Category: Motherhood

Viva La Vida

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I owe a lot to J√≥nsi’s music, because I’ve written the vast majority of my novel listening to his songs on my headphones. Especially Grow Till Tall and Hengilas.

But I owe Coldplay’s Viva La Vida my regained life. It is the theme song to my life transition.

I spent much of last year in the grip of severe postpartum depression. Ten months of it, in fact. My depression was not without struggle–I didn’t just succumb; I fought it hard. I walked my baby in a stroller miles each day, in hopes of gaining endorphins. I tried to go out and get sunlight. I looked into my baby’s eyes and tried to find the light in hers. I went online and tried to connect with friends and society. I met my best friend everyday. And every single morning, I danced.

Yes, I danced, even though I wanted to die, and even though I was always alone, and even though I was sleepless and couldn’t eat, and was down to high school weight, and even though unbeknownst to me, my marriage was crumbling beneath me.

Every morning, I put my daughter in a sling, and danced for an hour to Viva La Vida.

I used to rule the world
Seas would rise when I gave the word
Now in the morning I sleep alone
Sweep the streets I used to own

The sun had not yet risen, but my baby would awaken. And I would get up in the dark in an empty house, and we would dance in the kitchen. My life had completely changed, and I was going through the biggest shitstorm.

We bounced. Sang. Faked it.


I used to roll the dice
Feel the fear in my enemy’s eyes
Listen as the crowd would sing,
“Now the old king is dead! Long live the king!”

It took a long time to get pregnant. Thirteen years. We gave up so many times. When I finally got pregnant, it was so unexpected that I spent the first week of my pregnancy riding rollercoasters and drinking daquiris at DisneyWorld and Universal Studios. Because I did not know I was pregnant.

My life, to that point, had felt perfect.

My life, to that point, had been perceived as perfect.

We were the couple everyone wanted to be. I didn’t just think this–people told us all the time. People still tell us that in the wake of divorce. “We thought you were the ones who would make it.” So did I.

We’d just sold our startup. We were college sweethearts. Everything, I thought, was in balance.


One minute I held the key
Next the walls were closed on me
And I discovered that my castles stand
Upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand

But then, as all things do when they fall apart, things fell apart fast.

What I had thought was a foundation, was no longer there. The house had been sliding for years. Slowly, I thought. It could be fixed, I thought. But at some point, there was a fulcrum, and the house tipped. It didn’t take much. A pregnancy. A baby. My depression. My ex-husband’s restlessness.

We’d been through worse. And survived. But not this time. It was too much.

I wanted to die. Everyday. But I carved out space for joy–I slid down the concrete slide at Cordonices with my best friend–because, as my logic went, for that minute, I could experience glee while falling. Even if for a minute, I wanted to not want to die.

And I danced.


I hear Jerusalem bells are ringing
Roman Cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror, my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field

And then I stood up. I didn’t know the terrain. But I stood, trembling. Things had changed so much in the course of a year. I hoped things would get better. I danced because I wanted at least one hour of dancing each day, when I mustered all the energy I had into getting my head above water. I had that hour. I had this song. I was bliss adjacent.

My best friend held me while I cried. Answered my calls. We texted every waking minute.

We were bliss adjacent.

We went to New York City. And we danced. In the mornings there, I danced to Viva La Vida, as the sun rose over the East Village.


For some reason I can’t explain
Once you go there was never
Never an honest word
And that was when I ruled the world

I’d lost my world. There were so many lies. Where are you, I’d ask. And you were not where you said you were. You were not telling me the truth.

There was nothing to do but dance in the morning. With feigned joy, at first. I would show my daughter how to be happy.


It was the wicked and wild wind
Blew down the doors to let me in
Shattered windows and the sound of drums
People couldn’t believe what I’d become

I didn’t tell many people what was going on. I told my closest friends. I told my best friend. All the walls had come down, and I felt too vulnerable out in the world.

I couldn’t deal with the shock. I was too shocked, myself.

