Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Mother to One

I had a long time girlfriend sleep over last night because she thought I would be lonely all by myself without H out of town Monday through Friday. I think she knew how it feels to be with that one child all week long. She is also a mommy to a boy, her only child, who seeks out the only other living human being in the house constantly like my little one does. She tells me she had an emotional conversation with her 5 year old about not having siblings like all of his cousins and friends. I fear one day that J will melt into tears asking for siblings, because he is a social bird and he is already asking for a little brother to play with or a little sister to adore. She gave me reassurance I never had with other moms of multiple kids and I do hold a little bit of resentment when they say things like, "Sus, it must be so nice to have one child, you don't know how hard it is to have more than one." or "you can't say such and such things because you only have one," because at the end of the day, we've also cooked three home cooked meals, changed him a million times, taken him to school, the park, a play date, Lego land, the zoo, and more often than not, moms with only children plan more things outside of the house and events more elaborate to make up for lack of company. Even when your children are not the same playing age, there's something about a full house of people that gives a settled feeling of company and fullness.

I understand the physical and mental hardship of having a multitude and it feels like a multitude when you're outnumbered by your own kids at home, but I don't think it's any easier to have one, we just have different hardships. I have other concerns and difficulties as I maneuver through each day, trying to schedule each minute attempting to find balance between engaging with my child, taking a breather from the constant interaction (mostly communicating through cars, and his stuffed "friends) and getting out to have interaction outside of just the two of us. When you have one child, you are the target to 14 hours of chatter, demands and negotiations, you don't have a split second of contentment when your children are interacting with siblings, whether they are playing nicely or fighting with one another, it's the reprieve that is bestowed that enters you into a mini-retreat of mindless sanctuary. Then those times come when your only child is too quiet and leaves you alone, you worry that they're lonely, that they're too quiet, too alone, why isn't that child chatting in your ear about playing cars or solving a Pete The Cat floor puzzle with him.

After a certain point, you can herd your children in masses and they become independent enough to play on their own, with one another, the older children will learn to take care of the little ones. With only children, he will always be alone, and to have any peer interaction they will have to go out side of the house to find someone they will find consistency, trustworthiness, loyalty in their friends. I realize there are siblings that grow up always in contention and they grow apart as adults, but there are greater chances in a healthy home to grow up in a home full of people who will love you unconditionally in the safety of family bond that can never be broken. He will always be your brother, she will always be your sister. At the end of our conversation, I felt a little softened in my anxiety of having my little monkey, who publicly conducts himself as a perfect English gentleman and makes a liar out of me, because there was some validation in the feelings I had about having one child. That someone else understood, I don't leisurely cook full and satisfying meals because he is contently playing quietly in his room, that we sit at home with glorious silence and tidy homes because, let's face it, how much mess can one child make? That taking care of one child some how cuts down on all the activity or responsibility that comes with raising a child, logistically and by quantity yes, but not by a whole heck of a lot.

You as a mom go a little nutty, having interactions like this:

opening my eyes in the morning , every morning, I see J standing there with an arm full of stuffed animals. His bunny, elephant, doggy and Curious George.

J: mom do you wanna play with my friends
M: umm....no buddy...can you give me time to wake up?
J: you don't like my friends?
M: umm...no its not that I don't like your friends, they're really YOUR friends and I just met them through you, we never really play on our own...you're our mutual friend and so, it's not that I don't like them, we just don't have much in common
J: (looking confused)
M: never mind...come here...I'll play with you.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

What Is Your Highest Aim?

 A lot of my friends have been asking me about my Yoga Training program and I think part of their curiosity is "what do you do 16 hours a week in those classes? Yoga??!" Yes, Yoga, but also there's a lot of reading, a lot of lectures, anatomy, physiology, history, postures, philosophy and Sanskrit. Then there's homework on top of that, writing essays like this, because we yogi's aim to be enlightened. :)

I thought a lot about this question and reviewed my days and years like a flip book looking for a common theme running through the chapters. It was quite clear what my greatest angst had been and has been even in the last few days, is people…my relationship to people. I say my angst, because what I struggle with the most must be the all-consuming and highest aim of my life right? Why would I struggle, fight for and bite-my-nails worry when I day dream in the car while driving my little boy to and fro during the day? My greatest aim, to boil down to its simplicity is to love and to be loved – perfectly to my irrational standards. Relationship, to me, is the common conflict I have at all times. I have great stamina when it comes to physical pain, and a lot of times, I don’t feel as good as the clean life I live, but somehow I plow through my days without complaining too much about my stiffness and fatigue.  I have great patience through circumstantial conflicts of moving, losing, struggling through tight schedules, work pressures and even tragic loss. I think I can withstand all of these things much better than if I had relationship strife with anyone I love or think highly of.

I am, what some therapists call, a “vacillator” and I normally don’t fashion my life around what the Meier's-Briggs says or even those Facebook quizzes (which I love and am addicted to), but it explains why I am the kind of person that wants to find that particular person and consume their soul (scary?). A vacillator loves and wants connection. They idealize new relationships in hope of satisfying their longing for love and attention. The ‘chase’ is the most exciting phase of the relationship since intimacy is not yet realized but is just around the corner and we haven’t been wounded yet. We are called vacillators because we are hurt when our high expectations are not met, and we push people away and then want them back, because ultimately, we just want you…and your soul.  We are hyper-attuned to signs of connection and abandonment and are sensitive to emotional temperature of the people around them, and learn to adjust our behavior accordingly, being constantly “others focused,” we grow up with poor self-reflection skills. My mood, needs and behavior is rarely been the center of attention.

I needed to explain that because I know I have this dysfunctional system I rely on for making connections with other people. I have written about love more than I can count; blog entries, letters, term papers, twitter tweets, I couldn’t get myself to stop thinking about love and what it looks like to really live it out. Then realizing, to really love someone or something and acting upon that love, is more difficult than I really thought. It scared me to think about all the sacrifices, all the vulnerable postures and humility I needed to extend and I finally gave up somewhere along the way and I don’t know when or where I lost the desire to love people.

