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 Adoptees – 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!

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

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

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

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

MY FIRST TRIP TO MY BIRTH COUNTRY WAS MORE THAN I EVER IMAGINED

RED EYE TO SEOUL

Red Eye to Korea: I left on 8/29 and arrived on 8/31?!

One year ago tonight, I was on a plane to Korea for my first visit to my birth country in as many years as I’d been alive thanks to Me & Korea and their Hapa Mosaic Tour It’s taken me a year to find words to share my experience in writing because the journey was so much MORE than I expected.

While I immediately squeezed out two pieces for the Korean Quarterly and for the Me & Korea 2018 newsletter, I felt that was talking to a captive audience. But when trying to explain my trip to anyone else, I felt like I was swimming, fighting to keep my head above water, trying to keep sight of the shore but not knowing which side to cling to as the waves of information and memories kept coming.

This trip changed me, I can feel it. Now, I have so much more than I did before.

Sunlit Sisters Center

We traveled to Pyeongtaek to visit the Sunlit Sisters Center, a social club for halmonies (grandmothers) who had been comfort women.

MORE HISTORY
While growing up, a small sliver of me held onto the fantasy that I’d return to South Korea only to find I was a long-lost princess.  Walking through the streets of South Korea with a group representing a living chapter of many countries’ histories felt even better than any Princess fantasy. Right now, I’m fortunate enough that the full span of that history is present as I am able to meet Korean Adoptees (KADs) sent away during the first-wave of adoptions right after the Korean War to those towards the end of this story – as Korean intercontinental adoptions slow down.

Camptown

This was the border of the camptown in Bupyeong. Now a grassy park.

MORE SCARS
Our realities reveal huge discrepancies between what we were born into and what we grew up with – no matter which country we were adopted to. I’m still bothered by the heart ache over what little support exists, even now, for single Korean pregnant women. I want to bang my head over the irony of the national registry that everyone must be on yet that won’t record children if there is no father – unless they were found abandoned in the streets which means they’ll be assigned to one. I’m haunted by the fact that while I was in the USA consumed by the color and excessiveness of wanting my MTV, my birth country was still drowning in a bleak ravenous poverty.

The Statue of Peace - Seoul

This statue speaks volumes and has a 24-hour guard to protect her.

MORE TURMOIL
Turns out as a Hapa (mixed Korean) adoptee I’m a part of multiple layers of a controversy interweaving many countries’ histories – that most refuse to acknowledge. Since the Korean War, there have been Comfort Women in camptowns, the commercial areas adjacent to US military bases in Korea.  These women are government-sanctioned workers there for the enjoyment of the soldiers (to put it as mildly as possible). The media tries to paint a picture that there are only a few left and that the 122 won a lawsuit winning a case against the government, and approximately 57 won small financial restitution so we should all be happy and move on.

This history did not end when the Korean war ended. When I was born in the 70’s, there were still approximately 20,000 women serving 60,000 soldiers (Kingston/Japanese Times).  Another article estimated that it was closer to 46,000 women in 1969 who earned $70 million dollars (Jeffrey/United Methodist Women). Women wound up there for many reasons: those illegally trafficked, those trying to feed their families, perhaps trying to do their part to get more of the US money to help Korea crawl its way out of poverty, or perhaps repaying their own debts. However, the country didn’t consider the by-product of this idea – the mixed Korean babies in a culture strictly valuing pure bloodlines.

Vintage Camptown in Bupyeong

It was fascinating to see that in the past almost 50 decades, not a lot had changed in this area.

MORE COMPASSION
In my heart, I have to forgive the past and, as Oprah would say, give up the hope that it could have been any different. Bottom line, I know I am fortunate to have been the result of one brief encounter that created me. My birth mother kept me for 2 months then I was treated with care as I quickly transitioned from Korea to America. I arrived to a family who welcomed me and loved me. Nobody else can tell an adoptee how lucky they should feel. But I can tell you how it gives my life an incredible feeling of purpose to know that despite the odds that were stacked against me, I’m here.

I also cannot comprehend how it felt or assume how I would have behaved while living through the war, being separated from my family as a teen to fight a battle in a foreign country, or living in a country so poor that giving up a child to feed the others seemed like a reasonable decision. I cannot comprehend the societal pressure that causes someone in the family to turn over their mixed baby to restore stability to their place in society. I grew up in a country with different origins, history and culture than Korea where I almost cannot imagine life any other way and it’s not my place to judge others.

Investigating my roots

L to R: Me, the employee of the Nam kwang orphanage with my 48-year old files on the table in front of him, our translator.

