Sunday, July 17, 2022

I’m back, y’all.

I realize that I have been absent for some time. They say, “time heals,” but I rather believe time just allows us to reflect and learn. Recently, I have participated in two events, the Korean American Story Slam in Chicago and the Third BTS Global Interdisciplinary Conference in Seoul. The video of the story slam is below. (Thank goodness for good editing. What you won’t see is my breakdown a la Cindy Brady at the beginning.)

Sadly, the video also misspells my last name, while everything else shows the correct spelling. I know that seems petty, but that is who I am. If someone misspells my name, it shows me that it wasn’t important enough to the editor to double check. 

Thus is the curse of living this fractured life as a Korean, a Puerto Rican, and reluctantly, an American. 

The Story Slam Performance

My presentation in Seoul went very well. I recovered from the anxiety that the story slam had planted. Honestly, the participants at this conference were the healing power I needed. Eventually, my presentation will be up on YouTube. For now, you can enjoy this lovely interview the conference organizers had with Sir Paulo Coelho

Friday, May 29, 2020

Tomorrow, a Live YouTube

In light of the recent rehoming, I will be hosting a live on my new YouTube Channel …

Text says …

Planning a live Video Chat over YouTube tomorrow. I hope you can join. I had hoped it would be comedic, but the recent rehoming reared its head. (This is why we cannot have nice things.) Tune in at 4 p.m. (CST) or 6 a.m. (KST).

Saturday, April 11, 2020

When Home is Out of Reach …

More than two years ago, I fell off the webverse … a self-preservation measure. During this time, I was able to push my pain deep within my soul. I concentrated on creating things with my hands.


The ceramics studio is closed, non-essential. Normally sitting at home quietly is a luxury. Most often, I go into a mindful nap. It’s the fourth week now.

Watching the numbers of deaths rise, brings me so much sorrow. I take comfort in knowing my adoptive parents are not here to weather this horrific scene. Both would have been at high risk, my mother with her heart disease and my father with his respiratory issues. While I can rest in this fact, the death toll reminds me that no one is exempt from loss.

Someday, my children will need to face their parents’ passing. I began this blog as a record of my life where many essential details had been erased. I wanted my children to know as much as I knew about myself.

With the current pandemic, I find myself thinking about how my life might close and where that might occur. As an unsolved mystery, my beginnings were erased, and I find myself wanting to close my life where it began.

While most would say, “Do it!” It is far more complicated. As an American citizen with no dual citizenship and no known relatives in Korea, I do not have the birthright to be buried or have my remains left in Korea. I hope that in my lifetime, I might either be able to find my Korean relatives or that the laws will change to allow me to die in Seoul.

When my thoughts attempted to drown me in sorrow, my fellow adoptees recommended I watch “Itaewon Class” on Netflix. What a ride … to see the streets of Seoul as I remember them! It’s bittersweet; I want to be in Seoul, but for now, my place is here where my husband and children are.

Sadly, I discovered this show has a character who was also abandoned by her mother (Episode 6, the first 5 minutes). Each time a scene like that plays, I am reminded of the loss that I have ignored but still sits in the pit of my stomach.

When I want a few laughs, I watch my nighttime comedy shows. It was here that I met the boys of BTS through Jimmy Fallon and James Corden. I found their performance in Grand Central to be incredibly breathtaking.

Their antics as they play water games made me laugh until I cried. The older boys, Jin and Yoongi, remind me of myself when they are walking around the water obstacle course (that Old Man wide, cautious walk).

Today, I found a fictional story about the seven boys of BTS that spoke to the 80s teen in me who fell in love with the boys of the book and film, “The Outsiders.” The BTS storyline is based on their song, “Save Me.” In it, Ho-seok plays a character who’s abandoned by his mother at a fair. Again, the imagery brought back the pain in the center of my soul. 

All this brings not only sorrow but hope … hope that someday, it will be a person’s right to know the details of their beginnings. I guess I will just wait …

Credit for last video to YouTube channel SUGA & spice.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Adoption: The Fairytale

Fairytales. Everyone has one. Mine has changed and morphed over time. In its current form, it haunts me.

During the last four years, mine has focused solely on developing my origin story. If you have followed me for a while, you know it has changed with every visit to Seoul.

This year, I invited you all on my journey via my facebook page. I posted live videos that show my raw emotions as I walked the streets that I now want to call home.

