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MY 2018 WORD OF THE YEAR

Every year and every day offers a new opportunity to start over, to learn, to grow, and to be kind – to ourselves and to others. After reading the title of Shonda Rhimes’ book, 2017 became my Year of Yes! [I hope to actually read the full book in 2018 because if the title alone launched one of the most amazing years of my life so far, the possibilities seem powerful]! Spending a year living outside my comfort zone, and at the same time, very much inside my head and heart, helped me contemplate and focus my goals, get in touch with my history and plot new paths for my future. [Cue the confetti and the marching band!] What word would be worthy to follow the Year of YES?!

Truth be told, at the end of the year, I felt like the inside of a spaghetti squash in that every time one scraped the internal surface, a whole new pile of stringy things spilled out all over the place giving a whole lot of goodness, but at the same time, making an even bigger mess. You can dress it up and fool the world into believing it’s as good as pasta, but truth be told, it’s still spaghetti squash. [I think I just nominated a mascot to accompany the Word of the Year!]

My 2018 Word of the Year:

Since I already felt a bit raw after everything that happened in my life and in the country during the last year [Who can relate?! Woo!], I yearned to bring things back to a level that I could control by forming deeper connections with people while also helping others strengthen their connections! To truly connect, one must be willing to be vulnerable.

Honestly, it just felt like the right year to bust everything open for inspection. I’ve always ended my job interviews by bragging about my ability to compartmentalize to ensure employers that my crazy busy home life won’t spill over into the workplace. This skill also helped me cope with yucky situations [aka: loss of control when knocked off track] like my divorce, times where I know I didn’t stand up for my goals, or the literal shit show – the flood of 2015, and put them away in a shoe box in my closet to return some normalcy to my life. By constantly rushing to stay ahead of the discomfort to prove “I’m fine!” I was not present in my life, nor was I living an authentic life. [#FineIsFake]

Now, More than Ever:
a) I’ve stepped into some new circles of amazing people:
Connecting with my tribe of Insiders, my family of Korean adoptees and working to deepen connections with my large circle of family by friendship, I’ve noticed that part of me loves to drop a joke, create a diversion and flee when people get what I deem “too close.” I’m calling my bluff.
b) I’m fixing to celebrate my 50th (in 2020) with an epic mid-life Personal Journey: …As opposed to a mid-life crisis [unless Elon Musk wants to throw a convertible red Tesla at me – even if it has 70 million miles on it]. Since a journey of that size takes time and I’ve already started the ball rolling – why NOT now?
c) I don’t want my quirks to spill over to the next 50 years, or to my kids: I want to contain the crazy to my first 50 years so that my kids can find their own colorful ways to go a little nuts. Plus it’s a great lesson to them that I can identify things in myself that I want to improve then find a way to do it.
d) I’m tired of putting myself last: My health depends on it. So easy for us to say, so hard for us to do, to say we’ll stop putting ourselves last. If you do this, just STOP! No, I have no idea what you and I will do with our scant free time, but let’s start by grabbing a green juice [I meant caramel latte with whip] and we’ll figure something out.
e) I’ve never been one to fight to keep up with the Jones’: That’s served me well, especially as a single parent, because it’s just not going to happen – and I’m fine with it. We want for nothing. …OK, maybe I tried to keep up for a hot second while in college. My son can tell you verbatim [rolling his eyes] about the time I bought myself an expensive watch. After wearing it for a day, becoming totally paranoid and squirmy in my own skin [rather than totally over-the-moon higher than “Fine”], I returned it.

So what does this mean?
Does this mean that as of NOW I’ll be wearing my spaghetti squash heart on my sleeve?… Corner you at the grocery store demanding to know your 5-year plan?… Buck any trends and purposefully go in an opposite direction?… No! I still would love to check out catchy new exercise trends [dance craze], hang out at relaxing travel destinations, or try the newest age-fighting lotions. I’ll admit though, without the help of my #OMagInsider role, I’m usually a late adapter. So, maybe don’t look for the latest trends here, but I’ll tell you what I’m loving right now! You’ll get my in-depth reviews boasting about the obvious fun and the secondary benefits!

The Sparks of Inspiration:
My kids – I don’t think my kids feel I’m any crazier than their friends think their parents are crazy [sorry if that is news to you]. But, before I send the kids into the world, I want to teach them the value of human connections and being connected with your inner self.
Other’s truths – So many of the amazing people that I connected with this year trusted me with their truths and gave me the strength to follow suit.
Brené Brown – Having just dived into Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday podcasts [since Summer 2017 – told you, late adapter…], Brené was the first one I listened to – hoping for a cliff notes of her books since I look forward to hearing her speak in May! Call it a bandwagon or call it a message from the universe. She’s got my ear now, so I will listen.

What about you?

  • Do you have a word or mantra for this year? #OneWord
  • What are your favorite podcasts for personal growth?
  • How do you take Super Soul Sunday? Watch it? Podcasts? Read the Book?
  • Do you have a better answer than “Fine” when someone asks you how you are?
  • Is this me subliminally whining about needing to wean myself off flour carbs?!
  • Do you have a favorite Spaghetti Squash recipes so SS & I can be on good terms?
  • Should I commit to this word and hammer my into a necklace?
    I’m thinking myintent.org

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    Click thru for $5 off your necklace or bracelet! It’s meant to be!

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FALLING INTO STEP WITH KOREAN ADOPTEES

AKA | SF hosted a warm reception to greet everyone to the weekend!

My flight instinct kicked in the moment I entered the room filled with Korean faces. It’s nothing against them, and all about me, because I came from Korea too. However, I didn’t grow up in Korea, nor with Korean culture. My rational mind reminded me that, most likely, neither did they. We represent a handful of 200,000 Korean adoptees (KAD) adopted away from our birth country since the 1950s. From my perspective, adoption positively impacted my life and I’m grateful for the path I’m on. As a writer, or maybe as an adoptee, I felt I couldn’t fully reconcile my current story without a full grasp of my backstory. So after 47 years, I stepped into the room to start my journey to unravel my first 8 months.

Visit IKAA.org for info on the next event!

Obviously, I didn’t just wander into San Francisco, happening to arrive at the annual IKAA* conference reception (this year hosted by the AKA|SF**). I’ll explain my “Why now?” later because the question peppered me regularly leading up to and throughout the weekend. I yearned to spend a weekend getting introduced to my Korean Adoptee clan. I hoped that a full weekend would encourage me to get past the surface amusement of familiar appearances to find deeper connections. I steeled myself to feel the emotion of adoptees’ various experiences, especially those brave enough to share less positive adoption stories.

During my first lap of the reception room, I fought to lower my guard. I thought the high concentration of people with shared history would comfort me as if we shared a silent language. Yet, it unsettled me knowing these KADs could feel my deepest self without having to show my most personal card, “I’m adopted.” That was usually the last card I’d play at a social gathering and I’d toss it playfully into conversation, watch it flutter, then fall out of the conversation.

My newest, fastest FUNtastic friends!

