The second full week of February is recognized as National Secondhand Wardrobe Week. The intent of this observance is dedicated to encouraging people to shop secondhand and donate, or sell, old clothing rather than throw it away. The reasons behind this initiative are to support local thrift stores while helping people reduce the estimated 92 MILLION tons of textiles that end up in landfills every year. These are worthy goals by themselves, but I’d like to encourage you to observe this week for a different reason. I’m hoping you’ll clean out your closets for National Secondhand Wardrobe Week 2023 to help support the future of skilled trades.

Why Support the Skilled Trades

The skilled trades have opportunities for everybody in America. Regardless of your skills or experience, we have a professional home just waiting for you somewhere in construction, agriculture, or manufacturing. But these careers can go hand in hand with real barriers to entry. We’re most familiar hearing about these barriers when people talk about the skills gap that exists in our worldwide workforce today. However, things much simpler than skills can often prevent a person from pursuing work in the skilled trades. Most commonly, these areas include tools, boots, or specialty clothing required for employment.

Where to Donate

There are many groups and organizations that will collect donated clothing for specific purposes like cold weather (Salvation Army Coat Drives) or job interviews (Dress for Success). These are fantastic programs that do a lot of good, but they rarely focus on, or benefit, people in and around the trades. A number of programs are operating with a focus on shoes (Soles4Souls) and other footwear, (Samaritan’s Feet) while other organizations will provide new work boots (Charitable Union) to qualified applicants. Unfortunately, none of these options put a true emphasis on used work clothing or footwear aimed at people trying to get into the trades.

How You Can Help

By now you’re saying, “This is all great to know, but how can I help support the trades with my used work boots and clothes?” I’m so glad you asked because I have a solution!

I’d like you to consider the example of Darnel Royal and Work Boot Ministry. Darnel had an opportunity to give away a pair of work boots and went to social media to make it happen. In doing so, he uncovered a huge need and a mission. In about 4 years, Royal and his colleagues have donated 567 pairs of boots to support 567 different trades careers.

You can do the same thing, and you don’t have to be a local social media influencer like Darnel! My challenge to you is simple and can be accomplished in four easy steps.

  • Go through your closet and find any old clothes, boots, gloves, hats, outerwear, or specialty items that are fit for trades work (and still in good enough condition to donate).
  • Do a mental inventory of your network. Who do you know that’s connected to training programs, technical schools, shelters, workforce development centers, relevant employers, etc. (Hint: if the answer is nobody, a quick Google search and a phone call or two will change that quickly!)
  • Schedule a drop off and let them take things from there.
  • Repeat annually.

Pro-tip: If you’re willing to put up a post on social media and handle follow-up / delivery yourself, you can cut these four steps down to three.

Make a Difference In Your Community

Here at FlexTrades, it’s our intention to make a difference every day, in every way that we can. This is reflected in every one of our core values. It’s my sincere hope that this article inspires you to try to make a difference in your own community today while making it a little easier for you to do so too.

Would you like to read about other ways we try to make a difference? Check out our blog page today! Do you have ideas on how we can help? Send them to our Writing Team, and you might be reading about your idea in our next blog article.

When one door closes,

How long do we wait until another one opens?

How long do we stall, our hands floating above the doorknob wondering

What lies beneath?

The anxiety floats through on a wave,

Rippling into existence.

The excitement crashes down upon it,

Creating a shockwave beneath it.

You shake away the feeling,

Reminding yourself that you are in charge.

With a gulp

The door swings open.

Your sweaty hand turns into eager footsteps as you step through the threshold.

Sunlight filters through.

A whole new world stands before you.

Chuckling to yourself

You remember.

This new beginning is for you.

Several years ago, I took a trip to DC to visit my sister, a US Air Force Master Sergeant (MSgt). We spent one day walking nearly 12 miles at the National Mall, hitting up all the “must see” places, including:

  • The White House (where the first Black president of the United States hopped into a helicopter and flew to Boston while we watched in awe)
  • The Washington Monument
  • The buds of the cherry blossoms as they were just starting to pop
  • A private tour of the US Capitol building with an intern from the Senator’s office
  • The WWII Memorial where we remembered our grandfathers
  • The Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial where we shaded in the names of complete strangers
  • The Lincoln Memorial
  • The grounds of the Korean War Veterans Memorial
  • The FDR Memorial to ‘fear nothing but fear itself’
  • The Tidal Basin
  • The Thomas Jefferson Memorial

In the end, we got to watch the helicopters fly back overhead as President Obama returned from Boston that evening. It was an incredible day that still brings back so many emotions and memories. One thing that stands out to me is the simplicity and magnitude of the MLK Jr. Memorial. A giant piece of rock (30 feet high) with MLK Jr.’s image carved into it and the simple statement:

‘Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.’

