Tuesday, September 30, 2014

On wanderlust.

the land where the edge of the sea meets the wall of the sky.

the horizons that stretch your sophomoric imaginations and longings.

well by dwelling in God. in Him is rest. without fear. without boredom.

the things that last forever and ever.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Love of a jealous kind, 10.

9  8  7  6  5  4  3  2  1

LORD, why is this?! I trembling cried.
Will You pursue Your own to death?

thank You for laboring with me in love.
so meticulous, so kind
to make me Yours.

Tis in this way, the LORD replied,
I answer prayer for grace and strength.
These inward trials I now employ,
From self, and pride, to set you free;
And break your schemes of earthly joys,
Til you should find your all in Me.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Little one, Pt 2: CANCERFREEOMG!

Pausing this morning to celebrate Abba's goodness, this brave little booboo's resilience and joy, her family's strong hope. She is HEALED!

from Stage 3 NHL in April
to cancer-free.OMG today!

Received your great news as most worthy excuse for celebratory ICE CREAM FOR BREAKFAST. Raising a spoon to you from your old stomping grounds :) It was Haagen Dazs Caramelized Banana Chip Gelato, pretty good!! Seeya in Seattle!

"Is everything sad going to come untrue?" // Sam Gamgee

hope shall change to glad fruition
faith to sight, and prayer to praise

Friday, September 12, 2014

On 9/11 and PTSD, Pt 2

Here are some snapshots from one of my favorite writers (a paragraph of her unfiltered, confessionally honest wit, and her refreshingly researched and resonant views, similar experiences except she's better at everything, and you who know me will know that I adore her. Penelope can we be friends?)

Penelope Trunk, who survived 9/11, and a host of other crazy shit, is a traveling friend and a credible witness. She blogs about PTSD every year on 9/11.

Because she has allowed herself to heal through storytelling, through reframing (which is an important marker of therapeutic rather than ruminative narrative), and observed her own healing.

On therapeutic vs. ruminative writing -- I am reading Pennebaker's social psychology findings through computational linguistics research -- this is a whole other post on how to heal through writing. Well, this whole blog is an attempt at health and help through writing.

I don't have a roadmap to the wilderness. No one does, that's what makes it wild. There are a few signposts though, corroborated by many who have gone the pilgrim route before us.


1. Walk together. Let's be generous and hospitable. You can afford to be human.
Written for Time Magazine, the week of 9/11/2001.

There was no one around. White everywhere. The four of us had nowhere to go. I couldn't remember where I was. I walked toward the water. Police directed everyone north. I asked a woman next to me, "Where are we going?" She said, "I don't know." She had no dust. She looked so steady. I followed her. This was the beginning of her long protection.

She said, "You can walk home with me. You need a shower." I coughed. She asked why I was carrying a wastebasket. I said, "In case there's another bomb." She held onto my arm as we made our way next to the river. In Chinatown, she bought me shoes. At the Bowery we finally found a payphone that didn't have a line of people. So she called her husband and I sat down next to my wastebasket. It was the first time I sat down, and I started crying.

2. Let's hold hands. Let's give each other dignity.
Written for Time Magazine, the week of 9/11/2001.
I remembered one more moment under the rubble. When I couldn't breathe. When I couldn't see. In the middle of the dead quiet was a voice. He said, "Is there anyone here? Can someone hold my hand?" I reached out to the voice, and held his hand. It was shaking and the skin was old. I squeezed and then I let go.

3. God shows grace and mercy toward humanity. Accept that you are human and there was no way you could have rewalked that valley perfectly.
8 years later.
Over the years, what that upsets me the most about 9/11 has changed. In the beginning, I was most upset about how when I saw danger, I walked toward the building, to see what was happening, rather than getting back on the train and going home. Later I learned that most of Wall St. responded the same way, so I was beating myself up for what was simple human nature.

Later, the thing that most upset me was that I needed so much help from people, but I did not offer help. For example, someone else broke a window, I don't know how, but I pulled myself into a building with breathable air just as I was preparing to accept death. I made my way to a bathroom that was clean and had running water.

Our mouths were so coated with debris that we couldn't really breathe without first swallowing water. There were men fighting over who could drink out of the toilet first. The fighting men scared me and my instinct was to lock the door—I just wanted to be safe.

