Category Archives: Adoption

Fun & Games With The Doggo

Nearly five years ago it had been decades since I lived with a dog. My last “good boy” was a Rottweiler who had been given to me by a girlfriend. She didn’t have the strength or know-how to handle him and she decided he would be better off with someone who could manage his size and strength and had some experience training dogs.

His full name was Kavon Heinse of Stoneflower. The first two names came from his lineage; he was a pedigreed dog and ended being the last one I would ever have. I just called him Heinse, and we spent a few years together before an inoperable lesion on his spine paralyzed him and I had no choice but to have him euthanized. It was a traumatic experience and, because I couldn’t bring myself to have another dog in my life for the longest time, it really affected me emotionally.

Fast forward about forty years and Angel, our rescue pup, came into my and my family’s life. With her, I remembered just how wonderful and special it is to have a dog to love and be loved by. Angel has come to fill a hole I wasn’t even aware I was living with. She also provides me with an “affection sponge,” giving me someone I can hug and kiss who won’t grow out of it as my children have.

I happen to be sitting out in the backyard the other day and Alyssa started playing with Angel. I had forgotten they had this stalking game they did and, as it was unfolding, I decided to take this video. This is one of the many things that make having a dog so special, IMO.

Angel Stalks Alyssa

NB: I can’t figure out why the link, but not the embedded video, is showing up here. I’ll keep trying to figure it out but if you click on it, you can see the vid I posted.


Back In The Saddle

I posted the following to LinkedIn two days ago. It was the first time I’ve posted there in approximately two years. I was very apprehensive about sharing some of these personal details on the site, as I’ve always used it strictly for business, but I felt it necessary to explain to my over 1300 connections where I’ve been for the last two years. I’m gratified to be able to say it was more than well received and I am now jumping back into the fray as carefully (and delicately) as possible.


Hey everybody. Well, at least the people who know me and, perhaps, have wondered where I’ve been. Two years ago, my youngest daughter announced she wanted to drop out of school. She was a sophomore in high school at the time.

Needless to say, I dropped everything I was doing and concentrated on helping her deal with the issues that were causing her to feel like giving up was the best course of action. As an older, internationally adopted toddler, she was saddled with some difficult learning issues and has struggled to get through her classes. Fortunately, she has an IEP (Individualized Education Program) which allows her teachers and the school to take those issues into consideration.

She is now a senior and is attending a school that is an independent learning academy. During the pandemic lock-down of our local schools, she thrived working at home. She has a problem with other children and having to work with dozens surrounding her has always been a challenge.

Her new school, coupled with a new medication for depression she started taking (and which seems to be working) has tamped down her anxiety, which means I’m not living moment-to-moment awaiting her next trauma and having to deal with it.

So – I’m just coming up for air after two years of trauma, exacerbated by the pandemic and my having been infected with Covid at the beginning of this year. I am still experiencing some long-haul symptoms, but am doing remarkable well for someone my age, with my comorbidities.

I may not be fully functional until next June, when she graduates (God willing and the creek don’t rise,) but I’m working on it and will be spending more time on LinkedIn as I seek a few clients/gigs. I’m deeply thankful I was in a position to spend as much time as I have with her, but I’m really looking forward to having more time to spend on myself and my continuing desire to be useful to others.


GoFundMe Update

A Rare Family Photo

Yesterday I posted an update to my GoFundMe campaign to raise a little money while writing my first memoir. I’m expecting it to take at least six months of gathering info/memories/photos and writing, proofing, and editing it. I may have to make several trips to the Bay Area and Bend, Oregon to interview some of the families who traveled with us in 2002 and 2006. The money I’m seeking is primarily needed to help me with those costs. What follows is my update:


Just wanted to share a little update for all y’all (such as there are.) My current plan is to make this work around 50,000 words. I have found a file with at least a dozen heartfelt emails I sent back to the states from The China Hotel, in Guangzhou, PRC, when we adopted Aimee.