My highest aim is to know the balance between loving people the way God shows us to. There were times when I asked myself how that would even be possible because he’s God and I’m mere mortal. I am so flawed in every way and selfish to disbelief! I was paralyzed by my own lack of love that I couldn’t think of even trying, because I am also a perfectionist and If I can’t love you perfectly, I won’t love you at all. I want to love people without the deep desire to receive the same kind of deepness back, to be loved back with the same passion and commitment, no matter who you are. I also want to be able to remain and maintain my personhood instead of melting into a puddle or crumbling apart when I have the slightest doubt that you don’t want me as much as I want you. I mean…what about all of the plans I made for us? I want to be able to draw and drink deeply from the love of Jesus Christ and know that that is enough for me, because his love has been poured out for me once and every day since without ceasing. From that deep understanding, I aim to love others the way I know how, and let that be enough and let that be the end; “today, I loved someone by hearing their story,” and may it not be followed by, “but nobody asked me about my stories.” I say this, but I do struggle with being private, the kind of private that holds back only until you ask. Then I’m completely honest. I am to be vulnerable and a great part of vulnerability is humility, because in my pride, I refuse to let you in until you ask or try first.

I also want to understand (not just In my mind, when I’m being completely logical) that every day encounter with people, doing every day mundane things is “living life” together. That is friendship. It doesn’t have to come to displaying every emotion you are able to have as a human being, constantly peering into the deep (and dark) end of their soul on a daily basis, to have a coalition you champion together to restore justice and peace back into the world and nor does it mean, every person I meet needs to be “my person” that I would call to drag a body out to the river. The people who are consistently by your side through things like, kids’ birthdays, summer BBQs, random hang outs at the park or a coffee house, to swim at a hotel pool, celebrating holidays we don’t really care about just to have a beer, first day of preschool for Jude, birthday dinner for Hans, and coffee after yoga is just the kinds of things you remember with a smile when you scroll through your old Facebook pictures on a nostalgic night.

Besides all of the internal battle that needs to come to “cease fire,” and declare peace internally, when I picture my dream “grown-up” life in head, I see this very healthy family, without too much indulgence, lacking or strife, living each day happily and with great contentment. Knowing that this is it. The day I am going about today is the life I’ve been dreaming about. To have a modest but clean home, with healthy yummy food cooking at all times, visitors, friends, family, strays, and the needy in and out of our open home. I picture a lush veggie garden, a good solid community, a good marriage, more children and a dog.  I want to be learning something, I want to be part of a Justice mission, I want to care for people, I want to be writing and consumed with something that's just mine. That’s it….a simple life loving God and his people. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

After the Ice Melts

I want to talk about the ALS Ice bucket Challenge debacle, and the fact that there isn't a debacle, or scandal, but just a whole lot of haters being haters. I had no idea what the ALS ice bucket challenge was even when I was watching Jimmy Fallon and The Roots take the challenge on National television (because I get all my up-to-date news from either Jimmy Fallon or Facebook, or Jimmy Fallon ON Facebook). It didn't occur to me until I opened up my Facebook and my feed was inundated with Ice bucket video posts, which I felt super annoyed by. Seriously? Your 5th grade son, who is challenging everyone on his soccer team is going to do some research on what ALS is and how he can raise funds to further ALS prevention and remedy? I felt the fad was making a mockery of ALS and people were starting to forget what it was for, or maybe they didn't even care in the first place. They just wanted to be selected and post themselves on Youtube and Facebook to show that you care about something outside of yourself. Knowing someone close to us pass on from ALS, and watching them deteriorate from a strong, tall, handsome man to someone that couldn't even swallow his own spit on his own the last few times I saw him, I was getting a little sensitive about what this was all turning into.

Just when I was about to make some comment about the mass drones that have no clue what they're really advocating, and how they don't really even care about what ALS does to a person, I was nominated by a good friend. I felt dread come over me, but I mulled the thought in my head for a while, "should I do it or should I not?" I had contemplated ice or not to ice, mostly because I didn't want to flake on my girl. Before I did any research on what kinds of associations and research foundations were available for championing, I googled "How do family members of ALS victims feel about the Ice bucket challenge?" There were several articles on what they thought of this and I changed my mind about the ice bucket challenge. Several family members expressed how elated they were that finally, ALS is finding it's way into the mainstream spot light for recognition and awareness. For years, victims of ALS would give news to their friends that they are progressing in their disease and their friends would just tilt their head and give a half-hearted "sorry..." Like he will have to cope somehow or that he will recover in some way, but no one knew the extent of suffering they would have to endure. No one knew that they are literally buried alive in their failing bodies and are trapped without being able to express their feelings, while their minds are fully functioning. People are finally feeling recognize, not feeling a lone, and understood for the first time because of the silliness. There are some who say pouring a bucket of water on one's head doesn't cure anyone or raise funds, but it does more than that. It gives recognition, understanding, shedding light to something that was pretty much unknown before all the icey water began to flow. There's more to it than just money, support comes in awareness and actually seeing someone, it's easy to write checks and throw money at something and not fully engage.

The next day, I began thinking about what I would say on my video and who I would challenge. I wanted to nominate people who would actually do some research and look into what the ALS challenge was trying to accomplish. I purchased a small bag of ice from a Seven-Eleven on the way back from the gym and texted my friend D.C. if he would dump the water while his wife recorded my challenge. He was too happy to oblige. Then it began, and maybe I just noticed more because I had been part of the mass drenching for ALS, but articles about how Pro-Lifers, aka Christians shouldn't accept the ice bucket challenge because the funds funnel into stem cell research and it's just as if we are to support planned parenthood who are pro-choice. I realize that I was hating on the Ice-bucket challenge because I was afraid it was turning into some meaningless fad, while there was something really serious happening to some of our friends, but I am especially prone to irritation when Christians, in the name of God put down and boycott things they don't even know about. I doubt some of these people even know what stem-cell is, and that it's not all bad in it's entirety. It's embryonic stem-cell that reaches into the abortion bin and not adult stem-cell research, which is voluntary and consenting by the donor.

