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.
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What If My Favorite Thing to Do Is Nothing? (Notes on Slug Life)

nothingnobody

It’s hard for me to make blanket statements, especially to complicated questions like, “Do you condone violence?” Well, are we talking about someone I do or do not despise? This isn’t my admission that I go around hitting people. Cornered animals, including humans, will often fight back, and I have delicate bones, so I guess the short answer is no, I do not condone violence. I’m important to me and one of my top priorities is looking out for #1.

You would think that with such a bloated level of self-importance, I would use my time wisely and set big goals for myself. When you achieve big, you can brag big. I don’t fritter away precious energy humblebragging; I just brag.

But my favorite thing to do is nothing. It’s hard to brag about nothing. For so much of my life, I did shit I didn’t want to do. After careful thought, I realized that some of the things I didn’t want to do weren’t even things I actually agreed to do, just, somehow, I got dragged into another person’s mess, and eventually, it became my own burden to bear. When I made the commitment to stop saying “yes” to every request, freedom came immediately and the power of “no” was so delicious that it bled into every crevice of my waking hours.

When my zeal for “no” mixed with depression, I stopped doing anything. I didn’t want to get out of bed. I had no goals. I would start a task and forego the satisfying rush of finishing it because, fuck that shit. At the end of each day, I couldn’t recall what I had done with my time. Doing nothing feels both long and brief. And doing nothing is really goddamn boring.

Since it’s hard to change your ways when you have no idea what your ways are, I decided to keep track of an entire day during my 102-day break to assess where I might be able to shift my behavior or focus. Reading over my notes at the end of the day was fucking horrifying. If I were a deity, I would most likely smite myself for my ridiculous and wasteful abuse of life.

A.M.

6:40 Wake up. Immediately shut my eyes again and pretend I am sleeping. Hope my body gets the hint.

6:42 Hear incessant chirping. Google “How do I find a bird I can hear but can’t see?” on my phone. Already Googled “Is it illegal to kill a bird in Los Angeles County?” when the bird moved into our neighborhood late spring but haven’t taken action. Mental note: purchase slingshot.

6:55 I need to pee.

7:05 I really need to pee.

7:13 Fuck it. Fine. I will get out of this fucking bed. Fuck my kidneys. Fuck my bladder.

Harv leaves with Cal to drop her off at school.

8:15 Harv is home again. He has a dentist appointment in an hour. I am still in bed. “Wow, you’re exactly as I left you.” Not true. I am now sitting up.

8:15-8:25 I spend 10 minutes of quality time with Harv even though I am in the middle of a Candy Crush level that I was probably going to beat but not anymore because disruptions break my flow. Show Harv a picture of Jay-Z’s murdered out Tesla because the look appeals to me. He immediately frowns and shakes his head.

jayztesla

“Just because I’m married to you doesn’t mean I can’t be married to the streets,” I argue. He says it draws the wrong kind of attention. “You know I don’t fuck with felonies.” My upstanding behavior falls on deaf ears.

9:00 My Any.Do app reminds me that it is 9 a.m. and I need to plan my day. My day has not officially started yet, so I ignore the reminder. I’m really killing it in Candy Crush. Level 617 is my bitch. Wait. How did I go through 4 lives so fast? I switch the time on my phone to get more lives and promise myself that I will stop playing when these 5 lives are gone or if I beat this level, whichever comes first.

9:15 I’m so hungry that I’m starting to feel nauseous. Also, my eyes are getting tired because I have not yet put in my contacts and when I play Candy Crush with my bad eyes, I have to close one and only look out of the other to focus. It is causing both eye and facial muscle strain. I will get out of bed. As soon as I finish these 5 lives.

We have lots of delicious leftovers, but all of those require microwave action. Waiting 45 seconds for my meal isn’t really my style. It really chaps my hide that I bought regular Cap’n Crunch cereal instead of the Crunch Berries version. Colorful food supposedly has more vitamins.

9:52 Eat breakfast. Check Complex Magazine’s website. Repeatedly. Brush my teeth. Think about taking a shower. My feet are cold but I refuse to put on a pair of socks until I take a shower because, hell no, I will not waste two pairs of socks in one day. I’m not going to live like an animal who reuses socks that have previously been on unwashed feet.

I will turn off my phone and start writing at 10 a.m.

