a poem for family

I am procrastinating. My chai tea latte is drained, I bought a pair of shoes online, and now I am writing poetry.

I obviously do not want to finish these report card comments or input grades into my grade book.

I used to write poetry pretty often when I was young. Not sure where all of those poems went. Here is one I wrote for my family, because knowing I need to save money and not fly home this Christmas is already making me homesick.

The poem is titled: Thank You

for giving me the strength to leave
and the desire to stay
for loving me from afar
though you wish it wasn’t that way

for whispered words of courage
and silence so that I could find my own
for being proud of what I’ve accomplished
each seed is one you’ve sown

for unconditional love
even when I haven’t felt that to be true
for letting me go
even through the times I’ve only wanted you

for the sacrifices
for the love
for the prayers
for the good times (maybe… even some of the bad)

for being my mom
for being my dad

for being my sister
for being my brother

for family

I wouldn’t trade you for another. most days.


Not sure how often my family checks this blog, but when/if you do I LOVE YOU! And I MISS YOU! muah.


Loving Nora


Nothing can describe what you feel when you hold a baby, your niece, in your arms for the first time.

Being an aunt is a gift. Nora, is a treasure. Meeting her was the high-light of 2013 for me. Brian and Amber made one absolutely perfect little gem. She is the most delightful baby I have ever spent time with (and I have been around a quite a few in my short life). She cries when she is hungry, or tired, or needs to poop. And the rest of the time she is a giggly, cuddly, playful, adorable little girl.

I have 250 edited pictures to send to my sister. And since I couldn’t go three minutes without snapping photos, that is just a fraction of what I took of her.


Meet Nora.



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DSC_2075I miss her so much already (oh, and you too Amber^^).

A Day with Mother and Daughter

It’s my 300 post! Congratulations to meeeeeeeee.

Last week I was invited to Wonju to stay with my friend’s, Eun-byul’s, family for Chuseok (the Korean Thanksgiving). I left Seoul Tuesday night on a bus with her brother, Han-byul, whom I met for the first time at the bus terminal. It was easy to find him as his face was the male version of Eun-byul’s face… they seriously could be twins!

I arrived to Eun-byul’s home before she did as she was coming by train a couple hours later. The fact that she got a train ticket during Chuseok is only because she has a friend that works “there”— not sure where there is, but you know. Han was telling me that many of his friends couldn’t even visit their families because all of the train and bus tickets were sold out. Traveling during Chuseok is probably one of the worst ideas ever if you pick the wrong destination at the wrong time, you end up in traffic for nine hours (when it should take three).

My first full day in Wonju consisted of a day-long photo shoot with Eun-Byul and her mom (it made me happy and sad at the same time— I missed my mom!). We took pictures by her family’s church (where her father is the pastor), and at a cute restaurant we went to for lunch, and at Eun-byul’s former school’s campus (Yonsei University, Wonju campus), which was beautiful. (The pictures are in the opposite order of where we went first… ooooooh, well!)

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After all of the pictures were done Eun-byul’s mom sent us off to get our nails done, her treat.  Then Eun-byul and I made dinner for the family. It was such a lovely change of pace… hanging out with a mom and daughter all day. Chilling with a family at night. Next post will be about the family photo shoot we had near the resort we went to for the next two days of Chuseok. I love the Oh family!

Anticipating Baby McKeown!

My younger-by-only-18-months sister is having a baby VERY SOON. My older-by-several-years (meaning I can’t remember how many right now) sister is excited to be an Auntie for the first time (my niece and nephew our her children, and the only grandbabies thus far).

In chipping-my-paint-off-my-nails anticipation while waiting for the text (I am pretty sure my entire family has no idea how to call me in Korea, actually— I have gotten one phone call, and that was from Hillary-thanks sis!-, in four years) so that I can call and hear the news, I realized that now would be a great time to post up the maternity shoot I had with Brian and Amber over this summer.

Here are some of my favorite shots.

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While I was home I also made Amber pose for me on a weekly basis to get a belly shot. She was a good sport about it (and we don’t need to remember the week when she had poison ivy)… it would have been fun to be there for every week of the pregnancy, but I am so appreciative for the time that I did have with my sis!

Here is my collage of belly shots ^^


Izzie and the Beast at the Fair

“Are you sure you want to take them by yourself?” My dad looks skeptically over his glasses as my niece and nephew are running around the car exclaiming, “The fair, the fair! We are going to the fair!”

“Yes,” I say with full confidence— and then give a scared deer-caught-in-the-headlight look. Can I handle this? CAN I? “We told them they were going to go to the fair, someone needs to take them.”

What my older sister and I didn’t realize at the time of this promise, was that it would be the hottest week of summer… and the fair was the last place on earth we wanted to be. Also, we were going in the morning (the only time I could take them— as I had a Cambodian wedding to get to later) when the rides wouldn’t be open and animals and crafts (and BIG BIG tractors) would be the only things to see.

My sister, Amie, the mother of Izzie and the Beast, is allergic to everything. Going to the fair just to look at animals? It only made sense that I, the one home for the summer with nothing to do and not allergic to everything, should get the quality time of taking my niece and nephew to the fair. Never mind the horror stories of the Beast in public and why he is called the Beast in the first place.

I am a cool Aunt. I can do it.

And I did.

