Wednesday, November 19, 2014

From Left to Write: J by Howard Jacobson

To be one of the chosen people of God. I've had a fascination with Jewish culture since my family moved from Chicago city proper to its suburbs. All of a sudden half my classmates had the last name Cohen, Finkel, or the like. They talked frequently about the shenanigans they pulled in Hebrew school. Somehow Korean school wasn't as glamorous or exciting. The year I turned 13 was filled with friends' bar and bat mitzvahs, elaborate over the top parties where kids would get carried in chairs in the air and everyone would dance holding white napkins together in a circle. Throughout my formative years schools were closed for every Jewish high holiday (but not Good Friday) and we frequently talked about seders and Hannukah in class. I wanted to be Jewish. It looked like such a cool club from the outside.

College and life in New York afterwards expanded my love affair with Jewish culture in the form of food and life-long friends.  The Kosher Kitchen was one of the best dining halls on campus and it was part of the meal plan. Manhattan's offerings were even better--Artie's deli on 83rd street with its sides of cole slaw and pickles, Cafe Edison for matzoh ball soup, and Zabar's to pick up everything else, to say nothing about the deliciousness of real bagels! Many Jewish girlfriends and boyfriends enhanced my appreciation for a people that have endured so much hatred and oppression for thousands of years and yet have persevered to excel in education, the arts, medicine and every field of business.

While I ultimately did not end up converting or marrying in, my belief that Israel was given to the Jews by God has never been diminished. So imagine the horror I felt when I found out that, on Tuesday morning, two Muslims from East Jerusalem armed with a gun, knives and axes burst into a West Jerusalem synagogue shouting Allahu Akbar and then proceeded to open fire and bludgeon praying men with axes. Of course, this made me think of J, the novel I had been reading for the From Left to Write book club. I had read a review of the book that it was not realistic that another Holocaust would happen as suggested by the book. I beg to differ--in a world where Jews in Jerusalem can get massacred in a synagogue, is the possibility of another Holocaust really that far fetched? I had originally been planning a different post, but how could I not comment on the fact that most people in this world are not outraged by what happened, and it did happen! Why is the flag not lowered to half staff for the Americans that were killed in this tragedy? Why doesn't the POTUS come out stronger against the incident? Does he even care?

I am praying that God will comfort the families of the three AMERICAN and the other victims of this travesty. If it is God's will, I pray that he will help Benjamin Netanyahu carry out his vow to "settle the score with every terrorist."  Whenever things like this happen, I question whether it is the end times. More and more I agree with the answer my pastor recently gave to this query, "it's been the end times ever since Jesus returned to Heaven." If you live in a place where there are no Jewish people and the problems of the Middle East seem far away, just think about how Hitler was able to affect the life of every human being on Earth during World War II. Ignoring the issues will not make them go away, please spare a thought for these issues today.


This post was inspired by the novel J by Howard Jacobson, about a world where collective memory has vanished and the past is a dangerous country, not to be talked about or visited. Join From Left to Write on November 20th as we discuss J. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Halloween: Jaded Mom Recap

Non-scary Children of the Corn
Stephen King eat your heart out
When the boys were little, I was a bit crazy about Halloween. I took them to ten different parties in October and multiple pumpkin patches. I loved the cuteness they oozed out of their costumes. Maybe it's the fact that they don't wear cute costumes anymore (no more pandas or Tigger), but I'm definitely over Halloween. We did go to our first legit corn maze, making the trek to Dublin with out community group. It was hot, it was long, it had trivia questions that told you which way to go. E and I went back to the car after the first half. There was also a corn box (instead of a sand box) at the corn maze pumpkin patch. The kids loved it. I immediately thought,  "This is why the rest of the world hates the U.S." People are starving and we are wasting bushels of corn for the amusement of our children. They were also charging $$ for the opportunity to shoot ears of corn as part of target practice. All the endless talk about the drought, yet we don't flinch when food that was made possible by the use of the precious liquid is used as entertainment rather than as sustenance. Of course, I'm as guilty as the next person since I was there!

