Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Do All Loves Deserve a Second Chance?: A Review of Biscuit Love

After hearing all the hype about this breakfast / brunch place in Nashville, our family finally decided to try it out and hoped for the best. And when I say 'hope for the best', I not only mean praying for impressive food but also to be spared a long wait which, we also read, is not unusual for this place. Thankfully, it was a weekday and we had also heard of a second, less-crowded location in Hillsboro Village. 

I'm referring to Biscuit Love, a Nashville restaurant that has its roots from a food truck business, and which has quickly become a destination place for both locals and tourists. They boast of made-from-scratch creative takes on some popular breakfast and lunch dishes, and of course, as their name implies, biscuits you can fall in love with. 

Here's what we tried:

The Gertie -- biscuits with chocolate sauce, HUGE dollops of peanut butter, caramelized banana jam and pretzel bits.


Bonuts -- fried biscuit balls (hybrid between biscuit & donut) sitting on blueberry compote and topped with lemon mascarpone


Bananas Foster Oatmeal -- with fresh bananas and pecans


Chronic Bacon --- thick cut and described as sweet and spicy on the menu



Southern Benny -- biscuit served with country ham, eggs and sausage gravy


For our drinks, my husband had hot coffee, I ordered iced coffee, and my son  had sweet tea. 

I'll go directly to my main point. In our family, we've established a rating system for the restaurants we go to. We have 'Bad' (there-is-no-chance-in-hell-we're-going-back-there); 'Meh' (it's-ok-nothing-special); 'Good' (we-enjoyed-that-and-wouldn't-mind-going-back); 'OMG Yes!' (we-are-absolutely-going-back-and-I'm-already-craving-it!)

For this particular Biscuit Love visit, I went in expecting an 'OMG Yes' but walked out with a 'half Meh-half Good'.

Service was good. The staff was friendly, knowledgeable and efficient. When you enter this restaurant, you are handed the menu right by the door and you place your order and pay even before you are seated. We visited on a Wednesday morning, arrived at 11 a.m. and the place was wide open. That was a very pleasant surprise. 

I would agree with every single comment and write-up out there that the Bonuts were good. I'd say that was the highlight of our meal. But even then, my husband found it too greasy. I argued that all donuts are greasy since they're fried. He didn't buy it. He just didn't particularly enjoy the oily feeling when he bit into them. I didn't mind it. I enjoyed the mascarpone and blueberry combination in each bite, but again, I wouldn't say it was mind blowing, nor life-changing. I've had dishes before where it was 'OMG, I just forgot my name' with one bite, but this wasn't like that. 

Now let's talk about the Gertie. On paper, this is amazing. Who wouldn't love chocolate and peanut butter?? I was really excited about this and it was actually my son's idea to order this. After several bites though, we all quickly realized that we didn't like the execution of this dish. The peanut butter component was just too much. You put this in your mouth and you wouldn't be able to speak, nor taste anything else, other than the gummy peanut butter. If they had toned down a bit on the peanut butter, this might have worked. The other thing that didn't work for us was the fact that the biscuits were not strong enough vessels to accommodate the other sweet components. They just crumbled on the plate every time we would cut into them. I'm not sure if some people like that sort of biscuit texture, but we were not fans of it. 

The picture below shows you the aftermath. And as you can see, there's just way too much peanut butter, even for a peanut butter lover like me. When I ordered the Gertie, the server informed us that this was a creation of the owner's child. A+ for playfulness, but there was much to be desired in terms of finesse and restraint in this dish. 



I ate the Gertie with a side of their Chronic Bacon. Again, this one was better on paper. It said sweet and spicy, but it just tasted like regular thick bacon for me. I also realized that I'm more of a thin, crispy gal than a thick cut one. (In case you're confused, I'm clearly not referring to my body type).

My husband had the Southern Benny. Again, he wasn't impressed with the flavors. There was nothing disgusting about it, the flavors were okay. But again, it just had to do with what he expected vs. what he got. He said he's used to biscuits being flaky, not cakey or fluffy. I'm not sure if Biscuit Love does both, but for all the dishes we ordered, the biscuits were fluffy. Some people say REAL biscuits are meant to be fluffy and crumbly. Others say they should be flaky. It doesn't matter to me, as long as I see that the texture goes well with the intention of the dish or how you're supposed to consume it. I prefer my bread to be a strong enough element in my dish such that it doesn't just crumble on my plate and be swallowed by all the sauce. 

