Category Archives: International Adoption

new podcast

Hsiao_Ling_H-Logo-Final-3000x3000It’s rare that I write two posts in a row these days! I wanted to share with you a new podcast I’m launching soon called Global Adoptee Talk, a podcast about the experiences of international and transracial adoptees around the globe. The podcast will feature 1:1 interviews with other international/transracial adoptees, and we’ll discuss topics related to international adoption, race/culture/identity, search and reunion, and mental health. Please stop by to visit my new site, GlobalAdopteeTalk.com.

And, please share the podcast with your adoption community! I’m off to work now…Thank you so much for visiting Global Adoptee Talk!

landslide

You know, words often fail to give the deepest of meaning to our emotions. That’s probably why I connected so strongly to music when I was a kid and still do today. I was unable to put words to my feelings. It was too scary, and I just didn’t have the vocabulary. Music became my refuge. It let me feel what I could not say, and it was safe. If we could just sing or play a song to express our deepest fears, joys, struggles, anger, what a different world we might live in.

Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of ‘throwback’ tunes – tunes that I grew up listening to as a teenager. I’m a little bias, but the 80’s really did rock the best music ever. My first music concert was RUSH at the Shreveport Coliseum in Louisiana. They were one of my favorite bands along with ACDC, The Eagles, April Wine, Night Ranger, The Police, Genesis/Phil Collins, Fleetwood Mac, The Scorpions, Journey, Van Halen, Pat Benatar – well the list goes on and on. And then there was the British pop wave – Duran Duran, (who else was in love with Nick Taylor?), Thompson Twins, Pet Shop Boys, Human League, etc. I digress…

A couple of years ago I attended an Adoption Conference at St. John’s Univeristy in NJ. Social worker, Robert L. O’Connor, gave the keynote address. I can’t remember exactly what he spoke about, but I do remember him talking about having an ‘adoption song.’ He adopted a song that gave meaning to his personal adoption experience. As a musician I thought, ‘why hadn’t I thought of that?’ So on my commute to work today, I was listening to a favorite song, ‘Landslide,’ by Fleetwood Mac, sung by the lovely Stevie Nicks. ‘That’s my song!’ I thought. It describes much of what I feel as an adoptee. If you love music from the 80’s as much as I do, you’re probably familiar with ‘Landslide.’ Here are some of the lyrics:

I took my love, I took it down

I climbed a mountain and I turned around

And I saw my reflection in the snow-covered hills

‘Till the landslide brought me down.

Oh, mirror in the sky, what is love?

Can the child within my heart rise above?

Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?

Can I handle the seasons of my life?

Well, I’ve been afraid of changing

‘Cause I’ve built my life around you

But time makes you bolder

Even children get older

And I’m getting older too…

Obviously, the song can be interpreted in many different ways. But I see so many metaphors and parallels to my adopted self. Growing up I didn’t like the reflection I saw in the mirror – as I’ve said many times, I had a a real struggle with identity. And, a feeling of uprootedness haunted me. I look back and see what a deeply insecure, lost child I was, detached. It was a fearful time in my life. Sometimes, I regress and feel as though I’m that insecure lost kid again despite the fact that I’m 51 and have worked hard to overcome a lot across the years. It’s almost paralyzing. It typically occurs when I feel fearful of a situation or a person, but has certainly decreased as I’ve gotten older and gained a greater sense of self.

I think in a poetic and meaningful way, the lyrics to ‘Landslide’ describe the seasons of one’s life and how difficult they are to navigate at times. Until well into my thirties, I still had so little self-awareness and just could not express what I was feeling. It was like I was numb. I think the numbness was a mask for feelings of fear. It was frustrating for others in my life. And, it wasn’t until I found my lost adoption papers that I slowly began to ‘come out of the fog’ and realize that there was a whole part of myself that I’d disengaged from in an attempt to blend in with those around me. ‘Landslide’ reminds me of the self-loathing, denial, fear, anger, lostness, loneliness, and disappointment that I once felt and hid. But with life experience, maturity, and coming to terms with who I am, those emotions have slowly evolved into compassion, forgiveness, determination, and self-acceptance. Every once in awhile, that insecure, lost child resurfaces and things turn kinda grey. There will always be loss in my life as a result of adoption. It’s complicated. But music brings peace and tenderness. All you have to do is listen in perfect silence. And then I’m reminded of how much I’ve learned and accomplished as a result of the hard things I’ve experienced. If you could choose a song to give voice to your adoption experience, what would it be???