MORE DETAILS
During the months leading up to the trip and while on the trip, I learned more details about my past. I learned that I was from Busan, not Seoul. I learned that I was turned in by a woman – my translators feel this was most likely a relative.  I’d always believed I was abandoned in the streets and found by the policeman as my mass-produced adoption papers stated. I learned that my birthday is correct or super close to what I thought it was. I learned that I grew up as the youngest child in a foster family for a few months. Though there was no way to remember any part of this, I felt like my inner child felt redeemed now that I clung to these tidbits.

DNA sample Seoul Police

The very first day we all left DNA samples in the Seoul Police station

MORE DISTANCE
At the same time, I’m even farther away from my history. Though DNA has overwhelmed me with hundreds of cousins and a thriving family tree, the majority are from my caucasian side. Though I’ve tested with 3 companies, these companies don’t have many people from Korea in their databases. The companies just aren’t commonly represented in Korea. Though, this is starting to change. There are some organizations like 325Kamra that give free tests to Korean Adoptees, nationals and to military GIs.

The women who could be our birthmothers, may not want their families to know that they had a child previous to their current relationship due to the culture that still exists in Korea.  They don’t want their children to reunite with them because their shame for what they did for work, or for giving up their children, is too large to bear. I’m telling the birth moms that your children do not care and simply want to connect with you. Our only string of hope was leaving DNA samples in the police station in Korea hoping that eventually family members will do the same.

A Day in the Life

It was amazing to see how the lives of busy mothers (our gracious host families) in Korea mirrored ours.

MORE LIKE ME
For years, part of my resistance towards traveling to Korea centered around a fear of rejection. I stand out and thought I would be shunned because I’m not full-Korean, I know nothing about being Korean and am an adoptee.  To my relief, there was not one time on the trip that I did not feel welcome. No side eyes, no indirect whispers, no bad feedback to my attempts to bow or greet people in Korean – nothing. I loved that we spent time with adults who lead similar lives. My KAD friend and I spent time with two Korean BFFs who loved to shop and to eat – perfect!  They took us under their wings with gusto and showed us around town walking many store blocks and shoving spoonfuls of food in our mouths.

2018 Mosaic Hapa Tour

So much comfort was found in being surrounded by other beautiful mixed Korean faces!

MORE CONNECTION
The ability to take this journey with other KADs was a gift.  We instantly connected over our mass exodus and desire for information though recognized the significant differences from our childhoods living here and the various routes making up the rest of our lives. I was grateful to have this community of sisters and brothers who understand and get parts of me without any explanation.

DMZ Border of Hope

The DMZ represents a painful separation of families and these ribbons send messages of hope to other family members and hope for reunification.

MORE PAIN
Other people’s energy tends to saturate me so sometimes their pain overwhelmed me. Sometimes I felt guilty that I couldn’t help carry their pain, and that I didn’t experience the same level of loss on any conscious level. We shared stories, we cried to each other, sometimes our crazy family dynamics manifested in wild unexpected ways. It’s a frightening and painful thing to experience that many people feeling so raw and torn open but a beautiful thing to witness at the same time.

Pearl S Buck's typewriter

We owe it to ourselves and to those who come behind us to uncover our pasts and share our truths!  (Pictured: Pearl S. Buck’s typewriter)

MORE PURPOSE
I feel as though I’ve been given this amazing fresh lump of clay to mold and shape into something amazing. So far, I feel the power of our KAD shared truths. The more we “older” KADs talk about our journeys to Korea, our birth searches – if we’ve done them, or even just what it feels like to not relate to our birth culture because we’ve been raised in another one – the more strength and guidance there is in our KAD community.  My new goal is to help others uncover their truth, find peace with what they find and discover their paths in life as well. I’m still shaping my vision for how to do this, but I’m excited and anxious about the possibilities!

Turns out I'm from Busan

Turns out, I come from Busan which is really funny if you know me and fish…

MORE GROUNDED
One KAD explained our transition so well – that we all left Korea by falling through the Narnia wardrobe into fantasy worlds where we grew up, but the minute we step back through the wardrobe returning to our birth country, we return to our inner child at whatever age we left. I’ve learned to sense my inner child and am learning how to care for her. I tended to just stay busy thinking that if I was still moving forward then I must be ok. I have spent my life always moving, adapting and settling into new normals whether self-enforced or by forces beyond myself. Building thick walls to compartmentalize my conflicts while operating in constant survival mode isn’t healthy and wears me out. I’m working on incorporating time to be still for writing or reflection.  My inner child now lives with me after we reunited in Korea.