Then there are these stupid Californians who say the ALS Bucket Challenge in wasting water. No, really, you're wasting water. If you have drought because you're region of the country hasn't had real rain in two years, then you don't waste water, you donate. No one is making you pour a gallon of ice water on yourself, except for the pressure you feel from your celebrity friends and neighbors. Take responsibility for how you will respond to an issue, don't follow the masses and blame ALS for your water shortage. Damn, I hate Californians...anyways...At the end of the day, we can't just look at something so closely that we are forgetting the bigger, beautiful picture of what the community is trying to accomplish for one's brother, but we also can't turn a blind eye to the things we don't fully understand. We need to see the truth of what's really happening and champion what is good, and avoid what we don't believe in, eyes wide open. Then you make your choice to ice or not ice, but have your reason for it and defend it.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

If you're a penguin, I'm a penguin

It's a little later than I like, because it's not good to stay up later than past oh...about 10:30 max because "they" say your cortisol levels rise if you don't get a good nights sleep. I'm not sure my cortisol levels are appeased merely because I've had a good nights sleep, although it curbs my crabbiness the next day. It's helpful for everyone who see me on a daily basis if I'm well slept and well fed and even for me, I'm less critical of myself and less doubtful. All this to say, I'm up writing because I don't want this moment to pass, this moment of feeling supremely lovely and grounded because a little boy, who is supremely lovely himself, wants me more than anyone on earth right now.  I've been at a wedding this evening and for a while, Jude was able to say, "mom, I'll go to hami's (grandma's) house and I'm not gonna cry. I'll see you tomorrow." I was proud of him, but a little sad that he wasn't at all fazed that I had left him for the night and I missed him more than he missed me. It starts here, I thought, where I'm waiting for his call, and when he finally calls me, I say "call your mother more often." He then sighs and says, "okay mom, but I gotta go now, I'm at work." I dread that conversation.

I got a text at 10:01 pm from my mom saying, "Jude is crying for you and he won't go to sleep. He says he can't sleep without you. Can you call him and tell him it's okay?" We had planned to keep him at my mom's house for the night so we can dance, drink, get some greasy food at the end of the night and in the morning, we can leisurely wake up parched and with a mild headache, and make our way to pick up our precious boy with coffee in tow. I wasn't at all annoyed or put out by the text, because when I called and heard my little boy's voice on the end of the phone, he sounded so little and so far away, I couldn't get to my mom's fast enough. At that moment, no one else loved me more and wanted me more than Jude, and perhaps, no has ever loved or wanted me that way ever. I raced to him because I'm a little selfish and I wanted to see him run with glowing face, and his feet as fast as it can carry him into my arms. It was just as I imagined...and as soon as he got into the car, he had fallen fast asleep because he felt safe, whole and right where he's suppose to be. I felt happy about that...that he has someone to run to, a place where he feels safe, his place of comfort and that it's with me.

I think he felt a little guilty that he wasn't brave enough to last the night and into the morning without me, because he asked me from the back seat of our car, "mommy, are you happy?" He asks me this when he suspects he's in trouble or if I seem a little grumpy. I say, "yes, baby cakes, I'm so happy to see you," and before he fell fast asleep he says, "me too." I know he's just a baby and most of his love and want for me is his need for a mother, like every child, but moments like this, in the silence that follow the words, "me too," I am certain that he was made for me and I was made for him.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Kind Campaign...near you

Molly Thompson and Lauren Paul (also known as Aaron Paul, also known as Jesse from Breaking Bad's wife) are two girls from Pepperdine University in California who found girl-on-girl-hate crime to be a problem, and they are doing something about it. They've launched an internationally recognized and locally acclaimed campaigned called Kind Campaign, creating a documentary on the issue and touring the nation, stopping at various high schools to show their girls their film. I appreciate Lauren for having first hand experience of girls suddenly turning on her during the very vulnerable years of junior high, and I appreciate Molly because she has a burning heart for the issue even thought she hasn't had first hand experience. I think every girl knows...girls from age 6 to age 66 (I assume after 66, no one would or should have the energy to be unkind to another woman for no good reason but plain old grumpiness of old age), what it's like to have girls turn on you for little to no reason at all. It may not be as violent as some of the stories we see on the news or even quiet stories that are told through this campaign, but we all experience some kind of girl-on-girl-hate in milder forms.

I understand this very well, even as a woman of age 36, there are surmounting insecurities from girls you are just getting to know, and you don't feel like she's digging you as much as you are her. Girls who assume certain lied about me and believe them all because they're just don't give a damn to ask if they're true. Girls who will compete with you for anything there is to squabble over, clothes, positions, friendships, attention, there is still jealousy, envy, disgust, judgement and competition even at my ripe old age. Which makes me kind of sad and amazed at the realization girls carry their wounds for a long time without healing and they grow old with it, and I am amazed at women like my mother who have not the care of the world to even worry about the upper hand, pride, and all sorts of other non-sense that make girls...well...bitchy. When I see my mother, she is literally kind to anyone she talks to and communes with, anyone is lucky to be in her company because she is selfless to love. She relinquishes all power and winning game chip so that there is peace, so you will feel loved, so she can be kind. 

I understand this very well, because I don't know how to be kind sometimes when all I have given and all that is vulnerable is exposed and it's...scary. I often resort to bring out my bitch to protect what I thought was safe to show, what I thought was okay to share. I am too afraid to relinquish the upper hand over people because I've been hate crimed too and it's enough to make me learn a lesson about how you can't really trust girls especially because they eventually turn their bitch on you too. It's far more courageous to be the kind girl, showing respect when someone is acting like a fool, showing love when you are shown hate, showing vulnerability when you're not quite sure what they will do with it, showing grace when they are hardened by hate-crimes shown by others, healing wounds others have caused. Isn't that what I want too? Isn't that a basic human desire? To be shown respect, love, and vulnerability? It's easy to blind to the small ways we are dehumanizing other women by our hardened hearts and doubtful thoughts and motives driven by fear. Every day, I set out on social interactions with other women with heart guarded, then slowly cajoled open, testing each person with high suspicion, always assuming they will hurt me, if not today, someday. 

