Sunday, January 21, 2018

Song of the Week: А Напоследок, Я Скажу, A Classic Soviet Film (Song and Review)

It's been busy around here since returning from Bulgaria! But as a short Song of the Week feature, I hope you enjoy "А Напоследок, Я Скажу" or, "And as I Leave, I Will Say." It is a lovely song from the classic Soviet film, "A Cruel Romance." The film tells the story of Larissa Dimitrieva, a young woman who falls in love with Sergei Sergeyvich. When she gets engaged to another man who has pursued her for years, will she find love? What will become of Larissa and Sergei's tragic love?

I reccommend this film if you are looking for an introduction into Soviet films, especially if you enjoy historical or period drama pieces. This is just one of several songs throughout, which are all enjoyable. The film also provides an interesting introduction to the subject of Roma culture in the Russian tradition of song and music. It deals with themes of: love and honor, women's independence, and pursuing our desires (and what consequences may follow). Also, it's just over two hours long - short by Soviet movie standards! 

English Translation (Credit to Lyrics Translate):

And in the end I want to say...
And in the end I want to say
'Farewell, don't feel obliged to love me,
I'm going crazy, or I'm reaching
The highest level of a craziness.'
Oh, how you loved, you tasted
a death, That's not a problem;
Oh, how you loved? You have ruined me,
but you have done this so bunglingly
And in the end I want to say...
My temple's doing yet little work,
Still works, but hands are fallen,
And all the scents and sounds are gone, as if they were a flock, they're leaving
And in the end I want to say
'Farewell, don't feel obliged to love me,
I'm going crazy, or I'm reaching
The highest level of a craziness.'
So in the end I'm going to say...

Let me know what you think of the "A Cruel Romance" below! Or, leave suggestions for other Russian films.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Song of the Week: Sacrificial Love Through Trauma

Video Credit to Owner

Wow, I forgot how much I loved this drama.
Picking a song for this week's installment of Song of the Week and finding this video of Baek Ji Young's song, Even Today, I'm Loving You made me remember why. 

The Story (Mild spoilers below)
The Princess's Man is a Korean historical drama, with a sweeping epic feel. It tells the story of Kim Seung-Yoo as the son of a nobleman and Lee Se-Ryung, the daughter of the Grand Prince. Much like a Romeo and Juliet story (with a well-deserved happy ending) the two lovers come from rivaling families. When his family is killed, Seung-Yoo escapes death in-country and is sent aboard a criminal slave ship. When he makes his way back, he's not the same carefree nobleman and tutor his friends and Se-Ryung knew. 

Se-Ryung's position as the daughter of a prince changes as much as Seung-Yoo's standing. Throughout the show, she is royalty eventually becoming the Princess - but her sense of justice and right and wrong won't let her take a position she knows isn't rightfully hers. Throughout 24 episodes, she is held as a hostage, disowned by her family, even becoming a slave and more. Se-Ryung is brave, refusing to get caught up in her family's wrongdoing, even though it would benefit her. She chooses what is right, even at the cost of her own comfort and freedom. Though it is a drama, such lessons are thought-provoking and applicable to real life.

Letting Life Change You - But Not Damage You
What I loved about this show (besides the grand soundtrack) were the transformations of the characters. I chose this particular music video (with the English translation to the song) because it shows the most depth of Se-Ryung's and Seung-Yoo's journey. If you love romantic dramas, this one is definitely a must-watch; their love for one another is undying, even in the midst of their personal and shared grief.

Se-Ryung doesn't know everything that happened to Seung-Yoo when he was away, but even today, she loves him and shows compassion, determined that the kind man she knew before is there somewhere. She gives up her privileged life to live beside him. I don’t like being behind you / I want only to be next to you everyday. 

 Seung-Yoo is changed after the traumatic experiences he endures, but gradually learns to open his heart again and to see good in the world again. Park Si-Hoo gives an incredibly emotional performance in this drama. 

