practice

Christians, Christians assert, are inherently not fully Christian unless they live in community among other believers. It is the practice of being in community that leads us to fully be (and become) who we are (and who we’re meant to be). We’re part of a single body, with varied capacities but a unified purpose. So it makes sense that you belong with other members of that body. Hands, feet, etc.

Widen the scope and it still works: Humans, too, become ever more human by the practice of being in community with other humans. A human in isolation has little hope of fully developing — we need to talk to, look at, study, love, be loved by each other to learn more of ourselves, in turn. The others are our mirrors and windows, shifting at different angles; they show us bits and shadows and sometimes, full-on reflections of who we are, who we would like to be, what we would like to avoid becoming.

And despite all the aforementioned glass metaphoring, our greatest moments of revelation lie in collisions against other humans (and the stormy circumstances of life-in-general that brew said collisions) that sometimes slice right through and reveal the pinky soft flesh of what we’re really made of, just beneath the manicured lawn of all our pretty surfaces.

And if the being among others — at work, in traffic, at home, and in the church — is an essential part of practicing the art of humanness, each day holds that much more meaning, promise. Each day is another day for practice toward becoming more and more refined as a human person. One more opportunity to collect against your 10,000 hours toward master human-ship.

I’m gonna try my best to go to work tomorrow morning with this in mind. That I’m going out into the world to practice my being among people, and to try my darnedest to do good job at this being (a good) human thing. That I won’t fear colliding into people and things but rather embrace those opportunities to learn a lil about myself, to peer into my pinky dermis and below, see what I’m made of, and grow from there. That it’s a gift to be appreciated and used well, not just squandered waiting for another Friday.

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the people we food with

The February photodump — cam to hard drive — has unearthed a lot of moments of food and people we love. And a glance back through the blog archives reveals that the one post from Feb 2017 is something of a “food and folks” post, too.

Guess February is the month of good food and good company.

We’re in a real groove of normalcy now — there are people we meet up with, month after month. People we make plans with at the end of each meet up, everyone scrounging through our phones for another weekend that’ll work, in a few weeks’ time. We make plans, commit to see each other soon, bring/find food, and eat together for the sake of catching up together.

I’m grateful for these grooves.

I always used to pride myself a lil bit on the fact that my closest friendships were based not on the frequency — or even the overall quantity — of time spent togetherly. “Quality over quantity,” I’d say, my metaphorical nose in the air.

But these days, I’m yearning for the regularity of an oft-seen face. Or two or three or five. Now my calendar is full of people I’ve seen “just a month ago,” which sometimes still doesn’t feel like enough. I want normal-life, humdrum conversations, about work and commutes and recipes we’ve tried — sprinkled in with vast contemplations about life, too, duh.

The important thing — and the thing that makes me a more grown up person now than when I was in college, with my nose in the air — is to recognize these seasons of life as such, and appreciate each for its own reasons.

College was a time of mad dashes through classes and clubs and homework AND friends. I was bombarded by life — in the best way, as college does — and thoughts and conversations and growth and friendships were happening all naturally (and also, somehow, so magically). In the wee hours in a dorm room. At the dining hall over breakfast. During afternoon nap/study sessions in the hush of the library. And those quarterly mad catch-up sessions with the besties were enough, because that’s all my life had room for.

And that was good for then.

But now, days and evenings clock in and out with a cozy regularity that I can sometimes confuse with monotony. And life these days is filled with dinners that need cooking, plants that need watering, sleeps that need getting. I dunno what exactly it is that’s changed, but my heart, it yearns for friends who are close and near. Heart-wise and commute-wise.

How foolish of me to have turned my snooty little nose up at the beauty of relationships built over time and shared everydays.

How grateful I am now, to scroll through photos of familiar faces, month after faithful month — sharing food, sharing our time, sharing stories of the little things that have mattered to us in the past few weeks.

How grateful for these grooves.

(And, ahem, the photos.)

things to be relieved about

  • The smiley face that came in the text reassuring me, “No worries about the bumper” and thanking me for leaving a note in the first place.
  • That SIGH-der of relief and those 10 days of anxiety that preceded. Dear God we r not ready.
  • How we can stay up late talking about insecurities and anxieties and comfort each other like two wee babes in the middle of a dark night. Waking up together to a faithful new morning again and again.

Here, nature mingles with man.

“Thank you for this wonderful wedding weekend.”

