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Mijn Papa Is Dood

HomeFrontHall

Davy and I took our Noah to get a new pair of shoes after school today. Noah’s current brown suede loafers were worn out and getting smaller by the week and he wanted the very same ones, literally, except one size bigger of course. He’d be turning five this month, and it was time to upsize for sure.

But Davy and I somehow convinced him that the blue suede ones in the same exact style would be better. Different, but the same, and Noah begrudgingly agreed. It was clear he wanted the brown ones again, but really, he wanted McDonald’s for dinner more. So we walked up to the counter to pay, thinking the loafers were €50, only to discover that they were actually €80.

It turns out the blue ones were part of the “new collection” and thus ridiculously priced as such, while the brown ones were still last season’s, at a reasonable €50. Needless to say, Noah walked out of the store today with a new pair of brown loafers. Funny how some things just work out their own way, with lessons learned all around.

So with his new brown suede loafers in tow, Noah snuck in his request to be treated to McDonald’s for dinner. Davy and I obliged. We rolled up into the McDonald’s closest to home, ordered, and sat down with enough food for three including the quintessential Happy Meal. There was one other family in the PlayPlace dining area, a mom and her kids.

One of those kids, a boy just a little older than Noah, came over to our table almost immediately, wanting to compare Happy Meal Lego Batman toys and chat with Noah. His name was Jamie. Noah obliged, and I smiled. This particular McDonald’s always seemed to have some story in store for us, never a dull day…

I prepped Noah’s food for consumption, peeling open the usual condiments and unwrapping predictable bites of warm processed comfort food. That’s the thing about McDonald’s…you know exactly what you’re gonna get and that’s why you go back. The only surprises come along with the people around you at any given time.

“Mijn papa is dood.” My dad is dead.

I froze, mid-dip of my fry in the fritessaus fry sauce. I didn’t know if I’d heard that right. I looked up at Davy to see if he’d heard the same thing. This little boy Jamie, playing with Noah right next to me, had just announced clear as day that his dad was dead. Neither Noah nor Davy reacted, so I didn’t either. I honestly wasn’t even sure if it was the truth or some role playing with the Lego Batman stuff.

“Mijn papa is gestorven vrijdag. Hij is dood.” My dad passed away on Friday. He is dead.

And there it was. Jamie had repeated himself, with no emotions attached, making it very clear that this was real. I could barely swallow the fry in my mouth. It felt like styrofoam going down my throat. I wanted to hug the child, but I didn’t think I should touch him, so I told him I was very sorry to hear this news. My cynicism took over then, and I questioned the boy’s authenticity. And then his twin brother, Ike, popped up at my side. Fraternal Twin Ike joined in on the Happy Meal fun for a few seconds before announcing, too, that his papa was dead.

The whole scene felt unreal. And I noticed that Noah was chomping away at his nuggets and fries, wholly unaware, or perhaps purposely ignoring this whole thread of conversation surrounding death. I didn’t know if I should believe what I was hearing, or if I should comfort the boys in some way. But then the mother appeared and she gently scolded Jamie and Ike for interrupting our dinner and sharing too much, and she shooed them away. I told her that it was okay, that the boys could play, now or after they’d all eaten, whatever whatever whatever, my head was buzzing.

The mom apologized, but confirmed that indeed the boys’ father, her ex, had died last Friday, in a fatal motorcycle accident just nearby. And that she was trying to find some sort of normalcy in life by bringing her children – two boys and one girl – to McDonald’s, like any other day. Although she was no longer in a romantic relationship with the just-deceased father, their love for their children had always kept them close.

It turns out Davy had read the newspaper article about the whole tragedy, and knew of what she spoke. And all of a sudden so many questions were answered, at least for me. Those boys repeating out loud that their father was dead was less about those around them listening, and more for themselves. When would it actually sink in for them?

I excused myself at one point to go to the bathroom – to cry. I’ve never cried in the bathroom of a McDonald’s before in my life. There’s always a first for everything I guess.

I realized that I could relate in some way to this mother. I could see myself in her shoes somehow. I could have even been her on many occasions. Because there I was sitting there with my son and my estranged husband, feeling anything but normal in what looked like a normal family meal at McDonald’s.