I missed the Halloween carnival at their elementary school because I just happened to have a lunch appointment at Chez Panisse that day. Even if it had been at Jack in the Box, I think I would have picked the lunch over the carnival. Apparently, it turns perfectly normal girls into zombies. And out of all the activities at the carnival, their favorite was "eating chips." Parents and high-schoolers spent three hours setting up the carnival, putting up games and decorations all over the multi-purpose room. The boys and I were there for an hour before I had to leave for Berkeley stretching out cotton to resemble cobwebs and hanging it on the walls. So much effort for a four hour event, what if all those volunteers had instead picked up the garbage in the school playground and fields? A better use of time and volunteer manpower but not quite as fun for the [young] adults channeling their inner Chucky.



The kids (and E and I) paraded around the school on Halloween in the rain. E had protested her original costume (Snow White) to join the army of Stepford Elsas. I ordered it off eBay and we had received it well in advance of the big day. The weather on Halloween morning, however, required E to take off her Elsa costume since it would have dragged in the rain. Instead she was very practical and put on a hoodie sweatshirt to protect her head. I couldn't understand why the school didn't just cancel the parade. I never had Halloween parades at any of my five elementary schools in Chicago. It may have been too cold on Halloween to do so; coats would have hid our costumes and defeated the entire point.

Halloween night was pretty uneventful. We went down the street instead of roaming the hills near my mother in law's house as we had done in past years, seeking out the neighbors known for giving full size treats. Sanity for the full-time working mom won out over the Hostess cupcakes and Costco size chocolate bars. They went through a decent number of houses and got a decent amount of candy (which will be going straight into the Operation Christmas Child boxes). Halloween, done. Does anyone need an Elsa costume?

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

From Left to Write: Dataclysm PIZZA

Photo by Pierre Alan Lepetit

This is a hard post to write.  From Left to Write is a book club where we write posts inspired by the books we read. They are not meant to be book reviews. However, when we write posts that are funny, heart-warming or even simply informative--that is when a blogger writes a good post--in some way that casts a positive light on wherever that post came from because heck, at the very least, that something was inspirational. So let me make one thing clear about the book that prompts this post--I do not endorse this book. To say anything more about it goes against the principles that make From Left to Write such a great book club so I won't go into the reasons why. Instead I will write about something that I really do love and that is PIZZA.

The author brings up early on that the most frequently used word after the word "the" on his dating website is "PIZZA." And I can understand exactly why. I love pizza. I love deep-dish pizza (I'm from Chicaaaaago), I love thin-crust pizza, I love New York pizza, and I even love Korean style pizza with corn and kimchee on top. If I were stranded on a deserted island with a food replicator from the USS Enterprise that would only assemble one type of food, that food would be pizza. I'm betting I wouldn't be the only one. According to Wikipedia, 13% of the U.S. population eats pizza on any given day.

When I think about my childhood and what I ate as a latch-key kid, the image of Totino's pizza and a tall glass of milk instantly come to mind. It was love at first bite when I sank my teeth into my first ooey-gooey cheesy slice as a FOK (Fresh Off Korean airlines). Frozen pizza was the first thing I cooked in an oven by myself. I did burn my hand, but I remember feeling pretty proud of my 9 year old self. High school was all about deep dish, since every club's end of the year celebration was invariably held at Nancy's Pizza. Hey, any pizza place with Ditka on its website is legit by any Midwesterner's standards. And what college student doesn't eat her own body weight in pizza every semester? quarter?

I had the good fortune of going to college in New Haven, CT, where good to great pizza could be found on every block.  Naples was the go-to place where you could get a hot slice any time it was open. They had a article on the wall quoting a history professor saying that pizza was the perfect food and he ate it nearly every day. Well, if it was good enough for him, then any guilt I had previously for eating the amount of pizza that I did just dripped off my plate like grease from a piping hot slice. Pepe's was for taking the parents and Bar was for dates. In college I discovered the deliciousness of mashed potato, white and red clams, anchovies, and other toppings that you wouldn't find on a supermarket freezer pie.

After college came New York City, the mecca of pizza IMO. I have had pizza in Italy and I don't think it is as good as it is in Manhattan, the crust is not the same chewy yet crispy texture you get from NYC water. Lombardi's, Otto Enoteca, Waldy's, Fat Sal's, Ray's, and even the 99 cent slice that used to be across the street from Port Authority--they all had their place in the pizza kaleidoscope. I ate a lot of pizza. I could no longer drink milk with pizza (Asian lactose-intolerance caught up with me), but anything else went perfectly whether it was Jarritos Tarmarindo, Brooklyn Lager, or Yakult-laced Jinro.  

