writing from my blanket cocoon

I dropped off a homemade dinner for Stan tonight while he was at work. Then I tried to force him to make out with me in the call room, but I think his nose was congested. He said there were cameras in the rooms, so I pretend-slapped him to save my own skin. There are no cameras in the rooms. It was a very wifey thing to do — bringing him dinner, I mean. His attending came through the door as I was leaving, and he asked if I was visiting because Stan was on call.

“Yeah, I brought him dinner, too.” What I wanted to add was “Best wife EVER!” Instead, I trumpeted, “Best sife EVER!” and pointed at myself with both hands before I realized I said “sife.” Sarcastic humble brag gone awry. I hope my susband enjoyed his dinner.

I thought I was running late to make another dinner date. Every first Wednesday of the month, our church goes to Breakthrough to make and eat dinner with the men at the shelter. Sometimes, I think it’s common to resort to the thought that as much as you want to be a blessing to those you serve, you end up more blessed than those you came to bless with your blessings. This is blessology, people. I think it’s a way to psych ourselves out to keep doing what we’re doing. Maybe also to avoid pride. Like, I thought I was coming here to be awesome, but I found out I’m not awesome. You’re the one that is awesome. I also think it can turn into secret patronization.

Because sometimes, I don’t think it’s so awesome. Sometimes, the conversation turns awkward and neither of us have anything to say, the random guy I sit with for dinner or myself. The guy I’m talking to will say, “Hold that thought. I want to get you a napkin because you’re sweating.” And I’ll say, “Oh, am I? I feel fine…” Then I’ll rub my face and realize my face is just super greasy. “My face is just shiny from grease,” I’ll mumble. And he’ll laugh and say, “Oh, I’m just inappropriate. I like raunchy jokes.” I’ll force a chuckle, but I don’t care to laugh because nothing is funny. Plus, he used the term “raunchy” in the wrong context. And that’ll be the extent of our conversation.

So sometimes, just sometimes, I’ll think that nothing is awesome. I think this is okay, though. I don’t want to rely on blessology to get me to go anywhere. In ministry, there will be moments that don’t seem to add up to anything. You’re just there sweating in the kitchen and making awkward conversation about your greasy face. I think that’s okay.

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6am

Good: Letting me sleep in or gently kissing me on the forehead before you go.

Mediocre: Coming over to my side of the bed and whispering goodbye before you go.

Bad: Attempting to lift and turn my head using my hair bun when I’m laying on my stomach and turned away from you. And then sweetly saying goodbye.

diamante

Grandpa

Bespectacled, silver

Laughing, looking, gibbering

Grandma, newspapers, apples, incense

Emptying, offering, creating

Last, spotless

Sacrifice

better whole

Being a woman in a man’s world is tough. That’s an understatement. Most ideas of women — what they should be, who they are, what they like, what they look like, blah blah — all stem from a man’s world. And all reactions against a man’s world, well, is still just that — a reaction against a man’s world.

And here I am grappling not only with what it means to be a good wife, but simply a wife. A hot wife.

No, I am not going to shave my head and grow my armpit hair out. Because that’s exactly how you’d want it, huh? Or maybe I will. Or no…I won’t. Maybe I will. No…I wont. Maybe.

remnants

I’m afraid to share some stories. Like the one about the time when a long-haired, skinny stranger opened the car door, unbuckled his pants, and tried to ruin the innocence of my youth. My big sister saved me. Or when I stole… and I was young… and he said he loved me… I hated the way I looked… I got lost. My little sister was born. My mom was sad. The whole house was dark. Except for the ethereal glow from the pink sheets that hung over the windows in my mom’s room. The sheets blocked out the sunlight, but somehow made the room look like it was on fire.

Shadows from my past and in my future. I’m afraid to share some stories. Like how guilt hangs over me. Did I get married and run away? I didn’t run away… I should call home more. I should call the in-laws more. I should see how my little sister is doing. Am I doing enough? I should make more money to send home. I feel like I’m buying Stan’s birthday gift with his own money. Ha. Happy birthday, babe. Love you forever.

