never again

dadTwo weeks ago yesterday, my dad broke his neck. Two and a half weeks ago, he got married.

They were on their honeymoon. They were going for a bike ride. An oncoming car was turning left directly in front of them; he didn’t see it until there was nothing to do but slam on the brakes – and go over the handlebars.

He landed on his head, breaking C6 and C7. His hands and feet went numb. He was scared.

We were too. We were supposed to go to dinner with them. I felt guilty because, while I love his new wife, their wedding hadn’t been easy for me. Their marriage was the final nail in the coffin of my once-family. I knew I shouldn’t feel that way. Things were better now than they’d ever been before. My dad was happier; my mom was, too. But still. It was my family. (Also, as a side note: In my childhood culture, divorce was/is akin to drinking alcohol or eating meat or having sex before marriage. It was a no-no. And we’ve already discussed the fact I’m a goodie-goodie.)

And so I wasn’t sure I wanted to go to dinner. It was out of the way and a drive in traffic. I was tired. I was supposed to go to spin class after work – I love spin class. And we’d just seen them at their wedding.

And so I hesitated. And then I got the call. Elyse, sobbing: “Your dad had a biking accident. He says it’s his neck. They’re rushing him to the hospital.” She was hysterical.

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Father and son

And suddenly, I was too. My mind was a blur: So little information, such a turn of events. Such guilt. Here I hadn’t wanted to go to dinner, and now the man who was my hero and role model and life rock was in an ambulance on his way to the hospital.

The things we take for granted.

And so instead of eating dinner or going to spin class or doing a thousand other things we usually do, we spent the night in the emergency room. At almost 1 a.m., my dad was life-flighted to a U.C. Davis Medical Center where they tortured him (okay, tried to fix his neck with traction) before taking him to surgery and fusing three segments of his neck. The neurosurgeon said it was a miracle he wasn’t paralyzed. The next day my dad said it was, too. He said he had “so much to be thankful for.”

And he did. And he does. And we are. And I am. And suddenly I know what’s most important. If anything worse had happened to him . . . I don’t know where I’d be . . . where we’d be . . . what we’d do.

And all I know is that, while his recovery has not been and will not be easy, we are so lucky to have him, and I’ll never again put exercise selfish struggles before family and the people I love. (That includes you, Elyse!) You mean the world to me, Dad. Thank you for being my rock. I want to always be yours, too. I love you.

the christmas debate

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Tomorrow. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. Tomorrow’s tomorrow is Christmas. Today is Christmas Eve’s Eve.

Huh?

But, wait. Am I even allowed to say “Christmas”? Would it be more politically correct, more considerate to say, “Holiday’s Eve”? After all, how do I know if you (my reader) celebrate Christmas? What if you don’t? Am I being rude?

As a kid, I don’t remember there being much fuss around Christmas. I mean, sure, there were presents and Santas and snowmen and trees. But controversy? Arguments? Boycotts?

Of course, here in the United States, the “Christmas Debate” has been exacerbated recently by ISIS attacks, religious shootings, presidential debates, and a lot more. Fair enough, but I can honestly say that, while living in Taiwan, I never heard of a “Merry Christmas!” offending anyone. Kids go to school on Christmas Day in Taiwan, and yet if you told them or their parents, “Merry Christmas,” they’d smile, and they’d say, “Thank you!”

The same is true there for Ramadan and Diwali and Hanukkah and Passover and Chinese New Year and a host of other religious and cultural holidays. There, they’re seen for what they are: celebrations, remembrances, family, humanity. Holidays are a celebration of life around the planet. Is that so hard to understand?

And so the next time I hear a news story about the Christmas Debate, I think I might scream. Or cry. Or, at the very least, sigh. A genuine “Merry Christmas!” isn’t religious imperialism, folks. It’s love.

more than you think

connectedAll of life’s instances, stories, punctuations, journeys, and inevitable fates are donned by intertwining relationships of love, faith, hope, and freedom. And somehow, we are bound by one simple certainty — that we all meet somewhere in between. Yes, we are all connected. More than you think.

I found the above postcard in Siem Reap, Cambodia. I was there for only a few days, over a Chinese New Year, for the purpose of seeing Angkor Wat. It was with delight that I stumbled upon it, as I did upon the Hemingway and Poipet stickers (below). The postcard made my heart stop, then race, then stop again. How true!

