A Grandfather Talks about Adoption

by Rudy Hanson

My story is about my family and how it has been greatly blessed by adoption. Adoption is a recognition of the needs of children, and I first saw these needs when I was still quite young.

Rudy surrounded by Korean children

My first recollection about this was when I witnessed poor children in Korea while I was serving with the U.S. Army during the Korean War. My mother had sent me a shoebox filled with candy, popcorn, and a Ronson cigarette lighter. The children in this old Korea had very little in the way of housing, food and other basics of life. A friend of mine and I walked over toward the children and I distributed the candy and popcorn to them. My friend had a camera and took a photo of me with the children, which I’ve cherished all of my life. For me, this is where the idea of need was born.

My story moves on to Kalamazoo, Michigan, where I married my sweetheart, Janet (Luanne’s mother and Marc and Marisha’s grandma). Shortly after we were married, the little bundle of Luanne came into our lives. When we were ready for a second child, we found out that we could no longer have additional children. We did not want to raise an only child and started the process of possible adoption. We were turned down by several adoption agencies because we had a birth child.

Fortunately, one local agency changed their policy, and we were privileged to adopt Ted when he was five weeks old. Ted was the first child in Michigan adopted into a family with an existing child who was biological to the parents.  As the children grew, we found no difference in our love for our two children.

On Ted’s 21st birthday, we had a meeting with the case worker. We were informed that they knew the accomplishments of both of our children, including Luanne’s National Merit Semifinalist status and Ted’s rank of Eagle Scout. We were instrumental in changing Michigan’s practice of not mixing birth and adopted children (when birth child was first).

Moving on, later in life, Luanne and Marshal married and waited to begin their family. At the time they were ready, Luanne had health problems and her physician recommended that she not become pregnant. We learned that they were contacting an adoption agency about possible international adoption. Through Bethany Christian Services and Holt International, they heard that a baby boy was available. Marc arrived at Detroit Metro Airport from South Korea via Tokyo when he was 3 1/2 months old. The joy experienced by Luanne and Marshal is impressed into my heart! A similar process occurred a few years later with another blessing from Korea, the arrival of a baby girl, Marisha, who was flown by way of San Francisco to Detroit Metro. Luanne’s joy was overwhelming. We were all very excited and happy!

The feelings I had for those first Korean children have extended through my life with the great joy of our grandchildren, Marc and Marisha, as well as my grandchildren Cassie and Cole. Janet and I are so proud of their accomplishments and of them just being themselves–our grandchildren! Our family’s lives have been enhanced by the opening of our hearts to adoption, both domestic and international.

A Nearly Beautiful Tale of Adoption: Review of “Over the Moon”

by Luanne

What beautiful pages!  Over the Moon, written and illustrated by Karen Katz, is a lovely tale of adoption for very young children.

The story is presented with a sense of fantasy, giving it a fairy tale quality.  The night after the new baby is born, a woman and her husband who are “far away” from the baby both have dreams of the same baby.  They know that this is their child and travel a long distance, “over the moon and through the night,” to get to their baby.  The mode of transportation is real–a giant airplane.  This blend of fantasy and reality places the notion of adoption into a larger mythological structure and connects with the child’s individual story of adoption.

Likewise, in the illustrations, Katz softens the boundary between fantasy and reality.  The colors are bright, which serves to highlight the more realistic tones of the human characters.  In this book, the mother has the same black hair as the baby, while the father has brown hair. The baby’s skin tone is darker than that of both parents.  The pictures are collages of papers with various painted small prints, such as stars, dots, and flowers.  This conveys the hint of scrapbook pages and provides a homey, folksy, whimsical experience.

This book acknowledges the role of the birth mother by this explanation:

“‘You grew like a flower in another lady’s tummy until you were born.  But the lady wasn’t able to take care of you, so Mommy and Daddy came to adopt you and bring you home.  Even before you were born we dreamed about you.  We knew we were meant to be together.'”

