Light-hearted poem for mid January: Shel Silverstein

Mid January already. Before the days, weeks, and months roll by, there’s a running list of things I want to accomplish. But a realistic assessment of my time, resources, and energy are limited. So I want to approach this year with small things. Those small steps may not lead to dramatic results, but I want to cultivate contentment for what I do in a day; not focus on what I could have done or should have done.

The following poem by Shel Silverstein takes a fun perspective of doing something silly because it’s fun to do. I need more of this. Hope the poem makes you smile or encourage some silliness in your life!

Book tote from Barnes and Noble. Kids didn’t get why I was laughing so much…it’s an 80s thing.

Pretending smiles

Kids discovered a little patch of wonder on top of a dingy storm drain during an afternoon walk. This stopped us in our tracks as we long marveled at this micro world. It looked nothing like its surrounding hard and tough exterior. Beauty is found if we look deeper and closer.

This sight was what I needed that day; it’s been one of those weeks where unexplainable sadness swept over me again and I dreaded its effects: crying randomly, withdrawing, insomnia, oversleeping, feeling unworthy; the list goes on but I’ll stop there.

UNDERFACE
β€œUnderneath my outside face
There's a face that none can see.
A little less smiley,
A little less sure,
But a whole lot more like me.”
- Shel Silverstein

It was an ironic turn of events, because I was half-done writing a positive post about how glad I felt my depression was finally lifting. I’ve been more proactive taking care of my mental health by meeting with a psychiatrist that began 6 months ago. It’s a tumultuous emotional and mental process that is hard to describe. It doesn’t look like anything is wrong from the outside, but inside it’s a tangled mess of questioning, accusing, and belittling myself. This kind of stuff is not something you bring up lightly during dinner or mention it in passing without getting raised eyebrows.

I’d rather hide it under a smile and not get into it. But this pretending takes a lot out of me. It’s at these times that I need to turn to God for help, but I do the exact opposite. I turn away deliberately filling my life with distractions. I refused to read or even get close to opening the Bible during this time. Sometimes the misery is familiar and getting better is frightening. You want to share to get some support, but it’s hard to be vulnerable and to feel like you are burdening the other person with your problems.

Anyways, that’s how I’ve been feeling these days. I felt better after reading God’s word, which I have been avoiding, and reminding myself firmly that God has a purpose for me. He encourages me when I least expect it and reaffirms that depression does not disqualify me from love. What a journey! When I feel sad, I don’t know why I have to explain that I’m not faking the funk. It’s a vicious cycle of ups and downs.

Isaiah 40:31
"But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint."
How did this grow there?
Lush and vibrant

This blog is a snippet of my life journey and this messy bit is a part of it.

Readers, I appreciate you being here and reading my posts! I feel extremely blessed for this blogging community and for family and friends. God encourages me through them and I hope to do the same for them.

What a leaf fossil taught me about pain

A new month already and cooler days will be here soon.

On a short stroll with Ellis yesterday, we found these leaf fossils on the sidewalk. How does something so delicate imprint on something as hard as concrete? The details are intricate and the shapes distinct. I wish I could tell you what kind of tree these leaves are from. (If you know, please share.)

It’s been a long week with the leg pain that bothered me from the beginning of this year. It started with knee pain that aggravated the leg, probably from compensating for the knee. This has made simple tasks painful and strenuous, and kids don’t fully understand that mommy needs to rest. They rest alongside me, but they forget why we’re resting and jump on me.

I have this assumption that if my physical body hurts, then I am unproductive and useless. Pretty dumb to think that, but when simply bending down shoots pain up my legs, I wonder if it’s true. It’s when I’m vulnerable that the devil uses lies like this to wear me down.

God never lets me down…He didn’t have to show me but He probably knew I’d spend the rest of the day angry that maybe I could’ve prevented this pain. This flare up gets triggered when I try to do too much and hold Ellis like she’s still a baby. With her 3 year heart anniversary last week, I went overboard and held her a lot. She’s 39 pounds.

I should’ve known this was going to happen.

After the short stroll, I called the doctor and was told a cancellation opened up an availability. Can I get there in an hour? Yep, I’ll be there. Result: inflammation of the muscles; take anti-inflammatory medication for the next 2 weeks. I wish I didn’t have the pain at all, but God teaches me patience and acceptance of things I cannot change.

Love who I am, the way I am.

These leaf imprints remind me of human spirit’s resilience even in tough circumstances. We leave a mark when it seems like life is tossing and turning with no anchor. I thank God for showing us this random fossil. Confirmation that a tender leaf is strong and can alter an impenetrable surface.