I wondered about my future. What would I become? What would I do? Who was I without this marriage?


Revolutionaries wait
For my head on a silver plate
Just a puppet on a lonely string
Oh, who would ever wanna be king?

Who would want my life? Who wanted this life? I certainly didn’t.

I danced until my cheeks flushed. I danced until I was sweaty. My daughter laughed with glee at my chest.


I hear Jerusalem bells are ringing
Roman Cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror, my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field

We sang. It didn’t feel victorious. It was hopeful, though. It was about faith–that happiness would eventually return. That there were lessons to learn. That I would emerge, stronger.

I was scared. I held onto the familiar. I gave him time. I said I would wait.

I overcame my postpartum depression. I started seeing colors again.

“You’re the same as before,” he said.

“Yes, I’m back.”

“What did I do?”

“I don’t know.”


For some reason I can’t explain
I know Saint Peter won’t call my name
Never an honest word
But that was when I ruled the world

So many lies. He never called me. He was far away. Even though he was really in town. But the truth–the truth came out almost exactly a year ago. And it nearly destroyed me. But it was better than the lies. The moment he told me everything felt like a deep and fatal wound–but at least I felt something. And it was true.

The day it was over, I had to call him. And then the truth, again.

It was over. I collapsed.


Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh


I hear Jerusalem bells are ringing
Roman Cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror, my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field


For some reason I can’t explain
I know Saint Peter won’t call my name
Never an honest word
But that was when I ruled the world

That was my old life. I wasn’t dancing alone then–I thought I was alone, but I was dancing with my daughter. And my friends. And my new love.

Lunches for P

My toddler started Montessori–and with that, school lunchbox preparation commenced in our household. She isn’t too much into sandwiches and while she eats most anything, her tastes are still fickle; loves peas one day, wants nothing to do with them the next and loves chicken apple sausages for lunch, doesn’t touch any for dinner. Fun times.

I am driven crazy by the lunch making. Constantly making the lunches! The upside: I can take pictures of the lunches. So I take pictures of.the.lunches. That’s the thing with motherhood pictures; we are with our kid/s all day, and sometimes the only relief is taking photographs; kid just dumped food all over their head? Dammit. Gotta clean it. Gotta re-prep the food. Because kid will still be hungry. But–picture!

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I get up early each morning with my kid. Usually this means around 7am, but sometimes it’s as early as 5:30am if she’s teething or going through a moody phase. I give her a sippy cup of milk. And then I take out the yumbox bento thing.

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When I was a kid, lunches were a very political thing in the cafeteria. Not political in the strict Republican/Democrat sense, but political in the way when meaningless things can affect status. Like how lunchboxes were key in first grade, and how by sixth grade you were carrying lunch in a brown paper bag. And whether or not you had a Twinkie or Doritos, something that you could trade. Nevermind that you traded a Twinkie for a Zinger or Doritos for Cheetos, and the two things were pretty much the same–just the fact that you had something of value made your lunch and thereby you, more interesting, more valued.

I could never clearly explain the above to my mother, who packed my lunches for a short while. “Twinkies are important!”

“No,” she would say.

And she was right. They weren’t really important. But at the same time, they were.

I always put some pasta in my kid’s lunch. She, like so many toddlers, likes pasta. It’s a safe bet. Sometimes I will put in mini farfalle, other times annelini or ditalini. Maybe soba.

Toddlers don’t trade food, of course. During the first few days of transition, I watched the school eat; shoving fistfuls of food with trembling hands into their mouths, or maybe they would miss, and get part of their cheek. Half the food would fall onto the tabletop. They would try again. Like old folks, some of them. Random wailing, then random laughter.

In the meat compartment, I sometimes put in some sliced framani salami, or mini chicken sausages. Or leftover meat like diced steak. My kid likes her protein.

When I moved to California as a kid, I lived in a largely homogeneous neighborhood. I was one of two Korean kids in the whole school. One of three Asian kids. One year, there was a new kid who had just moved to the U.S. from Korea. He spoke no English. Here, said the teacher, teach him English.

