Sunday, December 27, 2015

So, three French hens, eh?

According to my vast googling of "when actually are the twelve days of Christmas," it appears as though today, December 28th, is the third day of Christmas. Hence, the French hens. 

I started my Christmas season crying on my friend's couch because I had just skyped my father on Christmas Eve, and it is acutely heart wrenching to be away from my parents right now. Decembers haven't been kind to us as a family, and each year that passes is a significant reminder of it. 

Unexpected mishaps the following morning had me sitting in my bed on Christmas morning without even the slightest glimmer of magic that had so often glittered this holiday in the days of yore. Don't worry, my Christmas shaped up to be the perfect way to spend the holiday--hours of platonic cuddling, Mean Girls, a pint of Shooting Star ice cream, and the classic holiday dish, spaghetti.

But, while I was wallowing in my own brought upon self pity, I decided that the only person making me feel like this was myself. And, that I am embarrassing myself. Let's be clear, there is nothing wrong with feeling upset that I am not with my family, nor is there anything wrong with a healthy amount of self-pity. But, this wasn't healthy. So, I did something about it. I started thinking of a list of good things in my life. Some friend's names popped into my head, and I thought, "What would _____ do?" So, I guess this is it...

... a list of 12 things I've received this year:

1. Unexpected friendships: 2015 has been a surprising year for strong relationships forged in things like mutual respect, compassion, intelligence, and rapier quick wit. These friendships have sort of fallen into my lap, and I hope that I have the wherewithal to maintain them as I travel and return to Wisconsin this next year. 

2. Affirmation of existing friendships: After three years of being apart, I plan to visit the person who, arguably, has helped me most in my coming of age. Like, if this were a hero story, she would be my meeting with the mentor. She set all of my positive life changes in motion. I knew I had to unlock my potential, she just helped me discover the key. 

3. Relationships with both of my parents: I left. I left when my parents got divorced. It was absolutely the right decision for me, as a young adult, but I also have been absent in how our family has restructured itself. And, it is time for me to return after fostering relationships with my parents as individuals. I am ready to figure out how I fit into this new idea of family of individual units as well as a whole. 

4. A niece: On February 11th, 2015, a little human came into this world. I skyped with her and her daddy in her first few minutes of her life. It was almost like I was in the waiting room, but just sitting on a couch in the middle of Busan watching The Imitation Game. I have skyped with her almost every week since she was born, and I let go of her, like, twice in my whole time visiting her. Saying goodbye to her was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. 

5. Conversations with my sister: She is one of the two most important women in my life (my mother being the other). She is often the facilitator of all the skype sessions with my niece, although, Sweet P is a wily one. Since I was 13, my sister has been my confidant and my hero. Here we are 15 years later, and that is still the case. 

6. Soundness of body: Touch wood, this has been the first major injury free year in a long time. I had some slips in September, but I rested and allowed my body to heal without pushing it too hard. I have worked hard to have a healthy body (totally just wrote baby there...guess motherhood is never truly far from my brain).

7. Soundness of mind: I have finally figured out a system of writing that helps me process emotions as well as create something I find beautiful. My co-boss for Busan Spoken Word told me I finally started to write poems I thought were good as opposed to poems the audience would think are good. I am excited to check out the slam scene in the States. It will be difficult to crack, but I plan to watch for a long time before I get up there, myself.

8. Lots of luck: I dunno if you've been paying attention, but every list I have ever made in my poetry or writing, the number eight has something to do with luck. Eight is my lucky number for no other reason than my friend asked what my lucky number was when I was eight, and so obviously my first choice was my age. It has been my jersey number for every sport except for TWO unlucky draws, then I became 20. No matter, 2015 has been full of luck. I drafted an amazing team of mostly rookies who played Ultimate with the most heart for which a gal could ask. We grew as an amazing rag tag group of pirates. We were small but mighty. And, by gum, we had the most unicorn points for the entire league, so there's that.

9. Freedom to marry: I can't tell you how frustrating it was listening to one male coworker talking to my other male coworker explaining how awful marriage is and that everything in your life is worse after you get married. As a queer woman, who did not have the right to wife or get wifed for half of the year, I wanted to shout at him, but that wouldn't have made for a positive work environment.  So, on June 27th, when loads of queer folks queued in front state offices to get a federally recognised marriage, I showed up on Monday in my most queer outfit that still passed as work clothes. Thanks Supreme Court for creating a universe in which queer little kids can imagine their weddings however they choose,  with boys, girls, boygirls, girlboys, and everyone in between.