~

Davy and I have been separated, for the second time in the last year, for a little over a month now. Today was our first real prolonged peaceful time together with Noah, for the purposes of doing something solely for Noah, in a long time. But it was way more than I asked for in many ways, and at close to midnight, I’m still grappling with things that prevent me from sleep.

But I’m relieved that I can share some of what’s been going on in my life after months and months of silence and personal turmoil…

I found the article eventually, link, detailing the sad truth about it all. It shook me. It made me think about my own life.

My future. My present. My past.

Noah. Davy. My dad.

Death.

Life.

Happiness.

Everything.

Too much.

Fries turned out to be very complicated today.

I tried my best to convey what I could to that mom, my own way.

But I forgot to thank her, most of all, for her strength in everything, today.

Because, one day at a time.

Always dishing,

Jun

Weird Father’s Day Gift Q&A

MyBoys

Better late than never…

I write all the time about myself so I guess my husband Davy surely deserves a Q&A blog of his own, for Father’s Day…

I tweeted this two years ago:

Well I finally got around to it two whole years later…

Here are most of the questions answered by Davy. FYI. I learned lots of new stuff about him too.

 

Davy: No, sorry.

 

Davy: I was in a very weird spot in my life at that time. I don’t regret things I’ve done in my life. But now my life has totally changed. I guess I would tell myself… Use your brain. Don’t let just having fun be the only thing that matters. Buy an apartment. Don’t wait for that subsidized housing stuff to become available. Just buy your own place now. Buy Apple stock, save more money and use your money more wisely.

 

Davy: Yes all the way in the beginning.

 

Davy: Jun checks out and appreciate other women with me [laughs], pointing out attractive women out to me sometimes. She is the least jealous person I know. She is secure.

 

Davy: Well, in general, there aren’t so many women working as dockworkers. In Ghent there is only one female dockworker.  Because working at in Ghent still means you have to have brute strength and endurance. Charging and discharging ships means serious cargo. I started out on the docks using my muscles a lot, but eventually went for training and licensing to operate heavy machinery. But there is some heavy physical labor required in Ghent. But in Antwerp, there are more women dockworkers. Because in Antwerp, most of the cargo come in containers. So machines can do most of the job. That’s not to say these women don’t use their physical strength when they have to. It is just not as common as it is in the Port of Ghent…

 

Davy: Day by day. It’s not 9 to 5. It’s around the clock. But it’s good money and this is one of the things working on the docs is known for. Dockworkers can go a week taking odd shifts at any time, without really seeing their spouses or children. Everyone and everything moved around according to my shift. I’m happy that Jun never lost herself and she can find her way, with or without me around. She fit into my life as a wife of a dockworker. I wasn’t sure if she could. Not all women can. It’s not an easy adjustment. It has to be a team effort. But there are so many dockworkers who work more than they sleep and save their money and buy a big fancy car. Or a house. I’m always happy for them. But it’s terrible some of these guys can’t really enjoy these things because it seems like they’re working nonstop. Lots of dockworkers also discover their wives have been cheating on them, and that just sucks. So. Yeah. [laughs] Day by day.

 

Davy: She leaves used paper towels all over the kitchen because she says she “only used them once to dry her hands after washing them at the sink.” She says they can be reused. So there are always paper towels everywhere.

 

Davy: I let her be dramatic. [laughs]

 

Davy: Not at all.

Davy: No.

 

Davy: Very.

~

AfterIceCream

Very

Happy Father’s Day Davy.

I will try my hardest to be extra nice to you today.

Always dishing,

Jun

 

 

Dandelion Seeds

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The fact that my son Noah will never get to meet my dad is one of the saddest realities I live with, in my weakest moments. The fact that my father never even had the chance to meet my little Noah is gut-wrenching to me, in my lowest of lows. For if I had to name the two biggest influences in my life? They would be my father and my son.

My husband Davy is my forever one. But I married him. I chose him.

I did not choose my father and I did not choose my son. That is blood. I am their blood.

My mother is the one who carried me in her belly and pushed me out into this world, but it is my father who shaped me most. My mother knows this. She loves this. Because, my father was unlike anybody in my life and this will be true forevermore. I know this. I love this.

