50 Degrees of Separation

I’m not doing well. Burrowing in a deep dark pit, like a small rodent taking a dustbath. Squirming.

On the morning of February 13th, we fled to LA in the midst of Snowstorm Pax. I used to be really into storm names but I can hardly keep up with them now that we’ve had storm-after-storm-after-storm, sometimes within the span of a week. Have to admit that for all the anxiety that Pax caused us prior to flying out, I did like the name.

When I called the Korean cab company the night before for 5 am pick-up to JFK, they said they would not be able to reserve a car for us due to the impending storm. We’d all just have to wait and see as this storm was predicted to be a doozy. I called them back at 4 am and they said they’d send someone.

My heart was beating wildly as we loaded up the freshly awoken, footed-pajammied little ones into the cab. The snow was falling down steadily and our surroundings were already white.

We still did not know if our flight would be cancelled but it seemed highly likely according to the forecasts predicting about a foot of snow, starting 4 am through 9 am. Our flight was scheduled for 6:55 am, smack dab in the middle of Pax, but Kevin had not received a text from the airline regarding any cancellations or delays.

Kevin was somber and reminded me to manage my expectations: The flight could get cancelled after we arrived at the airport. It could get postponed by a few days since many of us would have to book a new flight. To please not get my hopes up until we actually made it off the runway.

Even after a minor delay of about an hour to de-ice the plane, we touched down at LAX on time! I still can’t believe how lucky we were. I arrived to emails from friends assuming we hadn’t made it out.

"Mommy, you dunno if we can fly out?  But the plane is right there!"

“Mommy, you dunno if we can fly out? But the plane is right there!”

We were on the only flight that made it out of the storm that morning.  If it had been cancelled, we would have lost about three days of our trip before the next available flight.

We were on the only flight that made it out of the storm that morning. If it had been cancelled, we would have lost about three days of our trip before the next available flight.

During the whole flight, I wanted to raise my hands in Halleluyer!   We had made it!  These morsels didn't know how much I worried about being able to flee.  They just knew that there was a small tv in front of them.

During the whole flight, I wanted to raise my hands in Halleluyer! We had made it! These morsels didn’t know how much I worried about being able to flee. They just knew that there was a small tv in front of them.

And now, after shaving my legs upon touching down at LAX, to rock glorious short shorts and flip flops in a land that was at least 50 degrees warmer, we are back.

The thing is…while here in NYC, I thought I was holdin’ it down relatively fine. After all, I’m going on nine years this October. What choice do I have but to live life yul-shee-mee (“diligently”)?

The only place I’ve ever experienced being someone’s wife, someone’s attorney, and someone’s mama is here in NYC.

But this winter has definitely been siphoning my mojo from me. I didn’t even know about the robbing of the mojo until faced with the possibility of being stuck here for days longer if our flight were cancelled, then actually experiencing healing and calm just by spending time in my hometown, with the sun literally warming my body and soul. Sun + Family + Friends + Being able to walk out the door without winter gear = Life-giving visit.

Reminds me of that movie, “The Bridges of Madison County,” where Meryl Streep was married to a nice but dull man. She remained devoted to him and was a dutiful wife and mother, holdin’ it down at home as best as she could in the only life she knew, until Clint Eastwood comes into town and shows her what she’s been missing.

LA was my Clint Eastwood.

Nibbling on Cara Cara oranges in the sun,

slurping down oysters at the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market,

swinging by the local playground in shorts and flip-flops at 6 pm IN FEBRUARY,

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getting photographed in Malibu with the sand between our toes,

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subsisting on authentic Mexican food including homemade tortillas, spicy chilaquiles, and too many nacho platters in the name of “vacation,”

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talking unabashedly with girlfriends who’ve known me for at least a decade,

watching my sons, especially the playground deprived newbie frolic about on beautifully plump, bare toddler feet, feeding ducks, hiking mountain trails, and riding ponies – ALL THINGS YOU CAN DO IN THE OUTDOORS when it is not a frozen tundra framed with weeks-old snow.

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This winter has been the most brutal yet. The lowest temps (first time I heard of “Polar Vortex”) and the most snow. According to our doorman, it has been the worst winter since 1983 or 1984.

I remember the winter of 2010-2011 producing at least seven snowstorms before we fled to LA with our 11 week-old firstborn.

When Cali friends would often comment, “How do you handle living out there with the two little ones?”

The answer was simple.

“Because I have to. Because this is all I know.” You mean, there is an alternate universe where I wouldn’t have to carry my child over a snowbank, while the other smaller child waits patiently in his stroller for his turn to be carried over the same snowbank?

Or where I won’t be slippin’ and slidin’ when the bigger child refuses to cross the street in the middle of a traffic jam?

(Yes. See Clint Eastwood above).

