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MY MANY MOAI

I feel like an enigma as the introvert that loves joining groups. Growing up, groups served my desire to disappear in the pile of, and yet identify with, my peers. I wore the labels from showing up for just enough meetings to get in the yearbook picture and partake in the free snacks. I knew the truth I aimed to occupy, I just balked at my own value not believing I offered anything new. I feel like teenage angst boiled over then reduced down to a thick syrup of Imposter syndrome.  

Thank goodness that my heart knew what it needed and where I wanted to wind up, although my feet kept kicking myself in the ass. My heart backed myself into some amazing groups that I still can’t believe include me in their membership. These groups not only broadcast my soul to the world but, in turn, give me clarification and confidence about who I am. Each group feels a little bit like home. 

These lovely Red Hat Society ladies grew by word-of-mouth but are nation-wide!

 

High School Girlfriends – Friends who have known the many evolutions of me (since before I knew who I was) and still stay close anyway!

OMagInsiders – Group of hearts on a similar wavelength who expanded my horizons and helped redefine the second season of my life. 

Eat My Way Around The World – Flavorful foodie friends introduced to me by work who remind me to season our work life with social meals. They know what I’m saying even if words evade me. 

Redondo Rocks – Kind, creative and generous people aiming to embellish people’s days and  strengthen the positive connections in our community. 

Mom Tribe – I have a flourishing and eager-to-help network of moms who have driven carpools, fed my kids, kept them if I have to be somewhere at an off hour, taken them on fun adventures, and helped me keep my eyes on the ground – so much so that my children believe that I really do see everything everywhere. While I love them all for helping make me a successful mom, I love them as people and look forward to the times when the kids are scarce too.  

Korean Adoptee – We’re so spread out around the globe, but we’re reuniting online through a wide variety of groups where we help carry the history we share together and mentor each other to find the answers we hope for or the path we are meant for.

I’m so fortunate because these groups offer:

  • A security blanket – Non-judgemental support when needed
  • Level-headed perspective – They speak truthfully and directly to help steer me
  • Calming agent – They listen and give great hugs which dissipate the feeling of being alone in any storm
  • Strong support – They totally jump on my crazy train when I’m roaring down the tracks
  • Sweeten my life – They surprise me with special treats of kind gestures and rituals
  • Bonus: Did you know that by participating in regular moais, your life could increase by 8 years (Blue Zones)?

WHAT ABOUT YOU?
Do you belong to any moais, groups or clubs?

What kind?
What is your longest-lasting Moai?
Do you prefer online or in-person groups?

How many people are in your Moai?
Do you know how to say Moai?   Mo•ai (/mo,eye/) Japan
Tell me the top three things your Moai give you!

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WWP: WRITE AN “ABOUT ME…” ABOUT YOU

Once I hit job-searching age, I received instruction on writing effective elevator speeches. These conversation starters explained myself and my goals – blurted out in the time needed to ride a few floors when momentarily trapped with someone possibly capable of changing my life’s trajectory. For me, creating a quick tagline to communicate about a company, product or service came far more naturally than talking about myself. What about you?

So, here I sit working on re-branding my website for the second time – but now considering what I believe and what I want to offer in that arena. I carefully consider each method of delivery and my messaging. I’m squeezing my brain and wringing my heart to find words to explain it in a way that embraces readers and convinces them to sit a while longer and see what happens.  Part of my resistance comes from the fact that I’m entering a new frontier and still trying to define exactly what space I will occupy. You too?

 

From my Twitter profile, my shortest “About me!”

WRITING EXERCISE 1: Elevator Speech about you – 1 liner – Who are you and what are you doing?

I recently completed the Brand You! Executive-education course working to gain a full 360 degree/3-D perspective of who I am and what I offer. Truthfully, this course benefits anyone trying to navigate this changing job landscape to remind you of your brand, your passion, vision, and core values that may translate better than specific skills being rendered unnecessary thanks to technology and automation.  

We only look and self-evaluate ourselves based on our reflections in the mirror. In this course, we receive evaluations and quick insights from others who see the “real us.” They know our faces straight on.  We also took a variety of third-party evaluations, some confirming information I knew about myself, some clarifying characteristics about me that now suddenly made sense.

My 150-ish word “About Me” from my Facebook Page

WRITING EXERCISE 2: Brief about you – 150 words – Who, what, where, when, and why are you doing this?

So what other questions do you ask yourself to help get to the core of who you are? Here are a few I’ve learned from a few conferences and podcasts. Share yours in the comments!

  • What would you do if you knew you could not fail?
  • What do you like to do in your spare time?
  • What would you do if money was no object?
  • What are three things that bring you joy?
  • What would you write in your obituary?

Another reason why I have difficulty with this task is, again, imposter syndrome. I don’t always understand the “how,” I just know that I get stuff done. Sometimes it feels wickedly smart and other times extremely messy. But I get there.

This mantra quickly helped me transition from my year of vulnerability to a year of striving, confidence, reinvention:  Why Not Me?!

This is the first paragraph of a way too long profile from my blog!

WRITING EXERCISE 3: About you – as long as you need – Who, what, where, when, and why are you doing this? Then start revising by cutting half out… See what happens.

EXTRA CREDIT:
So while I did refer you to my various sites and my old “About Me” examples, I am working on redoing my site and will share new info “About Me” shortly! Feel free to let me know what caught your eye or what made you look away. While I finish re-working my various “About Me” please consider asking one more question for me:

What do you need right now?

Leave your comments or DM me if you wish to let me know privately. I want to know what you are working on, what is challenging you, what steals your time? I can’t wait to learn more about YOU!

