Tag Archives: children

Some Thoughts From Our First Adoption

I became a first-time, adoptive father in August of 2002, when my wife and I traveled to the People’s Republic of China to meet our new daughter, Aimee. I have been loathe to write much about the experience as I didn’t feel it was my place to wave her life, and the circumstances (as I knew them) of our adoption, in public. I did, however, spend the first few years communicating a great deal with other parents of internationally, and transracially, adopted children. I’ve decided now is the time to start sharing my thoughts and recollections. This is an email, dated October 13, 2005, I sent to a Yahoo group used by most everyone who used the facilitator we did – U.S. Asian Affairs – to help us with all the issues our adoption from the PRC required addressing. Most of the people who adopted Chinese children are white, and the issue of racism was even more difficult for many to discuss back then than it is now. Anyway, here’s what I wrote in response to a statement by a fellow AP (adoptive parent):

Mimi:

As my father used to say, “you hit the head right on the nail”. While abandonment issues are the most obvious, they exist because of something that happened at a time certain. That isn’t to say they don’t continue to affect our kids in numerous ways as they grow; just that the fact of abandonment is something that happened in the past and must be dealt with in that context.

Race, on the other hand is (unfortunately) an issue our children will almost certainly continue to deal with all their lives. How we approach it is of paramount importance in how they will cope with it. My research tells me (as do my gut instincts) that parents who choose to believe they can ignore it, or that it really isn’t a major issue, are setting themselves and, tragically, their children up for some major problems.

Once again, I urge all adoptive parents and all prospective adoptive parents, especially families where both members are Caucasian, to learn as much as you can about the realities of racism. I am talking here not merely about the most obvious aspects (such as outright bigotry) but also about the institutionalized and insidious aspects of racism. Those of you who have not given it much thought (this is not an indictment, merely a recognition of reality) will be shocked at some of the things you learn.

Additionally, I can’t stress enough how important it will be to let your children lead the way with respect to their lives. I believe love consists of two major components; affection and respect. I know you will show great affection for your child. It’s important as well that you show them deep respect and you can do this by learning how to listen to them. Children should not be seen and never heard. They should be heard first and foremost. Trust them; listen to them; make sure they will always talk to you and you will become their allies in a battle they will have no choice but to fight.

Know also that you are not in this alone. There are numerous resources out there for you to learn or gain strength from. We should all be thankful for Rick, Karin, and all the folks who contribute to the discussions here on China33. Traveling to China to receive your child is just the beginning of a lifelong journey and you have the opportunity to take it with a large, supportive community. Take advantage of it. Your kids will thank you.

Rick Ladd


Let’s Bite Off Our Noses To Spite Our Faces

It seems to me that anyone who really cares about their country, who is a genuine patriot, has to care for everyone. Life is NOT a zero-sum game, where the gains enjoyed by others are a loss to you and yours. No, life and human society are highly complex, interdependent systems where every part has a role to play, and when we don’t provide optimal conditions for the health and well-being of some of the parts, the whole body suffers. Would you want your car’s engine to go without one of its spark plugs? While it would still get you to where you were going, it wouldn’t do it as efficiently, nor as effectively. In the end, it would almost certainly cost more to deal with the results of an imbalance in the engine than it would to ensure all its components were kept in good working order.

Yet many approach life as though they are living on an island. It’s difficult to fathom the level of insensitivity, blindness to reality, and the callous lack of empathy it takes to turn one’s back on people who may not directly affect your life in a way you can feel immediately, but who nevertheless impact the organizations and institutions you deal with all the time.

For instance, by not ensuring all children receive healthcare, adequate nutrition, and early education, we ensure our up and coming workforce will be less prepared than they otherwise could be for the kinds of jobs that will be available in the near future. The net result is we not only handicap those children, we also handicap their families, their friends, and the entire nation. By guaranteeing they need more help for far longer than might otherwise be the case, we add to both their burden and ours.

We hobble ourselves with mistaken, outdated, unsupportable notions that give far more importance to diversity as a bad thing; as something that takes away from our sense of worth, of self. Instead of understanding, celebrating, and taking advantage of all the ways in which we complement and enhance each other, too many of us turn those virtues into imaginary vices and use them to divide and separate us. What a pity.


Damn The Contradictions! Giving Feels Good.