Somewhere during my second lap, the impact and protection of being surrounded by so many others sharing my history crumbled my guard. My heart swelled validating my disparities felt growing up, aligning me with my path and rewarding my timeline. I scanned the 200+ faces for the friendliest, which fortunately I found sitting down making it harder for her to turn to walk away. She took me in, made introductions and in no time it felt like she and I, and everyone else I met, were meant to cross paths.

The next day offered a full schedule of informative programs detailing different paths for KADs to take with their personal adoption story. Heartfelt testimonials from adoptees farther along their DNA searches or journeys home to Korea provided valuable information and perspective. Post-adoption support programs initiated conversations about the experiences unique to transnational adoptees, offering me a new level of comfort and some validation knowing we shared these internal conversations with fellow KADs. Many adoptees translated their internal conversations into beautiful, moving expressions of art.

The many sessions were so informative, it was tough to choose which ones to attend!

Between sessions, my mind wandered:

I wasn’t the oldest person here:
The significant number of 40-something year old first-time attendees pleasantly surprised me. The increasingly noticeable pull of the second half of my life now took an uphill turn as I started this new journey to peel back more personal layers.

KAD faces:
Before this weekend, I prided myself in my ability to recognize who “my people” were but there were so many variations of beautiful faces introduced to me that my heart split wide open wanting to study and greet them all, and collect them as long-lost keepsakes. I hope the intensity with which I admired our similarities and differences didn’t freak any other KADs out!

People’s stories:
Some adoptees have memories from Korea, others (like me) don’t. For some adoptees, the unsettling part of their journey did not end when placed with their adoptive homes. Both their strength to share their stories and their resilience to survive them were honored. Some adoptees shared stories of hope after clearing through their tangled backstory and shared reactions of the people now, unexpectedly or not, traveling this new trail with them.

The truth is out there:
What little history we know about ourselves from our adoption papers could be incomplete or fabricated. As I learn more about the Korean society and the poverty experienced after the war, adoption as a profitable business, and the status of single moms to this day in South Korea, it’s no surprise to learn that many mothers did not want to put their babies up for adoption but felt no other options – or someone forced their hand. This is not just optimistic me hoping for a fairy tale ending, (that is the long-lost Korean princess story echoing in my head). Now, as a mother myself, IF that were the case, I’d want to give that woman some closure. It all worked out well.

The beautiful variety of HAPA stories really spoke to my heart!

I fit in:
Being half-Korean brings with it it’s own special set of circumstances. Physically and culturally, we’ve straddled the line – not being Asian enough for our home country, and, in my case, not white enough for my adoptive country. Through DNA matches, I might encounter family with no prior knowledge of a Korean relative. The Conference offered specific discussions for us Hapa adoptees. We half-Koreans left feeling whole.

Cloudy forecast:
While conference resources help KADs find clear answers to their questions, the knowledge still unravels mixed emotions on both sides. We come from a country still sorting their comfort level with their justification about our adoption story. While originally aiming to solve a post-war problem, for some, the feeling of exporting so many babies was seasoned with a sprinkling of shame. Now a slight curiosity exists regarding welcoming those of us raised in America back to Korea to see how this unique perspective and global upbringing might impact our birth country. The KADs recently started returning to our homeland, curious to learn their history, eager to embrace their roots, yet always with the knowledge that on some level, this country rejected them.

In the end, I left with clearer perspective and with tools to guide me down a newly revealed path. I felt energized sitting with 236 Adoptees from 26 states, representing 6 countries. Fellow KAD, film-maker Deanne Borshay Liem explained the experience perfectly that together we “Celebrated our future by honoring our past.” It is not taboo to go into our past to retrieve what may be forgotten.

This gathering welcomed KADs from the first group of adoptees in the 1950s to now! So grateful to be part of this group!

My next steps involve doing research on my past through various channels to retrace my brief time in Seoul. Largely present in my peripheral view, a visit to Seoul beckons to me. The government and various other agencies, now realizing the importance of introducing adoptees to their homeland, offer trips partially or fully funded through grants. My attention aims towards the Hapa Mosaic Tour that introduces KADs to Korea with itineraries specific to the half-Korean experience.

This eye-opening and heart-filled weekend went too fast. I still need to carve out time to process my next steps. The Mosaic Tour application (due Jan. 15) suggests a to-do list of things in the meanwhile to obtain the maximum information before taking such a large physical journey into my past. I also want to continue to simmer over everything that I experienced over one weekend and get together through other KAD gatherings. I am grateful for the people I met, the experience, information and camaraderie. I feel as though I’ve fallen into step with my sisters and brothers. I must sit still and figure out the shift that occurred. …but it is good.

Though we met in San Francisco, I look forward to keeping up with my fellow Angeleno KADs!

*International Korean Adoptee Association
**Association of Korean Adoptees | San Francisco

Korean Adoptees May get a FREE DNA test through 325Kamra.org

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All photos (except photo booth) courtesy of my new friend and fellow Korean Adoptee, Allen Majors.  Thank you!!

#AKASF20 #IKAA #yearofsayingyes #kad #hapa #ShiftHappens #bepresent #bestill #KoreanAdoptee #SeoulSearching #omaginsiders #yearofquestions #myhistoryisamystery #makesmewander

What about you?!

  • Are you adopted?
  • Are you actively researching your past?
  • Have you been successful with your search?
  • Where did you start?
  • Any helpful resources?

MY DISTRUST IN POLITICS HELPED ME TRUST MYSELF

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Supposedly the most authentic writing happens right when you wake up in the morning before your filter wakes up and does its job – even when answering a survey from O, The Oprah Magazine. The survey asked “How I was feeling about America?” the answers poured out. All the built up emotions stemming from my distrust of politics saturated by the pain and anguish I’d absorbed from everybody over the last few months bubbled to the surface. My words flowed out without the fear of judgement, alienation, or confrontation from this unidirectional survey. Feeling some relief, I hit send on the finished survey.  I trusted the e-universe to take it from there.

Understand, I abhor politics. I rarely get involved or speak up on most political issues, especially in such heated discussions as a result of our last election. Everyday, the press covers something new and cringeworthy. My first glimmer of hope came when I saw Oprah’s 60 Minutes segment, “Divided.” Her segment invited 7 Democrats and 7 Republicans to the table to “encourage regular Americans to keep talking politics — and, more importantly, to listen to those who may disagree.” I trust Oprah and her namesake magazine to moderate a fair, effective conversation.

Out of the blue, for the second time* this year, O, The Oprah Magazine wrote back! The executive editor wanted to share something I’d written in the survey in their extremely popular women’s magazine!  So flattered and petrified at the same time, I felt my heart leap out of my throat the same time my neck tensed up. I know how much I lack in the political arena with issues, history, laws, everything, so the idea of being a poster child for my statement panicked me. I certainly didn’t want to bring any political attention to myself, nor invite any debates to my muddy beliefs. However, this is my year to say Yes! So WWOD – What Would Oprah Do? I trusted the executive editor and her vision for this piece.