My trips to Seoul, always include a visit to my agency, Holt Korea. Every time, they reiterate that they only have my two sheets of paper. They tell me over and over that they have no record of my foster mother, and yet they send this to donors …

They boast 4,481 foster mothers since 1966, yet no record of mine. These donors are funding not only Holt Korea’s shiny multilevel building, but also the cost of placing their name on subway stop signs (at a cost of around $186,584 over three years). Enter our hotel, the Somerset Palace, one could find a collection box for my agency.

Now, I can no longer enjoy even a short visit. The reminders of the secrets that surround my beginnings are everywhere … hotels and Hapjeong Station. In all this time searching, the main emotion I have felt has been utter sorrow … perhaps the closest thing to Korean Han.

But my sadness is turning into something very destructive. The injustice of being denied my identity … well, it consumes me right now.

So, if you read my last post, you know I chose to stay in Seoul, baptizing myself in all that is Korean … the food, the drink and sparkling contact lenses.

A post shared by mothermade (@mothermade) on

After a little blooming jasmine tea and a massive waffle at The Nature Cafe (sheep cafe) near Hongik University, my friend and I walked up toward the university campus. Just up the hill, we found Cutie Eyes, a contact store.

Once inside, I chose a few sets and as the owner accepted my credit card, he said, “Rosita Gonzalez?”

In the US, this is always followed by so much explanation. I did not anticipate this in Korea as I am often anonymous, safely blending in. I looked to my friend and asked, “Should I?” In a split second decision, I blurted out, “I am adopted.”

His face lit up. He said, “My older brother is adopted!” The other side of the fairytale unfolded … in Grimm style.

When his brother was four, his mother lost him in a train station; she was traveling with four small children. By the time they tracked him down, he had been sent to Belgium as a Holt adoptee.

Since that time, the family has queried Holt Korea for information. His mother is still stricken with grief of the loss of her son. He said his mother is getting older and would love the closure of seeing her lost son. Holt told the family that the adoptee was contacted and refused contact.

The shopkeeper, Bo Gyeol Kim, still searches via Facebook and other means to find his brother. He wants him to know that he has two older brothers and an older sister who also miss him and want to see him.

Bo Gyeol then asked me what I knew of my past. I showed him my photographs of my foster mother and me.

His words would change my fairytale …

“This is not your foster mother; this is your mother. You look just like her.”

All these years, I have stared at her photograph. Never did I see my own face looking back. How could I know? I was surrounded by faces they did not reflect mine. Now, I look at my past pictures, and I see her. This would also lend some truth to Holt Korea’s claim that they have no record of my foster mother.

Bo Gyeol has offered his help to try and garner attention to my search in South Korea. I am so thankful for this time and connection with him. He told me more … based on the photographs and the time (1968), my mother was well-off. She wore a ring and a watch. Photographs were hanging on the walls of the home.

So, on this the US Seollol, I hold my hanbok, and I know she chose it for me. She wore hers to help me celebrate that very important birthday, the last we would spend together. Our happily ever after will be her touching this hanbok once more and allowing me to hold her as she so tenderly held me once. 

Friday, February 2, 2018

Korea is my concubine.

Perfection. I spent my childhood building it. I built it shiny and covetable. I built it in my marriage and in my parenting skills … until I realized that when it encompassed others, I couldn’t control them.  My perfection began to erode my relationships.

From day one, I expected perfection from others because I had attained it through adversity as an adoptee. I wasn’t exactly calculated in my demands … it was just my normal.

As I began to learn more about myself, that ceramic, happy adoptee façade cracked and all my demons came spilling forth. After my first trip back to Seoul, I regressed. I slept in a deep depression. I came out the other side a very different person. The perfectionist died. But she still expected those around her to perform.

Often, I hear, “Why does everything come back to adoption? Do we have to talk about ‘adoption’ again?”

Honestly, I wish I could live a fairytale life in which I was born of a mother and father, and we lived out our lives as such, without questions about my past culture, the shame of not knowing my native language and the peace of just being me. But I was not dealt such a fate.

Loving me is very hard. I expect a lot. After 25 years, a couple is not the same two young hearts they once were. In my case, I am not the person my husband married, not even close. I am cheating on him, and Korea is my concubine. When she is absent, I still imagine her lying next to me, feeding me the fruits of her landscape. My thoughts of her interrupt my life and fill me with loneliness and sorrow.

A couple of months ago, my husband excitedly planned a trip to Thailand (A country that is top on my bucket list.) with a Seoul weekend prelude. Initially, I was thrilled at the prospect of spending time alone with him in my home country and in Thailand. We haven’t had time to ourselves like that since having our first child in 2000.