And so, because it’s Friday, and my brain is truly fried, I’ll keep today’s post short: With the world falling down around us (even in the good times, let’s face it, things are bad), I often wish  could shout “STOP!” and that, for a single moment, the entire world would freeze. And listen. And breathe. And I wish I could share with them the above message: We are connected; we are connected; we are connected. People are people; people are people; people are people. You’re a person, and I’m a person, and you’re a person, too. Love and respect — that’s all we need. Why is that so hard?

And when I think these thoughts, I wonder, Would it make a difference? If it were possible, I think it would. In fact, I know it would. Cultures divide us, but there are similarities across cultures. Emotions are the same. Desires are the same. And especially in this technological age, what happens “over there” can create tidal waves “over here.” Yes, we are all connected. More than you think.

poipet

Stickers from Cambodia

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Me and a few friends at the Thailand-Cambodia border

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What are you looking at?

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Statue at Angkor Wat

Case in point: Why else would you be reading the words of a girl from California?

looking for the bright side

window

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I had it all worked out. And then it didn’t.

I was working as a *teacher’s assistant, applying for jobs elsewhere. The teaching thing wasn’t going well: my student was a nightmare. I dreaded going to work every day, and then —

A reporting job came available. It was at a small paper twenty miles away, and it was perfect. The staff was small; the paper, bi-weekly. I didn’t have a lot of experience, but, surely I stood a chance here.

I had an interview; it went well. Wrote a test article; it went went well, too. And then I waited. And waited. The editor had had a few more interviews to do, so . . . Continue reading

oh, kids

410_1target_group_kids_apparel_photography_los_angeles_mike_henryLittle kids are so loving. I’m working in a first grade classroom right now. “Your hair is so soft!” “Will you tie my shoe for me?” *Big hug* “You’re so pretty!” “I like your glasses!”

(They are far kinder to me than I am to myself.)

Then today, on the playground, a student named Morgan, blubbering: “Miss Jess . . . No one wants to play with me. I don’t know why, but no one wants to play with me.” His blue eyes pooled with tears. Continue reading

new year, new you . . . not!

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No, I did not take this picture. I was in bed last night by 10 p.m.!

As a teen, I remember counting down the seconds — ten! nine! eight! — to midnight on New Year’s Eve. I clung to each one, lingered over it, never wanted to let it go. Those seconds were portals into my future past, remnants of a beautiful year.

I was a nostalgic kid.

As an adult, little has changed, except . . . I’ve seen enough New Years to know that there isn’t some catastrophic, year-annihilating boom at the stroke of midnight on January 1st. 2014 isn’t a pile a rubble and ash to be sorted through and mourned. Rather, 2014 is what it is — the past — just as 6:30 this morning is now the past. Continue reading

thrive

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It’s funny how it hit me: Tonight, I had to write.

I’ve been putting it off for ages, trying to find my voice. Writing is my passion, but there is never time, never the place. There are always things in the way — things of higher priority — and there are bills to pay. Blogging doesn’t help much with bills.

And then there’s topic. What on earth do I want to say? My little brother got married a few weeks ago. I cut my finger so deeply I could see the tendon. I started a new job working with young kids. Traffic is insane in the Bay Area. The weather is different here. Homelessness is everywhere here. And, and . . .

People are people. It’s what I keep coming back to. Here in Berkeley the population is incredibly diverse. There are black people and white people and red people and yellow people. There are people wearing saris and turbans and skullcaps and blue jeans and pant suits and rags. We are all so different, and yet . . . forever the same.

And that’s why I love you . . . and you and you and you (especially you, hatted boy). I love you because I am like you. I breathe and cry and laugh and try and fail and try again just like the rest of you. I am sick when the world is evil but thrilled when love calls my name. (Thank you, sweetie…)

I am human, and I will thrive. Until my dying day, I will thrive.

And you will, too.

I know it.

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leave it to me . . .

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Sometimes I feel like this guy: bumbling along, never knowing what trouble I’ll trip into next . . .

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To build my blog and then abandon it because life has just gotten too dang busy.

To finally get a job I love but for that job to only be part time.

