Sunday, October 31, 2010

National Adoption Month

November is national adoption month, so I gathered some thoughts about adoption and asked my kids as well.

Ten Things to Know about Adoption- from an adoptive parent’s perspective

1. Adoption is a very personal decision that an individual or couple makes on how to build a family. Don’t automatically assume they have fertility issues or it is a “second-best choice.” It is a permanent, court approved loving decision and one way that parents and children come together. The choice to adopt domestically or internationally is based on many factors and we frequently just “know” our children are waiting for us.

2. Adoptive parents are not “saving” a child and/or looking for “gratitude” from our kids, particularly if the child has been adopted from a developing country. As any adoptive parent will tell you, we are the lucky ones to have these amazing kids in our lives. We will work hard to make sure that they have a full understanding and appreciation for their birth country and heritage.

3. If you are really interested in adoption, the costs and the process- most of us would be happy to discuss our experience or refer you to our adoption agency. We do not, however, want to have these conversations in front of our children. And we will probably not discuss our child’s or their birthparent’s personal history with you.

4. Yes, there are costs involved in adoption, but we do not buy our children. The costs are for attorney fees, travel, paperwork, medical care and orphanage support. Similar in fact to the costs associated with pregnancy and delivery- without the healthcare insurance.

5. We are our children’s “real parents” and they have “real brothers and sisters” in their families. Our children have birthparents who gave them life. We have the joy of raising them and are their parents.

6. It is important not to belittle birthparents. We often have no idea as to why the painful decision was made to place a child for adoption. Even when a child is officially abandoned without record, as often happens in China, there are numerous factors- poverty, government policy, family and cultural pressure that led to the decision.

7. The vast majority of adoptions are wonderful experiences. The media, however, will report on the rare occasions when it does not work out well and an adoption is interrupted. Yes, these are sad and heartbreaking stories and trust me, we have already heard them. Just as a pregnant woman does not want to hear about labor and delivery horror stories, an adoptive or prospective adoptive parent does not want these to be repeated time and time again. We work with our adoption agency and or counselor to prepare for problems that we could face.

8. My child was not “chosen” for adoption because he or she is special. That terminology puts an unnecessary pressure on a child to stay special or perfect. It is actually, the parent(s) that is selected and must live up to certain criteria to be matched with a child. It is our responsibility to make it work.

9. My child is not permanently damaged because he or she was adopted or spent time in foster care or an orphanage. Yes, problems can occur and there are many programs and therapies available to offer solutions to parents and children. However, I don’t assume every behavioral issue or act of misbehavior is because my child is adopted. We are vigilant in getting our kids the help they need – just as parents of biological kids deal with their kids issues. Studies show that the vast majority of adopted kids adjust well and become successful in life.

10. As fellow parents, please speak up when you see an adoption myth being perpetuated in the media or in conversation. Help us spread the word about adoption and help your kids understand that our families are very normal- we just built them in a different way.

Thoughts from my children about adoption

7 year old’s perspective

• Coolest thing about being adopted- “meeting my mom and dad”
• Why did your mommy adopt you – “we matched’
• What do you think about your birthparents in China- “they still love me but could not take care of me.”
• What do your friends ask you about being adopted from China – “why don’t you speak Chinese?”

11 year old’s perspective

• Coolest thing about being adopted –“it is cool to have an interesting background”
• “Don’t like it when people look at us strange or stare because you are white and we are Asian, I think most people who stare do not know what adoption really is all about.”
• Do you ever think about your birthparents and a loss with them not in your life-
“No, because with a loss comes a gain, I am curious, but do not get sad about it.”
• “What matters most is the scenario or family you get adopted into “
• What is more challenging to deal with- being adopted or a being Asian – “being Chinese – it is more noticeable”

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Reinvention- one year later

It has been almost one year since I began this blog- my first post was November 8, 2009. It is hard to imagine that an entire year hsas flown by (and I have yet to change my age in the intro summary of this blog- maybe I won't..LOL) I am trying to figure out what I have changed in my life, what needed to stay the same and what is left on this journey that I had titled "reinvention."

On the surface, it looks like not too much had changed. I did complete a 1/2 marathon March of 2010 and will do the race again in 2011. May even consider tackling a full marathon next year. Still am not in the shape that I would like to be in- so that journey continues.

My career is still in about the same place - am still pursuing my next steps. I am convinced that growth and changes are forthcoming and with it, will be abundance (would really love not to stress about finances so much)- so that journey contiues.

