Men and Women: Oh, the Flu

She gargles the fire in her throat (upstairs),
makes lunch (downstairs),
dusts (both floors),
washes the sheets (downstairs),
reviews geography with her son (upstairs),
heats the castor pack (downstairs)
hacks into the waste bin,
does her saline wash (upstairs),
empties the trash bin (downstairs),
gets her boy more blankets (upstairs),
checks the soup (downstairs),
does the dishes,
runs over to the library (outside),
makes bone broth (downstairs)

 

He….well, he…pulls down the covers and does the hard work
of opening his mouth for the nice hot water and pills.

 

Women, Money, and Barbarians

8 Years Old:

Boy: Mom, if I marry a girl and then don’t like her anymore can I switch?
Mom: *shake head* No, that’s why you must choose very carefully.
Boy: Oh. *looking disappointed*

++++++++++++++++++++++

Boy: Mom, when do people get married?
Mom: You can marry in your teens but most people do it in their 20s and 30s.
You have to work hard and be able to provide for your wife and kids. House, food…
Boy: *Nodding* I have to make money.
I would like to babysit.

++++++++++++++++++++++

Mom: Yes, everything, all of creation started decaying when Adam and Eve ate the fruit.
Boy: Even the Tree of Life?
Mom: *stumped* Good question.

+++++++++++++++++++++++

Daddy, Mommy said I can get the Pokemon cards for Christmas.
Dad: Why don’t you get it with your allowance?
Boy: Mommy, should we get it with my allowance or yours?
Mom: *laughing* I don’t have a lot of money.
Dad: *hooting* Mommy has a BIG allowance! It’s called a credit card.

+++++++++++++++++++++++

Mommy, I realized it’s not good to be rich. People will get jealous and kill you.
You should be medium rich.

+++++++++++++++++++++++

Daddy, are barbarians still around?
Dad: What do you mean? Of course not.
Mom: Honey, it’s an honest question. The Western Roman empire fell to Barbarians. He’s wondering what happened to them.
Dad: Well no, Tennyson. They became civilized. BY THEIR WIVES. They were tamed by their wives.
*family laughing* There was the male barbarian. And the even FIERCER female barbarian.

 

You do realize some body-snatching went on here?

You do realize some body-snatching went on here?

The Woman You Praised

Cleopatra in Wiki

Cleopatra in Wiki

The one thing she wasn’t known for was a beautiful face but people – men in particular – were arrested by her presence, charisma, eloquence, and intellect. Cleopatra was captivating with a beauty only she could claim.

What is the greatest compliment you have received as a woman or paid one?

Though I have never known myself to be particularly attractive, in years past I’ve admittedly found the attention of men flattering. I don’t see that it wouldn’t be. It’s a confession that doesn’t sound politically correct against the backdrop of the many popular posts defending inner beauty and self-acceptance. I was startled by the realization this week that you also have all made me feel very beautiful. While male bloggers may enjoy affection or encouragement from their readers, they are not going to say we made them feel so lovely. Julius Caesar attracted people with the same qualities Cleopatra boasted but he wasn’t thought to be bewitching. What I’m getting at is that while the attributes that draw our admiration for both sexes will often reflect things deeper than skin, we praise men and women differently. We’ll choose language that polarizes gender. Certainly the very point of feminist contention, but I’d like you to think about – without worry over judgment – the most flattering or ennobling praise you’ve received not only as a person but as a woman. Or given to a woman, whether it’s something that affirms, emboldens, or redefines her femininity. We had fun with the posts where I swore I was a man. My husband would love it if I were softer. If I had to choose, I would rather have respect than love. Give me brains over beauty any day – a vote for myself and the female race. And more than traits, virtues like wisdom and integrity obviously merit recognition and make us really lovely. But even I can’t help but feel more womanly, and therefore more in touch with myself as a person, when I feel not only appreciated or liked but beautiful inside and out.

I Think I Love My Body

My husband knew I was The One when he first saw me. I (with a roll of the eyes) chalked up what he called love at first sight to the way the clothes happened to flatter me that evening. He stopped me in my tracks, though, when he admitted for the first time after 10 years together, “But I wouldn’t have wanted to marry you if you were fat.”