Later I realized that most people around me were being selfish. It is another natural instinct that you never read about in the newspaper. Who wants to tell a reporter about their selfishness on the anniversary of 9/11?

This year, I realized that my most upsetting moment has changed again. It was the moment where I accepted that I was going to die. I had just married my husband, and I was so disappointed that I would not see how our lives unfolded. I realized that the greatest joy in life is simply watching the lives of people you love unfold in their very own way.
4. Let's tell our stories. Then transcend them. Let's listen well to each other.
Oh yeah, and duh, let's accept the premise: we all could use therapy.
This excerpt is from 2 years later, in 2003.
The way to deal with post-traumatic stress is to tell your story over and over again. The theory is that when you are in the moment of trauma, you have to turn off all your emotions to get yourself through it. After the fact, in order to stop having nightmares and panic attacks, you have to experience the emotions you missed.

So I told my story over and over again. And each time, the story was a little different. (I still tell the story, although to be honest, most people are sick of it. Even my brother said, “That just took 25 minutes. Maybe you need an abridged version.”)

When I began telling my story I saw myself as an imbecile — for staying at work after the first plane hit, for standing so close to the building, for not trying to help anyone but myself. Later, my story focused on how I was a lucky person to have come out alive. And I was a lucky person to have a moment where I thought I was going to die and saw exactly what I cared about in my life.

This is the process of reframing. How we frame our stories determines how we see ourselves. It's the glass half-empty/half-full thing: The trauma of 9/11 taught me to frame my life as half-full.
5. Be patient with yourself, healing takes time. Go slow. Take the space and time that you can.
She writes 7 years later, that it didn't change her overnight though sometimes she wishes that it had.

The slowest moment in my whole life was the time between when the World Trade Center fell next to me. . . In my memory this time span is about fifteen minutes. But from the historical record, I know it was about one minute.

I have been writing for seven years about how the World Trade Center changed me.

And I have been writing, too, about how much I want to change. Sometimes it’s about productivity, sometimes it’s about compassion, sometimes it’s managing my own money. I always want to change something.

I always thought that my success is due to my fast pace. My quick thinking, quick delivery, quick judgment, quick shift. I tell myself that I can get what I want if I try hard enough. And then I translate that to a faster pace.

Don’t tell me about meditation, and yoga, and being present. I’ve done all that. The problem is that a fast-paced overachiever can undermine even those being-present techniques. For example, I am sure that I’m better at Ashtanga yoga than you are: See. That’s how the mind of the fast-paced works.

There is the step you take where you change what your body is doing, and then there is the second step, where you change what you believe. So I have had a hard time believing that I’d be okay with a slower pace.

But this year, I tried going slower. I tried to trust that I’d change the most by changing my pace.

Changing my pace has been about trusting that good things will come from being slow, just as they do from being fast. It’s hard to trust in that, because if you’ve been fast your whole life, you don’t know what you’ll get from slow. Instead, you only see what you cut out of the fast life to make room for the slow life. You know what you lose but not what you’ll gain.

Some of you know what I mean. Others of you are sitting in your chair, smugly thinking that you are great at slow. But those of you who hate a fast pace, you still have a pace problem, it’s just the opposite: Speed makes you anxious. You might miss something. You might do something wrong. You might get lost. These are the worries of slow people that are foreign to the fast.

Pace matters. It opens doors if you use it well. I am not sure if I would be able to change my pace if I had not had an inescapable, defining moment that forced me to try slow. So today I am taking a moment to have gratitude to all the lessons I learned, during my slowest moment..
6. Let's stop when it's time to get on with the day, the point of integrating that old pain into the present, is to be present.
Time to stop reflecting and start shining. But, if you can't--if you're not there yet--first, that's okay--second, make sure the voices you listen to are the ones that know. Read Penelope, for example. 13 years out, you can believe her when you look at her life.

The world is riddled with the same stories, many role reprisals. Just stay in the Story. Abide.

I wanted to eventually get to some arbitrarily numbered point to say, if you make it through this valley, you will have no fear left. But I also now want to just stop reading, and plug back into propelling life forward.

But this post was for you. You know who you are. Go read Penelope. Go read the Bible. You are going to be okay.

So, that's for today--the mental diarrhea that anniversaries draw out of me.