How can I be myself and let others be free to be themselves when I am always cautious of becoming a victim? All the times I wrote about love, I have been wrong about it. All the times I thought I was being loving, I wasn't. I am learning more about love these few years of struggle and I think I finally see the blurry outline of what it's suppose to be and it's not pink, or fields of grass and beachy sand. It's more like tears, strength, courage, and loyalty...something like that, I'm not sure yet. But today, I want to resolve to be kind and like love, it's harder than I ever thought.

Fambam Finally.

This past Saturday was my dad's birthday, and instead of our regular dinner time celebration, we decided to switch things a bit and have breakfast instead. My parents, H, Jude and I had gotten there first, and there was a quiet chatter between us before my brother and HJ got to the table from the city. When they finally arrived, it felt happy and complete, there was a hum of contentment and buzz of excitement that my parents were back from New York at last. I'm not sure if we all had gone through a life changing year and we had all met at this one perfect moment, where all of the peace in our lives had collided at one particular time, but we felt whole. All of us. I'm not sure when it happened, but our family had finally jelled together and I had even texted my sister in law that night, "I was so happy today with the fam bam." She felt the same thing. Then when my brother added a new profile picture of the family picture we took during the new year, I knew something was lurking in the water for us.

There was a time where our family was the contention not only for the newly engaged couple in marital counseling, but also for the people already born into it. For a stretch of time, there had been drama with the Property (with a capital P), tending to the elderly and divvying up the remaining "riches" (and I use that term loosely), and just plain quarreling between us because of outside forces. As people we really do like each other and when we get a little food and drink in us, we will act like old friends, even though we are father, mother, brother and sister.  I'm thankful for the family I have because we are so expressive one another, spanning from words of warmth, words that stab and words just plain funny. H once said that he sees so much drama between the Kong family and we are quite clear on where we stand with one another, which is why there is great intimacy. I never thought of it that way, I just thought of it the other way around, we are a tight knit family that is knit too tight that we can't help but to repel each other now and again.

It's another thing to enter into a family knit so tight, you can't get a needle in to thread a new thread to patch in a new patch. I think H felt this way when he first entered into the family, but there was a distinct moment H realized without knowing when it happened, that he was part of the too tight knitted group. After all the ebb and flow of six distinct, sinful, beautiful and live out loud people have corralled together for the last big chunk of years, we have finally settled into a peaceful state. I look back on the hardship and I truly see that my family have been there for every bit of it and I want say that I was there for them too. Thankful.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Terror and Relief

For the last half of this year, we've been contemplating our stay at HCC, and whether it's time for us to move on. When I think about all the history and the people I've gotten to know there, it really does break my heart to leave it. I know that HCC has given me many wounds, and in return, I'm sure I've caused some heartaches along the way, but for my friends and the small niche of community I've been given, I've done my best to be a listening ear.  H and I have been loyal to HCC for the last 12 years, serving and working hard for our keep, sort to speak, but I don't say all this to brag or keep score of all the things we've done at HCC to build it for what it is today, nor are we to say that the roof of this church will come crumbling down as the two leading pillars of the church walk off with it's best assets. Not in the least...but I do feel disappointed that at our most vulnerable and weakest, we haven't seen one person come rallying around us to support us with an encouraging word. Rather, they made us step down from all the ministries we've loved and served in for so long because, it seems, Hans and Susie, are defective and not useful, not for ministry and not socially.

It's difficult to tell if we are putting too much weight on this one moment in time, or if it is the true testament of the community we thought we had. In all the years, even before we were married, H and I have always been the ones "making" the group or the relationship. Talking, loving, giving, trying, calling, being vulnerable, pulling and prying, rallying and gathering, making dinners for our small group with the small pocket money we had as college students. It continues at HCC, where there is no place we can sit back and be pursued, where we can walk in to do nothing but be blessed and take. This past Sunday, we decided to go to Grace Church because we thought, "maybe we just need some time away from HCC, just a little break, and see if that's the cure for a momentary laps in judgement from deep disappointment." It was refreshing in a different way than Soul City, where we  were completely anonymous. Grace church is the kind of small family church we grew up in, with moms and dads worshiping in the bigger sanctuary, while the "young adults" worship in the smaller upstairs sanctuary. People seemed to have long history with one another and most people had parents, relatives and cousins attending the church with them. It's the kind of church I would want, but with my parents down stairs and my brother and his wife sitting beside me, the safe cushion of family around you as you rest on the Lord's Day.

Pastor Jay spoke that day, as usual, but there was a deep searing in my soul as he talked about a counterfeit religion. Maybe all of the toiling, working, serving, giving and doing was a rouse and I had only looked like a good girl, instead of actually being a genuine lover of Christ. He had said something that had made me terrified and relieved at the same time. "When your attention goes from God to the world; money, self, pleasure, including PEOPLE, your affections are misdirected. As a result, sinful character and conduct arise in you." All the time I had wanted the chosen, special group of people, I had been erecting an idol for myself. All the times I blogged here about love, and wanting that special group of friends I can suck the life and soul out of, I had been erecting an idol for myself. It was a house of cards I had carefully stacked, but I knew in my heart that it was about to collapse at any wash of light breeze, causing everything I worked for with my anxious hands would show for naught. It wasn't the lack of love, or attention for my friends, but it was lacking power because God was not at the center of it. this makes me feel a great let down of anxiety, because I don't need to pine for people so I can induct them into my fold of special people. I ought not show favor in that way. I can trust that I can take pleasure in God, and in His happiness, Love is ever expanding to people that are given to me. I can stop being anxious about friendships I have to maintain all on my charms and what I have to give. I can just enjoy people.

Kids make you dumb

This summer has been the worst. I was dreaming of cold IPAs, Ravina, beach trips, summer festivals in the city, laying by the poolside, and experimenting with new summer salads with veggies from my garden and the farmers market. I've even tossed out tentative and pending BBQ plans to friends and family, but I've been a bit occupied by 100 little rugrats. By the time I get home, my brain is a bowl of oatmeal and my mind is racing with "Misses Susie, I need..." and other useless chatter I can't get to stop, because it's replaced with "mommy, I need..." and other useless chatter. I've been interacting with kids of all sizes, and I don't just mean kids from summer school, K-8, but even the Teacher's assistants need a little fire under their pants to get things organized and corralled. At the end of the day, I don't have much of anything left to keep my household clean and my family fed and I can barely make out what we've been putting in our mouths to keep us alive. I see flashing images of left overs from meals out, cereal and random fruit snacks from kids' snack stash, but what's most visible in my mind's eye is a lot of coffee, sugar and booze. Those are pretty clear to me.

