This post is special and not because it’s the weekend, and I never post on weekends, but for the reasons you’re about to read on for…
My mom is one of the most incredible women I know. I don’t say that because I “have to” or because I am biased (okay, well maybe I am…), but I’m sure that anyone else who has the pleasure of knowing Gaylene, or as her students know her: Mrs. Martens, can attest to this. Growing up, I got to see a living example of a woman who embodied selflessness. My mom did and still does everything for her family and at times, it has even been to the detriment of her health and I’m sure sanity. (I’m honestly not sure how she survived the years where she had FOUR teenagers at once!!)
Being the mother of five children, it is obvious that my mom would need to be a high capacity/high performance woman. These two terms are often used to describe power-house-individuals in the corporate world, however, I truly believe that they can be and should be used to describe stay-at-home mothers as well. After earning her B.Ed and teaching for just one year, my mother was fortunate to have the option to be a full time stay-at-home mother when Adrian, the eldest, was born.
Despite being a “stay-at-home-mother” for 18 years, my mom was really never home. My mom somehow managed to volunteer in everyone of my sibling and I’s elementary classes, took us to all of our sports and music lessons, cubby/brownie club sessions, play dates, and even managed to co-run the Awana Club (bible verse memorizing club) at our church for over a decade, until all five of us successfully graduated. In addition, my mom volunteered at not one, but two, adoption organizations (IAFA and CAS), as she wanted encourage other parents of adopted children and make sure my little sister and I had a community of other adopted children to relate to growing up. AND, dinner somehow managed to always be ready by 5:30 p.m. each night. Whew! I am exhausted just thinking about all of that and I know that I probably missed a bunch of other responsibilities that she chose to add to her plate.
Growing up, my mom instilled several values into us children as she often had several phrases that she would repeat to reinforce the issue(s) at hand. As an adult now, I often catch myself saying these very same phrases and sounding just like my mother. (Funny how that happens and clearly, they worked!) One of the key traits that I acquired from my mom, as she always encouraged it while doing it herself, was to speak up whenever I felt like something was wrong. By demonstrating how powerful the voice of one person can be, my mom is another inspiration for this blog.
My mom’s heart for justice is moving and quite frankly, is one of the reasons why my sister and I were adopted in the first place. Seeing my mom’s heart break for others and her compassion has stayed with me throughout my childhood and into my adolescence. This too, is another reason why I am so passionate about wanting to fight the social injustices of our world, particularly when it comes to vulnerable women and children. Taking it a step further, my mom is also a woman of action. That is, she does not just sit on her couch and cry at the World Vision commercials on TV and then move on with life… She actually does something about it. I could list all of my mom’s humanitarian acts, however, my mom and dad are literally two of the most humble people I know, and ironically, it would actually be a disservice to both of them.
Mother’s Day time each year always had a second reason to celebrate in the Martens’ family, and that was my little sister’s and I’s adoption anniversary (starting at different years). That’s right, for those who just assumed I missed all of the Mennonite genes, turns out my adoption is the actual reason for my asian appearance.
Having been adopted in May of 1996, this year marks my 20th adoption anniversary IF my STATS 252 skills serve me correctly (cred goes to UVic prof Dr. Jill Simmons)! Coming to Shanghai was definitely not planned around my adoption anniversary, however, when it dawned on me that exactly 20 years later, I would be going back to Shanghai (which is very close to my birth city of Changshu), I couldn’t help but smile at how my life was coming to a full circle.
So with this very special milestone of 20 years, I wanted to take the opportunity to make a tribute to my parents and share my adoption story. Truth be told, I don’t talk about my adoption that much. Growing up, people already “just knew” and I didn’t have to explain why I didn’t have an asian-sounding last name. In addition, I’ve always been fairly casual about my adoption as it was never an emotional topic for me. Now that I am older, I do get a bit emotional when I think about the love my parents had/still have for me and that they went as far as to travel half way around the world to give me an incredible new life. However, the fact that I grew up with a family that was not biologically my own was not a big deal as the way I see it, I have siblings that are not (too) annoying, a mom and dad who love me unconditionally, and they are the ones who raised/moulded me into the woman I am today. End of story. I have no sense of identity loss as my parents we extremely good about embracing my adoption and never kept it a secret (although, I’m sure I would’ve put 2 & 2 together…). That’s always a question that I try not to laugh-out-loud at when people ask me: “so when did your parents tell you that you were adopted?…”.
Another prompting that I had to make this video and share it publicly was when my good friend Lauren, who should have known my adoption story (having been friends since the 8th grade), did not. In addition, after responding the way I did (see below), I felt a bit of conviction that I should have taken Lauren’s request more seriously, as my natural response to reply with humour and sarcasm completely discredited how incredible my parents are.
Despite being 2 and a half when I was adopted, I have absolutely no memories of my orphanage and my first few memories begin living in Sandringham Court. To this day, I believe that after matching me with the Martens, this was God’s second biggest blessing to me.
So enjoy watching this very special video and make sure to watch it in HD! (: I hope that through it, you are able to see how remarkable my parents are. It still does not do them justice – as that would require a several-hour documentary – but it simply provides a snap shot of the love I received and still receive to this day.
Before I leave off, I also want to share that another reason that I thought it was important to put a pretty personal thing “out there”, is to hopefully speak not only for myself, but on behalf of several other adopted children.
So often, the adoption content on the internet is coming from the perspective of the adoptee’s parents. They talk about how blessed they feel to have been chosen to be their adopted child’s mother or father and the joy their child has brought to their lives.
Coming from an adopted child, the truth is, WE are the ones who are truly blessed and there are literally no words that I could write here or say in the video to convey the impact that you have made in our lives.
So to all the adopted parents out there, THANK-YOU for making the decision to love a child who is not biologically yours and seeing beyond the genetics. Thank-you for going through the resource-demanding process of adoption (especially for international adoption!). Thank-you for loving your child when they don’t always show their appreciation or potentially even some feelings of resentment.
YOU are the true heroes of this world, you literally have saved us.
I also want to thank you, the e31. community, for getting to this point of this very long post and for taking the time to learn more about the girl behind this blog.
Until next time, work hard and be nice to people!
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