Heart-fix anniversary: 3 years later together

Three years ago this month, we reached an incredible health milestone for Ellis. She finally underwent the 3rd phase of her heart surgeries. This was the goal to reach, meaning that she would’ve survived the first 2 surgeries and was doing well enough to undergo the 3rd one. She’d finally have normal oxygen saturation and less stressed blood circulation through her lungs and heart.

I’m not saying the above for sympathy or to be dramatic, but it’s honest sharing of fears we had of “oh no, the worst could happen.” When I talk about these fears with few close people, I’m stopped right away saying everything will be ok. Chris can’t even go there and shuts down when I get hysterical about Ellis’ health. It’s hard because others feel uncomfortable hearing this stuff. I end up consoling them and feel silenced again. Can’t be positive all the time even though I try.

3 months old

I didn’t pay too much attention to what the doctors said about her skin and nails turning pink post-surgery. But there was an immediate difference; her nails turned pink and the bluish tint on her face disappeared. Now, she could cry and we wouldn’t have to freak out like lunatics that she’ll pass out from it. 

The recommended time to undergo this procedure was 2-4 years of age, depending on the child, and she was already 4. The only hurdle was her slow weight gain; the goal was 30 pounds. The extra weight would provide some cushion and more energy for her body to help in recovery. Her weight hovered in the mid 20s for over a year, and each weight check at the doctor’s office filled me with anxiety. I dreaded hearing that her weight-to-age percentile suggested “failure to thrive”: her weight didn’t make it on the chart compared to similar aged kids.

Since she was born, I’d panic at the small gurgling sound coming from the bassinet or car seat. The first few times caught me off guard, but this became a regular occurrence for our family. Throw ups were a way of life that interrupted whatever we were doing; this happened often during mealtimes, and I was surprised at how we were able to clean it up and go right back to eating. This became our norm. I could even drive with my left hand with my right arm to reach back to comfort or hold the bag. 

Back in the day before Elliot could talk and Ellis was just months old, Elliot became my unofficial helper. When he’d hear the familiar throw up sounds, he’d run to me pointing to the baby that something was wrong.

Playing with Hot Wheels car and rocking bassinet. Elliot is 2 and Ellis, very baby

On seeing my panicked face, his little legs would run to fetch me a barf towel for his sister. Through the years, Elliot’s been a good sport about this even though I can sense more of his frustration. When he was younger, he overlooked it and wondered why she was always doing this; more prone to help. But after many incidents of accidentally touching it, or walking over it with his bare feet (like he did recently), he’s less patient about it.

Just stepped on Ellis’ throw up and in state of disbelief. Got mad at sister for not making it to the toilet on time. Mixture of crying and laughing. Summer 2020

The other night I started swiping through old photos on my phone, going all the way back to 2017. Remembering how the surgery was postponed 2 times, 2 vacations cancelled the night before the trip due to Ellis’ sickness, and latent fear of the future, I cried again. It’s weird how I tell myself that I’m done crying, but I can’t help it. Even though there were many fearful and sad moments, I try to remember the good memories of how we made the best in that situation.

They were small things: Elliot taking a ride in the hospital wagon, picking out food from the cafeteria, Elliot surprising sister with a small toy each night, Ellis saving a Jello for Elliot, me enjoying coffee and treats that friends brought, sitting down with friends to just sit there and get hugged, and thankful that Chris held us all afloat in this chaotic time.

Hanging out together during recovery of 3rd surgery

Hearing the past, Ellis whimpered a little while Elliot assured me that the wetness from his eyes were from yawning.

I reminisce wondering how we made it out alive, albeit my nervous breakdown that came later. Help of our wonderful friends and family members sustained us. If we were alone, I’m sure we would’ve crumbled under the pressure.

God loaned us a fragile one, perhaps to make us stronger despite our fears and weakness and realize that He is the ultimate peace giver in the storms. It’s our story of experiencing God’s presence in a vulnerable situation, unlikely time of feeling extreme love, and finding unexpected joys in that hospital space.

Waiting for the doctors in the surgery waiting area. This is my favorite picture of us holding onto each other. Her little hands on my chest, familiar smell of her face, and her usual warm embrace made my heart break. Outer body goes about doing what I need to do as a caretaker; still smiling; inside, withering under fear.
ICU. She woke up groggy and started crying slowly with a hoarse voice from the effects of the breathing tube. She asked me to come closer to her and asked if her stroller were nearby. When I said yes, she told me to get it so we can go home. Nurse turned on “Beauty and the Beast” movie for her…she hates that movie to this day.
Later in recovery, doctors recommended she take walks to help drain the blood from chest tubes. Amazed at the miracle.
My favorite peeps
Discharge morning
2020. Growing up, and finally lost her first tooth!πŸ˜ƒπŸ˜Šβ€
Birth
7 years later

*All posted pictures have been approved by Ellis. πŸ˜œπŸŽ‰

Near CA wildfires & evacuation possibility last weekend…major freak out

Hi everyone! I missed days of blogging this past week. But it’s been hard to sit down to write during the height of California’s wildfires blazing near our home. The fires sparked around the bay area from over 12,000 lightning strikes that struck 2 weekends ago. It has destroyed more than a one million acres of land, many homes and structures, wildlife, and even the loss of people’s lives.