My relationsip with my daughters is deeper and better than ever. It is amazing to watch your kids grow and change. From Avery's new self confidence and realization of her own strength to Lily's entry to the pre-teen years (gulp) and middle school- they are changing before my eyes. Talk about reinvention - or perhaps in their case, it is might be evolution.

Dating - I dated alot in the last year and met some interesting, wonderful men. I am very glad that I ended my self imposed dating hiatus and got back out there in the crazy, sometimes frustrating world of dating post divorce in your 40s. I learned alot about what I do and do not want in my next relationship. I also was reminded that there are also some lovely aspectsw to being single. This part of the journey continues.

One of my goals of blogging was to put the discipline of writing back into my life. I still feel much work remains undone when it comes to writing. Overcoming whatever block is there remains a part of this journey. I have very much enjoyed writing this blog and will continue. I remain amazed when I see how many views this blog gets from other countries- now South Korea, Brazil, Poland, France and Slovenia are on the list.

What did I reinvent this past year? Seems like most of it was internal- I did a ton of inner work, soul searching, thinking and often got these thoughts onto paper. Perhaps this is all part of the process. Did my life change in dramatic ways over the past year? No. Did it change for the better in smaller ways - yes and I am now in a place emotionally, mentally and spiritually for the bigger changes. I look forward to creating a new vision board for the upcoming year and allowing even more blessings to enter my world.

I remain a work in progress!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Dreams, sleep, messages from my Dad ??

Have you ever had one of those dreams that seems so real, so intense that it stays with you all day, even if you try shake it? My favorite are when you wake up irritated at someone because of a dream. I had one of those last night and I wish I could remember all of the details.

My late father was in my dream last night. Not a dream about my father, but he seemed to actually be in my dream visiting me- fully recognizing that he was dead and reaching out to me. He was specifically here to give me career advice, that I unfortunately do not clearly recall. To make it stranger, he told me too look up something- to research it (of course I don't remember what it is) to prove he was real. Then my siblings were with me. My sister and I could see and hear my dad and my brothers could only feel him if they reached out. We had to sort of prove to them that he was really there. Then in the crazy way that dreams begin to shift scenes..he was gone but sending me advice by text message! Modern technology invaded this space. How strange it all seemed to be.

I have had intuitive dreams before. I remember before I learned of my ex-husband's affair (during the affair actually) that would end our marriage, I had these vivid dreams where I could not find him and a feeling of panic and sadness would wash over me. I would call and call him on the phone and he seemed to have disappeared. I would wake up and he would tell me I was imagining thimgs and to go back to sleep. The day I found out about the affair - the exact same feeling washed over me -it was downright eerie.

Of course, these two dreams are very different but I am left wondering what this latest one means. Is this my subconscious trying to tell me something? Could my father really be reaching out to me? And most importantly what was his great advice? I remember asking him in the dream, "isn't it hard for you to be here, when you are supposed to be on the other side?, can you go back and forth?" I did not get an answer but woke up with the aha moment of perception that perhaps he wasn't fully there yet because my mom is still here- they were married for 53 years and he didn't quite want to leave, even though he passed away five years ago.

I guess I need to keep a pad and paper next to my bed to capture whatever dream state wisdom comes my way. Sleep is critical for health of all types - mental, physical, emotional - it restores, heals....perhaps it connects as well. Perhaps when the mind gets that quiet then anwers come for tough questions. I wonder where those answers originate?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010 matters when it is you...

I have the amazing honor of raising two children who happen to be of a different race - Asian, chinese to be precise. People have asked me "are they mixed with something" when they see us together. I suppose that is a roundabout way of figuring out if I have an Asian husband or if they are indeed adopted. I am tempted to say, "yes, most days they are mixed with sugar but some days they are mixed with attitude like their mother!" Curiosity about our situation aside, raising Chinese daughters has been a fascinating experience when it comes to race, ethnicity and how much it impacts your life experience.

I was born and raised in your typical white, Catholic, middle class existence. Not too much diversity in my life. In fact, I think I was in about 3rd grade before I realized that everyone was not Catholic. In my small, sheltered world, everyone went to the same church and parish school. I made friends with people different than myself in high school and college and of course when I got in the work force, my world opened up even more. I have always been comfortable around folks of different backgrounds so I didn't really concern myself too much with the the trans-racial aspect of adopting my kids. Before adopting and shortly after, I read alot and attended various seminars about parenting kids of another culture or race to get ready to face any issues that would occur. Sometimes, I think we like to tell ourselves that it doesn't really matter, people should not or do not see color and that people make a bigger deal out of race than they need to and are too sensitive. That is an easier reaction when you happen not to be the one in the minority.

