As it turned out, she was the school district psychologist in charge of the accelerated program. She and I entered the closet-sized office on the 3rd floor and she gave what was basically an IQ test. It was a big day. One that affected my entire life, though I didn't know it then. I even remember 2 of the questions:
1. If you lost your wallet in a baseball field, draw the path you would take to find it.
2. If you had a 3 qt bucket and a 5 qt bucket, how would you measure out 4 qts?
I ended up leaving my little elementary school. The next year, I got bused to the other side of town to attend 6th grade with other children also pulled out of their elementary school. Whatever friendships we had in our own neighborhood swere hard to maintain since we spent our days with another group of kids. It was harder in the summer as we tried to maintain friendships with kids who lived all over town. But we did. Atleast I did. Because at The Program, I found a group of kids that were so much like me, that I felt like I had come home. I could be myself, without holding back.
The new school was hard for me. The other kids had already been together a year. The Program didn't teach in the traditional methods but encouraged us to explore and imagine in new ways. We even had to schedule the day and complete our assignments by the end of the day. At 11 years old! I didn't do very well at first. But I caught on, and I have to say that The Program, in a way, saved my life. Atleast it saved my intellectual life. It was also there that I met a gangly boy ,known here as HH. He had scraggly wavy hair, big geeky glasses and had a penchant for wearing a white "Saturday Night Fever" vest. But that story will come later.
It became clear to me very quickly that The Program was envied and despised all at once and grown-ups didn't hesitate to let us kids know it. In fact, not only were parents antagonistic toward it, so were District administrators and other teachers. Miss G., larger-than-life, made it her mission to protect The Program - the teachers, who loved each and every one of us as individuals, and each and every one of us geeky, gangly, bespectacled, multi-syllable-spewing 11 year olds. Not every child from that class could be considered "successes," but for me, it was the booster rocket that made me all I am.
So, Monica G., here's to you!
I didn't panic until 2 days before the wedding, when I realized I have NOTHING to wear. If you have seen my closets, you'd know this could not possibly be true! However, I felt compelled to hit TJMaxx anyway and tried on 7 dresses in 7 minutes. Found 2; both black, hip, cute, with an empire (say ohmpeeer like Stacey) waist. Both were great, but both had faults so I left with none. However! for the first time ever! they had Lancome at TJMaxx and I left with a blush and eyeshadow duo in beautiful groovy colors. Anyway, I was glad I didn't get those dresses when I realized that half the 20-somethings at the Reception were wearing black polyester "ohmpeeer" waist dresses. And I'm no 20-something.
Getting back to them...
When they were wee little, I used to take Abby and her older brother on walks and trips for ice cream or burgers. I doubt they remember those times, but I remember themt with fondness. They have grown to be wonderful, responsible, fun-loving (even sarcastic) Christian adults with nary a rebellious bone.
The groom's family was happy. The brides family was happy. The entire extended family was happy. All the friends were happy. There was no tongue-wagging or clucking to be heard. In Corea, both families must sign the marriage license. That's why if one side doesn't approve, you literally cannot get married. In the US, we have the freedom to decide as adults what to do. That's good and bad. However, my friends have raised their children with respect; trusting that they need to learn to make decisions, that they are God's, too.
The Cruses live the words 'children, honor your parents, and parents, do not frustrate your children,' and have been accordingly blessed. Oh, did I say they were always happy with no problems? Oh, no. Did God say we'd be rich and famous and beautiful and kept from harms way? No, the Lord our God said He would "cause all things to work together for good to those who love Him, to those who are called according to His purpose."
Oh. They have had their share of heartache. But they lived through encirecled by His everloving arms, trusting Him, talking to Him and knowing He is their loving God.
