Wednesday, March 9, 2022

My Homeless Friend, Drew

*This blog is usually dedicated to all things motherhood, relationships, and love, but today I wanted to share a special interaction I had with my new friend, Drew.

Having lived in major metropolitan cities such as New York, Boston, and Los Angeles, I’m no stranger to homelessness. 

Over the years, I have gotten to know a few individuals on a more personal level. Some I knew by name and others where familiar only because of the regularity we crossed paths with one another throughout the city. For example, Mikey greeted me with a smile that brightened my mornings as I commuted to work on some brutally cold winter days or the gentleman who looked like Santa Claus and religiously sat outside of the Pour House on Commonwealth Avenue begging for change. The one time I offered him my leftovers, rather than spare change, he promptly threw them into the trash as soon as he thought my back was turned. 

These men would cross my mind from time to time; wondering whether they were still homeless or where they might be. I always hoped they found the support they needed to be safe and healthy. 

On a few occasions Braden and I have volunteered with organizations that collect clothes and toys and we distributed them to the homeless on Skidrow. Many were women and children, which was always harder to bare. 

There have been a few Christmas’ where we packed brown bag lunches and delivered them to the homeless around the neighborhoods of Los Angeles. 

I remember them, but never expect to be remembered in return. I know my gestures are small in comparison to the help they need to survive or get themselves off the streets. 

This week I met Drew. He was seated at a table in the back corner of Starbucks. His bags were neatly lined up on the windowsill, his clothes were clean and tidy, he wore a hoodie over his head, his arms were crossed on the table, and his eyes gazed downward. 

It was early, Starbucks barely buzzing. I wanted to approach and offer him a warm cup of coffee or bite to eat, but I wasn’t sure if he was looking for a handout. I watched for a minute and then walked over to introduce myself, “Excuse me,” I started, respectfully inching a little closer until we made eye contact. I smiled, “Good morning. I hope I’m not offending you, but may I buy you breakfast?” He pulled back his hoodie and timidly smiled at me. “Yes, please. I would like that.” “Terrific, I replied. “What can I order for you?” “Sausage, eggs and cheese biscuit, please”, he said. “And a cup of coffee?”, I offered. “No, thank you, but a cup of ice water would be nice.” “You got it. I’ll be right back.” 

When I returned carrying both of our orders, Drew stood and had a look of relief on his face. For a moment, I think he may not have been sure I would come back. He couldn’t see the register from where he sat and the order took a while. “I’m sorry that took so long”, I was quick to say to reassure him. “Oh, that’s ok”, he replied, his smile growing bigger. “Thank you. Would you like to sit with me for a few minutes?” “Sure!”, I said without hesitation. Something about Drew felt warm and friendly. 

He eagerly pulled out a chair for me and for the next 45 minutes I learned about Drew’s family, all the places he lived and traveled to, friends from his past, his work, books he’s read and artists he admired. Drew was well educated, articulate, and engaging. He was soft spoken, polite, and charming. 

Drew quoted some of his favorite authors and shared some fascinating stories from his past. He had so much he wanted to share with me that it felt as if he couldn’t talk fast enough. Or maybe he wasn’t sure how long our interaction would last so he wanted to make the most of every minute. For almost an hour, Drew was not a homeless man, he was just a guy having breakfast with a new friend. 

I found myself drawn to Drew, curious to know the circumstances that brought him here, yet not wanting to ask because I hoped he could forget, even for a moment. 

When it was time for me to go, Drew said, “Most people would say, ‘I’ll never forget your kindness’, but I want to tell you that I will always remember . . . I will always remember you and the impact you made on me today.”

“I will always remember . . .” How deeply that resonated with me. 

“Maybe I’ll run into you again before I leave”, I told him. “I would love that”, he said with a smile. I stood to leave and slid a gift card across the table so I was sure Drew could get at least one more meal today. 

The following morning, I peaked into the Starbucks and I could see Drew was seated in the same corner table. I wondered if this was his regular morning routine or did he come back in hopes of running into me again?

On this morning he wasn’t wearing his hoodie, but I came in from another entrance so he didn’t see me approaching. “Excuse me, Drew! Good morning!” He turned and smiled, “Hi!”

“May I get you something to eat?”, I asked, but I could see he was already eating a bag of Cheetos and drinking a Coke.” “No, thank you. I ate.”, he meekishly stated pointing to his bag of chips, “But do you have time to sit for a minute?” “Sure!”, I said. 

Today I found the courage to ask how he got here. “Depression,” he said. “I don’t identify as being homeless, but I am. It’s temporary.” We talked more about what it’s like to live on the streets, especially as an older gentleman like himself; the discrimination, violence, and crime. He shared the resources that were available to him and the skills he learned to help him stay safe. 