Not having to worry about going on rides and playing games turned out to be a huge blessing (I am pretty sure the Beast is afraid of heights), we got to see SO MANY different kinds of animals and had the most incredible time. We ate fries and snow cones and drank SODA and had cotton candy (did I mention I was leaving for the rest of the day? haha). They got to pet cows, a pig, a goat, a horse, a chicken, a rooster, a duck, and were sad when they couldn’t pet the bunnies (kids, always want more!).

I had not been to the fair in eight years. What a special memory to tuck in my pocket and pull out to smile about as I am separated from my family yet again.


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Can’t wait to see these munchkins at Christmas!

When I owned a car…

Heading up Morning Star Drive, arriving at my parent’s home after ten months abroad, peering over the steering wheel, I look for Dustie— waiting for her to come bounding out of the garage. She doesn’t come, and then I remember. The tears come before I can stop them. My youngest brother Jordan is the first to greet me as I come out of the car, I apologize for the tearful greeting, the loss of my dog overshadowing for a moment a joyful reunion with my family. Losing the only dog you’ve ever loved is hard.

Coming back to my home state is a different experience every time. This time around I can’t stop looking at the sky. Stars. Sunsets. Clouds. Michigan is incredibly beautiful.

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Back in Korea we celebrate birthdays every weekend. Here in Michigan, I go to weddings and baby showers, dance recitals for my niece, and take day trips with my momma.

It’s fun. Now, just waiting for the weather to cooperate so I can get a tan!

Goodbye Dustie Jack

I will be the first to admit that I am not a pet person. Never have been. I don’t get butterflies and warm fuzzies when people walk by me on the street with their dogs, I think cats are weird, and I detest rabbits (the two-teeth scar on my hand may have something to do with that).

But it only takes one.

I was 12-years-old when my oldest brother brought Dustie Jack home. I remember the first time I saw her, a young pup running around our driveway. I didn’t really give her a second thought over the next eight years other than Oh, she bit you again?, Just keep her outside, and It sucks that mom and dad got stuck with Josh’s dog. 

That last thought needs a little more explanation. My brother had to move, to California, and Dustie Jack proved to be anything but a travel dog. She had a panic attack as soon as you brought her near your car, even if it was just for a joyride. My older brother is an animal-lover/protector/saver, and it broke his heart to leave his dog behind, but the decision had to be made. The duty of taking care of the dog fell to my youngest brothers. She stayed outside, away from most humans, for the first half of her life. My mom (who never wanted the dog) started realizing how cold it was during the winter, and Dustie was given a place in the garage. The garage soon became the mudroom, the mudroom soon became the kitchen and dining room, the kitchen and dining room soon became a designated rug at the entrance of the carpeted living room. After 8 or 9 years as an outdoor dog, Dustie became and indoor one (yeah, she is pretty smart like that— she didn’t need anyone to tell her where to go to the bathroom, she just knew).

But being an outside dog, and living in the country, and having rare human interaction, gave Dustie a wild streak. In other words, she had a temper. Especially when it came to small animals (she gave our neighbor dog a hundred stitches once, or a hundred dollars worth of stitches, I can’t remember— my dad said the little yapper had it coming) and small people, like babies and such—she didn’t like ’em. Then one Christmas, she bit my friend (it was terrible, my friend- being a dog person- was very forgiving, but… it was terrible) and my mom discussed putting her down because it wasn’t safe having my little niece and nephew around an unstable dog.

This happened when I was 21. I have no idea what came over me but I all of a sudden found myself in a state of disbelief. YOU CAN’T PUT MY DOG DOWN. Wait… since when did Dustie become my dog? I mean… she wasn’t. But she was, and I felt this need, an urge, to protect her. I offered to take Dustie to my place in Kalamazoo (yes, this town exists) anytime my niece and nephew came to visit. I am pretty sure nobody believed me at first, but I insisted— and my mom relented. She didn’t want to let go of Dustie either, looks like the rest of the family had gotten attached too.

I took Dustie back to my college town that very week. She cried and whimpered the whole way (still not being a travel dog), and almost caused me to get in a car wreck, or two. I remember my windshield window being disgusting, with all of her wet-nose marks. That first week Dustie stayed with me, and I took care of her, caused something to shift in both of us. She loved the house that I shared with my sister. All used furniture so she could hang out and lay on whatever she pleased, walks around the neighborhood marking her territory, and when bedtime came— there she was in my tiny twin-sized bed, which was NOT big enough for the both of us.

Dustie became loyal to me, and I fell in love with her. I brought her to stay with me for a week at a time on several occasions throughout the next two years. She treated it as her “summer cottage”. She even started doing better in the car. When I would come home to visit she greeted me as if I was her favorite person in the world, and then she would run out to my car, expecting me to take her back with me every time I left.

She became my friend, and even tried to like what I liked (always begging for nacho cheese doritos— though I told her every time that she didn’t like the cheese flavor). She was always waiting for me when I came home, and hated it when I had to lock her out of my room because I actually needed a good night’s rest.

So… this is why people have dogs.

I am not a pet person.

I am a Dustie Jack person.

In her old age she lost that temper she was known for and behaved really well around other dogs, and children. I believe she changed because she experienced the love from her owners that she should have gotten her whole life. Over the past seven/eight years, she was no longer looked at as, “Josh’s old pet” or “that dog”. Dustie became family.

And today my family had to say good-bye to her.

I already miss you so much Dustie Jack. Thank you for being the only dog I will ever truly love.