Cacti, house plants and immortality projects

May 19, 2019

Dear diary,

Mom has always been a cactus. Resilient, self-sufficient, and thorny. Being cacti worked well for many different reasons. But then mom became tired of being a cactus. Because she was alone. Mom was used to being alone. But in reality was mom is afraid of rejection and ultimately, abandonment.

Being the brave soldier that she is, mom decided to become a different kind of plant. A house plant.

A house plant is domesticated. A house plant is a creature that has been removed from the wilderness and brought into a climate controlled environment where they will mostly thrive. They live with other creatures and follow rules of engagement: politeness, kindness, and mindfulness.

Mom struggles the idea of domestication. And whenever she encounters a tool of domestication, let’s call them crates, pens, stalls or boxes, she walks out. And she learns. Mom’s raison d’etre is understanding. She just wants to know. It’s like when you belly hurts. You just want to know why it hurts. The knowing doesn’t make the hurt go away, but it helps with the coping. Because then, you might be able to see the arch of the pain. And see the patterns, and the context of the pain.

All the crates, pens, stalls, boxes that we create to keep creatures from running away—to keep them as objects of ownership—mom hates. Because these contracts are human constructs: race, gender, class. It keeps people in their place.

Capitalism and consumerism keeps us so preoccupied with wanting more and more and more—constantly comparing what I have to what more can I have, or what “they” have and how I want what “they” have, that we forget that we are being domesticated. This wanting is not limited to objects. They can also be concepts like power, intellect, and status. More, more, more.

We are being distracted into our demise.

There is a paper thin distinction between distractions that lead to our demise and distractions that help us cope with our anxiety. The key difference is mindfulness. Can you name and claim the distraction mindfully as a tool to keep you balanced, optimistic, while keeping anxiety at bay? Then go for it. Mindfulness.

Mom used to be a cactus. And now mom is a house plant. Except that she is going through another transition and she is pissed at being a house plant. It’s no one’s fault. Mom asked to go through the transition. The transition being: I will look at my value system and see if I am making mindful decisions about the rest of my life. Yeah. Nothing easy going on here.

Mom, the house plant, it’s being repotted. And she is pissed. And confused. And feeling raw. And vulnerable. As a coping strategy, mom is nurturing cacti again. Thinking that she has to go back to being a cactus. When mom feels vulnerable, her warrior comes out and fights anything and everything that moves. That includes dad. Poor dad. He is patiently waiting for the storm to pass.

Today, mom decided thorns are too much. And so now she is a succulent. Still resilient and self-sufficient, but not thorny. Mom loves the succulents that have many babies. Mother of thousands, mother of millions. And mom is also embracing the coleus plant. These are vibrant, colorful plants that propagate easily. They remind her of the jumpsuits she makes. Mom is calling these plants her mini immorality projects. Something about living beyond death. Is mom becoming a vampire? I should ask her. I don’t want her to become a vampire.

Love, Bob

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Flight

April 18, 2019

Dear diary,

Mommy had a dream last night. She was on a plane. And the plane started dropping out of the sky. At first it felt like bad turbulence. But then mom’s body started floating up out of her seat. Soon, mom was free falling with everyone else—bodies hovering in the cabin like you see in the movies. Everyone knew that if the plane did not stop free falling soon, they would all die.

In between the panic and hoping for the plane to regain its course, mom realized that she might die today. Jungmin and daddy were not on this plane. So mom sent them a message from her heart—the connection from one heart to the other—bypassing failing WiFi, plane engines and the roar of gravity—mom told Jungmin and dad that she loves them. Now and forever. I love you. I love you. I love you.

Then there was a loud boom. There were flames. The flames were both icy and hot. Mom waited for her body to dissolve into nothingness. And she awaited the next transformation with quiet curiosity. But before she got there, mom woke up.

Mom was both relieved and sad. Relieved that she didn’t really die (because the dream was so real) and sad, because mom didn’t get to see a glimpse of the next chapter.

I’m glad mom is still here.

Love, Bob

Every Once in a While

February 28, 2019

Dear diary,

Mom has many winter gloves. These gloves come in various colors and are at all levels of dirtiness. These gloves live all over the place. In her car: one on the passenger side seat, another on the back seat, one on the floor, and a few more in the trunk. These gloves live in her sock drawer, in her miscellaneous drawer, in a grocery bag tucked behind the coat hanger and under the sink with their tags still secure.

