Wednesday, February 28, 2018

A Poem about faking it

Thanks for your overwhelmingly supportive response yesterday to my post. Perhaps I should give the people I work with the same chance to be supportive. This poem highlights how I struggle with how to tell the news to people at work. The expected dialog goes "Hi How are you? Fine, How are you?", which explains the poem title.

I'm Fine.
"Hey, Emily, how's it going/how are you?"

People pass me in the hall and ask
like it's nothing
expecting nothing
wanting nothing
on their way to the next meeting.

Should I tell them?
say my head is aching
my heart is breaking
my hope is shaken
for the last week
all has seemed bleak
Dad can't draw a full breath of air
but do they really care?

Should I say I need Jesus?
use this moment to shine,
draw a religious line,
say, here's where I stand
My God's got a plan
and I may not understand
but he is there,
he is strong,
he's been holding us all along?

And while all this is rushing through my head, they're smiling. they're waiting.
The social pressure to not be vulnerable presses on me like a weight and so I say...

"It's good."
"I'm fine."
"How are you."

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

How God is Meeting Me Where I'm At

If you don't know, my Dad has been checked into Hopkins Hospital since last Wednesday. It's been a rough week as they try to solve the buildup of fluid around his lungs making it difficult to breathe, to the point where he's on oxygen. And I have been having a rough week, emotionally, as a result. But this post is about a couple of the ways, in the past week, that God has met me in the midst of all this.

I wrote a sad/angry/emotional blog post early yesterday evening (which I have since decided not to share), about how alone I felt, how angry I was, how I didn't want anyone else to even try to understand or comfort me. And then Ryan and I went to our neighborhood prayer group meeting. I have to admit, I was not in the head space I expected to be in for prayer group that night. I did not want to be there, I did not want other people to know Dad's latest news. But I went because I needed to do something besides sit at home and cry. Both of the other couples in the group have young children, and the smiles of children brought some light to my heart. I shared a few details while I was there (without crying) and God knew where I was at and gave my friend the words to say in her prayers that touched on exactly the struggles I'd been facing, and reminded me I'm not alone in the grief and pain.

That night, after prayer group, I fell back into my pool of grief and pain. (Side note - my husband has been absolutely amazing throughout all of this and I am 100% glad I'm married while this is happening so I can hang onto his anchoring presence). In the midst of my emotions, I texted another good friend of mine that I was drowning in the pool, and she immediately texted me back a prayer to me right there, saying "Help (Emily) know your compassion and empathy...We trust you to enter her pain". And I fell asleep, exhausted, with a migraine from my tears. Her text helped because I wasn't being told that my feelings didn't count, or that I was being selfish (which is what I had been telling myself) - I was being told that it is something completely understandable, and being told to open my hurting heart to let God in, not to erase grief, but to sustain me through it.

Thank you, those of you who are praying for us. I'm going to say it here in my blog post now because I might not be able to say it later. I'm not always able to appreciate what it means for other people to be praying for us, because I'm so wrapped up in what I'm feeling, I don't want to let anyone else in.

I have been listening to the Daily Audio Bible this year, and on two of my roughest days, the scriptures from Daily Audio Bible were exactly on point. The first scripture was from Feb. 21st, on the day that Dad went into Hopkins. It was Psalm 38, which is described as a petition of David. Parts that specifically stood out that day were verses 7-9  "My back is filled with searing pain; there is no health in my body. I am feeble and utterly crushed; I groan in anguish of heart. All my longings lie open before you, Lord; my sighing is not hidden from you" and the end, verses 21-22 "Lord, do not forsake me; do not be far from me, my God. Come quickly to help me, my Lord and my Savior."

The bit about the back filled with searing pain reminded me of one part of Dad's situation, since he has been dealing with back pain for quite some time, and the sighing not hidden from you hit me for my whole family, processing and coping with where things are at right now. The cry in verse 21, "Lord, do not forsake me" I can feel strongly, because I often feel like God's not hearing my cries. And I'm trying to get to the point where I can pray "come help me", to let God in on my feelings.

