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WHY NOW? WHAT SPARKED MY SEARCH INTO MY PAST?

I keep asking myself: Why now? What made me decide to finally go to my birth country of Korea for the first time at the age of 48 (last year)? 

We wore our hanboks to Gyeongbokgung on the last day of our visit! Felt amazing (and gets you in free!)!

It felt like the perfect storm of Impulse (My 2017 Year of Yes and vowing to experience everything), Vulnerability (My 2018 Year of giving in to feel everything), and absolutely my Mindful Midlife (My 2019 Year of trying not to regret anything). While it looked like a sudden whim, my decision built slowly. Along the way, roadblocks sent me down deadends, speedbumps slowed me down, but I’m stubborn and love a good mystery – I needed to see this journey to the end. Surprises rewarded me along the way.

 

OK, this is a Korean pothole not a rabbit hole, but I loved the pattern!

  • DNA SENT ME DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE: When I finally did my DNA to see where my other non-Korean half originated from, I became fascinated by all of my cousin connections!  I read their faces, over-reacting when I noticed any similarities. I’m not really interested in meeting most of the hundreds of cousins, but it amazes me to now see the generations of people that I’m linked to. I’m curious to learn how my ancestors travelled around the globe to wind up where I magically came about in Korea.
    Roadblock: There aren’t that many Asians (from the US and especially not Korea) in all 3 of the big DNA companies: FamilytreeDNA, Ancestry, and 23 and me. The companies are just now trickling into Korea and Korean Asians have their large national ancestry ledger and don’t feel that they need DNA to tell them about their relatives.
    Speedbump: It’s hard to navigate your genealogy as an adoptee because the minute you surprise someone with your existence, they clam up.
    Suggestion: If you’re trying to find relatives, test with all 3 companies and download your raw data into other larger databases.  Many people test 1 time because they are only curious about ethnicity so you could miss large chunks of your genealogy that could be listed in a different database. Leave DNA in the area you’re from. In Korea, the database connects the police departments if there are any matches. Also, enlist professionals – or, as I call them, DNA Angels.
    Surprise: When the Angels got involved, they shot a laser that parted the seas of cousins to find people so fast it made my head spin.

We were able to meet Molly Holt – daughter of Harry Holt who started my adoption agency.

  • INFORMATION OVERLOAD: My neutral attitude towards putting much effort into finding ancestors centered around the number of decades that have passed since I left Korea – not to mention the required language I’d need to communicate what little story I knew. I felt no reason to NOT believe the story in my file and assumed that the record keeping would be poor if files even still existed.
    Roadblock: As an infant found abandoned in the street by a police officer, this enabled me to be logged in the Korean Ancestry Registry – though with a family name given to me by the police. However, no note indicated whether my birth year was accurate, or where I came from.
    Speedbump: Different information existed at the US vs. the Korean Holt International offices.  In some areas, they filled in the blanks from the other file. I learned I’d lived with a foster family and started out as the youngest in the family (before I became the oldest in the family I grew up in). In other areas, the files contradicted each other.
    Suggestion: Ask for all of your files and get translators involved if necessary. Request immigration files through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). I saw pictures I’d never seen and read snippets about my preferences and my day as an infant that shed light on my current behavior and preferences. My inner child wept with gratitude after learning that I’d been so carefully cared for by a foster mother. It also wept at the hint that my history could be woven with that of another adoptee listed in my file.
    Surprise: Turns out one of my files mentioned which orphanage I came through which suddenly changed my birth city to Busan. My file also hid the name of the person who turned me into the agency. A woman. 

We learned to make kimchee from a master! I now love fresh and fermented kimchee!

