Thursday, May 28, 2009

Photo of the Week - May 29

Our photo of the week is actually one that brought tears to our eyes. Our foster care manager took this picture when he visited one of our programs in Anhui last weekend. One of our wonderful foster moms had cared for two little girls in her home since they were just tiny babies. One of the girls had just been adopted overseas, and her foster sister kept asking the mom to please go and get her sister back so they could play together again. Every time the mom started to talk about the child who had been adopted, she would break down and cry.

What an incredible gift good foster parents give to the children in their care. They love and encourage these children, include them in their families in every way, and then make the painful sacrifice to say goodbye when it is time for adoption. We love foster care SO much for any child who is orphaned, but this photo was a reminder yet again of the very real emotions and bonds that are forged between parent and child in a home setting. We realize that many of these families lose a piece of their heart when the child they have raised finds a permanent family through adoption. What a gift they have given to a child, allowing them to know love and protection and belonging. It is in seeing photos like this one that we realize the enormity of what we are really asking our foster parents to love a child completely as their own, but then somehow find the strength to let them go. All across China there are quiet unsung heroes like this mom who are making lifelong differences in the lives of orphaned children. They have our complete gratitude.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

How do you Serve?

On Monday, in the US we remembered all those people who have sacrificed their lives for our country. How very lucky we are to have all of our freedoms and choices available to each of us. There are so many words that come to mind as I think of these people who have given so much….”Service” is at the top of the list.

Also on Monday, Dr. Tom Morris, a philosopher, speaker, and former professor, started a thread on service from his Twitter account. Dr. Morris is a person that I love to check in with, because I learn so much and he always is inspiring. There was much discussion on what service means and from this, he was inspired to write a wonderful article on service at Huffington Post through this Link. There are so many great quotes from this article; I would love to share a few of them:

"Service lifts us up as we lift others up", "True service always inspires", "Service brings people together"

On a global scale, so much is done because we serve others. Over and over I see how lives are changed because people have taken the time to give themselves in service to another. People with passion and mission can change the world.

I am so fortunate to be able to volunteer with some of the most self sacrificing people I have ever met. LWB now has over 140 volunteers…an all volunteer run, virtual foundation. So many people have taught me much about service and passion to lead change. I have received far more than I have ever given.

What does service means to you? Is there a special project or mission you are committed to you? Have you been able to see a difference through your actions?

Karen LWB

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

To Push or Not?

This past week, I got an email reminding me that Chinese culture camp is coming up in July near my home. I told my daughter about it and got a very firm, "I don't want to go" in return. It didn't surprise me completely, as she also told me this year that she didn't want to go to Chinese New Year with our FCC group, and when I insisted she attend, she told me that she wanted to wear jeans this year and not "one of those Chinese dresses". I assured her that was fine with me.

So today I have been wondering when to push and when to not.

I grew up in a family of people who loved to play music. My grandmother was an accomplished organist, and I would love listening to her play. My parents signed me up for piano lessons, and like most kids, I did it for awhile. But then the fun of playing with my friends was calling, and warm summer days, and I planted my feet firmly and told my mom that I did not want to take lessons anymore, and she said, "fine". Of course now...I am like many of the adults out there who quit music lessons in that I say to my mom quite unfairly, "why in the world didn't you just make me keep doing piano!" I've heard it from my grown daughter about letting her quit violin as well. : -) There's that age old line of "why didn't you just make me knowing it was for my own good???"

I was talking to a friend today about the culture camp and she compared it to Chinese language school as well. Her daughters from China wanted to play soccer on the weekends, and didn't have any desire to go to Chinese school if it meant missing out on playing that sport with their friends. She has struggled with her decision to not force them to learn Mandarin.

We as transcultural adopters try to parent in the best way possible by learning from those who were adopted from Vietnam and Korea in the past. And of course one of the things the more vocal adoptees stress is that they felt a disconnect when their parents ignored their culture of birth. But what about those of us as parents who want more than anything to have our children know their birth culture, but who are now parenting kids 9-15 who only want to be "American"? (whatever that means exactly?) Who just want to hang out with their friends and discuss the latest episode of iCarly and Edward from Twilight, and who balk at the idea of going to camp to learn about China or going to Saturday classes to learn Mandarin.

When do you push? When do you let them take the lead?

