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mid-autumn festival 2016

2mooncakesHappy Moon Festival! I went to check out the moon cake display at my favorite Taiwanese bakery, AA Ozzy Bakery in Mesa, this afternoon after lunch. The moon cakes came in single packages as well as pretty pre-packaged boxes.

Interestingly, the origin of the Moon Festival is rooted in Chinese mythology and beliefs. It’s celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar. Today, September 15th, happens to be the exact day of the Moon Festival. As its name suggests, legends (there are several) surrounding the Moon Festival are generally related to the moon. One of the most popular legends told widely during the festival days is that of Chang E flying to the moon. It is said that in ancient times, ten suns existed, and the extreme heat made people’s lives quite difficult. Hou Yi, a famous archer, shot down nine of the ten suns and became a hero due to this great feat. Upon hearing about this act and the hero who performed it, people came from far and wide to learn from him. Peng Meng was among these people. Later, Hou Yi married a beautiful and kind-hearted woman named Chang E and lived a happy life.
4mooncakesOne day, Hou Yi came upon Wangmu, the queen of heaven, on the way to meet his old friend. Wangmu presented him with an elixir which, if taken, would cause him to ascend immediately to heaven and become a god. Instead of drinking the potion himself, however, Hou Yi took it home and presented it to Chang E to keep. Unfortunately, Peng Meng secretly saw Hou Yi give the potion to his wife and three days later, while Hou Yi was out hunting, Peng Meng rushed into the backyard and demanded that Chang E hand over the elixir. Knowing that she could not win, she took out the elixir and swallowed it immediately. The moment she drank it, she flew out of the window and up into the sky. Chang E’s great love for her husband drew her towards the Moon, which is the nearest place to the earth in heaven.

mooncakehalvedHou Yi was so grieved after realizing what happened to his wife that he shouted Chang E’s name to the sky. He was amazed to see a figure which looked just like his wife appear in the Moon. He took the food liked by Chang E to an altar and offered it as a sacrifice for her. After hearing that Chang E became a goddess, folk people also offered sacrifices to Chang E to pray for peace and good luck. Since then, the custom of sacrificing to the moon has been spread among the folklore. It is said that Chang E looks the most beautiful against the full moon on Mid-Autumn Festival. According to legend,  you can see her dancing and swaying shadow in the light of the moon.

Today, the Chinese celebrate the Mid-Autumn festival with dances, feasting, moon gazing and, of course, mooncakes. While baked goods are a common feature at most celebrations, mooncakes are inextricably linked with the Moon festival. Mooncakes are often filled with lotus seed paste, are roughly the size of a human palm, and are meant to be cut diagonally in quarters and passed around. This explains their rather steep price ($8.00 for mine!). In the middle of the mooncake is a salty yolk, representing the full moon. I’m not particularly fond of mooncakes; however, I do love many of the other baked goods. And they are really fun and pretty to look at!

 

the stage of life

chair-in-college-courtyard-I love being a mom. The one most significant, life-changing event that has occurred over the course of my life is having a kid. Our beautiful daughter is now on the cusp of starting a new adventure. Next Monday, we head out to California where she will be attending college. We’re so proud of her, and I can’t wait to hear about how she likes her classes and professors, the new friends she’s making and how she’s adjusting to campus life.

On the other hand, I feel as though I’m on a roller coaster of emotions. One minute, I’m thrilled for her, like when we’re out shopping for her dorm room. And then, I have a momentary lapse into grief, this overwhelming sense of panic that she’s really leaving the nest. I realize that my role as a mom is naturally diminishing. I remind myself that she is so very excited about going away to college. I think about how fun it will be starting the next chapter of her life.

One of the most significant things that being a mom has taught me is how to deeply connect to another human being. I’ve always had difficulty connecting with others, especially as a very young child and teenager. I was once told that I was ‘aloof’ and that no one ever seemed to be able to get close to me. Those words stung, and at that time in my life, I truly was unable to communicate and express my innermost thoughts and feelings. Heck, half the time, I didn’t know what I was feeling, except perhaps fear and panic. But, I was not able to put those emotions into words. Instead, my inability to express often incited anger and frustration from others. Of course, that only exacerbated feelings of fear and panic. I had a very hard time trusting other people in my life and often believed they did not have my back. My daughter and I have a very close and special relationship, so saying good-bye is going to be especially hard. She in turn has been grieving the loss of her friends, who she claims are the best friends in the world. I have such fond memories of our daughter and her good friend, Sophia, dancing at many a competition. Sophia’s mom and I lamented the strict rehearsal schedule and all the crazy driving back and forth between rehearsals and competitions. Despite that craziness, I loved it. Our daughter worries whether she’ll be able to find friends as amazing and supportive as the ones she’s had over the past couple of years in high school. I have no doubt that she’ll make new friends in college and will simply expand the circle. But she understands that things change when you go away and are moving in different directions.