Because you see, to know my father was to love him, the way you love the feeling of your feet touching the ground firmly when you jump off a swing. The way you love picking up where you left off in your favorite book. The way you love free-falling into your own bed after some time away, because there’s just no place like home. Steadfast. Solid. My dad.

And his presence was surely felt this April when my little family of three made our trip back home to New York, to be at my brother’s wedding. Noah played his part of ring bearer and flower boy to perfection. It was just about the most perfect day that 17th of April…

Noah

There were, however, countless loved ones in attendance who wished my father could be there, of course and especially my mother. But she didn’t need to tell us this. And we did not voice this sentiment to her either. We did not want to take her joyous day away…

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But my mother shed not one tear on my brother’s wedding day, although I had, she refused to. She glowed. Her strength that day kept me strong too. I owed that to her.

Her baby boy was married. I was married. She said this out loud in Korean to nobody in particular, as we left the wedding hall, but I heard her and I know in my heart she was talking to my dad who was listening from above.

My mother carried that same glow when she joined me and Davy and Noah on our trip to the cemetery to see my dad, just a week later. We had never made it to the cemetery on our last trip back to New York in 2012. I’d regretted it immensely. But I knew it was time to pay my dad a visit, and for Davy and Noah to pay their respects for their first time.

I remember my stomach being in knots that morning, the 23rd of April, an even bigger knot in my throat. I couldn’t swallow, as hard as I tried, the significance of the day. I cried, so very much, as I prepared to walk once again upon the grounds where my father lay for the last 12 years.

I never did let Noah see me cry that day.

I owed that to him.

~

Noah held my hand and he listened intently as I spoke to him…

This is where we come to remember my papa, your haraboji, because he’s not here with us anymore. He’s so very far away that we cannot see him or touch him, I’d said to Noah.

I’d then picked up a dandelion from the plush lawn by my father’s tombstone. Because one of Noah’s favorite things to do is blow on them and watch the seeds fly away. So I handed Noah the dandelion as we crouched in front of my father’s grave.

If you blow on this dandelion the seeds will fly away and some will reach haraboji way up in the sky. That’s where he is. That’s where he will always be, watching over us. And he will always know that you are the one who has sent him the beautiful dandelion seeds, I’d said to Noah.

Maybe one day Noah will ask about heaven and hell. And maybe one day I’ll tell him about all that’s heavenly, and not. Or not. My faith has not been the same since I lost my dad. It was never as strong as I pretended it was anyway. And I don’t know if it will ever be strong again. It is why I choose not to raise Noah in the Christian faith though that’s how I was raised.

In that moment though, Noah’s eyes lit up. He blew that dandelion so hard that the seeds starting swirling around his face, tickling him. We laughed and stared skyward together, as the precious seeds floated higher and higher. It didn’t matter how far they made it. Noah was entranced with the idea that he could somehow connect with the man whom I’d just referred to as “my papa.”

Whoosh

We watched Noah run from spot to spot picking dandelions and sending seeds of love up to my father. He didn’t want to stop. Davy was surprised by how quickly Noah caught on to the idea of being able to reach my father. My mother beamed with pride. Her grandson was so expressive in his desire to be a part of my father’s world in that moment, and intuitive enough to know just what she, his halmuhnee, needed right then and there…

NoahMomz

And in that moment, all the once-tangled and painful knots inside me unraveled and I knew I was right to have waited to bring these three loves of my life together to where my father rested.

Three

It was a beautiful day, that day in April, visiting my dad. It was my very own happy Father’s Day. In Belgium, Father’s Day falls on the 12th of June this year, this Sunday, one Sunday before it does in the States. So I will be celebrating again and again. No tears. Just love.

So Happy Father’s Day to everyone, every day this month, every day of the year. Why not? For new fathers and grandfathers, fathers lost and dearly missed, or fathers found anew, fathers here and there and everywhere.

I feel you.

Loved. Cherished. Remembered.

I’m reminded always now, by dandelion seeds in the air…

~

As I finish this blog, I’ve received news that my brother is in the hospital and very sick. The doctors can’t pin-point the cause of his blood infection, but as of this morning he is out of the ICU and stable. I choose to believe this is my father watching over him. And though I wish I could end this blog on a lighter note, I have never been one to hide my emotions when it comes to my family. I ask that you keep my brother in your thoughts. Thank you everyone for your love.