Photo by Mayur Gala

 

#whitewashed

city-hunter-sitihunteo-1

Lee Min-ho, City Hunter

Hey folks! It is October and the beginning of Fall. Except, it sure doesn’t feel like it here in Southern California. We’re getting 90 degree weather, and the Santa Ana winds are blowing hot and heavy. Seriously? It almost feels like someplace else I used to live…Anyway, how many of you are hooked on Hallmark? I mean – the Hallmark channel. With Fall and the holiday season approaching, Hallmark is on a roll. Practically every other movie has the descriptive word, “Harvest,” in its title, and tonight they’re featuring a Christmas sneak peek at all 21 world-premiere original movies to be aired during the holidays. I know, like me, you are greatly anticipating this hour-long preview.

Now before you get all judgy, there was a time when I couldn’t stand Hallmark movies. I get it – they’re incredibly sappy, overly romantic, and let’s be honest, utterly unrealistic.  Oh, I forgot to throw in ridiculous. If you’re a guy, you probably have no patience for such nonsense. My husband the other day remarked, “You just love watching white people fall in love.” Hmm. I wasn’t quite sure, initially, how to process that comment. Was it funny, was it an insult, sarcastic for sure, and I had to admit, there was some truth to it. I confess, I love mindless, romantic, fluff that has a happy ending and no one gets killed. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Law & Order SVU, This Is Us, and The Gifted, but sometimes, I just need a break from reality. Yea, that’s what I’ll call it – Hallmark is a break from reality. The fact that a lot of white people act in most, okay, all of the network’s movies hasn’t really bothered me – that much?

I mean, let’s face it, I think like a white person, talk like a white person, act like a white person. What does that mean exactly? If I didn’t look Asian, you’d probably never know the difference. When people meet me for the first time, they sometimes say, “Wow, you don’t have any accent. You’re English is so good.” Well, I grew up in a white family, surrounded by white people in a mostly white community. And get this, when I lived in the South, I actually had a southern accent. I learned in subtle and not so subtle ways, that white was privileged. I was fine with that for many years. I wanted to be white so bad, I lied about where I was born to my peers, I dyed my hair so that I looked less Asian, and yet I never quite felt white enough. Well, duh. I hated the fact that my eyelids were so small compared to my beautiful, white girlfriends. And then one day, much, much later in my life, I started to come out of the fog – if you’re an adoptee, you get what I mean. I realised that the Asian self I loathed needed some love and nurture. It took a really long time and a lot of digging down deep into my core, but I began to slowly embrace the me I always loathed. I searched for my birth family in Taiwan and eventually reunited with them. I learned about Taiwan’s history and clung to the little I learned about my birth parents. I went back to my country of origin and walked the streets of the city of my birth. It was freeing, healing, exhilarating – I could add a million more “ing” words to describe what that connect was like. And yet, because I was uprooted from my birth country, I will never fully embody its culture, customs, language.  I’m not Asian enough in some communities, too white. And in others, I’m not white enough.

So being a Taiwanese-American adoptee is a dichotomy. I’m Taiwanese, yet have a very hard time connecting to my roots here in the U.S., much to my dismay. Recently, I started listening to Pimsleur CDs on my way to work to learn Mandarin. I’m not a very strong auditory learner, however. I was concentrating so hard on pronunciation and remembering what was just spoken that I got a pretty intense headache. And I nearly rear ended the guy in front of me.  I’ll have to listen and learn in a less distracting environment. What I’m trying to say is, my husband’s comment struck an   uncomfortable chord. I know that Hallmark is about as white, American, apple pie as it gets. It’s a struggle to manage being of two vastly different cultures at times – and unfortunately, connecting to one more than the other – and not of my own choosing or doing. As much as I want to connect more deeply to my Taiwanese roots, there are so many barriers.