Being a parent has been the one thing I think I’ve done most successfully (not that it’s completely over yet). Parenting has taught me so much. It’s increased my intuition and ability to get past the superficial to develop more meaningful relationships with others. It’s made me wiser and more empathetic. It’s made me appreciative of my own mother, my adoptive mother, who I had an extremely turbulent relationship with. I learned to forgive my mother and realized that despite her shortcomings, she loved me and was parenting the only way she knew how. Being a mom has brought more joy than I could ever express in words. I’m grateful that my daughter and I have shared such an intimate relationship and that it’s markedly different than the relationship I had with my adoptive mom. It’s scary how alike my daughter and I are in our interests and opinions. It’s also scary how I’ve passed down to her some of my most negative attributes. She is her own person, however. Strong, independent, and kind.

As I move forward into the next phase of my life as an empty-nester, there are many things I hope to accomplish. We are experiencing much change, so much that it makes my head swim (moving, starting another new job). I have had hopes for a long time to visit two other adult adoptees who were adopted from the same orphanage in Taipei. One lives in Kentucky and the other out East. Unfortunately, my plans always get sidetracked for one reason or another. One day I will make it happen. I want to go back to Taipei and visit my birthfamily. This, too, is always sidetracked. I’ve tossed around the idea of writing some kind of book about my adoption/reunion with my birthfamily. So many adoptees have done this, however, and I don’t want to just write another memoir or book on international adoption. These days, videos and podcasts featuring adoptees are becoming increasingly popular. I feel that I’m too old to start something like that, but perhaps I have the wrong perspective. I have a dream to work in orphan care, but not the kind you think. My hope is that one day, there will be no orphanages and that children will be fostered or adopted within their own countries. There is much work to be done on this front.

For now, it’s time to send our daughter off to college. Wow, it’s been the adventure of a lifetime raising our daughter. So many memories of the past 18 years come flooding back. Some say it gets better as time goes on. Others disagree. I tend to think that it really depends on the individual parent and their own internal process. Those first few months are gonna be tough. There is no doubt about that. I am so proud of the woman my daughter is and is yet to become. And now, California here we come…

out of the fog

shutterstock_449362561A recent post written by another adoptee caught my attention the other day. The author’s name is Kumar, and he blogs at A Stroll Through My Mind. Kumar was adopted from Pudukottai, Tamil Nadu, India. In this particular post, he discusses a book, Daughter of the Ganges, written by author/adoptee, Asha Miro. Miro chronicles her travels back to India to uncover her native roots. She visits India on two separate occasions, the second eight years after the first. What struck me as I read Kumar’s post was his comparison of the two trips and how the impetus of Miro’s journey seems to change over time. He reflects, “Her first [trip] feels naive, innocent and very good natured. She, as I would do myself, trusts that others have her best interest at heart and ends up receiving information that is not wholly accurate.” I have not read Miro’s books, but could certainly relate to the naivety in which Miro sets out to uncover her roots and the receipt of inaccurate information. Kumar shares that he similarly trusted that others had his best interest at heart, as did I when I first began this blog and the initial search for my birthfamily in Taiwan. I trusted my adoptive parents and the information they provided to me only to find out that the information was hugely inaccurate. Unfortunately, I will probably never know where the lines got crossed. Miro’s second journey to India is quite different. Kumar says, “She pushes people for information, gets the necessary help and is able to create some amazing connections.” Adoptees are constantly pushing others for information. It often doesn’t come easily.

