One Year With Harper

One year ago today, Harper Jameek made our world stinkier, hairier, SO much happier, and truly complete. Adopting her was the best decision ever, and we cannot imagine our lives without her. Even Mike who jokes every time I complain about the endless dog hair all over the house with “Let’s take her back!” is glad we got her. He will adamantly deny it, but he secretly loves her as much as the rest of us do. Why else would he give her special treats, hold her like a baby on the couch, and want her to keep him company when he’s outside working around the house? Even though he is the strict disciplinarian, she knows he loves her and goes crazy when she sees him. Ethan once made a chart of her tail-wagging range. The highest/hardest wag he called “Whip-o-doom” for when daddy comes home from work.

There is no question how the rest of us feel. In the boys’ bedtime prayers, they faithfully ask God that Harper will have a good day tomorrow, not get sick, and live longer than a normal dog. Every. Single. Night. The way they “awwww” about her and stop multiple times a day to comment on how cute she is or go to hug her reassures me that they do have affectionate hearts that she brings out in full force (and for Ethan it seems ONLY she brings out in him). She provides unconditional love and comforting therapy on a ruff day.

She is often a convenient pillow.img_1424img_1366

She plays a pretty mean game of Chutes & Ladders. (Notice there are appropriately 3 game pieces.)

She encourages us to hold our planks (or maybe sabotages them).

She is a great dust buster for any crumbs that may fall.

She is a faithful welcoming committee waiting for you to come home even when you might be out of town.
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So even though Mike’s determined that Harper’s running tab is greater than the nation’s deficit and never wants to buy the poor dog any non-essential, he relented on this day. Happy “Gotcha” Day, Harp-doggy-dog! May your new toy bring you as much joy as you bring us and last as long as your sweet, enduring love.

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Listening to Their Voices

I first met Samantha and Laquie through church; we served in the same outreach ministry. I am privileged to call them dear friends and sisters in faith. I think they are worth listening to, so please take the time to read their words.

Excerpts from Sam:

Racism is an ugly monster that exists with a vengeance and isn’t going away anytime soon. Alton Sterling and Philando Castile and countless other Black men and women are dead because of racism. Many people are saying that if Alton and Philando had “just listened and complied,” they would still be here. However, many Black men and women have “just listened and complied” and still lose or have lost their lives. I know that the majority of police officers are doing a difficult job that I appreciate and support. I know that something is off kilter when it feels like Black lives are more expendable than others. I’m aware that flags don’t fly at half mast for Alton and Philando (or Eric, Trayvon, Sandra, etc.), but they’re lowered for police officers in Dallas. I’m aware that equality has different meanings for people of color. And sadly, I’m aware that if you get pulled over for a busted tail light, Black people have less of a chance of surviving than a White person would – even with video evidence.

…What I wasn’t prepared for (in this whole discourse) was how the “All Lives Matter” hashtag made me feel. Like part of who I am should be ignored. It feels like a blatant denial of the real problem. The harsh truth is that we use the term “Black Lives Matter” because we feel like we don’t…

…We are all made in the image of God. In our human experience, I don’t believe we were ever intended to be “color blind.” That seems silly to me. Christ made us individually and if Genesis 1:27 is true, we are all collectively made in the image of God… My life is full of people with the most diverse backgrounds, skin tones, personalities, character traits, and quirks. Their stories are all amazing unique – they are complex. Complex people with complex issues. I’m a Black, Hispanic, Christian, divorced and single mom of two kids, for crying out loud.

…Last week [early July], I’ve never felt more fragile. I’m caught off guard at every turn on social media – by truths, by lies, by sheer ignorance. Everyone has an answer or so it seems. People seem to forget that we would be known as disciples of Christ by our love for one another (John 13:35), not our posted hashtags, videos, or even our silence.

I intend to focus on loving my family and friends well. I want to be able to encourage them and sow love and hope into their hearts. I pray that our hearts would remain pliable to God’s love and that we would “follow the way of love” according to 1 Corinthians 14:1. I intend to speak up for love and speak out for justice. We can no longer afford to be silent or ignorant. Now is the time to do the right thing. Act justly. Love mercy. And love LOUDLY.

