November 4, 2019

All You Can Ever Know Book Review

Seeded in all of us is the desire to know, to chase after facts, and to grow in knowledge of the world around us while discovering who we are. Adoptees are no different; in fact, their quest to find answers is even more profound at times, and in the memoir All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung, she dives deep into her wish to know the story about her adoption. 

In the very first few chapters, Nicole tells us about her background. Adopted as an infant, she never knew anything but what her parents chose to tell her, which to her frustration, wasn’t very much. With these shreds of information, she attempts to find her place as the only Korean in her little town. However, when she goes to college, she meets like-minded people and fellow Koreans, feeling for the first time in her life, that answers were within her reach. 

But not until she’s pregnant with her own child, does something truly stir inside of her. The seedling of fascination from her youth was plaguing her, and when her child was old enough to ask questions, she wanted to be able to answer them. After a few weeks of consideration, she takes the leap of faith and hires an adoption intermediary to gain access to files that hold the names of her birth family.

It turned out that the picture-perfect ideal she imagined as a girl was faded into a harsher reality. But as Chung reflects, she shares about how learning about her past made her realize that adoption isn’t black and white, right or wrong. It’s an intricate web of emotions, and there’s no exact way to go about it. One of my favorite quotes that truly encaptures her journey is this: “Today, when I’m asked, I often say that I no longer consider adoption—individual adoptions, or adoption as a practice—in terms of right or wrong. I urge people to go into it with their eyes open, recognizing how complex it truly is; I encourage adopted people to tell their stories, our stories, and let no one else define these experiences for us.”  

To say this book is eye-opening would be an understatement. As an Asian adoptee myself, I connected with her stories of not fitting in and how she imagined a different reality where she was with her birth family. Chung shared her deepest, most secret thoughts and they made me look at my own story differently. For example, I’ve never been against the prospect of finding my birth family, but I’ve never thought about what would happen if I actually did. After reading this, I sat down and journaled my thoughts, and realized that I do want to try to get those answers, but not immediately. Something unique about this story is that she spends her whole life wondering, but doesn’t act upon it as soon as she can. She waits, and even spends time considering if she wants to, which emphasizes that it’s okay for adoptees to be hesitant and to take their time because it’s not always about having answers, but rather it’s about being emotionally ready for those answers.  

As much as I loved the candidness of this book, it felt rather cynical at times. I realize that I am not always the most optimistic person, but in this book, especially in the beginning, I felt like Chung’s views on adoption were one-sided, which might may have developed because she had no exposure to people like her. Despite this reasoning, it made the first few chapters difficult to read because I didn’t agree with her frame of mind. Adoption isn’t inherently good or bad, it’s a beautiful mix of both, and with all the negativity surrounding this subject, I think it is important to weigh both sides of the coin. 

Altogether, there is a reason this book was nominated for awards such as being a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiography, was named a Best Book of the Year by the Washington Post, and is one of the most popular memoirs to date. It was groundbreaking in the adoption world, unapologetically outspoken, yet held together by a subdued voice, longing to be heard. Even though there were parts of this book I didn’t agree with, this is a book I would highly recommend to any adoptee who has a desire to learn about their roots. 

October 4, 2019

The Length of a String Book Review

Just how far can our roots connect us to our past, how does our DNA shape us, and how far is the length of a string? In the book, The Length of a String, by Elissa Brent Weissman, we meet Imani, a Jewish girl who’s nearing her bat mitzvah. She knows what gift she wants: the chance to find her birth family. Living as a person of color in a predominantly white community is rough, and Imani wants answers to the questions she has about her birth parents.

When Imani’s grandmother dies, Imani and her brother Jaime are left all her books. While sorting through them, Imani finds an old journal, dating back to the Holocaust times. As she reads through the journal with her best friend Madeline, she finds out that her grandmother’s story is similar to her own and reevaluates what the word “family” truly means. 