Many people have told me they pray for miracles, for Dad to keep fighting on. And I think many of those prayers have been answered, since an initial prognosis of months has stretched into years now. I appreciate those prayers and I think we need those prayers but I can't pray those prayers (see this post from  when we first knew it was terminal:

I feel much the same as I felt when I wrote that - I haven't magically become better able to process cancer just because we've been dealing with it for a while. There were some great days in those past 2.5 years since I wrote that to when I'm writing this, yes, but I am having trouble seeing the hope right now. I feel like the Resistance at the end of The Last Jedi - things look bleak. Things feel hopeless. And then I listened to today's Daily Audio Bible. Today, they read Mark 9:1-29, which contains the story about the healing of a possessed boy. And for this passage, I zoned in on these words in verses 23 and 24: "If you can?" said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”" I still can't pray for a miracle. I'm afraid to let myself hope for one because when we don't get them, and the next disappointing news hits, I'll fall back into that pool of grief and pain, from a higher height, with deeper to sink. But I can pray that Dad might be able to get out of Hopkins this week. I can believe enough to pray that he'll be released tomorrow, be thankful for the people who can still pray for miracles greater than that, and pray that God meets me where I'm at to "help my unbelief".

I am figuring out what little, baby steps I can take. I can only pray for one more day right now. God, give me one more great talk with my Dad, one more chance to ask his advice. Even that, sometimes I feel is asking too much. Because I am one child of nine, and all of us need one more moment, one more basketball game, one more Christmas, one more  graduation, one more wedding - and it spirals into a what seems like a huge, impossible request, and I start crying for what we just won't get to have, for how limiting this is becoming, for things I feel like we've lost. And Dad's still here. I can't even begin to imagine how I'll feel when God finally says no to my requests for "just one more".

I'm still hurting. I'm just hurting within the presence of God now, instead of feeling alone.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Thoughts On Chinese New Year

I was talking to Ryan today about  Chinese New Year, and why it's so important to me, and why I make such a big deal about it every year. Here's some of what I processed with him, to process with you all, blog readers.

We used to go to the lion dance with Popo (my grandma) and uncles. I remember it was terrifying - even though I knew it was men under the costume, the big eyes scared me, and giving the lion money was the bravest thing I ever did as a kid. And then the lion would tear up and orange, and spit it at you! I don't remember how many times we saw that, but it was definitely more than one. And Popo give us lucky money in red envelopes. The week when Chinese new year and valentines day were the same were my favorites as a kid (like this year!). I'd get $2, one for Valentine's Day from Bestemor (my Dad's Danish mom) and one for Chinese New Year from Popo (my Mom's Cantonese mom).

There are a few things that make me feel super Chinese... dim sum, duck and Chinese New Year are the three highlights. (and jok after Thanksgiving). Sometimes other things, like eating tripe and chicken feet and liking desserts with bean paste come up as well, but those are the main three.

In particular, Chinese New Year makes me a little sad. I guess I make a big deal out of Chinese new year because it feels like a way to honor my grandma, a little.

My relationship with my grandma was good - I always knew she loved me because of how she fed me (she was an amazing cook and my Chinese food pales in comparison). She gave me lucky money for my birthday and for Chinese New Year, she always had a treat for me in her purse (candy or fruit), even just how she'd touch my hair showed she loved me, but she didn't speak English very well, and as a kid, I wasn't patient enough to listen carefully, so it wasn't a very deep relationship. So on Chinese New Year I think about how much of her culture and life I don't know about, and I try to make an effort to preserve what little I do remember, like red envelopes, dumplings, and oranges on Chinese New Year. It's important, but also a little sad that I don't know more to remember about her.

I was talking to my sisters Charissa and Isabel about it on the phone yesterday. They don't remember what she did at Chinese New Year at all. They don't know their zodiac signs by heart like I did (but we looked it up and learned that this year, the year of the Dog, is Charissa's zodiac year). I'm trying to preserve it, for myself and my sisters. I hung a red Chinese knot on my front door this morning. Red is supposed to "scare evil spirits away from the house". Ryan and I ate oranges and dumplings and long-life noodles tonight. I had red envelopes for my sisters, and my neighbor's children. I told my co-workers that it's Chinese New Year, to remind them that I come from Chinese roots, and I'm proud of that. I'm proud of being Chinese, and I loved my grandma, so I'm celebrating the Year of the Dog today. Gong Hey Fat Choy!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

5 things I love about Ryan

Dear blog-readers, for Valentine's Day I thought I'd post a sappy list of reasons I love my spouse. He doesn't read my blog so he won't see it, but the rest of you will know. They may not seem especially specific but they are things I value in him.

1) He's a protector
My spouse has this urge to protect people who he thinks are unfairly treated. I call it his "defender" or "white knight" tendency. He will always take the side of a person who is being picked on. This comes up most notably when we're volunteering for church nursery and he has a keen eye for figuring out who the "popular" three year olds are and which ones need a little extra attention, but applies beyond just kids. He's incredibly loyal to people he cares about and defends them above all.