I began to think about how quickly any of our lives can change in a blink of an eye. While I’m sure there is more to Drew’s story that I didn’t have time to learn, here is a seemingly well educated man with a fascinating career, family, friends and loved ones who finds himself homeless. What separates me from Drew and how does Drew bounce back from here? Is he destined to spend the rest of his life on the streets? He didn’t seem to think so, but what options does he have to get back on his feet?

Thank you for allowing me to join you for breakfast, Drew. You touched me in a way I will always remember and never forget.

*If you find yourself in the Charleston area, please stop by and say, "Hi" to Drew for me. He sits at the Starbucks in the Francis Marion Hotel at 378 King St., Charleston, SC.


Thursday, July 15, 2021

She's a Whore!

"I went on a date with this woman, and we ended up sleeping together. She probably sleeps with every guy. She's such a slut!"

"I finally met Sarah. We had such a great connection over the phone. Her profile says she's athletic, but when I met her in person, she's a fat cow! I don't plan to see her again."

"Bro! Emily and I have been on 3 dates and she's so frigid! We've made out, but she won't go any further! She's a cock tease! I'm over it!"

"Every woman I meet online is either high maintenance, super clingy, needy, a gold digger or a complete train wreck! I give up on online dating. There are no normal women out there!"

"My ex was such a nag! As soon as a woman acts like a crazy bitch, I RUN!"

"OMG! I told Susan I was busy with my son this week and wasn't available until the weekend. She became hysterical! I think she's emotionally imbalanced, maybe a little bipolar. What a psychopath. I'm breaking up with her! I dodged a bullet!"

"Dude! I had a first date last night and this woman wouldn't stop talking about herself. My ex was a narcissist, I'm not going to see her again!"

How did these scenarios come across to you? A bit nasty, right? Unfortunately, when we label men, put them in a box, make assumptions, etc. we are no better than they are!

Labels are intended for care packages, cereal boxes, food pantries and our children's camp clothes.

Assumptions and labels dehumanize a person, are destructive and detrimental to any relationship. They masquerade as ‘facts’ and have us making choices based on little more than good guesses.

While you can get curious, make observations, and know the facts about a situation; a person’s feelings and thoughts are only available to you if you ask them.

If we are quick to judge a person, put them in a box and slap a label on them, we don't give them a chance. Men and women are not a one size fits all!

So, ladies - put down the label maker and get curious! Ask questions, seek clarity, and go into each date/relationship with fresh eyes. Don't make assumptions and most of all . . . be KIND!


Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Impact of Technology on Our Children


photo credit : Family Matters blog            

One might find it hard to believe that Steve Jobs, who once ran Apple, had limits when it came to his own children using technology. In fact, you might expect his house to look more like The Jetsons in the 21st century; touch screens used to turn the lights on and off, unlock doors, and prepare dinner. But the truth is, Steve Jobs is not alone. Many technology CEO’s and executives strictly limit their children’s screen time, often banning them on school nights. We ask ourselves, what is the impact of technology on our children?

Today, children as young as two years old, spend more than two and a half hours a day watching television, and using smartphones, computers, and other electronic devices. But, at what cost? How will all of this screen time affect their health, ability to focus for long periods of time, and socialize and talk to their peers?

What are appropriate boundaries? How much is too much, and when are too many limits going to have adverse effects on our children? We wish someone would give us the answer.

While there is no clear cut solution, there are plenty of studies that have shown that excessive media can lead to attention problems, difficulties in school, sleep concerns, and obesity. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that screen time should be avoided entirely for infants and children under age 2.

It wasn't until my son, Braden started school, that I noticed the overwhelming exposure other children had to electronics. Suddenly, children were coming over for playdates asking to play on the iPad rather than building forts, playing sports, or being outside. Conversations were no longer about Legos and Matchbox cars, rather about Minecraft and Xbox games.

I admit that at some point I convinced herself that allowing Braden to play “educational games” was appropriate. iPads were being introduced in the classroom and he was expected to login and practice math and computer skills at home. Schools and administrators were convincing parents and students that they needed to get children to use iPads and computers at an earlier age to keep up with their peers. That somehow, parents who limited electronics were putting their children at a disadvantage.

I can’t speak for all parents, but intuitively I know that I want to limit my son’s exposure to electronics and video games. It’s not a black and white decision, but in our house, there is a time and a place for it. For example; we never choose electronics over reading, hanging out with friends, or being active. No electronics at dinner time, during playdates, or before bed. Electronics are not used outside of the home, to keep him quiet, or to fight boredom. Electronics are reserved for the weekends, with the exception of school work. Our weekdays are filled with homework, martial arts, piano lessons, playdates, reading, and having face to face conversations about our daily activities.

