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Posts Tagged ‘adoptee’

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Guest Blogger:  Adrienne Carwheel

Typically when a REALLY good TV show is on, social media tells the tale. Random running commentary complete with people screaming at the screen (via text) accompanies some of the best shows out there. 

I join in the revelry, identifying with characters, criticizing their decisions, relationships, and posting my frustration with fellow watchers-except when watching the bane of my existence, yet absolute private addiction:

This.Is.Us

I have to prepare myself and not just because it is really emotional screen time, but because as someone who identifies as an adult adoptee, I need a minute to process all of what I see and hear…alone.

Randall, oh sweet Randall. You move me. The way you have to face race, identity and adoption is just beautiful. The mark of a really good show is when you can picture yourself living through the characters, what they think, and how they feel. 

Randall, like me, as an adult adoptee, made a conscious decision to research his origin. Meeting William, his birth father, was an integral part of his journey, and the precious time they spent before his death was a gift that both of them were able to hide in their hearts.

sterling-k

I reunited with my one section of my birth family in 1997 and the other in 2015. It was a painstaking, yet fulfilling quest of fact-finding. I saw my same nose, my same chin, my same mannerisms and idiosyncratic behaviors that no adoption could ever sever.

I believe that there are some lessons from Randall that we can learn in the area of adoptee “self-care” as it were. It was obvious that he dealt with extreme anxiety and although successful, and in a loving family, the weight of the world, at times, proved to be too much. 

1. Watch the show and process with people who get you.

If your people don’t understand why a TV show could have you weeping in a corner, those are not your people. Whether you are an adoptee reunited, in a closed adoption, or even a parent of an adoptee, being presented with complicated issues where art imitates life, takes some self care. 

I don’t envy my husband since he is married to an adoptee. Some of us see the world through such a different lens, holding on, thinking and feeling–longing. My husband represents what Beth is to Randall in the show.

2. Don’t be ashamed of your story

Television sometimes can portray the perfect nuclear family, however, shows that portray the messiness of life are the best. In life, our stories don’t have to be perfect to be beautiful. Adoption begins with loss, but even if reunion doesn’t occur, you still have a path and all is not lost.

3. It is part of who you are, but not all of who you are

I struggled for a long time with the loyalty that comes with longing for birth family, yet being implanted in a loving adoptive family. My birth family gave my life, but my adoptive family taught me how to live it.

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Adrienne Carwheel was adopted at birth is now an adoptive mom of two young girls. Adrienne and her husband are currently in open adoptions with the birth families of their children. She has also served in the following roles:

Connect a Kid Mentor

Guest speaker for Miriam’s Heart

Administrator for transracial adoption group
Book Club Leader for African American Adoptive Mothers
Adrienne is also a good friend, someone I have had the pleasure of working with in the past a few times.  She always brings a peacefulness and calm to everything we do together.    Adrienne, Dawn(the  birth mother from the last post),  and I share the stage together in what we call The TRIAD TALKS.  We are 3 adoptees that represent each branch of the triad.  It is a powerful 90 minutes of each of us sharing and helping others, as well as each other,  understand the different roles involved in adoption.  It is a healing 90 minutes.
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t or fThe messages that are intended aren’t always the messages that are received.  Below I have complied 5 myths followed by the truths and the messages these myths send.

1) MYTH:  Acknowledging race conflicts with the message we as a transracial family want to send to our transracial adoptee.  Race doesn’t matter to us.

TRUTH:  Acknowledging the obvious differences and talking about them helps prove that it doesn’t matter to you.  Ignoring the obvious difference makes the transracial adoptee  question just how much race matters.     To which  some will  conclude race matters too much because no one is willing to tackle it or explain it.  Therefore, race should only be seen and not  heard.  As a child of color, should I too only be seen and not heard?

2)  MYTH:  When our transracial adoptee is ready to talk about race and adoption HE/SHE will bring it up.

TRUTH:   The transracial adoptee will not bring up race or adoption because your silence about these subjects doesn’t give them permission to talk about them.

3)  MYTH:  Talking about a child’s painful past will only cause the pain to grow and multiply.

TRUTH:  Pain operates the opposite of vegetation.   You can’t choke out pain by ignoring it  or starving it of attention.  Pain grows from lack of attention NOT vice versa.

4)  MYTH:  Love is divisible.  If we open up our family to birth parents it will divide our adoptive child’s love in half.

TRUTH:  Honoring, respecting, and loving birthparents teaches the adoptee how to honor, respect and love adoptive parents.  LOVE MULTIPLIES!