Excerpts from Laquie’s voice recording (you can listen to her full clip by clicking here):

…I think a lot of my frustration is built on the fact that my whole life I’ve tried to understand the side of the majority culture. I’ve tried to understand from a survival standpoint, as well as a standpoint of grace.  I’ve had to conform to your ways and traditions. I’ve had to tame my Blackness and field the same questions over and over (no, you cannot touch my hair). I’m constantly making excuses for cultural ignorance…but I can’t anymore…because you’ve shown me you’re not meeting me half way. This is not a mutual exchange, and I’m only playing into your ability to minimize and discredit everything I embody.

When I woke up that morning and learned five police officers were murdered….I cried. Period. My first instinct wasn’t to go digging up dirt on whether they were adulterers, smoked pot in high school, drank too much, or beat their wives. I didn’t need to locate their records, to see if they had anything other than exemplary service. I just cried for their families and for the evil that exists in this world. I wish I could say the same for some of you. Many of you were steadily looking for justification to kill a man point blank pinned down by not one, but two male bodies, for selling CDs. You were desperately trying to justify the killing of a man that announced his legal possession of a firearm. When I heard the comment, “Let’s wait for the facts…” I only heard that kind of consideration for the police officers. Would you have the same attitude if it was me lying in that car taking my last breath?

…When I have to validate the Black American experience to you, it feels… condescending, infuriating and humiliating. Do I really have to relay all times I’ve been verbally assaulted with the ‘n’ word (the last time was just a few months ago by the way. 2016.)? …how in the world can you dismiss what I’m saying or feeling so easily? Why does it hold no weight or credibility?…

…How do you account for the fact I can meet Black people from NYC, LA, Georgia, Chicago, and still have similar experiences and cultural narratives? There is obviously a problem too many of you want to claim doesn’t exist, but it’s staring you dead in the face. Your token Black friend is telling you there is a problem.

Alright, as nice as it would be, I guess I don’t necessarily need you to blindly accept what I’m saying or feeling. But I also don’t need you to be part of the problem or the harmful rhetoric. I guess what I need or expect is that our relationship would make you think twice before you speak…I would hope you’d be willing to have dialogue of substance instead of lobbing emotional bombs on FB (Facebook) with your memes and quips. I wish FB didn’t matter, because it shouldn’t…But it is what it is, therefore it matters. If we’re not going to keep it frivolous with cat videos and Top 10 lists, then we address it all. It feels distant, but it’s ultimately your messaging. Since Trayvon Martin, I’ve noticed so many of you say things that made my blood boil, but I just ignored it at best, or unfollowed you at worst. Enough already. If I was minding my business, walking home, perhaps wearing a hoodie…would you honestly defend some flashlight cop attacking me, and then pulling his gun to finish me off because he picked the wrong fight? So many scenarios, and I’m always wondering, “If it was me…”

…“BlackLivesMatter” bothers people because it implies Black people think they are more important. Let me tell you something real quick: as a whole, there has never been a time in the history of this country that Black people have been in a position to even begin to feel superior or dominant. That is foolishness. No one is attempting to dominate or oppress you…

…I think police officers have an extremely difficult job and I’d protect and defend a good police officer any day, despite my negative experiences the few times I’ve been pulled over. But at the end of the day, officers can go home and take their uniforms off. I’m Black 24/7, and you wouldn’t believe how much of the day I do not feel safe, from either physical or emotional harm because of the color of my skin. I do not get a reprieve…

I’m perfectly alright with people that disagree with me on many things….but when your rhetoric supports oppressive ideologies of me or Black people in general being stupid, worth ignoring, being violated, invalidated, or inferior – where do you think we go from here?…

…This is what I’m willing to do though: if you ever want to start a real dialogue, I’ll spend hours with you on the phone, I’ll invite you into my home and make you a meal, I’ll meet you for a drink…my point is I’m willing to walk through this with people, but only on that level.

By the way…the epitome of white privilege is that you can be upset over all of this mess when it initially occurs, but then you can choose to go on with your regular life and not think twice about until the next time it’s hot news. I don’t know what that’s like. I understand it’s hard and uncomfortable, but if we don’t start walking through this together, history will continue to repeat itself and it will only get worse as it goes. Let’s do better.

