how YOU can support the Be Seen Project

Thank you to everyone who's been showing up with your reaching out to find out ways to help support the Be Seen Project! Even though we are still in the scrappy, grassroots beginning, I have a clear vision for how I hope to advance this work.

Here is how you can help:

  • Follow and share about the Be Seen Project. I'm proud of the larger impact this little platform is having already and I am devoted to creating brave community for BIPOC artists, makers and activists, sharing our work, gathering resources and telling our stories @beseenproject
  • Support our amazing initiatives. As the BSP platform continues to grow and more BIPOC activism/craftivism projects are featured, you can use your creative superpowers to knit, sew, paint, write and literally *make* a difference.
  • Share your work and resources. Host a conversation with me about the project. Become an official Sponsor or part of our Cohort (hit reply for details). Host a fundraiser. Offer your time, your skills, your goods or your platform to help raise awareness and elevate voices that need to be heard. There are a million creative ways you can put your talents to work - let's collaborate!
  • Wear a mask and protect BIPOC lives. Red Masks as part of the #redmaskproject are finally available via donation thanks to our amazing team of volunteer sewers!

  • DONATE to help us reach our phase two goal of funding micro grants for artists work as activists!

  • Refer a BIPOC artist or maker. Know an inspiring person of color creating impactful work in the world or who has an important story to tell? Please do connect us!
Sometimes it's easier to roll up our sleeves and dive into the work rather than to try to figure out the "right" things to do or say. We all have the ability to start exactly where we are with what we have - I know this because it is exactly where I am on my journey too. I am learning and listening and fighting right alongside you.

Join me. Help lift artists and makers doing brave work that is changing our world. We can not do it alone. ♥

coming out of the fog

I lived most of my life completely disembodied, so much so, that when I would walk by a mirror I’d often be surprised to see an Asian person staring back at me. It wasn’t that I hated my body in that way we are taught to by diet culture to lament our fat and imperfections (also part of our larger system oppression, btw, and I later struggled with this too). I simply felt no connection to my body at all - a kind of dysphoria without any language or understanding - and often longed to be white. It’s taken decades to finally begin to decolonize myself from whiteness and to see, understand, and inhabit my identity as a Korean woman. Adoptees often refer to this as “coming out of the fog”.

Last night I was on a call with over 300 other transracial adoptees of all different races, examining and sharing about our unique positioning in supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. I realized that our narratives are also our unique superpower, as we’ve been navigating the nuanced and difficult complexities between race our whole lives. Thanks Also Known As and April Dinwoodie for hosting, and to the incredible panelists who shared their wisdom and truth. 

AND I just want 10 minutes of fabulousness in this dress!

love inside the gap

{photo my friend Jeff took and sent to me while living in S. Korea, 
Buddha's birthday celebration}

I didn't intend for a month to go by without writing in this space. It certainly was not for any lack of things to say or share. There's just been so much, so so much... and I have been trying to tease apart and process the many layers of thoughts, emotions and events over the last month, especially the last two weeks, into something coherent and wise. 

A global health crisis alongside my birth family search and the reintegration of my Korean identity against a world-altering racial pandemic, all feel tied together in some important way that I am still trying to fully understand. 

Some parts I can see so clearly. The way history, war, devastation, colonization, patriarchy and oppression have created conditions for some really painful truths in my life distilled down through generations into the inner workings of my individual relationships. I am constantly working through the macro inside the micro, yet knowing this and recognizing what's at play does not make it any easier to root out or any less painful. 

{the cards I pulled for this moon cycle}

I'm reconciling many difficult truths: that my birth family left me behind not once, but twice (so it turns out); how the unaddressed racial divide between my parents and I feels like an ocean between us - something I have experienced my whole life as sadness and aloneness and not enough-ness, and have not been able to name until this racially confronting moment while also deep in my listening to other adoptee narratives; the way a cultural gap so global and widespread effects how I move through every space and every relationship in every day of my life, and how because of this grief and separateness becomes a constant burden of daily living which at many times in my early life felt like too much to bear. 

