Awakening East, Moving our adopted children back to China byJohanna Garton – Spotlight


Johanna Garton explores adopted children’s roots in her poignant memoir  “Awakening East”

DENVER, CO — Just a few years after adopting son, Will, and daughter, Eden, from China, Johanna Garton and her husband made the decision to move their family across the world for one year to fully immerse themselves in their children’s culture and place of origin. Awakening East (Oct. 23; Marcinson Press) is the result of their epic adventure.

Beginning as a series of blog posts, Awakening East began to develop into a tale of humor, hardships and life lessons after Garton dived more deeply into the backstory and emotional journey each family member experienced while living abroad.

“We were each going through the same stressful situations in moving to a new country, but we had our own journey to overcome struggles,” says Garton. “When plunked in a foreign country and depending only on each other, the processes we each went through were amplified.”

While their year in China gave Garton broadened wisdom and understanding, she says her most memorable experience was visiting her son’s orphanage and daughter’s foster family.  “We adopted both children at the age of 12 months, so being able to piece together more details from the first year of their lives was invaluable.”

Garton’s hopes her memoir will inspire readers to understand that adoption doesn’t always have to be a backup plan, but another wonderful option in the choice of becoming a parent. She says, “At the end of the day, having a child call you Mom or Dad is the most important thing, isn’t it?”

About Johanna Garton

Johanna Garton fills her days as owner of Missionworks Consulting, a nonprofit management consulting firm in Denver. She leads workshops for parents on traveling back to China through the Chinese Heritage Camp in Denver through Regis University. For those looking for something a little more close to home, Johanna also developed Kids Yoga Speak  while preparing for her year in China. The program is based on Total Physical Response and teaches children Chinese by incorporating the language into a yoga routine. The program can be accessed through the website or through a downloadable app through iTunes.

Purchase on Amazon –

Q&A with Author Johanna Garton

You are so candid and funny in sharing your journey. What inspired you to share your incredible story?

The story began merely as a series of blogs I wrote during our year in China.  The things we experienced on a daily basis were just so outlandish and so far from the norm of life in the United States that our following grew rapidly.  People were just very….curious and amused by our adventures.  When I got home, I decided to dive a little deeper into the emotional journey we’d all had, as well as the backstory and what led us to move abroad.  

Before I knew it, there was a story with an arc.  Moments of drama, humor, tension, intrigue.  On top of that, I suspected there were messages that would resonate with a variety of audiences.

What message do you hope other adoptive parents (or those considering adoption) get out of your story?

Most people approach the creation of a family with the same goal: wanting to be a mom or a dad.  Adoption isn’t typically front and center when most people plan to start a family, but I’ve always seen it as merely representing another road to the same end point.  I encourage people not to think of adoption as a backup plan, but as another wonderful option.  The journey to become a parent is laden with highs and lows – no matter how you get there.  At the end of the day, having a child call you Mom or Dad is the most important thing, isn’t it?

What would be one of your most surprising (or memorable) experiences from your time in China?

In terms of travel experiences, we all absolutely loved Cambodia and in particular, we fell in love with the ruins at Angkor Wat.  I found it completely captivating to watch the children enjoy the ancient ruins in the same way they would have enjoyed an amusement park at home…pure, childish delight.

But hands down the most memorable experience for me were the visits to our son’s orphanage and our daughter’s foster family.  We adopted both children at the age of 12 months, so being able to piece together more details from the first year of their lives was invaluable.

What was your biggest takeaway from your time abroad with your family?

I think I learned how different each person is when faced with adversity.  We each were going through the same stressful situations in moving to a new country, but we each had our own journey to overcome the struggles.  We took different lengths of time to adapt, and each of us had different coping mechanisms.  This concept isn’t something particularly earth-shattering, but when plunked in a foreign country and depending only on each other, the processes we each went through were amplified.

Have your kids caught the wanderlust bug?

Most definitely.  Will and Eden have become adept and eager little travelers.

What are Will and Eden’s perspective on your year abroad in China?

The children both talk about it frequently and fondly.  Our time there definitely instilled a sense of adventure in both of them that they might not have had otherwise.  Our mantra when we lived there, especially with Will was, “If you can do THIS, you can do anything you want.  For the rest of your life.”

You’ve pioneered a very engaging yoga program that also incorporates language learning for little ones. Can you tell me a bit more about Kids Yoga Speak and how the idea came about?

This actually came to fruition as we were preparing to move to China.  I wanted to teach them a little Chinese prior to our departure, and found the best way for them to learn the language was through movement.  The program uses short stories that incorporate a few words of Chinese.  Each story is set to a yoga routine so that children are moving and repeating the new word over and over, allowing it to sink in with physical motion.  