Even on the weekends, I've had very little emotional or social energy to keep up with anyone we've been seeing (which I apologize for because I swear, I'm so much more charming than that). I had a conversation with a friend today and she asked me where I was on Friday because she thought she saw me on the road. For the life of me, I could not remember where I had been and who I had seen that day, but I knew I was somewhere and it's quite possible she did see my car on the road. I just couldn't tell her specific details besides that. I've posted a few FB status' I've reread at a later time, only to realize I've made grammatical errors and have talked in a convoluted circle, I've stood in elevators for a full minute without pressing any buttons to tell the machine what floor to go to and I lost 5 pounds from being too tired to chew food. Which explains the coffee and booze, because you don't have to chew those calories, they just give you a good full feeling along with other buzzing satisfactions. All this makes me think to myself, "why can't I handle life? Other moms work and have children all year long." Maybe it just confirms to me that I'm just not cut out for managing and molding the minds of future America at million miles per hour. 

After the end of five week and summer school is but a fuzzy memory, I will look at the wreckage I have caused all around me and pick up the bodies strewn on the way-side, mend hurt feelings, make right misunderstandings, build relationships neglected and eventually eat a meal I can chew, preferably with only a moderate amount of booze and sugar. I will look into my child's eyes,  relearn his face again and ask, "how was your five weeks without your mother?" In the midst of affliction and devastation, there have been moments where everything starts to move in slow motion, like in a movie where the main character (which in this case, would be moi) stands apart from the scene and sees smiling faces, laughing interactions, and sweet kids splashing water at each other, then I would come to and all of the sounds fall back into my ears again. I don't know it yet,  because one needs to step a way from these chaotic times to really see what's left when the dust settles, but I think I've been learning something, receiving something...because I don't taste bitterness when I think of Summer school. Not yet at least...but next week is VBS.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

My Clueless moment

Today was connection Sunday, and like most connection Sundays, I walk into the cafeteria of Hoffman Estates High school when it's bare, before it becomes church and see it's going to be, well, connection Sunday. I never know when it's going to be, I never make a note of it, or maybe I just never remember because there is very little connection beyond the short table talk we have during our designated time. I don't know if I like it or if I dislike it...I definitely don't dread it like the leadership assumes we do. Today, I made this weird connection with someone who wasn't even at my table, and not even during the designated time of connection. It was after service, just as we were leaving, Jude asked for some popcorn and someone sitting by offered him some. I sat down with the two of them, watching by as they munched on a mixture of popcorn, pretzels and m&ms. The guy that gave J the popcorn greeted passer by-ers just as he has greeted me if I were passing him by on any given Sunday. Most days, I would smile, nod and say hi because I'm a nice person, or I'd like to pass as one in public. I quickly walk away to sit where my child is and it's convenient because your child, when they're young, are like a shield, a barrier, a rescue from awkward conversations you'd like to avoid.

This Sunday, unlike myself, I sat down with this person and I don't know if I had been sitting on the side of this person, or on the same level as people standing near by where towering over us, I began to see what he saw on the faces of people he said hi to. Most people reciprocated with the same smile, nod and say hi combo I've been using. Even though I'm not the one that walked out on the limb to say hi, I felt a little bit of a sting of what it's like to receive the smile, not and say hi combo person after person. No one paused, no one stopped, no one gave him a "hey! how are you?" it was just polite. I said to him, "you're good at that...saying hi to people," and what he said in reply was humbling. "Well, I try to make people feel comfortable, I think we just need more of that. And I think Harvest people are pretty approachable, so I'm happy about that." I felt small and petty, here I thought I was doing him a favor by sitting with him, (and if I was sitting there, it was automatically the cool table) but he was ministering to me instead. 

This guy is relatively new to our church, and I don't see him as charismatic or popular, but he is cultivating a norm in our community that is full of warmth and love. I don't know if he ever felt lonely or left out because I rarely see him flit here and there making his stop, flower to flower, so I asked him something I happen to notice because I didn't know anything else about him. "Who is that girl you bring to with you to church now and then?" I find out that he is dating this girl, they've been dating a year, and today, he will have a difficult conversation with her that will either make or break his heart. I don't know if my heart is at a place of extreme loneliness that I asked him these questions, or if I felt a tinge of guilt for all the smile, nod and say hi combos I've given him in the past. What ever the motivation, I was humbled by him and began looking outside of what I've been feeling. Neglect. Perhaps, I'm here in this season so that I can empathize with those on the margins. I feel a little bit like Cher from Clueless the movie, where she had been forced to descend from her place of popularity to see how she had been treating other people. How it feels to be on the receiving end of the shaft. Although I do feel a sadness that my supposed friends weren't coming to my aid at the time of most need, I don't feel as entitled, for I am humbled today.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

That frog story

You know that frog story...more of an analogy I guess, to what happens to you when you're not looking, or when you're not aware of what is actually happening. It's the story you heard probably from your wise old grandad or maybe your know-it-all youth group leader, who in hindsight was only twenty some years old- a kid himself! But regardless, a happy go lucky frog is put into a pot of water and put on the stove, the water only comes to a full boil in a slow gradient that the frog doesn't know it's getting cooked until he's dead. The once warm and cozy pool of water, clear and clean begins to turn a determined, fire-y boil, killing you in the moment you notice. I let this story sink in, and in the beginning stages of letting it marinade, I think to myself, this has to be some evil little boy up to no good, experimenting with his boyhood or some French person making himself a nice lunch midweek.

