I have so much to say it’s almost scary. Let’s start with a quick exercise. Sum up your life in one sentence. This is what my sentence would look like:
Each member of my family of four was born in a different country.
Of course it doesn’t really tell you anything about me – it’s just a quick summary of my past 30 years. Yes, I am now 30 years old. I am starting this blog as a tribute to all of the ways my life has diverged from its tracks in just 30 years. Many of you may see me as too young to know anything, some of you may even think I am too old to relate to, but I promise you once you start hearing about my life all of your apprehensions will melt away.
This blog is called “Citizens of Love.” It mainly refers to the fact that each member of my family of four was born in a different country ;-) But it also means so much more, and that will be revealed as we go on this journey together. This blog will center on my relationship with the love of my life – my husband, my heart, my strength. I will tell you how we met, how we fought to stay together as the world around us tried to keep us apart, and throughout this, I will weave in pieces of our history, and where we were at a particular time in our lives. We have ten years between us. It’s quite an age gap these days, but even more, we have further geographical distances between our pasts. I was born in Korea then immigrated to the U.S. with my family at the age of three. He was born in Beirut, Lebanon then went to medical school in Lyon, France. While he was getting his ear pierced as an act of freedom in France, I was learning how to ride a bicycle in my small suburban town in New Jersey.
We have been married for 9 years. And hopefully by our 10th Anniversary in April, you will be able to fully appreciate what it means to us. This may read like a fairy-tale love affair, and in many ways it is, but every word that I write will be the God’s Honest Truth.
Hoping to entertain, move, and inspire you,
P.S. Looking forward to reading your one sentence life summaries below in the comments section!
P.P.S. If you are new to this blog, go back to number 2 and and work your way up!
They caught him…
It’s lucky for him they didn’t kill him. He didn’t come out unscathed – yes he was battered and burned by cigarettes – but he was not beaten. He had a pack to back him up, but this time he was bringing in the big dogs… literally.
Yes he had a gang to come to his defense, but when they left him bloodied and bruised, he came back with his other, more ferocious gang: his three big German Shepherds, Max, Rex and Stella. He let them off their leashes and they ran through the streets as his assailants ran for their lives and clambered up trees or fences or walls, bewildered by their own sudden agility.
Satisfied, he called them back and returned them to their yard. People called him Max from then on and everyone knew not to mess with him.
I had a different tactic when it came to warding off bullies: utter silence. Not a big talker to begin with, when picked on for being different (as in Asian and not white like all the others; or not wearing clothes from Bloomingdales; or being chubbier than most of the girls in my class), I would fall into a complete silence. I wouldn’t cry or defend myself or sling insults back. I would just stay silent. Not to say all my classmates were stuck-up snobs… many came to my aid and would voice their objections on my behalf. I was the nice one, harmless, and there are people out their who can’t see the nice ones get picked on…
Freddy is one of those people. He saw me alone and vulnerable and wanted to protect me against the malicious people who would take serious advantage.
1. I was starting a new job in a new country … my home country, yes, but it had not been my home in four years…
2. I confessed I was five months pregnant… my new employer was so supportive, but to my great relief
3. I was adjusting to living in my childhood home, now as a mother… and my own mother (who does not live with us), had trouble with the concept of my autonomy… I was living out “King Lear”
4. I did not have health insurance… Never has the truth of the American Healthcare situation been so poignant as when it was compared to a country (Japan) that has such a great national healthcare system (oh no! I never talk about politics! sorry…)
5. I stopped writing… I no longer had the time or energy to poor my soul into my writing… a sad loss… hopefully one day I can get back into the swing of things… but small steps… I’ll try to check back here more often!
Thank you to all who have found me again!
Gangs are a part of human survival — our form of pack living that lets us hunt together and defend together. There are gangs in every aspect of human life – groups, teams, congregations… cliques… it can be both beneficial and ugly, but always present in some form or another.
So it is no wonder that Freddy was part of a gang growing up in Lebanon, where surviving meant more than just getting by, but living another day.
It was a lawless land, it still is in many ways. If someone died, he was a casualty of war. If someone disappeared, he was gone forever. No investigations, no interrogations, no consequences. In a civil war, the kid down the block was just as dangerous as the sniper on the roof, so traveling in packs was most definitely a key to survival.
And Fred with his big personality thrived in the gang mentality. He took charge, he made things happen, he kept people entertained… a natural leader. Sure he got into scuffles with the gang across the street, but he had people to back him up. He oozed confidence, even as he was being kicked in the stomach, because he knew he would shoot right back up with a punch to the jaw… and then they caught him alone…
I was always alone. I shied away from gangs, cliques, groups… I stayed by myself and never had the opportunity to build the confidence that is nurtured when you belong to a group. I was not a follower either… I strayed from the herd and did my own thing, not wanting to follow, but not wanting to lead. It surprises many who know me professionally that I could ever be timid. Now I tend always to naturally take the lead of projects or meetings. But back then, I enjoyed living in the shadows of the walls… unheard, unbothered, uncared for… I was always the nice one, the sweet one, the trustworthy one… But entirely forgettable… even through my college years I barely made a ripple.
What changed me? He did…
I’ve missed Citizens of Love! I’m so sorry to have neglected you for so long; I hope I haven’t lost you forever. But I do have something to show for my absence… my baby boy, Adam! Weighing in at a whopping 6 lbs 13 oz. and born on a snowy New York City Tuesday morning just before 8 o’clock.
