A Page, a Cashier, a Waitress

When I was growing up, my parents and I went back and forth on the value of a part-time or summer job. As immigrants wanting their children to find “success” they wanted me and my sister to focus on the important thing – studying. Anything outside of studying, including socializing and working for a paycheck, was optional. Very optional. They figured they were working hard enough so that we wouldn’t have to later on. Our work was being top students.

But somehow I managed to take on a variety of part-time jobs. I suspect it had more to do with my parents’ desire to instill in me a good work ethic, to teach me the value of money and budgeting, and the reality that the money tree wasn’t growing fast enough to get both daughters through school.

So, here as best as I can recall are the jobs I had up until college graduation and what I learned:

  1. babysitter – I don’t like being in a stranger’s house, even if they are paying me to do so.
  2. library page – There are too many good books and not enough time to read them.
  3. park district swimming instructor – I teach swimming better than I can swim myself.
  4. cashier at an educational toy store – Somewhere out there someone can turn any educational kids’ game into a drinking game.
  5. private tutor – People will spend A LOT of money to help their kids write better, study better, test better.
  6. office administrative assistant – I like to organize.
  7. dry cleaning cashier – Working for your parents is difficult, but I did appreciate them even more.
  8. newspaper intern – I love the pressure of a deadline.
  9. hostess/waitress – Treating restaurant staff with respect and a smile goes a long way.
  10. radio intern – There is a lot of eating and laughing that goes on off-air.
What part-time jobs did you hold down and what did you learn? Will you encourage your children to work and save before college or is it all about the books?

Queen Bees

Has anyone read “Queen Bees & Wannabees – Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends & Other Realities of Adolescence” by Rosalind Wiseman? 

When we moved back to Illinois, one of our concerns was moving our daughter out of her charmed school experience. In Wisconsin, she was enrolled at a charter school – a public school that ran very much like a private school. The school drew from the entire school district by lottery so it had a great mix of students with one class per grade level.

The move here was rough all around, and our daughter had a tough year making new friends in a larger school. I remember talking with her teacher at parent-teacher conferences and asking about the girls and their friendships. This teacher was honest and said that cliques had already formed. 

For the past few years we’ve watched and counseled Bethany through a few friendship bumps and dramas and crisis. I’ve only stepped in once when I felt that another parent had crossed the line and owed Bethany an apology. But each time something happens I wonder, “Why is it that girls turn on each other? Why, even in adulthood, do women get so catty?”

Personally, I hated junior high  and high school. I couldn’t wait to leave. Looking back I’m sure some of it was “normal” teenage angst – not getting asked to the dance, not getting the name brand clothes, not being cool. Some of it was “normal” but painful; to this day I can still name some of my tormentors who teased and threatened me. You might think that I just need to let it go, but others of you might relate. My confidence today comes from God alone, but back then my confidence came and went with the wind or the way certain peers looked at me or spoke to me. I wasn’t a queen bee, but I was definitely an overachiever with a lack of self-confidence. (And there’s nothing like looking ahead to your 20th high school reunion and looking back at high school through facebook to bring it all back again!)

I picked up the book because I wanted to revisit adolescence just as my daughter is entering it. The way I see it is that I have an advantage over my mother. My mother grew up in Korea attending girls-only schools in a time and culture that no longer exists for either of us. Her junior high and high school experiences were frozen in time when she immigrated to the US, and when I hit puberty all bets were off. We literally were from different worlds. But for me and my daughter we have similar starting points – the Illinois public school system. I remember being worried about opening my locker and changing for gym so it was a good chance to release some pressure when Bethany and I went to the open house last year and neither of us got the locker open on the first try. I remember wanting the perfect outfit for the first day (actually, week) of school so it’s a blessing to be able to take her shopping with much more financial freedom than my parents. I remember wanting to fit in and have fun, but I have been able, so far, to guide Bethany in hopes that she doesn’t lose herself in the process of fitting in.

I also wanted to read the book to better understand myself. I am a grown woman, and when I’m honest I can admit that I long to fit in and am still trying to find my niche of friends in this community. There are the working moms and the stay-at-home moms. (Those labels don’t make sense to me. I rarely see a mom who doesn’t work or just stays at home.) There are the PTA moms and the soccer moms and the ballet school moms and some are the all-of-the-above moms. Most of us are just-managing-by-the-grace-of-God-moms. And just like in junior high there is gossip and the looks we give one another. Sometimes we are very much like our teenage daughters.

So, were you (or are you still) a queen bee or a target or somewhere in between? Be honest.