I have also discovered an essay I wrote, as part of a personal ethics journal I was required to write for a comparative religions class at Cal Lutheran Uni. It is about the ethical struggle I went through regarding being a much older parent and how I thought that might affect an adopted child. It was written prior to our first adoption and I will be elaborating on it. I’ve had almost two decades to be faced with, and contemplate, that reality.

I’ve begun contacting several parents with whom we traveled and became somewhat close. For the first 12 or so years we had reunions every year. Not all the families were able (or even wanted) to make it, but there were usually at least ten of us. It’s been a few years since that happened and, of course, all the girls Aimee’s age are now pretty much adults and are striking out on their own.

I have begun contacting some of those parents in order to interview them for this memoir. I’ve always felt parenting was similar to flying in an airplane. Long stretches of boredom, intermittently punctuated by moments of sheer terror and anxiety. I intend on finding out if others have felt the same.

My plan is to provide an update each month until the work is done, after which my final update will be the memoir itself.

My deepest thanks to those of you who have contributed. You have no idea what that does for my commitment to get this done … and done well. I’m adding a photo taken just this past Mothers’ Day. Alyssa had admonished me in the past not to post photos of her, or tag her in any way on FB. While we were driving to pick up our dinner for us to enjoy with Linda, she informed me she wanted me to post more photos, which she now sees as documentation of her family life. Hence, the photo, which I really like (though I wish I was actually looking into the lens.)


Sharing My Late-Life Adoption Journey

Yesterday, 11 April 2021, I created a gofundme account in an effort to raise money for a memoir I am writing about my experiences with International—and interracial—adoption when I was 55-years-old and again at 59. As regular readers might know, my wife Linda and I adopted our oldest daughter, Aimee, in September of 2002, when she was 14 months old. We again adopted in September of 2006, when our younger daughter, Alyssa, was 33 months old.

Each of these adoptions took over two years to complete and were both nerve-wracking and fulfilling experiences. We were required to travel to the People’s Republic of China each time, staying at the China Hotel, in Guangzhou, which is in the Southeast of the country, not far from Hong Kong. Each time we went, we managed to get in a little sightseeing prior to our daughters being introduced to us.

Our first time we flew to Guangzhou (it took 15 hours) where we had a three-hour layover, after which we flew to Beijing, which was a three and a half hour flight. The second time we flew directly to Hong Kong. We stayed in Beijing for six days, visiting some of the things tourists are wont to see, e.g. The Great Wall, The Forbidden City, etc. We stayed in Hong Kong for only three nights, then took a train to Guangzhou. After our time in Beijing, we flew back to Guangzhou. Each time we arrived, we were met by a team of “assistants” from the organization that facilitated our stay, our travel arrangements, the interpretation and completion of numerous documents, and the transfer of money for the various services we used to complete our adoptions.

I have posted a few times regarding our adoptions, but I’ve been reluctant to share too much about our girls, as I felt it was their story to tell. However, the time has come for me to share my story as best I know how. I had a discussion with the girls yesterday, and they gave me permission to do this.

As a result, I opened the gofundme account I’m referring to where I am seeking a total of $6,000, which I believe will help me concentrate for the next six months on writing this memoir while continuing to assist my girls in achieving their independence. My youngest, Alyssa, is just finishing her Junior year in High School, and it has been exceptionally challenging. She has some issues, which I will write about in this memoir, that required an IEP (Individualized Education Program) and presented some not-so-unique problems that continue. My older daughter, Aimee, is attending (virtually) classes at Moorpark College, but is having difficulty deciding on what direction she wishes to go in.

I am offering copies of this memoir to anyone who donates, no matter how much they give. For donations of $50 or more, I will provide a digitally signed, personalized copy, and for donations of $100 or more, I’m offering a 30-minute telecon via the platform of their choice (Zoom, Facebook Rooms, etc.) I will make the book available in any one of several formats, including .mobi for Kindle.

This is a new experience for me and I’m not completely comfortable with asking for money. However, I need to supplement our limited income and, at nearly 74-years-old, especially during a pandemic, it’s difficult to find ways to earn money and still have the energy to write and edit my story. Whether or not you can afford to donate, I would greatly appreciate it if you could share the gofundme link, which is gf.me/u/zp7gaw. You can click here to get to it as well.

