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WHAT NOW?!

Recently I got some Big News and at first curiosity bubbled over as I wondered “What now?!” Part of me itched to hurry and tell somebody because the news was too big not to share! Part of me craved to be still, sit and simmer on the information to allow me to maintain control of the situation and to figure out what purpose it serves me. I’ll admit, I followed my curiosity down the online rabbit hole snooping some but also to help shape my idea of “What this all means!”

My original motive for taking a DNA test was to figure out what my other ½ was since I didn’t have that information when I was adopted. When that can of worms opened, family spilled out – as I knew they would.  Right away the database paired me with a few 2nd – 4th cousins.  While that sounds really close, (2nd is almost as good as 1st, right?) realistically 2nd means that, if we’re lucky, we share great-grandparents. So you can guess how distant 4th cousins feel. Exhilarated, I snooped some close matches online searching for any obvious commonalities on their online profiles.  I’ll admit, too, I sat staring at the little envelope button (below the red arrow) and continued to simmer on the whys and what ifs. How would this be received by the recipient?

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The reason I’d never really considered looking for biological parents growing up was because I simply believed it was an impossibility. In my mind I’d painted a tale of a military guy on a weekend furlough looking for fun in the country he was stationed in that wound up having a side consequence he never knew of. Whether this is part of the script they tell us to help us “cut ties” with our home country or something I made up to protect myself from potential disappointment, I’m not sure. Since my exposure to other adoptees was super limited and nobody else offered a different picture – I just sat within this reality.

Since then, I’ve read a few books and joined a few online Korean Adoptee groups that paint a very different possibility and changed my perspective enough to be open to communication with a relative if they reached out to me or if were a direct match. I would love to let Korean relatives know that their selfless decision to let me go turned out well. I don’t aim to blow anyone’s vision of what their family unit looks like with a surprise relative from a far land.

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While contemplating this new branch of my family tree and how to prune it, I took another DNA test. While attending a blogging conference this past summer, Ancestry.com was there and when they heard I had a 2nd – 4th cousin match on my first round of matches, they said “Here, take this test, our database is one of the largest, maybe we’ll get even closer!”

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They brought forth a different cousin – but a 2nd or 3rd!  After the usual online snooping, I wasn’t any further to finding any information on this new person. Also, the closest people from the first database didn’t overlap this new sprinkling of relatives.

To go all in, I also downloaded the raw data and threw it into a Korean adoptee specific database (but truly have no idea how to navigate it).

What now?  

  • I know that I want to go to Seoul, South Korea.  I know it’s super far and if I’m going to go, I’d want it to be a meaningful trip, not just a tourist trip.
  • It could be cool to trace some lineage to answer “behavior or biological” questions.  
  • As an INFJ, I’m not seeking to have a pile of “relatives” to flood my inbox since I can barely keep up with my own family!

One of the folks in an adoptee group I joined explained it perfectly that we adoptees have blind spots that exist and that we wind up richer by allowing ourselves the curiosity and tenderness towards our own past to let it grow and flourish, thereby overtaking the shadows that have followed us, knowingly or not.

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Perfect picture from Pixabay

What about you?
Have you taken a DNA test?

Were you adopted or just researching ancestry?
Any surprises?
What’d you do next?

 

 

 

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MAPPING OUT ME

Growing up, one classmate told people he was born on a star. We laughed it off but, underneath, I empathized. I knew very little about my Korean origins, many moons from where I landed in America.

korea map

WTF: Wow, That’s Far!

Alien and alone, I tried to make sense of my differences without all the information. Being ½, Asians don’t think I’m Asian. Most people think I’m Hawaiian. Most Hawaiians think I’m Haole. In my family, those of us born outside the country outnumber those born inside (Stand down, Trump).

During my daughter’s recent assignment displaying flags of her ethnicity, though her genetic variety left very little white space to fill, again the reminder that the mystery extends to her generation. So, I signed up for an autosomal DNA test.

vkc flags

Because I am female looking for information on the man’s family (but with no access to them), I did “Family Finder.” It provided my specific DNA markers and a snapshot of areas reporting similar DNA patterns.

No surprise, I’m 50% Asian! It’s exciting to see that my love of Chicken Paprikas, Outlanders and the drive to visit Ireland may be intrinsic, not just a product of my environment. Am I now 1 gazillionth in line for the British throne and ineligible to marry Harry?

image

Truth: they’re all foreign to me.

The website fascinates me with details on people’s global migration explaining how my markers reach Madagascar and beyond. I’ve always wanted to “Eat our way around the world without leaving LA” but now have a more personal path to map.

image (1)

Crack open that Korean cans of worms… who shares my DNA.  Since I’m not currently conducting pursuing leads, I simply check in sporadically to see (as more people test) if anyone joined my tribe.  So far the closest match were 2nd – 4th cousins, and many 3rd – 5th.  The fact that I can’t tell the difference between 2nd cousins vs. cousins twice-removed causes me more anxiety than who appears in my feed.  Though I’ve seen some similarities in a face that could complement mine, my kids disagree.

