this winter we celebrated warmer, spring-like days here in South Texas. There
was so much happiness and hope in our little family – the way spring is
supposed to be. What spring is supposed to mean. But as all South Texans know:
if you don’t like the weather: stick ‘round, it’ll change.
With a fierce, biting wind reminding me it was still winter, my world became
cold and barren.
the definition of a normal, modern, blended, American family. We struggle with
schedules, negotiate the school-work balance, commute to and from
extra-curricular activities, schedule social time among adolescent and adult
friends, cope with extended family matter dramas and move through our daily lives as
a family living alongside two ‘tweens.
had written off as normal ‘tween girl drama I can retroactively see now as
warning signs. Stereotypical signs, too! Tumbling grades (check!), increased
arguments with us, (check!), a new passion for fighting with her brother (check!),
yelling matches and hurling hurtful words (check!), periods of deafening total
hip, consciously-aware, educated, socially active mother (certainly not like
the old-school Korean mother I grew up with!) I knew and understood the stage of growing up she was
going through. She was in the
early stages of adolescent spring! The winter of child childhood fading. I could even empathize with the season of
adolescent spring: the bright sunlight moving from family to friends, chores and
homework to trips to the mall with friends and PG-13 movies in giggly, awkward groups.
here I was am trying to understand. I’ve Googled. I’ve
read. I’ve Tumblred. I've seen and read things that have broken my heart a million times into a million pieces. I’ve gone to see our family therapist. I’ve cried. I’ve begged. I’ve
pleaded. I’ve prayed. I’ve overdosed my daughter with “mommy and me” time(!) not
because I particularly enjoy spending countless hours talking about My Little
Pony, cats and watching Animal Planet, but because I’m too scared to leave her
alone. Too scared what I may find when I come back.
what I know about Koreans and depression; knowing what I know about my Korean
parents, depression and alcoholism; knowing what I know about my own struggles
with depression, alcoholism and addiction I wish I knew more about how to help
I think we are moving through this season of hurt, but then I am reminded of
the very meaning of seasons and that cutting isn’t just a one time thing, a one hundred
time thing, or even a one thousand time thing . . . it’s a lifetime thing.
This article that popped up on my facebook feed has been haunting and haunting me. It's an article about the elderly taking their own lives after abandonment by their own children and society. I suspect some of the elderly do it to not be a further burden on their struggling children, honestly, but many of them commit the awful final act after becoming depressed and abandoned by their children whom they poured their life and money into. The whole situation hurts my heart. How much sadness there must have been to get to that decision. How much sadness they leave behind.
How it worked in times past in Korea was that Korean parents would spend their days giving their best to raise bright and healthy Korean kids - fighting tooth and nail for every single wonderful opportunity they hear of/ come by to give them that "edge" in such a homogeneous society. Grown up Korean kids would then turn around and give their parents a roof over their heads, warm yummy family meals to join in (because everyone lived in one house), and a monthly stipend of "spending money." with occasional trips thrown in. With all the apartment living and two income families now in Korea constantly up to their ears in debt because they've fallen for the whole credit card con I can imagine how this is just getting much harder to do.
When I was growing up, I always associated holidays with cooking. Even when my parents were working 13 hour days, six days a week, my mom always took the time to cook a few special dishes for the holidays.
When my sister and I were in college, we would always go to my parents' dry cleaners on the day before the holiday, sometimes for the whole day but more often, just for the afternoon. We would walk about 45 minutes from my parents' house to the LIRR station in Port Washington, and ride to Little Neck. From the Little Neck station, we would either walk or my dad would come pick us up to take us to Mayflower Cleaners, located where Northern Boulevard meets Great Neck Boulevard. There, we would help my parents finish up their labor for the day: handling customers as they came in, sorting the clothes, removing the lint from each of the items, bagging the clothes in plastic, putting them on the conveyor belt, restocking all the supplies for the next work day, vacuuming, and wiping down the counters.
How does a 1st generation Korean family do Thanksgiving? I remember the first few times, my parents and I quizzically poking at dry cafeteria turkey breast and grimacing at the new herb flavors in the stuffing. I remember my uncle good-naturedly trying to swallow down mashed potatoes on his first Thanksgiving with us, then eventually caving in and asking for some kimchi to go with it.
However, as the years passed and the more America we absorbed, we learned to adore this holiday and its feasting. And we have blended it with some Korean favorites, which actually go really well with the more traditional dishes.
Kimchi instead of cranberry sauce...