We have: one tiny bathroom with a counter full of two people’s bathroom things, one tiny fridge with two people’s worth kimchi and 4/5ths of a chocolate mousse cake, one address at which we’ve been living one married life for approximately 2.5 days.

Mark makes the bed and runs loads of laundry, to pick up those good hubby points, and I water the plants and go through the piles of paper that crowd the tiny breakfast bar.

Moments from the Wonderful Wedding Weekend that made all of the above little details possible. Overshare warning: This is just a memory dump so I can remember all the little bits. Feel free to skip along through to the pics, if you’re not about the words. 🙂

  • One last sinkful of dishes at JoQuy’s before heading down to Cville.

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  • Friday evening rehearsal, running through it all TWICE in an hour, aw yeah. Being crowded out at 5pm sharp by the next wedding party, which had about 50 (!) people. Asking and finding out about the FULL MASS ceremony that theirs would be, tomorrow, in the time slot at the Chapel right before us. Not freaking.
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YAWL LOOK GOOD
  • Realizing that two bridesmaids and one groomsman would not be making it to the rehearsal. Still not freaking.
  • JT’s gift of a train-flattened, railroad-tracks-rock-throwing penny.

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  • Friday night Kroger run for sundry things like spray bottles for the flower stank and index cards for maid-of-honor speech notes. Reminiscing about “late night Kroger runs” and realizing that it’s only 8:30 pm. Feeling old.
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“This is the one weekend when I will indulge all your photo-taking.”
  • Salon Isabel~ Where we all got our nails did in the comfort of our hotel room.
  • Slow Saturday morning that found me and Rebs at the fitness center of the English Inn — talking about girly things like periods and constipation, as if it were any normal day.

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  • Janelle’s crucial snack run!! She provided us with lunchtime sustenance in the form of Wheat Thins and grapes and craisins. ❤
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snackin’ schoi
  • Getting started early on the photos, thanks to Danielle’s professional 40-minutes-early arrival. Somehow blowing through those 40 minutes and being right on time for the next thing. Wondering about how she would take those hanging-dress pictures, turning around, all of a sudden seeing all those dresses hanging there like it’s no big deal. Wowie.

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  • Running out the door, somehow right on time.
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beep boop
  • First look, first exclamation: “Hey it’s not that bad!!” -Mark, referring to my dress. Nice. 😛

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  • The Vogue/GQ-worthy photos on Grounds, flowers over flowers and “Mouth slightly open but not smiling!! Just like Isabel!”
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bridesmaids! ❤
  • Waiting for our Chapel time, chillin on the Rotunda steps with bubble tea in hand.
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a fine day for bubble tea
  • Getting really really really excited as we all stood and waited and prayed in the anteroom of the Chapel, just behind the piano-playing JT.
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clutch selfie stick
  • Starting right on time cause everyone / everything was ready. What?!
  • Walking down the aisle, arm in arm in arm with mompops. Feeling surreal. Getting there, wishing I could do it again and look at the people’s faces.
  • Shoutout to the blog, once, twice, thrice: Pastor Jeff in his message to us, Markling in his vows, me in mine… Unintended self-advertisement galore.
  • Shivering a lil bit in my shoes up there as we read our vows to each other. Part nerves, part muscle tiredness.
  • Recessional-ing to Better Together together, with our wedding party close behind.
  • Sneaking around the Chapel to get to the reception and realizing that we were on track to beat most of our guests to dinner — even though we had planned so meticulously to get everyone their supper ASAP!! But loitering loitering is a natural human thing — and a sign of a good party — so we just sucked it up and hung around outside The Local while we waited for everyone else to get there.
  • Mark STEPPING ON MY DRESS and finally tearing the hem. “Well… At least we’ve taken all our pictures already!!!!!”
  • The two dads’ welcome speeches, sweet in their own ways.
  • The Local! In all its twinkly lights glory. As the sun set, the warm lights rose and made the conversations sparkle all the more.

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  • Isaac’s best man speech, in which he socially inaccurately referred to Mark trying to “get with Madison.” ROFL.
  • Isabel’s maid of honor speech, in which le blog was given YET another shoutout and in which my sister totally showed me up with her index card eloquence.

