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 us persistent and insistent? Yes. Mom was digging in the yard with a shovel. She was moving 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

Support, family and belonging

January 22, 2020

Dear diary,

Mom is going to a trans parents support meeting today. Mom says she feels like crying just thinking about going to this meeting. Somehow, being with people whose goal is to JUST SUPPORT YOU—this is a concept that was very foreign to mom when she was growing up.

Family. Home. The place where you go for sleep, nourishment and shelter—for mom this came with a price. The price was fear. Fear of judgment, scoldings, and a never ending list of all the things mom was doing wrong. Or not enough of.

Home. Family. This was a hostile place, where you had to defend yourself from the “rules of the parental units.” They were right, you were wrong. Compassion was for stupid people who were not up to par and had to resort to kindness for survival. If one of mom’s parental units were to be kind, it was used as a device to pity people, and make the parental figure feel better about themselves.

Mom hated all of this. And mom thought this was wrong. But mom didn’t have the words to explain herself. Because she was a child. So she learned to keep it inside. But by keeping it inside, this idea turned into a knife. A knife of vengeance. A knife of: you are so wrong, therefore I must be very right. I will guard my righteousness with my life. Because if I am wrong, humans all suck, there is no hope and I have to die.

Mom lived with this knife for many, many years. She grew up into an adult and everywhere she went, mom carried this knife around. And somehow people knew about this knife. They knew. And they also knew that mom would not hesitate to use the knife. On herself, on others, all in the name of righteousness. Mom was, for a very long time, a very scary person.

One day mom realized that if she wanted to live harmoniously with other humans, she would have to do something about the knife. The knife that had protected her. The knife that had protected mom’s ideals of humanity. And mom started to put the knife down.

It took a lot of practice. Almost twenty years. But mom is now the owner of strength and might, but without the violence of the knife that she used to wield. And this is because mom has found compassion for humanity. It started out as pity for humanity. But the pity became sympathy, which grew into empathy and compassion.

Mom is going to a meeting today. To be supported. I love my mommy so much. I’m going to give her an extra hug today.

Love, Bob

b-day

January 9, 2020

Dear diary,

Mom and dad were very excited about their Christmas present this year. Every once in a while, mom and dad give themselves a gift that they can share. The first time it was a nice mattress. The second time, it was a fancy bathtub. This year they decided on getting a birthday.

Actually, they said, B-Day, which means birthday, right? I was confused. I asked mom about the b-day Christmas gift. Mom clarified and said, bee-day. Or did she say, buh-DAY. What?

So it turns out it’s called a bidet. Pronounced somewhat like buh-day. I looked it up in the dictionary: a low oval basin used for washing one’s genital and anal area.

Eeeeew. And somehow they’re going to share this thing? Why? How? Eeeeeew.

I learned that the word bidet is French in its origin, mom and dad learned about it during their trips to Korea, and now we have a Japanese made bidet in the house. We are so fucking global.

There were many options to chose from, so mom tells me. (I was done learning about bidets as soon as I found out it had something to do with the anus, but mom is so happy with this new doohickey, she can’t stop talking about it.)

So, back to the options: cheap ones, expensive ones, cold water only options, warm water options, heated seats, non-heated seats and one with a REMOTE CONTROL. Seriously.

Mom and dad debated about all these options.

At the forefront of things to consider: mom was going to do the installing, and mom being frugal she didn’t want to involve a plumber, so if mom and dad wanted heated water, it would have to be a part of the system. Otherwise, it was going to be cold water spraying your anus. I like cold water on my anus. It didn’t sound like mom and dad were too keen on the idea.

So that narrowed things down a bit.

Then the second decision that needed to be made was the control system: a fully attached arm with controls or a free flying, untethered, loosey-goosey remote control. A REMOTE CONTROL. It seemed like a no brainer at first. There was the option to have two different preference set ups for two different users. Hotter water? Cooler water? Spray strength: normal, soft or robust? Spray location: more to the front? More to the back? I mean seriously.

But then mom and dad looked at each other and said at the same time: what if we drop the fucker in the water?

So now we have a remote control-less, fully attached to the toilet control system bidet.

And that’s what mom and dad chose as their Christmas gift for themselves. A b-day.

Practice joy.

Love, Bob

Gone fishing

December 9, 2019

Dear diary,

Mom got the mother load of all splinters. She almost fainted. We live in a hundred year old house. That means the wood floors are also one hundred years old. In the winter, the wood becomes more brittle. And mom’s thick winter socks got caught and BAM.

The splinter went in deep. Mom could see the dark shadow of the splinter. She could see it hovering beneath the thick layer of skin at the ball of her left foot. Like a large fish might hover in the murky waters of a pond.

Mom had to hobble over to get some tweezers and a needle. As she quietly sat, trying to pry open her skin so that her body would give up the intruder, mom thought of the splinters she used to get when she was young.

When mom was a girl, she knew to go to her dad. Granddad would go so gently, so softly, so carefully, that you barely felt any pain. I know he didn’t but mom says it was almost like he was singing to her. The thing was that it took FOREVER to get the fucker out. But there was little pain.

If mom went to grandma, it would be short, but brutal. Dig, dig, dig, pinch, pull and the splinter was out.

Mom felt she liked granddad’s method better. Mom felt that granddad understood pain and honored it. Whereas grandma was, “fuck pain. You don’t even want to know what pain is. Come here and let’s do this.”

Today, mom hovered somewhere between grandma and granddad’s methods: mom went in directly and forcefully, but gave herself breaks as needed. When mom finally pulled out the 50 year old bass of a splinter, blood gushed out and dropped into the floor.