Now, he’s one of the sweetest, kindest, most compassionate people I know but apparently all that’s besides the point when it comes to attraction and mate selection. And call him what you will but I wonder. Doesn’t he have the right to want what he wants in a wife? Who’s to judge our sweet palate? Here we plunge into the politically correct thicket. How many people are more attracted to overweight people than to those who’re thinner? Let me preempt the comments. I am not saying large – or can I say it? – fat people cannot be attractive. I know big people who are pretty. And yes, I do believe some men (some) do want “more to love” of a woman. Nor can I say that the large couple over there doesn’t enjoy romance and abiding love. Add to the mix of disclaimers the cultures that are less obsessed with the Barbies of the developed world. So I’m obviously brushing with broad strokes. But do slimmer people, among women especially, really do have a better chance at love?

“I know I’m supposed to hate my body,” the patient said according to Kerry Egan, hospice chaplain and author, in a CNN article What the Dying Really Regret.

“But why…?”

“Well, Kerry, ” she looked incredulous that I even asked and laughed. “Because I’m fat!”

“The world’s been telling for me for 75 years that my body is bad. First for being female, then for being fat and then for being sick. But the one thing I never did understand is, why does everyone else want me to hate my body? What does it matter to them?”

Sometimes [what other people want them to believe is] based on their allegedly unattractive features. They might be ashamed of their weight, their body hair…It isn’t always the media and peer pressure that create this shame; sometimes it comes from lessons at home…Some women grow up thinking that their very existence in a body that might be sexually attractive…is cause for shame – that their bodies make bad things happen just by existing.

Clearly, we want to keep grounded in a sense of self that does not rely on our appearance and does not put too much premium on our effect on others (for better or worse). Not to withhold sympathy from this woman, but I don’t believe I am categorically lovely no matter how I look or how much I weigh. I just finished saying in The Obligation of Beauty that it’s a show of self-respect to take better care of oneself, and that means inside and out. But the self-love this article talks about turns a corner where it meets death.

There are many regrets and unfulfilled wishes that patients have shared with me in the months before they die. But the stories about the time they waste hating their bodies, abusing it or letting it be abused — the years people spend not appreciating their body until they are close to leaving it – are some of the saddest.

“I am going to miss this body so much,” a different patient, many decades younger, told me. “I’d never admit it to my husband and kids, but more than anything else, it’s my own body I’ll miss most of all. This body that danced and ate and swam and had sex and made babies. It’s amazing to think about it. This body actually made my children. It carried me through his world.”

It’s the very existence of being in a body, something you likely take for granted until faced with the reality that you won’t have a body soon. You will no longer be able to experience this world in this body, ever again.

So they talk about their favorite memories of their bodies. About how the apples they stole from the orchard on the way home from school tasted, and how their legs and lungs burned as they ran away. The feel of the water the first time they went skinny-dipping. The smell of their babies’ heads. And dancing. I’ve heard so many stories about dancing…I can’t count the number of times people — more men than women — have closed their eyes and said, “If I had only known, I would have danced more.”

Precious, isn’t it? Those drowning in the sea of mortality throw us pearls and we find their wisdom to be the simplest things. This one’s about love at last sight, so sad when the appreciation for self and breath and texture comes so late. The self-love we are encouraged toward isn’t a stout call to self-esteem but a fresh vision of beauty birthed by the anguished promise of loss. Recast in this light, the distinctions between thin and big people diminish. We all have a strong, strong chance at love.

If I Die

I remember watching my grandfather bury my grandmother’s ashes on our family’s farm twenty-five years ago. It was November, upstate New York, a cold winter’s evening. We…all walked behind my grandfather through the purple evening shadows across the familiar meadows, out to the sandy point by the river’s bend where he had decided to bury his wife’s remains. He carried a lantern in one hand and a shovel over his shoulder. The ground was covered with snow and the digging was hard work – even for such a small container as this urn, even for such a robust man as Grandpa Stanley. But he hung the lantern on a naked tree limb and steadily dug that hold – and then it was over. And that’s how it goes. You have somebody for a little while, and then that person is gone.

Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert

Honey, I realized that if I die first you’ll want to do a slide show. I’ll have to get together some childhood photos. You know which song to use, the one that makes me cry. Be sure to send the slide to my East Coast friends. Don’t lay me out for the viewing, okay? Close the box, please. I would appreciate some privacy. And you know me. Don’t even look at the first-class caskets. No sense in burying your money with your wife. I insist on traveling Economy. Oh gosh, the eulogy. Oh gosh, your grammar. Uh…why don’t we give the words over to our pastor? Or…or Jon? You’ll be busy with the preparations anyway. Let me leave you with at least this token of peace: you have my blessing to remarry. Someone who will love you better than I did and will make me look bad. I gotta let go my ego sometime – but ONLY if she is good to Tennyson and will mind my food blog for his meals. Gee, I hope she’s not A.D.D. I would approve if she has kids, if he can get instant siblings out of the deal. ‘S me, bargain-hunting through the end.