#WednesdayWritingPrompt #WWP #Autobiography #MiniMemoir #Bio #Writing #AboutMe #AboutYou #OMagInsiders #MakesMeWander

ONE WOMAN WRITING RETREAT

I’m still designing how the label “Writer” fits me. Writing still exists as more of a hobby or side-gig right now, but occupies more real estate on my 8-year plan.  So I try to emanate what writers do… They write, read, write, wander, go on writing retreats, write, submit articles, drink wine, apply for writing residencies, write, procrastinate, get a publishing deal, get distracted, and write.

If you love this journal, you can click on the picture to buy! #afflink

So far, it’s been hard to create a regular habit for me.  I started my blog to force the daily writing habit (but my kids went to sleep earlier back in 2012). Now that they’re older, and seemingly never go to bed, my train of thought gets too easily distracted by the constant movement in my house. I don’t have a protected writing space physically or mentally. I often go away from home to get any writing done.

My writing retreats consist of Saturday mornings when I get up to move my car by 7:30am (due to street cleaning) or when I house sit for others and put distance between me and my laundry, dishes, bookshelf, stack of magazines, and binge-worthy shows. Conferences and retreats always sparks ideas and energizes me to write, but I don’t want to spend a lot of extra time and money just to get writing done. Also, while I love the networking aspect, I get more wrapped up in other people’s ideas and know that sometimes, I need to focus more deeply on my own.  

It dawned on me that when I wrote my master’s thesis 5 years ago, holing myself up in a hotel near my home helped me retain my focus! I live only 6 miles from the Crowne Plaza LAX hotel, limiting my travel time, and knew they’d done extensive renovations.  With their view of LAX, it makes my mind wander enough to get the “what ifs”  flowing without making me want to get up and wander. 

In order to maximize my time, I set up a few guidelines and enforced them:

RESPECT YOUR TIME – While on this mini retreat, use time wisely! Set boundaries, eliminate distractions. Although a bed to myself and unlimited paid TV movie channels tempts me, I purposefully left the TV off or swore that I’d wait until I met my productivity goals. (Turns out it never went on).

PERSONALIZE YOUR SPACE – Rearrange any furniture not bolted down, that moves easily. I made sure the desk and my notebooks would be the central focus. I stayed close to the air, put my back to the view, and felt more invested in the job at hand.

SET GOALS – Whether aiming for a certain page count, or hashing out an idea by meditating on your ideas, make a schedule for yourself to allow balanced time for eating, sleeping, working, and daydreaming.

HEALTHY FOODS – My goal focused on not spending too much time and effort on meals. Though this hotel does feature a variety of food in the lobby, I knew if I ate in the hotel, I’d get wrapped up in conversations and get distracted. I purposefully drove offsite for dinner. Kabuki in the Howard Hughes center offered me flavorful sushi options outside of my routine spicy tuna rolls. 

I packed a weekend’s worth of healthy snacks for my marathon writing session.

I did wind up running to the lobby for a salad from the Boulevard Market Cafe and it hit the spot!

HYDRATE – My fluid routine consists of equal parts coffee, water and wine – in that order.  Creative juices flow more freely with proper hydration! 

VOLUMES OF SUPPORTING MATERIALS – Obviously, I’m the one you should look for in the case of an emergency that may prevent us from returning home right away. Not for my snack and hydration supplies but for my books to read to pass the time.

SELF CARE – Make sure you take time to be still, or pamper yourself, or do whatever helps your daily routine dissipate and allows you to center and be present for your writing weekend.

BE FLEXIBLE – You may define this as yoga, I define this as forgiving myself and allowing the schedule to reveal itself as I go. Things may change, I may not hit every  mark, but still dedicating time to myself and living in a boundary-less space while stretching my creative muscles felt amazing!

I’d love to report back that I finished a novel in 24 hours, or even an outline, but I didn’t. Still, it’s worth the exercise to get away, organize my notes some, and remind me what I love about writing. Next time, I plan to amplify my efforts with large adhesive note papers and some expo markers, or even a pile of square note pads that I can stick to the wall and continue to hash out ideas.

What about you?
When is the last time you did a retreat?
Were you alone or with friends?
What is your favorite part of getting away?
What are you writing right now?
Where should I go next?
Alone or with other writers?

#Writing #Writerslife #retreat #CrownePlazaLAX #KABUKI #Restaurant #Meditate #bath #wine #books #notebooks #ideas #Write #iboughtit #MakesMeWander

MIND BLOWN: MINDFUL MIDLIFE

While growing up, all I heard about “middle age” foretold the imminent explosion of a full-blown midlife crisis wrought with side-effects such as race cars and affairs. The true crisis exacerbated with each tick-tock of the clock and visible in the faces of caricatures trying to re-capture their youth and prove they’re still worthy. Beginning my own downward spiral, I fortunately extracted myself after a series of a-ha moments. This led to me finally piecing things together, coming to realizations about myself and redefine how I look at mid-life! It’s an opportunity to finally live the life we dreamed of, not anyone else’s dream, armed with life’s wisdom. Call it a second coming, our second wind, our encore… My campaign for Mindful Midlife’s starts here!

white ring bill alarm clock

Photo by Joseph Redfield on Pexels.com

But first, here’s how I got here. Hindsight is 20/20. 

As Oprah says: 

Life whispered
Sitting in marriage counseling with my wasband, the therapist asked me what I liked to do on my own for fun and I didn’t know my answer. I wracked my borderline co-dependent mind to no avail. The only emotion that surfaced, then drained the blood from my body, was shock over how muffled my emotions presented. I didn’t invest time to excavate them at that time because I had two babies in 3 1/2 years, lost my job, got divorced and moved in rapid succession. 

brown wooden frame sing board close up photography

Photo by Mati Mango on Pexels.com

Life whispered louder
As the kids and I hurtled into our new normal, it became all about getting them situated and I hid behind the rapid pace of their lives. I met new people while proudly wearing my parent uniform. Parenting allowed me to hear my gut instincts and test my intuition – though I constantly second-guessed my gut as well. I’m not a perfect parent, but I felt good about our direction! Still, underlying all this, I never felt settled nor peaceful because I lived in a constant state of repair. I yearned for 1) a home I loved to come home to, 2) a balanced self-care routine, 3) longevity so we could grow roots. Just as I’d celebrate 2 out of 3, something would shake up our foundation again.