When I land on South Korean soil, I find my feet firmly planted. I can feel the roots, once pulled, trying to re-root in the cracks of Korean pavement. My weedy self took hold this time and couldn’t be uprooted after my first full day back in Seoul. The thought of leaving without a thorough examination of my search … well … I just couldn’t leave. I broke down sobbing our second night. I begged to stay with my concubine. She was demanding that I not leave, not just yet.

I cannot deny my guilt of having neglected her for more than 40 years. She gave me life, and I was ripped from her grasp. I am trying to make up for our lost time … at the expense of my marriage. 

I carelessly changed my travel plans and took root at KoRoot, the adoptee guesthouse. This move was selfish. It was. I could only think of her … my concubine. She flooded my mind.

My decision hurt my husband. He has taken a lot from me in the last 25 years. He is my true love, but I abused his love. He wanted time with me, and I chose Korea.

Friday, November 24, 2017

What is a family?

The question of family comes up not only for National Adoption Month, but also at this time of year when turkeys are basted.

Before my adoptive parents passed away, the Thanksgiving Holiday was my favorite. It meant we would gather in the homes of my East Tennessee relatives. We would feast and gossip, sleep and eat again.

The womenfolk would gather in the kitchen, as the men gathered in front of the tube to watch the game. The house was warm and alive.

Today, my heart is filled with sorrow at the sweetness of those days. I am very thankful for those moments, but not because my Tennerican family “saved” me from a “life of poverty” as the adoption agencies and lawyers would have you believe during their month of November.

I own these memories of home and love, but that does not diminish the importance of my life before them. It only enriches my lived experience.

The connection with my home country has granted me a grace I never consciously knew until my feet landed there. I have reclaimed the Korean BBQ feast, the Korean Spa experience and Noreabang. Those beloved experiences were shared with my closest friends for my fiftieth this year. Those from my pre-Korea days were able to embrace the life I so long for now.

I cherish the quiet November table where my home is filled with the smells of roast parsnips and a chargrilled turkey. There is gratitude for the table set for four and the four cats that stalk the table. Our family tradition is what it is … our tiny family in the midwest. That’s perfect for now.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017


This year has been marked by losses. As a community, we are reminded that we are fragile. In the month of May we lost Jane, Gabe and Phillip.

You see, adoptees die both figuratively and literally.

We die when we are separated from our original families. We die when we are taken from our home countries. We die when the smells of our cultures are snuffed out by hamburgers and fried potatoes.

We die when we realize that we are not truly a part of those we resemble. We are outliers. We never chose this for ourselves.

And yet, in the month of November, this institution that brought us to our new “homes” is celebrated and revered. In this celebration, our voices have died. In 2014, we tried to revive with the #FliptheScript on #NAM. We were successful to a certain degree.

However, since that time, we still see our fellow adoptees take their lives.

What if, we took this month to honor those we have lost as well as the parts of ourselves that we miss.

If you feel the urge to share on social media, tag it with #WeDie to remind us of our community of adoptees.

Sunday, July 16, 2017


A week ago, I collected lots of Puerto Rican music to remind me of my father.

His loss permeates my soul. He was my anchor in much of my life as a person of color. His love and caring sustained me in my darkest moments … because he understood my sorrows. He gently told me his stories of discrimination and then brushed them off. That is how he survived, and I learned to do the same.

Since his death, I feel so very lost. I need him now. His love surrounded me when I struggled with my role as a mother. He reminded me how very proud he was of me. As much as anyone else said it, I needed him or my mother to say it. As an adoptee, the love and approval from our elders is everything. In most cases, the only people who fill that space are our adoptive parents.

I have searched for the other parents … my original family and my foster family. They hold the key to many of my beginnings. They are unknowns in the crowded subway system in Seoul. In Seoul, I felt their presence in the biological resemblance that surrounded me.

In Wisconsin, I am left to create a space of safety and love. That is our home. So, a few days ago, as I listened to salsa music and did my cleaning, my daughter stopped me to take my picture in the old way … with a Polaroid camera.

There he was. My father was dancing with me as a light. I posted it, and some explained that it must have been a light somewhere or that the camera had something on the lens. But no other photograph she took that night had the same light.

Self-doubt is a terrible thing. But it sank in … the idea that there was a perfectly good explanation for the light.

Then, one of my favorite authors, Sherman Alexie, released a letter about his own loss and his encounters with his late mother. Well, now, I know my father is with me still, and we salsa through the house at all hours!

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Dear Young Woman

Dear Young Woman,
Your golden locks blow in the breeze of the backseat. 
A night of merriment in this early spring.

Youth and bravado engulf you as you circle the Capitol …
The place you celebrated womanhood in your pink pussy hat. 