I’m afraid to share some stories. Like how I’m saved and I sin. I’m a believer and I doubt. I’ll say things I don’t mean. What’s worse is that I’ll mean things and can’t say them. I’ve been redeemed by an act of complete grace, but sometimes I don’t know what to do with that.

I’ll lay down the stories I’m afraid to share, over and over again. Lay down my rights, my fears. There is a remnant chosen by grace. I don’t want these remnants of disbelief. I believe in a God who is greater than fear. I believe in his promises, and I believe he’ll see them through till the end.

i should wake him up now

Stan’s taking his post-call nap. I asked, “When do you want me to wake you up?” “Three, please. Wake me up gently with kisses,” he smiled. “No. No, I’m going to shake you awake. Like this.” I grabbed his shoulders and started shaking him. He laughed and fell asleep.

We had everybody’s favorite meal of the day right after he got off work — brunch. With another awesome couple. That makes it sound like we’re awesome, too. With another couple — who is awesome. I got myself out of bed to pick the huz up at work. Thank goodness I changed out of me light pink long johns (that was a typo, but I’m not changing it due to St. Patty’s Day) and put on my underthings because we went straight to brunch instead of coming home first, like I thought we would. Dodged a bullet.

Sometimes I think people in our building think Stan doesn’t know how to drive because I’m always dropping him off and picking him up in me light pink long johns. We made this arrangement so I can have the car because we’re from Georgia and drive everywhere. And plus, I get bus sick. I hope they think that I’m like a boss wife. Or maybe they think I’ve let myself go because I’m always in me light pink long johns.

phil 2

This past year has deepened and strengthened the meaning of three words in ways I couldn’t have imagined.

I love you.

Here’s to all the rest.

You are whatever a moon has always meant and whatever a sun will always sing is you.

hi

So, we finally meet again. Just a few updates and tell-all anecdotes.

  • I’m working now! Hurray. I got a job working at a nephrology clinic as an administrative assistant. The pay is great and the hours…are okay. It takes a lot out of me because I have to wake up pretty early, and they’re a pretty busy clinic. Plus, I never really know what time I can leave because there is always work to do. C’est la vie. The good thing about waking up early is that Stan and I can leave the house together. It’s one of my favorite parts of the day (after I rub the sleep out of my eyes, drag my feet to the bathroom, and curse in front of the mirror). He pushes the snooze button once or twice, finally gets up to shut off the alarm, hops in the shower while I’m still drooling on my pillow, and then either squeezes the toes on my temperature-controlling-foot (the one I keep outside of the blanket to keep me cool) or kisses me until I wake up. Sometimes both. And sometimes I shower, and sometimes I don’t. Woohoo!
  • Fresh coffee in a tin travel mug. Wallet with Chase card so I can spend Stan’s money. Phone that never wipes clean of my face grease. Ten thousand keys on one keychain for every door in Chicago. My shrinking, pink brain. Yup. A few times a week, we carpool to work, which is another favorite part of my day. This is one of the streets we take:

Look famils? Dunanananana Batman! (Photo credit goes to Michael Perry from Chicageaux.)

  • I love how the sun peeks through the tracks in the morning. I love the look of the industrial metal beams and columns overlapping colorful brownstone buildings, set against a velvety white and pink sky. I love when the L Train thunders above me. I secretly race it in my head. I’m always faster. I’m like Batman. I’m beginning to love this city.
  • We’ve joined a community of believers here, and it couldn’t feel more divine. We had Micah 6 freshly Post-It-ed on our wall when we decided to look up the church’s website and vision statement — which is Micah 6. Stan and I looked at each other in quiet understanding. We couldn’t feel more at home with this silly family. Equip us to do justice in kindness and humility. Praise the Jesus.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

  • Stan’s picking my ear as I type this. I have to go now.

how knotty

I've always loved this picture.