Growing up in southwestern Minnesota, I learned how Martin Luther King Jr. had changed the world. It was on the grounds outside of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta where I was lucky enough to take some time to ponder how different the world could have been had that fateful April day in 1968 never happened.

I learned to treat others the way I wanted to be treated, to befriend (and defend) anyone who looked like they needed a friend and to never take for granted the gifts and abilities I had. As one of four kids in a dual-income, lower-middle class family, we played with all the kids in the neighborhood and befriended the children who came in and out of the women’s shelter  just behind our house. It never dawned on me that Josh was any different than me just because he had dark hair, dark eyes, and dark skin while I had dark hair, dark eyes, and lighter skin. It didn’t occur to me  that Judy might have bigger struggles than me because her tall, white father had fallen in love with a petite, beautiful black woman.

I’m hopeful that I’m doing as good of a job with my children as I believe my parents did with their own. However, I know that the world around us hasn’t gotten any better. We still have so far to go in fighting for MLK Jr.’s dream.

To celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy (this link shares history of MLK Jr. Day), I leave you with two inspiring MLK Jr. quotes:

“Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.”

“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”

Create Habits and Stay Mindful in 2023

Happy New Year, everyone! 2023 is here whether you’re ready for it or not. The new-year pressure to make positive changes and set big goals can be overwhelming. Here are some tips on how to create habits and stay mindful.

Three Tips to Help Create Habits and Stay Mindful

1. Shift Your Mindset: “Your reality is a projection of your thoughts or the things you habitually think about.” – Stephen Richards, How to Get Everything You Can Imagine: Volume 1: How Mind Power Works

How to Have a Positive Mindset

  • Write down what you are grateful for.
  • Consume positive media.
  • Surround yourself with positive people.
  • Write out a “wins” checklist each day.
  • Create a morning mindset routine – Make sure you have one thing to look forward to that day.
  • Take inventory on your thoughts throughout the day.

2. The Two-Minute Rule: If it can be done in less than two minutes, just do it. Using the two-minute rule from the book, Atomic Habits, by James Clear. This rule helps get you started and build momentum.

Nearly Any Habit Can Be Scaled Down to a Two-Minute Version

  • “Read before bed each night” becomes “read one page.”
  • “Do thirty minutes of yoga” becomes “take out my yoga mat.”
  • “Study for class” becomes “open my notes.”
  • “Fold the laundry” becomes “fold one towel.”
  • “Run three miles” becomes “tie my running shoes.”

3. Small Changes Big Results: Make your habits simple & easy.

How to Choose a Habit to Form (Source: CNN health)

  • Set a specific goal and start small.
  • Create a plan. Make the plan detailed and include time of day and duration.
  • Make it fun. Research shows if you do not enjoy the process, you will not stick to it.
  • Be flexible. Allow yourself a few “get out of jail free cards.” Sometimes things come up that will disrupt your plan. Consistency is key.
  • Find social support. Tell a friend / family member the habit you are working toward building.

Habit Example: I want to get more steps each day.

  • Specific Goal: I want to get at least 7,000 steps each day.
  • Plan: Each morning, I will begin my day with a 10-minute walk outside.
  • Make it fun: On Wednesdays, I will walk to my local coffee shop.
  • Flexibility: If it is snowing / raining outside, I will let myself skip the walk that day.
  • Support: Ask a friend to join me in tracking 7,000 steps each day.

List of Mindfulness Tips to Add to Your 2023 Routine:

  1. Intentional Breathing – Set a timer 1-3 times a day to breathe with intention. The breath counts should be a 5 second inhale / 5 second exhale / 5 times kind of thing. Simply put, try intentional / controlled breathing for at least 60 seconds.
  2. Stretching through the motions – Create time throughout the day to do simple stretches: arms, neck, and back.
  3. Eat with meaning – Eat with your less dominant hand and wait a few seconds before taking your next bite. When possible, eat without TV, phone or external entertainment.
  4. Sleep Preparation – Find a set time to wake up and go to bed. Wake up 5 minutes earlier. Eliminate screen time 10-30 minutes before bed and instead try reading for 10 minutes each night.  