Thank you for reading and, I hope, at least sharing my campaign so I can share my story.

Rick

Although I’ve been blogging for over 15 years, I never wanted to use it to make money. For much of the time I was either working full-time at Rocketdyne or pursuing clients for my business providing social media marketing services to small businesses. Now that I’m approaching my 74th birthday, and have no intention of returning to a regular job, I’ve decided to seek ways to earn a little bit of supplemental income. If you find my writing interesting or useful, please consider a donation to help me continue writing, instead of becoming a Costco greeter. Thank you.

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Fear of Sharing

My wife would say I’m overly gregarious and too willing to share things about my life and experiences, and from all appearances, I seem to have spent much of that life being outgoing and transparent, yet I think I just realized that in actuality, I have always hidden much of who I am from others. Specific others, not everyone . . . and not about everything. Most of the things I’ve kept to myself over the years aren’t deeds I’m ashamed of or thoughts I’ve believed in and now think are wrong. It’s just that it wasn’t important for certain people to know about them.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

For instance, I never shared my experiences in the late sixties with the “Free Love” movement with my mother. Somehow, I felt she wouldn’t have appreciated learning why I refer to myself as a “battle-scarred veteran” of the Sexual Revolution. Similarly, when I first hired in at Rockwell International’s Rocketdyne division, to work on the Space Shuttle Main Engine team, I didn’t think they needed to know I had spent two months in Cuba in 1973 as a guest of the Cuban government. The list goes on.

When I became a first-time, adoptive father at the age of 55, I considered writing about the experience of adopting, but decided against it because I thought it stood too much of a chance of violating my children’s privacy. I’m still a bit conflicted over how much I can share about my experience for fear of sharing too much of their lives, and those things don’t belong to me alone.

Now that I’m less than a year and a half from my 75th birthday, I’m thinking it’s time to stop being so concerned about embarrassing anyone who knows or is related to me . . . and just write my truth and put it out there for everyone to judge for themselves. That is what I’m doing, but I’m also just realizing how seriously I have been hobbled by my unwillingness to risk bringing shame to my family . . . even though I’m hardly ashamed about anything I’ve done over the years. Sorry for some things, yes – because they hurt me or others I loved and cared about – but shame does not emanate from this boy.

Having recognized this serious impediment to telling my story, it’s now my job to overcome what it’s done to me over the years (it hasn’t perzackly helped me overcome “imposter syndrome.”) I can no longer embarrass my parents or grandparents; they’ve been gone for quite some time, and I need to get these stories out, regardless. Even if I live to be ninety, I won’t have to regret anything (which I likely won’t anyway) for very long.


Thoughts on Adoption

The Whole Fam Damily

I haven’t written much about my experiences with adoption, specifically International adoption, because I decided long ago that my daughters’ stories are theirs and to reveal specifics about them is not my place. However, there are some aspects of our journey I feel comfortable about sharing.

When my wife and I decided to adopt, after some research and communication with a couple of friends we knew who had gone through a similar experience, we decided to adopt from the People’s Republic of China. We were quite fortunate to be introduced to an organization that arranged Chinese adoptions, and that organized the entire trip, including working closely with us throughout the process, including translating documents and accompanying us through every necessary step.

When we began the process we also discovered there was a Yahoo group dedicated to those of us who were using this organization, which was called U.S. Asian Affairs. We used it to introduce ourselves to the group and, over time, to learn about the process and the lives, as well as the hopes and dreams, of the other families who had traveled or who we would be traveling with, as well as those who would be adopting subsequent to us.

When we were in China, at the China Hotel in Guangzhou, I spent nearly every free evening down in the sports bar, where they had a couple of computers set up and I could send emails to the group, apprising them of our progress and how were were feeling. I also continued to communicate with others for several years afterward, am still friends with many of those with whom we traveled, and also belong to a Facebook group that kind of took over for the Yahoo group.

