Quieter of My Soul

I failed again.  During a visit from my mom, I drove her away the week before Thanksgiving.  Only God can help us understand where the other is coming from despite the immense cultural, language, love language, and generational barriers.

I have to study the fight-or-flight response further because I tend to fight, as in attempt to tackle the recurring issue while my mom leaves the room and her eyes check out, which only triggers my escalation as I chase her, begging to be heard.

I don’t want to get into more of this as it is too raw and unresolved.  And not entirely my story to tell.  I just know that we need help and this unhealthy cycle has to stop.

How do I respect and navigate around her need to flee, which is just as dire as my need to be heard.  She just wants to retreat into a safe space whether it is to wash a dish or wash Olive’s socks DURING the communication I begged for, which only triggers me, as keeping occupied with physical tasks has always been her coping mechanism while I need to talk about it.  THIS IS SO PAINFUL and beyond hard.

I explained to my kids at pick-up that Halmoni and I had a painful conflict and that in light of that, can they please gift me with extra grace, as in please be on task with picking up after yourselves, not fighting, and staying focused during homework.

Needless to say, I still had to repeat myself, break up fights, apologize for lashing out due to my own emotional tank being depleted, rush, clean up Olive’s messes, pray for help, then take them to their church activity on time.

Looking back on yesterday, I realized again that for me, the toughest part of being a parent is not just the physical demands like feeding (so much feeding), driving, clothing, decluttering, and organizing but the emotional demands, like disciplining without lashing out and parenting while I’ve taken an emotional hit.

I thought about my girlfriend who has yet to process her baby’s death as she is busy meeting the demands of her first child.  Or even now, as first responders near the Woolsey Fire in Thousand Oaks, have not been able to grieve because immediately following the mass shooting of last week, came the massive fires.

Underlying the frenzy of yesterday was also gratitude for my kids needing me so I could not afford to “dwell” on my feelings of guilt and sadness, *BUT* it truly is a balancing act as I do have to find some still small space to find out how I can communicate wiser so that my mom does not resort to her coping mechanism of taking flight.

So, as Thanksgiving approaches and many of us will gather with our families, all of us imperfect and broken, I pray for quieting of our souls amidst the many voices, inner chatter, unmet expectations, and unresolved childhood wounds:

“The LORD your God is in your midst,

a mighty one who will save;

he will rejoice over you with gladness;

he will quiet you by his love;

he will exult over you with loud singing.”  Zephaniah 3:17 (ESV) – emphasis mine

If you read this, please pray for me and my mom.  Happy Thanksgiving.

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and the boy…

We approached our swings as we do every weekday morning after dropping off Kevin at his train stop.  Our micro morning community.

M, the grandmotherly case worker of D, the bespectacled young man with cognitive disabilities, who always swings with us.  I hadn’t seen them last week so I told M, “I was worried.  We have NEVER not seen you swinging next to us.  It’s pretty amazing how people make an impact in your day.  We see each other almost every day so I had to find out if everyone was okay.  So great to see you guys again.”

M:  “And you?  You’re missing one today.”

“Yes, he’s grown up.” (Throat closing up a bit.  Suddenly parched.)

M:  “They do that, you know.”

“Yup.  He suddenly doesn’t want to stay back here with the family in the mornings.  He now goes on campus early to meet his friends.”

I felt my heart swell up and my eyes water.

Of course I was happy to see Micah growing up.  As he should.  What a blessing we never take for granted, especially after wondering what his transition from NYC to LA might be like.  But just like so many parenting moments, a rush of many emotions at once.

He now jumps out of our minivan each morning to go cross the street by himself, with one of the crossing guards on duty.  He yells, “Thank you!” after they’ve escorted him across.

Ellis, Olive, and I watch from the other side of the street, on top of a grassy mound, wet with morning dew, before these younger two go claim their swings.

