of events.

During the month, states, communities, public and private organizations, businesses, families, and individuals celebrate adoption as a positive way to build families. Across the nation, activities and observances such as recognition dinners, public awareness and recruitment campaigns, and special events spotlight the needs of children who need permanent families. It also includes National Adoption Day, traditionally a Saturday, which is observed in courthouses across the nation as thousands of adoptions are finalized simultaneously. (emphasis mine)"
So, this month I will post about adoption from my perspective as an adult adoptee! However, the posts will probably be holistic, covering the complexity of an adopted family.  

Check back often for featured stories.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

"He stood by me when no one else did."

First, I apologize for my temporary disappearance from the blogosphere. Not that there hasn’t been anything to write about. It’s just that September and October are extremely busy months for me.

This summer, I read a fascinating book called Life on the Color Line: The True Story of a White Boy Who Discovered He Was Black. This week, I was fortunate to meet Dr. Gregory H. Williams (pictured here) in person on October 22, as he visited Abington Friends School.

For those who may not know his story, the quote from the book’s back cover reads, “As a child in 1950s segregated Virginia, Gregory Howard Williams grew up believing he was white. But when the family business failed and his parents’ marriage fell apart, Williams discovered that his dark-skinned father, who had been passing as Italian-American, was half-black. The family split-up, and Greg, his younger brother, and their father moved to Muncie, Indiana where the young boys learned the truth about their heritage. Overnight, Greg Williams became black.” Dr. Williams grew up in a time when racial boundaries were very rigid. And on top of all that, his father was an alcoholic.

There were accounts in Dr. William’s book of how he had to go looking for his drunken father in the middle of the night and carry him home on his shoulders. His father made him and his younger brother hustle for money to ultimately help his addiction to alcohol. There were many mistakes that Dr. Williams’s father made; even Dr. Williams himself acknowledges this fact. Yet even through the challenges, the bond that Dr. Williams has with his father is loving and filled with deep respect. When he spoke about his relationship with his alcoholic father on Thursday, he said something that struck me: “He stood by me when no one else did.”

I understand what he means.

I am not an adult child of an alcoholic. But as an adult adoptee, I understand the need for someone to stand by you through thick and thin. The physical presence of a parent is an innate need from infancy, no matter how terrible the parent is or how many mistakes they make. My birth mother and father could not fulfill their parent roles for me so another set of parents took their place. My adoptive father WAS my father. My adoptive mother IS my mother. Why? Because they were there for me throughout my childhood. They raised me the best way they knew how which, I am fortunate to say, was pretty darn blessed.

For someone who has not experienced a separation from a parent (particularly a maternal figure) like Dr. Willliams and I have, it is a heady concept to understand. How can you bond to another adult who is not your flesh and blood? How can you claim to love your parent, who used or manipulated you? It is a testimony to the power of physical presence and permanence in a child’s life. University of Toronto professor of psychology and psychiatry David Wolfe states, “Humans are wired to form social bonds, and such scraps of kindness can deepen even a relationship built on manipulation and abuse.” We are, at our very core, wired to connect with others. We need constancy in our human relationships, which trumps even the worst abuse.

Why do my children love me, no matter how I mess up and fall short of the perfect parent? Because the bottom line is: they need my presence. They need me to be the mom. No matter what kind of mom I am, it is important to stand up for them when no one else does; to be there for them when no one else can.

Physical presence and constancy in relationships cannot be underestimated.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Authentic Anime...?

I've been eagerly awaiting "Ponyo", Hayao Miyazaki's newest animation (or anime in Japanese). I'm glad to see that it received favorable reviews in the NYTimes. And it's even MPAA rated "G" - you don't see that very often these days!

However, am I asking too much to see this anime in it's original language with English subtitles? Does this make me a film snob? A purist for Japanese language?

Walt Disney Studios (who does the American production and marketing for Miyazaki's films) REALLY loads up the star-studded voice actors: Cate Blanchett, Noah Cyrus (Miley's little sister), Matt Damon, Tina Fey, Frankie Jonas (yes, one of the famous brothers), Liam Neeson, Cloris Leachman...and the list goes on. So I have no doubt that they will do a great job portraying Miyazaki's characters. But is it too much to ask to release BOTH versions in the U.S. theaters?

