All posts by Kathy Khang

Boys, What Do You Want To Eat?

That was the refrain last week as I vacationed with my sons. They are both in their 20s. Their voices dropped into manhood years ago. They packed shaving cream and razors instead of their blankies and stuffies. They needed the extra leg room the free upgrade into exit rows afforded us. And they needed to eat, and I needed, well, really wanted, to feed them well.

My Dear Readers, there is nothing quite like watching your loved ones enjoy food. Wait, am I the only one? Do you love watching your loved ones eat? I don’t know what it is. I have always loved watching my kids eat – the delight of new tastes they enjoy, the looks of “I don’t enjoy this”, and the look of satisfaction at the end. I love it all. The pickiest eater of the three will try just about anything so the possibilities are endless. (So parents of young ones tired of chicken nuggets, don’t worry. They get new tastebuds, and be prepared. Those new tastebuds like it when the parents pay for a good steak or hazy IPA.)

In my mind this was a trip about feeding their stomachs, and it was. We were in LA so the minute we were in the rental car it was off to eat. We ate cheesy kalbi jjim, marinated pork belly + beef, kkal gooksu, Japanese curry, handmade mochi, taiyaki aisu, okonomiyaki, and a good old-fashioned brunch with pancakes and hash browns.

But food is also about comfort and provision, about love and time, about honoring and learning preferences, about sitting and listening. 

It was time to get to know my sons and the men they are becoming.

They take up space and make space

When the kids are little, their stuff takes up space. I remember the days/weeks/eons of trying to corral their toys and books and stuff into cubbies and shelves to be safely accessible and slightly esthetically pleasing. 

But one child moved out more than five years ago. One lives and works remote from home; he took the dining room for his office. We coordinate schedules because we share a car and make each other coffee. The last one is in his third year of college so most days are spent he spends 3/4 of the year on campus. Gone is the clutter of toys, replaced by adult bodies moving about in the same space toddlers once occupied.

So spending 24/7 for a few days with just my boys meant being in each other’s way (one budget hotel room with two “queen” beds and one bathroom) and having a chance to just watch how they made space for each other and me, waiting to walk to the elevator and the car, waiting to enter a restaurant or to get to the door. 

The older son took a work call, and it was fun driving with E riding shotgun, whispering and using facial expressions and hand gestures that finally gave way to playlists and commentary.

Different eyes

I think I was watching them more closely because I know that time like this is rare. I love and like my grown children, and so far they like spending time with me. The kids have cleared social and work schedules to spend a week together for a family vacation on top of being together for Christmas. I don’t know how long we can keep that up and how in the future significant others and partners will join in on the Christmas Day movie or invite our kids to join their family traditions. But for now, I’ll take it all in.

Both sons needed time in the morning to ease into the day. They both needed time to exercise and unwind. In another season of parenting, I would’ve pushed to get us out the door to get to one more place and see one more thing, but in this season that started during the college years I let them sleep, workout, fix their hair, and walk slowly. This world can be a cruel, grueling place. I saw them with compassion knowing Capitalism doesn’t all us to enjoy each other’s joy and rest.

They wanted to spend a good chunk of a day watching professional teams play League of Legends and asked if I wanted to join them at the tournament, a little worried about how I would spend my time and a little worried I would rush them. No rush. I said go ahead, had coffee with a friend, and then sat on a bench at the beach to watch the sunset. I know. A mother’s sacrifice. And when C saw two players in standing on the corner in Sawtelle, I asked, “Are you going to say hi and ask for a photo?” A mother’s gentle nudge to shoot your shot, even if it’s a moment of fandom. I’m smiling while typing this, remembering how my boys and their friends took in the random moment and played it over and over in the car with the photos to prove it happened…and I got to see it all, too.

I also watched them eat, trying to gauge if they had enough protein, offering up half of my egg or a chunk of tofu. “Did you have enough? Do you need more? Do you want this piece?” I asked at every meal, not with the eyes of a mom of little ones who cannot efficiently feed themselves but of a mom who will not have many more opportunities to be the one to take care of their needs and wants. Corban said I was doing it more than usual, and maybe I was. There is a bit of a juggling act as a Korean American mom of Korean American sons; my loving and caring should not be enabling man-baby behavior. I’m still learning how to mother young men to be grown men. IYKYK.

And so I listen to Corban and try to eat and listen to what my needs might be as well.

The years really are short

I tell parents of younger children time sped up when the oldest started high school. Before I knew it the last one was a high school senior and we were in a global pandemic. He was so moody and grumpy but weren’t we all? I’ve heard so many friends say that first year of the pandemic was so long and so recent, time bending in ways we don’t understand. That’s parenting. I swear I just gave birth but that’s impossible because I’m also post-menopausal. My joints remind me that my body did some crazy stuff but my mind says it was just yesterday.

But it actually was just last week my boys and I woke up in the same room, and I asked, “What do you want to eat today?” 

 

Playing the Name Game of Endorsements

My Dear Readers,

I have a book, written with my friend Matt Mikalatos, that hits the shelves October 17. The process of seeking endorsements – the blurbs on the back, inside, and sometimes on the cover – began a few weeks ago. A PDF of our edited but not typeset manuscript was sent/is being sent to leaders in the Church – progressives, conservatives, authors, pastors, organizational leaders, etc. Because our book, Loving Disagreement: Fighting For Community Through the Fruit of the Spirit, is about engaging in disagreements we are intentionally looking for people with a variety of theological and political views, representing the diversity of the Church. I suspect even I may be surprised at the endorsements because hopefully some will come from people I disagree with but believe in book. 

Recently the topic of book endorsements, particularly within Christian publishing, has come under scrutiny because of a soon-to-be published book containing dangerous theology and uncomfortably weird analogies was endorsed by several prominent authors and pastors. Their endorsements raised questions about those blurbs and the process of vetting both the book and the blurb.

I’ve written elsewhere about Christian publishing – how that process played out for me and how it could play out for other aspiring authors. I thought I’d add my one cent here about the game of endorsements.

It’s a business and a ministry and a business

Please remember that Christian publishing is still a business. Even if the publisher is the publishing arm of a non-profit, book publishing is a business. 

So when it comes to endorsements I have found it complicated. As an Asian American female Christian author, I am often asked if I would read a manuscript and offer an endorsement. When I first started down this road of Christian publishing almost 20 years ago, Twitter + IG did not exist. Smart phones did not exist. But that did not mean Christian authors weren’t building platforms. They were blogging and building email lists. They were speaking at conferences that kept getting bigger with more stage production and building email lists. So when five completely unknown Asian American women were getting ready to send More Than Serving Tea out into the world, we were asked to think about prominent Asian American church leaders and academics to give our book credibility and possibly connect us to more readers and networks.