I sure would love to know your thoughts, especially with the deadline for camp fast approaching!


Friday, May 22, 2009

Photo of the week - Baby Max

It is with great sadness that we post this photo of the week. This picture of baby Max was taken when he first entered our cleft healing home. We loved how it looked like he was fighting because we all knew that he had a big struggle ahead of him to survive. Abandoned weak and vulnerable from being born with cleft, the doctors did everything possible to try and help him gain the strength he needed. Sadly, baby Max lost his fight this past week. We will never forget him, and we will work even harder to help those babies who are orphaned with cleft lip, as we believe every child's life is just so important.

Rest in peace, sweet baby Max. You are missed.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Orphan or Not?

I received a copy of a very interesting but controversial slideshow this weekend. This slideshow focuses on children around the world adopted internationally who had families they were taken from. It gave several examples of how families living in poverty were tricked into relinquishing their children. I have thought of nothing else but these families and children since I have watched this Slideshow Link.

As a parent of internationally adopted children, I cannot imagine my children not in my life. But of course in many countries around the world, adoption is seen not only as a way to form families, but as a way to make money, especially when private adoption facilitators and attorneys are involved. I am a huge advocate for adoption and would love every orphaned child around the world to have a family of their very own. I don’t want a child to spend even one more day longer than necessary in an orphanage, but we of course have to do everything possible to make sure the children being adopted are truly orphaned. I couldn’t help but think of the Hague Adoption Convention as I watched this slideshow because I know so many families who are adopting have to go through so much more paperwork now to adopt internationally. It is often easy to complain, but when you watch something like this slideshow you understand why these restrictions have to be put into place. Many people feel the Hague has caused a slowdown in international adoptions and in many cases closed down countries completely. Do you feel it is worth it to protect families such as those in the slideshow? Do you think the Hague offers even enough protection? How do you feel the Hague has affected the adoption of true orphans?

Karen LWB

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Compassion Gene?

I teach a high school Sunday School class at my church, and recently we have been discussing topics raised in the book "Speaking of Faith" by Krista Tippett. In one of her chapters that discusses science and religion, she recounts several conversations she had with Lyndon Eaves, a professor of human genetics at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine who also happens to be an Episcopal priest. I found this section of the book very interesting, as it raised a question I have asked myself over and over during the last six years of helping in China. Why do some people want to get involved to make a difference while others aren't bothered at all by those in need?

Mr. Eaves raises the point that through our mapping of a human's DNA, we can identify the genes for physical traits or for a person's IQ. But he asks the very interesting question of where are the genes that give us a passion for justice or the genes that cause someone to have a kind heart?

In my discussions with my class, I told them that most of us grow up hearing that people are the way they are either due to genetics or environment. After reading this part of the book, I began reflecting on the fact that we all know families who have 2-3 children who are loving and kind but then one child who just doesn't care about anyone else but himself or herself, and who even might be....well.....mean. Does that rule out the environment argument for a person being kind? I asked the high schoolers in my class where they think true compassion comes from. Can someone be taught to be compassionate? Do you think a desire to help others is part of a person's DNA and they either have it or they don't? Why do some people feel burdened to help those in need while others have no desire to ever get involved? What are your thoughts?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Photo of the Week

We just received this 2 month old baby into our program. He has club feet and will be moving to our Heartbridge Pediatric Unit in Beijing for casting. LOVED this photo and wanted to share it for comic relief! Wonder what weighs more, the baby or the clothes.

Feeling Like Family

Our family has been created both biologically and through adoption. While we were waiting during our first adoption, I often wondered if I would feel like a mom to this child right away or whether it would be more of a process. I still remember my feelings so vividly the day we were handed our daughter….a 2 ½ year old who didn’t want anything to do with us. As I rocked her hours after getting her, I had feelings of panic with thoughts of “can I love her just as much” mixed with the joy of knowing what a gift we had been given and “I can know I can love her”. I also remember the exact time that I felt like her mom. It was on day number three, she sobbed for over an hour, grieving so deeply, that I felt this deep churning within me, and felt this most incredible love for this beautiful child. As she finished her sobbing, she just stared at me and we rocked. From that moment, we were inseparable and she was mine daughter.

This moment came back to me as I read this beautiful article about Nia Vardalos adoption of a 3 year old little girl in People Online. What a touching story of her process of becoming a parent and knowing the moment that she felt like this child’s mom.