Always.

UPDATE: Friday, June 10th. My brother has been released in stable health and has returned home to rejoin his new bride. I do not have all the answers, and maybe I never will, but all I need to know is that my brother is home again, even cracking jokes. The newlywedding can pick up where it was left off.

Amazing.

Always dishing,

Jun

Terrorist Attacks Wouldn’t Happen Here

BrusselsCornbread

I’ve never dedicated a blog to 9/11, or my experiences on that day and days after. The closest I ever got was a blog I wrote in 2013 pontificating on the news of Osama Bin Laden’s death, and even that came late. I don’t know why exactly I never wrote about 9/11, when I write about just about everything else under the sun. Maybe because my life was spared on that September 11th in 2001. and I was not among the injured, maybe because no-one close to me died or was among the wounded, but I think mostly because I didn’t want to ever re-live it. Because even if you weren’t in or around the mighty towers that fell, you will never forget that day in New York. Especially if you worked in finance and remember the many scattered calendar days of the years you might have spent in the towers working, banking, living in naïveté.

But on that fateful day I’ll never forget walking the three miles that felt like thirty, from my cushy midtown office at Citigroup to my home in the East Village, with droves of other New Yorkers, because mass transit was shut down and the city was on lockdown. Almost a harbinger of The Walking Dead, where it truly felt like the world was coming to a bitter end. Being numb and cell phoneless because there was no signal to be found. Hoping nobody close to you was buried or burned alive in the rubble that was once The World Trade Center.

So many years later in the wake of the Brussels attacks, I sit here in Belgium shaken and unable to shake this feeling of familiarity, of vulnerability. These last 24 hours have been cloudy to say the least. For even though I didn’t lose anyone per se on 9/11, I did indeed lose something, the carefree naïveté and belief that I was safe, that “terrorist attacks wouldn’t happen here.”

But in the five years I’ve lived here in Belgium, I somehow got that feeling of security and safety back. I’ve joked numerous times about how quiet and peaceful life here is in Belgium, to the point of boredom. And then yesterday, the country and its people were shaken awake out of that peace and quiet. And that feeling of “terrorists attacks wouldn’t happen here” smacked me hard in the face again, because I was wrong.

Again.

And that’s the reality. And not blogging about it won’t make it go away. It’s not easy, but I’ve chosen to blog about it.

Because it’s easy to say don’t let the terrorists win by letting your fears take over. It’s easy to say keep living your life in the face of terrorism. It’s easy to say don’t stay home get outside and show these terrorists that we will not be bullied. But all I want to do is stay home, and bake. Bake? I never bake. Anybody who knows me knows I don’t bake. Yet I baked this morning, with my son Noah who turned 4 years old on Monday.

Monday, before all this tragedy struck.

BrusselsCornbread

We baked a cornbread this morning. A good old-fashioned American cornbread. Noah is too young to know the significance in my choice of baking therapy, but he did ask me why I was crying. I couldn’t stop crying. So I told him I was sad for all the good people that the bad people hurt yesterday.

I tried my best to explain to Noah, what was plastered on the news yesterday morning, and it was consistent with what I told him just a few months before after the Paris attacks.

Noah: Mama, there are bad people in France.

Me: No, there are good people in France but some bad people went there and did bad things.

Noah: Yeah.

Me: This is why it’s important to grow up and be a good person and always help people, right Noah?

Noah: Yes mama.

And then yesterday…

Noah: I have an idea! My sword! I’ll fight the bad guys with my sword!

I told Noah that fighting back like that would only hurt more people. He tipped his head, thoughtful, and replied that his sword was only plastic anyway. If only we could all be so thoughtful and contemplate the results of our actions…so that parents don’t have to wrack their brains to come up with such explanations. When will it stop?

Which is why really, this morning, I just felt the need to raise my American flag by way of cornbread.

And now I’ll leave Noah in the faithful hands of his Opi so I can go give Rice House a good cleaning before opening for business as usual tomorrow.

Because, life does go on.

My heart cries and my eyes well with tears for the souls and innocence lost yesterday. But one day we will unite and fight and win. We will overcome.

