little things

When I think about what my bosses notice me do at work, I’m never correct. Some of the biggest things I accomplish are not noticed by anyone. On the other hand, the smallest effort outside the box, everyone sees. Doesn’t that seem opposite of what life really is?

While my mornings are filled with my non-verbal kiddo, my afternoons are pleasantly occupied teaching reading in an older grade. Another aide and I share a group of four students in which we manage four reading rounds of 15-30 minutes. Every week we have a new book for guided reading. A few weeks ago it was about a penguin selling hot chocolate. With my not always wonderful habit of speaking before I think, I said: “We should have hot chocolate this week!”

The other aide looked at me, a bit perplexed while the kids cheered at the idea. I mean, we were reading about it all week, shouldn’t we have some? Of course, when I left the classroom, I immediately forgot.

I forgot the next week too.

I finally remembered on my day off, Friday. I was in town anyway and drove through at McDonald’s to get five small hot chocolates. I snuck in the back door of the school with a bag of tiny marshmallows and a tray of steaming drinks. I dropped them off in the quiet room where we study, with a quick warning to the aide I usually work with that they might still be hot in an hour.

“Aren’t you staying?” she asked.

I smiled at her, “Are you kidding? It’s my day off, I’m so outta here! Have fun!”

autumn autumn leaf autumn leaves chocolate
Photo by Brigitte Tohm on

I got a note the next week from our excited Special Ed Coordinator. She was thrilled that we thought to include drinking hot cocoa to go with the story. Turns out, one of our kiddo’s had never had it before. He loved it, of course. She said, “Now every time they read about Hot Chocolate they’ll taste it, maybe they’ll wonder if it had marshmallows, it opens windows in the mind.”

Here we are a couple of weeks later and our story is about a mouse who wants to touch the moon. It’s a no-brainer, I own the moon. A 3-D printed moon with all the cool features and lit from the inside by an LED, I mean, it’s really cool!


If you think the kids thought Hot Chocolate was cool, they went nuts for the moon

Of course, I wasn’t there because I’m not on Fridays, but it was another big win in reading. We have pictures of each of them holding the moon that we will print and send home with them.

I got an excited text from our coordinator, but really, it’s such a tiny thing. An afterthought is what it was.

All my energy and brain power is focused on propelling my Kindergartner into self-reliance and communication. I just show up to reading and read. It’s odd, isn’t it?

I don’t think we truly understand the power of tiny things. If we did, wouldn’t we fill the world with them? Wouldn’t we quit dreaming of being the hero and find so much more satisfaction in being water, in filling the cracks and gaps? Doing those things that don’t require any effort at all, or so it seems, could that change the world? Could I change the world with only my passion?


Our Thanksgiving has never been traditional. Growing up I had my fill of that. Cooking all day, setting the tables, family, displaced college students, friends of my parents. All followed by dish washing to the power of ten, tired and very cranky parents, too many people crammed in our house.

After we moved to Pittsburgh and suffered through a couple of friend Thanksgivings, we settled into our own thing. A morning round of cooking our favorite foods, in pajamas. The rest of the day watching movies or football, reading, playing games, or whatever we wanted, in our pajamas. Paper plates, plastic cups, naps, cuddles, quiet, laughter, recharge, our day has it all. Moving twenty hours closer to our hometown hasn’t changed our tradition at all.

We didn’t plan it that way, we thought we’d be seeing much more family. However, a few years in we realized it wasn’t any different from Pennsylvania. Everyone was happy to see us when we made the twelve hour drive, each way. We were exhausted.


We like spending time with family but quickly got tired of always making the drive. After two years we slid right back into our comfortable tradition.    [jojo.jpg]Today we celebrated again. We laughed together, argued, cooked, and napped.

This morning while I was lazing in bed, I thought about the things I’m thankful for this year. Too many to count, really.  In past years, that feeling of gratitude has terrified me. Always waiting for the other shoe to drop. Perhaps I’m most thankful for the change in my perspective. After spending so many years trying to ensure that other people love me, I finally understand it all hinges on loving myself. So many people say it, in an offhand manner.

“You can’t love anyone until you love yourself.”

I would have argued, “If you have energy left to love yourself, you’re doing it wrong.”

I would have declared it until I was blue in the face, until that year arrived that I couldn’t love anyone. I laid on my bed, unable to move without excruciating pain and wished someone would take care of me, someone would love me. I cried so angrily with the realization that only I would do that. It was so much easier loving other people. I was so angry at everyone.