While I was waiting, I often wondered if Felling like the parent of an adopted child would be a process or more of an "Aha" moment. When did ou feel like the parent of your child? Was there a special moment or was it gradual?

Karen LWB

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Black and White

A few years ago I was with a group of women at the mall when an African American man walked by holding the hand of a Caucasian woman. One of the women shook her head and said, "ugh...I just hate seeing that." I was taken aback and asked her what exactly she was referring to, so she promptly told me that it "wasn't right" for a black man and a white woman to ever be together. I couldn't help myself so I asked her how me raising a Chinese daughter was any different, and she said, "oh but it just IS."


Today I read an article in Newsweek about a black family who adopted a white girl who had been in and out of 12 foster homes.

The article itself was really interesting to read, but wow on some of the comments posted after it. Read them for yourself and let us know what you think.

One part of the article that I especially noted was this section:

Now lawmakers may rejoin the charged race-adoption debate. Later this year the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, an independent federal think tank, is expected to publish a summary of expert testimony on adoption law--—much of which will ask Congress to reinstate race as a salient consideration in all cases.

Do you think that race SHOULD be considered in adoption cases?

Monday, May 11, 2009

One Year Ago

One year ago today, the 8.0 magnitude earthquake shook central China, leaving 87,000 people either dead or missing and millions homeless. I remember watching the news and seeing the horrifying pictures that brought me to tears. So many families torn apart, and villages literally wiped off the map.

Millions of people around the world watched too. It was incredible to see how so many people came together to help. In this age of the internet and 24/7 news coverage, how closely we are now tied together and how connected to crisis we can feel. We don’t just see those in need in our backyard like we did 50 years ago, but now we see those who are thousands of miles away. We no longer see boundaries, but see people and needs globally.

How does watching the news of a major disaster affect how and when you help? With the way news comes to us now, with stories almost daily of people and places in need, do you feel like you help more often or in a different way than in the past? How were you personally moved by China’s earthquake?

On this first anniversary of the Sichuan quake, our thoughts are with everyone who lost someone they loved and with all of the people who had to completely rebuild their lives.

Karen LWB

Credit: U.S. Geological Survey
Department of the Interior/USGS
U.S. Geological Survey/photo by Sarah C. Behan

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Every Child is a Miracle

Pablo Casals was a Spanish cellist who once said:

“The child must know that he is a miracle, that since the beginning of the world there hasn't been, and until the end of the world there will not be, another child like him.”

When you work daily with children who are so very sick, who are often abandoned when they are at their most weak and fragile, I think there is a tendency for your heart to want to take two steps back, because it wonders how much sadness it can take when it comes to the the lives of children. But then the photos and their file arrive, and the child becomes REAL, and you realize yet again that another tiny life is struggling and fighting to hold on, sadly without a parent to sit and hold them close. Your heart opens back up again to worry, to care, to pray for a miracle so that this child can be healed and someday know what it feels like to be truly loved.

Today we got an update on Max, a 4 month old little boy born with cleft lip and palate who has never been able to gain weight. He arrived at our Anhui Cleft Healing Home a few weeks ago weighing just 6 pounds. He quickly took a turn for the worse, and now is in the ICU with multiple infections and difficulty breathing. All of us who saw his photos today were struck by how tiny and vulnerable he looked in the big hospital bed.

Max IS a miracle, and as Mr. Casals once said, there will never be another child exactly like him. We are asking for prayers for Max, and a supporter who might want to help cover his ICU costs. EVERY CHILD COUNTS, and even though the odds are not in his favor at this moment, we have to keep believing in him because he is fighting so hard to survive.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

May 8th Photo of the Week

There was no doubt which photo it would be this week, especially with us writing about taking the time to "stop and smell the flowers" in our lives, by realizing that every day is a GIFT, not only to remember how blessed our own lives are, but to reach out in faith to make a difference to someone else.

This is little Ben. He is in one of our foster care programs in Anhui province. We all loved noticing that his foster mom allowed him to take the time to stop and pick some flowers. Is there any better moment than when a little child comes running up with a handful of dandelions picked just for you?

We hope everyone has a wonderful weekend and an "oh so filled with love" Mother's Day. Here's to all the mothers in this world....young ones and old ones, birthmoms and adoptive moms, close moms and far away moms, those we are fortunate enough to be able to call or hug, and all of those who have passed on but whose memories will live forever.