To get a part-time job I love and for that job to be more than thirty miles away. (Gas is more than $4 a gallon.)

To get a ticket for talking on my cell phone in my car for two seconds. Why can’t you go after the real trouble-makers, cops? (My co-worker’s bike was stolen from right in front of our office the same day.)

To have a clean apartment but never spend time relaxing in it (writing my blog) because I’m too busy cleaning (thinking) and exercising (thinking).

To break my boyfriend’s beautiful glass thermometer because I was trying to clean it.

To cut my finger so deeply (I could see the tendon) that I need stitches because I broke my boyfriend’s thermometer.

To cut my finger so deeply I need stitches on the weekend my brother is getting married in Tahoe. (Love you, bro!)

To be lucky enough to have a dad who’s a doctor who, it just so happens, will also be at the wedding in Tahoe this weekend.

To want to clean my car because I just can’t take the dirt anymore, despite the fact that I need stitches and my car is just going to get dirty this weekend, anyway. (We’re driving it to Tahoe.)

To want to ride my bike today because that’s just what I love to do, even if I do have a cut finger!

To beat myself up for the mistakes I’ve made, and then to just make them again.

To never give up despite making the same mistakes over and over again, because that’s just how I am — stubborn as hell.

To have just written an entire draft of this post and not saved it, then pushed save, and for it to have been deleted.

To miss reading your blogs and connecting with you (you know who you are) but to be unable to catch up with everyone right now.

To miss you all and know that someday soon I’ll be back — blogging regularly, loving endlessly.

Promise.

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Pictures from my brother’s wedding to come. I hope you all have a beautiful weekend!

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why we write

writer….
Tell tell a story.

To tell our stories.

To share our hearts.

To fall apart.

To pull ourselves together.

To communicate.

To inform.

To breathe in.

To exhale.

To forgive.

To forget.

To remember.

To hope.

To kill hope.

To grieve.

To understand.

To apologize.

To express.

To think.

To garble.

To worry.

To cry.

To laugh.

To sigh.

To hurt.

To heal.

To give.

To receive.

To send secret messages.

To laugh.

To learn.

To love.

To fight.

To die.

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We write because we have no other choice.

Because writing consumes us or we consume it.

Because it gives voice to our tears, wind to our wings, air to our everything.

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We write because we are alive.

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Why do you write? Do you?

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“If I don’t write to empty my mind, I go mad.”

— Lord Byron

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thoughts on god

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I couldn’t think of a post today. Honest, I tried. I’ve been getting into something of a rhythm lately, finding a theme. I know you haven’t been able to see it yet, but it’s there. It’s coming. But then Easter came and sort of plopped down in the middle of it, and . . . I couldn’t think of anything to say.

What is there to say (without sounding preachy) about a religious holiday to an international audience? I learned in Taiwan how greatly perspectives can differ.

And so I hoed and hummed. I typed things and erased them. I went for a ride and cleaned my apartment and tried to forget that I wanted to write a post. But I couldn’t. I do believe in God. I do care . . . And then I got an idea.

Below are a few quotes about God and religion. Can you sense a theme? Guess which one’s my favorite? What’s yours?

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“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

C.S. Lewis

“I think God, in creating man, somewhat overestimated his ability.”

Oscar Wilde

“God has no religion.”

– Mahatma Gandhi

“God save us from religion.”

– David Eddings

“Without God all things are permitted.”

– Fyodor Dostoyevsky

“God is the same everywhere.”

– Leo Tolstoy

“I have to believe much in God because I have lost my faith in man.”

José Rizal

“The men who really believe in themselves are all in lunatic asylums.”

G.K. Chesterton

“God is a circle whose center is everywhere and circumference nowhere.”

Voltaire

It matters not the path on earth my feet are made to trod. It only matters how I live: Obedient to God.

Clark

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fifty-word lament

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You were right. I never should have followed my heart. I should have been a doctor, or a nurse, or a dentist, or a teacher. Doing what you love means nothing in the world of commercialism. Proving you have talent is impossible when no one will give you a chance.
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A moment of discouragement. I’ll be back soon with happier thoughts. Promise.

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Image: Berkeley Walking Bridge. Mine. All rights reserved.

