Betty

September 14, 2020

Dear diary,

Betty is back. I mean Betty died, but mom is calling the new sourdough starter Betty.

I knew Betty v. 01 was going to die. I didn’t want to say this to mom because she was feeling ambitious. And it’s better to choose the well-being of the household rather than me being right. So I had to hold my tongue as mom went on about how Betty was going to live to be a hundred. I cheered her on and didn’t contradict her. Even though I wanted to. Because, I’m right. And I knew she would be wrong. But I held my tongue. Because love is more important than being right. Right?

But Betty died. Because we had a very, very warm summer. And mom didn’t dare turn on the oven. She did her best to hack the air fryer into a bread baker, but there are limits to what a human can do. So Betty didn’t make it. Like all of mom’s sourdough starters. Betty tried to live in the fridge, but when mom saw that she was turning grey, and smelled of nail polish remover, mom did what needed to be done. And Betty went into the compost.

Mom says Betty didn’t really die. That Betty has been around since the dawn of time. That Betty is air, dust, cloud, fire and earth. Mom says that we are all part of the larger universe and that it is our petit ego which decided that we were individual beings with individual identities. Tell that to the dead chicken, I say. Oh. Was that a bit mean? My judgmental side has been active of late. Mom is known for being yoonsoonami. With her might of a warrior. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

But I choose to practice love. Like mom. And postpone judgment. With discipline. Otherwise we will all end up in a war where bodies and spirits are killed, and postpone our evolution. Because we will evolve. Eventually. It’s inevitable. So don’t lose hope.

Betty is in the air. And she is waiting for us. To evolve. Very, very patiently. I think this is what love is. Waiting. Waiting patiently. Waiting patiently for evolution.

Love, Bob

Groundhogs and yellow jackets

September 5, 2020

Dear diary,

If it not the groundhogs, it’s wasps and yellow jackets. Mom wanted vegetables from the yard so she planted some delicata squash. She didn’t realize this was a dinner invitation to the neighborhood groundhogs. So most of the summer has been spent trouble shooting how to share the abundance with these creatures. The groundhogs have the privileged behavior of nibbling in every single squash until they find the perfect one for their taste buds. Like the baby bear in Goldilocks. I guess groundhogs were never taught to finish their plate. So mom had to figure out how to deter these little pranksters. And she found that the groundhogs don’t like to work too hard for their meals. So when the internet told mom to cover the vegetables/fruits with mesh bags, she thought, brilliant!!! And now mom is able to share her bounty with the critters of the neighborhood.

Mom then became enamored with hummingbirds. So she started making as many hummingbird feeders as possible. Did I mention mom has a love for abundance? She found a wonderfully clever idea of using kikkoman soy sauce bottles as hummingbird feeders. Amazing. The hummingbirds love it. But so do the wasps and yellow jackets. Another bumbling buffet of critters that mom doesn’t want in massive hoards. So now mom is researching “bee guards.” It’s a little contraption that allows the long tongued hummingbirds to reach the sugar water, but deters wasps and yellow jackets from reaching the goods. You can smell it but you can’t touch it. Is this called window shopping? Sounds mean to me.

Mom is spending small bits of money to figure out a diy strategy for making her own “bee-guard.” I hate to tell her that she could just buy some small hummingbird feeders that already have that feature built into them. But mom is persistent in her desire to reinvent the wheel and is spending more money and time into creating something that isn’t actually working very well.

The ego of a human is a curious thing. Imagine wanting to spend so much resources in order to say “I did this all by myself.” As if this meant that they didn’t get any help. Which they did. Because everything comes from something that is beyond you.

I do remember mom talking about small distractions creating a sense of joy and a feeling of control in a chaotic world. A binky for adults I guess.

For a binky, diy hummingbird feeders aren’t too bad. At least she’s not drinking!

Love, Bob

Hoarders

August 12, 2020

Dear diary,

Mommy is watching Hoarders, crying, and clearing out the basement. Mom says that she is one traumatic event away from becoming a hoarder. Every corner in the house, there lives yet more evidence of her pull towards hoarding. Axolotls, other various critters, plants, fabric, zippers, old books, home made clothing, diy earrings, canvases, paints, brushes, paper, and more paint.

This is all going in the trash or to the donation box. Not all. Mom is still keeping all her animals: her axolotls, Bubbles, Toki, Pada, Mango, Haneul, Namoo, Inkoo, Pecky, Mochi, and Marshmallow de Lafayette. But mom says she is going to stop getting MORE animals. Because up until a week ago, she was going to choose between a hamster or two baby chicks that will grow to lay blue eggs. But that plan has changed. No more animals.

