This is 34.

The night before my 34th birthday, I felt a bit haggard and gray.  I felt too lazy to go through the cream face mask routine that requires washing in 20 minutes, so I smothered my face with a sample cream from La Mer. The next day, my face was aglow like Christmas morning (haha!). It felt bouncy, firm, and hydrated. I didn’t even know my face was droopy until it felt bouncy. The truth is, my dry skin cannot be compared to other mortals; it is something of death itself. Every year I shed tons of dead skin off my face (and body) during winter months and have been searching for a product that would deliver its hydration promises. I have tried many creams from different brands (within $100), but none have delivered. That is, until this past year when I learned about oils. I’ve then layered my face with serums, creams, and oils every night. It has helped with the flakiness but not so much with helping me look less like a zombie. Chemo has made my zombie-ness significantly worse, draining every living color out of my hands, feet, and face, making them literally grey-brown. I came back to life the evening of the 3rd of January, the night I discovered crème de la Mer moisturizing cream, the miracle cream. I woke up looking less grey and convinced of the power of pricey skin care. How can I go back? Sigh. Alas, I am not rich. So. I will cherish every drop of that sample and continue with my old routine. And that’s okay. At least for my birthday, I felt/looked alive. This post is not sponsored. I know; I can be ridiculous.

This is thirty-four.

Some highlights: breakfast at Bottega Louie (one of my favorites), free birthday Starbucks drink, Santa Monica pier and the thrilling Ferris wheel (that is, watching my sister cling to the pole because of her fear of heights), free birthday Pink Berry frozen yogurt (went into the store at my daughter’s request and later surprised by the free offer), hanging out at the Hammer Museum to kill time before dinner (free entry, small but valuable collection, ping pong tables and discovering my mom’s table tennis talent), quaint Italian dinner at a random spot in Westwood (great parking spot on a busy street),  and delicious triple layer berry cake from Sweet Lady Jane.

Photos in random order:



(Poor husband was working all day until late at night so he missed out on the fun. But we’ll have fun this coming Saturday at Cicada. Woohoo! Might as well celebrate my birthday all month! hehe)

little story #001: Sun Hat

(Written in Sept. 2015 when I worked and Elaine was in daycare)

When the weather promises to be less than 90 degrees, the kiddos at the nursery are set free to run around the outdoor play area in the afternoon. Sometimes I catch them outside when I pick up my baby. She’s the funny one in the hat which is awkwardly placed on her head because the caretakers do not realize it has to be fitted down with a little nudge. She’s the funny one in the hat because I requested that she always wear a hat outdoors, because white people don’t have Asian people’s fear of the sun and all the other kids do not wear hats. She’s the funny one in the hat who sees me at the door and walks at her quickest speed to be held in my arms. She’s my baby, the funny one in the hat.

a plea

I’ve been feeling much better since the beginning of June. I’ve been eating well, gaining weight, functioning as if everything was back to normal. But every two weeks, I’m back in the basement of the hospital hooked up to three bags of chemo sitting in my chair glancing at others around me, most who are my parents’ age or older, praying I could live that long, wondering when this journey will end. I come back home and see pictures hanging on my cork board from when life was “worry-free” and I long for those days, desperately so. There are so many “should’ve, would’ve, could’ve”s; regret envelops my mind. I remind myself to focus on the present and do my best fighting and I pray, Please, Lord, give me strength. Fight for me. Most days I distract and suppress my worries and tears. Most days I cling to hope and know the Lord is with me, so I do not worry. But there are those days when desperation surfaces. Hymns and Sunday praise songs unleash the well of tears that’s been gathering in unknown places and they keep falling. They keep falling. Today is one of those days. Fortunately, my mom doesn’t read my blog; if she did, it would crush her heart and I know she will cry. I know she cries. When we first found out about my illness last year, she shared the story in Matthew 15 about the Syrophoenician woman:

21Jesus went away from there, and withdrew into the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22And a Canaanite woman from that region came out and began to cry out, saying, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed.” 23But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came and implored Him, saying, “Send her away, because she keeps shouting at us.” 24But He answered and said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25But she came and began to bow down before Him, saying, “Lord, help me!” 26And He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27But she said, “Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” 28Then Jesus said to her, “O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed at once.

That is my mother’s heart, and that is why sometimes we cry…

Lord, help us!

One day they’ll grow up and forget.

It has only been the second day of school, so it’s too early to jump to conclusions, but the kiddos I’ve taught last year have been popping into my classroom here and there, yelling “HI, MRS. SHIN!!!”, looking around their old classroom, trying to see if there have been any changes, and telling me that they miss my class. I smile and ask how their 7th grade is going. Some respond with a shrug and some say they hate it. It’s too early to judge, I tell them, but a tiny part of me wants them to hold onto their 6th grade memories and how fun it was (sometimes, at least). Once they begin getting used to 7th grade, they will move on and forget.

I know that within the next year, they’ll gradually grow up.  They’ll become too timid and shy to say “Hi!” They’ll smile, maybe, but eventually I’ll become another adult, another teacher from their past.

I hope one day in the future when they’re asked about their youth and education, they’ll remember my class… and the many many things I’ve taught them. ;)

fruits from my childhood

Until I was in the first grade, we used to live with my grandma in Riverside.  I don’t remember the back yard much, but I remember she used to pick strawberries in the summer and give them to me to eat.  I also remember my mother picking bunches of a peculiar fruit from a tree.  I remember her hands. She would peel the thin skin of the fruit and plop them into my mouth. They tasted creamy, seedy, and subtly sweet.  I loved this fruit, but I didn’t know what it was and the memory of it faded with its taste.

Some recent years ago, maybe in college when I did my own grocery shopping, I came across the fig at a store.  I saw its odd shape and immediately had a flashback of my mom peeling the fruit. I bought a bunch and sliced one open to see its innards — a creamy border with bursting seeds, just as I had remembered; that fruit from my memory was the so-called fig. I plopped one into my mouth, and sure enough, it tasted like my childhood.

It finally made sense why I loved Fig Newtons. Never had my mind made the correlation between figs and Fig Newtons until I made the connection between the memory and the actual fruit and the fruit that made the snack so appealing. Creamy, seedy, and subtly sweet.

Every year when early fall rolls along, I remember the taste of my childhood fruit.