So, what are ways that you connect to your culture of origin? Is it as maddening for you as it is for me? I’d love to hear your thoughts. In the meantime, I’m going to return to watching Hallmark. It’s easy; it’s comfortable; it’s mindless. And Lord knows, we have enough complicated in our lives as adoptees to last a lifetime, so give me a break. And btw, I do love Korean and Taiwanese dramas. If you have any good recommendations, do send – my favourites are Boys Over Flowers and City Hunter. Yea, I know, I’m justifying my addiction to watching Hallmark…Shameless.

 

ivory

RecitalMrs. Guinn placed the clunky brown headphones snuggly over my head, the giant earpieces squeezed my temples. A long, coiled cord reached across the way to a stereo where she now stood, ready to drop the needle. I had no idea what I was in store for. Mrs. Guinn had never offered to play music for me at any of my other piano lessons. Mandi, my friend next door, and I took weekly lessons at Mrs. Guinn’s house. I loved going to Mrs. Guinn’s for my piano lessons and looked forward to them every week. She lived in a quiet neighborhood in Shady Grove and was probably 30-something in age. She was married to an officer in the Air Force and had a pretty face and gentle demeanor. She reminded me of Toni Tennille of Captain and Tenille. The front living room where Mrs. Guinn taught held an upright piano on one wall and an organ against another, a large window overlooked the street. Her house was always meticulously clean and inviting. “I have something I want you to listen to today,” she said as she guided me into the family room. The headphones felt heavy against my ears as she adjusted them. I sat silently and settled into Mrs. Guinn’s plush black couch, waiting for the music to begin playing.

“Da-da-da-DUM.” “Da-da-da-DUM!” Those first four minor pitches of Beethoven’s all too famous Fifth Symphony bellowed in my ears. The music escalated, and I became completely enraptured, magically swept away. With every pulse of the bass, my heart quickened. I was only 9-years old at the time, and yet that was such a defining moment in my life. The rest of the world fell away in those brief eight minutes or so of that first movement. I was an extremely shy, introverted kid, but at my lesson the following week, I mustered the courage to ask Mrs. Guinn if I could listen to that recording again. Of course, she obliged. Little did Mrs. Guinn know how much that recording influenced me musically. One of the other things I enjoyed while taking lessons from Mrs. Guin was the monthly gatherings she held at her home where all her students performed for each other. The best part was when she performed for us on her organ. I loved watching her feet fly across the pedals.

Mrs. Guinn was a member of the National Federation of Music and entered me into my first music festival where students performed and were adjudicated. I received a superior + and was selected to perform in the Honors Recital with many other students. Kabelevsky’s, The Clown, Op. 39, No. 2, was my first performance piece ever. As I climbed the stairs the night of the recital towards the concert grand piano, it felt as though I were having an out of body experience. Somehow, I got through my piece without any fumbles and took my bow to the applause of the audience. I would perform in many other recitals, each one causing more anxiety than the last. It was something I continuously struggled with.

Mrs. Guinn moved within a year or two. I was deeply saddened when she told me her husband had received a military transfer to Texas, as I had become quite attached to her. I eventually studied with Mr. Robert Buckner during my high school years. Mr. Buckner lived in Shreveport and was quite a character. He had a piano studio behind his house, and a dachsund named Angie. I began every lesson with major and/or minor scales as a warm-up, or Hanon exercises. I felt comfortable with his teaching style and sense of humor. I decided to major in music and attended Centenary College of Louisiana where I studied piano performance, primarily because it meant I didn’t have to take a single math class. I was beyond horrible in math or anything that had to do with numbers. Initially, I felt terribly inadequate compared to my peers who seemed to have much better training musically than I did. I struggled with ear training and theory, but loved composition and piano literature. I studied with Constance Knox Carroll and absolutely adored her. She was an inspiring teacher and incredible pianist. I’m sure, however, that I was one of her least favorite students, as I was not very disciplined and did not practice as I should have, especially during my senior year. I got distracted with theatre and dance and remember her scolding me at one particular lesson for my lack of practice. She had every right to because my senior recital loomed ahead, and I hadn’t memorized all of my pieces. She remarked that it seemed like I liked theatre and dance better, and she was right. What did I know at that age? Not a whole lot. I sat there silently, not knowing what to say.

