Look at the Stars. Look How They Shine for You.

HBDCal15flourishinprogress on Instagram

One of my favorite pastimes is hanging out with young children. Not necessarily because I like children, but because I’m pretty much going to be the smartest person in the bunch. When I ask if anyone would like to challenge me in a one-on-one addition battle, I often hear excuses about how they’ve only mastered number recognition, but that’s not important to me. What’s important is winning.

Spending time with young people gives me a chance to remember small moments with Cal at that age. I thought I was going to pack away every childhood highlight in some mental box, each piece easily accessible whenever nostalgia strikes. It’s not that easy, but those memories are in there somewhere, albeit jumbled, and they surface whenever I see a familiar expression or hear an innocent question, like when someone asks, “What’s it like being old?”

Cal asked me that question when she was 4. I was 23. I felt old, so the question didn’t offend me, but I wanted to make sure I understood her. “Are you asking me what it’s like to be a grown-up?” When she nodded, I answered truthfully, “I’m still trying to figure it out. Maybe I’ll get good at it soon.”

I’m still trying to get good at being a grown-up.

Cal turned 15 yesterday. I have no idea how time moved so fast…yet, so slow. I feel like I’ve lived so many lifetimes since Cal was born.

When I got pregnant at 18, I kept it a secret from almost everyone. I didn’t know who else to talk to, so I started praying a lot. God and I had a pretty tenuous relationship until then, but I felt an overwhelming urge to seek out a Higher Power. I prayed that He would put forgiveness in my mother’s heart. I prayed that He would keep me safe when I ran away from home during my second trimester. And when it came to praying for Cal, I mostly just asked God for a baby with good-looking feet. It was really important to me that my child feel confident in open-toe sandals. I pleaded with Him to make my baby sort-of normal: sort-of normal looking and sort-of normal on the inside too. I didn’t need her to be especially pretty (except for the feet) or thoughtful or kind. I tried not to be greedy.

Sometimes, it seems like God doesn’t hear my prayers. Last Christmas, I asked God to help Santa put a bow-tied Lil Wayne under the tree, but I got a deluxe lap desk with a cup holder instead. I was upset at first, but now I can see how anyone could get those two confused, especially during the busy holiday season. I’m still not sure what the problem was when I prayed again for Lil Wayne on my birthday, which is in September, but maybe Jesus observes Labor Day, and the foam-filled reading pillow was just a stopgap gift.

At other times, I am awestruck by His grace and mercy. It still surprises me that my daughter did not come out broken. We only allow ourselves what we think we deserve. While I fervently prayed for sort-of normal, I was prepared for a malformed child, a slow child, an unhappy child, or a malicious child. But Cal is perfect.

When my mother realized that I intended to keep the baby, she pressured me to reconsider. She reminded me that a baby was not a toy I could put on a shelf when I grew tired of playing with it and wanted a newer and shinier diversion. A baby is forever. She repeated this Korean phrase to me over and over again:

pluckastar“Plucking a star from the sky”
She said that raising a baby as an unwed, uneducated teen with no money was like trying to pluck a star from the sky- impossible, futile, and disheartening.

The fear of transitioning from someone’s child to someone’s mother without the luxury of becoming a grown-up first made me feel small and flimsy. When I closed my eyes at night, I imagined my arms growing longer and longer, grasping for the closest star, each one bright and beautiful and seemingly within reach. I’d wrap my hand around the light, but each time I brought my fist close and peered in, there was nothing but dark space.

I asked God to help me become a grown-up. And I gave my daughter the Korean name “Seh Byul.”
newstarIts literal English translation is New Star. I couldn’t pluck a star from the sky, so I made a new one.

Happy Birthday, Cal. I’m not good at much, but I will be good to you.