Do you want more tips and tricks on how to start your new year off right? Check out Debunking New Year’s Resolutions.

New Year’s Resolutions Redone – “Debunking Resolutions”  

New Year’s resolutions are often cited as the unattainable goals we set in January, and they are iconic for being forgotten in the new year. The truth is this – you don’t need to set a specific date to start a goal. In fact, my New Year’s resolution started last November, and I’m continuing it in 2023. 

Putting pressure onto the meaning of a resolution implies that, after you complete it, there’s no other work to do. I’m here to help debunk new year’s resolutions and hopefully inspire you to create and maintain realistic and meaningful goals in your life… all year round. 

My New Year’s Resolution in 2022  

In 2022, I was determined to take control of my health. I vlogged (Video Blogged) every morning and talked about the good, the bad and the in between when it comes to weight loss. Two months later, my goal disappeared. Lack of motivation and passion were surely not the issues, so what went wrong? 

  • Focusing on a diet plan outside of my budget range
  • Putting pressure on perfection with no room for error 
  • Ignoring short-term goals within a long-term plan 
  • Failing to figure out the why

Create Your Goals 

Let’s talk about how you can avoid the same four mistakes that I made and crush your goals in 2023. First, we need to discuss SMART Goals. What is a SMART goal? I’m so glad you asked. Check out the graphic below.

Smart Goals FlexTrades

Need help identifying SMART goals? Microsoft Office offers this free template: here 

Now, you may have learned about SMART goals in school, but let’s break them down a little bit, shall we? SMART goals are goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and monitored over time. Truthfully, these are, what I like to call, goals with intention. We discuss the power of manifestation, and this will help you achieve your goals. The reality is that when you sit down to create a goal, you immediately plan the steps you need to take in order to accomplish it. When a resolution is set, there’s no thought process. It’s just a desire you would like to achieve someday. 

Setting Goals is all About Intent 

The intent to do something can make your dream a reality. If you intend to get a promotion at your job by the end of the year, you are more likely to take the steps that are necessary to getting there. This is when the plan starts to map itself out: 

  • Assisting with extra projects 
  • Expressing specified interests in your quarterly reviews 
  • Setting a timeline 
  • Self-Assessing your current project completion 

These simple steps are prime examples of SMART goals in action. You specified by the end of the year that you want that promotion. You measured the goal by pinpointing prime areas; areas in which you can showcase that you’re ready for new responsibilities. These goals are made attainable through your self-assessment and quarterly review check-ins. The promotion then becomes realistic as this plan fits within your daily routine and works with your schedule. You identified the time by stating when the promotion is happening and how often you would touch base to check on this goal. 

Starting a 2023 Resolution in November 

Yes, I started my New Year’s Resolution in November of 2022. And while the new year is a great time to reevaluate change in your life, my goal this year couldn’t wait. Again, my goal was to lose weight and take control of my health.

My initial resolution in 2022 resulted in me losing two lbs., or about one pound a month. 

My resolutions for 2023 remained the same, but by creating SMART goals, I have been able to lose approximately 10 lbs. in the past two months, or about five pounds a month. 

I am following the same exact routine this year as I did last year, but this time I found resources within my budget to ensure that my goal was both attainable and realistic. I now have weekly goals, a 6-month goal, and an end-of-year goal to keep me motivated and moving forward. These goals are accompanied by a realistic, imperfect schedule that works for me.

Next Steps 

Debunk those new year’s resolutions, and don’t lose sight of what you want to achieve. Use SMART goals, think about your passions, and place intent behind these ideas. Watch your goals become reality, discuss them with those close to you, and enjoy the view as that New Year’s resolution voodoo simply fades away. 

We’re kicking off the New Year with a new challenge in hopes of inspiring you to get moving, at your own pace, with a team around you to support your success. 

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to walk / run the Pan-American Highway together. 

The Pan-American Highway is a network of roads that stretch from North America to South America. It spans 14 countries in total. As one of the longest roads in the world, we’ll be walking almost 19,000 miles; starting in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, before heading towards Ushuaia, Argentina. 

Each Monday, until we collectively reach our destination, we are hoping that you will share your weekly steps / mileage with our Human Resources team. There is a shared document internal employees can access, and Technicians are welcome to email their steps to techbenefits@flextrades.com. We will then add all of the entries together each week to determine how far we’ve traveled while exploring some of the key places that we’ve seen along the way. 

