Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Growing

I'm sitting in the dark, camped out on our extra futon, typing with one hand. My other arm is holding the little guy, conked out with his head rolled over the crook of my left arm. It has been a rough day for him. The developments occurring in his brain seem to seize him especially radically on certain days. Today, for example, his eyes have been popping open unusually wide at even the most mundane objects. We're not sure how these objects and surfaces appear to him, but we see their impact on him. He can't seem to tear his eyes away, and he stares and stares, even as his eyes droop from fatigue and he cries in desperate need of sleep. His current nap is the result of a 40 minute workout of shooshing, rocking, patting, and repeatedly putting him down only to pick him back up when he cries out with an urgent plea for peaceful sleep.

When he has a difficult time falling asleep, I jump on those opportunities to break our self-imposed rule and let him sleep on me. His warm body fills me like nothing else. When he breathes on me, I want to suck it in, knowing that we really are one still.

Our little baby has been growing incredibly quickly. He is now over 14 pounds, almost double his lowest weight of 7 pounds and 2 ounces about five days after his birth. When we put him down on Tiny Love Gymini playmat, he latches onto the limbs of the orange giraffe and sky-blue monkey with such determination, and we boast as if he has scaled the highest of towers. He smiles and coos at us, and we know he has the best disposition. When our friends Paul and Hugo visited over the weekend, he took it upon himself to babble and engage our guests, and we knew that we have one gracious host. He's already a little person.

What an incredible year this has been. He will be three months old this Saturday, and I still can't believe he's here with us.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Threat of Domesticity

When I was 14, my parents bought a hamburger stand after my dad quit his company job. That was when my mom, who had always stayed home and made us after-school snacks, started working full-time for the first time in my life. They started leaving at 5:30 in the morning and returning after 10pm, six days a week. That left us three kids to run the household.

I don't remember how much housework we had done before my mom started working. I remember helping her with the laundry at times and assisting in the kitchen. And learning how to make a dish here or there. But I can't recall if we even had regular chores until then.

Once she started working, I remember the three of us sitting in front of the TV a lot and fighting over the remote control. While resenting that my brother always wanted to watch horror films, even as we sat next to him on the couch with our hands cupped over our eyes. And endlessly eating burritos and eggrolls stashed in the freezer in wholesale size boxes that my parents had brought home from the burger shop.

Those days are now a blur, but my memory then skips to a time when we started doing the groceries. And the laundry. And the dishes. And cooking dinner. And endlessly fighting over who should do what.

We fought daily. Over the same set of gripes day after next. It's your turn to do the dishes. I did them last night. It's your turn to do the laundry. Why am I always doing them? You have to make the dinner tonight. You said you would!

In my teenage world, having to do something out of turn was a grave injustice. I shouldn't always have to be the one to do the dishes. Why is it always up to me to figure out what to make for dinner? Why can't you fold your own laundry for once?

We had no sense of order. We were living in the realm of the Lord of the Flies, and I was sure it was my place to impose order. And justice.

I developed a habit of ranting freely. Whenever the situation seemed to call for it. The three of us fought with all that was within us. With the fervor and intensity of divorcing couples. There was no sense of boundary of what would be deemed proper behavior. Within our four walls, we screamed at each other and cried regularly. We nursed our headaches afterwards.

Looking back, it's now clear that we were fighting over more than just having to wash one more dirty dish or carry a bag of groceries from King Kullen two blocks down the street. It was a time of change and anxiety for our whole family. We had lost our sense of security that had come with my dad's company job, and we didn't know how to cope with the emotional stress of feeling like we had been spit out into the world to fend for ourselves.

Years later, my mom rued that she and my dad had not imposed a sense of order when they both started working. We were so busy, she said. We shouldn't have left the three of you alone like that.

With no adult to guide us, we never really developed the skills to manage ourselves or each other. And couldn't seem to find a way to cope, except with the passing of time and by drifting away from each other.

One year, when I was home from college, my aunt came to visit from Korea. She happened to come when our family was in the middle of moving from our rental apartment to the first home we had ever owned. She watched me and my sister organize all the furniture, tear down all the boxes, and sort through all that needed to be put away in cupboards and drawers. Later, she told my mom that I was ready to run my own household. That I would be quite the catch. That any bachelor would be lucky to have me in his home.

I remember feeling my face stinging from that comment. It was the same shame I felt when I went to stay with a friend at her aunt's house during one Thanksgiving during college, and as we were helping with the dinner, the aunt observed that I managed myself in the kitchen like someone who had a lot of experience.

Oh, I just helped my parents out here and there, I remember responding.

I felt that I had become overly domesticated. Domestic skills were nothing to be proud of. In my world, they were associated with resentment and bitterness. Something acquired despite myself. I didn't want them to be the dominant markers of my teenage years, even as I gloated when my parents thanked me for helping them.

When I first started living alone, I shunted domesticity to the side. I took my laundry to the laundry service. I had two pots and one frying pan, but took months to acquire cooking utensils. I loved eating out. I'm too busy to cook, I loved to say. Too many other important things going on.

Over the years, I've learned to become more balanced by cooking occasionally and doing my own laundry. And breaking out the vacuum and the mop on a regular basis.

Now that Jeff and I have our baby, though, domesticity once again threatens to dominate our lives. Our days are now filled with laundry, bottles washing, grocery shopping, and cooking. Sometimes I find myself reverting to my teenage self, a complaint on the tip of my tongue over having to wash an extra bottle or yet again doing the laundry. In a preemptive move, I prepared a chart -- with many a revisions -- specifying exactly who is responsible for what and presented it to Jeff after sending it to him on Google Docs.

Do you want to be in charge of clearing the Diaper Genie? I propose to Jeff. Then I'll be in charge of unloading the dish-washer.

He looks at me patiently and asks, Can't we just work together?

It takes me a few minutes to remember. Oh, right. We're grown up now.

I'm grateful to him for the reminder.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Classes on Glass Blowing

For those in the Bay Area looking for a cool gift idea, consider this! As I've posted before, Jeff is a glass blower and he has made some beautiful pieces like this over the years. Anyone can make something worthy of ooh's and aah's -- so long as you keep at it and develop the skills. If you've ever seen a glass blowing demo, you know how cool the process is. Every glass blower I've met is intensely into the art -- and there is a wonderful community of glass blowers in the Bay Area. You can give the class as a gift -- or better yet, take the class yourself to make a gift!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Cranium Challenged

Jeff and I are big headed people. Not quite bobbleheads but not entirely out of range. My head looks deceptively larger than Jeff's, and Jeff loves to tease me about it with malicious glee. But when we first started dating, we measured our heads with a tape ruler, and we both know that Jeff's is larger by two inches. Mine's only flatter while Jeff's is long.

So when we were expecting, we were of course anticipating a baby with a large head -- both in terms of width and depth. We worried about it a bit before the due date and prayed that the little guy wouldn't be too ripe. When the doctor decided to induce me nine days early, we were relieved.

When we visited the pediatrician for our one month check-up in early November, the little guy measured at 75th percentile in terms of height and weight. We were happy to learn that he was proportional.

When they measured the head, though, we found out that he was only in the 25th percentile in terms of head circumference. You would think we would have been relieved to have spared our child our lop-sided fate. Instead, our immediate reaction was to worry. Oh, no, how could his head be so small? Is something wrong? Is his brain developing properly?

We've obviously entered the realm of worrying because we can.

The doctor told us all was fine as he looked up to gaze at our heads. He seemed assured that it'll take more than one generation for our clan to join the ranks of the cranium challenged.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Learning to Be a Mother

I've been surprised to find that I've been nagged by a strange sense of anxiety since becoming a mom. Not enough to take away from the doting moments I've been sharing with the little guy, but enough to make me wonder what the hell is going on. Hormones? Definitely. The control freak in me rearing its enormous head in the midst of all the changes? Probably. Some unexamined fear creeping out? Hmmm...

You'd think after all the waiting and anticipating, I should just sit back and enjoy motherhood. That's what I expected. And most of the time, that's how it is. I hold the little guy tight across my chest and soak him in. But at random times throughout the day, the anxiety seeps out. When I find myself unshowered and undressed at 11 in the morning. When the feeding has been going on for over an hour, and I haven't yet crossed off any of the items on my to do list. When I realize that I have just a couple of hours left before it is bedtime again.

I sometimes feel like I should be somewhere else. As if there should be two of me -- one running around as I am used to doing and the other cuddling with the baby. I feel somewhat desperate and unproductive. And almost always, like I'm trying to catch up.

The anxiety was the worst about a month after delivery. When my parents had already left and we were trying to handle our new life on our own. We were starting to settle into a routine that was meant to give us time to get some sleep, to do all the tasks that needed to be done, and also to find some time for each other and ourselves. And discovered in the process that there isn't time to fit them all in.

I generally have a lot of anxiety about time. Probably from watching my parents work away for decades doing meaningless, repetitive labor -- only for the sake of making a living for the family. And because I so fear that such a big chunk of their lives had been wasted, I feel like I have to have something to show for my day -- something concrete that I can point to and assure myself that the day had been productive.

Being a mother is forcing me to let go of my desperate hold on time. I feel like I have to take some lessons in Zen Buddhism -- and learn how to focus on the moment at hand instead of keeping a part of me always speeding ahead. And to be ok with not being able to account for it by the tenth of a billable hour. And letting some things go.

But that would mean giving up my sense of control. Another thing I like to latch onto.

One of these days, I will learn these lessons.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Our Thanksgiving

I should have gone to bed at my usual time the night before. On most nights, I'm tucked in bed by 9pm, following up on the day's emails and news, before I conk out around 10pm for four hours of solid sleep while Jeff takes care of the baby. My shift starts at 2am.