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  • So many moments during the reception where I would look up and see pairs and clusters of chatting with other people they didn’t know before. And thinking, “Oh yeah, they would have really good conversations together!”
  • Nominations for: Best Dress, Best Dessert. And compliments like “simple and gorgeous” and “you guys made it look effortless,” which is EXACTLY what we were going for!! Keep ’em coming, yawl.
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photo cred to Minsu C.
  • Realizing, at the end of the evening, that I hadn’t had ANY of the cheese on the plentiful cheese board. And having Jane overhear my offhand wistfulness-for-cheese comment and literally packing up ALL OF THE PIECES. And carting that all the way back up to Nova, stinking up the trunk. ❤ (And making our first batch-cooked meal, mac&cheese, naturally. See Married Life photos, below.)
  • LittleJohn’s and Cookout after party, reveling in post-wedding freedom from dresses and hair and the need to refrain from sugary oily food in order to keep the pimples at bay. FREEDOM.
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our peeps ❤
  • Making our Cville rounds the next morning: Bodo’s and ShenanJoe’s and reveling in the weekend that was wonderful. Feeling all aglow, all belatedly, and making dinner plans to prolong the partying just a little longer.

Aaaaand now some photos of married life thus far:

last single tuesday (or, people and their pre-wedding well wishes)

Last Tuesday as single people.

Last Tuesday night prolonged by driving from the DC small group, to Mark’s, then home to Annandale. Last Tuesday night going our separate ways after that little drive through southeast DC, bellies full of Stef-provided treats and hearts full of quiet conviction.

Scott is a man of encouragements. He spent the better part of the closing of our meeting tonight just telling us how much we’ve meant to him, Stef, the group, and how impressed he is with our faithfulness. Stef prayed specificities and generalities over us — for the wedding and for the coming together of two families and for the fitting of the ring over that dang still-swollen finger.

Scott reminded us that they’d seen us through so many stages of relationship life! That they’ve known us as boyfriend-girlfriend, as engagees, and now (soon) as a married couple. WHAT A SPECIAL THING! It felt all the more surreal for me to think about this, because I’ve never had a lot of friends see me through a lot of different life stages. All those moves kept my friendships in neat little truncated blocks in the timeline — childhood-in-Korea friends, elementary school friends, high school friends, etc.

Another thing to note about these last few days of pre-wedding life is that these days are sweet and full of well-wishing people in your life coming out of the woodwork. People who, for sure, care about you on a normal day, too, but they take special care to check in. “How you doing? Anything feeling too crazy??” “Are you putting on enough lip balm?” “How’s that chin pimple??” “Here’s a poem that made me think of you guys; it’s about endings (but also beginnings)” —

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THIS MADE MY DAY, MADPAD. xoxoxo times a bjillion.

On Closing the Apartment of my Grandparents of Blessed Memory
by Robyn Sarah

And then I stood for the last time in that room.
The key was in my hand. I held my ground,
and listened to the quiet that was like a sound,
and saw how the long sun of winter afternoon
fell slantwise on the floorboards, making bloom
the grain in the blond wood. (All that they owned
was once contained here.) At the window moaned
a splinter of wind. I would be going soon.

I would be going soon; but first I stood,
hearing the years turn in that emptied place
whose fullness echoed. Whose familiar smell,
of a tranquil life, lived simply, clung like a mood
or a long-loved melody there. A lingering grace.
Then I locked up, and rang the janitor’s bell.
“On Closing the Apartment of my Grandparents of Blessed Memory” by Robyn Sarah from Questions About the Stars. © Brick Books, 1998.

last single sunday (or, living in a commune)

It’s our last Sunday as single people, and we’re sitting at the kitchen table typetypetyping away at our respective little screens as JoQuy watch Games of Thrones on the big screen.

It’s a comfortable routine we’ve gotten into — with more typetypetype than we’d like, as the wedding-planning/condo-buying/renovations-researching to do lists have grown, but a comfortable routine nonetheless. Sundays afternoons are our unofficial hangout hours with Joe and Quyen, as the two couples of us return home from respective Sunday services and post-church lunch dates back home to recharge a lil and ready ourselves for the week ahead.

I make my breakfast smoothies (a tradition that Quyen has gotten in on, too), Mark takes care of his unruly inbox, Quyen preps her lunches for the week, and Joe putzes around doing whatever needs doing around the house. Rogue hangs low and revels in the daytime presence of all four of us at home, a rare occasion in itself.