I guess I got spoiled living in Japan. Whenever we would go out to see Disney's animated films (Tarzan, Toy Story, etc.), we had a choice: English with Japanese subtitles or Japanese dubbing. And, hey, it's why not show it in both languages? Now the reason for this was simple: Japanese people LOVED to see the animations in learn English! Or people who didn't want to engage their brains as much could watch it in Japanese.

I would be grateful for the same opportunity when it comes to finding an authentic anime. I live in a pretty urban place - with a Japanese neighborhood not to far away. Can the Ritz (or some other "artsy" theater) help me out here?

I think that the U.S. of A. should at least offer a authentic screening in the original language in a second-run theater , don't you?

Although my hopes are high, reality tells me that I will have to wait until it comes out on DVD to watch it in Japanese.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Bound: Mirror for an Asian adoptee (Pt. 2)

The "mirrors and windows" technique is used as a means of communication when you are reflecting on your own culture/yourself (mirror) or discovering a new culture/seeing beyond yourself (window). Believe it or not, reading Bound by Donna Jo Napoli through the lens of being an Asian American adoptee mirrored so many things in my modern, American life.

I immediately feel a connection with Xing Xing (prounced Shing Shing) on a few levels. I, too, was separated from my biological mother and father and now get to live out my life's journey without them physically present to guide me. I, too, am Asian and enjoyed the setting in China (see previous post). And as an adoptee, I can sometimes feel like the misfit of the family - accepted and taken care of...yet I can never BE of the same physical, genetic material as the rest of my family. Don't get me wrong - I did have commendable adoptive parents who loved me and raised me with plenty of love and guidance. And my siblings are great, too - I AM their sister. But I still have a sense of kinship with a traditional Cinderella story.

Xing Xing is a wonderfully resilient character (a trait that I see in lots of adoptees/stepchildren). She holds on to her talents of writing poetry and Chinese calligraphy: gifts that were encouraged by her father, when he was still alive. I truly believe that everyone is born with gifts/talents that are locked within. It just takes the right people and circumstances to unlock these talents, much like a puzzle box or a combination lock. Not that the combination has to be good people or great circumstances. For Xing Xing, it is in the face of adversity and hardships that her talents are able to shine.

"To be a star, you must shine your own light, follow your own path and don't worry about the darkness, for that is when the stars shine brightest" - Anonymous

Thanks, Ms. Napoli, for providing a mirror for me through a Chinese Cinderella story.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Book Review: Bound, Pt. 1

Now that it's August, I desperately trying to finish all the books that I've started earlier this summer. I'm almost done with Life on the Color Line; The True Story of a White Boy Who Discovered He Was Black by Gregory H. Williams and about halfway through The Asian Mystique by Sheridan Prasso. But I also need to make sure my kids finish THEIR summer reading, too.

This year, Donna Jo Napoli will visit their school so they each must read one of her books. Luckily, she writes for all ages, from picture books through young adult, and she provides great variety in her works. In solidarity, I decided to read one of her books and picked up Bound, because I can't resist anything Asian. Ms. Napoli tells a Chinese Cinderella story, complete with cruel stepmother, pitiable stepsister and charming prince.

What I really love about her telling of the story is all of the Chinese traditions she has woven into the story. While it's heart-breaking to relive the foot-binding tradition (and can make my stomach turn at times), it is the reality of these traditions that give the story a rich depth which doesn't always happen in young adult novels.

Another point I appreciate about this book is how the heroine Xing Xing (pronounced "Shing Shing") carries the spirits of her deceased mother and father with her wherever she goes, as a guiding spirit to provide Xing Xing with wisdom. Ms. Napoli writes with such respect and sensitivity for the Chinese culture - it's truly palpable.

I highly recommend this book as Donna Jo Napoli’s writing proves that depth of character and plot CAN be found in young adult novels.

Has anyone else read her works?

(Stay tuned for Pt. 2 - where I make parallels between Xing Xing and myself.)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Young Japanese Women Vie for a Once-Scorned Job

Young Japanese Women Vie for a Once-Scorned Job : article from the NYTimes - July 28, 2009
Watch the video link here.

Reading this article, I find myself in an interesting dilemma. Do I applaud Japanese women for becoming independent, economically self-sufficient women, not relying on marriage as their only means for financial security? Or do I feel disappointed that a young Japanese woman's perecption is that the only jobs with decent money and job stability are hostessing jobs?

