Author Archives: Moongirl

About Moongirl

I'm a Taiwanese American adoptee, writer, musician, artist, and animal lover.

honoring our ancestors

The Qingming Festival (清明節), aka Tomb-Sweeping Day in English, was observed on April 5th. It means literally, “Pure Brightness Festival.” This holiday dates back nearly 2500 years and is a traditional Chinese festival observed in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia, Singapore, Cambodia, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and by ethnic Chinese in mainland China. During Qingming, certain foods and traditions are celebrated. Families in Taiwan visit the tombs of their ancestors to clean the gravesites and make ritual offerings to their ancestors. When I reunited with my birth family in 2012, we planned a visit to our parents’ tombs (it wasn’t Qingming); however, I became very ill on the way there and ended up in the hospital. I was disappointed that I wasn’t well enough to visit their tombs. Although Qingming is not celebrated here in the U.S., I spent the morning honoring my birth parents, Shiow-Jean Lu and Chan-Huai Huang. I messaged my oldest sister in Taiwan, Christina, who told me that they would go “tomb sweeping” at the end of the month to honor and show gratitude for our ancestors. She said they will take fruits to the Buddhist hall where the ancestral tablet is located to give thanks and pray for blessings. During the height of the pandemic, the Buddhist halls on the mountain were closed, so “tomb sweeping” was not allowed over the past year or so.

My birth mother, Shiow-Jean Lu

Christina also shared that our ancestors originally came from Guangxi Province in southern China, which I first learned of when I had my adoption papers translated in 2010. Guilin is the capital of Guangxi Province. Christina said that the landscapes of Guilin (桂林) are very beautiful, and the landscapes of Yangshuo, a riverside town in Guangxi Province, are even more beautiful. She told me of a famous river, Lijiang River (漓江 Líjiāng), in Guilin. The Li River spans roughly 80 kilometers (50 miles) and runs through the heart of Guangxi, connecting beautiful downtown Guilin with Yangshuo. Christina shared that she visited Guilin for the first time in 1989 when the “iron curtain” opened. She visited the village of our parents a couple of times. As the years passed, their hometown underwent many changes. Christina said she has never returned, but the beauty of the land left a lasting impression that is unforgettable.

My sister shared more about Pa and Ma. She said China had been at war for decades and during those years and even earlier, natural and man-made disasters forced common people to migrate to the south in search of refuge. Christina heard that the ancestors of our parents are actually from Hunan Province, the largest province in South-Central China. Our father was born in Pingle City (平樂), and our mother, in Liuzhou (柳州),  the second largest city in Guangxi. When they grew up, our parents relocated to Guilin. Christina said she doesn’t think it was many years before the war took them away from their home to join the resistance due to the Japanese invasion, or Chinese Civil War (1937-1945). China endured decades of Japanese occupation and years of brutal warfare. After the defeat of the Japanese in 1945, a race between the Nationalists and Communists ensued to take control. The Chinese Nationalist Party, or KMT, fought against the Communist Party from 1927-1949. In 1949, the KMT leaders were forced to retreat to Taiwan when the Communists gained control of mainland China, so our parents also fled to Taiwan. Christina said it was a very turbulent time, and I can only imagine so. Our father was in the KMT army, and our mother was a housewife.

Christina also told me about my Chinese name, Hsaio-Ling (Huang). The basic meaning of Hsaio (筱) is small bamboo. Generally, brothers and sisters are named with different middle or third characters as the difference between family members and seniors. We have the same Ling (玲). And Hsaio (筱) in Chinese has the same voice as Hsaio(小) (small) and means more gracious. She said because I’m the youngest sister, I take the (小). In traditional Chinese culture, orchid, bamboo, and plum symbolize tenacious nobility of character. The evergreen bamboo in all seasons symbolizes life and eternal youth; its branches are bent but not broken, which is the principle of being soft but firm. The hollow of bamboo represents the character of humility and virtue; the bamboo joint represents high morale, and the tall and straight bamboo represents Integrity. It’s lovely to know what my Chinese name means.