5) MYTH:  Learning, studying and researching how I am affected by adoption, as an adoptee, robs me of joy.

TRUTH:  Joy comes from understanding.

Be conscious of the messages you want to send and be proactive to make sure what you are intending is actually what your children are receiving.

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Sitting alone in my living room in my favorite chair, alone in the house I cried.  Watching the documentary, Wo Ai Ni,(I Love You) Mommy on PBS a deep sadness shrouded me.

This is a documentary on transracial adoption and it follows the Sadowsky family who adopts an 8 year old girl from China.  The film maker Stephania Wang-Breal, follows  Mrs. Sadowsky as she travels to China to meet and bring back their new daughter to the United States.

In an interview on the PBS website,(http://video.pbs.org/video/1579183817/),  Donna Sadowsky, the mother of the Sadowsky family states, “We documented this trip to show the cultural assimilation that happens when children come in to the United States with a foreign language or coming from other countries.”

To Mrs. Sadowsky even after seeing the documentary she is very excited and proud of how she is portrayed and sees the films as a great way to show others that it is possible to adopt older children internationally and that the adoption of older children can be successful.

I wonder if Mrs. Sadowsky and I saw the same film.

What gave her so much joy made so very sad.

At their initial meeting,  the 8 year old adoptee, instantaneously loses her Chinese name, Sui Yong, which is replaced with Faith Sadowsky and the new Faith seems overwhelmed and in shock.  From this point on frame by frame the painful process of stripping everything Chinese from this darling 8 year begins.

Immediately, Mrs. Sadowsky introduces flash cards to help teach Faith her new language.  Time after time, Faith is exhausted but Mrs. Sadowsky keeps pushing her to learn more English.  It is evident that Faith is expected to become an English speaking American and the thought of the Sadowsky’s learning any Chinese or doing anything to accommodate Faith’s culture never blips on the Sadowsky radar. They do enroll Faith in Chinese classes but they don’t seem to stop the melting of Chinese from Faith’s mind.

Early on over and over Faith is made responsible when there is a breakdown in communication.   In Mrs. Sadowsky’s mind, it is Faith who is choosing not to communicate in her new language purposely refusing to speak.

The misunderstandings are often cleared up with the help of the film maker, who often acts as a translator.

Later in the film, as Mrs. Sadowsky, is watching Faith at her swim lessons, she retells another joyful moment.  She explains that now after Faith has been in the United States for 8 months, her Chinese is disappearing and the frequent phone calls to China to talk to her foster family are less frequent.  It is becoming more and more difficult for Faith to speak Chinese with her foster family and in frustration, after a recent phone call with her foster family, to her mother’s sinister delight, Faith says she doesn’t like the Foster family anymore.

One more layer gone.

Walking away from this film, I felt bad for Mrs. Sadowsky because I was convinced that once she saw the completed film she would easily see the same film I did and she would realize how sad it was to watch the “assimilation” of her daughter.  What was even sadder was watching the post film interview of Mrs. Sadowsky.  The fact that she missed the obvious message and slant by the film maker was sad.

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For those that missed it, the video can be viewed on the PBS site. Just click on  this link, Wo Ai Ni Mommy

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Trips to the grocery store were always an event in the Hofmann household.  Usually, Dad would be working so Mom would load up us four kids all under the age of eight  in to the dark blue station wagon and we would trek to the local A&P grocery store.

The one order we would get before we walked through those magic glass doors that opened by themselves was simple; “Make sure you stay with me,” Mom would say.  Then the adventure began.  Mom would whisk up and down the isles checking off items one by one on a list written on the back of an envelope or on a scrape piece of paper. Her mission was to save as much money as possible and our mission, job and responsibility was to keep up with her.

The phase, “No child gets left behind,” meant nothing to Mom.  If you were slow, you got left behind.  If you got distracted by the toy aisle that sat next to the cereal aisle, you got left behind.

I can remember several times seeing and feeling my mother right beside me and then I would look away for a fraction of a quarter of a second and she would dissolve and be gone.  If I was lucky, I would catch a blur of her whipping around the corner of an aisle, but usually she would just be gone.  I would stand in the middle of the aisle in dead silence as the shelves of groceries seemed to grow taller as I shrank.  I would frantically whip my head around but I knew it was no use.  When she was gone, she was gone.That feeling of being lost, cut off from the world in the A&P was terrifying.  I felt alone in a store full of people.

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Several weeks ago, at 42 years old, for the first time in my life I sat down with a group of transracial adoptees.  For three days, I got to move in an environment with adults who lived their lives like I have lived mine; as a minority in their own family.