I notice that when I get lazy, or make exceptions to our limited technology rule, my son’s behavior changes. He becomes more defiant, demonstrates meltdowns and temper tantrums, and ultimately craves more screen time. Therefore, it’s really important for me to be aware of how much screen time Braden is getting in any given week. I have to remember to be present and consciously aware, and make sure that I provide him with real experiences, as well as be a role model of what healthy use of technology looks like. What this means is that each day I take the time to unplug and just be a mom. And guess what? The world still goes on without me.

How often your children spend on technology each week? Do you restrict electronics on school nights? How much is too much or does it matter to you? What do you think is the impact of technology on our children?


Sunday, September 22, 2013

What's Your Less Than Perfect Parenting Confession?

"The best moms are the ones that don't have any children yet"                                          - Kate Devine Brady 

I don’t know about any one else, but I remember before having my son, I thought I knew everything there was to know about parenting.  I was, after all, a teacher.  I had a degree in early childhood education, had been a Nanny, and had worked with children since the time I was fifteen years old.  I even dated a few guys that acted a bit like children.  I was good with kids.  People always marveled at how well I understood them, how patient I was, and how children were drawn to me.
During the early months of pregnancy, my husband and I did our due diligence and talked about how we were going to raise our son.  What we would and wouldn’t do, what kind of parents we would and wouldn’t be.   We had it all figured out, and were sure we were going to be the best parents ever.
Have you ever judged other parents before you had kids of your own?  Not necessarily to their faces; but did you ever give a look, or think to yourself that you would never I would never let my baby sleep in bed with me; drink formula or eat anything that wasn’t organic.  I would never let my child throw a temper tantrum in the middle of a toy store; never bribe him with candy; and never put him in front of the television so I could have just 10 minutes of peace.  I would never allow my teenager to talk back to me, get a tattoo or nose ring, and so on, and so forth.
You had children of your own and you realized just how hard parenting is; the lack of sleep, intimacy with your spouse, and balancing act of it all.  You forgo the homemade pasta with pesto made from the garden, for the boxed Annie’s Macaroni and Cheese.  You give into co-sleeping because you are just too tired to get up for the fifth time in less than two hours.  You hand over the iPad because you want just 10 minutes to finish a conversation with a friend you haven’t been able to talk to in over 6 months.
You just do the best that you can and most of all, you stop judging and begin to understand: the mother who hasn’t slept in three days because her daughter has strep throat and gets ice cream for breakfast because that’s all she’ll eat; or, the mother who’s juggling three babies under the age of four, trying to pay for groceries while her boys are running around the store like wild things; and, the mother who’s child drops his only cookie in the sandbox, so she swiftly picks it, shakes off the sand, and hands it right back to him thinking, “ a little sand never hurt anyone.”
Because as a parent, I know that nobody is perfect.  I’m not.
What are your less than perfect parenting confessions?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Farewell to Seoul

-  Photo was taken by the very talented, Concha Hernandez

Grateful Friends Daily : Seoul and Friends

I don't know where to start and couldn't list everyone, but this post is dedicated to each and every individual who touched our lives in the last three years.

Bidding farewell is never easy, and this one in particular is bittersweet.
I'm not going to lie, living in Seoul has had it's challenges. There were days, in the beginning, I dreamt of my escape, longed for the day it would all be over. It was during these times, my little rescuers, scattered all over the city, helped me off the ledge and gave me the strength to keep at it; and I'm glad I did because today, when I bid farewell to this chapter in my life, I have tears in my eyes.

Thank you to those who have left, and the ones who remain.

To my ECLC family, expat family, Heart & Seoul MeetUp, SMAK and more. To my neighbors and all of my Korean friends. To the adjumas and adjushis, our babysitters, students and parents. To the owners of our favorite restaurants and cafes, to our pharmacist and our dentist.

To all those who were patient, kind and forgiving. To those who understood and came to my rescue. To those who made me laugh and smile; and even those who made me cry.

Seoul, you are a remarkable city, with a great deal of beauty and culture. You have tradition, history, and strength.

You are strong and stubborn; busy and active. You have many hidden unique qualities.

You are determined to preserve your history and foundation, while longing to globalize and modernize.

Your food is incredible, your parks are glorious, and your palaces spectacular.

I have learned from you, and grown because of you.

Thank you for all that you have given me. You will be missed.

Off we go...


Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Motherhood Sorority

-  Photo was taken by Katie Witt of

“Because there is no one way to be a perfect parent, but there are a million ways to be a great one.”  Kelle Hampton

Whether you are a stay-at-home or working mom, being a mother can be one of the most difficult things that you have ever done. There will be days that make you wonder if you measure up, if you’re doing you’re best, if you were even meant to be a mother.  You will doubt yourself, judge yourself and feel inadequate.  You’ll compare yourself, blame yourself and maybe even wish you weren’t a mom.

It’s during these times, I reach out to other fellow moms because I know that there is someone else out there who is feeling exactly the way that I do, perhaps even at the exact time.

Moth•er•hood is defined as the state of being a mother.  To me, motherhood is a test of endurance.  Most days, I know I’m a good mom.  Some days, I don’t even care whether or not I am, because I can just look at my son and know that I’m doing it right.

Motherhood is like a sorority, a group of women who fully, and wholehearted understand exactly what you are going through.  There are no words needed, explanations to be given, or excuses to be made.  We’ve been there, done that.  We know exactly how you feel.  It sounds so cliché, doesn’t it?

For me, my biggest challenge is not about being a mother.  I love being a mom.  Sure, not every single moment, but on the most part, I enjoy, even long for moments I can spend with my son.   I find parenting fulfilling and valuable.  I derive pleasure from playing with hot wheels, finger painting, and molding play-dough.

My struggle is more about finding the time to connect with myself outside of my role as “mom.”  As moms, we give so much of ourselves to our children, and expect so little in return.   Lately, however, I’m realizing that it’s time for me to be more than a mom, to remember that the more of myself I keep, the happier I will be for my family.   If we don’t look after ourselves physically, mentally, and emotionally, then there is very little left to give.

So, what do I enjoy doing outside of my work and taking care of my son?

As if that’s not enough to figure out, what also gets pushed by the wayside is time with my husband, or the time and space to be a wife.  In today’s fast-paced world, husband and wives gets squeezed between morning rituals, sports, activities, meals, laundry, bath time, bedtime, and everything in between.  Our high-tech immediate world all so often means that texting and emails supplant conversations, either via the phone or face-to-face.  It’s a challenge finding the energy at the end of the day to just connect, even if only for a few minutes.

For today, though, I will not dwell on not being good enough, nor worry that I’m not measuring up.  Instead, I will celebrate Motherhood and take care of me.  Happy Mother’s Day!  How did you celebrate Mother’s Day this year?


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

My Father Died - Now What?

illustrated by; Diana Fogarty Daino
“To live and love wholly again, you must mourn. You will not heal unless you allow yourself to openly express your grief…
Remember, grief is a process, not an event. Be patient and tolerant with yourself. And never forget that the death of a parent changes your life forever.”
~ Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D.

The morning of April 16, 2003, the phone ran, I glanced at the caller ID: “parents.”  In the last few weeks, I had grown skittish at the sound of my phone ringing, holding my breath, and releasing a sigh when it was anyone but my “parents.”  It wasn’t that I didn’t love my mother and father, wasn’t close or wanted to hear from them— it was fear.

Fear that every time my phone rang, it would be the moment that would change my life forever.

I took a deep breath and answered, momentarily thinking I should let it go to voicemail, I knew the moment I had been fearing was becoming a reality.

“Hi Arianna, your father is in the hospital and the doctors say he doesn’t have much time left.  They will do what they can to keep him alive until you can all get here, but they recommend you come as quickly as you can to say good-bye…”  The conversation went on for a few more minutes, I’m not really sure what I said or how I left it, but the next several hours felt like a slow-moving nightmare.

A few hours later, I found myself landing at JFK, being picked up by my brother, Fabio, and immediately rushed to NYU Medical Center.  Family and friends filled the waiting room, but there was no sound.  Silence filled the room. Through tears in my eyes, I looked at my mother, and had no words.

I went in to see my father.  (Sigh)  I made it!  I had gotten there in time.  Although he was unconscious and probably unaware of my presence, I was able to see him for the last time, to hold his hand, hug his warm body and say good-bye.

But how do you say good-bye to your own father?   How do you let go of the one man that has been your greatest supporter, most influential role model, and your deepest love?  You just stand there and hold him until… I didn’t want the story to end this way.

Whether it’s a sudden loss, you’ve had months to prepare, or it’s a natural progression of life, it doesn’t even matter whether your relationship was close or distant, nothing prepares you for the death of a parent.
After a death, you go through a range of emotions from one moment to the next, eventually one day turns to another, and before you know it, it’s been ten years.

So much has happened in the last ten years, moments that I couldn’t share with my dad.  Moments that I wished, more than ever, with the greatest pain in my heart, that he could have been there for:  to meet my husband, my wedding day, the purchase of a new home, the birth of my son, and every non-monumental moment in between.