In this recent situation I have been reading a lot of comments about how endorsements are an awful game and authors and readers shouldn’t play. I’m not sure how I can fully divest myself from the game when I am months away from publishing another book and waiting to hear from the more than two dozen folks we have reached out to for endorsements. I’m not sure how as a reader I can fully divest myself from not only turning to friends for recommendations but also looking at endorsements to see if others I respect have signed off on a book I’m thinking about reading. I’m not going to only trust the librarians’ or a pastor’s recommendations if the librarian or pastor doesn’t read books written by authors of color. As a reader, I look for endorsements from other authors and leaders of color, particularly women of color. 

But as an author, I have learned that the game is also networking. Don’t roll your eyes. We all do it. How else do you make friends? How do you find out about summer camps for your kids or possible job leads when you’ve had it with your current boss? How do you find a church in a new community? You lean into your network. And as an Asian American female author, my network and my own platform carry a different weight and carry me.

Let Me Explain and Ask a Few Questions

I know that many of you started following me back in 2016 after authors like Scot McKnight and Rachel Held Evans blurbed about More Than Serving Tea on their own blogs. Now I have no idea if those blog posts generated sales, but for me as an author their posts opened up networks. Scot and Rachel became  people I considered friends and allies. Scot taught me about honoraria and how to ask for what I deserved and needed. Rachel connected me to possible agents and gave an endorsement for my book Raise Your Voice. That came about as a result of the game.

But what I have found is that when I, as an Asian American female author, endorse a white author’s book I am offering a level of credibility. In the crudest way possible, my endorsement can be a stamp of Asian American approval. I have consistently turned down requests for endorsement from white authors I do not know. My priority is to endorse women of color, especially new authors, because the game wasn’t developed with us in mind. That is how I play the game. That is how I have chosen to leverage the little bit of influence and power I have and how I manage my time. 

I am also relying on my network of authors of color and white authors I know and trust to be the first ones I ask for an endorsement. Why? I respect them. Their words carry weight and influence. As an author I believe in my work and I want as many reader to buy and read my books. I will always write, but writing a book? That’s a different beast than writing for myself and for the love of my craft. Personally, I want my books to sell and while an endorsement alone doesn’t sell books, it is a stamp of credibility. I don’t know what other ways an author has to signal to potential readers that our words are worth a chance. What draws you into a book? A beautiful cover? A provocative title? Do you read the endorsements? If so, why? If not, why not? Short of reading the book, what helps you, My Dear Readers, decide to buy and read a book?

And one day I may make a mistake. One day my beliefs may change (many of my beliefs have changed since my first book). One day the beliefs of an author whose book I endorsed may change. I’m not sure how to handle that except to say that is part of the risk we authors take when we send our words out into the world. They are frozen in time and do not move and shift with us, which is why we keep writing and we keep reading.

Back to the Game

Some folks have commented that endorsements can be bought. No one has ever tried to buy my endorsement, and I have never tried to buy an endorsement. I can’t imagine making enough money off of a book contract to give some of it away to buy two sentences, but I can see how that might happen. While many Christian authors have gone the way of Substack and other platforms, there was and might still be folks who sell posts on their blogs and platforms. Some of the “guest posts” on other spaces might be paid for, and you will never know. So if we are going to interrogate endorsements, and I think it’s fair, let’s look at it all, including the platforms. Again, I’ve never charged anyone for a mention of their book or for the chance to post on my blog. But I know for a fact there are Christian authors who “share” their platforms for a price. 

Endorsements when done in a perfect world are written after the book is read and some of the outrage in this current situation involving a book about sexuality and the church is that endorsers may not have read the entire book. That is not my personal practice and I suspect many of us will make sure we spend even more time reading manuscripts before we write our endorsements, but I do have a request of you, My Dear Readers. Please consider how you also play into this game with your reviews (or lack of) and words on the interwebs. Did you love the book? Please tweet about it. Review it on Goodreads. Post a photo of the book with your pet. Ask your library to carry the book and then go check it out.

I’m not sure what if anything will change with endorsements, but I want to remind all of us that Christian publishing is still a business.

The cover. I love it.

 

 

Thoughts From Your Local Election Judge

I voted in my first presidential election in November 2012 after finally becoming a naturalized citizen in 2010. I think I started as an election judge in 2017. Where I live we get paid $10/hr, but I think I read somewhere we now get $12/hr. (My Dear Reader, you must know that no one is doing it for the pay. It’s a 16-hour day that starts at 5 am. This year that meant I got to see the start of the blood moon lunar eclipse, which felt oddly fitting.) It is both a privilege and an honor to serve as an election judge. I have the ability and privilege to take the day off, finding subs to teach my two yoga classes this year, and a reliable car to get to and from the polling place before and after voters come through. It also allows me to participate in “the vote” in a way the Founding Fathers never codified for women or for naturalized citizens and a privilege I can’t assume is protected. 

 

Two years ago when the former president of the United States amped up the rhetoric around voting, I experienced the result of that rhetoric – comments from voters about whether or not their votes counted,  questions about the voting machines, voters incorrectly assuming the ballot had their name printed on the ballot, etc., and I posted a few thoughts on my FB page.

 

As we await the final results of a few key elections across the country, I thought I’d pull those posts together and add in italics a few more thoughts.

June 30, 2022

Voters, learn about the rules governing elections. Illinois voters do not need to show ID at the time of voting because IDs are checked at registration. When you come to vote your signature is checked BY TWO PEOPLE. And then you are given a ballot, which is checked by TWO PEOPLE to make sure you got the correct ballot. (Illinois is an open primary so you can vote for either major party regardless of your personal affiliation. Those are the rules.) We are not checking your name and what party you are voting for. We are making sure you get the correct ballot because each site covers several precincts and different ballots.

 

The voter’s name is not on the ballot. There is no way for anyone to know how an individual person voted.

 

Ballots arrive at polling sites in sealed boxes. Each sealed box contains ballots specific to the precinct, and the ballots also come in sealed packets. Election judges are instructed to open packets as needed. All ballots – cast and uncast ballots are returned to the boxes and resealed before being taken back to the county clerk’s office.

 

The fun part? After the polls close, election judges have to account for every ballot. There is a record of the number of ballots issued, spoiled (voter makes a mistake), and cast. Again, there is no way to connect a paper ballot with a specific voter.

 

Nov. 5, 2020

Last week local county election judges were asked to come in to help process mail-in ballots. This year (2022) election judges were asked again to help process mail-in ballots but I was unable to make it work with my schedule.