I hope people read through the entire post. I hope it brings some understanding. I have hope because I know that no matter how much hate, division, evil, injustice, racism, intolerance, dismissive labeling, hurt, and wrong there is in the world that ultimately none of those things have victory over Love and understanding. They are defeated in part now and will be in full later. Till that later is fully realized, let us keep fighting them together. Listening is ONLY the first step, but it is a necessary start.

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True friends take you in the beehive. Sam & Laquie = my true friends.

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Let’s Hear It For the Boy

Every time anyone in our family does anything worth celebrating, my mom’s reaction is always, “We have to celebrate! Let’s celebrate!” while clapping her hands or raising them up in the air. When I say anything, I mean ANYTHING. A grandson aced a test? “We have to celebrate!” A grandson finally pooped in the potty? “Let’s celebrate!” A grandson got out of bed? I’m pretty sure if a grandson does ANYTHING, it is reason to celebrate. I learned that anytime our loved ones accomplish something in life that it is always worth celebrating. I learned to rejoice, to take note of the victories, to take the time to make sure precious ones know that you are proud of them, that they are loved, that their joys are your joys. My parents’ joy will even surpass our own when we share these reasons to celebrate. I will never forget when I first told them that Mike was finally feeling improvements in his health 4 long years ago that they held hands and jumped up and down like little kids while loudly verbalizing their sincere joy. Whatever we are happy about, their joy expands that happiness exponentially.

Maybe that is why when my low-key husband had something worth celebrating, he first emailed my dad. He simply said to me late one night right before bedtime, “I cc’d you on an email to your dad.” Through a short email, I found out that Mike had made it on a list of the world’s 300 leading IP (Intellectual Property) strategists. He was right in guessing my parents’ reaction. They were proud and emailed repeatedly from their trip in Europe to say so. Being their daughter, I am proud, too. I tell myself it is ok because even God bragged a little about His son. He could have kept His fatherly pride to Himself, but instead the heaven’s opened up, a dove descended, and He said in a booming voice, “This is my Son, Whom I love, WITH WHOM I AM WELL-PLEASED.” Drop the mic. (That’s in the NLB – New Leslie Beckett – version. If I get struck by lightning, you now know why.)

When I showed the kids the link above, I explained that their daddy made it on a list put out by IAM (Intellectual Asset Management) magazine.

Kids: Is that like Time (magazine)?
Me: Uh, no, not really. Not as many people read this one.
Kids: Billions?
Me: Uh, no, not at all. Probably just a few IP people.
Kids: Is daddy famous?
Me: Uh, no, definitely not. But isn’t it cool?
Kids: Cool. (run off to go play)

We will still celebrate because according to my parents (my mom already emailed asking if we had celebrated) everything is worth celebrating. Shout out to Deniece Williams for her Footloose gem of a song that I took the liberty of changing a little.

My baby, he don’t talk sweet, he ain’t got much to say,
But he emails, emails, emails, to say he made a list the other day.
And maybe he don’t dress fine, but I don’t really mind,
Cause he can kick some IP rear, that makes me wanna cheer:

Let’s hear it for the boy! Let’s give the boy a hand.
Let’s hear it for my baby. World’s leading 300 per IAM.
Oh, maybe he’s no Romeo, but his legal work is good to go!
Oh, whoa…let’s hear it for the boy!

 

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PSA From a Token Asian

You may not see many of us on a regular basis. Even if you do, you may not personally know any of us in a real relationship of true knowing. Having one of us do your nails or check you out during your medical visit is not the same thing as the type of relationship I mean. I mean the type where we will tell you our unfiltered, honest opinion on topics that some of us do not want to go into with you even if that means possibly chipping away at the ignorance. Since there may be countless out there in this category, this is a PSA to drop a little knowledge and hopefully chip away a tiny bit.