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Quoted in Oprah’s magazine? WTF!     W*O*W*! That’s Frightening!

We laughed that perhaps this marked the start of my career as a political commentator and I guffawed knowing I don’t have the backbone for it. I’ll admit it, I’m thin-skinned as is evident by my reaction to the last year’s politics and my response to the painful divisions brought on by the election. I, too, just want people to get along. But I agree with Oprah, this election has blown the curtains back on many issues and we need to keep the conversations going. I trust people will return to a level where we can listen to those who disagree and sometimes, respectfully, agree to disagree.

However, I felt like being quoted for my personal true and emotional response to a volatile political aftermath happened for a reason. I needed to go through this experience to grow in some way. I understand now that to give credibility to my craft, I must release my people-pleasing insecurities. I won’t always please everybody but so long as I’m being truthful to my topic, then I will own it. So this internal tension I felt dreading possible confrontations online or in person, propelled me over a speed bump. I can’t write about growth and evolution on my blog if I continued to play it safe. I still will not discuss or debate politics but will give more attention to politics, starting on a local level. I will continue my efforts to positively engage my community and strengthen community ties through continual kindness and empowerment programs. I trust in the change happening to me as a result of this experience.

I trust that with Oprah and O, The Oprah Magazine leading the charge, every passionate supporter or opponent will ultimately be represented, heard and have meaningful conversations with others on long-overdue or hot new areas of discussion. We will find ways to turn our energy to make changes and do good.

*To learn about the first time O, The Oprah Magazine wrote me back, click here!

What about you?

  • What is the scariest thing you ever agreed to do that turned into a learning lesson?
  • Do you answer magazine surveys?
  • What are you doing to bring positive change to your hometown?
  • What change would you like to see in the world after this past year – Please keep it civil.
 #OMagInsiders #OprahMagazine #Oprah #Growth #Opportunity #LessonLearned #Change

YOU WENT WHERE?! THE STAR MOVIE PREMIERE (without kids)

The magic of films, the power of storytelling and the glitter of Hollywood remain a few of the reasons I choose to live near Los Angeles. Films entertain and educate us, they change our perspectives, and expand our views of our world – or what exists beyond. My favorite trend right now revolves around telling historic or well-known stories from a different perspective – whether showcasing a lesser known person who had a significant role in history, telling a side of history that we’re not familiar with, or telling historic stories through fictionally-enhanced side-stories. My new fascination with history lies not with people’s outcomes, but with their journeys.

When invited to the world premiere of Sony Pictures The Star, the twin angels on my shoulders, Oprah and Shonda, eagerly responded: Year of adventure! Year of Yes! Despite working at a film studio for many years, I rarely participated in a project’s release. What a fun opportunity to see a film first and a festive way to ease into the holiday season! Plus this was another amazing destination on my journey this year. With two of my #OMagInsiders blogging pals – Camesha [MamaMotivator] and Rachel [RachelSimmondsFitness] – we set out to support Oprah in her film project, and hopefully thank her in-person for inspiring my Year of Adventure in person.

Approaching the Westwood movie theatre, crowds of fans outlined the streets huddling to catch a glimpse of their favorites from this star-studded cast. The snowy white carpet glistened as elegantly decorated Christmas trees reflected the flash of paparazzi bulbs.

Glimpsing the well-choreographed dance between the celebrities and the press fascinated me – especially the young media with a larger camera and staff than ours.

To our surprise, we effortlessly walked past the will-call line and crowds to the back of the festival set up along the white carpet for the guests and their families! Stocked with comfort finger-foods and carnival games, smiles shone bright from all who lingered in this carved out Winter Wonderland before heading into the screening.

This film exceeded my expectations in so many ways because of the balance in the film. While it’s a familiar story, this film presents the stories of many less-visible characters, little obstacles we hadn’t thought of before and the shock of experiencing it first-hand. While it’s a story of great magnitude, it’s presented in a sweet, simple way that people of all ages can follow with a great balance of good, evil, struggle, humor, skepticism and faith. While it’s a religious story, the amount of religion infused in the story isn’t too much, or too little – it’s just right. I highly recommend this film for families this holiday season. I can’t wait to take my mom, children and my niece!

Seeing The Star film in this huge theatre filled with the magic-makers – who took months, even years to complete this film – escalated my excitement for this project. I always try to sit through credits but in this moment we could applaud the creators as they closed this chapter in their amazing journey! Plus this amazing soundtrack had us dancing in the aisles!

There were a few messages from the film that resonated with me, especially reflecting on my personal journey this year, yet will benefit all ages. Whether your destiny remains unclear to you so far or it shines like a beacon as obvious as the star in the sky, it’s not just reaching the point of achieving your goal that defines you as successful. Equally as valuable are how well you stay your course, face fears or evolve when unexpected things happen or undesirable situations are put in your way. If your faith in your journey and in your goals persevere you rise above the naysayers and reach your goals.

No, we did not congratulate Oprah this time, but I left the afternoon with amazing memories, new life experiences tucked under my belt – shared with my newest best friends, and a new holiday family film tradition (to balance out our tradition of watching Christmas Vacation)!

For more shots of who I met on the white carpet check out my Instagram!

What about you?

  • Have you seen The Star?
  • who was your favorite character?
  • Who is your favorite celebrity voicing a character in this film?
  • What was your favorite holiday song/performer from the film
  • What holiday film do you traditionally watch?
  • What is your favorite holiday tradition?
  • What is your favorite role that Oprah has played?
  • What was your last new experience that you were excited about saying yes to?
  • Are you ready for the holidays?

#thestarmovie #sonypictures #Oprah #OprahWinfrey #TylerPerry #TracyMorgan #Sony #AnimatedFilm #Animation #HolidayFilm #ChristmasMovie #ChristmasMusic #ChristmasCarols #Soundtrack #MerryChristmas #FirstChristmas #Mary #Joseph #Bethlehem #Thestar #film #movie #premiere #makesmewander

POWER OF CONNECTING WITH KINDNESS ROCKS

If your wish list includes any of the following:

Kindness • Joy • Community • Meaning • Friendship • Creativity
Quiet time • Beauty • Connection • Family Time • Meditation
Excitement • Energy • Purpose • Inspiration

I have a kind powerful project for you!
PRINT OUT: How-to instructions for an intimate or large event (below)!

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POWER OF POSITIVITY
During challenging times, rather than get weighed down by things outside of our control, we must positively influence the space we occupy – mentally and physically. Then, pay it forward!  

The Kindness Rock Project immediately caught my attention because of its sentiment and simplicity. People paint rocks with pictures or inspirational messages and leave them around town. Not only does this offer all the excitement of a city-wide treasure hunt, but it brightens up the scenery with little bursts of joy! Others find them and keep them or re-hide them. It’s easy to do for all ages, meaningful to both the giver and the receiver, plus it delivers unexpected, burst of beauty. This project engages the full community!  

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Bea’s original Topock Rock!

