Heya, the boy cat

October 30, 2019

Dear diary,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Implicit bias. Holy mother forking shirt balls.

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

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

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

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

I have to go poop now.

Love, Bob


Dear diary,

Mom finished her Edna Mode costume. Then she immediately went down hill. She went to a dark, dark place. It was a place where she was called many names.

Stupid. Pitiful. Ugly. Idiot. Stupid. With all that is happening in the world, you’re making stupid Halloween costumes? Stupid. Pitiful. Ugly. Idiot. Stupid.

These shaming words cut through her and she started drowning in her own blood. She knew these words were not true. But they hurt just the same.

Since last week, mom’s costume list grew. Along with the original list of Edna, Wednesday, Moira and RBG, now she has Frida, Dorothy, No-Face (from Spirited Away) and Sadness (from Inside Out). They are fierce. Fearful. Fearless. Sad. And they are visualizations of what goes on in mom’s head.

But I think mom has to go back to being her. I didn’t realize it, but it turns out mom is a method actor. I mean seriously. She was channeling some serious Sean Penn worthy bull-shit. And it has been very bad for her mental health. Sheesh.

Mom, you do you. Enough of Edna and Moira, No-Face and Sadness. You do you.

Practice joy.

Love, Bob

P. S. I actually don’t know if Sean Penn is a method actor or if he is full of bullshit. Most likely he is hurting inside. And that can make an asshole out of any one of us.

Playing dress up

Dear diary,

Mom loves Halloween dress up. She doesn’t want the treats. She‘s a bit fearful of the tricks. But she loves the dress up part. She has been wanting to dress up for Halloween for decades. But haven’t had the will power to invest in dress up.

This year, mom is going full throttle. Mom says it’s part of her “#practicejoy so don’t JUDGE ME and you can fuck off if you do judge me” plan.

Mom can be a bit dramatic when she feels judged. Even if the voice is her inner critic’s. I mean, who in real life would judge her for playing dress up? It’s practice joy for crying out loud. Who doesn’t want to practice joy? Oh yeah. Mom. Mom used to despise joy, laughter, glee and anything uplifting. I’m so glad she’s lightened up a bit. Sheesh.

On her to-do list of dress up possibilities are:

Edna Mode, the apparel designer from the Incredibles film.

Wednesday Addams from the Addams family.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Right?

And of course, Moira Rose from Schitt’s Creek, mom’s current spirit animal.

Mom may dress up every day of Halloween week. That’s what she’s calling the last week of October. Halloween week.

I wonder what I should be for Halloween. Maybe Beetlejuice? I’d have to ask mom to make me a suit. That would be cute.

It’s so cold today. I hope mom bakes something today. Maybe something with cinnamon. Or cardamom. Mmmmmmm.

Love, Bob


September 21, 2019

Dear diary,

The other day, mom had just dropped off Jungmin at school as usual. And as with most mornings she saw many friends of hers. They would smile at each other and wave as they drove past each other. But this day, one of her friends flagged her down.

Mom’s friend came over and shared the news about her own transgender child. But both mom and her friend were a bit distracted.

On the passenger side of mom’s car was a huge bag of yarn of assorted colors in a huge heap. On top of that was a plate. Off kilter. Precariously balanced. And on the plate was a half eaten peanut butter and jelly sandwich. With crumbs to match.

And then there were the orange, cheddar flavored popcorn. That was tossed all over the car floor. Jungmin had accidentally busted open a bag of these orange, cheddar flavored popcorn the other day, but with everything that was happening in mom’s life, she didn’t get a chance to clean it up. Actually, that’s a lie. Mom usually doesn’t clean up her car when there is a mess.

So here she is. Having a profound moment with her friend talking about their transgender children. And they both can’t stop glancing at the orange colored, cheddar flavored popcorn, the half eaten peanut butter and jelly sandwich balancing on top of a mountain of yarns.

Mom and her friend still had their moment. It was a moment of vulnerability. A moment of sharing. A moment of comforting. A moment of being loved. Mommy is so grateful for her family and community of friends. I love them too.

Love, Bob

Knitting, coping, and the heat wave

July 24, 2018

Dear diary,

Mom is knitting. It’s one hundred degrees outdoors and mom is knitting. She is knitting a hat. The color of the yarn is a soft teal blue, like a robin’s eggs seen at dusk. Mom is knitting because she can’t be in the yard. Because she got heat exhaustion working way too hard in the yard last week—heat exhaustion which showed up as violent vomit and diarrhea for two to three days. Eeeew.

So mom is knitting a winter hat in the mist of a heat wave.

I asked her why she was knitting. Maybe she is bored. Why can’t she be like a normal person and sit and watch tv or something. Mom didn’t answer me. So I asked her again. Why are you knitting? Mom glances at me and said, “I need to keep busy.” Why? “My brain is working too hard and I want to slow it down and distract it.” What is your brain working on? “Worrying about things I can’t control.” And what is that? “Other people’s thoughts and behavior.” Oh, I see.

Mom might have to knit a few blankets for that one. Poor mom. I hope she doesn’t over do the knitting and end up with carpal tunnel. What did mom say love was? Being a witness to bad decisions and still loving them and caring for them without judgment. I’ll have to google “how to sooth carpal tunnel.”

Love, Bob

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


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