Sunday, September 28, 2008

Volunteers for Obama

The Obama Campaign is looking for attorneys to volunteer on election day to prevent some of the shenanigans we saw in 2000. If you are available to help, please sign up. I am planning to vote in advance by absentee vote and volunteer in a swing state on the day of the election. Please join me!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Another Morning

As I awaken, my eyes are closed, but my brain is one step ahead of me. It startles awake and asks, is it still there? Can I feel it? I shift my body a little to see if I can feel that dull pressure, the little something that tells me that my body is diligently at work even as I take my time emerging from asleep to awake. I breathe better when I feel the mild discomfort. My brain conjures up a labyrinth of wheels and tubes operated by lilliputians in hard hats, little helpers churning and scrambling to make my body do what it must to ensure the safe development of this new being. I move my hand to my belly to lend it a little extra warmth, to supply whatever extra energy I can.

I drag myself out of bed, stumble slowly to the bathroom, and plunk myself on the pottie. My eyes are still closed as I linger in the warmth of sleep, and the body does what it needs to. But as I start to wipe myself, my contact-less eyes pop open and I scrutinize the bowl for any trace of blood. Nothing alarming. It is relief that sets in, even though I know the routine will be repeated throughout the day. But for now, it is back to bed.

Back in bed, I snooze a little longer, warming up once again against Jeff. And here, I delay facing life for another few minutes, this life marked by fear, worries, possible loss. But in these few extra minutes in the haven of our smell, our warmth, our togetherness, I shore up the strength I need to face this code orange life. I remind myself that it is a life filled also with hope and possibilities, that there is life growing inside me, that today leads to tomorrow to the next day and possibly to that day in May next year when we will welcome this new life. And today is another day to be good to myself.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

My Little Secret

I have a secret.

For the past few days, I've been guarding it close to my chest lest a jealous god slap me down again. Hiding it from the light of day so that no harm can come to it. I am almost afraid to say it out loud. I want to pretend it hasn't happened yet so that nothing can undo it.

I'm not sure if I want others to know yet. I want to indulge in it for a while, like quiet moments in a bath. Protect it until it has the strength to stand up to this world.

Maybe wait a few months as so many other women do. I don't want another roller coaster ride, the sudden high and the sudden low. To see again those uncomfortable faces that don't know quite how to say, sorry... But could I bear it alone if something goes wrong again? Live alone - for however many months - just because I am afraid of what life may throw my way?

But I don't want to say it out loud. So I'll whisper it.

I am pregnant.

I am excited and afraid. I want it to happen this time. I don't want my body to fail me again. I don't want it to give up and leave me. I want this one to be a fighter. One who will stand up to whatever this crazy world may sling its way and say, Shove it.

And yes, I feel incredibly grateful.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Silent Noise

She scoops out the rice for each of us, always a big scoop followed by a smaller scoop, because only one scoop would signify stinginess of affection. My father gets the first and the biggest two scoops. Although my mother is supposed to serve herself next, she always skips herself and serves my brother, then me, then my sister, and then herself. We wait until everyone has been served, and we pick up our chopsticks only after our father has his first bite.

We sit in our semi circle, the legs of the children dangling from the chairs. The father at the head, mother to his left, his eldest son to his right. The scent of the pickled cabbage and radish infuse the air. Steam from the grilled beef rises in a stream before diffusing under the dangling lamp. Our rights arms rise and chopsticks move like mini swords in the air, criss crossing and clicking, as we reach for a bite of this, a bite of that. An ensemble of utensils ring against the dishes, sounding an unlikely orchestra. In the midst of the chewing, words and ummms are thrown out randomly to fill the silence as others respond with more words and ummms, our minds preoccupied by the task at hand.

In the midst of the chatter, my mother stops chewing, leans down and moves her head closer to mine. For a few seconds, she listens, and turns to me and listens some more.

Are you singing? she asks.

All the heads turn to face me and there is sudden silence.

Me? No, Mom...

We return to our chewing. The chopsticks fly again and words and sounds fill the room once more. After a bite of the beef and a bite of the cabbage, my mother stops chewing once more and leans down again to listen. I can smell the pungent cabbage on her breath.

Are you sure you're not singing?


