Super Smash Bros

December 7, 2018

Dear diary,

Super Smash Bros came out today. Eli got it as an early Christmas present from Umma. The download completes at midnight. And so the bargaining began between Eli and mom.

Can I wake up at midnight to play?

No.

Can I wake up at five and play?

No.

When can I wake up to play my new game?

6:00 am as usual. It’s still a school day.

Can I wake up at 5:30?

You can. But you have first brush your teeth, eat breakfast, put on clothes before you play.

Mom, all these restrictions are giving me a headache. Can you just trust me to do the right thing?

Hmmmm… yes. That sounds like a great idea.

Eli got up at 3:00 am, played for about forty five minutes and then went back to sleep.

Trust. It creates peace and self-regulation.

Love, Bob

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Pilea peperomioides, also known as the Chinese Money Plant

December 3, 2018

Dear diary,

Mom killed one of her favorite plants. Pilea peperomioides is its fancy name. The more common name is Chinese Money Plant. Mom found it at her favorite nursery, Briggs, earlier this year. And now it is dead.

It turns out mom over watered the plant. She found out when see finally googled “how to take care of Pilea peperomioides.” Under “most common error” she found the item: over-watering.

Mom knew the plant wasn’t doing so well. Failure to thrive, I think it’s called. And instead of educating herself, she made presumptions and watered it more. And then some more. And then some more.

When most of the leaves dropped, mom went onto google. Finally. And learned the cold hard truth. Ignorance can kill.

I’m a bit mad at mom. I am mad that it took her this long to ask google. Actually, I’m pissed. So pissed. I AM SO MAD.

Sheesh. Why am I so mad? Because mom did a stupid thing. Yes. But why am I so mad? Because mom killed a plant out of ignorance. Yes. But why an I so mad?

Maybe because if mom can kill her favorite plant due to ignorance, maybe she might kill me off accidentally. I mean I can’t do anything for myself. I need mom to feed me, change my water, change my location depending on the season, and give me love and attention.

The fact that love and attention, like watering, can kill the thing you love—that is scary. What is love? Isn’t all love good? I guess it has to do with context. Like how love has more to do with what the receiver needs, rather than what the giver wants to give.

Mom wanted to give water as a way to care for her plant. Her plant needed light, air, and space. And instead of these things, mom slowly drowned her plant. Poor mom. I hope she doesn’t blame herself too much. I wonder if she caught my “shaming eye.” You know the glance or the cut of the eye, when you tell the person that you think they are so stupid or unworthy. Because, even though mom killed her beloved plant, she still has to live with herself.

I should give mom a hug today. And tell her pole sana. Pole sana means… something like, so sorry for what you are going through in Kiswahili.

Love, Bob

Archives: Dec. 2017-Nov. 2018

 

December 4, 2017

Dear diary,

I like the dark. I like cool temperature water. I don’t like moving water and I don’t like companionship. I like to day dream, I like to eat bloodworms, and I like to float. I don’t like too much light, I don’t really like pellet foods, and I am a loner.

I struggle with loneliness. I want to be alone, but then I wonder if I am lonely because I am wrong or because I am unloved.

But when I look at how my family feeds me bloodworms every day, and when I look at all the pretty green water plants my mom got me so I can breath better, I know I am loved. I am not wrong, I prefer to be alone. And I am also lonely. But my mom tells me being lonely is an existential pain that most living beings struggle with. And it is not my fault. I love my mommy.

 

December 6, 2017

Dear Diary,

I am back in the ten gallon tank. The fifty five gallon is being cleaned. Mom got really wet with my poop water when she was trying to empty the tank. She used a lot of bad language. Many, many times. Eli helped. He got wet and cold too, but he didn’t seem to mind as much. Like mom always say, “everyone is different!”

Mom is researching “self-sustaining eco-system”, which is a fancy way of saying that she doesn’t want to touch my poop too often.

This is her to do list:

  1. Get grow lights for the water plants.
  2. Start some more lotus seeds.
  3. Find some large rocks from the yard.
  4. Get more river rocks.
  5. Bring in some water plants from the pond.

She says the idea is to have enough water plants that will enjoy my poop so that the aquarium will have a nice balance between poop, plants, oxygen and CO2. I don’t know what this means, but I hope the “self-sustaining eco-system” works out so that mommy doesn’t get so mad again.

With love,

Axolotl

 

Dear diary,

Mom got tired just looking at the to do list for my “self-sustaining eco-system.”

“Self-sustaining eco-systems” are no joke. Mom thought: load up the tank with plants. Poop will feed the plants. Plants will flourish. Poop will be gone.

But it turns out plants take in oxygen when it is night time when there is no light. Which competes with my need for oxygen. Which will make me gulp for air all through the night in spite of all the plants that are there for my well-being.

Mom said a few choice bad words. Something about her mother.

So mom now has a new plan. A turkey baster. She is going to use it as a pooper-scooper. She picks up after the dog, cats, and chickens. So she is going to use the direct method of dealing with my poop. Just scoop it up everyday. Or I should say, siphon it up. With the turkey baster.

She has to look at my poop everyday, but at least she won’t have to touch it. That’s what she is thinking. I hate to tell her that it never works out that way.

Oh, by the way, mom had to chop off the narrow tip of the turkey baster. The opening was too small for my large poop. The opening is now about the diameter of a dime. I’m worried that it still won’t be large enough to handle my poop. Oh well. We’ll see what happens.

I love my mommy. She takes good care of me.

With love,

Axolotl

 

 

December 7, 2017

Dear diary,

Mom got me a tanning booth! It is so beautiful, with pink and blue highlights. The glow is mesmerizing. I feel like a beautiful mermaid getting her tan on. I thought I didn’t like light, but the tanning booth is making me think differently about light and being light.

With the winter coming I’ve been feeling a bit blue and my anxiety is starting to creep up on me. I am thinking dark thoughts and starting to be afraid of the most ordinary things.

Mom tells me that having anxiety is natural in highly intelligent beings. Eli was just telling us the other day about how domesticated animals have smaller brains because the “panic—fight or flight” part of their brain has been bred out of the poor creatures. They know how to eat, sleep, poop and procreate but they can’t detect danger as well as their wild cousins.

Having anxiety is the “panic—fight or flight” button in our brain being over-active. It keeps us alive for sure, but if we let it overwhelm us, we can actually get sick. I don’t want to get sick. So I am practicing breathing, mindfulness and joy. Practice joy. Like tanning.

I love my mommy.

Love, Axolotl

 

P.S. It turns out mom didn’t get me a tanning booth. It’s called a grow light and it is for the plants. I still love it. Even though it won’t help me with my tan.

 

December 8, 2017

Dear diary,

Mom put some moss balls in my aquarium. They are a solid round mass of moss that live in water. They are like green snow balls. They are cute and cuddly. The internet says that the moss balls are the perfect plant for people without a green thumb because you can’t kill them. I didn’t know that some people’s thumbs were green. If their thumbs are green, are their toes green too? Anyway, some people think that the moss balls are my poop. Seriously? My poop is big. For sure. But it’s not bigger than my head. Seriously.

Mom WAS surprised when she first saw my poop. She told me that it reminded her of the time she found out about toad poop. That’s right, toad poop. This is how it happened.

Two summers ago, mom dug a pond in our yard. That’s another long story. Anyway, she dug the pond so that she could have some frogs. She dug the pond, but no frogs came. So being a bit impatient and wanting instant gratification, mom went and bought three tadpoles. They were the size of dimes and nickels. Mom would walk out to the pond everyday to see the progression of the tadpoles turning into frogs. Nothing was happening fast. Instant gratification was taking too long. Mom said a few bad words under her breath.

Then one morning she found a black mass floating in the shallow waters of the pond. It looked like the detached head of the tadpole. Her heart starting beating, beating, beating. She was horrified, sad and confused. She tried poking it with a stick. Nothing. She got close and tried to look for a mouth or eyes. But it was just a mass. A blob. Do tadpoles disintegrate so quickly? Sigh. One lost tadpole. At least she had two more.

Then a few days later she found another blob. Two dead tadpoles. Then another blob. All the tadpoles were dead. Mom started googling for living frogs shipped from Florida through ebay. She was hell bent on getting her instant gratification.

The next day she walked to the pond. And there was another blob. Wait a minute. There were only three tadpoles. Wait, what? Wait. What?

After much googling, mom found out that the big black blobs were not dead tadpoles. They were toad poop. Mom had been mourning over toad poop.

This is when mom found out the size of toad poop. It is the size of a dime. I kid you not. And here is the kicker: my poop is bigger! Take THAT universe! (But not as big as the moss balls in my tank.) I am so proud of my big poop. Happy Friday.

Love,

Axolotl

 

December 9, 2017

Mom got me an email!

I feel like a mini adult!

If you have any questions for me,

email me at: askaxolotl@gmail.com

 

Ask Axolotl has their first Q & A!

Dear Axolotl,

You seem to be an expert on poop. Maybe you can help me with my poop question.

I have two cats, Butters and Coco. I put their food and water bowls on top of rubber mats in my kitchen, to keep the floor clean. My cat Coco sometimes paws at her mat and moves it a few inches across the floor. Then she paws at the water bowl and spills water all over her mat. After that, she poops on top of the wet mat. Poop on the food mat is a weird thing to see first thing in the morning. But at least she’s stopped pooping in the tub.

Why does she do this? What does it mean? Was she an otter in a past life? Please help me Axolotl!

Signed,

Flummoxed in Fort Lauderdale

… … … … …

Dear Flummoxed in Fort Lauderdale,

My mom feels your pain. But I don’t really see your problem. My poop and food are on the same surface every day! And I love it! However, my mom says that poop and food are both kind of great in different ways, but not on the same exact area. Like my mom say, “everyone is different!”

That being said, mom just read a thread about another human whose kitty poops on smooth surfaces! The community at large suggested having a kitty litter box with no kitty litter in it! Or maybe in your case, a kitty litter box with no litter and a bit of water?

As for tipping over food and water bowls, our Toki does that too. So mom got a REALLY heavy bowl that they cannot tip over. I hope this helps!

With love,

Axolotl

 

December 11. 2017

Dear diary,

I feel like Kim Kardashian. The reality show personality. A lot of attention in a short amount of time went to my head. And mom almost turned into a stage mom. What was she thinking, getting an axolotl a blog and an email account.

I had the pressure of being funny, amusing, intelligent and wise. I’m a fucking axolotl. Oh. Sorry. I usually don’t use bad words.

And I ended up feeling like I hate mommy. AND I told her so. To her face. She was as embarrassed as I was over this weekend’s fiasco. Something about hot-flashes and moments of irrationality. She apologized. I apologized. It’s a little awkward right now, but we will hug it out. When it doubt, hug it out.

Love, Axolotl

 

December 12, 2017

[ Ask Axolotl ]

Dear axolotl,

Please thank your Mommy for her posts. I have a few questions for the two of you.

What prompted your mommy to adopt you?

You are very cool. Do you do any tricks besides pooping?

Mommy and Daddy and your big sibling seem to have acquired a menagerie. Will that make it hard for them to travel? I want them to come visit!

What birthday present did you get Mommy?

Faith

. . . . . . . . .

Dear Faith,

Thank you for your email!

I was a gift from Eli’s friend. That’s how I ended up in Seekonk. But I have to tell you—mommy loves critters. She has loved critters since she was a wee thing, but lately the intensity has exploded. Mom says it’s because of something called men-o-pause. I don’t think it means she doesn’t like daddy anymore. But it is making her cranky and she wants eggs. Literally. Mom said something about her own eggs are shriveling up and she will be damned if she can’t get her hands on some other kind of eggs. My theory is that she loves being a mom. And if you noticed, Eli is growing up. And she knows that she can’t baby him anymore. So she is looking for other critters that she can baby. So here we all are! Two cats, a dog, four chickens, two budgies, toads, frogs, goldfish and minnows. And ME!

She keeps looking at rabbits, quail, ducks and even pigs. I don’t know about pigs. They are very smart and they may want to make their way into the house. And then daddy will be seriously unhappy.

As for tricks aside from pooping, I have cute whiskers that I use to breathe. When my whiskers go “whoosh”, everyone goes “oooooooOoOoOoOooo.” I love it.

For your third question, the internet says that I can go for a week without eating! And my family wants to visit you too!

And as for mom’s birthday, what is a birthday? Is it something that I can eat?

Love, Axolotl

 

December 13, 2017

Dear diary,

I lied for the first time yesterday. I lied about not knowing about birthdays. I write about existential pain. I know what a birthday is.

