How to Make the Right Decisions

A wise man (also known as a friend of mine) says he faces at least 20 forks in the road each day. How do you decide which direction to take at each crossroads?

 

In his words:

Pick the path that means more for someone else and less of yourself.*

 

This is not to say that you allow yourself to be stomped on, crushed, ignored and forgotten. Rather, if there is a benefit to someone else, it is very likely that should be the choice you make, even if you walk away with no apparent reward.

 

Completely counterintuitive. What about getting ahead, stepping atop others to attain success? I looked at him a bit skeptically across the table.

 

—-

My mother came and sat down on my bed right after I pulled the covers up to my chin. “I have something I want to talk to you about.”

I sat up.

“I’ve been thinking this for awhile. You are too nice.”

“Huh?!” my high school self exclaimed.

“You are too nice,” said my mother. “You will be taken advantage of, if you haven’t already. You need to be more selfish. Your dad and I have discussed this. Stop being so nice.”

I fell back onto the bed in disbelief.

 

As my friend and I unpacked this concept, I realized that my parents and I were both wrong.

 

As painful as it is to admit, there have been too many ulterior motives in my kindnesses. Was I really offering to cook a meal for a family because I genuinely felt the burden of a newborn child? Well, yes and no, because I have never raised an infant. However, there is a tiny corner of Innae realizing there is some social perk to performing this public deed. I will be viewed as altruistic! I will not be wasting my time! I will be considered a great cook! (highly unlikely) And I will feel good about myself!

 

Select service, Ted* urges. Give my time, energy, wisdom, all of it away.

 

He isn’t the only one to say such nonsensical words. Who can forget this?

And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.

[Mark 12:30-31]

 

‘Tis the season for giving. Time will tell if I’m ready to make it year-round.

 

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*This is paraphrased. Sorry, Ted.

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Being Silenced: Where Change Can Begin

I can’t tell you how many articles I’ve read, statements posted, comment threads and tweets resonating with anger and injustice. This has been a charged, painful, frantic few weeks, and while one would hope it is to come to an end, this is the beginning.

Eric Garner March

Funny. There is hope in that statement, isn’t there? We are entering another civil rights era, a time where men and women march to ensure equality. This time, people of all races and backgrounds will stand shoulder-to-shoulder, repeating the cry. Black Lives Matter.

 

I have wrestled with blogging about these current events because I did not want to simply fume on the internet until I had all the facts. Yet it wasn’t until I realized how uncurrent these events were that I began to type.

#CrimingWhileWhite has been a shameful testimony of how many times one’s appearance has provided a second chance. Granted, these are anecdotes. Here, however, are the numbers. In this ProPublica article, there is proof of the racial disparity when it comes to bullets fired and lives stolen in an instance. Just a few years ago, the federal data revealed that “blacks, age 15 to 19, were killed at a rate of 31.17 per million, while just 1.47 per million white males in that age range died at the hands of police.” Essentially, the authors of the article estimate that young black men face a 21 times greater risk of being shot by an officer than a white male of the same age.

Image courtesy of ProPublica

And this is data that isn’t even fully complete.

 

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All this being said, this post isn’t just a rant about what is wrong.

 

We must recognize we have created an enemy too. Who is “the other side?” Do we condemn all uniformed men and women? I know many who have taken the oath who grasp the dignity of life and the delicacy of justice. There is no doubt that a medical examiner ruled Garner’s death a homicide, and the man last seen with his arms around the black man’s neck is not facing any repercussion. The days to come though, may be punishment enough. What we need to seek is a solution, not revenge.

 

A former mentor of mine urges us all to “lean in and listen” in his editorial in the Huffington Post. Call me old-fashioned, but respect garners further respect. I have no right to command that you silence your voices now. I just ask you to be aware of the potential prejudices spilling out of our hearts as we speak. At times, a listening ear will heal more powerfully than a spoken word, and a conversation more effective than a lecture.

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Chaz Howard also wrote about the incongruity of Philadelphia’s protestors against the backdrop of the Christmas tree lighting at City Hall Wednesday night.

“A huge tree stood over all of us. Today shiny ornaments and lights hang on it. Not very long ago a black man would have hung on it.”