We must.

Always dishing,

Jun

Pink Is For Girls, Pink Is For Boys

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Pink. It’s a color.

It’s just a color.

Pink is the color Noah decided was his “favorite color” about six months ago, not coincidentally, after learning that pink was also the favorite color of his friend Farah. So after obsessing about blue for months, Noah decided that blue was out and pink was in. And boy has it been IN.

But after all, it’s just a color, right?

More importantly, it’s the color of the friendship between Noah and Farah. Farah, who has come such a long way, in such a short amount of time, five months to be exact. In fact not so short for Farah or her baby sister or her parents, who probably feel like it’s been the longest five months of their lives together so far.

What have you done in the last five months? What have I done? And how could it compare to the ups and downs and emergency runs to the hospital that Farah has had to endure? The scares, the stares, the prayers and everything in between that rhymes or rhymes not.

I mean, really, what the fuck rhymes with chemotherapy?

And sure there were days that Farah’s mother Houda and her father Daan, thought, would just break them, but they didn’t, and today Farah is stronger than she has been in months. She and Noah were recently reunited on, and of all days, Valentine’s Day.

It’s as if this span of five months was a mere five days.

They played. They babbled. They picked up right where they’d left off. As it should be.

Farah, who could not pull herself and walk just a few months ago, was in fact walking and even chasing after Noah. My goodness. My shock and relief ran through my body…
Reunited

These two…

They even donned pink…they were a sight to behold, and it was pinkalicious and sweet as sweet could be.

DressUp

Sassy even…

Sass

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t at first nervous as I was excited about reuniting these treasures once again. I had done my best to prepare Noah for the changes in Farah’s appearance, and to encourage him to ask questions of Farah but to remain as kind and as loving as he’d always been with her. And he did not disappoint. And neither did Farah. She was a fabulous host and she and Noah reconnected and bonded once more.

Their friendship proves over and over that children are the saviors of this cold and unrelentingly harsh world.

FarahRide

These smiles.

These smiles can save souls that need saving the most. I wasn’t sure when Farah would be able to leave her home and go anywhere else but the hospital, but alas, after five months it’s a reality. Just last week we all piled into the car to attend a birthday party, that of their mutual friend Amélie.

And this Sunday Farah will be attending Noah’s fourth birthday party, and proving us all wrong. Strength comes from within. Strength lends a loving hand and lifts you up if you let it. All you have to do is let it.

Let it.

~

I’d like to thank everyone who has sent their love and good wishes and kind words of support during this experience so far. And special thanks to all of you who donated towards the Farah’s World gift list. We were able to collect so many snugly animal blankets, that Farah helped hand out to the brave little souls in the Children’s Cancer Ward at The University Hospital of Ghent.

It was a very special day, and a beautiful start to the new year…

FarahGifts

Below is the thank you card, and a drawing from one of the children (Pauline), from the Children’s Cancer Fund of Belgium.

Card

I cannot express in words how much I have grown and grown up these last five months, these last five years, and I thank you all for joining me along the way…

Farah’s journey has just begun and I’m proud to be riding her coattails and not floating…

Always dishing,

Jun

 

15 Minute Blog

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I have 15 minutes to tell you what I’d tell my therapist, if I had a therapist, because I’ve had them before sporadically, I just don’t have one now at this point in my life.

And it took me three minutes to formulate that first sentence so I’m doing a bad job right now.

By therapist, I very broadly mean someone you pay to talk to, degreed or not. Because here in Belgium you don’t need any official or specified academic degree to be a therapist. But if I had a therapist to talk to for, now, 7 minutes and counting…I’d say:

Today I’m feeling, overall, misunderstood and defeated, disrespected and devalued. Maybe by one specific person and maybe by more or a mob or maybe because I’m not allowed to feel like everyone else around me because I’m so different, so none of my feelings actually matter to anyone but me. Having left America and its culture to live in Belgium enveloped in its culture while never having fully ever left behind Korea and its culture, makes me different. Life doesn’t stop, your past follows you. It is you. So today, mentally and emotionally and physically too, I’m sore, but I refuse to roll over for anyone. I will not live my life, overall, being misunderstood or defeated or disrespected or devalued. Fuck no.