I quickly found myself falling in love with this story and Imani. Many authors don’t understand that while adoption can bring up hard questions and be the spark for self-discovery, adoption isn’t by definition horrible and depressing. Author Weissman, in my opinion, accurately wrote Imani, who despite having a loving family, wants to know more about her roots, which I closely relate to. This story shows that there’s not always one right way to handle something, but there can be many wrong ways. Finding out who you are isn’t always easy, and what you think you want isn’t always what is needed. This is a book I would highly recommend for both adoptees and non-adoptees. Imani is a great, well-written character, the story is well developed, and the journey to self-discovery is one every person can relate to, even if they are not adopted.

September 26, 2019

Find Me Movie Review

Here's my second movie review!

Find Me Movie Review:

There’s something so special about hearing someone’s adoption story. It’s personal and intimate, and in the documentary Find Me, directed by husband and wife duo Dave and Kathi Peters, we get the rare chance to follow several families whose lives have been changed by adoption.

The first family we meet are the LeSeur’s, good friends of the Peters, who bring a camera with them to China to film the adoption. Watching Hayley, the little girl, get adopted is heartwarming, but only moments later do we see her nanny crying in the hallway. Something so unique about this documentary is that we get to see the nanny that took care of Hayley for almost three years, a perspective that is not addressed often.

When the LeSeur's arrive back, they sit down with the Peters to share their story, and the group quickly decides to return to China, and and try to locate their daughter’s “finding place,” the place where children are left, usually with blankets and a note. While they planned their trip to China, Michael Rottina, an advocate for a Chinese orphanage, called them, asking them to help him by raising awareness to the many orphans of a recently flooded orphanage.

Along the way, we meet two other families, the Greens, and Zimmermans, who both end up being in China at the same time. The Greens are a family of ten, seven of them have special needs, and that is what parents Jeremy and Christianne say make them a family. Merle and Kim Zimmerman are heading to China at the same point to adopt their eighth child, Lucy, who suffered from a condition called Congenital Vertical Talus. From the point of an outsider looking in, it’s incredibly powerful to see the moment where you meet your newest family member, and this film documented these moments perfectly.

Because the focal point of this documentary is to showcase the families, the filming is far from perfect, and oftentimes moments sound over-scripted. I was able to overlook most of these occasions because I was so encaptured by the content. Overall, this film was a candid and touching showcase of both the challenges and beauty that comes along with adoption.

For more information visit these sites: 

September 6, 2019

Somewhere Between Movie Review

Recently I've been exploring more resources for adoptees, and I wanted to share my thoughts with you. I hope you'll check them out for yourself!

Somewhere Between Movie Review:

Every day, people question who they are, and in the documentary Somewhere Between, directed by Linda Goldstein Knowlton, four Chinese adoptees are no different, struggling to make sense of their blurry past, and create an identity for themselves despite facing the harsh reality that they don’t have all the answers. Released in 2011 and starring Ann Boccuti, Haley Butler, Jenna Cook, and Fang "Jenni" Lee, we see the four dive into their pasts and try to make sense of their beginnings. Rarely, will you find such a candid and poignant documentary about adoption, yet in many places, I found myself wishing they would go more in depth into the emotions that each girl was feeling. In spite of this, it made a point to dive into each girl’s life, and we are able to watch as they travel to China, while seeing how each girl’s unique trip helped them grow in understanding. Due to the very nature of this documentary, the filming is not the main focus, but it does have moments where the transitions don’t always feel the most natural. Overall, this is a great resource for adoptees and non-adoptees alike as it addresses feelings of guilt, abandonment, and loss, but then shows how each girl matures in who she is while arriving at very different conclusions and coming to closure at different rates. 

August 2, 2019

Gotcha Day

It’s crazy to think that I’ve been adopted for 11 years - how is that even fathomable? To celebrate, we joined my best friend’s family on their uncle’s island. Both my friend and I were adopted on the same day, so we do Gotcha Day together. We went to see a lighthouse, took a hike, played a few games, and ate a lot! 

My Gotcha Day is probably my favorite day of the year. Even though we celebrate my birthday, my Gotcha Day has more significance in my eyes because it’s a day that celebrates and honors not just my adoption, but the miracle of adoption. On this day, we honor my heritage and past; we tell stories and my friend, sister, and I get a gift that is usually from China. 