Even when I see you I miss you
Even when we're together I'm lonely
I don't see an end to this one-sided love
Although it's hard and although it's upsetting

Even when tomorrow comes, I love you
I love you more than yesterday
Without being able to express what's in my heart
Again today, I love you

I only love you

This drama deals with some hard subjects about suffering and family. It is a beautiful picture of sacrificial love and the consequences of becoming calloused to wrongdoing. Through it all, we see how the two main characters' love both changes as they grow and mature through heartache, yet remains pure and strengthens as a result of their hardships. This song is one I can listen to again and again. Let me know if you decide to check out The Princess's Man.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Going Down This Road: The Priceless Reality of Leaving Normal Behind

Thanks to some great friends, I got the opportunity to see Priceless, the film that was popular last year. It is the story of a man named James who unintentionally gets involved in the lives of two sisters, Antonia and Maria, who are being trafficked across the country. When he realizes what is happening, part of him wants to ignore his part in the atrocity. But a voice keeps calling him back until he can no longer ignore what he must do. James, along with the help of his newfound partner, Dale, an older man hiding a past of his own, set out on a harrowing mission to free the sisters and shut down the trafficking and prostitution in the area. While some plot points of the movie are dramatized for the sake of film, it is based on true events and stories of human trafficking survivors - and this knowledge adds all the more depth to the characters' plight.

Image result for priceless the movie
Photo Credit:
Going Down the Road...of Special-Needs Adoption

There was one part of one conversation that stood out to me in the movie. Dale tells James about what he will encounter if he chooses to rescue the girls.

"If you go do this, it's all in. You go down this road, the things you'll see, the things you'll do - you can't go back to normal life again. It'll change you."

"I didn't start at normal to begin with." 

This. This is the reality of special-needs adoption. 
Any adoption is a compassionate commitment to a child. Yet, I think nothing changes a person as much as special-needs adoption, both when travelling to bring the child home and later, when the trips are done, the rescue mission complete, and you settle into a new everyday routine.

I traveled to Ukraine in 2014 amidst the EuroMaidan protests to bring home two of my sisters from a дом инвалидов (literally translated: Home of the Invalids, ie. special-needs orphanage). Looking back, Dale's words to James could have easily been said to me, both then and even now.

Sasha, if you go to this orphanage, it's all in. When you step in those doors, you will always carry part of it with you. You will dream it, write about it, talk about it - until all your friends are sick of it. But you will keep screaming for those who cannot, even when it seems like no one listens and you are so tired. Still, you will carry it with you and keep on.

You go down this road, lined with dying children, lonely souls who have never been touched....the road of advocacy, with hundreds of pictures of children whom you will never meet, but who grab your heart. You will weep over some and wonder what it is that has pricked you heart so deeply for those you never met.

My sister Lina in Bulgaria
Weighing 12 pounds at 5 and a half years old.

the things you'll see...blind children tied to their beds...teenagers the size of four-year-olds, graying skin stretched over the skull of a boy only a year older than you, with deep, hollow sockets...

the things you'll do... I remember holding hand of a seventeen year old with a shaven head. I stroked the top of his hand, but even this gentle movement did not bring comfort to him. Instead, his eyes clouded and his face winced in pain. Or, how I was approached by translator when we came into the room. I heard one voice chattering in a room full of forty children and found out what the boy was saying through our translator. "Sasha, he says he wants the pretty girl to come sit next to him." So I sat and smiled and kept the company of a boy who was my age, with pale skin, a gaunt face, and bristly short hair trapped underneath a mound of comforters. At that time, he could still talk and smile and his laughter brought smiles to everyone else.

The reality is, when you embark on a journey of special-needs adoption - you can't go back to normal life again. It'll change you, whether you are prepared or not, whether you think it will or not. And most likely, even if you are prepared, it will change you in ways you never planned.
What is normal life anyway? Do you mean that other families have parents who have weekly date nights? Or have annual vacations? I often find myself forgetting that most other families don't get a row of children in diapers ready for the day or down for bed every day. Or that I'm the only family I know with six daughters who can't walk independently, some who will need lifelong care. It's not normal, I suppose, to have to help almost all your sisters eat all their meals, because their special-needs make it hard or impossible for them to do so themselves. The time spent in doctor's appointments and wheelchair fittings is more than usual.