I thought about this analogy as I scrolled through my Facebook pictures late last night. I scrolled and scrolled all the way back to the first picture I was ever tagged in. It never really means all that much at the moment, when you're hanging out with the same group of friends you saw last week and someone snaps a random picture of you. In some mundane moment, you're captured smiling (or not smiling) and you "like" the picture that's been posted on your wall, because that's all the picture is worth at the time. Four years later, I see how much things have changed and I realize I was already at a happy place all the way back when. In the hundreds of mundane moments, I know I was having visions of grandeur and happier times a head when I was already there. One thought of discontent leads to another and some how, four years later, you find yourself looking through pictures of happier times wasted.

My grandad, or my youth group kid of a leader told me this cautionary tale to warn, if you are not aware of what kind of container you remain in and unaware of what kinds of people you let in, you will surely cook. (Somehow...the marinading took a lot longer than planned...maybe I was stuck on the French cooking too long. Regardless.) The people you surround yourself with, the small choices you make, are the same measure of how the heat goes up in your water. You give in to things because it's not really a big deal, you go with the flow because you're just that cool, you let things happen because it's not really a big deal, at the time. Then after awhile, the infinitely small amount of heat that's been amounting begins to form bubbles, although uncomfortable and maybe even painful, you don't quite know why. It's our pride that makes us prone to wonder, the kind of thinking that says "I have full control," "I would never do that," "that can never happen to me," takes us to exactly that place. The place where Youth leaders knock up youth group girls, pastors having affairs with congregational members, the frequency of drink creeps up from weekend to several times a week. No one ever plans to walk down that path, just like no little girl dreams of becoming a prostitute or stripper, no boy ever dreams of ending up in jail for murder, and no Chemistry teacher plans a career change from high school instruction to cooking methamphetamine and bringing down drug cartels. It's the foolish earthly wisdom to help you make to cope, instead of the kind of resolve Joseph had when he fled the scene naked with his seductress still holding his cloak. 

Looking through my pictures, I was the happiest when I worked along side close friends at Crossing Borders, brainstorming how to bring justice and awareness for the North Korean people. I was happiest when I was on the praise team for youth retreats, I was happiest with the people that I still see now and have drifted from because I thought I wasn't being appreciated or understood. I was happiest when I wasn't so aware of myself, aware of the things God wasn't giving me. I let one small seed of discontent grow into a full bloomed self indulgent way of thinking and living, letting my flesh rule. It's getting a little hot in here now...I think I'll jump while I still have my skin.

"Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one-the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts." C.S. Lewis

Monday, April 28, 2014

True self

Phew! These are just 4 lists (below) of characteristics from the Bible that describe the beautiful and righteous. Now, I want to forget every going to church or crack open my Bible App to read the Word. I love a good inspiring talk, any talk.  Lectures, Ted talks, sermons, when some mom writes an open letter to Miley Cyrus and makes a good point, when a gift friend gets on a soap box about some obscure issue she champions. It inspires me and I nod, and give an occasional, "yeah" "totally" or even a "mmhmm, amen" if it's really good. But this past Sunday, as I was taking notes on characteristics that shows you to be wise, and it jabbed at me that these characteristics, rightly and solely only belong to God and  seems daunting to achieve. I cannot measure up to the women in Proverbs 31 and that is a common and wide spread groaning among Christian girls every where (So, stop showing this verse to us, guys). Even if I weren't a Christian and I read this verse, I would be complete impressed with her-yes! but turn and slitter away from church in shame. I have a crippling disease called Perfectionism and any time I realize it would be impossible for me to win or achieve in full completion, I will scrap the whole project. That day, I wanted to scrap ever trying to do the difficult thing to be Christ-like and live my life to eat, drink and be merry.

Most Sundays, I sit at one of those round high school cafeteria tables, you know...the ones only Seniors (or cool juniors) get to sit at and wonder, what am I doing here? Better yet, what am I doing leading this congregation in praise on certain Sabbath days? They would barely be able to look at me let alone be led to song in my leading. As Pastor D expanded on each of the characteristics of someone with wisdom, I felt myself shrinking in my seat at every mention of it's beauty and righteousness. I imagine lots of people have felt this, as they try to keep their Christian poker face, their insides are bubbling with guilt and inadequacy. That feeling you get when you're sitting next to someone like Natalie Portman and you feel the physical and mental discrepancy between you. Completely ashamed and defeated from the impossibility of ever measuring up to her.

I love what the Bible says about who is beautiful and righteous, I love the God we worship because he wants his children to look just like him in character. When I read about great Kings with absolute power but with more grace to have mercy, instead of taking what he can with great constraint, I melt into compliance and obedience to God. When I read about women who wait in silence without one peep of complaint, fasting and praying to hear from God, to call for wisdom to possess her, then entering into the throne room of a testy king and speaks out for her people, I covet her tenacity and I want to be just like her. I think all of us are drawn to people like this and love to picture ourselves possessing all of the list below because we at the core, aren't suppose to be evil, unwise, selfish or wayward. We were created, at time's beginning, as beautiful creatures who were created in the image of God. We didn't lose the God given, heavenly core even at the fall of Adam, because through Christ, we regain what is lost and our true, real, authentic selves are to be stunning.

It's difficult to know and remember this when I am conducting out of my insecurities, my damaged soul and wounded heart, always trying to cover and protect myself in selfish ambition. It's difficult to remember that I am a new creation when I know Him, who calls me daughter before I ever prove myself worthy, especially when I am constantly proving to myself, and others, that I am exactly the monster I believe I am. I pray to shed my false self, which is made to protect, hide, boast, boost, and make up for my bankrupt part of me. I pray that I am nearer every day to my true core, which looks more like God's core and that is my hope.

Wisdom in James 3
17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of 
all pure; 
then peace-loving
full of mercy  
good fruit  
18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.

Love in 1 Corinthians is 
love is kind
it does not envy
it does not boast, it is not proud
 It does not dishonor others
it is not self-seeking
it is not easily angered
it keeps no record of wrongs
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth
It always protects
always trusts
always hopes
always perseveres
Love never fails
A good king (or a leader) in Proverbs 31 is not to
spend your strength[a] on women
 your vigor on those who ruin kings.
It is not for kings
it is not for kings to drink wine
 not for rulers to crave beer 
lest they drink and forget what has been decreed,
    and deprive all the oppressed of their rights.
They are to
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute
Speak up and judge fairly
defend the rights of the poor and needy. 