Ms Wisconsin Forward watches as you stop at the light. 
The laughter in your car filled with privilege permeates the night air. 

And there he sits. The younger one, waiting for the bus. 
He’s slim, wearing dress pants and a dress shirt, the remnants of a long night of work. 

As the driver accelerates, you lean out of the window, those yellow locks flying …
You yell, “Your mother should have swallowed you!”

His safety bubble has popped as yours whizzes by.
Your voice trails but it has hit its mark.

He winces. You have struck his core.
You have given his mother a role you would never give yourself, 
or any other woman in your life. 

Did you smile at your accomplishment? 
Will you remember your victim?

I doubt it.
We are but inconveniences in your life.

We are mere islands that disrupt your path.
We remind you that you are marginalized by the white man.
We remind you that there is a lower place to reside.

Better keep us in our place so that you will never feel that verbal punch.
Bitch, cunt, whore.

Wear that pussy hat proudly.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Just holding on? Call 1-800-273-8255.

In the past few weeks, our community of adoptees lost two souls … one a 14-year-old Korean girl, the other a deported 40-something Korean man.

Each one suffered the loneliness associated with our lives as part of a diaspora we never chose.

Adoptees are four times more likely to attempt suicide. We have also learned to mask our true emotions; it is our way of survival.

So many aspects of our lives bring us to moments where we feel no self worth. The family tree, the comments about how relatives take one trait from another relative, the racists taunts that further separate us from our adoptive families … all these experiences build the wall between us and our adoptive communities.

And in some cases, we are rejected and sent from the only country we know (The United States) to our birth place … because our American guardians (our adoptive parents) have never bothered to legitimize us as citizens. Such was the case of Philip Clay.

His death has hit me so hard. Just a month ago, I returned from a three-week trip to my home country. The return ravaged me. Just stepping off the plane and back into the Midwest reminded me that I was a stranger here … and unwanted.

In Seoul, I felt joy and sorrow, but the sorrow was bearable. A community of adoptee friends and the tastes and smells of my infanthood comforted me. Korea allowed me to express my feelings and roam as just another Korean.

In the United States, I felt sorrow and hopelessness.

In the US, I feel owned by my agency. I am reminded that my wishes are not mine to hold. My desires to be a full person with a history go unnoticed. I am not considered the person with human rights that the United Nations Convention declared, but the transaction that must abide by the State of Oregon’s laws. I am not an individual, but the “child” of two deceased, adoptive parents. I am nobody.

As I sank deeper into myself, my small family could not understand. I was draining the life out of us all. So … I sat alone. I didn’t want to leave home. Work, a joy I once had, began to drain me further. And I snapped at those I loved. Like a wounded animal, I hid and hissed at those who came near.

Depression keeps us in shackles. It shuts us in seclusion as we smile and pretend. We laugh in public, yet cower in the quiet of our rooms. We make others happy and then sleep little as our mind races to find some sliver of self worth. Then you hear that another adoptee has died at her own hand. You wonder how that would feel to not hurt anymore. You wonder if your soul would truly live beyond the pain of this world.

Some wonder how you can disregard the good in your life and contemplate such selfish thoughts, but know that once you dig a hole, the light no longer streams in. You want the pain to stop. You want peace.

I finally got to a point where I could no longer hold my sorrow and wear a mask. One friend noticed and arranged time for us to just talk (or rather, he was gracious to just listen). I began to understand that the hole was mine but that I could scale it!

Our community is full of people who understand. I only wish we were better at connecting. Social media sites and conferences have helped, but there is still more work to be done. We need one another. But asking for that help is difficult.

Our struggles and our narratives as adoptees are valuable. The mental health profession needs more professionals with skills that meet the needs of adoptees and not just the needs of adoptive parents. There are many adoptees doing the work as therapists, but it should not be solely their responsibility. The profession as a whole can learn from them. We need them before we lose any more from our community.

If you feel despair, please call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

Also, feel free to write me here. I promise to write back.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

That Overwhelming Sense

Korea is my comfort. My reset.

Touching down in Seoul removes the tension of life in the United States. Back in the days before my first trip back, I feared what my senses might do. Would I gag? Would the food repulse my American sensibilities?

During my pregnancy with my first child, my sense of smell enhanced, I would often know what a cashier had had the night before for dinner. I also craved turkey, chicken nuggets and french fries. To this day, my son’s favorite meal is poultry and french fries. In the first four months of my pregnancy with my daughter, I ate only spaghetti and red sauce for lunch and dinner. Her favorite food? Yep, spaghetti.

My first trip, I was surprised at how the smells seemed so normal. But as I reflected, I realized that my time in the womb and my short first year in Korea gave me that overwhelming sense … of comfort.