What I’m beginning to understand now? My love is the only love I wanted. Only I could give myself exactly what I needed. Only I can fill those cracks with acceptance. Only I know how to open my heart again and share an honest love that comes from a bottomless, bubbling spring, not some rusty bucket I beg others to fill.

And all that brings me to you. All you crazy people who read and comment and for some reason, beyond comprehension, recognize something in me as a kindred soul. Thank you for giving me feathers for my wings, and a soft place to land.




Preaching to Pre-teens

Today I went back to junior high Home Ec class. They don’t call it that anymore. Now it’s called FACS. I have no idea what that stands for. Feeding All Children Sugar? So far they’ve made cookies, two different kinds and a smoothie with no greens. I really don’t know what it stands for but the classrooms look exactly like you remember!

Image result for home ec class


I had to go in and talk about my “career”. I was after the Electrician. I didn’t plan any remarks, as a kind of test for myself. It’s been a while since I spoke in front of any kind of group. My youngest has been texting me all week trying to find out what I was going to say.

Don’t embarrass me

Who is this?


I’m just going to talk about my job

What are you going to say?

I don’t know. Leave me alone to think about it.

No talking about me!!

I’ll take that into consideration.

So when I started I said, “JoJo is worried about what I’m going to say, so I’ll talk about her first. She was born in Pittsburgh, PA…”

Her head drops to her desk.

I continue, “I have a brief slide show.” Kids cheer and her teacher stands up.


“Just kidding, I don’t have a slide show.” I laugh.

I give them a brief overview of my ‘career’ which is mostly “housewife”, turns out. A job I’m not terribly good at. As I looked around at their faces I thought about what I want Jo to know. I told them my story, grew up in a small town, just wanted to leave. I mentioned graduating high school, living in New York, traveling, spending too much time in college running up debt and then not graduating. I used words like intention and resillience. I talked about Chicago (don’t roll your eyes!). Told them about Jo’s part, her belief, her mindset. How much I learned from her optimism and flexibility. They’re going to need every bit they can muster, I told them. College isn’t for everyone, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a career for you. There are as many paths to success as stars in the sky. Get up when you’ve been knocked down. Standing where you are until you’re steady, until you see the next step. I admitted I was in college for three years before I even had a clue what I wanted to do. I promised them they didn’t have to know everything now. They just need to keep going.

I only had fifteen minutes. At the end I explained how I wanted to bring each of them a pen and pocket notebook to write their dreams in, but Jojo wanted donuts.

In case you wonder, donuts still trump having to pick up a pencil for any reason in 6th grade.




BTS truth

I’ve been sitting down to write but getting distracted…

It happens like this.

You find a pretty wallpaper on Pinterest. click click

Aww, they’re so cute! click click

Smart, and sweet too! click click

What the….maybe I should make a board. click click

Ahem. I think I need a Jimin board. click click click  Aegyo means cuteness factor, lol.

Better make it private… click click dang! click

What time is- Oh, so true!! click click



What was I going to write?






Writing from the Heart

This post is an experiment. I don’t know what I’m going to write about, I don’t have a plan. I’ve been listening and learning the past few months, trying to understand myself. Trying to be true to me for the second time in my life. My adventure the first week of October was certainly 100% me. It’s the most me I’ve been since October of 1994. That was the month I knew I wasn’t moving back to Hawaii, well, that was when I admitted it to myself. Oddly enough, it’s also the month my birth father died.

I wonder, now, how that impacted me? I wonder if I felt something that day, some extra sadness that I couldn’t quite put my finger on?

Laie House

In college, I lived in Hawaii, going to school at BYU-Hawaii. I was working on a degree in Travel and Tourism. I LOVED Hawaii. I loved everything about Hawaii. I loved my life in Hawaii. The ocean soothed and inspired me. The simple way of life of the people there felt like home. Life slowed down, days were longer. Sunset walks on the beach became a daily activity. Bike riding in the small town of Laie replaced driving. Evenings that I wasn’t working for catering were spent exploring the Polynesian Cultural Center. I completely lost track of how many times I watched the parade of canoes or sat in awe through the night show. Perks of having roommates who worked there. Another perk, no one there knew anything about me except what I told them. For the first time in my life, I was no one but me.