It feels more clarifying than overwhelming, this perfect storm of circumstances, and it is giving me answers in real-time at a depth that I'm sure I would not have been able to access any other way. I have so much more compassion and understanding for all I (we) have lived through, and I am gaining a clearer understanding of how I want and need to show up in the world. Yes it is messy and painful, but it also feels like the most honest lens through which I have ever look at my life, and there is so much strength and healing in fully embracing the truth. 

What I also want to share is that I believe love is still the answer. LOVE the verb, not the emotion, as actions that have the power to build bridges of intimacy and heal communities should we be brave enough to choose it. 

How we love inside the gap, matters. 

{Portsmouth Music Hall}

Red Mask Project


A community craftivism initiative making handmade RED masks in support of anti-racism 

♥ RED for visibility of racism as a virus and public health crisis

♥ RED to STOP violence towards black and brown people

 RED for blood spilled and lives lost, but not forgotten

♥ RED for revolutionary action as LOVE

Make a mask. Wear a mask. Share a mask.

GET SCRAPPY! Use what you have in your stash to make your mask - an old t-shirt, leftover fabric, hair-tie elastics or ribbon work as ear loops.

If you'd like to buy supplies, please shop your local BIPOC or indie owned and allied store to source your red fabric and supplies. Small business are hurting right now and we can vote with our dollars who to support!

GATHER HERE in Cambridge, MA, POC and queer owned, has been leading the mask-making charge here in the Boston area and has solid red fabric in stock, as well as these four prints (below).

FANCY TIGER CRAFTS in Denver, CO, always outspoken about social justice issues, is carrying red fabric for your masks as well.

We are also looking for sewers to make masks! If you wish to help from wherever you are, please do get in touch!

Finished Red Masks and mask-making kits are also coming for those who don't sewall proceeds donated to #BlackLivesMatter.

Please contact organizer, Mindy Tsonas, to help and for details 
(via IG @mindytsonas or at mindytsonas at gmail dot com)

L to R:  Plus, Spark, Cross Hatch and Tracks

be seen project

In the spirit of imperfect, un-produced beginnings, yesterday I took the first step to finally get my Be Seen Project out into the world. Instead of an official polished 'Launch', I opted for a more honest grassroots initiation, getting our IG platform up in lights. I hope to create more visibility for artists and activists of color and our intersectional identities and narratives, including the #paperlanternluminaries which will specifically highlight the diverse diaspora of Asian American and Pacific Island artists and activists (hooray!). 

Here's to creating revolutionary love - the kind that takes action for social justice, anti-racism and equity!

Building this network and community feels so so good, like the exact antidote to something my heart is really longing for these days especially with all that's going on in the world. Head on over to follow, support, and be inspired by some pretty rad folx! I'm not sure where this will all lead, but I know for sure it's time for me to be in this work.

family practicum in social distancing

Step 1:  head to a favorite outdoor spot where you can maintain at least 6' distance

Step 2:  pack masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, as well as snacks and water from home 

Step 3:  wear said mask on busy sidewalks with other people around you walking, biking, running

Step 4:  do your best to not touch anything but your own people and things 
(extra hugs are recommended)

Step 5:  say, "Sorry, no." - even though you feel badly - when someone asks to toss the football around with you

Step 6:  commune with the wind and the waves, the sunshine and the seagulls, and breathe.

Step 7:  collect treasures and sweet and joyful moments

Step 8:  carry out all your own trash and recycling so other's don't have to

Step 9:  wash hands upon returning home

Step 10:  be grateful for beautiful afternoons with people you love

everything side by side

Life is always about living inside the AND, but these days I feel like I'm in-between these disparate dichotomies more acutely than usual.

There is so much beauty and kindness and inspiration all around me and ugly things about our social systems continue to come to light.