My birth father, Chan-Huai Huang

When I arrived in Taipei, Taiwan, in 2012, my sisters, Christina and Amy, gave me photographs of our parents, multiple photos of our father at different ages, but only one of our mother, as all the others had been destroyed. It was quite something to see my biological sisters in person for the first time and to see the photographs they so carefully prepared. Though we are separated by continents, my birth family is always near to my heart. My first trip there was such a special and meaningful time. I can hardly believe it’s been 11 years since that sojourn. One day, I will return to Taiwan. Sometimes I wish I were 30 years younger and could live there and teach English or something like that.

Things have changed much since 2012. The years have flown by, COVID happened, we’ve all grown older, and life has been full of twists and turns. Now tensions between Taiwan and China loom. It is not the same China where our parents once lived and breathed during their youth. Nevertheless, I always remember my time in Taiwan as if it were a fantasy come true. I literally felt like I was walking on clouds – it was a joyous and celebratory time. May our next reunion be just as sweet. And may Taiwan remain the strong and independent country she is now.

Beautiful Lijiang River in Guilin, my birth family’s original homeland. My sister shared this video with me.

welcome spring


Mary Shelley

Happy Spring Equinox everyone! Today is the first day of spring, which officially begins at 3:24 p.m. PST for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere. The Spring Equinox is also known as the Vernal Equinox, or the “First Point of Aries.” Interestingly, vernal translates to “new” and “fresh,” and equinox comes from the Latin, aequus (equal) and nox (night). Today the sun’s rays shine onto the equator while the Earth sits with its axis tilted neither toward nor away from the sun, which causes 12 hours of sunlight almost everywhere on Earth. Day and night last almost the same amount of time, though one may get a few extra minutes, depending on where you are on the planet. So cool!

In the past, I’ve been more of an autumn kinda person, but it’s been so rainy and cold this fall/winter season, I’m looking forward to more sun and warmer weather! The spring season brings with it increased daylight and more time outdoors, a sense of blooming everywhere, and of course, warmer temperatures. In a spiritual and metaphysical sense, the Spring Equinox is associated with rebirth and renewal, both in a worldly sense, e.g., spring flowers budding, new growth etc., but also in a personal sense – a fresh start, a sense of shifting. For me, it’s a time to pause, reflect, set some new intentions, renew gratitude, and breathe. Where do I want and need to make shifts? What do I need to let go of? What do I need to welcome more of? I can think of a lot of things I need to let go of. Letting go of stuff is hard sometimes, especially when patterns and ways of being have long been established, but are clearly no longer of service.

I recently listened to a talk by Tara Brach. She spoke of habit energy, the way we try to control our way through the day. Habit energy is associated with the Buddhist tradition. It’s the habitual chasing after the future in our thoughts, a blockage of our ability to be in the present moment. Tara also refers to it as “the big squeeze,” which resonates so deeply with me. It’s this potent force that tends to yank me through my day, propelling me to rush through tasks in order to get to the next one, often when there is no need to rush at all (this sense to rush or of urgency is common in those who have experienced chronic trauma). I’m well acquainted with habit energy and “the big squeeze.” They are old friends…yes, this too. Though I usually welcome old friends, I can’t say I’m happy when the big squeeze comes to visit. It’s my highest intention to send it on its way and invite more meditative experiences into my life this spring season and beyond.

So, today I’ve planned a little ritual to pause. To reflect and set new intentions, regenerate old ones, and be grateful for what is and is to become. As I enjoy the flicker and warmth of a favorite candle sitting on my desk, Max Richter’s Spring playing softly in the background, I’m basking in what’s most important to me. Relationships, creativity, learning, music, art, nature, animals, gratitude. Of all of these, gratitude is the toughest to maintain. With that, I gently remind myself of what I have, gifts within and all, who I’ve become and am becoming, despite great adversity and what others think.