This is actually a well-studied theory of language acquisition called Total Physical Response, though I didn’t know that at the time we developed Kids Yoga Speak.  

That sounds much like how your book came about, too! Seems like a very natural process for you.

True!  It’s always so telling, isn’t it, to look back at the trajectory of your life and see how different experiences come together?  The Kids Yoga Speak project actually led me directly to the publisher for the book before I’d even finished the manuscript.  Now I just cannot WAIT to see where the book leads me!  

What do you enjoy most about writing?

I love the process of sitting down and having no idea where I might go. It’s fascinating to me how even the simplest, everyday experiences can become stories with depth, humor and passion.

How has sharing your story changed your life?

It’s definitely made me more curious about the stories of others.  A lot of memoirists are introverts, and I’m no different.  I think I’ve developed a great appreciation for untold stories and I find myself constantly deflecting conversations away from myself and onto others.  Everyone has vast reservoir of life experiences and I love pulling those out of people.


*The purchase link to Amazon is strictly for your convenience. My Life. One Story at a Time does not receive compensation. 

Happy Cows – Do they really all come from California?

I just went for my morning walk, okay, late morning walk.  As much as I would like to be a morning person, I just am not; unless, you want to consider taking all of my late night, early morning hours in to count. If I had my druther, the day would begin somewhere around 10 in the morning and run until 2-3 in the morning. Now, that would be a perfect day! I somehow accomplish more in the hours between midnight and 3am than I do any other time. Anywho, getting back to my walk, the weather is cold. Not so cold that a warm jacket, hat and gloves will not take care of the bite. There is something about the crispness of the cold that makes you feel like it is a whole new start to life. Just breathing in the cold air is cleansing.

After my wonderful walk, I came in and did what every other red-bloodied American does, I turned the television on. Happy cows. Now there is a topic worth discussing. How do people know that happy cows come from California? Do they smile differently? My favorite of the Happy Cow commercials is one of the earlier ones. “Do you think cows are pretty?” I suppose it is a favorite because I consists of a few too many pounds myself and somehow find myself commiserating with this happy cow. I simply can’t help asking my husband while spinning around in front of him, “Do you think cows are pretty?”  Is it too much to ask for him to say “yes?”

I do have a couple of other favorite commercials. I could sit all day long and watch Miss Piggy get hit in the head by a 2×4. Deranged I know, but for some strange, unexplainable reason, it makes me laugh out loud. I do try to redeem myself by not laughing when impressionable children are around. The other commercial is a Windex commercial. Two birds ring the doorbell of this poor unsuspecting man who is sunning out by his pool. Meanwhile, they have closed the (you guessed it) freshly Windex’ed (made this word up) patio door and he runs straight into it. Not ONCE, but twice! And yes, I roll on the floor every single time.

Why do some commercials just hit the mark and others don’t? I guess we all have our own sense of humor. So, here’s to Happy Cows (and guess what? They don’t all come from California!)


My Life in Review, a little Southern Comfort

This past week has been a tiring one. Whether it was my blood disorders or just too many activities, the week left me wanting to sleep for days. I literally had difficulty putting one foot in front of the other, but after five days of falling into bed at 9pm, I finally feel rested this morning. 

Last Tuesday night, I attended my writer‘s group. The group is so motivating and I look forward to it each month. It is a time to have your own work critiqued as well as pick other writer’s brains. We have a small group of six and it works quite well for us. 

Our meeting last week was at the home of a member, Monique, who loves animals, so much so, that she has a snake that lives in the bottom of their barn. She didn’t invite him, he just showed up one day and decided it was a nice place to live (harmless of course). Monique is a wonderful person and one where animals seem to know they can find safe harbor in the storm. She is a soft-spoken Southern Lady, and you just want to be in her presence. 

One story that I especially remember and chuckle about when I need a smile is the story she told me about going down to wash clothes and finding the snake in the washing machine. Monique just nonchalantly mentions that she had to disturb him so she could put the clothes in the washer; she just picked him up and set him aside. Folks, that takes a special person because I would have either fainted dead away or screamed my head off and shot up the washer! This friend is a gentle soul and I just love her to death. 