The night before Thanksgiving, however, we watched more episodes from the third season of Lost on Hulu, an indulgence we haven't had since I was on bedrest during pregnancy. It was too easy to click the "Next Video" button as we excoriated Kate for having slept with Sawyer and wondered how they were going to kill off Charlie. And before I knew it, it was already past 11:30pm. But hey, live wild. It was the holidays.

When I took over for my shift, the little guy was just finishing one of his many meals. He then slept until around 3:30 am. When he woke again, I took him into the other room where he ate and then dozed for about 30 minutes. He then woke again unhappy with his state of being and proceeded to toss and turn, apparently trying to deal with his gasses. After a couple of hours of discomfort, it was mealtime again. I finally got him to sleep again at 7am.

I intended to close my eyes for just a few minutes while he slept, but when I woke again, it was already 9:30am.

I rushed into the bedroom and woke up Jeff.

"Jeff, when are your parents coming?"

"I'm not sure. They haven't called back yet."

I grabbed his phone and saw that there was no message.

"I hope they don't show up too early. They wouldn't just show up, right? We'd better get up and get dressed."

"Ok."

"Can you watch the baby for 10 minutes? I really need to poop and then I have to pump."

"Sure. Come here, Mr. T."

I handed the baby off to Jeff and rushed to the bathroom.

It had been a few days since I had done number two and that's never a good thing. Some alien creature had taken over my body since delivery and my system was no longer reliable. My efforts to eat more fiber sometimes failed when we had no time to shop for groceries, so I often resorted to taking plum extract supplements that my mom had sent. But they obviously were not working as I had hoped. I felt packed inside, and I knew I had to go before it got worse. So on this morning, I even took a nasty tasting drink of "Colon Cleanse" that we had in our pantry.

I had been sitting there for good 15 minutes with US Magazine across my lap when Jeff banged on the bathroom door. He popped his head in and said, "They're here!"

"What?"

"My parents are here!"

"Oh god. I haven't even showered. And it's going to take me some time here. And I have to pump."

"Don't worry. Do what you have to do. I'll take care of things out here."

With that, he shut the door.

I sat there, feeling miserable. And for the life of me, I couldn't go. I sat there as I heard the doorbell ring and heard Jeff rush down the hallway and open the door. Then I heard the greetings and his parents coo at the baby. Then their footsteps walked past the shut bathroom door, as I continued to sit there.

After another 5 to 10 minutes, I finally gave up. Feeling worse than I did before I started, I took my shower and got dressed as quickly as I could.

I rushed into the living room to greet Jeff's parents. Then sat uncomfortably for a few minutes as they chatted about their recent cruise to the Hawaiian Islands. I then handed them the photo album I had made for them of our little guy's birth so that they could entertain themselves while I went off and pumped.

I then rejoined our guests for another stretch while Jeff went off to take his shower.

Later, I handed the baby back to Jeff and excused myself as discreetly as I could so that I could try again.

No luck.

I came back out and squirmed some more.

Around 1pm, I decided that I had to do something. Jeff's brother and his girlfriend were also coming around 2pm, and I couldn't keep excusing myself. Then I remembered we had coffee. The caffeinated kind. Coffee always worked for me. But I haven't had it for two years ever since we started trying to have a baby. Now that I was breastfeeding, it was still not an option. But I was desperate. I had to sacrifice one round of breastmilk to do this for myself.

So while Jeff prepared the roast and our guests munched on cheese and crackers, I downed one cup of coffee like a tequila shot. Then another. I waited 10 minutes and then excused myself again.

This time, after additional effort, it worked. With great relief, I did a mercy flush. And heard the now all too familiar sound of the toilet clogging.

Fuck.

I tried to unclog the damn thing with the new heavy duty plunger that we had just bought last week. It hadn't worked the week before and it wasn't working now.

About 15 minutes later, I heard Jeff knock on the door.

"Are you ok in there?"

"I clogged up the toilet." I felt on the verge of tears.

Pause...

"Here, let me try it."

"No, no. Stay with your parents. I'll just call the plumber. I hope they're working today..."

I closed the lid and ran into the bedroom to look up the number for Plumberman. Then got voicemail.

"Hi, this is Shinyung. You were here last week. Our toilet is clogged again, and we need someone to unclog it right away. We have guests at our house, and we only have one bathroom. Can you please, please call me back as soon as you can?"

With that, I waited with the phone in my hand. And turned to Baby T, "Things are not going so well today..."

The phone rang less than 15 minutes later.

"Hi, this is Larry from Plumberman. I can be there in about half an hour. Does that work."

"Oh, bless you."

When I went out to the living room to tell Jeff the good news, he was on the phone, telling his brother to make sure to stop by a gas station on their way up if they had to go.

Shortly after our other guests arrived, Larry the Plumberman showed up. He was done in less than two minutes. He charged us his usual $60, even though it was a holiday. Jeff gave the guy a $20 tip.

After, we had a lovely meal. Our little guy's first Thanksgiving with his grandparents, his uncle and his girlfriend and their three pugs.

Little does he know that The Plumberman saved the day.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Now...

It's 5:30 in the morning, and I am listening to the grunts, sighs, wails, and snorts coming out of his little body. I had just picked him up to pat his back to make sure I had burped him properly. After re-swaddling him. And adjusting the folds across his neck to make sure that they weren't brushing too closely to his mouth. Earlier, when he wasn't breathing as heavily, I had leaned in to listen to his breaths, to make sure he was breathing. And took an extra minute to stare at him, as I have done over and over again during the past six and a half weeks.

The little guy -- all 11.5 pounds of him -- fills up our whole house. When we are in the same room, all of our being is directed toward him. When we are elsewhere, his every crackle and sneeze are transmitted through the baby monitor. His noise takes up all of our consciousness and alertness. We crane our necks, stop in our tracks, and still all else to listen to what comes out of him. Does it sound unusual? Is his breathing labored? Is that a cute little snore coming out of the little guy? Doesn't he grumble remarkably like a gremlin?

Sometimes, I still don't believe it. That he's here with us. Two years after we started trying to conceive. After two miscarriages. After fretting that it was taking so long. And then fearing that it may never be.

Now, he is here. With each breath, he announces he is here. And reminds us how he depends on us.

Time now seems to fly by in warp speed, taking with it pieces of him, how he was yesterday, the day before. And presents new discoveries with each day.

All I can do is hold him and be grateful.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

California Lawyer Article

California Lawyer magazine asked me to write an article for them a few months ago, and here is what I wrote. Not much different than what I've written often in this blog, but I thought I might as well post it. Here is the link.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

On Mothering



My parents stayed with us for three weeks to help us take care of our newborn.

When I first asked her to help us out with our baby, my mom responded, "I think American babies are different than Korean babies."

"What do you mean?"

"American people take their babies outside right away. You would never do that with a Korean baby. American babies must be built stronger. I don't think I would know how to take care of an American baby."

I didn't get into a discussion about whether our baby would be an "American baby" under her definition, but I tried to convince her that all babies are the same, even though I lacked the basis to make such an assertion. When my persuasive skills failed, we agreed that she would help with only the cleaning and the cooking.

On Wednesday, the day before I was scheduled to be induced, my parents arrived from New York with enough food to last us through a nuclear attack. When they unloaded their suitcase, it spilled out with cellophane packets of dried-out seaweed, an assortment of dried fish, varieties of ground rice powder, sesame seeds, and other ingredients for postpartum concoctions.

After unpacking, my mother marched into my kitchen and surveyed the cupboards, refrigerator, freezer, and pantry.

"Where is the sesame oil? What about the soy sauce? You don't have ground red pepper? Oh, these? These aren't the right kind. Where did you buy these? We'll have to get some more. How old are these black sesame seeds? Get me a basket. A big one..."

After she cleared the counter, re-arranged the pots and pans, and browsed through the refrigerator, she grabbed the Swiffer and put the vacuum in my dad's hands. By the next evening, the floors had been vacuumed and mopped, the refrigerator cleaned, the ceilings cleaned of cobwebs, the laundry done, all furniture dusted, the floor mats dried in the sun, my plants thoroughly watered, and our yellow lab Sherlock's fur balls exorcised from all corners of the house.

Early Friday morning, shortly after we called them from the hospital to announce the baby's arrival, my parents rushed over in a cab. After oohing and aahing over the baby and inquiring about my breakfast, they left the hospital in a cab. About five hours later, they returned, again in a cab, but this time bearing a pot of pine nut porridge.

"I thought you told me the food was good at the hospital!" said my mother. "How come you ate only a bagel for breakfast? You can't breastfeed on a bagel."

The next morning, they returned with a new pot of abalone porridge, more pine nut porridge, and two types of seaweed salad.

"I wanted to bring seaweed soup, but I wasn't sure how to transport it..."

When we returned home from the hospital, we were greeted with balloons and a big pot of seaweed soup.

During the next two weeks, I was mothered as I had never been mothered before.

As soon as I stirred in the morning, my mother knocked on my door.

"Are you ready for your breakfast?"

By 6am, my mom and dad had already had their breakfast. By the time my husband and I woke up, fed the baby, and sauntered out of the bedroom around 8am, we would find my mother in the middle of cooking a second breakfast just for me. She would bring over a steaming pot of soup, a fresh cooked bowl of rice, a whole fish, and various other side dishes.

"I cooked a separate pot of rice just for you. Dad and I'll eat the leftovers. You have to eat everything I cooked for you!"

"But Mom, I can't eat all this food. It's too much."

"You're nursing. You have to eat a lot. In Korea, you eat until you get sick and tired of eating. You eat for your baby. Tonight, remember you have to wake up in the middle of the night and have a snack. You can't go through the whole night without eating something. You can have some of the porridge I made for you."