A noble woman in Proverbs 31 on the other hand...
She is worth far more than rubies.
11 Her husband has full confidence in her
    and lacks nothing of value.
12 She brings him good, not harm,
    all the days of her life.
13 She selects wool and flax
    and works with eager hands.
14 She is like the merchant ships,
    bringing her food from afar.
15 She gets up while it is still night;
    she provides food for her family
    and portions for her female servants.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
    out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She sets about her work vigorously;
    her arms are strong for her tasks.
18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
    and her lamp does not go out at night.
19 In her hand she holds the distaff
    and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
20 She opens her arms to the poor
    and extends her hands to the needy.
21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
    for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes coverings for her bed;
    she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
    where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
    and supplies the merchants with sashes.
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
    she can laugh at the days to come.
26 She speaks with wisdom,
    and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the affairs of her household
    and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
    her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women do noble things,
    but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
    and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

In 20 years

Someone recently asked me, "Do you think, in twenty years you would be more like Jesus than you are now?"  My answer was quick and curt. "I hope so." When I answered that questions I genuinely didn't know if I was slowly but surely moving in the direction of becoming more like Jesus or moving away from it, quickly. By looking twenty years back, when I was 16, I decided I wasn't moving toward becoming more like Jesus. When I look back to 16, I see a girl who is painfully naive, innocent, pure, happy, and stupidly confident in herself. Not because she was by any means the queen bee or had a future so bright you had to squint just looking into the distance of it. She was decidedly confident in her goodness, in her purity, innocence, and naivety, because she had nothing to fear and nothing to hide. 20 years later, seeing and realizing many pains, disappointments, let downs, stricken by others and after doing the striking herself, it's difficult to be confident in anything. No matter what she's accomplished or driven herself to build, it's all for naught when you are just not that nice, patient, or composed and on top of that, damaged.

I barely know that girl, who once was put on pedestals and seeing life through rose colored glasses. I can't seem to say, "that was once me." She seems so removed and I've lost her for good, even though I'm told she's still inside me struggling to survive, but I think I kill her ever single day with the lies swirling in my head about myself. Perhaps I've let my circumstances rule me and singe my heart with it's burn. Perhaps, I loved too hard, too much and given my heart away, exposed and it was given back to me in pieces. Whatever the case, somewhere along the way, I feel I've lost that girl.

Adults don't become reserved, humbled, and mature because they've come into their own skin of knowledge and wisdom, but they are less likely to dance, be free, double over in laughter because they are simply too tired, afraid and ashamed. They've seen too much of life, the side of life that has given them enough grief to fill their waking consciousness of doubt and compromise, that they are not free, they are not silly. When I see an adult, still willing to try things they are not perfect at, or see the newness in anything, I see that they are brave, they have not let life happen to their soul. Every day I am humbled, not in an awe stricken way of realizing how vast the universes, how bountiful the love of God, the power of Him who created heaven and earth, how amazing the human spirit that can accomplish great feats. I am humbled by my sin and it's consequences, how defeated I am by the fight of change and keeping it together.

At the end of our discussion, the same someone had asked me a second question; "Is Jesus more like Jesus when he dealing with prideful, blind people, who's hearts are so fickle, they are worshiping him one day and crucifying him the next? Suffering on the cross, weeping at a tomb, flipping a table out of righteous anger, or when he is seated in heaven, untouched, inaccessible, pure, and innocent? That answer was easy too...Jesus is more like Jesus when he is suffering in human flesh, feeling the emotions, the fears, the highs and the lows, than when there is nothing showing his character at all.  I still don't know if I'm more like Jesus today than when I was 16, untouched by life, but I sure do hope that I've lived, suffered, endured, and finally learned who I need to cling to when life is mean to me. When I'm mean to me.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Blogging is not for Sissies: Original piece by susie Shin

It turns out blogging is not for sissies and this topic is also not original. At all. I somehow wanted to see if anyone else thought this out, and they have. Many "theys" have written about it and that gave me settled reassurance that I'm not the only sissy thinking this, and it really is a thing! It also made me feel like I really have no original thought and everything I must write about, other people have  written about too. I never thought I was F. Scott Fitzgerald, but I must have thought I've had some creative thought or made some obscure observation about life! But alas... I have this eerie and disappointing feeling that I have not. Unless it's my own life experience, but that's not even unique! Human history spanning 200,000 years of life on earth, I am convinced this is fact. People have childhoods, dysfunctional ones, parents, good ones and bad ones, moved, gone to college, been kissed for the first time, have had sex for the first time, married, have had a loss, gotten nervous for first day of school, job, motherhood. Those things are not unique to me and my perspective and feelings aren't either. You don't know how many people have come to me after reading a blog entry and confessed, 'I feel exactly the way you do'. I don't think this is the brave part. It doesn't require bravery to put on public forum about things people would nod in agreement over, but it's the things that scare them, worry them, cock their head like a puppy with squinted eyes, surveying you to make sure you're not the love child of licentiousness, indulgence and evil.

Blogging is not for sissies, here at this blog address at least, is that I have to be completely honest about what I feel and see. If I'm going to write about it, I need to write honestly and that means there will be people looking at me differently, judging me, worrying for me and themselves. I think that's what made writers so manic and drunk on their vices, like Sylvia Plath and Ernest Hemingway, or maybe...they were manics and drunks and that's what made them great writers. Perhaps, they need written language because all that they felt and saw needed some kind of concrete way of staying, or else every moment and inclination will pass, only leaving a thin and worn photograph in our minds eye. They had to give fully over to their emotions, passions, angst and pain, to lose themselves to their words and giving it all away for others to applaud over and often looked down upon.

This is why blogging is not for sissies...not to me at least...I give it all away in that one specific topic and fleeting thought. Emotions are fleeting, but they have a way of amounting in my heart, growing heavier and festering to stink. It overflows into blind anger and dizzying sadness, words from my mouth become bitter and acidic, but words from my fingers explain and process, plead and heal. So this is why I write, even if I'm a sissy in so many other ways, I have no choice to write because I'm bound to it and need it. No matter how long I brush it away, I come back here...to my blinking cursor.

