14 people were killed too close to home*. But I’m not going to talk about that.**


My grandmother is still in the hospital two weeks after being in a car accident. It has been one thing after another, and it’s strange seeing an elderly patient developing infections, dyspnea, and edema like a textbook case except this is your grandmother and she is supposed to live to be a hundred.

She’s going to be fine, though (and this is not just a granddaughter’s optimism).

Being confined to four walls without korean dramas or WWE for distraction has left her with too much time on her hands, though. When the steady stream of visitors leave for the day, she is alone with her thoughts, and lately they have not been her friends: Why is this happening to me? Am I ever going to get out of here? Is this how I’m going to die?

I imagine her assessing her body for signs of reassurance or, more likely, concern. Her heavy chest and shallow breaths from bruised ribs. Soft wheezes like a slowly deflating balloon. Swollen belly, thighs, hands (I used to have such pretty hands! she tells me) with taut, fluid-logged skin. Her hips and arms are flecked with purple-red bruises – battle scars from the accident and unsuccessful blood draws.

She woke up at 2am yesterday with her eighty-year-old heart beating faster than a jackhammer. I was scared, she said. There was no one here and I was scared.

So tonight, I sit by her side and stroke her arm until she stops moaning, reminding her that she’s not alone. I think of Danika leaning over Levi’s crib, her hand lingering on his little back after he finally slips into that tenuous space before dreams.








*Shouldn’t anywhere be too close to home for a mass shooting?

**Except to say, we keep waiting for the world to change without actually making any changes.


33. No Ragrets*

Lately, I can’t stop thinking about something my mom told me last year.

We were driving from one end of California to the other, to see my uncle for what would be the last time. Her hands were on the steering wheel, and I was looking past her out the window. The sun was setting over parched farmland, coloring everything in amber honey and blinding us as we drove.
My thrice-divorced, recently remarried** mother was telling me about her prayer group. A weekly hour of husband-bashing and despair-sharing around a coffee table with cut fruit and hot tea – the korean housewife equivalent of a book club. She told me how these women shared similar frustrations and sometimes even alarming concerns about their relationships. It was their safe place to contemplate divorce and silently judge each other.
“I’m still a part of this prayer group,” she told me, her eyes fixed straight ahead at the semi rumbling three car spaces ahead of us. Ever since a string of traffic violations and a revoked license in the 90s, my mom is a very cautious driver.
She turned her head quickly towards me, though, as she said, “All those women are still married.” Her tattooed eyebrows arched into upside down v’s, her face a mixture of astonishment and unacknowledged shame. Out of all those women, after all those hours of shared confidences and aired grievances, she was the only one who had actually divorced her husband.
I know her intent in telling me that story. Her plea for me to stay. To stick it out – even though she hadn’t. Because it doesn’t feel nice to be the only one in the group who leaves. Because one can hope that rough starts and middles can have a happy ending. Because everything is clearer in hindsight.


I asked her if she regretted it now, all these years later.  Did she regret leaving my father?
She responded swiftly, without skipped beats or room for questions,




*I’ve never seen We Are the Millers, but apparently that’s a thing.

**I hate that someone’s life can be reduced to a few choice words.

33. No Ragrets*

24. Class of 2015

I celebrated my first grad this past weekend (though I didn’t quite make it to the ceremony, owing to the 8am start time and the lack of tickets for our entire extended family – sorry, Kenny!).

Graduation season is here and goddamn I love me a good commencement speech.

Inspiring, (hopefully) succinct, and full of well wishes and optimism. They frequently neglect to mention the onslaught of student loans and that the past four years playing beer pong and sleeping in has left you with a mostly useless degree requiring you to go to grad school or work for pennies while you move back in with your parents (this is why I’ll never be asked to give a graduation speech).

There are so many good speeches, and a quick youtube search will yield videos more inspiring than TedTalks; and, of course, there’s Steve Jobs at Stanford:

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition … Stay hungry, Stay foolish.”

But one of my favorites is George Saunders at Syracuse. The core of his message can be summed up like so:

What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness.

It’s worth the full read/watch.

I’m realizing more and more that the only thing that matters is how we treat each other.

24. Class of 2015

23. Throwback

sacre coeur
When you travel with two other girls of similar age (or at least esprit), there is no one to complain about taking too long to get ready. You eat when you please. You walk aimlessly on cobblestone streets simply because it’s beautiful. You squeal over the fat Bulldogs gracing blue doorways in Le Marais and the scroll-worked balconies that adorn all the apartments of Paris. You stop at all the stands at a farmer’s market you chance upon. Tasting five different kinds of olives from the nice oliveman and buy un peu to eat later with your wine.

You take 984326 photos and spend ten minutes in silence on a park bench while you all edit your respective pictures and selfies. Music is always playing as you get ready. There are never enough mirrors.


You find a garden and sit on a blue bench under the perfect cloudless sky, next to the lawn that is so vibrantly green it looks like you’re seeing it through a filter. You look up at the enormous  phallic monument that is intricately made and notice that new leaves are starting to bud on the tree behind you.

Vagrants sleep on benches next to you. Their heads resting on shopping bags stuffed with their belongings. And still, everyone seems happy and life seems so good.

(Photo: Sacré-Coeur on our last day)

23. Throwback

19. Dear Mama

One mother’s letter to her young daughter:

“Thanks for watching me so that I can be accountable to my words. So that I’ll pinch at the cushy layer around my hips less, and quit trying to deny the things I need – like quiet and a little space – because I want you to not be afraid to ask for what you need. And along those same lines I hope you see me asking for help…Watch your dad and I work intentionally on our marriage. Forget what you heard Cinderella say the other night, because even though you may indeed experience the grace of finding “the one” you need to know that “the one” will disappoint you at times and make mistakes but, little girl, it’s still a fairy tale and real life fairy tales are so much prettier than the movies. Because scabs, wounds and trials just make us shinier. And they give us stories worth telling.”

Thankful for all the strong loud loving women who have raised me. 

You made all of us. 

(Photo: Halmuni blowing out her Mother’s Day cake)

19. Dear Mama