For the fun and spirit of a little friendly competition, I’d like to propose a race: Corporate FlexTrades’ Employees vs. FlexTrades Technicians who are actively out on assignment. With this, our corporate employees will be walking / running side by side against our Technicians to see who can get to our destination faster. In the end, participants from either team who cross the finish line first will be entered into a drawing for some truly incredible prizes. 

Get your walking sneakers ready… our journey has begun! This means that you will submit your first week’s mileage / steps on Monday, January 9th. Do you have any questions? Let me know, and I will be more than happy to help. 

Are you looking for your next career at an organization that cares about its culture and employees’ wellbeing? Browse our jobs board online, and see if FlexTrades could be a good fit for you!

Attention Travel Technicians: Homemade Gift Guide 

Put a homemade twist on gifts during the holidays with this homemade gift guide. Check out these affordable and quick gifts to send to your loved ones. 

For the Foodies

Soup In a Jar 

Grab your favorite dry ingredients and place them in a mason jar! Tie a ribbon with a written recipe attached to add that personal touch. Need ideas? Check here. 

The Cookie Jar 

cookie jar

Find your family’s favorite box of cookie mix and toppings at your local store. Place them into a mason jar and add a bow to the lid. For inspiration, click my two personal favorites Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix, and Peppermint Cookie Mix. 

S’mores Please 

smores mix 

Missing the warm summer and anxiously waiting for bonfire season? The wait is over, this recipe will get you there! You’ll need chocolate of your choice, marshmallows, and golden grahams. More information is available here. 

Kiss A Day Jar 

kisses in a jar 

Fill a jar with desired candy, find a chalk painter marker, or print out a label. This can say “A Kiss A Day While I’m Away” or use it as a countdown jar to help your loved ones visualize the time. Here is an example: Kiss Jar. 

 

For the family

Hand Warmers/ Mini Heat Packs 

homemade hand warmers

Create these microwavable crafts with rice and fabric. Turn small fabric squares from your craft store into a thoughtful gift. This is a great gift for adults and children. Click here for instructions. 

Bubble Bath Gift Bag/Box 

bubble bath 

Find travel size bubble bath items, bath bombs, loofas and/or towels. For children, add small bath toys! There are plenty of fun ways to add excitement to this gift and it’s perfect for all ages. Find inspiration here. 

Relaxation/Sensory Box

homemade relaxation gift box 

For this gift, think of items that relax your loved one. Do they enjoy a specific beverage, snack, or hobby? Find items to place together in a box with tissue paper. For children, make a sensory box. Grab a few small toys, model magic, and stickers to create a magical experience. Need a little help? Here it is! 

Memory/Adventure Box

homemade gift adventure box 

Shutterfly offers free photo prints for new app users. Order prints with memories or adventures you’d like to share and grab a shadowbox from your local craft store. Or even send supplies for the family to create one to share with you when you return! Memory Box Tips. 

 

A little something extra

personal picture with kids at Christmas 

Change your holiday tradition with family at home. Target and Walmart have family onesie sets. Hulu offers a Watch Party feature, that allows multiple screens to watch the same movie or show together. Set up your webcam and enjoy this new memory! 

Are you away from home during the holidays? Read about these holiday tips to help get through this time of year.

Not Home for the Holidays

You don’t have to look hard during this time of year to realize the holidays are upon us. City streets are decorated, store windows are full of gift ideas, and seasonal music is omnipresent. For most of us, even if this isn’t our idea of ’the most wonderful time of the year,’ it’s a time of joy and nostalgia. But there’s a large portion of the population that the rest of us forget about during this season – those who can’t get home. While most are at home, millions of people around the world are working so that we can celebrate.

From flight attendants and emergency workers to our own FlexTrades technicians keeping the wheels of industry turning through seasonal spikes, there are a lot of people missing time with their families. We want all of you in that position to know we appreciate you a lot! But we also realize that all the recognition in the world doesn’t make such a sacrifice any less lonely. Therefore, we turned to our travel-work experts for some tips on how to make sure you don’t feel alone just because you’re spending this holiday away from home.

Holiday Tips for When You’re Away from Home

Communicate

The number one rule of family planning is communication and that goes double for holiday schedules. Once your shift is solidified, the first thing you should do is let your family know. There are a lot of ways to make alternate seasonal plans, but most are not very realistic at the last minute. It sounds simple, but often the best answers are exactly that. If you know you’re going to miss a party or tradition, talk about it asap. You’ll be surprised how creative your family can get.