 

 

the only regrettable thing

beachedboat“Never regret thy fall,
O Icarus of the fearless flight
For the greatest tragedy of them all
Is never to feel the burning light.”

Oscar Wilde

“What is your biggest regret?”

It’s a question often heard but rarely analyzed. Regret. What is it, really? And how does it affect me? Should it affect me?

I don’t have any regrets. I’m not kidding. As I look back on my life, I see a path of overturned obstacles and a little girl and a young woman. My childhood is over, and my course thus far has brought me to where I am — 30 years old with a love for life that years of heartache have only helped ignite: My passion is stronger because I have seen the “other side.”

I have seen the pain of loneliness and of trying and failing and trying and failing and trying and . . . I’ve seen love come and go, families fall apart, children in streets, cultural seats . . . I’ve seen faraway shores and looked through others’ eyes . . .

(That’s all this world needs, is to look through others’ eyes.)

And the times I’ve misstepped have been the times I’ve learned the most. The year I gave up going to Austria for a boy (we didn’t work out) was the year I met one of my very best friends. (Love you, Gwyn!) I learned a lot from that relationship and am a better person because of it:

My heart smiles when I think of him — and of you.

Because deep down I believe we all have a heart, and that our hearts are good. We may be selfish by nature but can choose how we cultivate our natures. The wise person sees: Selfishness gains nothing; selflessness, everything.

And so what is there to regret if, seeking good, we misjudge and stumble and fall?

The only regrettable thing is when our hearts cry, “Go!” and, silently, we watch, wait, think, wish, say, “No.”

“To regret one’s own experiences is to arrest one’s own development. To deny one’s own experiences is to put a lie into the lips of one’s own life. It is no less than a denial of the soul.”

Oscar Wilde, De Profundis

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For a dear hatted boy.
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Image: Pinterest (Artist: M.C.)

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be kind. always.

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I love this. It reminds me of my post, “I love you.” If you haven’t read it, check it out. Because it’s true. I do love you. Why wouldn’t I love you? I’m just like you.

So then the “Golden Rule” must really be true.
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Image: ibelieve.com

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love is sweeter still

photo3

I took this on my run the other day. Aren’t they cute?

You’re the one did not exist,
the one I’d never known.
The one of whom the stories list,
but life had never shown.

You came to me, I didn’t see
you ‘pproach or standing there.
I was turned toward history —
destruction and despair.

You didn’t wait for me to turn
around to say “Hello.”
Instead you swept me off my feet
and laughed, “Where shall we go?”

But still I thought of history —
was scared deep down inside.
I saw the way you looked at me,
but eyes before have lied.

But you were patient, soft, and kind;
assured me, “This is real.”
With gentle touch you did unwind
a heart I thought was steel.

And now we’re walking hand in hand
and love is sweeter still,
than storybooks, which do not stand
a chance ‘gainst what is real —

For storybooks, they have an end,
but we’ll go on and on.
There are things you cannot rend,
not even when they’re gone.

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For an audio recording of this poem, click here:

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Image: Mine. All Rights Reserve

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five reasons valentine’s day sucks

So I walk into the grocery store the other day, and this is what I see:
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Good grief!!!

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And I was like, “Whoa!!” I start laughing and whip out my camera. And people start staring. What’s so funny? they look at me.

What’s so funny? Can’t you see??!!

I spoke last year of my distaste for Valentine’s Day. “Roses are red, violets are blue. Sugar is sweet, and so are you . . . There. Are you happy now?” is what I said. I was single at the time, and some mistook this as a lament. “There, there,” they said. “Someday your prince will come!” But what they didn’t understand (what I didn’t make clear) is that I dislike Valentine’s Day PERIOD. Whether I’m single or in a relationship has nothing to do with it. Why?

Here are five reasons Valentine’s Day sucks: Continue reading

let us trust (or, happy new year!)

Santa Cruz

Last year, on December 31st, I wrote a post about growth. I talked about the good and the bad that make up the times of our lives. I talked about how we all have a choice: Will we grow and learn from these times, and be generous and grateful for will we have? Or will we . . . Most of you can guess what the opposite reactions to those listed might be.

