siblings, the 7 bananas, family

It's about to get real up in here.

About 10 years ago, I created this LiveJournal to share my experience with adoption and reuniting with my biological family.

I've decided to resurrect this journal with the same goal.

There is so much misinformation about the adoption industry out there. Even in 2016, the average person believes that most adoptees were unwanted by their original parents, and that's why they were given up in the first place.

But that is entirely untrue. Surveys of mothers who have placed their infants for adoption show that 90 percent of adoptions began as wanted pregnancies. Only about 15 percent of infants placed were really, truly unwanted. The driving factor behind most adoptions is poverty.

Women relinquish their babies because they're poor and other families are richer, not because they don't want their children.

As an adopted person myself, it's this and other common misconceptions that I want to correct. I'm one of seven full-blooded siblings who were separated because of adoption, and our mother gave all of us to different families because she was poor and thought adopting us out would give us better lives than she could afford.

In some ways, it did; in other ways, it didn't.

Adoption might provide financial stability and economic opportunity for a kid, but it's not a guarantee that that kid will actually have a better life.

I want to change the misconceptions and show the complicated side of adoption that never gets talked about publicly. There are other ways to help families and children in crisis that don't involve permanently severing their family ties. Let's talk about that.

P.S. I also went through my archives and made many of my previously protected posts from 2005 public, so you can read through the thoughts and emotions I experienced while reuniting with my family and navigating those new and complicated relationships. I hope it helps other adoptees who might be feeling the same.
  • Current Mood: contemplative contemplative
siblings, the 7 bananas, family

Wardrobe Necessities for the Arctic Tundra of Philadelphia

It's cold in Philadelphia. Today's high is 27 degrees. Wind chill makes it feel like 13. Saturday has minus signs in front of it.

I considered making this post a Buzzfeed-style round up of all the cozy things in the universe I'll be layering all over myself this weekend, but let's be real.

This is all I'm actually going to wear:
  • Current Location: Philadelphia, Pa.
  • Current Mood: cold cold
  • Current Music: Mates of State—Staring Contest
siblings, the 7 bananas, family

Oh hi guys.

I'm almost 30, now. Also, I'm married.

Also, the Philadelphia Daily News, Upvoted,, Daily Mail, SJ Magazine, and more wrote about that time my six full-blooded siblings and I reunited after being separated for 25 years, adopted by different families:
So that's been me since 2011.
Tags: , ,
siblings, the 7 bananas, family

Snow Day Mix

It's snowing in Philadelphia. It's snowing a lot. It's snowing so much that all the portmanteaux containing "snow," "apocalypse," "armageddon" and various combinations of all three ("It's a Snowpocageddon!") aren't funny anymore. It's snowing so much that I had to make a mix for it.

Here are 12 songs for snow days, shoveling cars and parking spots, wet feet and slushy boots, snowball fights, and going inside to a mug of hot cocoa and watching it all come down again.

Snow Day Mix

1. Regina Spektor, "20 Years of Snow" - The piano sounds like snow drifts and the lyrics feel like cabin fever. [download]

2. matt pond PA, "Snow Day" - It's that song from that Starbuck's commercial (but I liked it since 2007 before it got popular). The lyrics say it all: "The people we have become / Still lay awake hoping to hear airwaves say / 'Snow day, snow day...'" This song feels like a pick-up snowball fight on the sidewalk. [download]

3. The Decemberists, "January Hymn" - From their new album The King is Dead. This song wraps me up on a cold day just like strata of clothes. [download]

4. Fountains of Wayne, "Valley Winter Song" - My favorite song about winter ever. Neither literal nor metaphorical winters last forever; the summer's coming soon. [download]

5. Billie Holiday, "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm" - While I associate a number of acoustic country-flavored songs with winter, nothing beats some classic jazz to curl up with your love and a mug of hot chocolate to. [download]

6. Spangle Call Lilli Line, "Ice Track" - SCLL is an indie band from Japan with a mellow electronic-pop sound similar to Stars and Broken Social Scene at times. This track is from their third album and is perfect for unwinding after tunneling your escape route through the snow all day. [download]

7. Belle & Sebastian, "The Fox in the Snow" [download]

8. Feist, "Snow Lion" - Something about the harp always sounds perfectly wintry to me. [download]

9. Ida Maria, "Keep Me Warm" - Slow, soulful, reflective, and moody. Sometimes winter weather needs a desperate soundtrack. [download]

10. Rilo Kiley, "The Good That Won't Come Out" - As cool and moody and reflective and desolate as standing on a frozen lake. [download]

11. matt pond PA, "Winterlong" - mpPA makes their second appearance on this mix with a gorgeous cover of the Pixies song from their Winter Songs EP, which also contains "Snow Day," featured earlier in the mix. [download]

12. Karen O and the Kids, "Igloo" - From the soundtrack to Where the Wild Things Are. Winter childhood dreams and fantasies in an acoustic nutshell. [download]

Download the mix here. All songs in MP3 format.