If you’re interested in Spring Equinox rituals and traditions, there’s a great little article at Sunset Magazine called 12 ways to Celebrate the Spring Equinox and Welcome a Brand New Season. I especially like the Renewal Ritual suggested. And here is another great article by Michelle Holling-Brooks, March 2023 Equinox: Calling Forward Balance, Harmony, and Nourishment! with other suggestions.






Jack Kornfield

il dolce far niente

I’ve been working with a consultant lately. She’s amazing – skilled, experienced, all the things. After my first consultation, she told me, “Just keep doing what you do best.” Hmm. I went a little blank. What do I do best? I peered inside, and here’s what came up. Nothing. I mean “nothing” is what I do best. No, really…Nada. Doing absolutely nothing is, like, my jam. Or, perhaps it’s just that I like – I jest – prefer doing nothing, which, unmistakably, is when I’m at my best.

I understand what my consultant was trying to say, God bless her. She meant, until I’ve gained more skill with the thing I was consulting on, just keep doing what I do best, keep moving forward. I think it was meant to be hopeful and helpful. Little did she know, nothing is my best. Ha. That certainly cannot be good for business.

Then the other night I was watching Eat, Pray, Love, the movie. You know, the one with Julia Roberts, based on the book by Elizabeth Gilbert? Elizabeth Gilbert inspires me. I love her podcast, Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert, her strength, her character, her vulnerability and authenticity. In the movie, the phrase dolce far niente comes up. Dolce far niente or il dolce far niente means, the sweetness of doing nothing. I dig it. I mean, just saying, dolce far niente, out loud is dreamy. Try it.

I know, I know…the phrase was made more popular by the book and movie franchise. I can’t help but believe, however, that the Italians have something that’s greatly missing for many of us living in America, including myself…this essence of doing nothing and enjoying it. That’s the kicker. It’s a way of life, a culture, a way of being. Enjoying doing nothing. Nothingness is that pleasant experience of enjoying time going by and not letting your thoughts take over, where all that matters is living in the moment – No stress, no pressure, nothing matters, just living in the moment, a “doing nothing” moment. Does it feel wrong, unnatural, suspicious? That’s the problem, right?

This is when I urgently tell myself, “It’s okay that you’re doing nothing but writing this post about nothing. It’s okay to let go, to be present and enjoy the process of writing, the fun with words and phrases. And, dammit, stop thinking about work and increasing my skill set for a blazing second.” Deep breath and a sigh.

So maybe there is something good about what I do best, which is, need I remind you and myself, nothing. Maybe if I practiced, nay embodied “the sweetness of nothing,” I’d be happier, less tired, less stressed, and feel freer. Maybe it’d take some years off. Wouldn’t that be freakin’ awesome? I dunno about your 2023, but mine has been bumpy. Turbulent. I got swept up in a whirlwind, tailwind, whatever you wanna call it, before I knew what hit me. Albeit, some of the circumstances were beyond my control. In any case, I lost sight and did a poor job navigating the winds. As things amped up, dolce far niente felt beyond my grasp.

And, I get it. We live in a culture where “running around” is common. I can’t tell you how long I’ve been in “learning and training” mode. It’s exhausting. My work/life balance got terribly unbalanced. It seems so easy to disengage from the things that bring peace and serenity to my life – being in nature, meditation, yoga, creative projects – in order to make room for obligations. Obligations should not take up that much space and deplete that much life force energy. It’s time to downshift and get back to what is needed.