 

Only official election judges can verify signatures. There were 10 computers and not always 10 of us to process ballots. We also were asked about party affiliation because the county clerk office wants to make sure it’s a mix in the room.

 

Some voters have a signature history from the DMV, etc., others do not. Rejecting a signature required three of us and our signatures on the physical envelope (there is no signature or name of the voter on the actual ballot, and at this part of the process we do not see the ballot). During a four-hour shift I could go through anywhere from 1,200-2.400ish ballots depending on how easily I could match signatures, etc. Out of a batch of about 1,200 ballots a judge on an unofficial average rejected 3 ballots, some of them because of a missing signature on the envelope.

 

None of the election judges I worked with over four days wanted to reject ballots. Sometimes it took longer because three of us, wearing masks, would hover around a single computer TRYING to find similarities between signatures so that the ballot cast could be counted because we all believed that if someone took the time to register, request, fill out, and return a ballot it was due the respect and time.

 

Those ballots didn’t get to us until the outer envelope was opened, scanned, organized by date, location of drop-off and receiving. After signatures are verified, ballots had to go have that envelope opened, ballots stacked and THEN counted.

 

Add the global pandemic, an unprecedented number of mail-in ballots in many places, a postal service that had its own share of shenanigans.

 

It takes a long time, people. Be patient.

 

And besides, someone with power keeps telling his followers to count ballots in one place and stop counting in another place. I’m sure people are confused.

 

Nov. 6, 2020

Today more local county election judges helped process mail-in ballots. We are “volunteers” meaning we are not county employees. Rumor is that we are being paid $10/hr taxable. As a naturalized U.S. citizen who paid to go through the process my kids and spouse were born into, handling ballots is a privilege and sacred work.

 

Many of us were hoping ballot counts would be finalized, but most of us HAVE NO IDEA HOW TEDIOUS this process can be. Yesterday I wrote about the signature match process. Today I saw part of what happens next….

 

After the signature on the envelope, not the ballot, is approved by an election judge, the envelope has to be opened, the ballot physically removed, checked for valid write-in candidates (and tallied if such write-in is cast), initialed, and then stacked by batch for eventual counting.

 

The envelopes come in a batch, the same batch of envelopes when signatures are matched. Those envelopes were scanned together so that YOUR MAIL-IN BALLOT CAN BE TRACKED.

 

I went through two trays of ballots, I think less than 1,000. One of those trays required me to open each ballot. One tray had already been opened perhaps by a machine, an employee, or a paid volunteer who isn’t an election judge. Why by hand? A machine may tear through the ballot. What happens if a ballot is accidentally torn? It has to be re-cast by two judges manually. I saw one of those ballots, and it really made me sad.

 

I also had several military ballots, which also meant that batch had to be put aside so that the ballot could be re-cast on an actual ballot that could be scanned by a machine. That requires two people to fill out a ballot.

 

On election day we did not see a single poll watcher ALL DAY LONG. NONE.

 

Today there were more than a dozen poll watchers representing both parties. I was told that it was unusual. Thankfully I was working at a separate table that could be observed and was observed, but further away from a larger set of tables where at one point there were only 3 or 4 volunteers and more poll watchers.

 

Sidenote: I wore a t-shirt that read “He’s a racist. Me-2017” A county employee received a complaint about my t-shirt because it was too political, so I was asked to figure out a way to hide the words. I went to the restroom to turn my shirt inside out. I didn’t raise a stink because I truly went to help get legally cast ballots processed and counted. Again, I consider this sacred work. I don’t care who you voted for. If you went through the process of registering to vote, requesting a mail-in ballot, filling out said ballot, mailing or dropping off the ballot, your ballot should be processed and eventually counted. I took an oath to do that.

 

The Privilege of Isolation in the Age of COVID

 

A bowl of oatmeal topped with mixed berries.

My son promises me this is a single packet of instant oatmeal.

 

 

I’m supposed to be writing chapters about other things, but, My Dear Readers, what is procrastination if not diverting energy to other equally demanding endeavors? AND to do it whilst isolating, thanks to finally meeting Rona after all these years.

Rona is not nice.

Yes, five days in the master bedroom.

Day 5 of isolation is over – free of fever, feeling more like a cold than anything else, but still testing positive. The handy CDC quarantine and isolation calculator tells me that I can leave isolation but masked when in the company of other humans. The other humans I live with would prefer I stay isolated a little longer, which is totally understandable since my brain swab lit up like a Christmas tree.

Instead of breaking free, I am typing at my freshly dusted childhood desk that serves as a vanity in my master bedroom.

I came home Sunday evening with symptoms that came on fast and furious.

Monday morning I tested positive for COVID19 (Day 0). I promptly took over the master bedroom, which is bigger than some NYC studios so I’m grateful for the king bed (singles and couples, BUY THE BIG BED) and bathroom. The double sink vanity and my mirrored closet doors came in handy when I had a burst of energy two days ago; we keep cleaning supplies under every sink so I cleaned the vanity, the mirrors, and lightbulbs. 

The first 48 hours were the worst with fever and a sore throat I haven’t experienced since who knows when. I ran a fever for four days but I never had trouble breathing, never turned blue, which I often do when I am super cold (anyone remember Emmy’s wedding?).

This is the privilege of vaccination combined with upper middle income status. I am vaccinated with one booster. I actually got vaccinated earlier because I could take time off and volunteer with my county at mass vaccination sites in early 2021 when vaccines were just rolling out. That feels like a lifetime ago. Volunteers had early access.

And even though the boosters are widely offered, there are side effects so privilege means being able to have a buffer with work and time off if reactions require it.

Until you have COVID19 you don’t fully understand what “mild” means. Mild means you might not have any symptoms, you might experience what feels like a seasonal cold, or you might be really sick but not sick enough to require a doctor or hospital.

My innocuous posting online about isolating surprised me with the number of DMs from people commiserating privately with me because they had either already had the infection or were also sick.

For a bunch of folks who like to be authentic online I realized there is still a strange stigma about having caught the virus. 

No shame.

It’s a virus.

I think for those of us who rode the high horse about vaccination and masks are rather embarrassed to find our best efforts are just that. Nothing can fully protect you unless you never ever venture out.

Also, many of us stopped wearing masks in public. I did. I teach yoga. I teach yoga in a heated studio, and for months I wore a mask and then I didn’t because it was no longer required. I sometimes follow rules, and when there were no rules about wearing masks I took it as permission to save the good ones for the airport.