Don’t go crying too much, now. I mean that. You live while you can. But remember to hold our son when he spills those tears. Tell him Umma is happier than she’s ever been, that she’s finally had the reunion that burst her heart with joy. And that she asked the Lord for the dog-free section, the food’s organic, and there are no dishes. You always thought I was marketable, saw my name in literary lights. And here I probably leave you with no royalties or anything for all the writing you freed me up for. You’re right. You should’ve taken out the life insurance on me. But you’ll always have A Holistic Journey, one that never ends. I hope your wife’s not the jealous type. Just please make sure Tennyson reads this blog, my gift to him. Tell him the one thing I ask of him, the one thing I ask to redeem all my work with him, is the drumming. It would please me so much for him to get a college scholarship. I never planned to burden the boy, but what can he expect? Korean Mom. A little pressure doesn’t hurt. Save my rings for his wife.

Husband’s email yesterday: “Remember, if you die, I’m vaccinating him, putting him in public school, feeding him fast food, and putting him to bed without washing his hands after the bathroom.”

Dear God,
Tennyson’s on autopilot with the hand-washing but I still REFUSE to see you in the next ten years.

Love,
Bull-headed in California, aka Holistic Wayfarer

 

The Song:

I Am Rich

Mom was the first to rise. I would peel open an eye to catch her brushing on mascara while Dad snored. Our one bedroom smelled of Shiseido moisturizer and the coffee that pulled her from fatigue into her day. The breakfast rice swelled on the stovetop. I went back to sleep.

I remember the colors of Christmas. We never had a tree, for the lack of space and the frivolity it was. But the lights we did, tiny red and green bulbs a scant garnish on the rail of my top bunk. Every December I’d tramp through grey snow slush to Woolworth’s with my cousins, the giant five and dime that offered everything under the New York sun. Chocolate, Maybelline with all her wares, Arrid roll-on deodorant, lines of nail polish. Instead of walking out with Christmas presents for friends and family, every holiday jaunt I would leave the store thinking, “I’ll have some money next year.” And it took me 14 years to realize next year never came. But my parents still came through.

Mom would do what she had to, ride as many subway cars as she needed to procure what her kids asked of her. Resources on the state of Maine for a school project, the cheesecake her girl loved. One call to the restaurant where she waitressed, and she came home arms full with shiny travel books and the box from Zaro’s bakery on Grand Central. She kept our home tidy between and around the 14 hours of work; and though she could’ve better discriminated how she fed us, my brother and I were never in want of food. She asked nothing of me, not even the dishes, except that I do my best in school. Like many of us, I grew up with no iGadget, the closest thing being Atari. Yes, I want it, Daddy. I could feel the weight of the purchase on his shoulders in the store. I got so good at the video game, I could play Froggie upside down. I lay, hair fanned out on the carpet, chin to ceiling, and steered the frog on the TV screen across the perilous highway whole and happy.

My mother woke resolute every morning. She worked so hard I wonder if she even had time to be afraid. I sacrifice sleep not to keep clothes on my son’s back but for the gratification of my art, the joy of writing in these secret hours. Although I’d rather do without it for spiritual reasons, it meant everything to me to be able to get the tree five years ago – not only Tennyson’s first Christmas tree but cmastreehis parents’ as well. One taller than we are to help make for our boy fuller memories of tradition we never knew. We had afforded him something to decorate and bring alive into the magic of the season.

I am seeing how the question of sufficiency impacts the choices we make and how satisfied we are. Do I make enough, have enough? Is he good enough to marry? From all the jokes on the last post, is she good enough to keep? Does my child? Have I lost sufficient weight? Are my grades up to par? Were my parents enough? Am I smart, capable, healthy enough for the project, job, race? Have I accomplished enough? Each question makes for a post, if not a book.