Learn English, You’re in America

We spent the weekend with my parents and my sister’s family – 6 adults, 7 children. Not a bad ratio, eh? My sister and I loved that all the kids could swim, none of them needed diapers or sippy cups, and we even managed a few moments to ourselves while everyone scattered at the water park. But I digress…

Elias and I were sitting on a double-innertube thingy waiting to go around the bend of a lazy river to go down a tube slide. The logjam we experienced was similar to the ones we endured on the Edens spur. However, the annoying thing was that this back-up was, in part, created by the many adults trying to bend the rules – rules that were posted on multiple signs throughout the park and along the lazy river.

The lifeguards were stopping riders who, instead of riding two to a tube, thought that maybe three could equal two. They also had to stop riders who wanted sit facing each other, hoping that they had misread the “face front” signs. The beauty of it all? Most of the lifeguards were students or folks younger than I who were from different countries – the Dominican Republic, Sweden, Spain. Here were “foreigners” politely asking “Americans” to read the signs posted in English.

Even Elias caught on pretty quickly as he saw people being switched around or asked to leave. We chatted about rules and respect, and how obeying the posted rules might have changed the situation. Elias then points to one of the signs and says, “Why didn’t they listen to the sign?”

I couldn’t help but laugh and think about the many times my parents or I have been told to “learn English, you’re in America!”. Some of those memories are just that – funny because we had made an honest mistake in the company of ignorant people who assumed that based on our appearance we couldn’t read/speak/understand English.

Or the time Peter and I were driving around a shopping mall looking for parking during the holidays when I spotted someone in another aisle. I hopped out of the car to “hold the spot” until Peter could swing around and wouldn’t budge when another irate driver came by. The driver and passenger started yelling at me about how “You can’t do that, you bleep-bleep! Where are you from, you bleep-bleep? Don’t you speak bleeping English? Go back to where you bleeping came from!” And since I grew up Chicago where we claim dibs on parking spots with lawn chairs and lumber, I didn’t think it was such a big deal. I stood there until Peter rounded the corner and parked the car. 

Other memories, like walking down the streets of Green Bay and having a pickup truck complete with a gun rack slow down and pull up alongside me with the driver and passengers yelling, “Go back to where you came from you bleeping chink!” still send chills down my spine.

So, we finally made it to the top of the slide, and the lifeguards were busy keeping us from getting stuck and helping the lady next to us get out and back in the tube because she ignored the signs (the ones that read “adults should ride in the back when riding with a small child”. The lifeguards – all three of them – looked completely frustrated and annoyed by the sense of entitlement some of the guests exhibited so I couldn’t help myself.

“Don’t you wish people would learn to read English?” I said to David from the Dominican Republic.

David from the Dominican Republic laughed out loud and nodded as he gave me and Elias a push down the slide.

Hope in a Fortune Cookie

So, I’m sitting there with my supervisor having just spent quite a bit of time talking about my anxiety over moving into a new job, confusion over past conflicts, frustration over not being able to influence change and growth the way I had envisioned it.

As we are winding down our supervisory meeting, I open my fortune cookie.

“Your leadership qualities will shine soon.”

We laughed. I still have the fortune because it gave me hope in a funny, fortune cookie, God’s timing kind of way. (I also still have the fortune my husband opened 16 years ago when he came over for dinner while we were just getting to know each other. It read: “You or a close friend will be married within a year.” YES!)

Have you ever kept a fortune? What did it say and why did you keep it? My youngest collects them. At last count he had 60+. That’s a lot of fortune cookies.

Three Magnets


Kathy KEYS


My dear friend Emily took my magnets off of the soundboard at our “old church” when she and her family left.

We left months before Emily’s family, and only after much hand-wringing and praying and waiting and discerning. When God gave us the green light to leave there was no turning back – kind of like a fire alarm. You don’t go back to grab your belongings. So, my magnets sat on the soundboard.

When Emily left she took her magnets and mine, and then on a bench at the local mall she gave me her magnets for safe-keeping and she kept mine. We agreed that when the other person landed in a church and was worshipping God in the context of a church community – whether or not it was on the worship team – we would return the magnets.

Emily is still waiting and healing.

I thought I was still waiting. I’m definitely still healing. But as Emily put it, “You’re leading worship, Kath. I think that’s landing.”


Kathy KEYS


Are you kidding me?

So I’m reading the sports section over lunch when I see a story about Spain’s Olympic basketball team taking a photo…wait for it…pulling the outside corner of their eyelids upward.


I’ll try to give them the benefit of the doubt. I’ve never been to Spain so my understanding of Spanish culture is limited to that of my junior high and high school Spanish teacher’s attempts at teaching language and culture. They didn’t intend to offend, but that, according to Spain center Pau Gasol, “It was something like supposed to be funny or something…”

It is not like funny or something.