I’m happy to say that the winds have died down. It’s not completely smooth sailing, but life never really is, is it? I’m setting a new course, something bound to happen again and again, no doubt. Getting back to what I do best. Nothing. The sweetness of doing nothing. And guess what, I’m gonna enjoy it.

deep grief

I woke up at 3:30 am yesterday morning, Veteran’s Day. I tried to get back to sleep, but my mind was wandering. I couldn’t shake what I can only describe as sorrow. I have to say, most of the time, sorrow follows me. It’s just kinda right there, like a shadow, right on the edge of consciousness. For days, maybe weeks, I have been thinking about our first dog, Peppermint, our adorable miniature dachshund. We had to say good-bye to her four years ago. What was not obvious to us back then was the amount of suffering Peppermint was experiencing due to arthritis and a sensitive back. She’d become aggressive over the years, but I didn’t connect the dots. I’ll talk more about that later.

On the morning we said good-bye, Peppermint could no longer walk and wasn’t eating, though she seemed oriented. The day before, I knew she wasn’t well. My husband insisted “it was time.” I felt so helpless. Peppermint usually slept in her crate, but knowing it was difficult for her to move, I put her little dog bed right next to me so that I could check on her. I was worried sick and knew she was declining. At my husband’s urging, we took her to the veterinarian the next morning. My heart was so heavy. I tried desperately to keep my emotions in check to ease Peppermint’s anxiety. She always hated going to the vet.

We left the vet that morning without Peppermint. The days and weeks that followed were tortuous. It was the first time ever in my life that I couldn’t bear to listen to music. I listen to music daily. Peppermint loved music and used to lie on the back of our couch listening and sleeping while I played the piano.

The clock just kept ticking, I checked the time. 4:30 am. I remembered Peppermint, so many memories, and how much I missed her. I began to sense strongly Pepper’s presence, as though were comforting me. I could see her sweet face and tiny body. She gave me a message. Perhaps it was all imagined, a way to self-soothe in the midst of grief. I think, however, that Pepper was communicating with me, letting me know she was okay and no longer suffering. It’s not the first time I’ve connected with “beings” that have passed, although such occurrences are rare and only come at certain times. We stayed like that till the morning light broke through. It dawned on me that Veteran’s Day, four years ago, was the day we said good-bye. Though my wake mind didn’t immediately recall this, my body did. And, It was as though Pepper was paying me a visit on the anniversary of her passing. Why this year and not last or even further back? More on that later. I told Pepper how sorry I was that I didn’t see the pain she experienced long before her last days, not only the physical pain, but emotional, too. She (like so many other dogs) experienced terrible separation anxiety that I’m afraid we failed to pay attention to. I told Pepper that I wished I’d known her suffering and done better so that she would have been better and happier.

Why does any of this matter? What I have learned in my healing journey, through therapy, meditation, and particularly through connecting with horses, is how very disconnected from my own body I have been for many, many years. Working with horses brought that to the light and into my awareness in the most profound way. It’s hard to be attuned to others when you’re not attuned to yourself. That disconnect began early. Adoption, separation, emotional abuse, fear, all of it led to a disappearing of self. I learned to make myself small. It didn’t feel safe to speak up or I might get disciplined or worse, dismissed. It unfortunately became a way of being.

Yesterday, I let myself grieve. Such grief is heavy, but to grieve is also freeing. There are some griefs that stay with us. They become less vivid with time, but nevertheless remain a part of us. I was able to have that moment with Peppermint, to notice her presence. It was good and meaningful. May you find what is meaningful and good for you. And to my dear, sweet Peppermint, thank you for sharing your unconditional love, wisdom, and care with me. You will be ever present in my heart.

the seven wonders

I’m an adopted individual. Like many adoptees, parts of my history are a fill in the blank. I reunited with my first family ten years ago. Despite what many assume, reunion does not always mean that all your questions about your early beginnings get answered. There are still many missing pieces that leave me to wonder. And there are many different reasons why pieces remain missing. Perhaps, the language barrier. And, out of respect for my first family, I don’t ask a lot of questions, as I sense that it’s distressing. I did gain answers to some of my questions. There are still voids. I will never have the opportunity to meet my first parents, as by the time I reunited with my first family, my parents had passed on. I will never know why my adoptive parents told me mistruths about my birth heritage (I learned they were mistruths), as they too have passed on. The wonders feel like a big, dark hole in my heart. I don’t sense into it often; however, I know it’s there, deep down inside. I know it can be triggered unexpectedly in moments when I feel flooded with deep loss and/or threat. So, here are seven wonders that I have around my adoption. Perhaps some of them resonate with you.

