I hope you enjoy my reflections and photos of my mother/daughter trip to Korea, updates on my writing, and highlights of my year as library trustee. As always, I end with a book recommendation and photo of the day. Please read through and comment if you have time!

Mother/Daughter Trip

My eyes pop open at 2:30 am and I can’t go back to sleep. My thoughts drift to my recent trip to Korea with my daughter and my heart warms. I’m in bed at home with jetlag and Claire is sleeping in her childhood room until she goes back to her life in New York in a few days. My husband is away on business, and all is still, except for the soft hooting of the owl outside my window.

I play back all the things Claire and I saw and did during our wonderful ten days together. Seoul is such a vibrant, sophisticated city, and we enjoyed the blend of old traditions and new. We roamed the charming hanok streets and bonded over authentic Korean meals. We explored historic palaces I had been to as a child, and even visited my old elementary school. We rented hanboks and pretended we were Korean princesses strolling along secret gardens. Claire discovered chilled oksusu-cha, or corn tea, which she drank like water every day.

We indulged in modern trends too. We shopped for K-beauty products, the latest Korean fashions, and spent hours looking at notebooks and accessories at a stationery shop curated like a museum. We got our hair cut at a cool salon and did a “color analysis,” where I discovered I’m a “spring light” and Claire is an “autumn dull.” We wore face masks at night and watched the Korean Netflix series “The Extraordinary Attorney Woo,” about an autistic female lawyer, from Claire’s laptop on our hotel bed.

I reflect on all these good memories we shared together, and I believe we are closer now than ever. But I admit there were challenging moments too. I can’t help but think it was the difficult times where I learned the most about my daughter and our relationship.

Every day we had to decide where to go and what to do. Seoul is large, capital city split in two by the Han River and much bigger than I remember twelve years ago when I last visited. We had to do the research, get from point A to point B, and find places to eat. Claire did the brunt of the work—navigating the street maps and subways, calling taxis on Korean apps, and looking up reviews of shops and restaurants, even though she doesn’t speak Korean. I was the Korean-speaking assistant, but a poor one at that despite being born here, having left Korea in first grade. It should have been the other way around:  the native speaker leading the foreigner, the parent leading the child. But Claire took charge and proved she was an excellent travel partner. I needed her as much as she needed me.

We had language barriers. I asked the hotel concierge in Korean to call a taxi to meet my aunt and her family, but I must have said the location incorrectly because the driver took us to the wrong place. Claire called a cab on the taxi app to take us to the right restaurant, but the driver ended up on the other side of a busy street. We didn’t know how to contact the driver because it was the first time using the app and it was in Korean, so we hoped he would stay put until we could run to a crosswalk a block away, which he fortunately did. Although it was stressful, we had a lot of laughs later over having to hustle to catch our ride, and realized we had to be flexible due to language constraints.

We had disagreements over what we would do in a day. There were so many things to see, and I deferred to Claire because I wanted her to have a good time. Over lunch of cold naengmyun noodles one day, Claire became upset with me for not telling her what I wanted to do. She felt responsible for having a good time, and I realized I needed to be more honest about what I wanted. We decided to rent hanboks (her choice) and visit Changdeok Palace (my choice) instead of trying to get to another part of town that was on the day’s agenda. It was a beautiful fall day, and we had the best time. We learned this was a collaborative trip, and to express our needs to each other more.

Claire in a hanbok outfit

Claire had an allergic reaction and we had to go to the emergency room. We had taken a quick trip to Busan for a few nights, and we were finishing up a delicious sushi meal when she ate a spicy tuna roll topped with peanuts. Fortunately, she had Benadryl and took two immediately, but she was still feeling tingling in her lips and shortness of breath. She had her epipen and was ready to use it, but decided she should go to the hospital instead since she knew her symptoms could worsen. Fortunately, the doctor could speak some English and with my limited Korean, Claire was treated and released within a short time. I discovered Claire could manage her own medical needs in a foreign country.


This trip wasn’t supposed to happen. It was originally supposed to be a visit for my aging parents, my brother, and me, with Claire tagging on at the last minute. When the trip was on the verge of being cancelled because of my parents’ failing health, Claire said she still wanted to go, and I wanted to go with her. Her desire to take a mother/daughter trip, and her input into making this such a special experience, shows a maturity I only now fully appreciate. Although I’m sad my parents weren’t able to travel with us this time, I’m so glad Claire and I were able to go together.

I am finishing this post after dropping Claire off at the airport. We hugged and I drove home with a heavy heart, missing her already. Then I opened my laptop and found this note.

I love you Mom!
Thank you for this trip.
I loved spending this special time together.
Kick ass on your edits!
I’m so proud of you.