The lightning sounds and lights jolted me awake in the middle of the night. Dry lightning with rumbling sounds are new weather phenomenon for us in CA, so I thought it was a very real-like dream. But when it didn’t stop at one or two of those lightning strikes, I realized this may be the day the world ends.

Those bolts sparked wildfires in different cities, which were exacerbated by the wind and blazing temperatures. The next day the sky turned brown and orange; smoke smell lingered stagnantly outside. It seemed like the prelude to a nature horror movie; blazing temps, smell of smoke, people wearing masks, and stagnant brownish-orange air shrouding the sun’s bright rays.

The extent of the fires didn’t register until my neighbors updated me via text about possible evacuation orders. Our area was under Red Flag Warning from early Sunday morning to Monday afternoon. It hit close to home when I realized the fires could reach us if the wind speed and direction suddenly changed. The CAL Fire map updates lit up red and orange in many areas; all you could do is zoom into your neighborhood and pray that it stays colorless.

Wednesday evening 8 p.m. from the passenger seat

The Redwoods state park was initially reported destroyed with flames torching the trees up to its crown, but thankfully not all of it was burnt down and people were not hurt. The nature center and office were burnt however. ugh. I read these trees can regrow and many of them have survived past fires; it’s still awful that trees who have withstood time for 1-2 thousands of year fell. I recently posted our outing to this park and was in awe of the uniqueness of the trees and its grandness. It’ll take many years for them to grow back to its glory.

This is the first time I’ve packed bags for evacuation. I started packing 11 p.m. and finished around midnight. I could’ve organized more effectively, but the kids kept following me around asking why I was packing and where we were going. Elliot must’ve felt my stress and released it through non-stop talking the next day. He talked nonstop and asked endless questions; no quiet moment. His verbosity was unusual, and to check if my observations were accurate, I texted Chris in Korean, who was sitting right next to me on the couch, to ask if Elliot seemed out of sorts. He agreed.

We couldn’t take the chance of texting in english in case Elliot jumped on one of us and wanted to sneak read our texts about him. I can already imagine tears and him hiding in the closet clutching his blankies. (I usually take lots of care to help them handle emotions, but this day I needed to double check with Chris that his talking was more than usual. It was a lot of talking and asking questions). I don’t think Ellis had a particular reaction; she just kept to herself digesting all the commotion.

Lovely surprise at my doorstep from my Bible study girlfriends. Thank you for these blooms!

For a few days, sleep was erratic and nerves on edge. Possibility of another lightning strike from Sunday evening to Monday afternoon made me simultaneously lethargic yet mentally vigilant to make quick decisions if evacuation were to happen. This led to multiple Thankfully, no onslaught of lightning strikes and the Red Flag Warning was cancelled hours earlier than previous schedule. Best anticlimactic news ever.

β€œWhen I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”  ~ Psalm 56:3

I’m thankful for God’s hedge of protection around our neighborhood and city; also, thankful for the firefighters, emergency personnel, leaders, and many more who are working countless hours to contain the fires. During a live FB update, a fire commander mentioned monitoring “fire behavior.” Seems so obvious that fire is an active force that reacts to certain conditions and materials, but it didn’t click in my mind till then.

Although I’m thankful that the fires did not cross over to our neighborhood, it’s heartbreaking that so many have suffered personal losses and of loved ones. These are fears turning up in nightmares. ugh….unimaginable how difficult it will be to cope. God help us all!!

2020 is a dramatic year: first COVID-19, which is still ongoing, and now the wildfires. Whew, this year is stretching all of to the limit. But I am choosing to trust God’s will and His supernatural peace to guide us through the experience. That’s a frightful thing because God can ask of me more than I think I can.

I hope wherever you are that you stay safe and out of harm’s way!! So many life obstacles this year that keeps all of us hyper vigilant. But God can…

β€œPeace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.” ~ John 14:27

At the Redwoods. I’m sauntering way behind my 3 peeps; taking my sweet old time taking pictures while Chris takes care of the kids. A big perk when he accompanies us on outings.
Running forward to brighter things.