And to be perfectly honest I’m not sure when I’ve tested negative and have the stamina to return to teaching I will wear a mask when I teach because y’all can complain about wearing a mask but try doing it while cueing a one-hour power flow in a room heated to 90 degrees. Super not fun. 

We all take risks and sometimes we don’t calculate the risks correctly. And sometimes we take all the precautions and still nature takes over and reminds us that we cannot control everything. That’s right. Even here in the effing United States of America the most cautious of us cannot control everything, especially a global panini that dropped the collective “us” to our knees in the spring of 2020.

So if you are coconut positive or were and didn’t share it with your socials even though you share everything else, IT’S OK. I just want to invite us to figure out why we/you didn’t share your COVID status when you’ve shared your lunch, your black squares, etc. and to address the strange and inconsistent ways shame grabs a hold of us/you.

So how bad is it?

Day 0-2 were the worst. It was a combination of the flu and strep throat, and I haven’t had strep throat  in years. In fact, I haven’t been sick like this since before the spring of 2020 because masking, social distancing, and hand washing works.

I had a fever. My throat was raw and sore. I lost my voice. My sense of taste and smell remains intact. Food wasn’t the priority, but I drank water in hopes of soothing the incredibly raw throat. I drank ice water instead of hot tea, which goes against every Korean sensibility but I am not postpartum so ice water is allowed. I think.

The fever broke on Day 4. I now sound and feel like I have a cold that will morph into bronchitis. I am feeling waves of fatigue and headaches that make me want to cry (I have a very high pain tolerance, folks), but remember I also have the privilege of isolating.

I haven’t taught a yoga class in more than a week and probably won’t for another week or so. That’s lost income that I can afford. 

My adult-ish sons are home and feed me “son-sized” portions of food. Two days ago I called C and asked him if the bowl of oatmeal he had just left outside of my bedroom door was really only one packet of oatmeal. He laughed at me and promised it was just one packet. I’m not sure I believe him.

C eats two packets…along with two eggs and a cup of egg whites with spinach and smoked salmon and sometimes a side of leftovers so his sense of normal portions is…off.

I also have a husband who checked in before he left for work and when he arrived back home.

My son’s girlfriend made soup and mango sago so I love her the most.

Friends are texting funny and beautifully mundane snippets of life. I read two books. I wrote more than 1k words but not for the deadline I am about to miss. This is mild because the vaccine works.

But this entire time I kept thinking about friends and strangers and the more than one million people in the U.S. and the more than six million globally who have died as a result of this pandemic. People are still dying.

So it’s not that bad. But it is. It really is. 

29 Things I Learned During 29 Years of Marriage

My Dear Readers,

This is our third anniversary celebrated during the global pancetta. It’s surreal to think that in April 2020 all three of our children were home perfecting our personal athleisure style, doing puzzles, and naively believing that it would just be a few more weeks of sheltering in place.

Today is our 29th wedding anniversary. We had a big fat Korean immigrant wedding with 1,000 people – friends, family, and church members with a buffet dinner in the church basement. He was 28 and I was 22. This year we can start making withdrawals from his retirement accounts. (Fortunately we don’t have to and won’t.) We were incredibly young and naive. It bothered Peter, but I often said I was young and stupid. It was true. Now I’m older and definitely stupid, and I know it.

I wrote my first list of this kind in 2013 to mark our 20th anniversary. The rules are simple. I don’t look at the list from the previous year. I sit down, and I write. I write what I learned about marriage, myself, and love.

THE LIST

  1. Sometimes being the sacrificial mother and wife is stupid and actually harmful.
  2. The finality of menopause is a lie. There are no more eggs in the basket yet I’m still hot-flashing and night sweating. It’s hard to feel sexy and attractive when your body suddenly feels like a burning house.
  3. Love is a discipline and a choice. 
  4. Saying “I love you” can be a lot easier than actually loving my husband. Hearing “I love you” isn’t as important as feeling loved by my husband.
  5. I’m grateful to be aging with someone.
  6. It took a lot longer for me not to care about farting in front of Peter than it did for Peter to not care about farting in front of me. Now we either don’t care or our hearing is starting to fail and we just don’t hear it. Yes, sometimes we still act like we are in middle school.
  7. We each have separate blankets instead of fighting over one. GAME CHANGER.
  8. I regret having waited so long to buy a king size bed.
  9. I’m glad we have the terribly produced wedding video. It took years before I could laugh at it and appreciate it.
  10. Money doesn’t make you happy but it sure is helpful.
  11. I have never regretted keeping my “maiden” name.
  12. I regret not going back to school.
  13. Just because you forgive someone doesn’t mean you can’t still feel hurt.
  14. Purity culture really messed up the early years of our sex life.
  15. Marriage and parenting have a lot of similarities. There is a lot of deciding “is this the hill I want to die on?” moments.
  16. A coffee drinker and a non-coffee drinker can stay married.
  17. Peter can’t read my mind.
  18. Sometimes I can read Peter’s mind.
  19. It’s never too late to start therapy, get a mental health diagnosis, take a sleep study, get a CPAP, or start medication.
  20. You marry into another family and that means double the fun and double the baggage.
  21. Your spouse’s habits, hobbies, and interests can become your own. I now read and watch sci-fi and he likes to go thrifting. For a few years I stopped making the bed because Peter never made the bed. Then for awhile I just made my side of the bed. And then I just stopped. Now that we have our own blankets I have gone back to making my side of the bed.
  22. That probably means sometimes you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Yes, I am the dog in the scenario. It also could be Peter and learning how to fold and put away the linens. 
  23. Having sex when the kids were little was challenging because being parents of young children was exhausting. Now, having sex is challenging because we are tired because we are getting older. Also, our 22-year-old son lives at home, and clearly I haven’t shaken off all the purity culture baggage.
  24. I’m not sure if streaming services have been a good thing for our marriage or a bad thing.
  25. Maintaining good friends – singles, couples, our “own” separate friends has been as important for me as my marriage.
  26. Over-communicate not only your needs/wants but also what you love and appreciate about your spouse in ways they can understand and receive.
  27. I really enjoy cooking and feeding my family until about Wednesday night.
  28. In my most honest moments, I wonder what it would’ve been like if I had gone back to school or gotten divorced when our silence was so loud or put my name in the hat for the job that would’ve required more travel and time.
  29. I still hope to grow old with Peter and be that old couple who holds hands on walks.
An Asian American woman and man wearing disposable surgical face masks while sitting inside a large stadium.

It seems appropriate that I share a photo of the two of us in masks. We were waiting to watch #RunMySon graduate.

Why Virtual Church Services Should Be the New Normal

Suggesting churches should drop online services as we move into the third year of the global pandemic is ableist AND racist.