I’d lived there just over a year when my parent’s decided I’d been gone long enough. They said they missed me, I suppose they thought they did, in their way. What they really needed was my help. My dad was gearing up for his annual eight-week camping trip/Geology and Psychology courses at the college where he taught. He had yet to find himself a camp boss. He was facing seven weeks of camping with thirty college freshman and no cook. I’d done it before, twice for him and twice for a different course in the Biology department. I was good at it, really good. I was also perfectly happy in Hawaii. They bought me a ticket back to Idaho. I told myself I didn’t have to use it; all the way to the airport. In the end, I barely made my flight, ran through the airport, the last one to board, covered with my friend’s good wishes in leis and flower crowns. As I made my way to my seat, I tried to control the emotions running rampant. Instead, I ended up sobbing quietly into the night. Lost in the stars above the Pacific Ocean. The poor stewardess kept bringing me bottles of water and asking me if I was sure I was okay. I was most certainly not okay. I wouldn’t be for a very long time.

Haku Lei, worn like a crown.

Why didn’t I follow my heart? Why did hurting myself seem to be the only way to make the people who loved me happy? Those things were stuffed deep away and I let my head take over. I could do this right. I would show them I was worthy because it had never crossed their minds to instill in me, my worthiness by existence alone. I would spend the next twenty years failing miserably. Hurting myself, punishing myself, hating the person I couldn’t be. Wondering why it was so hard just to be.

Of course, those twenty years weren’t only failure. I gained much experience, saw distant places, had my children, moved from state to state. I’ve thought many times that there probably was not another string of events that would have brought me to North Dakota. I’m fairly sure about that.

I haven’t found all the answers yet, but I am much more at peace with myself. There are still emotions that crop up, almost daily, that I have to deal with. Little things like what I wrote about last week. Bruised parts of myself that need recognition, need a little sunlight and ocean breezes; a little sand between the toes. But there is also joy, SO MUCH JOY. Something that I didn’t fully realize until the concert in Chicago and yet another thank you I owe the Bangtan boys. Whatever shell I was still trying to hide under, they broke wide open. The events of the week showed me I still have power, I still have resilience. The music started to throb and the stadium shook and I had to surrender to the staggering elation of twenty thousand souls. I could no more be a calm, quiet onlooker, they simply wouldn’t allow it. I could only take a breath and let my soul soar with the music. No history or labels or heartaches could withstand it. It was my Magic Shop.


Trauma in Adoption?

Have you ever heard anyone talk about trauma in adoptions?

I haven’t. I haven’t really looked either. Adoption, in general, is a holy process that is spoken of with respect and sacrifice.


Trauma is a big word recently. We’ve been talking about it in my school for a couple of years now. I see it tagged quite a lot in videos and articles. Undoubtedly, everyone has suffered instances of trauma.

I like this take on it.


I’ve been listening to Kyle Cease, often in my mornings. He makes me laugh and then think. I listened to this today. In particular, the part about a baby not understanding the passage of time and being away from their parent hit me pretty hard. When my son was born, I gave the nurse instructions to bring him to me if he cried. She brought him four times in the first hour. Exhausted, I told her to go ahead and keep him for the night, give him formula if needed. I was awoken the next morning by a nurse rolling my red-faced and howling son into my room.

“Wow, you have got a screamer!” she said.

I felt my heart drop through the floor.

“He cried all night! The only way we could calm him down was if he was in the swinging bassinet. I bet he’s hungry this morning.” She continued, without seeing the utter devastation she was raining on me.

She handed me my baby and checked my vital signs, cheerily filling me in on how loud my poor boy was. I tucked his little face into my neck and cried along with him. I never sent my kids anywhere in a hospital without me or their dad again. Never again.

image1 - Copy
My mother didn’t have the luxury of choice.

For a few minutes this morning I sat in my quiet bathroom and just thought about a baby that was born, rather traumatically, pulled with forceps. She was born into a room with a lot of mixed emotions, sadness, regret, embarrassment, and fear. The cord was cut, the baby quickly examined for any defect. Deemed in good health, the squalling newborn was hastily wrapped and taken to the nursery to be sorted into a plastic cradle and lined up with many other unhappy babies.  I was never touched by my mother or grandparents. Two days later I was handed over to a well-meaning woman who didn’t smell right.

I don’t say that to be mean or ungrateful. It’s just the truth. I didn’t understand it until I held my own baby. I didn’t realize how much comfort was derived, just from being held by mom. How even a half asleep and fussing child will immediately settle when tucked close to that native skin. That genetic scent that belongs to the body you grew in.

It’s one of the first questions I was compelled to ask my younger brother.

“What perfume did she wear?”

I wondered if it would smell the same on me? I’ve never owned Chanel No 5, but I love its scent on the inside of my wrist.

My father also comes to mind when I think of that lost baby.

My father had less choice in the matter than mom.