When I wrote that post and said that I hoped we would choose growth, I was mostly referring to my own growth in Asia during the previous three years. I was remembering the culture shock and the cold showers and the day-to-day isolation and the discomfort and uncertainty that frequently accompanies living in a foreign country. I was remembering how I went from hating my surroundings — to loving them . . . From succumbing to my circumstances — to mastering them. I was talking about the life-altering change to my worldview that I owed entirely to a place I’d previously never ever thought I’d go . . .

Truth be told, I had absolutely no idea what growth would mean for me in the United States, in my home state of California, in the coming year. Continue reading

i love . . . you?

grendel

Grendel at lunch

I’m sitting in one of my favorite classes in college, Ancient Classics. We’re studying Beowulf — the oldest surviving epic poem in the English language — and it’s the part where Grendel, the bone-crunching, blood-sucking demon who’s been terrorizing King Hrothgar’s halls for years, meets for the first (and only) time his match. Beowulf the Magnificent has come from afar to rescue the Danes, only Grendel doesn’t know it. He storms into the hall in the middle of the night, gobbling men whole and drinking their blood as usual, when suddenly he comes upon Beowulf and is shocked to find someone who resists him. The man and monster grapple hand to hand, claw to claw (Beowulf refuses to use any weapons since Grendel uses none), and, with superhuman strength, Beowulf manages to rip off one of the monster’s arms at the socket. The wound is mortal, and Grendel flees to the moors while the Danes rejoice and Beowulf becomes hero of the land — and of all of history.

Sounds like a pretty cool story, right? Good guy wins, bad guy dies. It’s the perfect plot . . . Right? Or . . . Are we missing something? Continue reading

beyond the walls

AWIn all the halls
and through the walls
my harried thoughts are singing.
I hear them there
and over there
like finches they are winging.

I think of you,
and you and you,
and, oh, the anguish stinging.
For every time
you seem sublime
I only end up wringing.

And so it is,
I’m only his,
the one who me is flinging.
And so I’ll go
where no one knows
and meet you there in clinging.

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“Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” ― Rumi

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Image: Angkor Wat, Cambodia (mine)

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i love . . . me?

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Flower girl at about age 4

So, I’m in line at Costco the other day, and I’m watching people, like I always do. I’m seeing them come and go, and talk and laugh, and argue, and yell at their kids, and hit their brother or sister, and talk on their cell phone, and stand quietly, and I’m wondering, Do I really love these people?

And I’m realizing: Yes, I do.

And then I’m wondering, But, if I love them, why is it so hard . . . ?

I have never been the “cool kid.” In grade school, I wore thick glasses that made my eyes appear twice their normal size. (I am extremely far-sighted.) I wore pink and purple matching outfits covered in kittens. I put bows in my hair and was incredulous when, at 11 or 12, my friends started wearing training bras and shaving their legs. Aren’t we too young for that? I hissed. Continue reading

i love you

redtreeI’ve often been told I’m a “sympathetic soul.” I’ve never given it much thought, but in recent months I’ve realized: It’s true. I love you and you and you and you and . . . Why? How can I love you? I’ve never even met you.

Why?

Because I’m human, too.

I don’t care what you look like or where you live or who you believe in or what you wear. I don’t care if you’re male or female, rich or poor, French or Peruvian, educated or uneducated . . . I don’t care if you like horses or if you like to eat horses . . . I don’t care if you love travel or if you’ve never traveled . . . Continue reading

path to immortality — a father’s day tribute

babydad

My dad with his dad, 1956.

We start out mere mortals,
’til “Father” turns son.
It’s then our potential
“forever” is won.

We live through our children,
and they on through theirs.
So what will we show them?
How say, “Daddy cares”?

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pool

Dad’s love for the water started early. (Dad, right, with his brother Verlin in their backyard in Riverside, late 1950s.)

Lub-dub. Lub-dub. Two kids in a tub.

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It’s here I’m no expert,
but look to the best.
And he to his own dad—
they both passed the test!

With love and compassion,
through fire and through ice,
they gave with devotion,
and never thought twice: Continue reading

the world from above (for real)

When viewed from above,
this world that we love,earth2
seems awfully small,
though we thought it tall . . .

And all of our lives,
just busy beehives,
like rats in a race,
pursuing the chase.

And all of our dreams,
not rivers but streams,
all flowing to naught—
or that’s what we thought . . . Continue reading