  • MINDFUL MIDLIFE: At the age of 48, I felt an urgency inside sternly warning me that my life would feel wasted if I never visited my home country. Considering all I have and everything I’ve done, perhaps that sounds harsh and even a little selfish. I started to feel as though I lived to meet this society’s markers, but that my life didn’t feel like my own if I didn’t chase after my roots and learn about Korea.
    Roadblock: Korea’s complex culture – they’re just starting to put down the large stigma associated with adoption. The dark veils of secrecy in our adoption files – to help us move quickly into new lives – still hides much of our histories. Conversations are still awkward, and explanations still hazy. It’s unsettling to me when people apologize.
    Speedbump: The relationships that yielded mixed Korean adoptees is vast and still ongoing. It felt shocking to learn the whole history when only searching for my first 8 months. Overall, I’m at peace with the past because I can’t change it. We all harbor  messes somewhere in our families.
    Suggestion: Go when the time feels right. I wasn’t confident beyond every doubt, but failed to convince myself that I should not go. I recognize it’d have been a much different, more superficial and touristy trip had I visited when I was younger or a different crowd, even full-Koreans (who travelled a different historic path towards adoption). I feel like I would most likely have deflected, not absorbed, the impact of my trip back.
    Surprise: Though almost a half-century old, I found my inner child somewhere along the journey in Korea.  I’m now conscious of her existence and learning to care for her.

 

Beautiful Bomunsa temple at the top of a steep hill in Incheon.

In my opinion, adoptees looking for their history hope to answer questions, feel their roots, find their center and perhaps shed light on their purpose.  Of course, family members may be a part of this discovery, but for me, that would be secondary to learning my story. I would love to make connections, to see behaviors and facial expressions, but not in a sense to replace the family I have. This is just my experience, every adoptee’s journey and story is unique and their own to share.

So why now? It’s been a year and I’m finally unravelling and untying the threads of information that connect me to my home country. More than anything, I want to get it out and make sense of it. Though I’ve fully touched my Korean history and feel myself rooted in that country, I still haven’t married my Korean and white sides here in America. When I do Korean things, it still feels like a field trip for me: Spend a day in the life of a Korean woman!

The famous 💩 Emoji cookies and the cafe where you drink out of mini toilets! We stuck with the delicious cookies!

Since October is #Blogtober, and I love me a strong deadline, I’m using this as a means to try to push the rest of the story out! I look forward to sharing more of the surprises and stories with you! It may be slightly messier than usual just to get it out. I appreciate you staying with me through this exercise!

What about you?
Have you researched your genealogy?
Did your family come here from another country?
Have you visited your birth country?
Are you adopted?
Have any additional questions? Ask in the comments!

#Blogtober #Day1 #Adoption #Adoptee #KoreanAdoptee #KAD #MixedKorean #MyHistoryIsAMystery #ancestry #heritage #DNA #family #relatives #writeyourtruth #SeoulSearch #memoir #personaljourney #OMagInsiders #makesmewander

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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

TRY PAMPER ME PANTRY – PAY IT FORWARD!

Disclosure: I received a Pamper Me Pantry box in support of this review.  No money compensation was given and all opinions are my own. Please note, this blog does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult with your healthcare practitioner.

Product subscription boxes populate my social media feeds and promise an inviting array of colorful, delicious products, sure to brighten my day!  Still, my penny-pinching ways caused me to hesitate, wondering whether or not I’d even use all the products …UNTIL NOW!

Autism Hope Alliance’s Pamper Me Pantry subscription box feels smarter, healthier, and fuller than other boxes I’ve seen, won’t flood my cabinets (because I’ll use what’s in the box before the next one arrives) and, best of all, supports families touched by an autism diagnosis. Companies that give back, or pay it forward, live in a soft spot in my heart and automatically win my dollars.  

Everybody knows someone touched by autism. Per their website, “Autism Hope Alliance embodies hope for families facing the diagnosis of Autism through education, financial support and volunteerism. The Autism Hope Alliance is the first non-profit foundation for Autism to emerge from the natural foods industry.” Rather than simply pull together a box of any goods to make money for their cause, they’ve thoroughly read the research on Autism and carefully reviewed and selected natural food products that are also socially responsible. Many are gluten-free, dairy-free or vegan.
…AND DELICIOUS!

They’re delicious because you feel the goodness that you’re putting into your body, but they also offer flavors that you crave.  Whether you know someone with autism, or brain injury, or just want to try to incorporate more health-centric products into your daily diet, I highly recommend the Pamper Me Pantry box!  

I knew the moment I laid eyes on the Vegan Rob’s Cheddar Puffs (dairy free and vegan) that they’d be my favorite!  They were crunchy and light like a puff should be and with a bold cheddar flavor, not just “cheese flavored.”