Life thumped me
Recognizing that my kids were no longer little, the finish line encroached. I lived wrecklessly, running myself ragged. I pushed through imbalances, always putting myself last, in order to launch them as best as I could. Still, believe it or not, in my mind, I started having irrational fears that my life would be cut short and the stupid thing being these were because of things only I could control.  

man sitting on a concrete bench

Photo by Burst on Pexels.com

Life threw a brick
Questionable results on a mammogram and recommended surgery for a torn meniscus kept revealing my vulnerabilities to an annoying end. For a while, my mind hovered over the dark visual that my body started to fail me and would deteriorate at a rapidly increasing rate. To avoid surgery, we repaired my knee with strengthening exercises. Next, my body hit me over the head with blood pressure. It shook me and woke me up. I wanted to hold off medicines with more side effects than healing powers for as long as possible. I tried to see if I could heal my body again through mindful steps. It worked. In addition to being more present and more grateful with my health, I felt more in control. 

One day it hit me that in order to not become the crazy cat lady when my kids’ leave the house, I needed to return to that therapists’ couch in my mind and figure out what brought my heart joy, my “why,” my dreams, and my challenges. 

adorable animal art bowl

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I’ll tell you how I got there in my next post…

What about you?
Have you had a midlife?
Would you describe it at mindful? or manic?
Can you recall the last time the universe spoke to you?
Did you change your behavior?
To you give in and believe what you’re told and feel?
Or did you try to redefine midlife?
Make sure you subscribe above with your email so you’ll know when I post about how I got there!

#MindfulMidlife #MiddleAge #Health #BePresent #BeGrateful #MakesMeWander

EATING OUR WAY AROUND THE WORLD WITHOUT LEAVING LOS ANGELES

Why do you travel? 

  • To get away from the daily grind?
  • To spend quality time with others?
  • To invest time in, and transform, yourself?
  • To learn about other cultures, flavors and traditions? 

My friends Christina, Marsha, Patty and I (and occasionally a special guest!) found a way to do all of the above during those in-between days while waiting for our vacation days to refill. We challenged ourselves to eat our way around the world without leaving Los Angeles! 

LA offers so many cultures living alongside each other. With our two-fold goal, we aim to learn about different parts of the world and different parts of LA at the same time. We drool in anticipation for each new restaurant, and also the quiet time to hang together.

We’ve filled a bowl with names of all the countries we could think of. We meet monthly to draw a piece of paper out to determine which country’s cuisine we will visit.  On occasion, we already know of a good spot. We often still do a bunch of research online if we need other suggestions.  

One of the best parts of travel comes from the anticipation of the upcoming trip! So it’s fun to look forward to our dinner for a few weeks before gathering for a wonderful meal together. In many cases, we just eat. A few times we paused long enough to wander around the neighborhood visiting nearby businesses, street vendors and open air markets! 

So far our itinerary has taken us to:

ITALY
Cantalini’s Salerno Beach Restaurant in Marina Del Rey
Marsha summed this spot up in one word: Sumptuous!  Truly a feast with so many courses – salad, pasta, shrimp and fish! We drank great wine and enjoyed the fantastic family pictures and local location!  We made mental notes to return with family!

PERU
El Pollo Inka in Hermosa Beach
Patty and I frequently visited this spot before we drew the name from the bowl. We loved the amazing grilled meats, Christina had a slow-cooked osso buco. The live music set the tone and the newly redone interior was beautiful!  

JAMAICA
Donna’s Home Caribbean Restaurant in Hawthorne
This cozy little spot felt like eating in the kitchen of a family relative. Though a small spot, the flavors were big! The jerk seasoning brought my favorite combinations of seasonings and the juices were delicious!

SOMALIA
Banadir Somali Restaurant in Inglewood
This restaurant, too, felt like we’d stepped into a friend’s home. When we arrived, a bunch of friends sat at a table watching a game. We asked the chef what he recommended and we eagerly upon a platter!  Patty pointed out how awesome it is that we four seem to be on the same page, often eager to try the same things, or a variety offering.  This platter of meats including chicken, beef, goat and lamp became Christina’s favorite! Great place to feed all of our growing teenaged (and older) kids!

KHAZAKHSTAN
Shamshiri Grill in Westwood
This spot had such a beautiful interior and the entertainment centered on a delicious view of the kabobs being fired on the grill! I surprised myself by liking goat – again – though I settled on shrimp curry. The cherries in the rice were an unexpected dimension for rice that I loved! 

DIM SUM
Ocean Seafood in Downtown LA
When we drew Dim Sum from the fish bowl all four of us were the most excited we’d been to date! We got there early and got right in, the carts began circling like chuck wagons and we covered the table in plates.  A few times Christina found herself saying “That looks interesting!” (We’ve all said that at some spot.) It was cool to try vegetarian options on a few
dishes

EL SALVADOR
Paseo San Miguel in Los Angeles
Marsha suggested this restaurant based on the crowds she saw anytime she drove by. Now that we’ve eaten there, we know why. This spot leaped into the leadership spot with many of us in the group! Patty even went back with her family the same weekend and I’m looking for the opportunity to do the same.  Again, like with the Somalian restaurant, they offered a large platter of food with fish, shrimp, sausage, chicken, and beef. We also ordered four different pupusas and a plate of plantains and beans. We ate so much we were stuffed – hurt so good!

We’ve only just embarked on this journey and we look forward to the next destination – that we will draw in a few weeks!  I’m looking forward to trying Ethiopian! I already know I love Spanish and Armenian food and can’t wait to share it with the gals.  Marsha looks forward to Korean food (as do I). Christina wants us to hurry up and get to Brazilian food – I may already know the perfect place!