On 9/11 and PTSD

A major legacy of 9/11, for me in the past seven (!) years of living in New York City, is survivor stories. A resilient community, formed from a crucible of crisis.

Just like the legacy of my own little exilic hell at City College of New York, morbidly drawn to Holocaust Studies, to survivor lit.

Tell me your secrets, and you will tell me my story.
Tell me your sorrow, and I will tell you my hope.

Where did it come from, your will to live, that lunatic hope?
How did you make it, against all odds? 
And WHAT. is this joy, this foreign lightness,
that surprised you when it showed up to stay?
What treasure did your tragedy bestow?

Surely, if you can survive, you can learn to live. One can hope.

Anniversary grief of any kind is a curious thing. Hard.

to any suffering friends, i pray that in these days,
in the cycle of seasons, in the recurrence and repetition,
welcome or not:

in these days, may you return not only to your hurt,

your ever-present Help.
oh my friend, you are not alone.
let not your pain crush your heart.

i know you want a map of the wilderness, the mutilated world,
but traveling friends and His guiding presence,
that's all we are given.

oh, and and perishable bread for today
(but enough for a Sabbath)
and promises...

it will be okay soon.


at first, the stories are about surviving trauma.

then, they are about surviving Post-Trauma.

the latter is the more difficult task, I think.

the former, your body does for you, on total out-of-body auto-pilot.


and then, you have to get back into your skin, saggy and ill-fitting and scraped now.

when it comes to Post-Trauma, you are warring against your self, and against your seemingly self-annihilating mind. you are fighting for the present, and for your right to stay there.

Living in the day-to-day, after you have met the extremes––dull. Dull, dim, dark.

Dull like your pain. Dull unlike your flashbacks.

But, oh God, those flashbacks, they are searing. Blinding.
Shocking. stunning. Unlike real-time, which is dull like paralysis.
They demand that you attend to your pain.

They say, heal. Arise. Go. onward.
They say, you are forgiven. What? is that what I really need?

Survivor stories are travelogues of traveling friends. Witnesses who have gone before. Who have found themselves ejected from the life they once knew, in a blur, and then have wandered the wilderness. Some make it out.

Thank you friends, for sharing your stories. The moment you start telling your story, you have survived the prison of your secrecy. When you were unknowable and alone after being dehumanized, it was such extremely narrow confinement.

oh, it is NOT good for man to be alone.

Thank you for your will to live.

Where others had stayed in slavery
When others had perished in the wilderness...

 Each of us cries with thankful heart, "Lord why was I a guest?"

What is there to say, but Thank You.


At first it is terribly dark and cold and grey. They try to fumble their way back to a lost world. lost life. lost garden. Safety was back there. Simple was back there. Plans were back there.

But it is lost. Life can only be ahead. They float on through.

Sometimes they fight.
All the rhythms that were once parasympathetic, all that was for granted, now you must fight for it.
Now you must gasp for air.
Now you must fight for joy.
Now you must wrestle in worship.
Now you must fight to live.

Don't run from the tension.

And suddenly, light. The tears have filled all the secret silent spaces, and they are refracting all the debris of your life from the tunnel's end, into a kaleidoscope.

Life is bursting into full color.

The sun has risen.
A new day has dawned.
It is Easter.

Just like He promised. I will find you. I have never forsaken you.
I descended to the dead. On the third day, I ascended into heaven.
I am seated at the right hand of our Father, where I am your strong and perfect plea.
I came that you might have life––and have it abundantly.
If you are faithless, I will remain faithful.
I will bring you safely home.

We sing a new song:

Oh, if it had not been for the Lord, we would have been swallowed in the sea.
We were so near to death. If it had not been for the Lord, let Israel now say.
You have led us well. You have saved us and safekept us.

Do you know, you can do more than survive?
You can live again.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Rabbit in the Moon

Grandpa loooved rabbits. It was his zodiac year.

Not the actual animal species, I don't think, but as an icon. His sandals and cell phone charm, for example, sported the Playboy Bunny... (as it was fobby Taiwan, he did not know anything about the Hugh Hefner enterprise behind the symbol).