I loved the Nordic Naturals Complete Omega Junior supplements because while my kids turn up their noses anytime they catch a whiff of “healthy” – they love taking their vitamins as if that provides their superpowers. I’m already a fish oil advocate for my heart-health, but was excited to learn about the improved brain function to help my kids through their first (my daughter) and last (my son) high school years.

It was a tie between the Strawberry-Kiwi Barlean’s Superfruit Greens and the Cool Chocolate Vibrant Health Super Kids Vibrance because I feel like they have dual purpose and do well as stand-alone drinks, but would be even more amazing sneaked into my kids’ favorite meals – smoothies!  I’d probably make these, freeze them in ice cube trays and blend the Superfruit Greens with blueberries, cherries and bananas and the Super Kids Vibrance with milk, non-fat greek yogurt and peanut butter.

I look forward to waking up tomorrow, tasting the Straw Propeller Banana Bread oatmeal. I love oatmeal anyway, but when you add bananas and walnuts, it awakens my inner gourmet!  I also am eager to learn more about the benefits of the many supplements in the box such as the Silver Wings Colloidal Silver (helps boost immunities), and Morningstar Inner Vitality Mineral Supplement (Humic/Fulvic supplement – a powerful antibiotic).

Now a lot of this feels like a foreign language to me, but as I enter the half century point, I’ve taken a larger interest in the science behind foods and using food as fuel as well as for entertainment. I look forward to learning more about and testing these products for my general health as well.

If you know someone touched by Autism, or want to try some of these products yourself, don’t miss out on their next box! They’re just $39.99/ea (Products valued at $125.00) and there will be 4 boxes this year.  If you can tell you’ll love Pamper Me Pantry as much as I do, save even more by subscribing to a year for just $124.99 for the full year.
DISCOUNT for my readers: Use the code Hope 6 you can get 10% off of your first order. 

I admit – I don’t have much personal experience with Autism but learn a bit more every day. Nonetheless, I’m impressed by what I see on AutismHopeAlliance.org. Having worked at non-profits before, I am pleased when a non-profit proactively digs in and tries to help educate, financially support while building an army of volunteers to help spread their mission. I feel their passion and their follow-thru every time I use one of these products.

 

I’m not a doctor, so I’d love to hear feedback from you.

  • Have you tried any of these products before?
  • What were your results?  
  • What products would you love to see in a Pamper Me Pantry box landing on your doorstep?
  • Have any favorite smoothie recipes for me to sneak my healthy powders into?
  • Want to win a box?

#PamperMePantry #AutismHopeAlliance #BrainHealth #Autism #NaturalFoods #Vegan #DairyFree #Vitamins #Minerals #Supplements #MakesMeWander

  • Did you use the code HOPE 6 for 10% off your first order?

HOW TO PREPARE FOR A TRIP TRAVELING FULL-CIRCLE

How does one prepare for a full-circle trip when one doesn’t know how much baggage there will be?

I’ve been fortunate enough to be granted the gift of a trip specifically catered to the mixed-Korean – often known as “Hapa” – adoptees (KADs) interested in returning to our birth-country to cement our existence in this foreign country. We’ll spend an amazing 10 days traveling through South Korea with the Hapa Mosaic Tour sponsored by Me & Korea. What a gift to learn first-hand about the culture and our shared and unique histories with other KADs.

As a single mom of two kids, I would never be able to afford this trip, nor have the time to research my past and coordinate everything for such a meaningful trip on my own so I’m incredibly grateful to Me & Korea for sponsoring this mind-bogglingly awesome opportunity. When I first put my desire out into the universe to take this trip last Fall, I never could have imagined that it’d be this soon. I’m a big believer in making our dreams known – it’s the first step to achieving them!

Me & Korea also hosts a full-Korean Mosaic Tour!

After a deposit to commit to this trip-of-a-lifetime, the one expense I needed to take care of – air transportation to Seoul. I figured, for my first trip to my birth country, I must go Korean Air! I love that the flight I booked allows travelers 2 bags so that I may bring a suitcase for my things and an extra for gifts (since they don’t tip in Korea, instead, they give gifts of appreciation) and souvenirs. My sturdy travel companion Lug bag will hold everything I need for my 13 hour direct flights and for the smaller trips where we go overnight to other parts of Korea.

