A “Fair” Way of Encouraging Foster Care Adoption?

by Luanne

Have you ever been to an adoption fair?  If you haven’t, maybe you’ve seen one on the television news.  You know those tear-jerker short stories they run to make you feel good about watching their network?  It would be one of those–designed to make soft hearts feel that something is being done for foster children looking for forever homes.

But are they a good idea?  I’m sure there are pros and cons.  It’s good to encourage prospective parents to consider adopting older children and sibling groups. Nothing like having someone in your face to press home the fact that it might be possible to make the lives of these kids better.

I get an image, though, of the puppies and kitties which are brought to Petsmart on Saturday morning to find them homes.  That glass case of tiny kittens curled up together is an adorable sight, but look closely, and the cats are overwhelmed and frightened by what’s going on.  They get picked up and put down and there are swarms of strangers looking them over.

But at least cats aren’t being gawked at and handled by their own kind.  I can’t even imagine what it’s like for a human child to go through this experience.  After all, most of them are old enough to understand that they are being inspected and evaluated by strangers.  Their deepest hopes and fears are stimulated by the event.

The Christian Science Monitor published an article by Alicia Morga entitled “Adoption fairs are speed dating for kids. Families need ‘arranged marriages’ instead” a couple of years ago (March 4, 2011).  In the article, Morga describes her own experience with an adoption fair.

When I was ten years old in the early 80s, I participated in an adoption fair. My family of thirteen – two parents and eleven children – was dismantled when my youngest brother died of malnutrition. I became a ward of the state of California at the age of three. By the age of ten, I was a veteran of several foster homes and, with my options dwindling, was residing at a group home – a sort of juvenile hall with the décor of a dentist’s office – where they stick the “hard” cases.

Being Hispanic and older, my stock was depreciating fast, so my social worker lined me up with about 20 other kids at an adoption fair held at the Los Angeles Arboretum.

There among the trees and in full view of the Queen Anne Cottage, at the time also the backdrop for the popular television show, “Fantasy Island,” a carnival atmosphere was devised. There were popcorn, games of chance, and games of skill. Couples and families looking to adopt milled about. Ricardo Montalbán, the star of “Fantasy Island,” was rumored to be making an appearance.

The goal of the fair was clear to me, even if it wasn’t explicitly stated; I was supposed to sell myself. I stood next to a tree and did my best to appear good.

For a while no one approached me, and I watched other kids attempt to entice the Adopters with strong throws or pretty smiles. The fair encouraged mixing by holding games of leapfrog and partnered up Adopters with foster kids. Finally realizing, similar to a game of musical chairs, that parents were being snatched up, I waded in and leap-frogged a woman while launching a charm offensive on her husband.

I was all good manners and lots of smiles. The husband was brown like me, so I stood close to him hoping he would see himself in me and she, being of a lighter hue, would see what she liked in him in me. We made small talk while I walked the fine line between being pleasing and being obsequious, being engaging and being obnoxious, being energetic and being frantic. We spent about 40 minutes together.

The couple called my social worker a few days later and expressed interest in adopting me. Technically I was given a choice about whether I wanted to accept them as a placement. I say technically, because it’s hardly a choice when your social worker is telling you to get with the program or you’re going back to the group home.

Before I knew it and before the adoption was finalized, as is typical, I was moved into their house. It was pretty clear early on that things weren’t going well. There were red flags. But much like when you move in with a boyfriend, breaking up becomes harder to do. Plus, in the immortal words of my social worker, this was “my last chance.”

Turns out I “chose” adoptive parents who were wholly incapable of handling a ten year-old stranger in their home, much less their lives. I was a child, but I had already had a whole history – one that didn’t square with their expectations for a cute young girl, but was more akin to a distrustful, jaded old maid. It was a choice for me that resulted in some very difficult years until I turned 18 and moved out.

I’m not sure what the answer is because obviously it’s important to find homes with loving adoptive parents for children who need them and want them.

What do you think about adoption fairs?  Are they a positive development, a necessary evil or an evil which should be abolished?

