Ebenezer Stone Valentine’s

I’ve always had a thing for nature.  Going on nature walks alone or with the family always puts me in a calmer, happier mood.  I like picking up special rocks or shells though it’s been a minute.

So, no surprise that I got excited to discover this passage recently:

12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it between Mizpah and Shen, and named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”  – 1 Samuel 7:12 NASB (emphasis added)

And I became even more excited when we drove by this gorgeous scene this past rainy Sunday afternoon in LA (Tujunga) on the way to a church event.  The boys were gracious enough to allow Kevin to make an inconvenient U-turn in the rain, so that photo-loving Mom could memorialize something once again (Olive had no say or clue as her car seat is still rear-facing):

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Whenever the Israelites would pass by the stone named Ebenezer, they would remember how the Lord had helped them and acted on their behalf.

When I saw these striking stones set in these eye-catching formations, right by a street named Elmhurst, same name as the NYC area our old church was located, I, too, remembered.

“Guys, we have to always look back and remember how God helped us.  Remember when we were in limbo for 37 days last July, when we didn’t know if we could actually move to LA or if we should look for back-up housing in NYC?  And now we live here, driving everywhere with oceans of parking and drivers who hardly honk.”

As I wonder about the future once again, our hopes for 2019, and I become confused or anxious, I have to breathe and remember.  God will help.  Maybe not exactly the way I pictured, but He will.

(Only after my three minute iPhone photo shoot, I noticed a “No Trespassing” sign).

Happy Valentine’s 2019!

 

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1.9.19: Cute Date Alert and Reminder to Be Present

Happy New Year once again!  I like to use this greeting until February.

Yesterday was cute date 1.9.19.

I am struggling with finding the time to do everything I need to do and want to do.  My brain is never in rest mode as it is always thinking in list form, for the things I need or want to do for the three kids, for the family or home as a whole, or for myself.

Even during a morning walk with my baby girl, exploring the still-new ‘hood, my mind was elsewhere, wondering what my next steps are and how I can accomplish them this year.  I have to catch myself and come back in to the sunny moment, as we pick up branched berries and rocks to study.

The era of the smartphone is not good for my inability to shut my mind off.  I even borrowed “How to Break Up with Your Phone” from the library but only skimmed it as I got distracted, probably by my phone, or the kids, or other more pressing or enjoyable matters, and had to return it on its due date as another patron had requested it.

Olive was my cute date to her new Mommy and Me class this year, on cute date 1.9.19, and as I set her down, I happened to check my phone “real quick” and then became preoccupied thinking about more To Do’s that the phone check had sparked.

On New Year’s Eve 2018, I jotted down some notes using the Rule of Life, first introduced to us through our old church in NYC.  Here are the steps:

Step 1
Write down everything you currently do (or hope to do) that nurtures your spirit and fills you with delight  (e.g. people, places, activities).   Normally, when we think of spiritual activities, we limit ourselves to things such as prayer, going to church, worship, and Bible reading. Don’t censor yourself.  Your list may include gardening, walking the dog, being in nature, talking with close friends, cooking, painting, jumping out of airplanes, or any number of other possibilities. List them all!
Step 2
Write down the activities you need to avoid, limit or eliminate that pull you away from remaining anchored in Christ.  This refers to avoiding certain things that impact your spirit negatively – such as violent movies, excessive social media involvement, being harried, and going beyond your limits. The list that you create, whether you know it or not, is your unconscious way of life.
Step 3
What are the challenging “have to’s” in this season of your life that are impact your rhythms? (e.g. caring for aging parents, a special needs child, a demanding season at work, parenting small children, an illness, etc.)

 

I was able to use this as a tool to recognize that in Step 1, rest, being out in nature, doing life with others, writing, reading, prayer and more were crucial for me to be healthy.

Step 2:  excessive social media scrolling and phone-checking and stacking up my days so that there were no margins to breathe were harmful to me and anxiety-inducing.  Kevin, a peacekeeper to a fault, shared that for him, arguing with me was in his Step 2 as something he needs to avoid.  That actually helped me understand his mindset more as I am more confrontational by nature.

And Step 3 is tricky as we are in a season of life where a toddler, as ladylike as she is, zaps our energy and our two growing boys also need us in different ways.  So in one sense, this is a reminder for us to slow it down and not pack it in, but Kevin and I both like to do a lot: participate in different activities and spend time with quality people so that we are not an island unto our family unit.  The key is always balance:  much needed rest, fun, time together as a couple, time alone on our own, but wait, how about one-on-one with each kid, de-cluttering, organizing, grocery-shopping, and more?

On the one hand, I’m excited because the reason I feel overwhelmed is not only because there is so much I need to do, but WANT to do.