During the flights I’ll spend plenty of time reviewing mental checklists and timelines while hoping that I packed everything I need. Meanwhile I don’t know if I can accurately anticipate the emotional baggage waiting to be unpacked.

CURRENCY ADAPTERS & CONNECTIVITY
Growing up I always felt a nervous vibration under my skin from the combination of being adopted, changing schools often and being an introvert. Too young to call upon words to express such complex emotions, and with no other shared or personal experiences to compare them to, I honestly didn’t believe anyone completely understood me. I just lived despite the feelings not really wrangling the skills to travel through them. Previously, I explained these emotions comparing them to Gwyneth Paltrow’s character living in a parallel existence in the film Sliding Doors knowing that I started life on one path and now existed on a very different one. However, unlike her character, my search focuses not on what I missed, rather figuring out what led up to me switching rails.

In this past year, as I’ve started to connect with other adoptees, and specifically hapa adoptees, that vibration seems so much less noticeable to the point that I don’t even recall exactly how it felt for the previous 40 plus years of my life. I don’t feel like it went away, more like I found other people whose vibrations matched mine. Social media proved its worth to me by taking my sparse landscape of KADs and filling it with 200,000+ others from those in the very first plane of adoptees departing from Korea to the most recent ones. Still, I’m sure that this trip will bring me face-to-face with stories in my head that I’ve dreamed up and those that I could never visualize.

From the USA office of my adoption agency

MAPS & TRAVEL DOCUMENTS
Requesting my adoption paperwork from the Korean and US offices of my adoption agency from almost 5 decades ago felt futile. Surprisingly, it only took them 2 weeks to travel back 47 years to pinpoint and send me photos of my American adoption files. Surprisingly, I moved the pinpoint for the start of my Seoul search 200 miles south as I realized that my birthplace originated closer to Busan – a southern beach town in Korea.

I devoured the information as though I’d discovered a treasure map with hidden paths, mysterious clues and a possible buried treasure. Through tears, I read notes detailing ingrained behaviors, spoken words and eating habits as an infant. It warmed my heart to read the words that someone cared enough to write. I’d never known that I’d stayed with a foster mom with older “siblings!” Before now, I imagined a very sterile vision of my first few months assuming I’d been one of many in a rows of cribs in an orphanage. For the first time, my past reached out to comfort me.

LOST IN TRANSLATION (THOUGH TRANSMITTING LOUD AND CLEAR)
I take everything I read and see in my files with a grain of salt. I don’t read or speak the Korean language. I’ve heard many accounts of adoptees finding a thin lining of distraction in their files – though clarification may be offered when visiting the Korean office of their adoption agency. During peak transnational adoption years, some detail fell away as adoptions were “streamlined” to help get more babies adopted. According to one chart, between the time I was born in 1970 to the time I flew to America in 1971, the number of babies Korea sent away grew from 37 babies/week to 52 babies/week with a peak of 170 babies/week being reached in the mid 1980s before it started to slow down.

To this day, the feelings surrounding these statistics shroud some Koreans in a delicate veil, detailed with bureaucratic formalities and mild mea culpas. I never expected the Korean Consulate General to attend a mixed-Korean event in Los Angeles to issue a formal apology to mixed Koreans and adoptees for sending us away, admitting their errors, offering the improvements and extending their warm, formal invitation to come visit Korea. Personally, I can tell by reading the English-written parts of my file (though I have translators working on a full Korean translation) that perhaps the agency fast-tracked me through the system quickly to parents where one was a doctor so I could receive excellent care for the extensive health issues I had as an infant. For this, I’m grateful.

I am grateful that this tour allows me to retrace my steps!

MY FIRST KOREAN ITINERARY
Though I existed for 8 months before being adopted, the opening scene in my mental reel about my life began at 8 months old. In my mind, someone found, processed and adopted me out within a month. Receiving my Korean adoption files recalibrated that timeline. The paperwork shed light on the landmarks I traveled during my first journey through Korea.