I think Gotcha Day has certainly helped me embrace my adoption. Not only is my adoption remembered and acknowledged, but it is cherished, and I think that is important. In many adoptees’ blogs and confessions, they felt like their adoptions were pushed under the rug. Having a Gotcha Day doesn’t make me feel like an outcast, but rather it makes me feel like it’s okay to address adoption, it’s not supposed to be “hush-hush”. Even though I didn’t come from the womb, the way I entered my family’s life is important, valid, and beautiful. 

There’s a lot of controversy when it comes to Gotcha Day. And to some adoptees, this day reminds them of how much they don’t know about their past, or what they could be missing from not being with their biological families. And while I do agree that sadness can sprout from this, many times it’s not the day or term “Gotcha” that is the problem, but rather it is more of how the day is presented and what is being focused on. For me, my stories are sweet ones about my first days, my first words, and how I did my dad’s hair up in little girl clips. Many families choose to focus completely on the past, before they were adopted, and emphasize the fact that the adoptee is no longer there anymore. I can understand why they would feel upset, but what if we didn’t focus on that? 

This day represents love, birth, and new beginnings, and while many people don’t see it this way, I think sometimes they seem to forget the entire meaning of Gotcha Day. Adoption is a miracle and a blessing just like a birthday, and that’s what we’re celebrating. 

Another reason why I love my Gotcha Day is that it is a set date and time. My family doesn’t have a set date or time for my birthday, just what the Chinese gave them, so having a solid date is important to me. Many other international adoptees share this sentiment, as many foreign countries do not bother to gather exact dates, so having an exact time is in some ways, feels like security.  

In the end, it’s up to the adoptee and the family, but despite what many people say, Gotcha Days can be honored positively. With many cases, it is simply the perspective of which you have. As for myself personally, I will keep on celebrating my Gotcha Day because it’s helping me grow in my adoption story.

July 5, 2019

Meeting Nadine

Remember my Just In Time for Christmas post? I wanted to give you all a little update on what’s going on. Nadine, the little girl, has been in the states for five months and is adjusting beautifully. She’s been happily exploring her new home and loves the family dog, Wrangler. 

In May, we got to meet Nadine at our church. The funny thing is that we weren’t going to go to church since we had stayed up late to pick my brother up from the airport. But then, at the last moment, we changed our minds and rushed out to church. In the middle of the service, my mom nudged and gestured towards where Nadine was dancing happily to the worship music. 

Nadine dancing to the music reminded me of a story my mom told me. When I was just adopted, I went to church for my very first time and very quickly I became comfortable and started to dance to the music. Seeing Nadine doing the same thing and being able to experience her joy, that is something that I’m never going to forget.

After the service, I got to meet Nadine and take her around the church, even playing on the keyboard with her! I felt so happy when she took my hand because even though she was dragging me through the church, I got to be with her. I was so delighted that Nadine has adjusted so well, smiling like crazy, and already so close to her parents! 

Even though Nadine has no realization of who I am, I felt so ecstatic because I knew that God let me play a small role in her story. I also felt so glad that she was comfortable with me, and I’m really excited to see the whole family again! 

So I just wanted to give you this update and thank you all for praying for this family’s journey and ask you to continue to do so. I’ll try to keep you in the loop on how Nadine’s doing, and how she’s growing into a young lady of God. 

May 12, 2019

Real Mom?