At that point, I’d forgotten my Korean. I spoke no Korean, either. But somehow, I accepted the fact that it was my responsibility to be that bridge. I was eight years old. I took a yellow crayon, pointed to it and said, Yellow. I pointed to the words on the crayon label, and said, Yellow.

John (not his real name), brought lunch to school. He had kimbap in his lunchbox–everyone stared. The teacher pointed and said, “What is that? That’s beautiful!”

I knew what it was. I loved kimbap. But I would never dare bring it to school. I figure in our heads was a mixture of interest and awe. But then someone said, “Ewww!” and then everyone else said “ewww!” and that was that. He never brought Korean food to school again.

I also give my daughter vegetables and fruit. She loves legumes. Kidney beans. Edamame. Black beans. And also peas. Not so much broccoli, even though she loves saying the word broccoli. Also, all the fruit. Especially berries. I do not know what I will do when berry season ends. Though she does love frozen berries, and that will see us through winter.

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Eventually, I asked my mother if I could just buy lunch. That way I could be part of the masses. Everyone complained about the school lunches, but I liked them. My mother did not make me spaghetti or lasagna or enchiladas or anything Western at home. And I relished the cafeteria food. I liked the trays.

My daughter is fickle about cheese/dairy. She does not like yogurt, except when mixed into her sippy cup with milk. No cottage cheese, either. Sometimes she will eat cheese. She drinks enough milk, so I do not worry about her calcium. So sometimes I will put diced tofu in the dairy slot of her tray.

In junior high, there was a concession stand. No more cafeteria lunches. I would take my money and buy whatever I wanted. Usually, chili cheese fries. But then I started worrying about my weight. So when Big Debbie wanted my lunch money, I would give it to her. She was kind of a bully, but at the same time, I didn’t really eat, so I didn’t see it as a big deal.

My friend Toni and I sat together everyday for lunch. Sometimes we sat with Big Debbie and her friends. I didn’t sit with my classmates–Big Debbie was a year older, and her friends were kind of tough. Their frosted hair stood straight up with the aid of Aqua Net. They ate the cream filling out of Twinkies with a straw. I learned to swear.

In high school, I stopped eating altogether. I sat with my classmates by then. We sat adjacent to the rally court, on the risers. I sipped my diet coke.

The daycare provides a report with what my daughter eats each day. None, half, or all. She always eats her meat. Mostly eats her pasta. Some of her vegetables. Sometimes all or half of her fruit. Usually, none of her cheese.

Everyday, I wash the yumbox. And then the next day, I make her lunch again.

Gratitude

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This is my first post on this blog–and I have decided to write about gratitude to begin the filling of this space.

Last year was one of the most difficult years I’ve ever lived in my adult life. While the prevailing feeling was loneliness, the reality is that my friends held me up and kept me from being pitched into the ocean of postpartum depression, new motherhood, and abandonment. I was, in fact, not alone.

My friends came around and dropped gifts (food, bibs, toys, booze, handmade blankets, baby clothing) and food (pasta, pozole, pizza, etc) off to me, dropped by, sent me things in the mail, called me, texted me (so grateful for friends in different time zones), sent cards, watched P, and countless other valuable acts. I can’t remember it all, though it is all these things that kept me from embitterment and reminded me that people are good. Friends are good. People remembered me and P. My life could be amazing, and it is.

I’m often the one organizing things–but that energy is largely gone these days, because frankly, I’m refilling my own well for now. And so I feel I cannot return what I have been given. My postpartum depression is behind me, my life is getting back on track, my new identity is becoming more familiar, but I’m still overwhelmed by this enormous transition. I’m amazed at all the energy my friends have summoned (so many people who did the above are mothers to very very young children–and all of my friends are busy people) and sent my way. I hope someday I’ll galvanize energy and return positivity into the universe.

My life feels very much saved by love. Thank you.