No, it's not normal. 

And it most certainly is changing me. Yes - it is a process, every day. I don't think I will ever reach the point  of saying I am done being changed by what I've seen or my sisters' lives. I recall different moments from my trips at different times, some memories more emotional, more stirring than others. I can close my eyes and picture myself back in the дом инвалидов and the weight of the experience still makes me cry, four years later. 

And each day, my sisters teach me about selflessness, patience, and compassionate understanding in a deeper way than I could ever learn on a missions trip. I watch more Peppa Pig and Paddington than most of my peers and have learned to do my work amid constant interruptions. I am teaching English to my teenage sister and sign language to another. All while being a honors student at Bucknell University, double majoring and looking into graduate programs. And, after all, isn't a child's life worth much more than the cost a fancy vacation which will come to an end?

No, my life as an adopted sister is definitely not normal - it's so much more exciting than that!

Adopted from a Russian mental institution at 17 months old because of my mild Cerebral palsy, I, like James, have had my own journey.

So, you see, I didn't start at normal to begin with. It is amazing to see how the Lord is weaving my story together with those of my sisters and how my own adoption and disability has prepared me for their needs.

Some may look down this road and decide, as James could've, it's not for me. 

I wouldn't blame them. As Dale says, you gotta do what you gotta do. Family is important. 

But, he also says, if you are hearing a small voice inside of you saying, don't forget - listen to that Voice. 

The road of special-needs adoption is long.

It's filled with equal measures of joyful blessings and painful lessons.
But any heartache is overshadowed every time you think of the rescue - once seemingly impossible, now complete. A life given a new chance.

This is the priceless reality of leaving normal behind.

Lina this Christmas, home for over 5 years.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Song of the Week: Christmas at Downton and the Hidden History of "O Holy Night"

With Christmas just around the corner, I thought I'd share my favorite Christmas carol with you. This was really fun, as I did some research into the fascinating history "O Holy Night." But before that, here's one of my favorite versions of the song. It is from the Christmas at Downton Abbey cd, performed by Julian Ovenden. (You may remember him as Charles Blake, one of Lady Mary's suitors). Enjoy!

Photo Credit: Downton Abbey on Masterpiece

The History

The beloved, traditional song "O Holy Night" was originally written in 1847 in France. A parish priest asked a man named Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure, known for his poetry, to write a Christmas poem for mass. A childhood accident had left Roquemaure an amputee, without his right hand. Roquemaure was also not a Christian (in fact, he left the church and eventually became a Socialist). But he was glad to share his talents and so, he wrote "Cantique de Noel" (O Holy Night) while on the road to Paris, imagining the road to Bethlehem. Roquemaure decided to turn the poem into a song, but he was not musically inclined and turned to his friend world-renowned friend Adolphe Charles Adams. As a Jewish man, "Cantique de Noel" represented a holiday Adams didn't celebrate and man he didn't believe was God's son or the Savior. But he used his talents and experience from conservatories and composing ballets to put the poem to music. It was performed at the Christmas mass a few weeks later.

The story doesn't end there, however.

Because of the backgrounds of the writer and composers, the Catholic church in France banned the song for decades. But the people of France loved the song and its popularity reached all the way across the world - into the midst of the Civil War in the USA. It was here that John Sullivan Dwight translated (and published) the song into the English version we know today. Dwight was an ardent abolitionist - so the line about the "chains He shall break, for the slave is our brother, and in His name all oppression shall cease" was especially meaningful to him. The song became especially popular in the Northern abolitionist movement.

Back in France, the story goes that in the middle of the Franco-Prussian war, on the Christmas Eve of 1871 as French and German soldiers were fighting one another, a French solider jumped out of the trench and began to sing "O Holy Night". In response, a German soldier came out and sang the first verse of Martin Luther's "From Heaven Above to Earth I Come," before a truce was declared.

There is one more special part to the story of "O Holy Night." On the USA, Christmas Eve 1906, Professor Reginald Fessenden (former chemist for Thomas Edison) shocks the world by making the first radio broadcast. Where previously only beeps could be used to communicate, Fessenden's voice broke over the airwaves to radio operators on ships and newspaper companies. How fitting, that a part of this first broadcast, is the announcement of a Savior for all peoples.