Living at Joe and Quyen’s these past nineish months has been a lesson in the beauties of commune living. Before moving in, I’d been a little worried about the sharing aspect of my living with them — would it be uncomfortable? awkward? inconvenient? to share living room and kitchen? Would I be too much in their way? Will it be a bother than I’m taking up room in their fridge? — but the sharing has been the best part of living here. The sharing of food, of time, of efforts, of conversations. It makes me appreciate and understand those multigenerational Korean families of old so much better.

When all four of us are home at Joe and Quyen’s, there’s a hustle and bustle in the cooking of dinner, in the doing of the dishes, in the taking care of the laundry that elevates daily mundanity to something a little more festive. Unexpected deliciousness appears on the dinner table (unexpected cause you weren’t necessarily involved in the cooking of said deliciousness), and evening “How was your dayyy” rituals are varied and interesting. After living our lives as four individuals — or even as two couples, as we often do on weekends — we can come together as one unit of several parts and take care of the business of homemaking with much more efficiency than is possible in life as a singleton.

In my apartment on Jefferson Park Avenue, Charlottesville — my very first solo home after as a postgrad adulting person — I remember being amazed at how much time and energy it took to toil against the daily entropy of a home. Dust is falling over your scant furniture all the time, and dirty dishes will pile up against you if you don’t keep an eye on that kitchen sink. Not to mention how much time it takes to go grocery shopping, prep the vegs and things, cook a proper meal, and clean up after yourself. All for the pleasure of eating for like 12 minutes. Independence is not only exhilarating and freeing, but also just time consuming and energy intensive. And lonely at times, of course.

Being, instead, a part of a whole means that you can specialize in the niche of homemaking that you enjoy (or are, fortunately or unfortunately, better endowed in). I’ll do the dishes err day to clean up after Quyen’s delicious cooking, and Mark and I were happy to chip in as free labor when JoQuy started putting down their new hardwood flooring to replace the carpet. We help with the dog-walking when they’re staying out late, and they feed me real food when they see me whip out those ramen packets at dinnertime. The economy of this system boggles my mind — and I think: This is how civilizations were built!!!! Cause, seriously, if every person had to live in their own singleton home and keep up with full-time jobs and make dinner for themselves, I dunno how far we would have gotten with society and all. There’s not enough energy (or time) for all that and progress.

And the even more beautiful thing about this whole system is that if you find yourself in a commune with people you love/like/enjoy, home is not only a well-oiled machine of efficiency but a warm place full of good food and company you’re glad to take refuge in.

I knew I had a good thing here when I first moved in, but it’s taken me nine months to articulate exactly why. It’s with bittersweet smiles — and promises of future weekend hangouts — that I close out this one last Sunday, hangin with JoQuy in their living room. They just finished their episode, so the night routine of taking Rogueshi out for his night pee begins — the happy jingle jingle of his collar bids us all a good night.

So many candids, so little time. These are only the July 2017 ones, but someday I gotta do a JoQuy post so they can see (and so I can remember) all the happy moments they had…with their best basement tenant ever ;). Thank you, JoQuy, for being the best upstairs landlords ever. No winky smiley needed there.

 

humans

are marvelous, are terrible, are suffering, are jubilant.

are complicated, are multifaceted, are difficult to please, are predictable.

I’m a whole tangled mess of feelings tonight about human beings. It’s been a weird and emotional few days — feeling exultant, grateful, terribly annoyed (and then terribly sorry), and so, so sad about so many different things.

There are complicated feelings about friendships and relationships and the troubles of mankind. And troubles of my friends, too. People are going through some real deep and sad things, and here I am sitting and wallowing in an incomprehensible self-pity. There’s grief over a lost romance; uncertainty about sacrificial decisions made for family; deep, inconsolable hurt from people who had been trusted. And then there’s me, crying about who knows what.

After a certain point, I can’t point my finger at any one thing as the cause or the beginning, and Mark just rubs my shoulder as my eyes leak tears cause of overflow.

There are a few things I am certain of:

  • Music has a weird magic about it that makes us feel complicated and wondrous things. I think it’s a tool (and a gift) that God’s given us. For our pleasure and development. And his glory.
  • Community is crucial and lifesaving (and lifegiving).
  • I am a rude, rough-around-the-edges kind of person who needs more of God’s grace in her life.
  • Cuddly kittens are therapeutic.
  • Humans are marvelous, are terrible, are suffering, are jubilant. Are complicated, are multifaceted, are difficult to please, are predictable.