I sat in my car as I listened to Renee Montagne interviewing Melissa Block, a regular correspondent. She and an NPR team were in China, preparing for a week-long series, when the earthquake hit. They obviously had to revamp or even cancel some of the scheduled stories. When asked about the impact of the quake, Ms. Block said she had been concentrating on individual stories and so still has a hard time "wrapping her head" around the scope of the tragedy. When asked what is the most enduring image in her mind, Ms. Block relays this:
A 2-year old child and his grandparents were buried under the rubble of their house. His mother was climbing through the rubble, and "In this incredibly anguished voice, with this just heart-breaking pain, calling out to him, 'Mom is coming for you.' "
But memories are not what you think. Atleast not all that you think!
The following is a true story. The name has been changed, because, well, I don't know the guy's name. This guy, let's call him Jose. Jose hated elevators. Which may be tolerable except that he lived in a high rise. The panic attacks came intermittantly, and unexpectedly. One day, he entered the elevator and met up with an elderly neighbor whom he rarely saw. He exchanged a tentative smile with her even though he could feel his pulse quicken and his panic rise.
Then, through the panic, something came to him. At that moment, he realized that this woman smelled just like his mother...one of those old fashioned fragrances. The mother that brutally abused him as a child. If this neighbor left her lingering scent in the elevator, Jose would start to panic, and he could not tie it to anything in particular, except the elevator, until that moment.
Memories are not what you think. It isn't all about verbal or image recall, stored in your consciousness. Memories are often "stored" in your body, somewhere. I find this fascinating.
Do you, or do you know someone who gets sad at certain times of the year? When I was a naive 15, I dated a very handsome 18 year old. All summer long, he'd pick me up in his Mustang at dusk and we'd do the movie/pizza routine. By the end of the summer, when he hadn't gotten what he thought was a package deal, he broke up with me. For years and years after, when August would wane and the sun would lean toward the horizon, I would get malancholy without knowing why. Some people actually develop real, physical symptoms - allergies, illnesses as well as phobias. Do certain songs, smells, tastes take you back to another time? or more accurate to this phenomenon, do you get in a mood you can't explain? Your body may very well remember, triggered by an unrecognized stimulus.
Memories are not what you think.
We have a photo of our extended family, posing on the tarmac at Kimpo airport in Seoul. I don't actually remember the moment. It has been replaced in my mind by the photo. I do remember asking my grandmother to buy us red carnation corsages. And there we all are, in January, in our winter coats, with buttoneers. [Where did she find carnations in January in a third world country??]
I remember sitting next to my mom on the plane, the interminable rumbling noise of the jet engine. I remember getting one of my frequent knee aches, being comforted by my mom, being given medicine (Salon-pas.) The next image is the long corridor and fluorescent lights of Kennedy. A white American man in a military uniform offered to help my mom by carrying me. I remember looking at his face, this stranger, as he carried me, his stride shaking my vision, like the hand held camera of film verite. I remember scrutinizing his pink skin, his prominant, high-bridged nose, and the odor to him that was unfamiliar.
I don't remember the exact moment when we saw my dad. It had been 6 years when I was 1, when he himself left from Kimpo airport. I have a vague sense that when he saw me, he hugged me. I don't remember. This man, my "father." This man, whose picture we had on our wall. This man, who I was meeting, really, for the first time.
I look back at our family photos and I realize that year, my father was 38. My mother was 34. With 4 kids. Half-way around the world. A different language. Different customs.
Here I am, more than 10 years older than my mother was. I listen to my only child in the next room playing happily by himself. I am happy, in a home I love, in a country I love.
I think about what my parents did, and I am humbled.
The other day, we were at a playground and we saw some terrazzo wall tiles in red, tan and green. I wanted to see what he thought of the multi-toned speckled material so I asked him what color the top tile was. He said "It's red. Just like a tomato." And he was right. It was a red that had touches of orange and brown in it; not a blood red, not a lipstick red, but like a tomato/tomato sauce red. I asked him about the lower color and he said, "It's green, like my pillow." Again, he was right on. He has a pillow case that is a very detailed view of a lily pond and the wall tile had the deep shade that dominates this fabric.
So, you may have guessed from the title, that my son is colorblind. Yet his sensitivity to tonal changes and recall from his memory bank are amazing to me. As a designer, I have a knack for remembering colors, too. If I see a color someplace, oh let's say my sofa, I can go to the store and usually pick accessories without a color swatch. Back to my son. He is colorblind, but he sure can see.