Let’s Slow Down . . .

by Marisha

When you live in the craziness of a city, it’s necessary to find the way to stillness.  I do it by taking a walk or just sitting outside and feeling the crisp air on my face. An actor faces so many obstacles, but when I just sit and allow myself to take in the stillness inside the city and my inner voice, I get back to feeling like myself. It’s in those moments, I feel truly alive.

Photo by Marisha Castle

“Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.”—May Sarton

Can I Get a Venti Cup of Ignorance, Flavored with Assumption, Please?

by Marisha

(Originally posted August 3, 2012)

Although I said the next few posts would be about the business, I thought I would lighten it up by telling you a story that happened in L.A. my first year here.

I remember the day as if it were yesterday. I had recently embarked on this new journey to “The City of Angels” and was excited and hopeful.  I had a plan of stepping stones with which to approach the city and make a name for myself.

I was on my way to meet one of my best friends at the Grove in Hollywood. It is a famous landmark, filled with shops, restaurants, and the Farmer’s Market. They have a Starbucks in the Barnes & Noble there, so to kill time, I went to get a coffee until my friend arrived.

The interior of the Barnes & Noble lo...

The interior of the Barnes & Noble located in The Grove

(To preface, the tsunami had just struck Japan, so you can see where this story is going).

The line was long, and when it was my turn, I ordered my coffee and waited for the barista to ring me up and ask for my card. There was an awkward silence.

Out of nowhere she said, “Hey, are you okay?”

I smiled. “Yeah, of course. How are you doing?”

She acted hesitant. “Fine. I just … am so sorry.”

“Sorry? Sorry for what?”

“For your people. The disaster … it’s just awful. I’m glad you are okay and I hope your family is safe as well.”

“I’m sorry, are you talking about the tsunami?”  I couldn’t believe I was hearing this.  “That is so nice, but I’m not from Japan. I’m not even Japanese. Haha. I’m American.”

“Oh. I just assumed that you were involved.”

Bless her heart. “No, I wasn’t. My family lives in America and we are quite safe. But thank you for your concern.”

“No problem. Sorry. I don’t mean to sound racist.”

“You’re good girl. Have a great day!”

I could’ve taken offense to what she said. Maybe I should have. But I only felt that word “ignorance” again and just let it roll off. She obviously meant well, and I’m sure she felt stupid by “assuming.”

In a coincidence, the same thing happened to me in New York City when I was visiting a couple weeks later.  A man on the street bowed at me with his palms together and sent his condolences for the tragedy.

People are so funny. But when will racial assumptions be erased from American society? I don’t have an accent. I don’t dress out of the ordinary. To me, I am just like them. American.

My guess is that it will never be that easy. I wish her the best, though, and the best for the tsunami victims. But for me, I am Korean-American adopted, and I am proud to be an American citizen. 🙂

Work in Progress . . .

by Marisha

When we started this blog, I mentioned that I was going to be writing about my life here in LA. To be honest, as time went on, I realized that that was a little harder than I thought it was going to be; to write openly about my life might mean publicly exposing people in my immediate life or people who I do not know.

That said, I have thought for the past week about what I would write about, and I finally realized how this city has brought me a lot of tests of strength.  These are tests for  a performer–and especially a performer who is an adoptee.

The business and dream I have chosen to pursue is, to say the least, not the most comforting/stable business. As a performer, you are not just selling a presentation of a certain product. You are selling YOU. Every part of you is under surveillance, whether it’s your looks, the way you speak, even the size of your feet. You are either right for the role or you aren’t. You live in uncertainty about your finances.  Even more importantly, you have to evaluate your personal stability on a daily basis, as well.

This business is based so much on “rejection.”  You sometimes have to hear a hundred “NOs” before one resounding “YES” comes along. I was struggling with that–have been struggling with that pretty much since I started auditioning as a teenager and moved outside the realm of just dance. I used to take it so personally, analyze every moment of the audition and drive myself crazy when I wouldn’t get the call or the gig.

“Was I too big?”

“Did I talk too much?”

“Should I have done the character differently?

“I could have done that scene better.”

And so on.  I know that everyone in this business–they don’t have to be adopted!–has felt this at one time.  To some degree, it’s not only human nature, but it’s the reality of any line of work.