When I had children of my own, I remember looking at them at 8 months old, acknowledging that someone in my past faced an excruciating decision that I couldn’t even bring myself to simmer in for a few minutes. Learning that this actually happened at 2 months old, my mind immediately tried to guess whether this age made it easier or harder. There is no good answer regarding timing or reasons. Second guessing does no good now. I’m grateful for my life, for my unique path and, now, the ability to revisit it.

BEST TIME TO VISIT
Why now? To be honest, the universe knew the right time. Before, I didn’t have the resources or knowledge to navigate such a distant culture and unknown language, nor did I have the money to do a tour that provides such guidance. I felt taking such a large trip would be selfish and, again, the cost prohibitive. I lacked direction! As an abandoned infant, I thought searches for information would be inconclusive.
I needed to get a better grasp of who I am so that my Self isn’t as fluid while on this journey. Every week since learning I’d join this trip presents moments where I’m hurtling towards boundaries that once I cross them, there’s no pulling back. My story and history have the potential of blowing up in the most exhilarating way and it’s important to know that while this does impact me, it (most likely – fingers crossed, knock on wood) shouldn’t change my foundation.

A full list of resources I found helpful coming soon!

TOUR GUIDES
Thanks to computers, I’m fortunate to have KAD mentors – the “Twinsters” film, working a fundraiser for KindredAdoption.org, AKA Dan’s youtube series, reading books, doing DNA tests to learn my other half, joining facebook KAD groups and attending AKA|IKAA events. After finding a welcome place and ongoing dialogues in these groups, I heard enough stories that caused me to ask “What if?”

Meeting adoptees older than me who successfully retraced their steps, I asked “Why not me? Why not now?” Though the process of applying and receiving notice I’d received the grant for this trip took place during a quick window of time, I’ve actually been preparing for this trip for 4 years.

So how does one prepare for this full-circle trip-of-a-lifetime when I still can’t wrap my head around it? After stops in Seoul, I’ll visit the region where it’s estimated I’m from, based on where police found me. Then we get a personal visit where I’ll visit the first location where I stayed before moving to Seoul, others may revisit their childhood home, or meet birth families if they found them. I’ll visit the Korean offices of my adoption agency to see if more information exists. We’ll participate in Korean culture visiting families and learning delicious Korean cultural skills. We’ll visit a Camptown home where many female employees of these camptowns now reside – honestly, these could be many of our birth mothers.

A gift from a friend and fellow #OMagInsider – I take it everywhere to keep copious notes!

Hopefully I’ll return with my children someday soon, but since it took me 48 years to get here to begin with, I want this trip to stand on its own and I want to remember all of the details. I’ll prepare with a fresh journal. I’ll take time every day, sometimes in particular moments and take in every sense – what I hear, smell, taste, see and feel. I’ll take tons of pictures and tons of notes and hope that others do too.

To follow along while I unravel the mystery that is my history, follow my social media!

To help support trips like this or to apply for next year’s trips visit me&korea

What about you:

  • Have you found surprises in your history?
  • Are you adopted?
  • Did you find biological family?
  • Any resources that helped you out?
  • Are you a domestic or international adoptee?
  • Did you adopt?

#2018HapaMosaicTour #meandkorea #325Kamra #KoreanAdoptee #seoulsearch #MindfulMidlife #myhistoryisamystery #halfbutwhole #researchingmystory #Korea #KAD #Hapa #liveyourtruth #sharedexperiences #anthology #connect #personaljourney #lovechicos #omaginsiders #Makesmewander

MY 2018 WORD OF THE YEAR

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

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

My 2018 Word of the Year:

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

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

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

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

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

What about you?

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

    myintent.jpg

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

FALLING INTO STEP WITH KOREAN ADOPTEES

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

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

Visit IKAA.org for info on the next event!

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

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

My newest, fastest FUNtastic friends!

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

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

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

Between sessions, my mind wandered:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What about you?!

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

MY DISTRUST IN POLITICS HELPED ME TRUST MYSELF

pol rel

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

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

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

quote

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

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

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

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

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

What about you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What about you?

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

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

POWER OF CONNECTING WITH KINDNESS ROCKS

If your wish list includes any of the following:

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

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

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

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

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Bea’s original Topock Rock!

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

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


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


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


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

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

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

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

Paint it Forward!

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

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

Kindness Rocks Community Painting Party

What about you?

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

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

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