Want to Adopt Someone Else’s Life Story?

It’s National Adoption Month. It’s also Thanksgiving. It was planned that way. If your heart hasn’t been touched lately, consider visiting a court for the finalization of an adoption. Imagine hearing a commissioner say, “I now pronounce you parents and child.” I’ve had that experience; just telling you that much about it, I have to cry again. I remember the way my older son insisted on carrying my younger one to the car, saying, “Now you’re my REAL little brother! REAL little brother! You’re my REAL, REAL, REAL little brother!” They still feel that way about each other.

You can’t convince me that there is any such thing as an unwanted child—only children who need help finding their families. If you have room for one more, or a sibling group, you might consider that. If you are expecting a baby before you planned to parent one, you might consider that as well. At our house, every day is Birth Mother Appreciation Day.

And naturally, because you read my blog for writing connections, you can’t think I’ve wandered away from my focus here. You know I’m on a mission to inspire you to write the story of your life, at least for your own perspective and your family’s heritage. Well, imagineLife Book program Arizonans for Children being a child who doesn’t know the whole story of your life. Imagine you have been in foster care, and you never knew all the details, and you have few or no photos or childhood art projects or school work. What then?

Volunteers are researching and creating Life Books for these children. For an agency in my area (Arizonans for Children), it requires a couple of hours a week for about six months. You need to pass a background check because you will be entrusted with case details. You will have templates to mail, requesting more details from people who have known the child, and you’ll usually have a partner on the project. It’s a healthy outlet for a scrapbooking fiend, but you don’t need those talents to begin. You only need to be willing to research, write, and care.

Text © Gwyn Nichols 2012. All rights reserved. WritersResort.com

Image: screenshot from Arizonans for Children’s Life Book Program page

Friday Flick: Two Brothers

Rick Stevenson filmmaker screenshot BYU TVFilmmaker Rick Stevenson vividly recalls certain observations he had in his childhood. (I LOVED his brilliant and candid introduction.) He was ambitious enough to follow over 60 children through 5000 days of their lives. This first documentary begins with six- and eight-year-old brothers. We watch as they outgrow their sibling upsets, become best friends, and grow into men. You have to suspect that being interviewed helps them live an examined, more fulfilling life.

This first one is dear to my heart because I’ve raised my sons in the same traditions, and because I’m raising sons in general, but I can’t wait to see the rest of these revealing and developing self-portraits. Storytelling means understanding our common humanity and our fascinating differences. It means being inspired by each other.

It’s a brilliant idea to borrow: capture your own growth and that of your young ones with a series of video interviews, perhaps as a birthday tradition. And it turns out that there’s even a private version of 5000 Days where you can upload video diaries as a time capsule, and later choose whether to submit them to the project.

The film will be available online for a little while here:


After that, you can find it here:


Here’s a sneak peek at a future project. Maybe you’ll be the angel to help complete it.



Text © Gwyn Nichols 2011. All rights reserved. WritersResort.com

Screenshot from BYU TV’s broadcast of Two Brothers

How to Succeed in American Business

Teaching in a multicultural environment often includes overtly explaining American business culture and helping students practice that language. For starters, there’s the direct eye contact, the body language, the smiling, the small talk, the willingness to let people know you’re accomplishing something–while not crossing the line into boasting.

In “Looking at the Bamboo Ceiling,” NPR’s Melissa Block and Michele Norris interviewed Wesley Yang, author of “Paper Tigers: What Happens to All Of The Asian-American Overachievers When the Test-taking Ends?” and Jane Hyun, author of Breaking The Bamboo Ceiling. Both write about “Asian-American students’ over-representation in almost every index of achievement in education . . .  and under-representation in corporate leadership.” They describe the adjustments they have made to be as successful in business as they were in the classroom. They’ve learned to share achievements, and to connect socially through the nonverbal cues.

Hyun tells the story of working on spreadsheets while a colleague seemed to waste a few minutes every day, chatting with the boss. Hyun’s background had taught her to put her nose down, work hard, all alone at her desk; no one taught her that building relationships would also matter.

Yang explains that in many places in the world, if you went around smiling all the time, “you’d be perceived not as a friendly person, but as a crazy one.” He finds it handy to use his “Asian poker face” at times, and jokes that he hasn’t learned to smile, but notes that “the United States has a different expectation, and if you don’t meet that expectation, there will in many cases be a barrier to trust and acceptance . . . your whole life on the basis of something that seems so trivial and . . . can be changed.”

Just as Americans need to learn new communication styles when they work internationally, many of our own students require bicultural fluency to be successful. I tell students from backgrounds where direct eye contact is considered rude that staring at someone’s nose looks exactly like eye contact without being quite as uncomfortable for them. And I encourage them to retain the gifts of their own cultures, and to continue to use their cultural nonverbal traditions at home, while learning to speak “American business” at work and school. These additional cultural ideas make all the difference in American career and social success:

  • The American business sense of time requires punctuality and a full day of work all day every day.
  • You’re required to communicate. If you can’t come in, or you’re going to be late, you call your boss and make a new agreement. You don’t wander off early without letting people know what’s happening. (You also take the loss on your timecard if you’re hourly, or let people know how you’ll make up the work if you’re on salary.)
  • When you make a mistake, you apologize and learn out how to correct it or improve next time. Neither ignoring a mistake nor treating a correction as an attack on your honor will help you work things out.
  • Smoking won’t entitle you to extra breaks and won’t be socially acceptable in most workplaces. According to a 2009 Center for Disease Control report, high school dropouts smoked at a rate of over 28%, while those with graduate degrees were down to 5.6%. Yes, that would probably be the toughest adjustment you could make, but you wouldn’t be the first person to quit, and every organ in your 60-year-old body would thank you.

All of these learned behaviors are challenging, but possible. If someone offered you an extra $10,000 a year, or $100K, would you do it? That’s the invitation. You are officially invited to the ball. Feel free to dress up, put on your American business manners, and shine.


Text © Gwyn Nichols 2011