As someone who lived there for twelve years, Japanese culture seems antiquated at times. I often tell my friends "Do you remember the movie, Back To The Future, when Marty finds himself in the 1950s? That's how it feels sometimes when you set foot in Japan." Japanese service is unparalleled. You never tip anyone in jobs of service (hair salons, taxis, restaurants). When you get gas in your car, a whole team DOES run out to check your oil, clean your windows and fill your tank. At the end, they guide you and make sure you can enter onto the street safely, saying "Thank you" loudly as you pull away.

The Japanese gender gap can tend to have the same "old-fashioned" appearance. When I worked in a large corporation, our office was mostly women (with only one man). Even though I had a female manager, I still felt the tension when women were expected to serve tea to the men (or should I say "man"). I received little or no sympathy from my female boss when I was dragging myself to work everyday with morning sickness on crowded Tokyo commuter trains (with an occasional pit stop to empty my breakfast into a platform trashcan). I know that the Japanese women in the corporation were paid less and treated differently. A female observer from the U.S. would have been outraged, comparing their situation to women back in North America.

Does this NYT story signify a change in Japanese women's independence? Or is it a wake-up call to create labor laws in Japan that provide equality in larger corporations?

Readers, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on this.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Hooray for John Raible

Recently, I joined a new online social networking group called Adoption Voices. Yes, I know there are SO many social networking sites out, why should I join ANOTHER one?

Luckily, this one has led me to a wonderful blog by John Raible (pictured) and a great article about "Same Story, Different Decade." John shares about his experience hearing a teen transracial adoptee (who happens to be Latino adopted into a White family) and the adoptee's experiences with racism and isolation being the only person of color in their neighborhood, school, etc.

It took me a moment to get into reading this lengthy post, but I'm so glad I did. He and I agree with a simple point in this day and age: adoptive parents need to be well-informed about transracial adoption.

"...We cannot afford to let white parents go on thinking naively that love is enough, or that it is color-blind, while the rest of society continues to react to our children of color as inferior deviants and as potentially threatening competitors in the high-stakes game of life. It’s not about providing loving, color-blind homes, it’s about facing racism squarely, and preparing children to function—and thrive—in hostile environments.

For parents who are still in denial about racism in 2009, and who think that just because a President Obama occupies the White House that our society has somehow transcended race and racism, the remarks of this recent teen panelist come as a stark reminder of how far we have yet to go. It does not matter what decade adopted children go through adolescence. It does not matter what country they were adopted from. What matters is the social context. If transracial adoptees experience adolescence as the lonely kid of color in oppressive, overwhelmingly white environments, then they are having the same experience as children adopted in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.

The point is, WE KNOW BETTER. And knowing better, we have an obligation to do better. Adopted children of color deserve no less."

My thoughts exactly.

I am pro-adoption, but I am also pro-education. It hurts adoptees (and our society-at-large) if adoptive families go into a transracial adoption with "color-blind blinders" on. Or with their overwhelmingly strong desire for their "own child" clouding their idea of the big picture.

Whether your child is born biologically or you are adopting, all responsible parents should think about the big-picture, 18-year plan (however long the child will be with you until they are an adult). Responsible parents must consider how to provide for their child physically, mentally and a parent, I think about such things. In light of these parental concerns, the adoptive family of a transracial adoption must also consider "What racial environment am I providing for my child?" Even if your adopted child NEVER talks about race, believe me, it IS the elephant in the room.

I applaud my parents for raising me in a racially diverse neighborhood and sending me to a Quaker school. I also lift up my friends: the adoptive parents of transracial/transnational children who are constantly taking the initiative to learn more about how to support their child in this race-conscious America we live in. They give me hope for the future of adoptive families everywhere.

I am confident that this is the beginning of change.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Finding a Perfect Match

OK - as I sat watching a re-run of NCIS (yes, I am a fan), I couldn't help but notice Cote de Pablo (pictured above) - the actress who plays Officer Ziva David. The interesting thing about her is that she is of Chilean descent, raised in Miami...and she is portraying an ex-Mossad agent from Israel.

It just makes me wonder: Is there a shortage of good actors and actresses who actually MATCH the nationality/ethnicity of the character they portray?

I can think of so many examples of this - where do I begin?

