Cover: Waterfalls by TLC feat. Tamlyn Tomita, Lynn Chen, & Phil Yu!

Fun DIY cover of the (now) classic TLC tune.

Conceived by musician Jane Liu, It features a bunch of her friends, rad indie Asian American creative types including Angry Asian Man Phil Yu (an old pal of mine), actors Lynn Chen and Tamlyn Tomita, musician Goh Nakamura and others.

Lui raised money for the video through a mini Kickstarter campaign (I didn’t know you could do mini Kickstarter campaigns!) basically made the thing in a day. It’s been getting some nice play from places like Huffington Post and Jezebel.

A big yeehah for delightful creative projects featuring talented people of color.

Reprise: A year of living adoptively

Last year around this time, I wrote this piece for NW Kids Magazine. for their November National Adoption Month issue. They just republished it on their website, so I thought I’d share it here as well.

________

Written November 2012

Each November, not only does my family get to celebrate National Adoption Month, we get to celebrate the adoption of our precious girl. On November 15, 2011 we brought Lilli home to Portland from Eugene, just five days after we learned we were chosen by Lilli’s birth parents to adopt her. She was five weeks old then. Now she’s a walking, babbling, curious, strong-willed one-year old.

In this first year, we’ve learned so much about adoption.

Adopting a Child

IMG_7359First and most obvious, we have adopted a child. By we, I mean my husband Matt and me. We also includes my parents and Matt’s parents. And our siblings and their kids. And so on. We have all adopted this wonderful little human into our lives, practically in the blink of an eye.

I sometimes marvel at how easy and quickly she was enveloped into our world. How immediate and unconditional my love was and is for her. Our community of family and friends has embraced her so fully. Lilli, at age one, is an intensely well-loved girl. (67 “Likes” on Facebook for her birthday announcement!) She’s our girl. Our daughter. Not, “adopted” daughter. Just, our daughter.

And while that’s absolutely how I feel, it is also true that she is adopted. That is a part of her story and we have pledged to be transparent with her about it. We adopted Lilli in an open adoption, and I’d say we’re on the very open end of the spectrum.

Adopting a Family

Lilli surrounded by Roberts and Tabora Families

Simply put, in an open adoption, the birth mother (and birth father, if he’s in the picture) choose adoptive parents for their birth child. On one end of the open adoption spectrum (sometimes called “semi-open” adoption), birth parent(s) and adoptive parents do not meet. They communicate through some sort of middle entity, an agency or a lawyer, through which information is exchanged. Birth parents may provide basic medical history. Adoptive parents may agree to send photos and a letter once a year. When the child is old enough to choose, they may seek out the birth parent.

Our story is at the other end of the spectrum of open adoption. About six months after we entered the adoption pool (not a very long wait), we got the call from our agency. Heylene, the mother of a one-month old, and the birth father (he’s asked me not to use his name, so I’ll call him “Nick”) chose us to adopt her baby girl. After learning about Heylene and Lilli’s story from the counselor, we made the decision to move forward. The next day we drove to Eugene to meet Heylene and Nick. The following day, we met Lilli for the first time. We hung out with Lilli and Heylene for a few hours, a crash “get-to-know-you” session to see if we were a good match for being in a relationship for the rest of our lives. Imagine going on a blind date with someone where you have three days to decide whether or not to marry each other. That’s pretty much what we did. After three days, Heylene and Nick decided yes, Matt and I were the right people to parent Lilli. And yes, after three days, we were head over heels in love with our Lilli.

Two weeks later, it was Thanksgiving. We invited our new family members, Heylene and Nick to come and spend it with us. Now, a year later, we’ve seen Heylene nearly every other month and Nick about once a quarter. We have no qualms about texting each other notes and photos. Our relationship to Lilli’s birth parents has evolved sweetly and organically.

Don’t get me wrong, it is complicated. Heylene and Nick’s families have varying levels of knowledge of and support for the adoption. Lilli has a half brother we’ve just met for the first time, along with Lilli’s birth grandma and birth great-grandma. (Very intense introduction, but hopefully the beginning of a long and healthy relationship.) Both Heylene and Nick have moved farther away from us. Even with that, the good news is, it’s only just begun. Lilli’s birth family is a part of our family circle, now and forever. and advocate around racial diversity and other issues, this is a community I’m eager to connect with. Much more to learn on that front as Lilli grows older.

Adopting a Community

As soon as we decided to adopt a child, we entered into a dynamic adoption community. We adopted through Open Adoption and Family Services, an agency specializing in and exclusively facilitating and advocating openness in adoption. Through them, we are now a part of a diverse and active community of families waiting to adopt and those who have adopted. We’ve also become a part of the larger “open adoption” community.