"Mom, I'm tired of eating. I ate non-stop for 9 months."

"You do it for your baby!"

When I ate, my parents hovered over me. They jumped out of their chairs if I needed to re-fill my glass of water or wanted to check on the baby.

"You eat. You need to recover. I'll get it for you!"

And for the meals we ate together, they brought over my food first.

"You start eating. Don't wait for us. You have to eat when everything is hot. You are a mother now. You have to take care of yourself."

It wasn't the usual order of things, not in our family where Confucian hierarchy was strictly followed, with the father served first and the youngest child served last. And it was unlike the kind of parenting I had seen for the past 25 odd years when I had felt more like a parent at times as we played out the drama of an immigrant family.

When she wasn't cooking or washing the dishes or mopping or dusting or doing the laundry or weeding my garden, my mom held our baby. And I don't know how to explain how it felt to see my mother hold my baby the way she must have held me 38 years ago. To see her gently fold her arms around the child, to smile and coo at him, to wrap him in her love and to bestow all of her best of intentions on his well-being. To see her affection and tenderness spill out at his sight.

She must have forgotten her protestations about "American babies" when she showed me how to bathe him, how to hold him when breastfeeding, how to massage him.

Seeing her with him, I knew that I had been mothered in the best way possible. And that my child would be a part of this history -- of mothering skills passing from one generation to the next.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Catching Up to the Day

Since my parents left about ten days ago, today is the first day I've felt somewhat in control of my day. Instead of the day whipping me around by my ass, I actually felt one step ahead of it. By 4pm, I had already worked out, finished all of the laundry, had all bottles cleaned and sterilized, had vacuumed, had eaten both breakfast and lunch, and had even remembered to drink lots of fluids to help with the lactation and eat lots of fruit to help with a certain other problem. Compare that to Tuesday, when I felt like having a little breakdown for failing to keep myself well hydrated and barely having a chance to finish half a sandwich for lunch while foregoing dinner altogether because I was so tired.

It's a challenge to try to fit in all of the chores while the baby is asleep, and god forbid he awakes before I had finished going through all of the tasks on my list -- which has been the rule, not the exception. The one privilege I started allowing myself is a workout at the gym. I jump in the car and speed up and down the hills of Noe Street like a madwoman to get to the gym to fit in my 30-40 minute workout while Jeff hangs out with the baby.

It is only because Jeff has been a partner in the true sense of the word in taking care of our little Baby T that things have been as manageable as they have been. We've broken up the nights into two shifts, and I have not been sleep deprived since we started that schedule. When I fretted about failing to take good care of myself and negatively impacting my lactation, he ran out and picked up a bunch of groceries for us -- and cooked a healthy dinner for us last night. I don't know how single mothers do it -- they have my deepest respect.

So it should not be a surprise that my blogging has suffered a bit in the past several weeks. I can sit and write for an hour -- or hold my baby in that time -- or sleep. We have grand plans to make life easier for ourselves -- like hiring someone to clean our house. But it will only happen when we have time to look for someone. With each day, however, our new life seems easier. And one of these days, I will be able to post entries with coherent thoughts once again. Until then, dear readers, I beg for your patience...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Two and Half Weeks Later...

It has been about two and a half weeks since our baby's birth, and the world I live in now is very different than the one I inhabited before he showed up. I feel like I'm on the other side. As if I've climbed Mount Everest and can see a vista I didn't even know existed -- and can appreciate a human experience that I only poorly imagined before. I think I would sound trite if I tried to describe all of the changes I have gone through, but I'm sure anyone who has been through this can relate. My relationship to my body, to my sense of self, to my family and others... nothing is the same.

But despite that, having our little guy feels so completely natural. It feels like he has been with us forever. He feels so right when I hold him in my arms. And when I press my nose against his skin, he smells exactly as he should, and I can't get enough of him. When I look at him, I fill with an aching feeling -- a determination that I should -- that I have to -- do right by him. Please let me not fail him.

There are so many moments in the past two and a half weeks that I want to preserve. Like the second when they pulled his writhing grey body out and laid him on my chest -- and how I cried when I saw him. And how he has grown so miraculously fast that he seems like a different person already, and it hasn't even been three weeks. And how much it warms my heart to see Jeff hold our baby and talk to him with the most engaging of conversations, even as he changes the fifth consecutive diaper in less than an hour -- he who always declined to hold other people's babies. And the tireless effort of my mother to mother me after the delivery -- and to see her hold our little baby and to know that she must have held me the same way 38 years ago. And to see my father kiss our child, even though I had never seen him kiss anyone as long as I've known him.

I am filled with emotions, and I can't seem to contain them. Life seems so tender, as if it would bruise so easily. But it is also very soft, and it is in this softness that I have been living in the past two and half weeks. Let us stay here a while...

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Our Baby



Here's our baby at 5 days old. (I'll just call him Baby T on the blog so that I don't give away his privacy before he's ready to.)

The last 5 days have been wonderful and tiring and wonderful. I can't seem to stop staring at the little guy. And holding him. I'll write more when I've had more sleep, but I just wanted to post a little update and thank all of you for your happy wishes.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Looking forward

A few years ago, I remember coming home after work. It had been one of those long days, after I had probably been working on some brief or another. I found myself alone in the car, driving home when there were very few cars on the road. All dark around me, a random street light here and there.

It was no different than many other nights I had worked late. When I had come home, only to roll into bed and to roll out as early as I needed to the next morning. But on this night, maybe it was the fatigue. Or being worn down after having worked in the office all day and late into the night, sitting in front of the computer all by myself. Or being wrapped in the night's darkness.

Whatever it was, I remember thinking that all I had was my job and my house. That those were it. And the thought depressed the hell out of me.

Tonight, sitting here, the night before I am to be induced to deliver our baby, I am reminded how long it has been since I've had a thought like that. All has been so good in my world for so long now. Even with all the nonsense that occurred with my job last year -- and the miscarriages. Through all that, I never felt despondent in the way I felt that night.

As I sit here, all feels so right with my world. And I know it'll only be righter tomorrow.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Coming Soon...

It looks like the little guy will be here before the end of the week. We had a non-stress test this morning and a visit with our doctor this afternoon. I am already 3-4 centimeters dilated, and the monitor during the non-stress test showed that I am having regular contractions every 7 minutes. I feel what seem like very mild cramps, but not every 7 minutes. If he doesn't show up on his own in the next few days, my doctor said she'll induce me on Thursday morning because of my high blood pressure.

It's kind of hard to believe that it is really happening. I find myself thinking about everything and nothing. For now, I am just waiting. Feeling as if I am holding my breath.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Luxury Suite

I've been on bedrest since Tuesday afternoon. We went in for a regular checkup, and my blood pressure was unusually high. Fearing that I may have preeclampsia, the doctor put me on bedrest and sent me in to get blood tests, a non-stress test, and fetal weight assessment. She also had me collect my urine in a plastic jug for 24 hours while keeping it refrigerated, which was pretty repulsive.

While I sit on the couch trying to look regal, Jeff has been running around the house trying to do all the last minute things we have on our list. I was able to do most of the preparation before this week, like washing the kid's clothes and sheets, purchasing and organizing all the little knick knacks he may need once he comes out, and getting the room ready. But I had a bunch of other little projects I wanted to tackle, like making more baby outfits and getting rid of some additional clutter in our house. For now, though, I am reminding myself to be grateful that he and I are both healthy and that the pregnancy has progressed so uneventfully until now.

The good thing about all this is that we got to do a thorough ultrasound of the baby yesterday, which we haven't had since week 20. He's already estimated to be about 7 pounds, even though we still have over 3 weeks to go. His head is already 9.5 cm in diameter and his body is 10 cm in diameter. We also found out that he has a shocking amount of hair, and his face seems to resemble the Dear Leader Kim Jong-il. I can't wait to see him in person. It also seems there is still plenty of room in my uterus because he didn't look cramped at all, as I expected. He was hanging out, moving however he wanted, and looking rather complacent. I'm glad that I'm providing him with a spacious luxury suite.

Seeing how comfortable he looks, I'm feeling rather good about my big old belly. I was wondering how I could be so big at this stage, but it seems he's putting that space to good use. It gives him plenty of room for calisthenics and underwater aerobics. Whatever makes the next few weeks more comfortable for him.

In some ways, I feel as if I have been pregnant forever. It's just a part of me now, like my toes or my limbs. How will I feel when he's no longer inside? These days, I like to look at myself in the mirror and see the huge protrusion in my midriff. It's mind boggling that he's just hanging out in there, doing whatever he's doing. And before we know it, he'll come out to join us. Before he turns into a hulking 180 pound man. Before he becomes the rock star or the rocket scientist or whatever he wants to be.

And it all started here.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Under One Roof

My parents met Sherlock for the first time in early 2007. My parents and I had just returned to San Francisco from a vacation in Hawaii. They were staying in San Francisco for a couple of more days before returning to New York.

Jeff and I had just started dating a few months ago, and my parents met Jeff for the first time before we left for Hawaii. Even though Jeff and I had been living together for the past month, I found it difficult to announce it to my parents, so while my parents were visiting, Jeff stayed at his house in San Jose.

Upon our return from Hawaii, Jeff offered to pick us up at the airport and then return at 10am the following morning to pick us up for our excursion to see the elephant seals at Ano Nuevo. Instead of having Jeff drive back and forth to San Jose, my mom asked him to stay with us overnight at my house. When she did, I alerted my mom.

"Mom, Jeff has a dog, you know."

"I know, you already told me."

"Well, he can't leave the dog alone for two days."

"He can bring the dog with him."

"Really, he should bring the dog with him?"

"Why not?"

