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Stephanie Drenka



When I think about the holidays, one of my most-treasured traditions growing up was watching “White Christmas” every year with my mom. Bing Crosby’s baby blue eyes and bass-baritone voice warm my heart on even the coldest of winter days. But there was always one part of the movie that would make me feel strangely sad– watching Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen’s performance of the duet, Sisters.

I loved the song and would sing along to both parts. (Which was actually fitting, since Rosemary Clooney was Vera-Ellen’s singing voice dub for it). What made me feel sad was not having a sister. Someone who looked like me and could sing and dance in perfect harmony. (I loved my little brother, but he was definitely not a performer and looked nothing like me). The sadness became more palpable in 2008 when I learned from my adoption agency in Korea that I actually did have two biological sisters, but they couldn’t put me in contact with them.

In September of 2013, my life changed thanks to the compassion of a social worker from the adoption agency. Although it was against the rules for her to reach out to my biological sisters without having first made contact with my birth mother and received her permission, she sent a telegraph to my second elder sister. Within a matter of days, the social worker collected letters and pictures from my birth family to send me, and I began planning my trip to Korea for our reunion.

Reading the letters from my two sisters and birth mother were all incredibly touching and overwhelming. But something about the second sister Kyeong-hee’s email hit me the hardest. It may have been the striking resemblance between us that I saw in the pictures (especially when she was younger, before she had the popular double eyelid surgery), or her promise to love and care for me like any other older sister would.

Dear Kyeong-seon, who I want to meet very very much,

I am so glad to finally find you….I am extremely thankful that you have grown up so well and healthy, and your existence itself is a huge joy to our family.

I’m not sure what words I should say to you first, but the important thing is that from the moment we learned of your existence we have always been missing you!

Kyeong-seon, I am your second elder sister. Mother always told me with a sad face that you looked like me the most.

I learned that I had not only a younger brother but also a younger sister when I was in my early 20s. After that I always had a longing for you and gained a habit of looking twice at people who looked like me, because they might be you.

The story about our family is long and we have went through heart-breaking times, but now both of your sisters have married and made families, and our little brother is in his last year of university so we live without too much troubles.

We wanted to find you very much so we made inquiries with Holt Children’s Services but it was difficult because this was after our father passed away. I am extremely happy that our paths have crossed once again like this, even though it is late. It must be a present from our father in heaven.

Our mother is still working hard, and our older sister and I both work as nurses. We each work diligently at our jobs and often gather during the weekend if there is nothing special.

I have much to say, but you might also be surprised at this sudden chain of events so I’ll just quickly write a few words that are urgent.

I give thanks to everyone who has helped us find each other and especially to you, Kyeong-seon, for finding us. Let’s spend the time given to us from now on happily together.

I wish to see you very much and I wonder about you a lot.

My thoughts grow; I wonder if you felt any resentment towards us, whether I could have been able to protect you if I had been older.

From now on, Kyeong-seon, my little sister, I’ll love you and care for you without lack, just like any other older sister!

I am thankful that now, my longing for you is a pleasurable one, everyday.
Take care always and stay healthy. I’ll write again soon!

We spent a week together that following Thanksgiving, and she honored her promise to care for me as any other sister would. Despite our language barrier, we found that words were not always necessary.

When she held my hand during car rides, I thought how strange it was that her hands seemed so familiar. I knew we had similar facial features, but even our hands looked alike! We spoke to each other in one or two word phrases, but always knew exactly what the other meant. My eldest sister, Kyeong-mi, did not speak any English and had to work for the majority of my visit. I loved the time we spent together, but I didn’t have the same time to bond with her as I did with Kyeong-hee.

I felt so loved and connected to Kyeong-hee, and it broke my heart to say goodbye. She wanted to wait with me at the airport, but I insisted that they leave– I knew I couldn’t hold back the flood of tears, and didn’t want her to witness it. As soon as I returned home, Kyeong-hee and I started planning her visit to Texas the next year. The plans were put on hold with the Ebola scare in Dallas last holiday season, but now she’ll be here with her daughter and husband in just one week!