People are showing up to help one another in such amazing ways and I grow wearier by the day of the privileged platitudes "We are all one" and "We are all in this together", which is the new spiritual bypass equivalent of "I don't see color". 

My brother goes to work every day in a hospital full of covid patients and as of two weeks ago he tested negative, but I still worry about him every single day with egzema on my right arm as evidence.

We have everything we need in this moment and there are concerns about a future that is now much more uncertain. 

As a community we are staying connected and innovating new ways of communing and gathering and in some prettyy significant ways I feel much less a part of a certain kind of togetherness.

My kids are showing great resilience in the grand scheme of things and they are also struggling to still show up.

I'm encouraged by watching Alex run his school from our kitchen table, making care packages for his students, brainstorming with his teachers and staff and this online learning is complete and utter bullsh*t.

Staying home, the four of us together, highlights all the ways we are supported and connected and it also reveals our abundance of human flaws and limitations.

There are days I want to fall into the safe arms of my family and there are moments I need to get in my car and just get the hell outta dodge. 

I realize I've collected so many good tools over the years for coping and self care and regulation and  sometimes that all goes out the window (which may look like too much sleeping, eating in ways that I know my body doesn't like, staying inside, not creating/writing/showing up, having a drink at the end of a hard day, negative self talk, guilt and shame). 

Sometimes I'm am able to easily roll with all the ups and downs and other moments all I can do is simply give in and let my grief have me.

There are special occasions to celebrate and meaningful milestones to mark and we can't quite make plans or be together with those we love.

I've got meaningful projects to work on, seeds to plant, things to make and I'm seeing so many other things coming to an end and falling apart.

There is sadness, anger, uncertainty, inequity and there is joy, love, compassion and hope.

It's everything in the wild, grand spectrum of this hard and beautiful life.


Happy Full Flower Moon! I think it is day 62 of our stay-in -place, but honestly I'm having a hard time keeping count and also wondering what would actually be the change that would mark the date when I would stop counting? It seems we are on the slow path to a more global and significant shift, more than just pressing the pause button on our "normal" day to day life. At least, that is my hope.

Sonya Renee Taylor says it so well - and if you haven't read her book (she's got a new one out for girls too), it's a good time to grab them:
"We will not go back to normal. Normal never was. Our pre-corona existence was not normal other than we normalized greed, inequity, exhaustion, depletion, extraction, disconnection, confusion, rage, hoarding, hate and lack. We should not long to return, my friends. We are being given the opportunity to stitch a new garment. One that fits all of humanity and nature."

I've been spending a lot of time in cemeteries. There are three right in walking distance from my house. It is peaceful and contemplative, and the light is beautiful there. I walk. I sit. I listen. I let grace wash over me. I'm thinking a lot about death, both the stories of those actually behind the statistics we hear about every day (and their families and loved ones who are left behind), as well as the bigger philosophical one we are all in right now. Endings and beginnings, season and cycles, portals and doorways are all around if you look.

Recently, I listened to Grace Bonny's podcast about the closing of Design Sponge and Good Company. There were so many good takeaways in that discussion about making work as a creative that is also aligned to our values, and the difficulty of keeping those dreams viable and afloat in a world where capitalism forces artists to become scalable and also holds most of the power. Another great perspective I read was Tavi Gevinson's final post on her Rookie community site, which she shut down for similar reasons after years of grassroots success. The through line was, both women could not sustain the kind of creative community they wanted and believed in (diverse, feminist, nuanced, and not necessarily appealing to the masses, yet so meaningful and important), and expand their impact and reach without sacrificing their vision to the patriarchal corporate machine. Something in that formula doesn't ever seem to add up. And, we all have to somehow make a living.

I'm thinking about all of this as I'm poised to build something new... something along the lines of giving up 'likes' to gain more Truth, and letting go of popularity for integrity. These are very different definitions of "success". And, we all have to make a living. 