Why did I lie? I was caught off guard. I didn’t even think to get mommy a birthday present. BUT, neither did the dog, cats, chickens, budgies and all the other amphibians in the pond!!!! Oh. Sorry. Mom told me finger pointing was a way to discharge pain and discomfort.* Blaming is just another way of coping in an unhealthy way. Poop.

Instead of blaming I will own up to my limitations.

My limitations:

  1. I don’t have any money.
  2. I don’t know how to drive and go to a store.
  3. I don’t know how to use the internet to order gifts online.

Hmmmm. These are sounding like excuses. This is not why I forgot mommy’s birthday present.

My limitations:

  1. I am self-involved (sometimes) to the point that I don’t think about the people around me and how they are doing.
  2. Being a bit self-involved, I am not good at slowing down long enough to think of a good gift that another person might like. Instead, I want to give gifts that are more about me than about the person in front of me. For example, the first gift I thought of giving mommy was my poop. But that is more about me than about her.

Maybe my present to her will be: next time she wants to take a photo of me, I will not shy away and give her the biggest, most genuine smile I can muster to show her how much I love her. Good. I like this plan.

Love, Axolotl

* (Mom tells me Brene Brown actually said this.)

 

December 15, 2017

Dear diary,

Depression is here again. It started with irrational anxiety poking its head up every morning. Afternoon. And evening. Now the the heavy weight of dread and meaninglessness is here. All I want to do is stay home. In the dark. Lost in little finger movements.

I try to shame myself out of the depression. You are being lazy. You don’t have gratitude for all that you have in life. You are lazy. You are being a spoiled brat. You are being lazy. If you keep this up, life will give you something to cry about. You are being lazy. You are blissfully drowning in your privilege. I try to negotiate myself out of it. Once I get enough sleep. Once the winter solstice has come and gone. Once the winter break comes.

Then there are the “should”s. Exercise more. It’s too cold. Get a hamster wheel. Get more sun. Get a SAD light. Buy vitamin D. It’s weird that the “should”s are linked with consumerism. Maybe depression is a capitalistic concept. Poop.

Mom got a SAD light. Maybe I’ll ask her if I can use it too.

Love, Axolotl

 

December 16, 2017

Dear diary,

Writing to you about my feelings is very confusing. I feel naked. Vulnerable. Yucky. Something completely weird and inappropriate. Like I’m peeing in front of you. I feel like a Andy Dick, the comedian, when he used to embarrass himself for the sake of entertainment. I struggle with the urge to delete all my entries. It reminds me of what people say about “the morning after” when you slowly start remembering all the things you did the previous night.

I feel better about writing to you when I share my observations. Why is that? I don‘t believe anything can be objective. But does the illusion of objectivity, in the guise of observation, obscure the feelings and vulnerability that comes with sharing?

I am being very critical. I hear depression can do that. A spiral of negativity.

Stop.

Practice joy.

 

Like my friends are saying.

Life loves you.

Practice joy.

Mommy used to paint. Maybe I can start to paint. With algae, water, plant matter and poop. Mommy told me about the painter Chris Ofili, who used elephant dung in his paintings. Or since it’s Christmas season, maybe mommy and I can make some ornaments for the tree. Mommy keeps buying ingredients for making cookies, but I don’t think she has made any yet. I hope she makes some soon. Especially the coconut macaroons. Practice joy.

Love, Axolotl

 

December 17, 2017

Dear diary,

Mom built a bird house for the budgies last week. She found the brown part (which is called a hutch) at savers for $6.99, which she lugged into her car, then out of the car, then onto the side walk, up the stairs and through two sets of doors. All by herself. She made some scuff marks on her car, the sidewalk, the stairs and the wood floors. She didn’t tell dad. I’m sure he noticed it.

Once she got the hutch into the house, she measured the opening and off she went to Lowes to get some lumber, plexi glass and door hinges.

It took her about a day to build the house. The budgies are happy because the cats can’t climb up the slippery window. Mom put the screen (for airflow) on the backside of the hutch and the plexi glass door/window on the front so that the budgies could see into our world, but not have kitty cats climb up the front of their new house. Or should I call it mansion.

Mom is sore from all the sawing of the lumber and plexi glass. Her shoulder hurts. Her back hurts. Her neck hurts. She really wants a table saw. Or a even a jig saw. But dad is worried that his bride might lose a few fingers. He really doesn’t want to drive to the ER with bloody stumps in ice. Not that we even have ice in the house. (Mom and dad are non-ice people.) As handy as mom is, she also hurts herself a lot. Mom doesn’t think she is particularly clumsy. She thinks it is part of being handy. Like a chef getting a cut or burn. And she doesn’t mind. They are like war wounds to her. She enjoys seeing them. And she gets to show them off. But she minds the invisible pain. The aches and pains. The deep aches and pain. Relentless. Cantankerous. Loud. Humorless. Only she knows about them. And no one can see them. So it makes her feel a bit more lonely. And cranky.

This is when she starts sewing. Or baking. If it were warmer weather, she would go outside. I think mom thinks she is a shark. “I can only survive if I keep moving.” And so to bury her pain, she keeps moving. Making. Creating. Writing. Moving. And she yearns for her eggs. The chickens have yet to start laying eggs. Mom has been looking at incubators and quail eggs. Seventeen to nineteen days in the incubator, and six weeks later the females start to lay eggs. This is as “instant gratification” as it gets. But does mom know about the hatch rate of quail? And how bloody birth is? And death is always very close by? Yikes. I hope the chickens start laying soon. That’s it for today.

Love, Axolotl

 

December 18, 2017

Dear diary,

Mom got me a roommate. I don’t know why. I think she might be projecting. Thinking that my loneliness and solitude is something that needs to be “problem solved.” I love that she is a designer and that designers love to problem solve. But not everything needs to be “solved.” Some things just ARE.

Mom loved the book “Have or to Be?” by Erich Fromm. She read this book when she was in college, but this is what she remembers from the book: A desire to control, conquer, and dominate, thus “HAVE” is a different world view than to let “BE.” But as we fear the unknown, we want to comfort that fear with a sense of control. Which we call education, design, culture, advocacy, development, advancement, I could go on. Boo education, design, culture, advocacy, development, advancement. Boo humans.

But this train of thought doesn’t help either. Because it negates the human desire, the human nature of wanting to control, predict and dominate. And being human is not their fault. It just is.

So what to do. Don’t judge. Tread lightly. Don’t think you are right. (And boy, does mommy want to be right!)

We are all in the process of evolution. We are trying things out. Some things might work out. Some things might not. We all want to avoid ruin but “ruin” is only “ruin”, because it reminds us of death, and we don’t want to die. Ever. But this is one thing that is inevitable. So I ask you now, do you want to survive until you die, or do you want to live.

Love, Axolotl

 

December 21, 2017

Dear diary,

Mom moved the chickens into the house. Because last week, their water froze out in the garage. And mom didn’t know about it. Because it wasn’t supposed to freeze inside of the garage. All the research indicated that the water would not freeze. But during the cold spell of last week, the chickens’ water froze. And mom didn’t know. For two days. The chickens are fine. Mom isn’t.

Mom is all about responsibility. When responsibility runs up against ignorance, especially her own ignorance, that is a hard place to be. Like any responsible person with good intentions, when the reality of mom’s good intentions came across the reality of life and nature, she was confronted with how her good intentions are just not good enough let alone her good intentions leading to death and destruction.

Mom has been “problem solving” the “frozen water” issue for days. She filled a used car tire with bubble wrap which then cradles a rubber feeding bowl making an insulated water bowl. She put strong salt water in a plastic bottle then inserted that bottle inside of the water bowl. The salt water in the bottle did not freeze. The water for the chickens did. The internet failed her.

There is the option of getting a water heater, but as mommy is always preparing for the zombie apocalypse, mom wants a system that will work without electricity.

And that is how the chickens ended up in the basement. Not the pretty part of the basement. Not the place that she and daddy calls their “studio.” No, the chickens are in the smallest room in the darkest corner of the old basement. Did I mention that this house is a hundred years old? Yeah, the chickens are in that part of the house. (Dad’s idea. He has a hard time with poop unlike mom. Mom is still very grateful for daddy’s idea of brining them into the house! Daddy is ambivalent about creatures and poop, but he loves and adores mommy and that is great for all of us critters.)

This dark room has no natural light. It has writing on the wall that almost, ALMOST, looks like “help.” Not in a desperate kind of way, but in a playful, experimental kind of way. (Or so mommy keeps telling herself.) Eli said that a horror film could be made in this room. And even though Eli was perfectly correct in his assessment, mom got all pouty and sour-faced and told Eli that he had hurt her feelings. Dear, sweet, polite Eli apologized.

Mom swept the floor, swept the walls, filled in the larger gaps around the walls so that the chickens can not escape into the rest of the basement. Mom got a timer with a day-light simulating light bulb and put it in the chicken room. She brought one of Eli’s old plastic kitchen sets into the room so that they could have a play area. She built a new roosting bar, and created a nesting box that seems like it will never be used.

Mommy brought her summer beach chair into this room. And in the mist of four chickens, their toys, water, feed and chicken poop, she sits with her chickens and smiles inwardly. She loves her chickens. And this is where she wants to spend her time.

Love, Axolotl

 

December 23, 2017

Dear diary,

Toki, our girl kitty had to go to the vet yesterday. Her ear was swollen, bloody, crunchy, with pus and black crust oozing… wait … wait … I had a little vomit come up. Sorry.

So we went to the doctor. Mommy put Toki in the crate. Toki was sleepy so she went into the crate pretty easily. Then we got to the vet. The nurse weighed Toki, a good nine pounds and a few ounces. Then the nurse stuck a skinny long something up her anus so that they could get an internal temperature. Ew. She didn’t seem to mind that either. No fever. Thank goodness. Then mommy and Toki had to wait a bit for the doctor to come. In the mean time, Toki looked around the room, settled in, and went into full-on relaxed mode. It looked like she was waiting for her next massage treatment. In her twenty three years of raising kitties, mommy has never seen such a relaxed cat at the vet’s office.

The doctor came in, and did a basic check up. He found a heart murmur. The doctor said it will mostly likely not affect Toki’s life. But if we want, we could go see a cardiologist and they could do a more intensive screening to see the details of her heart murmur. If we decided not to go this route, he suggested getting baby asprin, dividing it into thirds, and giving it to Toki two to three times a week as a way to thin her blood. But the doctor also told mom not to mention this to the cardiologist. Hmmmm.

Mommy is thinking about the nature of intervention. And what does prolonging life mean. Probably not a good time to think about such things when one is in a negative trajectory. But maybe being negative is different from having a world view that isn’t based on life=good, death=bad kind of binary thinking. Because death is part of life.

Mommy told me once of how she learned about the dimensions. She recalled a teacher explaining the different dimensions in a math class in Seoul. I think the example was that of an ant.

The story started with an ant that could not move. It could stand. But it did not, or could not move. The dot where it stood was the extent of their world. A dot. That would be zero dimension.

Then the ant learned to walk. But only in a straight line. But at least it was moving. So onward it went. In a line. That would be the first dimension: a straight line.

But then the ant came across a wall. And it did not know how to turn. To the left or right. So it was stuck. In front of that wall. Or it could choose to walk back from where it came from. But that was too obvious. So it stayed.

One day the ant looked to its left and saw a tree. With golden apples. And decided it could take a turn, go left and move through the plane and thus creating a plane. And the second dimnsion was upon the ant.

The ant reached the tree with the golden apple. But it turns out the apple was up high on the tree. And the ant didn’t understand “up.” The ant knew how to stand still (0-D), walk in a straight line (1-D), take a left or a right (2-D), and now it looked like the ant was being challenged with walking up a tree trunk (3-D).

But this is so different, the ants says. I already did so much, why do I have to do so much more? You don’t have to, the voice inside her head said. You only have to do it if you want the golden apple.

And so the ant sat and contemplated the golden apple. In the mean time, the ant snacked on jucy caterpillars, and cookie crumbs that the kid who lives in the house dropped.

So what is the fourth dimension?

If you slice a line (1-D) with a dot (0-D), the sliced edge would be a dot (0-D).

If you slice a plane with a line the sliced edge would be a line.

If you slice a cube with a plane, the sliced edge would be a plane.

If you slice the fourth dimension (something mysterious) with a cube, the sliced edge would be a cube.

Mommy, my brain hurts. Can we stop now? She says we only have one more step to go.