Hmmm, she says. You're making some sound, do you know that?

I don't think I am...

As she resumes her dinner, she ponders out loud what she had heard because she is the mother and I am her child. It is a mother's job to know her child better than the child knows herself, to know she is cranky because it is feeding time, to know her child needs her sleep even as she protests.

I think you're humming to yourself. Hmmm, I wonder what you're humming. Do you want to sing for all of us? Or maybe you have something to say?

It is an open invitation, but I keep my head down and focus my eyes on my plate. I can feel my cheeks burn and I can feel their eyes waiting for a response. I swing my dangling legs slowly to do something and I finger my chopsticks now resting on the table.

But I wasn't humming...

Ok, that's fine. Why don't we all finish our dinner. Here, have some more beef...

And she plops a big mound of beef on my plate of rice.

Chew slowly, she says.

The noise in the room stirs again. As I start chewing in my little corner, my breathing softens and I stop swinging my legs. My head stills, and I move my jaws up and down slowly, taking care to land my teeth softly on my food. I quiet myself so I can listen secretly, to see if I can hear what she heard. And as I listen, I wonder what it is that I have to say, what it is I want others to hear.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Lessons of Silence

It happened one day. When it started, we didn't notice. We must have gone through the day like any other - and perhaps unlike any other. We probably didn't notice even after a week. I don't know when it was a week later because I don't know when it started. But I know when it built up, when the silence became deafening.

It started out as something in the air. Something that felt off, no longer what we had always known, but what we couldn't quite place. Over time, the air became thicker with it until it started to crawl onto my skin, and I scratched to get it off. I wanted to scrape it off as one does a swarm of bullet ants, but it kept getting thicker and thicker, enveloping me, and eventually building a wall around me, around all of us.

After a while, it became normal - a part of our every day lives, like the furniture, a plant - something that wasn't even worth mentioning because it was with us all of the time. We didn't know that we could pierce through it by reaching out. It was easier to ignore, to pretend that it didn't exist.

There we would sit at dinner and talk - but only among us - and try not mind that our father had gotten more and more quiet over the years. We would talk, and he would often just nod in response. We would ask questions, and he would answer a yes or a no, but no more. Sometimes we talked at him. Every once in a while he would talk, but only to repeat his refrains, about school, about money, about the tidbits no one cared to discuss, like checking the stove before going to bed or setting the security code on the burglar alarm. But otherwise, we would talk among ourselves. And the day would pass by.

We understood some things. That this was the sound of a crushed dream. That this was the silence of the night because he had put all of his ambitions to bed. That he wanted to quiet his mind and no longer second guess whether he had made the right decision. That he had returned to a safe place from his childhood where silence had been his shield. And that this was how he preferred it now.

And under the weight of this silence, we desperately clung to our voices. I never let an argument pass without vocalizing my position, and I took unusual pride in my opinions. My sister took the other fork against silence - writing journal after journal, poem after poem. We are the fortress against the eerie silence that pervaded our house as we traversed from teenhood to adulthood, bypassing the silence that read the newspaper in the evenings, ate dinner with us every night, showered, went to bed, and even snored.

At Kafka's Gate

Here we find ourselves. There are throngs and throngs of us. A few stand and wait patiently. Many others roll up their hands into fists and knock, knock, knock until their knuckles turn bloody. Others roll up their sleeves and bang on the door with the sides of their fist and arms, throwing their whole bodies into creating a noise. The thud, thudding does not even reverberate through the massive cherry wood door, and it is unclear if it even makes a noise on the other side. Can anyone hear?

The only thing to do is wait, they tell us. But we also know time is against us, and each passing day could be like a death sentence. When that sentence may come, no one knows. But the only thing to do is wait. And not to give up hope. We are a sea of women clinging to hope.

Some of us have been here for a few months, and others for years. It's like standing in line for tickets to a rock concert. But standing in line does not ensure a pass, even if you were the first ones here. The one who came last could be the lucky one or the one who came after you. Or the younger one, or even the older one. You try to find a pattern. Is it the ones who are the fittest, or the softest? Or perhaps ones who consume this or that? Or the ones who fret less? But no one tell you. Perhaps no one knows.