Decorate

Whether you’re in an office or on the shop floor, you might not be able to go home for the holidays, but that doesn’t mean you can’t bring some of it to you. Christmas lights, a mini-tree, or a singing reindeer are easy ways to surround yourself with some seasonal items. You can even level-up this step into a simple group activity by involving coworkers or others with a ’project’ such as setting ten minutes aside for everybody to cut out a paper snowflake for their station. Do you have a cherished tree ornament at home? Bring it with you on the road so you’re not leaving all your nostalgia behind. Even wearing a work uniform doesn’t have to be a dealbreaker. If you can’t wear that Santa hat or Grinch shirt, try wearing a themed lanyard or safety glasses with decorated frames!

Technology

Technology can be a stressor in life, especially during the holidays, but it can also be a day (or even a season) saver. Video calling and messaging apps, like FaceTime, have already changed the roadwork experience for many FlexTrades technicians. You don’t have to be on the road to also benefit from these technologies though. Even if you’re just missing a New Year’s Eve party for a single shift, using FaceTime and a well-timed break can make sure you’re still there with the people that matter to you when the ball drops. There are lots of other technologies that can help with this too. One that we love is using the group watch function of your favorite streaming platform to share a classic holiday film with your friends and family, no matter where you all are around the globe! Using VR goggle could make it even more exciting but does require a few extra steps.

Redefine Family

Working over the holidays, especially on the road, can be a team effort. It could make sense to celebrate those holidays with your work team. Little things like group caroling competitions or gift exchanges can add a lot of fun to seasonal work. Those little things make it easier to focus on the big stuff too, like making sure your teammates know just how much you appreciate them. Shared appreciation is always a good thing!

Volunteer

Do you feel bad about something you’re missing this season? The best way to feel good is to do good. If you can’t make it home for the holidays, then do something to make where you’re at feel homier. Church groups, charitable associations, and community organizations put a big emphasis on holiday projects, and they can always use extra hands! There are many online platforms, like VolunteerMatch, that make it easy to find opportunities to help, no matter where you find yourself around America. A great side benefit to volunteering for the road warrior crowd is that it doubles as networking for the out-of-towner too. Doing good and meeting good people is a win/win in any season!

Other Ideas

We hope this list gives ideas of how to make the most of this holiday season away from home. If you have other tips, we’d love to hear them! Send them to our Writing Team. We’ll do our best to cover them in future posts.

Do you want to give yourself a gift that keeps on giving all year? Check out our blog page to catch up on other advice about working away from home.

In a faraway country, an orphan, named Shin Ok-soon, was put on a plane to the USA leaving all that she knew behind; sights, sounds, smells. That plane took her to Minneapolis International Airport, and there she became Kim Annette Cox. Kim met her adoptive family, former Minnesota Viking, Fred Cox, his wife, Elayne, and their three biological children (Darryl, Susan and Fred). I am that orphan and this is part of my story.

Adoption

My life in the United States began on October 21, 1970. I moved from a big city to a small hobby farm with my new family. Days were spent going to school, picking weeds in the strawberry patch, playing with farm animals, and watching dad play football on TV. I didn’t think about how different I looked from other kids at school; brown skin, slanted eyes, black hair. That is until someone made fun of me, or I saw the one other Korean adoptee at my school. People always seemed to get us mixed up, even though we didn’t look alike. Several times, I told boys that my dad was Minnesota Viking Fred Cox. They all thought I was lying because he wasn’t Korean. International adoption wasn’t as common back in the late 60’s and early 70’s as it is today. I would continue through life like anyone else- graduating from high school, getting married, and raising a family. Having a family was always important to me. My children are my only known blood relatives. Through adoption I lost all connection to my biological family. I’d been led to believe they either lost me or gave me up. To me, my family tree started when I had children; Sara, Peter, Kendra and Alec. They are my greatest treasures. One day, my dad was visiting when my eldest daughter went stomping to her room and slammed the door. My dad just laughed and said, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” I reminded him that I never stomped to my room or slammed the door, at least not often. But that one comment, from the most influential person in my life, changed everything. If my children were like me then who was I like? What tree did I fall from? Thus began my search for my birth mother. 