Though so far not life-changing, I’m glad I learned this information to strengthen the weave of my tapestry of life experiences making up ME!

sarah

OPENING A KOREAN CAN OF WORMS

As soon as I clicked the “place order” button, A warmth spilled out from my chest and enveloped me. You know that feeling when you splurge on some guilty indulgence, just what you need at that moment to make your life complete. Others question “Do you really need that?!” Doesn’t matter. You deserve to do nice things for yourself for once.

Well, what I’d ordered as my long-overdue gift to me was a DNA test. …and if I ordered in the next 15 minutes, it came with a free can of worms at no extra cost.

Obviously in the ongoing debate between nature vs. nurture – we’re more than just where we come from. For me, it’s never really been a void – sure it’s been been a drunken party game to “Guess Sarah’s ethnicity” and a running joke that my kids are already a Heinz 57 mix – so why dilute that perfect recipe. But lately I want to fill in blank spots in my history as well as check more boxes than just “Asian” on the next personal profile form.


According to familytreeDNA.com, the test I took is an autosomal test designed to find relatives on any ancestral lines within 5 generations. Autosomal DNA is a mixture of DNA received from both parents (about 50% from each) and is unique to each person. Assuming my birthmother is from Korea (being that I was born there) then the rest is from my birthdad.

…And, the bonus can of worms.

WTH: What? This’s Healthy?!

Putting my information into a huge database enables connections to occur. Connections between people with similar DNA patterns. Some voluntary – for example if I joined an on-going Korean Adoptee Study – some involuntary – if an email pops up indicating that my neighbor’s DNA patterns imply we could be family. I hope I haven’t bitten off more than I can chew.


I took the test August 4th after viewing an amazing story about family and Korean adoption called Twinsters. Through these shared experiences and this specific action I am constructing my history. Now that I did my cheek swabs I can’t wait to find out the results.


My results are in! Place your bets…

PJ WILDERNESS – MY DESTINATION: SEOUL SEARCHING

The way I manage to end almost any “debate” with my ever-increasingly cynical and tall teen-age son is by reminding him that I’m the fairest Mom in the world and would never ask him to do something I hadn’t done before. (Yes, even the litter box).  So, in that same spirit, I’ll share my Destination brainstorming...

Committing Myself
I recently had the opportunity to take a temporary detour from my life, although with limited mobility.  I regularly indulged in many things I’d love do to if I had more time in the day.  Recognizing how fulfilling they were to me, now that I’m at the eve of returning to my life, I’m panicking about how to keep going: Reading, Writing (a book, if I was not afraid), Immobility (Meditation), and movement – walking or swimming.

Additionally, I’m entertaining a mindful midlife, without heightened crisis, and there are some things that no matter how hard I try to look past them, they stand in my way.  I need to have this still time to let them come forth, be heard, find resolution, then stand aside and allow me to really move past them.

Lastly, I’m looking to get in touch with my Korean culture of origin. If money was no object, I’d be on a plane immediately, but for now I’m building a reasonable plan. Hope I didn’t overbook myself for this journey!

SeoulTalking to Myself
WHO: Most will be solitary because I need to dig deep below my surface, my persona and myself.  However, I love support groups to a) help me realize I’m not crazy and b) to help hold me accountable.  I will definitely reach out to Korean adoptee networking groups or non-profits – including the agency I was adopted through. My kids will be along for some of the journey too so they can learn to be in touch with themselves by watching and learning.

WHAT:  To get more in touch with me, I want to keep writing – working on building up the blog so eventually I can write full-time both to keep me sane and earning a living would be amazing. I need to stay in touch with my creative side and perhaps use this journey as a story line somehow.  To get more in touch with my ethnicity, I’ll visit Cultural Centers, museums, restaurants, networking through the non-profit.

I already visited the Korean Cultural Center (Los Angeles)

I already visited the Korean Cultural Center (Los Angeles)

WHERE:  Here in Los Angeles to start.

WHEN:  I aim to visit Korean cultural centers/exhibits 3-4 times/year, but stay in touch with myself more regularly to make sure I’m on the path I want – rather than just blindly barreling towards an end goal.

At KCCLA, I learned the bedroom origins of a chest my parents bought me!

At KCCLA, I learned the bedroom origins of a chest my folks got me!

WHY:  What started me on a more active journey was reading: Seeds from a Silent Tree: An Anthology By Korean Adoptees.  It’s a collection of writing from adoptees that, for the first time, revealed my shared history with others.  I’m not searching for lost family, but a common history.  I’d love to help others by supporting non-profits geared to assist with searches and adoptions. I want to pay the opportunity forward to other adoptees. It’s important to me to learn about Korean life from Koreans, not just the American impression of Koreans. I have supportive Korean friends, but currently prefer anonymously learning as I go.