10. Opportunity to educate: I have had some amazing teaching moments both within the classroom outside of it. I have taught my students about non-gender binary pronouns, as well as how to treat all people with respect. I have discussed word choice with those around me to encourage safe environments in which people feel comfortable being themselves. 

11. Opportunity to learn: I read all the time. I read newspapers, books, and articles. I take in so much information that I can't possibly process all of it. However, I take extra time with the things I care about the most. For example, this is possibly the most informed I have been about an election in my life. And, it is 11 months away. I am dedicated to find out the most I can about a topic before I spout my opinions on social media. I use the vast amounts of technology at my disposal for good and not evil. It is important to learn about your country AND ALSO the world in which we live. There is no possible way we can continue to survive with this "I / Me" attitude. It must become "We" or else we're finished. 

12. Hope: Too many folks live in fear. We fear each other. We fear the "other." We fear ourselves. This is why too many people arm themselves with weapons instead of words. But, I trust the people around me. I know that we can do something greater than what we've been given. This is not a good time in our world, but I have hope that we will work towards equality and compassion. 

If you've made it this far, congratulations. I am proud of you, kid. 2015 has been a big year. I can't wait to see the sunrise on January 1st, 2016. I will greet whatever comes at me with the strength, perseverance, and determination that I have learned these past 362 days.

Have peace, friends.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

So, there's a new colossus in town

Margaret Atwood shares, "I think hope is among a number of things that are part of the human tool kit" (Finn, "An Interview with Margaret Atwood, Slate, 2015). I would like us to unpack some recent US political moves in response to the attacks in Paris and Beirut  with hope--hope that we talk to each other, not at; hope that we listen, not craft our next argument; and hope that we can live up to the United States we once were. We used to be a place where the weary found rest and the searching found home. 

Emblazoned on a bronze plaque, Emma Lazarus' The New Colossus introduces tourists to the Statue of Liberty and the United States, herself. Just, check it out, and we'll take a look at it together (less in depth than the close-reading I did of it in junior year university, but worthwhile nonetheless). 

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, 
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame. 
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor, 
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, 
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, 
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Now, I am not so naive to think that everyone just read all that poetry mumbo jumbo, so here are the parts I want to talk about. 

Lazarus refers to the Statue of Liberty as the "Mother of Exiles" (6). We've all been exiled from somewhere, whether it was the lunch table of cool kids or, you know, a war torn country. The United States, all fifty of them, were meant to be the mother of these people. We are meant to hold them when they're sick, comfort them when they wake from night mares, and love them. (For the record, fathers should do all of these things, too. Side tangent.) 

In the next six lines, Lady Liberty directly addresses the world. I would urge these 28 governors, my very favourite Scott Walker among them, to listen up. The New Colossus cries, "Give me your tired, your poor, / your huddled masses yearning to breathe free" (10-11). She urges world leaders to send her the people their country has neglected. She does not want those of "storied pomp[;]" (9) she wants those who struggle towards freedom with everything they have left. American civilians, we don't get it. We haven't lived through war. We haven't had fighting on US soil since the Civil War, since the time when flying machines were held together with Scotch tape and a prayer and aeroplanes with bombs were absurd. We have no idea what it is like to live in a place with black out curtains or constant every day shelling. Lady Liberty had it right. The inscription ends with a notion of home--something the refugees desperately need. She commands the world to "send...the homeless, tempest-tost to me, / I lift my lamp beside the golden door." This is the 1800s version of leaving the light on for someone. We used to be a safe house, a refuge.

Today, today, some states are, *illegally* mind you, saying, "Nah, brah. Not into it." Someone earlier this morning so eloquently stated, "There are only two reasons for Walker to respond like this. One, he is ignorant and racist. Or, two, he has to recognise that his plan to create more jobs failed, and he doesn't want these refugees taking our jobs." And, I get it. America is hurting for jobs, but we must provide asylum for these people. I am so disheartened that the governor of Wisconsin has tried to close its doors to people in need. It is a really backwards move for a state whose motto is "Forward." He says in a press release on 16 November 2015, "There may be those who will try to take advantage of the generosity of our country and the ability to move freely within our borders." And, while he may not be wrong, is that really the most prevalent end to our means? I think the good we can do far out weighs his fear. And, I do agree that we must "safeguard the security of Americans," but I think that we need to do this all the time, not just as a knee-jerk reactionary statement based in fear. The refugees are not the enemy. 

So, what, Wisconsin, what are you afraid of? Please tell me. I need an answer, because this this is not the Badger State in which I grew up. This is not a place of Midwest Nice. This is not my home. Get it together, Wisconsin. You're embarrassing yourself. 