American Born Chinese

Like many that follow this blog, I’m a Caucasian mom of children adopted from China and an ardent supporter of the philosophy and work of Love Without Boundaries. I also happen to be a student of School Library Media Science….which sometimes puts an interesting spin on my world. And, sometimes, these spins bump someone else—maybe even you today. You’ll have to let me know.

Recently, as part of my coursework I was listening to a presentation about a new genre of literature that our kids are reading but we parents are mostly clueless about: graphic novels. Like most moms of a certain age that grew up reading and re-reading all the Little House on the Prairie books I could get my hands on, I was intrigued by the historical background and current merits of what to me look like comic books on steroids. There were slides to view, statistics to consider and sample novels. My ears really perked up when the presenter passed around American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang.

I had heard of American Born Chinese. It won the 2007 Michael L. Printz Award, which honors literary excellence in Young Adult literature, and other accolades such as being named an honor book of the National Book Award in 2006 for Young People’s literature. As a future librarian and mom to Chinese children it had been on my radar as one to read and know about but I hadn’t gotten to it yet.

Imagine my surprise when I randomly opened the book during the very nice, calm, professional presentation and read: “ Would cousin Da-Nee rike to tly Chin-Kee’s clispy flied cat gizzards wiff noodle?” This speech bubble was illustrated with images of a buck-toothed, Mao-suited, squinty eyed character that unknowingly drinks soda that a white kid had peed in. NO KIDDING. What?! Holy racism batman! What on earth was this book about? I paged through the book a bit and had…..well for lack of any better term….a reaction.

Class was ending and I returned the book to the presenter who was standing next to the professor and cautiously asked: “Is this book actually allowed in public schools today?”

Now, if you don’t know about librarians…you have to know one thing. We are the guardians of freedom of speech. We students of Library Science spend classes discussing censorship, defense of books against banning and how to handle those parents that approach us wanting those books removed. And here I was, all of a sudden, one of those parents not wanting my kids to ever have a chance to see racism, that with all my heart, wish to be such a part of their ancient history as Americans that they will never discover them in the library of their school!

The presenter and professor said, “yes” and left class with everyone else jingling keys and tossing backpacks over their shoulders. What could I do? As I drove home, I stopped off at my public library and checked out the book. That same evening I read American Born Chinese in its entirety and discovered something. The book is a great read. For a young adult novel, the story is complex, evokes a range of emotions in the reader and centered around the Chinese American experience. This graphic novel is a perfect braid of three stories involving: The Monkey King, a young Chinese American boy living in a mostly Caucasian community and a Caucasian teenager who hosts his embarrassingly stereotypical cousin from China. As each individual story twists through its plot, it picks up threads of the other two so that by the end, like a dramatic opera, all stories become one. As American Born Chinese explores each character who experiences life outside what is most desired, the final message is one of acceptance.

I wish someone had given me a heads up on the nitty-gritty of this novel before I unwisely formed an opinion and reaction from reading just a few pages. As a parent of Chinese born daughters and a son (and an additional homegrown son proud of “HIS” Chinese family) this is a book that you and we all should know about. My children are likely going to feel the reality of their minority status at some point. They swim through the stereotypes and racism of our times like everyone else. I wondered, as I finished the book, if the main characters were Hispanic, Dominican, Native American, Indian---would the story hold the same impact? I think yes. American Born Chinese portrays racism toward Asians in a way that I can use as a discussion point for stereotyping and racism that my children and I deal with in our lives.

As for graphic novels, it appears they are here to stay and are multiplying. A little reading on our parts will make for a lot of understanding between ourselves and our kids. For a good description of what a graphic novel is, I recommend starting with good ole Wikipedia for a definition of the genre. A website that reviews graphic novels for teens: No flying, No Tights gives plenty of interesting and wild reading. Every day, there are more and more graphic novels for young children as well. Check out the new genre the next time you and your children visit the library!

We’d love to know if my experience with American Born Chinese bumped you today. Is this a book that you were already familiar with? If so, what are your thoughts? Did you have a reaction the first time you read through it? If not, check it out….see if your reaction was like mine and tell me about it. I plan to discuss another book that’s good for Moms, Dads and kids ages 10-12 to know about next month. If you’d like to keep up, check out Rules by Cynthia Lord and let’s chat about what the sister of an autistic boy and friend of a paraplegic teaches us as we contemplate this life of giving.