Last night my Rotary Club of Simi Sunrise led a community effort to assemble the bicycles we had raised money for and purchased to distribute to children in our community whose families could not otherwise afford to get them one this year. We planned on buying, assembling, and distributing 300 bikes, but were only able to get 272, because there just weren’t any more available.

Bikes

A sample of the 272 bicycles assembled for community gifting.

Above is a pic showing some of these bikes. They were all assembled, put through a final quality check to ensure everything was done correctly, and loaded into trucks for distribution to the various groups and agencies who were participating in this event in approximately 2.5 hours. Kudos to everyone involved. It really was an amazing event, topped off by free pizza from The Junkyard, which was delicious.


PS – The title I used for this post reflects my knowledge that things like philanthropy and volunteerism (especially the former) can be indications of a failure in our society to meet the basic needs of many of our citizens. While I recognize there is, indeed, a problem of economic justice inherent in the ways we distribute goods and services, I also recognize there remains a real need regardless of the theories and concepts we can develop to describe and explain them. I therefore wish to opt for doing what I can (and Rotary seems an excellent avenue with which to do it) to alleviate some of the discomfort caused by the imbalance. 


Why Do They Grow Up? Because.

Love it when they feed themselves in the morning.

Love it when they feed themselves in the morning.

There’s a large part of me that doesn’t want my children to grow up. I miss my three-year-olds and the ability I had to pick them up and hug, kiss, or tickle them. I miss the intimacy and the feeling I was enjoying the most important love affairs of my life.

Then there’s the other part that can’t wait until I don’t have to take anyone to school and pick them up every day. I’m also glad they can finally make their own breakfast. Aimee even makes pancakes sometimes on the weekend, though Alyssa is just figuring out how to use the toaster oven.


I am Numb

Anti-Gun Graphic

It’s the numbers I’m Interested In.

So many dead. So many children. I am numb . . . and I can’t wait to see my kids when I pick them up from school today. I’m also a gun owner. I am not, however, so numb I can’t recognize a need to address the issue of gun control. We treat these occurrences like we treat earthquakes; as if they’re natural disasters and, with the exception of securing loose objects and having some emergency supplies at the ready, there’s nothing we can do about ’em.

We seem to face a choice; either arm everyone – including the children – or come up with rational policies that keep guns out of the hands of those who have no business possessing them. I’m kind of thinking the latter would be easier, cheaper, and more humane . . . not to mention rational.

I didn’t do a comparison of the populations of all six other countries listed, but we can look at one – Canada. With these numbers (assuming them to be accurate) the U.S. population would have to be 47 times that of Canada. Actually, the population of the U.S.  is 9 times greater than that of Canada so, were all things reasonably equal, we could expect a gun murder rate of approximately 1800 people, less than 1/5 of what it actually is. That’s got to be pretty strong evidence of some kind of fundamental problem. Don’t you think?


Recalling The Creature From The Black Lagoon!

I celebrated my seventh birthday in June of 1954. We had recently moved from our modest home in Panorama City, California to a two-bedroom apartment in Palms, West Los Angeles. The San Diego Freeway (Interstate 405) wasn’t even approved for construction yet and behind our building was a small pond. I have no precise recollection of the day I went to see the movie I’m sharing this trailer from, but I do remember it was a Saturday matinee. The Creature From The Black Lagoon was, for a seven-year-old, a very scary movie. I’m sure today it would be rated PG-13, though it would undoubtedly be far more violent and bloody.

That evening my parents went out and left me to fend for myself and my almost 4-year-old brother. At the time, it seemed perfectly normal for us to be alone on occasion and we enjoyed playing together and watching television. Come to think of it, I’m not sure how much there was to watch back then. I don’t think there was a great deal of children’s programming in 1954. At any rate, we managed to entertain ourselves and, at the appropriate hour, we trundled off to bed.

Our apartment was in the very back of the building we lived in and our bedrooms were in the back of the apartment. The window in our bedroom faced to the West and overlooked the pond behind our building. When you’re seven years old everything is bigger than life and exaggeration comes easily. It wasn’t long before that pond (which I have no doubt was pretty small by any standard I would use today) became a Black Lagoon! As I lay in bed, reliving the still-vivid scenes of horror I had witnessed that afternoon, I became increasingly convinced the creature was preparing to smash through our window and whisk us both off to his lair in the lagoon, almost certainly to be consumed at his pleasure.