In addition, we are now part of the transracial adoption community. As a mixed- race couple (I’m Filipino-American, my husband is Welsh-American, aka “white”), it was inevitable we’d be in a transracial adoption. Lilli is 1⁄4 Panamanian and, at age one, looks very Latina. As a one-time activist and advocate around racial diversity and other issues, this is a community I’m eager to connect with. Much more to learn on that front as Lilli grows older.

What’s more we’ve now joined that larger adoption community, which is extremely diverse and much larger than I knew before we adopted. Adam Pertman wrote in Adoption Nation, “Extrapolating from U.S. Census data, we can guesstimate that there are at least 7 million adopted children and adults in the United States today; add in birth parents adoptive parents, grandparents, siblings… and the number of people directly connected to adoption soars into the tens of millions.”

Pertman also noted, “The Adoption Institute survey showed that nearly six of every ten Americans have had a ‘personal experience’ with adoption… And a stunning one-third of those polled said they had ‘at least somewhat seriously’ considered adopting a child themselves.”

From adults who were adopted in the 1970s internationally from Korea or Vietnam, to those families that have come together through the foster care system, to others who adopted within their own family—there are so many experiences of adoption. At the center of these adoptions are children with concentric circles of loved ones radiating outward.

As my daughter enters her second year, I’ve started thinking about how to talk with Lilli about her story. Tonight, as I snuggled with her in my arms, I quietly relayed to her the whole story of her adoption for the first time. The story still needs some editing, but it felt good to say. Like parenting, adoption will always be a work-in-progress.

An apparel company does (mostly) non-racist for a change

After countless racist incidents from clothing companies raising hackles (see: Abercrombie & Fitch racist t-shirt fiasco or Urban Outfitters’ Navajo fashion debacle), it looks like one big retailer has finally done some bit of good. The Gap stepped up.

This Huffington Post piece breaks down what happened.

The quick and dirty:

  1. Gap puts up billboard of this ad featuring Waris Ahluwalia, a Sikh man, who also happens to be a man about town in NYC. Pretty cool. (Here’s more of Gap’s series of #makelove ads, which actually features a healthy diversity of faces.)
  2. Muslim journalist Arsalan Iftikhar tweets photo showing one of said billboards defaced with all kinds of racist nonsense. (Here’s his account of the incident on The Daily Beast.)
  3. Gap replies to Iftikhar’s tweet to find out where the defaced ad is, and to stay tuned.
  4. Gap then makes the billboard art their Twitter background.
  5. Lots of people are psyched to learn how Gap responds.

Gap FTW? Not quite. While many laud Gap for the ad and for their response to the vandalized billboard,  some Sikh’s find the ad offensive for the way the woman is lustfully touching Ahluwalia’s turban and chest.

Case of the stolen car, part 2: identities lost and found

Part 2 of the story I started here. I have to give credit to my husband Matt and his memory for lots of this story.

On our way moving to Portland in 2006 during a stopover in San Francisco our car was stolen.

First thing we did was call the cops. They told us that stolen cars always turn up. Usually within three days.

Next call went to our insurance company, Unitrin Direct. That first call was wonderful. ‘Wow, they’re really worried about us. They’re really helping us out,’ we thought. That wonderful feeling didn’t last very long. As each day passed, they got more and more frustrating. They questioned whether or not we’d left the keys in the car. They implied it was an ‘inside job,’ that we had stolen our own car. (Later we got notice in the mail that we eligible to participate as part of a class action lawsuit against Unitrin for their shady practices. Tsk, tsk.)

While we waited for new of our car, we were holed up at our friends’ place cataloging as much as we could remember about what was in our trunk. It was shockingly much more than we realized, about $8,000 worth of stuff including a laptop, new camping gear and luggage (which we had gotten as wedding presents).

Plus, because at that moment we were without a permanent home,  all our most important paperwork was with us in our car instead of in the POD storage unit we had packed with the bulk of our belongings. The irony. Passports, birth certificates, social security cards, financial info. So, yes, those waiting days in the beautiful, fun city of San Francisco were also filled with many traumatic phone calls canceling credit cards, stopping checks, etc. We were losing our identities.

Oh, one bizarre episode in the ordeal was a phone call from someone who found a pile of some of our paperwork on their street. Literally, on their street. Matt went to find our stuff on the street in a nearby neighborhood. He recalls that it looked like they had picked through our files and then hucked them out of the car. But when we looked through the paperwork, there wasn’t really any of our important stuff in there. Just a sad, creepy pile of stuff that had been rifled through.

Two days passed. Three days passed. Four, five … finally after seven days with no car we got fed up. We were in limbo and just wanted desperately to start planting some roots in Portland. Before our car was nabbed, we had been on the road and couch surfing for about two months. The charm of nomadic living had worn off. We wanted to find ourselves a new home.