I used to be able to eat 4 slices of an 8 slice pie in one sitting. These days any more than 2 makes my pre-diabetes symptoms flare up. But PIZZA, I can't quit you. Be it a slice from Giovanni's, the Matt Cain from Patxi's, or an entire pie from Hot 'N Ready, I need my fix weekly. October may be the time to break out the pink ribbons, but it's also NATIONAL PIZZA MONTH!!!!! Guess what I'm eating for dinner tomorrow. After reading this post, you might be eating it too!  Bon Appetit!!

This post was inspired by Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking) by OKCupid co-founder Christian Rudder, where he analyzes online data to find out that people who prefer beer are more likely to have sex on a first date. Join From Left to Write on October 9th as we discuss Dataclysm. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

BlogHer 2014 Recap

The last BlogHer recap I wrote wasn't a recap, it was a post on why I couldn't recap. Because I found out on the bus going back to Newark airport that a good friend had stomach cancer, rendering all the running around I had just done at BlogHer absolutely meaningless. If you've been following my blog, you know that since that fateful diagnosis for my friend two years ago, she has gone home to be with the Lord. Her funeral was last December and yet I still cannot believe that she is actually gone. The timing of it all made me associate BlogHer with her illness and the guilt that I felt for taking part in the best party of the year for ladies anywhere (blogger or not!) made it impossible for me to go last year to the BlogHer convention in Chicago. When I found out it would be in San Jose this year, I debated whether I could go or not, because I still made that mental connection with my friend's devastation. But since it would be down the street, I felt like I should go and make my peace with BlogHer and say goodbye to the event that had helped me out of postpartum depression and given me so many great memories over the years.

H learning on the Lysol Healthy Habits Bus!
Five years ago, a friend from Mom's Club had encouraged me to join the LA Moms Blog when it was in its heyday. The blogger events helped to lift me out of my post-baby blues, and when I found out that BlogHer would be in New York in 2010, it gave me a goal--to become a good enough blogger so that I wouldn't feel like an imposter at the conference. It was everything that I thought it would be. So much fun and connection with other women, visiting my East Coast friends and having an awesome awesome time! The next year in San Diego was great as well because I was able to meet up with all the blogger friends from LA that I missed after we moved to San Jose. My family went with me so it wasn't the same crazy ride it was in NYC, but still well worth the nine hour drive. Then back to NYC in 2012 for another round of absolute fun and good times with my two sisters and my best girlfriends. So I will always have a special place in my heart for BlogHer.

At the same time, I think BlogHer was becoming a crazy animal that had lost its focus as a conference on blogging. There were so many parties going on at the same time as the conference itself, it was hard to fit in the actual sessions at the conference! This went away this year as BlogHer really cracked down on those types of part
ies. It was disappointing in one sense as many bloggers didn't come because it was only worth it financially for them if they were able to connect with as many brands as possible, but on the other hand it gave everyone the opportunity to focus on things that they wanted to learn for their blog and personally.

I attended the Count Us, Know Us, Join Us session presented by the Advanced Breast Cancer Community. I learned that many women with breast cancer will have it develop into metastatic breast cancer, meaning that it invades other parts of the body. These women do not identify with the pink ribbons and cancer walks because their cancer stories are different and harder to champion. They do not recover, instead they live with metastatic breast cancer for the rest of their lives. They need continued support instead of seeing their friends and loved ones retreating because they don't know how to deal with someone who is living with cancer. I could relate on one level since my sister has a chronic health condition that she will live with for the rest of her life, and the temptation is there many times for me to wish that she would just get over it or that somehow it should be over or she should be getting better. It's hard to be supportive all the time. Yet I have to remind myself that she doesn't want to live with it even more than I want her to get over it. If your loved one has metastatic breast cancer, you can find more information here. After the session at BlogHer, I decided that I would donate a FB and Twitter post on October 13th, Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day. If you have a social media account, you can donate a post here.