I can barely make out Micah laughing and running around with classmates.  I can’t help but think of “The Giving Tree,” the book that gutted me as a child and then annoyed me as a mom because the darn boy should have reciprocated with some seeds or some water,  ANY little token of appreciation.

And the boy had grown up.  The mom was happy.  (But the mom had no shame so she watched him for a beat longer from her Honda Odyssey like paparazzo before driving off and before she could embarrass him.)

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Pulse of a Place

Everyone is so different.  This simple fact never ceases to intrigue me.

A friend from college had been dreaming about moving to NYC and after many years and a detour, her dream was realized this month.  It was exciting to watch this unfold even though it was only through Facebook.

It did make me reflect.  The city she had been yearning for all these years was the very city I yearned to leave.

Don’t get me wrong.  NYC will *always* have a piece of my heart.  It is the setting for our story:  from boyfriend-girlfriend to engaged to married to two baby boys to one more bonus baby.  Also the setting for our late night fights and bad cycles and tears and no family to help during those tender baby and toddler years.

That city wasn’t just the backdrop.  It was a dominant character in the story because hey, it’s NYC.

Now that I’ve boomeranged back to my home state after 13 years in NYC, I am as happy as a turtle sunbathing on a rock.  With shades on.

Those 13 years made me see my hometown in a totally different light, almost like getting back with an ex.  “Oh, you mean other places range from cold to freezing cold almost six months of the year?!  Not lined with palm trees?!  People rushing all the time and zoning out on the subway?”

I also realized that the difference between what my friend and I yearned for could be summed up in one phrase:  the pulse of a place.

I needed to graduate from the very energy that is NYC – the palpable energy that makes everyone say there is NO other place like it.  The energy that was wearing me out daily.

NYC has its incomparable beauty.  I can’t do it justice by only listing a few examples so I won’t.

But at my age and life stage, I needed a different pulse.  No more beep beep-honk honk-sirens-catching trains-trekking in the dirty snow-trash piled up high on the sidewalks.

My new pulse is slower and quieter.  And oh how I delight in it.  I look forward to each day in a new way.

Mountain views so beautiful they look downright fake.

Palm trees…and more palm trees on the next block.

Neighbor’s grapefruit tree spilling treasures onto the sidewalk when the gusty Santa Ana (warm) winds hit the other night.

Sun beaming down on me the week before Halloween.

Still wearing shorts in October.

People walking their dogs slowly.  Smiling.

No one honking at me (first car to honk at me in 2.5 months had MA plates!).

Wide open spaces that I dreamt about, prayed for.

Strangers saying “hello” and me being the New Yorker wondering if they talkin’ to me.

Gardens.  Succulents.  (And yes, NYC has beauties like these too – my faves being Wave Hill and Storm King-but those spots were oases away from the frenetic pulse I can now love on a visit, not day-to-day).

Puig calling in to Power 106, promising to take the Dodgers to the World Series. Game 1 starts tomorrow – Dodgers vs. Red Sox.

George Michael’s “Faith” playing on my car radio and Ellen K. punctuating with, “We gotta have faith…in our Dodgers,” in a completely serious tone.

No place is perfect.  But I’mma take the 210 to the 10 to the 118 to the 134 to the 101 to the 405 to the 2 to the happy face on my heart.  No place like home.

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Adventure and Possibility

I’m not sure if it’s because we’re still so new to SoCal but I wake up excited.

Everyday is a new adventure and possibility:  Who might I meet?  Which new class or group will Olive and I check out?  What new part of LA will we learn about?  What will become our new normal?

I am not used to being passive in any form.  I am always following up and usually initiating socially, too.  But sometimes, it’s exhausting and frankly, it can flare up my doubts and insecurities:  “If I don’t initiate, would I continue to have most of my friends?”

But I’ve been learning to let go bit by bit.  I feel like He is showing me that if I dare sit back and see what could unfold without me masterminding it all, He will still open up opportunities.