I was excited to hear their stories, their experiences, and their interpretations of life as transracial adoptees.  Over this 72 hour period, I heard, saw, felt, and experienced the pain, hurt and anger of several transracial adoptees.  There were meetings we had where I just wanted to run out and away from the confusion, the tears, the shouts, and the cussing.

At night, I would lie awake wondering if I missed it.  Anxiety would seize me and descend on me like a blanket.  Was I in denial?  Was I ignoring the powerful feelings that so many shared during the day?  Why was my experience so different?

About 48 hours in to this new world the answer to my last question was clear.  My experience was different because of two reasons; my faith and my experience.

I know the mention of two of those four words has caused several to turn me off; my faith.  My Christian faith promises a peace that passes all understanding.  I have that peace which comes to me through the power of my faith not through my denial.

The other difference was my experience.  My experience of growing up in a white family but always in touch with people who look like me, I am finding out is unique.  Many transracial adoptees are adopted by white families, live in white environments and never have those vital connections I had.

Often this lack of connection is compounded by the fact that race is never talked about in the home.  This creates what someone called racial isolation.  That term hit me across the forehead when I took the time to really hear it.

To live in racial isolation where you are treated differently at school, at church, on the playground, in your neighbor, and then come home where you can’t or don’t discuss it would be a torturous existence.  Growing up like that, in my opinion, would be a living hell.

Over those 72 hours, I got to see and understand a side of transracial adoption that I didn’t experience but now I understand better.  To survive such a life would not be easy and the hurt, pain, and anger that would throb in my chest would be very difficult to contain.

The alone and isolated feeling I felt in the A&P felt like it lasted an eternity but in reality lasted one to two minutes.  Once I ran down the aisle and checked the aisles to the left or right, I would find my Mom, pushing the shopping cart, with one to three of my brothers and sister.  My siblings were not immune to our mother’s disappearing act so rarely were we all together at one time in the A&P.   Once connected I would fall back in line behind the shopping cart that was quickly being filled and I was no longer alone.

Living life surrounded by people but still isolated and alone will change a child and the road to finding themselves as they grow will not be as easy as running to the next aisle.

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Check out my electronic press kit video and pass the link on to anyone you feel might be interested.

Click below to watch the video.

Kevin D. Hofmann(epk)

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When I was single, I walked into the bank one day and saw this beautiful teller sitting behind the counter and over the next several weeks I devised a way to first talk to her.  I was hoping that talking to her would lead to getting to know her, and getting to know her would lead to dating her.

After reading the book, Rich Dad, Poor Dad, I was trying to figure out how I would make my first million dollars, so I took the author’s advice.  I contacted a successful real estate investor and I asked him if we could meet for coffee.  I again was hoping we could talk and that would lead to a friendship and that friendship would lead to me learning more about something that could help support me some day.

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A few weeks ago, I was asked to be a part of a panel discussion entitled, “Race and the Church.”  I was excited because I was going to be working with a local pastor, Steve Anthony, whom I really respect and admire because he is passionate, knowledgeable and open about improving  race relations.  I, myself am always eager to talk about and learn how the races can work better at coexisting ,so I was more than happy to be a part of the panel.

During the three hour discussion, Pastor Anthony shared with us, what he calls; THE INTENTIONAL MODEL.  As he went through and explained it, it was like a 1500 watt light went off in my small head.  Pastor had put in to words an idea I had  been chewing on for this, my next blog.

This discussion about race and the church took place a few days after I wrote my last blog about having a Cultural Connection Plan(CCP)and I was trying to figure out how I could move from this concept of a CCP to action.  I strongly feel this is such a vital concept that I wanted to follow it up with more meat, more concrete instruction as to how to connect children with their culture and more specifically how to go about it.  Then Pastor gave me the model below; an action plan to walk out the Cultural Connection Plan.

The Intentional Model has 5 steps and each step builds on the last.

The first step is INTRODUCTION.  This is simply where you step out of your comfort zone and meet someone from the same culture as your child.  This is probably the toughest step because it often means sticking your neck out with no guarantee it won’t get cut off.  It means intentionally approaching someone and introducing yourself and hoping your neck is welcomed with a hug and not a sharp blade.

The second step is INTRIGUE.  It means asking general questions showing genuine intrigue and interest.  If the introduction goes well this step isn’t as scary but it still means you have to take a chance.  In this step it may mean simply asking for help and assistance with hair care or skin care for example.

The third step comes as the relationship develops.  As you become more comfortable, you proceed to next step which is INTERVIEW.  You move into more in-depth conversation as you work to get to know the person and ask questions to learn more about them.  You also open yourself up to answer questions to share more about you.