I love and hate these feelings tonight.

 

in sickness and in health: chronicles of injuries and caretaking

This surgery’s been a long time coming, though we didn’t know it.

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Mark hurt his (ring) finger about a month ago, playing frisbee. He dove for a catch (read: threw his body toward the unforgiving earth with too much confidence in his youth and flexibility) and dislocated and fractured his lil digit.

At first, we thought it was just a dislocated joint, especially because he had “popped it back in” right after the crash. It took an x-ray three weeks later to reveal that he had popped it back in…just not to the right place.

The joint (first one up from the base) was popped out about a finger’s width on top of the rest of the hand, and the bone connecting the two joints was chipped, too. The way the surgeon described it, it seemed like the three weeks’ delay had been like a desert storm on that lil chip, wearing away at it until it was no more. Here, questions abound: where did the fragment go? Does it get reabsorbed into the blood stream? Is there a lot of erosion going on in our bodies, normally? If so, what’s doing all that jostling in there? I didn’t know how to phrase these questions appropriately and quickly enough to ask.

So the surgeon reset Mark’s joint (as a “let’s just see if this works” measure) and scheduled the formal surgery (because we were pretty sure the measure wouldn’t work) for the following Thursday. And since the resetting, Mark was told to keep his hand elevated above his heart — it prevents undue swelling — and thus, the multitude of photos of the Markling in the perpetual worshipful-hand-raise pose.

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After that first manual resetting, Mark was in a lot of pain. A desperate, helpless, sleepless kind of pain that demands all your attention but only intensifies when you offer it. He texted me all through those first two nights, unable to sleep — midnight… 1 am… 3 am… 5 am… It was heartbreaking, and I was completely useless to help. We tried getting the surgery moved up, but no luck.

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Fear and Powerlessness
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But it wasn’t all pain and tears. We did some fun stuff this past month, too. @ Thomas Sweet.
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also, Pasta.

The surgery day finally came, and as it approached, Mark’s fear grew and grew. It was kind of astounding to me, because I have an almost unnaturally blase attitude toward medical procedures. Needles, blood-giving, surgery…it’s all NBD to me. All the opposite for Mark. He despises needles, hates the thought of steel objects penetrating his dermis, fears physical pain above all else. Don’t tell the terrorists, but he would last zero seconds under torture…

The fear was palpable and uncontrollable. I was even getting frustrated with him — the fear becoming bigger than a matter of the finger and the pain itself and triggering questions of character, of faith. Why is he so afraid/what is it that makes me not as afraid? At the core, I trust in the medical establishment and their ability to make me better. Does he not believe that? Is this a trust-of-establishment thing? Why does he always expect the worst? Is it a God thing? Does he not believe that God has this under control? Is he even praying? 

I tried, really, to be patient — though I broke down at the last minute and mini-yelled at him to “Stop meeping!” right as we were walking into the surgery center. Worst, ever. I know. He forgave me, gracious even amidst the fear.

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Behind this tight-lipped smile is fear and anxiety, don’t let him fool you and please pray for him.

We met with the surgeon and discussed what the procedure would be like. Mark was small and shivery in his flimsy hospital gown and high-fashion hair net. We tried to watch Food Network to distract him from the gloomy chill of the pre-op area, analyzing cupcake flavors and laughing at the made-up drama of food competition TV shows. It was hard, though, because the surgeon had just told us that it would not be a good idea for Mark to travel right after his surgery, as we had been planning to do. Mark’s brother was graduating the next day, so we had planned to head down to be there.

It makes so much sense, in hindsight, that we would have to stick around at home and let Mark rest over the weekend, but we just had no idea what it would be like. We are — luckily — both pretty inexperienced in hospital procedures and figured that as long as I did the driving, it would be no big deal for us to travel. Wrong-oh. The surgeon looked at us with the single eyebrow raise almost visible through his tight facial control, questioning our common sense, and advised that it would be best to take it easy all weekend, hang out on the couch, watch TV, and administer meds as necessary.

It was disappointing… But I came to be grateful for the dashed plans, because this meant that both our schedules were completely free for the time that we had expected to be away.

Those four-ish hours in the waiting room flew by… I was busy texting updates and emailing prayer requests, reaching out and asking to be touched. My fear bubble had grown, too, because fear is infectious — I was feeling grave and sad and sending out pings in hopes of receiving some back. And receive I did.