POWER OF SYNERGY
About the time I’d learned of #TheKindnessRockProject my good friend and fellow creative soul, Bea, found inspiration in a painted rock she stumbled upon while on vacation in tiny Topock, AZ! Talk about synergy! We immediately agreed on the potential for this creative venture and the potential impact on our hometown – empowering people, encouraging children, all while weaving stronger ties within and with surrounding communities! The rock group #RedondoRocks was born.

POWER OF CONNECTION
Being able to experience this project first-hand through the kind heart of the Project’s founder, Megan Murphy, really left a lasting impression with me. She, like I, lives to make connections. Sprinkling kindness and encouragement helps anonymous people connect on an non-intimidating, yet intensely personal, level and provides a boost of whatever that person needs! While each rock creates one individual connection, kindness is contagious and the excitement grows exponentially!


Some communities create Kindness Rock gardens in their neighborhoods or schools to counter bullying, and encourage kids who feel challenged while journeying through a rough spot.  It also helps center people in their lives because, truly, we all get in a grind and time flies by. But when a flash of color or a kind saying catches your eye, you are instantly anchored in that spot, in your day, feeling those emotions and getting caught up in the color or the weight of the rock. I love how a simple gesture can have such large meaning.


POWER OF FEW
The #OMagInsiders painted rocks together while cruising on Holland America.  After going ashore in Alaska, hunting for hiding spots in quaint Ketchikan, I felt thrilled and rewarded. Returning to the ship that afternoon, Megan rewarded me with the news that my rock was reported “found” before I even got back on the boat by someone who worked on the ship!  Talk about a full-circle moment! Kindness Rocks also helped us connect with a specific passenger and a very direct intent that left all of our hearts overflowing!


POWER OF MANY
Megan believes that the right rock always finds the right person.  Additionally, the interpretation of what power these rock groups hold and how to deliver it to individual communities comes from within them. Some groups start with an individual, a small troop of children or circle of friends painting and hiding rocks. Some kick off with a large community gathering evolving into regular rock-painting parties! Painters are first-timers or seasoned artists using pens, paints or stickers to adorn their rocks with pictures, sayings, or mascots. Then people spread out to cover their community (or represent it elsewhere) with kindness.

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SECRET POWERS
While Bea and I knew we were offering a fun evening for all ages at our first painting night, many secondary gifts popped up! Guests went offline. People exhaled and slowed down. Parents and kids painted together, or allowed each other the mental space to stay as long as they wanted. Folks tapped into their creative side, filled each other’s kindness buckets and painted with passion! Friends either found a new tribe or the perfect spot for quietly perfecting their craft! Plus the fun spills over from the event and carries people for weeks while hiding their rocks, posting teasers on social media for where to find rocks, or others posting when rocks are found! The power of the group’s hashtag means that the web of Kindness woven throughout the community may be felt whenever one wants it.  

A large part of this comes thanks to The Great Room Cafe who shared this vision of a kinder community and let us take over their party space while offering delicious food and fun activities for those who were done painting but wanted to linger in this evening a little longer. This was truly the perfect venue for such magic to occur!

Bea and I look forward to hosting our next painting party and helping people plan their painting events! We wholeheartedly believe that many little gestures add up to a grand statement!  The Kindness Rock Project reminds us that the power to control our own happiness, and contribute to others, was with us the whole time.

Paint it Forward!

Where to find us online:
REDONDO ROCKS INSTAGRAM
REDONDO ROCKS FACEBOOK
THE KINDNESS ROCKS PROJECT INSTAGRAM
THE KINDNESS ROCKS PROJECT FACEBOOK

PRINT OUTS:  How to host your painting party:
Kindness Rocks Home Painting Party

Kindness Rocks Community Painting Party

What about you?

  • Have you painted Kindness Rocks?
  • Have you found a Painted Rock?
  • Are you a member of a Rock Group? If so, list your club’s url in the comments!
  • Do you keep rocks or re-hide them? What would Oprah Do?
  • Do you have a favorite story involving Kindness Rocks? If so, please share in the comments!

#RedondoRocks #TheKindnessRocksProject #KindnessIsContagious #PaintItForward #PayItForward #Kindness #PaintedRocks #RockGroups #PaintingParty #Cruise #Party #RandomActsOfKindness #OMagInsiders #Oprah #HollandAmerica #Ketchikan #Alaska #TopockRocks #KindnessRockGarden #TheGreatRoomCafe #BoldMoves #makesmewander

TOP 10 REASONS TO CRUISE WITH OMAG AND HAL

You may not even realize when your life follows a certain rhythm or vibration, nor do you always recognize if it’s the right path. You just follow because life keeps moving. I knew I had been feeling squirmy, but couldn’t define why, or whether it was a chronic Gemini squirminess or something brought on by a significant event. While I’ve set out into the PJ Wilderness, I’d gotten a bit stuck with setting aside time for myself and where to go next.

The universe works in amazing ways and O, The Oprah Magazine (OMag) responded with an inspirational offering. Not only was O Mag setting up an amazing collaboration with Holland America Line (HAL) cruises, but Oprah would be on the inaugural excursion. I booked my cruise to force “me time” with the goal to unstick myself and map out my internal topography (with the help of her team of experts)! Before I set sail, I already received the gift of 9 other #OMagInsiders coming along for a shared adventure!


Each day offered O-mazing programs featuring O Mag key staff and Soul Session experts on top of amazing already-scheduled HAL cruise programming. Some guests showed up with specific things that they wanted to focus on, some wished to change their perspective or sharpen their focus. I feel that everyone got what they hoped for!


On the last evening, creative director Adam Glassman and publisher Jayne Jamison did their top 10 favorite moments. As with all of their events on board, while they did a great job with the front-end show, we were being showered with secondary benefits!


So here is my Top 10 list for why this should be your next cruise (it’s ok if you take a break from reading to book your Adventure of Your Life Shared Adventure!):


Receiving the Messages – We all love sharing inspirational posts and photos, but receiving messages from peers like author Glennon Doyle, who walked through fires to receive and formulate such messages carries more significance. They’ve done the work to help hand you new skills or perspective for whatever challenges you.


Rewiring Personal Programming – Receiving life-altering messages using multiple senses helped them sink in. We weren’t just watching an Oprah show or listening to podcasts, we were participating in the activity! A profound connection between movement and spirituality was felt through morning yoga and when we got pumped up with Angela Davis! So grab those SuperSoul Conversations podcasts while heading out on a walk to help you keep moving in the right direction!


Resetting One’s Clock – On board, life’s usual deadlines don’t apply, but if you’d told me I’d be up at 7am for morning meditation and yoga with Sara Ivanhoe before I left, I’d have said, I’ll just meditate from the comfort of my bed. But I did it (except for 1 morning) and it started my day on a brighter path with stronger backbone having done that for myself first.

Captain Werner Timmers hosted us in the Bridge!