All in all I would say BlogHer 2014 was what I expected it to be and wanted it to be. I connected with some fabulous ladies and learned a lot. I've shared some of the images on this post so you can share in the good times! One funny anecdote, we were going to McDonald's last week but R kept insisting that McDonald's was closed. I asked him why and he said that we had gone to the McDonald's closing party at BlogHer so that meant McDonald's was closed! Kids can be so literal!



Saturday, July 19, 2014

From Left to Write: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory 50th Anniversary

As someone who majored in British history in college, I have some bones to pick with Roald Dahl. When I read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as a child, I took everything at face value. But now, I read it and think, that's just impossible--there can't be a person screwing on caps at the toothpaste factory, a ninety-six year old who has been bed-ridden for twenty years (Grandpa Joe) can't suddenly get up and start walk (his leg muscles would have withered away due to non-use), and, here's the history part, a family of seven in 1964 England in such desperate financial straits would have received enough welfare assistance from the government that they wouldn't have had to eat cabbage all day long.

The absolute positive knowing that goes all the way to my bones of that fact is a small part of the Golden Ticket of my life--my college education. Yes it may be trite and overdone, but for me, going to college was and is the ticket to opening doors for me that would otherwise have been shut. Since we moved to the U.S. at five years old, my sisters and I worked with my parents in their business. My entire childhood, my parents operated stands in Chicago's largest flea market as well as opening up their store in Chicago's South Side and in Logan Square. I remember getting up before dawn and standing outside in the freezing Chicago winter and thanking God when my legs would thaw with the sunrise. I remember my father coming home after being punched in the face and held up at gunpoint. I remember reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and thinking how I wanted so much to win a Golden Ticket to get my own family out of our miserable financial condition. My parents labored seven days a week for the singular goal of getting me to the best college I could achieve. And from the day I was accepted at Yale, I knew that on some level, I had made their years of hard work worth it because my future would be better than our past and present.

In many ways, college was my Golden Ticket. Most importantly, for the first time in my life, I had health insurance. I went to UHS once a week mostly because I could finally get everything checked out. Of course the education itself was the best in its league, but I fully appreciated the other opportunities I had never had in my childhood and made sure I made the most of the experience: joining the crew team, touring with the Yale Gospel Choir, going to Oxford for junior year abroad, and working as head manager of the varsity football team.  It made me the person I am today and continues to enrich my life. I met my husband at Yale when I was a freshman, so you could say that I stare in the face of my Golden Ticket every day!

For both Charlie and myself, however, the Golden Ticket itself didn't guarantee anything. Charlie had to pass the tests to earn the right to be Wonka's heir. Likewise, my college degree has opened doors, but it was my hard work and my job performance that kept those doors open. Any Golden Ticket by itself is meaningless. You have to use the ticket and follow through to the end to make something great happen. I'm so glad I was able to read the book again with my son H. Here are some of H's thoughts on the book:

I thank God for giving the blessing of my Golden Ticket. Boola boola!

This post was inspired by the classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. To celebrate, Penguin Young Readers Group, in partnership with Dylan’s Candy Bar, the world-famous candy emporium, and First Book, a nonprofit social enterprise that provides books for children from low-income families, is launching a year-long international celebration.


Head over to From Left to Write to learn how you and your child can have a chance to win the Golden Ticket Sweepstakes where the grand prize is a magical trip to New York City plus much more! For every entry submitted, Penguin Young Readers Group will make a donation to First Book. Then, join From Left to Write on July 24 as we discuss Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. As a book club member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Great Disney Adventure First Days



It was finally here! The trip we've been talking about for the past seven months. The ultimate carrot that was brought out over and over again to elicit good behavior. H had followed through with his end of the bargain and gotten rid of the Ns in the citizenship section of his report card. We were on the redeye but the boys were so excited we left the house before 7 PM. R was very excited to go on the airplane and was the only one of the five of us to sleep the entire 5 hours. So the next day, while the others slept, he was the only one awake enough to with me on the boat ride from the Swan to Emcot. Sorry, that's what R calls Epcot. The minute we got to Epcot, they shut down the boats due to a thunderstorm so we had to walk back in the rain. It is a short walk from Epcot to the Boardwalk to the Swan, and much faster than taking the boat.

