Monday, May 30, 2011

May's Online Art Exhibit: Kate Dahlquist

Kate Dahlquist

"I'm a freelance artist (photography, art, & writing) who is currently living in the lovely state of NC with my husband and our two boys. I have many connections to adoptoland including being the sister of an adopted brother from Vietnam, mother of two children lost to "open" adoption, and a former NC GAL (5+ years of service and I'm still in touch with several of my former clients). Adoptee rights, family preservation are two subjects that are near and dear to my heart and I currently volunteer for several organizations which support these causes."


"Piece of my Heart," 2008   &   "Silent Heart," 2008

"Before you Sign," 2009   &   "After you Sign," 2009

"Every Night," 2009   &   "Amerikan Justice," 2009

About the Collages:
"1, 2 & 5 A reflection of my feelings about my adoption experience.
3 & 4 How I feel I am seen/portrayed by my children's APs (who were, at one point, friends of my family).
6 My general impression of family court after my some of my experiences as a GAL."

Acrylic on Canvas

"Waiting," 1999

"Making Due," 2004

"When I was a GAL, I went to visit a client at the home of her foster parents on a truly sweltering July day. As I was coming down the street, I saw an adorable little girl about 6 or 7 "making due" with an industrial trash can and a garden hose. She was having a fabulous time and waved at me as I drove by. I wished I had my camera! To me this picture is an example of how money isn't necessary for happiness."


"Spring Colors" Burlington, NC, 2010

"Gerbera Couple" Melbane, NC, 2011

"Carolina Bride," Wilmington, NC, 2011

Images Copyright Kate Dahlquist.  All Rights Reserved.  Used on this blog with permission.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Guest Post: Embracing my Backgrounds

Guest Post by Mama Bean

 Mama Bean is a bi-racial Adult Adoptee who authors her humorous blog about life and family "Update my Status." As May is Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, she has graciously agreed to write a guest entry on the topic of her choice to share with us her thoughts and perspectives.

"So, what, uh... is your, like... background?"

I get asked this fairly often. I think the questioner's usually trying to not sound racist or something. But it's a natural enough question. My appearance is kind of confusing. I like to joke that I'm ambiguously Asian. On any given day, I've been mistaken for Native/Inuit, Hawaiian, Hispanic, and once, Welsh.

But what does 'background' mean? Is it just about race, what's written on my face? Or is it about culture, what's lived in my home? For non-adoptees, there is no distinction. What you're born with is also what you're raised with. But for adoptees, the divide between what's Nature and what's Nutured is wide, and sometimes confusing.

Here is the cultural mix I was raised in: I was adopted by Chinese-born parents who both emigrated when they were very young to the West Indies. They later moved to Canada after getting married. I grew up in a predominantly white neighbourhood, school, and church. So, my background is Chinese-Trinidadian-Canadian.

Here's what I know about my genetic make-up: my first mother is Chinese, my first father is white (Norwegian.) So, my background is half-Chinese, half-Norwegian.

Growing up, I didn't get too caught up in the complexities; my family's culture was my culture. I used to say, "Heredity doesn't apply to me." But as I get older, and now that I have children of my own, I want to know more about that other side of my background.

When adoptees express the desire/need to know about their genetic heritage, they are sometimes (often) charged with demonstrating ingratitude or a lack of loyalty towards their adoptive family. So I was trying to think of an illustration that explains why these desires are normal, and do not diminish the importance of the adoptive family's culture or influence.

The adoptee's experience of a division between genetic and familial heritage underscores the fact that everyone, whether adopted or not, participates in a variety of cultures. It's just like the adoption folks are always saying, "Family isn't always blood." So, okay, maybe I have a church 'family' or a profession-related 'family' or a hobby-related 'family'. Each of these groups represents its own culture, that I have learned about and internalized as something important to me. Each group has a history and a value-set that is bundled up in a 'family' code - this is the essential information. This is the group's heritage. Know this, act accordingly, and you belong.

Imagine trying to be a Christian without knowing the story of Christ or having a Bible. Could you be an effective doctor without knowing the background of disease and appropriate treatments? A knitting hobby wouldn't be much fun if I didn't have any instructions to follow, or needles and yarn to work with.