Starting from Scratch – When you set foot on the cruise, you can be who you’d like, authentically! No matter where we traveled from, how many cruises we’d been on before, what we do for work, we are all humans with hearts and souls! The ship’s captain, O Mag staff of all levels, the best-selling book authors, celebrities and cruisers all mingled together, chatted with and listened to each other. Everyone was intent on really getting to know and celebrate each other more than I’ve ever felt cruising on previous trips where we’d pass like ships in the night, on a ship – well, you know…


Crossing Boundaries – I’m not just talking about those requiring a passport, I’m talking about your internal boundaries! I dove head-first from a top my greatest fears into a thimbleful of confidence to strut in white jeans and heels across the Grand Stage in front of hundreds of cruisers in the Love That! fashion show! (Worth it!). Pinch me! We even wound up on O Mag’s social media!


Diving Deep – Though it’s easy for me to brainstorm and suggest how to help others or talk enthusiastically about other things I love, I don’t have the same skills when selling myself. India Arie helped start the SongVersation and now I can’t stop talking. Today, I’m appearing today on my first radio show TravelBagsWithAnnita.com!


Receiving Daily Gifts – While the O Mag turn-down gifts were amazing, the true gifts were confidence, calm, collaboration, and camaraderie! All of which had higher levels upon leaving the boat than when I boarded thanks to trying things I might not have tried without this cruise!


Increasing your Circle of Friends – One of the best parts of this trip was cruising and rooming with people I’d only met online through this fabulous group I get to be a part of, this year, the #OMagInsiders. Additionally, thanks to searching #OMagonHAL we can see everyone’s vacation photos and celebrate the time shared. Our friendship network now spans the globe.


Celebrating Variety – While we all have similar mindsets to live our best lives or help others live theirs, we all present and carry out that vision in diverse individual ways! Plus it was wonderful to be in an environment to celebrate the various stories of people daring to follow their hearts, which may be interpreted much differently by people too wrapped up in the daily grind on shore!

Eating Dessert First (or two dinners) – On a cruise, your self-regulating rules relax, or should, because (all together now!): Life Is too short! Enjoy dessert, have steak and lobster, dance into the wee hours, sing at the top of your lungs in the dueling piano bar, and go for all-night pizza! It’s the best-tasting meal because it’s seasoned with life!


Bonus: Paying it Forward – Once the cruise ends, how does one retain the warm glow from your life-changing trip? By setting time aside for yourself to implement your new skills and put your spin on what you’ve learned before sharing with others! Paint and sprinkle Kindness Rocks throughout your community, send snail mail, volunteer with your favorite charity, spread random acts of kindness, be an active offline friend! Your fulfillment will exceed the level of gratitude of those receiving your efforts.

The Shared Adventure continues through 2018! Check out where they’ll be and I hope to meet you there! Now I’m squirmy for my next adventure!

 

#OMagInsiders #HollandAmericaLine #HAL #OMagazine #Oprah #TheKindnessRocksProject #TravelBagsWithAnnita #AdamGlassman #LoveChicos #Chicos #LiveYourBestLife #YearOfAdventure #ShareTheAdventure #AdventureOfYourLife #Cruise #Alaska #Eurodam #CaptainTimmers

I BET I CAN STILL SP(+)(+)K YOU

You know that annual exam we women look forward to every year?

It’s our routine hour spent lying on our back trying to make small talk with someone who knows us more intimately than our significant others desire to. Ice-cold tools send a chill of anticipation up our pelvis as we’re waiting to hear those three words “You’re all done!”

If really looking for an escape from our 9-to-5 routine perhaps after the pelvic exam we double book appointments so that our top half doesn’t feel neglected. It’s always a smashing good time to visit the imaging center for a mammogram. We leave feeling like overworked supermodels after forcing our bodies through a blend of interpretive dance and yogilates for the perfect shot.


Thanking the staff for too much fun for one day, we wave goodbye, skip to our cars and return to our everyday lives. A few days later we hopefully get calls from our doctors saying that everything looks normal. I so look forward to that dance so this time I felt comfort in seeing their message on my phone, putting a happy ending to my annual exams.

When finally treated to a slower afternoon, I dedicated one ear to clear out phone messages.  As the forgotten message from my breast imaging lab began, the transcribed words caught my eye! They read, “We recommend you come back for further test…” Now fully engaged, I scrambled trying to get the message to play faster as if that would answer all of my immediate questions.

My heartbeat surged and the “What ifs” peppered my head like hot sparks. To tune them out, I focused on fixing this – though I still didn’t know what “this” was. I clawed to gain the upper hand by calling the lab, masquerading calm, to book an immediate appointment. My next call, to my doctor, actually preceded the paperwork from the lab so I chalked that as a small victory for me – staying one step ahead of the nasty order. Still, I had to wait 10 days until my next visit, so I needed to exist with the anticipation for that long before getting one step closer to a resolution or a plan. I am horrible with secrets but wanted to process my questions and concerns, not be overwhelmed by everyone else’s yet.

My brain immediately and incessantly drew conclusions between things that I’ve encountered in my life, giving me a few theories to check out. I researched the impact of cell phone towers and possible links to cancer since our work building supports a communication kingdom on the rooftop raining all sorts of waves that we don’t truly know enough about. After an information overload, I held off with the rest of my investigative research online until I could ask the nurses or doctors in person with their real-life experience. The Internet provided material to support any theory I wanted to pursue, but not always the truth, nor information specifically to help me.

I briefly dipped my toe in the irony of having just been picked for the most awetastic Oprahtunity of my life layered with my excitement to cruise with Oprah in a few months then felt frustrated that this could balance out that joy. I refused to live in those thoughts for long because, especially this year, I believe in manifesting our futures. If those negative ironies aren’t allowed to wander the universe, hopefully they couldn’t pick up speed. I remained defiant that whatever these future photos showed, they would not put a damper on those plans.

Realizing that my kids’ homework would still flood us and the morning rush wouldn’t lighten up, for the next 10 days, I buried the secret and lived life as usual. OK, yes, I’ll admit to the exception of not sticking my phone in my bra when I needed an extra free hand. Oh, and being still and talking to God a few more times than usual. Despite trying to keep my chin up, I did not sleep well. My mind wasn’t stewing on anything in particular, I just couldn’t sleep. It didn’t help my writer’s block either.  I’m not great with receiving surprises and this unknown had a strong possibility of delivering an unwanted surprise.

On the morning of my appointment, I chose to remain optimistic and focused on staying present. I remember the waffle texture of my starched white robe and how peaceful the waiting room felt with its natural stone walls. Enya’s voice filled the air while other women and I flipped through a library of beauty and fashion magazines. A snapshot of this moment might look like a lovely girls’ spa day.

When called into the first room for a few more smashing images, I suddenly appreciated all of the large machines it takes to stare at my chest. The images on the rocket control monitor looked like a foreign galaxy. I asked the technician what foreign bodies or alien bodies we hoped to locate and she indicated that it’s an asymmetry (I thought everybody’s boobs were asymmetrical). But it just means that one side grew something new.