I picked up another friend on the way to writer’s group, Jessica (author of Muddy Bayou andMuddy Grave), and as we got out of the car and started our trek through the barn to the stairs leading to Monique’s home, I told Jessica she had to go first in the event the snake was hanging around, and if I saw it, I was going to shove her up the stairs. I admit it, I am NOT the bravest person around! Picture a snake wrapped around a joist, just waiting for me to happen by, and then as soon as Jessica passed, it swings its head down about two feet so it pops about level with my face and it says (in a snake drawl) “Ha! So, you were hoping to miss me?” (That would be my luck! And, did I mention what an active imagination I have? A talking snake? A Southern talking snake?) By the time we made it upstairs, we were laughing so hard, we did not have to knock, Monique heard us outside the door. 

Monique opened the door to our laughter and one of her dogs barked. Yes, I screamed. I’m sure you can imagine my reaction. I had to actually remind myself it was a dog, that snakes don’t bark. Those are memories in the making and ones I cherish.

On the way home that night, I encountered the bad weather I wrote about. If you didn’t have a chance to read about it, you can here. That was definitely a terrifying experience.

The dogs had a bath last week. I say that because I used to give them baths every week. With the heat this summer,  I have taken to playing with them in the evenings by spraying them with the cool water and letting them soak in their little swimming pools. It is a game to them and one they love. Ryka spends most of her day just lounging around, but comes alive when I start spraying the water her way. She hops around and I know if a dog could laugh, she would be giggling. The change in her demeanor is so cute.  But, playing in the water, and I just do not understand it, makes them smell. One might think that being rinsed off and playing in a pool each day would make a dog smell good. Not! So, last week, they both got soaped up and smelled really good – for about one day. Oh well. 

That brings about another story. I have a wagon that I put them in for baths. It elevates them to a good height so I am not bent over while scrubbing them. It is always a contest when I pull the wagon out and ask who wants a bath first. Yes, I ask, and I will tell you that they know baths are coming. Sometimes Ryka jumps in first, and other times Calypso, and on occasion, both. Then it is a wait and see as to who gives in and jumps out. I never interfere because I enjoy watching the interaction to see what happens.  



Last week, Calypso opted for the first bath. I soaked her with water and doesn’t that silly dog attempt to chase her tail while standing in the wagon! As  soon as she was dried off, she was gone and chasing dragon flies. Ryka, on the other hand, was content to sit after her bath and be towel dried for as long as I was willing to keep on rubbing her down. When I would stop, she would look over her shoulder at me as if to say, “Just a little longer.”

Thursday, the optical center called to let me know that my new lenses were in. Upon their suggestion, I had tried the progressive lenses  rather than going with lined trifocals. I felt like a drunken sailor out to sea – for three weeks. I used them for a week and let them know that I couldn’t do it. I needed the lined trifocals. I then had to go in so they could take new measurements for the trifocals. I still continued to wear the progressive lenses thinking maybe I might adjust to them. I never did and I am so happy to have my lined trifocals! The ship has come in to port and docked. 

With a progressive lens, the corrective prescription runs down the center of the lens, and to either side there is no prescription, so you actually have no peripheral vision. It drove me crazy because I was constantly thinking – follow my nose, point my nose where I want to look. And then, once I pointed my nose where I wanted to see, I then had to move my head up and down to find the right level for clearness. This was definitely not working for me and I was able to exchange them out. Now, my bifocals have a bifocal. But I can see! 

I actually found a group on Facebook for planner addicts like myself. I love my planner! I also use my electronic calendar, but for me, writing down and being able to visually glance at my planner page is my favorite way of keeping track of my ToDo’s.  So like everyone else in the group, I’ve been ogling their planners, and visa versa. I am finding out that others are using stickers and washi tape to decorate their planner pages so I am having a ball doing the same. It really makes a difference. The calendar days are no longer just filled with appointments and ToDo’s. They have smiley faces and hearts and pretty tape, etc. It’s a fun group and if you are a planner addict as well, here’s the link:  if you would like to check it out. 




That was most of my week, the highlights anyway. Hope your week was good and if you’d like to share your highlights, please leave a comment.

Thursdays – Where Truth is the Dare

Question of the Day: Where Truth Is the Dare   [QUES OF THE DAY] [Paperback]

It’s Thursday again – and we all know what that means!

Here is this week’s question.

Truth? or Dare?

What do you keep in a safe place?

When I read this question, my immediate response before contemplating a deep answer was “my heart”. Even after contemplating and attempting to come up with a one of a kind unique answer, I have to stick with my first. I keep my heart in a safe place – most of the time. It comes from experiencing a lot of hurt in my life. It is a defense mechanism for me and it is just who I am.

I look forward to hearing your answers! 

Thank you all for participating.