So when I return, the foods give me strength. The people give me power to appreciate who I am … that I am not some “freak” or “weirdo.”

Just as the smells of Korean food waft about me and embrace me in a welcoming hug, the menacing language and hate of the US await my return. For now, I savor …

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Willow, The Water, The Wind

The water gurgles by me.
I   s—t—r—e—t—c—h …
But I am a young one,
A young one who knows not what lies ahead.
My buds are just beginning to emerge.

The water beckons, entices …
And often lulls me to sleep.
I love it.
I long for it.
Yet, it is unknown.

I do not know where the water might take me.
But I stretch ——
I want to be big!
I want to fly.
I wait.

A beautiful breeze kisses me,
Makes me float …
Float in the air.
I’m intoxicated
By its kisses.
It reaches through me and past me.

But just as I am falling in love …
It becomes violent.
A madness stirs in it.
It swings me around.

I hold tight to my mother.
It swings me around.
I am losing …
Losing my grip …
My GRIP on my family …

The wind wins.
And I f~l~o~a~t~~~
For a moment I am flying!
Flying high!

Yet as I begin to descend.
I see my love …
See that water lapping,
Inviting me.
I long to touch it.

So, I sway, sway, sway.
My small leaves catch the wind to direct myself.
And I fall into the gurgling gloriousness.
It’s delicious.

I float on its surface.
It carries me.
I am in love.
And then I’m stuck … hung.

Something …
Something grabs me …
Pulls me to the side.
The water rushes by as if to bid farewell.

I am hung.
Locked in.
I wait.
And I take root.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

This. Is. Us.

I have been reluctant to write about the new series on NBC, This Is Us.

Because … it slays a part of me every episode. All I could muster, were tweets through the season.

The last tweet was in reference to this tweet by Sterling Brown, the actor who plays Randall.

You see, throughout this show, Randall’s thread and mine tangle and separate and intertwine.

I wish for the moment when Randall holds William as he slips away.

My father died alone, collapsed outside the hospital where he had dedicated his entire life to not only the place, but all the people inside.

When the postman cried in the latest episode of This Is Us, I recalled those who shared their brief joyful moments with my father … they were strangers to me and these moments they had with my father were even stranger still.

As Randall and Beth discover things William has left behind, I realized I never really had those moments to quietly sift through my father’s memories. I did not get that kind of closure. The week after his death, I locked myself in his bathroom, touching his pajamas and smelling his cologne. I still visualize that last moment in his bathroom.

Now, I look forward to my trip to Seoul. I hope for the moment when I can embrace those who once cradled me in my first months. When Rebecca, Randall’s adoptive mother, points out that Randall has William’s tenderness, I ache longingly to know from where my traits come.

Ultimately, I know my day may never come. But from the legacy of my father’s love for others, I hope to bring the same joy to those around me … and spare them from the pain I feel every time I see someone resemble their family members.

I think I hide it well.

But damn! Can Randall bring it out in the privacy of my own home!

Jesse describes William as “Soft armrests for weary souls to lean on.”

And that is the best I can do.

Monday, March 6, 2017


In a few weeks, I return to the Republic of Korea.

The trip is a gift from my husband. When he announced that he wanted to give me the time and space to explore Korea on my own, my soul just about leapt from my body!

Since our return to the United States last February (2016), I have floated about, not fully engaged in my surroundings. It was lovely to be back in my house, but I still felt completely unsettled.

As time has passed, I have noticed my sense of loss but not sorrow. I was numb. Yet, my physical body began showing signs … the breakdown of age and heartache.

Returning to Korea is my reset button. I need this country more than it knows.

And yet, with the timer ticking down … my anxiety has risen. My voice is short. I overreact.

Living with me must be hard. I come home from work and just gaze into my cat’s eyes. That calms me. It is true what they say about pets … and then, I remember the trauma of my final days in Seoul and the loss of another sweet kitten boy.



This is not how I want to feel about returning, but my mind gives me no choice. Trauma and comfort swirl with every step towards a return.

I know all my anxiety will dispel just like my current time zone in a few days in Seoul. Old friends will help me feel more like my Korean self. The scents will welcome me home, and the kimchi will nourish me.

But I also anticipate the desperation I feel when I sit across all those lookalikes on the subway. I dream, hope and wish that they were relatives searching for me and would approach me with … “How we have wondered what became of you and if you were well!!!”

Maybe this time, someone will find me.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Twinkie Chronicles: I did not thank God for Friday.