The Carina Nebula, originally shown in The Telegraph UK

I recovered briefly in the calm waiting room, before a new technician invited to my next stop: Ultrasound. After having two children, I prided myself on my mad ultrasound deciphering skills (even if not my own). Nothing in the shading of these ultrasounds made sense to me. I made a mental note to never play cards with either technician because their poker faces held solid. Not unfriendly at all, but void of any discovery, definition or significance.

While bored on the table, hindsight started my highlights reel. I recalled that my left breast sometimes felt different, but not in a lumpy way. When I did my breast self-exams I couldn’t put my finger on anything specific, it just felt different. Occasionally, I felt a brief pain, too small to set off an alarm, but I chalked it up to mid-life sagging or ill-fitting bras and hoped for an Oprah bra intervention. Perhaps I felt a slight connectivity within the tissue where I hadn’t before. But now, after smashing and poking and prodding for a closer look, I centered in on the area in question!

It gets serious fast when you see things in writing!

The technician asked me to get off the table and hang out for a minute while, I assumed, she made sure the slides captured clear enough images to send to my doctor. When she walked back into the room, the full color of the emotion on her face filled the room as she announced: Benign! I avoided making eye contact with a paper reading “malignant” or “benign” that emphasized in what felt like 75pt bold font just how much weight this answer carries. Then I got dizzy trying to remember which word I wanted to receive, or not. Benign!

Turns out it’s just a little cyst. Bodies make them sometimes, my body seems better at this than most. Because of my delight and previous pixie dust use, I immediately pictured the cyst as a friendly Disney character (It’s weird where our mind goes in times of stress). I thanked her profusely, wished her a wonderful weekend, returned to the dressing room to change back into my normal clothes, and cried. Relieved.


Take Aways:

  • Get annual exams – I’d fallen off my regular schedule after a work event competed for time last fall. After the urgent reminder of a friend who hoped to get even one friend to make her appointment – I called.
  • Do monthly breast exams – Just do it!
  • Don’t be afraid of doctors – Don’t be scared to go to the doctor because you’re afraid of what they’ll find. They are trained to know how to fix you so you can focus on being or getting well. Often, the issue is smaller and treatment is less scary than your enthusiastic imagination or Web MD says.
  • Don’t be afraid to get a second opinion – Even if they have similar diagnosis, their treatment style could be different. Find a doctor you feel comfortable with.
  • Consider finding your family history – Doesn’t mean you will get something or guarantee that you won’t. But when faced with a health challenge, I feel the more knowledge we have, the less irrational fear occurs. If nothing else, it helps knowing there is someone else who understands what you are facing.
    • Relax – Remember that hopefully your story will be less crazy than people who came before you thanks to progress made in medicine during the last decade.
    • Be Confident – Consider too that these days, technology advances with DNA may allow us to someday change the negative DNA we’ve been gifted with.

What about you?

  • Please share tips or resources that helped you get through a health challenge or scare.
  • Please share your ideas for gifts that patients and their families really enjoy.
  • Do you use your bra like a pocket too? Keys, credit cards, loose change…
  • Did you do your annual exam this year? Go! Call! Now!
  • Do you have any fun rituals like treating yourself to a spa day afterwards?
  • Bonus points if you remember what movie my title came from!

(C) Disney

#Breast #PelvicExam #BreastSelfExam #Mammogram #Ultrasound #Health #Healthscare #Symptoms #Cure #Care #OBGYN #AnnualExam #BeHealthy #WomensHealth #Diagnosis #Treatment #Assistance #OMagInsiders #Cocktail #WaltDisneyPictures

MAKES ME WANDER BY MAROONED 3

This is the year of full-circle moments! In one week from today, thanks to KIIS-FM and Del Taco, my daughter and I get tickets AND a backstage tour at Wango Tango music festival here in Los Angeles. Now we still don’t know what this entails, but I hope to cross paths a few performers and ask them what they will do to mix it up during this year that Oprah has dubbed “The Year of Adventure!” Since, to me, their lives look like a daily adventure already, I look forward to riding their train of thought!

WTF! Wango Tango Fangirls! Tickets still available!

Then it hit me sending me flying up to and around Cloud 9 like a squealing deflating balloon… My odds improved exponentially that I could cross paths with Maroon 5 and Adam Levine! Because I still tend to get all goofy brained when I see certain musicians still and due to an iron-clad agreement to not make my daughter CRINGE at the show, I’m putting down how Maroon 5 influenced the name of my blog in writing should it make Adam wonder what that uber excited lady smiling at him and holding his arm a little too tight in selfies was trying to say.

From Men’s Health magazine

March 2007, the one-year anniversary of my split with my kids’ dad came around the calendar. I still felt like a boxtroll wearing a cement-filled box stamped “Divorcee.” Somehow we kept moving, sold the house in the burbs, packed up our lives and were marooned on the beach to start over. Ultimately we loved where we’d landed, made all-new friends and the kids hit their strides in this new environment! I felt like less of a boxtroll and more of a potted plant relaxing on my patio.

So one day I’m in my too small living room turning on MTV for background noise when this funky beat starts coming from the speaker bouncing off walls, pushing me into my couch, too close to my TV and all I could do was wait to see who was commanding this plane exit ramp. When Adam’s cheekbones wrapped in that tux came into view followed by the whole band rocking with Virgin Airlines sexiness pounding out overlapping pulsating layers of sound, it grabbed my full attention. It became my theme song and my awakening that summer.

This song made me begin to process the cone of crazy I was wearing and start to process what I’d been through. I questioned everything and started figuring out the answers. Now Adam wondered if he ever gave a F— about someone and while I slid straight towards both possibilities, eventually I landed at yeah, I did, but I also could give a F— now because of the present we were in at that time. With each pounding chord from the piano in the background I felt my cement wall being chipped away. There was another accent layer that felt like skipping through his swagger and it got my heart pumping again. The song reminded me that somewhere inside I was there and I’d be refilled with wonder and growing curiosity and a fresh perspective.

So even though it took another 5 years to get to the starting of my blog – I knew what I wanted it to be called. Only it wouldn’t just be filled with things I wonder about but filled with things I experience as I wander about – working to be present in each gifted moment. (Plus, I didn’t want to get sued by A&M or M5 – I had faith that I’d find a better way than a court case to someday cross paths with the band).

From A&M/Octone

Because I’m a fan girl I know there is a hint of politics peppering the lyrics, but I’m not touching that, nor did I interpret it as such. I’m just not a fan of politics.

So if I don’t get this all out when we cross paths and my tongue gets tied up – thanks Maroon 5 and Adam for giving me something to believe in and inspiring the name of my blog.

What about you?
What adventure will you seek this year?
Going to a music festival this summer?
Are you a parent taking your kid to a festival and don’t know how to prepare?
Have any life-changing songs?
Favorite musicians or bands?

#WangoTango #MusicFestival #Kiisfm #DelTaco #Oprah #YearofAdventure #OMagazine #OMagInsiders #Maroon5 #AdamLevine #Music #Divorce #Therapy #MakesmeWonder #MakesMeWander #Inspiration #Blog #Blogger

IT’S NO OPRIL FOOLS – YOU & O ON A CRUISE!