The first year was the toughest, I called it the year of the firsts; first Father’s Day, his birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year and finally, the anniversary of his death.  The years that followed seemed to get easier, but there are still those occasions, when I least expect it and am unprepared, that leave me breathless and longing for him.

So often I have reached for the phone to call and ask my dad a question, to toss an idea around, to get his advice, or to share some happy news.  There have been times where I have felt his presence, smelled his cologne, or heard the sound of his voice.  When this happens, I stop, take a deep breath, close my eyes and relish the feeling that he is still with me.

And if I could, this is what I’d say to him today.
"Dear Papi, You taught me that I could do anything I set my mind to, to never give up, to be independent and perhaps against your intentions, a little too strong willed.  You wanted me to be loving, compassionate, patient, and giving. You supported my decisions and allowed me to make mistakes. You were my go-to, my advisor, counselor, problem solver, and biggest cheerleader. You were, before I met my husband, the smartest man I knew. You were a role model, hardworking, determined, dedicated, selfless, devoted, respected, and, perhaps against your intentions, a little too strong willed.  I will forever be a part of you, and you, an even bigger part of me.  I love and miss you deeply.  Love, Arianna."


Monday, March 11, 2013

Sticks and Stones : Dealing with Verbal Abuse From Your Child

“Sticks and stones may break my bones
But names will never hurt me.”  – Unknown
I’d argue that whoever wrote the popular nursery rhyme didn’t have a four year old who called them names.  Not just names, mind you, but straight to the heart hateful words, like “I hate you,” “I will kill you,” or “You’re an idiot.”

Really?  From a four year old?  What have I done to deserve this?

My husband and I certainly don’t say those things to our son.  He doesn’t watch television, or play video games, nor does he have toy weapons at home.  So, where does it come from?

I guess I could better rationalize this behavior if he were a teenager; although, for me, this is not acceptable at any age and it certainly doesn’t make me look forward to what’s in store for us in the coming years.  So what do you do when your child is being verbally abusive?

As parents, we are often faced with temper tantrums, heavy sighs, feet stomping and doors slamming.  It’s my responsibility to help my son learn to manage and express his feelings: to teach him to self regulate, to know his limits, and to find appropriate ways of letting his feelings out.

I validate, acknowledge, and empathize with him. I want him to feel heard and understood.  To identify what he’s feeling and to create a safe space where he knows he can be himself.   “Mommy can see that you are feeling frustrated.  I bet you’re upset because you weren’t finished playing and now we have to get ready for bed.  I wish we could play a little longer, but if we don’t get to bed, you’ll be cranky in the morning.” 

Sometimes, this dialogue works.  Other times, it will trigger a verbal attack about how much he hates me and wishes me dead.  How is it, that my four year old knows which buttons to push?  I wish I could say it doesn’t bother me, that I am so zen these words just roll off my back; some days I am spiritually fit and the words do roll off my back, but for the most part, they hurt.  They really, really hurt!

Of course, it’s during these times that I begin to reflect on the way that we are raising him. As with everything else, parents are role models to our children. If I am being completely honest, then, I’m not always the best example.  I lose my patience, am sarcastic, and antagonize him at times.  I fight with my husband, have road rage, and have been know to drop the F-bomb under my breath.  I instantly regret my behavior, hope it went unnoticed, and try to hold it together a little better the next time.

Nobody ever stops to ask me, “How did that make you feel?  I can see that my ignoring you makes you frustrated and I’m sorry.”  But I’m the parent and it’s my responsibility to actively and positively communicate my feelings with my own family.  Having a child gives me the opportunity to slow down, to speak from the heart, and, most importantly, to practice safe, emotional communication with not only with my son, but my husband as well.

A few weeks ago, I was reminded, by my four year old, of how much he does hear, take in, and model from us.  We were having one of those mornings.  My husband, in his frustration, asked Braden to just “shut up.”  He immediately apologized and we went on with our morning.  A little while later, Braden told him to “shut up” and I interjected, telling him it’s not okay to talk to people like that.  His response, very matter-of-factly, “But you are my parents and I copy you.  If you say it, then I think it’s okay to say and I am going say it.”  Wow!  Exactly.

So we take a deep breath, realize that nobody is perfect, validate, acknowledge, and empathize with him.  We apologize, ask for forgiveness, and try again.  Together, in time, with practice, we’ll all have a better handle at this.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Teaching Children to Love

It's Valentine’s Day today and I'm thinking a lot about love.