Ten year old dried up paints went into the trash. Old art supplies that had withered with waiting went into the recycling box. Half of the clothes that she made went to donation, and fabrics that were bought just because they were on sale also went to donation. Sweaters that she knitted for herself and Jungmin went to donation. Gifts that never got used went to donation. Books that were read and not read went to the Seekonk sharing box. Projects that never took off: recycled, donated or trashed. Mom is purging, crying, grieving, and feeling deep unpleasant emotions. But she is learning to sit with her discomfort. Without trying to avoid them, fixing them, numbing them, or creating another mind-numbing distraction. So mom is watching Hoarders, crying and cleaning out the house.

One of the specialists says, “if you don’t feel it, you can’t heal it.” So mom is feeling a lot of things these days. A lot of unfixable emotions. And she is reaching out to loved ones. So that she can practice love and practice joy.

I wish the weather was cooler so that mom could bake bread. I miss the smell of yeasty bread.

Love, Bob

What is love

July 22, 2020

Dear diary,

Mom made bolognese sauce today. It wasn’t her usual sauce. Mom’s usual recipe is from a woman named Ruth. And the entire family loves this recipe. It uses spicy Italian sausages and canned Roma tomatoes from a place called San Marzano. It’s spicy and it’s tasty. Mom has been using this recipe for a while now. So today mom decided she wanted to broaden the horizon. She came across a different kind of bolognese sauce recipe. It’s by a woman named Marcella.

The recipe called for white wine, but mom wanted to know what replacements could take the place of white wine. She asked google and google told her that apple cider vinegar could easily and readily be used in place of white wine. In the same quantity. Just swap it out, and presto, all is well.

But mom wanted more data. So she tried to dig in deeper about quantity relationships, as well as apple cider vinegar’s relationship to milk in the cooking process. Because this particular recipe called for milk. Mom was a bit worried about vinegar and milk together because she knew something about curdling. Not cuddling, but curdling which sounds very unpleasant.

But mom couldn’t find more information. So she moved forward with the recipe.

When it came time to add the apple cider vinegar, mom hesitated and just poured half the amount called for. But then she realized that from this point onward there is a four hour commitment to the “laziest of simmers”. If mom only put half the amount called for, four hours would be wasted. And then what. But mom still wasn’t sure.

Mom had to make a decision: go with her gut instinct and reduce the amount of vinegar or trust in google. And mom said to herself, “you don’t know EVERYTHING Yoon Soo. Sometimes you have to just trust the information in front of you. You don’t know EVERYTHING.”

So mom swapped out the same amount of the white wine called for in the recipe and poured in apple cider vinegar into the bubbling pot. Two cups of apple cider vinegar.

Two cups of vinegar.

As you might imagine it didn’t go as expected. The entire house started to smell like vinegar. Not unlike when mom is making one of her balsamic vinegar reductions.

With one hour of “laziest of simmers” left, mom tried everything in her powers. More sweetness. More salt. More fat in the form of butter and olive oil. More salt. Hey, how about a bit of soy sauce? Can’t hurt right? In it went. How she struggled. Over the stove, a cauldron of bubbling bolognese sauce. The sharp zing stinging here eyes. It looked good. But it was the most zingy, tangy, tart bolognese sauce that was ever created. You could smell it from five feet away.

Jungmin and Dad finished their portions. That’s love. Dad even had seconds. That is true love.

Mom doesn’t fail often, but when she does, it’s epic.

Two cups of apple cider vinegar.

Dad comes up to mom and whispers, “next time a recipe calls for white wine, I’ll go fetch it for you honey. Anytime. Thank you for cooking on such a hot day.” Jungmin shouts out, “Thank you for cooking Umma!”

Mom’s entire being smells of vinegar, but she feels blessed this evening.

Happy Wednesday.

Love, Bob

Umgi

July 15, 2020

Dear diary,

Umgi died yesterday. It was quick and sudden. Mom saw her the night before and noticed that Umgi wasn’t perched up with her sisters. Mom thought maybe they were bullying Umgi again. So mom made sure to take a look at her first thing in the morning. Umgi was still down in the corner where the girls usually lay their eggs. Mom pulled Umgi into her arms and looked at her. Umgi’s crest was dark blood red. And she didn’t have any energy. Mom thought: maybe egg bound? Warm bath with epsom salt? Mom walked toward the house, and as if Umgi had been waiting for mom to be with her, she gave a shudder and then died. Just like that. Umgi’s neck went limp and her eyes closed. Umgi had died.