This was a test run at work when they hosted an African buffet and we tried Chakalaka!

We’ve also made it our mission to try some American foods that may vary by region – Patty suggested starting with BBQ. Marsha can’t wait to sink her teeth into Memphis BBQ and I look forward to trying Texas BBQ!

I love that I might show up with the stress of the workweek or living with teenagers but between the food and friendship, they quickly point me in another direction and my stress melts away.  So, don’t wait! Gather a partner or a group and get an interest group or club started! Whether it’s for dining, crafts, travel or to start in on your bucket lists, as Marsha would say: Get out and get to it!  

What about you?
What book or film transported you the farthest?
Have you ever picked your next vacation destination based on how beautiful it looked on the big screen? Or from a dish you ate?
What bucket list item could you check off your list tomorrow?
What country has your favorite food or dish?
Do you belong to any clubs with your friends? Dining, Book, Travel, etc? 

#EatOurWayAroundTheWorldLA #yelpla #yelp #Girlfriends #GNO #losangeles #dinner #lunch #happyhour #eatourwayaroundtheworld #lafoodie #foodie #Africa #Italy #Peru #Jamaica #Italy #Khazakstan #Somali #restaurant #restaurantweek #makesmewander

O WOW! OPRAH MAG 2019 FALL BEAUTY O-WARD WINNERS!

As a whole, I am a low-maintenance kinda gal. Primarily born out of necessity, coupled with the fact that I no longer like to wake up early, I have a very simple skin and hair routine – more than half of which I complete in my parked car before going to work. 

 

Usually using my phone light for better and brighter lighting!

 

So it was super fun for some of us #OMagInsiders and the magazine staff to play beauty queen and sample some of the products that O, The Oprah Magazine’s beauty editor Brian Underwood singled out for award consideration!  

Some products were classics, some were brand new. Some were high-end, many were more reasonably priced. All were deliciously and delicately scented, super effective and easy to use so they fit in well with my mornings! Here are my my longer (than the magazine) reviews:

JOHN MASTERS ORGANICS
FINE HAIR SHAMPOO WITH ROSEMARY & PEPPERMINT
This shampoo performed great! Because the shampoo ran thinner, I used less but it still permeated to my scalp. It left less buildup on my hair too. The peppermint smelled and felt wonderful, energizing me in the mornings. 
I recommend the shampoo if you enjoy treating your hair to a day at the salon! 

BEACHWAVER CO. GOOD VIBES
MOISTURIZING CONDITIONER WITH COCONUT OIL
I used a little bit of the conditioner – but I cheated and applied product all the way up to my scalp, not just stopping halfway like the instructions said. My knots instantly fell loose leaving smooth wavy hair! I didn’t need to apply a lot to my thick hair, and after I rinsed, I still felt the benefits without any residual buildup!

I used it at home and brought it in my beach bag for extra protection from the drying sun and salt! Transitioning from the beach to cafe just got easier simply by running my fingers through my hair.

ALTERNA
CAVIAR ANTI-AGING ANTI-FRIZZ AIR DRY BALM
I am extremely low-maintenance with the styling of my hair and this product worked really well with how simple I keep things. I used it both on wet hair straight from the shower, just running my fingers through my wavy hair and also on dry hair to seal my hair for a high ponytail! In both cases, it doesn’t require much product, spreads out easily between my two hands, applies clear and distributes evenly.

It does a great job holding my hair’s desired shape in both cases without tons of angel hair popping out (which is the norm with my wavy hair). I love that my hair doen’t feel waxy (dirty) by the end of the day, it doesn’t feel crispy when first applied. I just rub the rest of the balm into the back of my hands for extra moisture!

RODIN
LUXURY LIP & CHEEK OIL
The best feature of this product surprised me in that the oil didn’t feel oily. It applied to lips easily and didn’t leave huge glossy marks or come off in weird sticky blotches onto my coffee cup.

My tint-free oil absorbed nicely into my cheeks leaving a shimmer that looked more natural (to me) than the powdered highlighters do. This provided a more delicate, natural look that creates highlights better than the powdered highlighters or fine glitter lotions. I look forward to trying some of their tints!

ESTEE LAUDER
ADVANCED NIGHT REPAIR INTENSE RESET CONCENTRATE
Estee Lauder officially helped me turn the page from my aggressive younger blemish-fighting skin routine to a more caring, respectful mindful skin care routine! Advanced Night Repair felt richer and immediately relaxed and protected my skin. It felt as though this one product and I trusted each other to work together.

While using this, I didn’t have to use as many skin-care steps during the day (extra masks; serum + lotions) because the impact of the night repair lasted to the morning – even after washing my face. I saw a difference in the fine lines on my face after a few days and overall, my skin looked younger and more supple, more elastic. This earned a permanent spot in my skin care routine moving forward. More than a fan, I’m an advocate.

 

 

WHAT ABOUT YOU?
How long does your morning routine take?
What about nighttimes?
If you could only use one product for beauty and one for cosmetics, what would they be?
What is your favorite product that you feel deserves an Oward?
What’s the craziest beauty product you ever purchased?
Did you try any of the products from the list?
They’re so reasonable for how well they work!

#OMagInsiders #OprahMag #BrianUnderwood #FallOwards #Beauty #BeautyBlogger #MakeUp #Skincare #BeautyOver50 #BeautyOver40 #Over40blogger #Womenover40 #blogtober #MakesMeWander

 

 

YOU WENT WHERE? MY FAVORITE COFFEE MEMORIES

Please note that the cityPASS links are afflinks meaning I’ll get paid a few pennies towards my next dream vacation at no extra cost to you. I am only including the pass for towns I’ve visited and would love to return to with a cityPASS

Some people’s favorite memories bubble to the surface after seeing an outfit worn, hearing music played, smelling a familiar scent or feeling a season come around again. Many of my favorite memories (no surprise) center around coffee! 

