Movie Review of “Lion”

January 4th, 2017

Yesterday, the kids, my sister Patrice and I saw “Lion.” As you probably know, the film tells the story of a five-year-old boy in India, Saroo, who is separated from his older brother at a rural train station. When Saroo gets off the train hours and miles later, he is alone and lost in the teeming city of Calcutta. Saroo spends several harrowing months surviving on the streets before a woman who runs an orphanage places him with loving adoptive parents in Tasmania, Australia, where he lives for the next twenty years. As an adult, Saroo is happy and healthy and seems well-adjusted. But, inside, Saroo is tormented by the loss of his family in India—Where is his mother? What happened to his brother? And wouldn’t they have spent the past twenty years worrying about him?

Through the wonders of the newly hatched Google Earth and after months and years of obsessive calculation, Saroo is able to recreate his journey and locate his family in India. His mother, thankfully, is alive. His brother, tragically, was killed on the same day he and Saroo were separated. The film ends with a gorgeous scene of reunion.

If you’re reading this, you may know my daughter Olivia is fourteen, my son Mateo twelve. We searched for and found each of their birth mothers in Guatemala when the children were seven. We visit Guatemala every year, often with my sister Patrice, and are grateful we are able to maintain birth family contact.

Okay. Back to the movie. Caution: The themes are mature. The theme of adoption, first. The theme of losing one’s family and being separated from people who share one’s blood. The theme of not-knowing where your birth mother is or what happened to your siblings. As every adoptive parent knows: Those themes can trigger very strong reactions in our children. Nightmare-level reactions. And they’re front and center in ”Lion.”

Second, the theme of treachery by adults. When Saroo is lost and alone, bad people do bad things, to him and to other children. Nothing awful is shown on screen—everything is alluded to and suggested. Yet, still: It’s terrifying to watch, certainly for young children, and, depending on the individual, for tweens, teens, or adults.

That said, the film was mesmerizing. My normally squirrelly kids didn’t move or talk. They forgot to eat their popcorn. We knew how it would end, but the ending still deeply moved us. When Saroo finally walks through the streets of his village, remembering places and colors and smells, and then his mother appears and they recognize each other and embrace, my very cool teenage daughter, who rarely reveals her emotions, sobbed. Broke down, weeping. Twelve-year-old Mateo was also moved, although he didn’t cry. “Here come the waterworks,” he whispered to me as he leaned in close. “You and Olivia.”

The film allowed Olivia to witness a reunion from the outside—as an observer instead of a participant—and gave her room to experience emotions that may overwhelm her when the reunion is her own. She reacted the same way I react when I see either of my kids with their birth mothers, every time. A complex mix of great love and great sadness, resulting in many tears.

Afterward, Olivia said “Lion” was the best movie she’d ever seen. Her summary: “Saroo grew up in a safe place and then he found his birth family. That’s a good story.” Mateo especially liked the relationship between the brothers; my son’s greatest distress came with the news that Saroo’s brother had been killed. My sister Patrice saw the movie twice. She said the second time around, with us, the film seemed “even sadder.” After a moment, she added, “Aren’t you glad you found their birth mothers? So they don’t have to go through life wondering.”

Yes. Yes. Yes.

“Lion” is based on the memoir by Saroo Brierley, “A Long Way Home,” which I recommend, and which our Adoption Book Group is discussing later this month.

Consider seeing “Lion,” by yourself or with your children. Like all powerful works of art, it will make you feel and think. It may leave you changed. ~



PRI on Guatemala

December 28th, 2016

Guatemala’s thirty-six-year armed conflict ended twenty years ago with the signing of the Peace Accords on December 29, 1996. This PRI segment focuses on victims of the conflict who are telling their stories. From the article: “It was especially hard on Mayan women, who lost loved ones, suffered sexual abuse and other atrocities, and have had to find new ways to survive and move forward in the ensuing years.”

Wishing continued Peace to the country we love.~




Thank you.

December 24th, 2016

If you’re reading this: Thank you for sharing the adoption journey. When I started this blog, never did I think I’d still be at it–six or seven years later? But here I am. And so very grateful you are, too. Best wishes for 2017! xoxoxox



Low-residency residency

December 18th, 2016

On Saturday, I finished my first low-residency residency at Antioch. I drove down the 405 Freeway exhausted from listening, thinking, and navigating the technology. The last research paper I wrote was banged out on a Selectric typewriter, from sources like the World Book Encyclopedia.

But I got through Round One.