Saturday was the twenty-fourth anniversary of his death. I didn’t know about him then or any other October until this year. I’m so thankful for my older siblings who have taken the time to share their memories, photos, and notes about him with me. They’ve given him life, humor, and humanity. They’ve changed him from a black and white picture to a man I wish I could have known.

I desire it so keenly at moments, I have to stop and catch my breath.

I’m only punishing myself, putting off the trip to meet my siblings. They are part of my dad, still here on the planet. I’ll admit here that where I would have rushed to meet my father or mother as soon as I knew where they were, I’m a little more trepidatious about meeting siblings.

It’s all here inside me. Everything I learned growing up. It doesn’t matter how old you are, some situations are always going to trigger your five-year-old self. The concern, worry, and fear are maximized without dad there to love me unconditionally.

I’m not saying he would immediately have loved me.

I’m saying there is something about your own child.

Learning how to Love Myself

I’ve struggled writing this post, more than I imagined I would. My head fighting with my heart.

My heart won.


In the run-up to our back-to-school, BTS released their third compilation album Love Yourself: Answer. My free time was about to dissipate at an alarming pace. I’d heard their music playing all summer and my girls were talking in hushed, hopeful tones about the possibility of a concert in Chicago. They were being so careful not to push, not to hope too much. One quiet afternoon when they had disappeared into their room to practice choreography and giggle over YouTube videos, I sat at this very computer and opened YouTube myself.

I was immediately greeted with a list of suggestions for BTS videos. It took mere seconds to locate the video’s I’d seen them watching all summer. Just a picture of the group with three sets of lyrics shown, Korean, Korean phonetically, and English.

I wanted to know what these boys were telling my daughters.

Knowing they were rappers, I wasn’t expecting anything good. Thus, I was not at all prepared for what I discovered. I chose the song Love Myself cringing about what this might be about. I was familiar with the tune and focused on the English lyrics translation. (There are other translations but all of them similar. This is the first I read.)

It’s harder, loving yourself, than loving someone else. Honestly let’s admit what we must admit, the standards you make are harsher for yourself.

My fingers fumbled the mouse to the pause button before I hit the chorus. I looked around, making sure no one had come in while I had my ear buds in. Grabbing a kleenex, I looked back at the blurry screen. I wanted to swear. I wanted to sob. I wondered what song last hit me this hard? I clicked the play button again.

You’ve shown me I have reasons
I should love myself (oh)
My breath, the path I walked, it all answers for me

The me from yesterday, the me of today, the me for tomorrow
(I’m learning how to love myself)
Without missing a single part, without leaving a single gap, everything of me

I hit the pause button again, reaching for another kleenex. This time I did swear. “What the #*#& is wrong with me?!” Stepping away from the computer, I had a little talk with myself. It went like this.

GET A GRIP! This is a fluke, a bunch of Korean boys in their twenties. What do they know? You’re overreacting.  Your daughters love these boys like there is no tomorrow, but you’re er, older. What is wrong with you? You’re acting like a teenager. You always overreact with music. You need to get a hold of yourself. This isn’t appropriate. This isn’t you.

I stopped myself there with one simple statement that came straight from my heart.

“This is exactly, me.”

It just whispered through me, and I sat down and pushed play again.

It’s possible that there won’t be an answer
In a way, this may not be the answer either
Even just loving myself, I needed someone else’s approval
Even now I’m still finding myself but I don’t want to die anymore
Me, who used to be sad
Me, who used to be hurt
It’ll make me more beautiful

I sat there listening, wondering, thinking about the crazy changes this year brought. How many times I’ve revisited that idea that if I only knew who I was, I would be a whole person again/for the first time. All these new people I’ve found and was now afraid to meet. Constantly thinking about all the ways I’d disappoint them. I wasn’t whole at all. Why? Because after all these years, everything I’ve done, everything I’ve missed, I’ve never loved myself. I’ve only tried to make you love me. Make you fill that empty crater. I’ll love you like no one else can if you will just, please, fill me.

From the beginning of the start, and the end of the end, there is one answer ey
Why do you keep trying to hide inside your mask? (hey)
Even the scars that were formed from my mistakes are my very own constellations (ey)

Everything I’ve done, good, bad, ugly, it’s now my sky. It’s beautifully tattooed on my soul. It goes everywhere with me. If I opened my heart, you could never be cold. I would lay back in star-shine and smile.

Why am I still trying to hide behind the mask of what I think you want? What about what I want?