Kimchi fried rice (try it with gravy on top)...
Korean moonshine made from backyard grapes and soju...
Three generations of silly, brilliant people
What are some elements of your own Korean American Thanksgiving? Let us know in the comments below!
Nothing has brought me closer to death than giving birth.
Before I had my son, I thought about death, but only occasionally, the way I assume most others do. It was there in the abstract, off in the distance, never threatening, never looming. Like a distant cousin, it reminded me of its existence every once in a while, when I happened to pass an accident on the freeway or read a novel with tragic ending, which in turn reminded me to live more purposefully, meaningfully. But apart from its occasional pep talk, it had little to do with me.
Back then, I didn't fear death. If anything, I felt cavalier. So what, I remember saying. What do I have to lose? My life was my own, and I was beholden to no one. If something were to happen to me, a few others may be sad or even devastated, but I didn't own their grief. I was the only one who could potentially suffer, but not really because wouldn't I be dead after all? Just make it quick and don't let me suffer too much, was my canned retort.
My kids have been out of school since Memorial Day Weekend but most local schools got out some time after. We have LOTS of summer plans: breakfast at 9:30 am, scoops of ice cream at 9 pm, overnight week-long camps for the kids (2 sessions) and mini-vacays for the adults, day camps with specific actvities (tennis, ASPCA, etc.), roller coasters, water parks, reading and math enrichment sessions, open camp fires, amusement parks, the beach (already been once so far), state parks, national parks, s'mores!, slumber parties, birthdays, "spa" days, swimming at the pool, neighborhood block parties, camping, the river(s), reading, visits with Ms. Beth at the library, arts and crafts, lakes, fishing, gardening, movies, at home movies and much, much more.
What are some of your summer plans?
And of course day trips to the parks and area lakes and rivers will include gimbap picnics and galbi bbq!
Angie in Texas LOVES summer! Not so much the Texas heat.
(Please forgive the "first-world problems" feel of this post.)
As my children have gotten older (they are now almost 10 and just a touch over 12), I have noticed a disturbing pattern that I may have been unaware in the past: specialization.
My daughter's into soccer. She plays in a youth sports group and they practice for about 1 hour once a week, play once a week and the season is only about 2 1/2 months long at a time. She plays probably 2-3 "seasons" a year. Though she is 12, most of the girls on her team are 10 and 11. They "play up". Playing up is based on the theory that if you raise the level of competition they will play to meet that challenge (or something like that).
Many of the girls on her team will probably leave in the next season or two to move into "club" soccer. Club soccer here is more . . . specialized. This is when teams practice 3-4 times a week for an hour or an hour and a half each practice and will play 2-3 games a weekend. They will also travel to surrounding areas (and in Texas that could mean 3+ hours of driving) and play in tournaments that go on for entire weekends (Saturdays and Sundays).
My son was participating in Tae Kwon Do and in tennis. A few months ago, he had to make a very difficult choice: he had to choose. He is 10 years old and he was being forced into specializing. As a 10 year old he would do tennis 2 times a week and then TKD 2 times a week and depending on visitation weekends, TKD sparring on Fridaysa and TKD tournament team on Saturdays or a tennis tournament. Tennis was 2 private lessons a week plus 'clinic' for a total of about 7 hours of tennis a week. This wasn't enough . . . his new schedule is tennis 4 days a week (about 10-12 hours a week) and an average of 2 tournaments a month (tournaments begin on Fridays and end on Sundays if you're playing well).
I look around and I see it amongst many of our friends: a 12 year old who plays club volleyball - tournaments are all weekend long and consist of many games per day, a 14 year old who is now home schooled so she can pratice tennis 8+ hours a day, and a 17 year old who has been taking tennis lessons for 12 years.
And this is just the sports side. I know children who practice piano 15-20 hours a week, a neighbor's child plays drums for school, church and 2 bands (he's 16) and on and on and on...
In all of these cases (and from personal experience) I have been told that kids HAVE to specialize if they want to remain competitive. Competitive for school, college, scholarships, professionally.
As parents we want what's best for our children.
We want opportunities for them that we didn't have.
My grandmother had six children. A boy, and then a girl, and then another boy, and then another girl, and then another boy, and then another girl. My dad was the middle boy.
A professor of population studies asked me during a discussion if my grandmother had six children and if my mother had two. I answered yes. Yes and yes. Apparently, Korea had very strict population control and those were the ideal numbers for those days. I was quite dismayed to learn that my family was so typical. The number of cousins and siblings so determined by governmental forces.