Most of these gloves were from Savers or the Dollar Store where mom buys them in bulk for a dollar per pair. All of this is to say that mom loses her gloves frequently. Mom has given up on her capacity to hold on to her gloves with love and care.

This is because mom has a strong need to touch things with her fingers. She doesn’t use gardening gloves when she weeds. She doesn’t use gloves when she washes dishes. She doesn’t wear gloves in the winter unless it is a very cold day. So mom’s hands are rough and weathered. They have scratch marks and old scars from various adventures such as building chicken coops, and an outdoor bed.

Mom can hear the tiny voice in her head that says “a lady doesn’t have rough hands. Soft hands are a sign that you are well taken care of.” Hrumph.

Every once in a while, mom will try putting on hand lotion. But inevitably mom will get her hands wet and/or dirty within five minutes. So mom gives up. But not in a bad way. More in a “oh, well, shrug” kind of way. And when she remembers, she will put on lotion. Every once in a while.

Kind of like when mom remembers to wash her face and put on lotion. Every once in a while. Maybe twice a week? Weird. Mom loves water, but for mom, washing daily isn’t in her paradigm. Old habits die hard. When mom was growing up in Seoul in the early 70s with her grandma, mom went to the public bath houses maybe once a month. Mom didn’t have hot water in the house so mom and her grandma would go for a deep clean every once in a while. It could have been once a month or it could have been every three or four months.

Even though most of her peers and contemporaries have adapted to the US custom of bathing every day, mom is still living in the 20th century. Curious, as mom is very adaptable to most other changes and situations. So why not adapt to washing every day? It’s probably because being clean and smelling nice just doesn’t make the list of priorities. I wonder what is on her list of priorities.

It’s a good thing that mom doesn’t stink too much.

Love, Bob

Exercise, Depression and the Boat

February 21, 2019

Dear diary,

Mom signed up for a research study that looks at the relationship between exercise and depression. By participating in the research as a subject, mom learns about her relationship to exercise and learns cognitive and behavioral strategies that will help her create a new habit and routine. Yesterday was her six week milestone so mom had to go in for an assessment. It turns out her depression is at its worst.

Mom had to meet up with the psychologist in charge of the program and had to answer some questions. It was not an easy Q & A session. It made mommy cry. At one point during the Q & A session the doctor asked mom what she does to maintain balance. Mom listed all the things she does: take care of critters, take care of her plants, #practicejoy, #practicegratitude, #gratitudedoodles, #diyjumpsuits, bake, draw, write, blog, read, create a new design think class and make a to-do list of all the things she can try with her students, and exercise. The doctor looked at mommy and said, “this all sounds great, but it all sounds like it takes a lot of effort. Is there anything you can do for yourself that doesn’t take so much effort?” Mom didn’t know how to answer. Mommy didn’t know the answer to that question.

Mom is all about effort. She does get an A for effort. But maybe what the doctor was saying is that maybe “effort” isn’t the way to live through this moment. Maybe mom should—no, not “should”—maybe I can say: just be. Be. Breath. Cry. Be sad. Be devastated. Be mad. Be. Just be. And maybe by watching the rain clouds, the thunder and lightning, she can see that none of this is her fault, and that this too shall pass.

All of mom’s “effort” is like trying to rid a sinking boat of water. Maybe mom can realize she can swim and let the boat go.

What is the boat? What is the thing that is sinking? What is the thing that mom has to let go? The desire to know. The desire to control. The desire to predict.

But really: the boat is the desire not to feel pain.

What if pain is the exquisite proof that we are living—that we have joy. And love. And belonging. What if pain is the shadow to the light of life.

As an adult child of narcissistic parents, mom’s pain tolerance indicator is all over the place. When mom had the shingles, she felt wrong for thinking that the pain was a nine out of ten. So she marked it as a seven or eight. Even thought she wanted to say nine or ten. And sometimes mom misunderstands the desire to avoid pain, as being in pain. Well, she is in pain. She feels like she is being burned alive. The ghost and shadows of past and current pains follow her around burning all of her inside and out, or holding her down under a thick heavy cotton blanket in a tub full of water.

Detach.

Engage.

Detach.

Engage.

Watch.

Feel.

Watch.

Feel.

Walk.

Touch the ground.

Watch critters.

Pet a cat.

Read.

Watch.

Take notes.

Be.

Do.

Be.

Sleep.

Start over.

I love my mom. I wish I could give mommy a big smooshy hug.