Tears welled for the young woman who wrote this to me, who thoughtfully in the middle of the night jotted this message down on a post-it to wish me luck in revising my novel. Claire is not my little girl anymore, but a grown up. I wrote a blog post about Letting Go when she went off to college, and now she’s graduated and trying to figure out her next steps. It’s amazing how time flies and things change. She is my steady companion and someone I can be with to enjoy the good times and the bad. Our relationship is evolving from one of parent and child, to one of mutual understanding and acceptance. We are learning to embrace each other and our new roles.

I am so grateful for this trip, except tonight I will be sad waking up in the middle of the night without her.

Writing Update

To follow my daughter’s sentiment, I will try hard to “kick-@#!” on my edits. My acquiring editor just sent me her notes on my first novel, WHITE MULBERRY, and I am eager to revise the manuscript based on her feedback. She said she loved reading it again and discovered new beauty in it this time around. Such reassuring words! Of course, there’s lots of work still to be done, but I so appreciate her encouragement and support.

After I make the revisions, I will go into the developmental editing phase later in December where another editor will look at my manuscript and make additional comments. These next iterations will hopefully get my novel in tip top shape for copyediting to begin in the spring. The cover selection process should happen by mid-year next year, and the novel published by fall 2024!  I’ll keep you posted on the progress. If you are on social media, please follow me @rosakwoneaston for real-time updates.

I have been outlining and writing my second novel, RED SEAL, while waiting for edits to my first. I was selected to participate in the Novel in a Year program through StoryStudio Chicago, which meets online monthly to help keep me accountable. The outline and first chapters of the sequel are due to my editor by April of next year. Crossing my fingers that I can meet the deadline!

Book Research

My trip to Korea was a boost for research for my second book. I was able to visit locations that are prominent in the sequel that I wouldn’t have been able to experience through a map or a history book.

The old Seoul Station, for example, is a striking colonial era red brick building that has been preserved as an historic site. It’s a lot bigger than I thought, and farther from the arched palace gate that the characters in the novel encounter than I imagined.

On our train ride to Busan, I was able see the countryside that the characters must have seen on their train journey in 1943. In the port city of Busan itself, the shanty enclaves where some of the book’s scenes take place are literally built right into the hillside next to the water, almost dangerously so. And there were fisherwomen scaling fish next to the rocks, just as they probably did when my novel takes place. It was so valuable to see all this in person.

Finally, I have an idea brewing for another novel that I was able to flesh out a little more when I visited the sites firsthand. It’s a story inspired by my mother, who is related to the Imperial Noble Consort of the last king of Korea. The consort lived at both Gyeongbok Palace as a court lady and Deoksu Palace in her later years. I visited both places and was able to see where she must have spent her days, including the sleeping quarters and how the rooms were heated from fuel holes under the buildings. She was allegedly offered land and money by the king, but she chose to put those funds into founding schools for girls and women. It was a very successful research trip!

Library Update

My year as President of the Board of Trustees of the Palos Verdes Library District is coming to aclose, although I will continue as trustee until my term ends in 2026. During my tenure as President, we were able to open the new Teen Annex and run a successful Doors Open Peninsula extravaganza for the whole community, recognizing 100 years of the opening of home sales in our area. I am proud of the library’s Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) efforts to expand its world languages collections and services to be more inclusive and welcoming. Library staff wear badges if they speak a foreign language. I got one too!

What I’m Reading

My book club just finished reading THE ALL-AMERICAN by Joe Milan Jr. and we loved it. We were fortunate to have a visit with the author himself at our last meeting. I consider him family since he is my cousin Judy’s nephew by marriage!

Here is the blurb about his book. Click the image for more information.

Seventeen-year-old Bucky Yi knows nothing about his birth country of South Korea or his bio-dad’s disappearance; he can’t even pronounce his Korean name correctly. Running through the woods of rural Washington State with a tire tied to his waist, his sights are set on one all-American goal: to become a college football player.

So when a misadventure with his adoptive family leads the U.S. government to deport him to South Korea, he’s forced to navigate an entirely foreign version of his life. One mishap leads to another, and as an outsider, Bucky has to fall back on not just his raw physical strength, but resources of character and attitude he didn’t know he had. In an expat bar in Seoul, in the bleak barracks of his Korean military, on a remote island where an erratic sergeant fights a shadow-war with North Korean spies, and in the remote town where he seeks out his drunken, indebted biological father, Bucky has to assemble the building blocks of a new language and stubbornly rebuild himself from scratch. That means managing his ego, insecurities, sexual desires, family legacies, and allegiances in order to make it back home―wherever that might be―and determine who he is to himself, who he is to others, and what kind of man he wants to become.

Picture of the Day

Claire texted me on her flight to New York to say she was flying over our house. There is a speck in the photo and that’s her!

As always, I appreciate you following me on this journey and cheering me on. I always love hearing from you.

Wishing you a blessed Thanksgiving and a magical holiday season. I can’t believe it’s almost 2024!