Friday, I treated the day as any other. Kids to class and a haircut, a little pottery trimming, lunch with my daughter and grocery shopping filled the hours. I was looking for solace from the week. The clay was forgiving and conceded.

As I drove home from my last errand, courage welled in my chest … my index finger pressed the FM button. On the public radio station, the words, the words, the words. Just words, but more …

“We came back to OUR country where we no longer need to be politically correct!” said a former missionary who had been in Central America since Obama’s election.

I hung my head and cried in my car. Had you asked me many years ago, before I formed my identity as a Korean adoptee with Puerto Rican and Tennessee influences, I might have said the same, “my country.”

Back then, I was proudly “Oriental” and “exotic” as I tried to live the “melting pot” persona I needed to survive. One evening my prideful tears confronted a South African man in my Rwandan living room as he attacked the “Americans” he had met, white, safari goers with big voices and lots of cash.

I defended my background and the America I thought mine. Through tears, I told him he was generalizing. I told him of my family back in Tennessee. He laughed at my naïveté and my silly passion for a country. “My country sucks, but if you criticized it, I would NOT be in tears,” he told me.

My mother always emphasized that we came from very modest beginnings. “Never forget we came from nothing.” Her words would drive me to work hard, get good grades and do all I could to counter her “I never went to college, nor did your grandmother; actually she never finished elementary school.”

This was the young girl who cried when her country was slighted. She reflected on the poor county in eastern Tennessee, in the Appalachian mountains. That was her country.

But I am no longer that girl. I am a woman who has grown to understand the pain of marginalization, not because of the America I once believed in but because INSIDE the United States of America, there are those who see me instantly as a threat to the status quo. As a single adult, I coped, but I as a mother, I can no longer just cope.

My week leading up to Friday was filled with discussions of others’ perceptions that we were “dog eaters because of the eyes.” If only those who throw words to hurt my children and me could really understand the privilege they hold where they can choose what they eat and look down on those who may have survived a war by eating what meat was available.

This country I called home has mistaken me and forsaken me.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Twinkie Chronicles: I gather family wherever I can.

Christmas Day is not the holiday I fondly remember. No more does my father’s Spanish-sprinkled “Ho, ho, ho! O’ Christmas Tree, O’ Christmas Treeeeeeee!” ring out over FaceTime. It’s quite silent here now.

This is the first Christmas in my home without my father’s infectious laugh and his many unnecessary packages.

My father was a work-a-holic. He loved his job as, first, an ER nurse, then as a nursing supervisor. His co-workers were the family with whom he spent his holidays. He always worked Christmas. I would beg him to take a holiday off and spend it with us when we were closer; he did so only once after retiring briefly. (He returned to work shortly thereafter.)

That last Christmas, he gave his co-workers all flashlights, his trademark gift. My sister and I, plus our kids and spouses, always received new flashlights. On New Year’s Day, we FaceTimed, and he told me how tired he was. I, again, asked him to take it easy and rest. He told me his time on the Earth was shortening. Daughter deafness overcame me. I told him not to talk about death and that he would be around a long time, just like his mother. That was the last conversation I had with him.

This summer, I decided to try working for national retail companies.

Since moving to the midwest seven years ago, I was finally able to secure a job. For seven years, this white liberal town was closed to me, a woman with a Latina name and professional roots in the South. My years of working as a college professor and a graphic designer meant nothing.

My curriculum vitae would be looked over and tossed aside. Few letters of rejection arrived. The occasional form email might come, and when I responded asking for frankness in what I lacked, I was met with the “we had so many qualified applicants.” I had two interviews in the seven years of my searching.

One year, I would receive an email asking me to set up an interview time with a local technical college. I had submitted my CV in response to a call in the Chronicle of Higher Learning. This was exciting! When I responded with my preferred times, an email quickly responded …

“… This is difficult.  I’ve never had to do something like this before.  I accidentally selected your name to send the interview for and it should have been someone else.  I selected from a long list and just grabbed the wrong e-mail address.  Unfortunately, you were not selected to be interviewed for this position.  We had an extremely competitive pool of over 50 very well qualified candidates.  Bringing this down to a small number to interview was very difficult.”

I would bounce back and cause a stir on a national level. The national community would look to me for my words as an adoptee, but once again there would be no reimbursement. My adoptee voice was useful … but not enough to cut a check.

After a soul-searching, extended time in Seoul, I went underground, still talking but now, wounded by my life in the United States … past, present and future. It was time to be compensated for my work.

This holiday season, I worked on Christmas Eve. It was busy and stress-filled. But through all this, I found a new family in my co-workers. As an adoptee, I have learned to find family where I can, but I am reminded of my father’s love for his work “family.” I recall that he, too, was far from his childhood memories in Puerto Rico.