 

 

About 2000 years ago, a Middle Eastern man hung on it too. And He did have the right to say this:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”

All lives should matter. Let us strive to make them so.

Cider Doughnut Bread Pudding for the Soul

Have you ever heard of a guard llama?

How about a pet skunk? They aren’t allowed in New York State (with the exception of certain permits), but there’s an underground effort to justify the domestication with a therapy sort of role.

 

These aren’t the topics one would expect in a conversation among food bloggers and foodies (+ one wannabe foodie named Innae). Yet across breakfast pizza, cheddar biscuits and apple muffins with a date and garam masala crumble, I found my belly aching from gluttony and giggles.

 

We actually sat across from each other in the same room, not in a web conference.

That’s right, we sat across from each other in the same room, not in a web conference.

 

The reunion was unexpected. I reached out to Deanna Fox of Silly Goose Farm to follow up on a promise to visit her home, and the hostess-extraordinaire decided a full-fledged brunch was nothing short of necessary. Along came a few of my favorite food writers and lovers from the Capital Region, and I was giddy with anticipation for the delights that would soon be in front of me.

 

Case in point.

Case in point. Yes, that’s also homemade maple burnt sugar ice cream.

As I caught up with the ProFUSSor – whom I hadn’t seen since he and his wife left for her sabbatical over a year ago – we chatted about the merits and difficulties of a changing menu for local restaurants. Expected, right? Also discussed with Albany Jane, Albany John and the others: pregnancy, mining and honey badgers (I have now made plans to watch a documentary on these apathetic animals thanks to the recommendation of this marketing guru).

(she made this. stunning flavor profile)

(These are those aforementioned muffins. Stunning flavor profile)

 

 

There were also moments that morning where the laughter waited on the sidelines as these men and women listened to my journey thus far. They offered encouragement, advice and suggestions with such sincerity that my heart was just as full as my stomach.

 

As we’re all aware, the Internet is a connecting, yet isolating place. While I’ve carried conversations with these eaters online for some time, the in-person opportunities weren’t as frequent. A few minutes here, inbetween bites at a tasting there, and soon we’d have to finish up our trains of thought on Twitter.

 

Even with so little face-to-face contact, I felt fully comfortable. The words I had seen on a screen or in print were backed with the warmth of a voice. The delightful images I’d scrolled through were taken by hands that baked and cooked to delight my tastebuds. And now we’d created memories that would feed my heart.

At the Table with 아빠

A series of moments with my inimitable 아빠 (dad) during my three weeks at home.

 

—–

We had just sat down with our first round of buffet plates.

“Before we continue the conversation,” my father said. “I have something for each of you.”

He pulled out four envelopes from within his ever-present journal and handed one to my mother, one to me, and the last two to my sister. He instructed her to give the other to her boyfriend.

The cards too gave instruction.

IMG_0826

 

And that night, we celebrated each one of us.

—–

Hearing groans from the living room, I immediately ran out to see why my father was in pain. He was gingerly lowering himself to the ground, moaning as he went, since he had thrown out his back a day earlier. He picked up a fallen honey cracker even as I told him to stop.

I then said, “아빠, 제가 버려줄게요.” (Dad, I’ll throw it out for you)

He grinned, popped it in his mouth, and then offered me a cracker from the full bag in his other hand.

—–

After getting stuck in traffic, we rushed into the rice-paper walled restaurant two minutes before our reservation. Our faces fell: there was no television inside. My father hollered at the hostess, “TV 없어요?” (You don’t have a TV?)

Her answer, with an arched eyebrow, “우린 전통 한식당 인데, 왜 물어보세요?” (We’re a traditional Korean restaurant. Why would you ask that?)

His answer: “박태환 선수가 지금 수영하잖아요! … 금방 갔다올게요…” (Park Tae Hwan is swimming right now! We’ll be right back…)

At that, my sister, father and I ran back to the parking lot and watched the Korean swimmer win bronze in the 200M freestyle of the 2014 Asian Games —

IMG_0798

 — in our car.

—–

“It’ll only take a few minutes,” he said, as he started to boil water.

“Only if you’re sure, if you don’t mind,” I worried in the last hour before I had to take the shuttle to the airport.

He looked at me and said, “As long as you want to eat my food. You sure you don’t want Korean food for your last meal?”