Like today, Olive and I visited a school for her and me.  I found it not through any aggressive researching on my own but “passively” when my friend tagged me on a Facebook post and it was just what we needed for this new season.

Olive had a blast though she was skipping her fat morning nap.  She walked around bobbing her head like a li’l G, doing shoulder shrugs to the beat and walking right up to the other little cuties’ toys, instead of ackin’ like the shy, new gal.

Other moms even commented that she seemed so independent, and I was like, “Yes, only because I’m here.”  Sho’ nuff, when I left for adult discussion a few classrooms away, she cried like I had abandoned her Philomena style.  (Warning:  that movie got me laid out for weeks.)  I was called back even before I made it to the discussion.

On another note, I thought that by now, I wouldn’t care much about becoming “just” a mom once again after moving from NYC to here.  I need this “down” time of not juggling mom and work though definitely missing the paycheck for our growing expenses, 10% CA sales tax, and the pricier gas.

But when I see a son’s classmate’s mom in her scrubs in the morning or meet up with other lawyer moms who are currently practicing law, I do get that twinge again, that twinge I thought had long been put to bed:  Right now, I am “just” a mom.

When I signed up Olive and me for the class today, I was asked some routine sign-up database questions including, “Are you currently employed?”  Again, I am so much more comfortable as “just” a mom as a third-time mom but I did feel like explaining myself for a second:  Oh, we are just settling in and I’m with this little one.

I didn’t have to explain myself as the staff said, “Oh, I mean, you have that little one to take care of,” as if to help me out and justify it for me.  And then when she asked my highest level of education, and I said, “Juris Doctor,” she seemed surprised.  It just reminded me of how much our identities are wrapped up in our work or status, whether or not we enjoy that work.  So easy to tell someone “lawyer” when asked what do I do.

And further along that tangent, I remember a classmate’s mom in NYC telling me about another classmate’s family, how they were a “good family,” “both parents are anesthesiologists.”  Of course, I knew what she meant but that only tells me that they are highly educated and have high pressure, high paying, high status jobs, not that they are a good family.  Maybe I’m being a purist with words and labels but it did give me pause.

Anyways, I have to go drive to the boys’ school now.  So different that they don’t close schools for Rosh Hashanah here.

Maybe I will meet the other transplant from the East Coast, a dad I just met on Friday.  We were swapping move stories and feelin’ each other on $$$$ shipping costs and being new, even though I done boomeranged to my roots 13 years later.

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new class was a blast but got me laid out!

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meeting new humans and horse at a local play date

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met most of these people the night before!

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familiar face no matter which coast

 

 

 

 

 

 

New things

Just saw that it’s been exactly four months since my last post on 4.27.18.

Keeping with the 27s, one month since my family and I moved from NYC to LA on 7.27.18.

I left in 2005 for my then long-distance boyfriend, now husband and babies’ daddy.  I remember sitting around sharing desserts after a birthday dinner in Los Feliz, and my girlfriends expressing concern that I was moving out to NYC without a ring on my finger.

I was touched by their love for me but I explained that getting long distance engaged wouldn’t actually be any kind of guarantee.  What if I moved out there and he turned out to be a jerk?

I do remember saying, “I can always move back if things are awful.”

Sometimes, things were awful.  Not because of who Kevin was but because NYC is a tough place to live with small kids, harsh winters and no family.  Plus marriage is always tough even without the East Coast West Coast Biggie and Tupac tension.

Then I started to resign myself to thinking that maybe we’d have to keep staying because jobs weren’t as easy to come by as strangers and acquaintances seemed to suggest.

About the third child in, I just accepted that while sun, nature, childhood friends, family, oceans of parking spaces and quiet were life-giving to me, it just wasn’t part of God’s plan to open that door for me.  I’d just have to brave the subway and recalibrate my expectations to the suburbs of NYC, a common transition for many Queens families.