People came through. Events like these, I realized, clarify who makes up your community and family. People called, emailed, texted, visited (!), letting us know that they loved us and were praying for Mark. Mark’s family even came up on Saturday to see Mark after his surgery and to grab a meal with us. Afterwards, Mark smiled like a goon and said, “I love my family,” at which I cracked up cause, like, duh.

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Scott calls Mark to encourage and to love. “Be strong and courageous,” he said (Joshua 1:7). “WHAT A GOOD GUY,” we said.
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A snippet of the post-op email update sent out to the DC small group. Theme: “We are so grateful.”

The surgeon came out, showed me before and after x-rays, complete with new bits of bone and pins poking through. He said that the joint was able to bend all the way to normal range (110 degrees, for those of you counting), so we’re hoping that with physical therapy, Mark can reset the doc’s PR for best recovery.

And thus began our four-day weekend of resting and worrying and relaxing and an uncharacteristic amount of cooking on my part. Like seriously, I have never cooked so many things in the span of four days. Who even am I?

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Couch-sleeper, thanks to J&Q’s gracious generosity. After finding out that we weren’t going to be going to Mark’s parents’ place for the weekend, we had to figure out real quick where we’d set this guy up — I didn’t want him to be alone. In short, my housemates are the best.
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Mac and cheese cures all.
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Bananer bread, gone in three days. Go us.
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“This is my favorite thing that you’ve ever cooked for me.” How can I not make it again? It’s super easy — pad krapow gai by Chef John: http://foodwishes.blogspot.com/2017/04/spicy-thai-basil-chicken-my-pad-krapow.html

It was a weekend of fitful sleeping, for sure, what with the medicine schedule and the jingle-jangle of Rogue the dog’s midnight prowls through the living room. But we did things we’ve never. done. before as a couple: hang around the house for hours, cook multiple meals in a row, (re)watch seasons of TV shows old and new, sit on the couch until my back hurt, do zero things of productivity. Like, normal people weekend activities. I know we were caring for an invalid here, but it felt kind of luxurious to me, in some ways.

And I got a teensy little taste of what it means to serve selflessly — like, putting my needs and wants on a back burner somewhere and thinking first about somebody else. And I noticed that the caretaking got easier over the weekend as I got more used to it. My selfish sharp edges were dulled a little in the face of real need and a very polite customer. Mark was an easy patient, grateful and eager to get better.

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#adulting at the grocery store, where we went to take a walk and advantage of the deals.

He has his post-op appointment on Tuesday, the day after tomorrow. And as our super-weekend winds down this evening, the Sunday feels are real. We’re sitting here, both back in our respective productivity modes as I blog with a vengeance and he puts the finishing touches on the wedding website. But for the first time in a long, long time, I feel really refreshed from what was actually a pretty stressful weekend. Ironic, yep. Such great ups and downs we’ve traveled in the span of these past 48-or-60-or-whatever hours — counting in chunks of four-to-six as the prescription bottles dictate, constantly asking for the enumeration of pain levels (on a scale of 1 to 10, how do you feel?), cooking and eating real meals, laughing at the antics of Michael Scott (and falling asleep to an anime episode…), taking stock of one another and feeling grateful for the way things are and not how they could’ve been.

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Eating mac and cheese on the floor, enjoying a cold sodie pop and cider while we watch Netflix via the PS3. “I feel like a real American!”

Will have to keep you posted on how we fare through next week and the next; I’m sure the chronicles of physical therapy will bring more ups and downs. But as of this moment, I sit here, grateful for the weirdness, the normalcy, and all the cheezy blogposts in between.

what is grief

There’s a lot of grief going on in lives all around me. People are losing their parents, their spouses, their loved ones; people are grieving the loss of relationships, romantic and otherwise; people are sometimes just having a hard time getting to sleep enough for each new day. Expand out and out, and there’s only more, and more, and more grief. It’s endless and insurmountable. That’s the deal we’ve got in this life.

Binge-listening to TTFA hasn’t been helping with this revelation. But also, has been helping. It’s a podcast where Nora McInerny talks to people about real, really sad, sadly raw answers to the question, “How are you?”

People go through some TERRIBLE things — and they’re sharing their stories. About loss, about sickness, about infertility, about mental illness. Mundane and awe-inspiring all at once. And all of this makes me weep in the traffic, weep in my car, weep in my bed as I listen and listen and listen and scroll through pages and pages and pages of social media that I don’t even have log-ins for, just to read the back stories.