Thursday, November 5, 2015

So, it has been a year

and like seven days, but I have been thinking about writing this for about a week. So, that counts, right? Whatever, you don't tell me how to live my life. (Unless you're my mother, then you can totally tell me how to live my life. hashtag HiMom)

It has been a year since my last anxiety attack. I have told two very important people to me about this milestone, and both of them responded with a confused congratulations. Congratulations because that is a big effing feat. And, confused because they didn't even know I have an anxiety disorder.

So, I am here to out myself, I guess. I have had anxiety for a long time, and I have worked really hard in the past several years to be a healthier person. I don't always feel like my best self, but I wake up every day with that as a goal. And, for right now, that is enough. 

When I was a child, I was not able to control how I felt about anything. I felt everything, or I felt nothing. I spent hours awake at night telling stories to myself because I couldn't fall asleep. My stories would be about my day usually with some fantastic elements in there--my dragon second grade teacher or my lion best friend. These stories were my emotional processing tools. I needed them because I didn't have the capacity to process things in real time. So, at the end of the day, I had all of these things that happened and all of these emotions, and I didn't know how to feel them both at the same time. This storytelling activity continued for all of my adolescence and most of my young adulthood. It helped me sort out what I was feeling and when I was feeling it. The why was always illusive, though.  

As I am learning to process things more immediately, I catch myself being emotional at inappropriate times, and I don't really know what to do with it. I also don't really know how to pull myself together after any change from the norm. But, I am working on it. Baby steps, I suppose. 

After I told one person about my anxiety-attack free anniversary, she asked me what would set them off. And, I had never really thought about it truthfully. I wanted to lie to myself because I was/am ashamed of it. In my brain, I had never wanted to own up to my part in whatever was happening. But, this person has a way of calling me on my bullshit, and I didn't want to lie to her. 

So, I thought about it. My anxiety manifests itself in feelings of disappointment. Not when others are actually disappointed in me (that is guilt, not anxiety), but when I perceive others' disappointment. Or, it crushes when I think people depend on me for x, y, or z, and I feel like I cannot give hir my full attention. Or, sometimes my anxiety swoops in on the wings of emotional distress, and I stop breathing--scared, sad, and, usually, frustrated.

My road to mental and emotional health have been paved with friends made of gold--women and men who've taught me things like limits, true heroism, and there is always time to dance. I have learned to set realistic goals for myself. I have learned that I can't be everything for everybody. And, I have learned that it is not selfish to say, "No." 

I don't really know what I am trying to do with this post. Or, if I am trying to prove anything. I don't want pity. I guess, I want to give a face to some kinds of mental health. That people you know and love are not always what society deems "normal." That word "normal" in and of itself is absurd. I guess, I wanted to be a little more real with myself, to be vulnerable. I wanted to take a moment of sonder: the realisation that everyone is living a life equally as vivid and complex as my own (dictionary of obscure sorrows). 

And, that, my friends, is enough. 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

So, what if gaining access to firearms and abortions was the same?

Now, before anyone vilifies me, please know that this is neither a pro- nor anti-abortion message. This is a critique of gun control, or lack there of.

So, let's set up a scene in which I want to procure a firearm, but I must jump through the hoops of a woman in Wisconsin who wants to obtain an abortion.

I realise that I need a firearm. It has been less than 20 weeks since I've felt threatened, so I am in the clear there. In Wisconsin, there are only four stores that sell firearms. One is in Madison (south central). One is in Appleton (north-ish east). And, two are in Milwaukee (south east). I don't live in any of these cities, so I have to find transportation to them. On Highway 100, I notice a bunch of people on the side of the road with signs depicting grotesque images of bullet ridden bodies--massacres, suicides, mercy killings. All of them read, "Guns Kill Children" or "Your mother chose not to have a gun." I'm uneasy about it, but I know that for my own protection, I need to have a gun. I have my reasons for needing a gun, and these people cannot possibly imagine what it is like to make this decision. I continue into the city.

When, I get to the store, I am warmly greeted by the shop keeper. I look around, and there are so many other things I can buy. But, I came here for a firearm. As I walk into a private alcove, the shop keeper comes over and asks me what she can help me with. I tell her directly that I need a firearm. I may go into explaining why. I may not.

By law, she tells me, I have to go see a state-directed counselor. In this meeting, she warns, I will most likely be shown pictures and messages about how guns are sometimes used to kill things--people or animals. 