As we got ready to put an offer on a house on Long Island, all the while feeling like, “Something doesn’t feel right.  Shouldn’t we be more excited about buying a house?,” Kevin’s job offer started taking shape.  As you know, I am a very gut feeling / signs / intuition gal and when one realtor said, “Welcome to Long Island,” all my cells clenched to say, “Nope nope nope nope.”

Right before Kevin went to fly in for his interview, we visited a huge playground on LI.  Suped up.  Inviting.  (But still SO cold in the spring).  If anything, all that play space should have lured us into seeing what LI has to offer.  I asked him, “So?  Whaddya think?  You think we’re gonna live here?  Or can we dare say we might end up in L.A. after all these years?”

Kevin hates to jinx anything and has all these rituals during sports playoffs.  He didn’t want to spit it out but he was willing to say, “I don’t think we’re gonna end up here.  I know we might make an offer on that house and I can totally picture us living there but I just feel like we won’t be here.”

There was a 37 day period of limbo even *after* Kevin received and accepted the job offer.  We didn’t know if we should be online looking for housing in L.A., Queens or Long Island.  We gave quasi-notices at our jobs.  We prayed a lot.

And here we are.  Exploring our new neighborhood.  Reconnecting with old friends.  Trying to remember to take in our own bags at the market.  Getting used to “May I help you find anything?”  Referring to NYC  as “back home.”  Feeling myself calmer as I don’t soak in all the beep-beeps and honk-honks.

And I keep coming back to how this verse shouted out at me this year:

Isaiah 43:19 (ESV)

19 Behold, I am doing a new thing;
    now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
    and rivers in the desert.

I perceive it.  I receive it.  And I am rejoicing in it wildly.  Thank You, Lord.

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New things:  Olive and I start off on our own as Kevin starts new job and boys resume week three at their new school.

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unpacked our handmade ornaments from Family Camp exactly two years before we moved out to LA; the date gave me chills, as did the fact that Olive was not even a sure thing back then and here we all are

Giving Up Free Parking in Manhattan: A Birth Story

Olive is turning 11 months old tomorrow.  Here is her birth story, before she becomes a toddler on Memorial Day:
Saturday of Memorial Weekend 2017 was soccer for the boys.  Kevin went to Costco with them so I can rest after my scare the day before which landed me in the hospital to get checked out.  My bladder had protruded out of me while I was on toilet and I initially thought, “OhmyGod, I am on one of those TV shows where I have the baby in the toilet, except I’m 40, not at prom.”
I joined them at soccer while Kevin put away the groceries.  I relayed my dramatic story to a fellow soccer mom and dad.  He joked that I should have my baby on Memorial Day Monday for rare, easy parking in NYC.

I rested a lot that day.  Read a library book off and on that day (I wrote the name somewhere – some mystery book that was NOT riveting).  The boys went to sleep easily and earlier than usual (maybe God was setting up the scene).  By 8-something at night, they were both sound asleep so Kevin and I propped ourselves up in our bed, to organize some baby clothes as we had so many hand-me-downs and time was running out.

8:58 pm – As I shifted in bed, I felt warm liquid seeping and I could tell it wasn’t the usual discharge that sometimes felt noticeably warm and would give Kevin a scare.

And JUST LIKE WITH THE BOYS, I had bloody show, which is ALWAYS a helpful heads up that my body gives me – to say, “Hey, this is happening and will happen within 24 hours.”

I called the doctor’s office and Dr. Not My Doctor was the one on call, just like with Ellis.  He said I can either come in right away since it sounded like my water had broken and contractions would be coming or I can labor at home and come in in the morning.  We weren’t sure if he said come in in six hours or come in by 6 am, so we called him back to clarify.

We texted lots with our neighborhood friends, A, S and W re “It’s Game Time!”