Mommy thought of an ice cream scooper. Scooping out a chunk of ice cream from a box of ice cream. The sliced edge would be a cube (3-D).

What is it when a space lives inside of a space?

Mommy decided it was “understanding”—understanding the state of another place, situation or being. Which can be like time-travel. Because it can be understood as wisdom. Or compassion. But it isn’t heavily laden with emotion. It is more like “clarity.” It isn’t sappy. Or weepy. It isn’t brutal. But it doesn’t want to hug either. It isn’t critical. It isn’t judgmental. It isn’t soft. It just is. And in that place, death is okay. Because it just is.

Toki is fine. She has an ear infection. The doctor said that she might be allergic to something in the house. Or that she played too rough with her brother Pada and got injured.

As for the ant in our story, the ant went up the tree, reached the golden apple and yes, it was delicious, but not any more than the plump caterpillar or cookie crumb. But climbing the tree was an experience of its own merit. And she got a glimpse of the other side of the yard. Where they have blueberries, persimmons and strawberry plants. Oh goodness, does visual knowledge create desire? Yes, yes it does. But that is for another story.

Love, Axolotl

 

December 25, 2017

Dear diary,

Mom spent Christmas alone for the first time in … she doesn’t know how many years. She called it radical self-care.

Mommy, daddy and Eli were supposed to go visit family in another state. But mom decided she needed to stay home, rest and take care herself. Mom didn’t want anyone else to change their plans. She just needed to stay home. By herself. She spoke with daddy and Eli. She talked about the fact that it had nothing to do with Christmas, or visiting family, or not wanting to be with her loved ones, but it had to do with her personal need for solitude and rest at home. At home where she did not have to take care of anyone, didn’t have to perform, and she could sleep, nap, do nothing, do anything, eat, not eat, walk, sit, be a schlump, not be a schlump, watch tv, work on projects, read, write, cook, look at recipes, facebook, phone games, and do laundry.

Recover, heal, gather inner light, be still, and find her grounding.

At first daddy and Eli could not understand. And they took it personally. But soon, they understood the complex nature of self-care, and that self-care and love for others do not have to be mutually exclusive.

Radical self-care, can easily be misunderstood. Especially when a woman does it. And people can misunderstand it as a selfish act. And take it as a rejection. Like when a toddler cries when their parents leave the house—thinking “how can you do this to me.”

But self-care is just that—caring for one’s own need as a human.

It was unfortunate that mom’s need for peace and quiet fell on Christmas. But she felt too depleted and too worn down to postpone her need. So she decided on radical self-care. She had the dog, kitties, budgies, chickens, and me to take care of during this time. Which kept her only a little busy. She misses all of her family and especially Eli.

At this moment, while missing her family, she is also grateful for her solitude. Mom is grateful for her family’s confidence in her and in themselves in spite of the discomfort and uncertainty. Mom is grateful for them in walking with her into uncharted territory with love and kindness.

There are many blessings in this world, and having an entire group of people who love you for who you are is one of the biggest blessings any being can have. I have this in my life. And I am so happy that mommy has the love and support that she needs as well.

Happy Christmas.

Love, Axolotl

 

December 30, 2017

Dear diary,

Mom says that depression is like a heart attack in slow motion: you have the elephant sitting on the chest thing, but it happens so gradually that you don’t understand and are bewildered as to why it’s hard for you to breathe. You also have the other “panic and out of breath” thing, where you are panicking, but through thick, cold, tough honey. The more you move or even want to move the more sticky things get and more stuck you get.

On a lighter note, mom had hotdogs for Christmas dinner. Two of them. With ketchup and mustard. She had it again for lunch on boxing day. By dinner time she went to the grocery store and bought a can of spam. She remembered making spam sandwiches when she was growing up in Seoul in the 80’s. Two pieces of toasted bread, a fried egg, a slice of cheese and two thick slices of spam cooked on the frying pan. Pile it up and eat it while it’s hot.

She ran out of time so she didn’t get to indulge in her childhood lunch of the spam sandwich. Because she was too busy cooking for E+Z. (That’s our cool way of referring to Eli and daddy.) I think she was feeling guilty for not being with them for Christmas, and as mom thinks guilt is an unproductive waste of energy, she channeled it into something more positive and active: cooking. She made a banana cake, a meat pie, korean style beef soup, a chocolate swiss roll cake, chocolate cookies, and Ruth Reichl’s bolognese sauce. In the mean time she was eating hot dogs. Yeah. Sometimes my mom can be really, really weird.

Love, Axolotl

P.S. have you all been seeing the fancy video that has been going around about axolotls and how they can regrow their limbs? My only question is: who is the m*ther f*cker who keeps chopping off the limbs of my brothers?!!! Yes, it grows back, BUT IT STILL FUCKING HURTS! Just like feelings. Your feelings get hurt (cut off) due to mean people, trauma or violence, and you slowly recover, start of feel like you use to and “regrow” your feelings back. But just because it grows back DOESN’T MEAN WE ENJOY GETTING THE FUCKER HACKED OFF! Sheesh. Okay. I’m done. Good night. Sorry. I love you. Axolotl

 

Dear diary,

We got eggs!

We Got Eggs!!

WE GOT EGGS!!!

Yay chickens!

They chickens were soooooo loud today. Mom knew something was up. She sat with chickens for a while and they were sitting, walking in and out of their nest box all morning. Then mom took a nap. And when she woke up the chickens were quiet. She went down to the basement to take a look and she found three eggs!!!!! Very exciting! Yay chickens! I am so happy for mommy. She even did a little chicken dance for Eli. Sigh.

Love, Axolotl

 

January 6, 2018

Dear diary,

For the last few days I was worried that mom was going crazy. She started praying to me. Well, it looked like she was praying to me. She bends over and bows before me with her head to the ground and stays there. She is very quiet and still. It feels very awkward and I can’t wait for it to pass. I don’t know what to do with myself. I want to hide. But I keep still and I watch her as she goes through this new ritual.

I hope she knows that I don’t have any powers. Even though I do love her, I can’t really do anything for her except to be her witness.

I was so concerned about this new behavior that I asked around. It turns out she doesn’t think I am a god. She is doing something called YO-GA. It is some sort of exercise that is supposed to be good for one’s health. And what she was doing is called child-pose and downward dog.

I am a bit disappointed that I am not a god. But I am happy for mom and her YO-GA.

As mom frequently says, “sometimes, it’s just not about me.”

Love, Axolotl

 

January 22, 2018

Dear diary,

Mom got the eggs from the chickens. She thought everything would become just fine if she could only have the eggs. So mom has been waiting patiently. Or not so patiently.

And now mom has the eggs. And she still isn’t fine. Mom is learning that for her, external markers of happiness never quite amount to being what they are. So she is meditating. To practice “be in the now.” I don’t know what that means. It sounds phony. And goofy. And a whole lot of “well, yeah.” But for mom it means, “don’t postpone joy, rest, or being gentle with yourself.”

It also means don’t criticize, which is especially hard for mom because she thinks it’s her job as a professor but also as a human to be critical: that whole critical thinking thing that everyone wants everyone else to learn. Otherwise we will all go to hell in a hand-basket. (Mom’s words, not mine!)

But mom says that when a person is on fire (or their perception has it that they THINK they are on fire), you have to save the person before you decide if they are the arson or an innocent bystander. Postpone judgment, be gentle, do no harm.

I think my mom will have to practice not judging herself and focus on tending to the pain and panic that is the life of the person who feels engulfed in flames. I love my mom. I hope she feels better soon.

Love, Axolotl

 

January 26, 2018

Dear diary,

The chickens are fighting. There was blood. Bloody combs and torn off feathers. The internet says that during winter when the chickens don’t have outdoor entertainment (bugs, bugs and more bugs), the chickens tend to turn to each other for entertainment in the form of bullying. Mom is not happy. Especially since her smallest baby Um-jee is the one being bullied. So mom got some chicken goggles. Also know as chicken glasses or chicken peepers. And the two most offending chickens, Mochi and Pecky along with Marshmellow de Lafayette were given their new optical blinders of sorts. They can see side ways so that they can navigate food and water, but they can’t peck directly at the comb or feathers of other chickens.

Blinders as a measure for peace.

What kind of blinders would humans need for peace? Hmmm. I don’t know. Peace for whom. I don’t know. I’ll have to ask mom about this one.

Love, Axolotl

 

January 31, 2018

Dear diary,

Mom got me some guppies. Six of them. Three girls and three boys. Well, there were three boys. I ate one of them. I swallowed in one easy gulp.

Mom says that the guppies are prolific breeders and that is why she chose them for me. So that I will have an endless supply of tasty treats in the self-sustaining eco system of my fish tank.

Mom is very ambivalent about all of this though. Even though she is very happy for me, she is unsure about the ramifications of buying what other people consider a different kind of “pet” to use as “food” for me. If taken to it’s logical extremes, it would be like buying a cat to feed to your dog.

What is a pet and what is an animal? And why does mom have a need to feed me living animals? I mean, I have nothing to complain about, but I think this is more about her than about me.

Maybe she is forcing herself to come to terms of life, death, circles, and postponing judgment. It still feels fucked up. I mean, seriously.

Oh. Sorry mom. No judgment! I love you!

Love, Axolotl

 

February 4, 2018

Dear diary,

So I still don’t have a name. When you have a baby in the United States, you are not allowed to leave the hospital until you name your baby. Something about once you name it, you claim it and you bond with it more. Harder to ignore and get rid of I suppose.

So what does it mean that I still don’t have a name? Why is this taking so long? I don’t think I should read too much into this. Otherwise, I’ll get depressed and/or worried.

Well, maybe I should give myself a name. That’s it! I am an empowered individual! My mom raised me to take hold of my own destiny! I know she was thinking about a possible name of “Bee-Noo” (비누) which means “soap”, but I don’t know. I kind of looked away and didn’t make eye contact when she was talking about this possibility.

I will call myself… Bob. Bob the Axolotl. Inspired by Bob the Drag Queen. She won season 8 of Rupaul’s Drag Race and is a fierce queen. Just one of my mom’s all time favorites (along with Sharon and Jinx) she is a fierce, funny, intelligent queen who didn’t worry too much of what other people thought.

As of today, I am Bob. Bob the Axolotl.

Love, Axolotl. I mean, Bob the Axolotl

p.s. axolotl is pronounced:

“AK” + “suh” + “LOT” + “uhl”

 

February 5, 2018

Dear diary,

I took the Myers-Briggs test yesterday and I am just like my mom, an INTJ with just a bit of an ambivalence between a T and an F.

It comes down to compassion and critical thinking. At least that is how I am understanding the difference between “feeling” and “thinking” based on the questions the internet asked me. As much as I try to practice compassion, my natural preference is to judge. And I am trying not to shame myself for this basic preference.

When my mom was growing up, compassion was thought to be a lesser state of being. Being compassionate was something a person does when they don’t have the capacity to think critically. And mom really didn’t want to be dumb. So she became mean. You know, think critically. About society and also about humans.

She became hostile to all things connected to being human. Because pretty much all the ills of the world is due to our greed and our aggressive follow-through on said impulse. We want more things, we want more experiences, we want more yummy things to eat, we want more things to fuck, and we want to own. OWN THINGS. Including other humans.

Mom had strong feelings about humans and their adamant need to follow through on their impulses. She judged harshly and practiced little compassion in her daily life.

But when my mom met my dad, her world changed. She met someone who practiced compassion with a depth that she had never known before. She finally understood what all those books, novels, poems and stories were about. So she started actively practicing compassion. It felt fake in the beginning. But she kept at it. And so now she has that muscle. And the muscle is stronger then ever.

But her default is still to be critical. And that is okay. (I was going to add “as long as she doesn’t think she is right.” But I think this has to be my inside voice. Because, when you love someone, it HAS to be unconditional, right?)

I love my mom. I love my dad. It’s their 13 year anniversary today. I am so happy that they found each other. And that they waited for each other. Because, it took them a while to find each other.

Love, Bob

 

February 9, 2018

Dear diary,

I have siblings. TWO plus TEN plus another possible one or two. How did this all happen? Mom says something about menopause.

Mom joined a Facebook group of axolotl lovers. Not like “we are dating axolotls” but more like “here is my cute Axolotl and his cute aquarium.”

Well, not only do they love axolotls, they also breed them. And sell them. At all stages of life including full grown males and females, juveniles, babies and you guessed it: eggs.