My soul swims in sorrow on the holidays. There is a silence in my home without the voices from my childhood. There are no more cards or calls from Mama and Papito. They are no longer here.

I reflect on two people who gave all they had to leave me joyful memories. From here, I pass my father’s joy and spirit to those at work who have welcomed me with hugs and jests. They filled my days this year with the joy I have been seeking for quite some time now. It is nice to finally have found a home with them.

Happy Holidays.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Setting aside my whitish ways …

When I was a white, I talked like a white,
I thought like a white,
I reasoned like a white.

When I became Korean,
I set aside my whitish ways.

When I was a white,
I was “chosen.”

When I became Korean,
I was lost.

When I was a white,
I mourned my mother at her gravesite.

When I became Korean,
I mourned a mother in Korea.

When I was white,
I called myself, “Oriental.”

When I became Korean,
I called myself “Asian.”

When I was white,
I used the word, “Caucasian.”

When I became Korean,
I used the word, “white.”

When I was white,
I rejected the Asian men who loved me,
calling them affectionately, “brothers.”

When I became Korean,
I realized that the men I loved
were always white.

When I was white,
I dated white men.

When I was Korean,
I realized the implicit privilege
I had from my white partners.

When I was white,
I dated a white, Wisconsin-born GI.

When I was Korean,
I realized he never loved me.

When I was white,
I married a British man.

When I was Korean,
I realized he loved me.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

No Fragility Here

A powerful guest post by Melanie Chung-Sherman.
This is where I'm at tonight, and frankly, where I have been for the last several days. It has been somewhere between grief, denial and rage. 

I’ve stayed off social media, but after word of Adam Crasper's deportation (Though his deportation is separate from the events of last week — I want to be careful not to conflate.) and the countless stories of fear and heartache I have heard all week, my silence does nothing. 

If you want to unfriend, unfollow or dismiss, that is your choice. But understand I will not do that to you. I'm trying very hard to listen and learn. But unless we can sit in the pain of marginalized groups without reproach, guilt or defense … very little will change. 

To some extent, I understand the angle of the “safety pin” movement. Frankly, I want to see intentional action, not a stinkin’ pin. 

When someone comes at me with “Go back to your country, chink!” Your safety pin symbolism is useless. First, I can’t see your safety pin when I’m being assaulted verbally (God forbid physically.) because my brain goes into survival mode everytime I experience overt and covert racism. (And, BTW, that really did happen to my dear friend last week in Dallas while she was doing her job … going about her day). 

Secondly, I find that pin is more about you feeling better. 

I'm not looking for safety pins … lately, I’m looking over my shoulder in large, public places so that the renegade, white nationalist doesn’t feel too bold, especially when I'm alone with my boys. 

Where were these “safety pins” as the level of hate-filled rhetoric rose over the last 18+ months? Now this man has risen to power – so give me space and grace if I don't immediately fall into rank and file. Especially after some jackwagon spray-painted a swastika on a public venue with the words “Trump won” to remind me and other minority groups, where we stand. (And, yes, that happened last week, too.) Yeah, that’s painful and scary. 

This level of bigotry and intolerance has been legitimized, unleashed and emboldened over months of saturated fervor — and it is not normal. It is not okay. For those attempting to justify his actions — Do not tell me that you did not know this. Just don't. You did. Where was your safety pin? 

And, no, I get it, not every single person who cast their vote for him believed THAT part of his rhetoric.

But here’s the thing … diet racism and xenophobia is just as complicit. Fragility is exhausting. 

And, yes, I know other people of color who voted for him — my arguments and curiosity remains — because we all have unchecked bias. All of us — including me. Marginalized groups marginalize, too — and we are all accountable. If you did not have to worry about the potential impacts related to your physical safety, race, religion, sexual identity, gender or immigration status after this election, lean in first. 

The fact that I have to reassure my children that I will not be deported should not be a conversation following any U.S. election. As much as I would have liked to shield my kids from that toxicity, they hear it at school, church and on the playground. Where was your safety pin? 

Professionally, I sit across from adoptees, particularly transracial adoptees, who are genuinely scared because they have been already removed from their birth families – so the possibility is real for them. The fact that they have already experienced the trauma of separation and many have experienced the stress of direct racism — this is a real issue for them. Wearing a safety pin does nothing to quell body memory, nor does dismissing their fears. 

Consider what your safety pin will be.

Will you contact your state legislatures to ensure citizenship for all adoptees, under the Adoptee Citizenship Act, particularly minority adoptees? ACLU? Trevor project? Foster care organizations helping youth transition out? 