It’s a matter of accessibility for ALL people, including the complicated issue of whether or not a congregation can afford to have a physical space and/or resources to livestream a church service. It’s a matter of not only opening physical doors that often go locked during the week but also creating and imagining spaces without doors, at the very least, different doors, so that all can enter and exit. It’s a matter of addressing the reality that the Church and the pandemic are GLOBAL and not just situated in the U.S. or North America and not just around the comfort around a theology enmeshed with white supremacy.

I don’t like teaching virtual yoga or preaching to a screen

I am a yoga teacher, and March 2020 impacted yoga studios in similar ways to churches. Our “audience” had always been in person, sometimes uncomfortably close to the person next to us. Honestly I found myself moving my body much more in yoga studio than in church, and for the talk around embodiment being about physically being in a room together the most movement I often experienced in a white-centered church service was the passing of the peace (I hate that part, TBH), the occasional swaying from side to side and awkward clapping or raising of hands during musical worship, and communion if the congregation was invited to walk through the center aisle to receive the elements.

In the yoga studio everyone is invited to move together, breathe together, rest together. We turn, twist, invert. We balance and sweat. We listen to our bodies and our breath. Sometimes, students linger and ask questions about a posture or a cue, and they mill about not unlike fellowship time in church spaces.

But back to March 2020 when the world felt like it stopped and so many of us learned to use and hate the word “pivot”. Pastors and yoga teachers learned the intricacies of a virtual space and how to translate community into a virtual space. What I would argue is that as a yoga teacher I learned more than the average church pastor or worship leader about translating embodiment not only of individuals but of a community into a virtual space and how to maintain that over time.

In June of 2020 as the “racial uprising” caught the attention of media, I started a virtual yoga space just for BIWOC because that’s the community I saw being most impacted and in need of something I could create. I thought that space would last a few weeks, a few months tops. We still meet weekly, most of the women who come to class I’ve never met in person. We have established rituals and expectations. We have cried together and created a space to talk or type or sit in silence. We have seen each other’s backgrounds – bedrooms and living rooms, and watched children and pets and housemates walk into the room. Everyone is free to turn off their cameras, and I am learning how to guide this incredible group of BIWOC while keenly aware of our diversity – size, ability, age, mobility, etc. We will never be in a physical space together and yet there is community.

Community is embodiment.

There is an “I” in embodiment but that’s not the point

Embodiment isn’t limited to our individual bodies and the sharing of physical space, especially as people of faith, Christians who believe God’s love and care for the universe and humanity transcends time, space, and our understanding. As Christians we say we are the body of Christ, in fellowship with our siblings across the globe, but if we cannot ever be in their physical presence does that make that fellowship less than what one might experience in person? If the Church and church is to love God and our neighbors as the New York Times op-ed author Tish Harrison Warren writes (and I agree), how can we possibly love our neighbors if churches shut the virtual door?

Let’s be clear. Choosing a place of worship has always, ALWAYS, involved a degree of personal preference. Let’s not kid ourselves, my Dear Readers. Denominations. Style of musical worship. Location. Convenience. Sound of the preacher’s voice (yes, we checked out a local church and I could not handle the preacher’s voice.) Children’s ministry options. Time of worship service. (And again, there are so many parallels to how students choose a yoga studio but I digress.)

And for people of color our choices have always been limited because of WHITE SUPREMACY that was built in to the foundation of the United States AND the churches established in this country. For the disabled the choices have always been limited. For those on the margins of what is deemed “normal” and “good” in the world we live in and most often in the church, OUR CHOICES HAVE ALWAYS BEEN LIMITED. 

So to point to the virtual door that was opened out of necessity should be seen as an opportunity for church leaders to pause and reflect. Who walked through your virtual doors who would never have been able to walk through your physical doors? Are we not worthy of being your neighbors because you met us through a screen? 

The body of Christ in wine and stale crackers

At some point in the global panini, my virtual community started sharing photos of what they pulled together for communion. It was a beautiful table of elements that reflected the body of Christ in one of the most embodied ways because it reflected individuals and families, what they were going through at the time.

No time to shop for wine or grape juice and crackers? Fine, how about sparkling water and chunks of a bagel? Or tea and some rice? Juice box and goldfish crackers? Coffee and gluten-free brownies? None of that was shared in person, and if our understanding of embodiment is limited to always sharing physical space then there was a whole lot of breaking church rules and theology in those virtual communion services.

I didn’t reach my hand into the plate of broken matzo that my neighbor in the pews had also just reached into. I didn’t breathe over the tray of non-recyclable plastic communion shot glasses with grape juice and pass it to my neighbor. I didn’t walk up the center aisle and receive the elements from a pastor or lay leader who could look into my eyes. I sipped my coffee and ate my danish as I watched others take the elements they were able to find in they pantries and refrigerators, an intimate look into their homes and lives. Did we not meet God in an embodied way?

Not all churches, Kathy

I’m not writing this to argue the minutia of why YOUR church can’t afford to keep streaming services or why YOUR church never got the hang of virtual church. Again, the reality is complicated because not all churches could afford their own buildings in the first place, let alone afford the technology to run a slick livestream service. The reality is very few churches ran slick livestream services period, wink, wink, and there is beauty in that. Dropped streams, being on mute, poor lighting all point to the challenges of embodied INDIVIDUALS doing and being something collective. It’s a different way of being embodied outside of a communal physical space but within the imagination of what could community look like when it’s not bound by walls and geography.

Opening the virtual doors gave churches an opportunity to see who wasn’t able to join in physically, even before the pancetta, and an opportunity to learn how technology could add closed captioning and allow individuals to turn up the volume or just follow the audio stream. People could join from their beds or backyards across time zones and man-made borders.

Some church leaders found virtual services as an opportunity to learn new-to-them technology – perhaps from younger congregants or congregants whose interests and gifts were in untapped spheres. Churches invited new voices to preach from the pulpit. How many times have we heard church leaders say they would love to invite diverse speakers as guest preachers but don’t have the funds? If you are still running a virtual service option you can still pay guest preachers well and skip the plane ticket and hotel. Fewer excuses, but maybe some churches want to keep that as an excuse? How many times have you as an individual wanted to hear from diverse, global voices but can’t get to that conference or buy all those books? Virtual services allow you to do just that.

I’m not suggesting churches do away with physical, in-person services, but this is a chance to rethink community to consider how our physical bodies and needs and the holy space of church can be one that works towards welcoming all to the table by creating new tables of virtual breakout rooms and physical spaces. If having a physical nursery is supposed to welcome families with infants into church as an option, why not keep the virtual sanctuary open because even when this pan flute is relatively under control we will still have siblings among us who would benefit from that virtual sanctuary and because they benefit WE BENEFIT. Without them we are incomplete.