It's hard to know exactly how a color blind person sees. How can we recreate what someone else interprets in their brain? But we of the color viewing population might think they see things in variations of one tone. What do you think?
When we say we want a culture that is "colorblind," does that mean that people are to be seen as variations of one tone? As an East Asian, a Corean, am I to see others as variations of my coloration? that is, my culture, my experiences, my view? My skin color is toastier, with an olive tone. Not just the color, but my skin structure is thicker, tougher. My hair has a different structure, too, shaped differently, responding to chemicals and scissors in a very particular way. Or, as an American, am I to be seen as a variation of white? I'm talking about superficial qualities because I'm trying to tie this back to being literally color blind, like my son.
Figuratively, I don't want you to be colorblind.
I want you to see me.
This little boy was handed to me by another woman. A woman and her family, that loved him fiercely for 6-1/2 months, and cried harder than I did when we said goodbye. She got him from another woman, who cared for him for a month. I don't know if she loved him or she simply did her job, but I am thankful nonetheless. This faceless caretaker, in turn, got him from his mother, a 19 year old single woman, who is not allowed to keep her own flesh.
Torn. Torn. Torn he was.
And now he sleeps with a measure of peace, hoping that he will not be torn again. The little scars in his heart remain...turning red with anger when he is afraid.
I will take care of you. I will love you forever. I will never leave you.
- Olive oil
- A spoon
- Lotion soap
- Hand lotion
This is NOT an exact science. It's going to work by loosely following these directions.
- Stand over the sink.
- Pour about a tablespoon of olive oil onto your palms. Rub. Rub. Rub. Everywhere, up to your elbows if you want!
- Dump a spoonful of sugar onto your palms. Rub. Rub. Rub. Everywhere, your cuticles, your knuckles.
- Pump some lotion soap onto your palms. Rub. Rub. Rub. Are you getting the hang of this?!
- Now, turn the water on and let it get warm. Rinse.
- Put on hand lotion.
On Saturday, I had an "Alexander" day. You know, The Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day day. It was a small thing, but I find it's often the small things that push me over the edge.
I needed to go to Old Money Towne to get my glasses fixed. It is an hour's drive from Po'town, so I'd been avoiding it. So Saturday, I pulled my Mother's Day card and got HH (Handsome Husband) and Booboo (Adorable 5 year old male child) to join me on this trip. Halfway into the trip, I realize I forgot the glasses that needed fixin' and it would be too late to turn around and besides who wants to do that right??
So we pulled over at Bird Top Convenience Store to ponder our situation, during which time my HH pondered and I hurumphed and gullumphed and acted very mature. Boo and I step out of the car to get something to drink. So Boo, all 47" and 5 years of him, says, "Mom, stop on the sidewalk for a minute." Which we do. Then he says,
"I want to give you a hug so you won't be sad anymore."
There's a story told in Korea that goes like this:
An elderly man decided to take a walk down the street. His 90-year-old mother admonished him, "Be careful crossing the street."
If you'd like your mother to be a little less of a mother, as my wise Pastor preached today, "Give it up!" Because she will always be your mother.
That, my friends, is the pain and beauty of it.
Happy Mothers' Day.
Last night, I went into The Big City to visit a good friend. She invited 2 other friends, and we 4 enjoyed wine and a meal with jazz in the background. If you are a SAHM, and don't get the adult time you crave, you'll have an inkling of what this evening meant to me. The other 3 are architects, like me, but they continue to practice. Even though I was in a comfortable apartment with 3 other women, I distinctly felt Different. As an architect, I often (usually) found myself in the company of men. It happened often enough throughout my life, that it became normal to me.
How did I come to feel like the proverbial fish out of water, among colleagues, among other women?
My son is headed to 1st grade next fall. I purposely put him in half-day Kindergarten this year, knowing it would be our last year spending lazy days together. So, I have been thinking about going back to architecture when he is gone from me all day.