MORE MYSTERY
For every step I drew closer to my past, an obstacle got thrown in my path. While I had an address in my file that the person who turned me in left as a “home residence,” who knows if the name or the address was correct.  When we drove to the address, the rubble of the neighborhood littered my path. Our early histories are being demolished with the urgent need to modernize Korea.

The trip introduced us to the colorful, bustling Korean culture, Korean and American history, and our individual histories. I look forward to recording the rest of my trip and really diving in to capture every event and every emotion along my journey.  My history is a mystery.

What about yours?!
What do you know about your history – whether you’re adopted or not.
Have you done DNA testing?
Did you have any surprises along the way?
Tell me more!

#koreanadoptee #kad #Korea #Seoul #Busan #Bupyeong #Pyeongtaek #ComfortWomen #KoreanWar #history #Adoption #Adoptee #Camptowns #DNA #Geneology #BirthSearch #MixedKorean #Hapa #MosaicTour #MyHistoryIsAMystery #SeoulSearch #MakesMeWander

CURRENTLY – OPRAH’S FAVORITE THINGS!

As a Californian, it’s sometimes tough to notice the seasons changing and for many years the holidays always sneak up on me. BUT NOT THIS YEAR!  This year, I kicked off the holiday season in the most fabulous way I ever dreamed of!

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I was invited to attend the Oprah’s Favorite Things reveal holiday kick-off party!  The evening fulfilled every dream I held onto since watching Oprah give away her list of Favorite Things for many years on her show and, now, in her magazine. While I was invited to attend the event, the decision to share my opinion, and the opinions given, are always my own.

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I’m so humbled and grateful that three of us #OMagInsiders, Tonya, Rachel and I, received the invitations as a result of being recognized by our peers for our community-building efforts within the #OMagInsiders group. 

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While this VIP invitation rewarded us with many comforts (Thank you O, The Oprah Magazine!!), the most rewarding gift is being a part of this group and celebrating this festive night with the other #OMagInsiders who inspire me and motivate me daily! My excitement grew exponentially each time another O Mag Insider walked through the door to celebrate the with us!

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Everyone’s been asking me – what were your favorites, what should I get? I’ve compiled a list of what I’m CURRENTLY OBSESSING over to help inspire you!

CURRENTLY INSPIRED
As the elevator doors opened on one of the top floors of a high-rise in Manhattan, the excitement of the people in evening attire and the colors of the inviting packages flooded my senses!

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I loved that in the spirit of giving and Oprah’s Favorite Things, we brought children’s books as donations to Books for Kids Foundation. Oprah and I have that in common – I always gift at least one book with every child toy I give! I love the idea of encouraging kids to keep reading hard copy books!

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CURRENTLY CRAVING
The enchanting twinkling city lights drew us farther into the room while inviting us up to Cloud 9 with an endless view of downtown. Delicious appetizers passed by featuring Oprah’s Favorite flavors from sweet to savory!  Savory won me over.

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The Maine Lobster Mac and Cheese – served in mini tart crusts are perfection! The Truffle Burger Kit makes burgers impossible to ignore! To unassuming guests, it’s a juicy mouthful of quality beef until the truffle flavor dances across your taste buds! If you haven’t done a lot of truffle stuff yet, start here. Beef and truffles go together!

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CURRENTLY PLANNING MENUS
I’m following Oprah’s suggestion to make holiday morning french toast using one of Roy’s Panettones. The multi-dimensional flavors and texture melt into your mouth! Red Velvet Gourmet Bundt (other flavors also available) brings on the holidays looking like something Santa would favor – but translates well to every other occasion as well! Bundts are the best because they pack as much cake goodness as possible in a slice!

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Put aside my status as a highly-caffeinated individual – you know that nothing goes better with baked goods than COFFEE! Look at the various options that Nespresso Lattissima One Silky White  indulged us with! …and so easy to use!

img_8595In my other hand, I held a signature cocktail made from Oprah’s favorite Casa Dragones Tequila – now in a size suitable for stocking stuffing!  

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CURRENTLY INDULGING
I rarely make self-indulgent purchases but, after this trip, I’m changing my philosophy. I can’t take my eyes off the clean, bold patterned Tory Sport color-block tracksuit because the pattern commands my attention and accentuates the strength of women. This weekend I’ll be the calmest shopper out there (or online) on Black Friday comfortably navigating sales while wearing fashionable Ultra Lite Caftan.  