This trip to LA was especially painful due to how tough things have been emotionally and on the homefront. Reminds me of the movie “Sliding Doors” with a drab-lookin’ Gwyneth Paltrow back in the day. This trip was like watching what my life would have been like had I walked through a different door, raising my boys with my tribe, in the sun, dealing with traffic and smog instead.

(I know there is no benefit in regretting or thinking “what if” but that is where I’m at now, a bit of wallowing before I climb out of my pit.)

I realized, through this trip, that our values and must-haves are ever-evolving.

For instance, I now know that I NEEEEEED sun the way I NEEEEEEED exercise. It is healing. It provides energy that I didn’t know I was missing until I noticed how alive folks were in SoCal while many people here seem to just DEALING with life during these harsh winter months.

When we hiked Coldwater Canyon, I wanted to jump into so many of the conversations that women were having with one another as hiking in and of itself lends itself to quality gabbing. And again, the sun energy was so potent. People would shower Micah and Ellis with so much affection and open adoration in a way that was markedly different from NYC. They didn’t hesitate to step to us just because we were strangers.

Everyone’s energy was on and poppin’ because they weren’t spending it clearing snow off the roof of their cars, shoveling their cars out to go food-shopping and considering that a victorious afternoon, or stuck running with active toddlers in the basement hallways to burn off their energy since outdoors is almost never an option these days.

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I tried not to overschedule during this visit. I usually try to meet at least one friend per day while I’m there and while that sounds so doable, it’s stressful to arrange. The few girlfriends I did reconnect with made me have another Sliding Doors moment.

Imagine the revolutionary concept of being friends since junior high, high school, or college, then becoming mamas and raising our kids together instead of the way I did it. “You’re a mom, I’m a mom, we live in walking distance, so let’s at least try to be friends.” Don’t get me wrong. The local mama friends that I’ve been blessed to do life with are gifts. They kept me from going at this all alone and will always hold a special place in my heart when I look back on my boys’ early years, especially the raw first year.

Also blessed to have my spiritual communities through church and small groups.

I’m just talking about the organic way of being friends for years first and then naturally navigating through motherhood together.

So we’re back and I’m taking it pretty hard. Prior to the day we flew back home to NYC, I called the airline a few times to brainstorm about how I can stay back for at least another week. But I was jerked back to reality when Micah took a big fall smack onto his nose on parking lot asphalt.

We all boarded the plane as planned. Suddenly, I was on the plane again, being transported to my colder life in NYC and already in Mom-on-Plane mode, like grabbing a sippy cup in the nick of time when Micah just HAD to pee as the plane took off the runway. And humiliating myself by asking Amy Poehler for a picture at THE WORST POSSIBLE TIME.

So while I can do it and I have done it, I no longer want to do life in this way, where good weather days are treated like holidays. I do agree that there is no place like NYC even though I’m tempted to fight with (annoying) NYC enthusiasts who will cut you if you won’t bow down to it being the Be All End All and dare compliment another city. It just ain’t for me at this mature age and life stage.

Being a sensitive soul prone to intense emotions, I neeeeeeeed my sun. I need my tribe. I need my mojo back.

And when I miss the novelty of frigid temps or humid summers, I can always visit.

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2.27.14  back to running laps in the basement hallway.  even if mama bothered to bundle them back up after naps to go outside for fresh air, too cold to stay out for long.

2.27.14 back to running laps in the basement hallway. even if mama bothered to bundle them back up after naps to go outside for fresh air, too cold to stay out for long.

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3 thoughts on “50 Degrees of Separation

  1. You gotta get a light. Everyone swears it takes the edge off. I’m not advocating that you stay there though. If you come back to the west coast, you’ll be that much closer to me. 🙂

  2. Thanks for this post, Jihee, it made me appreciate something I didn’t even realized I was taking for granted: me & my friends, we’re raising our kids together. It’s been fantastic. And you’re right, raising kids with a group of old friends is definitely different than being a group of friends because you’re all raising kids. I love my friends’ kids because I love my friends. It’s almost like family with those kids. On the other hand, we know a bunch of kids because they play or go to the gym or some other class with our girls, but if one of them acted up – or worse, hit or bit or something my girls – we’d walk away and never talk to the kid or his/her parents again. My friends’ kids I would reprimand and I trust my friends would do the same with my girls. If it takes a village, then my friends are my village. I’ve told you many times I give you much respect for doing such a good job raising your boys without your family around… bonus points for doing it without your old friends.

    • thanks so much for reading AND commenting, Mark! so special to hear from a papa and someone I’ve known since the 7th grade. yeah, so true – I try to explain (without offending folks) that there is The Village – family and family-like friends and then those you met because of the life stage you’re in. Not mutually exclusive as Life Stage friends CAN become your village too but it takes A LOT of time. Friendships at a later age don’t have history to cement them ya know? Thanks again for reading, encouraging, commenting!

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