Finally, the Bananas Foster Oatmeal. My son and husband both said they found it too sweet. I disagreed with them. But could it be because I moved from the Gertie to the oatmeal? Maybe. But sweetness aside, I thought this was one dish that was very well executed! The creaminess was spot on and I think that's an achievement. Oatmeal can easily turn gloopy but this wasn't anything like that. This one exceeded my expectations.

In sum, Biscuit Love isn't bad at all, but we didn't think it was ahhmazing either. This place didn't wow us and we were left wondering about all the hype. Maybe we didn't order the right things from the menu? Yes, I've considered that possibility. But then again, I walked in there thinking that after all the raving reviews, I couldn't go wrong with any dish off of their menu. Clearly, that wasn't the case. For the price we paid just for breakfast food, we wish we stepped out impressed and not just half Meh-half Good.  

All food reviews depend on the reviewer's preferences and expectations. I'd even say there are so many extraneous variables that can affect one's assessment like mood, weather, parking situation, etc. That said, all I can say is that my husband gave it a Meh and I gave it a Good. Would we go back?...Let's just say I'm more forgiving than my husband.

Have you been here? Share your thoughts!




Monday, July 31, 2017

It Is What It Is


It took me a while to appreciate that phrase given our rough history. I'm sure it had to do with my ex-boyfriend using it a lot on me whenever I would whine about something we're not being or doing. I would launch my complaints, impassioned questions and analyses about why we're apart, why I'm not getting what I want, or why we're unhappy, and then at the end of it all, he would calmly respond with, "It is what it is." I don't know if it was his calm personality or our 12-year age difference that made him see the gift behind those words way ahead of me, but now I've finally caught on.


This phrase used to make me want to pull all my hair out or bite the other person's head off, but these days it just makes me take a pause and possibly a step back. It forces me to breathe in the moment for what and how it is, not necessarily with resignation, but with forgiveness.

Saying the phrase now or hearing it reminds me that I need to accept that the situation could not be any other way, at least at the moment, and that it needs to be respected. Whether or not I want to proceed with it, and deciding which direction to proceed, are separate from the initial clarity of seeing what is, independent of labels or categorizations. 

Often, saying 'it is what it is' makes me see the situation much clearer. I'm one who is prone to overanalysis, over-attribution, overthinking. I keep guessing what the other person's motives are, over-complicating what is obvious with different scenarios that are tainted with my own hopes, denials, and desire to always assume the best about people. 

But the truth is, we are all flawed and are never the best versions of ourselves at every minute. We always disappoint and hurt, fail and give up. 

It is what it is. 

People who used to be dear to you, now no longer want to have anything to do with you and you don't understand...

It is what it is.

A relationship you've always defined by a certain label no longer seems to suit that label and it's confusing...

It is what it is.

You made a mistake and everyone tries to criticize and analyze what went wrong and what should have been...

It is what it is. There are just certain things that are meant to be seen for how they are. In the end, the truth is that not everything merits analysis and explanations. And if we're just brave enough to see, we may realize that there is no deep explanation because 'what is' speaks loud enough. 

















Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Gift of Numbness


I sat on the dental chair with a 'let's-get-this-over-and-done-with' attitude. Replacing two fillings should be pretty straightforward and relatively painless. First, a little numbing gel was applied. No biggie. After a few minutes, the dentist came and with him was that quintessentially fear-inducing fat metal syringe that made me want to curl up and turn away, if only I could. In a matter of seconds, the syringe was in my mouth and I felt the initial prick of the needle. Then it hit me....the thought, that is, not the pain, although I can't deny that one as well...

We have to succumb to the inevitability of pain before the numbness sets in. 

I felt the sharp needle prick me momentarily, as I conjured the image of a nerve getting hit. I could feel the anesthetic slowly burrowing through my gum tissue. I squeezed my eyes for a bit as I waited for the pain to pass. After several minutes, the numbness set in as I felt the right side of my jaw, my tongue and lower lip feel heavy and thick. 