The forth step is INCLUSION.  Again, as the relationship grows you begin to include them more in your life and they do as well.  Your families spend time together at each others homes and a true friendship is formed.

The fifth and final step is INTERDEPENDENCE.  Now you have gained trust in each other and are dependent on each other. Your family now becomes a multicultural family and not only a family with a child/children of color.

I am aware this will not work with everyone you meet and many attempts will not make it past the introduction, but the important thing is to remember to keep trying.  If you don’t connect with that person maybe they can put you in touch with someone who you do connect with or a group of people or organization.  You are always one contact away from establishing this desired result.

Some will also argue that you are just using these people because they are Black, Asian, Ethiopian etc. and that makes them uncomfortable.  My response is simple.  We do it all the time.

I approached that teller because I wanted to date her.  I approached that real estate investor because he had knowledge that I wanted.  That teller became my wife whom I have known for 20 years and have two children with. The real estate investor has become a good friend who loves to share what he knows and is a deep well of knowledge, experience and advice.  I intentionally approached these two people and the results were worth far more than the risks.

To provide this connection for your child AND your family it  is worth getting your neck cut a few times, don’t you think?

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At 2:30 in the morning two weeks ago, my wife and I decided to wake up the boys and head to the basement.  There was a series thunderstorms approaching our community at 60 miles an hour and the National Weather Service was stating that the conditions were perfect for tornados.  We gathered the boys out of bed and our two dogs and headed for the basement.

As we sat on the two futons in the basement, I tried to appear calm and unworried.  We could hear the wind and rain upstairs and I was very concerned, but I didn’t want to startle the boys.

I was trying to have casual conversation talking about anything but the weather and then  from the kitchen upstairs we all heard a sound.  It was the sound of wind against the house followed by what sounded like glass breaking.  At that point, urine almost evacuated out of me.  I said something calm like,  “ I wonder what that was,” but inside I was screaming,  “The sky is falling!  The sky is falling!”

About 30 minutes after the sound, I decided to go upstairs to see if we could emerge from our shelter.  The sound of wind and rain had disappeared and it was now eerily quiet.  My shaky legs climbed the basement stairs and to my relief there was no hole in the side of the house and I had trouble finding what made the crashing noise.

Finally, in the kitchen, near the window over the sink, I saw what generated what I thought would be the last noise I ever heard.  The wind had pushed open the small kitchen window knocking off the window sill a small glass filled with decorative colored glass chips.  As the glass chips hit the kitchen counter it made the sound of breaking glass.

I returned to the basement and notified everyone if was safe to go back to bed and explained what the sound was that we heard.

As I laid down in bed I thanked God for keeping us safe and I thought tomorrow I will have to come up with a better plan for emergencies.

The next day I learned several tornados touched down and 5 people in a rural area not too far from us were killed.  Several of them were asleep and were unaware of the twisting danger outside their homes.

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard from authorities that you should always have an emergency plan for times such as this. There should be something in place that we follow to assure we have the best chance at survival. This thought of a plan wove its way in to my mind and attached itself to the thoughts I always have lingering in my mind about transracial adoption.  Inside my head these two thoughts embraced and an important idea was created.

As many of you know, I always talk about the importance of connecting your transracial child with their culture and many agree this is an important concept.   My fear is that this idea stays with you like the idea of having an emergency plan stayed with me.  As life swallows us up,  the important immediate need gets pushed back and an idea that seemed so pressing becomes something you only think about on the way to the grocery store when you can’t do anything to act on it.  Soon the idea is lost and snuffed out by the next important thing until the original idea is 5 years old and unused.

Having a Cultural Connection Plan(CCP) is vital.  This is a plan that you commit to doing to help your child connect to their culture.  It has specific goals that can be measured so you know whether it was followed or not.  The plan tells you what to do and how often to do it and just like an emergency plan it helps assure your child has the best chance at survival.

My parents didn’t have a Cultural Connection Plan that they had to follow.  Instead they submerged me in my cultured assuring that I would have contact with kids who looked like me everyday.  By doing this they were able to flip on the automatic pilot switch and I gained that  vital cultural connection through my classmates and neighbors that surrounded me.

I realize not all transracial parents can transplant the whole family in to a different environment or community and I am not saying that is necessary.  What I am challenging you to do is draw up a CCP and stick to it.  Come up with measureable goals and specific strategies to incorporate your child’s culture in to your lives; plans that are more in depth than wall art, special meals, or books on a book shelf.

For those who are doing this please share what you are doing to help others who may not have designed their CCP yet.

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