Not all churches and not all people will want a virtual service, but what has been made clear is that there is a need and desire for this kind of creative access to church and it is embodied, just not in the way our limited understanding has conceptualized and executed it to date. 

Can the Church and church hear, see, taste, smell and touch that kind of community beyond the limitations of a physical shared space? Isn’t that part of the invitation for all churches and the Church? 

 

 

 

 

Ji-Young, KyoungAh, and the Assumption of Whiteness

I learned to speak English by watching The Electric Company, Zoom, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, and Sesame Street. Mr. Rogers, Big Bird, Count von Count, and the Twiddlebug family were my first tutors teaching me about self-addressed stamped envelopes, grammar, numbers, and hints of “American” life where adults had first names – Maria, Luis, and Fred – and moved about the world with an ease my parents and I did not experience.

My parents and I immigrated to the US in the spring of 1971, joining thousands of Koreans leaving a then-developing nation that was still rebuilding after the Korean War had left the peninsula divided with a US military presence that remains to this day. My mom had a few dresses made out the fabric gifted to her by her in-laws – Jackie-O-esque silhouettes with hemlines right above the knee. The US was the land of opportunities and upward mobility. I never saw my mother wear any of those dresses. My dad bussed tables at a Japanese restaurant and rode a bike to and from work. I was eight months old, and when I started kindergarten my primary language was Korean. 

Dreams in Korean

It’s hard to imagine a time when I thought in Korean, dreamt in Korean. If you don’t speak a second language, you may have no idea what I’m talking about, but when you’re bi- or multi-lingual you may have the ability not only to translate language but also “think” and process the world in those languages. I am certain my parents do not dream in English, and at one point in my life my dreams were in Korean.

When I was in high school I spent part of a summer in Korea without my parents, and I remember navigating the streets of Seoul on my own without my cousins. There was a moment when I realized I was thinking in Korean instead of reading a sign and trying to translate it into English. I was THINKING and processing in Korean, even though the moment I opened my mouth to speak Korean my pronunciation would betray me. 

The chasm between my English dreams and my parents’ Korean dreams continues to grow, but every now and then I wonder what five-year-old me dreamt about. What did KyoungAh dream about in her Korean dreams?

The Default

My name is Khang KyoungAh – family name first, given name second. My sister, the only female cousin on my father’s side, and I share the second syllable – a generational marker that wasn’t traditional for girls. When my parents enrolled me in public school – Waters Elementary on the north side of Chicago – I became Kathy. Before we go on, my Dear Reader, I invite you string my names together.

Kathy KyoungAh Khang.

Wait for it.

Do you see it? Do you notice it?

A Black colleague of mine mentioned how he couldn’t understand why my parents would give me a name with THOSE initials. Is that what you were thinking?

My parents are Korean. They had a better grasp of the English language when they immigrated to the US than most US-born people will ever have of another language. But they are Korean. They gave me the name “Kathy” because the initial sound was similar to my real name. They gave me “Kathy” not to whitewash me. They gave me the name so I could survive in 1975. Sure, I wish that hadn’t been the case, but here in 2021 I’m still correcting people on the pronunciation (and spelling) of my last name while Timothée Hal Chalamet is totally ok. 

But back to my initials. I told my Black colleague that the world did not revolve around US history and that while I as an adult understood my initials, the assumption that Korean immigrants in 1975 should “know better” was equally offensive. The US is not the center of the world, but “American” history, “American” life is the default. I go back to this idea often in the anti-racism work that I do. Racism is not limited to the US, BUT as folx in the US we need to be humble and mindful about our own centering and assumptions.

Can You Tell Me How to Get to Sesame Street?

Ji-Young is Korean American and loves to play the electric guitar and skateboard. She is the first Asian American muppet, and I have a lot of feelings about this. I’ve watched the video over and over – Ji-Young talking to Ernie. I am tearing up just writing this, BUT….

WAIT. A. MINUTE. Some of you, My Dear Readers, may be excited and cheering this on AND wondering if any of the other “human” muppets had racial or ethnic identities.

They did. The default, even on Sesame Street, is that unless otherwise noted the human muppets are white because whiteness IS NOT JUST ABOUT SKIN COLOR. White supremacy isn’t just about skin color. People of color can perpetuate the lies of white supremacy that make US history and present day the center of the universe. It’s about the way people operate (particularly here in the US for the purposes of this blog post), how you are treated, what is assumed about you and your family and where you are from and where you learned your English. I do not speak English with an accent like my parents do and YET PEOPLE STILL ASK ME WHERE I LEARNED TO SPEAK ENGLISH. I learned to speak English here in America. Duh. 

Yes, Bert is yellow and Ernie is orange (too much self-tanner, methinks). How can they be white, you ask? Because they are American and the default in the US is always whiteness. Think about it. Before colorblindness there was the “I don’t care what color you are – Black, white, purple” type phrases. “American” by default is associated with whiteness. Even on Sesame Street.

That’s why it’s a complicated big deal. Ji-Young has more in common with my children who are third generation, born with both “American” and Korean names with meanings that are drilled into them because for them the default will be BOTH/AND because being Korean American with each generation brings another level of beauty, complexity, similarities, and differences. Ji-Young tells Ernie how she can’t wait to share about her food – banchan, kimchi, and jjigae. 

It will take me more time to figure out and name all of these feelings but for now I can’t wait for Ji-Young to share some kimchi with Bert and Ernie. 

 

So You Want to Write a Book.

Get ready to die a little.

Last week I received my annual royalties check from my portion of “More Than Serving Tea” (MTST from here on out) and from “Raise Your Voice” (RYV). I cannot tell you how MTST changed my life with deep friendships, an ocean of tears, and a mission to see Asian American Christian women’s voices to shape and influence the world. I am still in touch with most of the other authors, and four of us are part of a women’s group that met annually until the pandemic. We still marvel at the book that I kept as a desktop file titled “Project Snowball”. Why a snowball? We were told in so many words the book had a snowball’s chance in hell to make it to print and even then there was a question of how long it would stay in print. I still remember a male colleague, Asian American male (younger because in my culture that’s also important), told me the book would be irrelevant in a few years. 

The book was published in 2006, and last week I received a small royalty check.

But becoming a published Christian author killed my soul a bit. My Dear Readers, it’s a business. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s only a calling, an invitation from God. Yes, I have felt “called” to write, which is why I first became a newspaper reporter. I have kept a journal since the first or second grade. I have journals I have kept for each of my children since they were in utero. They are now 25, 22, and 20 and will receive those journals when I’m ready. Yes, I will write another book eventually some day in the future perhaps maybe. But Christian publishing is still a business.