Our relationship with any kind of pain that touches our lives is the same. It builds, and builds, and we take as much as we can. We have to feel it all first, suffer through it, be broken by it to some degree, before the possibility of numbness surfaces. 

Pain needs to peak, before numbness peeks. 

Numbness gets its fair share of criticisms. Sometimes it's used to describe someone negatively: unfeeling; unsympathetic; indifferent. But it can also be a necessary friend, one we call upon for self-preservation. 

Beneath all numbness is a long history of pain and a deep desire to survive. I can't say that's deserving of negative judgment. Yes, it's great to be able to feel. But if feeling too much hinders the promise of normal functioning, or a happier, healthier state of mind, then perhaps an infinite capacity to feel and surrender to pain is overrated and even detrimental. Perhaps numbness is a gift we should not be embarrassed about because it's a reflection of self-love and self-respect. Perhaps if we just let it be, Numbnesslike every other emotionpasses when we are ready and strong enough to feel again. 








Friday, June 23, 2017

Good Guy, Bad Guy...and How Much Can You Take?



"Optimus Prime is now a bad guy in this upcoming movie??" It was a sincerely puzzled question from me to my ten-year-old after seeing the trailer for the latest Transformers movie. From what I'd seen, Prime was attacking humanity and so I assumed my son would answer in the affirmative. 

Instead he said, "Well, no. It's just that he was overpowered by dark energon."(FYI: the fuel or energy source of the Transformers race). 

I found his response fascinating, which made me ponder the question of what constitutes 'being a bad person', which, if one really gets to the bottom of it, points to one's moral identity. 

My assumption that Prime is now a 'bad guy' stems from what I saw in terms of his actions. He was attacking innocent humans and was out to destroy Earth, therefore making him bad. For my son, however, Prime's actions don't necessarily make him a villain because he's 'not himself' and appears to have no choice given that he was 'injected with dark energy'. Moreover, my son argues that 'Prime isn't bad because he doesn't intend to be'. 

The principle behind my belief is obviously that we are what we do; that behaviors, being external and observable realities, define who we are. For my son, it's not so much the behavior but rather the intentions. If one does bad things but he didn't really intend to, then that person can't be defined as 'bad'. 

The more I think about our difference in beliefs, the more I realize the complexity and merit behind both camps. I can't simply label my son's thought process as naive and inaccurate. Behaviors are important, but so are intentions. The trouble is, intentions are intangible and there are often complex processes and intermediate variables that stand between intention and behavior. As such, we define those around us based on how they behave towards us, how they treat people, how they navigate social situations.

Simple, isn't it?

Not really. 

If you're a 'black and white' sort of person, then yes, this would be simple and you can categorize people based solely on what they do and how they relate to you. Defining who to avoid or sever ties with is pretty straightforward. 

But for some who thrive in 'grays', such things don't easily translate. Benefit of the doubt is always considered. Motivations, intentions, state of mind, star alignments, hormones, pollen count and everything else worth factoring in will be factored in. Letting go of anyone will always be a challenge. 

I've been both at different points in my life. I've been black and white, but admittedly mostly gray. I've had people hurt me repeatedly, and some of them I've chosen to let go of, while some I've repeatedly taken back and chosen over and over to be a part of my life. 

For me, the decision has always hinged on two things: (1) history ; and (2) my so-called 'oxygen levels'. Deciding that someone is 'bad' really translates to when someone is 'bad for me' and deserves no space in my life. The decision as to whether or not a relationship with this person is worth pursuing has to do with the past we share, whether or not that person has added value to my life with the experiences we've lived, and whether or not continuing a relationship with the person is still healthy for me. If continued exposure to this person—to the 'bad' he/she exhibits—damages me, my sense of worth, my peace of mind, sanity, and all that is positive and necessary to my well-being, then it is not worth choosing the relationship over my Self. If the 'bad' steals the good in you, then what good would be left for you to continue giving? The oxygen mask has to go on you first.

To my ten-year-old, Prime can't be bad because he has always known him to be good. My son is relying on history, on track record, for his assessment of Prime's moral identity. In addition, he is able to justify Prime's destructive behavior based on his absence of free will; that Prime doesn't intend to be hurtful and bad but just can't help himself because of the dark energon within him. I, on the other hand, can more easily shrug my shoulders and walk away with the conclusion that Prime has become dark. Clearly, between me and my son, it is he who has a past and a deeper relationship with the Transformers. 