EDIT: Added individual download links for all 12 songs. Enjoy, and keep warm!
siblings, the 7 bananas, family

Snapshots of My Recent Life

Cell phone documentation of the past two days (click on the thumbnails for a full view):

This is where I work.

This is a freight train I saw stopped on the tracks on my walk home.

This is my only touristy shot of the Art Museum.

This is a Catholic church a few blocks away from my apartment.

This is an artsy shot of my cat Kenzy, a rescue from Kensington.

This is me.

Sorry for last week's Song Mix Sunday hiatus. I'm working on a new 10-song mix for this Sunday, I promise!
siblings, the 7 bananas, family

Song Mix Sundays #2: Nihon no Ongaku

I first discovered Japanese pop/rock in high school when I downloaded an mp3 of Ayumi Hamasaki's "Forgiveness" from a random music blog. I turned into a Japanophile and never looked back - I started watching anime, I studied the language for 3 semesters in college, and I built a rather impressive personal catalogue of J-pop and J-rock.

While a lot of J-pop sounds as bland as mainstream US radio, there are certian artists that stand out with a unique style, even some of the Western mainstream copy-cat ones. These are 10 of my favorite artists and songs from Japan that I think every music fan should check out:

1. Shuukyou - Shiina Ringo, Karuki Zaamen Kuri no Hana (2003) Opening this mix with the kind of bang only Shiina Ringo can deliver. Shiina Ringo has a diverse musical style that makes her a genre unto herself. Her albums range from a little bit piano jazz to a little bit alt-rock to a little bit symphonic. The album that this track opens represents some of  her strongest and most musically interesting work. [download]

2. Ash - Gackt, DIABOLOS (2005) Gackt has been a big name in Japanese rock since 1995 when he fronted visual kei rock band Malice Mizer ("visual kei" is essentially Japanese glam rock that got really popular about a decade after it died out in the US. Think KISS only with girlier make-up and frillier costumes). He started his solo career in 1999 with a style that can mostly be classified as alt-rock with some U2, acoustic, and symphonic vibes thrown in. I enjoy "Ash" for its abrupt shifts from a mellow guitar sound to a heavier rock chorus and back again. It's not what you expect that it's going to be from the soft opening verse. [download]

3. Never Land - Kimura Kaela, Scratch (2007) Kimura Kaela has an upbeat pop-rock-punk sound. I enjoy this song for its catchy and interesting beat and guitar work. [download]

4. Honjitsu wa Seiten Nari - Do As Infinity, Gates of Heaven (2003) Do As Infinity was another relatively well-known band in Japan before they broke up in 2005 (then reformed in 2008!). Their lyrics focus mostly on positive themes like believing in yourself and caring for the world around you. Need an insanely positive pop-punk anthem to get you going on a dreary morning? This song is better than coffee. "Change the world! Do the best of you!"  [download]

5. The Lucky Star - the brilliant green, Los Angeles (2001) The Brilliant Green (known as BuriGuri to fans) has been around since 1997. They cite The Beatles as their biggest musical influence. They have an upbeat pop-rock style that sometimes leans more towards the pop side but is always catchy. Time magazine listed The Brilliant Green as one of the "10 best bands on planet Earth," thanks to the Los Angeles album. Check out The Brilliant Green for playful pop/punk/rock styles and lots of English lyrics. I have to agree with Time; the Los Angeles album is their best.  [download]

6. Moments - Ayumi Hamasaki, Moments (2004) Ayumi Hamasaki is the Madonna of Japanese pop, only probably even more popular. She's been consistently releasing albums since the early 1990s and puts out a new single at least every month or two. Simply put, she's kind of a big deal. This song stuck out to me for its musical beauty: the strings, the melody, the harmonies on the chorus and the"lalala's," and the heart-wrenching sentiments of sacrificial love and devotion expressed in the lyrics. "If my life is transient like a flower / I'll be in full bloom by your side / And after watching your smile / I'll fall alone quietly // If I could flutter like a bird / I would fly to you / And offer my wing to your wounded back..."  [download]

7. Gamble - Shiina Ringo, Heisei Fuzoku (2007) Listening to this song feels like eating the richest, most satisfying meal you could imagine. "Gamble" is filled with such savory musical passion that you feel punched in the gut and incapacitated as soon as the full orchestra kicks in. Everything about this song is perfect, down to the last quiet chord that feels like a gentle sigh at the end of a deluxe aural feast. [download]