The resentment I held my parents to much of my life was the assertion that they were deficient. While they did lack greatly in some respects, I am seeing with the years that they did not have much by way of emotional resources. They did what they could with what they had. For me. Although my husband asks little of me, it is when I want him to do or be more that I become discontent. My child comes to me and expresses his grievance when I wound him but he always returns to the place of forgiveness. I am astonished to find that to him, his father, and my parents, I am more than enough. I also have deeply loyal friends. And here you all are. I am so unworthy. No need to correct me; I didn’t say worthless. You would unfollow if you knew the thoughts I spin sometimes. We don’t know one another’s unfiltered story. But this I can tell you.

I am so very rich.

Money in My House

Math lesson: “Mom’s money is Mom’s money and Daddy’s money is Mom’s money.”

=======

Boy: Counting, recounting the money he earned folding laundry this month. Saving for a tablet. “$7.50. I have a long way to go to get to $200.”

Mom bites lip, looks up at ceiling. He doesn’t know she borrowed the $120 he made as a child study in a psychology program (last year).

=======

Tonight

Daddy: “Daddy’s sad because he lost his wallet.”
Boy: “Oh, that means will be poor now.”

It’s Your Fault

Before you hit that like button, know that I’ve disabled it under the post. So if you tap it on your notice, I’ll know you didn’t read. I feel bad getting all these likes. Wondering if it’s the Korean in me.

The ballooning comments to When Parenting Sucks makes me think I should put out When Marriage Sucks. Any other ideas? Maybe When Christian Music Sucks.

I’d better hop off before I’m boycotted.

I love you, Husband!

The Measure of a Woman

I don’t remember my mother ever having the cold or flu. She must’ve had her share, especially in the sharp New York winter. She remains healthy in my memory because she never took a day off, never took a nap, never complained. Not even when the needle flew off the Singer and disappeared into her finger. Between the waitressing years in New York, Mom sewed for the giant garment industry that Latino and Asian immigrants pinned their hopes on in the 70s and 80s. The heaps of cut fabric she brought home in the metal shopping cart, they literally called homework. It enabled her to raise her kids and stay involved in my early schooling. Mom did everything fast. She would feed polyester rectangles through the machine and recruit me and my little brother to flip them into shirt collars. At two cents a piece, time was the enemy. She ate a lot of dust.

The older I grow, the smaller I feel in the shadow of my mother’s sacrificial silence. I grew up exasperated with Mom, but her threshold of patience in marriage and motherhood was a lot higher than mine. Thanks in part to the freedom of speech this beloved Land of the Free so fiercely protects, the culture of rights I am privileged to claim citizenship in. Thanks in part to a nature that still begs tempering. I need to be humble. Need to love. I worship a God who exchanged his rights for a cross.

MomKitchenI don’t have the patience and gentleness for my son that Mom had for me. How dare I draw myself up to her small frame in these comfortable shoes that cost more than what she ever spent on her own tired feet? It wasn’t just waitressing that her legs ached from. She stood hours in the kitchen over the traditional side dishes that every meal called for. Did you know Korean food is misogynistic? When I dug up this picture of Mom, I was surprised at the poor quality of the photo. It had stuck in my head as a beautiful shot, one of my favorite of hers, because it shows her radiant slaving away in a hole with no ventilation in a tiny apartment. And then my grandmothers had it even harder. No appliances to keep up with the laundry for a family of eight or nine. My mother’s father passed away when Mom was three, leaving Grandma to flee on foot with six children when the communist North invaded Seoul three years later. My mother became the youngest in the family when her brother, three years old, died en route from the pneumonia they could not treat in the winter flight. They buried him on the road and this and the rest my grandmother endured with silent heartache and grace. If unassuming, unreserved sacrifice is the measure of greatness, surely greatness diminishes with each generation. Or is it just me? I am probably the weakest link in my line. No, I don’t believe all the women before me were virtuous, and I know of many among Mom’s generation who even abandoned their own. I’m talking of the times and culture. Though I may shoulder my hearty share of struggles, my days aren’t heavy with the desperation I sensed in Mom when I was a child. The small matter of war aside, she and the women before her had to push through resistance just to procure the basics. Korea was poorer then, and immigrant life tougher than the country that shut no door on me as I was growing up. Living seemed to have required more fortitude. There are things I do better than Mom did. Like many of us, I determined to be a different parent. But my savvy turns out to be simply a matter of knowledge and opportunity – from the education my mother paid for with her very self. I had set out to do better but I now see that every success of mine is the dream she chased.