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I love the power of scents to help me make sense of my day.  I love the La Chatelaine Deluxe Hand-Cream set because what woman doesn’t love options and a world of possibilities?

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CURRENTLY BEING SCHOOLED
While I always spent money for well-built shoes to train for endurance events, I’m the opposite with my daily wear shoes. Now Oprah’s Favorite Things boasts two footwear options with technology, structure and style to help me outlast my to-do lists. While already partial to the APL: TechLoom Bliss after hearing they were created by twin USC Trojans, I was sold by the sleek elegance of the shoes. The warm red color promoted them from athletic wear to chic wear.  

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My feet eagerly anticipate sliding into my Vionic Gemma plush slippers when I’m finally home for the night. They cradle my foot with the softest fluffy lining topping an orthotic footbed engineered to give my feet a second wind (after I’m finished reading my O Mag).

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CURRENTLY GIFTING
I’m over the idea of gift cards. I love dreaming up gifts that people will (hopefully) love and use – and remember!  I look for gifts that dazzle me like the Rainbow Tumblers – and everything else from Glitterville.com. They’re beautiful and enhance every event!  

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I love the Empowered bracelets because they share six beautiful but powerful mantras you wear on your wrist (without getting it permanently inked).

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The next gift warmed my heart and my hands because we got to hear the history behind these Knitted Faux Fur Mittens and how Oprah’s feedback helped shape the final product.  The Power of O made them happen! Your hands will thank you!

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For my sweetest friend, who invited us to stay at her home on our last trip back east, I left Face to Face Designs Napkins knowing that she’d have a house full of guests this holiday week!  Use them as napkins or bathroom finger towels! 

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CURRENTLY FASCINATED BY
I cannot stop dreaming about this item and while I personally can’t afford it, nor do I have a wall fancy enough to test it on, I’m dying to see this Samsung 2018 X7FN QLED TV in person! When it’s on, it’s a TV – when it’s off, it DISAPPEARS on the wall!?! Please call me for movie night if you get it, I’ll bring the popcorn!

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I love LOVE this idea and wish I’d thought of it first – the Lumos Kickstart Helmets that show lit up blinker signals on the back of a cyclist’s helmet to indicate where they’re turning.  Whether you have 2 or 4 wheels, you’re welcome! #ShareTheRoad

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CURRENTLY RECEIVING HINTS ABOUT
My kids had renewed interest in Oprah and the list that she and Adam Glassman carefully procured when they heard iPhone XRs were on the list.  Maybe I’ll give in for the one leaving for college this fall (let’s see if he reads my blog). Perhaps I’ll buy time with the other child’s current phone by upgrading her ear buds to AirPods.

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Tell me, do you have Amazon Echo Spot in every room of your house to play tunes throughout, or for shopping? Convince me why I’ll love it!

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We waited forever to take an Elevator Selfie!

Whether this was my one time experiencing Oprah’s Favorite Things in person live, or if I ever get invited back again, or I’d even volunteer as a helpful Elf – the evening met and surpassed every idea of what I thought this evening could be.  

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Dream come true to tour the O, The Oprah Magazine offices!

Waking up the next day and finding out it wasn’t all a dream was the best feeling! I love that even on any other year, I still have fun sampling a few things off of her list!

Wanna see the whole list of 107 Oprah’s Favorite Things?!

What about you?

  • Did you splurge and buy anything off of her list?
  • Are you doing #BlackFriday or #SmallBusinessSaturday?
  • Will you be braving the stores or shopping online this holiday season?
  • Which Oprah’s Favorite Thing would you buy if money was no object?
  • Have you considered doing a “Favorite Things” exchange with your friends where everyone exchanges their own favorite things?
  • What are your Favorite Things that you feel should be on next year’s list?
  • Have you checked out the new OprahMag.com – it’s where I live now!
  • Want to subscribe to the O, The Oprah Magazine?
  • Have you seen the special edition “Let It Go!” (it’s like curling up with a good book)!

What are you Currently up to?
Consider these:

  • CURRENTLY AVOIDING
  • CURRENTLY DRINKING
  • CURRENTLY WATCHING
  • CURRENTLY PANICKING
  • CURRENTLY COVETING
  • CURRENTLY COOKING
  • CURRENTLY LISTENING TO
  • CURRENTLY NEEDING
  • Or dream up your own!

#OMagInsiders #OprahsFavoriteThings2018 #OprahsFavoriteThings #OMagazine #OprahMag #OFT #HolidayShopping #BlackFriday #CyberMonday #ShopSmall #SmallBusinessSaturday #MakesMeWander

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?

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

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