The eggs are sold in bulk (like fifty at a time!) but mom came across a nice lady who sold them ten at a time. Mom ordered ten. She got ten viable eggs plus three extras. One of the three extras might make it. One is a goner for sure. And the last one… we don’t know yet. From the research, we will most likely end up with at least ten healthy axolotl. (silent OMG.) This doesn’t quite explain the first set to TWO.

Well, mom went to a local pet store to get some water plants for me. But then she saw axolotl babies on the counter top. She squealed. She started sweating and grinning and giggling. She laughed and chirped and made a commotion. The owner was amused. In the mist of all of the giddiness, mom saw that the axolotl were priced at $18.99. Less then two inches and $18.99 an axolotl! In spite of the sweating giddiness of finding axolotl babies, she made an offer to the owner like any good Korean woman would: I’ll give you 30 for two. The owner said, “you got it. I never saw anyone get so excited over some dumb fish.” And she said “hush! Don’t listen to him babies! You are beautiful and oh so very smart.”

So that is how I ended up with TWO plus TEN plus another possible one or two axolotl siblings. Or are they my neighbors?

By the way, the eggs hatch next week. I think the excitement of baby axolotl made mom get over her cold sooner than later. Good for her. I love my mom.

She will still love me even after she has more babies right? I think I’ll still be her favorite. I’ll ask her tomorrow.

Love, Bob

P.S. She forgot about the plants she was going to buy for me. Is this a bad sign?

 

February 14, 2018

Dear diary,

Mom loves gardening. With her love of gardening, mom loves to get free bricks for her garden from Craigslist. So this weekend she saw an ad for free bricks. So she emailed them. It turns out, the free bricks were from a friend of hers! Excitement ensues. But alas, mom is too sick so she has to sheepishly ask dad for help.

Dad doesn’t get his hands dirty, and dad hates manual labor. Mom and dad have a very distinct “I will not involve you into my project” deal.

So mom felt a lot of vulnerability as she asked dad. And dad easily said yes.

Yesterday dad went and got the bricks. Mom thought there would be about 50 or so bricks. When she looked into the trunk of dad’s car, she saw that every single corner of the trunk was filled with bricks. It was more than 50 bricks. Anywhere between 50-200 bricks.

Mom’s heart ballooned, her cheeks heightened, her head lightened. She felt so loved. So thoroughly and completely loved. Some people love getting roses. Some love getting electronic devices. My mom? A trunk full of free bricks from Craigslist. I love my mom.

Love, Bob

(It looks like there are over 200 bricks! And happy Valentine’s Day!)

 

Dear diary,

I saw a snail die. It was a slow death. We weren’t sure if it was sleeping, resting or hibernating. There were a few snails that looked like they were “in between places”, hanging, floating, chilling. So Mom googled “how do you know if your snail is dead?” The internet told us that if we felt brave, to smell it. Well, she smelled Baam. Remember Baam? The large trapdoor snail mom got me for a room mate? Well, Baam smelled fishy. Which is a good sign. Because apparently there is nothing like the smell of a dead snail. The internet says there is no way to mistake a dead snail from a live one based on smell. So Baam was alive—yet in between states of being. But other smaller snail who also looked dead, we couldn’t quite reach, so we just watched it.

This smaller snail wasn’t invited to our tank. It was a stow away from the pond outside when mom brought in some water plants for my tank. It is a small spiral of a snail and it’s quite cute. But then it stopped moving. Was it sleeping? So we waited.

Then one day we saw that the body had dissolved. Nothing was left for the shell. Grandma once wrote a poem about a snail. How the snail carries its coffin about its entire life just to die in it. Grandma is a lovely poet. I wonder if she was struggling with depression or if she was just down when she wrote that poem.

I feel useless these days. I feel like I need to contribute in some meaningful way in order to feel worthy. Mom tells me that is not how it works. You don’t have to be lovable in order to be loved. You don’t have to do meaningful things to be meaningful. She tells me that I am already complete. That I am already whole.

I think she is saying that because she loves me. She says that yes, she loves me but it is also her value system: to believe in people’s worthiness without evidence. Because life is not a court of law. You don’t have to prove your innocence. Our guilt is not assumed. Worthiness is not based on merit or an accumulation of resume items. Worthiness is a starting place. It is not an accomplishment but a state of being. You are. Therefore you are worthy.

I don’t know. It sounds confusing. I look away and mom notices that I am not connecting and withdrawing into my head.

She looks at me and abruptly asks: do you blame a snake for being a snake? No! I say. Do you blame a chicken for being a chicken? No! I say. Does a squirrel have to prove their squirrel-ness to you? No, mom.

You are already who you need to be. You are already whole. You don’t have to prove anything other than to live your life the way you see fit. I don’t know mom…

Did you chose to be what you are? No.

Did you chose to think like you do? Uhhhh, I don’t think so.

Do you feel and think and make decisions based on what you know and feel? Yes!

Do you apologies when you do harm? Uhhhhh, sometimes.

Do you connect and create and celebrate and cry? Yes!

You are doing great. You are already whole. You are already complete. You do not have to prove your worthiness in order to be worthy. You already are.

Okay mom.

I love my mom.

Love, Bob

 

February 26, 2018

Dear diary,

We have a new budgie. The two we started with: 나무 Na-moo and 하늘 Ha-nul, we still have. But due to mom’s well-intentioned, yet ignorant behavior towards the budgies, our budgies kind of hate humans.

Eli has been lamenting. Ever since he was three years old, all Eli wanted was a bird that would sit on his head and be his friend. So for the last few months mom has been quietly trying to problem solve how to get the budgies to love us. She did not succeed.

So she came up with a new plan: mom will inherit the two budgies who hate humans, and she will get Eli a new friendly budgie.

But it turns out that most budgies that are sold through pet stores are flighty and do not like humans. Great. So now what. She joined “bird lovers of Massachusetts”, watched many videos about budgies, devoted hours of looking through Craigslist ads about budgies that might be friendly. Nothing came of it.

Last week mom had an idea. She went back to the pet store where she got the original two budgies. Mom walked into the store. She made eye contact with one of the staff members and asked about budgies. Mom asked if they had any “friendly ones that were not afraid of humans.” The staff member, without a blink, said NO. A moment of silence. Then my mom asked, “can I try to see if any one of these birds will come to me? If they do, I’ll buy them.” The woman, we will call her Betty, all but rolled her eyes at my mom. And with a sigh and a silent (if you must) she said SURE.

My mom’s theory was this: put your hand down into the pen. Find out if there are any budgies who did not fear humans. And let the friendly one come to you. Let them choose you. What did she have to lose? And so she put her hand down into the corral of dozens of chirping budgies. They all ran away from her. But mom left her hand in there. And quietly spoke to them in a soft whisper. Hello. Hellooooooooo. Hello. Ooooooh, you are all so pretty! How are you all doing? Helloooooooo, hello.

And what do you know. It was like the parting of the seas. A very small budgie walked away from the group of huddled budgies and started walking towards my mom’s hand. The small budgie smelled my moms hand. Then gave it a taste. Or maybe a nibble. My mom made cooing noises to the little bird and talked to it. Then when mom gave a little nudge to the belly, the budgie jumped onto her finger. By now, all the near by staff members were watching intensely. Mom looked up and said, “may I have a box for this budgie?”

Betty went and got a cardboard box. Mom now held the small budgie in her right hand, and an empty cardboard box in her left hand. A new dilemma: how to get the budgie into the box without frightening it. Hmmmm. Mom hadn’t thought through this part yet. But she remembered: process is more important then just focusing on the end goal. Mom learned this the hard way. Getting the budgie home is important, but right now that is not the most important step. The more important step is to create a bond of trust through small gestures.

Mom looked at Betty and said, “I would like to buy a bag a budgie treats. Can you bring me a bag?” Mom spoke quietly and moved softly. Everyone else followed suit. Quietly Betty went and got the bag. “Do you mind opening the bag and taking out one of the treats?” Betty did. “Can you gently place the treat into the box in my left hand?” Betty did that too. It was like surgery. Choreographed, intentional movement with precision and dedication.

Moving very slowly, mom showed her new budgie the box, the treat in the box, and slowly, oh so very softly inched the budgie into the box. Mom closed the box. Goodness. Mom was sweating. And happy. Overwhelmed with a sense of success. The staff members started calling mom “the bird whisperer.”

Eli named our new budgie 잉꼬 Ing-ko. It means parrot (or budgie) in Korean. And Ing-ko LOVES us! Yay! I am so happy for Eli. I am so happy for mom.

Mom says her next mission is to MAKE the other two budgies love her. I wonder how she is going to do that. I’m sure she will think of something. I hope she remembers that process is more important than outcome. Although her statement says just the opposite. I wonder what she will learn this time.

Love, Bob

 

February 27, 2018

Dear diary,

There were 11 baby axolotl. Now we have nine. We are still trying to figure out what happened but mom remembers reading about axolotl becoming carnivores when they start growing forearms. These babies don’t have forearms. Well, at least mom didn’t think so. Oops. Mom of the year award is becoming even more elusive. First the fucked up budgies. Now babies eating babies. I hope no one finds out about this. Poor mommy. I hope she forgives herself.

Love, Bob

 

March 1, 2018

Dear diary,

I asked my mom what truth was. My mom said there is no such thing. I thought for a bit. Then I asked her if she thought what she said was true: that there is no truth.

That stopped her. If she believes that “there is no truth” is true, then there must be some truths in this world.

My mom told me that she will work on this and get back to me.

In the mean time, here is what I know to be true.

  1. I am an axolotl.
  2. I currently have the designation of the male gender.
  3. I like cool water.
  4. I would like to eat more of everything.
  5. I love my mommy.

These are personal truths and even if they change over time, they are still true for the moment and maybe even forever.

There are other general truths that I am not so sure about. Like, 1+1=2. Because of that kid who pointed out that when you add one drop of water to another one drop of water it is still one drop of water making 1+1=1.

So in some sense truths are contained within context. Which to me means that truths are small stories inside larger stories within even larger stories which can go on forever and forever. And depending on your point of view and measuring system (or value system) some truths can be both right and wrong at the same time. Like adding one water drop to another water drop makes one water drop.

But if something is both right and wrong at the same time, doesn’t it make it just wrong?

Only if you need to be right. Only if you need to win. Only if there is a war.

My mom’s determination in wanting to believe there are no truths probably stems from her desire for peace. If there are no truths, no one is right, no one is wrong and therefore we don’t have to fight over what is true and what is not true.

But I don’t think she has to give up on the idea of truths just because she is afraid of war. And this is because she can choose to believe something can be both right and wrong at the same time. This isn’t a particularly easy place to be, but it might be easier than trying to deny that there are truths.

Maybe she can focus on personal truths instead of general truths. I know she is good with personal truths.

I love my mom.

Love, Bob

 

March 2, 2018

Dear diary,

I think spring is coming. I wonder if mom will show me the outside pond when the weather gets warmer. I am quite curious about what a “natural habitat” is. I hear that there are other wild creatures who have seen some of the world, traveled, struggled and survived. How adventurous! But I am also a bit terrified of “nature” and what it can do it small creatures.

I live in a tank with no predators, no hostilities and enough food to keep me healthy. I get to be who I am, live a full life, and not have to justify myself to anyone. I think this is what it is to live in a bubble.

There it is. I live in a bubble.

Is that bad? Do I have to be ashamed of living in a bubble? And do I have to be ashamed of wanting to continue to live in my bubble? Do people judge me? Am I being paranoid about people judging me? Should I care if they do? Ahhhhhhhhhh!!!

I’ll have to ask mom. Ugh.

Love, Bob

 

March 5, 2018

Dear diary,

I have a new therapist. Well not ‘new’ per se, because it’s Baam, the trap door snail, my roommate. It turns out she is a therapist.

Baam is a great therapist. She is a good listener. She doesn’t judge me. And she is very receptive to all kinds of new ideas.

The only thing is that she doesn’t say much. I would really like to know what kind of opinions she has, but she tells me that these sessions are not about her.

Hrump. But I want to know what she thinks so I can be sure she is not quietly judging me! Hrump.

I’ll have to ask mom about this.

They say snow is on the way. Maybe school will be canceled. And maybe that will make mom spend more time with me. I’m afraid all the new critters have taken mom away from me. And even though I know she loves me, I want her to look at me more and ask me more questions. These days I’m just a check list: food, check; poop, check; water levels, check. I wish mom knew that I want to be more than a to-do list.