  1. Did my birth mother ever think about me? I learned from my biological sisters that our father relinquished me to an orphanage secretly. I was adopted at the age of four months from the orphanage. My sisters shared that they remembered visiting me at the babysitter’s after school, holding me and such. Then one day, I wasn’t there anymore. I wonder if my first mother mourned. Did she try to find me? How did my relinquishment impact the family once I was gone? Did she love me? As I write this, I feel that big, dark hole in my heart opening up just a little.
  2. Did I attach to my birth mother? Did she hold me, feed me, make eye contact ? Did she take care of me? Knowing what I know now about attachment, I recognize that I didn’t get a whole lot of it during my early years. I can’t recall a single time my adoptive parents ever played with me. There are pictures of them holding me, smiling for the camera, but were there moments of connection? Moments of bonding? I grew up scared most of my childhood and adolescence, so I wonder.
  3. What were my first parents like? What was my birth mother’s personality like? I learned from my bio sisters that she was a teacher and loved classical music. Was she kind? Was she loving? Are we similar in any other ways? My sisters told me that I look like our mother when she was younger, although there are no pictures left of her as a young woman. In my memoir, I tell of a time when I “saw” my first and adoptive mothers. It was during a Guided Imagery & Music (GIM-Bonny Method) training I took with some music therapy classmates years ago. It was quite emotional. I remember it like it happened yesterday. During my “traveling” experience, my birth mother told me she gave me the gift of music, and the whole experience was like my adoptive mother telling me, “I want you to know this now.” My adoptive mom purposely hid so much of my adoption history. I often wonder what my first parents were like.
  4. Why was I relinquished? On my adoption contract – which stayed hidden in my parents’ attic till after my adoptive mother’s death – it states that “the family was impoverished.” I assume that to be true according to what my bio sisters shared. I believe that there was stress, tension, anxiety in the home of my first family. But what was the breaking point? What may have happened that led up to my going away? I wonder.
  5. Did my birth father ever regret relinquishing me, or mourn my absence? I surmise that we never bonded. He must have felt a lot of something to take me away. Was it anger, was it pressure? Did I cry a lot? Was I just another mouth to feed? Was there something wrong with me? I hear that a lot from other adoptees, a resounding, “I don’t belong. I don’t fit in.” Unconsciously, I think other adoptees feel that (not a generalization). It’s a message that gets transmitted nevertheless. A deep sense of unworthiness and shame is often at the core of some of the patterns we develop later in life.
  6. What do my extended birth family members think about me now that we have met? I reunited with my extended first family on the Eve of the Lunar New Year, 2012. I met my Uncle, the patriarch of the family, my niece and nephew, and my sisters’ husbands, as well as close family friends. My two biological sisters and brother were also there. I spent daily time with my sisters during my entire visit, and I remember not wanting them to think that I was spoiled in any way, or had an easier life. I maintain contact with my sisters and my niece and nephew via social media and direct messaging. My niece is now married, and she and her husband have two little girls. I’m also connected to my brother on social media. I experienced nothing but kindness and generosity from my family. It was so special to meet them all. I often felt like I was floating. It was one of the happiest times in my life, and of course, life changing. I felt accepted, but I wonder if they too wonder about what happened.
  7. Will I ever feel like I fit in? This is the greatest challenge I’ve experienced as a result of being adopted. I’m Asian and grew up in a predominantly white community. Yes, racial teasing. Yes, racism, prejudice, microaggressions, still. Yes, tried so hard to “fit in.” Yes, rejected my cultural roots well into adulthood. Yes, it hurt. In everything I did and do today, the feeling of not fitting in is pervasive. Through therapy, I have learned skills to recognize, befriend (this is a work in progress), and cope with this deeply rooted sense and internal message. Some days, it’s overwhelming and really hard. Most people in my circle, including family and friends, don’t get it. It’s hard for them to understand or empathize. So I cope, alone. Meditation, mindfulness, yoga, drawing, and music help. Music was my first love and remains so at the very core of my being. But I wonder, had I been offered safer connection during my early years, would I be different? Would I struggle less with shame, people pleasing, codependency? I think, yes. I said earlier, therapy has been instrumental in healing, growth, validation, and self-awareness. My therapist is not an adoptee, but she gets it and is very knowledgeable about attachment and trauma.