Linda Mitchell

Linda Mitchell is a wife and mom to four, Associate Director of Education for Love Without Boundaries, volunteer at her kid’s school, student of School Library Media, K-1st Sunday School Teacher…..and creative writer when she can get a word in edgewise.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

In the Blink of an Eye

How often do we race through life so fast, with activities, work demands, and other events, that we don’t enjoy each and every day? Then something happens, something so deep, that it shakes you to the core and helps you to remember how precious each day is. When I was in New York two weeks ago, something just like that happened.

We were on the sidewalk directly across the street from the area of the World Trade Center, when all of a sudden, there was a lot of commotion. Taking a few seconds to try to figure out what was happening….we realized that there was a woman lying on the sidewalk with people all around her. Right behind us there was a group of teenagers sobbing. We quickly learned that the woman on the sidewalk was a beloved choir director from out of town and the kids sobbing were her students who had come to NY to perform that evening at Carnegie Hall. She had suffered from a major heart attack. We found a person who looked to be in charge and asked her how we could help. Splitting up into different groups, we found ourselves sitting and praying with these teenagers. We all felt so helpless as the emergency crews arrived and began trying to save her life.

After she was taken away in the ambulance, we said once last prayer with the group and gave the group leader a hug and then just started walking….stunned by what we had just experienced. Just a block from where we were was St. Paul’s Chapel, the little chapel that stood when the towers came down, without so much as a broken window. We went in, so grateful to have found this little church…..the perfect place to be after watching someone fighting for their life. In this little chapel, there were reminders of all of the people who had come together after 9-11, as well as memorials. We sat there reflecting not only about the woman fighting for her life on the sidewalk, but also about all of the lives lost just across the street from where we were standing.

That evening, not knowing what else we could do, but knowing that we needed to find out how the teacher was doing, I called the police station nearest to where we had been. The officer was so kind and told me that he had just been working on her card. He was able to tell me the hospital where she had been transported. From there, we were able to call the hospital and learned that she had been admitted to a local hospital.....admitted! As I hung up the phone and we all celebrated, because we realized that since she had been admitted…..that meant that she was alive.

Still so much in our thoughts, we learned that last week she had been discharged, and yesterday I wrote her an email just to let her know how much we cared and had prayed for her. I received the most beautiful email back from her today….telling me that her students had performed at Carnegie Hall that evening, with the support and love of all of the chaperones. She began her email - Life is truly amazing and I'm glad I'm still here to enjoy it!

Through all of this….I have thought so much about the fragility of life. What if today was your very last day on earth? How would you spend it? Would you be able to leave this world feeling like you lived it the way you wanted? Or are there things you feel you need to change? I know for me, the experience I had in New York was an important reminder that we need to slow down and enjoy our family and the things that matter. Through the life of this teacher, my own life was impacted as I realized yet again how important every day really is, both to count our blessings but also to try to make a difference. Have you ever had a wake up call such as this one? How did it impact you?

Karen LWB

Monday, May 4, 2009

Everyone just wants a chance

Today I got a formal report from one of our volunteers who recently visited an orphaned child LWB had sent to the Blue Sky Healing Home outside of Beijing. Little Yong had been born in Hunan, and his orphanage quickly realized that something wasn't quite right with his health. He wasn't developing normally and had a very floppy body. Sadly, after testing we learned that Yong has a rare and progressive neurological disorder. But thanks to the wonderful care at Blue Sky, he has now gained enough strength to crawl and move himself about, something he never was able to do before. I think you can tell from his photo how very proud he is of this new accomplishment! We are all so excited to know he is getting this chance at having a much better life.

Reading his report today reminded me of the story of another boy with a special need who was given a chance he had never had before. His name is Jason McElwain. I first saw his video when my son's high school raised funds for Autism Awareness. If you haven't seen his story, then you are missing one of the best "feel good" videos on Youtube. It can be found at this link:

Every child wants someone to believe in them. How wonderful that Jason's friends and coaches did just that. Thank you all for believing that every child deserves a chance. I can't wait to follow Yong's progress and see what wonderful things he has in store as well.