A lot of time I not only felt “rejected,” but I honestly felt “not good enough.” There were so many times that I questioned my strength in this business, but, thankfully, because of this blog, I have figured out why.

One of the biggest things that adoptees face is the feeling of “abandonment.” It took me almost 24 years to fully understand that, and even so, it was thinking more thoroughly about the role of adoption in my life through work on this blog that helped lead me to this new understanding.

I think that this awareness will come at very different stages for other adoptees. I never really put two and two together before. But just like adoption affects your relationships, it can affect your work as well. Especially this work. I have always wanted to be accepted, to be loved and respected for what I do and bring to the table. I can get very sensitive to harsh criticism of my craft not only because it is my passion, but it is my dream.

But there’s a bigger picture, I now realize. Criticism is all in how you perceive it, and quite frankly, EVERYONE is going to have an opinion of you and your work. You have to take it with a grain of salt and try NOT to take it personally. Easier said than done, right? I’m learning that I have not always taken it as that, but in fact, as criticism to me as a human being–that, again, I am not good enough. That I do not have the tools to make someone believe in me and not “abandon” me or my potential.

Photo by Louise Hay

I now see how silly that is. I have become so much better, and have learned to separate my adoption from getting in the way of my dreams and relationships.

This blog post feels like a diary entry for myself.  I am a work in progress and this journey in LA has been anything but easy. I am going to fight for my dream, and I can’t promise I will always be on the up and up emotionally. But I will say that each day gets a little easier, and I am very much “good enough.” Thanks for helping me with that, guys! x

Mirror Mirror in the City, Who is Better, Fair, and Pretty?

by Marisha

For most of my life, I was used to being the only Asian girl in my group of friends. Growing up in a mid-size town in southern California, my friends were an eclectic group composed of people of different races, but I usually didn’t have other Asian friends to relate to. In high school there weren’t many Asian girls, and in elementary, even fewer.

Breakdown by race in Oklahoma

When I went to school in Oklahoma, I remember feeling like a “lone ranger.” I didn’t see too many Asians while I lived in Norman. Perhaps surprisingly, this never has made me feel weird or alone. I was happy and content. And my friends never seemed to see me as anything “different.”

There is a stereotype that the culture in some Asian countries leads to a desire to be as “American” as possible. The evidence given for this is found in general appearance, fashion, the media, and technology. I have been guilty of this desire myself. Of course, it has come naturally to me because I am American. But in the midst of my Americanness, I have always felt special that I am the “token Asian.”

Since moving to LA, I have noticed that there seems to be a stigma about being “Asian” here. I cannot argue that it doesn’t exist because in the entertainment and performing businesses, we do seem to get the short end of the stick. Because of the stereotypes and limited opportunities for casting, the negative side of competition seems to pop up between Asian girls. This is not always true—bless my newfound Asian female friends for their support. However, it happens too often.

It took me some time to realize this. After I first moved here, I went out to a club one night with some friends. My good friend suddenly nudged me. “Look! That girl keeps staring at you.” My reflex was to look right at the girl referred to. She glared at me, then purposely looked me over good and rolled her eyes. This wasn’t the last time that has happened. When I try to talk to or compliment another Asian girl when I’m out, she will generally walk away.

In the Waiting Room

Worse yet, it also happens at auditions. Sometimes there aren’t any other Asian girls at a particular audition. But when there are a couple of other Asians, too often I receive evil looks and judgmental energy. I don’t understand this. We should be uniting and accepting of each other. Nothing makes me sadder than when other Asian girls in LA stare me down, size me up, and look for any reason to believe that they are “more American” than me. Or just better than me.

Is it because we all believe that the opportunities are slim here? Or maybe it is insecurity within us? It baffles me. My experiences with other Asian performers and non-performers who I have gotten to know have always been comforting and rewarding. I love connecting with Asian girls with no competition, no concern about stigma.  Since moving to LA, I had the good fortune to be in a production of The Joy Luck Club with a mostly Asian cast.  It was such a rewarding theatre experience.