“Real Mom?” This is a weird term that I’m not sure I agree with. I’ve been pondering these two words for about a month, and I just don’t feel like this is a fair phrase. I do have two moms, but I have never called either one of them my “real mother” because each one has shaped me into who I am today. Frankly, calling one of them my “real mom” feels like I am neglecting my other mom.
When you look up mother in the dictionary, the first definition is a female parent which, in my opinion, leaves a lot of room for our own interpretation. In fact, this explanation doesn’t say anything about genes, biology, or even about raising a child.
My adoptive mother is the one who flew on a plane all the way to China. She has taught me right from wrong and has been my teacher for most of life. When I was little, she used to pick out my outfits, and now that I am older, she’s helping me grow in my journey with God. It’s been almost 11 years, and a lot of who I am is because of her.
On the other hand, my birth mother gave me life. I have half of her genes, and I probably look a lot like her. But ultimately, she made the heart-wrenching sacrifice; she gave me up, so that I could get the medical help I needed to stay alive. Even though I don’t remember her, I still love her.
Today is Mother’s Day, and this is why I am writing this blog post. I recently read a children’s book entitled, “You’re Not My REAL Mother!” In this book, the little girl told her adoptive mother that she wasn’t her “real mother”, and then, the mother, throughout the story, proceeded to prove of how she was her “real mother” based on her loving actions. However, I did not agree with the mom’s perspective on these two words. In all honesty, everyone has to come up with their own conclusions on how they will view their families.
Nonetheless, the reason I don’t like this term is because of the word real. The antonym of real is fake, false, or imitation. So, basically, I perceive this as calling one mom a “real mom,” which, to me, is indirectly calling the other one false.
To me, both mothers could be considered real because both have made sacrifices, but just in two very distinct ways. Both of them are real, genuine people who have proved their love in different ways. And I don’t think the title has to belong to just one mother.
I am not trying to stir up any disagreements about the term “real mom”.  And, I also realize that my point of view could change, but for right now, I will avoid using the term “real mother” because I don’t feel that it is the most fitting phrase. Happy Mother’s Day to both of my moms!

March 10, 2019

Loving My Scars

I’ve heard that all scars tell a story and that every scar shows us something we’ve overcome. It’s taken me a long time to realize just how true this is. I never saw my scar on my arm as anything but an imperfect mark on my skin. I always felt slightly insecure about it, as it has always reminded me of my past and my fear of extreme heat.

When I was younger, my mom would tell me that someday, when I was older, we could look into methods that would hide my scar. I’m going to be honest here; there were times when I really wanted this. In the summer, when I would wear a tank-top or go to dance with a sleeveless leotard, people would ask questions. I know they were just curious, and I really couldn’t blame them for inquiring, but it really did bother me. In my little girl mind, having to tell people multiple times that I didn’t know how it happened was the most embarrassing thing.

Now, I look back and see things differently because my embarrassing moments have been far worse. More importantly, my perspective on my scar has changed; half the time, I don’t even realize it’s there. It’s gone from being this imperfection on my skin to being a “battle scar.” It shows where I’ve been and how far I’ve come and now it’s starting to fade. Now, people don’t notice it as much, and I rarely get questioned about it.

One night, when I was trying to sleep, I suddenly realized that I didn’t want my scar to fade. This thought literally put my whole brain on halt for three seconds, which is beyond rare. I spent most of my life wishing it would fade, but now? I want my scar to stay as long as it will. Now, that I’m getting older, I see this mark as a part of who I am.

I know my parents would be supportive if I wanted to do something cosmetically to fade or get rid of the scar. But, as much as I wanted to when I was younger, I couldn’t bring myself to do it today. It’s more than a scar to me: it’s part of my journey and my story. And, the scar is the one thing I still have from China, and it’s one of the blessings I’ve been given.

January 5, 2019

Just In Time For Christmas!

Here’s to a belated Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! This season truly reminds us of all our blessings, doesn’t it? This week, I was blessed, humbled, and amazed to be a small part of an ongoing adoption process.

Two years ago, when my book The Newest Flower was still in the publishing process, my mom and I were planning a book presentation at our church. The day before we were to present, our pastor postponed our presentation for one week later.  Of course, we were both a tad bothered by this because we had stayed up late the night before planning our presentation.
Little did we know that the following week a very special couple were visiting from Wisconsin. When my mom and I went up, I shared a little bit about my own story, and how adoption was close to my heart. This testimony blessed this couple to the point that they came and spoke to my mom at the five minute break. They told her how much my story had moved them and how they had considered adoption but were hesitant.

Later, at the end of the church service, my mom felt led to tell them how we were scheduled to present the week before, but our pastor had cancelled at the last minute. As the tears fell from this couple, we all knew that this was not a coincidence!

Two years later, this couple came home for the holidays--one of the rare times we saw them at our church. They came up to my mom and showed her a picture of a beautiful little girl that they are adopting from China in March!

Honestly, this is one of the best gifts I’ve ever received! I’m still trying to wrap my brain around how great God is. He used one little presentation to give this little girl a story of redemption and a family.

I hope this story makes you smile and realize just how amazing adoption can be. I hope that you will join me and pray for this family as they embark on this journey.

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