I set out to find my own native roots anxious to investigate the unknowns and find answers. I held no ill feelings towards my adoptive parents for withholding what they knew about my adoption, although I had a right to know. Finding and reunifying with my birthfamily has been one of the most significant events in my life, one that I continue to ponder. That my sisters and family never forgot me and wanted to reunite is beyond wonder. As I have researched international adoption and read the stories of many other adoptees and birth mothers, I have lost the naivety I once possessed regarding adoption. Although I gather that many adoptive parents approach international adoption with the best of intentions and for a multitude of reasons, the very nature of international adoption is complex and rooted in loss, which is oft misunderstood or minimized. The loss of a culture and language, the loss of parents/caregivers, the loss of everything familiar is no small thing, and this grief and loss cannot be understated nor underestimated. Most internationally adopted children eventually adapt and assimilate, yet for some of us, the unknowns continue to be painful reminders that our pasts are not quite whole.

I know that my adoptive parents loved me, and despite the challenges in our family, I loved my parents. It was not easy growing up in my adoptive family, and I was often conflicted by their expectations and anger, primarily my adoptive mother’s, and my own insecurities. I’ve come to terms with who I am as a transracially adopted person, although there are days when my drive for perfection and neurosis drives even me crazy. I’m no longer the naive, “good natured” adoptee that I once was, which is actually freeing. I can’t help but be a little cynical and sarcastic. With age and maturity, I’ve come to a new knowledge, perspective, and understanding – in other words, like many other adult adoptees, I’ve come “out of the fog.”

I have many friends who have adopted children internationally, and it’s ironic that I somehow end up inadvertently in the company of others connected to adoption in some way…One of the psychiatrists I worked with at the state hospital had children adopted from Ethiopia and I want to say Guatemala, and my co-worker, also a social worker, was adopted from Brazil. On the long plane ride to the adoption initiative conference in NJ, I happened to sit next to a woman who had an adopted daughter from China. She wanted to know about my experiences and how I managed. Her daughter is a second year college student going through her own set of challenges. Go figure.

I find it difficult to discuss international adoption as the only alternative. I know far too many adoptees around the world whose stories are not characterized by the “forever family” rhetoric and whose adoptions occurred as a result of unethical adoption practices (that’s another story). Search and reunion becomes extremely difficult as you can well imagine because of falsified information or lack of information. But no matter, adoptees are resilient. I think it’s in our genes. We awaken, we learn, we evolve, we transform, and we become. Sometimes it’s a lonely, misunderstood road, but we keep going…And we wish our voices to be heard by those in the industry who would otherwise hope for us to be grateful that we were adopted.

Revolutionary Daily Thought

I appreciate this particular post in lieu of the race-related violence that has occurred across our country.

Moorbey'z Blog

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It stopz with copz. good copz don’t let bad copz kill defenselezz citizenz.

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adoption initiative conference

I recently attended the 9th Biennial Adoption Initiative Conference in New Jersey at Montclair State University. I had the opportunity to present my master’s thesis on international and transracial adoptees and how adoptees manage racism/racial discrimination . The presentation was based upon a qualitative study I conducted while completing my master’s degree at ASU. The whole conference was one of those experiences that left me with plenty to think about and process. It was almost overwhelming, as there were many sessions on evocative topics. I wanted to attend them all, but only one selection could be made out of several per the conference schedule. It’s encouraging to see how many bright researchers there are conducting research related to international/transracial adoption, many of the researchers adoptees themselves. I regret that I did not meet and connect with more people, as I was not feeling very well during the 3-day conference and was not my usual self. Nevertheless, I had the pleasure of meeting some attendees who made my experience at the conference that much more meaningful.

NYC

NYC after conference. Patrick (L) is founder of The Brazilian Baby Affair in Zurich, Switzerland  & adoptee. Michele (R) is an adoption attorney in LA.

The week following the conference, my husband and I traveled to California to begin house hunting. We will be moving to California in the coming months predicated upon the sale of our current home in Arizona. Oh the joys of moving – we’ve moved so many times over the years that I’ve lost count. Friends in California are excited about our move back; however, I feel that the task is largely clouded by my own lack of energy and motivation, not to mention the stress of organizing such a move. We will obviously downsize, but have to find a home that will accommodate my baby grand piano. I’ve reluctantly entertained the thought of selling it, but I’ve had the piano since I was 8-years old and for sentimental reasons, don’t want to part ways. The piano was given to me by my adoptive parents, and I grew up practicing on those ivory keys for many an hour. It’s really not important to anyone else but me, but important enough to hang on to. We will travel to California again next week to continue our ventures in house hunting.

