To my mother, who, (like so many other moms), is one of the most understated human beings around.

My mother embraced a new country as a young adult. She worked hard to learn the language and the customs. For her, coming from South Korea to America was probably even harder than our move from San Francisco to Arizona. Probably.


She couldn’t drive, so she walked. A lot. She was alone must of the time, because my father was working and going to school simultaneously. My sister was born 11 months after me, so you can imagine how challenging her life was at this time.


She learned to love pan pizza and Michael Jackson. She listened with open ears and heart to our “rock music.” Boy George fascinated her (“Really, he’s man? Not woman?”) She had – and still has – an eye for style and fashion. She can sew better than any professional I know.

Yooni emulated naughty boys we saw in the malls and amusement parks. They threw up their middle fingers and  muttered expletives. At times, she wanted to express her frustration and anger so she would raise her fist (with no finger projection) and yell, “Fist up!”


My mother eventually learned how to drive and she drove us to cello, piano, violin lessons and concerts. She drove us to our Tae Kwon Do lessons. She cooked amazing meals and did all the cleaning. She wanted to hold a “real” job, but it never happened.

But she has held several volunteer jobs. The most recent one was as an assistant at an Alzheimer’s home. She pushed wheelchairs, changed bedding and spoke with residents. These residents rarely remembered anything day-to-day, but because my mother treated them with kindness and respect, many would light up when they saw her. They would hold her hand and call her friend. My favorite story is about one man with severe Alzheimer’s who never had visitors. Not a single friend or relative ever came to see him. He didn’t have many clothes and his undershirts were starting to yellow. My mother went to Macy’s and bought him several undershirts. Her co-worker told me this story. My mother never brags. It’s a special person who would do this for a “stranger.” But to do this for a stranger who won’t remember her or her kindness? My mother is an exceptional human being and I am so grateful for her.


I’m also grateful for these goofballs:

girls in crib

girls floating








To Behold

My heart is singing for joy this morning! A miracle has happened! The light of understanding has shone upon my little pupil’s mind, and behold, all things are changed!

Anne Sullivan (Helen Keller’s Teacher)


Until I was in third grade, I was invisible. I was only one of two Korean-American kids in our school (my sister was the other one), so I should have “stuck out.” But I was quiet, shy and bookish. My parents dismissed me early on as an underachiever to my more outgoing, dynamic younger sister. As most introverts do, I quietly accepted this reality.

It changed one day.

During a parent/teacher conference, my mother asked haltingly in her strong accent, “Is she OK?”  I braced myself for comments about the need for improvement…in focus or math…but Ms. Meretta looked me straight in the eye and said, “Oh yes, better than OK! Caroline is my hardest worker.”

I felt an electric charge throughout my body that caused my eyes to well.

My identity underwent a dramatic transformation: I wasn’t lazy or dumb (as I had overheard). I was a hard worker. I held promise.

I’m a teacher now, and looking back, I realize Ms. Meretta would not be considered a very good teacher today. She sat at her desk the entire day, giving papers to helpers to pass out for her. She was morbidly obese and rarely moved. She allowed me to get up and read books – a LOT. I rushed through math worksheets in order to read about Ramona or even Archie. She would most likely not embrace technology or move about the room to watch progress. Most likely, she would not attend ISTE and come back with cutting edge techniques to use in the classroom.

Still, she saw me. I consider her to be my most important teacher ever. She knew my personality, my friends, my parents, my interests. She invited my mother to come in and teach my peers about Korean customs, dress and food. My mother, a housewife, was positively giddy for weeks after her presentation. She had knowledge to impart! I realized that my culture was something to be proud of, not an aspect of myself to hide.

I’m not saying that using effective teaching strategies in the classroom lack importance, but in our fast-paced, technology-driven world, we need to stop multi-tasking. We need to slow down, ask real questions (How was your gymnastics meet?) and behold the people in front of us.





Delicious – highly pleasing to the senses, esp. to taste or smell. (www.Dictionary.com)

Painting this in my kitchen was a delicious experience.


I love tiramisu. I love painting, drawing and writing.  But I don’t do it as often as I like because I’m so “busy.”  I know this is a cop out. I have plenty of time to write, draw, paint, play with my daughters, and eat tiramisu. So why don’t I do it more often?

Because I’m supposed to be working.  Because there is a house to clean, people to feed, bills to pay and tiramisu has too many calories.

But….all of that is delicious! Playing Uno with my daughters is highly pleasing, writing this blog gives me joy, and eating tiramisu, well…it’s divine!  Why do we (especially mothers) deprive ourselves of joy? Why do we allow other people and things to come before our own desires?  We’re afraid of being called “selfish.” But I believe that if we are happy people, we will be all the better as mothers, wives, friends, teachers, nurses, lawyers, daughters, writers and whoever else we are.

So paint, do your yoga, change your job, say “no,” and eat dessert.

This is your life.