I wasn’t exactly lazy, but discipline was not my strong suit. Practicing was such an isolating endeavor, and yet in those days, I didn’t always mind it. I typically hit the practice room for four hours a day, sometimes six on the rare occasion that I was super inspired. There were times when it was such a rewarding experience to sit at the keyboard and just play without anyone listening. Those were the times when I performed the best. But in front of an audience, I lost all sense of composure. Performance anxiety plagued me. I could not control my hands; they became leaden, nor the adrenaline racing through me, and memory slips haunted me. On one occasion, several students were to perform with the Shreveport Symphony in a special recital. I was going to perform the first movement of Mozart’s Piano Concerto in A, K414. I can’t describe how exhilarating it was to perform with an orchestra, with other musicians. It was like flying, but without the motion sickness. Unfortunately, performance anxiety got the best of me, and my memory lapsed somewhere during the development. The orchestra continued to play as if nothing happened while I sat frozen. Eventually, I wove my way back in, but the damage had been done. I barely made it through the cadenza.

After graduating college, I taught piano for a brief time at St. Mark’s Episcopal in Shreveport and another Christian school before moving to Florida. I didn’t touch a keyboard for nearly 20 years after that. One day, my mom asked if I wanted my baby grand piano, the one they bought me when I first started taking piano lessons. Of course I did, and a couple of months later, my baby grand arrived to our tiny condo in California. It took up an entire room. I started teaching piano thereafter at a Christian elementary school in Mission Viejo, CA, and eventually taught privately on and off until 2013. My piano skills were more than a little rusty, and I lamented the loss. I attempted to take piano lessons a couple of different times, but just didn’t have the time to commit to practicing with family responsibilities and work. I stopped teaching altogether in 2013 when I went back to school to pursue a Master’s degree in Social Work.

I’ve now had my baby grand since 1999. It has moved with us many different times in the last several years. It’s sitting in our family room in need of a little TLC – or a lot actually. Every once in awhile, I sit down to play,  but most of my time is spent at work these days. Recently, I felt moved to find Mrs. Guinn and searched for her via Google. Amazingly, I found her, and she wrote back to me immediately. She continues to teach, perform at churches, and accompany choirs in Nebraska. Although she only vaguely remembered me, she said that she looked up old recital programs and located one dated May 23, 1976, that I performed in. She said I played a Schaum arrangement of Yankee Doodle as a solo and again in a trio performance with Mandi, my friend, and another student named Kelly Scott. I was so happy to hear from Mrs. Guinn and that she continues to teach and play.

I feel truly blessed to have been trained in piano for so many years. I wish that I’d held onto it, but I think there was a part of me that felt incredibly inadequate as a pianist, so I shut it out of my life for a spell. When I studied to become a board-certified music therapist in 2006, that passion for music came back to life. And now, I long for my piano to be more than just a pretty conversation piece in my living room. One of these days, and hopefully not too long from now, I will get back to playing, perhaps a little at a time. It’s hard to play as I compare my skills now to those days when I was playing everyday for long hours. People tend to tell me, “you should just play for yourself.” Well, it’s easier said than done. Nevertheless, music is truly part of my fabric. I can’t think of anything more powerful and transformative than music.

So, for your listening pleasure, here is one of my favorite pianists, Murrah Perahia, at the keyboard performing Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 12 in A, K. 414. To Mrs. Carroll, who inspired me to be a better pianist:

 

Book Release Date

CoverBeyond Two Worlds: A Taiwanese-American Adoptee’s Memoir & Search for Identity is now live! If you have not yet purchased your copy, don’t delay. Signed copies can be purchased right here on my website.  Just click on Shop to order. Ebook and hardcover editions are also available via AmazonBarnes & Noble, and Indiebound.org. Unfortunately, I am unable to ship internationally; however, those copies can be ordered through Amazon and Barnes & Noble online. To learn more about the book and to read an excerpt, click here. Thank you for supporting Beyond Two Worlds!