So, I wonder as I wander. I live each day in hopes that I’ll grow past my wonders. But, I think my wonders will always remain wonders. I have this hope. That perhaps I can offer support to other adoptees who have similar wonders.

ROC national day

Taiwan, The Republic of China (ROC), celebrates National Day, otherwise known as Double Ten Day, on October 10th every year. Taipei, Taiwan, is my place of birth. I was adopted as an infant by an American family, and consequently, lost all connection to Taiwan and my first/birth family. That changed, however, over the Lunar New Year of 2012, at which time I traveled to Taipei to reunite with my first family including my two older sisters and brother, my uncle, niece and nephew, and close family friends. Sadly, I know very little about Taiwan’s history and had even less knowledge of Double Ten Day . So I messaged my oldest sister to learn more about its significance. I’m so glad I did, and my sister seemed pleased that I wanted to know more about Taiwan’s history. So I share what I learned now with my fellow Taiwanese adoptees.

Double Day Ten in Mandarin is 雙十節. means double or two; means ten; means day. Here is the history of Double Ten that my sister shared with me:

The Wuchang Uprising in China occurred at the beginning of the Revolution of 1911, and the Qing Dynasty, China’s last imperial dynasty, was overthrown by Chinese revolutionaries. The Republic of China was subsequently established on January 1, 1912. Since the first day of the Wuchang Uprising occurred on October 10, 1911, October 10 is commemorated as the anniversary of the founding of the Republic of China. My sister shared that there is not as much importance attached to Double Ten Day as in years past. She remembers that, at one time, there were many activities on National Day, and the whole country was joyous. The national flag was flown all over the sky, and national flags were placed everywhere on the streets and lanes, fluttering beautifully. There was a flag-raising ceremony at the Presidential Plaza at six o’clock in the morning, and during the day, the heads of state, officials from various ministries, and invited international guests gathered in the stands to watch a military parade. The Air Force and Army presented majestic shows. It was a very popular holiday, and there were numerous performances by various groups celebrating various folk customs. What everyone looked forward to most was the fireworks at night. Colorful fireworks were placed in the square in front of the Presidential Palace, bringing on cheers and applause. Everyone enthusiastically participated in the parade, holding a small flag and walking around for a long time following the performances. My sister said that In recent years, there have been firework displays at Taipei 101 and Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall. She shared that these are the memories of older generations, and the jubilance once felt as a nation on this day has diminished. Now there are different kinds of activities on Double Ten in Taiwan but it is just a holiday without the same jubilance, and few young people pay attention to its meaning.

I asked about the Double Ten flag and Taiwan’s national flag. My sister explained, our national flag is based on the blue sky with a white sun created by the revolutionary martyr, Lu Haodong, and the founding father, Sun Yat-sen, with red as the background color. The 12 rays of light on the sun represent the 12 months of the year and the 12 traditional Chinese hours in a day (each ray equals two hours). In 1928, the red and blue flag with the white sun officially became the national flag of the Republic of China. The white flag with the double ten red Chinese characters is the flag that represents Double Ten Day.

I appreciate this history lesson about Taiwan from my sister. I hope it has meaning for you, too. There is still so much to learn and know. Incidentally, my daughter’s birthday is on October 10, to which my sister said, she has lucky blessing!