Korean porous pots used to make Soy Sauce and Kimchi. I will use them for decoration.

Korean porous pots used to make soy sauce and Kimchi. I will use them for decoration.

My son asked me, “Why now (that I’m old)?” I answered that any time is a great time to learn more about ourselves and our history. Also, I hope to pass along the tradition of being still to my children so they learn to check in with themselves to honor their path in life. Whether it’s a tool to assist them with fighting peer-pressure and bullies, or to help them find a career in an area they’re passionate about, sometimes they have to learn to be still and by themselves. We all do.

Korean Artist: Young-Il Ahn Umbrellas

Korean Artist: Young-Il Ahn
Umbrellas

What’s next in this journey along the PJ Wilderness?

SERVER DETECTED SPAM MUSUBI

I’m half-Korean. People don’t quite know where to place me. My skin is too dark to be white (You can’t spell Caucasian without Asian…), my green-ish eyes aren’t Asian, my Hungarian cooking scrambles their brains. Honestly, not being brought up Asian, and turned off by some stereotypes for Asian women, I identified with American Indians, because I used to fantasize about riding my horse all day in the sun over the open plains, or got a kick out of people who ask if I’m Hawaiian. Sure, I can go for that!

Today, I’m embracing my Hawaiian roots and in the effort of finding PB&J substitutes for the kids’ lunches, I’m attempting Spam Musubi!

ExSPAMple A: less messy, easier to eat in cut rolls
NOTE: I prefer thicker Spam – 8 slices/can.
The right one is 10 slices/can.

Simple as it sounds, it terrified me some. Most of the terror came from shopping for the ingredients.

Proof that I am way too Americanized and have passed that along to my kids.

To me, reading this stuff is about as easy as reading QR barcodes

Tough to decipher, simple to assemble.

I brainlessly cooked 2 cups of rice in the cooker – push one button!

One button – done!

I sliced the spam experimenting with width of the meat in the finished product.

Heated some Sesame Oil in the cast iron skillet,

Sesame Oil – LOVE IT to season anything.

added some teriyaki and browned it.

Spam became popular in WWII as a meat ration and became popular in Hawaii.

How brown you want it is up to you. Most of the color is from the cooking teriyaki sauce, not from burning.

The most complicated part is assembly, but thanks to my great friend, I have a sushi/musubi mold! Sometimes it’s all about the gear and then you feel like a pro musubi maker!

Acrylic box open on both ends with a press. May be called sushi or musubi maker. What’s your gadget fave?

It’s all a matter of layering:

Rice – fill the maker near ½ full

Press Hard – don’t want it to fall apart

Rice Seasoning – seaweed and sesame seeds (no fish flakes) – your preference how much you want to use. Doesn’t dominate flavor, it’s an accent flavor.

Try it on plain rice too!

Spam

Perfect fit! No additional cutting at all!

Rice Seasoning – next time, I’m going to try wasabi on this 2nd layer instead of double rice seasoning

WTF: Way to flavor!  It’s like glitter on food, seriously!

Rice – fill in the blanks and press hard!

Very Simple, Very Easy — Chef Tell

Wrapped up in a pretty seaweed wrapper. This brand was the perfect size for my musubi maker. Wet fingers with some water to “glue” the sheets together if the steam from the rice doesn’t seal it.

This Nori (dried seaweed) was so easy to work with!

It was so easy and turned out so beautiful thanks to the press that I almost felt like I cheated!

Almost like I try to cheat and get a local discount when visiting Hawaii, but the locals can see right through me and know I’m not Hawaiian. Maybe next time I’ll come armed with my Spam musubi and they’ll reconsider.

ExSPAMpleB – Less rice and seaweed, harder to eat.
Green Lightsaber chopsticks ensured I’d get 2 thumbs up from my kids who were too busy with friends to rate me.

WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE: UNFOCUSED

I chose this picture because this person maintained extreme focus but the result was unfocused.

WTF – Watch the Force!

Master Daniel focused to break 10 boards with his hand!

BELT LESSONS!

As my daughter got into bed, we shared a few last words. To give her a mental boost for the remaining busy week, I raved how proud I felt for her keeping up and again, dangled the reward of a mellow Friday night approaching in 48 hours.  I asked if she felt proud of herself for her report card and upcoming belt test. [Cue: Rolling eyes] “YeeEEESS Mom!”  Then I turned her attention to her Tae Kwon Do belt rack containing only one last empty spot and the excitement and the pride washed across her face as she replayed the last 18 months in her head measuring how far she’d come!

Stars in her eyes!