Why are you telling us this, Kathy?

The royalty check last week and the signing of a new contract this week has me all in my feelings. (I have gotten very good at burying the lede.) I thought about the work put into both MTST and RYV – the emotional work before, during, and after, and the hours spent outlining, writing, editing, more editing, more editing, crying, apologizing for missing deadlines, and promoting. I thought about a recent thread on Twitter about the hurdles to getting published, and I wanted to thank all of you for your encouragement through the years when I blogged about my middle school children and being a Korean American Christian woman navigating ministry and evangelical/evangelical adjacent spaces. I wanted to thank all of you for SHOWING UP when it came time to promote and launch RYV. I wanted to remind myself that I didn’t do it for the money.

I really didn’t. Part of the problem with publishing as a whole, and I think Christian publishing specifically because it’s supposed to be Christian but it’s capitalism, is the lack of transparency. For example, I know my life looks super glamorous and amazing. I mean #jamvent and #snowglobe life on IG is pretty amazing, and my family is freaking beautiful. Writing and getting paid for my words is an honor, but it’s also work. For RYV I wrote about 30,000 in the final copy. I actually wrote many more words but many were wisely edited out, and there were several versions of every chapter. At the end of the day I earned about 18 cents per word. 

I’ll wait for you to do the math.

My new contract involves an amazing co-author and that person’s agent so the math is better because it’s half of a book, but again this is capitalism, My Dear Readers. I’ll be sure to share more details when we are ready.

But God’s economy, Kathy.

Publishers are still companies and corporations, and they don’t actually operate in God’s economy. I guess that’s why I’m writing this. To remind all of us that we need to keep imagining better, doing better when we can, and be aware of the reality. We can say God’s economy has room for all the books, but the reality is only so many books will be published “traditionally”. Publishers can only publish so many books (and with the current paper shortage it’s gotten even more complicated and frustrating), and they can only afford to lose so much money. 

And this is again where I thank you, My Dear Readers, for making sure RYV didn’t lose money!!!! Getting a royalty check means the book sold enough copies to cover the advance and get me royalties. That was what every single pre-order and sale since 2018 did. That is exactly what you want to happen as an author. It gives you a leg up when you pitch your next book because we all need to have numbers and followers and a platform. Again, Jesus doesn’t talk about platform. He talks a lot about loving our neighbors and enemies and the widows and orphans but he says squat about the number of followers and mailing lists (many of you have signed up for my non-existent email updates and that is why I keep your email, btw). 

As a Christian writer I keep God’s economy in mind, but I also need to pay the bills involving three kids who went or are currently attending college on student and parent loans. I keep in mind the privilege of writing and teaching yoga for a living and the cost of that privilege as an Asian American woman who recently was named in an email sent to my place of employment. Racism is everywhere including in Christian writing and publishing. Just ask any Christian publishers how many editors and decision makers are POC.

I can wait again.

But I still want to write a book.

So if you want to write a book and get it published traditionally you will need a few things. You will need a platform – followers on several social media platforms, an email list of people who willingly shared their emails with you for, in my case, non-existent additional material, and influencers who already have all of that who will vouch for you. If you are a POC you will need influential POC and influential non-POC who will promise to write endorsements, help promote you, etc. 

I don’t share this for pity. It was exhausting, but I LOVED promoting my book and getting my launch team together. I made maybe 100 bracelets and wrote notes. Every time I saw someone on my launch team post a photo, I cheered in gratitude and prayed for that person. 

But part-time marketing is not what I had in mind when I imagined being a published author. Even as I sit in the exciting privilege of having signed another contract, I am humbled and terrified.

I am a little hopeful because between 2018 and now there are MANY more POC and specifically WOC in the Christian writing sphere who have gotten agents, become agents, and signed bigger deals and sold more books! BRING IT ALL ON!!!! Just remember, and this is for me as much as it for you, not all of us will receive the five-figure deal with one of the big three houses. Many of us are happy and honored and smiling all silly while I type this to get what I/we get, but I will be honest. A part of me died with RYV. It’s humbling work. Thank you for being a part of it, My Dear Readers.

Botox + Anger

I had 15 units of Botox injected into my “elevens” – the two frown lines fighting to take permanent residence in between my thinning but microbladed eyebrows. I’m certain at several points in my life I swore I would never succumb to vanity in this manner, but I wasn’t 51 at the time. I didn’t wake up looking like I was angry or worried or scowling. Maybe 20 years from now I will chalk up this decision to my youth, but for now I’m just going to keep walking over to a mirror to see if I can still move those facial muscles.

Do you have a tattoo? 

It’s one of those things people think about doing but don’t want to readily admit thinking about it, or they do it but don’t put it on blast and may even deny having it done even though it can sometimes be pretty obvious to other people what is going on. Tattoos and body piercing have lost their stigma, even in religious spaces. Skincare regimens are so normal that my sons who are in their 20s asked about moisturizer and sunscreen. (My Dear Readers, if you are not using a facial sunscreen daily AND year-round we need to talk.) During shelter-in-place there were many social media threads about dyeing hair at home to cover roots and the increasing number of gray hairs popping up. I see requests for just about every personal care service on local moms’ FB pages but I’ve yet to see anyone ask about injections and fillers. Facials? Dermatologists? Microblading? Eyelashes? Aluminum-free deodorant? Bikini waxing? ALL THREADS ON MULTIPLE FB PAGES for working moms, community moms, etc.

But I noticed that the one self-care topic that was solely for word-of-mouth meaning an actual conversation or text and never publicly solicited information was around injecting chemicals into your body. (Wink, wink.) And because I am also prone to being Judgey McJudgepants why would anyone talk with me about paralyzing their facial muscles?

So why do it?

I actually think I look good “for my age” whatever that might mean to you. My mom and grandmother did not use expensive serums or get facials, but they drilled the importance of cleansing and moisturizing. I added the sunscreen years after already damaging my skin with baby oil burns. I have great genes to boot. I want to minimize those lines because they remind me of my anger and the loud inner critic.

There is nothing wrong with anger. Somewhere between Sunday School, sermons, and home I learned that emotions and specifically anger was bad. I have since unlearned that toxic lesson instead holding on to the energy and passion I feel and experience when I encounter injustice – anger. Anger has levels, stages, types and it’s all related to how we are experiencing a person or situation in relation to our safety. For example, as a Christian and as an Asian American I feel a great deal of anger when my faith community inflicts pain against another group of people or when my AAPI community is the target of harassment and violence. I am still learning how to deal with my anger in healthy ways, but there was one thing that continued to bother me.