I am the reigning champion Most Caffeinated Mom of my domain. I absolutely drink coffee to ensure that I can stay up later than my teenagers. No falling asleep on the job here. However, I also legitimately love to try different coffee flavors like one might try and savor fine wines (that post coming soon…).

The best part proves to be the town I’m in, or the company I’m with, even if I’m alone. For some of the towns, I sipped while skimming cityPASS info – sizing up my options and discounts for other nearby activities!

Take time to brew a cup, warm up a friendship or simmer on memories! I appreciate you indulging me with a few of my coffee highlights…

BIRD ROCK COFFEE ROASTERS 
Del Mar
Sometimes Moms just need to get away. I rented an Air BnB for the first time and headed out for a solo weekend (sort of – my son and his pals were staying in a beach house so I stayed close in case of emergency and to throw food at them one night). Mentally, it helped me begin to admit that he’s about to leave home and gotten more independent! 

The vibe here felt peaceful starting with the barista’s gratitude journal that you’re encouraged to add to, to the amazing view of Los Penasquitos Lagoon and Torrey Pines State Reserve. The wide open spaces helped breed large ideas!

The SoCal cityPASS has multiple San Diego, Anaheim and Los Angeles attractions and so many various options for you to choose from to plan your perfect visit! 

CAFE DEMITASSE
Santa Monica
After a fast-paced morning playing cars with my friends – real friends and real cars – they raced off to their next amazing destination. Since I didn’t feel ready to downshift yet, I wandered around walking to the pier, down 3rd street Promenade and found this spot.

The specialty drinks drew me in with ingredients I don’t usually see in a latte. When they made my chamomile strawberry latte, the sprinkle of strawberry brightened my morning! I can’t wait to go back!

This beautiful latte is located in a town many people visit when touring SoCal cityPASS attractions!

THE COFFEE HOUSE AT DISNEYLAND HOTEL
Anaheim
Another sign that my kids continue to grow and mature – they now just need me for a ride to Disneyland Resort but don’t me to go with them. I remember walking in those shoes when I grew up so I gladly spent the day exploring Downtown Disney and the many resort hotels until they exhausted themselves.  I’ve been a huge believer in Disney magic ever since my first tour of the park when I worked there during college.

Many surprises hid in every corner of the Diesney properties.  I found the coffee house while wandering through the festive property trying to see what was new. The coffee satisfied my craving but the magic appeared in the themed Snow White’s apple pastry.

Yes! Even Disneyland is part of the SoCal cityPASS!

COPA VIDA
Pasadena
This place felt productive – like important and creative work and conversations took place daily. It felt important that I finally caught up with a friend of over 22 years! I could not remember the last time we caught up without our families.

I ordered a turmeric latte. Is that even coffee? I think so?! It mixed steamed milk with turmeric and espresso. It felt very smooth with just a bit of spice. The anti-inflammatory benefits of turmeric made it good for me too.  

Though a little out of the way, you are able to visit this coffee shop when on your way to the Los Angeles stops of the SoCal cityPASS!

GRAND CENTRAL STATION
New York
We did a whirlwind trip to the East coast as my son narrowed down college choices. Not only did it feel fantastic to make it to and pass through such a famous, historic building, but we navigated the trainlines, got tickets and filled the remaining time in line to buy snacks and coffee.

The kids preferred to ride in their own section of the train leaving me in my own little world for our long 2-stop train ride.  We enjoyed that campus and the East coast vibe but he landed at a West coast school for college.

When visiting the City that doesn’t sleep, the New York cityPASS gives you the option of visiting the top 6 NYC attractions, or to choose 3 out of 11 attraction options!

HEARTHSTONE LOUNGE AT DISNEY’S GRAND CALIFORNIAN
Anaheim
I love the network of Korean adoptees (KADs) that I’ve found in recent years. A few of us met in Downtown Disney to discuss things like first trips back to our birth country, birth searches.  I met one gal in San Francisco at the AKA | IKAA conference and they met since they found out they were related. We’ve definitely opened cans of worms by doing DNA – I look forward to see who comes forth. 

The Grand Californian offered one of my favorite places to hang for a while. Feels relaxing sinking into their sturdy but comfortable chairs! The cast members quickly spotted us and took my order. The latte cup, and my company, filled me with warmth!

With the SoCal cityPASS you can choose 2-5 days at the Disneyland Resort and the more days, the less the tickets cost!

LOFTY COFFEE CO.
Encinitas
My childhood friend – well, family by friendship who fits in as our 4th sister in our family (she’d be the oldest and we’re all still 4 years apart) – came to visit!  Since it’d been many years since she last visited, she wrote a short bucketlist and I could not wait to travel as much as I could with her.

We started in Encinitas at my folks’ beach house. We started exploring the charming stores up and down PCH – beginning at the Lofty coffee shop!  It felt like the local hangout, the corner coffee shop where you would find all your fastest made friends.

Take a ride up the coast to drive from the San Diego Zoo to Carlsbad’s Legoland visiting the best SoCal cityPASS attractions! Fill your lungs with sea air and your heart with latte love!

SCALA’S BISTRO AT KIMPTONS SIR FRANCIS DRAKE HOTEL
San Francisco
I flew to to Northern California for a book reading of the anthology that I contributed a story to: Mixed Koreans: Our Stories. Though many of the Korean Adoptees stayed together, I chose to stay closer to where I feel my heart in San Francisco – Union Square.

First of all, they greeted me with free brewed coffee in Scala’s. Instantly won me over! As I stepped down into the cafe, I couldn’t help but stare at the beautiful, lofty ceilings with my mouth wide open.  It immediately set a classic but casual tone with amazing views of the city through its huge front windows! As I sat, sipping my coffee, it absolutely convinced me to come back to grab coffee and croissant for the next leg of my travel. Perhaps next time I’ll have enough time for a real meal.