I was determined not to let that happen and, mustering up my courage, I leapt out of bed, aroused my brother, and fled with him to the Building Manager’s apartment, where we sought the protection of adults. They were most likely quite surprised to hear we had been left alone by our parents and, as I learned much later in life, my mom and dad were quite embarrassed by the whole affair. Nobody called the police and nobody suggested they were neglectful. Young and impetuous, perhaps, but not criminals. I doubt that would happen today. Here’s the trailer to the movie. It was a humdinger back in the day!!


Addendum 05/02/17 – Thanks to a comment to a friend’s post on Facebook, I need to add the following video, which I think adds a little more flavor to the Creature’s panache.


Why I Love Facebook’s Timeline

A Pic From My FB Timeline

How My Friends Can Share With Me

Change is Good

Every time Facebook changes something on their (not sure whether to call it a platform, app, or service) offering, people seem to get all freaked out and complain because they have to learn something new or change the way they were doing things. I understand and appreciate change can be a bit disconcerting, but I’m one of those people who not only accepts change; I actually seek it out. So when Facebook adds or rearranges things I immediately start looking for how I can take advantage of it.

Just so I’m clear, I am not referring to the issues of privacy and information security that arise now and again. That’s an entirely different story and, while I am clearly not as protective as many, I am always concerned about the security of my truly private information and that of my family. Changes in functionality are an entirely different animal and that’s what I’m concerned with here.

Embracing Timeline

When Facebook first introduced Timeline and made it available as a developer version, I was all over it. I was anxious to try it out, primarily because I was building a business that was based in large part on my understand of and familiarity with Facebook. I was anxious to see what they were doing, even though at the time it was not available to fan pages, which is the part of FB my business is involved with. I went through the necessary steps and got myself going. Much like my introduction to Twitter well over four years ago, I really wasn’t sure how I was going to use or benefit from it, but I was sure I wanted to figure it out.

Now that it’s a part of fan pages and I’ve grown increasingly familiar with it, I’ve finally figured out how to use it for myself. Not my fan page, but my personal Timeline. I came into this world about the time personal photography was starting to take off. As a firstborn son, my parents took lots of pictures of me. They also took lots of pictures of family and, over the years, many of them have come into my possession. It wasn’t until Facebook made it possible for posts to be scheduled, i.e. given a Timeline date in the future and held in a queue until that time, when they would then appear, that I made the connection to the past.

Yes, It’s About Me

Up until very recently I have shared some old pictures, but I have dated them on my Timeline on the date I posted them. I have since come to realize I can create somewhat of an autobiography by posting items (pictures, scanned documents, etc.) and dating them appropriately. I can even add in locations and people I was with, provided they are current Facebook friends. This is no small thing for me, as I have two fairly young (11 and 8) children to whom I want to leave a record of my life. Using Timeline to do so seems so much easier than writing a book. It also is far more graphic and, because many of my friends (including those who were present when some of the pictures were taken) can post comments to them, they become even richer and more engaging. Furthermore, as evidenced by the picture above, my friends can share pictures they have, which become part of my Timeline as well.

Interestingly, this picture was posted last November and I only just tried to change the date to the year and approximate month in which it was taken. I wasn’t able to do it, but I requested my friend who posted it to make the change and he did. Actually, he told me he didn’t know how to do it (people my age seldom do), but he had someone take care of it. I also realized there was a friend in the pic who has since become a Facebook friend as well and I was able to tag him. He chimed in within less than a day.

I could never recreate my past in this way by myself. First of all, I don’t know any other tool that provides the combination of functionality that Facebook does. Surely there’s nothing that would allow me to slowly record a retrospective with input from many people who were there at the time or who experienced similar episodes and milestones. I believe I have a lot more to learn about doing this, but I’m enjoying discovering new ways in which to create the virtual experience I want to leave for my kids. Maybe it won’t work the way I am envisioning. Maybe my kids won’t care when it comes down to it. I don’t much care at this point. It’s a great learning experience and – so far – it’s a lot of fun because I almost always get feedback from others when I do post something. After all, it may be dated long ago on my Timeline, but it’s something new and it shows up in my friends’ news feed when I post it.

Anybody out there have stories about their use of timeline, or have you discovered a bit of functionality you really like that you think others might want to know about . . . or that I might want to know about? Please be so kind as to share. Thanks.