You can find the recording online! Listen as Fessenden begins playing "O Holy Night" and reading the Christmas story from the Gospel of Luke at the 2:43 mark.

I hope you enjoyed learning about the history of O Holy Night as much as I did! Merry Christmas!

Four Things You Didn't Know about O Holy Night
The Amazing Story of O Holy Night

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Paddington: Why England's Most Lovable Bear Made Me Cry

Image result for paddington movie
Photo Credit to Owner

With six little sisters, you are bound to watch lots of movies. American Girl...Peppa Pig...VeggieTales....Madeline. Quite a variety. But one of our favorites is the English classic, Paddington. It is the story of an orphaned bear who comes to London, looking for a family. He's come all the way from darkest Peru and when he meets the Browns...well, it's not an instant happily ever after. 

Paddington gets into lots of lovable accidents and shenanigans, but by the end of the books - and the film - he becomes a part of the Brown family. It takes Mr. Brown the longest to warm up to Paddington, but by the end of the movie, he realizes how much he loves the accident-prone, marmalade-loving bear. 

Henry Brown: "It is true. And when I first met Paddington I wanted nothing to do with him. But my wonderful wife, she opened her heart to him and so did my incredible children and now I have too. It doesn't matter that he comes from the other side of the world or that he is a different species, or that he has a worrying marmalade habit. We love Paddington and that means he is family. And family sticks together."

That declaration may have made me cry. A lot.

You see, Mr. Brown finally realized what adoption is all about.

Now, I've been really blessed to grow up in a family where both parents are equally open to adoption and my family has stepped into each adoption, feeling the Lord's calling. We have seen him orchestrate things - cost, time, travel - in ways only He could. But that doesn't mean adoption isn't hard. 

Some days, there are times when it is tiring. But when you open up your heart to a child, you realize - perhaps you weren't meant to change the child, but maybe they came into your life to change you

Just like Paddington bounded into the Brown's lives and taught Mr. Brown how to live with an enthusiasm for each day.

In adoption, it doesn't matter that a child comes from the other side of the world, or that they are a different race, or ethnicity, or don't speak the same language. 

Just like Paddington, all the way from darkest Peru, is a bear, learning how to live like a Londoner. 

Orphans may come home with behaviors ingrained in them from years of neglect. 

Just like Paddington had to learn his manners. 

When an orphan, when Paddington, comes into your life - through all the laughter, trouble, trauma, and fun - you love them. They are family. And family sticks together.

Paddington and Me

Monday, December 11, 2017

Song of the Week: An Adoptee's Reflection on Her Mother's Thoughts

Hi everyone! This week is starting off with a new feature on the blog: the Song of the Week! Those of you who know me know I love to sing! So, once a week, I'll choose a song I heard recently and write about it on the blog. Check out the first featured song below: I'll Give My Life for You.

As a writer, one of my areas of interest is historical fiction. When choosing a book or a movie, I prefer serious, oftentimes sad, stories. While I love my share of rom-coms and happy endings, I think that there is something we can learn from stories of sacrifice and grief. 

I recently discovered the Broadway musical, Miss Saigon. It tells the story of Kim, a young girl who is in Saigon during the Vietnam War. She works as a prostitute to survive and make money and one day, she meets an American GI, Chris. This story does not sugar-coat the reality of war. Content Note: This musical is for mature audiences only. 

There are some lovely songs in this musical score like "The Last Night of the World," or "Sun and Moon." Yet, i found a surprising gem in the middle of the show. "I'd Give My Life for You," is the song Kim sings to her son. It is at once a lullaby, a prayer, and a raw, earnest plea. When I heard it, I replayed the song over and over, as it's lyrics capture the thoughts of a mother for her child. 

As an adopted woman, I can see this aching song relating to my birth mother in Russia. Yet, and this is what makes the song so poignant, the same lyrics can also apply to my adoptive mother. 