I find the counselor, and he warns me of my firearm's potential. If I am not careful, my child could stumble upon my gun and think it is a toy and shoot themselves or someone else. I need to be cautious. This is one of the most important decisions of my life, and will effect everything that I do for the rest of it. It affects me, of course. But, it also affects every one who will come in contact with it. I am solely responsible for this firearm.

I thank my counselor for speaking with me, but I really, really need a firearm. I, now, have to wait twenty four hours from this moment before I can purchase a firearm. I live close to the city, so I go back home and wait. I think about my firearm--how it will be both terrifying and a relief to have or even terrifying and awful to have. Everyone needs firearms for different reasons.

The following day, I have to travel back to the store. My hands are a little sweaty. "Okay," I say to the shop keeper. "I am ready for my firearm." I choose one that is suitable for what I need. "That one.  I...I want that one."

"Okay," she says. She takes it down from the wall and takes a picture of it. She uses a red felt tipped pen to explain to me all of the different parts of my gun. "This is a safety--it prevents an accidental discharge. Oh, and this is the barrel. This is where the bullet comes out. And, this...this right here, this is the trigger. This is what you pull to fire it."

"I would like my firearm now," I say.

"Okay," says the woman.

My insurance won't cover me for purchasing this firearm, unless it is for a reason they deem appropriate. And, public funding only covers people who need firearms for specific purposes, like hunting or living on a farm. Unsurprisingly, my reason does not fall under these categories. I pay for my firearm because regardless of what my insurance company says, this gun is necessary for my emotional or physical well-being. I leave the store feeling like I've won a battle in a losing war.

Now, when people hear about my firearm they have all kinds of reactions. People shame me or empower me for it--often without listening to anything else I have to say on the matter. It will always be a part of who I am, but I am certainly not defined by it.

End scene.
(Restrictions on Abortion, State Facts about Abortion: Wisconsin)

Could you imagine if law makers put their heads together long enough to police fire arms the same way in which they police women's bodies? If a gun owner had to go to a psychologist to discuss why he or she wanted a gun? And, the reason had to fall under a specific category or else you can't have one? Handguns have specifically one purpose: to kill humans. And, there is absolutely no need that a civilian, or even police forces, need automatic or semi-automatic weapons. Hunting rifles are difficult to conceal and can be locked away in armories when it isn't hunting season. It is ridiculous that people are clinging to the 230 year old 2nd Amendment "right to bear arms."  The Constitution had some pretty abhorrent original text. We can change the amendments. Amend is literally in the name (adapted from Jim Jefferies).

Mass murder in the United States has become common place, routine. Wake up, America. You're embarrassing yourself.

Friday, September 25, 2015

So, kids corner is huge today

Kids' corner is so huge today, it may need to change to kids' wall...or maybe even classroom. 

We'll start with some fun stuff. 

Today, while studying frequency of actions, we were reviewing the key expressions: How often do you wash your hands. Let the record show, Jimmy is one of my favourites, and we tease each other sometimes--with the understanding that there is a time and place for teasing.

Kathryn: Grace, how often do you wash your hands?
Grace: Four or five times a day. 
Jimmy: Alright, well, Kathryn. How often do you wash your face (said in the same way people say 'your mom' jokes)?
Jimmy: Ah, that it is a real question, isn't it. Darn it. 
Kathryn: Your face is a real question. 
Jimmy: Ah, I can never win. 
Kathryn: It is true. The deck is stacked against you.
Jimmy: Your face is stacked against you. 
Kathryn: (Uncontrollable giggles with the inability to explain exactly how perfect his response was.)

Today, again, we were making a "How often do you _____?" graph. They has to write, "Once a day, twice a day, three times a day," etc on the X axis of their graph. 

Kevin: I'm going to use thrice instead of three times. I am not a common person.
Kathryn: Okay. 
Kevin: I will only use fancy words for this graph. What comes after thrice, Kathryn?
Kathryn: I don't think anything comes after thrice.
Kevin: It can't just stop. I know five is penta times, what is four?
Kathryn: I don't know. 
Kevin: How do you not know? You studied words in University?!
Kathryn: I don't think there is a word, and I am not sure penta is correct in this context. 
Kevin: I'm gonna use ultra. Ultra should mean four.
Kathryn: Ummm, why?
Kevin: I don't know. I just think so. 
Kathryn: Okay, buddy, you do you.

In my after school class of first graders, we talked about jobs. And, this is what happened:

Kathryn: Please listen. I will say a job. You will do an action and say the job. The job and action will match. Do you understand?