Mom was shocked. She caressed the dead bird and started walking in the yard. As if giving Umgi a tour of the summer yard. Mom walked and cuddled with her bird. If you didn’t know, you would think they were quietly looking for Easter eggs. They walked and they walked. It turns out mom was looking for a nice quiet spot. Somewhere Umgi could rest, in peace. Mom found a spot. Next to a lilac bush. Mom brought the shovel over. Umgi still in her arms, mom started digging. But it wasn’t going well. Mom had to put Umgi down. But she didn’t want to. It felt like she was abandoning her. Mom tried again to dig with one arm, Umgi in the crook of her left arm. But it didn’t work. So mom gentle put down Umgi by the grass and went to work digging the hole. Roots, bugs, worms, and more roots. After a while the hole looked deep enough and big enough. Mom gently put Umgi into the hole and carefully replaced the earth. Mom put a marker on the site and started crying.

Today mom feels ill. Listless. Worn down. Sad. I hope it’s not COVID-19. I’m sure it’s just the mourning.

Not JUST mourning.

Mourning.

Yes, not JUST.

Mourning.

Even though I want to fix it: make mom smile, make her happy again, I will let mom be. We all need to mourn sometimes. In a quiet space. Alone. And that is not a bad thing.

I love my mom.

I will send her some kisses and hugs today.

Love, Bob

Domesticated

May 19, 2020

Dear diary,

Mom found bunnies. Actually, she heard something squeaking. A sharp, and yet soft—eeeeeeeep. Eeeeeeeep. Eeeeeeeeep. Was is a high pitch? Yes. Was it also soft and quiet? Yes. Was it persistent and insistent? Yes. Mom was digging in the yard with a shovel. She was removing patches of these grasslike plants.

These grass like green plants are the first to pop up in the spring. It’s so promising to see green after a long winter. And when these green blades— more plump than blades of grass—pop up in early spring, it feels like something amazing was going to happen. Like a cute little flower is going to pop up and signal the warm season. A promise of joy. A promise of a smile. But then nothing happens.

These green patches sprout randomly all over the yard in spurts and halts. Jerking its way around the yard in slow motion. Meandering, without goals, in clumps, in batches. But one keeps waiting for something to happen. A small insignificant flower. A gesture. Anything. And then… they wilt and die for the season. Seriously underwhelming. Like I want my money back for all the waiting that I’ve done.

So mom decided to shovel them out and compost them. And it was during this digging session mom heard the sound. Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep.

Mom froze. It was an animal. She put the shovel down and quietly started listening for the sound. It came again. Eeeeeeeeeep. Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeep.

Mom found the sound. It was coming from the ground, in the middle of a patch of greenery. She softly moved the dirt and grass about. And then she saw a soft swatch of fur that had been gathered and place with intention. Mom saw pinky flesh and bulbous eyes that were still closed and blind. Mom gently put the brush back over the indentation and walked into the house.

With fear and a fierce heart mom googles: I disturbed a bunny nest. The internet told mom to leave the nest alone. The internet told her that it is nearly impossible to help new born baby bunnies without the mother. The internet told mom that if she wanted, she could put some light colored yarn over the nest so that mom could see if the mother had come back to feed her babies. Apparently the mommy bunny only comes by once every day or two to feed the babies. Mom went back out into the yard and found some light colored twigs. She made a hashtag sign over the nest and walked away.

Mom checked on the hashtag every other hour. Nothing. She went for a last look before bedtime. No movement to the hashtag.

The next morning, mom made a beeline to the hashtag. And voila! The hashtag had been disassembled and traces of earth had been moved showing that the mama bunny had come visited her babies and fed them. What a sense of achievement. Mom was happy all day. Mom made another hashtag over the nest so that she could keep track.

All day mom had worried that she had hurt one of the babies because of the shrill squeaking. Mom was worried that she would find a body. But all was well.

The next morning mom went to check on the bunny nest. And the hashtag had been disassembled again. Yes. Okay. Great. We got this. We have consistent behavior from the mom bunny. All is well. Sheesh. Mom is so grateful that she is going to document this stage and share it with the world. Mom goes into the house to get the phone and walks back to the nest. When mom views the scene through her camera, that’s when she sees it. The little body. A few inches away from the nest. A dead baby bunny. It turns out my mom had hurt that baby. And after being cared for by her bunny mom for two days, the baby didn’t make it. And the bunny mom moved it out of the house.

My mom then buried the baby bunny under her pear tree. She apologized to the bunny and said her thank you’s. Once. Twice. Three times. Throughout the day.