Love, Bob

Bad Janet

February 16, 2019

Dear diary,

Mom has a new girl crush. Her name is Bad Janet. I don’t think it’s a real person. Something about a show “The Good Place.” But mom is embodying Bad Janet. By saying things like, “twerp, you wish!” and by ending sentences with, “wait, wait for it… “ and then pushing her butt out and making tooting noises. Daddy and Eli are distressed. They are saying that mommy is hurting their feelings. And that she is becoming a bully. But mommy looks like the cat who swallowed the canary. Big smile, inside and out. What do you do when the one thing that makes you happy and giggle, makes the others miserable. According to The Good Place, mom is up against an Utilitarian problem—the doctrine that says actions are right if they are useful or for the benefit of a majority. Poor mommy. She is against two people. I’m sure she will have to give up on air farts soon. But until that moment comes… toot away mommy!

Love, Bob

Theory and Practice (or Forcing the Bulb)

February 14, 2019

Dear diary,

Mom is irritating me to no end. She wants to be right. All the time. But it turns out that “wanting to be right” is different from “being right.” WTF. And mom doesn’t know this. I should say mom “knows” this fact, but isn’t able to “practice” her knowing.

This is the Grand Canyon of a gap that exists between theory and practice. WTF. I mean seriously. She’s old and everything. Shouldn’t she be able to do this already? Especially since she is doing all this “meditation” and shit? Oh. Sorry. How judgmental of me.

But I’m SO IRRITATED!!!! UGGGGHHHH! I guess I don’t have to silence my irritation. And I guess it’s not my mom’s job to fast forward her evolution just because I’m irritated by her.

But like UUURRRRRGGGGGHHHHH! They can force flower bulbs into blooming fast, can’t they? Through controlling the environment?!!! Why can’t my mom control her environment so that she blossoms faster!

But then what. The flower blooms. It’s nice and peaceful for me. But then what. Does that mean she will die quicker? Because forcing a bulb to bloom, doesn’t mean that it will change their life expectancy, does it? Nooooooo!!!!!

Okay. I will “practice” letting mommy be mommy. And I will balance that with expressing my irritation. By dancing vigorously. To the track of “It’s Not Right, But It’s Okay.” I love Whitney.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Love, Bob

More Siblings

January 29, 2019

Dear diary,

It’s been a while. I can’t write. Because there is too much pain. All the different pains compete with each other. To be heard. So I can’t choose. And so I don’t write. But mommy says that sometimes it helps to just document what you are seeing. As a process of witnessing. So I am going to try writing today.

I have more siblings. Mom got more axolotl eggs. From the internet. She ordered ten, received 13, and 11 of them hatched. ELEVEN more siblings. I guess winter is for baking and hatching eggs. That’s how I ended up with my first set of axolotl siblings.

I am also an uncle now. A few of my siblings had kids. They were all accidental. There were two sets of accidental eggs.

The first accidental set of eggs: two of my siblings were in the same tank and even though they were barely “of age” and even thought they are SIBLINGS—like sister and brother—there was some ovulation and sperm cones involved and we ended up with eggs. Incest. Ew.

Another sibling of mine, which I will call Goldie Locks, even though Goldie is a boy, was adopted into a new home and went to be roommates with a boy axolotl named Prof. Quagsire. It turns out Prof. Quagsire is a girl. Within minutes of meeting each other they started the mating dance. I saw the video. It involves Goldie rubbing his balls on Quagsire’s forehead. It was weird and funny at the same time. Balls. Forehead. Two things you don’t think of together very often. And twenty four hours later, there were eggs.

So now mom is carrying for three sets of eggs. The bought ones. And the two sets of accidental ones.

She keeps them in small glass containers with sticky notes on them: Mosaic and Lucy’s eggs. Kimbap’s eggs. Goldie and Quagsire’s eggs. Mom is also breeding daphina—aka water fleas as food for the baby axolotls. And to feed the daphnia so that they are healthy and reproduce into the bajillions, mom also had to buy spirulina to feed to the daphnia. The circle of life. Mom had to reassure dad that these fleas wouldn’t jump out of the water to bite us for blood. Ew. The house smells funny. Ew.

I’m so glad that I don’t have to take care of all these creatures. It’s just too many. I don’t know why mom does it. She calls them healthy distractions. With mom’s tendency to dive deeply into things, I wonder and worry if this is another form of numbing. To look away from your real life. So that you can be detached and worry about something else for a while. I guess that would be a relief, a pause of sorts rather than numbing. Okay. I feel better now. I’m going to give mommy a hug today.

Love, Bob