And I feel grateful again, for the first time in a long time, for all of this WONDER I’ve been unacknowledging in my life as of late. All the NORMAL, PERFECT, BANAL, WONDROUS-WONDERFUL things.

Also I feel hopeful again, cause humans are resilient and beautiful in their empathy for other humans in suffering.

All of this is strangely comforting — all these suffering stories remind me that my suffering needn’t feel so lonely. Sometimes, all you have to do is acknowledge the sadness and share about it. You might be surprised by how your community responds. And who your community is made of. And how many others have tasted your bitterness and can stand with you, show you the way out of the tunnel.

 

Grief may look different on each person’s face, but it affects everyone’s insides in similar kinds of ways. But I so easily forget that everyone is a person, like I am a person — especially when they infringe on my comfort or convenience. And it’s hard to empathize with a person whose humanity you are overlooking.

We were talking about elevators at work one day, and L shared a story about hitting the Close Door button just to avoid waiting for the far-away person walking toward the metal doors. About how she’s been finding herself doing that more and more often these days.

And then K responded that she’d actually been doing the opposite, because she’d read somewhere that small acts of kindness connect us to our community — in these tiny, imperceptible ways that build up in layers over time — and remind us of the humanity inside every other human. Causing you to become more compassionate, in turn. (Maybe even inspiring others to be so.)

[Okay full disclosure: that whole paragraph^ after “K responded that she’d actually been doing the opposite” was my abstraction-ing from her actual words. But are you feeling me!?]

Why are the most basic human lessons the easiest to forget? Why do they fall out of my head the fastest, the slippiest?

Today, in the bathroom, I took some extra time to ask LL about her cough. She’s had it for a while, I think, and I could tell that she wished to be home instead.

After we had both finished washing our hands, I still stuck around and listened, and finally told her that I hoped she would feel better soon. Such a simple, simple thing.

But she paused and spoke these words, straight to my heart:

“Thank you, that actually helps a lot. Compassion.”

*throat squeeze*

Everyone needs compassion. Whether it’s a big grief or a small one or medium-sized, there’s a little part in most everyone that could use compassion from someone else, at any given moment. So why not me?

Compassion.

Everyone needs it. You haz it.

Share it.

chronicles of a recurring thought

April 24 – May 2:

  • Monday, April 24: Met up with EnfJ at a Gainesville coffee place, rainy rainy afternoon. Talked about what’s been saddening and lacking and what my heart desires. Sadness. “Maybe we just haven’t evolved quickly enough for these suburbian lives!!”
  • Tuesday: Exhaustion and small group. Put on a brave face and talked a lot anyway.
  • Wednesday: Exhaustion and premarital counseling. Another good meeting, nevertheless.
  • Thursday: Exhaustion and worship team practice. Everyone seemed exhausted on this day, but the music was good.
  • Friday: Exhaustion and Netflix. A little less exhaustion, cause, Netflix. I worked extra hard this day because I wanted to forget about the exhaustion and sadness for a little while.
  • Saturday: HBC Ladies Tea Party. Ocha Tea with Sarah, (+Isaac, + Mark). Sadness, feeling too raw to share at the tea. Feeling too inarticulate to share with Sarah. Blab blab blah. “I, too, believe that God honors the desires of our hearts.” “God’s people are good.” “Maybe what you’re looking for is a best friend.” “It’s really not that far. I make the drive cause…it’s worth it to me, you know?”
  • Sunday: Post-church lunch with G&E. And…exhaustion. Asking questions, answering questions, making an effort. [Wait… Is this what MM feels like all the time?]
  • Monday: Work and a little bit of grace in the lifting of the sadness. Sarah celebrated with me. Wrote a thank you card and a Mother’s Day card, sat quietly and did some Bible study, caught up on life admin things. Recharged. “As randomly as it set in… It has lifted.” 
  • Tuesday: Small group and honesty. And vulnerability. And hope. Went in with a prayer for openness and totally got it. The sadness over the past week, seemingly random, wasn’t so random anymore but a little bit redeemed. “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.” Eph. 4:25

P.S. It’s so interesting to look through the pictures that accompany these days. They are brighter and happier than I remember feeling. Is it the photos that are off, or my memory, or a lil bit of both?