So said my mother, who believes people and animals do not belong in the same abode. At least that was her refrain when I cajoled her for a puppy throughout my teens.

"Do you think Dad would be ok with that?"

"Oh, he'll be fine."

Neither she nor I mentioned his fear of dogs after he got bit in the leg about a decade earlier.

So my mom and I made our plans. Jeff would pick us up on our return from Hawaii, stay overnight with us with his dog, and then we would all drive down to Ano Nuevo together the next morning.

When Jeff picked us up from the airport, he said he had already dropped Sherlock off at my house. We drove 20 minutes from the airport to my home in Noe Valley. Jeff dropped us off with our luggage and went off to find a parking spot.

As we approached the door, I warned my parents again.

"Jeff's dog is in the house. You're ok with that, right?"

They just nodded and didn't betray any emotion.

As I turned the key in the lock, I heard Sherlock's toenails clickty-clack on the hard wood floors as he charged through the house, barking like the mad dog he always played whenever we entered or had guests. I pushed open the door, just as Sherlock -- with all of his 65 pounds -- tried to bounce into my lap, his blond fur and ears flopping up and down. When my parents followed, Sherlock rushed around me to get better access to the newcomers. As he tried to bounce onto them, my parents barricaded themselves behind their luggage, standing back to back.

"Tie him up! Tie him up! Can't you tie him up?" My dad yelled.

"Dad, just stay still. He just wants to sniff you, that's all. He doesn't bite. He'll calm down in a second."

Sherlock continued to bounce, trying to get closer.

"Tie him up! Tie him up!"

"Dad, he'll calm down in a second. Sherlock! Sherlock! Over here, big boy!"

"Tie him up! Tie him up!"

That's how Jeff found us when he entered the house. My parents still barricaded behind their luggage, and me holding Sherlock by his collar and trying to calm him down. By then, Sherlock had gotten most of his barks out of him.

"See Mom, see, Dad. I told you he'll calm down. He's a good dog."

Sherlock soon lost interest in my parents once he got a good sniff. He then went back to the living room to look for his toys.

Once my parents managed to pry their hands off of their luggage and step out from their protective circle, they settled down. When they sat on the couch, Sherlock sat at their feet. When they went to the dining table, Sherlock ambled to their side. He tried to nudge their hands with his nose.

"Dad, try petting him. He feels really soft, especially around the ears."

My dad hesitantly reached out but pulled back when Sherlock reached with his wet nose. Jeff held Sherlock's nose down as my dad safely petted Sherlock's back, far away from the nose.

"See, doesn't that feel good?"

"Yes, it's very soft. I've never pet a dog before."

Jeff and I stared at each other. "You never what?"

My mom chimed in. "I've never touched a dog either."

Jeff and I looked at each other again.

My mom hesitantly touched Sherlock with a couple of quick pats before pulling her hand back while Jeff held Sherlock's nose down.

When they returned to New York a couple of days later, my mom called.

"He's a very good dog as far as dogs go. I can tell he's very mild mannered and he listens well."

"Yeah, he's a good dog, right?"

"But he sheds an awful lot. Can't you do something about that," she said.

"Well, Mom, that's just how he is. He's a yellow labrador, and they shed."

"Well, can't you guys trade him in for a dog that doesn't shed?"

Such blasphemy. I begged her never to repeat that in front of Jeff.

In less than a month, my parents are coming out to stay with me, Jeff, our new baby -- and Sherlock.

We'll see how we all fare with one another.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Audrey Article on Esther Hahn

Here's an article I wrote for Audrey Magazine a couple of months ago about surfer girl Esther Hahn.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Another Amazing Gift



We have the most amazing and talented friends. Look what arrived in the mail yesterday from our friend Yao. I can't wait to see our little guy in it!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Feeling Lucky






I'm in my 35th week, and I can't believe I've made it this far. I walk around these days feeling lucky. Lucky to be pregnant, lucky to be married to Jeff, lucky to have our little dog Sherlock, lucky to have the friends that we have.

About three Saturdays ago, a few of my girlfriends organized a baby shower for us. One of my friends who showed up told me later that she didn't realize how happy and emotional she would get to see me pregnant. Her words touched me so much, and I realized what a good thing it was to have been open with our friends about my miscarriages. Our friends were there for us when we went through the lows, and it made the celebration of the high that much more meaningful.

Just a week after this shower, Jeff's former co-workers and friends organized another surprise baby shower for us. I thought we were just going over to a friend's house to have lunch. As soon as we pulled up, we noticed a bunch of cars parked around the driveway. When I said that he must be having others over for lunch as well, Jeff (who was in on the surprise) just shrugged his shoulders and said, he has parties all the time. As soon as we walked in, we were greeted with balloons and shouts of surprise, and we found ourselves surrounded by beaming faces, congratulations, and warm hugs.

Our friends have been incredibly generous with us. Our house is filled with baby outfits, toys, gear, blankets, and everything else our little guy can possibly need. Almost everything I registered for on Amazon has been sent over with the sweetest notes and wishes.

Just in the past week, we received two specially made gifts for our little guy. The first (pictured at the top) was sent over by our dear friend Bernie all the way from Australia. The second, from our friend PJ, came in a cute little blue bag with a white ribbon, and in it was the yellow/blue cap.

Our little guy is going to be quite the fashion maven.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Panel on Alternative Careers

I've recently been asked to substitute as a panelist for someone who canceled at the University of San Francisco Legal Employment Symposium on September 17, 2009. I'll be on the panel for "Alternative Career Paths. If anyone out there is attending, I'd love to see you there!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Latest re Euna Lee and Laura Ling

I am very disturbed the latest report on what happened with Laura Ling and Euna Lee. According to this report, they were filming North Korean refugees and the activists who help them. Apparently, when they were caught by the North Korean government, their footages landed in the hands of the North Korean government, jeopardizing the lives and work of the refugees and the activists. If that is true, their behavior is truly naive. If journalists are going to put people's lives at risk for their news, they have a duty to ensure that their sources are safeguarded from harm. Apparently, the PR guys at Current TV have a different version, so I am waiting for them to speak out. And I hope they do soon.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Vigil

I used to be awakened by the sound. A deep, raspy cough that repeated again and again. As if the lungs were held hostage. But insistent enough to puncture the wall between my parents' bedroom and mine.

In the hollow of the night, I used to lie awake and listen. Captured and paralyzed by it. Quieting my own breathing to listen, even though I didn't want to hear. When all else was silent, it sounded like a rhythm from an Edgar Allan Poe tale. At a time when we were all meant to be asleep, getting our rest after a day's worth of living.

It hadn't always been this way. There used to be a time when we all breathed healthy breaths. When we had slept soundly. When coughs hadn't raise the specter of something more.

But we saw the closed sign on Mr. Kim's dry cleaners down in Little Neck. The lights off, no one behind the counter, the sewing machine unused. The business that was now waiting to be sold. We heard about how his wife and children made the funeral arrangements. How the cancer had appeared suddenly and changed everything.

It was a word that seemed to linger on my parents' breaths when they talked about other dry cleaners they knew. Or used to know. Mr. Song who passed away the year before. Mr. Choi, just two months earlier.

They were just a few out of the many Korean dry cleaners in the area. Only three or so who died of cancer. Only three out of possibly hundreds. So we told ourselves. Only three. What are the odds?

But when my dad worked on the clothes a little longer than usual, when he hung onto the tubes of chemicals used to remove this or that stain, my mom started darting glances at him. A minute would pass. Then another. Then seconds that seemed to linger forever. And then it would all come hurling out in a fury. Why are you taking so long with that sweater. Look at the piles we have. Can't we go home on time for a change? Didn't I tell you not to stand so close to the table when you work? Do you have to breathe everything in? Did you put an ad out for someone to handle the chemicals, like I told you to?

And when the coughing started, we told ourselves it was just a cough. Must be the dust in the store. Turn up the fan. Open the front door. Ventilate the place. Keep the air flowing. That will help. Surely, it has to help.

And then there were the weird stains on his hands. Yellowish at times. An odd brownish color. Appearing randomly. Something we did not understand.

But it wasn't our prerogative to get an explanation. The privilege of having a professional examine it and determine a cause was not in our lot. We didn't have that kind of money. The thought of paying thousands of dollars to see a doctor who may or may not be able to tell us what could be causing the cough -- when it was just a cough after all -- was far too lavish. And what if they determined the cause. What would we do after? How would we pay for the treatment? There was nothing we could do. We accepted that. Just as I accepted not being able to see a dentist for over a decade. Or not having a pap smear until well into my 20s. Or anything else that involved the medical profession. Our lives did not intersect with theirs.

It was only after I graduated from college that I started arguing with my parents. It became my cause -- to convince them to buy health insurance. I screamed and ranted and cried. It seemed to be a matter of life and death, and I couldn't understand why they couldn't see that. So I dealt them the cancer card. What if you get cancer, I screamed. You won't get treatment. That's how it works in America.

They let me rant. And said nothing.

I was hounded by images of what could happen. Of what we might be forced to do. Would we sell all of our assets and gather what money we could to pay for the treatment? But our assets added up to so little. Who would want our rickety furniture and '82 Oldsmobile? Would I plead with the doctors? Or strangers who may look on us with pity and help us out? Could we find some public assistance program that could help people like us?

I looked into buying health insurance for them. And learned that I could not afford it on my $27,000 a year paralegal salary.

When I started law school, I made a list of things I could do for them when I became a lawyer. The first on the list was to buy them health insurance. And prayed that nothing would go wrong before then.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Glass Blowing Demo

For those who are interested in glass blowing, the Bay Area Glass Institute (in San Jose) is doing a glass blowing demo by Jaime Guerrero this Thursday evening. Jaime has won many awards, and he is one of the most skilled artists in the Bay Area. This demo is free and open to everyone. It's pretty neat, so check it out if you're looking for something to do. Click here to get more information.