Even though I’m no longer using the Yahoo group to communicate, at the beginning of each month approximately ten emails are sent to everyone who’s a member. Of those ten, three are from me. I’d like to share them (I may have shared one or more of them sometime in the past 14 years, but I can’t remember and don’t want to search) here. This first one is from October 12, 2005. Our oldest was a little over four years old and it would be another year before we adopted our second child.

The post was in response to a question another parent had posed, which was “Maybe some of the referrals come with information that stretches the truth, but I think that the act of being placed in our loving arms is not quite as wonderful for these girls as it is for us. Give them time.” Here is my response:

This has to be one of the most important, and profound, statements I have read on China33 in some time. We must, repeat must, remember what these children have experienced. Each of them has had to suffer two major, life-changing upheavals. The first was being separated from their birth mother (no matter the circumstances under which it took place); the second being taken from either a foster family or the only real home they have known.

We have to control the tendency to see our good fortune in finding them as the only interpretation of these events. We must fight against trying to impose our perception of reality on them. I believe the wisest thing we can do is try and understand their lives from their perspective. They may not be able to give voice to it, and their memories are almost always pre-verbal, but that doesn’t negate the powerful emotions these events evoked.

I have watched our Aimee nearly shut down in situations that were similar to the evening she was placed in our arms. A room full of children, adults, noise, and pandemonium. Even an open house at pre-school has greatly unnerved her. However, with every day she has grown a little more secure in our existence as a family and now, at over four years old, she is finding her place and blossoming like we hoped for her.

The most important thing we can give our children is the knowledge not only that they are loved, but also that they are respected. I can’t emphasize this enough. Remember the concept of “walking a mile in their shoes.” By all means, revel in the joy of finally having her in your arms; the ineffable depth of emotion you feel when holding or even just watching her (or him). Just keep in mind that you are the lucky ones. If our children were truly lucky, the conditions leading to their abandonment would not have existed, and they would still be with their birth family.

Remember, one day they will be all grown up, and they will almost certainly be at least curious about why they were separated from their birth family. You will be doing both them and yourselves a great service by keeping that day in mind – always.


R.I.P. Zacky

Our Beloved Zacky

Linda and I just said our final goodbye to Zacky, our beloved boy of about 14 years. His body was shutting down and we didn’t want him to suffer any longer. We brought him home on Friday in the hope he might improve, but he didn’t, so we took him to the Vet this morning and they recommended saying goodbye.

I know it was the right thing to do, but I’m beside myself with grief. I’ve never known a cat quite as attached to humans as Zacky was, and I have had the good fortune of knowing quite a few of them in my life. He was especially bonded with Linda and frequently slept in her arms or under the blankets, in a little cave she would make for him.

I would have gladly put up with a few more bloody rats on the bedroom floor to have had a couple more years with him. We’ll be grieving for a while, but we’ll move on. Lots of good memories of this guy.

2020 most definitely sucks.


The Dogs Are Sure Happy!

One of the interesting side effects of self-isolation was “celebrated” in an interesting article I came across on Facebook. Its title is “Nation’s dogs fucking loving whatever’s going on right now,” and you can find it here. I know our dog, Angel, is used to spending significant times either alone, or without the person who gives her the most treats . . . and that time is generally spent sleeping or moping around the house.

Upon our arrival back at home, whether we were gone 10 minutes of 10 hours, her excitement is temporarily boundless. That is no longer happening, as we’re seldom out of the house. In fact, the only one who’s left the house for the past week (at least) has been me. I take that back. I believe my wife went out one evening to pick up a papaya salad at her favorite Thai restaurant. That’s it.

My Pooper Girl, Angel (three years ago)

As an aside . . . a secondary effect of thinking about how our animals are dealing with this, though I’ve been noticing it recently; i.e. before the corona virus changed everything, I’ve come to realize the role our pets play for many of us. Certainly, with respect to dogs, this is my experience. I’ll try to explain.

My last dog had to be put to sleep before he was very old. He was a Rottweiler and had been gifted to me by a girlfriend who couldn’t handle him. His name was Heinse . . . Kavon Heinse of Stoneflower, to be exact. The appellation “Stoneflower” came from Stoneflower Productions, Sly Stone’s company. My girlfriend’s father was the business manager for Sly and the Family Stone, and Sly had given Heinse to him, but he was getting divorced and didn’t want the responsibility.