This is a fairly standard response to children who are adopted.   Cheri Register, in “Are Those Kids Yours?”, argues that this is actually a dangerous path to travel. She believes that without teaching the cultural context for “wasn’t able to take care of you,” that the questions some children will inevitably ask lead to answers that devalue the birth mother’s experience and ultimately the child himself.  She also argues that when children discover that if they didn’t adopt that particular child, they would have adopted another, and that that knowledge undermines the idea of “meant to be together” or “choosing” the child.  Regardless of whether or not you agree with Register, there is a distancing that goes on with the phrase “another lady’s tummy” that makes me uncomfortable.

This book is meant for the very young child, and because of its poetic nature, is meant to be a springboard for discussion, not a manual for how to talk about adoption.  The book takes a very complex and individualized situation and opens a door through which adult and child can enter.

International Adoptees: Take a Survey

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

DWLA is sharing a link to a survey for international adoptees.  It’s an opportunity to participate in a research study about your experiences with birth country travel, relationships with other adoptees, and language fluency. This study is being conducted by Heidi Brocious, a PhD student at the University of Utah. She is looking for participants who meet the following criteria:

*          Born outside the U.S. and adopted by an American parent (or parents)

Being in the study will mean completing one online survey. The survey does not ask for specific identifying information, and all of your survey answers will be kept confidential.

If you complete the survey, you will be given an opportunity to provide your email address and be entered into a drawing for an iPad 2. If you are the selected winner, you will be contacted through this email address so the iPad can be sent to you. Email address will be separated from the survey data and destroyed following the completion of the drawing.

If you are interested in participating, you can access the survey at the following link:


If you want to learn more, or have questions, please email Heidi at heidi.brocious@utah.edu.

Contacting Heidi or going to the website doesn’t mean you have to participate. You can decide at any time, or just ask Heidi more questions.  Please address your questions directly to Heidi, not to this blog.








We are looking for:

* VISUAL ART–painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, cartoons, scrapbooking, needlework, more (jpg)

* PERFORMANCE ART–singing, dancing, acting , playing a musical instrument, comedy, choreography, directing, musical composition (video link)

* WRITTEN ART–poetry only (Word document)

Art does not have to touch upon the subject of adoption.

This is the time for adoptees to SHARE THEIR TALENTS with others.

Submit to marishaandluanne@gmail.com

Videos need to be YouTube, Vimeo, Hulu, Flickr, DailyMotion, Viddler, Blip.tv, TED Talks, or Videolog. We will embed onto the blog.

Other than our right to publish your art on this blog, you keep the rights to your artwork. THIS IS NOT A CONTEST OR COMPETITION. It’s a chance to show off your work. Therefore, whether your piece(s) is selected or not is not a reflection on talent, but on other factors, including space.

Adoptee Kristin Chenoweth

Adoptee Faith Hill

Charmed Life?

by Luanne

One day, when Marisha was a young teen, I overheard a teacher say to her, “You lead a charmed life.”  At the time I felt a little fist pound my stomach, but I wasn’t sure why.  I had to schlep her to an activity and didn’t take the time to really think through the comment. Certainly, compared with so many people in this world, Marisha lived a relatively happy life with plenty of good food, education, doctor appointments, pretty clothes, and opportunities to pursue her goals.

It was only later, when I’d had time to process what she’d said, that I began to belatedly understand why I was upset and where I had gone wrong.

I’ve been a mom like most mothers I know—one who has kept putting one foot in front of the other in order to get done everything on the daily to-do list.  If I stopped or slowed down, we would never get it all accomplished, so I just kept trudging.  Most of the time, I’m pretty mild-mannered.  But mess with my kid, and I turn into Mama Bear.  If you’re a mom, you probably have been a Mama Bear yourself.  If you’re not a mom, you’ve no doubt been embarrassed by a Mama Bear once or twice.

There have been a couple of times where I morphed into that big blustering Mama Bear (think Grizzly) when I felt my kids were treated unfairly in a way that was harmful to their psyches as adoptees.  I expect other adults to act like villagers and look out for children who are adopted.