In reading the not-so-fine print of our car insurance we realized we were eligible for a rental car. Unitrin begrudgingly approved it.

Willamette Highway

We took what belongings we had and packed them up into that rental. We headed straight for Portland, bypassing our originally planned stops at Blue Lake (where Matt’s old hippie theater school Dell’arte is) and Crater Lake (we no longer had any gear to camp with).

We landed in Portland and our kind, wonderful friends took us in. We immediately set to looking for a place to live. Like I wrote, we were so done with living in other people’s spaces. We wanted a place of our own. (It wasn’t so easy and ended up taking a few more weeks to find an apartment.)

After another day of no word about our car, our friends whisked us away in their cherry red VW bus (welcome to Portlandia, before there was Portlandia) and off to the awesomely hippy Bagby Hot Springs.  Some welcome relaxation.

As we drove back to Portland and got back into cell phone range, there was a message on my phone. Finally, after 10 days, our car was found.

Matt hopped on a plane, flew to San Francisco to retrieve it. At the impound lot, he found the car. It was beat up pretty bad. They’d jacked ignition, ripped out dash. But it was driveable. And the thieves missed one valuable thing in the car: the stereo speakers. Ha! Matt immediately turned around and headed towards Portland with no stereo and no stopping.

Ah, if only it was that simple! On the way out of San Francisco, during morning rush hour, Matt got rear-ended by a giant truck. The truck driver was apologetic, terrified about potentially losing his job over the accident. Weary from the entire ordeal – especially dealing with the a–hole insurance company, who at this point in the mess was not returning any calls – Matt just told the guy to forget about it. To his glazed over eyes, the damage seemed minimal, if any. The panicked truck driver hugged him and went on his merry way. Only later did Matt realize, not only that he had whip lash and an achy hip, there was more damage on the car than he first thought. Oy.

With all this trauma and loss, though, came some really formative moments in our relationship. On that 10 hour drive in the rental car from San Francisco to Portland, Matt and I made some big decisions.

We were in the middle of an identity crisis. We’d lost nearly all our identifying documents, were recently married and undecided on what to call ourselves. Ten hours in a car together gives you a lot of time to talk some shit out. And talk some shit out we did. We talked about starting new, starting fresh. We talked about the type of family we wanted to be. We talked about what we would do if they never found our car, or if they found our car on fire.

On that trip we decided what our family name was going to be. Matt had wanted me to keep my name. Matt was even okay with our future kid having my name, too. That seemed weird and not right. I wanted to keep my name, yet I wanted to have a family name. We toyed with the idea of blending our names Tabora and Roberts. (‘Robora’ was the front-runner, ‘Taboberts’ was considered, for the comedy.) But after a lot of chatter with family and between us, we decided that just wouldn’t work.

On that long drive from the place we’d met to the place that was to be our home, we decided to both change our names to our new, hyphenated last name: Tabora-Roberts. That’s the name we used on our replacement social security cards, passports, credit cards. When we got to Portland that’s who we became, the Tabora-Roberts family. And thus began the Tabora-Roberts adventure.

The cutest kid in the room

My toddler and I regularly go out to various family-oriented activities such as story time at the the library or any one of the various local musicians who do regular shows aimed at kid audiences. I’ve started to notice a phenomena, that I myself am party to.

It’s the ‘how cute is my kid?’ phenomena. Here’s how it goes down for me:

  • Aw, Lilli, you are so cute/funny/amazing.
  • OMG, you did not just do that cute/funny/amazing thing. You are too, cute/funny/amazing!
  • I am so lucky. Lilli is so damn cute/funny/amazing.
  • Oh, that kid dancing/singing/smiling is pretty cute, too. But, my Lilli – she is soooo cute/funny/amazing.
  • Did you see that? Did you see that cute/funny/amazing thing Lilli just did? I know you saw that. I know you’re thinking, what a cute/funny/amazing kid, right?
  • Awwww. Lilli is definitely the cutest kid in this room. Damn is she cute!

Yes, this is my self/Lilli-centered p.o.v. I know it’s the truth.

And when I look into the eyes of other parents in these situations, I can  see that they are going through the same thing. That parent thinking their kid is cute – this is their truth. That’s a lovely thing. It’s wonderful to see unapologetically happy parents and families.

But come on, my Lilli – she is THE cutest, isn’t she?

Lilli with leaf

P.S. I can’t believe it. I’ve only got 6 days to go for NaBloPoMo. I can see the finish line!!!

5 most intriguing headlines in my RSS feed today

See if these entice you to click through, too.

Are the Earth’s poles about to flip? – PBS News Hour

Let pigs eat swill and stop wasting precious resources – The Guardian

Comic sans, British officialspeak, and the separation of church and state – Boing Boing

Antarctic volcano – Living on Earth

Monumental Attire wraps downtown Portland in whimsy – The Oregonian

The case of the move, a stolen car and a lake

Crater Lake

Panoramic winter view of Crater Lake in Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, from Rim Village. Credit: WolfmanSF via Wikimedia Commons.