Going Solo

I've been busy with work the past ten days. I filed two motions, including one for summary judgment, in one of my cases. Early last week, I found myself at Office Max, buying exhibit tabs. After I paid for the exhibit tabs, I waited at the copy center as the copy guy ran three copies of the exhibits with two holes on top. While he was doing that, I sat at a nearby desk and punched holes in the exhibit tabs. When he finished running the copies, I inserted my exhibit tabs and bound them with acco fasteners. When I was ready to file the motions, I first drove over to Fed Ex to serve a copy on the opposing party by overnight mail and then drove over to JAMS, where the arbitration is pending, in order to submit a copy.

This isn't the way I used to practice. There was a time when I used to hand the entire stack of exhibits over to a secretary or a paralegal, and they would be returned (most of the time) in perfect condition. Then, when the motion was ready to be filed, I turned it over to my secretary again who sent it out with the perfect label and dealt with the messenger.

Nowadays, I am lawyer, secretary, paralegal, and messenger in one.

And I don't seem to mind.

In some ways, I find it more efficient to do it all. And since I don't charge my clients for non-substantive work, I save them money as well. Besides, I no longer have a 2000 hour billable requirement per year. I only work when I have work. And the rest of the time, I can do whatever I want -- without any feelings of guilt or anxiety. So yesterday, after I filed my summary judgment motion, I went shopping. For baby clothes. I stopped by Old Nacy, Baby Gap, and Macy's and picked out an assortment of little sleepers, overalls, and polo shirts.

When I returned home with bags full of little man outfits, it was just in time for Jeff and me to drive down to Mountain View to watch the Elvis Costello concert. It was a perfect day. A little work, a little shopping, and a little play. Does it get any better?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Alternative Careers

I am always in awe of people who move on from the law to do something entirely different. Like creating baby furniture. What a leap from writing briefs. Click here to find out what one of my law school friends is doing with his time these days (and winning awards while he's at it, as you can see here).

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Cleaning Out the Closet

We've been busy cleaning out our 1300 sq. feet hobbit house to prepare for the arrival of the little guy. We have clutter all over the place. I used to live here alone until Jeff moved in almost three years ago. We merged two households into one and banished most excess belongings to a storage unit in the South Bay near where Jeff used to live. We now live surrounded by a hodge-podge of mismatched items and piles of random things that have no place to call home.

We've been slowly trying to bulldoze through the debris for the last few months. I hear the little guy is going to be pretty darn little, but boy, talk about all his stuff. Just dealing with the necessities -- mainly the crib -- has been a challenge. Two weeks ago, we moved our wardrobe down to the garage to make room for the crib in our bedroom, where we expect him to stay at least three months. I have since been sorting through our clothes in our closets and drawers to make room for his tiny outfits, diapers, and toys, buying extra bins to place under the bed and figuring out what needs to stay, what can go.

Yesterday, I cleaned out my sock drawer. I went through the socks one by one, sticking my hand through each tube and checking for holes, usually right where my big toe hits the shoe. I've worn holey socks for years, but I decided they had to go. After I finished with the sock drawer, I went through my rows of underwear, checking for tatters, holes, and loose elastic. I plunged the worn out items into the trash and watched it fill up.

I used to do this for my mother when I lived at home. She kept her underwear stuffed in a cramped drawer. Most of them were made in Korea. She never adapted to American underwear, claiming that they weren't comfortable enough. So her underwear were mostly ones that had traveled with her from Korea when we moved here when Jimmy Carter was president or ones sent by her sisters on random occasions over the decades.

I would first dump her drawer onto her bed and go through each underwear, checking for tatters, holes, and loose elastic. The ones that seems to be holding up were neatly folded and put back in the drawer in perfect rows, with the folds all facing the same direction. The ones that showed too many signs of wear were left out on the bed so that I could show them to my mother before discarding them.

I would do the same with her sock drawer. First matching all of the divorced pairs, and then checking for holes in each tube. The worn out pairs of socks would also be left on the bed for my mother's inspection.

When she returned home from work, she would inevitably react as she had on prior occasions.

"Shinyung! You cleaned out my drawers. How organized they look."

And she would smile, thank me for sorting them out, and then shove all the worn out underwear and socks back into her drawers.

"I'll fix them later," she would say. "It's a waste to throw them away."

And in the following weeks, I would see her wearing the tattered underwear, ones with big holes over her left cheek, or the elastic torn from the fabric. Despite my offers to buy her new ones the next time I went out, she would always decline, saying that they were just underwear, who would see them?

I saw them.

But that's how it was in our house. We had clean underwear while she wore hers for decades. It was our mother who ate the leftovers when the rest of us ate the dinner she cooked for us. The rest of us pushed to get our way, while she prioritized her needs last.

These days, my mother often calls me to give me her list of often repeated advice. Eat well, exercise, don't fight with your husband, keep the house clean, etc., etc., etc. Sometimes, she would also say, "Make sure you're happy. Live well. You're living well, aren't you? I'm happy when you live well. That way I don't worry about you."

In response, I would say, "Mom, it goes both ways, you know. If you don't live well, then I worry about you too."

And I know that her life isn't all that it's cracked up to be. She lives in the suburbs where she does not know how to drive, where she is dependent on my father to drive her where she wants to go. She lives in a neighborhood surrounded by English speakers where she does not speak the language. Her afternoons are often filled by Korean melodramas, where life is presented by Korean actors who pine and mull over their lives in a country half a globe away. The word lonely does not pass her lips often, but I suspect it hovers around her regularly.

I look forward to October when she and my dad will come stay with us for a while, even if it means the five of us living together in our cramped quarters -- or rather six, counting our yellow lab Sherlock. I have dreams of taking them out, showing them around, cooking my favorite dishes for them, even though I know in my rational mind that she will most certainly be taking care of me with the arrival of the baby. After all, that is why they are coming out.

I often think about way to make it up to her. About trying to help her with her happiness. To help her live the life that I think she should live.

And I think about not placing that kind of a burden on my own children. Because worrying about my mother's happiness fills me with sadness at times. And guilt.

So it gives me with a sense of satisfaction to see my holey socks and underwear in the trash, even as I clean out the closets to make room for the little guy. It's a small step, but one in the right direction.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

North Korea

Reading about Bill Clinton's trip to Pyongyang last night gave me the first surge of hope for the fate of Euna Lee and Laura Ling. I can't believe the two journalists have been there since March 17th, and only now has the administration begun to do something. Maybe delicacy is required when you are dealing with a madman, as Kim Jong-il clearly is, but it sickens me to watch him have the leverage over and over again.

If only we can also do something for the people of North Korea, who are hostages in their own land. When I was in Korea in 1998 for a few months, I met several people who still had relatives in North Korea. Their families had been split during the Korean War. The principal of my language program had aunts and uncles who lived there. Due to the Sunshine Policy, the principal's father finally had a chance to meet with one of his sisters in China after almost half a century of separation.

To read up more about the fate of North Koreans, here are some memoirs I've read. It's very difficult to get accurate information about that country, and memoirs are probably the closest you'll ever come to the truth.

The Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag, by Chol-hwan Kang and Pierre Rigoulot - story of a man who was imprisoned in a North Korean labor camp when he was just nine years old.

Eyes of the Tailless Animals: Prison Memoirs of a North Korean Woman
, by Soon Ok Lee - story of a woman who was an approved member of the Communist Party until she offended an official and was thrown in prison.

The Tears of My Soul, by Kim Hyun Hee - a woman who was trained to be a covert operator for North Korean and bombed Korean Air Flight 858 in 1987.

In North Korea: An American Travels Through an Imprisoned Nation
, by Nanchu and Xing Hang - gives you a good sense of the surreal state through the eyes of someone like us.

I also recently ordered Mike Kim's Escaping North Korea: Defiance and Hope in the World's Most Repressive Country, and I can't wait to read it.

To read a shorter account online, click here for the account of Shin Dong Hyuk, who was the first North Korean to escape from a North Korean labor camp.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Onesies




Here are a couple of onesies I made for the little guy. This sewing business is pretty addictive.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Blogher of the Week

Check this out. I'm Blogher of the week. So exciting!

Here's the link.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Emory Douglas Article

Emory Douglas Article

Tête-à-Tête

A couple of weeks ago, I had some spotting, so Jeff and I drove straight to the emergency room. The comfort of being this far along is that on our way, I felt the baby moving and I knew he was ok. We still went in though, just to make sure everything was really ok.

The ob-gyn emergency room at CPMC was practically empty when we walked in.

After a nurse set us up in a room, a second one walked in. She must have been in her 60's, rather large, with red blotches all over her skin.

She said, "You've been in here a couple of times for this already."

"I've been here once," I said. "In my first trimester."

"Yes, week 11," she replied.

I looked at Jeff, who looked back at me with raised eyebrows.

I had been told that having intercourse can cause spotting, so I dutifully told the nurse, "We had sex this morning."

She pivoted her eyes to Jeff. As she glared at him, she said, "Well, maybe you shouldn't."

Jeff sat straighter in his chair and said, "We've been told it's safe to have sex during pregnancy."

She replied, "Like I said, maybe you shouldn't."

She had me lie down on my back, even though I told her that I'd read that I shouldn't lie on my back after week 20. She just pushed me back on the bed and told me not to worry. I was still worried. She hooked up a heartbeat monitor to my belly and left the room. As soon as she left, I shifted my torso to remove the pressure from my back.