Friday, June 9, 2017

Kids' Summer Routine

It's only been two-and-a-half weeks since school ended and it's already started. It doesn't matter how many games I suggest, what camps there are to go to, or how many play dates I arrange, the end result is always the same. Is this something that kids learn in some 'How to Drive Your Parents Insane 101' class that they all secretly enroll in? 

To cope with my misery, I decided to write a haiku.

Raise your hand if you're a parent whose head is also about to explode with the incessant nonsensical complaining.

God help us all...



Thursday, May 25, 2017

How to Say No When Your Child Asks For a Fidget Spinner

…Just muster all your conviction, and say ‘NO’. That’s it.

I’m assuming you are reading this because you know for a fact that your child who’s asking for a fidget spinner does NOT have a medical or developmental issue that would warrant a need to be addressed by said gadget. In other words, your child is developmentally normal. And so is mine, which made it effortless for me to say ‘no’.


Three days ago, I heard the words that I’ve been dreading for the past two months. I honestly thought I was in the clear, but just when I was getting cocky, he blurted, “Mama, can I please have a fidget spinner?” Saying no was not a problem. I didn’t even pause for a second before making it clear to my son that I will not be granting his request. What took longer was explaining to him why I’m saying no.

You absolutely don’t need it. You don’t even fidget, for crying out loud!
I mean, okay, maybe you sometimes tap your fingers, or shake your legs, or move in your chair, touch your hair, scratch your ear or eyes. I don’t care. The point is, your degree of fidgeting is normal and I’ve spoken to every teacher you’ve had in the past 7 years and they can all attest to your ability to stay focused. You have no problem with concentration and you’re actually a remarkably good student with no attention-span or behavior issues. Even if you did have anxiety, stress or ADHD (who, according to the marketers of this fidget spinner, are the ones who can benefit most from this gadget), I believe there are better ways of helping you with your issues than getting you this spinner.

It’s just a fad. And a useless one in my view.
According to the website of the makers of this device, the fidget spinner is a “new office gadget and children's toy to help improve focus and concentration while reducing ADHD and bad habits…(They) believe that the symptoms of ADHD and stress can be reduced with (their) tools to release the nervous energy rather than by taking prescription drugs.

The ‘bad habits’ they refer to are things people do when they’re nervous, stressed out or bored, such as nail biting, gum chewing, or foot-tapping and this fidget toy is supposed to take the place of those bad habits, hence increasing concentration and productivity.

Really? Seriously?? This toy is so new and there is no real scientific data that can back up those claims. Have they really measured before and after cases? Any longitudinal studies to date? How many subjects? What variables were isolated? Until I find reliable scientific data regarding their claims, I’m taking them all to be marketing b.s.

If you really want to stop biting your nails or shaking your leg, just stop. Or maybe do what my generation did and spin your pen instead. No toys needed.

Which brings me to this point…

Let’s be honest…It’s a toy!
And you only want it because everyone else seems to have one even though they don’t know why. What’s worse is that some kids think they need it, end up bringing it to school and then getting distracted by it, therefore getting the opposite effect of what it’s marketed for.

It’s a stupid, unnecessary toy, as far as I’m concerned. It spins. Yeah, get a top, I think we already have one. 

You want something that goes around your fingers to keep you occupied?...Yeah, you can play with rubber bands too and create cool shapes! 

You’re stressed?...We have a stress ball for you to squeeze. Or maybe you can just close your eyes and take slow, deep breaths.

This spinner thing is really not that cool and I’m not buying it, literally and figuratively.

*** 
I have nothing against buying toys for my son, as long as we can afford it, he deserves or needs it, and bonus points if I’m a fan of it. But this fidget spinner fad bugs the heck out of me. I don’t want my son to fall into the trap of wanting something just because others have it. I don’t want him to think it’s okay to spend money on something just because it’s cheap or he can afford it. I want him to pause and think about its purpose, why he truly wants something, what he’ll get out of it, and if the gadget or toy truly makes sense.