2) He's a committed learner
When Ryan sets his mind to learning about something, he really learns it, and understands it, and works to get better at the things he's learned. He studies even though he's not in school anymore. For example, right now he's studying tax law because he's a volunteer tax preparer for low-income families and he wants to make sure he does it right.

3) He's health-conscious (& sexy!)
I would not workout as much as I do without Ryan. He's committed to taking care of himself through running and other exercise and it's inspiring (though admittedly sometimes annoying) me to be better myself. And of course, being fit makes him pretty easy on the eyes. ;)

4) He knows when to apologize
This sounds weird, but one of the things I love about Ryan is his awareness of his own sin. He's very conscious of it and is quick to apologize for those faults and works to fight against them and be a better husband, and I think that kind of self-recognition is a rare skill. Especially in white men who tend to have big egos.

5) He's funny and fun to be around
Ryan's introverted, so I think many of you reading my blog might not know him all that well. When you do get to know him well, he's really funny - he does a lot of silly voices (another thing that comes up when he plays with kids) and I love that. Sometimes (like today, when I was trying to take a nice photo and he kept doing silly faces) it can be over the top but mostly it's fun.

Bonus (because I couldn't limit to 5) - Ryan makes an effort to be a good listener and not interrupt someone when they're talking. The problem with this is that sometimes he gets frustrated with me for not ever giving him a turn to speak. In my big family, interrupting each other is a given - it's annoying, but a given. This makes it challenging for me to remember to listen to Ryan, but makes him an excellent listener when I need to think through something out loud.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Star Wars is for girls too!

I was at Target today, and I saw this display of cards:

Six "Cards for Kids" for valentine's day. How cute! But then I looked closer, and I noticed something:

The Yoda card was SUPER cute (it says "Be Mine, Will You?" on the inside!) but it's labelled "for a boy" (so is the super man one). That annoyed me a bit. I think Star Wars has made great strides to try to include powerful women (yay, Daisy Ridley!). So maybe we don't need to label the Yoda card as "for a boy" or the wonder woman card "for a girl"? And why is the wonder woman card PINK? Also, the Hello Kitty Card is pink - Hello Kitty is typically wearing a red bow, so why pink-ify her? The really annoying thing was that they DID have cards that weren't labeled by gender:

So why bother to label it at all, if there's the option of just saying "for kids"? Girls can like Star Wars too! Boys who are inspired by wonder woman can grow up believing in truth, justice, and loyalty. These cards weren't just letting kids be kids, they were forcing fandoms by gender.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Don't call me dear, and other general fuming

Today, I had a plumber come to look at a shower leak we've had going on at our house (it's an easy fix problem, phew!). He was really nice, and I'd definitely recommend his services, except that at the end, one thing bugged me. He handed me the invoice for his services and said "Ok, you're all set my dear!" 

Uh, what? We LITERALLY just met. And I'm a grown woman, not a little girl (though, I think if they're not your kid, it's a little presumptive to assume their parents are OK with you using that kind of intimate language). So, unless you're my Dad or my husband, you have no place to call me "your dear"

I'm giving this guy the benefit of the doubt that it was just a slip of the tongue and he didn't mean anything by it, but it's part of a systemic issue that women are "dear" and "sweetie" well past childhood while most guys loose similar terms, like "buddy" after teenage years.

Another story from this week - a former project manager of mine (it was a short-term task that's over now) has recently been featured in an APL wall mural. I congratulated her on it yesterday, and she said "oh yeah, my friends have asked how I got highlighted on that, with the APL founder and other old guys, and I said, you know what, they probably thought old white man, old white man, we need a woman between them, a woman who's maybe an ethnic minority, so they picked me".

She was downplaying it, which was probably some imposter syndrome, but also, she had a point - the mural IS focused on balanced race and gender. Which is fine, but if we're going to represent it on our walls, let's represent it in our halls too! Let's make sure our wall mural represents the reality of our hiring. I love where I work, and I think there are a lot of efforts to promote diversity of thought and diverse teams at APL, but now, the mural bothers me, rather than inspires me, because I feel like it was forcibly designed for graphic appeal, instead of dwelling on the awesomeness of my former manager.

Anyways. both those things were kind of bugging me so I thought I'd come and share my frustrations on my blog a bit. thanks for listening, folks!