My favorite moments are those when Braden, seemingly out of nowhere, will whisper, “I love you, Mommy.”  Most of the time it’s in a sleepy state, after he has just woken up, or is about to fall asleep.  Other times, it’s directly related to something I’ve just done for him, something he wants to say thank you for, or to let me know that he appreciates me.  Whatever the reason, those three little words melt my heart.

As a child, I didn’t often hear my father tell me that he loved me.  In fact, I could probably tell you the exact moments that he did.  Did I know, then, that he loved me?  Sure.  But I can remember longing just to hear him say those words out loud.  I can also remember asking my mother, “Why doesn’t Papi tell me that he loves me?”  She replied, “You know Papi loves you, he just shows you in different ways.” 

As I got older, and would inevitably ask again, my mom’s responses provided more details: “Papi didn’t really hear ‘I love you’ growing up, so it’s hard for him to say it.  He doesn’t tell me that he loves me, but I know that he does.  He shows he loves you by working hard and providing for you.”  Sure, that was all true, but I just wanted to hear him tell me. 

As a young adult, I remember sitting my dad down and telling him how I felt.  “Papi, I know you love me, but I need to hear you tell me.  I want you to tell me you love me like other Dads tell their daughters.”  Now, I had no idea if other dads did, in fact, tell their daughters that they loved them, but I had assumed they did and I wanted, no, I needed him to tell me.  You know what?  He did!  He started telling me that he loved me more often.

As a mother, I must tell Braden I love him at least a hundred times a day!  Does my telling him so often take away from the meaning?  Does he also know that I love him by my actions?  Will he ever wish I had told him more often, or worse yet, less?

I recently asked Braden, “Do you know what it means to love someone?”  To which he replied, “It means you want to be next to that person all day long, and that makes you happy.  But when you can’t be next to them, you are sad.  Like when I go to school, I know you are on the floor below my classroom, but I want you to be in my classroom, so that makes me sad.  I will follow whoever I love wherever they go.”  For Braden, to love someone means to be in their physical presence, but being in their absence causes sadness.

I can relate to that.  I often miss Braden throughout the day, even if I'm running errands, gone for just a few hours, or if we're both at school and I don't see him during the day.  For those who don’t know me, I should preface this by sharing that I am both a mother and a teacher.  I am fortunate enough to be able to teach at the same school my son attends.  I don’t take that for granted and feel blessed each day that I have my son as close to me as I do, but even with that, I miss him.

What is your child’s understanding of love?  Is it about hearts and chocolates?  Or, more about feelings and actions?  Do you love someone because they help you with something, make you dinner, do your laundry, and read you stories; or do you love someone because they hold your hand, and give you hugs? More importantly, how do you teach a child to love?

Love, is both innate and learned.  It is both tangible and intangible.

I think most parents feel they show their child love by physical contact—with hugs and kisses and by the everyday tasks we do as parents.  We love our children unconditionally.  We provide for them, we nurture them, we give them what we can.

Yet this is just a small part of teaching children to love.

Love is also shown through example.  We can show our children how to love by the interactions we have with other people, and how genuinely and unselfishly we love others.

Having moved around for the better part of my adult life, I have friends scattered all over the world.  Some have been friends since childhood, others are more recent.  Some will span a lifetime, while others may be short-lived.  Whatever the impact, however the depth, each relationship is meaningful to me, providing me with not only what I need at that moment, but also allowing me to give of myself in return.  As Braden experiences these friendships through me, he can learn how to develop his own, and discover how he can make a difference in other people’s lives.

I believe this has a greater impact on they way children learn to love.  As they watch their parents interact in their world, they learn how to love and treat others.

It’s important to me for Braden to be respectful and loving to the people he comes in contact with every day.  This means eye contact, smiling, being polite, and saying hello.  Not only to the people we know, but to strangers as well. On a daily basis Braden can observe me holding the door open for the person behind me, letting someone cut in front of me in line, stopping to say good morning to the adjumas and adjushis at school, saying please and thank you when ordering a coffee, and greeting people with a smile.  It is my hope, that as he observes, he, too, learns to love in the same way.

It’s not enough to talk about love.  Nor is it enough to crowd love into pink boxes of chocolates, bouquets of red roses, and heart-shaped Valentine’s Day cards.  We have to teach children to become loving and caring human beings, and that should not be reserved for just one day of the year.


Monday, January 14, 2013

The Aftermath : Looking for the Answers Within : Recap

Today marks the one-month anniversary of the horrible shooting that happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.  My heart continues to break, not only for the families of the victims, but also for all the parents, children, teachers and staff at the school and in the community. I can still see their tiny little faces as I imagine the fear they had in their last moments on this earth.  I hope they didn't suffer, felt the deep love their parents had for them, and left this earth peacefully.