When you see an Asian person walking in the mall, minding her own business and obviously not wanting to be bothered as she refuses your kiosk sample while briskly going by, do NOT yell out greetings in any Asian language to her. She does not speak Chinese so do not yell out “nee hau!” She does not speak Japanese so do not follow up with a “konichiwah!” to cover your bases. You do not speak either of those languages either so why are you shouting out those greetings like a fool? Do you randomly shout out “bonjour!” and follow it with “g’day, mate!” to every white person that walks by you? No. That would be dumb. Same is true here. Do not assume that you know what language she speaks (it’s English) just by looking at her.

Even if you were lucky enough to guess the right language of her ancestry, yelling out one phrase that you know does NOT make her feel instantly bonded to you and now wanting to sample and purchase every item from your kiosk. Would you yell out, “HELLO!” to every white person who walks by you? No. Still dumb.

Not every Asian would stop well after they passed you, take the time to turn around, retrace her steps in the opposite direction of where she wanted to go, and walk directly to you to tell you these things. Not everyone would say to you that you should not yell out those words to Asians because it is racist. Your face responds to that word because no one really WANTS to be racist. No one says they hope they do something racist today. Your face says that you believe you are a nice person and for this little (crazy) Asian lady to tell you that you are being racist is pretty far-fetched.

Ok, fine, but admit it that it would not have had the same affect to say to you, “don’t do that because it is a microaggression.” After all, microagression is a cousin to racist. They may not be the same thing, but they are totally related and come from the same family tree. So let’s just help you NOT go all the way to your cousin’s level and help you detach from that genealogy by not committing that microagression again in the future. You have been told to your face that it is not cool. You seemed receptive and actually thanked the crazy lady, but ultimately you are responsible for what you do in the future with that chipping away of your ignorance. Like the lady said, you may have had no bad intentions, but now you KNOW. And knowing is half the battle (G.I. JOE)!

When I (obviously the crazy confrontational lady) retold this part of my day at the dinner table, my older son said that he would NOT have done that (gone back to talk to the dude). He said he would have just ignored it and kept walking. My younger son asked, “What’s nee hau?” I could not just give him the definition. Being who I am, I had to add in a few lines reiterating why the guy should not just yell that out and “if anyone says that to you…” That is when my older son then tries to stop me in a way by covering his ears and giving an annoyed sound of some sort. I look at him and wonder how he is my offspring. But later when my friend reminded me that his responses are totally understandable because of course he just wants to blend in. He just wants to live a “normal” life despite my telling him that he can’t, that he will face things like this in his life and he might as well know how to respond. But my friend’s more understanding reaction to him transported me back to when I was his age. I was EXACTLY the same. I so desperately wanted to blend in, never talk about, let alone BE Korean. He is normal even if his life won’t totally be. Maybe in 3 decades he WILL be turning around and telling the kiosk guy what isn’t cool. Maybe. I can hope so.

Again, no one wants to be a racist. No one wants to raise up racists. But racism is not born overnight. It is similar to thoughts I have been having about the Stanford rapist. Unless you have been living under a rock, you have heard about the absurd 6-month sentence for this star athlete who was convicted of rape. He and his parents seem to be in denial that he raped his victim. It is easy for them to say it is just some silly darn mistake made when you get too drunk. Although a jury unanimously convicted him of 3 counts of sexual assault and the outrage of a nation is reacting against his sentence, they still are having a hard time believing that he is a rapist. There is no personal responsibility. I make my kids tell me what they did wrong when they fight like WWIII. They have to spell it out without blaming their sibling or other circumstances. They have to tell me what they could have done differently so the next situation can have different results.

But they live a good life and are already spoiled in some ways. My older son acted like I was putting him out when I had him fix his own English muffin for breakfast this morning. He really, REALLY wanted me to do it for him. No, I am not your maid. You get your own muffin, toast it, put it on a plate, and butter it yourself. These are small parts of the day, but they add up. Just like a lifetime of privilege, wealth, whiteness, entitlement, education, class, and social circles can all seep into your being unnoticed to bring you to the point that you are defending your son’s sexual assault on an unconscious victim. I have crossed into some of those factors of privilege enough to see how they could combine in so many subtleties that inadvertently breed an unnatural outcome worthy of the world’s contempt. So do not tell me that yelling “nee hau!” is totally harmless. It can combine with many other factors that may have you one day questioning a judge’s ability to be impartial because of his ethnic heritage or thinking it is ok to yell the n-word at someone while you cowardly drive past. I hope that my boys are surrounded by crazy ladies who confront them when they are stepping across a thin line because maybe it will disrupt the complex formula that could result in unwanted behaviors and attitudes. Please give them your PSA’s and thanks for reading mine.