She does seem to be spread thin these days. And it is showing up in the form of being short tempered. Mom bit off Eli’s head this morning on the way to school. All he said was that he wishes he did a better job with his homework this weekend but due to the storm he couldn’t. And off she went. Down the hole with accusations about choosing to be a victim, about how we need to be accountable for ones own actions and about making lemonade with lemons, and about determining what we have control over and how to make decisions and if you have the time to regret, you have the time to do something about it.

Eli reminded her again and again that she wasn’t listening to what he was saying. She tried to reboot by asking “what am I not hearing you say.” And every time Eli tried explaining what he was experiencing, it was like he was giving her more evidence to put him in jail. Jeez, mom. You really out did yourself on this one.

By the fifth or sixth time Eli said, “I don’t think you are listening to what I am saying”, mom slowed down. She sat. And asked. And listened. And realized she was talking to Eli, and not her mom, grandma. Grandma who was always the victim. Grandma, who always had someone else to blame. And therefore could never understand that sometimes she herself, grandma, could be the perpetrator of pain. Especially in mom’s case. How grandma hurt mom. And how mom hurt grandma.

It’s not that grandma is an evil person. Neither is mom. But they both thought they were right. And have a deep need to be right. And to voice this sense of righteousness. Because surrender meant death. And so they fought. Their war knew no peace. Ceaseless wars based on harsh judgments, and wanting to be right. Poor mom. Poor grandma.

Mom apologized to Eli. Mom told him that this was an old record of her legacy and pain. That he was caught in the crossfire of her relationship with grandma. That the warrior in her had stood up and was ready to fight and take no prisoners. Mom apologized to Eli. How wrong she was. Eli immediately forgave her. Mom said to Eli, “the next time you meet the warrior in me, you can say, ‘mom, your warrior is talking and you’re making me feel afraid and uncomfortable.’”

Mom thanked Eli for being able to repeatedly state “mom, I don’t think you’re listening to what I’m saying.” She told Eli how very grateful she was that Eli is committed to connecting instead of walking away. How he was able to advocate for himself and what he was experiencing.

Eli has a profound understanding of the value of connection. Something that mom feels that she lacks. So whenever she experiences Eli’s deep seated understanding of connection, she is moved. And overwhelmed with gratitude. This is what love is.

What a morning. I hope snow comes and school gets canceled. Is that bad of me to wish such a thing?

Love, Bob

 

March 17, 2018

Dear diary,

Mom was gone for a week. She said that the Seekonk family traveled to San Francisco to visit family and friends. In the mean time I had a baby sitter named Heather. She is so lovely. She has a beautiful smile and is a confident young woman. I think she can become the president of the United States.

I missed mom while she was gone. I missed seeing her everyday. But then I started imagining this San Francisco place. Is it the place of Saint Francis? The person who loved creatures? I think I would like St Francis. And San Francisco.

Mom has been to four continents. She’s traveled to and lived in Seoul, Korea, many of the major and minor cities of the U. S., Paris, London, Stockholm, Berlin, Rome, Nairobi, Kenya, Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania and Usangi of the Pare mountains of Tanzania.

But it turns out mom doesn’t like traveling. She has some shame around this. It’s one of those things you aren’t supposed to not like. Especially as an open-minded intellectual. But it turns out mom likes being home. And the way mom is curious about the world is not through the material world. The buildings, the ports, the sights, the man-made bridges, Apple head-quarters: non of these attract mom’s eye. She glazes over them as if they were day old fish that has been left out on the counter.

The way mom is curious about the world is through reading. Through thinking. Through meditating. While at home. In her garden. Tending to her chickens. She is a home body. Mom doesn’t like traveling. (Well, actually, mom does like traveling alone quite a bit, but that is another story.)

Mom finally admitted to this fact to her family. Mustering up all of her bravery, she said, “I don’t like traveling.” Her family: mom’s brother, his wife, their daughter, all looked at mom with bewilderment. And slowly one by one, her family said, “yeah, we have known for a while. Didn’t you?”

Aha. How often are we surprised to know that our loved ones know us better than we think they do.

Yesterday, the family played a game called “Say Anything.” It’s a fun game where you get to find out how much you know about the person sitting in front of you.

The “it” person reads a question to the rest of the group. The question mom ended up reading was “what is the worst place that I could be living?”

Then each player writes down what they think would be the most likely answer for that particular person.

The answers came swiftly and effortlessly. What is the worst place/situation in the world that mom could be living?

1st answer: So-cho-dong (where grandma and grandpa live.)

2nd answer: Grandma and grandpa’s home

3rd answer: all of your relatives living inside of your Seekonk house

4th answer: 1950s Alabama

5th answer: with Trump

How well my family know and understand my mom.

I am so happy for my mom. She is loved and understood. Without judgment.

I am happy to have mom back home. Happy days.

Love, Bob

 

March 26, 2017

Dear diary,

Due to unforeseen circumstances mom has turned into a volcano.

And I don’t mean the quiet slowly seething volcano. More of a random, without warning explosion of fumes, dust and a few spittings of lava. Thunder and lighten come before and after so I do suppose there are some warnings. But they happen so quickly that all involved are shocked and grateful when it is over. So far mom has blown up at her baby boy twice in one day, her partner, all on Sunday and today she made a big scene at school in front of her colleague and students.

Mom apologized and apologized again. But she is shaken.

She feels like a plant that has been taken out of her pot. Roots exposed, no earth to burrow into. Shocked like finding yourself holding a knife with blood everywhere.

Oh wait. Mom is being dramatic again.

No one was hurt. If anything she was probably a bit annoying. Cognitive distortion loves to catastrophize.

I hope she feels better soon.

Love, Bob

 

April 21, 2018

Dear diary,

I have new brown curtains. Actually they are greenish brown. These curtains keep the sunlight from bothering me and give me extra hiding places. It’s great for playing hide-and-go-seek with mom. The curtains create cool camouflage with my natural coloring and mom has to work extra hard to find me in the tank during dinner time.

These greenish brown curtains have some squiggly lines on them giving trace to the slow movement of living creatures. They are both in the present and in the past. And remind me of the future as the curtains keep growing.

Mom doesn’t like my new curtains. She has been talking about getting rid of them ever since I first got them. But she hasn’t had the time to put action to her thoughts. Better for me. She doesn’t even call them curtains. She calls them “algae” in the fish tank.

I asked mom why she doesn’t like my curtains and why she has a different name for them which sounds very disparaging. She was quiet for a while. She seemed to be lost in her thoughts. Then she said that it was because of prejudice. The prejudice was around the word “clean”. The prejudice was around “what clean means to whom and for what reason.”

Mom explained that the prejudice of “clean” is linked to ideas like pure, untouched, and without dirt. Which in mom’s opinion, is a concept. Not a reality. Because each of these ideas: pure, untouched and without dirt, there is no such thing, mom says. Because nothing is pure, everything has been touched, and everything has dirt on it in some shape or form. I don’t know. If it’s only a concept and doesn’t really exist, why is there a word for it? That’s what I asked mom.

Mom says that a word can exist because of our desire for something. A desire for something that we really, really want. Humans are good at imagination. Mom says that the desire isn’t wrong. A desire is just a desire. And that is how we create music, poetry, art, design, stories, words and even yummy food.

But if we take action, especially hurtful action based on any unregulated desire, that is when we get into trouble. Like when she wants to eat buckets of noodles, like Jjajangmyun, and pasta with bolognese sauce. The desire is not wrong, the hurtful action is bad. I get what mom is saying. Especially about hurtful actions. Totally.

But I’m still not sure about some parts of what mom is saying. Whenever mom says words like “never”, “always” and “everything” there is trouble ahead. And as much as I want to believe her when she says “nothing is pure, everything has been touched, and everything has dirt on it in some shape or form” and therefore “clean” is a construct and concept, I know there are masses of other humans out there in the world who will disagree with mom.

Maybe mom should try to be less “deep” and more practical. Although mom being “deep” will honor me and my desire to keep my curtain. If mom honors her practical side, she will have to get rid of and clean out my curtains. Or rather algae. My guess? Mom will continue being “deep” and she will still get rid of my curtains. Maybe as a consolation prize, she will get me some more room mates.

Love, Bob

 

April 23, 2018

Dear diary,

Grand dad would hit mom. Over the head. When he was drunk. He would pick a fight over something tedious. Like her handwriting. How she should write more slowly. So that her handwriting would be perfect. He would walk by her when she was doing her homework and tell her in slurred speech: write more slowly. Go slower. SLOWER. There you go.

Ten minutes later, grand dad would walk by and repeat this process. By the third time he would erupt. And smack mom over the head. A blow. Another. Anger rising with every alcohol drenched breath.

Keeping her head bowed mom would cry in silence. Do not provoke. Do not make noise. Keep you head down. Make yourself invisible. No response is still a response when dealing with angry drunk people.

Making herself as small as possible, she would wait until the storm blew over.

Later, alone in her room, mom would silently scream into her pillow.

This time, like many other times, grand dad would climb up to her bedroom and come in. He would hold out his hand and offer her five dollars. 5000 won. It was a big deal. Then he would say that he was sorry. I am so sorry about what just happened. Here is 5000 won. Smile for daddy. Here, take the money. Smile for daddy. I am so sorry.

This time, unlike any other time, mom looked at grand dad straight in the eyes and said, “I don’t need your money. I will not smile for you. I don’t want you to be lifted of your guilt. So that you can go back to your bed and sleep in peace. No. I will not give you that.

If you truly regret your actions, do this: the next time you want to erupt for no good reason, think of how you will want to bribe me with 5000 won, five minutes later, with regret in your voice. Think of this moment, and next time you want to rage at me, keep your temper. Keep your money. You can leave my room now.”

Mom was in high school.

Mom has been surviving her parents all her life. And now they are declining. Crawling towards death. In the most miserable way. She is torn between love, pity, grieving, rage, and fear. Mourning the messy crawl towards death. Terrified over the violence of the past. And even though she is a woman of 52, she cannot shake the devastation and horror of growing up with parents who are damaged.

What happened to them? Why are they this way? They could not have possibly chosen to be this way. And yet here they are. Broken. Damaged. And now crawling toward their death. Spewing volcanic acid towards anything and everything that moves. How do you go near a volcano? Mom has lost all capacity to sit near a volcano. She barely survived the first time.

And yet mom struggles with judgment. Some of her friends are telling her about how she might regret not being there for her father. Mom has to walk away from these pronouncements and judgments. These pronouncements do her damage. Because they are another form of threats. The damnation of the shoulds and regrets. So mom is walking away. From the shoulds. From the “what if’s”. From the damnations. Mom is walking into the now. And honoring the moment.

I love my mom. I’m going to give her an extra hug today.

Love, Bob

 

May 4, 2018

Dear diary,

Mom is worried. She thinks I talk about her too much. Actually, it is more specific than that. She is worried that I THINK and KNOW too much about her. She is worried that my life is a bit too consumed with her life. That I don’t have an independent life of my own. Mom is worried that I am “merged” with her. I think this is a psychological term. It’s when one person merges their identity with another person and think of themselves as one unit.

Parents sometimes merge with their children. If my child gets straight A’s, that will be a reflection of my good parenting and therefore my success. So I will make SURE that they succeed. So I succeed. Merging.

Teachers sometimes merge with their students and their portfolios. If my students’ portfolio looks good, that means I did a good job. So I will make SURE that they have a beautiful portfolio, so that it looks like they succeeded. So that I look like I succeeded. Merging.

Sometimes it happens to people and their jobs or institutions. If my company/unit school looks impressive that means I look impressive. So I will make SURE that my company/unit/school looks good. So that I look good. Merging.

But this just burdens the relationship and makes people a bit controlling. (Understatement.) And it also makes people afraid of failure.

Mom doesn’t try to control me. She lets me make my own decisions and tries to honor them to the best of her abilities. Even if some people judge her for not being a good parent. Because she lets me sniff my own poop. Really. It’s pretty gross, but I can’t help it. Mom says quite a few humans can’t resist looking at their own poop and checking it out after they go potty. Although she has met very few people who are willing to admit it.

So mom doesn’t have to worry about us being merged. Even if I do talk about her a lot. I just love my mom and love hearing her stories. Especially her poop stories.

Love, Bob

 

May 10, 2018

Dear diary,

Mom started this new thing. It’s called “practice joy.” It showcases her determination to practice joy on a daily basis. It’s the opposite of what reading the news does to her spirit.

When mom was young she suffered a lot. I think they would have probably diagnosed her with anxiety and depression, but back then in South Korea, she was called rude, dark, moody, sulky, angry, resentful, ungrateful and unloveable. Mostly by her mother, my grandma.