Class: Yessssssssssss teeeeeaaaachaaaa. 
Kathryn: Okay. Here we go, "I'm a pilot."
Class: (makes airplane arms) PILOT.
Kathryn: Good, good. "I'm a dancer."
Tiana: Ballet okay?
Kathryn: Ballet is okay. 
Class: (exaggerated dance move) DAAAAAANNNNCER
Kathryn: Good. "I'm a nurse."
Class: (...)
Tiana: (feet shoulder width apart in an athletic stance...left hand in front of her as if she were holding a person still, right hand two huge spanks, and pushes a shot down to the ground.) Nurse, teacher. Shot in bottom. 
Kathryn:'re absolutely right, Tiana. Good job. 

I usually have ten minutes in between classes. My students often come up and talk to me. We span many kinds of conversation, and on Wednesday my 6th grade student Daniel approached me very shyly, which is quite out of character.

Kathryn: Daniel, are you okay?
Daniel: Yes. But, I am a little nervous.
Kathryn: Why?
Daniel: I need to question you. 
Kathryn: Okay.
Daniel: Ummm,  so you know some people have a brown face. 
Kathryn: Yes. 
Daniel: Is it okay for me to say, "What's up, my [n-word]?"
Kathryn: No, it is not. 
Daniel: Why?
Kathryn: Well, some people use that word in a very bad way. A long time ago in the United States, some white people were very bad to black people.
Daniel: Like, the slave?
Kathryn: Yes. And, even though the United States does not have slaves now, white people and black people are not equal. So, when people who are not black use that word, it pushes the power space between white people and black people farther apart. 
Daniel: Okay, I understand. But, why do some black people use it if it is bad?
Kathryn: Some people think that using it in a positive way takes away the bad part. So, they want to use it for positive power instead of negative power. 
Daniel: Do you believe?
Kathryn: No, I don't. Where did you hear that phrase?
Daniel: Oh, my academy teacher say it every day to class. 
Kathryn: I...what? Are you kidding? Is he or she a black person?
Daniel: No, I not kidding. He is more white than you. Kathryn, I just wanted to question you because you never say it. I will never say, too. 
Kathryn: Okay, Daniel. That is a good plan. 
Bell rings.

This is the one that I get hung up on. I mean, how, how can you teach children these things? These kids aren't dolls. They're not play things. They listen and repeat everything you say. It isn't funny or clever to teach students to say racial slurs because they don't understand exactly what they're saying. These kids know racism; it isn't a foreign concept. Check yourself, academy teacher. You have been given the chance to change kids lives. And, you're going to squander it because you're an immature douche canoe? 

I get it. Not everyone trains to be a teacher. Not everyone is invested in the long term success of their students. But, please, recognise that you, as a teacher, are in a position of power and shape students perceptions and thoughts. Take care of them. Teach them absurd catch phrases worth knowing and never at the expense of another person. This is just common sense. 

To end on a happy note:

Kelly walked into class two days ago with gauze wrapping her hand. I asked her what she did. She replied with something totally normal. I said, "Next time think of something creative just for fun." So, today, her gauze was still there.

Kathryn: Ahh, hey Kel! What did you do?
Kelly: Punched a shark. Then, Tom. 
Kathryn: Why did you punch Tom?
Kelly: Because Voldemort. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

So, I went around the sun

Mid-spring this past year, I honestly had a moment in which I forgot how old I was. A combination of Korean age systems and not really knowing what day of the week it is, I lost track of the time I'd been gone. There are days when I feel like my reckless 18 year old self (which, lesbiehonest, not that reckless). But, also days I feel as old as Grandmother Willow. I never quite feel my actual age. 

People so often quip, "Age is just a number. Mmmmm, be a dear and pass the wine. Pinkies up." Okay, so, maybe just the first part. But, still. Age and the perception of it are slippery concepts. They shift based on what you're feeling and with whom you keep company. Not literally, of course, that's ridiculous. But, Sandra Cisneros wrote an excellent description of this concept in her short story "Eleven." 

I have learned a lot in my time on this earth. I also have a lot of room to grow. so I am going to make a list of 28 things on being 28. Hopefully, it will be a good mix of things I know and things I'm silly for thinking. Let's take this ride together. All aboard!

1. Confidence is sexy. Over-confidence is douche-y. The line between the two is very thin, and once you've crossed, there is a HUGE learning curve that you have to go up, then down, and when you approach that line again, hopefully you've learned something. 

2. Both coffee and wine are best in big pours. Both stain your shirt when you inevitably spill them. 

3. Carry a Tide stick--even when you don't think you need it. Because you will. You always will.

4. If you learn to fold a fitted sheet, you will impress all of your friends and potential partners. 

5. Learn to say no. Learn to  make sure your no is respected. Respect other people's no.

6. Take time for yourself. It is not selfish. It is necessary for processing. Everyone needs different amounts. Realise where your limit is, and respect it. 