Everyone got a great night's rest and we were off to the Magic Kingdom in time for the rope drop and the walk to the Mine Train. When we got there it was a 90 minute wait, but luckily I had read some blog reviews that said the line moved along pretty well. We got in line and it ended up being just over an hour. While we were waiting, H and I got on the Tea Cups with NO wait. Awesome! We were able to get on Tea Cups, Mine Train, Space Mountain and Thunder Mountain by 2 PM. The one ride we didn't get to ride was Splash Mountain due to some "mechanical issue" (I think someone threw up in the water), but that meant we were given a free fast pass to any ride in the park! The new Fast Pass Plus system works pretty well. We used our initial three, then we got another one for Pirates, and then another one for Under the Sea.

I've been sensitive to roller coasters for the past 20 years. Every time I rode one I felt like throwing up afterwards, even a few years ago at Disneyland. But something magical happened at the Magic Kingdom, I felt fine!!!!! Maybe it was myself drinking the kool-aid too much, but it truly was the happiest and most fun place on Earth. (Apart from Middle Earth, of course.) The one thing I missed was getting my Dole Whip. I was too sugared out at the time we passed by the snack shack that was selling it. It just means I have go to Disneyland at Christmas, just to get it!!!!


Monday, May 19, 2014

From Left to Write: Bittersweet

This past weekend was a whirlwind of family events. My Stewart (actually his middle name) is named after his older cousin Stewart. Stewart and his wife C are in the mid 40s. I don't actually know how old they are because my Stewart had told me that his cousin Stewart was 45 when we first met, which was when Stewart was actually 30-something. Stewart and C are about to have their first baby and family flew in from Oregon, where Stewart grew up. My in-laws extended family is one aspect of Stewart's family that I LOVE. Like the protagonist in this month's From Left To Write's book selection Bittersweet, I have given my heart to this sprawling family that has accepted me with love in return. My own family is limited to my sisters and parents since all our other relatives are in Korea.

Stewart's family is very tight with each other for life events. When we had our wedding in Chicago many years ago, everyone flew and drove in from every corner of the U.S. and Korea. It was the last time we would dance into the wee hours with Uncle Mel, who shortly thereafter had a stroke. Then his wife, Stewart's Aunt Soo, fell ill with brain cancer and passed away after a short but brave fight. Most recently we got together for Aunt Chunghee's 80th birthday bash in Oregon and Stewart's sister's wedding in Los Angeles. During these happy and tragically sad times, the family came together and supported one another and always let each other know they were there to be leaned upon and even held onto for dear life. Even this past weekend, when we were all gathered together to celebrate the imminent arrival of a new addition to this wonderful family, the members of the Oregon contingent made the time to go visit Uncle Mel, who is in a nursing facility forty minutes away.

I am very blessed and proud to be part of this family. I was at Trader Joe's with Stewart's cousin M when I ran into a friend. I don't think M knew how happy I was to be able to say, "this is my cousin M" as I introduced her to my friend. I drove M around town and lent my hands wherever they were needed to help with the event. Stewart wasn't around because he was getting ready for Bay to Breakers and had taken BART to the city to pick up his number. Every moment was special and nice and yet bittersweet. Because I knew that on one level I was soaking it all in to fill up my love tank so that I could survive today. Today is the one year anniversary of my young cousin Dong-gi's car accident in Korea. His life had just been about to take off. He had served his obligatory time in the Korean military, paid his dues at the entry-level posts of his career and was on a project that was going to take him to success. He could start thinking about getting married and moving to the next stage of life. All of it cut short by some bad decisions in the middle of the night. I can not stop the tears as they flow while I write this part of my post. My youngest sister J got on a plane from Chicago to Korea so she could be there for the memorial. I told her she was the representative of the U.S. side of the family and carried all our grief, love, comfort and support for my uncle, aunt and cousin.

Family is important. Cherish it, work at it, don't let stupid arguments come in the middle of it. Dong-gi, 사랑해, 내 마음에 아직도있다.

This post was inspired by Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore, a novel that exposes the gothic underbelly of an American dynasty, and an outsider’s hunger to belong. Join From Left to Write on May 20 we discuss Bittersweet. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.