8. L. Drunk - Kimura Kaela, Scratch (2007) The haphazard sound and energy to this song feels like an aural representation of how my brain functions. [download]

9. Kuki - Shiina Ringo, Karuki Zaamen Kuri no Hana (2003) Why is Shiina Ringo over-represented in this mix? Because she is a songwriting genius. Where do I start: with the trembling orchestra bass, with the relentless chromatic piano, or with the beat that picks up half-way through and makes me want to tango? Or maybe the part where the dark grunge-symphonic sound dissolves into a major key for a victoriously upbeat finish? I love everything about this song and seem to find something new and fresh about it every time I hear it. [download]

10. Kagaku no Yoru - Do As Infinity, Gates of Heaven (2003) Closing this mix with Do As Infinity's message of peace for the world. The title translates to "Night of Science," and describes the sights of the last person living on Earth after a nuclear war disaster: Ash falling from the sky like snow as she whispers wishes of love and peace for a dying Earth. The lyrics are bleak but poetically profound. "For our future, love & peace." [download]

BONUS TRACK: Moments (Acoustic Piano Version) - Ayumi Hamasaki, Moments (2004) This is a stripped-down version of "Moments," with acoustic piano accompaniment. I love it for its beautiful simplicity. [download]

Listen to the complete mix on Grooveshark!
siblings, the 7 bananas, family

Song Mix Sundays #1: Summer Songs

I have two music-related addictions: Discovering new artists and sharing the songs that I love with my friends. Since I love sharing music so much, I've decided to start a weekly post of some of my favorites, focusing on a new theme each week. Some you might already know, others you may not. This Sunday, it's my Top 10 Summer Songs.

I tend to associate certain songs and artists with certain seasons. Sometimes it depends on the style of music, sometimes it depends on when I first heard the song or artist, and sometimes a specific memory ties the song to the season. These are 10 songs that remind me of the summer, based a little bit on style and a little bit on memory.

1. Summer is Coming - Matt Pond PA, The Nature of Maps (2004) "The porch light gives off small lit circles / How you could see nothing..." An anthem to summer, swimming, and confusing love. [download]

2. Chicago - Sufjan Stevens, Come On Feel the Illinois (2005) "I drove to New York in a van with my friend / We slept in parking lots; I don't mind, I don't mind..." Sufjan has the perfect folksy-summer sound, and "Chicago" feels like the perfect opener for a summer roadtrip. [download]

3. Janglin - Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes, Up From Below (2009) It's that song from that car commercial. Light and bouncy with a Beatles-y sound, this song sounds like summer to me. I saw these guys perform this live at a music festival last weekend, so I'll always connect it with summer memories. [download]

4. July! July! - The Decemberists, Castaways and Cutouts (2002) A summer playlist is incomplete without at least one song named after the hottest month so far. [download]

5. Old Dirt Hill (Bring That Beat Back) - Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds, Live At Radio City (2007) "Screaming, shouting, louder innocence / In the days when all we did would never end..." Bike rides, dirt hills, and childhood memories of first loves and first kisses. The sounds and smells of summer make it easy to reminisce about kid activities, and this song captures that essence perfectly. [download]

6. Sunset Soon Forgotten - Iron & Wine, Our Endless Numbered Days (2004) "Be this sunset one for keeping / The junebug street sings low and lovely..." Quiet acoustics pair beautifully with the end of a long summer evening. [download]

7. Neutral Ground - Sea Wolf, Leaves in the River (2007) "We turn onto our backs and see / A streak of light above the trees / Lying on a bed of leaves / Listening to each other breathe..." My dad and I used to watch meteor showers together when I was growing up, and the August Perseids put on one of the best shows of the year. This song captures the quiet existential mood of lying out on the grass in the early morning counting streaks of light in the warm air till dawn that I remember so well. [download]

8. Folding Chair - Regina Spektor, far (2009) "Come and open up your folding chair next to me / My feet are buried in the sand and there's a breeze / There's a shadow, you can't see my eyes / And the sea is just a wetter version of the skies..." A sandy beach paradise as a metaphorical distraction from romantic pining and lonliness, paired with a light perky beat and lines about oceans and dolphins. [download]

9. Hey, Soul Sister - Train, Save Me, San Francisco (2009) Apparently, this song was inspired by songwriter Pat Monahan's vision of the famed Burning Man festival that takes place every summer in the California desert. And it sounds so breezy and carefree, like discovering a summer love should be. [download]