So I am mulling over the idea of (r)evolution, as a friend put it so perfectly in a note to me the other day, sitting quietly smack in the middle of my own.

the truth about belonging

"The truth is the truth. Rarely pure and never simple."  ~ Oscar Wilde

May has arrived like a prophesy, a kind of epic invitation to choose what comes next.

Two nights ago I had a very rare and very vivid death dream. The terror of the dream was not so much the fear of dying, but the inevitability of it and the acute recognition of the impending loss of everything I've ever known. There was something coming for me on the other side of the door, and my hands pressed it closed for just a second longer. I felt something close to acceptance wash over me just before the final moment. Right then, my consciousness seeped in to wake me. My heart was pounding, but slowly the intensity of the feelings softened into something more steady and recognizable... I'm about to leave an old version of me behind. I've dreamt of doorways in pivotal moments before.

This essay by Arundhati Roy which I first encountered via Kerri Kelly a couple weeks ago, has also been swirling through my head ever since. It's a beautifully heartbreaking piece and worth the read. More to the point, it's a poignant call to action.
"Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. 
We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it."

I'm standing in the doorway of my portal, and the false constructs I built my life upon are starting to fall away.

Last week I resigned from the Embody Love Movement board.

It was one of those decisions that was both a bit terrifying yet wholly liberating, bringing me closer to what's true and also further away from what has always felt safe and familiar as I reimagine my work from the ground up.

What is undeniable for me now is, my identity and sense of belonging are no longer tied to whiteness. 

While this may seem like a simple or even obvious statement to someone who hasn't walked in my shoes and just sees an Asian person from the outside, I can tell you it is no small revelation. This idea disrupts everything I once believed and strived for. Which is to say, I now see so clearly how my entire life has been lived in search of acceptance and belonging inside of whiteness and white spaces -- and even more distilled down to its core and heart-wrenching truth was my fear that not belonging to whiteness ultimately meant I did not belong to my own family.

I've made a comfortable home and life inside spaces upheld by dominant white narratives. As a Korean adoptee, it was my only path forward. My life actually depended on it. But over the last decade or so I began to reclaim myself piece by piece. Inside circles of like-minded women, I started excavating and putting back together all the marginalized parts I had hidden away in order to blend in with the masses. It's so strange that the biggest missing piece was also the most visible one - my Asian identity. But it also makes complete sense, as it was the one part of me that I have always believed threatened my belonging the most.

Beginning the search for my Korean birth family has more fully integrated what has long been silenced and missing.

So today I am wondering with a wide-open heart, what would it be like if I chose to defect from the dominant culture of whiteness to lean in and center my own multifaceted identity? What if I stopped trying to educate, integrate, diversify, change and lead from inside whiteness (realizing, of course, I/we will always live inside the greater cultural narrative of whiteness). What would it feel like to bring my work and passions to a space that actually reflects what I look like and upholds who I am?

Last spring, I left my all white yoga studio even though I loved the community there. It was the beginning of this iteration, this new alignment within my own body where my insides finally were starting to match my outsides. I needed to be surrounded by other brown/queer/non-normative people. Now, a year further along on my journey and feeling even more sturdy and complete in my own skin, I feel even less inclined to bend and collapse myself to fit into spaces that only mirror partial aspects of who I am and require me to abandon the rest. This essay by Rachael Rice unabashedly names how "sisterhoods" and (white) women's spaces are problematic in this and other ways. I urge you to read it even if it's uncomfortable - especially if it's uncomfortable - and consider its message as well.

The difficult truth about belonging is that it is not about being welcomed and invited through the door.

Real belonging hinges on the intersection of cultural systems, deeply rooted social beliefs and individual location upheld by invisible lines of access. You can not create true belonging without dismantling all oppressive systems within, which is impossible to do. This is true within all communities and groups, large and small, no matter how intentionally and with love and kindness they are created. It is true inside my own family. There are ways I will never belong, that I am not meant to (I realize now), which also does not make me any less beloved.