Since arriving back home from the conference, I’ve thought a lot again about legally changing my name – my middle name that is. My adoptive parents gave me the middle name “Chaling.” There is no such name in Chinese. My birth name is Hsiao-ling Huang. I don’t know why my parents changed my middle name the way that they did – perhaps to Westernize my birth name, yet keep some token of my birth country? In any case, there is an exorbitant fee attached to a legal name change even in the state of California. If I could change my first name back to Hsiao-ling, I certainly would, but at this point in my life, it seems a little late. Names are important. I never thought so until I realized the significance of being renamed by my adoptive parents. Many adoptees’ names are changed by their adoptive parents, or adoptees are given a generic name by orphanage staff because there is insufficient information regarding the birthfamily. It only makes identity that much more convoluted by all of the unknowns.

At this juncture, there are many big things going on at once. It feels unsettling, like a storm is brewing. We’re moving. I have to find a new job. I don’t know where that will be or what even interests me at this point. Our daughter is going to college in the fall. I guess a name change would go right along with all of the other changes that are taking place. The next time I see you, perhaps I’ll ask you to call me Hsiao-ling instead of Marijane…

 

artistic genes

Monkey FamilyWhen I reunited with my sisters and family in Taiwan, I was so curious about our family history, about what led up to my adoption, and of course, about my country of origin. I had so many questions about our parents and family, but I wanted to be sensitive to my sisters and not press them to reveal things unless they wanted to. It was such a joyous event just to be with them and to meet my extended biological family, to share a sisterly connection despite a language and cultural barrier. I continue to learn about my cultural heritage, although sadly, there isn’t much Chinese or Taiwanese culture in Arizona.

Pic 2I often wondered prior to reuniting with my birthfamily if we shared any similar characteristics, physical features, but also areas of interest or special talents. I grew up playing the piano and studied piano performance in undergrad. I love classical music, learning, academia, drawing, writing, singing, drama/theatre – really, anything related to the arts. I learned from my sisters that our mother also enjoyed classical music and had a love of learning. When I was a young girl, I drew a lot and kept a sketchbook. Who knows whatever happened to that sketchbook – it probably ended up in the trash at some point. In any case, I posted some of my artwork on Facebook recently, and my oldest sister messaged me saying that she also loved to draw. She sent me several recent drawings and gave me permission to share some of them here. I’m so impressed with her artwork, but even more, that we share a common interest and passion. One of my favorites is a drawing my sister made of three little monkeys – of course, my sisters and I! 2016 is the Year of the Monkey, the ninth of the 12 animals in the recurring 12-year Chinese zodiac cycle, so the drawing is especially meaningful. My sister also told me that our brother is very artistic and a gifted photographer. Our father was a skillful calligrapher. So, I’m inclined to say that art is in our genes.

Mine 1

I’m so happy that social media allows me to stay connected to my family in Taiwan in a way that would have been impossible years ago. I hope to travel to Taiwan again in the near future. I had hoped to return years ago, but things seem to come up that prevent me from traveling back. It’s been 4 years since our reunification.

Pic 1

I’ve posted some of my eldest sister’s drawings here, as well as one of my own. I wish that I had more time to improve my drawing skills. It seems that at this stage in my life, I’m getting further and further away from the things I most enjoy artistically. Sad, but true. I’d like to find meaningful work that allows me to use my artistic talents to a greater capacity, as well as my experiences as an internationally adopted person. I haven’t quite found my niche yet, but there is always hope.

another new year

geetanjal-khanna-88899Hello 2016! I say this every new year, but really, where did the time go? Now that Christmas 2015 has come and gone, I’m a little sad that I was so caught up in my busy life, primarily the new job, that I didn’t take enough time to relax and enjoy the holiday season. Everything seemed like a chore. Wow, that’s pathetic. Family and friends are too precious. I’m trying to accept that work is work. I continually strive to better myself professionally and am constantly looking for learning opportunities to do so. It’s both a virtue and a vice, but perhaps more so a vice. I miss having the time to indulge my creative self…blogging, improvising, coffee with a friend, movies, the symphony. You know, a slower mental pace and flexibility of life and schedule. I guess in many ways, though, I kind of asked for it by going back to school and beginning a new career in a profession where the burnout rate is high.

What are you hoping for in 2016? Personally, 2016 promises to be a year of big changes. My niece in Taiwan is soon to be married! How I would love to be there to see my family. In 2012, I reunited with my birthfamily in Taipei and have wanted to go back each year since. One day, I will return, maybe even in 2016.