What do you all think? Is it funny? Offensive?

This Chink is Angry

My son has been bullied and now he is so angry. And I am heartbroken.

I have some wonderful childhood memories – family road trips, my favorite dress, walking to the corner grocer to buy candy, the sound of Dad playing his harmonica to wake us up in the morning, the smell of a day’s worth of Mom and Grandma’s cooking.

But I also have vivid memories of being the first Asian American in the suburban school district we moved to. I remember Gwen, who later became a good grade school friend, asking me why my nose was so flat and my eyes were so weird. I remember being bullied, walking home with my sister trying to ignore the boys and girls following us spewing awful words and threats. I remember being on the bus when a few kids thought it would be funny and original to call me a chink and gook and tell me to go back home to the rice fields. Don’t you think that if I could be in the safety of my home, away from all you idiots, I would go home?  I remember one time “retaliating” by screaming at them all the profanities and mean words I could string together…in Korean. It made me feel powerful. I could say to their face anything I wanted with no consequences.

But there were consequences. I grew up actually feeling rather powerless. I did not have a voice, at least not one that others could understand. And now as an adult, I find myself in situations where I think I’ve said what I meant, repeated myself, and then raise my voice with words and tone that clearly articulate and express my anger and frustration.

So it breaks my heart to know that my son has suffered deeply at the hands of a bully. We’re walking through this together with him, but it’s so hard. I have to remember that when he vents at me, he’s not really venting about me. He’s venting. He’s angry.

I’m angry. I’m angry with myself that I didn’t listen to my gut when things started to change with him. I’m angry that the school communicated to me that things had improved. I’m angry that the Evil One continues to attack our hearts and souls into believing lies about ourselves and others.

Lord have mercy.


There has been some buzz and some media coverage about 9-year-old Lin Miaoke being selected to “sing” during the opening ceremonies in Beijing. They call her the “smiling angel”, but apparently her voice wasn’t as angelic as her face so they dubbed over her voice with that of Yang Peiyi.

Honestly, I wasn’t sure how to respond. There was some chatter on various blogs and amongst television commentators about the Communist Party’s decision to present a “flawless image”, the pressure for perfection, the “fake” performance.

It was a bit funny to me. It’s easy to point fingers at China and then say how lip-synching (and CGI fireworks) mar the overall quality and impact of the opening ceremonies. Does that mean the opening ceremonies weren’t perfect? 

But then here in America we have “America’s Next Top Model” and “Make Me a Supermodel”, Teen Glamour and Teen Cosmo, etc. Seriously, is it so crazy to believe that the Communists would share the Western world’s obsession with beauty and perfection? I don’t live in a country where party leaders decide what is acceptable in terms of beauty, but I do live in a country where the freedom to choose still leaves women always falling short and in the endless pursuit of perfection.

It’s sad, don’t you think?

Control issues

My husband and my children will tell you that I have control issues. I like the sink empty. I like my bowls stacked in fours. My shirts are hung according to color – with long-sleeved shirts currently on the bottom row and short-sleeved shirts on the top. My label maker is my best inanimate friend.

So the blog move is really about control. The old site was created by one of my co-authors, and I didn’t mind that she was the only one with password access…until she forgot the password and I got bored with the layout. So, any changes to the blog were never to be.

Now, I’m not a very faithful blogger. I marvel (and have discovered some of their secrets) at my more faithful, consistent and provocative blogging friends. I don’t aspire to those heights. I just wanted to be able to control the color/design of the page and tinker with a few things.

So there. And now here we are.

This is not my public journal. Just some thoughts on how the complexities of relationships, culture and faith all play out in my little world. Thanks for joining me.

I guess they forgot about us

I’m still laughing…

The scene: It’s bedtime in the Chang/Khang household. The boys are in their beds. Peter sits on Corban’s bed. Bethany and I are squished at the foot of Elias’ bed. Peter begins the evening reading from a book of Bible stories. Tonight’s story is the creation account.

Peter: “Now the animals had a friend to take care of them. Man was much different from everything else God had made. Man had a soul…God told the man that it was his job to take care of this lovely world. Finally the daylight began to dim…God was pleased because everything he had made was very good.”

Bethany (squeezes my hand): “I guess they forgot about us, huh? God just created man and then it’s done? Hey, boys! Dad! What about us?”

Kathy (squeezes Bethany’s hand right back while trying suppress laughter): “You’re funny. I’m proud of you.”

I swear, Bethany has never sat in on any of my talks about sexuality and relationships. Maybe she’s more ready than I had guessed.