I remember when I first felt the flaw in that theory. Lily was about 18 months old and I had some photos taken at Sears. We had spent a lot of time outside that summer including a trip to the beach and in spite of my generous use of sunscreen, Lily's skin had deepened to a gorgeous tan. I stood at counter at Sears as the photos of kids came up on the screen. Up popped this photo of a beautiful, brown skinned Asian child and for a split second I had that exact thought before I recognized my own child. I had never thought of her as anything other than my Lily. In that moment all those many years ago, I had one of the biggest revelations of my life- that other people are going to see and first identify my child by her race. Before they even get to know her, some people will already have begun the process of forming an opinion about her and what she might be like.

That does not happen to me and I am not identified or described by my race. People do not say - "Oh yeah, I know Laurie, she is white, mom of two..." However, when you are of a different race or ethnicity, it sets you apart and is s defining factor in how others see, describe you and potentially react to you. And you are reminded of that fact every time you look in the mirror. It is something that I will never be able to fully understand since I have never experienced it. Of course, I do not believe that all people are out there making judgements every day about my girls or other people of color. But the fact is that it does and will happen at some point in their lives. The closest way I can try to relate is remembering times when I dealt with others who made assumptions about me because I am a woman. I remember many years ago when we stopped at a fast food restaurant in a rural area on the way to the beach, the young lady at the counter, asked this of my step-daughter about her sisters.. "what are they?" Dani responded, "they are children" and walked away.

I am fortunate that my girls attend very diverse elementary and middle schools so they have tons of exposure to children and adult of many backgrounds. Avery is still young enough to be living in childhood innocence about race. She and her classmates are not color-blind- they know they have differences, but they think those things that set them apart are cool. "Isn't it neat that Neha is Indian - she celebrates Diwali." "Speaking Spanish with my friends is fun."

Lily is entering a whole new world of awareness about race and identity. I asked her the other day what she remembers about our trip to China to adopt Avery. Lily was just about 5 years old and we took her with us on the journey. She remembers the long plane ride, falling asleep in her dinner and recalls thinking that "for once everyone else looked like she did." Her mom was the one who didn't look like the rest of the people around her.

I am watching Lily expand her circle of friends to include more and more girls of color. Before middle school started, she was having an online chat with three of those friends- one is Indian and two are African-American. She explained that the topic of conversation was about how the kids from one of the local elementary schools that feed into their new middle school were going to treat them. She explained that they went on a joint field trip with this school last year and there was only one child from that school class who was not white. Would the kids from this school treat them differently because they were not white? Of all the things they could be discussing before the start of middle school - this was on their mind. Obviously, one or more of the girls had experienced or read or heard something to cause concern. Of course, all worked out fine, the kids are all becoming friends and things are pretty smooth.

I will admit that I am in unfamiliar territory as I strive to help my girls navigate the waters of race. I am observing my eldest as she figures out who she is and how being from China fits into that picture. She seems to look everywhere for undertones of judgement about race and racism in TV shows, movies and in how others act. From what I have read, this is probably a very natural reaction and phase at this stage of her development as she learns how to grow and thrive and deal with uncertainty. Over time and through experience, she will learn how to more closely discern what is real and what is not. She will learn that for every person of prejudice, there is another who is not. She will learn to be careful not assume that she knows another's intention. She will learn to be strong and to be proud of being Chinese so that another's opinion will lose power.

I do not have the answers, but I do know that the world is not colorblind and when you are the one who is different, you feel that more deeply. My job is to help my daughters understand that yes they will be identified as Asian and that is a very good thing. The world is filled with an infinite variety of people - thank God. Imagine how boring it would be if it were not.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Changing the world?

I have had some energizing conversations lately with people dedicated to changing the world - literally, transforming people's lives. Fighting disease, ensuring clean water is safe in developing countries, teaching, protecting and empowering girls and women... Making a difference and strengthening connections with others have always been personal and professional goals of mine- my career has been dedicated so far to the non-profit world. I try to make sure that my personal choices: how and where I volunteer, what I read, write and study, donate and how I raise my family reflect this goal. Is changing the world for the better, too lofty of a personal goal?

The challenge on the professional side of the equation is balancing idealism with realism. For instance, the need to make sure that I can support my family through my work. Finding that balance is often tricky because on the one hand you want to follow your heart and passion..on the other, there are bills to pay, braces needed and college tuition looming in the future.