Mom would try and share her frustrations and worries with her mother. Like how oppressive the Korean culture was toward girls and women, how destructive and unbearable it was when people judged mom based on her outer appearance (which many people commented on with words like dumpy, short, squat with thick arms and the like.) How mom didn’t feel like she shared many values with her peers and how mom would frequently wonder if she would ever feel less lonely in the world.

Grandma could not practice being introspective and reflective at the time. And grandma did not have the same values as my mom.

In fact, mom considered grandma to be an example of a corrupt human being. But she was still her mom. And mom wanted grandma to know more about her. So mom would share her thoughts and worries with grandma. Hoping for a better response each time.

One day in grandma’s rush to shut down mom’s talking, grandma said to mom, “oh, I used to be like you too. Worried about everything. But you’ll grow out of it. Just like I did. You’ll get over it.”

Grandma used to be just like mom when she was younger. So mom will grow up to be just like grandma. All this misery, all the pain, all the agony of existence—just to grow up into a corrupt, broken human being.

This was like a death sentence. Actually, it was more like being told you had cancer of the blood. Something that she inherited that is like a time bomb. Ticking away to go off at a random time in the future. And then, bam, mom would become grandma, broken and corrupt.

That day mom decided two things.

  1. I will forever suffer. If I seek suffering it will be harder to become corrupt. If I seek pleasure, joy, comfort, grandeur, or beauty, I will become like my mother. Greed, desire and lust is the source of so much violence in the history of human living. Therefore I will suffer forever. I will choose pain over joy. I will seek out the dark, I will seek out the unloved, I will listen to the cries, and I will never become corrupt.
  2. I will never have children. If I have to go through all of this suffering only to barely survive becoming my mother, there is no fucking way I am letting another human suffer through this.

Mom was in high school when all of this happened. And this frame of mind stuck with her for a very long time into her adulthood. And even when she realized that she was already broken and corrupt, but in a different way than grandma and that she didn’t have to suffer in order to be a “good human being”, she still didn’t know how to undo or walk away from the old habits of living in the dark.

So these days mom is doing this new thing called “practice joy.” I would say that it’s almost aggressive in how she practices it. But in a good way. She is making (or rather hacking) her own earrings out of goofy things like rubber ducks, plastic donuts, felt flowers and cute erasers. She is making colorful smocks and jumpers that have lots and lots of colors and polka dots. She is walking out into a world that seems hell bend on showing us how full of hate it is, and she is claiming her joy. Or rather, reclaiming her joy.

I’m reclaiming my joy, I’m reclaiming my joy, I’m reclaiming my joy. With every donut earring. With every jumper. With every smock.

I love my mom.

Love, Bob

 

May 12, 2018

Dear diary,

Our kitties don’t like getting their nails cut. They writhe and fight as if they were trying to get away from a giant boa constrictor. So mom has a hack. She wraps them up in a towel, puts a sock over the kitty’s head, then pulls out one paw, and clip, clip, clip! Nails are done.

Mom has other hacking projects. Last year she made a sharing box for the neighborhood. It’s been quite the hit. Mom has met many new neighbors from near and far. One grandma walks to the box everyday with their grandchild and told mom that it’s the highlight of her day. We’ve even been invited to break bread with the new neighbors. The sharing box is quite the active project for being so passive. I mean it’s just a box. With books in it.

Mom says she is going to make a bigger box that is more weather proof. Our current sharing box is swelling up due to moisture retention. Is that like water retention that comes with the menstrual cycle? Maybe it will go down on it own after the cycle is over? I’ll have to ask mom.

Love, Bob

 

May 15, 2018

Dear diary,

Eli is worried. He is worried because mom is sick. She has pneumonia, but to him this might feel too dangerous. So he needs some comfort. He keeps asking if she is going to be okay. And every time, mom hugs Eli, and tells him, “abso-fucking-lutely.”

Eli has another worry. He is starting his first set of standardized testing. He is so worried. And worried. And worried. So mom said that if he gets a failing grade that she will get him a present. (I know, right?)

This is what mom did with bee stings. When Eli was small, he was so worried about getting stung by a bee, that being outdoors became a problem. This is the day that mom told Eli that if he ever gets stung by a bee, mom would get him a present.

Eli remembers this. Except he remembers that mom said that she would get him a gigantic present.

But Eli is still worried. He tells mom that he hates being tested. And mom told him that he is not alone in this fact. But he gets to use this time to build up his tolerance for such things as testing.

Amazingly, Eli got this point too. (That, kid. I’m telling you.)

I wonder if mom ever doubts her child-rearing strategies. It just feels so… something.

Mom started calling herself a hacker and Eli was a bit concerned. Isn’t hacking bad? So mom explained to Eli how she was using the word hacking.

Hacking: to see how a system is being run, and being able to go into it, fix things, make alterations, and make it do things that you need it to do. Bypassing the conventional “this is the way you HAVE to do things” and also bypassing the top down, authority based way of thinking.

Eli’s response?

“Mom you are cool. Or as some others might say, you are a BAMF.”

“What’s a BAMF?”

“Oh, it’s Bad Ass Mother F’er.”

There you go.

Love, Bob

 

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Dear diary,

One of the baby axolotl got adopted today. Their new name is Dumpling. I mean seriously. How cute is that name. The new family is even more adorable. They live in New York State surrounded by a forest. It sounds amazing. The family squealed with joy when they first met Dumpling. They started describing how beautiful dumpling was with their purplish gills. Mom hadn’t noticed the purplish gills. Mom had a moment of complicated emotions: guilt over not having ever noticed the purplish gills and the immense joy for Dumpling finding such a wonderful family. And a third more complicated feeling (or was it panic) of “oh no! I can’t give my baby away.”

Logic tells her that the adoption today is a wonderful thing. And mom will stay on track by thinking of how Dumpling is loved by this new family.

Did I mention that mom started free-ranging the chickens? She started letting the four chickens graze in the yard. The first day, she let them out in a small corralled area for thirty minutes. The second day she opened up the corral and let them wander about the yard. She stayed in the yard with them the whole time worried that they would run away or jump the fence and seek freedom.

None of these things happened. The chickens stayed close to their coop, dug up worms, ate weeds, and only stayed in the area that they could see from their coop. Which is pretty much the area mom can see from the living room.

So now mom lets the chickens out in the morning and lets them roam the whole day without supervision. Even when she isn’t home!

Dad is worried. He wonders if anything will happen to them. Mom isn’t worried. Well, not too much. There aren’t too many predators in our neighborhood. Most of the outdoor cat people have moved away. And there is the occasional birds of prey, but mom is optimistic.

It’s funny how people make decisions. Mom keeps the cats indoors saying that the dangers of the outside world is not worth the risk. And yet, she is letting the chickens roam about risking their death by hawks and other scary creatures.

I hope she never decides to let me “roam the world.” I know she is working on putting Eli on a plane by himself to go visit his uncle in California. Something about how it will be “good” for him.

Parents are weird. They work so hard to protect their kids and then make plans to scare the bejeezus out of them.

No logic. No consistency. But I still love my mom. No one is perfect.

Love, Bob

 

May 29, 2018

Dear diary,

Mom is worried. Mom is worried that she is getting too fat. She is five feet one inches and she is currently weighing in at 130 pounds. Mom thinks she is getting fat. I think mom is crazy. Mom knows that this type of thinking is crazy. Well, to be more exact: prejudice, hostile, and misogynistic. But the thoughts keep coming. It is especially strong when she thinks about her weight and appearance in the context of Korea. It might have to do with the fact that grandma used to say that mom was short and squatty with thick arms. Seriously.

But thoughts that come to you are not always the ones that you activity invite over for tea and crumpets. Sometimes they visit you when you are in your stretched out pajamas, third day in a row, over a long weekend, when you are at your most comfortable, vulnerable and unsuspecting state of being.

So mom is struggling with the thoughts that tell her she is fat. Mom did gain some weight. Ten pounds. It might be stress weight. Because mom has been going through a lot lately. And while she was going through the “a lot lately”, mom has had massive cravings for ramen at 9:30 pm almost every night.

9:30 pm is when the house is quiet. All her babies are asleep, tucked away in their corners and dad is relaxing in bed. No one needs her and no one calls for her. She is in her alone time and this is when the craving for 신라면 Shin Ramen calls for her.

The yellow rounded pot that mom found at Savers for $1.99 comes out. I think it used to be a fondue pot. It has a cute wooden handle . And very pretty yellow color that just says, “well, hello there!”

Two cups of water goes into the yellow pot. Mom goes to the pantry to fish out a package of Shin Ramen. She rips the package open with gusto. The small bag of spices and dried vegetable flakes are the first to go into the yellow pot. Then she puts the ramen on top. The round disc of ramen floats aloft in its mini swimming pool.

The water boils and before the noodles have a chance to soften, mom puts the entire pot on top of a trivet on the dining room table. Not al dente. More like blanched noodles.

She pulls out her iPad, turns one on of her favorite shows (be it RuPaul, Great British Baking Show, or Kimmy Schmidt) and watches reruns for the twentieth, or fifty seventh time.

Alone with her pot of extra spicy ramen, with RuPaul, Mary, and Kimmy by her side. Mom is content.

If anyone eats a 500 calorie meal at 9:30 pm every day for six months, I’m sure they might gain some weight. And so did mom. She knew she was “stress eating” and she gave herself permission to do so.

But now she is aware of being “bigger” than she has ever been before. Seriously. She’s like Yoda. Who ever cares about how much Yoda weighs? And which Yoda cares about how thick their arms are? This Yoda does. And she is worried.

Yes, her metabolism is changing. But she is also eating a bowl of ramen every night. Yes, mom is stressed out and needs comfort. But she is also eating a bowl of ramen every night.

Mom told her therapist about her dilemma. And her therapist talked about “harm reduction.” Eat what you want, comfort yourself. This is all okay. It’s being human. If you are concerned about the side effects of this “comforting”, you can think about your activity in the context of “harm reduction.” Maybe have half a bowl of ramen? Or replace half the ramen noodles with vegetable noodles? How can you savor the experience and reduce the caloric intake?

Mom thought about this for a few days. No korean can have half a ramen. Well, not my mom anyway. And vegetable noodles in your Shin ramen. Yeah, I don’t know…

So mom made a decision. And like with most things, she decided to go cold turkey. No more ramen at 9:30 pm.

But, instead replace it with something different. And that something turns out to be… tea.

Mom isn’t a tea person. She is a coffee person to the death. Coffee is for action and movement. Tea is for slowing things down and moving slower.

Slow. Slower. Slowest. Eeeeek. Yeah, mom doesn’t do “slow.”

But she is going to try slowing down with tea. And all the rituals that comes with tea brewing. Filtered water. Tea kettle. Choosing of the tea. Choosing of the cup. Waiting for water to boil. Steeping the tea. Straining the loose leaves. Then sitting down with RuPaul, Mary or Kimmy. Me time.

I love my mommy. I hope she doesn’t feel like she has to loose weight in order to feel worthy. But I also know it’s a tough voice to filter out. Because, I actually think I’m getting too fat. I shouldn’t have eaten all my guppy friends. Guppies are my ramen. But because I ate all of them, I am now alone. And fat. Mother fucker.

Maybe mom will give me some of her tea.

Love, Bob

 

June 1, 2018

Dear diary,

Mom is watching reruns of project runway while sewing in the basement. Season four. With Christian Siriano. Fierce.

At the end of episode one, Heidi says, “Simone, Elisa, one of you will be out.” And mom is expecting to hear, “Two queens stand before me. Ladies, this is your last chance to impress me and save yourself from elimination. The time has come for you to lip sync for your life. (life) (life) (life) Good luck and don’t f*** it up!”

Heidi does not say this. Mom is disoriented. Mom is also expecting, “Elisa, Shante you stay. Simone, sashay away.” That doesn’t happen either. There is no lip sync. There is no shante, nor sashay. Mom is confused. Mom is confused with desire and longing.

Should she switch and start watching RuPaul reruns? Or stay with Project Runway? Is this what it’s like to be torn between two lovers?

Mom sticks with Project Runway. But the longing doesn’t go away.

Feelings. They are such a confusing thing.

I remember the first time that Eli said to mom: I feel like you don’t love me. Eli was five and he was being held accountable for something he did. And thus his “I feel like you don’t love me.”

Mom looked at Eli and says, “do you KNOW that I love you?” Eli thinks about it for a moment then says yes.