JOKE’S UP – Now that we’ve made it almost all of the way through our second month as O Mag Insiders | The Inner Circle of O Magazine, I’m starting to settle in and believing that this was no Opril Fool’s joke, I’m really part of this dynamic group of individuals! Being that this is the Year of Adventure, I wanted to Share the Adventure!

O Magazine sent us an exciting and thoughtful welcome packet! Counting my blessings!

MY PURPOSE IN THE GROUP – How the heck did I get in here?! Everyone else on the team ooze upperclassmen confidence eons ahead of my own. They’ve followed their passions, mulched challenges, paved their paths, inspired others, and pay it forward! Their lessons resonate with the masses with such potential for positive change. I, on the other hand, feel like the perfect case study for Oprah and all her team!

MY IDEAL COHORTS – Like seriously, don’t you wish there’d been a Master Class in college on how to live your best life?! I’d have done summer school to learn how to budget with Suze, set boundaries with Martha, and clear away the clutter of our pasts with Peter. I’d have interned for Glennon’s momastery.com blog, for Elizabeth and Brené as writer’s assistants and begged Oprah to take me for Bring-Your-Insider-to-Work-Day so I could witness her switching from hat to hat with intelligence, creativity and grace.

SEMESTER AT SEA – If you haven’t heard, O, The Oprah Magazine and Holland America Line have teamed up this summer with Oprah and her magical unicorns for an amazing opportunity to cruise for a week, travel and reach the deepest parts of your heart while expanding your mind! For those of us folks who used to wind down at the end of the day sitting on the couch across from Oprah having a quality conversation with a girlfriend (What’s a few television waves and a few thousand miles?!), this will repair your heart that carried the weight of the missed connections of seeing her show in person.

osuper
GETTING GROUNDED – Meanwhile, back on land, my membership to this dynamic group requires me to stay present and become mindful. Already, with the many contributions posted by my fellow O Mag Insiders, I’ve pondered while wandering – my strengths, my procrastinations. I’m peeling back the layers of me and asking to learn my history while making a difference.

WISH YOU WERE HERE – So far, my journey feels so much more introspective than the widely impactful passion projects of my peers. My inspiration comes from the hope of connecting with others. Whether through one shared experience or that whatever I’ve learned may simplify their journey. I’m living through crazy, eventually humorous, times as a single mom of tween and teen, an international adoptee, an unrealized novelist rushing recklessly towards middle age. This kind of crazy settles into fun with someone else on your side!

oissues

TRAVEL BUDDIES – I also plan to continue down the path of self-discovery with my life-reflecting journey through the PJ Wilderness and show that, not only, is it never too late to change directions, to go back and find out where you fell off the path of your authentic self but that you are worth the time that it’ll take to get you there!

PACK WELL – I know that part of me hasn’t felt most like my authentic self since 1985. Those years shopping at colorful Contemporary Casuals, wearing bold patterns, large earrings and accessories. I would buy for deals, but for unique styles, cuts, etc. if I were lucky enough to find myself sailing with Oprah, I’d book a personal consultation with Adam!

oadam

UNPACKING THE BAGGAGE – It’s less about my outward appearance and more about taking back pieces of myself from boyfriends that didn’t love me attracting too much attention and for whom I foolishly muted myself. It’s about finding practical multi-use pieces for single working moms. I know Adam will find clothes that are quality, fast to coordinate and reasonable. Lastly about finding cute but decent quality shoes for older women because I’ve learned that a mis-aligned foot causes all sorts of knee problems and my kids insist that the super Comfy Relaxed Outdoor Colorful plastic shoes with spongy insoles aren’t cool (though my kids may believe Drew Barrymore).

BON VOYAGE – Whether it’s the cruise or some other far off destination, where do you sail away to to get closer to your center?

WHAT ABOUT YOU?

  • You going on the cruise?
  • Which of Oprah’s columnists are you most eager to see
  • Did you ever see Oprah’s show tape while still in Chicago?
  • What was your favorite clothing item from ‘85?
  • Do you read O Magazine?
  • What’s the last thing you did just for you?
  • Did you wear uniforms or street clothes in school?

All Cruise photos and art are (C)Holland America Line and (C) Oprah

#OMagInsiders #HollandAmericaLine #Cruise #Alaska #LiveYourBestLife #YearOfAdventure #OMagonHAL

YOU WENT WHERE? SAN FRANCISCO (With Kids)

During the toddler years, my family’s cranky moods  (mine included) disappeared with some creative distraction and a change of venue – if severe. Now that the tween and teen years dictate the mood in the house, when the bickering levels get intolerable, Mom offers a proportional change up – Roadtrip adventure!

MB transamerica-pyramid_san-francisco

Photo courtesy of megabus.com

I’ve been dreaming of a trip to San Francisco since the last time we’d been almost 13 years ago. My teen son only remembers riding in a limo at 3 ½ years old (over riding his first cable car) and my tween daughter simply made it through the trip to her due date!  I love the energy of the city with its cool modern minimalistic hotels next to classic historic hotels with warm solid mahogany bars in the lobby. I love that everywhere you turn, distinct neighborhoods welcome you with their distinct charm, as do the piers decorating the waterfront!  So the three of us set out on an adventure blending history, new experiences, old favorites and of course something weird!

32 hrs in San Fran (with kids)!

DA, DA, DA – ANOTHER ONE RIDES THE MEGABUS
Always up for an adventure, the wheels in my head started turning immediately (The wheels on the bus go round and round)!  When you put things out into the universe, the universe responds! Amazingly, we received the opportunity to try Megabus.com for free in exchange for our honest opinion.  I immediately responded, “Yes, Please!” after a great first-hand testimonial from my office mate who used this bus line recently during her East Coast holiday adventure.

Planning a weekend getaway limited our time in San Francisco, so the idea of showing up only 30 min. early, getting on a bus with reclining seats and sleeping my way to San Francisco – then waking up refreshed at my destination – cemented the decision for me! The night we left, California disappeared under the rainstorm that my generation will retell vividly for generations to come. The Megabus travelled securely on the roads, unfazed by the elements. In fact, for both directions of the trip, energetic and helpful employees kept us on track. Their rates remain reasonable, only additional charge should you wish to reserve seats!  Check their site often for their $1 sales! I wish I’d known about this when I was a college kid – weekenders would have educated me! For a full review click here.