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Home

We are in a season of transition again, but I do believe that having been in this season less than four years ago makes this time a bit easier. Still, we are new and facing many scenarios where our comfort is disrupted and the boys feel nervous. It is good to be uncomfortable, and I am remembering the value of it. It is harder for the boys to recognize such value right now, but hopefully in time they will.

Currently we are living in a temporary apartment. The boys have settled into a little routine of breakfast, workbooks, and daily journal time before they can play on their iPads. This morning I checked their journals. Connor had written this entry a couple days ago, but because of the content I thought maybe it was from school days in Albuquerque since I had him using a leftover notebook. No, it was definitely after we moved to Tucson and were living in this transitional housing:

Home is were I live. I sleep, read, and eat in it. Home is were my family is. Harper, my dog, looks cute in it. I love my home.

As a parent, I obviously need to teach him how to spell “where” correctly. But as my child, he taught me something much more significant: the definition of home.

My husband bought a house before I saw it. My first impressions were good but not great. I was not in love with it, and my list of critiques popped up automatically. I do want to hurry up and move in so we can be settled into our new place and get this transition closer to finished. After reading my wise 8-year-old’s entry, I am reminded that home is where my family is. Those critiques dissipate. The hurry to settle subsides. And I can repeat with my son, “I love my home.”

And for comic relief, here is one of Ethan’s entries about a recent mishap:

Crash. Connor broke a apartment lamp!

As a parent, I need to teach him to use the article “an” before a word starting with a vowel. As my child, he taught me not to overreact and look like evil incarnate when things get broken. A close up of my apparent reaction:

Nervous feelings and evil faces combined, I really do love my home.

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New Mexico TRUE Spring Break

In the time since we have called New Mexico home, our family has explored much of the unique sites this area has to offer. For Spring Break, we took my visiting parents to the southern mountain town of Ruidoso for a couple nights.

Road trips with my dad are awesome because he is a great storyteller. He wanted to share with my boys his personal history from birth to when he was their age. His stories as a refugee child during the Korean War and its immediate aftermath made time pass quickly. His memory is so sharp that we could imagine ourselves in every scene: hearing distant bombs explode followed by nearby machine gun staccato when North Koreans invaded his hometown and told a frightened crowd that had gathered in the local school that their “brethren had come to liberate them” from the South, hiding with his family behind shipments of ginseng in the back of a cargo train to escape the occupied town into safer Seoul, and weeping when his 10-year-old crushed spirit found the popsicles he wanted to sell for needed money for his struggling family had all melted in the summer heat leaving nothing but naked sticks in his simple box.

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After realizing my mom had been quiet during these recollections, I curiously asked what she remembered of the war. In sharp contrast to the detailed descriptions of my dad, she simply said, “All I remember is at one point we had to beg house to house for things like soy sauce and rice. I thought it was really fun! People thought I was so cute.” And that was it. Meanwhile my dad was giving us specific dates, what people said, the gravity of how he felt, background information, and in fact, figuring out through what little she said that my mom would have been 6 or 7 for her single vague memory. We laughed at the difference between them.

After lunch in Socorro, we ventured out to the Very Large Array (VLA). The VLA is a set of 27 92-feet high and 82-feet wide satellites arranged in Y formation that together perform as one humongous radio telescope. They are able to take pictures of galaxies millions of light years away. Their images are used by astronomers around the world, and their location in the middle of New Mexico is ideal for the type of conditions needed to maximize this amazing technology. It was an educational trip for my little scientists who liked the black hole images the best.

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The powerful winds prevented us from fully taking advantage of the walking tour. We pretty much took a few steps and sought the refuge of the car once the winds threatened to blow us over. Ethan wanted to show how it was hard to stand in the 40mph gusts.