 

as the world turns

slava-bowman-161206Do you remember that old soap opera, “As the World Turns?” I wasn’t a fan of the show, but do vividly remember the opening credits, a globe of the earth spinning round and round in space. My favorite soap was “Santa Barbara.” My mom and Grandma Bushmiller got me hooked on that one. When I was in high school, Grandma bought the house next door to us, the same one that our family friends, the Reynolds, lived in for years. I would walk next door to Grandma’s house, and she would have her old RCA turned up so loud that the floors literally shook. Grandma was hard of hearing. She didn’t wear hearing aids, but she sure could have used them. We lived in Bossier City, Louisiana at that time. One weekend, I went to the annual Peach Festival in Ruston, Louisiana, just to meet the actor (A. Martinez) who played the character, Cruz, in “Santa Barbara.” I waited patiently in line that hot summer afternoon to get an autographed headshot. Apparently, A Martinez went to school with some official who lived in Ruston, and that’s how he came to visit the Peach Festival. When it was my turn to get my signed headshot, I told the actor of my dream to pursue acting. He looked at me, not even a hint of a smile crossed his face, and told me not to do it. I don’t remember his exact words, but that was it in a nutshell. Of course, I didn’t take his advice, and after graduating college, I moved to Florida then LA to pursue acting after I’d gotten my SAG card for some bit part I had in a movie. Seems like that time in my life was somebody else’s. I was so young and naive, yet thought I knew it all. I had a lot to learn and, unfortunately, it came the hard way.

Three decades later, I’m still learning. Most people my age have settled into a career and have been at it for years. I’m starting another new job and am feeling the steep climb necessary to learn a new skill set and get familiar with a new role and agency. I do not want to experience anymore transition for a very long time. Speaking of transition, I was in the company of some good friends last night whose son just graduated from high school. I felt for my friends, as I remember the heartache I felt when our daughter left for college. Pure agony. Our kids used to play together, and my friend and I would watch Jane Austen movies while they played. My family and I were in San Diego to celebrate and reconnected with some other families we hadn’t seen in years. We all attended the same church a long time ago. One of the moms said that she was considering pursuing an MSW or Master’s in Education so she could teach. She worked in social services at one time and was familiar with the agency I currently work for. I shared with her the challenges of the social work profession and hoped that I didn’t come across too negative, but felt I had to be honest.

It was really good to see our old friends and their kids. I said that I missed having a school aged child at home. I missed feeling grounded, despite all of the running around for extracurricular activities, our daughter’s friends in our home, teaching piano, etc. I taught piano on and off for years while our daughter was growing up so that I could be at home with her. Maybe I should have just stuck with teaching. I went to graduate school for social work because I’ve always wanted to help people, especially adoptees. But even more so, I had something to prove to myself, which is probably not the best reason to spend an exorbitant amount of money. In any case, it is what it is. I’m in a tough profession. I’d like to believe that over the last few years, I’ve ruled out what I don’t want to do in the profession. It’s taken a pretty big toll on my physical health, but I’m finally in a place where the pace is slower and I may be able to stick it out. I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised that it’s taken nearly two years following graduate school to figure it out – it follows the pattern of my life – it appears, a late bloomer I will always be

So, here’s to new, new beginnings. Ugh, just saying that makes me tired. I hope that it’s the last one for awhile, perhaps forever. Good news, once we get through this month and September, cooler weather and my favorite time of the year, Autumn, will arrive. My oh my, a lot has happened. I’m beginning to love the area we live in though and finding new stomping grounds. Still commuting to work, so that hasn’t changed. Well, at least there’s one constant…

Photo by Slava Bowman on Unsplash

citizenship loophole limbo

In national news, we’re inundated daily with drama related to the Trump presidency, Obamacare repeal, and Russian hacks, but there is another issue at large that affects thousands of individuals living in the U.S. I’m referring to international adoptees who were adopted to the U.S. prior to the year 1983 who are now at risk for deportation. Despite the U.S. citizenship of their parents, these adoptees were not automatically granted citizenship. In many cases, their adoptive parents did not properly apply for naturalization. Today, many adult international adoptees living in the U.S. are learning that they do not have U.S. citizenship. Without citizenship, adoptees have limited work and travel options, cannot access public benefits or qualify for home loans, and are at risk for deportation to countries where they have no known family, do not know the language or culture, and have less than optimal chances of survival.