I love that in eighteen months, they earn the achievement of a black belt – but more, feel the confidence of the journey. They celebrate individual victories progressing through each belt, earning a special “Best Student” stripe in class, or most-improved for that belt! I love that they share this journey with each other!  On the mat, they respect each other, because they empathize and learn together.

First Tournament TOGETHER!

True, the initial motivation came from me.  When first considering Tae Kwon Do, the primary goals I saw were for self-preservation for my son on the Middle School black top, and for my daughter on dates!  I wanted them to develop innate skills and confidence to take someone down but, equally as important, have the self-control to stop.  My son’s going to be a tall kid, and I’ll admit, we have passionate blood in the family. Thus far, he’s a gentle giant who doesn’t recognize his own power, but that attracts its own bullies. If ever facing a bully, I want him to respect that boundaries exist.

I’ll admit that part of my motivation came from my own childhood of dabbling, never sticking with one thing longer than a few years.  We can evaluate my Gemini tendencies or childhood patterns some other post.  When I saw a three-year plan yielding so many things I hoped for my kids, I couldn’t see reasons why not to.

Had the kids hated it, we’d have stopped after the first belt. Fortunately they love it and that, too, grows with each belt!

Ready for anything!

WANDERING INTO FOREIGN TERRITORY

Today seemingly random sequences of events caught my attention and changed my focus.  I believe that nothing happens coincidentally. This year, my goal continues to ride every wave no matter how far or deep I need to swim.

Beautiful flowers in Seoul...

A thank you letter for a donation in honor of the recently passed Father John P. Daly landed on my desk requiring my bosses’ signature. My boss stopped his speeding train of thought to mention that Father Daly was an amazing man who did significant years of work with Korea and was crucial to the growth of the college’s Asian Studies program. Since Father Daly’s name inspires a smile on the face of anyone who speaks of him, I looked for an obituary.

I read that shortly after taking his Jesuit vows he rooted himself in Korea during a critical period from 1963 – 1975.  My curiosity flared and launched me in a full-circle moment.

I came to America through Holt International Knowing a religious undertone existed at the adoption agency, I wanted to know if Father Daly shared ties.  While I never located a link, I sparked some clarity on a 25 year-old question.

My parents explained that the end-result of the Korean War, the devastated country resulted in families leaving babes to adopt. One person pointed out, “The Korean War ended in the 50’s?!”  Truthfully I had no response and with history being my weakest subject – I wasn’t interested in finding one then.

Now, I feel like returning to the start could sculpt a more 3-D image of my past.  I am less interested in long-lost relatives, more interested in the time before I left Korea – warm fuzzy stories like the political climate, born as a half-blooded Korean and other societal factors that launched me towards the states. I live the fairy tale – how I’d literally been abandoned until someone found me and turned me into an orphanage, I fortunately came to America and never looked back.  But, it’s part of me.

I listed Going to Korea as one of my “101 in 1001 goals,” but don’t want to visit, I want to understand Korea. Father Daly’s influence on people to learn about Korea continues.

KOREAN TO THE CORE (PEPPERED WITH PAPRIKAS)

I am ½ Korean, born and left in Seoul, S. Korea but saved then raised in America. Even now, my culture feels foreign to me. I don’t know my other ethnic half, so I claim Hungarian/Swedish thanks to my parents. Trader Joes creates my Korean dishes but I whip up Chicken Paprikas almost from memory. I don’t feel displaced having not identified with Koreans before. Now, I’m mature enough to savor the experience.

Growing up in Maryland, I never knew any Asians. Upon returning from a Sarasota trip at age 5, my incredibly dark tan convinced me of my Native American Princess heritage, living with the pale skins until my painted pony rescued me from the suburbs and whisked me away to the wilderness.

My parents had a few Korean keepsakes but I had no idea what being “Korean” meant. I did get a full-Korean sister then a blonde baby sister who thought she was 5% Korean by association. Still, discussions of heritage come last, if at all, after taunting, teasing and tattling.

Upon moving to California, I instantly bonded with a fellow ½ Asian gal until I changed schools the next year. I didn’t see another Asian child until one started in 5th. Although, it didn’t help with categorizing me because I looked too exotic to be white and too cow-licked to be Asian.

This continued until my 20’s when I found out a co-worker was adopted (though domestic, not Korean). Weaving a common thread with someone that held roots in my childhood, I craved to weave others. My first conscious exposure to Korean culture was sampling kimchi at Costco. Soon followed a trip to a Korean restaurant with a trusted friend to handle ordering. Eventually, my kids’ births cured me of wanting to look like anyone.

Since then I’ve had all sorts of friends continue my Asian education. I traveled to Asian countries, but not yet Seoul. My Kor(ter)ean kids speak more Korean than I thanks to Tae Kwon Do. Their studio hosts a trip to Seoul every few years, so when my kids reach black belt, we’ll take that trip of a lifetime to celebrate the end their journey and the start of mine.