Mom says to Eli, “this is the confusing thing about feelings. It feels so real, (like mom doesn’t love me because she is giving me the stink eye) but you KNOW that I loves you.

For me, feelings are like the wind that blow through the trees. They come and go. They are real, but they come and go. And knowing is like the ground we stand on. We don’t notice it all the time, but it is always there. It doesn’t change.”

“Okay, mommy. Can I have a hug?”

“Absolutely.”

Sigh. I love my mommy.

Love, Bob

 

June 6, 2018

Dear diary,

Kate Spade died. She committed suicide. Mommy cried. Just like she cried when she heard about Robin Williams. And David Foster Wallace. It speaks of the power of depression and anxiety. Not that I know that Kate Spade suffered from these ailments.

I know that I struggle with anxiety and depression. And I know that I am doing my best to cope with it. Eating healthy (uh, except for the guppy ramen), doing my best with keeping a regular sleep cycle (except that I can’t with mom sewing, painting, and making in my room at all hours), exercising at least thirty minutes three times a week. (Not really.) Yoga. (Well, not recently.) Meditation. (I stopped about four months ago.)

But as my friend Stefan said, “major depression: it’s not a thing of facing your issues. It’d be like saying, ‘You just gotta face that tornado.’”

How true. Facing a tornado. This analogy is so comforting. Like aloe on sunburn. Because I realize I am not choosing to have depression. The tornado just comes to where I live way too often. And I know what you’re thinking. Why don’t you move or run away? Because it’s an analogy! Where I live is MY BODY. I can’t move or run away!

But all of this talk of suicide and depression makes me scared. So much so that I want to crawl into my little cubby hole and never come out. What if I end up wanting to commit suicide? I know that that will be devastating and damaging to my family. I can’t even.

. . .

I think the problem with this kind of thinking—suicide in the mist of a major depression—this is not a choice. Just like being gay is not a choice and being trans is not a choice and being short is not a choice and having any other physical or mental attribute is not a choice. It is a state of being.

Over the span of history, human creatures have tried all sorts of machinations to fix and/or ‘cure’ human conditions. For sure, people are finding treatments for cancer and people are now living healthy lives with HIV, but other conditions are not there to be fixed. Is depression to be fixed soon? What kind of ‘cure’ will there be for it?

In the mean time, people who commit suicide as a result of suffering from major depression—I think this is one of the OUTCOMES of this illness.

Some people survive cancer. Some don’t. Some people survive a major depression. Some don’t. The ‘form’ of suicide makes it feel like the sufferers were actively making a choice. But what if suicide is a byproduct of illness?

If we take away the stigma from suicide, will the mourning and loss of a loved one be easier? I don’t know.

If we take away the stigma from suicide, will there be a little less fear and pain for the people involved with major depression? I think so.

Because death is death and we don’t have to add an additional layer of shame, blame and judgment—how could she have done that with such a great career, a loving husband and a daughter who is only 13 years old?

How could she have done that?

She didn’t. It happened to her.

Well, that’s what I think anyway.

Or maybe this is a coping mechanism in itself.

I don’t know. I’m sad. I really liked Kate Spade. Just seeing her designs made me happy. Cheerful. And even optimistic.

I’m gonna go look at mom’s collection of diy earrings. Those cheer me up.

Love, Bob

 

June 19, 2018

Dear diary,

Today is Juneteenth. This is the day that slavery ended in the U. S. It is a day for celebration, for sorry and for remembrance. Mom is celebrating her first Juneteenth cook out today. She invited her friends to join her. And a whole bunch of people are coming!

One of the traditions of Juneteenth is to share food that is red. Red: to remember the blood that was shed. Mom got cranberry juice, strawberries, watermelon, burgers, hotdogs and brats.

Days like this remind me of all the different kinds of revolutions. The quiet ones, the bloody ones, the subtle ones, and the violent ones.

Mom grew up in the mist of social revolution in South Korea back in the 1980s which brought democracy to the small peninsula.

Looking back it feels glorious and righteous, but for mom, it was terrifying. Riot police lined up on the streets. Tear gas every other day. Walking the three to four mile long way out of school, all the while crying, choking and sobbing due to tear gas. Tear gas isn’t just for making tears. It’s more like: create such pain that it feels like your eyes are being pulled out from their sockets.

And then there were the kids that were being beaten and killed during riots, and the people that were being secretly tortured. All of this was terrifying. Mom read books about revolution, and read chapters about torture. And somehow decided that she was probably one of the people who would cave under torture. And decided that she was the weak link.

Even though mom was clear about what was right and wrong, mom was suspicious about ideology, and always leery about where the money was coming from that was funding the revolution. The results? Trust no one.

But this TRUST NO ONE added to the fuel of the existential crisis mom suffers from.

Irvin Yalom talks about existential crisis. Mom loves Irvin Yalom. He is a existential psychiatrist from Stanford University and he wrote many books that comforted mom in her quest to learn about her pain. He speaks of four kinds of existential pain: loneliness, meaninglessness, freedom and death.

Loneliness: no matter how connected and loved we are, we are still in the end, lonely, in our bodies, in our minds, in our spirit.

Meaninglessness: in spite of our desperate search for meaning, we can still find ourselves lost in our quest for meaning, because secretly, there might not be any.

Freedom: as much as we want to blame and point fingers, and find reasons as to why not, we are in the end free to do as we choose. And that can be very frightening.

Death: and after all that, we die. Yup. We will all die.

When mom first read about these ideas, it was like she found the names to the demons that had been haunting her. They were not a figment of her imagination, but they actually had names and characters and histories. They almost felt like friends. And in fact they might be her friends.

Mom struggles with meaninglessness the most. But she is realizing that she struggles with every single one of these pains. Especially now, with all that is going on in the world. With the children.

The rage can easily engulf any sane person. And rage does no one any good. So mom pulls back. She tries to look at the big picture. But she only comes across more depressing news. This isn’t the first time nor the last time children will be brutalized. It happens in many forms in many quiet or loud situations. The big picture isn’t helping. Mom wants to hide and numb. But numbing only creates more pain.

So mom looks for action. Small actions to support the children. Small quiet actions seem so irrelevant compared to the largeness of what is going on. But in mom’s current binary mode of “all or nothing”, small actions are great. Small actions (donating time and/or money among other options that are out there) create movement. Small actions are not violent. Small actions are sustainable. But is it enough?

I think so. I hope so. Mom’s current “all or nothing” brain wants to tell her that “small actions” are bullshit. That it is the lazy, privileged persons way out of doing “real work.” But if we follow this route of thinking—this brain that calls my mom lazy, would have her leave her home, family and job to move to a different location, become an attorney, and start fighting a different battle. This would take YEARS. And it would be more about HER than the children. This “all or nothing” brain sounds like the kind of brain that like drama: like the absentee father who swoops in on Christmas with big gifts and grand gestures. But it’s still all about him, isn’t it. Not about this kids. Because kids want consistency. They want sustained love. Not grand gesture love.

Consistent small actions.

Small actions work. If everyone chose to do a small action today. And then again tomorrow. And then again the next day, we would have something. We can’t do it alone, but with many, many, many of us CHOOSING to care in a active way, consistently, we would be participating in creating our own future.

Small actions work. 티끌 모아 태산. Create a mountain out of dust. Sustained action creates outcome. If one person had to collect the dust we would have to wait a long time. If hundreds of thousands of people collected dust, we would get there sooner. Collecting dust doesn’t feel like much. But collectively, it will move us all.

Small actions. Do one today.

And vote.

Today is Juneteenth. A day of celebration and remembrance.

Will humans be capable of revolutions that can happened without bloodshed? They say the digital revolution happened without bloodshed. But you know what I mean. A revolution that will lead to more people being empowered and freed from systematic oppression. Today I will choose to be hopeful.

Love, Bob

 

August 13, 2018

Dear diary,

Mom got a bird. A conure. A pineapple green cheeked conure. It’s a baby. And it’s pretty.

Mom has been nursing a broken heart. The heart that is broken by having broken parents. The fact that the parents are old and physically frail does not take away from the magnitude of pain that they can wield. Which is all the more confusing and painful.

Mommy remembers the story of the child burned victim. Sitting in the hospital bed with over 70% of their body burned. And the child asking for their mommy. Even though it was their mommy who set them on fire.

This is how things work. We run to our parents even if they hurt us. Because it hurts even more to think you don’t have a safe place to go to.

I think my mommy wants to create a safe place for her heart. In this pursuit she is accumulating creatures. Hoping she can create safe places for these creatures. And feeling safe through their safety.

But that’s not how it works. Because creatures get sick, creatures can hurt each other and creatures cannot be protected from death.

Mom has a lot of love inside of her. And she has already created many a safe places for herself and her loved ones. But right now, she seems to be going through an existential emergency.

So now mom has a new bird. A conure. Which they say is smart and lives a long time. This bird will be just hers. And she will take care of this baby bird. And this baby bird will become her companion.

Why am I getting a glimpse of that movie/book with the two guys and the mouse. Hmmmm. The one where the guy loves the little mouse so much that he kills it. Eeeek. I think I’m being bit morbid. Or worried? Ick. Yuck. Icky, icky, icky.

Happy thoughts. Happy thoughts. Happy thoughts. Kitty cats licking ice cream and puppy dogs licking baby toes. Happy thoughts, happy thoughts, happy thoughts.

I think mom will be okay. She is struggling for sure, but she is working through it. By living one day at a time.

Love, Bob

 

August 20, 2018

Dear diary,

Mom’s phone timer alarm went off in the middle of her braiding Eli’s hair. Mom says to Eli, “can you hit repeat on the timer alarm? Then open up ‘Tapped Out’ for me.” Eli asks what ‘Tapped Out’ is. Mom tells him that it’s the Simpsons game app. Eli asks, “you have an alarm for your games?” Mom says, “yes, yes I do.”

My mom doesn’t do anything half-assed.

Every four hours mom has to collect the coins from her characters. With enough coins she gets to build buildings and acquire more characters. But this month is special because this is the month for creating animal habitats in her mini Springfield.

More creature. Eeeeeerrrrrrrggggghhhh. (With drool.) Like Homer would say about beer.

My mom loves creatures. Even virtual ones.

I love my mom.

Love, Bob

 

September 7, 2018

Dear diary,

Mommy thinks she is a coward. At least that is the thought that keeps popping up into her head. These thoughts call my mom a coward because she is walking away from her parents. These thoughts are calling my mom a sissy and a coward and they are saying that she is exaggerating events and experiences and things are not that bad.

My mom is dragged down into the dark waters with these thoughts. And struggles for breath. Her friend reminds her about being raised by narcissistic parents. Mom had to google this to remind herself. And one of the traits of being raised by narcissistic parents is that you don’t believe in your own lived experience. Because your parents never validated your pain, your angst and your sorrow. The narcissistic parent tells you that you are just too sensitive and too odd. That in order to be loved you have to be lovable.

So mom is struggling to acknowledge her reality. And it is both hard and heartbreaking.

Psychologists call these voices in her head intrusive thoughts. Mom calls them squatters. They move in without permission and will not leave. Or more like thousands of mosquitoes. They won’t actually bleed you to death, but it sure feels like they will.

Mom is learning how to live with a thousand mosquitoes. Because unfortunately, they will never go away.

I sure hope mom can hear the joy of the birds in her life. And maybe that will drown out the incessant buzzing of the mosquitoes.

Love, Bob

 

September 27, 2018

Dear diary,

Mommy is struggling. And her resiliency is dwindling down. She is feeling low, low and lower. Slowing seeping into the muddy under layers of the earth. Where there is no light. Only stagnant rotting seepage.

Mom needs to become more resilient.

Mom learned from her therapist that the one thing that resilient people have in common is gratitude. The problem is that mom also struggles with gratitude.

When mom hears the word gratitude, her basic response is FUCK YOU. A quick and simple FUCK YOU, drop mike, and walk away. Or she starts sobbing. Like a little baby.

So mom knows gratitude is a trigger word. But mom also wants to become more resilient. So that she can be herself more fully.

Mom’s new project is called practice gratitude. More specifically, she is going to practice gratitude doodles. Every day. Every moment. When she feels down. When she feels anxious. When she feels anger. When she feels restless.

Mom found a deck of index cards that was left over from Eli’s school supplies. She wanted something that was portable and not too too precious. Because if the material was too precious, her “performance anxiety” would kick in and therefore null the project.