I have come to realize that the balance is possible, if you focus on the broader perspective. For instance, passions can be followed and pursued as a volunteer. I can write about adoption, spiritual connection and volunteer to talk to prospective parents but don't need to look for a job running an adoption agency. I can expose my children to some reality of the world around them and how they can improve it while still giving them a stable and joy filled childhood.

I read a fascinating article by Martha Beck in this month's O magazine about finding your life's purpose. Discovering what you love to do now and used to love as a child, what gets you in the zone and causes you to lose track of time. These can be important keys. However, translating that to a purpose in life is a bit trickier - you love to bake....that does not necessarily mean you want to or should want to open a bakery. But, what is it about baking that is so appealing - creativity, research/searching for recipes, following and/or testing recipes, feeding others, the sensual aspects - rolling dough, smell of baking cookies. Those may be the keys that you look for to find life's purpose- be it professional or personal.

My trigger is that I do need to feel that my professional life is an extension of my personal mission to make a difference and positively impact the world. I feel as though my life would be wasted if I don't try to make the impact that I believe that I can. I feel this burning need to teach about how interconnected we all are on a deep level. I am going to be mad at myself on my deathbed if I have not written some of the things that I need to and have not yet done. Certainly, I have made some decisions in my life that have been spot on correct and necessary for my life to have purpose - prime example is adopting my daughters.

As I sit here at 47 - midlife and mid-career (yes mid-career: I will be working at something forever), I remind myself of that fact. Yes, non-profit work has its challenges, but for now it does resonate with me and allow me the ability to make a difference. For others, that purpose and ability to change the world may come from a professional life in the for profit sector - starting a business, creating art or music that brings joy, working for a company and being a great manager and coach, creating much needed jobs, making a great salary and generous donations... The key , I think, is finding your own passion and purpose and fulfilling it in a heart centered, generous way.

If we don't try to change the world...who will?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Penny pinching with a mindset of abundance?

Are we living in a time of creative abundance or scarcity? Keeping a positive mindset about money, doing what you love, visualizing success, utlizing the law of attraction - do these methods still work in an economic environment that others around you call a recession? Or is it more important than ever to "think and grow rich." Some may consider it new age "woo-hoo" but it is fascinating to read how many self created successful people from Henry Ford to Suzi Orman to Tony Robbins believe that your attitude and thoughts about money and abundance form the foundation of success. It becomes challenging to maintain that attitude when every news outlet proclaims recession, jobless rates and people all around you are seem to be losing their jobs or struggling.

I told the universe "no thank you, I do not accept your invitation to the recession." However, some of its unwelcome essence has oozed into my life anyway- a house in which what I owe and costs of repairs/upgrades needed to sell mean I would be under if I sold, leftover divorce debt, reduced income, and expenses that are going up as my girls get older. When I fall off of the "positive wagon", it can sometimes be hard to breathe as I think of college expenses looming in the future and current home repair dollars needed. Like so many others, finances are my biggest source of stress. I am not person who needs a ton of money or wants a bigger house, I just want to be comfortable and secure, able to support my family, make a difference in the world and pursue a few dreams.

However, when I do breathe through it, I try to get back to creating a plan to penny pinch and create abundance even when surrounded by economic negativity.

* Remember to be grateful for what I do have- a job, the capacity and skills to look for a higher paying one, a home, family, health and talents. I remind myself that the job market is opening up, headhunters are calling, and everyone I know from my company who lost their position last year has found a good job. I know a great opportunity will come my way.

* Remember the lesson that you should always have more than one income stream in your life. Your job may me be one but always have another iron in the fire - freelance, side business, something that could bring in additional dollars.

* Don't forget your dreams and passions - even if your current job does not provide you an outlet for them. Dream, visualize, research, write, plan, scheme, volunteer... do something to bring those to life. And look for a way to turn them into that second revenue stream. I will be writing, looking to publish and sell, working with a friend on a business idea and baking - buy your holiday cookies from me!

* Clip coupons, bring your lunch to work, comparison shop, swap books, shop consignment shops. I need to be smarter about the grocery store and we love to eat out which needs to be an occasional treat for us. So how do you reconcile living a life of visualizing abundance with pinching pennies. Spending money and valuing my resources is a way to express gratitude by not being wasteful.

* Read inspirational books and articles about abundance and try to stay away from reading the negative. There is a fine balance between understanding the reality of the world around and staying open to the fact that we are constantly creating and adding to the universe. There is enough to go around, the pie can get bigger after you take your piece.... or bake another one.

How are you building abundance??