I’m wrapping up the last of my photoshoots this weekend so I can prepare for their arrival next Thursday (and brush up on my Korean skills). They’ll be staying for ten days, and I want to cherish every second with them. In case I don’t have time to post again until they leave, I’m wishing everyone the happiest of holidays — whether it’s with the family you were born into, adopted by, or made yourself! Holiday hugs to you all! XOXO.


  • Sevi

    December 9, 2015

    Goodness Stephanie!!!! I am at my desk in full blown tears over this beautiful post! I am so glad that you get to spend this quality time with your sister and her family. I can’t wait to hear all about it ❤️

    • Stephanie Drenka

      December 9, 2015

      <3 Thank you, Sevi!! You'll have to stop by and say hello when you have free time over the break!!

  • Minna

    December 9, 2015

    Steph, I’m so happy to hear about your family reunion! What a wonderful way to celebrate the holidays. I love reading your blog, and am wishing you and your family warm wishes for the holidays. I miss you and hope I get to visit Dallas again in the future! 🙂

    • Stephanie Drenka

      December 9, 2015

      Awww I miss you Minna!! Seems like just yesterday you were helping me with my Korean name for the tattoo, or translating my foster brother’s email with your mom! Come back soon– lots of fun restaurants to try. and this time we’ll get a picture together haha!

  • Valery

    December 9, 2015

    This is the sweetest story! I cannot wait to hear all about your wonderful time with your family!!! <3

  • Mariko

    December 9, 2015

    I had something similar happen to me; while it wasn’t as profound, it was similar. My niece and I spent 2 inseparable weeks together every summer, though that stopped about 10 years ago when her family moved. I caught up with her after not seeing her for years and it was surprising how easy it was to pick up where we left off. Her boyfriend and even Toby kept commenting on how our expressions and personalities were so similar. It was pretty crazy. I’m in the similar position of trying to plan her trip to Texas 🙂 There’s something about family that doesn’t change with time or space; I’m so glad you get to experience that! Enjoy the time together and make lots of awesome memories!!!

    • Mariko

      December 9, 2015

      Oh and just FYI; my parents are both super old and my niece is only 3 years younger than I am, she was always like the little sister I never had. The story seems funny if you think of my niece as a baby/child. Haha

    • Stephanie Drenka

      December 10, 2015

      That’s so sweet! and lol, i had assumed your niece was a lot younger when i first read your comment. When is she coming to visit?

  • Nan Walvoord

    December 9, 2015

    This is a beautiful story that brings tears of joy to my eyes. I am so happy for you. What a wonderful Christmas blessing to have her come visit you. I know that all of this was a rather surreal experience. One year ago I met three half sisters that I didn’t know existed until 6 years ago. To find loved ones you didn’t know, makes you feel your life is more complete. Happy that this happened to you while you are young Love you sweet girl!!! Have a wonderful time. .

    • Stephanie Drenka

      December 10, 2015

      Aww Nan! *hugs* I’d love to hear the story of you and your half-sisters sometime. I’ll definitely be bringing my Korean family to The Vintage House to pick out some gifts so they can meet you <3

  • Melind ry

    December 10, 2015


    Im Ally SCHILLER ‘s mom. And you know she has been on a similar journeY. I don’t think she told me Of your trip to Korea and your family THERE . I know Ally WOULD LOVE To Have One or More of Her SISTERS visit here. I HOPE YOU Have a Wonderful time with them and Can’t Wait To Hear About The visit.

    • Stephanie Drenka

      December 10, 2015

      It would be so nice for one of Ally’s sisters to visit! It’s so hard to go years between seeing them, especially after all the time it took to find them. Ally and I have had long talks about it.

  • Andrea Overturf

    December 10, 2015

    How wonderful that you will be able to celebrate Christmas and the holidays together this year! You have a very special story to tell. I really enjoyed reading this and love that you shared it with us! I hope you all have the best time! xoxo

  • Ashlee Howard

    December 12, 2015

    Your story is so touching. I’m excited for you as you welcome your family. You have a kind heart…and you mean so much to MY family! Thank you for your authenticity and vulnerability. By the way…my sister and I ALWAYS sang that “Sisters” song! It is bittersweet now because we are estranged.
    Much love to you.

  • Trista

    December 22, 2015

    So heartfelt and touching. Thank you for letting us peek into this very special time in your lives. I am loving all the photos and that this new chapter brings you so much joy!

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