“tiny, beautiful things” by cheryl strayed

I picked up this collection of advice columns after reading that the Public Theater had adapted it into a show that ran this past December. I love when theater comes from unexpected places, so I thought I’d give this a whirl despite the fact that this kind of obvious book is not really my jam. No matter. I dug it. This woman writes very well, and with such directness, such honesty, that it really inspired me to be more myself when writing. I love giving advice too, so it was interesting to hear her perspective.There is one excruciating letter from a man who lost his twenty-three year old son to a hit-and-run via drunk driver that I bawled on the subway.

She is also the author of Wild, a huge bestseller and a movie starting Reese Witherspoon, so her level of success is astroid level (unless astroids are the ones that shoot down the earth. First Son was just reciting the difference between a comet, a meteorite, and an astroid, and I cannot for the life of me recall the definitions but possibly none of the three would be an appropriate word of astronomical success if they are all stars that shoot down to the earth in terrific fashion). Strayed recently gave an interview about how much money she actually made from writing her first big novel sale and was explicit about how much the agent gets, the credit card gets, how the length of the payment schedule means you never get that moment of holding two giant bags of money in the air and shout “I’m going to Jamaica, b*tches!” or whatever is your catch phrase of glory. When I was a kid, I read the Choose Your Own Adventure series, where depending on your choices, you went to different pages in the book. I used to keep a book mark at every crossroads to read the other paths I could have taken. I could never accept that the one adventure was the only one open to me. So reading about Strayed’s path of unbridled success having obstacles made me feel that every path is full of struggle and I stopped worrying about the ones I haven’t taken.

pretty woman

I was recently assigned a big project at work, and all the people in my corner there are rooting for me. May I note, however, that the way they are rooting for me is by making very pointed, personal comments about how I speak and dress to the point where I’m like, oh it’s like I’m in Pretty Woman without the denouement on Rodeo Drive where Julia Roberts gets to buy whatever she wants with a bunch of credit cards. I will say right before I headed into a big meeting, my head mail room guy told me wipe my face and my office manager dusted off the back of my jacket. It was completely like being around my family, some of whom start brushing my hair before saying hello.

odd jobs

When we immigrated to the U.S., my dad had a lot of trouble lining up work. Back in Korea, he had gone to Kyongi Boys High School and Seoul National University, an Andover and Harvard of Korea, if you will. It was the seventies and there was a recession, so despite having a law degree, my dad, like many immigrants, had to hustle and start from scratch. I had forgotten the series of odd jobs he had gotten connected with through his friends, until this past Valentine’s Day when I joked to Husband that I got him a box of chocolates with an animal on the cover without eyes. The comment made no sense to either of us, but then, something got jarred in my memory and I recalled a large box of stuffed animals in our home in New Jersey with no eyes.

Husband: What do you mean with no eyes?
Me: No eyes, I mean like no eyes were ever sewn on the stuffed animals.
Husband: And you played with them?
Me: Oh sure. It’s not like they once had eyes and they were gouged out. (This reminds me of King Lear — isn’t he blinded in the play?)
Husband: No wonder you’re so weird.
Me: You’re a lucky guy.

I also remember getting a hooded white rabbit waist-length coat when he was briefly in the fur business and Mom had some gray fox fur coat that framed her face and went down to her ankle. She was quite glam then (and still is actually). There was also a time when he sold these awful sad clown paintings and paintings of boats at a dock, like the most soulless, cheesy, dentist office-looking art that was stacked in piles around the house.

Poor Dad. He was always so hungry to work, to prove himself. I often felt like he was a Willy Loman, whose ship had never come in. Maybe that’s not a fair assessment. Before we moved to the U.S., he was based in London while Mom and I were in Seoul. He worked for some shipping conglomerate, a Samsung or something, and traveled all over the world.

In the U.S., the biggest job he managed to get was a freelance gig as a middle-man selling semi-conductors, connecting American, Korean, and French business peeps, using his effervescent charm and goofy jokes (and I’m sure whatever else you’re suppose to use) to close deals. I did not really know and still do not know what a semi-conductor is, but it has to do with computers…I think. He was very well-liked. He did that for four years while I was in college, and through that job, he paid for every penny of my tuition. My parents are so proud of that accomplishment, and I had no appreciation of it at the time. Now I do. People my age are still paying loans, I have three children and I don’t there’s anyway I can pay for even half of their tuition. What good fortune I was born under.

That was his last big job. The computer industry changed, and the semi-conductor wasn’t really necessary. Every time I’d call him to check in, he would say “I’m fine, not doing much, looking for some excitement.”

This was many years ago.

brooklyn museum of art

Just for a fun breather, I thought I’d take the kids to the Brooklyn Museum. I need art, once in a while, god especially in the wacky version of the world according to the news.

The kids do very well with conceptual art, particularly video installations, and they have tons of experience with children’s museums of course.(Is this because they love watching TV?)

Wonder Twin Girl got yelled at for sitting on an installation that looked like a bench. This began the guardians trailing us room to room. (You know, I really don’t blame them. I felt momentarily concerned, but then that stopped quickly.) And when I turned around in the Egyptian exhibit, I found Wonder Twin Boy leaning on an ancient Egyptian tomb with both hands spread in a classic high-five spread. This was the point in our museum tour, I announced to my gang “okay, time to go!”

bodhisattva, teacher edition

Last Friday, First Son’s class were scheduled to perform at the schools Chinese New Year concert. He spent the time with his classmates, learning the song lyrics and the moves, but when it came time to line up, he burst into tears and stuck with me. He said he both wanted to be in the show and he also didn’t. I can absolutely understand that, and I push him sometimes and not others (he’s a somewhat tentative fellow). I told him, “Look, dude, I know you. You’re scared now, but when we go home, you are going to have regret. When your friends are on stage, you will suffer FOMO [he did not know what i was talking about]. Let’s just go backstage and see what it’s like. No need to decide now”. We went backstage where the other kids were cheerfully putting on red headbands, and I explained the situation to the teacher who was terrific. She hugged him, asked him if he could help out this other kid who was out all week. Once he nodded, she shooed me away, and he was in the show. He’s not a natural performer or anything but he was on stage without throwing up or weeping, performing the same steps as his peers. I was very pleased. I would like him to have experiences where he overcomes nerves, experiences being brave, so that it’s less daunting the next time to situation calls for him to step out of his comfort zone, so I thanked the teacher.

She said, “I always want to ensure all the children feel confident that they can and should try new things!” It occurred to me that she felt love for all her students. I was very moved that for some reason and was reminded of the teachers in the Sandy Hook tragedy who tried to shield their students. That, I thought, is true bodhisattva. Teachers love their students, people who are not even their flesh and blood. I have enjoyed the love of many teachers, so I have no idea why I have never noticed this quality before.

selena gomez

This young singer actress is so lovely. Why do her songs stink so hard? All these songs are cranked out by factories. Anyway, so why not send her a good solid catchy tune?