How about in the movie portrayal of Memoirs of a Geisha - Chinese actress ZiYi Zhang was cast as the main character, Chiyo/Sayuri. As someone who lived in Kyoto, and is of Japanese descent, this was infuriating to me! It was a fine example of market-driven decision making. Even though I knew that the producers thought, "Hmmm...who's a popular East Asian actress who we can cast in the role...who's going to bring in the big bucks?", it still didn't make me feel any better. In fact, it made me feel worse that the integrity of the story was compromised in this way. I know that the commentary from the director and producers deny this, claiming "artistic license" in how they represented Arthur Golden's story. But, seriously, let's evolve a little in our perceptions of certain ethnic groups, especially Asian women. We do not all "look alike." There are distinct differences between Chinese, Japanese and Koreans (all of whom were cast in this movie). And with the myth of geisha = prostitute...the production team missed a great opportunity to shed light on this topic and dispel the myth ("geisha" literally means "artist" because of their training in music and dance to entertain). Please, if you watch this movie, take it for what it is: an artistic interpretation of historic fiction.

So, really, does the movie/TV industry think that we are blind to these mismatched castings? Or perhaps I should challenge the actors/actresses themselves to think twice before accepting a mismatched or stereotypical role?

I'm reading a book called The Asian Mystique by Sheridan Prasso. She references Lucy Liu stating that she "felt that she has no choice except to play stereotypical roles (for Asian women)." Well now that you've made some big money, Lucy, I hope you can afford to be more choosy in your future roles.

I know that my post has a cynical edge to it...but, really, I am not trying to slam any of these actresses' skills. I enjoy watching Cote de Pablo (NCIS), Lucy Liu (Charlie's Angels) and Zhang Ziyi (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon). I also like Michelle Yeoh who was in both Crouching Tiger AND Memoirs of a Geisha. I'm just wondering when the media industry will leave their tiresome ways of casting and start showing some ethics and social justice in their decisions.

I hope it's soon.

Note: Two other things that I'd like to mention:
1) In Kung Fu Panda, why is it that the main characters of this movie (set in China) were not Chinese? And why were the secondary characters Chinese? Shouldn't it have been the other way around? Similar parallels can be drawn to Memoirs of a Geisha.
2) Despite my initial impressions of Kung Fu Panda, it wasn't as filled with demeaning stereotypes as I thought it would be. I actually enjoyed the movie for entertainment:-)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Ultimate Separation

My good friend at the Meltingpot blog wrote a recent post titled "Death be not proud..." in which she addressed our customs/traditions around death and mourning. She posed the questions, "How do the people in your family and/or culture deal with death? What are your rituals and do they help you process your grief?"

I posted my brief response on her blog - because for an adoptee (or is it just for me personally?), death is a extremely difficult thing to process. She asked me to elaborate - so here it is: death is the ultimate separation.

Let me take you into the world of an adopted baby. Imagine spending forty weeks in a warm, comfortable womb (if you are lucky) and then having to come into the world in an indescribably intense birth (whether it's natural or c-section...). That birth is an experience that you must process: from one whole unit into two individuals. Quite a heady thing for an infant. Now add the separation that comes as you are handed into another person's arms - somehow, instinctively, you know that this is not your mother. You realize that this is not the same heartbeat you heard every day for forty weeks. The voice, too, is different. Where is that familiar voice and those familiar sounds that you grew used to in your first weeks of life? Where's my mother? As an infant, you must grapple to overcome this feeling of loss and separation. You somehow deal with this grief by "picking yourself up by your emotional bootstraps." In that "fight or flight" instinct, you decide to flee the emotional pain and a part of your emotional self shuts down...even dies.

Now fast forward about twenty years. Or thirty. Or forty. Whenever you experience the first death of someone close to you. All of those latent, subconscious coping mechanisms are awakened: you experience the same separation, pain and grief all over again. That's what it can be like for an adoptee to experience death. It's that profound. The closer the relationship with the adoptee, the greater the separation and grief.

I fully understood this when my father passed away about ten years ago. What made this separation even more shocking was the fact that I had just seen him a few days before his passing. Yet I was half way around the world when he died. The months following his death were incredibly surreal. I was in a daze. I don't think that I even truly registered the DATE of his death until about six months later, when I called my mother on his birthday. She noted that he passed on Groundhog Day. It was an extremely challenging grieving process - one that took at least a full year or more. I constantly questioned myself, "Why is this so hard? Am I the only one who's feeling this way? Is this a normal way to grieve?" What made it especially difficult is that I was also physically separated from my family, as we all lived in different countries at that time.