YOU ONLY GET ONE CHANCE FOR A FIRST IMPRESSION
As we crossed the Oakland Bay Bridge, the sun shone on the waking city and almost converted me to a morning person (Hah, you know how unlikely that’d be). The bus dropped us at the Caltrain station and Uber picked us up before we even stretched out our rested bodies! Everything feels closeby in San Francisco and in minutes we arrived at the Hilton SF Union Square – a hotel I’m super familiar with thanks to my Team In Training (TNT) years.  Though they aren’t the most hipster or historic place in town to rest your head, they consistently provide a comfortable experience that seems upgraded from the price paid (especially with their renovated rooms). Feels like dropping in for a visit with a long-time friend!  What cinched our future return was letting us check in 8 hours early! Thank you!

hotel

Despite our welcome middle of the night snack from the roadside rest stop, we arrived to San Francisco hungry for adventure …and breakfast!  Wanting to set the tone for the weekend, and to fuel us for the day, we chose another favorite from my TNT days, Sear’s Fine Food

The moment you enter, you step into your grandparents’ era for some unconditional love delivered in a heaping serving of delicious warm food. With our bellies and hearts filled up, we left for our first adventure… except nothing was open yet. So we went to the hotel to plot our course, unpack, watch TV…

Two_hours_later_in_Squidtastic_Voyage

THRILL OF A NEW RIDE
While the kids power napped, I navigated and doubled back cross-checking the Cable Car routes to deliver us to all of our desired locations. We opted for a single-day pass immediately opening up our access to the city. I purchased our tickets while the kids watched the city’s tradition of re-directing the cable car at the turn about.  We hoofed it 2 blocks to the next stop up from there (where 10 people stood in line vs. 100s at the turntable). For the first leg of our trip we jumped onto the outside of a crowded cable car and held on!  My daughter told me later that she got nervous – not that she’d fall off – that other people wouldn’t get out of the way.

One of the most memorable visuals of the city flashed briefly at the change between the Powell-Hyde and California lines as we looked downhill through the city.

Alcatraz is first on our list for next time!

OFF TO EXPLORE – AH, TOUR – EE, YUM!
One parental benefit allows us to run alongside our kids, watching the world through their curious eyes, bright with wonder.  At the Exploratorium, everyone’s minds expanded and repeatedly blew as we flew from exhibit to exhibit, squealing like loudly deflating balloons!  Each new stop offered fascinating exhibits where you learn by interacting with the exhibit! This museum encouraged touching or climbing into and through exhibits!  My daughter’s and my favorite experience deprived us of our sight as we traversed through a maze in complete darkness. As a pair, we relied primarily on touch and sound while traveling through the Tactile Dome (slight additional, but highly recommended fee).  She turned out to be an amazing leader providing step-by-step directions as to what challenge I would find next.  My son’s favorite challenged him to learn Morse Code – harder than it looked considering it’s only dashes and dots! Totally exhausted though only getting a fraction of the experience done, we finally broke for dinner!

PEPPER MEAL WITH HISTORY
As a divorced mom, I haven’t shared a lot of their Dad’s and my history. At first I lacked an age-appropriate answer for their innocent questions, “So if you had fun, why’d you break up?” Later, out of respect for his new wife, and largely because I’d boxed them all away, wrapped in impenetrable box in my self. 11 years later, I realize that the generic statement “Even though we’re no longer together, you were created from love.” doesn’t carry weight if I don’t sometimes share proof.  Their Dad and I enjoyed The Stinking Rose restaurant a few times both here and the one in LA. One thing we actually agreed on was that only the SF one seasons the experience with a mythical bohemian feel – being that it’s the original location.  Also, honestly, this restaurant wouldn’t have teased my palate without his family’s cooking. The first time they opened their door, a rush of garlic took my breath away! The rest is history.


WALK RIGHT DOWN THE STREET
After dinner, though absolutely stuffed, we desired something light but sweet.  We calculated the distance we needed to walk to make enough room for Gelateria Naia (who are we kidding – there’s always room for gelato)! My kids stuck with classic flavors of mango, coffee and chocolate chip (though not all together).  They featured a whiskey flavor I’d never encountered before that blended smoothly with chocolate – the recipe for the perfect evening nightcap. 

I SPY… SOMETHING GOLDEN
The next morning, after we slept in a bit, we hunted for a meal large enough to rush us through the day and sustain us until we got on the bus to relax for the ride home to Los Angeles.  Originally, we went fishing for a fish and chips truck, but, they weren’t open when our stomachs started growling at us. The mist of the heavy fog led us straight to Tarantino’s Restaurant on the pier promising a view of the Golden Gate Bridge from the top floor (talk about multi-tasking when on a limited timeframe).  The kids laughed at the names of boats in their slips, communicated telepathically with seagulls begging for the kids’ fries through the scenic glass window, and squinted to find the bridge through the fog. We raved about the crispy golden seafood (lightly battered and fried, without any recognizable fish features).  


LIKE KIDS IN A CANDY STORE
As we exited the restaurant, the bright red logo of Rocket Fizz served as a beacon from across the street.  My son’s sentimental side insisted that we go “support the company” so that they don’t go out of business (I doubt there’s any danger of that, he’s still sore we lost the location in Westchester). Your sweet tooth compels you to stop the next time you pass near this store. It offers many childhood or jumbo-sized favorites and hard-to-find imported candies.

WTF: WEIRD, TOTALLY FUN!
Headed towards the Pier, we pulled inside a doorway to briefly to plot our course …and never left.  We’d stepped through a door into the most fantastically freakish place – Musée Mécanique!  This features the personal collection of Edward Zelinsky’s arcade games, and other mechanical wonders, collected from 1933 on (though some originated from decades earlier).  This collection felt slightly unsettling only because we had no idea what to expect (or was it the large clown at the entrance). Uneasiness immediately yields to exponential levels of excitement as you discover each new relic from a player piano, to old-time picture machines, to Space Invaders and a steam motorcycle.  We completely fell into this parallel universe, lost track of time, and wish we could have stayed longer.
 

MY NEW PERSPECTIVE
After a relaxing and a more spacious ride home (less people on the bus so each person could take a row of seats), we returned home from vacation refreshed, a little exhausted from our adventures, and with new perspective.  Our Three-thumb review is 3 tired thumbs up.  My tween daughter loved the unique challenge of the Tactile Dome and a new appreciation for her vision. My teen son left for San Francisco believing that one beach town resembles the next one. He returned with an appreciation for the history and the varied terrain (and we didn’t even visit the largest or curviest hills) of Northern California.

I caught a glimpse of my children and how they treat each other when mom’s not around thanks to the water fountain experiment in the Exploratorium. It featured back-to-back water fountains and two buttons on each side: SIP or SQUIRT. Each sibling simply pressed one button and if they match, it happens, if it doesn’t match, it cancels each other and nothing happens.  I fully expected to need to buy new dry clothes, or that they’d cancel each other out.  My heart grew when I witnessed my kids gently lowering their heads (and dare I say they were both a little bit surprised) to get a sip of water.

If you want even more detailed reviews on each place we visited, check out the Yelp Reviews. Plus subscribe to check back when we update the list after future roadtrips!

Follow the blog to see where we go next!

What about you?
What is your favorite San Francisco gem?
What do you do to save your sanity on trips?
How do you remain present and not skip ahead to the next destination?
What changes in perspective do you encounter while traveling?
How often do you travel with your kids vs. on your own?
Where are you off to next?
Where should we go next?

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