Some people have been absolutely sensitive and thoughtful.  When I started graduate school in California, Marisha began attending preschool at the campus daycare.  It was her first time in a school setting, but she seemed to be fine when I left her each morning.  What I found out later, was that she cried pitifully without stopping as soon as I left the building.  I was, in effect, her third mother, after her birth mother and foster mother (who took care of her the first 3.5 months of her life), and I was leaving her to go to class.

Her wonderful teacher, Mrs. Abey (Elaine Abeyguneratne), gave her special care, having Marisha sit at her side each morning, creating school as a warm and special place where Marisha could learn to be away from me.  Elaine never told me what went on until much later.  She was afraid that I would drop out of school, and she was looking out for the welfare of an adoptee.

Something happened a few years after that, when Marisha was in first grade, that turned me into a Mama Bear, but it’s only years later that I finally understand what I wish I had realized all along.

Marisha had a new religious school teacher and she bonded with her very quickly and very thoroughly.  Within a couple of months, though, the teacher suddenly decided to leave because she had a disagreement with the director of the school.  I went to her after class and begged her to stay.  I explained to her that leaving so quickly, without warning, was traumatic to an adoptee like Marisha.  She couldn’t be persuaded to stay, but another parent overheard what I said.

This parent exploded, railing at me for using the word “traumatic.”  She said that Marisha didn’t know what trauma was and that I shouldn’t use the word so lightly.  That her stepchildren knew trauma as their mother had died a couple years before from cancer.  She was definitely correct that her stepchildren had undergone a trauma which no child should ever have to go through and which many, unfortunately, do go through.  Losing their mother to illness will have a bearing on the rest of their lives.  My initial feeling was compassion for the children and embarrassment at being taken to task.

But this woman’s manner and assumptions were outrageous.  I told myself I was miffed because she was yelling at me unfairly and I was embarrassed because I didn’t even know she was in the room when I was talking to the teacher.

What I didn’t put together until much later was how absolutely clueless so many people are about adoption.  Until I realized this I just assumed that adults would understand what adoption is and how it might affect adoptees to be adopted.  That, in fact, being adopted means that a person has gone through at least one huge and initial trauma in their lives.  This happens to them long before most people experience their first trauma.

When I look back at the years of raising my children, I do regret making the assumption that the adults in their lives understand that adoption doesn’t just mean that my kids and their parents don’t look alike.  I see now that the understanding many people have of adoption is literally skin deep (or as superficial as different noses and body types).  If only I had figured this out before and tried to educate, instead of assuming.

Adoption is a complex relationship which needs to be understood as such and not filed away as a minor and odd fact about someone, as if it is left-handedness or athletic ability.  To understand that relationship is a responsibility and obligation of society, not just those of us in adoptive families.

The R-Word

by Nina Schidlovsky

Tommy Jacobs had a nose that was scrunched to his face and buck teeth. His voice was high pitched and a little nasally. His ears were big and clung to his head a little too tightly—like God had flattened them with a hot iron. He hugged his textbooks to his chest when he walked and his feet waggled around oddly.

He sat at the back of the school bus where people laughed at him and call him names. They threw paper at him while calling him “The Amazing Retarded Bat Boy” like they were at some overpriced freak show—taunting and poking their fingers through a barred cage.

Middle-schoolers were so cruel.

Every day on the bus ride home, he was prodded by grimy hands and pelted with wadded up pieces of soggy paper. Tommy cursed at those kids who made fun of him but they never stopped.

Every day as he passed my seat to get off the bus he stopped to look at me. He always smiled, his eyes sparkling with kindness, his nose wrinkling even more. He always said, “I hope you have a good day, Nina.” Then he continued through the gauntlet of nasty pre-teens, continuously teasing him all the way to the bus door.

At school Tommy and I started walking to classes together—our classrooms were next to each other. During our walks he talked about his day and even tried to tell me jokes. I didn’t get them but I pretended to because I wanted to hear his laugh—a seldom heard sound. For the first time, someone was finally laughing with him, not at him.