When the doctor examined me almost an hour later, she warmly reassured me that I was fine and said that spotting can be caused by anything, even the hour-long walk Jeff and I took that afternoon. When we asked if it was a problem to have sex, she said it may be prudent to stop for two weeks, but that's just an arbitrary guideline that has no scientific basis.

As soon as the doctor left and Jeff stepped out to use the restroom, the nurse put her hand on my arm and leaned in closer, tête-à-tête.

"Put him out to pasture, honey," she said. "Aren't men something?"

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Emory Douglas article

For the City College of San Francisco magazine, I wrote an article about ex-Black Panther artist Emory Douglas. The article has been posted on the official Black Panther alumni website. Here is the link. I can't post a direct link to the article, but it's posted (in pdf format) under the link "New Article on Emory Douglas" about a fifth of the way down the page. If I can figure out how to post pdf's directly onto blogger, I'll try to post the article later.

(I posted the Emory Douglas article on Sunday, July 19th through Scribd. The font is very small on blogger, but you can click on the article and it will enlarge the article. If you find that frustrating, you can click on the link at the very top of the article, and it will take you to the article posted on Scribd.)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

All in a Name

The summer after I finished fifth grade, my family moved from Flushing, Queens to the suburbs of Houston. For the past three years, I had attended P.S. 20 just two blocks from our high-rise apartment building. We played in the asphalt-covered playground at P.S. 20 and sometimes hit tennis balls against the handball court wall. By this age, I had done enough research to know that this was not the childhood I was meant to have.

One or two Judy Blume books would have been enough to teach anyone about the proper American childhood. I had read them all. For starters, we were supposed to live in a house. Our own house. Not in some apartment building where the downstairs neighbor came charging up the minute you ran from the bedroom to the kitchen. And this house, our house, was supposed to be in the suburbs. And everyone was supposed to have a lawn. With sprinklers. And the house was supposed to come with at least one pet, preferably a quadruped.

When my parents announced that we were moving to Houston, I knew this was it. To set it all right. To start the childhood I was supposed to have. I pictured the houses with pools, the school buses, the sprinklers, the lawns, the whole schbang. I imagined myself riding my bicycle down the tree-lined blocks, waving at neighbors and friends across the street.

And there was one other thing. To go with my new life, I decided that I needed a new name. One that fit my new life, my new beginning. No one would butcher my new name trying to pronounce it. And no one in Houston would call me “Shin,” as my teachers always did. I remember coming home and crying to my mom that I’m not a shoe (a homonym for shin in Korean).

I thought about it incessantly. What name would go with my last name? Would it roll off the tongue easily? Would it present me as I was meant to be presented? As I walked around, I sounded out different names to myself. Catherine Oh? Connie Oh? Michelle Oh? I told myself that it didn’t matter that I already knew a Connie. We were moving and she would never find out that I stole her name.

After much deliberation, I decided to go with Christine. It had just enough syllables to balance out the exclamatory Oh. And while I knew a couple of Christina’s, I knew no Christine. I was relieved that I would not have to defend taking another’s name to my sister and brother.

When I announced it over dinner to my mom and dad, they were startled.

“Shinyung is a perfectly good name. Why would you change it? Don’t you like it?”

I still remember the hurt look on my mother’s face. But it didn’t prevent me from changing my name.

During my third year of college, I took a class called American Lives. In the class, we read biographies and autobiographies of famous Americans. While reading Harriet Wilson’s “Our Nig,” we discussed the significance of naming in American culture. What it meant, as Americans, to be able to name ourselves, to take ownership of our identities.

In the course of that class, I started thinking about my own name. Why I had, as a 12-year-old child, shed my Korean name and picked an American one out of the blue. Suddenly, I started feeling like a phony. Even though I had named myself, I felt like it had been for the wrong reasons, as if I had given up a part of myself. Instead of making others pronounce my name correctly, I had sought an escape.

I reverted to my Korean name then. As I had done to my parents almost eleven years earlier, I forced my friends to adjust to what was to them my new name.

Now that I am expecting our baby, with the due date just three months away, I’m wondering about this naming business all over again. What kind of name should he have? Should he have a Korean name and an American name to reflect his mixed heritage? Would he be embarrassed of his Korean name as I was as a child? Could I find a name that fits in America as well as in Korea?

I raised this topic with my mom on the phone the other day. We’re thinking of giving the baby a Korean middle name, I told her.

“What do you need a Korean name for?” she said. “We live in America now. Keep it simple. Just give him a name that’s easy to pronounce, that sounds good. Why not name him Jeff Jr.?”

It wasn’t the reaction I had expected. I thought she would be proud that I wanted to retain some connection to Korea for our baby. But maybe it was just sentimental jibberish to her.

But for me, the thought of handing my baby over completely to America, the culture in which I had to learn to make my home as a child, feels like cheating in some ways. Learning to live here, while treading the disparity between our origin in Korea and our present lives, has defined me in more ways than I can articulate. Many of the strands of life that have shaped me – and still remain flapping in various directions – stem from this disparity. Finding ways to interpret and accept our family’s differences. Negotiating my need to fit in with my peers with my parents’ values. Accepting that our family was here alone, with no extended relatives to help us in times of need. Appreciating the loneliness that seemed to hover over us at times.

I find these aspects of my life – my identity – hard to leave behind. I want to give them due credit, instead of moving on as if they never existed. And I want them to be acknowledged and remembered somehow. To account for our history – and our family’s struggles.

So I find myself walking around, sounding out names in my head, as I did as a 12-year-old child. Trying to come up with the right sounds, the right syllables, the right identity. And hoping that this time, it is for keeps.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

End of Phase II

This is the final week of my second trimester. Next week, I enter the final stretch. I can't believe I've made it this far, and the little guy is kicking and well. I am so happy every time I feel him move. Jeff has also felt him move several times, and each time it happens, he looks at me as if it is the most incredible thing on earth. It is.

The second trimester has been incredibly easy. Besides the kicking, I barely feel pregnant, even though that is I what I think about every waking moment. I've been full of energy, and I have to restrain myself from working on baby stuff 24/7. Not that there is that much to do, but all I want to do is get ready for this guy and read up on parenting. I have to force myself to pick up non-baby books, and I finally started reading my bookclub book for this Sunday.

A friend recently told me, "It's great being pregnant. You're never alone."

I love that thought.

Now that I'm not alone, I treat myself better than I ever did. Eating has been the main difference. I thought I ate relatively healthy before, but I never went out of my way to eat a balanced meal. I assumed somewhere along the line, it would balance out. Nowadays, I rarely eat a meal without a mound of vegetables. And at least two glasses of milk a day. And tons of fruit. Nurturing a little guy is a big responsibility.

Despite my initial anxiety about the weight gain, I am so proud of my protruding belly these days. A couple of days ago, a stranger finally noticed my belly and asked how far along I was. I started beaming. I find myself walking around with my hands rubbing my belly, as if to call attention to it, as if to remind myself that he's in there, as if to let him know that I'm protecting him.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Hot Dog Nuggets

One of my most memorable fights with my mom featured Nathan's hot dog nuggets. Sixteen of them. You know, those that look like miniature corndogs, but without the sticks. They came in a green and yellow paper box with a flimsy cut-out latch, the kind that never kept the box properly closed.

I picked them up at Nathan's in the Long Island Railroad terminal in Penn Station on my way home from work. I was in my early 20s, living with my parents in Long Island, and working as a paralegal at a law firm in midtown Manhattan. On the nights I worked late, the firm allowed me a $15 stipend for dinner. On this night, instead of buying dinner while I was working, I waited until I got to the train station to get the hot dog nuggets.

I remember thinking that it would a nice treat for my mom. Just a little something to change her daily routine. My parents worked late hours at their dry cleaners and never ate out. Every other weekend, my mom cooked a vat of chicken wings in hot sauce and packed six at a time in foil. She piled them in the top shelf of the freezer, and every morning on their way out to work, she threw one into her bag. That and rice was their lunch, day in and day out. Three chicken wings and a small tubberware of rice.

I felt guilty that I could go out and eat whatever I wanted for lunch. Sometimes I went down to the corner deli and picked up a corned beef sandwich. Or to the gourmet pizzeria down on Lexington for a slice of pizza. Or some giant sized California rolls from the Korean fruit stand/buffet counter on 52nd and 3rd. Many times, the attorneys I worked with took me out with them when they grabbed sushi or udon. They treated me like their little sister and generously picked up the bill whenever we ate together.

My mom’s life was very different from mine. Once in a while, she wondered what it would be like to have a normal life.

"Wouldn't it be nice to grab a cup of coffee and walk around the neighborhood – or on the beach?" she would say. The first time I heard her say it, I was shocked by the modesty of her wish. I encouraged her to get her cup of coffee whenever she wished, even though I knew that she and my dad saved every quarter they earned and hardly had time to roam around the neighborhood when they worked the long hours they did.

Because they didn't have time to explore the world as I did, I often found myself trying to bring as much of the outside world into our home as I could. To my mom who loved to eat, food was the proxy for the outside world – encapsulating cultures and histories and human differences in bite sized portions. I brought them Thai takeout so that they could try pad thai and coconut curry. On another occasion, I picked up some brioche by Macy's in Herald Square. Or an extra order of linguine when I met with a friend at an Italian restaurant. Just watching her eat my offerings appeased some of my guilt.

So on this night, I happily brought the hot dog nuggets home through the 45 minute train ride to Port Washington and the ten minute drive from the train station to my parents’ home. When I arrived, my parents were already in bed, so I stuck them in the fridge for my mom to find them in the morning.

When I woke up around 5:30 in the morning, I heard my parents rustling in the kitchen. I rushed up the stairs to point out the bag of nuggets so that my mom could pack them with her lunch. As I entered the kitchen, I saw her putting the nuggets into a Ziploc plastic bag.