The illustration's a bit of a stretch for adoption, but it's kind of like this: I have my original family's heritage in my cells, but I don't know anything about it. So how do I function with that heritage? How do I use it, use my own body effectively, when I don't have the essential information? How could I not want to know it? It's part of my culture, it's part of my heritage, but I'm ignorant of these salient points. 

Being part of my church family, understanding my professional heritage, delving into a hobby's culture - none of this makes me less my parents' daughter. No one judges me for wanting to know more about church history, or attending continuing education classes for my job, or taking music lessons in my spare time. So it should be for wanting to know my original family's heritage. It's just another part of me, another culture that I am naturally invested in. Because it's part of my identity. It's written all over my ambiguously Asian face.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Guest Post: "RUNAWAY"

Guest Post by Melissa “Mila” Konomos

Bicycle - Teotihuacan Mexicophoto © 2009 mksfly | more info (via: Wylio)

Melissa "Mila" Konomos is a reunited Korean American Adult Adoptee who authors the amazing blog "Yoon's Blur." As May is Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, she has graciously agreed to write a guest entry on the topic of her choice to share with us her thoughts and perspectives.


The following is a poem that I wrote at the age of 9 years old during art class:

Flowers make me think of peace because when wind blows at them they don’t try to fight back. When winter comes flowers wrinkle up and just disappear but they die happily because they know that another flower like it will come and take its place and make everyone happy. When people come and take flowers away from their home they don’t cry or try to do something bad. They just think of peace and say in their mind I’ll make this person think of peace, love, and happiness. The End.
[I also sketched with markers two small drawings in the margins of a flower “dying in peace” and another flower “alive again in peace.”]

* * *

When I was a little girl, I used to fantasize about running away from home.

So, one day in 1983, when I was eight years old, I decided to do it.

My parents were away from the house doing grown-up things. I had been left under the watch of my thirteen-year old brother, Joel. He had consigned me to my bedroom for misbehaving, or perhaps for annoying him, or maybe for both.

Regardless, I seized this as the perfect opportunity to make my getaway.

 imagined that I would run away and never come back.

It would take my family hours to figure out that I was missing. Once they did, I pictured in my eight-year old mind, Joel being overcome with guilt, and my entire family agonizing over my disappearance, regretting every moment they had not cherished me.

They would then know what it would feel like to have lost me once and for all, which would make them realize just how much they loved me and how much they wanted me back.

Then, one day, after years had passed, I would return home. And on that day, they would welcome me—falling on their knees with arms wide and tears streaming. They would look up to the sky, hands lifted and entwined, thanking the heavens that I had returned to them. What was lost had now been found.

For the rest of my life, they would cling to me and profess their undying love for me and me alone.

This was my fantasy.

* * *

I had four dollars in my nylon Velcro wallet. I crawled out of my window and slipped through the gate at the side of our house in Hawaii. I hopped on my bike and rode as fast as I could.

I pedaled and pedaled. With all my fury and all my tears. All the way down the street. All the way out of the neighborhood. I passed the playground. I passed all the houses.

I pedaled and pedaled.

All the way to McDonald’s.

* * *

I parked my bike, locked it up. Wiped my face.

I walked into McDonald’s, pulled out a dollar and ordered some French fries and a soda.

I delighted in my scheme. I wonder if they’ve noticed yet—that I’m long gone. It must be working.

But as I savored my fries and sipped my soda, a sharp, cold fear spread through my chest and into my throat.

What if I disappear, and they never notice? What if I disappear and they get angry? What if I disappear, and they do not miss me? What if I am gone for too long, and they forget all about me? What if I can never go back?

I began to devour my fries and gulp my soda with a frenzied urgency.

* * *

I panicked as I lined up the numbers on my bike lock. I have to get home before they notice anything. Before it’s too late, before…I can’t go back.

I raced toward home, pedaling even more furiously than before.

My heart felt frantic.

I need to get home. Hurry, hurry. Hurry.

* * *

No one ever noticed a thing.

I returned home, snuck back into my room and sat on my bed feeling both disappointed and relieved that my fantasy had not met fulfillment.

* * *

Now, as I write these words, I realize for the first time in my life, that it was not my American family about which I was fantasizing during that little escapade—it was my birth family, my Korean family.

Even then, although unspeakable, my eight-year old self harbored deep and dormant longings for a home and a people that found their way out even when I could not.