#HolidayResponsibly

Several months ago, the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (Responsibility.org) hollered at me about their “How to Have Tough Conversations” #HolidayResponsibly campaign. I’m always careful about what I pimp out because I respect this thing we got going on, but after speaking with FAAR and learning about their initiatives to eliminate drunk driving and underage drinking, and the ways they promote responsible decision-making, I was totally “hell yeah” about participating. My video segment is about how Harv and I are doing date nights now and what we’re trying to teach Cal about drinking and driving. After watching it, you’ll prob understand why I ain’t about that vlog life. I didn’t know a face could twitch that much in less than a minute. Click here or on the picture below for the video. Check out Responsibility.org for additional resources and tips to keep teens safe.

ejlFAAR

Let’s be homies4life. Holler at me.
Flourish in Progress on Facebook: This is some legit shit. Forrealz.
Instagram (@flourishinprogress): Katrillions of pictures I never post anywhere else.

Happy Birthday, Cal. I’m not good at much, but I will be good to you.

kurtcobain

Sometimes it is too hard to write about love- the density of its emotions, the significance of its role, the fear of its absence, the silence after its exit.

I have tried many times to tell my daughter how much I love her. I wish I knew enough words.

When Cal was born, I made a promise to us that I would stay alive until she turned 30. I was 19 then, and 30 more years of living seemed like a heavy commitment, but I wanted to wait until my daughter was a real grown-up before I left her to fend for herself. I don’t know why I picked 30, but that age seemed so old and unknowable to my teen mind.

I know now that 30 isn’t old at all. When I reached that milestone age a few years ago, I certainly didn’t feel very grown-up, and I still wasn’t ready to fend for myself. I mean, yes, I avoid my mother’s phone calls occasionally because how many times can one person remind you to eat the entire box of oranges she bought on sale at the Korean market to keep scurvy at bay. But even now, if my mother dropped dead, there would still be a deep and unfillable void. And even if I felt like a real adult, I think it’s still okay for an adult to want to be someone’s child too.

On Saturday, Cal turned 14. None of her birthdays have ever been complicated productions. I lacked funds before I got married. I got funds now, but I’m lazy as fuck. This year, I decided to use the last three ounces of Give A Fuck I had stowed away “just in case” to plan a surprise Golden Birthday Snack Time. If you think about it, no one ever expects a celebration during afternoon snacks. As you can see, I really understand the concept of “surprise.”

I spent weeks scouring the devil’s playground (also known as Pinterest) for ideas and tutorials. After attempting some of the crafts, I figured out that DIY is bullshit. I’m into DISE. Do It Someone Else.

I ordered the ombre birthday cake. I helped Harv make the tea sandwiches. I covered the entire dining room floor in glitter wrapping paper. I finally used the Cricut I bought six years ago to make a “Happy Birthday Homegirl” banner. I fought with four very large and unruly balloons and lost. I set out trays of specially-ordered desserts.  I waited for her to come home. I wondered which detail would thrill her the most.

The next morning, as she was getting ready to leave the house, she came into my bedroom and gave me a hug. “Mommy, thank you for yesterday. That rock candy was so awesome.”

Despite all of the privileges in her life, Cal still loves the small and simple pleasures. Maybe that’s why she’s so happy all of the time. I don’t take time to appreciate everyday miracles. I wait for big moments. I try to create big moments.

She’s my daily reminder that happiness only comes when we allow it into our lives. That I don’t have to be perfect to be good. That big gestures aren’t the only ones that count.

I’m not good at much, but I will be good to you.

glitterfloor

14on14(flourishinprogress on Instagram)

P.S. This will be my last post for 2013. I’ve never allowed myself an “official” break, and I’ve always been riddled with guilt when I go for too many days without hollering at y’all. Maybe if I make this break official, it will give me some peace of mind while I play catch-up for the next few weeks. There are so many half-finished items on my checklist. I’m looking forward to a fresh new year. Although these past 12 months have been ridiculous, I know so much more about myself and life and happiness because I lost small bits and then big chunks of all three this year.

I’ll still be working the Facebook and Instagram grind. “Like” the Flourish in Progress Facebook page and follow along on Instagram (username: flourishinprogress) for (t)hug life thoughts, not-seen-on-this-blog pictures, and other mildly entertaining but useless shit.

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Take good care.