My Crazy Life – October 12, 2011 – Superstitions

Superstition: an irrational, but usually deep-seated belief in the magical effects of a specific action or ritual, especially in the likelihood that good or bad luck will result from performing it.

One of my most favorite bloggers in the world is Totsymae. If her stories don’t make you laugh, well, then you just don’t laugh – at all – at anything. Her blog link is  She posted a story on superstitions the other day that I thought was quite amusing. We all have them whether we want to admit or not. Take a look at hers and then add your own. I cannot wait to hear what others are superstitious about.

 “Now, my mother, bless her heart, was raised on a good number of them. Born and raised in the south, what other choice did she have? She told my sister and me, years back, that she’d not instill those kinda thoughts by raising us on them. Yet, she ran down a list of them and I can’t get them out of my head. Naturally, I want to believe the good ones. Like, if your hand itches, you’ve got some money coming. Who wouldn’t want their hand to itch in that case?

 My great-grandmother said if you walked with one shoe on and the other off, it was a sign of bad luck. So you know I fear walking with one shoe on to this day? I tell you folks, I’m all discombobulated with these superstitions rattling in my head sometimes. Here are just a few of them:

·        A man needs to be the first one to come to your home on New Year’s Day to bring good luck. Let me tell you, folks. The then husband would get up on said day, do a little something out the doors and then come back. Now, I’d never heard tale of that ’til I married Then Husband. I never quite got that if he’s already in the house, why he had to walk out and come back? Wasn’t it enough that he lived there already? I’m not sold on this one. Shit, sometimes it’s good luck if a man leaves the house and never comes back.

·        On New Year’s Day, a meal of collard greens and black-eyed peas would bring good luck. See, the collards were for money and the peas were so you could have a discerning eye for the future. I think that’s how it went. Folks, I ain’t seen no more than I’ve always seen really. Only time and experience has helped me to know what’s good and ain’t good for me. I ain’t picked up no extraordinary psychic powers to this day. And money? I work, therefore, I get paid. Did I necessarily have to eat greens to know the paycheck was coming? Plus, I’ve never heard no lottery winner claiming to have eaten them some collards to win the jackpot. Shit, they just played the hell out of them numbers is what happened. This one I picked up from the then in-laws when I lived in Texas. It didn’t quite stick but I may have such a meal for good measure.

·        If your nose itches, somebody’s coming to your house. If you don’t feel like being bothered, you’d hate to have a nose itch but I’m telling you folks, every time that’s ever happened, somebody always ended up coming to my house.

·        If your ear itches, somebody’s talking about you. Then, I’d go to wondering who the hell could have me on their minds to be talking about me.

·        Laying a hat on the bed brings bad luck. That’s another one I learned through Then Husband. I don’t particularly have a thing for hats but with this in my head, I’m careful that a head scarf ain’t laying around on my bed, folks. I’m telling you, this shit’s got me all messed up.

·        Breaking a mirror will bring seven years of bad luck. I may or may not have done it but maybe one could curtail bad fate by eating some collards and black-eyed peas?

·        Dropping a dish rag on the floor will bring death to a family member. Folks, you should see me trying to catch a damn dish rag falling to the floor. A baseball player sliding to home plate ain’t got shit on me.

·        If you walk between two poles, your mama’s gonna have a big tit and a little one. This one I got from my cousins growing up. Now, you could correct the fate of your mama’s tits by walking back in reverse order. I was in elementary school when I was enlightened to this one and making sure I didn’t cut the poles. I think I used to check my mama’s tits from time to time too. Making sure I hadn’t screwed up her tatas and all.

 I’m sure I could call off a few more but will end it here. Maybe I should see what my co-pay is for therapy and get myself some help. So, any of you out there stuck with a few superstitions in your head? Show and tell, folks.”

 One of my superstitions is the one about not walking under an open ladder because it is supposed to bring you bad luck. My view on that is bring an open ladder. All my life I have been one to attempt to defy all odds. Under the ladder is normally where I can be found. Had I been under the ladder when Hubby and I were painting the house, I might not have ended up with a head full of yellow hair. I rest my case of this one.

I’ve broken so many mirrors that I’ve lost count. Maybe the superstition should be that if it breaks when you look into it, then some bad is definitely gonna be heading your way.

As for all of those people throwing salt over their shoulder, don’t let me passing when you do it. I just do not take kindly to having salt thrown at me, or on my shoes, or my clothes, or in my hair. Just sayin’.

In all honesty, I don’t know if I believe in superstitions. There have so many bad things that have come my way, I think they just come. I guess I never had time to give superstitions a great deal of thought.