S was very smart in that he could tell we were telling him to just come over by 10 pm so that we wouldn’t disturb him in the middle of the night so he offered us our space to labor at home, be nekked if more comfy, and pack final items.  He assured us that once we needed him, he would be over within ten minutes.  This was an answer to prayer as I worried about who would take the boys if this happened in the middle of the night before my mom arrived on 6/1.

S rushed over.  The boys would be waking up to him instead of us.  I wrote out letters to each son.  I felt so emotional, knowing that these were the last moments of us being a family of four, my having just my two precious sons I doted on for the past 4.5 and 6.5 years.  I was a Boy Mom and so whupped on these two very different creatures who made me a mom.  And my Pillow Cheeks was no longer gonna be my Babyest after 4.5 years of milking it.

Light pink seepage soaking up dozen maxi pads.  I used pantiliners until I realized that I needed more heavy duty support.

I practically barked at Kevin and was super-mean. “I know you supportive but I need you to LEAD so I can just be passive in times like these!”  But he was discombobulated by my water breaking 16 days before the due date, after the bladder prolapse the day before.

Also, it may have been an animal thang, like when a dog gets ready to give birth to her litter and she feels crazed, scratching her claws across the wooden floor.

I didn’t start contractions under AFTER midnight (water broke at 8:58 pm).  I had snuck into boys’ room to marvel at my sleeping babes whose lives were about to change.  In a good way mostly, but there would also be a loss of Mommy’s attention and energy as a third apple of my eye would be scooting them over.  Or “scootching” them over, as Ellis likes to say.

Looking back, this final moment to nestle with them and breathe them in on the last night of having only two children outside of my body was such a gift.  It also allowed me to calm down, soak it all in, and not be so mean to Kevin.

Contractions picked up, about 6-7 minutes apart.  After I kissed the boys in their sleep, I calmly woke up a sleeping Kevin to tell him we should go in and get my epidural more timely than last time.  I had told Kevin to invest in rest though I wasn’t able to sleep.  For some reason, Kevin was surprised again that this was really happening.

S arrived so swiftly, gave me a quick “heem-neh” hug and marched right into our apartment like a soldier on a mission, with his rolled up sleeping bag.  Kevin gave him inhaler instructions for Micah and we took off before 2 am.

My contractions were coming regularly and it hurt like a mother (is that where the saying comes from?) but I don’t think it hurt as much the previous two births.

For MLK, it was, “WHAT THE HELLLLLLLLL!???” and for EZ, “HOLY SH*T I NOW REMEMBER ALL OF THIS AND THIS IS GONNA HURT LIKE A MOTHER!!!”  For this one, I can only remember it hurting so much my eyes would shut on their own, but I still dared to tell Kevin between frequent contractions:  “It’s middle of the night.  Don’t do the $100 valet parking.  Drop me off by that plant at the entrance and then park on the street.”

Kevin advised:  If you wait for me to park, it could be a matter of getting an epidural on time or the anesthesiologist getting all booked up like last time when it was too late.

Me:  You right.  Good call. Just pay the $1000 for parking valet.

I checked in at 2:22 am on what seemed to be an uneventful night at the maternity ward.  Later I found out that it truly was uneventful due to it being Memorial Weekend.  I asked how can babies time their own births around major holidays and someone explained that as far as scheduled deliveries, they were scarce around major holidays.

2:27 am – Dr. PG gave me an internal exam.  3 or 4 cm dilated and 70 effaced.  Head still down.  This doctor is gorgeous.  Just like the nurses at Ellis’ delivery – they looked like they were gonna pillow fight on The Bachelor.

Dr. S, a handsome young Indian anesthesiologist gave me my epidural at 3:05 am when I was ONLY 3.5 cm dilated.  Another gorgeous Indian doctor.