This one does not. And I don’t like how it hides behind the fa├žade of being developmentally or cognitively beneficial. If children suffer from anxiety, stress, or ADHD, there are a ton of experts who can more effectively help out and can equip these children with practices backed by true science and research. There is no single magic tool, spinning or not, that can address those issues, at least not yet. I don’t care if it’s 99 cents or fifteen dollars. The answer is NO.



Friday, May 19, 2017

Why You Need to Stop Giving a F***

A good friend of mine shared with me this life-changing TED Talk on YouTube. If you haven't seen it yet, I highly suggest you click on the video below. It may just become the most well-spent 15 minutes of your life. 

It's about not giving a—(pardon the word)—f*ck. Most of the time, I find myself saying that in my head: I don't give a f*ck. IDGAF! It's so liberating just to think it. And then the next minute, I start giving a f*ck again. Perhaps it's out of peer pressure, guilt and mainly an overactive superego. But as I get older, I realize how necessary it is to not give a f*uck in preserving my sanity, peace of mind and sense of happiness. 

The speaker / author Sarah Knight gave three main points: 

1. She defines a f*ck as time, energy and money. When we don't GAF about something, that means we don't care about it and therefore won't give it our time, energy and money. 

2. One shouldn't feel sorry about not giving a f*ck. You can be polite about it and not feel awful about your honesty. This of course presumes that you have clearly differentiated between things you want to GAF about and things you don't GAF about. 

3. Each of us needs a F*ck Budget to ensure that we have enough time, energy and money for those things we truly care about. It's obviously unwise to waste your 'fuck bucks' or 'actual bucks' on things you don't care about. 


The Magic of Not Giving a F***


One realization came to mind though. The reason why this video resonates with so many of us is because most of us feel overwhelmed. The sad reality is that we live in a period where there are pressures and demands that consume us, chewing every bit of us little by little, mostly inconspicuously, until we find ourselves depleted, or worse, powerless. 

This talk would not have been relevant in a time where social life was much simpler, less demanding. In this period we live in, there are so many experts, each of us carries different social roles and identities often times presenting with conflicting demands, and we are constantly bombarded with ever-changing information about what the ideal life looks like or which version of ourselves is deemed 'best'. There is so much pressure experienced during such a finite life with finite resources that it truly makes sense to re-evaluate what are truly valuable and worth investing in.

As a final note, remember that the reason for not giving a f*** about so many things is so that you end up with more joy in your life, more authenticity, more freedom. The more f***s you give, the more depleted you will be. 

What things do you want to stop giving a f*** about right now?














Friday, May 5, 2017

All He Did Was Stare



We were never introduced but we certainly knew each other's names. Or at least I knew his. We were young university instructors at the time, though we belonged to different departments. I would not have noticed him at all had it not been for his strange behavior. It was a habit that simultaneously annoyed and intrigued me.

He stared.

In the beginning, I thought it was a fluke. I thought maybe he thought I was someone else. But as the months went on, I noticed how consistent the behavior was. I taught Sociology so you must understand how trained I was to observe things, gather my data without immediately jumping to conclusions. 

So that's what I did. I observed. I let it go on. Our faculty offices were in the same building, on the same floor. Conveniently, even our classes were in the same wing and again, on the same floor. As such, we would often pass each other by on the way to and from the two buildings. And every time this happened, I would see him staring at me from afar and by the time we were side by side, he would turn his head my way and just look at me. It was one of those things that you just feel and see from your peripheral vision. I didn't have the guts to actually look back at him and just suffered through my self-consciousness for a while.

Since I'm not one who readily assumes anything, not even when it's obvious, I had to test the reliability of this data. And the truth was, I was sure it was me he was staring at because it would happen even when there was no one else for him to turn his head to and stare at other than me. There were also times when I had to walk with a couple of my colleagues and they all confirmed that this man was, without a doubt, staring at my face. He also did the same every time he walked past my classroom and I would be in the middle of my lecture. It was a bit distracting at first but I quickly learned to adapt.

I was flattered, but more importantly, I was deeply intrigued. The mystery was killing me. Why was he doing it? If he was attracted to me, why doesn't he introduce himself? Why just stare instead of smile and say hello? Or maybe he found me repulsive? Yes, I thought that too. 