Structured like the NYC version, the San Francisco cityPASS allows you to either choose the pass with all 5 top San Fran hot spots or you choose 3 out of 8 hot spots for slightly less.

SEARS FINE FOODS
San Francisco
This restaurant marks many milestones in my history. I’ve sat down for breakfast with my kids, with many teams of Team In Training athletes, and with friends. As I sat down once again, I immediately jumped back in time to my other visits and also to the time when this place was built! So much history here.
 

The coffee and comfort food arrived quickly and the portions exceed the plates. Have you tried Sears? You must. 

One of our favorite attractions is the Exploratorium and tickets are available through the San Francisco cityPASS!

STARBUCKS
New York
I leaped at the opportunity to shadow the footsteps of what would be a dream job for me! Grabbed a Venti triple latte and headed to Hearst! Sadly I cannot move to New York right now but I penciled it in as part of my 8-year plan!

To be honest, the tour of O, The Oprah Magazine gave me a pep in my step over the coffee that day but I still loved the holiday flavors.

I need a week to spend in New York. It’s been so long since I visited any of the attractions, they’d be brand new now.  So glad to get a break on so many stops with my NYC cityPASS!

STARBUCKS RESERVE
Palm Springs
While in the middle of my friend’s So Cal visit bucketlist guiding me through my first mid-Century Modern Architecture Tour of Palm Springs, we stumbled upon a huge Starbucks Reserve! I had to take pause from this memorable trip traveling back in time to graduate to Starbucks Reserve.

Starbucks Reserve’s huge store blew me away. They boasted a daily menu featuring special brews and a multitude of brewing methods. I chose Sun-dried Brazil Vale Verde Estate featuring hints of dried fruit and sugar – clover brewed: Full-immersion and vacuum filtration to yield exquisite balance and body (Their words). My thoughts: It tasted about the same as always. Still cool to visit and I’d love to do a flight of coffees!

Palm Springs is a little off the beaten path from the SoCal cityPASS but if you can fit it in, I recommend it. With mid-century modern art & architecture, this desert is a real escape!

TRULUCKS SEAFOOD, STEAK and CRAB HOUSE
La Jolla
Though I grew up in San Diego, I don’t visit as often as I used to. So when I dropped in for the weekend, I felt so grateful that two of my friends made it for happy hour!  They’ve been such a source of friendship, reason, conversations and balance.  I love that we’ve gotten to know each other even better than when we walked home from 8th grade!

We arrived during happy hour and enjoyed a variety of appetizers, delicious cocktails and smooth music. But the chocolate bag dessert and fully-loaded coffee were the most memorable and beautiful together.

It’s worth it to detour through La Jolla to see native Sea Lions and amazing ocean views and experience a restaurant like this between themeparks you found on SoCal cityPASS!

WICKED SNOW
(and a few other coffees that helped me during my first trip back to my birth country!)
Seoul, S. Korea
After spending an amazing day-in-the-life with generous Korean host families who spoiled and fed us so much Korean street food, they brought me and a friend to experience this amazing dessert Mango Bingsu! It tasted like a dreamy creamy cloud! I got a simple coffee to counter the cold of the Mango Bingsu and because I took advantage of any opportunity to get simple brewed coffee while in Korea!

Around the main picture you can see how I fed my caffeine addiction while in Korea. I felt like Korea’s insta-coffee technology was more advanced than I’m used to in the USA.

HONORABLE MENTION:
MY OFFICE
Los Angeles
Every morning my office-mate and I make ritual foam for our coffee and whether I brew my coffee in the office or I brought it with me, it becomes the best part of the morning.

Now that I see the added value of my coffee ritual, I may have to figure out a way to extend this! Meet up with my friends all over for conversations and their favorite coffee (or wine)!

What about you?
What sparks the most memories for you? Sights, sounds, scents, etc.?
Do you have a favorite coffee shop or cafe?
Do you stick with big chain coffee shops or seek out independent chains?
What coffee drink is your part of the world known for?
Do you get coffee for fuel or to spark conversations?
Does the foamy coffee or the tiny espresso from my office has more caffeine?
Does anyone here drink decaf?! Speak up, I’d love to meet you!
…or do you drink tea?

There are 14 cityPASS destinations in the USA and Canada! Use them to simplify planning for your next trip! Which cities have you visited with cityPASS?

#memories #butfirstcoffee #connections #communication #lattelove #bepresent #coffee #cafe #espresso #caffeine #highlycaffeinated #begrateful #shopsmall #Disney #afflink #Canada #Disneyland #makesmewander

WWP: WHAT IS A HEALTHY HABIT I DEVELOPED (AND ONE I RELEASED)?

With each passing year, the changes in the seasons – especially as summer cools and turns to fall – become more noticeable to me! Perhaps because I feel how fast they blow through now that my kids are older. Perhaps because I’m aware of how fast life is passing overall.  

A fellow blogger Jessica Gustafson inspired me this week by explaining how one masters living seasonally! I also relate to where she stands with making revisions to her blog, newsletter and such (while I’m just starting to design revisions and a newsletter).  Her example will pull me through to the finish line with revamping my blog!

But first, I’m responding to her prompts – I smashed 3 into 1. I look forward to checking back in with her blog at the end of this season too.  

Ready? Pens up!

  • What is a healthy habit you developed for yourself physically, mentally and spiritually. What is one you can release in each area?  

Recently, I recognized that my daily routine followed the same path every weekday. Work, drive to the grocery store, sit in the parking lot for at least 10 minutes listening to the radio while playing some distracting game on my phone, wandering the aisles of the grocery store looking for dinner inspiration, then driving home to cook, clean up and crash until bedtime.  Sprinkle in daily debates with teenagers and I felt tapped out by the end of the day. Fortunately, while I recovered from surgery recently, I picked up a habit that improved my physical, mental and spiritual well-being. Walking. 