Heinse was an interesting dog. Powerful and resolute, he also chased shadows and stomped ants. He would sit under a tree and wait for birds to fly out of it so he could chase their shadows on the ground. Once, on the beach at Malibu, he confounded a couple of guys tossing a football. They took a while to figure out he wasn’t chasing the ball. He could smell ants and would rear up and stomp on them when encountered. He was a wonderful companion and putting him down was not easy for me. In fact, I had numerous cats, but never another dog until about three years ago. I lived dogless for well over thirty years.

Angel entered our lives about three years ago. The picture above was taken shortly after we rescued her. Her arrival was somewhat serendipitous, and I had precious little to do with it, other than responding to my wife’s text where she sent me a picture of her with a couple of question marks. I wasn’t ready to take on the extra expense, but I’m a sucker for a face like that and I said “OK.”

So . . . she came into our lives when our oldest, Aimee, was going on 16 years old. What’s significant about it, and what has caused me to think about how we relate to our pets (especially dogs) is that was right about the time I could no longer hug Aimee or smother her with kisses. Up until then, I was able to shower her with affection, which I loved doing. She was no longer interested, understandable—I was once a teenager and, even though it was several lifetimes ago, I remember most of what it was like.

Now I use Angel to shower my affection on, though she was a bit wary of me at the beginning. I think she interpreted my kissing her snout as a dominance display; at least at first. I was pretty sure I could interpret the look on her face when I would hug and kiss her as one of moderate concern, perhaps a little distrust. This, of course, is no longer the case. She now serves as my substitute affection sponge and, as long as I give her the occasional treat, we’re good . . . and I’m content.


What Would We Do Without Our Fur Babies?

I’ve always loved dogs (and cats), but I hadn’t had a dog in my life for something like 40 years after I had to put my beloved Heinse down when he developed an inoperable lesion on his spine, which paralyzed him. I suppose I could have developed some kind of wheelchair for him, but I didn’t have much money and I’ve never been terribly handy.

During the interim, I’ve had lots of cats; they’re easier to take care of and deal with, IMO. However, about two and a half years ago, Linda (my wife) came across this little sweetheart and she entered our lives. I’m very pleased.

I learned something interesting in the last few weeks. I was going through a bit of “empty nest” syndrome issues following my oldest daughter’s final dance recital in High School. The reality of her growing up and leaving really caught up with me, but the part that hit me the hardest was my sudden fear I’d screwed up; I hadn’t done the right things or I’d done some of the wrong things and I would never be able to make up for it! It was debilitating for a while. I’m better now, thank you very much.

Before this all happened, though, I was lamenting the reality that I could no longer hug and kiss my little girl, as she was a teenager (and had been for some time) and wanted nothing to do with that sort of thing, though she will let me kiss her goodbye . . . sometimes. What I realized was that I was able to get some of the closeness and the satisfaction of showering affection on Angel, our dog. Harder to do with a cat, but dogs can be super affectionate. This has got to explain why we have so many pets in this country. We can shower affection on our fur babies for their entire lives. They never lock themselves in their bedroom for days, ignoring those who labored mightily that they may have a good life.

So . . . let’s hear it for fur babies.


An Interesting Age

Kind of interesting to be spending part of my birthday waiting for my younger daughter to get out of school. I hadn’t quite put my foot on what always feels just a bit strange every time I’m here.

It finally hit me. It’s the knowledge I’m at least 54 years older than the oldest kids here. I’d venture to say the vast majority of parents here are no more than 30 years older than their kids. I mostly don’t feel like an outlier, but I am.

I’m also processing the reality that Alyssa had far more challenges than Aimee, who also has three friends who’ve known each other since kindergarten or the first grade, and whose families we have spent a lot of time with over the years. Alyssa doesn’t have any friends like that, which troubles me deeply.

I guess I’m living in interesting times. All I have to do is stay healthy and productive for about another eight to ten years. Slice pie!