Mom put a bandaid on muttered to herself, “I am so grateful it was me who got the splinter. If it was anyone else in, they would have insisted on going to the ER.” She is not naming any names. (Dad. And maybe Jungmin. I can imagine dad saying: can you put me under?)

At least mom isn’t the only drama queen in this household.

Love, Bob

Themed

November 11, 2019

Dear diary,

After a week of being sick as a dog, mom is being weird. Or perturbed. Or maybe morbid? I don’t know, it’s confusing. Because as Jungmin says, “you aren’t wrong.”

So, mom got some fabric that has drawings of farm animals with their body parts portioned in dotted lines, with titles for each part: loin, ribs, ham, leg, wing, neck, thigh, chuck, shank, brisket and sirloin among others. It’s mostly black except for the drawings which is made of thin white lines. Mom says it’s for her Thanksgiving dress. (Yeah, mom is making themed dresses now. Ick.)

I asked her why it was a Thanksgiving dress. I thought it was like a “kitchen”, or “happy meat eater” dress. Mom says it’s a Thanksgiving dress because of all the animals we eat but mostly to symbolize how the Native Americans were murdered for this land. Like Jungmin says, “you aren’t wrong…”

Mom is going to visit her cute nieces for Thanksgiving. I sure hope she doesn’t bring this dress with her. Or her mood. Sheesh.

Love, Bob

Heya, the boy cat

October 30, 2019

Dear diary,

I heard mom grumbling, “I’m so going to flunk this test.” I ask her what test she is talking about. She tells me it’s called “implicit bias test.” I ask mom what implicit bias is. Mom says that implicit bias is an underlying prejudice that keeps a person from treating other people equitably. I look at mom. And I blink. And she gets that I’m an Axolotl. So mom decides to tell me a story.

When mom was 29, newly divorced and newly minted as a faculty member at Ohio University, she was scared out of her mind about her future. And to ground herself, she decided to look for love. Mom called the first name in the local yellow pages under the category of “veterinarian” and asked if they knew of anyone who had a litter of kittens that needed homes. The clerk asked mom how many phone numbers she wanted.

Mom called the first number and it was a woman who lived on a farm. The woman said a stray kitty came to the farm a few weeks ago, and even though the kitty was such a small cat that the woman thought she was a kitten herself, this kitty was pregnant and had the litter just last week.

Mom had done some research and found that the longer the babies stay with the mom, the more well-adjusted they are. What is true for humans seem to be true for cats. So mom asked the nice lady for two kittens in two months time when the babies will be fully weaned from the mom. And then mom added two extra weeks—just to be safe.

So one fall weekend, mom drove out of town to a small farm and picked up two kitties. The first kitty was a yellow ball of energy bouncing off the walls, and mom said “I’ll take that one.” While mom was looking for a second kitty to take home, there was a very small tri-colored kitty as small as a mouse that just sat next to mom and peered deeply into mom’s eyes. Mom tried to break eye contact, but the runt of the litter would not look away. And mom said, well, I chose the yellow one, but it looks like you chose me! And with that mom found Heya and Kumma.

The nice farm lady told mom that Heya was a boy and Kumma was a girl.

My eyes start glazing over at this point—slightly distracted because I realize I need to go poop, but I get a sharp look from mom and decide to pull myself together.

Heya and Kumma adjusted nicely to their new living environment. The most surprising thing was how affectionate Heya was. We are talking about head to head-butting, then turning around and walking backwards so that mom got a face full of kitty butt kind of forceful affection.

Mom would brush Heya off of her face and say, oh enough already. Get a hold of yourself. This went on and on and on.

Then one day mom took Heya and Kumma to the veterinarian office to get them fixed. Mom asked the doctor to neuter Heya and spay Kumma. The doctor looks over the two cats and says, “I can spay Kumma but I can’t neuter Heya.” Bewildered, mom asked why not. And the doctor tells mom that he can’t neuter Heya because Heya is a girl.

It takes a bit for mom to get her head around this. And the two kitties get spayed.

When the two kitties come back home, they are back to their old routine. Sleeping in mommy’s armpit. Licking her face clean with their soft and scratchy tongue. And the forever and ever Heya head butting mom and giving mom a face full of kitty butt. But mom doesn’t brush off Heya anymore saying “enough already.” Instead she cuddles Heya even more and says things like “who’s mommy’s girl.”

And then it hits her. Mom that is. What. The. Fuck. Mom is a feminist. Not because she doesn’t like men, but because she believes in equity. But here she was treating Heya SO DIFFERENTLY. JUST. BECAUSE. SHE. WAS. A. GIRL. I mean she almost/sort of/not really/but really withheld love and affection from a tiny kitty cat because she thought it was a boy kitty cat. I mean seriously! At this point I started getting really mad at mom because I AM A BOY TOO!!!! Has she been withholding love from me? And shaming me if I wanted attention or love?!!! What the fuck!!! MOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMM!

Mom looks at me and says that is an example of implicit bias. Without even knowing what she was doing, mom was following set norms of the society she grew up in and belonged to. Boys are rough and tough and girls need hugs and kisses. Mom had to adjust her behavior so that it lined up with her thinking.

Implicit bias. Holy mother forking shirt balls.

The good news is that everyone has it. But not everyone is willing to look at it.

Mom took the test a few years ago. In her mind she flunked it. And yes, she does have implicit biases all over the place.

But her behavior has changed. She is not defaulting to the social norms but is practicing mindfulness in how she connects with other humans.

I think I have implicit biases towards all of my previous roommates. Dinner or friend? Snack or friend? Yummy or friend?

I have to go poop now.

Love, Bob