“Hi, Mom,” I said. “I got those last night so you could take them as a snack.”

She nodded and said, “I figured you must have gotten them.”

“You can have it as a snack today,” I said.

Without raising her head, she said, “I’ll just give them to your brother so that he eats something for breakfast.”

As soon as she said that, I felt myself boiling up, and the $11 and change that I had spent for these hot dog nuggets suddenly seemed like a huge sacrifice.

“What are you talking about? I got them for you!” I said.

She just brushed me aside and said, “Your brother never eats breakfast. He should eat something.”

I felt tears coming into my eyes, even as foolish as it appeared even to myself. They were just hot dog nuggets. Why did I care so much? But I did care. I cared that I had not eaten my own dinner the night before to bring this little snack for my mom. I cared that I had bought them for my mom, not my brother. I cared that my brother, who also worked in Midtown, could stop by Nathan’s anytime he wanted to, and my mom couldn’t. And I cared that my mom thought nothing of taking my little gift to her and passing it onto her son.

I don’t remember what happened next. I think I screamed and stomped down the stairs. And I distinctly remember my brother eating my hot dog nuggets innocently as we took the train together into work that morning.

A few years after that, I was shopping at King Kullen with my mom and my sister. It must have been during a summer when I was visiting from law school. I don’t remember how the conversation came up, but I remember my sister and I accusing our mom of treating us differently from our brother.

“You’ve always treated us differently, just because he’s a boy,” I said.

We gave her examples of the disparity we faced as we were growing up. How our brother always got a whole portion of whatever we were eating while the two girls had to share one – after being told that we had to share “because we were girls” – and how our brother always got to stay out late when we weren’t even allowed to go out in the first place.

My mom looked at us with a surprised look on her face and said, “I don’t do that. I treat all of you the same. I don’t think boys are any more special than girls. You know how happy I am that I have daughters.”

I listened to my mother and could not believe that she did not see the bias in her own behavior. How could she not see it, when it was so blatant, and how could she deny it with a straight face? And then I thought of her upbringing in a family of four daughters and one son. The one son who received all of the numerous parcels of family land after the parents passed away. The precious one.

After pausing for a few seconds, she continued, “If I ever treat you differently, you should just tell me right then so that I stop doing it.”

When I called them about a month ago to let them know that the baby we are expecting is a boy, I listened carefully to their reactions. My dad, as I expected, was delighted with the news.

“A boy! Oh, my. Good job. Job well done…”

My mom, on the other hand, just said, “Oh, ok. As long as he’s healthy…”

I was relieved that she didn’t betray any bias.

And I wondered what kind of bias I would bring with me into the next generation. What would my children see that I don’t see? And would I be defending myself against my children, trying to explain how the world differed when I was growing up? Would they understand if I try to explain that it’s the world that changed around me?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Notions of Womanhood


I've been attending a sewing class all week. At 2:00 in the afternoon. While almost everyone else I know is at work. In fact, around noon on Monday, when most people were stepping out to take a break from his or her office, I found myself rummaging around Britex Fabrics, less than three blocks from where I used to work, looking for a pattern to use in my class. And fingering through swaths of cotton to select the appropriate texture and design for my project. And rummaging through mounds of ribbons and webbings to find the right notions (a new word I learned that day).

When I walked down the street to a nearby mall to grab a bite to eat, past mobs of people in their business attire, a part of me felt like an imposter. You know, the person who does not belong. The kid playing hooky. There I was in my strappy sandals, a coral skort, my black fleece. Like another tourist in the middle of San Francisco's Union Square. No business casual for me.

Early last year, when I was pregnant the first time around before I was fired, Jeff asked me (very gingerly) whether I wanted to keep working after we have the baby or whether we should look into alternative arrangements. I remember feeling stumped for an answer. I have no idea, I said. The thought of not returning to work scared me. What if no one hires me once I decide to return? Wouldn't I be jeopardizing my entire career by taking a break? Besides, what would I do with myself? Does the baby really need me full time? Could I become one of those women who stay at home to raise a kid?

And even if I wanted to be a full-time mom, would I dare admit it?

Even saying that maybe I wouldn't mind a period of staying at home seemed like too much of an admission. What kind of a throwback to women's lib would I be to say such a thing publicly? A lot of suffering and fighting went into giving me the option of being able to participate beyond the domestic sphere. Besides, other women manage to work and raise their children. Why couldn't I? What if people assume I'm freeloading off of my husband? Or typecast me as one of those women who have nothing else in their lives but the baby?

So the picture of pregnant me taking a sewing class when everyone else is at work strikes me as a bit much. What happened to all my concerns about living up to my professional womanhood? Wasn't there a time when I would have bragged that I simply don't have the time to sit around and sew loose buttons on a jacket?

I'm not really sure what happened, but living up to my professional womanhood no longer concerns me as much. Sure, I still have my cases that I'm handling and the writing projects I'm working on, but putting them on hold for a couple of years while I focus on the baby seems to be less of an issue. Maybe because my desire to protect my career -- or at least my big lawfirm career -- evaporated when I sent my mass email. Maybe from the other side of that career implosion, I now realize there are more choices -- and more flexibility -- than I had assumed, and choosing one role does not necessarily preclude the other, at least not forever.

For now, I'm planning to be a (mostly) full-time mom for at least the first couple of years of the kid's life (and his brothers' or sisters', if we are lucky enough to have more than one kid). And then I'll try to establish a part-time solo practice, as I'm doing now, while continuing to work on my writing.

Who says I can't be a writer/lawyer/mom who makes cute little lady bug hats? What do you guys think of my second completed project from my class? It's for the little guy. I have to admit that I'm quite proud of it. I feel like I'm making up for lost time for skipping home ec in high school. And feeling incredibly lucky now to have found the time -- and to have the choice.

Our New Phase

Maternal instinct had been knocking at my door for some time now, but I had kept it at bay until a couple of months ago. After the spina bifida ultrasound, the floodgates opened and I have been swimming in it since.

First, it started with a simple list. A to-do list. No lawyer is complete without her to-do list, and it appears mothers-to-be suffer from the same affliction. The list began with ten or so general items, such as "Read parenting books," "Buy baby gear," and "Organize house for baby." The one list has since proliferated to at least 10 different ones, including "Baby Gear," "To Do Before Baby's Arrival," "Feeding Tips," "Sleeping Tips," "Car Safety," "Medical Tips," "To Do for Delivery," and so on and so on. Each list is peppered with details. For example, under "Baby Gear," I have "Car Seat" listed as item number 3. This particular item is followed by 15 different points to consider during purchase, such as "Look for straps that clip, not just slide in" and "Thicker belts that don't twist are better."

I put my lists on google docs, where I can share them with Jeff, who is reminded no less than five times a week that the lists are to be examined regularly since they are constantly evolving. And that the due date is drawing closer and closer and closer. And that we really need to get going on some of the items on the list, like cleaning out our second bedroom and moving our furniture around to make room for the crib and all the baby things we'll be getting. And that they should have been done yesterday, and they're still not crossed off the list!

Urgency is the word that best characterizes my current sense of momentum. In my rational mind, I know that four months is more than enough time to prepare for the little guy. I mean, how demanding can he really be? Babies just need food, sleep, and shelter, right? And we are currently equipped to handle such demands. But another voice from somewhere in the crevice of my mind starts to shrill at the least unexpected moments. Four months?! Four months?! How the hell are you going to be ready in just four months! Just four months to read all these books, to research all the gears, to learn to become a parent! To become responsible for a little human being who can't even keep his head from rolling around.

In addition to this maniac, another strange being seems to have inhabited my body. All of a sudden, I find myself signing up for a sewing class. Sewing class?! I am the person who couldn't be bothered to sew a button on a shirt. Why waste the time when I can simply drop it off at the dry cleaners? Some of my casual pants have been cut off with a scissors because I couldn't even be bothered to take them to the cleaners for alteration. I've never even used a sewing machine. And here I am having fantasies of sewing my childrens' Halloween costumes.

And then there's the knitting. I blame my friend Hugo for this. Shortly after his mother passed away, he brought down a box of his old baby clothes his mother had saved during his entire life, which spans over four decades. In the box were elaborately decorated sweaters the size of my two palms. Along with socks, hats, and mittens the size of my fingers. Imagine, mittens for a baby born in Brazil! Each wrapped individually in plastic bags, protected from the environment and time. These were the clothes she had knit for him while she waited for his arrival. His dear mother, who had her only child at the age of 40. How she must have longed for him. And how she waited and prepared. I came home from that visit and longed to learn how to knit. Me, who always assumed knitting must be such a bore and only saw the hazard and liability in carrying around long needles.

Let's not even get into the photography class that starts this week or the baby album I've already purchased or the Thomas the Engine song that has been stuck in the head the last two days. Or the contentment I felt at my friend's daughter's 3d birthday picnic where I spent my day on Saturday.

So many changes. So many changes that feel perfectly natural. As Jeff and I discussed over dinner last night, we couldn't feel readier. Even as we sit surrounded by our to-do lists. We're ready to hold the little guy in our arms and nuzzle him with our noses. To fill him with our love.

Just four more months...

Monday, June 8, 2009

Strangeness

A few months earlier, I flipped through Lennart Nilsson's photography book, Life, at Border's and was fascinated by the images he was able to capture. He had photographed every stage of human development, from conception to birth. There is an egg descending into the fallopian tube. An egg magnified god knows how many times that it looks like some magnificent planet. A sperm penetrating the egg. Fetuses at various stages of development floating in their amniotic sacs. Looking through the book felt like spying into another world, one so foreign, bizarre, and completely captivating.