I didn’t realize that I would begin a search for cultural identity. It was 1998 and the internet was still on dial up. The internet opened a whole new community for me and led me to the conference, The Gathering of the First Generation of Adult Korean Adoptees. I remember standing in the hotel elevator, looking at the other passengers, realizing that we were all Korean! I had never had that experience before, and it was empowering. As the event’s title indicates, it was the first time that adult Korean adoptees gathered, from all over the world, to share our experiences. In our time together we learned we had many similarities. We were raised in small communities where we were the only minorities. Our families were religious. Many of us had suffered from some type of abuse; sexual, physical, and mental. We didn’t realize that there were so many of us, spread across the world, away from our motherland. I returned to my family excited and confused. The first 25+ years of my life I lived a Caucasian-American life. Once I was surrounded by people who looked like me, I started to realize that I wasn’t white. I noticed that I was the only person of color at the grocery store, at church, at my kids’ school. It was as if everything I had adapted to had changed. I felt like an outsider, and I was angry. With my newfound identity, I thought it would be fun to go to a Korean market in the cities and surround myself with people who looked like me. I even tried some kimchee. Walking into that market was like walking into a foreign country. Because I looked Korean, they greeted me in Korean and I felt shame at my inability to respond as expected. I said, “Hello.” They gave me a puzzled look in return. It was followed by them putting their head down as if I didn’t exist. I had no idea what to buy. I couldn’t read the packages, and I certainly was not going to bring more attention to myself by asking for help. I decided to buy some rice, kimchee, and noodles. I had no idea there were so many varieties of rice yet none of them were Minute Rice. I was nervous to check out, because they may try and speak to me, and I would not have a clue as to what they were saying. I purchased my things, went to my car and cried. What I thought would be a grand adventure turned out to be an eye-opening experience. I did not belong to my small white community. I was not accepted by Korean Nationals. Adoption had created a new community for me; Korean Adoptees. This later expanded into International Adoptees.

Shin Ok-Soon Mug Shot

Searching Seoul

While at The Gathering I met some adoptees who were of my generation. We planned a return trip to our motherland in search of our birth families. We contacted the media in Korea, and locally, to see if they were interested in our story. I was adopted to Minnesota, where there are over 20,000 Korean Adoptees (Minnesota Ranks #1 in the US for children adopted from Korea), and my dad was a well-known figure. As a former Viking who played in 4 Super Bowls, invented the Nerf Football, and is still the Vikings all-time leading scorer we thought we might attract some local interest.

A show called On the Road with Jason Davis contacted me, and the TV station sent Jason and his cameraman to Korea with myself and some of others. He filmed a special documentary segment called Searching Seoul that would air twice. Once in 2000 and again, years later, to see how our lives had changed from that trip.

He won a regional Emmy Award for the segment. I remember thinking, “Why do I want to do this? Why do I want to put my life out there? Then I stopped thinking about myself and, instead, thought about all the others whom I had met. Then I knew that this was part of God’s plan for me.

After Searching Seoul aired, a couple of Korean culture camps and parent support groups had reached out to me. They asked if I would come share my story with them. I was nervous. I did not want to pretend that my voice represented how all adoptees felt, especially since I was still trying to figure out my own cultural identity. I knew nothing about it, so I looked at this as a way we could learn together. Afterall, they had Korean roots as well. When I was young, my parents took my sister and I to a Korean school and I learned how to sing a couple songs. I don’t remember much, so this opportunity was a fantastic way for my children and I to learn more together.

Kamp Kimchee

That summer, I packed up the kids and headed to Kamp Kimchee, a Korean culture camp, for the week. I shared my experience with the adoptive parents. I was the classroom mentor for the high school students. My children attended classes with the other students. The unique thing about Kamp Kimchee was that classes were for Korean adoptees and their American-born siblings. It was a family camp where everyone was included. One of the adopted students told me that my children were the first students allowed who were not Korean or part of a family created by adoption. It was a little odd for my children at first. They were neither Korean adopted nor the sibling of a child who had been adopted. They made friends quickly and the families were so happy to have an older adoptee, who was also a parent, involved with the camp. We continued to be involved for another four or five years, until summer sports took over. During the years at camp, my kids would learn tae kwon do, how to sing the national anthem of Korea, fan dancing, and how to cook Korean food! I bought their first hanboks there and made lifelong friends. I am forever grateful to the families of Kamp Kimchee for helping me teach my children about Korea.