Certificate of Citizenship

December 15th, 2016

Certificate of Citizenship, again. The fee doubles on December 23, from $550 to $1,170. The National Council for Adoption has provided a video and PDF with FAQs. Yes, ten days before Christmas is not a convenient time of year to deal with this, but it’s got to be done!

I’m sure you’ve already has secured a COC for your child, but I’m posting the link so I can find it myself in the future. Because someday soon someone will email me with the subject line: Help!



Back to school

December 10th, 2016

Yesterday was my first day of school. Not for Olivia and Mateo. For me. Decades after graduating with a BA in English, I fulfilled a long-time dream to return for an MFA in Creative Writing. A low-residency program is the only way my family can handle it–10 days twice a year and the rest online—in California, at Antioch LA.

Education is such a privilege! I think a lot about education in Guatemala–especially in the rural areas, how few people have access to school, or if they do, how young they are when they drop out because they have to work, or their families can’t afford books, or they see no point in continuing because where’s the opportunity after? Stopping after third or sixth grade is common.

This is the reason why, every year, my family contributes to organizations in Guatemala that support education. Writing an annual check is a small gesture that symbolizes our commitment to the future.

Today is Day 2 for me at Antioch. I’m counting my blessings.~



Father Stanley Rother

December 2nd, 2016

For all who have been to Santiago Atitlan and visited the church there and know the story of Father Stanley Rother, the Catholic priest from Oklahoma who was assassinated during Guatemala’s armed conflict. Or if you know something about the history of Guatemala, or even if you do not: Pope Francis has recognized Padre Aplas (as he was known) as the first American-born martyr and approved him for beatification. Tears here because we have been to Santiago and stood in the room where his heart is buried, with the people he loved and served. And because we love Guatemala.

Among other places, I’ve written about Father Rother here and here.

Here’s the announcement on US Today.



Aka SEOUL video

November 30th, 2016

My friend who lives in South Korea pointed me to this video on “aka SEOUL” about adoptees searching for and meeting their birth mothers. (One of the adoptees profiled is Min Matson, the transgender Korean adoptee who lives in San Diego and recently published his views on being adopted and transgender as well as an adoptive dad. Read it here.)

I’m deeply moved by stories of reunion and grateful we’ve been able to connect our children with their birth moms at a young age–Olivia and Mateo were each seven.



Returning to Guatemala

November 28th, 2016

My friend posted this NY Times video about a Guatemalan man, Eduardo Jimenez, who lived in New Jersey for a decade before returning to Guatemala. Jimenez lives in western Guatemala and speaks Mam. In his village of Cajola, as in so many villages in Guatemala, 70% of the men are gone, left for the US in search of better opportunity.

But after living in the US, Jimenez realized the untapped potential of Guatemala’s women and girls. With the financial support of an American woman, Jimenez set up systems in his hometown to teach women and girls to read and help them begin small businesses. He also set up a school for their children.

I don’t have the energy to debate immigration, but over the years, I’ve visited Guatemala many times and seen immigration’s other side: women and children left behind, living without husbands and fathers.

As I watched the video, I wondered where the government of Guatemala stands in all this: What does it mean when a person believes his best and only chance for success is to leave his family and his country? What action is the government of Guatemala taking to retain its precious resource, its citizens?

Kudos to Eduardo Jimenez for working to improve the lives of his fellow Guatemalans. Wishing him continued success. ~








Essay by Min Matson, on being adopted, Korean, transgender, and an adoptive dad

November 18th, 2016

A friend who lives in Korea shared this powerful essay by Min Matson, a transgender, adopted, Korean-American father of an adopted Latino-American son. If you scroll down after the essay, you can read an update on Adam Crapser, the Korean man adopted at age 3 by US parents in Michigan who abandoned him in Oregon, and readopted by an Oregon couple who assaulted him and other children in their care. (Crimes for which they were later convicted.) No one secured citizenship papers for Crapser, and after a felony conviction, he was deported and returned to Korea.

From Min Matson’s essay:

Sure, I had always known that I was adopted from Korea in the way that we know we have a spleen, but don’t really understand what it is, what it looks like, or what it means. I had always understood that my Caucasian parents — of Dutch and Norwegian decent — had chosen my sister and me from a place called Seoul (that’s where babies came from), but I never understood that the child others saw was not the one I saw in my dreams of becoming president of the United States.

When I think back, my heart breaks for my eight-year-old self who, in that moment, understood the reality of the words from my classmates, teachers, and strangers over the years — “g—k,” “ch—k,” “flat face,” “your kind can’t see as well as others” — and other cruelties that my parents unsuccessfully encouraged me to ignore. That moment shaped the years to come of what I understood as my destiny to “stand out” and never truly belong.