But what about not letting the sun go down on your anger?

BE ANGRY [at sin—at immorality, at injustice, at ungodly behavior], YET DO NOT SIN; do not let your anger [cause you shame, nor allow it to] last until the sun goes down. Ephesians 4:26 Amplified Version

First, let me just say that this verse created unnecessary havoc in the early years of our marriage. Married people, if you are angry at each other and it’s time for bed, go to bed. You need to rest to think, listen, and love well. 

Second, the version I grew up didn’t explain how anger could be ok and the emphasis was on the sin. I know. Not surprising. So somewhere in there it gets translated and taught as being angry is sin so don’t be angry and if you are angry make sure you get rid of that ickiness before bedtime.

Maybe I’m the only one who internalized it that way, but there it is. And every time Peter and I couldn’t resolve our conflict before sleeping I felt like a failure and increasingly sleep deprived. That is what I had to unlearn and to honor the anger I feel at immorality, injustice and ungodly behavior. But I still struggle with what it means to not let my anger last until the sun goes down. The morning usually doesn’t hold new answers so much as a continuation of whatever it was that makes me angry.

Which brings me back to my elevens. This isn’t about looking younger. That might come later. I can’t help but wonder if it’s like getting my first tattoo, which lead to my next tattoo. The gateway.

Those lines aren’t really wrinkles so much as they are a reminder of every moment of anger and frustration. They are reminders to me of the anger I feel in my emotions and in my body, reflected outwards to those looking at me, those who might never know me. I already feel the anger, but to see it reflected back at me every morning? I am tired of the reminder. I don’t need another reminder of how angry this world makes me feel. 

Asian American woman wearing a face mask with white markings on her face to guide a nurse for Botox injections.

My face marked up for potential injections. We opted just for the three spots in between my eyebrows.

 

28 Things I Learned During 28 Years of Marriage

My Dear Readers,

The annual list is here. For newbies, I’ve been writing a list like this for the past few years, and it’s the one thing I remember to blog about. I don’t look at the lists from prior years because that’s cheating. Not really. I don’t look because it really is an “off the top of my head” list.

Backstory: Peter and I were living in the same area and introduced by mutual friends Scott and Irene. They are Peter’s youth group friends and my college friends. They thought he would make a good “Oppa” or older brother because he is seven years older than I am. We met, fell in love, and got engaged… in six weeks. As in met and then had an official engagement party/ceremony with almost 100 people present for our engagement. And then we were married four months later with about 1,000 guests for a buffet of Korean food in the basement of Peter’s church.

  1. Marriage is hard work. There is a lot of joy and heartache, and it is A LOT OF WORK. It’s good work, but it’s work. That’s why we celebrate even if it’s dinner in a restaurant, which still feels weird because of COVID and feels small because it’s 28 years. Thanks, COVID. You can also put in all the work, and your marriage may still not work out with a fairytale ending. Do you know why? Because fairytales are lies. 
  2. The marriages in your family of origin are not a predictor of how your marriage will look or be. You are not by default your parents’ best and worst patterns of relating. You can choose to emulate the best and break the worst patterns. Again, it takes work.
  3. There are some things that will make you cry in the moment that over time will make you laugh…and maybe still cry. (Remember, I was 22-year-old Kathy up against my future mother-in-law during wedding planning. If you’re lucky enough to have seen our wedding video #3 makes perfect sense.)
  4. Spend money on amazing photographs of you and your spouse on your wedding day because video formats will change. VCR anyone? 
  5. “Married a long time” sex is better than honeymoon sex.
  6. Sometimes sitting in silence doesn’t mean you are comfortable with silence. Sometimes it means I’m really pissed off.
  7. Marriage and/or your spouse will not complete you. You are a full human.
  8. If you think marriage will complete you, go to therapy first. 
  9. Marriage therapy doesn’t have to be a crisis thing. It can be a normal thing. It should be a normal thing.
  10. Individual therapy doesn’t have to be a crisis thing. It should be a normal thing.
  11. You really do marry each other’s families whether or not you or your spouse is close to said family. Those family issues and ties show up EVERY DAY in big and small ways.
  12. The way you “fill-in-the-blank, i.e. did household chores” growing up doesn’t have to be the way you and your spouse do it in your marriage. 
  13. Having children doesn’t complete a marriage. It makes your family bigger.
  14. Having sex when your kids are babies, toddlers, etc. can be challenging because one or both of you are always tired.
  15. Having sex when your kids are teenagers or college-aged can be challenging because they keep weird hours. This does not apply if you don’t care if your kids know or hear you are having sex. I am still a bit prudish. Leave me alone.
  16. Buy a king bed as soon as you can afford it. It doesn’t mean you want to be far apart. It just means that you are prepared for when you want to be far apart because you’re mad, you have kids or fur babies who crawl into bed with you, or you need the space because of peri-menopausal night sweats.
  17. Talk honestly about money. I don’t know if money is the root of all evil but remember #9 and #10. There’s a lot to learn about each other when you talk about debt, spending, time, etc. Peter knows I have fun money stashed away because I have a really, really, really hard time spending money on myself. He doesn’t have to have a stash because he doesn’t have the same problem.
  18. It’s important to have common friends and your own separate friends.
  19. Same with hobbies and interests. He had bowling and I had book club.
  20. You do start picking up each other’s best and worse habits. Case in point? For me: flossing. For him: moisturizer.
  21. When he tells me I am beautiful he means it. He may want sex, but he still means it.
  22. When I tell him he is handsome, I mean it AND I want him to finish some project around the house.
  23. After 28 years he still can’t read my mind so I’ve told him that I really love it when he occasionally buys me flowers for no reason at Trader Joe’s. I have also circled things in catalogs.
  24. This is particularly important for women because it’s 2021 and the patriarchy: establish your own credit history.
  25. It’s never too late to apologize or to forgive one another, but you also can go to bed angry. Staying up late past your bedtime to argue doesn’t make for better arguments. It makes for cranky adults who have to go to work in the morning with unresolved feelings.
  26. You don’t have to make every decision together – big or small – but you have to know you’re on the same page about which decisions fall into that category. For example, I really don’t care about the exact make and model of our next car, which actually will be my car. He enjoys this much more than I do. 
  27. Over communicate because back to #23 none of us are perfect at mind reading.  
  28. Say “I love you” every day even when you don’t feel it. Love isn’t just an emotion. It’s a decision. An action. A choice of movement towards each other. Every damn day.

Happy anniversary, Peter! Here’s to another year of learning and loving!

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