Walking to my seat on the bus home, a chorus of “Nina and Tommy sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G” accompanied my entrance. “Tommy is Nina’s boyfriend!” They sneered.

“He’s not my boyfriend!” I screamed. My face grew hot. I felt boxed in. Caged. Scared. Furious. I realize now that this is how Tommy must have felt every day.

He tried to sit next to me. He tried to be my friend. He tried to reach out to me. One day of being teased and I couldn’t take it. I wish I had had his strength and courage. I had already caved to peer pressure. “Get away from me, you retard!” I yelled at the top of my lungs.

I could see the tears welling up behind his eyes but he didn’t let them go—he was stronger than that. He was certainly stronger than me. He nodded silently. Then he took his seat at the back.

“I hope you have a good day, Nina.” He said sullenly as he stepped off the bus.

To this day, at twenty-five years old, I am still ashamed of what I said. The look of pure betrayal on Tommy’s face will haunt me forever.


Question from the editors:  If you have personal experience, do you think that adoptees are more in tune with outsiders and/or more apt to need to conform?

Blogland Love

What a wonderful delight to be tagged with the One Lovely Blog Award nomination by The Attic Room blog (http://bekahgraham.wordpress.com/about/), which is written by a Fulbright alum who was an English Teaching Assistant in Taiwan and is now starting her professional life as a writer and editor.   Marisha and Luanne are thrilled to be honored in this way by a fellow blogger and thank Bekah for her support, inspiration, and encouragement.  Since starting our blog in July (2012), we’ve been so gratified to find loyal readers, so this is also a thank you to all of you.

There are rules that go along with accepting the nomination.  Upon a little Google search of the award, we noticed that the rules change a bit from recipient to recipient.  We suspect that they were developed (in the same general format) to promote camaraderie among bloggers, so we are all for them!

These are the rules, as explained by The Attic Room:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you.
  2. Add The One Lovely Blog Award to your post.
Share 7 things about yourself.
  4. Pass the award on to 15 nominees.
  5. Include this set of rules.
  6. Inform your nominees by posting a comment on their blogs

7 Things about Marisha and Luanne:

1.  Although the blog makes it look like our desks are back to back in the same office, we actually communicate mainly by phone conversations, texts, emails, and blog maintenance.  Skype and Face Time are not efficient enough, but they might be more fun.  Marisha lives in Los Angeles, and Luanne lives in Phoenix, and it takes six hours to visit one another.  We did get to spend time with each other this past weekend when we attended a lovely wedding in Pasadena.  Marisha danced in 5″ heels and Luanne went dumpster diving in her silk top and pants to check out ingredient labels for hubby’s gluten-free diet (he has Celiac disease).

2.  Marisha is very social and Luanne is less so.  However, Luanne can talk more than Marisha, in a pinch.  Both of them think they are good therapists, although neither one has a diploma or a shingle for that line of work.

3.  Marisha can roll her tongue into a taco or a burrito, depending on her mood.  This is a possible resume point, considering that she’s an actor.  Luanne used to be able to balance on the very tips of her toes, barefoot.   Although she can no longer do this, she remembers doing it, and that’s almost as good.

4.  Marisha and Luanne are writing a play based loosely upon their adventures in adoption.   Nothing beats putting everything into dialogue (conversation, yakking, pontificating haha, chatting)!  See communication above in #1 and #2.

5.  Marisha is Keurig home-brewed coffee and Luanne is Diet Coke.  Marisha is turkey sandwiches and Luanne is fish tacos.  Marisha is hummus and veggies.  Luanne is blue cheese, strawberry, and walnut salad.  Marisha is skip-dessert and Luanne is baklava.  Marisha and Luanne are both white wine.

6.  Marisha and Luanne share a love for musical theatre.  Marisha majored in the subject in college.  Four years of singing, dancing, and acting.  Luanne is an enthusiastic audience member.  Both of them love to share notes after performances, critiquing and reviewing like mad–as if they had to get their review to the NYT editor by 2AM.