7. Being kind is often more important than being right. I mean, don't, like, walk around saying, "2+2=5. Come on in for a big bear hug, ya old schmoob." But, in arguments and debates, sometimes it is okay to back down to preserve integrity. 

8. Luck is a real thing. So is hard work. They go together like ramalamalamakadingadadingdadong

9. Learn a second language. 

10. Read global news. Find media outlets that are not biased. Base your opinions on fact not propaganda. It is important to know things that happen outside of your community. There is an entire world out there that we've not explored. Why are we content reading about the county dog fair and the police blotter that reads "hooligans hooliganning in the new hooligan spot"? Don't be that guy who knows nothing about the world around him. 

11. The weirdest part of the body is the skin on the elbow. Not only for it's funny name, but really, it feels like elephant knees.

12, Being an adult means not eating the pretzels at the bar. It only makes you more thirsty. It's a trap. 

13. Every once in a while, you should stop everything you're doing, look around you, and appreciate that you're the only person in the universe existing in that exact space at that exact time. 

14. If you don't like being tickled, you need to tell partners immediately. If their first reaction to this news is to tickle you, leave. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. (Okay, a little extreme, but who does that? Ass hats, that's who.)

15. The invention of facebook has completely restructured my wasting time strategies. I used to be so efficient because there was nothing else to do but the work I had to, so I did it. I spent my free time mapping out fire escape routes from every conceivable place in my childhood home. I was terrified. Now, I don't even have an escape ladder. I still have a go bag. It still has my beanie babies in it. So, obviously, the important things are taken care of. 

16. Find something about which you're passionate. 

17. Work so you can make money to follow your passion. If your passion and work end of coinciding, that's better. If you find work using your passion, that is the best. 

18. Have a meaningful "Get to know you" question. One that makes a person think before they respond. You can derive a lot more from knowing someone's zombie apocalypse plan than their favourite colour.

19. Unexpectedly catching someone taking a selfie is probably one of the best feelings ever. Another good one is being caught taking a selfie. 

20. Everyone looks good in hats. Some people wear them confidently; some people do not. THAT is the difference between hat people and non-hat people. 

21. While hiking one morning, my friend and I discussed the nature of greater powers. And, she suggested, "What if the Earth was some kind of atom in a molecule of a giant being?" That really got me. I mean, I can't even conceive the universe, nor can I imagine what it looks like. It could literally be anything. 

22. Sometimes, I feel silly when I need external validation. I feel like I should be fine with *knowing* that I did a good job. But, sometimes it is important to share with someone you trust your achievements. It's okay to want to hear, "Hey, I'm proud of you. That was awesome, and you should be proud of it, too."

23. I also feel silly when I ask for help. I feel like I am needy and that my problems are-- for all intents and purposes--rather mild. And, I don't want to trouble people with them. This, my friends, is *actually* silly. Stop kidding yourself. Ask for help. It is often one of the bravest things you can do. 

24. I no longer feel silly when I make mistakes. Sometimes, I feel frustrated, but embarrassment, anger, and frustration do not change the fact that I  made a mistake. I can take what I have learned and grow from it. 

25. It takes so much more energy to be negative than it does to be positive. Well, that maybe isn't true. BUT, negativity often breeds more negativity, which leads to a big giant cluster of awful. Try to manoeuvre  your perspective in a way that allows positive emotions to trickle into it. 

26. After about the twelfth Korean rice cake, you become an expert at finding a better home for them than the mountain on your desk. 

27. Listen to the rain. It has as much of a story to tell as I do. 

28. In big life decisions (where to go next, what to study, what to do), there is no such thing as a right or a wrong decision. It is the decision you make. And, because you made it, you need to live it fully and without reservations. By doing so, it becomes the right decision. Of course, it is always fun to think about the"What ifs?" But, do so with the same whimsy as you would a pipe dream.  

So, there you have it folks. 28 things I've learned from being 28. Let's see where the next twelve months takes us.

--Kat(i)e Bots

Monday, August 31, 2015

So, monarchs are a-holes and other things I learned while visiting home

When I say, "monarchs are a-holes," I am 100% referring to the butterfly. I have no idea whether monarchs of the royal variety are a-holes. Although, I would assume that some of them are the same way some of any group of people are along the spectrum of a-holery.  