10. First Song - Matt Pond PA, Last Light (2007) "The thick of summer / Grasshop bring me songs from in the trees at dusk..." I first discovered this band in the summer of 2007, which is probably why most of their songs remind me of summer (in fact, the first song of theirs I ever heard is the first song on this list). Several of their songs have a similar mellow-acoustic-y feel. Their newest album, The Dark Leaves, is probably my favorite and most summer-feeling-inspiring album they've released. [download]

Tune in next week for some international flavor with my 10 Favorite Songs by Japanese Artists.
siblings, the 7 bananas, family

This Is Why I Can't Have Nice Things

So there's this radio station that was pretty popular when I was in high school. They played the only quality selection of alternative rock in the region. They got booted off the air in 2005 when I was a freshman in college leaving a genre-sized hole in the hearts of music lovers and soft-rock haters everywhere.

There are few things in life that I love more than good wine, good music, and good inspirational stories. The tale of the little alt-rock station that could fills the last to categories completely. The shafted DJs couldn't let the music die, so they banded together and started broadcasting from a row-home basement and founded an Internet radio station that caught the attention of another local, on-the-airwaves radio station that purchased the broadcast, gave jobs to the DJs, and gave them some broadcasting time on the air for a few hours every Wednesday through Friday night.

When the nixed station first reincarnated on the Internet, lots of fans who cared about the music volunteered as DJs. Everyone loved the music. Everyone wanted to share. A lot of fans got to be a part of constructing something memorable, and it was inspirational magic. Flash-forward five years to July 2010. The local station that integrated the reformed alt-rock Internet station had some serious budget issues and had to let go several of the DJs who had been there since the beginning. The layoffs marked the end of a local broadcasting era. But the DJs with their passion for music couldn't be stopped by a small set back like budget cuts. There's another Internet station now, run by the people who had just finished their last shows days earlier.

I've been listening every day at work, and I've been feeling inspired. There are some new voices mixed in with the familiar ones - fans dedicated to the cause of great music, just like back then? That's what I thought. A new era beginning with the same awesome magic as the old one. A seed began to grow in my inspired brain this week while I listened to novice radio voices spinning fantastic tunes and I sat in my office churning out the unremarkable cash advance articles that pay my bills every month. I could do this. I can volunteer to be a DJ, too! I got excited. Then I sent an e-mail.

I contacted the brains behind the operation on Tuesday afternoon. It sounded like a good idea after two glasses of wine and a morning spent at traffic court. "I've been listening since high school. I find your dedication to the music so inspiring. I'm passionate about music too, and I don't have any experience and don't know if you're actually looking for anyone, but I'd really love to volunteer as a DJ for your new Internet radio endeavor!" This is probably the least formal cover letter I've ever sent to anyone.

A few days passed with no reply. I was flattering and honest!  I got antsy and saw my dream dying. But I want to be a part of the magic! After a shitty week, a long day at work, a still empty inbox and a glass of post-work wine, Twitter looked pretty attractive. I can post one harmless and mostly anonymous comment! Keep in mind that I was anticipating a simple @reply in response: "Thanks for the tweet! We'll have applications for novice DJs soon!" or "Sorry, this is a friends and family operation only!" Instead, I got the e-mail reply I'd been waiting for. My tweet reminded him. He said that in his e-mail. I forgot that I'm not as anonymous on Twitter as I think I am.

Turns out that due to a residentally-based location, this is a strictly friends operation right now. Thanks for the interest and the tweet, and we'll keep you posted as things change. And now I feel like the biggest ass ever. I didn't know that awkward situations could translate so tangibly through e-mail. I think this goes down in personal history as The Worst First Impression I've Ever Made for Something I Really, Really Wanted.

So now I'm totally embarrassed about the whole situation: Sending a fan letter, horning in on a friends-only operation, and fishing for a reply on Twitter even though I wasn't trying to prompt an e-mail reply, I swear I wasn't! And I think I made an irreparable ass of myself on the Internet in front of People Who Matter.

The moral of the story: Don't send a fan letter after drinking half a bottle of wine and don't drink and tweet.
siblings, the 7 bananas, family

Top 10 Things I Never Though I'd Do

10. Kiss a boy
09. Kiss a girl
08. Get paid to write
07. Live on my own
06. Live in the city
05. Live in the city on my own
04. Live abroad for  3 months
03. Get Josh Groban's autograph
02. Play Dungeons & Dragons
01. Walk more than one block in Camden alone after dark

This time last year, I believed that I couldn't make it on my own after my parents sold the house and I needed my own place to live. A lot of things can change in one year.