Finally, I decided to end my passive role in all this. I had allowed it for so long that I felt all that odd, conspicuous staring was getting old and I was feeling exasperated. I was certain that doing something about it would accelerate where it needed to go. Either it would escalate and he would pursue something more if indeed he was attracted to me, or he would get tired of it and stop. When I made the resolve to be pro-active, I wasn't sure which outcome I preferred. All I knew was that something needed to change. 

One day, I decided that was it. I saw him walking towards me...10 feet...5 feet...2 feet away...and then we were side by side. Just as his head was still turned towards me, I abruptly turned my head towards him and I obviously caught him off guard. I finally confirmed for myself that I was the object of his attention. Strangely though, as my gaze met his, I felt momentarily stunned. There was no smile, not even a hint of embarrassment from him for being caught staring at me. There was nothing. His face remained expressionless, yet I felt bulldozed by the intensity that I was the one who felt embarrassed and had to quickly turn away. It was as if I owed it to him to allow myself to be pierced like that. I didn't take pleasure in it. Apart from realizing he was really not that cute, I also felt violated and wondered if he was a misogynistic freak. 

From that point on, I vowed to give him a dose of his own medicine, albeit a much smaller dose, and throw in a slight smile and hello for good measure, at least whenever I felt like it. I was especially brave at doing those during faculty assemblies since I knew they were justified and had minimal risk of being misconstrued. The strange thing is that I still didn't get anything back. I don't recall him ever smiling at me, let alone truly engage me in a conversation. Eventually I found out he had a girlfriend so that pretty much extinguished all the thrill for me. I never reached a solid conclusion to my shallow adventure, never truly found out his motive for staring. But the reasons don't matter any more because I had lost interest in the mystery. Him staring back at me with a cold, brazenly arrogant look tasted too bitter for me to continue craving it. 

It was an exciting and fun few months for 24-year old me, when being mysterious was a prerequisite for attraction. But that's the thing about mysteries. They're evanescent and have a fragile existence. They entice and hook me, inviting me to dig and uncover. Unfortunately, sometimes there's nothing much to see, nothing more challenging to keep my attention. With a very limited lifespan, mysteries are not very reliable foundations to relationships. I'm not sure how long this man kept his 'routine'. The point is, I just stopped caring and knew there were other deeper mysteries ahead of me worth exploring. I was 24 and hadn't found it yet, but I was certain it was still out there, packaged in a much warmer, friendlier set of eyes. 




Friday, April 21, 2017

Ten



The double-digits age is finally here for my only child—my son—and as it settles, I am forced to welcome it like a permanent guest in my home, wreaking turbulence in my predictable day-to-day.  There is a distinct politeness to this permanent house guest that no parent ever misses. It makes sure you are slowly acquainted with it even before its official arrival. As a mother, I have seen its shadow peeking every so often in the past six months. At first I was in denial of it but the more I recognized it, the stronger I fought knowing full well this is a futile battle. 

He’s starting to look a little different. One moment I was straining my neck to look down at him when we speak, and the next I notice his head right by my chin. I still can’t adequately describe what I felt—a mixture of panic, confusion, and sadness—the first time I saw my boy reaching for his glass from the cupboard’s upper shelf without asking for any help. My arms that have always lifted him so willingly have now been replaced by his hardworking toes, balancing and holding his weight while his arms stretch to reach some coveted trophy.  

He’s starting to sound a little different. I can already hear the tone of defiance, though I’ve made sure he understands the difference between defiance and disrespect. He is wise enough to know I can tolerate one and not the other. 

The jokes are changing, his vocabulary beautifully expanding especially when he expresses his frustrations with me and my rules. If he only knew how I vacillate between hurt and awe when he shows me his capacity to use his words in expressing his anger towards me. 

His needs and preferences are evolving. His excitement was immeasurable when we finally agreed that he can do away with his booster seat in the car. And he couldn’t be any more proud when he proved to us he is now more comfortable riding MY bike than sticking to his smaller one. 

Mention of friends’ names are also becoming more frequent, affections more sincere, and the desire to spend time with them whether face-to-face or online playing games is stronger.

His self-conscious version has definitely arrived. Hair styling products in my cabinet are no longer just mine, and he has found his own voice when it comes to deciding on haircuts. He now also seems to care more about his outfits and how certain shirts hug his body, when before he couldn't care less if I put on him a shirt two sizes too small. 