The good news is once I realized that death forces me to relive my primal adoption separation, I was able to process grief in a more "normal" way. Or at least I understand better what's going on for me emotionally, and I don't have to shut down or shut people out. My father's death brought a lot of self-awareness into my life and for that, I thank him.

With my job, I actually attend memorial services often. Perhaps it's an alum of the school or a former teacher. But one thing is for sure: whether it's someone I knew personally or not, I will always feel the pain of separation as I contemplate how the individual is no longer with us in this world. It brings a tear to my eye every time.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Life on the Color Line

I'm determined to blog at LEAST once a keep an eye out for new posts on Sundays.

I dove into my summer reading, "Life on the Color Line", wondering if I would identify with the author on any points of similarity. Instead, I was amazed at the life experiences of Gregory Williams, before the age of TEN! Now I see why he thanks his wife in the book dedication for "giving him the courage to tell his story." I don't want to give anything away, but this book is truly a must-read (so far). It's intense and fascinating all at the same time.

I also follow a blog called Color Online. They are having a Summer Book Giveaway: visit their site for more information. The last book they offer is about an adopted daughter whose father is running for president. Publicity tries to accentuate her "American-ness" and downplay her international identity. Needless to say, it piqued my interest.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

My Summer Journey

Oh my! Did June go by without a single post? *sigh*

Well, I've been quite busy with being a mother, and with my full-time job. But now that summer has started, it allows me time to work on some personal evaluation and growth. Here's where my summer journey has taken me so far:

I have been able to nurture and explore a little more into my own adoption journey. I started to read "Journey of the Adopted Self" by Betty Jean Lifton. Her writing helped me to discover myself at a key point in my life, however I just could not bring myself to finish this book. Perhaps another time.

I am also taking part in a writing workshop, "Voices of Adoption" that is occurring about once every other month. It's led by Andrea - who also has a blog: The Sought-After. My hope is that between that workshop, blogging and writing on my own, I will be able to continue my journey into my adopted self.

Top on my summer reading list is "Life on the Color Line: The True Story of a White Boy Who Discovered He Was Black" by Gregory Howard Williams. The main motivation for reading this at this time is that Dr. Gregory Williams will visit my workplace (Abington Friends School) on October 22, 2009. However, I look forward to reading his story about being biracial...and wonder what levels I will connect with him as a multiracial adoptee.

Oh, and I think I've discovered a new heroine in diversity work. Her name is Carmen Van Kerckhove (pronounced Van Kurr-Cove), president of the diversity education firm, New Demographic. Her approach to diversity work is exactly what I have been looking for - and to promote - and, she is an Asian mixie, too! Woo-hoo!

Where is your summer journey taking you?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

And now for something completely different...

I'm taking a break from my Asian celebration to say a quick word about Mother's Day.

This morning I attended a lovely service that was focused on Julia Ward Howe (pictured here) as the original founder of the Mother's Day of Peace around the 1870s. After she penned the poem that would later be set to music as the Battle Hymn of the Republic, she became a peace activist.

It was a really nice way to remember the origins of Mother's Day (yes, it is to honor women...but remembering the peace origins helps take the edge off of commercialism!).

Then, there is the other edge I have to deal with. Being an adoptee, I have a wonderful mother to celebrate. Real flesh and blood. Someone who has demonstrated her true love for me a thousand times over by caring for me my whole life. Someone who is still a big part of my life today. And then I have a mother I have never met. Someone who is out there who gave birth to me. Someone who shares the same genetic material as me. And is a complete stranger.

Mother's Day is a challenging day for me. I was unprepared for the emotional challenges this year. I've come to prepare myself for my birthday (another challenging celebration/mourning), but this is the first year that I thought about my emotional "tug-of-war" on Mother's Day.

I'll be ready next year.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

More Asian Experiences

Here are some more videos (extended clips) of the Asian American experience. Special Thanks to the Asia Society for providing them. I'm having trouble with embedding the videos...but click on the link to open in YouTube.

George Takei: Sulu of TV's Star Trek - and the Lesson of Internment

Kal Penn: I like his ideals about the "American identity" is superceding racial identity. We're on the right track...if only it could be true everywhere...