Fast Forward 15 Years

I have returned to Korea twice. During my trips to Korea, I helped two other adoptees reunite with their birth families and discover their culture. I did some searching while I was there but concluded I would never find anything. There were no records from the first year of my life. My visits to Korea were bittersweet but enjoyable just the same. I always traveled with other Korean adoptees because we shared the same narrative. We didn’t really belong, wherever we were. 

Discovering my Korean self would eventually lead to the end of my first marriage, after 20 years and 4 children. I married young and didn’t know who I was.  When I became comfortable in my identity, it was hard on the marriage. I had changed. It was no one’s fault, just a set of circumstances that were beyond our control. I am remarried now, and adoption has impacted my life once again. Through marriage, I became a bonus mom (aka stepmom) to 3 children. One of them is also adopted.  

Bonus Son Adoptee

My bonus son, Jackson, is biracial and was adopted domestically. We still have many things in common though. Society sees us differently than who we are due to having brown skin, dark hair, and distinct cultural features. I like to think it is easier for him now than it was for me. He is being raised in a diverse area, adoption is more prevalent now, and he has me (a pioneer of transracial adoption). We don’t talk about culture or being adopted yet we are two peas in a pod. There is an unspoken understanding that we have about our uniqueness, and how we navigate through our adoption journey, that unites us.

Reflection

I remember when I was a teenager. My dad would smile, put his arm around me, and tell me I had won the adoption lottery when I joined his family. Of course, I would roll my eyes and agree. As I look back at my adoption journey, I can say that being Korean and adopted no longer consumes me like it once did. I have accepted that I will probably never find my birth family. I am, however, blessed to have been adopted into a wonderful family. I’m equally blessed to have created my own family. I now walk into the Korean Market with confidence, using the three Korean words I know, and a smile on my face. My family tree has expanded with the arrival of my grandson, Milo. He is now the same age as I was when I first arrived. I love to watch him and ask myself if I was like that when I was his age, traveling from one continent to another. All I know is that, when I look in the mirror, I am at peace with the face staring back at me.

Candy Corn, that’s right, let’s talk about it. 

The sweet treat that divides the nation remains a mystery to the masses. Today, we’re going to tackle a few questions and figure out what candy corn is, how it’s created, and most importantly – where it goes after Halloween. 

Candy Corn Ingredients 

Candy corn has four main ingredients: 

  1. A “slurry” (as they call it) is similar to a buttercream. This is created with vanilla and sugars. 
  2. Food coloring is used to individually color each layer with yellow and red dyes. 
  3. The surprise ingredient – (and my personal favorite) marshmallow! Marshmallows are broken down into the slurry to create the light and fluffy texture of the candy corn itself. 
  4. Lastly, the confectioner’s glaze. This is made of honey, gelatin, sesame oil, sugar and salt. 

The Process 

The slurry is taken from a large industrial mixer and placed into three different containers; each container holds a designated layer of the candy corn: yellow, orange, and white.  This container continues to mix the solution so that the slurry maintains the same consistency.  

Wooden trays are dusted with dry cornstarch and then loaded onto the belt where each layer then fills the candy corn imprints. Due to the liquid nature of the material, there is no wait time in-between. Each layer is immediately placed on top of the other to dry. 

Each wooden tray holds 1300 corn pieces, and the machinery can produce 25 boards per minute! 

Once this process is complete and the candy corn is fully formed, they’re tossed into a rotating bin. In this rotating bin, technicians then toss the confectioner’s glaze onto the candy corn pieces until they’re evenly coated. The drying and coating process can take 4-5 days to complete.

Alright, so where does it go? 

Whether you love candy corn and are eager to find it year-round, or you can’t wait for candy corn to leave the shelves, you must wonder where the leftovers go. 

 

Last year, 35 million pounds of candy corn was produced across the United States. Only 70% of all candy corn is effectively sold before Halloween. Where does it all go then? 

 

We did some digging. 

Despite popular belief, “the trash” isn’t the main answer. 

In fact, the answer may surprise you. 

 

Once Halloween concludes, candy corn sales resume. The day after Halloween, candy corn is wiped from the shelves for highly discounted prices, and resellers will snatch up the leftovers. 

 

Candy corn stays fresh, if unopened, for around nine months! In fact, you can find candy corn year-round with online retailers like Amazon.  

 

Well, there you have it! This sweet treat has many layers – from its creation in the 1880s to mimic corn kernels for industrial times, to secret ingredients like marshmallows folded in to guarantee its shape. While candy corn is consumed by many year-round, Halloween is simply the best time to grab them in-store!