Ten. It has been ten years since I gave birth to this wonderful spirit, this most beautiful child in my world who never ceases to overwhelm me with love and joy. Ten years of watching him grow and making me proud every step of the way have spoiled me into believing I will always be number one in his life; that, in spite of my exhaustion and complaints, I will always be needed and be the sole source of his comfort. 

But change is here and has been here though I refused to give it full attention. I've reasoned that I can keep deceiving myself for as long as certain habits remain—his need to still be tucked in at night; his need to twirl my hair so he can relax and fall asleep; his desire to be held tight and carried even though his feet dangle and reach inches beyond my knees; or his willingness to let me sniff him and still call him 'baby', though never in public. 

I'm fully aware that soon even these habits will end. Soon, he may become unrecognizable and I may find myself arguing with someone who will almost feel like a stranger to me, as I utter to him these words most parents with teens and pre-teens have said over and overWhat have you done to my child? Where is he, and could you bring him back?
  
As my son opens his arms to welcome 10, I simultaneously feel his grip loosening on mine. I expect at some point he would no longer be able to hold on tightly to both my grip, as well as the double digits. He will choose and it is my grip that would have to let go. It will tear me inside but I know it’s the most loving choice any parent can make. 

My home and my heart are ready for this permanent guest, the double digits. We are both strong-willed, we will clash and both of us will insist we only want what is best for my son. It will take my son farther from me, mentally, emotionally and physically. But I’ve been here far longer than this guest. What I need my son to realize is that no matter where the double-digits take him, Mommy and Daddy will always be home to him. He will become strong enough, tall enough to reach for the stars on his own, but he will always know that his parents' unconditional love and faith in him are what gave him wings. 

Friday, April 14, 2017

What Is Your Afterlife?




As Easter approaches and I'm reminded of the hope carried by Christ's resurrection, I couldn't help but be equally occupied by thoughts on death. I've had loved ones die, friends and acquaintances living with terminal illness, and all this with my own changing and aging body reminding me constantly of my own mortality. 

What happens to us when we die? Certainly the answer depends on your own belief system. Beyond that, I've also realized that much of our answer is shaped by our age and life experiences. The young, highly-Catholic version of me believed we either go to heaven or hell, and of course the comfort of the idea of purgatory in case we are not quite worthy of heaven and yet absolutely not deserving of hell either. 

But as I aged and preferred to see a God that is more forgiving and definitely not simplistic, I've settled in a belief that the afterlife shouldn't be that scary as long as you know you've lived a life of meaning, of mostly kindness and certainly Love. I now choose to believe that perfection has never been the objective, but rather growth and spiritual evolution. As Paul Kalanithi eloquently put it, "You can't ever reach perfection, but you can believe in an asymptote toward which you are ceaselessly striving". (When Breath Becomes Air)

Recently, I heard something utterly beautiful and comforting from the Netflix hit show Grace and Frankie. I know you're probably thinking it's a strange source of wisdom, let alone beliefs on the afterlife, but I'm sure you'd appreciate it too—

"The afterlife is how you're remembered by the living."

It erases the idea of a non-forgiving, simplistic deity, while at the same time puts emphasis on how we ultimately live our lives and touch the lives of others. It's not focused on perfection or the idea that flaws or mistakes permanently stain and define us, or lead us to eternal damnation. Instead, it makes us view our lives wholistically and puts in perspective the value we've added to this earth and others' lives. 

Are we loving enough to be remembered that way?

Are we generous to others that we shall be remembered as nurturing, selfless and kind? 

Are we forgiving so that others think of us as one with an open and humble heart? 

Have we been patient, gentle and wise with our tone and words so that people we leave behind remember us with joy and as a source of comfort? 

Do you make enough space in your heart for others such that they make space for you as well in their hearts and will remember you when you die?

The answer either brings you peace or disquiet. But each moment you have left is currency you can use wisely. Each moment is a reminder that this life we have is not meant to be lived selfishly; that our life is defined by the connections we forge and the positive difference we make in those we meet in our journey. We are irrefutably connected and so the salvation we offer others is as much our own. 

As the Christian world celebrates the resurrection of Christ, may we also reflect on how each moment offers us hope to resurrect ourselves into a life worth remembering and celebrating.