Our daughter will be going to college in the Fall. She’s been accepted into 4 different universities, so we’re ecstatic that she has options. We’ll hear from 2 other colleges in the spring. I have moments of grief knowing she’ll be gone soon. She’s our only child. Tears are sure to be shed. Life is certainly going to be different when she’s in college. I have mixed feelings about how much less time I have with her now that I’m working full-time. The energy put into work often renders me emotionally depleted. Isn’t that every working mom’s dilemma? She’s a teen and yes, very independent, yet it’s our last year at home with her before she leaves the nest 😦 That time can never be recaptured. On the other hand, it’s exciting that she’s entering a new stage in her life sure to be full of new adventures and paths to increased learning and growth. We couldn’t be more proud of her.

On the professional front, I’m submitting a proposal to the Adoption Initiative’s 9th Biennial Adoption Conference. The theme this year is Myth and Reality in Adoption: Transforming Practice Through Lessons Learned. My master’s thesis investigated how international and transracial adoptees manage experiences of racism and racial discrimination. It also focused on strategies adoptees proposed to better equip adoptive parents and adoption professionals to help international/transracial adoptees manage identity issues and racism/racial discrimination. I’ve never attended an adoption conference and am really looking forward to it. I plan to attend the conference whether my proposal is accepted or not and am excited about traveling to the East coast.

Finally, I hope this year to be one where I focus more on spending time with friends and on taking better care of myself. For the last 2 years, I’ve been rather isolative. It seems that the older I get, the more difficult it is to stay connected with friends.

To all my family, friends, fellow adoptees and followers far and near, I wish you good cheer, good health and a new year full of personal and spiritual growth. Oh yeah, be sure to stop and smell the roses along the way.

Photo by Geetanjal Khanna on Unsplash

roots

kyle-ellefson-196125It’s been almost two months since I began my new job as a child therapist. Man, has it been an adjustment. I can’t say that it’s what I expected…much more stressful than I anticipated. I’m often unsure of myself and how to help the client sitting in front of me. That being said, I guess all new therapists feel that to some degree.

Since I began my blog on international adoption, I’ve received emails from other adoptees, primarily adult adoptees from Taiwan, who are contemplating or in the process of searching for their birthfamilies. I’m thrilled to offer my own experiences, support, encouragement, and to connect with other adoptees. Some have found members of their birthfamilies in Taiwan with the help of the Child & Juvenile Adoption Information Center in Taipei. I received an email from an adoptee recently who found her biological brother, but also learned that she has a sister who was adopted to U.S. parents. She now wants to find her sister. I wish that I could make the process easier. It is difficult to conduct a search when there are very few leads. If only we had the information that we long for.

It is truly a journey to begin a search for your birthfamily. It is one that I do not regret. I talk to adoptees often about what it’s like for them to be adopted. Some do not have a desire to search for their birthfamilies. I didn’t for many, many years. A specific event in my life changed all of that, and I never went back. There is something deep inside many of us that longs to know, understand, connect to our roots. It may come much later in life, or it may start at a very young age (or as I mentioned before, it’s not as important to others). Call them spiritual roots, biological roots, whatever you want – we desire a connection to where it all began for us. The kids I work with in foster care no matter how much they suffered at the hand of their parents still want to be with their mother and/or father. Even if it’s explained to them why they are in foster care, in many cases, they still long to be with their biological families. There’s a story that I read to kids, “The Invisible String,” to help them understand that no matter who they are separated from, there’s an invisible string that connects them to those they love. It seems like such a very, very small thing to offer in comparison to the huge hole that’s been created in their hearts, but it is a way to help them feel connected in spirit. I understand that desire to search for your roots or to stay connected. I’ve said it before – I cannot imagine having never found my biological family. I wish that I could travel more often to see them in Taipei. And I wish that I had the time to learn Mandarin.

Lately, I’ve felt so disconnected to my own birth roots. Work, life, busyness complicates everything, and I miss being involved to a greater capacity in international adoption. I was happy to receive that email from the adoptee searching for her sister. It helps me to feel connected to my own roots, to appreciate the invisible string that connects me to my birthfamily in Taiwan and to other adoptees I wish my fellow adoptee all the best in her continued search.

Photo by Kyle Ellefson on Unsplash