Anyway, whilst home, I learned that monarch butterflies hang out most around milkweed, thistles, and other kinds of weeds. Seriously bro, why you gotta be that guy? I am not a gardener nor do I know anything about botany, but I do know that if I were to ever have a garden, I definitely don't want weeds all up in there. But, if I want my garden to be a safe haven for North America's most known butterfly, I'd have to let my garden be overrun with weeds *intentionally*. This is a true Sophie's choice, my friend. And, I do not have time for that nonsense. 

I also learned that I can wear my clothes, get them all sorts of dirty, wash them, dry them, AND WEAR THEM AGAIN all within a span of four hours. How crazy is that? 

I realised that when I grow older, other people do, too. I have this absurd idea in my head that my Waukesha home and life is sort of preserved in a snow globe. And, I forget that everyone continues to do stuff regardless of my being there or not. I forget that children, especially, grow quickly. I had an aching reminder of this as I said goodbye to my niece. I know that I will never hold her again while she is a baby. And that, well, that was a really difficult thing with which to come to terms. To be honest, I still really haven't. I also realised that the next time I go home, both of my best friend's children will be talking, scrambling around, and remembering more and more. And, I want to make sure that I stay present in their lives as much as I can. I want them to know how much I love them. I want them to know that I think of them everyday. I want them to know that as they grow up, Auntie Ryn is always in their corner despite being 22,000 miles away. 

I also learned that some things do not change over time. My mom still kicked butt in most of the card games. She and I were pretty even in Scrabble (although, I pulled out a W in the end--quite shocking to both of us). My sister and I are still 3 for 3 at saying the exact same thing at the exact same time with the exact same tone. My dad still plays tricks on me, and I still fall for them. Every time. 

While home, though, I struggled with the unknown. I mean, that has never been my strong suit anyway. I like having answers, even if I don't agree with them. But, as I responded to the same question over and over again ("So, what's next for you? Will you stay in Korea?"), I started feeling sheepish with the fact that I have no idea what my future holds. I have several paths I'd like to follow, but those could change so so quickly. In six months, my life will be drastically different from what it is now, and that is terrifying. I wish I could find excitement and joy in the vast space of possibility. I wish I could "adventure on" and let things happen organically. I am way too much of an anal retentive control freak to let things work themselves out. I am my own catalyst for change, yet paralysed by indecision. So, that's where I am. I am not sure I am willing to tackle this particular demon yet, but at least I know he's there. Perhaps I'll invite him to tea. He can sit between Anxiety and Self-Doubt. I've worked with those two for a while, so maybe they can help him feel comfortable in my brain space. They'll be bosom buddies in no time, I'm sure. 

My time home was exactly what I needed. I learned that neither time nor space stops things family or friendships. And, if I took nothing else from WI, I took a killer Teva tan. So, there's that. 


Sunday, August 9, 2015

So, I come from a long line of musicians

I never realised how important growing up in a musical family was for me. In Korea, I noraebahng, play around on a ukulele, and sing a wee bit on the ultimate field to get everyone's spirits up. But, I don't really have a specific time dedicated to making music or experiencing it. But, in the 24 hours that I've been home, music has been everywhere, and everything seems right again.

My family unit, always evolving, has once again shown me that home is about people not places--making memories. Finding peace. As we sat around the living room, Sarah played the piano, and we all sang Ben Folds with Penelope changing dance partners like it was a Virginia Reel. Then, Sarah played our special song, and together we sang, cried, and leaned into one another like we did so long ago.

Then, this morning at Mass, the hymns were all oldies but goodies. And, even though I am no longer Roman Catholic, I will admit that their hymns are top notch. We sang a very familiar song for the "preparation of the gifts." And, together, we announced our parts in harried whispers in the pew and rocked that hymn with a solid SATB harmony (plus P's enthusiastic warbling understood only by other babies and God). If we were in a noraebahng (Korean singing room), we would have gotten a 100%, no question.

Of course, church isn't about SATB harmonies, but there is a sense of peace that comes from knowing that despite time and distance, there's something distinctly familiar about raising our voices, making music, and feeling at home.

Friday, July 24, 2015

So, America needs to wake up

I usually don't use strong, angry language. Nor, do I often tackle divisive issues. This isn't the place to talk about politics, religion, or when I am getting married. This is a place where I think thoughts, write them down, and sometimes spell them correctly. But, today, I can't. I can't do any of that. 