As the sun was falling mom said her last thank you for the day and went to bed.

This morning mom walked by the bunnies nest to check up on the progress. She was fantasizing about how she might befriend the bunnies with little treats throughout the summer so that she could feel like Snow White and all her little creatures.

When mom got to the nest, something was wrong. The entire location was a wreck. Earth had been moved with force and conviction. Perhaps a raccoon? Groundhogs? Skunks? Bits and pieces of pink.

As a domesticated animal living in the suburbs, mom doesn’t have to deal with life and death on a daily basis. Life and death is far removed from her daily life as meat comes in a neat little tray covered in plastic. There is even a little sponge on the bottom of the tray to soak up the wee bit of blood.

Baby bunnies are like candy bars of the animal world. But because it happened to her, all of the sudden the death of a batch of bunnies is significant and precious.

Is death bad? Humans seem to think it’s bad. But why is it bad? When you die, don’t you get to be a part of Mother Earth again and be whole? Instead of the shivering, scared creature that desires control and predictability—wanting to know what’s going to happen to them? When you die, you become part of nature again, and when you are nature, you don’t have to be afraid anymore, right? Because you will just be. Just be. That sounds nice. Just be.

I’ll have to ask my mom what she thinks about this idea.

Love, Bob

Ghosts, demons and raptors

April 26, 2020

Dear diary,

Mom cried yesterday. It happened suddenly like the hail storm of the other day. Without much warning, and before mom had a chance to notice, the tears started coming. It wasn’t a flood of tears. Just a smear of moisture that wet her face.

Mom has been doing her best to hold her shit together these last weeks. She started many mini projects to keep her mind busy. She propagated endless amounts of plants, she started her “not lost” flyer series, she painted with moss, donated and distributed over three hundred masks, and baked so much bread. So much bread.

But all this time, these activities felt like a form of running away. Running away from her feelings. Running away from strong feelings that mom was afraid to feel. Feelings that were like ghosts, demons or raptors that chased without losing breath. Almost elegant in their pursuit of prey.

But mom was constantly running out of breath. Hiccuping to catch her breath. Knowing that she had to slow down to ground herself. But she feared the feelings.

That’s when mom discovered something. Mom discovered that she was running away from sadness. Mom was running away from the fear of death. Death of friendships, death of relationships, death of hope.

Mom is an adult child of narcissistic parents. So her brain is hard wired to desire acceptance and approval. So much of the love mom experiences was conditional. Grandma would tell mom, “in order to be loved, you need to be lovable. But you are so not lovable, Yoon Soo”.

So mom thrashed about doing her damn best to be understood. In order to be loved. But mom realized that she is loved. Just the way she is. And the people who want to love her within the confines of their “conditions of love” will never understand her. And love her unconditionally. And that is the reality that mom is mourning. Mom is struggling with denial and bargaining right now. Denial in the form of “you’re exaggerating. It’s not that bad”. And bargaining in the form of “if you behave this way, then your relationship with that other person will becomes much better.”

Mom knows that the only way forward is radical acceptance and finding meaning in pain. Radical acceptance in the form of: not trying to change or fix the situation but acknowledging it for what it is. And finding meaning in the form of sharing the stories of pain, so others in similar situations can know that they are not alone.

Mom’s brain has been working double time to trick mom into thinking she is alone and not loved. But mom knows that this is the voice of trauma. This is what trauma looks like. This is what trauma looks like. This is what trauma looks like.

I love my mom. I hope she can cry a bit more to sooth herself. Vulnerability sucks. But it’s the life line towards compassion, isn’t it?

Love, Bob

Inertia

March 29, 2020

Dear diary,

I think I want a pen pal. I read that kids used to send each other letters and they would get to know each other, their communities and their life. I think I want a pen pal. I know that I’m an introvert, but that doesn’t mean I don’t need friends. Ever since my roommate died, I’ve been alone. Well, actually my siblings have rooms right next to me, but I don’t want to talk to babies. And they are my siblings. Not my friends.

I wonder if there is a “pen pal” sign up sheet somewhere. I’ll have to ask mom.

The extra-ordinary interruptions of the chicken parade has stopped. The chickens are all living in the outside coop now. So we are back to the normalcy of my quiet room.

But the weird thing is… I kind of miss them. I complained about them, I know. But I kind of got used to the change. The shift. The alternate reality. Is this what inertia is? Wanting everything to stay the same just for the sake of no change? And I thought I was an adaptable, agile thinker. I thought I was one of those beings—unafraid of change, unafraid of challenges.