In 2000, the Child Citizen Act (CCA) was implemented to protect the status of adopted/foreign-born children by allowing them to acquire U.S. citizenship automatically. This law became effective on February 27, 2001. However, in order to be protected by this law, a child had to be born no earlier than February 27, 1983 – in other words, children who were 18+ years of age when CCA was enacted were left out of the Act causing a loophole to exist.

Many of the adoptees left out, who also committed minor crimes, and whose adoptive parents did not properly apply for naturalization, have been deported, or are at risk for deportation back to their country of origin. Most of them have lived almost all of their lives in the U.S. Adam Crapser, a name many adoptees are familiar with, is a 41-year old adoptee who was deported to S. Korea last year and is consequently separated from his wife and daughter in the U.S. Through no fault of his own, Adam was adopted at the age of 3 years by physically/psychologically abusive parents – parents who obviously did not seek naturalization. As a result of the trauma he experienced, Adam faced several challenges. You can read more about Adam’s story here. Most recently, adoptee, Phillip Clay, took his own life after being deported to S. Korea in 2012, his country of birth. It has been reported that Phillip suffered from psychological issues, a malady not uncommon to many international adoptees.

Efforts continue to be made by the Adoptee Rights Campaign, and other groups (National Korean American Service and Education ConsortiumKorean Resource Center) to re-introduce the Adoptee Citizenship Act (ACA), first presented to Congress in 2015 by a small group of senators. The bill, SB2275, provides for automatic acquisition of United States citizenship for certain internationally adopted individuals. In 2016, a group of representatives introduced House companion bill, HB5454. Unfortunately, the bill did not pass through all stages in the (2015-2016) 114th sessions for Congress. The bill could have granted retroactive U.S. citizenship to all internationally adopted individuals regardless of when they were born, addressing the issue that left multitudes of adoptees who were born prior to February 28, 1983 unprotected by the Child Citizenship Act of 2000.

You can make a difference, however! Sign the 2017 Adoptee Citizenship Act Petition here urging members of Congress to support the Adoptee Citizenship Act, and encourage your family and friends to do the same. Through our collective voice, legislators will take action, and those adoptees who are threatened by the loophole will have equal rights and protection. Please write and/or call your legislators to help bring awareness to this important legislation. Thank you for your support.

Watch Vice News report (HB0) on Adam Crapser’s plight below. Read, “Deportation a ‘Death Sentence’ to Adoptees after a Lifetime in the U.S.” here published at the NY Times, July 2, 2017.

adoptee book review

old-books-436498_1280Just wanted to thank Andrew Adams, an adoptee from S. Korea, for reading my book and providing a review! Andrew and I connected via social media on a facebook page he created, #adopteesfromasia. Andrew lived in Indiana, but recently moved and is working in S. Korea! Read his review below, and if you haven’t purchased your copy of Beyond Two Worlds: A Taiwanese-American Adoptee’s Memoir & Search for Identity, click here.


Finished the book in 5 hours! From start to finish, Marijane Huang’s story pulls you in for a roller coaster of emotions. I laughed, cried, and sometimes even both at the same time! Beyond Two Worlds is a beautifully written memoir about a very real, and relatable human being in search of answers – only to find new questions at every turn. The short, succinct chapters are packed with memories and orchestrated in a way that weave her childhood recollections with today’s introspection. And at the same time, we get to know the author and her family and friends more and more throughout the book. For example, at times in the book, I was upset with her mother’s behavior, and other times, I was 100% sympathetic. More importantly, Marijane illustrates each person in her life so well, it makes us want to know more about them, ask them questions, and just give them a hug. This is the kind of person we find out that Marijane is – a curious, inquisitive, and loving individual who reflects herself so well in writing that we end up feeling the exact same way. As an adoptee from Asia myself, I can relate with many parts of the book. In fact, all of the questions that Marijane presents, most adoptees have asked. Those questions are tied to deep level insecurities, abandonment, and hope. But this book is for anyone. The hope and persistence will inspire you to keep going, especially when you are ready to give up. Feeling alone and heartbroken? This book shows us that there are people in the world waiting to meet us. And for myself, Beyond Two Worlds, makes me proud to be who I am today knowing that I can embrace every part of me unapologetically and that there will always be more questions, more to learn about ourselves.