Dr. Not My Doctor checked in at 3:34 am, 4:58 am (said I was 7 to 8 cm dilated and should be another hour), 6:15 am and said it was time.
Wait, is my baby crawling out the cavern on her own before I even pushed?  I told the doctor and he said, “Let me check.  Oh yeah, she’s right there.”  The Korean-American nurse commented, “When I have kids, I want a birth like that.”
Baby girl arrived so quickly at 6:32 am that we didn’t even get to get our cry on.  She just appeared.  Two contractions and total of five pushes within a few minutes.  She seemed to birth herself, as I felt her crawling out of me even with my epidural; no pain, just pressure.
Olive Hope Kim, 16 days early for most memorable Memorial Weekend ever and best reason for bailing on friend’s BBQ:

5 pounds, 8 oz, 2500 grams, 19 inches tall

Now, 11 months old, with a staring problem like I’ve never seen before.  Only Li’l Kim to army crawl, still zero teeth, and waking up once or twice through the night since seven months old.  Slept so much better when brand new.  Wishing you a wonderful last month of being an infant.

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photo by Gaga Photos 

 

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Reflecting on Roots during March Nor’easter

And just like that, we are back in NYC.

During today’s magnificent nor’easter, where umbrellas are turnt and the wind is pushing us around like a bully, I have this moment to reflect on our visit to LA.

“Just like that” included 30+ hours of flight delay, our worst flight experience ever.  This was 4.5 hours trapped on a plane that never took off, countless pilot announcements that assured us that “once we get to the de-icing machine” we would be taking off and then getting timed out due to FAA regulations, getting to the hotel at 3:30 am after the shuttle was delayed, schlepping loads of luggage on ice-covered stairs beyond the hotel parking lot, and living at the airport the next day after checking out of our tiny hotel room.

I am beyond grateful for no one getting sick despite the exhaustion.  In fact, the boys hardly noticed the plane delay as they were content, watching airplane TVs directly in front of their mugs for hours upon hours.

This was baby girl’s first flight outside of my womb.  Dramatic first flight experience.  She hardly cried out on the plane despite usually sleeping only in her crib.  She was just happy to sleep on my body, whether stuck on a plane or camped out the next day waiting for our make-up flight.

I had a talk with my oldest that traveling is a huge blessing in that it takes health, time, and money to be able to swing it.  When this monstrous delay hit, Micah thoughtfully said, “We had the money and health, but not the time.”

When I was pregnant with Olive last year, we opted to travel to Orlando instead of LA for various reasons.  One of the reasons was that LA is always loaded for me.  It is my Sliding Doors city, though I never aspire to be a Gwyneth in any form.  This could have been my other life.

So, visiting my hometown always makes me more emotional than traveling elsewhere.  It’s a trip to drive around the places I grew up.  Memories flood me as I recall moments, as blurry as they may be.

It almost seems like fiction that I was ever 20-somethang, meeting up with girlfriends, working my first full-time job in West Hollywood (you mean I gotta do this almost everyday!?), eating sushi complete with soy sauce, wasabi and ginger from my lap while stuck in traffic on Sunset Blvd., commuting from Chatsworth to UCLA for graduate school, blasting POWER 106 while cruisin’ the Valley.  Or even before then, attending high school and being a teenage girl feeling all them feelin’s.  Junior high when it was still called junior high, all the way through when we first immigrated to Koreatown LA when I was almost five.

And when I’m back with those I lived those moments with, my NYC life seems like it was all a dream…until I look at the husband and three New Yorker kids who are living proof that NYC happened…and is still happening.

I used to think that staying in your hometown wasn’t truly living and drooled at my globetrotting girlfriends’ experiences but I now see the beauty of staying close to home as good things are often right under your nose.

I am super grateful for all of life’s moments and while the “L” word is sacred to me, I can honestly say I have love for everyone that has ever been a part of my life in some way, those who were visitors and those who remain.

Only the good Lord knows where we might end up next.  I would love more sun, slower pace, lower cost of living, nature, nature and more nature, people of color, good public schools, at least one fat life-giving job, and people to do life with.  (Kevin said most of my list points to Florida but NO, please NO!)

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