I find myself asking the question: “why are we more judgmental to people who are the closest to what we are ourselves?” I wish we could support each other instead of trying to be the only one of our kind. Although I love being the “token Asian,” I will always be proud of my race and other girls like me trying to pursue the same dream.

I realize some people might view this as “girls being girls.” People of all races and personalities experience the negative side of competition. Am I overly sensitive to this? Paranoid maybe? Is it because I never experienced this type of competitive behavior when I was the “token Asian”? Or is it just reality?

Can I Get a Venti Cup of Ignorance, Flavored with Assumption, Please?

by Marisha

Although I said the next few posts would be about the business, I thought I would lighten it up by telling you a story that happened in L.A. my first year here.

I remember the day as if it were yesterday. I had recently embarked on this new journey to “The City of Angels” and was excited and hopeful.  I had a plan of stepping stones with which to approach the city and make a name for myself.

I was on my way to meet one of my best friends at the Grove in Hollywood. It is a famous landmark, filled with shops, restaurants, and the Farmer’s Market. They have a Starbucks in the Barnes & Noble there, so to kill time, I went to get a coffee until my friend arrived.

The interior of the Barnes & Noble lo...

The interior of the Barnes & Noble located in The Grove

(To preface, the tsunami had just struck Japan, so you can see where this story is going).

The line was long, and when it was my turn, I ordered my coffee and waited for the barista to ring me up and ask for my card. There was an awkward silence.

Out of nowhere she said, “Hey, are you okay?”

I smiled. “Yeah, of course. How are you doing?”

She acted hesitant. “Fine. I just … am so sorry.”

“Sorry? Sorry for what?”

“For your people. The disaster … it’s just awful. I’m glad you are okay and I hope your family is safe as well.”

“I’m sorry, are you talking about the tsunami?”  I couldn’t believe I was hearing this.  “That is so nice, but I’m not from Japan. I’m not even Japanese. Haha. I’m American.”

“Oh. I just assumed that you were involved.”

Bless her heart. “No, I wasn’t. My family lives in America and we are quite safe. But thank you for your concern.”

“No problem. Sorry. I don’t mean to sound racist.”

“You’re good girl. Have a great day!”

I could’ve taken offense to what she said. Maybe I should have. But I only felt that word “ignorance” again and just let it roll off. She obviously meant well, and I’m sure she felt stupid by “assuming.”

In a coincidence, the same thing happened to me in New York City when I was visiting a couple weeks later.  A man on the street bowed at me with his palms together and sent his condolences for the tragedy.

People are so funny. But when will racial assumptions be erased from American society? I don’t have an accent. I don’t dress out of the ordinary. To me, I am just like them. American.

My guess is that it will never be that easy. I wish her the best, though, and the best for the tsunami victims. But for me, I am Korean-American adopted, and I am proud to be an American citizen. 🙂

It’s The City of Angels (If You Have the Right Look)

by Marisha
 
Being a performer, I have learned a lot about my identity.  But even more so about my history. For each audition, an actor has to home in on her experiences, her struggles, her triumphs.  You are asked to look at a side of yourself which you don’t really have to evaluate as a human being in regular society. In your acting traing, you are given games and exercises–all to get you to delve into your inner feelings and most importantly . . . your insecurities.
Chicago

“Cell Block Tango” in Chicago

 
I have always known about my talents. I have always known what it was that I wanted to do in this world. It was to perform. It seemed so simple growing up, yet I’m finding it has become so difficult as I grow older. I’ve learn to live in the gray. Nothing is black and white, and no one can necessarily tell me the decisions I need to make.
 
The last 2 years have been a crazy time in Los Angeles. It is called the “City of Angels.” And it has been that and much, much more struggle than that. I have had my share of devils.
 
This will be a short post, but I wanted to introduce this subject that will be a lot of what I am drawing from in my next few posts. This is what I know and it has connected with my adoption in so many ways that I didn’t realize until now. Things that have shaped me, things that have strengthened me, and things that have frightened me.

Joy Luck Club

Rose in Joy Luck Club

 
It is all a process and it is left unknown- as it should. But here are my experiences that have led to my realization. More to Come . . . .
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