Sunday, March 23, 2014


There once was a time I blogged almost every day, and it seemed, words would just fall out the ends of my finger tips. Whatever I thought and felt, ones fleeting and passing by, ones that were stuck and everlasting, I wrote them all to see. Well, it was here for the reading if there were anyone actually reading my blog entries any more. I sit down to write .... and .... the classic scene in any writing T.V. show or movie will show when there is nothing to write and nothing coming to a writer, the cursor just blinks on a white abyss, just waiting and waiting.

It's not that I don't have any feelings or though left, but I don't feel vulnerable any more, and not only that, I don't feel brave any more. I think more to the latter, I DO feel awfully vulnerable and emotions rumbling just beneath the surface, but I don't feel confident enough to say, "This is how I feel right now, I express myself best and brings all the wild rumbling to an orderly tremble, when I write things down." And also, "If you don't like it, leave it. Don't expect an apology." But I am apologizing, I am too scared to write down how I've been feeling and what I really think about motherhood, wife-hood and being a girl trapped in her near approaching 40 year old life-hood. I really do want to, no, need to hash it all out in writing but somehow it's not satisfying unless it's publicly published. Then I know I'm committed to what I've just written and I really need to think about my words, bringing all this rumbling to light where it can be exposed and banished. Like airing out the stale air of my inner chambers of my thoughts because it hasn't smelled the outside air in a long time.  Privacy is kind of like when you're thinking all in your head without input from the outside world.

Maybe this entry is dipping my toes in a pool.  It wont warm up the temperature any and the shock of jumping in a reservoir of frigid water inevitably awaits...but the water begins to feel warmer once you tread some. At least, most of the time.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Still to go

I might be the happiest I've ever been on a Monday besides the first of summer camp or a holiday that lands on a Sunday that makes the following Monday a holiday too. This weekend was suppose to be a glamorous occasion, a time to meet Hans' co workers and have them meet me too. I meant for them to meet the charming me, with the pretty gown I picked out from Rent The Run Way, genteel with grace and pose, the version of me I dream up every now and again. Not the grumpy, sad little girl who is stewing over a broken zipper and sitting in a round table with bunch of financial stiffs in someone else's non-formal gown. Not to say that I wasn't fainting with gratitude that my friend G came from home with three of her own dresses and helped me get dressed, while the boys are texting us that we need to hurry because the program is starting. I looked up at the eager faces that approached me during the reception hour with blankness because I wasn't wearing the dress I wanted. Am I this immature at heart? This rigid and obsessed with my own perfection that I can come unraveled before my husbands' mentors, role models, and co workers? Apparently yes.

Not only did I shrink and not only was I NOT the charming and genteel lady floating through the room, I was sulking in drink and totally came unbuttoned. I can't remember any of the conversations or the people I encountered through out the night. A bit embarrassed, ego bruised and a shocked at the control issues I have about my circumstances, I am defeated. Today, I cleaned the house, vacuumed, dusted, organized the book selves, organized the closet, I made home made soup, did the laundry, and put away our over night bag, which I would have left for a week before I unpacked from a trip. That kind of cleaning. I even put a picture in a frame for goodness sake. I think I'm trying to compensated for the mess I'm making with my friends, with my community and even within myself. I feel a bit undone and crazy. Out of control, and I hate that.

What a sequel to the night I had just the day before, when the same friend that brought me her dress, had invited me to a night at her church. Eden. A night dedicated to women's soul and spirit, to know what it's like to live like we were created to be, live like Eve before the fall (how fitting that the next night, I would reenact Eve's spiraling), courageous. Jeanne, one of the leading pastors gave us three cages we keep our selves locked in.

Cage of control or perfectionism
Cage of comparison or competition
Cage of fear

All three seemed relevant to me but fear was the one thing  that drove the whole bus of perfection I am restrained to, and I can't seem to get off of this bus because it just won't slow down. I realize that fear causes me to keep everyone at arms length so that no one would see that my hard striving toward perfectionism isn't as solid it all seems, but its volatile and about to topple over at any moment of wardrobe malfunction. Someone had prayed for me and saw a vision of God leading me up the mountain, then back down the mountain with face unmasked and glowing. When was that going to happen? It seems I'm not being led up the mountain by God, but I'm leading myself down a dark valley, with boozy laments, and stomach aches induced by late night wings and sweet potato fries with plenty of ranch. Maybe I'm hiking down the wrong way because I'm actually NOT letting God lead, but I often squirm my hand from his and run toward what's been most easy or logical to me. Kind of like my toddler...put my hand in yours Papa, I want to be led now...

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Nice to me

I put my finger in the blender and it's a bit chewed up...so i will keep this short. I wanted to get this  down on "paper" before it slips my mind, my feeble mind, these days. Per usual, talk of resolutions arise when we are at my parents' house because my dad likes us to have goals and dreams for ourselves. That's really the reason, and not some underhanded way of telling us we need to quit being so temperamental or that we need to respect our elders, in another words, them. When my dad asked me if I had any resolutions in the new year after making his rounds to the others, I curtly said "nope, nothing." I was sick of dreaming actually...to have something to look forward to and work toward, it was impossible to have your way when God is always messing up your detailed plans, or even less than Him, a toddler, who on a daily basis messes with my plans. My dad frowned and said, "I will give you resolutions, here they are...continue exercising and write." Thanks dad...but resolutions are self-produced and self-promoted, if that even makes sense.

Today, I got out to the gym after a long stay indoors and even longer stay in my favorite PJ pants had slit in the knees because apparently, I've overstayed my welcome in them. So, I threw them out, put on my fanciest work out pants from Lulu Lemon and braved the weather. I think I just needed a good sweat session to be nice to myself again, putting 2013 to be for good and rethinking my 2014. I should have expectations and dreams for myself instead of resigning to being Eeyore for the rest of my life because I can't have things exactly the way I imagined for myself. I want to give myself a chance to have hope, isn't that what resolutions are at the end of the day? Having hope that this year will be different and I'm going to help it be different.

So, I'll share my resolutions for 2014

- Read the Bible every day
- Memorize scripture
- Practice more yoga
- Write more
- Read more