My brother is getting married in three months and as his sister I have things I must do, as a Korean and as an American-once-a-New Yorker-always-a-New Yorker, and the part of me that is now Belgian too. I return to New York City after a four-year separation.

I carry three identities yet everybody wants me to conform to one boring box. No.

And that’s what I’d tell my therapist, if I had one, today. In about 300 words. Not much for 15 minutes. But enough too.

Because I have too much shit to do, so blogging just has to wait.

Sighhhhhh…

~

Coming up in February though I do have a guest blog in the works.

Stay tuned.

Always dishing,

Jun

 

Furniture and Life: Into 2016

PostPhotoShoot

I took some pictures of some big changes in my home as of late. Our home, mine and Davy’s and Noah’s and Sushi’s, which has changed in big and small ways and functionally too.

In our living room, we adopted a green leather double recliner sofa. A couch. But nobody here calls it a couch and so I’ve started referring to it less and less as one too. It kills me to do so, but alas, when in Belgium…

image

The new green sofa is pretty massive and adds a big new color to the room, green, found before only in traces in the paintings hanging above it. Davy’s been wanting a “gaming chair” for a while now for his PlayStation fix. And though I don’t love-love this new sofa of ours, it stays.

For now.

And pictured above, truly is the state of our living on any given day. A small mountain of clean laundry needing folding, our coffee table covered with remnants of the day’s events, and Noah’s toys. Even Furby sleeps soundly amidst the mess. It used to be worse. There used to be bigger messes all the time, and mostly because of Noah.

So where did the loveseat go?

The loveseat is now in a part of the house which was once known as the dining room. Half the dining room is for dining and the other half is now basically Noah’s playroom.

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Our dining playroom.

According to Feng Shui, this is just where a “children’s area” should go so it all somehow works out I guess…

BaguaBlueprintOrange

The loveseat has already proven to be a success and quite a cushy spot for reading or Skyping with Halmuhnee or having a snack from our “real” kitchen, versus the kitchen in Noah’s restaurant right next door to the loveseat…

And at the kitchen in Rice House, there will be changes too. Not in furnishings, but in opening hours in the new year. Davy and I have decided that Rice House will be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays and Wednesdays instead of just Mondays and Tuesdays, simply because Wednesdays are half-days in the Belgian school system. Noah could use some more time with me, whether it’s to hang around in PJs or get dressed up and silly.

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And we can afford it, so we decided to go ahead and make the change. I believe our family will benefit greatly from the change.

I’m excited.

A place for everything and everything in its place, and here we gooooooo…veering into 2016.

There are some of us wishing 2015 never happened, or at the least wishing we could forget parts of it. Some of us are dreading 2016 even though it might have crept into our dreams once or twice, what life might look like in the new year. But we are still here. For whatever the reason we live another day and we are still here, and about to step into a new year together as a world.

That’s a big thing to have in common with anyone in the world, if you really think about it. If only it could be enough. If only it would bring more of us together.

The New Year’s Eve festivities in the city centre in Brussels are cancelled this year, because there exists injustice and sadness everywhere all over the globe…in parts we’ve never even heard of..but we, are still here.

Here’s to hoping 2016 unifies many who need it most.

Thank you for sticking with me another year.

Always dishing,

Jun

Big Brother 20: Initial Thoughts

BBMOMS

I’ve never written fan fiction. I’m not sure that I’ve ever even read it. But I’m certainly a fan of Big Brother, and I like to write, so I’ll try.

The Cast:

BBMOMS

Some initial thoughts…


FinallyPlural

I could retire from Big Brother happy, knowing three living souls of three black women lived under one roof playing for $500,000 one summer. This alliance would be pretty strong but we all know Danielle would flip first and hard because she doesn’t give a shit what color your skin is, which is just one of the things I love about her.

 

BlackandYellow

Black and yellow, black and yellow…because it just needs to happen. Our choices in choice women of color are limited, sadly, but that doesn’t mean this alliance shouldn’t and couldn’t happen. Especially if Trump starts promising to keep a database on black and yellow and nuns.