I ordered one of my own. I wanted a book to help me visualize what was happening inside of me. We found the illustrations in the Mayo Clinic Guide helpful for imagining the growth of our baby from week to week, but I wanted more. I wanted to peek inside, see him as he is, not as some penciled drawing. I didn't order the same book because Life is more of a coffee table edition, glossy and expensive. I ordered A Child is Born, which has most of the same images but more text to explain what the images capture.

So when I received it from Amazon on Saturday, I immediately plunked down on the couch to finger through it. Many of the images were ones I had seen in the other book, but I scoured them again, trying to extract as many of life's secrets as I could. Near the end of the book, I came to the section on "Labor and Delivery," and I saw photographs of women, bare chested, legs propped up, faces in obvious agony, as they prepared for delivery. I was amazed that they had agreed to be photographed as they were. Then I turned the page and was stunned to see photographs of women and babies mid-delivery. The first in a sequence shows the doctor grabbing the baby's head as it emerges, then the torso, and then the whole body dangling from the doctor's arms with the umbilical cord still in tact. The next two-page spread is a photograph of a woman mid-delivery with the baby's head protruding from her, and the image is captured from the top, as if the camera were dangling from the ceiling.

I had watched Nova's "Miracle of Life" in seventh grade, and I had heard delivery stories from my friends. I assumed I knew what I was in for. But I have to admit, these photographs were a shock. A part of me reeled from it - mostly from fear and perhaps a tinge of disgust - even as I threw the book in Jeff's face with "You have to look at these." I hadn't spent too much time imagining the delivery part, focusing instead on the baby's development. A couple of weeks ago, I had lunch with a friend who was coming upon her due date. She said, "I am so scared." Now I understood a little better, not just mentally, but emotionally.

I wondered why I had that reaction -- fear and disgust. Maybe all the blood and gore signaled to the brain that something horrific is happening to the body, even as I know mentally that it is something quite different. Maybe we live in such a sanitized world - where pieces of fish and meat come sliced in geometric arrays wrapped in saran wrap - that we're out of touch with life in its naked form.

But whatever it is, I'm still looking at the photographs two days later and re-living the same shock. Jeff and I joke that we hope our baby's head won't be too large, even as we anticipate it will be given the sizes of our own. We comfort ourselves that billions of women have experienced it before us, so how bad can it be? Then we talk about the time when so many women died during child birth, and feel eternally grateful that we live today.

I want to face my fear head on. I promptly put Miracle of Life on our Netflix queue. I want to find other sources to help me process this fear, so that it no longer seems a stranger come delivery day. But then I remember that strangeness has entered our lives, as I feel the little guy kick inside of me. A day hasn't passed for a while now when Jeff and I don't turn to each other to say, "Amazing... it is so damn amazing."

Monday, June 1, 2009

Stranded

[This is one of my favorite incidents from last year.]

The afternoon started on a better note. I laced up my running shoes for the first time in weeks. The fog had not yet starting rolling in, and I wanted to squeeze in a trip to the beach to make up for the dog walker we had recently canceled. With Jeff away on a business trip, I was a single parent for the week, and the responsibility of ensuring Sherlock's physical and psychological well being rested on my shoulders.

I threw the beach towel, the leash, and his poop bags into the car, and drove along Portola down Sloat onto a short stretch of 35 before hitting Fort Funston as Sherlock played ambassador greeting other drivers with his tongue and wagging tail out the rear window. We parked, hopped down the ladder of sand, and hit the beach as the Pacific greeted us with its fanfare of waves and wind.

The tide was already far in, narrowing the stretch of sand, and I ran along the tide line, where the sand was not too sandy and not too muddy, with the leash in my hand, poop bag and keys in my pocket, and one eye on Sherlock to make sure he didn't stray too far. Just a few other dog walkers and couples strolled the beach.

Less than ten minutes in, I felt for my keys and thought to myself that I should move my keys to my other pocket with a zipper. Just then, I saw Sherlock pick up and drag a log the length of my leg, threatening to take down an unlucky pedestrian, and I ran back toward him, searching for a small stick to distract him. When I started running again, I reached into my pocket to feel for my keys again. And felt nothing. Nothing.

Shit. Where are the fucking keys?

Not time to panic yet. I threw my hand into my left pocket, then my right pocket, then the left and the right pockets of my fleece. I dragged my hand along the inside of the hood of my fleece, stuck my face in it, then shook it as if I were doing some crazy jig, turned it inside and out, felt all along its sleeves and body, stuck my arms in to put them on front side out, and reversed by pulling the sleeves out of themselves. I groped all around my ass, my thighs, my belly, back, and chest to see if the keys had somehow slipped out and were wedged somewhere, as if keys can spontaneously defy gravity to flip themselves upward and hoist themselves into my sports bra like some hoop game at an amusement park.

No keys.

Still not time to panic. I started walking back, retracing my steps, eyes wide open like a howler monkey. My head scanned back and forth like a hand held metal detector. I retraced my steps to where I last felt the keys, looking at every pebble, every smooth piece of seaweed.

Nothing.

I turned back, walked up the stretch again, telling myself to focus this time. As I walked back and forth, I thought of having to call for a cab and realized that my cell was in my car. The locked car. Shit. I'll have to borrow someone's cell. Oh, no, did Jeff leave the other set of keys at home? What if he took them with him to North Carolina? Double shit. How many parking tickets would I find when I returned with the keys at the end of the week?

Five rounds later, I was still scanning, no keys in hand. I looked down the beach, and Sherlock was busy digging his hole, having the time of his life. The irony of having a dog named Sherlock at a time like this.

I told myself to look just one more time, even though the tide was encroaching rapidly, and I pictured my keys submerged under sand and water. Caught up in my search, I almost stepped on a round shimmery thing in front of me. It took me a few seconds to realize that it was a seal, and another few seconds to realize that it was dead. The tide had come in so quickly that the seal that I had obliviously passed the last round was now blocking my path.

I looked up and suddenly realized that there were no pedestrians left on the beach. The fog was getting thicker and the sun starting to set. It was a lost cause. And time to give up.

Sherlock and I dashed up the never ending stairs, and I borrowed a cell phone from a girl playing fetch with her dog at the top of the hill. I called Yellow Cab.

- Yes, hi, I need a cab please. I'm at Fort Funston. Yes, I'm right in the parking lot. How long will it take? Oh, ok, fifteen minutes. Great. yes, I'll be right here. Excuse me? No, it's not by the Golden Gate. It's all the way on the other end of the city, near Daly City. It's off of Great Highway, right across from the Olympic Country Club. Are you looking at a map? You found it? Ok, you sure you know where it is? No, I can't call you back. I don't have a phone. This isn't mine... Ok, I'll wait. And I also have a dog with me. Ok... Thanks.

Forty minutes later, I was still waiting by my car, as a couple made out in the parking space to my right. The fog was cotton candy thick by now, and the sun no longer visible. The guys on the edge of the cliff were starting to fold up their hang gliders. I borrowed a phone from a guy sitting in his Honda with his music blasting as he was chomping down on some food.

- Hi, I called for a cab over forty minutes ago, and it's still not here. Yes, I'm at Fort Funston in the parking lot. It's off the Great Highway, across from the Olympic Country Club. No, I've been here the whole time. He couldn't have missed me. I've been watching the entrance. So he's coming again? Are you sure? How much longer do you think it'll take? Fifteen minutes? Ok... are you sure someone's coming? Ok, I'll wait.

I dragged Sherlock over to the fort entrance so that the cab wouldn't miss us. Sherlock, the perfect dog in almost every respect, was a pain on the leash and tried to drag me in every other direction. When I finally got to the entrance, I stood there and felt the minutes pass. And pass. The highway was filled with commuters going home from work, and I kept my eyes open for a taxi. I looked around to see if there was anywhere I could secure Sherlock while I jogged over to Sloat Blvd. where there would be better chance of finding a cab. But the image of Sherlock freeing himself and running into the traffic kept me glued to my spot with my fists firmly over the leash.

I'm sure more than 40 minutes passed. I felt like an orphan. There was no cab in sight. I was trying to decide whether I should drag Sherlock along the busy road to try to find a cab or drag him back to the parking lot to borrow another cell phone to call my friend Sarah - the one friend whose phone number I knew by memory - when an orange minivan pulled over.

The girl behind the wheel rolled down the window and asked, "Are you ok?"

I'm sure I didn't look ok shivering in my jogging shorts with knuckles whitened from clutching Sherlock's leash so tightly.

"I lost my car keys on the beach and I've been waiting for a cab, but it looks like he's not showing up..."

"Do you need a ride somewhere?" she asked.

I looked at her as if she had told me I won the lottery. "Well, I live in Noe Valley..."

"I live in Glen Park, and I'd be happy to drop you off."

"Oh, my god, you are a life-saver."

I bounced toward her car and pushed open the sliding door. "Come on, Sherlock, up, up. Good boy."

As soon as I sat in the passenger seat, she said, "Oh, funny, I just met a dog named Sherlock last week."

As we pulled out, a little black dog came up and sat on my lap. As I was thinking that he looked exactly like my friend Sarah's dog, I heard the driver say, "Charlie, get off that poor lady."

I looked at her and said, "Charlie? Did you just call him Charlie? Wait, is this Sarah's Charlie?"

At that moment, we did a double take.

"How do you know Charlie?" she asked.

"What are you doing with Sarah's dog?"

"Wait, is this Sherlock, Sherlock?"

It turned out that she was my friend Sarah's new roommate, whom I had heard about for the past few weeks. And Sarah had watched Sherlock the weekend before while Jeff and I were away. And Sarah was the one person I had thought about calling when I was stranded out there. And here was her roommate saving my ass from this predicament.

Ah, the funny turns in life. And the warmth of living in a world that turns out to be smaller than assumed.