While still in recovery, walking helped my body function properly and increased my endurance. The endorphins helped me feel better and lifted my mood.  Secondary benefits included the freedom it provided me (when restricted from driving) and my daily outings helped keep my curiosity healthy and my moods sunny. As my strength increased, I challenged myself with distance or speed records. I knew that I needed to reassess my workday routine to ensure I could keep my new practice up. While I used to tell myself to get up from my desk every hour and walk or walk 30 minutes at lunch, my consistency stunk. 

To force my plan, I gave up my parking spot on campus. I now walk about 15 minutes each way to my office and back.  On a physical level, it contributes a lot to my 12,000 daily step goal. It raises my heart-rate and gets me to breathe deeper (especially on the stairs up to my third floor office). On a mental level, sometimes it allows me extra time to finish a podcast I’m totally into, or it accommodates my physical meditation while I count steps or my breaths against the squares in the pavement. Spiritually, it gives me space to be present, be more mindful. Sure, I’ll admit this also keeps me safe from tripping on a crack in the sidewalk while looking at my phone. I clear a space within my cerebral clutter to talk to myself, evaluate what works and what does not. My chats with myself are kinder, more supportive, not just nagging myself or cursing – ok, maybe I still sometimes sound like a sailor in my head. I take the time to consider what I might work on or what I need to let go and let the universe take over. 

One new mantra that made sense to me the moment I heard it is “Why not me?” These three little words are helping me shed the habits I need to release: a) Crashing on the couch then wondering why I’m not hitting my marks b) Giving too much power to the “What ifs?” and c) Feeling like I can’t enjoy the Successes for fear that a Loss will be right behind it – to bring me back to level ground.

I still find it hard to believe that a little action as simple as putting one foot in front of the other releases all of this magic!  I also sometimes find it hard to keep up the routine on the weekends, but that’s my next goal!

What about you?
How do you check in with yourself at the seasons’ transitions?
What habits did you pick up during this last season?
Have you let any go?
Do you have a mantra? Or many mantras?
What do you do when you need to work through an idea?
What does the voice in your head sound like?
Do you journal? Do you want to know how to live seasonally?
Did you check out her other journal prompts?
Have you done other #WednesdayWritingPrompts ?
If you do – share the links in the comments below!

#JournalPrompt #WWP #selfreflection #Seasons #ChangingSeasons #Blogtober #Blogtober2019 #LiveSeasonally #Inspired #WritingPrompt #MakesMeWander

WRITING FOR CONNECTION AND RELEASE

As an adoptee who was born mixed Korean, the irony of our deportation to other countries – because our look did not fit in with the Korean society – is that we did not fit in with our new adopted countries either. I dove in and embraced everything my family offered me: My new home, Cheerios, Keds, Orioles, Elvis, Big Wheels and Sesame Street! But, even from my earliest memories, I remember feeling aware that I did not look like those in my play circle. 

Outside of my family and playdates, the only unlimited influence over me were books. One of the first books I identified with shared illustrations of Native American youngsters with similar hair and skin colors. That was the first time anyone came close to resembling me so I believed I must be one of them. 

When first introducing myself to the Korean Adoptee communities as an adult, I became feverish about wanting to meet as many others like me as possible.  Anthologies helped me gorge on fellow adoptees’ stories to crack open and identify some of the heavy emotions I’d carried with me and also to connect with people who relate to those feelings.  Several anthologies of adoptees or those from biological mothers brought me to tears as they shared thoughts from deep in their hearts. 

The many Mixed Korean contributors!

The first time I entered a conference session filled with mixed Korean faces, I felt my last nerve relax as I felt present in the tribe of people who truly understand me without uttering one word. The Korean adoptee and the mixed Korean communities embrace their own tightly and the connections reassure me. As soon as I heard about a Mixed Korean anthology, I immediately submitted the first words that came rushing forth. 

Bucketlist item: To have my my writing in a book!

My initial excitement grew from the idea that my writing would be published alongside my peers on pages in a physical book! I could not wait to feel the weight of Mixed Korean: Our Stories in my hands.  I had not yet even considered how it might impact the readers’ lives the way other anthologies became turning points in mine. The editors’ began preparing us for book readings! I signed up for an early Los Angeles reading and felt so nervous that I completely skipped my introduction and just read my passage.  

Mixed Korean: Our Stories at halfkorean.com annual dinner

I worried about the sharp emotions from my pages and how they’d be received. Turns out, as soon as I’d sent the words to the editors, the negative emotions went with them. So, now, when I read them on the page I still recall the moments that caused me discomfort, but the negative emotions no longer clung to me. Writing helped release me.

Mixed Korean: Our Stories reading in San Francisco

 

I brought the anthology to another reading with fellow Korean Adoptee authors in Los Angeles and later we did another Mixed Korean reading in San Francisco at a university! I’m so humbled with each new audience and the many stories that they, in turn, share with me. It warms my heart feeling each new connection and knowing that this anthology weaved our stories together. 

img_6158

Korean Adoptee Authors at Beyond Baroque

Currently there are a few readings scheduled around the country and stay tuned, because the anthology is currently being translated into Korean!  

If you order a copy of the Mixed Korean anthology, it benefits 325Kamra – a team of DNA angels who are working to reunite families!

What about you?
Have you ever contributed to an anthology? About what topic?
Or have you written a memoir?
Are you mixed race?
Do you know your ethnic origins?
Do you have any emotions you’re tired of carrying around?
Does it help to write about it?
Do you journal – daily, weekly, monthly or when you feel like it?