She put the index cards in a zip lock bag with pencil and eraser and she is bringing this kit with her where ever she goes. And in quiet moments, she is doodling. She is doodling gratitude.

#practicejoy

#practicegratitude

#gratitudedoodles

I love my mommy.

Love, Bob

 

October 18, 2018

Dear diary,

I think mom has rage issues. Just the other day, she yelled at Eli.

“I am NOT your fucking Siri. If you have two eye balls and two legs like me, then you can go to the fucking fridge to see what we have to eat.”

Sheesh.

I wonder if she needs to take an anger management class. Maybe I can tell mom what I learned when I took an anger management class. Wait. What did I learn. Hmmmmm.

Everyone tells me that I am so mellow. So smiley and friendly. But people usually don’t get to see the private rage inside of me. I save that for my family.

It’s so lopsided. It doesn’t make any sense. That I would take out my rage on the people whom I love the most and who love me the most.

The anger management coach tells me that it’s because I feel safe with them. That’s why I can let them in and see the vulnerable side of me. But I also worry that it could turn into an ugly situation as well. I know I have a streak of “bully” in me. This streak of bully in me is manipulative, can exercise gas lighting, and can create a hostile environment of passive aggressiveness. It’s so terrible. I hope no one will ever get to read my diary. That would be the WORST DAY EVER. Maybe I should burn my diary. Ugh.

But Dr. Brené Brown does say that shame hates being in the light. It loves the dark and will grow bigger and more powerful the longer it is kept in the dark. Maybe I’ll tell some of my best friends about this. So that I don’t keep this shame in the dark.

And as my mom tells me, no one is perfect. Everyone has faults. The most important thing is that we are self-reflective and can acknowledge the wrongs that we do. And then apologize.

Mom did apologize to Eli. And he heartily forgave her. I think mom was shocked at how easily Eli forgave her. Eli forgives with such clarity and acceptance, it moves her. This is what deep, confident love looks like. Forgives with clarity, ease and acceptance.

I think mommy is right: love is the most important thing in this crazy world.

Where did I put the books I read about anger management? I wonder if it got thrown out during the last basement cleaning. Maybe there is an app for it?

Love, Bob

 

November 5, 2018 part one

Dear diary,

The weather is shifting. The water is getting colder. And I don’t see as much day light.

Oh, and I have a new roommate, the guppy. I don’t know her name. I wonder if she has a name. I do know that she had babies. And I ate them. I wonder if she knows. I wonder if we can still be friends.

I have guilt. And a part of me wants to confess to her. And ask for forgiveness. But that might be too selfish. Because she is happy right now. She is a bit shy, but I think she likes our tank. It’s about thirty gallons big, with lots of moss balls and water plants. The filter works great to take out pollutants, and soft enough that it doesn’t create a lot of dramatic water flow.

I don’t like dramatic water flow. I don’t like drama. But there is drama in my heart. Because I ate my roommates’ babies. And I want to purge myself of my inner conflict. The easiest way seems to be to confess. But I know that this will create more drama. Actually it will create pain.

Or is she already in pain? She lost her babies.

Can we have a true friendship if I have a secret that could destroy our relationship? Is this what a pandora’s box is like?

But wait. I’m an axolotl. We eat small moving things. I’m SUPPOSED to eat guppies. Wait. Mom put the guppies in my tank. WAIT. They are not my roommate, they are my dinner? WAIT.

My head hurts. I don’t want drama. I want a snack. Shit. I have to stay away from that guppy. Where is my pellet dinner?

Love, Bob

 

November 5, 2018 part two

I can’t look at my roommate. I think she senses something is wrong. She comes around asking if I’m okay. I tell her to go away. I think I am hurting her feelings. But I can’t stand looking at her right now. I have to stay strong and cope with my desire for a snack. At least until mom comes home and feeds us pellets for dinner.

I think I can hear guppy crying in the corner.

Shit. Fuck. Shit. Shit. Fuck.

Love, Bob

 

 

November 5, 2018 part three

I told guppy. Of my sins. Towards her babies.

She blinks. Looks at me. And asks,

“I had babies? When? Are you sure? I have no memory. I’m happy you ate them! I am not fit to be a mom! Do you know guppies eat their own children? Thank god you ate them! Otherwise I would have eaten them! And what does that make me! Thank you for them so I didn’t end up eating them!”

Life is sooooooo weird. Not what I was expecting. I wonder if she will ever forgive me if I end up eating her.

Love, Bob

 

November 7, 2018

Dear diary,

The other day, I heard Mom say that she is an adult child of narcissistic parents. This sentence sounds complicated. An adult child. How odd. Aren’t you either a child or an adult? And what is a narcissistic parent? It doesn’t sounds too good. I’ll have to ask mom about that.

I also heard her say that in order to maintain her well-being she is exercising what is called “no contact.” Apparently this “no contact” strategy is exactly what it says it is: No. Contact.

It’s been about nine months since mom talked with her parents. But mom says it feels like it’s been a decade, or did she say a day.

A friend of mom asked mom how she was doing. Mom said, “I’m walking away from my parents.” Her friend laughed and said, “but that’s what you said in May!”

Do you know how hard it is to walk away from your parents? I wouldn’t know. I love living with my mom in my life.

Mom says that walking away from ones’ parents is like… walking away from a mountain.

No matter how much you walk, no matter how much time has passed, no matter how tired you are and how many blisters you have on your toes, you look back and the mountain is hovering right over you.

RIGHT. OVER. YOU. As if you hadn’t taken one step away from them. Not one inch.

But mom keeps walking. And walking. And walking. One step at a time. One moment at a time.

And in the meantime, she is trying her best to focus on the flowers, pebbles, textures, and creatures that she meets on the road.

With her practice joy, with her diy earrings, with her diy jumpsuits, with her gratitude doodles, with her new exercise regime.

With her dinners with friends, with her plans for learning, with her plans for sharing joy, pain, and sorrow.

Mom does her best to not look back and feel the massive amount of pressure that the ever-present mountain bares down onto her.

Mom is doing her best to be present. For herself, her family, her students, her friends, her colleagues, her community.

Walking away from a mountain seems so impossible. But mom is walking. Every day. Step by step. Moment by moment. And in doing so mom is claiming her life.

This is what peaceful protest must look like. It takes effort, intention, concentration, integrity, perseverance, and long-term thinking. It is not violent, it is not hostile, it is not brute force.

Does it still FEEL violent, hostile and brutal? Absolutely. But as mom told me a while ago, feelings can be a little tricky.

Like when it feels like mom doesn’t love me. I KNOW she loves me, but sometimes, I FEEL like she doesn’t love me. These feelings pass, but when I am dominated by the feelings, it seems like the emotion of the moment is the one and only truth.

Mom would also say that this is binary thinking—all or nothing. Black and white. You are either with us or against us. Which are the words of war. Where you have to kill someone in order to be right.

I think the next step in human evolution (or is it revolution?) is for them to change their ways, without violence. Without killing. Because even with the best of intentions, violence begets more violence and killing begets more killing. Violence onto the mind as well spirit is still violence. Especially shame.

When you shame someone, it is like gutting them, and puling out all of their innards for the world to see. That’s how violent shame is to a human. It’s so tempting though. To shame someone. Ah, the desire to say that small, little comment. To show them that you are on to them. That you know their weakness. That you can see through their squirming struggle to hide from your gaze. Especially when you feel righteousness is on your side. Ah, righteousness. How I want to be right.

Deep breathe. It’s not about you being right. It about the relationship. It’s about learning how to live together. Not being right, alone.

Evolution. Peaceful demonstration. Resistance. Peaceful revolution. Peaceful evolution.

In order for this kind of evolution to happen, I think humans need a mutual goal. And a buy-in into this mutual goal. If this was a movie, a hostile alien attack would create a human centered mutual goal with massive buy-in (survival), and we would totally work as a team. But alas, we only have our own humanness and its virus-like tendencies to work with—inhabit a host (earth) and multiply, multiply, multiply until host is killed and we all implode.

What was I saying?

Evolution.

Revolution.

Violence.

Repetition.

 

Claiming our lives.

Walking away from violence.

Claiming our lives.

Walking towards love.

 

Claiming our lives.

With love.

Love. Could love be the mutual goal? Could love be the buy-in? Who doesn’t want love? Love as the goal, the method, the process. Hmmmm.

And how do we do that? How do we love? How do you love?

Love. Love that will create a new history. A new reality. Love. LOVE. love. What is this kind of love?

This kind of love is generous.

This kind of love is funny.

This kind of love is gentle.

This kind of love understands pain.

This kind of love is curious.

This kind of love asks questions.

This kind of love listens.

This kind of love postponed judgment.

This kind of love happens on a daily basis, moment by moment, and can look small and insignificant. Like the air we breathe, or like the ground we walk on.

This kind of love is not convenient.

This kind of love doesn’t count how many times I have loved you and how many times you have loved me back.

This kind of love CHOOSES to love. Even when they don’t feel like it. Because they know “love” is the right thing to do. And in choosing to love, we exercise our freewill. For the evolution of humanity.

This kind of love speaks the truth.

This kind of love is courageous.

This kind of love is contagious.

Let’s spread this kind of love. With practice, with persistence, with patience. By postponing judgment. By listening. By being curious.

I asked mommy if she loves her parents. And she says she does. Dearly. She sends them messages of love. Every day. Mom believes that they are connected to her heart center—there is no other human connection stronger that the connection between parent and child. So, mom sends them messages of love—her heart string connected to their heart string.

I hope you are gentle with yourself today.

I hope you eat something yummy today.

I hope you have more peace today.

Mommy says loving them doesn’t mean that she can be with them when they don’t know how to love.

Peaceful protest. I think my mom is a rebel. A warrior. But she is a peaceful warrior. She has killed the spirit of many in her past life with her sharp tongue and keen insight. Now she understands that killing spirits will not bring wisdom or enlightenment. It will just embolden her ego and her own sense of righteousness.  And it kills the spirit of humans.

So, mom is putting down her weapons and letting the world come to her. And she is sitting with the world. And sending messages of hope. And joy. I think this is why mom titles her paintings “practice love.” Practice as a verb, practice as an adjective. Love at the core.

practice love.

practice love.

practice love.

I love my mom.

Love, Bob

 

November 11, 2018

Dear diary,

Mom shaved her mustache off yesterday. I didn’t even know mom had a mustache. Neither did she.

How did this happen? Well I think it started when Mom started wearing lipstick. Another one of her #practicejoy ideas. Something about celebrating color. She asked dad if it was too much. If there was too much connotation around bright red lips. And dad pretty much told her that she didn’t have to worry about anybody else other than her joy and celebration. I think dad is woke. I love my dad.

So mom started wearing bright-in-your-face-you-can’t-miss-it-lipstick. Which means that she has also started shopping for lipstick. And trying out different colors. Which means she is looking at the edges of her lips in a mirror, up close, as she finds the contour of her lips. And this is when mom discovered that she has a mustache. Do they say that god is in the details? Or is it the devil? Well, mom found her mustache in the details of her face.

So she went to the store. Thinking that she would buy facial wax. She remembers seeing advertisements for these things in women’s magazines when she was a student. Pulling out small facial hairs with melted wax. Mom had a hard time locating the product. But in the end she found it. Not next to the make up. But in the isle next to the feminine hygiene products. Wow. There is just so much to say about this juxtaposition, right? But back to mom’s mustache for today.

Just as she was about to leave with her facial wax, mom sees a small box with some claim about painless facial hair removal within seconds of usage. The box showcased an object that looked like a lipstick tube. With a small metal top with miniature grates on top. Painless. That sounded like the ticket. So mom put down the facial wax and grabbed the painless facial hair remover, thinking that this object was going to painlessly pluck out all of her mustache. (Mom usually isn’t this gullible. I guess a middle aged woman finding out she has a mustache can do things to the brain.)

Mom was so eager to try this out, that she unboxed this object sitting in her car while still in the parking lot of the store. And tried it out. In the parking lot. In broad day light. With people walking by. Making funny faces as she stretched out the skin around her mouth. There were people. Walking by.

But that wasn’t the tragedy. The tragedy was that this object didn’t pluck out her mustache. It SHAVED it off. The object turned out to be a mini mustache shaver.” Can you hear the silent scream? Yeah. That’s how mom ended up shaving of her mustache. Which really didn’t exist in the first place. But that’s what can happen when you look too closely at something. Mom lost sight of the big picture. And made a small thing into a big thing.

I hope mom figures out her relationship with her non-existing mustache. And I hope she is generous with herself in the mean time.

Love, Bob