Lord, help me to slow my thoughts down and be present; to breathe and know that You are God and I am not.  Even if I drop the ball on some time-sensitive registration or research, it is okay.  I need not constantly check my phone or have my phone rule my life.

Thank You for a new year to fill up.  And thank You that I need not be master of the universe though I try to control my little household.

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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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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Palm Sunday Pew Fight and Good Friday Grievance

On Palm Sunday, I got into an argument with a stranger sitting next to me at church.  This was a first for me (I think) and it bummed me out big time because I don’t enjoy fighting, ESPECIALLY at church.

Church is supposed to be my sanctuary, my haven, my exhale.  Scuffling with some entitled heffa on the subway when she yells at me for accidentally grazing her with my purse?  Yes.  And different from conflict with people within the church as that is natural once everyone gets to know each other more but I thought surely DURING service, we all on our best behavior.

Picture it.  March 25, 2018.  Queens, NY.

I am sitting in the balcony minutes before the sermon is about to start.  Kevin whispers to me that his back is killing him so he has to stand out in the vestibule.  Minutes later, I gather my stuff to join him because I don’t get to spend much childless time with him these days and we like to worship together when we can.  I also want to be free to cough if I need to.

I walk out to see that there are absolutely no seats left because of the explosive Palm Sunday attendance.  Kevin advises that I return to the sanctuary and try to grab my seat back.

I whispered, “Excuse me,” as I had to pass the one lady who was sitting to my right.  I had to pass her on my way out and I’m sure I was annoying to come right back but hopefully, she could understand that I had my reasons.

I pass her as carefully as possible and she loudly remarks, “OOOOKAAAYYYY!!!”

My Joy Luck Club reflex kicks in and I respond with a “Me so sorry” wince and an, “I’m sorry!” which is the exact opposite of how I felt.  SURE SHE CAN BE ANNOYED LIKE I AM WHEN PEOPLE WALK IN LATE AND HAVE ME SCOOT IN but I am gracious about it because…WE AT CHURCH.

The congregation is told to say a brief silent prayer and when we emerge, I feel my body heat up.

“Why did you say ‘OOOOK’ like that?  I had to pop out to check on my husband and also have a cough attack.  I know it’s so annoying to pop back in but that was rude.”

“Look, WELCOME BACK, OK?  WELCOME!”  (or something like that, maximum snark)

“That was rude and passive-aggressive.  I didn’t say anything when you walked in late, ok?”

We go back and forth and the sermon begins.  I wanna fight her.  My blood is boiling.  Whenever she responds to the sermon with her, “Mmm” and “hahaha,” I want to turn around and say, “WHAT YOU MMMING AND HAHAING FOR, YOUR RUDENESS?”

Pastor talkin’ about “Get behind thee, Satan” and homegirl has the audacity to “mmmhmmm.”  I am so annoyed that I text my friend.  She texts back the perfect response about how she, too, is in the middle of a conflict at home and that we have the power to make the right choice.

I calm down a bit and church starts singing.  I’m hyper-aware of this lady to the right of me.  I swear if she starts harmonizing to the song, I’mma have to quit church altogether.

Afterwards, she awkwardly extends a peace offering of, “Hope you feel better,” which is better than nothing and I say, “I need to talk to you in private, please.”  She says, “Look, I don’t want to get into it with you,” and I say, “It’s going to be the opposite of what you think.”

We go outside the sanctuary and I explain, “Look, I was just hurt because I usually overexplain my every move, like why I popped out in the first place and why I annoyingly popped back in and look, I know it is SUPER annoying to pop back in and interrupt your focus.  I decide not to overexplain for once and when you said, ‘OOOOKKK’ it hurt me.  But I couldn’t let you go without talking to you because this is church, we just listened to a sermon together, and it was just gross.  I couldn’t even focus on the sermon, could you?”

“Yeah, I mean, I just let it go.  And it’s just my personality.  I didn’t mean anything by it.”

“Yeah, but sometimes we say things that could unintentionally hurt someone and I was hurt when you said OOOOOKKKKK like that.  I’m sorry to have fought with you though and like I said, TO FIGHT IN CHURCH IS BEYOND GROSS!”

“Can we hug it out?  What’s your name?”

We hugged it out and no, this is not a story of how we Kumbaya’d and became best friends.  It just felt so much better to reconcile though we may never go further than that, or be each others’ cup of tea EVER.  It just reminded me that no place on Earth is a conflict-free zone, unless you NEVER speak to anyone and silently slip in and out.