#journal #mixedkorean #anthology #Adoptee #KoreanAdoptee #MyHistoryIsAMystery #notafflink #nonprofit #DNA #SeoulSearch #MakesMeWander

YOU WENT WHERE? VEGAS! (WITH KIDS, COUSINS, & GRANDPARENTS?!)

When planning your family vacation, did the words Las Vegas ever cross your mind? Did it stay in your mind or did you immediately dismiss Sin City? Oprah Magazine just did a feature talking about Vegas attracting families hoping to see their favorite artists’ shows while in residency in Vegas. …But, what can the family do before and after the concerts?

Would you believe that my family roadtripped to Vegas with ages 5 to almost 75? We spent hours in the pool and more hours chasing adventure!  Some things we did together, sometimes we split up into smaller family groups, but we were pleasantly surprised with how many of the attractions fit the bill for all ages! 

Always chasing deals, I purchased things from Groupon or looked for specials on the ground in Vegas. MGM offered a 3 for $57* card with choices of a wide variety of attractions! Everyone in the group mixed and matched to fill in their bucket lists – we didn’t all stick to the same itinerary. So here are the top 10 (in alphabetical order) from our last trip to Vegas. For even more things to do in Vegas, check out what we did on our first trip to Vegas – just myself and my 2 kids.

ADVENTUREDOME at CIRCUS CIRCUS* – My t(w)eens’ easy first choice for the 3 for $57 card! Even though Circus Circus felt a little stuck between classic crooner Vegas and the new flashy resorts, it held SO MUCH fun under one Adventuredome for kids of all ages. Tons of games, rides and fanfare to enjoy many air-conditioned hours! My young niece chose to see Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at The Mirage instead. 

BODIES … THE EXHIBIT* – After hearing so much about this exhibit we eagerly chose this as one of the 3 for $57. The t(w)eens did less cringing than expected and more studying of each display. The human bodies’ exhibited such intricacies and artistry that really drew our attention and awakened our fascination. Sorry, they did not allow photographs.  My 5 year old niece chose to do the Titanic exhibit instead – we just left out the ending of that story.

ETHEL M CHOCOLATES – When considering our favorite chocolates, everyone knows about M&M Mars, but did you know Ethel Mars?  Just 13 miles or so from the Vegas strip in Henderson, NV we found the factory store (that happens to be surrounded by a beautiful succulent garden)!  I looked closely for Lucille Ball operating a conveyer belt within the inner workings. The best part was creating our own custom assortment of flavors to take home – sharing not required!

GORDON RAMSEY BURGER at the PLANET HOLLYWOOD – While I influence the foodie adventures, the kids recognized Gordon Ramsey from Hell’s Kitchen. They both stick to simpler choices in general, but instantly noticed the differences in textures and flavors while inhaling these delicious plain cheeseburgers and shakes!  

JABBAWOCKEEZ at the MGM GRAND – My kids don’t remember the Jabbawockeez as winners of the premiere season of America’s Best Dance Crew, though enjoyed them after I offered an extensive online video review. They absolutely appreciated and were inspired and energized by the moves they saw on stage.  The theatre offers great seats from every spot – plus the show and story goes beyond the fourth wall.   

JOHN MULL’S MEATS & ROAD KILL GRILL – Upon learning the name of this restaurant, I instantly wanted to freak my kids out and go.  It’s a short drive into a residential neighborhood but when you arrive, the smell pulls you from your car and brings you to the crowded door.  The barbeque options were tender and flavorful and a welcome change from the miles of buffets on the Strip! 

LUXOR – The Luxor offered a central location to so much of what we did in a magnificent pyramid!  The kids dug the Egyptian theme with the nightly pinnacle beam of light – perhaps a beacon for travelers from outer space! They gasped at how huge the interior felt with each level revealing more hidden treasures! My kids’ yearn to stay in every resort on the Strip!

MARVEL AVENGERS S.T.A.T.I.O.N. – We received an invitation to check this place out and what a fan favorite!  My kids know the Marvel Universe better than they know U.S. history and this offered an even more intimate look at the many characters and their stories.  Such an amazing interactive exhibit to let us walk a mile in their shoes and suits!

SHARK REEF AQUARIUM at the MANDALAY BAY* – The unanimous favorite for all ages, this exhibit fulfilled all of our deep-diving fantasies.  Next time I go, I want to fasttrack through the attractions and spend more time sitting in the hull of the ship just watching the sharks.  Take your time strolling because the jellies mesmerize and the aquariums made us fantasize. This was our last of the 3 for $57!  

lauren slotzilla

SLOTZILLA ZIP LINE at the FREMONT STREET EXPERIENCE – I often try to find attractions uniquely special for each child. For my daughter’s first-time ziplining, I thought the rock-n-roll light show from the “ceiling” of the Fremont Street Experience fit perfectly. The course was fast enough to thrill but not scare us and Bon Jovi music left our hearts pumping! Downtown Vegas offers an older charm but the scene is changing and growing each year! 

ON THE ROAD HOME…
ALIEN FRESH JERKY
– Not going to lie – the idea that this jerky came from alien-abducted cows stayed in my head while we walked all over the store! Final verdict: The aliens know what they’re doing and you need to stop here! This shop offers the best in roadtrip snacks of all kinds (and happens to be across the street from a place offering the widest selection of sodas and pop!). Easy to spot from the highway, just look for the World’s tallest thermometer in Baker, CA!

What about you?
Did this change your mind that families can vacation in Vegas?
Need more convincing?
Where have you travelled with kids in Vegas?
Where should we go next?
Where do you find special deals?
What’s your favorite Vegas season?

#lasvegas #youwentwhere #familyfun #familyvacation #roadtrip #travel #travelwithkids #blogtober #Nevada #Baker #Henderson #EthelM #MGM #Luxor #Adventuredome #Slotzilla #FremontStreet #GordonRamsey #Burger #bbq #aquarium #makesmewander

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