Will you sit across the table from the disenfranchised and listen without judgment? Will you extend your talents outside your bubble? Will you denounce rehoming? Will you speak out against intolerance beyond social media — speak truth in love to your own family, friends and circles? Will you educate yourself on the historical context of marginalization? Will you learn about what is a vetted journalism/research article source? 

Let's get to work together. There’s a lot to do.

Melanie Chung-Sherman, LCSW-S, LCPAA, CTS is a licensed psychotherapist who specializes in adoption-focused issues. She has worked in child welfare since 1999. A Korean adoptee, she is a mom to two kids, married, and lives in Dallas, Texas.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

This is what my silence wrought.

Thirty-four years ago, I was called a swamp rat.

Thirty-four years ago, I was told to get back on the boat.

Thirty-four years ago, my church harbored racists who spoke these words.

And I was silent. I protected my white family from the ugliness.

Twenty-nine years ago, I lay half dressed on a bed.

Twenty-nine years ago, I felt dirty and used.

Twenty-nine years ago, the frat house I thought was a haven held sexual predators.

And I was silent. I protected the white men who I thought loved me like a little sis.

Four years ago, a studio mate told an inappropriate joke.

Four years ago, a studio mate slapped my butt in the empty studio.

Four years ago, the space that I saw as my solace became tainted.

And I was silent. I protected a white man I had thought was a friend.

Two years ago, at a gala, a man sat next to me and my husband.

Two years ago, this white man reached over and touched my cheek with his palm.

Two years ago, a nice evening turned sour.

And we were silent. We decided this white donor was too important to humiliate.

Four months ago, my son walked the two blocks from the bus stop to our home.

Four months ago, my son was stopped in his neighborhood.

Four months ago, a white man walking his dog asked my son what he was doing here.

And he was silent. He walked with his head down and picked up the pace.

Every school day, my son faces bullying.

Every school day, my son hears words like “rice fag.”

Every school day, my son dreads facing these white oppressors alone.

And he is silent. 

Now, I am no longer silent. We tried to be good, kind, quiet … the model minority.

We have watched our Black brothers and sisters die in front of our eyes, and we have walked beside them in protest. I hoped a white woman would save us, but white supremacy is stronger than we realized. The hold that racism has on the United States has taken my church, my white adoptive family and the public places we once thought safe.

So for now, we huddle at home. I hold my children close as they call America the land of Jim Crow and The Purge. What else can we do?

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Hate Ain’t Great

The word wall in my gray matter has frozen with its little rainbow ball spinning. Writing has always been natural for me … like breathing.

Oh my soul! It is pale blue from suffocation. There lays one lung unable to accommodate air, while the other … unable to exhale. We know what happens when the brain is left without oxygen. Parts of it die.

I cannot make sense of my life as a Korean, as a transracial adoptee, as an …

Do. Not. Say. That Word.

Save us all from that word.

… American!

Navigating through a multi-layered identity as a transracial adoptee is like the Los Angeles commute. All roads lead to absolute standstill. The standstill was tolerable if there was a good audiobook, but those days are over. Ignoring the systemic problem only sustained the status quo.

In my earlier straightforward life, I was that girl who loved America. It had saved me. I played the game well … good student … good wife … good parent. The American dream was mine … until it wasn’t.

What I hid, I regret. Alone without my white privilege, without my adoptive family, without my white husband, I was reminded that I was owned by those who saw me as an object … men who sexually assaulted me before my marriage, men who smacked my ass when my husband was not around, men who touched my face when my husband was seated next to me, and then, the agencies and people who lied to me.

Korea allowed me to face the truths and gave me the ability to swim the sea of like selves. It was euphoric, until I spoke. While Korea felt like it should be mine, it just wasn’t quite mine.

I returned to a place I once called “home,” to find a man who embodied hate, rustling the leaves to reveal the dog shit underneath. The shit is teaming with parasites that invade my home from the bottom of my shoe. They are looking to find a way into my body, and here, these parasites will infect me and eventually kill me.

The America I left has devolved into a hellish, toxic place.

In this place, my son can be asked why he is walking in his own neighborhood.

In this place, a young man can be beaten to death because he is Saudi Arabian.

In this place, a man can rape an unconscious woman and serve little time because the rapist has been traumatized.

In this place, a presidential candidate can talk about grabbing “pussy” as locker room talk and still garner a substantial percentage of the electorate.

In this place, a young transracial adoptee can be assaulted in an Idaho locker room.

This is not America, and may it never see hate as great again.