In waiting, we turn to each other. Don't give up, we tell each other. It will happen. We speak with a certainty we don't allow ourselves. We bring back stories of triumph. So and so waited for years, and after five years, it happened. It could happen to you. We want to believe we could be the lucky one someday. So we try not to cry too much. What will tears bring? And why turn to pessimism when optimism may put you in better stead? In quiet moments, we fight the desperation that could suffocate us.

We never thought it was a matter of luck. We had grown up feeling entitled. I am a woman. Of course, I will bear a child. Of course. It is my role to carry an infant in my arms and call it my own. Because we're meant to and because nature intended it so.

So we stand here to claim our right. A voice then slyly comes around and says, why did you not claim your right when you could? Why, why did you wait as long as you did? Didn't you know this could happen? You should have known better.

Stunned, you turn to that voice and recount the years that you spent. You had to finish school, you had to work, you had to meet somebody, you had to wait until you had saved enough, you wanted to be ready, you had to this and that... But no one is there to listen. You're talking only to yourself.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Everyday Moments

They are everyday moments, no different than the countless other evenings we've had before. On the couch, his head resting on my lap, our eyes focused on someone else's drama unfolding on the screen in front of us. I reach down to stroke his hair, and for no reason, an image emerges -- of me, forty odd years later, alone, on this couch. Of time churning forward, producing an unbearable catastrophe that has to be borne. Me, looking back from the other side of time, reminiscing of these moments.

I lean down to kiss him and take in his smell, knowing these are the moments I will remember when I think of the good days, those happy days. And I know that right here and now, I am living those moments, the culmination of what is precious, of my life at its most sacred. As I sit here, I want to live these moments as intensely as I can, as I would if I were giving a performance, acing a test, or marking an achievement. To not fail myself and ruin the moments, but to give them all that I have and to live up to what the moments require.

If I could, I would store these moments in a bottle, as one does preserve, perfume, a genie. I would open the bottle in moments of need, evoke the power of the moments I saved, and pray to be granted the wish of today.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Shoutout for Obama

For the past few days, I've had difficulty focusing on anything else other than the DNC, the designation of Sarah Palin, and now the RNC. If we have another four years of a Republican White House, I'm going to have to move to Canada. After watching and reading the reviews of Palin's performance last night, I have to vent. Why are we always up against an unqualified candidate who suddenly wins the media's approval because it turns out she can speak in coherent sentences after all? Didn't we do this eight years ago with Bush?

I found Palin to be smug and mean. Her attacks during the speech last night were unnecessarily personal and flippant about the facts. If the Republicans win the election, McCain will likely croak and we will be stuck with her. A candidate who believes in censorship, a vindictive power monger who fires those who dare not support her. A woman at 44 who has never traveled abroad before she had to in 2007, who mocks constitutional rights, who believes that our invasion of Iraq was sanctioned by god, whose notable achievement is raising taxes to build a sports stadium. I am waiting for the post-appointment vetting process to dig up more dirt. We cannot be ruled for another four years by someone who views the world through provincial lenses.

It is an insult to women (like me) who voted for Hillary at the Primary to have McCain tout someone like Palin as a substitute. She is no better than a Clarence Thomas taking Thurgood Marshall's place. It is also annoying to see McCain use her superficial appeal (and superficial speech) to garner support when he has attacked Obama for being a "celebrity."

I grew up in Korea until I was 8 where almost everyone hated Japan for its military invasion of Korea and surrounding countries. Like most Koreans, I grew up resenting the Japanese because I did not distinguish the people from the government. I could not understand how people could let their government commit the kinds of atrocities that Japan did (and still largely denies). I now better understand their historical constraints under a monarchy, but what excuse do we have? I am mortified to find myself a citizen of a country that so easily disregards human rights and uses its military might (and threat of it) so flippantly. How did we let ourselves get here? Isn't it incumbent of us to say no more?

We have so much to undo and fix. Another four years of the same (or even worse, if that's possible) will be the biggest mistake.

I'm not necessarily out to change anyone's opinion with this short post and smattering of facts or to turn this blog into a political blog since there are much better resources out there. And we all have our complex web of experiences or perspectives that shape our political views. But for those who already are leaning toward Obama/Biden, I urge you to not take anything for granted, to speak up, and to make a contribution.