Be My Blue Valentine

April 1, 2011

I watched my first movie in over a year on my computer while Mishy slept. It was Blue Valentine, which stars Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling. It made me cry and appreciate my family more. There have been many times as new parents when one of us were so overwhelmed and wanted to leave – to run away – to call it quits. Yet, we made it work. We worked at it and still do. Everyday. It’s not easy becoming parents. It not easy being married. At least it isn’t for me. I used to dream of having a cabin in the woods with a big dog as my companion. That was a dream I had in my early twenties, right before I met my husband.

A few months before meeting him, I visited my grandfather on my father’s side for the last time in Korea. (He passed away soon afterwards.) He told me I had to go to New York and to watch out for the men there. I was deciding whether to move to Vancouver to continue being an actor and playwright where I had friends and a high-powered agent very eager to have me as a client or to go to New York to intern at a small not for profit theatre company. My grandfather told my sisters to talk me into going to New York because I will meet my husband there. My grandfather dabbled in Eastern Astrology. That was how he sought reassurance with his family living in Canada. When I re-connected with him for the first time since our immigration, seventeen years later, he seemed to know things I didn’t have to say to him.

When I met my husband, I knew he liked me. He looked at me shyly and sort of nodded. When he started asking me questions, I felt he was going down a list and checking it off. I fit his criteria. I was from Canada. He’s from Montreal. I was young enough and yet experienced a life he found interesting – I had run away from home, was independent, was a published and produced playwright at theatre companies he wanted to be produced at, and an actor who made a living. He didn’t fit my criteria though because he came off as a nice guy who wanted something serious and I really wanted to have fun and be superficial. I was living in New York! He was also balding. I told you, I was superficial.

On the last day in New York, after I finished my internship, I gave my then friend a present – a shower curtain with many goldfish on it. I left it at the theatre where he was having a musical being performed and didn’t leave a card inside. He knew it was from me because we had walked by a store which highlighted the shower curtain in its window and he remarked how he liked it. When he saw the present, he told me he was really confused because why would a friend give him a present? His director told me, “She loves your ass.” Thinking about it now, I gave him a present because it was me being me. I like giving presents.

When his director said, “She loves your ass,” it emboldened him and when I dropped by the theatre later that night, he was cool to me, which made me start being interested in him. Funny how love works. One month later, we were engaged. Six months after that, we got re-engaged. My husband had asked me the first time to marry him when he thought I was breaking up with him. I was asking him for clarification on our relationship. He panicked and asked me to marry him instead. We agreed to do a do-over or a take two in film speak within six months. I set the limit of six months. Six months to the day, he asked me to marry him again. A year and a half later, we got married. People still talk about the food at our wedding because that was very important to me. Well, it still is. I like good food. We’ve been together for a long time. I used to tell him he took away my youth.

Seven and a half years after we got married, I got pregnant. And Mishy entered our lives. I find it hugely challenging being a wife and mother. I love being a mother. Sometimes I feel, like the character Michelle Williams portrays in the movie, that I am raising two children. I love how my husband is incredibly playful with Mishy. Tonight at dinner, we were eating at a restaurant and Mishy was putting her hands in his ice water. She then put her cold hands on his head. He didn’t like that so he put a piece of ice down her back. He used to do that with his cousins. She didn’t like that and cried and right when she cried, the waitress wanted our order – and my husband ordered while our daughter cried in my arms. On the way home, I asked if we could laugh, just laugh because I need to laugh whenever I get stressed. Laugh and breath. On the car ride home, my husband told our daughter he was playing and asked if he still could put ice down her back and she said not now, maybe when she’s older, but now, she doesn’t like it.

While my marriage is not like the character’s in the movie, I relate to their struggle of being parents and partners and how the early years were filled with so much new tingling kind of love and promise of the future. Now, it’s, well, not comfortable, certainly not comfortable – maybe dependable. I know he’s going to come home. Maybe that’s enough right now. I know he loves us and cares for us and wants us in his life and is willing to work at it. We both are. And we’ll be creating our future together. With our daughter.

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When Is A RSVP A RSVP?

March 24, 2011

I organize outings. Before my daughter was born, I didn’t organize outings for others. I was busy focused on my career or watching television. Just before my daughter came into this world, community became extremely important to me and we moved into a place where we no longer had free cable. Once my daughter was born, I wanted to be surrounded by as many parents as possible to share our experiences as new parents. I started a yahoo group – Natural Parenting LA – so we could have playdates and discussions on certain parental philosophies and as part of the yahoo group, I started organizing outings – nature walks by Children’s Nature Institute, animal rescue visits to The Gentle Barn, a whale watching excursion that my daughter slept in on the day so we missed, but later joined another group to see dolphins and whales. I enjoyed getting thank yous and meeting more moms whom I felt I didn’t need to explain why I’ve chosen to parent the way I parent – Attachment Parenting – and just commiserate about this new and slightly ill fitting identity we had taken on as parents.