Say What? When Did That Happen?

The Long Slide

Don’t get me wrong. Most of the time it’s like this.

Aging is an interesting subject to write about. After all, it happens to all of us and, as a Baby Boomer, my cohort is a rather large one. My experiences aren’t exactly unique . . . at least not in the grand scheme of things. However, I do bring a few wrinkles to the table. Perhaps the thing that stands out for me the most is the fact I still have rather young children.

If you read my blog or follow me elsewhere you should know by now my wife and I adopted our oldest child shortly after I turned 55. Not finding that enough of a challenge, we went and did it again when I was 59. I should point out my wife is younger than I am; not by a huge number of years, but the difference isn’t insignificant. It means when my oldest graduates high school I will be in my early seventies. Not unheard of, but surely a bit unusual.

Lately, I’ve found myself wondering if our journey wasn’t a little selfish. It’s all related to aging and my fear I will soon leave my children without a father, which will be the third (and probably most traumatic) time it’s happened to them. The first was losing their biological parents; the second their foster parents. I realize most of their memories of those two losses are pre-verbal and visceral, but I don’t think that makes them any less real and I don’t want to leave them until they’re full-grown and capable of taking care of themselves. I owe that to them.

Right now there is a confluence of events that’s causing me to think about my mortality a little more than I normally do. My retirement is far more devastating to my self-esteem than I anticipated. I’ve written about the separation I’ve felt and it hasn’t become any easier in the interim. It’s a bit difficult to feel competent when you don’t have the opportunity to test your skills and, given my propensity to continuously question my capabilities, I find myself struggling to find relevance.

Then there are the physical things. Oy! When I was a young man the only thing I was really interested in was wisdom. I wished to one day be seen as a wise person. I knew that would take time and that I would not be the one to determine when I had reached whatever level that might be. You don’t, after all, hang out a shingle advertising “Wise One Here”! For that reason I looked forward to getting older. Not that I wanted to rush anything, but the aging process was a necessary precondition to attaining my goal.

When I hit about forty it suddenly dawned on me I had not considered the physical consequences of aging. I was not pleased with knowing how naive I had been. Clearly, wisdom was still a long way off. Each year now brings new challenges: Essential tremors, deteriorating vision, and a host of other areas in which I experience physical deterioration, the inexorable acceleration of my downhill slide. They all seem to be converging on the next big milestone – my 65th birthday, now a mere four weeks away.

I’m not sure it would affect me as much as it has were it not for the end of my COBRA health insurance six weeks prior to Medicare kicking in. Actually, I planned on it and I’m not really all that worried about bridging the gap. However, I don’t recall ever being uninsured in my life . . . so it’s a bit weird to realize I am totally uncovered right now. I’ve suggested to my friends I might spend the six week transition entirely in bed, but I’m sure that would just give me a heart attack.

I’m not entirely certain what I’m writing now is all that coherent, as I sometimes feel I’ve lost a few of my cognitive faculties. Normal driving can be cause for concern on occasion, as I don’t seem capable of anticipating three steps ahead like I used to do so effortlessly. I suspect, at times, it’s all relative and what I’m experiencing isn’t objectively as bad as I feel it is, but how do I know? Again – Oy!

So . . . I promised I would write a little about how I’m dealing with the aging process. This is it. I believe I’ll have more to say but, in the interest of getting something out there (a skill I am still struggling mightily with) I want to post this. Please don’t hold me to anything. Clearly, these are the ravings of an old man who, having awakened one morning to find his youth behind him, is seeking to understand what the fuck just happened.

Tomorrow I’m going to address why I chose to incorporate professional and personal posts into the same blog. TTFN 🙂


Frosty, The Red-Nosed Snowman

My Youngest

My youngest at my brother's 60th

There are lots of things I love about being a father of young children. One of them just happened in our living room while I was cleaning the kitchen. Our oldest is away with Mom at a Girl Scout activity and the youngest daughter of one of the other families is here playing with our youngest.

I just listened to her (the friends’ daughter) start to sing Frosty the Snowman which, mid-way, transformed into Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and somehow ended in an amalgamated medley of the two. Listening to this incredible editing job, which I’m sure was invented on-the-fly, was priceless. I will miss this age as I miss others that have passed. Thankfully my memory isn’t what it used to be, so the loss isn’t melancholy for long. Still . . .


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