One year during 中秋節 (mid-Autumn Festival) he taught me to search for the 兔寶寶(bunny rabbit) in the moon. We gazed and gazed at the full and happy moon, from my second-floor window in Warrenville. I just don't see it, Grandpa! But I see you! Like trying to read an ultrasound, or unlearning the viewing of the world through the photo-real lens to reach back into a pre-TV imagination that saw stories connecting the scattered stars... I could not eke out a rabbit in the moon, but was happy to just have Ah-Gong instead, a rabbit in my room.

Grandpa and Grandma had brought from Taiwan more battery-operated lanterns for us than we had hands to carry. They also brought mortars and pestles, wooden and marble, in all different sizes. They explained something about the rabbit in the moon pounding something––rice, maybe? I tried it, and it was harder than churning butter, and far less rewarding. What was the point? I didn't get it, and thought a mortar and pestle were not my toys of choice most days except as percussion instruments, but I did once grind up some chalk in one to make an art project with water and black construction paper. I didn't understand most of what they were trying to impart, I mean, the Autumn moon was lovely, and so was being family with Grandma and Grandpa, and so were lanterns and pomelos and pumpkins and dumplings and taro and duck. The mochi, I loved, but mooncake was sick nasty (aside from the salty egg yolk, round like the moon).

Back then I didn't get it but now I recognize and value: They were giving us tradition. They were giving us stories. Culture. Language. They gave us Taiwan, Japan, their world(s), their time(s),  their war, themselves.

And I am so grateful.


When our family of six traveled by sedan, I would sit in the backseat on Grandma's lap, with Joshua and Grandpa. Look at the moon, Grandpa would say. There was an eyebrow phase, a watermelon rind phase. It's following us! And I would wonder how does it do that...? A pearl in the sky could stalk us all the way home (except for the occasional disappearance behind a tree or building). Obviously, the rabbit inside is running very fast!

My top teeth hang over the bottom row in this problematic overbite that makes it difficult to eat anything off a bone with civility. When my new front teeth came in, they were humongous (baby teeth had been tiny) and didn't grind down... Grandpa liked my bucktoothed smile, when I was still self-conscious about it. Like a bunny! An Easter bunny, my brother would tease.  Grandpa would try to coax my toothy smiles––don't hide those pretty bunny teeth! then pretend to be blinded by two full moons at my grin. To this day, my front teeth are rounded and humongous, :B is an apt emoticon. Thank you for not settling for lippy smiles and polite giggles, Grandpa.

In Christ, this tragic world is an uproarious comedy, and the smiles Grandpa taught me were in their way a passport to the party and the pleasures. Laughter: A gift of sanity! Celebrating the wonderful. Puncturing the true. Illuminating the beautiful.


I set aside an hour and a half today, the mid-Autumn Festival, to write a eulogy for Grandpa, whose cremation and memorial is not until October.

In fits and starts and scribbles, I did manage to get out some words. But didn't get very far. There is so much to say. so. much. I think about John, his highly visual imagination, his word pictures, how he recorded in canonized, forever-words: He did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

And that makes perfect sense to me in this moment.

Jesus must have loved John, so, so much.  so. much. He must have entered John's world, gotten down to John's level, crawled with him, slowed down, dumbed down for him, told repetitive stories, drawn diagrams, taught him how to walk, fall, get back up, bike, fall, get back up, how to love, fall, get back up... sleep, wake, cry, hope, wait, work, live, laugh, rejoice. Jesus must have done so much, together, and been so much, with. There is just so much to say about someone who appears into your world, then stays, just to know you and love you and be with you. One day we'll reach a throne room that I like to think will surround us with these very infinite bookshelves filled with all his doings. We'll know, fully, not secondhandedly from the mansion's massive library (the books will be there just for pure pleasure). Not even like a mirror. We will know. And feel fully known. We will catch up on all the years, every moment that we mourned or missed.


How can I winnow all memory of 阿公 into a publicly digestible, concise platter? I couldn't keep up with my pen. There is so freaking much to say, so many flavors, I don't know how to serve it up in good form. But this at least I've decided:

Going forward, I set apart every Autumn Moon Festival to honor their memory, love their nations. I'll celebrate the harvest. I'll insist on joy. I'll look for the rabbit in the moon. I'll try to love their daughter well and pray for their sons.

Maybe it'll be like today––and include friend, family, and feast. Some good ol' Old Speckled Hen EPA, trespassing (under the fence) at a forest preserve nearby for a spontaneous midnight moonchase hike to the top (thanks for comin' with, Jessica!).