This past week, I have been busy organizing three Matzah Factory tours – it’s almost Passover – a whale watching trip, two animal rescue visits, and three horseback riding classes. These outings have attracted over 350 people and I haven’t even begun to post about the field trips to the animal rescues. Clearly, my daughter and I will not be attending all of them. So why am I on this organizing frenzy? Because people have asked and I’m beginning to realize there is a huge need inside me to please. Yes, I am a people pleaser. Terrible. Terrible. I might as well be a dog panting by your leg even after you’ve kicked me. I feel that way sometimes – especially after I get emails which challenges my need to be so accommodating.

The first series of emails was from a homeschooling mother who first asked me what happens if the tour is cancelled – it won’t be – and if she doesn’t show up, who keeps her money – the factory – and then wanted to find out when it was the last day possible to send me a check just in case she wants to cancel her participation in the outing. I told her I didn’t know when the last day is because the tour was filling up fast. She wrote me back wanting to know the numbers of the tour and to see if she could send me a money order. As anyone who has read ads on Craigslist knows – do not accept a money order. Luckily, the tour did fill up before I had a chance to respond to her last request. I just wrote back to her letting her know it’s full, overly full. Maybe not the bravest thing to do but certainly honest and polite.

Another series of challenging emails was from a mother who said she hadn’t RSVPed before because in her eyes when she wrote me last with the number in her party, that wasn’t a RSVP. It’s only when she sends a check to me that it becomes a RSVP. I know when you make a reservation at a restaurant, you don’t send them a check to make a reservation. Yet, airlines consistently overbook flights knowing people tend to cancel or not show up. Do I need to start overly booking my field trips? Do I need to start thinking of written RSVPs as passe and only hard cash makes it a real RSVP? When do I start trusting someone’s words?

The thing that challenges me the most is – where’s the appreciation? Especially by other mothers who know we get very little appreciation in society. I get thank yous but then I also get more requests to make other people’s lives easier. Do I need to start thinking about me and only me – well, only me, my daughter, my husband and our cat? Or just start adding names of people I do not want on any of my outings on a list because they bug me? I’m half joking… What happened to the community I was looking for or is this it and I’ve come to realize I don’t want to be a part of it because I don’t have the time to answer everyone’s emails? I’m half joking again…

(These challenging emails are the exception.) Maybe I just need to start setting limits with some of the parents in a way that is firm but kind…

I’ve been told this many times recently. My daughter is three years old and people, mostly strangers, who meet my daughter, feel it’s time for me to get pregnant again and bring into the world another child…

I loved being pregnant even if I had a high risk pregnancy. I had gestational diabetes and my daughter tested positive for down syndrome and other genetic diseases after the Triple Marker Test. We still chose not to do an amniocentesis because by then I was already six months along and we felt no matter what, we would have our child. Maybe it was scary to our family that we never had an amniocentesis – both my husband and I felt that our daughter was fine and she was. She came out at 6 lbs, 6 ounces and was 19 inches long. While I had the natural birth I wanted – no medication and also no tearing – I only pushed 5 times for 20 minutes, I certainly wasn’t ready for motherhood.

I wasn’t ready to nurse. Because I had only gained 18 lbs during my pregnancy and was underweight after giving birth, my milk did not immediately come in. I was on a very limited diet during my pregnancy because of my gestational diabetes. A slice of lemon spiked up my sugars so high that only an hour walk would lower it. Eventually, I had to take pills to regulate my insulin levels. Most of the early pictures of our daughter is with her mouth open, trying to find food. She was hungry and would cry because I wasn’t giving her enough nourishment. I quickly went on an eating frenzy to get myself full of healthy fats. I averaged eating 6 full meals, a lot of snacks, and 5 lbs bag of pistachios a day to put fat on my petit frame. My husband was shocked when I ate food off his plate instead of vis versa.

I don’t know if I am ready to prick my fingers 8 times a day to test my sugars. I don’t know if I am ready to go on daily doctors appointments and twice weekly hospital visits, which I had to in the last month of my pregnancy. I don’t know if I am ready to cry at the possibility of my child not being well because of my physical limitations. I loved being pregnant. It just wasn’t easy.

I loved watching my belly grow and for the first time in a long time, not care that I didn’t have a flat stomach – oh the release of vanity! I loved learning about how my daughter was the size of a kidney bean, and then a peanut, and then a small orange.  I loved feeling her kick and all the gymnastics that went on towards the last leg of my pregnancy. I loved talking to her and telling her all of my secret wishes for us. I loved her inside me and nurturing her as best I could. Other than the gestational diabetes and positive genetic diseases, my pregnancy was easy – I did get nauseous, not greatly. I did continue to run until I was seven months along and then walk and hike until I gave birth. I did continue to travel and see the world.

I also don’t know if I can be the mom I want to be with two children. I have a hard enough time focusing on my daughter and husband at the same time. I tend to focus on our daughter and he feels left out. I feel I would be spread too thin if I had another love in my life. I know our cat feels neglected by me. Luckily, our cat has a strong friendship with Mishy.

I do think about my daughter when she’s older. Will she be lonely later in life? Who will she talk to and complain about her crazy parents with? Who will she mourn with when we are gone?

You should have another one! I don’t know if I should. I don’t know if we will. I do know I enjoy being with my daughter and I feel blessed to have her in my life. That’s enough for me right now. And my husband? He’s okay with how things are right now. And our daughter? While she loves having her friends over, she is also very content when they go home.