This isn’t the first time I’ve thought about changing myself to change my world. But this is the first time anyone had sung so poignantly to me about it. This song gave me so much hope, so much peace. It reminded me of the power music has to move me. Not just to make me smile, or dance, but to urge me to exist in a better way, to trust my heart, ignore my ego, to believe the answers are inside me

This is the song that erased my doubts about the trip to Chicago. All the old woman fears, can I drive that far alone? Do I want to spend my money on that? Do I want to be stuck in my car for twelve hours with two teenagers, even ones I like? What if —–eek all the things that could go wrong! My mother would never have driven so far to waste so much money on one evening of music. It’s not even in English! Thirty thousand screaming girls. Driving in Chicago, you are SO out of practice. You are not eighteen anymore!

Still in me, oh
That awkward part of me but (woah)

You’ve shown me I have reasons
I should love myself

Yes, still that awkward part of me that bought scam tickets. Yes, the dumb luck that allowed us to see the show anyway. Oh, wow, to hear this sung live, to sing along with so many happy people, in Korean and English. To see their (BTS’s) reaction when a stadium filled with Americans sang to them, their own song, in Korean. How amazing to wonder, for the first time in many years, if I could even hold another drop of joy inside me without exploding like some crazy firework. Many have asked if I would ever consider doing it again, knowing now the cost.

In a heartbeat.

I hope you’ll take a moment and listen to the link. I’ve learned, I still can’t predict what’s around that next corner!


Love Myself

I open my eyes inside this darkness
When my heartbeat is unfamiliar
I face you in the mirror
Your fear-stricken glare, recycled questions
If you look at it in a certain way, it’s harder loving yourself
Than loving someone else
Honestly, let’s admit what we have to admit
The standards you make are harsher for yourself
Inside the center of your life is a thick growth ring, it’s a part of your life and what you are
Let’s forgive ourselves now
Our lives are too long to just throw ourselves out, I believe in myself inside this maze, because when winter passes, spring comes again

From the eyes of the cold night
I try to hide myself
As I keep tossing and turning ey
But did I fall so that I could be hit by those countless stars? Hey
I’m the only target of thousands of those radiant arrows

You’ve shown me I have reasons
I should love myself (oh)
My breath, the path I walked, it all answers for me

The me from yesterday, the me of today, the me for tomorrow
(I’m learning how to love myself)
Without missing a single part, without leaving a single gap, everything of me

It’s possible that there won’t be an answer
In a way this may not be the answer either
Even just loving myself, I needed someone else’s approval
Even now I’m still finding myself but I don’t want to die anymore
Me, who used to be sad
Me, who used to be hurt
It’ll make me more beautiful

That’s right, that beauty is there, my feelings that know that beauty is here                         Is on the road to loving myself
my most needed work
Now for me, just for me, attitude for me is the behaviour I need for myself
I’ll show you what I got
I’m not afraid because that’s my existence
Love myself

From the beginning of the start, and the end of the end, there is one answer ey
Why do you keep trying to hide inside your mask? (hey)
Even the scars that were formed from my mistakes are my very own constellations (ey)

You’ve shown me I have reasons
I should love myself (Au woah)
my breath, the path I walked it all answers for me

Still in me, oh
That awkward part of me but (woah)

You’ve shown me I have reasons
I should love myself
(I’m learning how to love myself oh)
my breath, the path I walked it all answers for me

The me from yesterday, the me of today, the me for tomorrow
(I’m learning how to love myself)
Without missing a single part, without leaving a single gap, everything of me

Whoa, Whoa, Whoa!


I find Jin’s favorite word, the only way to describe the trip to Chicago.

Let’s start in the pit.

You know who you are.

I had my girls with me.

You saw their faces.

You smiled at them.

You knew what was coming.

You took my money and walked out with a smile on your face.

You wouldn’t care, I know, about their crushing disappointment. That one daughter curled up in the backseat of my car and couldn’t speak for almost three hours. You’d laugh at our nervousness, driving up to the United Center the second night. KNOWING we had tickets that would scan just fine this time, still we were nervous. You did that. You stole a piece of their joy. You looked in their faces and sold them despair with an earnest smile.

It was a lesson. A lesson and a miracle. The second show wasn’t sold out and I had a credit card.

The three of us will talk about this for years to come. We talked about how we reacted in the moment, how we perservered and ultimately won. It was scary, and sad. As a parent, I was afraid I’d done harm, afraid I wouldn’t be able to fix this one.  I was lifted by my youngest in a crucial moment. We both carried the other until she came back to us.

It was costly.

It was a lesson.

In the end, I would do it all again. We would do it all again.

We know, now, how powerful, how resiliant, we are together.

Bring it.