And then came Good Friday.  A woman expressed her grievance against Kevin because she held the door open for him and he was so distracted wrangling the kids that he slipped on through with nary a “thank you.”  I actually co-signed with her and offered her MY thank you and she said, “Thank you for that but I’m actually speaking to you, sir.  YOU’RE WELCOME.  I was holding the door open for YOU.”

Kevin didn’t even notice that there was a conflict surrounding him.  He is THAT opposite of me.

I then noticed that I held the door open for families that evening after the grievance against Kevin, on Saturday with friends, and even for a pastor on Easter Sunday with zero acknowledgement and I finally learned that while this is a HUGE pet peeve of mine, I have to understand that people, including my own husband, SURE get distracted.  I will try not to hate.

Also, being a person of faith does not mean that I will just respond with “Shalom” when someone is rude.  I don’t think I even aspire to be like that.

Lord, help me live with others – in my apartment, on the crowded subway, at the office, ALL KINDS OF CUSTOMER SERVICE SCENARIOS, and also, CHURCH.  And please consider moving us to a land with far less people though because You taking character-building a bit far, no?  I’mma go feed my kids some Costco lasagna now on this snowy April day.  Thank You for food and funny snow and family time.

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Church is still my haven.  A slice of heaven, though not conflict-free like heaven.

 

 

 

 

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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Olive is 8 (months) and “When Breath Becomes Air”

On 1.28.18, our Olive Tree turned eight months old.  I’m finally getting used to saying “my daughter.”  It seems like fake news that she ever lived inside of me even though I have pictures and witnesses.  She looks like both her brothers though lately, favoring Micah more.  I wondered aloud if she resembled Oliver Platt when she pouts but Kevin got offended.

She still looks a bit like Governor Christie, just like Micah resembled Paul Giamatti as an infant.

She joined our family when The Middle was 4.5 and Firstborn was 6.5 but to think of those years without her, with just the boys, seems odd and made up.

Everyone comments on her how serious she is.  Her stare game is strong.  Her gentleness is evident too as she coos and babbles and tries to suck on her own toes.

We never had to cry her out for sleep because she only cries when it’s an emergency.  I teased Kevin for jumping up to spring her, Mr. Let’s Cry Them Out When Newborn, Oops, Is That Too Early.  He claims he is not being easy on her because she is his little girl but that once he tried to ignore her cries and she had vomited a bit so she trained him early that she means business when she cries.

She loves to pull on glasses and grab noses.  She also loves to grab her brothers’ cheeks and wants to be included in play.  She is an old soul.  Her smiles and sighs still make me want to pass out from delight.

I recently read an unforgettable memoir called “When Breath Becomes Air.”  Dr. Paul Kalanithi blessed the world with this book before he passed away from Stage IV lung cancer at the age of 37.  His book took my breath away as he was clearly brilliant and unbelievably in touch with his mortality.

Kevin, on the other hand, read a few chapters and put it down.  “How could you put it down!?  I wanted to read it in one sitting.”  I suspected he didn’t want to read it because it is just too sad.  Kevin explained that he didn’t want to read it because the dude is on another level of brilliant and he could not connect to those heights.

True, his intelligence was almost comical.  Laughably smart.  And as a neurosurgeon, his contributions to the world were quantifiable yet immeasurable.  Death does not discriminate.

I also happened to read this book when Olive was the EXACT SAME AGE as Dr. K’s own infant daughter.  Here is a message he wrote for his daughter before he passed away, before he had a chance to complete his memoir:

“When you come to one of the many moments in life where you must give an account of yourself, provide a ledger of what you have been, and done, and meant to the world, do not, I pray, discount that you filled a dying man’s days with a sated joy, a joy unknown to me in all my prior years, a joy that does not hunger for more and more but rests, satisfied.  In this time, right now, that is an enormous thing.”

If I may bite offa this brilliant man for a moment…

Olive, I hope we always remain as close as we are right now, as you peer into my eyes and beat my bosom as you nurse.  I know mothers and daughters are notorious for butting heads and not seeing eye to eye later, but please know that you were just a daydream of mine until God deposited you in my 39.999 year old womb.  Unlike Dr. K, I *had* known a joy like this in prior years, through your brothers, but I didn’t know that I would get to experience this again, for what must be the last time.  Please know that when your not-young mom swings you at the freezing playground, she still resists the urge to lift her mittened-hands to the heavens in gratitude and in awe of you.  (I also don’t lift my hands because I got to spot you on the baby swing.)

Olive you.  I hope I get to be around for a LONG time.  To see my Olive tree grow.

Thank you, Dr. PK, for sharing your story with us and reminding me again that every gummy, babbling, suddenly-not-sleeping-through-the-night, pudgy-cheeked, breast-pumping-at-work-during-appointed-time-slots, moment is a gift.

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