I really don’t want to introduce her this way. After all, who wants to be defined by what holds them back? But, I think it’s important in understanding her story; how her weaknesses were made strengths.

She was born in a country that had very little room for girls, especially girls with a visual impairment. She spent much of her early childhood struggling for survival in a special-needs orphanage. Her visual impairment got her lumped into rooms with kids who had cognitive impairment, and so no attempt to educate her was ever made. She had an eye removed at 3, a cornea replaced at 9. Her only family was of her own making, bits and pieces strung together with what she knew of love – other kids, an occasional nanny.

When she joined our family at age 13, she knew a little bit of conversational English and a little bit of Chinese Braille, and a whole lot about wanting a family and parents. I was home schooling my little tribe of 3 daughters at the time and figured she could use full-time family bonding, so I taught myself a passable amount of Braille and off we went.


Imagine…you’re in a new country. New language. New customs. New food (lots of Ramen noodles and soy sauce…even on spaghetti…those first months). New family. New rules. You have to learn how to be a daughter, a sister. You have to learn not only a new language, but how to read in that language…and read in Braille. This was Wen Jun. I could barely make out the ABC’s, and so didn’t find fault in her when she would dissolve into tears at trying to read one page of “Cat in the Hat.” She was almost 14 and was at a pre-school level in math, reading, science, you name it. At a time where her first priority was bonding with a family, she was also having to do the impossible: get up to speed in an educational setting.

6 months after she came home, we moved to Colorado (again, big change) and were introduced to one of the best educational systems I had ever seen. They jumped in with both feet to support her. She started 7th grade, two full years behind her age group, and still only about at a K-1 level.


Here’s where I would like to jump ahead 6 years.

Wen Jun is finishing her last few months of high school. I’ve never in my life witnessed the kind of dogged determination I have seen in my daughter. She has spent thousands of hours studying, catching up, doing orientation and mobility training, learning new technologies, volunteering, and completing the rigorous requirements of the National Technical Honor Society. She exercises every day and eats a stricter paleo diet than this crossfitting mom could ever dream of eating. She spent the entire summer on her own in Beijing, volunteering at her former foster home teaching English and mobility to preschoolers.

This kid knows what she wants, and she goes for it.

But here’s the thing. She may not be able to enter college in the degree program she would like to do, this fall. Wen Jun would like to be a psychologist and help other kids who have come from less-than-fortunate circumstances. But, there are so many gaps in her education that she still has a lot of work to do.

We met with the counselors at the local community college this week. When we left, she was discouraged…a little teary. She was quiet most of the way home, but when we neared our driveway, she said, “Mom, I understand what they’re saying. I know I might not be ready for college. But, I’m not going to give up on my dreams. I’m really disappointed, but I want to figure out what options I have.”

I was so proud of her, at that moment, and also so pissed off.  I wanted to stomp my feet and scream and yell about the unfairness of it all. This kiddo has an unbelievable work ethic, and A+ attitude and a wonderful, caring personality. Why is life so damn unfair? She didn’t have a choice in how her life began; why is she being punished for it?

But, I learned from her. I learned that “not now” doesn’t mean “not ever.” I learned that an unfair start in life doesn’t preclude you from chasing your dreams. And I learned that the attitude you choose to have about your hardships determines how you will face your future.

She’s 19, but she’s a miracle and a blessing. She may be 50 when she finally becomes a psychologist, but those patients will be the luckiest patients in town to have someone like her listening to them. She is traveling the tough road with grace and determination, and she WILL be a success.


Thank you, Wen-juney, for giving me permission to tell your story. I hope people are inspired by it.