I imagine my own son, crying for me, and my not being able to save him.  I can see the look on his face seconds before he witnesses such a tragedy.  I can’t help but wonder what could have been done differently to stop this from happening.

Is gun control, arming teachers, or having guards stand at the front door of our schools the real answer?

I sound like my mother when I start to say things like, “I remember a time…” but I am a mother now and I do remember those times, and I would do anything if my child could grow up in simpler days.

"However we treat the child, the child will treat the world."   
- Pam Leo

I don’t blame Adam Lanza’s mother, although there seem to be things she could have done differently.  I guess, then, I am blaming her, but as a mother, I don’t know what I would, or could, have done in her shoes.

Are our children who they are, or what they learn?  Can we, as parents be held responsible for the choices our children make?  We make decisions each and every day of their lives, which we believe will steer them in the right direction.  We act as role models, sometimes flawed, but, for the most part, our intention is to do the best that we can.

Yet even when those purposeful, well-thought-out decisions are made, we still don’t know the outcome.  Our children’s personalities, the way they behave, and the choices they make, are ultimately their own.

Adam Lanza wasn’t a child who killed people; he was a young man killing children and adults.  Adam Lanza is responsible for what he did, but he took his own life, making our quest for justice impossible.  But the question of responsibility, something far more problematic than justice, remains.

What we do about this now, in the aftermath, today, and in the future, demonstrates how responsible we are.  Will we take on violence, gun control, video games, mental illness, bullying, and hate?  Are we any closer to taking responsibility for the world we have come to know?   I don’t know.  But I do know this; if we don’t, our children won’t.

I take responsibility for my own actions and words, and will try and make a difference.  I will continue to be a role model to my son, Braden.  I will teach him respect, love, compassion and empathy, not only for himself, but also for others, and for life.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the families, friends and community of Sandy Hook Elementary School. I don't know how life goes on after something like this, but somehow, it just does.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting: Newtown, Connecticut

I woke up this morning, a half a world away, to learn about news of a tragedy that happened back home. To anyone with a heart, this news is unimaginable. To me, as a mother, it was unspeakable.

I cried, and continue to cry, for those babies. Imagining the fear they had in their last moments on this earth. 

I imagined my own son, Braden, crying for me, and my not being able to save him.

I don't know these children, but I can see each of their faces in front of me. I hope they didn't suffer, felt the love their parents had for them, and left this earth peacefully.

My thoughts and prayers go out to their families. I don't know how life goes on after such a tragedy.


Friday, July 6, 2012

A Car-free Life

Having lived in Boston for the better part of my adult life, I got used to not driving.  With the hassles of limited parking, worrying about which day was street cleaning, the enormous task of shoveling your car out after a blizzard, and countless parking tickets, being car-free was easy.  It helped that Boston has great mass transit and is pedestrian-friendly.
When I moved to Los Angeles, I knew my car-free days were over.  Although most of my days were spent in a car, I walked as often as I could, often times confronted by the bewilderment of friends who would ask, “You walked here?  Why?”   For me, it wasn’t about the environmental, physical or health benefits.  I simply enjoyed walking!  Actually, come to think of it, I think I just dislike driving more.
Especially in a large city, walking allows you to get know your neighborhood.  Walking forces you to stay close to home and use the resources around you.  You shop locally, support local store owners and meet people in your community.   You become more intimately aware of your neighborhood; and, if you’re lucky, you may even discover a hidden treasure you would never find driving past in your car.  Eventually, the large city, doesn’t feel so overwhelming anymore.
My husband and I have fond memories of when our son, Braden started walking.  Our early evening walks could take hours just to get to the end of the street (I did mention I didn’t walk for the physical benefits, right?)  Eventually we’d make it to the corner and finally around the block before it was time to head home.  Our son, now 4 is a walker.  He enjoys walking around the neighborhood, to the park and especially to Starbucks.   He resists the car and will ask if we can walk instead. 
When my husband and I considered moving from Los Angeles to Seoul, Korea, one of my first thoughts was, “I won’t have to drive anymore!”   The thought of giving up my car made me feel giddy.
Seoul, like Boston, is accessible.  The subway system is easy to navigate and quite sophisticated.  You can live in Seoul your entire life without needing a car.  Braden and I have had the opportunity to explore Seoul in ways that many Seoulites haven’t.   Perhaps it’s the adventurous side of us, our desire to explore and see new things, but there have been countless times we simply look at a subway map and point to where we want to go; and that’s where we end up for the day.
We’ve also gotten to know many of the local shop owners in our neighborhood.  Being one of the few foreigners, helps, but it’s nice when you’re walking down the street and a shop owner stops to wave hello as you pass by.
I won’t say we’ll never have a car again, but for now, we’re enjoying a car-free life.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Superbowl Sunday... actually it was Monday morning for us.