7.  Both Marisha and Luanne LOVE cats.  The family has a total of 5 cats.  Most of them live with Luanne, although Marisha grew up with them.  The 5th cat is Marisha’s cat Izzie who lives in LA with Marisha.  She drinks fresh water out of a cup like a human and plays fetch with a toy mouse.

Our Nominees:

Every day we discover blogs which blow us away.  How to narrow down to 15?  Sigh.  Here’s an attempt, in no particular order:

1.  http://blog.mitziemee.com/

2.  http://stuckout.wordpress.com/

3.  http://michelleseitzer.com/

4.  http://stagemommusings.com/

5.  http://jellyfishbay.wordpress.com/

6.  http://unpackedwriter.com/

7.  http://twinprints.wordpress.com/

8.  http://agraciouslife.wordpress.com/

9.  http://fortysecondchance.com/

10.  http://beingrudri.com/

11.  http://experiencingmyownlife.wordpress.com/

12.  http://livingaparallellife.wordpress.com/

Following the lead of The Attic Room, we are also branching out to non-Wordpress sites here which we love.  Here are a few:

1.  http://tanzaniafivetimes.blogspot.com/

2.  http://poeminabox.blogspot.com/

3.  http://www.declassifiedadoptee.com/

Enjoy sampling from these other blogs!!!

Crazy Quilt: The Journey to Adoption

by Lennie Magida

“Do you want a baby?”

In my last post, I mentioned that momentous little question. It came in a phone call from my friend Kim in late 1986, and it changed our lives.

But though the question looms large in our family lore, it doesn’t stand alone, and it didn’t come out of nowhere. It’s a link in a chain, a thread in a fabric that looks like a crazy-quilt map of the world.

I’ll start the journey in New Delhi. John and I lived there from 1981 to 1983 as newlyweds and journalists, and that’s where we became friends with Kim and her husband — his name is also John, so I’ll call him JH. Kim is China-born and New Jersey raised. JH is a white guy who grew up in Hawaii. They were affiliated with the US Embassy, and JH was also my running buddy. On Sunday mornings we’d run 12, 15, 17 miles through the dusty streets and markets of New Delhi.

The threads of our lives stayed intertwined. After leaving New Delhi, John and I spent a year in Honolulu, not far from where JH grew up. Then all four of us wound up back in the DC area. Then we were trying to adopt a child, and so were Kim and JH. In 1986 we had an adoption fall through after the baby was born. (I talked about that in my last post.) That same year, Kim and JH, after doing a lot of networking all over the country, adopted a US-born baby girl (her birth mother was Vietnamese).

New Delhi, China, Hawaii, Vietnam, and various parts of the US mainland. But let’s keep going.

Late in 1986 John was named Beijing bureau chief of the Baltimore Sun. (Yeah, this was back when newspapers had things like foreign bureaus, lots of pages, and money. But I digress.) We’d be moving there in late spring of 1987, after a few months of intensive Mandarin language study in Monterey, California.

I hadn’t had a chance to speak with Kim about our impending move, so I was excited when she called. “We’re moving to Beijing!” I told her. “I really want to talk to you about China. But I’m on deadline. Can I call you back?”

“Sure,” she said, “but I just have a question. Do you want a baby?”

Suddenly, I couldn’t hear the newsroom hubbub. Suddenly, I forgot about my deadlines. All I cared about was hearing what Kim had to say.

She and JH had just heard from a lawyer in Honolulu, one of a number of attorneys they’d contacted months earlier when they were trying to adopt. The lawyer had heard from a fellow attorney based in LA. He in turn had had a visit from a 27-year-old woman, about five months pregnant. The young woman had traveled to California from her home in the Philippines specifically to arrange for an adoption and give birth, and she was hoping that at least one of the adoptive parents would be Asian. Reasoning that many people in Hawaii are of Asian descent, the LA lawyer contacted his Honolulu acquaintance, who then contacted Kim and JH.