I can hear mom now—you being hard on yourself when you are going through difficult times—that’s like drinking poison to make the pain go away. Resist the urge to be mean to yourself. With all the discipline you have, push back to the hostility. Don’t invite Donald into your brain where he can fuck with your well-being. Create distractions. Big distractions like practice love: reaching out to a friend. Or small distractions like a video game. Be gentle and kind. Grieving for loss, grieving for change is not a bad thing. It is not a sign of weakness. It means you care. It means you love. It means you lost something.

Okay. Today I will make a list of healthy distractions.

Love, Bob

Be in the now

March 27, 2020

Dear diary,

I ask mom if she still loved me. Mom hugged me tightly and said, of course I still love you. I’m so sorry that I’ve been so grumpy lately. I’ve been a bit anxious and I haven’t been processing it in a healthy way.

What do you mean?

I’ve been living in the future: thinking about all the things that could go wrong. And then I find myself in a dark place. And I feel lost, alone and scared.

But I’m here with you right now. And I have to keep reminding myself of that. I’m here with you right now. And if I focus on this conversation with you, and if I focus on giving you a big smooshy hug, and sing and dance to the latest BTS song, then I don’t have to live in the future. Because I’m honoring the now.

But mommy, didn’t you say that we should always have a plan for the future if we don’t want to be like the grasshoppers who only sing and dance in the summer, only to be frozen in the winter?

Yes, my love. But we can do both! We are still making plans: for now, we stay home and we only go out for groceries and medicine. And when I say “we” I mean “daddy”. And our plan is to create healthy distractions for ourselves, like FaceTiming friends, playing video games, practicing piano, violin, or ukulele, and creating drawings, aprons or diy terrariums.

I heard a story of a young woman who started writing letters longhand and sending them out to her loved ones. How beautiful is that! That is honoring yourself, the ones you love and the fact that we have to stay isolated. Do you want to write a few letters Bob?

Um, no. Is it okay if I go and play some video games?

Absolutely.

Sigh. I have my mom back.

Love, Bob

ZOOM

March 26, 2020

Dear diary,

WTF. I mean seriously. What is going on. I don’t understand it. Why. Why. Why.

Everyone is up in my face everyday, all day, all night, every single moment.

I am an introvert. I love my silence. I love my solitude. But for some reason our entire family is inside MY home all day, all night, talking, singing, sewing, cooking, chatting, video game playing, movie playing, and zooming NON STOP.

WTF is ZOOM anyway?!!!

Dad has been staying up until midnight and mom gets up between 3:00-4:00 am and starts sewing. I get three hours of silence to myself. What. The. Fuck.

I would barely see a human once every two days. Which was more than fine with me. These days the chickens are being carted back and forth from their basement house to their outdoor coop twice a day. Mom says it’s to acclimate them to outside living. In the mean time they are walking through MY ROOM every fucking day. One chicken at a time. Mom holds one of the girls in her arms and walks them outside to their main outdoor coop. Then she returns to get the second chicken. Then the third. We have four chickens. That’s four trips total. That’s eight interruptions in the morning alone. Then this is repeated again in the evening. That’s sixteen. Do I not get ANY PRIVACY?!!! Ugh. UGH! Ugh.

And then there is the “pantry.” MY ROOM has been turned into a pantry. Mom stocked up on rice, pasta, flour and chickpeas. What is going on? I don’t understand it. Did mom turn into a vegetarian? I did hear mom say that she might have to go off milk the other day. I asked her why. And she told me of a cow who was a milk cow. Every year this milk cow would give birth to a calf, the calf would be carted away, and the humans would milk her nonstop. This happened for six years in a row. Then one day this cow was tagged to be slaughtered. But some humans rescues her. And brought this milk cow to their farm. One day, the milk cow started disappearing into the woods for days at a time. Only to return to the farm for some snacks and water. When the farmers finally walked over to where the cow was hiding, they found that the milk cow had given birth to a new calf. The milk cow had hidden her baby from the humans. Because they kept taking her baby away from her. So she hid her baby. In the woods. To keep it safe. Okay, so I also think mom might have to give up milk. I’m not crying.

Mom is so preoccupied these days that she can barely keep herself from yelling at me when I want to know what’s going on. Her temper seems to be on edge all day. She seems to be so nice to the people she is ZOOMing with, but man, is she mad at us. Maybe it’s because she’s not sleeping. And mom says that she’s having many, many nightmares. I’m a bit afraid of her these days. I wonder if I did something wrong. Now I’m scared. I wonder if she still loves me. I think I need a hug.

Love, Bob