 

BigBrotherFourFinalTwo

You know it would happen. Ali and I are the only ones who get each other’s evil. I bet she’s very much the same since she lost to me in 2003, as she should be, much like how much I’m very much the same, in some ways. We’d be archenemies working together all over again showing no mercy just like the first time around, but as moms.

 

NoMoneyBack

This is the other side of the spectrum. The white triumvirate and example of Big Brother’s no money back policy. Finally Plural and No Money Back and a few shades in between… No Money Back and Finally Plural would divide Twitter in half.

 

ReillySquared

The two-headed monster with the strongest by blood bond in the house. Ain’t nobody gonna get between Rachel and her sis. Emotions will be at an all-time cycling hormonal high.

~

Imagine all that. I did. And I wrote it down to share.

Let’s discuss! Even the people who say this sucks yet return to comment!

Always dishing,

Jun

Living In The Land Of

Windmills

…fill in the blank.

Living in the Land of _________.

Some of you may have chosen windmills or make-believe or “milk and honey” or plenty or penis or pussy or sushi, or whatever you love so much that you’d love to live in a land of it. Now imagine you don’t love it but you actually feel meh about it. Meh.

Because I live in the land of chocolate. Belgium. Chocolate is everywhere. Everywhere. There is no escaping it.

I get asked by chocoholic tweeters every day how much I love living in the land of chocolate. I’m just like meh. Meh!

But I don’t say meh because you just don’t say it in a land so proud of it. Sigh.

And I never actually loved chocolate. I only liked it. It’s sweet and melts in your mouth and sometimes has nuts. All meh.

But mostly, I just don’t have a major sweet tooth, unless the gates of menstrual hell are being unleashed or I’m stuck in a house of lunatics who want to take $500,000 away from me and I’m just, well, stressed. I’m a savory kinda girl.

So I’m sorry to all the boyfriends and other gifters who ever gifted me chocolate and I faked joy. I was happy about the thought put into it, but I have never felt joy receiving chocolate. So there. There’s something I needed to get off my chest obviously.

Interestingly enough. My little Noah’s not a chocoholic either. He’ll pick shortbreads or vanilla or hazelnut wafer cookies (like me) over chocolate ones. Hmmm. It’s one of our little things. I like sharing it with him because I don’t have to live alone feeling meh about chocolate in Belgium.

Though it means less cookies for me because Noah will kindly offer everyone a chocolate cookie until he has all the non-chocolates to himself. The force is strong in him. It would be cool to watch him win Big Brother one day.

Sigh.

Always dishing,

Jun

Confronting

Wishlist

Mama, that boy has girls’ shoes on.”

“No dear, that is a girl.”

“But she has no hair, like a boy.”

“Because she is also sick like you and she lost her hair. And you will lose yours too, like her one day, because that’s what will happen.”

“But Mama, I don’t want to lose all my hair.”

~

How is a mother to respond to such a plea?

And what of the angst, when this child pleas with her mother and father that she doesn’t want to feel the cold and relentless prick of a needle in her arm? That pain and discomfort, all too familiar now, as she endures such steps in this many years’ journey that has just begun. This little girl, so charming and so smart, as smart as a slap to the face of reality that so many lives have changed overnight. Because, that’s what really happens when cancer hits close to home. Maybe you have cancer now, or your spouse or child, or you had it or know someone who did, however close or far the relationship. Maybe I’m just late to writing about cancer, but as much of a challenge it is, it brings together people who truly care about people. People.

We lose people in the news headlines every day it seems, that it’s an everyday occurrence that social media is filled with loss every day. And then the countless lives lost that don’t even make it to the ugly pretty news. Lives that are never even mentioned but are lost all the same.

And somehow you forget or maybe overlook the little victories, about people who live and survive, like a beautiful little girl who is taking well to the chemotherapy and eating and enjoying all the things children are supposed to enjoy. She may look different on the outside but she is the same spritely and joyous soul in a little body. Davy and I got to spend some time last week with Noah’s friend, Farah. She is just short of two months into treatment for leukemia. I’ve written about her before, and her parents Houda and Daan and baby sister Lynah.

Last week was emotional but we had fun that night with Farah in our presence. It was so very special. We did not bring Noah with us. One day when it’s possible we will.