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Even if you never get to see these remarkable antenna in person, the informative film is available online here.

The next morning we headed out to White Sands National Monument. We had been there before a couple years ago but wanted my parents to be able to see the miles of white gypsum sand. Again the winds were pretty strong. After a few minutes outside, the grains covered us like a second skin. Of course, the boys did not care and welcomed the sand in their pants as they buried each other and rolled around. Even now, after a couple car washes, there are probably still sand grains in the back seat. But nature provided the best playground for the boys who had so much fun in such a beautiful setting.

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Thanks to Yelp which has revolutionized our vacation dining, we found JAM-ing Hot Dogs & More for lunch in Alamogordo. After hearing the options, Connor knew immediately that he wanted a hot dog for lunch. Ethan said to the uncertain others, “Well, at least it has 5 stars!” Besides friendly local owners, they also had Chicago-style dogs. Yes, please! It was good enough for Ethan to write his own 5-star Yelp review.

Did you know that the world’s largest pistachio is in New Mexico? Ethan did. It was mentioned in Dan Gutman’s Genius Files book series that he read, so it was particularly cool for him to see in person. McGinn’s Country Store sells a large variety of flavored pistachios which are grown right next to it on their Pistacioland Tree Ranch. The boys thought we should buy their daddy the bacon ranch kind, and I could not resist the spicy green chile ones. Am I New Mexican or what? My mom also got some of their delicious pecan and pistachio brittle.

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Back in Ruidoso, it struck me how the scene around our cabin might not be what one would think is typical of New Mexico. But it is another aspect of the outdoor beauty of this state. There was a wildfire that jeopardized our check in and caused schools and roads to close. Luckily the fire was contained, and we were able to enjoy this view in safety.

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On our drive back to Albuquerque, we stopped by the Valley of Fires Recreation Area. 127 square miles of rock formed when lava flowed from vents (not a volcanic eruption). It is one of the youngest lava flows in the country having formed about 1,500-5,000 years ago. There was a nicely paved nature trail with markers corresponding to a brochure our tour guide Ethan read to us.

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This short but sweet trip epitomizes much of New Mexico to me: a wide variety of unique landscapes, friendly small towns with locally owned eats and flavors, and hidden treasures that provide an educational and fun experience unlike anywhere else. It is memories like these that will stay with us and always make New Mexico dear to our hearts.

 

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For Spoken For

Confession: I have not been ENTIRELY off social media during Lent. I have only 6 days left till I can officially waste my life on Facebook again, but there have been times that I have gotten on my 3 forbidden sites for one thing, and one thing only: Spoken For. One of the many things that I will truly miss about living here in Albuquerque is being involved with this volunteer-based non-profit. Its mission is to help combat human trafficking here in the state of New Mexico.

Spoken For provides a hope and a future to human trafficking victims through advocacy, outreach, short-term resources, education and awareness.

The people who lead and serve this organization are genuine, caring, passionate, fun, and just outstanding folks to be around, and I will miss them!

In 3 short weeks, their one big fundraiser, Run Against Traffick 5K, will take place on Saturday, April 9th. You can RUN it, you can WALK it, or you can VOLUNTEER at it. Whatever you do, you will be actively participating in supporting an organization that is making a difference for the better. Whether we are exposed to it or not, there is real hatred, pain, coercion, abuse, slavery, and violence not just in the world but in our very own communities. Last year in New Mexico, there were 90 calls reporting human trafficking. There were almost 30 confirmed cases in our little unpopulated state alone, and 11 of those involved minors. Spoken For exists to help end all of that evil and injustice.

If you are in or around Albuquerque, please consider signing up for it by clicking here. If you would like to volunteer at the race, please email info@spokenfornm.com. If you know of anyone in the area, please spread the word, share the event, share this post! If you are still stuck on the fact that I have been technically breaking my fast for this group, please read about Jesus healing on the Sabbath.🙂 I’d like to think that this social media time (like inviting my local Facebook friends to the run event just now) is similar to David and his posse eating the consecrated bread. We are in the midst of a battle and this is life-giving stuff which is way more important than my personal self-denial. See you at the RUN!

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