Last night, I think, was God helping me to get my feet wet. He sent down a gentle rain, nourishing this dormant part of me, preparing me.
When I need my son to do something, like tear himself away from "Curious George" to put on his shoes (so that we can make the car line in the morning,) I don't ask him, "Honey, would you like to put your shoes on now?" What do I do when he says No?
Instead, I learned to say, "You CAN put your shoes on now."
I am not only getting my son to do what I want (heh) but I am enabling him and encouraging him that he is able and capable to do the right thing. It is not demanding that he obey me in a way that demeans him. It puts me as his caretaker and number one fan who is informing him that he is strong. He can.
How did this big word become so small in our lives?
"Hey, Icn do that ferya."
"Sure, Icn see that!"
It is surprising how this overlooked and abbreviated word has such power. And to state the obvious but often overlooked notion: words have meaning. And words, spoken in truth, have the power to change, to heal...to get your son to turn off "Curious George."
I'm a late "Boomer:" late to marriage, late to child rearing and on the tail-end of the Boomers making me technically a Jones. I live with HH (Handsome Husband) and BooBoo (adorable 7 year old male child,) in a small town in the East. I grew up in a small town and always wanted to be in the big city. I did my round - Philly, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Boston. In the end I've discovered I like small towns. I like feeling safe. I like the lower cost of living. I like not having to keep up.
I was born in Korea. We immigrated here when I was 6 years old. I came with my family to join my dad, who was already in the U.S. getting his PhD in Math. So I fit the stereotype of being good at math. You know why the stereotype, right? Because many East Asians came here to study math and science. Then they had kids. Who were good at...you guessed it.
I got a BA and a Masters. I am an architect that specializes in large institutional projects, like schools and libraries, but I like healthcare best. I'm not sure if getting back in the profession is in the cards for me. I like where I am now and if anything, I may want to explore some other interests.For now, I am the Board President of our public library. I love books. I love stories. I believe strongly in the importance of literacy. Do you know 50% of Americans are functionally illiterate? I also volunteer at a thrift store that supports a prison ministry. It helps recently released men learn how to hold down a job. I also help at our church (see below.)
I am an introverted, conceptual, artistic, philosophical, sarcastic person. I am simultaneously highly organized, mathematical, impatient and outspoken. I often throw people off without meaning to. If I don't say "hi" to you, it's because I'm thinking about something obscure. But the next time, I may jabber about the sale at Bloomingdale's.
I love to shop, especially at yard sales, thrift store, craigslist and clearance sales. I have gotten amazing things for me and my family. . . and even some of my friends. I believe it is one way of being a good steward of what God has given us. I also believe it is one of the "greenest" things we can do. Easily. I do my best to keep my family healthy by carefully selecting consummables and doing my best to avoid plastics and other petroleum by products. My favorite star chef is Nigella. Simple, unpretentious, beautiful, delicious.
I am active in my small start-up church. I occasionally lead a women's Bible Study, take care of the bulletins, do some graphics, and help out in any way I can. We are a conservative Presbyterian branch that believes the Bible is God-breathed. I believe it literarily. That means I want to understand the Bible in its historical, cultural and self-referencial aspects and take literally that which should be (Jesus is the only way) and understand metaphorically things which should be (harder for a rich man to enter Heaven than a camel through the eye of a needle.) I believe in Christian liberty, that each Believer, having learned about God through the Bible, is lead by the Holy Spirit to please God. I do NOT believe in rules and regulations about what to wear, what to listen to, who to vote for, what party to be in, how much to give and so on. However, I also believe in making wise and fair judgements (as opposed to being judgemental) according to God's word and carrying through those beliefs whether ya likem or not.
And. I fail miserably every day to be the Christ-like person I'd like to be.
Why do I blog? I'm not completely sure yet. Of course it's like a diary for me, in a way, getting out feelings and thoughts out there to see if they make sense. I will tell you it will not always be pretty. I will talk about joys, beauty, funnies... but also pain, prejudice and even anger. Ride along with me.