When I saw Wikimedia Commons’ ‘Picture of the day’ earlier this week of Crater Lake, it reminded me of our journey to the town we now call home, Portland.

It was 2006. Matt and I were living in Davis where Matt was finishing up grad school. We had recently married in August 2005. After considering some other West Coast cities — including Seattle, Ashland and San Fran (we can call it that, because – though we once were – we’re no longer locals)  — we’d settled on Portland as the right place for us to try and make some roots.

School ended in June. Our rental lease ended in July. But we managed to fill a couple of months with gigs and travel so we didn’t plan to land in Portland until October. Instead of trying to move anywhere temporarily, we would live rent free and make do with gig housing, house sitting, couch surfing and camping. It would save us precious post-grad dollars and be a fun escapade.

So, we packed 90 percent of our belongings into a ‘POD’ and the remaining, carefully selected items would be part of our mobile living space. Items like clothing, a cooler, camp gear, books, laptops, important paperwork to help us with necessary paperwork when we arrived in our new city.

Originating point: Davis. Destination: Portland. In between, we intended to hit Berkeley, San Francisco, Blue Lake, Crater Lake, Ashland.

The adventure was a lot of fun. We stayed with a whole bunch of different friends and at different places. By the time we got to San Francisco we were starting to tire from living out of our car. But we were having a wonderful time staying with our good friends in the Glen Park neighborhood. They have a lovely house that happens to be on a busy thoroughfare, but we were able to park right in front (where they park their cars every single day). We did unload the main part of the car, but left a bunch of stuff — including all our camping gear and our most important paperwork like social security cards, passports, etc. — in the trunk. (You can probably see where this is headed.)

We met a bunch of friends at the bar for one last farewell, and the next morning, up at a reasonable hour, we showered and got ready to tackle the next leg. ‘Hmm. Our car was parked right out front, wasn’t it?’ A few moments of denial were quickly followed by a feeling of dread and slight sense of panic. I stared blankly at the space formerly known as our car’s parking spot. Matt walked up and down the street looking for our car, knowing full-well that he was not going to find our car. Yep. Stolen. Our tried and true Corolla was no longer in our possession.

To be continued …

 

 

Pics from NASA on The Commons

Not feeling like writing a bunch of words, so I thought I’d poke around some photos on The Commons at Flickr. These are some neat ones from NASA:

Engineers Check Body Revolution Model

Engineers Check Body Revolution Model July 31, 1957

Gemini Launch Pad watercolor

Gemini Launch Pad Artist: James Wyeth, 1964 Media: Watercolor on paper

Apollo 11, 1969

Apollo 11, 1969

Skylab, 1973-1979

Skylab, 1973-1979

First Image of Saturn and Titan

First Image of Saturn and Titan
August 31, 1979

Sunrise Suit Up mixed media

Sunrise Suit Up
Artist: Martin Hoffman, 1988
Mixed media

Astronaut Mae Jemison Working in Spacelab-J

Astronaut Mae Jemison Working in Spacelab-J
October 22, 1992

Phoenix Mars Lander, 2007-2008

Phoenix Mars Lander, 2007-2008

TV watching + 3 words

Eking a short one out tonight, despite being super tired and uninspired. Curse you NaBloPoMo …

Matt and I cut the cord a while back, but we still watch television shows on the interwebs. (I’ll write another post later on how we went about cutting the cord and how it’s working out.)

Here’s what we’re watching at the moment, plus three descriptive words:

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – Joss Whedon devotees.

Parks and Rec – My happy place.

Key and Peele – See yesterday’s post.

Castle – ‘Moonlighting’ for 2010s.

Warehouse 13 – Nerdier X-Files (Lite).

Hanging with the K & P

A friend posted recently about how much she loves Key and Peele. They are definitely among my favorite comics at the moment. So thrilled that they’re able to do their ridiculously smart comedy that plays in and around race politics with hilarious and astute style. I think the other reason I relate so well to their writing – especially Keegan-Michael Key who is almost exactly the same age as me (he’s 7 days older) and from the neighboring home state of Michigan – is because they nerd out about the same stuff I do. (Others I appreciate in this vein are Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Simon Pegg and Joss Whedon, but not many are tackling race as well as K & P.) Plus, I can see how their work is rooted in great improvisation. It’s what makes their comedy go beyond jokes into great stories and interesting characters.

Here are a few of my favorite clips:

A new vampire challenges the sexy vampire status quo

Dude can’t get a word in, even in song

Colorful code names causes offense amongst superheroes

Lots more from their show on the Comedy Central website, including full episodes.