America needs to wake the fuck up.  We are the only country who has mass shootings so often that when it comes onto my newsfeed, my calloused heart has no more tears of sadness. Just rage. We are literally the only country who refuses to take a stand on gun control, racial profiling, anything else moderately difficult to swallow. The first time I wrote a poem about guns, I was angry and sad and hurting. I was shocked that a human could walk into an elementary school and kill children while our government hemmed and hawed and murmured, "What an awful tragedy this is. Let's try and change something about how people can procure weapons....Oh, no? No, we can't do that? Okay. Let's just wait until the next one. Maybe then it will be enough." (Obviously, I am paraphrasing. I realise that everyone was heartbroken. But, really, how many times can our hearts break before it stops beating?)

Then, after the shootings in South Carolina clearly, CLEARLY fueled by racism and could have been prevented if one person among many had stood up to this guy and said, "Hey, Dyl, maybe killing people isn't the best way to showcase your bigotry. It just seems a bit final, don't you think?" So, after that shooting, I wrote another poem a bit more caustic, tongue in cheek. Righteous anger didn't work, so maybe some levity to a too familiar topic might reach the people who need to hear it. But, since I am a small time soap box stander in Busan, South Korea, the probability of someone who can actually do something about it to hear and give a damn is very slim. 

I don't have the answers. Well, I do have an answer. Maybe, talk to Australia about their gun regulations. Or, dismantle the insane presence of the NRA. Yes, we have the right to bear arms. But, we also have the right to walk into school without going through a metal detector first, or sit in a house  of worship or a movie theatre without the fear that the guy next to me might think that this is the only way to achieve something. Basically, we need to find a way to make some real progress, NRA notithstanding. Because, this shit is not cutting it.  

So,  here are my poems. Like them, or don't like them. I don't really care. That's not true. I care a lot. But, hopefully they can reach someone who is in the position to do something about it.

When (Audio File Here)

When I was in university and
Thought of the kind of teacher I would
Be, I thought
Desk jumping Dead Poet’s Society
I thought
Akilah and the Bee
I thought
Life lessons from Feeny.

But, now I read newspapers with words like:
Shattered, Why? Agony, Why?, Massacre, Why? Senseless, Why? Unspeakable Why?
Why? Why? Why?

And, I think to myself, in the shadowed place where
private thoughts go to war,
would I
hide behind the door?
Would I
Pin him to the floor?
Would I
Plead with him for more

Mercy (1) for your childhood
Bullies and break ups riddle your motives
It doesn’t get better, but it does get easier.
A cold shoulder doesn’t deserve a shotgun.
Breathe, son. Start penning poems ‘cuz
Ink stains less than blood

Mercy (2) for your masculinity
Man up does not mean you can’t hurt.
Man hood does not mean dominance.
Be a man does not mean show anger instead of sadness
We’ve indoctrinated you with antiquated ideals and we’re
surprised when you achieve them.
It’s okay to be weak.
A cry for help sounds braver than a bullet.

Mercy (3) for the lives you take
These children are
Brothers and sons
Sisters and daughters
They’re not numbers on a tally sheet
--though the name list grows longer—
Crossing t’s and dotting i’s,
You sign their names in their own blood.
You conclude your addition with your own

Mercy (4) suicide
You kill yourself because there’s no other way to deal with your pain, your hatred, your guilt.

And, what does that shot taste like?
Hope that is all goes away?
Faith that it fades into nothing?
Fear that it doesn’t?
Does it look like revenge?
Does it echo of your own cries?
Does it smell like peace?
Does it feel finished?

When will it be enough, America?
When children play “lockdown” like hide and go seek?
When teachers wield guns as easily as chalk?
When sad little boys squeeze triggers like teddy bears thinking, “Tomorrow will be
better. Tomorrow will be better.”

Or, is it when tomorrow never comes?

Unspeakable (Audio file Here)

Loner. Check. Well-liked. Check. Isolated. Check.
Don’t mind me; I’m just playing “White Shooter Media Coverage” BINGO.
Tragedy, oh, there’s another one.
Unspeakable. Bingo.

There it is, the word on everyone’s tongue.
How can this happen?  They say. It’s unthinkable.

Let’s just play a quick English vocab game: always, usually, sometimes, never.
White shooters are always troubled.
White shooters usually procure their weapons legally.
White shooters sometimes target their victims.
White shooters rarely apologise.

If that boy was any browner than wonderbread,
    or the victims a little more WASPish--
this would be terrorism, and the nation would be readying their
tar and their feathers.

Speak the fuck up, America.
There is a tiny window of time between
mourning the deceased and not dwelling on the past.
It’s just enough to say, “Hey, wait a minute.”
Then, it’s gone.

Now is the time for prayer.
Now is the time for speech.
Now is the time for action.
Now is the time for all of that, because

Now is the fucking time.