"You didn't ask me to be born. You-- why should you learn of war or pain?
Orphans don't choose to be orphans. While I can't speak for all adopted kids, nor do I know exactly why I was put up for adoption, Kim's wish as her mother - to protect her child from pain - is deep and true. She knows she can't care for him and wants him to have a better life. The same is true for my birth mother. Likewise, my adoptive mom wants me to know love and like any parent's wish for their child - wants to protect me from pain.

To be sure you're not hurt again, I swear I'd give my life for you.
Because my birth mother knew she could not care for me, she gave up her life - her wishes to keep her daughter- and allowed me to be adopted, never knowing what would happen to her daughter. 

In Russia, my adoptive mother stood up in court, declaring: "I will pour my life into this child." To be sure I would never be alone again, that I would have a family, and know what unconditional love meant -  my mom sacrificed her plans for her own life, to give me mine.

I've tasted love beyond all fear, and you should know it's love that brought you here. And in one perfect night, when the stars burned like new, I knew what I must do.
Knowing what I do about my own birth parents, I think their story was one of love. Yet, I can only imagine the heart-wrenching decision she had to make: She could keep her child without much resources. She could have an abortion. Or she could choose adoption, forever relinquishing her rights to her daughter. She knew what she must do - and I am so thankful to her for her decision. 

It is the love of God for the orphan, and His orchestration and interweaving of lives, that brought me here today. It is the love of my parents, who felt this peace and love from God so that they approached my adoption, bold and fearless. Their love for me was so strong, they knew they had to go to Russia to bring me home. 

I'll give you a million things I'll never own. I'll give you a world to conquer when you're grown.You will be who you want to be.You can choose whatever heaven grants.

When my birth mother made the decision to put me in an orphanage, she did so knowing she was giving me the chance to be adopted. The chance for me to have what she never did. The chance for me to get out of Russia, where the future of disabled orphans is grim. By allowing me to be adopted, she gave me the choice to make the most of all the new opportunities I would be given.

When my parents brought me home, they gave me a million things I would have never have had as an orphan. They loved me, taught me, and enabled me to go out and be a voice for other orphans. Now, I can choose what I want to study, what I want to do with my life. I can be who I want to be - not put in the four walls of an orphanage and labeled as "disabled." It is my parents' years of love and work that have allowed me to prove others wrong and show all the potential that is in a little girl with Cerebral Palsy. The Lord has given me a platform and a passion for other orphans.

As long as you can have your chance, I swear I'll give my life for you. No one can stop what I must do. I swear I'll give my life for you.
As the  song begins with the voices of both women, so it ends. I am humbled and honored to be a part of both stories. My birth mother's story - who sacrificed her own life and desires to keep her daughter - to give me a chance at a new life. And the story of my mom today - who decided she would give up her own life plans - all to ensure a little girl would have a second chance at life.

I am thankful for the sacrifices of my birth mother in Russia, who like Kim, gave her child a new life at the cost of being together. 

I am forever blessed by my mom who raised me and whose prayers have given me the life I have today.

Adoption is a sacrifice. But when the Lord knits hearts together...
No one can stop what they must do. 

Hear Eva Noblezada (Broadway's current Kim in Miss Saigon) sing "I'll Give My Life for You" 

Saturday, December 9, 2017

The King Loves - A Summer Sageuk at The Silver Petticoat Review

Scarlet Heart: Ryeo was my first Korean Drama. As someone who loves historical fiction, there are an abundance of sageuks (historical dramas) to choose from among Asian dramas. Needless to say, when I found out one of the actors from Scarlet Heart: Ryeo was going to play a lead in the summer drama The King Loves, I couldn't wait to tune in! Check out my review over at The Silver Petticoat Review!

Read my complete, original article here. 

"Next on my list of things to adore: the costumes and setting! From the gorgeous hanbok (Joseon-era clothing) [...] Some highlights to look forward to include: the masquerade dance at the palace between the three leads and a literal cliffhanger when the friends traverse a mountain on an unusual quest. There are deeply artistic moments throughout this show that are quite breathtaking – whether it is a field of flowers or a sword fight as fluid as a dance."