So for those of you who think I was just twiddling my thumbs waiting around for Adam and ignoring my blog in favor of decorating the nursery, let me introduce you to a New York style labor… and just to dismiss in advance that I’m a workaholic fanatic, let me remind you that I voluntarily spent the last four years rambling in the countryside of Japan and had immediately rejected the comparisons of me to friends of friends who were truly workaholic-laboring-through-board-meeting types.
I started my new job in NY when I was already 5 months pregnant. Having hardly even had the time to shake off the last bits of jetlag from my return from Japan, was pretty much thrown into the life of a high-paced city career girl commuter. But I had a lot to prove.
Did I still have my A game after my dally in the country?
Would my experience in Japan really prove to be an asset?
Would my pregnancy hinder my performance, or even my dedication?
Would my new employer regret taking a chance on me?
With all these questions spinning around in my head, I did every thing I could to make sure no one else would ask those same questions about me. So I worked. I worked hard. I offered up the best asset I could offer — my ideas, thoughts, and strategies.
But my strategy left me in a quandary as I was fast approaching my due date… with a big research project to wrap up to culminate in an even bigger presentation to the client, I found myself working late nights and even bringing home work on the weekends. The recent snow storms put us behind and I was catching us up.
So on Monday night I was caught up in making the final adjustments to Tuesday’s presentation. I didn’t think much of the contractions that started in the late evening. I wrote them off as Braxton hicks false labor contractions which I have been having for weeks. But by the time 10:00 was rolling in my coworkers were getting nervous. In the office with me were two single twenty somethings who never hears about what a placenta was before they met me.
… to be continued
Even as a child I was the type of girl that kept to myself. Not to say that I necessarily liked being by myself, but rather I was too afraid of rejection to make the effort to initiate a friendship. I would rather be alone than risk having my feelings hurt. But I was very eager to be friendly when someone approached me.
So it came to be that I lived my life with a very small number of friends. I never fully outgrew this habit, and tend to stay to myself to this day.
When I met Fred, he awakened in me a confidence that I never knew existed. It wasn’t just the way he would tell me how beautiful I was, or how much he adored me, or even how proud he was of me for everything I did. No, it was mostly how he exuded confidence himself and somehow that confidence rubbed off onto me through our hours of constant physical contact :)
Fred is the type of guy who never let himself get pushed around. Growing up in Lebanon, though, it was hard not to get pushed around. It is very much a survival of the fittest type of society, and when you’re a short skinny dude with no connections, people tend to see you as a target.
Instead of letting his height bring him down, Fred built himself up with BIG personality. Anyone who underestimated him was undoubtedly either in awe or beaten to a pulp. Not to say I condone fighting, but defending oneself successfully is a very useful asset in Beirut, and in life.
So it may surprise the average onlooker find this atypically un-petite Korean girl paired with an atypically short Lebanese man… but boy if they only new the half of it!
He would have liked to go home under different circumstances. He would have liked to introduced his new family to his old family with a little bit more grace and class. He would have liked to shown the country of his birth that he went out and made a name for himself on behalf of Lebanon.
He would have liked to do a lot of things, but in the end, he reached too high for the sun and melted his wings.
Fred came out of the Federal Detention Center one month after we drove up to the border out of desperation to move his immigration case. He was escorted by two agents of Homeland Security who were more interested in the free layover in Amsterdam than any real security concern over Fred. He arrived in Beirut a changed man: physically ripped from hours of daily pushups, and mentally ripped apart from hours of loneliness and anguish. He greeted his baby daughter with tears, hugs, and kisses. He greeted me slightly differently as would a husband who had been incarcerated for a month ;-)
As much as he greeted his wife and daughter with the tenderness and affection of a long awaited reunion, there was an anger inside him that brewed and lashed out at his long forgotten family in Lebanon. There was resentment dripping in his tone. I couldn’t understand it… this is what he had been fighting for, what he had been fighting about with ME for … and now he that was there, he was bitterly unhappy.
That is what happens when you idealize a moment and it falls tragically short of that ideal. Fred had forgotten what it was about Lebanon that made him desperate to leave. And when he went back, so too did all the bad memories…
If your a fan of action movies, you will notice that often times the hero’s toughness is verified by one small statement, “He was in Beirut.” Or some variation of the fact that he served in the military during the war in Lebanon, and survived.
When you first drive into the city from the airport, you may be taken aback by the war torn buildings — gaping holes in walls from bombs, bullet holes in the facade, abandoned buildings left in crumbling ruins. But probably you will be more preoccupied by the total disregard of driving regulations as a car is headed toward you down a one way exit ramp off the highway (at least I was!).
Every person in Lebanon can say they are truly tough, because they have survived living there. Fred survived. I survived. Our daughter survived. And it has made us stronger — a little more capable of finessing through life’s hardships.
I’m kicking off a new mini-series post. Cacoon. Lebanon may be tough and ugly on the outside, but once you spend some time there, it changes you somehow. Some people stay too long and can’t break through the hardened shell. Some people judge it by its roughness and stay away. But those who really take advantage of what it has to offer, grow wings.
That is what happened to Fred. He grew wings. But he lost them along the way. But when he went back after his deportation, he somehow found them again…