“I explained that we’d just adopted our baby, but we had friends who were trying to adopt,” Kim said. “I told her that neither of you are Asian, but I said you’ve lived in Asia and you love it.”

“And we’re moving back!” I exclaimed.

“The thing is,” Kim went on, “if you’re interested, you’re going to have to go to LA to meet with the lawyer.”

I caught my breath. It took a moment before I was able to tell Kim, “We’re already booked to go to LA later this week.”

We’d made the plan weeks earlier. John had to stop for a couple of days in LA en route to a reporting trip in Sri Lanka. “Why don’t I go with you?” I’d said. “I can take the test to go on ‘Jeopardy.’” (That’s another story . . . .)

And so, three days later, we were in the lawyer’s office. We learned more about the young Filipina woman. We filled out forms and wrote essays for her. And very soon, though neither of us was Asian or Catholic – something else she’d originally hoped for – she chose us. We’ll never know what it’s like to conceive a child, experience a pregnancy or give birth. But we do know what it’s like to have a birth mother choose us, and we cannot imagine a more profound gift.

Our Filipina daughter was born in Los Angeles. The crazy-quilt map of how she came into our lives includes not only the Philippines and LA but also India, Hawaii, China, DC, and much more. Like so many parents who have children by adoption, I look at my family and think to myself: It’s a wonderful world.

Lennie’s story can be found here:

Part 1: 3,000 Miles Away, The Stork Came Early

Part 2: Sometimes Things Don’t Work Out. And Thank Goodness for That.

“Twinprints” discusses reunion after the honeymoon period.

Twin Prints: An Adoption Story

Come next February, it will be four years since I learned who my birth family is.  From the beginning, we recognized we were in unchartered territory, and we said as much to one another.  That’s where the title of this blog comes from, and the book that I am writing.  I morphed the word blueprint–a model, a prototype, a guide–into twinprint.  More than being adopted, or being from the Midwest, or being this or that early defining thing, I have been guided in so much of my life by being a twin.  I don’t feel lost in that part of myself.

Even though the story of adoption search and reunion was new to all of us, and that newness created a honeymoon of excitement and possibility in the beginning, our story is not unusual.  Many other people have been in our position, tracking down birth parents or birth…

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Mama, Can You Hear Me??

by Marisha

I am sure many people have heard of the buzz that revolves around this season’s X Factor. I imagine it has to do with the fact of Ms Britney being one of the judges. I am not afraid to admit that, when I was growing up, she was my favorite performer. 😉

The reality show is a fresh take on American Idol. It started in the UK and has made it to its second season here in America. What I like about this show is that it is about more than someone having “The Voice.” It seeks to find someone who is the whole package, to find a person who can be marketable and worthy of a 5 million dollar investment. The audience “meets” all these hopefuls of all different ages, with one commonality and sharing one dream– to be a music superstar.

Now two parts of my life have intersected. As this blog does each week, X Factor has now showcased an issue about adoption. Contestant David Correy is currently in the Top 24, in the “over 25” group. He first stood out to me, not because of his voice, but because of the dream he wanted to pursue more than a singing career. He was adopted and has never known his birth mom. He touched me when he gave a speech about hoping that his Brazilian birth mother would come find him “through his voice and through his story.” It was sweet, heartfelt and definitely an original story for a contestant on a reality talent show.

But for anyone who is adopted, underneath our fantasies, we know that it usually doesn’t happen that easily.

I have mixed emotions because I, too, always imagined that if my career took off, maybe my birth parents would recognize me, or hear my story and come forward. But then I have the opposing thought: would I get a bunch of impostors “pretending” to be my parents? Would it be emotionally damaging to go through this in the public eye? Thank goodness for DNA tests haha.

I really wish David well. I have an emotional pull for him, regardless of his beautiful singing ability. What do you think? Will David’s dream be easier with fame? Or do you think it will make things a lot more complicated? Will it set him up for disappointment?

I, of course, always hope for the best. 🙂

Meet him below in this video

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