Belonging is also never all or nothing. It is as complex and nuanced as each one of us are as individuals - it touches every part of our identity born through our unique experiences.

After a lifetime of needing to belong to/with/for others, I'm considering for the first time in my life what my own meaningful definition of belonging is.

Last Friday, I bought a URL.

Back in 2015, I shared the first inklings about my Be Seen Project in this post. I knew it would be about sharing marginalized voices but I didn't quite yet know how or what or why, as there were pieces of myself I still needed to reclaim. I'm much closer to knowing what it is meant to become.

As all of this percolates and integrates, and you think about what your own initiation into this next phase of life might might be, I will leave you with this:

"We don't get to chose what is true. We only get to choose what we do about it." -- from the Beautiful Creatures series I'm currently reading.

The shape of our world is certainly waiting for what we choose to do next <3

the first few weeks of my search

Here's what I know to begin (the true story of my relinquishment):
  • I was left at SOS Children's Village in Daegu, S. Korea on July 21, 1972 around 7pm
  • Local police escorted me to White Lily Orphanage (that evening?)
  • I left the orphanage and was sent home (?) on August 4th and was sent back two days later
  • August 23, I was sent to Holt Children's Services in Seoul (second orphanage?)
  • October 13, possible registration to foster family in Seoul
  • December 19, 1972 - emigration to the US to join my adoptive family at JFK airport, My mom, dad, nana and papa were there to meet me off the plane.

Here's where I've begun:
  • Email inquiry sent to SOS Children's Village who says they have no record thus far, but are looking into a more thorough search with further info I provided. 
  • Step 1, to initiate a search through my adoption agency, complete - confirmation of adoption facilitation through Holt International. Access to forms to request Post Adoption Services. 
  • Step 2, Petition notarized and mailed to US office in OR, to be matched with information via their HQ in Seoul to determine if they have enough information for a possible birth family search.
  • Begun the process to cross reference my 23and Me results with other DNA matching sites, sourced through other adoptees (Family Tree DNA, My Heritage, GED Match)
  • Printed form for DNA collection via a program just launched this year through the Korean Consulate and the S. Korean government, as they have been compiling a database of families searching for their biological children.
  • Joined 2 world-wide FB groups for Korean Adoptees - it's staggering the number of people searching for their birth families

Here's what's coming up:
  • There are a lot of new questions and a lot of new feelings to reconcile staring directly at what's true. 
  • Since becoming a mom, I always now feel things from both the side of the child and the perspective of a mother. It's a very, very strange dissonance as an adoptee. 
  • The intersection of my story and my parents story. How a month after I was born they had already begun the process to adopt a child, which also means their journey and desire to become parents started long before then.
  • I likely had a foster mother/family too. It's not a part of the adoption story that gets spoken about very often, and there is loss there (on both sides) too.  
  • The multiple layers of early, preverbal grief and loss
  • The industry of adoption (from a capitalist perspective), and what we think constitutes 'a better life' 
  • So many relevant thoughts on Little Fires Everywhere, which I just finished - would love to hear other people's thoughts!
  • There are so many adoptee resources available, and how I wish I had had them as a kid growing up (another kind of grief and loss)
  • Going back to S. Korea with my kids
  • How much I truly love my family
  • The complex and hard truth, that love is not always the same as belonging
  • Did I mention all the feelings?

april something something

Something I'm working on :: Aside from the giant family history/archival project and birth family search I am doing in the background of my day to day, I am also in the process of re-visioning Studiofemme. One thing is for sure - it's time for a deep realignment and I'm leaning into some dreams and ideas that have been simmering on the back burner for years. I also know that as a bridge builder, my work wants me to explore new spaces.

