Bonnie Shell's Life Stories

What aspects of having children didn't turn out the way you expected?

I have always loved children. I helped my Grandmother take care of my younger cousins when we stayed in Wisconsin during the summer. When I got married, my husband had four children from his previous marriage. When we built our house, we contacted a lawyer to see what our chances were of getting custody of his children. They were being abused and neglected by their mother. In the 70s it was difficult for a father to get custody no matter what the mother was or was not doing. By this time, she was on her third husband.

In 1980 the mother decided that her third husband would adopt the children. Seeing we were not getting visitation, John decided to give up his rights. Within a few months, I became pregnant. I was overjoyed. Not too many women at 40 would be that happy. On August 27, 1981, I gave birth to a happy little boy we named Andrew. For the next four years, we tried to add another child to our family to no avail.

At this point, we decided to look into adoption. John was 46, and I was 44, and Catholic Charities only offered us teenagers. We wanted a child closer in age to Andrew, so they could grow up together. We contacted Lutheran Social Services, and they were finding homes for foreign children, mostly from China and Korea. We qualified for the Korean program. We went to the meetings and filled out tons of paperwork.

In December of 1985, we went to Chicago's O'Hare airport to pick up our 6-year-old daughter who's name was Cho, Mee San. We later named her Sara Mee San.

In hindsight, I would not advise anyone to adopt a child without spending time with them first. I think Sara decided that she would not be happy no matter what we did. She was extremely stubborn, and if she could not get her way, she would go into a trans.

I did all I could to make her comfortable going to school. She did not speak English, so we kept her home for a few weeks to get her used to American customs and food. When she did start school, I drove her to school and stayed with her until she got engaged with a project and then came back to pick her up later. I showed her that her friends were going on the school bus, and then we would drive home, and she could see her friends go past our house and wave. Eventually, she was ready to take the bus to and from school.

Some people thought that Sara was taking out her hatred for her mother for abandoning her on me. Maybe. She was not a good student, and I tried very hard to help her as much as I could. Another problem we had with her was her lying. We paid for her college education and found out she was canceling classes and keeping the money, which she used to support her drinking problem. When we found out what she was doing, she packed her things and moved out. She has not contacted us in 20 years.

After we adopted Sara, we were contacted by Lutheran Services to do foster care. We did that for a few years and helped four little babies get a good start in life.

The mother of our last little one has kept in contact with us, and we got to visit with him several times. He is now 30 years old and is a very nice young man.

When Sara and Andrew were in the religious education program at our church, I volunteered to be a teacher. It was a job I really loved, and did it for 17 years.

We raised both Sara and Andrew with the same rules and values. Andrew grew up to be a very kind and successful young man. We are very proud of him.