My Jersey as Mrs. Carlson in '07
I'm not totally disappointed that the Patriots lost the Superbowl today.  Okay, that might not be totally true, but the sting hurts a little less when I think about the wonderful morning I spent with my son.  Today was Superbowl Monday Morning here for us in Korea.  My husband, son, and I awoke before dawn to get on base to catch the game.  Die hard fans, if you ask me; either that, or crazy.  Braden didn’t seem to mind, even though we made our way to the subway station in the dark, and emerged forty minutes later in that milky paleness of the early morning.  Even he noticed the quite of the streets as we made our way through town.

Braden did watch the Superbowl last year.  Although the Patriots weren't playing, he spent most of the game rooting for the Jets.  No, they weren't playing either, but they did play the Patriots during the playoffs, and Braden got a kick out of the "Let's go Jets!" chant, their green jerseys (green is his favorite color), and the fact that his chanting seemed to push my buttons.  So, for all those reasons, at every football (basketball, baseball, and hockey) game from that point forward, he took it upon himself to root for the Jets, even when they weren't playing. 

This year, as the Patriots were getting closer to the Superbowl, we talked a lot about "OUR favorite" team and rooting for them during the Superbowl.  Nevertheless, I caught myself holding my breath several times imagining he'd suddenly remember the old chant and begin taunting me with it.  Fortunately, he didn't, and we proudly rooted for the Patriots!

Since he's older now and more into sports, the game was a lot more fun to watch through his eyes.  Yes, as a typical three year-old, he spent most of the game asking questions; lots of them:  "When is football starting?" (as the announcers talked during the pre-game),  "What are they doing?" (as they huddled together for the coin toss), "Why are they running?"  (as they began to play the game), "Why did they knock them down?" (as the teams tackled one another), "Why didn't he catch the ball?" (as the receivers fumbled and dropped the ball on one too many occasions), "Why do they have numbers?"  (as he noticed Tom Brady's #12 on the jersey I had just won – YAY!) and so on.

As the game progressed, he seemed to understand more and more of what was happening, and gradually, the questions lessened.  He was hooked!  He was a football fan!  He was watching football! 

Watching from the sidelines, I was amazed at how his mind captured each play, mimicked what he saw, and how he was transforming into a real fan; not because his Mom or Dad told him who to root for, but because he understood the game and wanted to see how it played out.

As we arrived home, my son announced that he wanted to be a football player when he "gets bigger" and that his number will be 80 - 20.  When I told him he could only have a two-digit number, he settled on 97.  So look out for Carlson #97 playing for the Patriots during Superbowl LXVIII.

Mom and Dad will definitely be on the sidelines cheering as we remember Superbowl XLVI and how you fell in love with the game.

Go Pats!


Thursday, January 26, 2012

When in Rome... or Korea, in this case...

In Korea, the 100th day after a child's birth (baek il) marks a milestone and is cause for celebration.  The number 100 means maturity and perfection, fullness and completion; therefore, a baby who reaches this benchmark has fully matured into a human being.   Making it past the first 100 days was a sign that the baby had survived.  Historically, many newborns didn't make it to their first 100 days because of poverty, lack of medical aid, or a weak immune system.  So, when a baby survives the first 100 days, you celebrate!

Today, marks Braden and my 100th day in Korea.  We too have matured and survived.  We have done more than survive.  We have jumped into the deep end with no life preservers to save us.  It's either sink or swim, and I have chosen to swim; if not for me, for the sake of Braden and the experiences he will gain from our living abroad.   It hasn't been easy, there were definitely days I wanted to pack up and move home.  Heck, even as I write this I fantasize of home; but when I think about what I have done in such a short time, I am reminded of the many milestones newborns make so early in life.

I'm going a little insane.
My greatest satisfactions are:  being together as a family, the amazing friends we have made and who have made life in Korea more bearable, and the experiences I have given to Braden.  When it gets tough; really, really tough and I want to throw in the towel, I think about what Braden said to me not so long ago when I asked him, "Are you glad we moved to Korea?"  Without hesitation and with complete honesty, he said, "Well, yes!  Because when I lived in New York I missed Daddy and cried sometimes."

So with that, I take the good and the bad and do what I can to continue to survive; continue to make this an experience of a lifetime; continue to stay sane, in this ever so insane world we find ourselves in.  I will not only survive my first 100 days, but the next 100 years, if I have have to.  God willing, we won't have to. {smile}  Happy Baek Il Day!