This strange and unsettling time has provided the much needed space and contrast to ask and seek hard answers to important questions about what I want my life and work to look like in the new world, which is also changing and emerging right before our eyes. It's challenging me to let go of many things, beliefs, especially pre-conceived notions of safety that no longer feel like a fit to who I am and who I'm meant to be. No exaggeration (and no surprise), such drastic internal and external shifts are slowly changing the landscape of my world. I'm trying to be brave in the process. And I also finally ordered this book (which is not at all what I thought it was about), after hearing this incredible interview which I must listen to again. 

Something I'm creating :: I think my initial desire to connect with others through this blog again was my first response to my own essential need to stay connected to community, especially in a time of crisis. Fear is activating for me - I know this about myself. And so my work has been to gather up my people by writing, making art to share, creating opportunities to connect with one another, and giving what I can.

In this spirit, I've also been wanting to organize a Book and Art Supply Swap to help nourish one another's creative spirit and share resources. If you've got a great book you've read and are willing to pass along and have some fun art supplies leftover in your stash you're willing to goto the post office and mail, AND you want to receive a box of goodies in return, just email me to join (US addressee's only please). Details will follow.

Some things to share :: my anthem for these days // Priya Parker's new podcast Together Apart // love this artful spring collaboration (my fave is, Wild Rose) // Boston Area Mask Initiative // a great source for buying books that also supports local booksellers // an important resource for accessing and creating mutual aid // Pinterest April trends // starting to muse on how to create my own backyard oasis

Something I have to offer you :: As shared in my most recent newsletter, I've only got a handful spots left in my Inner Alchemy Cards Elements workshop that I am gifting away! If you need a bit of creative inspo and support in your world, simply comment below and I will add you (as space allows). This is the last chance to participate in this workshop I've offered for many years, and it's such a lovely way to support a small creative and exploratory practice during these times. 

Something I'm cooking :: I love simple recipes that you can't really ever get wrong, use what veggies I have in the fridge, and are fun to serve (toppings bar for the win!). This is a simple soup that you can jazz up and adjust the seasoning to your own taste. If you like it really spicy you can substitute a half a can of chipotle peppers (seeded and sauce included) instead of the milder green chilis. You could add pulled chicken if that's your thing, and I often throw spinach or whatever greens I have in too.

Spicy Tortilla Soup

6c broth (I use vegetable stock, but you can use chicken if you like)
1/2c water
2 cans of white beans, drained (or whatever you have handy)
1 can of corn
chopped red and green bell pepper
can of diced green chilis
can of diced tomatoes, drained
1T chili seasoning
2T cumin
salt and pepper to taste
dash of your fave hot sauce
lime juice

Toppings Bar (it's all about the toppings, no?)

crushed tortilla chips
shredded cheese
pickled jalapeƱos 
dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt
sliced avocado
fresh cilantro
extra hot sauce

everything I never told you

Over the weekend I retrieved from the basement boxes of sentimental family photos I've been carting around for much of my adult life and began the task of sorting through and organizing them. Some of the pictures are in albums and others are loosely jumbled together in no particular order, many of which have no helpful dates or timestamps (note to future self: always date your photographs). I'm looking for visual cues while on this search, things tangible which tell stories and shake loose memory and emotion. This is a slow process of reorganization, pulling together all the pieces to now look at them through this new lens of deeper truth, even if much of that truth is still unknown. There is so much that I do know, and the memories of this life that have fully been mine are my anchor.

As I touch each photo, each document, each feeling, one thing I am realizing is that what I'm uncovering is not just my own singular story, it's a shared narrative with no beginning or end. It's a family story, a generational story, a cultural and historical story as well. It's the micro and the macro, always layered together, and I'm seeing how we are individual lives inextricably linked by the intersections of context and time.

To understand one's own story is to also learn and understand the stories of those around us and those who we came through. What they experienced are clues, in part, to what was passed down as our own. So I find myself longing for and searching for these as well... stories before me, of my mother and father's, my grandparent's, my ancestors and predecessors both by blood and kin. I want to know them, to share them, to catalogue them before time runs out and they disintegrate and disappear.