I didn’t want all my blogs to be about relationships, but that’s all that seems to be coursing out of me. Jodi Picoult (her best known book is My Sister’s Keeper) said in her interview at the end of her novel, The Pact:

I had such an uneventful childhood that when I was taking writing classes at college, I called home and asked my mother if maybe there might have been a little incest or domestic abuse on the side that she’d forgotten about. It took me a while to realize that I already did have something to write about–the solid core of family, and the knotty tangle of relationships, which I keep coming back to in my books.

All I’m thinking about, lately, is the knotty tangle of relationships. This string is about my parents.

We’ve heard the stories so many times now, it’s almost a hackneyed subject–the persevering stories of immigrant parents coming from somewhere in Asia to the U.S. to work in an effort to make our futures as bright and shiny as the elusive American Dream. Sometimes, that’s all it really seems–as bright and shiny as it is elusive. But we second generation-ers still sympathize with one another when we laughingly grumble about it, comparing and competing to see whose parents do what the most, sharing notes and anecdotes about the things our parents do and say.

After so many years, it’s still hard for me to reconcile my parents’ will and God’s will. I’ve never been one to flat out rebel. When I was younger and fought with my parents, my mom would do the yelling, and I would hold my tongue, my mouth forming a tight, thin line, my eyes glazed with indifference. My mom said I could be so cold, but she also felt bad because I’d take verbal blows from her without saying a word. I held this front until she felt bad enough to buy me peace offerings of new outfits and plums. But I digress.

I’ve always listened to my parents and their wishes. When they put my sisters and I on lockdown in high school, we vented to each other in camaraderie, but never disobeyed the rules (or more accurately, never disobeyed them without feeling extreme guilt). When they pushed studying pharmacy on me in college, I went with it until I bombed Chemistry 1101, to the complete dismay of my mom. The stories could go on like this. I was brought up trained to keep one eye on my parents for the slightest nod of their approval.

At some point, though, they started to come to this understanding that me and my sisters weren’t kids anymore. And I started to come to this understanding that my parents aren’t just parents. It was this tangled knot of love, dependence, regret, sympathy, exasperation–coming from all directions. I really couldn’t say when the point of understanding came, for any of us. I just know that it happened. The roles flipped, occasionally and then frequently. Instead of my parents telling me what to do, they asked me what they should do. Instead of my parents explaining choices to me, I gave them reasoned choices and they went with it. My sisters and I do a lot on our own, and we even sort of raise our youngest sister while my parents work. Yet, they are the parents that I revere, and we are the daughters that they baby. And I’m still always looking for their nod of approval.

Sometimes I think there is great love and sadness in all of this, in this double-edged sword. They want so much for us because they don’t want us to end up in their worn and torn shoes. They have so much love for us that they’d pack up everything and move to a foreign country to start a strange, new life so that we’d have a shot at any sort of better life. But that’s just the thing–they have done all that and worked so hard that now they’re afraid to let go. What are the odds that I’ll screw up? We’re pushed to perfection, maybe not by force, but by the seed of guilt, watered by the Pacific Ocean and fed by the money made from long hours at the restaurant and cleaners. We are strained to bursting point because we just can’t get there. The ever elusive there.

I want to honor my parents as my parents, but there’s such a pull in my heart. My parents raised me and my sisters as God-fearing women. Yet, their vision of God is so intertwined with their history that their will and God’s will is hard to disentangle. They see through the eyes of the diaspora of boat people. We see through the eyes of opportunity begetting entitlement. They see through the eyes of the desert. We see through the eyes of the land of milk and honey. Neither seems to be right, and neither seems to be wrong. Acting in separation of any of these capacities would do little but create a bigger communication gap. How do we rectify God’s will, his heart for all of us, in this? What a tangle web we’ve weaved indeed.