One of my favorites: Sandra Oh of TV's Grey's Anatomy. As someone who did not grow up with many asians around me or in the media (with the exception of Connie Chung), I say "right on, sister!"

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Japan's Children's Day

Continuing with my APA Heritage Month Celebration...

May 5 is "Kodomo no hi" in Japan. The 5th day of the 5th month.  The date was the date of the traditional Tango no Sekku (端午の節句) festival, originally commonly known as Boys' Day, whereas Girls' Day was celebrated separately on March 3. The holidays were merged in 1948. On the right are "koinobori" - carp flags - which are flown on Children's Day, symbolizing success and each one represents a male in the family.

Even though the holidays were "merged", it was still a very boy-centric holiday when I lived in Japan. Traditionally, it is a day to pray for the health of boys in your family. Families take pictures of their boys in front of "shrines" adorned with samurai helmets and horses. See the picture here, taken of my youngest son while we lived in Tokyo. 
The "koinobori" flags are pictured at the top and you can see the samurai helmet at the center of the display. I must admit, there are lots of things in the display for which I don't know the significance...I just enjoyed the day off of work and was able to spend time with Japanese friends. 

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

Wow - where did all the time go? It is May already?
Well, I must take a moment to celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month:-). Hopefully, May will bring more posts to my blog - and a common theme of celebrating the contributions of people of Asian and Pacific Islander descent in the United States.

There's so much rich history - I'm overwhelmed even thinking about where to begin. I guess I'll start with my history...

Even though I'm adopted, I know quite a bit about the Japanese side of my biological family, which is my biological mother's side. My maternal grandfather was Japanese American who was a U.S. Army officer. He was stationed in Japan, outside of Tokyo. There he met his wife, a Japanese National. My biological mother was born in Tokyo and the family moved to the U.S. when she was young. Unfortunately, I do not know any great accomplishments of my maternal of the many things kept from me as a product of a closed adoption. However, I was able to study Japanese when I went to college and lived in Japan for twelve years.

I am proud to be a mixed Japanese American. I also love to see my kids identifying with their Japanese side...interest in the language, celebrating the culture, eating the food...even though they haven't picked up too many of my Asian physical traits. And, yes, they CAN use chopsticks:-).

To close out, here is a video about why "Asians Rock"!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Passing and people like me

My friend at the Meltingpot blog spoke recently about "passing" - when someone sheds their own racial heritage for another...and gets away with it.  This phenomenon in America usually refers to a light-skinned Black person passing for White. However, it is not limited to this (see the blog link for more explanation). I am new to this terminology, but not to this concept. 

What I mean is this: Even though Japan is part of my heritage (albeit by genetics and not upbringing) and is a key part of my identity now, I have been "passing" as White for most of my life, thus sparing me from most of the racial hatred that exists in this country. One key difference is that I did not choose to shed my racial heritage. Most people just don't see me as a multiracial person, especially the Asian side.  I assimilate quite nicely into a "white box" and I receive all the privileges that come with this. And, truth be told, my genes are also Irish and German.

It continues to be an interesting dilemma for me - one that has been brought to my consciousness only since returning to America (after living abroad for many years). I am still learning how to discuss these issues and how I'd like to identify myself to others.

On a related note, here's an interesting article discussing Ginetta Candelario's new book about Dominican racial identity entitled Black Behind The Ears. Her book is in response to her Dominican mother's questions about race in America.  Ginetta is a multiracial woman like myself and had experiences of "passing," even when she didn't choose to do so.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Setting Priorities

As 2008 was winding down, I took an assessment of my life to set my priorities.  I knew that my "jack of all trades" approach to life could not continue.  It's not the first time that I have pruned my lifestyle.  My strength and weakness is that I love to be involved in every opportunity and with all kinds of people.  If someone cries for help, my hand shoots into the air to volunteer. Blame it on my Quaker school education. Or my innate personality. I can't help myself.

However, I have a family that needs me to be present.  Living in the moment with them.  One of my fears is that I will wake up one day, my kids will be adults and they will say to me, "You were never around."

How do you prioritize your passions?

I did cut back on some of my extra-familial activities, but I'm still as busy as ever.  Even if I cut back on work and personal interests, there is a new demand for my time.  My busy-ness comes from supporting my kids' passions. Sports. Theater. All of the "enriching experiences" parents want their children to have.

Is this the meaning of being a parent? To become less so my kids can become more?