This old photo is one I uncovered in the stacks. I have no idea how I ended up with it, but I am so glad that I did. It's of my paternal grandfather, my Papa, Leslie Leo Miller, who my youngest carries in his middle name. He's at a dinner hosted by an orphanage in Busan near where he was stationed during the Korean War, the very war which most certainly was the catalyst to the adoption boom out of Korea in 1955. I wasn't even born, yet important pieces of my story and history are right here in this photo. It makes me wonder who these little girls are and if they too have looked for their birth families, and what the story was around this dinner. The complexity of American occupation in Korea is, to this day, still an ongoing controversy as a huge number of abandoned single mothers and mixed-race orphans were the result of the many US soldiers occupying the country for so long. War only serves to tear apart countries and families.

I loved my Papa and was close to him for much of my life until he made a peaceful yet pointed exit on Christmas morning in the year 2000. I never had the opportunity to talk to him about his time in Korea. I wish I had been brave enough to ask. I wondered what he saw when he looked at me, if I reminded him of such a difficult time in his life. I only always felt great waves of pride and love as his granddaughter as he pulled quarters from my ear, allowed me to play at his desk with his label maker, swam with us kids in the pool and always made me sunny side eggs and bacon for breakfast whenever I would sleep over. He did this even on the morning my Nana finally succumbed to cancer, in between loads of her laundry and hugs filled with tears. We shared a lot of life and I treasure every moment, even the hard ones, as they all only speak to the presense of so much love.

It's how I imagine my dad must have felt towards his grandparents, having been close to them while growing up and having a father far away at war. He was born while Papa was stationed in Korea and didn't meet his dad until he was 2. Being raised in part by his grandparents is why my brother and I carry their names. Our legacy is a part of theirs - we are forever connected through history, context, story and time. 

So I am mining for everything I can find to help capture what we might otherwise lose from one generation to the next, hoping to create and preserve a narrative that my boys can more fully comprehend, yet one that I know will never be totally complete. What I know for sure, is that I don't want to have regret over being too afraid to look or ask. I want them to know where they come from, not just by way of country or genetics, but through meaning and connection to the love from which they were born, as documented through stories that began long before I was here.

Today I will search for a notary so that I might send a formal records request to the local agency who handled my adoption. I've already initiated online requests to the head international agency, and to translation services here in Boston hoping to get two pages of my records written in Korean deciphered. The processes of these things is notoriously slow going, and as we are in day 39 of our stay-at-home during 'unprecedented times', I am sure the waiting will be fierce. Luckily I have nothing but time.

Photos and words and memories are helping to anchor me to this moment. Seems like as good a place as any to rest my heart, here, fully alive in this in-between place.

* Title of this blog post is borrowed from the book by Celeste Ng. Such a good read if you haven't read it already.

timelines and narratives

I couldn't sleep last night, so I finally surrendered to being wide-awake a little before 2am and climbed out of bed to go work in the studio under the twinkle lights. It must have been the diet coke I drank earlier in the afternoon. Caffeine and I don't generally party well.

One of the things I've been wanting to create is a sort of log of my search efforts as I begin, as well as a timeline of all the dates and events that happened before my emigration and adoption. So last night I started pulling together all the bits and pieces of information from the the short stack of documents I finally gathered together into one folder, to begin to form a framework. It's as good a jumping off point as any.

Even this early in the process, I can see that the story surrounding my adoption as I've always understood it, is likely not true. None of it really lines up.

Let's go back to 1995... where I was working at a children's residential program as a milieu counselor alongside Brian (I think his name was? or Greg?), who had a Korean adopted sister. One day we got to talking about and comparing adoption stories. As I listened to him share his sister's backstory, I couldn't believe what I was hearing - it was the exact same compelling narrative that I was told growing up.

You were left at a police station... you were very sick and sent to the hospital to receive life saving medical care your parents could not afford... you stayed at the orphanage until you were adopted... the orphanage soon after burned down.