But Davy and I saw Farah and she was as sweet and girly as ever, her eyes twinkled as always. She was her coy self and talkative in spurts, when I sat with her. We had blankets beneath us. We laughed, trying to get a video up on the iPad, because she wanted to show me something in English because she knows it is a language I speak.

Farah’s spirit sparkles and she is still everything good and right with the world, though her little body has been through many changes from head to toe already. And I wished I could take away as many daily dilemnas and pains as I could for Farah, as a mother and as a friend to Houda.

I say Houda is one strong woman. No matter how weak Houda may think she’s being at times. But she should never think herself weak. Houda keeps it together and she lets go when she has to. There is no shame in that. You must cry and lose your shit, in life, because it keeps you balanced and human and honest. But it takes a strong person to keep that balance. And I think Houda is really cool. That’s a rarity these days, sadly. But it makes you cherish it when you find it.

Since we last saw Farah, Houda and Daan have had to make the tough decision to cut her hair very short, because she started losing it at an alarming rate.

~

Since we were all last together, there has been one word that’s been stuck in my head because Houda kept using it in conversation. Confronting.

Confronting, as it relates to seeing your child go through drastic and sometimes overnight changes, and to be able to handle that kind of change. How you handle it truly shows what you are made of as an adult, as a parent.

Confronting. It’s actually the perfect word, and maybe often not used enough. Because sometimes shocking isn’t the right word but we use it, because I feel like I can’t use confronting because what I feel is not the same as Houda’s. But we are both mothers so I know well where Houda is. And she’s so honest about it it’s something to truly respect.

It must be indeed confronting. And maybe lonely. Because how many parents do you know in your immediate and one degree of separation’s away radius, whose child was just diagnosed with cancer?

Confronting. Even though you may tell your child, during chemotherapy, that this will inevitably happen. Maybe that conversation happened just a week ago, and it’s a most difficult reality to swallow for everyone. But I truly appreciate Houda entrusting me with her family. I try to balance what is customary here with who I am as a person.

Since then I’ve been wearing half my clothes inside-out some days, because so much has happened while my brain is trying to catch up with it all. Davy has since the last blog basically changed “bosses” at the Port of Ghent, where he’s a heavy machinery dockworker. So there’s a whole new hierarchy of authority for me to get to know, as “a docker’s wife.”

And Noah, he deserves all the love and attention he gets from those who love him, as he should.

The Little Shop

Noah takes very seriously his “little shop” where he parks his stroller outside and tends to business selling me croissants and cakes. He grows by leaps and bounds faster than my iPhone can capture, but I try. He is unabashedly wiser than his years but frolicking his childhood away. We have much to be thankful for every day, but especially cognizant of Thanksgiving coming up…

Memory

Noah also takes seriously indulging my mother in New York, when we all Skype after school. Lately we’ve been playing some of Noah’s simplest games and it gets pretty intense and very funny watching the whole thing unfold. There’s lots of love  not to be taken for granted at this pace of life we all fall into place in. We hope to, in the future, Skype with Farah, as both she and Noah both have already agreed happily to a date.

And…

Wishlist

This

This is a photo of love and support sent from many parts of the world to be donated to the children’s cancer ward of UZ Gent, the hospital where Farah is currently receiving her care and treatment. Cancer has far too many faces.

At first Davy and I were piling boxes into the dining room but then the boxes transformed into just outpouring of love. Even the always cynical Davy was touched by the immediate response from so many of you. It’s right there in our personal space, it can’t be missed.

Thank you to everyone who has given their words of wisdom and love and support, and those who were able to give through the Farah’s World wishlist and fund. Your cash donations will be matched and the wishlist fulfilled. I had no idea what to expect, and the boxes of love keep coming.

It’s not really done here. Fundraising and donations, mostly because civil and social functions in Belgium are well-funded. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a need, even at basic humanitarian levels just to bring smiles to children’s faces. I struggle with riding the line between who I am and stopping myself because “it’s not really done here.” Because I don’t want to change too much while adjusting to life here. Since starting the wishlist of animal blankets, I have talked to parents and grandparents and friends and fans who have all been touched, in some way.

Thank you. For whatever your reason for being kind today, it has made a difference in someone’s day. That’s a good thing, still, that nobody can take away.

Always dishing,

Jun