10:02 Fuck. Missed it. I will start at 11.

11:23 My feet are going numb because they are so cold. Turning purple even. I have bad circulation because I don’t move very much. Our family doctor says I need to get regular exercise, but fuck that, I do what I want.

I am feeling extremely tired even though I have not done any actual work yet.

11:23-12:18 Text with a friend about procrastination, low self-esteem, fear, feelings of worthlessness. Think about telling my friend I need to take a shower but the conversation has a rhythm, and I don’t want to be rude and cut her off. Attempt to multitask by making the bed and folding the laundry as I text. Spot a Werther’s Original underneath the dresser. It’s a little dusty but wrapped. Lick it a little to see if it tastes “off.” Decide to just eat my unexpected treat and not think about the possible consequences. I’m not trying to be reckless, but I have excellent health insurance, and that’s pretty much the same thing as being unbreakable.

P.M.

12:18 I wash my face instead of taking a shower so I have time to eat lunch. I can’t skip meals because hunger gives me excruciating headaches. Also, when my stomach is empty, my heart is full of rage, and I’m trying to care more about myself and other people.

1:30-2:30 Therapy. We mainly talk about procrastination and why that’s ruining my life. I mention to my therapist that I am on level 618 of Candy Crush so she knows I’m not just doing nothing with my time.

3:15 Pick up Cal. Except for that one year dismissal time overlapped with reruns of Cold Case, I try not to be late for pick-up. Feel like it shows my kid I got her back. I’m mostly doing this for myself so that when I get old, Cal will give me money to shop at Whole Foods.

3:45-6:30 Lie down. Allow myself a few minutes to grieve over never seeing Tupac rap live. Think about Biggie. Does God allow beef in heaven? I keep my Tupac on the west side of my bookshelf and Biggie on the east.

tupacbiggie

6:30  My brother and his wife come over for dinner. They’re outdoorsy people and often leave the country for extended scuba diving or hiking trips. Harv went to Tibet and then to Everest base camp a few months before we got married, so my brother, Marshall, is asking Harv about his experience. Marshall hopes to summit at least one of the Seven Summits, the highest points of each continent. I bet I could climb a mountain. I climb the stairs in our house all day long, and I never even stop or anything halfway. They are talking about a mountain in the Himalayas called Annapurna. Maybe I will do that one. My brother says it has a 41% death rate. “No wait, I think it’s down to 38% now.”  I scratch that one off my list.

7:50-11:30 I watch multiple episodes of Everest: Beyond the Limit, a docu-series chronicling the two-month journey of Everest climbers. If I can climb a mountain with the same devotion and concentration that I have for watching this show, I will be unstoppable.

Questions about climbing Everest:
Is it okay to cry on Everest? Will my tears freeze?
Is wifi available?
Will I be able to maintain my skincare routine?

11:30 I am extremely spent after watching hours of Everest. It’s been emotionally draining and I’m physically maxed out after being in a sitting position for over 4 continuous hours. Get up and stretch. Call down to Harv and ask him to bring me a glass of water with a lemon wedge. I need to rehydrate, but I just can’t see myself going all the way downstairs right now.

11:40 Think about Neil deGrasse Tyson. I wanted to become an astrologer when I was 12 but made the mistake of saying “astronomer” instead of “astrologer” to my parents. For 3 years, my Christmas gift was a subscription to Astronomy magazine and monthly deliveries of Voyage Through the Universe, a Time Life series that cost my parents $20 for each book. I still have them today even though I’ve never cracked open a single volume. They can now be purchased for $1.99 online. If I meet Neil, should I mention my collection? I bet it would earn his respect. Those Time Life books ain’t nothing to fuck with.

11:50 Harv says I’m probably not going to meet Neil deGrasse Tyson in the near future so I need to stop rummaging through boxes looking for my books. He also suggested I “go to bed right now.” How am I married to such a pessimist? He’s really lucky to have me in his life.
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This was a powerful, eye-opening exercise, and it’s helped me understand what a profound impact depression had on my behavior when I allowed it to overtake my day. Well, if I’m being honest, depression, sheer laziness, and apathy. I’m embarrassed that this is who I can be sometimes, but now that I know what rock bottom looks like, I can be better. Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger.
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Does this blog look jacked up today? Clearing your cache might help. My bad. Working on site changes with my development homegirl.

Holler at me:
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