At the time, having not yet processed any of my own experience or looked into my history or the history of Korean adoption at all, it never occurred to me that the story I'd heard my parents tell over and over again, the one I once loved hearing as a child because it made me feel safe and special - our own rescue fairytale complete with its own happy ending - wasn't actually true. Even after hearing Brian tell his sister's almost identical tale, I only could think that it was just a really wild coincidence. But it always stuck with me as odd.

And so what I see in the actual timeline I have today, after having visited the (first) orphanage I stayed in where there had been no fire and some records were safely kept, is more what historical context, I'm learning, bears out to be true. My origin story is likely mostly made up, and it was not unique at all as it was told widely to many families for a lot of different and complicated reasons.

While this isn't surprising and I need and want the truth more than a shiny story (though I did in fact, for a long time, need the shiny version), it does take time to reorganize and realign one's entire being to what that truth actually is - raw, heartbreaking, even ugly in some parts.

Athen and I had a conversation this morning about why I might have been given up for adoption and how the oversimplified yet common adoptee narrative - to have a better life, because your birth family was too poor to take care of you - is a really a much more complex and multifaceted story. But gawd I loved Annie and singing those torch songs as a kid (this click's for you, dad, which also makes me think of Nana for some reason as well :) To this day I still do.

AND, I'm thinking how none of this speaks to my most tender and pressing questions mostly around connection and love.

I'm learning more and more about the historical context of Korea and the origins of it's adoption initiatives, the activism born out of transracial adoptee needs, as well as the controversial diaspora and disconnect created in its wake. There are feelings to process with each new bit of information, but it feels good to be talking about and finally exploring those complexities as they are filling in so many missing pieces of understanding. Every gap filled feels helpful even though there are things to grieve alongside truths to embrace.

heart deep

Today I finish my last bit of work for Squam and make the transition into the liminal space, like so many others, to unemployed. That's not to say that there aren't any embers in the fire to fuel a possible return someday, but for now it's fully giving over to the unknown. 

It is with some bit of grace that it feels like the loss of one thing is allowing the space to open up for something else. Having my days so free and clear under these highly unusual set of circumstances does indeed seem like an opportunity. The path feels wide open and beckoning, and I truly don't know if at any other time in my life I would have had the presence and availability to really be all-in in the way it's being presented to me in this moment. Even though the odds are against me - only about 15% of adoptees reunite with their birth family - I am one hundred percent here for whatever is meant to be.

And so I've been binge listening the Adapted podcast, a series of interviews and stories told by Korean adoptees. I'm also contemplating the possibility of finally learning hangul - the Korean alphabet. Maybe it's something fun my kids would want to learn too. I also signed up for a free writing class that happened to serendipitously come across my sky last night and starts today, hoping that it might help support me in getting more of this moment down.

This is as much a period of new discovery as it is an excavation. I'm mining for something buried deep within me, not just searching for what was severed just after I was born. So I've also been pulling out everything I have from my past, childhood photo albums, mementos from my trip to Korea in 2004, letters from friends of my Nana and Papa's who happened to be from Korea and took and extra shine to me when I was young, slides my Papa had taken while stationed in S. Korea during the war, and all the records and documents I have collected from both my parents and the orphanage in Daegu.

For the first time I am seeing it all, nothing is hidden away... not only is it strewn about my studio, but it's all being reflected on, catalogued and treasured in my heart and mind's eye. I am finally acknowledging and processing everything side by side: the life I've known and the life I never had, and in this dichotomy creating a more complete picture of everything that truly is while making space for what could possibly be.

It feels like the most important work of a lifetime, like everything was getting me ready for this. Not to search for my Korean family, per say, but to be able to hold all the messy and hard parts of the story together as my own. No matter what new information I may or may not find along the way, I feel so ready to be heart deep in it all.

Just writing these words, I know I am already complete. Maybe this is the greatest gift of all.