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.





Love Language

No, I’m not talking about the 5 Love Languages; I’m talking about a language that is unspoken yet understood between two people who love each other.

I’m currently in the middle of reading Anna Karenina, near the scene where love has blossomed between Levin and Kitty.

The way they communicated with each other to confirm their reciprocal love was not through a spoken language.  To be discreet amongst the people with whom they were gathered, they merely jotted down letters as codes for their questions and responses.

Here is a snippet of the passage:

‘How can I stay alone… without her?’ he thought with horror and he took the chalk.  ‘Wait,’ he said, sitting down at the table.  ‘There is one thing I’ve long wanted to ask you [Kitty].’

[Levin] looked straight into her tender though frightened eyes.

‘Please do.’

‘Here,’ he said, and wrote the initial letters: w, y, a, m: t, c, b, d, i, m, n, o, t?  These letters meant: ‘When you answered me,: “that cannot be”, did it mean never or then?’ There was no likelihood that she would be able to understand this complex phrase, but he watched her with such a look as if his life depended on her understanding these words.

She glanced at him seriously, then leaned her knitted brow on her hand and began to read.  Occasionally she glanced at him, asking with her glance: ‘Is this what I think?’

‘I understand,’ she said, blushing.

‘What is this word?’ he said, point to the n that signified the word never.

‘That means the word never,’ she said, ‘but it’s not true!’

He quickly erased what was written, gave her the chalk and got up.  She wrote: t, I, c, g, n, o, a.

… He suddenly beamed: he had understood. It meant: ‘Then I could give no other answer.’

He glanced at her questioningly, timidly.

‘Only then?’

‘Yes,’ her smile replied.

‘And n… And now?’ he asked.

‘Well, here, read this. I’ll tell you what I would wish.  Would wish very much!’ She wrote the initial letters: t, y, c, f, a, f, w, h.  It meant: ‘that you could forgive and forget what happened’.

He seized the chalk with his tense, trembling fingers and, breaking it, wrote the initial letters of the following: ‘I have nothing to forgive and forget, I have never stopped loving you.’

She glanced at him, the smile staying on her lips.

‘I understand,’ she said in a whisper.

He sat down and wrote a long phrase.  She understood everything and, without asking him if she was right, took the chalk and replied at once.

For a long time he could not understand what she had written and kept glancing in her eyes.  A darkening came over him from happiness. He simply could not pick out the words she had in mind; but in her lovely eyes shining with happiness he understood everything he needed to know! And he wrote three letters.  But she was reading after his hand, and before he finished writing, she finished it herself and wrote the answer: ‘Yes.’

In their conversation everything had been said — that she loved him, that she would tell her father and mother, that he would come tomorrow in the morning.

Thus, the two lovebirds communicated without talking, and everything was understood.

It’s funny how communication works between two people who love each other. Even with the simplest conversations, like giving directions, you would think that the two would understand the most ambiguous of phrases, simply because they know each other so well.

But that didn’t happen to me and my husband today in a rather comical situation.

We ate lunch at a ramen place and decided to get dessert at a popular ice cream shop nearby.  We had 10 minutes left on our parking meter and thought it would be okay to quickly get ice cream and make it back to the car since there were only a few people waiting out the door (usually there’s a long line out the door). We walked over and stood in line, realizing that though we were up next to go inside, there were 3-4 groups inside deciding on orders. Husband was getting anxious about the parking, so I told him to get the car while I ordered for him and to wait for me in the lot behind the ice cream shop.

When I was paying for the ice cream, he texted me, “I parked on College Ave., head away from the ramen place.”

Confusing, no? Where on College Ave., and what did he mean by ‘away‘???

(To provide a bit of context, College Ave. extends for ~3 or 4 miles north and south, and the ramen and ice cream places are both on College Ave.  When husband said “away from the ramen place,” I immediately wondered “north or south?”

I stood outside the ice cream shop, holding two cups in hand, one beginning to drip on the sides. I texted him, “What do you mean ‘away’? North or south?”

“South, opposite the ramen place.”

Again, I wondered, “What does he mean by ‘opposite‘?” but continued to walk south, because that’s what he said.

While walking some distance, maybe a 1-2 minutes later, he called again asking where I was; perhaps this was our only moment of understanding in which we understood that we didn’t understand each other.  Maybe he had a feeling that I wasn’t going where he wanted me to go.

And alas, I was going opposite of where he wanted me to go. When he said ‘south’ he meant ‘north’ (because he has a horrible sense of direction), and when he said ‘away’ and ‘opposite’ of the ramen place, he meant, ‘towards the ice cream shop.’

It is (sort of) my fault; I knew this about him; I knew he had  a horrible sense of direction, and I knew he always, always, without fail, instinctively went the opposite direction of every destination we have ever embarked upon. I should have known that when he said south, he meant north.

I laughed and laughed, and he was perplexed.

A Challenge to Prove Intelligence

My afternoon group of 6th graders are full of questions that are sometimes… frustrating. E.g., a fill in the blank question has an ‘s’ attached at the end to hint at its verb tense or that it is plural. A student asks, “Do I need to add the ‘s’ when I write the word out, or will it be okay if I leave it out since it’s already added?”

Anyway, a couple days ago, I presented a spelling review challenge with a code-decoding exercise.  Its written instructions seemed vague, but that was part of the challenge. If you found the solution to the first code, the instructions would become clear.  I anticipated a tsunami of redundant questions, so I presented the exercise in a psychoanalytical approach.

“The instructions to this exercise will be vague at first. But take the time to see a pattern within the codes and try to solve the first problem.  Once you find the first solution, everything will be easy. If you figure it out without asking me any questions, you will prove to me that you are very intelligent.”

Even my most nettlesome students kept quiet as they pondered and pondered.  A few minutes later, I saw a head bobbing up, and the student looked at me with a smile. I knew that kid would solve it first. A few minutes later, another smile, then another, then another; smiles all around as they patted themselves on the back for proving their intelligence. They even said, “That was fun!”

I smiled too.