“Absolutely.”

I set the table for two.

photo (1)

 

As he grated parmesan cheese onto our plates, he said, “You won’t find anything this simple at a restaurant in Korea. Oh, and you have to drink this wine with it.”

 

I ate my last meal of my trip sitting across from the man who made it for me. Just a few ingredients made up this pasta dish, and its simplicity reflected the purity of his love for me.

Link

Why America Needs Refugees

A few months ago, I was moved by a young girl skipping rope in a refugee apartment complex in Denver.

While she and her family may be struggling daily in ways that I can’t understand because of my unsolicited abundant life, they have changed the life of my friend Molly. Not only her life, but those of the people around her, like me. I’m still blinking in disbelief because I so often choose to close my eyes and the light is only going to keep streaming in.

enjoy this reblog:

mojoy1494

Yesterday, I went back to visit my former apartments. The beauty and chaos of the 3-tiered brick-on-concrete low-income-housing buildings located right off the intersection of Colfax Avenue and Route 225.

Sandwiched between streets that have only letters for names, construction projects, and strip malls with cell phone stores, liquor marts, and fast-food joints are the Shadow Tree Apartments.

I suppose the name comes from the few scraggily evergreen trees clinging to life in the middle of the cement  courtyards of “A” and “B” buildings.

I haven’t visited often this past year. Not as often as I’ve wanted to, and certainly not as often as I’ve thought to.

There was the time I showed up with bags of items to drop off that were given to me by my sister’s former roommate (the contents of which were quickly claimed and made new homes to grinning faces). I saw an 8th

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Two Decades

I’m frantically writing a blog post as I reflect on the last few days of wedding preparation.

 

Don’t be alarmed, there’s no ring on my finger.

 

It’s that of a friend whom I have known for more than 20 years. A friend who has been by my side through thick and thin (she being the thin and I was the former). A friend at whom I shook my head for years because there were times where she was just beyond me. And then a friend who received the same head-shaking in recent years because of my delight at who she’s become.

~1995

[around 1994]

Now, after two decades, I get to see her walk down the aisle and marry a man who cherishes her deeply. We’ve seen our share of hurt, of mistreatment, betrayal and even abuse. Now her story will be marked by a new beginning – where another friend will be by her side for hopefully more than twenty and beyond years.

[before 2002]

[before 2002]

 

 

Don’t worry, Yong Hee. Janet and I will always be around.

Earthquakes

Remember how I realized that I’ve explored two cities this summer whose goal is to be bizarre?

 

Another fun fact: I’ve also ventured through two cities whose identities have been heavily molded by an earthquake’s devastation.

 

I have never experienced an earthquake (knock on wood – preferably a sturdy doorframe). This is rather surprising, seeing that I called California home for years, visited the state frequently and am now considering it as a future home. However, even without the personal experience, I feel aghast at seeing what such a natural disaster can undo.

The Carmo Convent: ruined in 1755, still beautiful today.

The Carmo Convent: ruined in 1755, still beautiful today.

 

It is even more gasp-inducing to see what humanity can re-do afterward.

 

In Lisbon, my sister and I stumbled upon the work of a pair of designers who have captured the personality of Portugal in childlike cartoons.

lisboa_02

(courtesy of Soma Ideas)

A poem accompanies each city or national icon. For Portugal’s capital, one line immediately held my attention.

(courtesy of Yelp.com) Urbanity risen from an earthquake.

(courtesy of Yelp.com)

Urbanity risen from an earthquake. 

 

Saints Peter and Paul Church

Saints Peter and Paul Church, San Francisco

National Shrine of Saint Francis of Assisi (photo courtesy of about.com)

National Shrine of Saint Francis of Assisi             (courtesy of about.com)

 

These churches are also the progeny of a post-earthquake era. Both existed before 1906. Both fell in that year. Now both have been born again.

 

“Born again” has a spiritual association, and I profess to fall into that Christian category. Joining my spiritual life is now my professional life. Please don’t misinterpret this: my decision to leave a career does not compare to the pain and destruction experienced in an earthquake. I am, though, starting anew. What existed before is no longer in front of my eyes, and I have to envision, reimagine what will stand there in the years to come.

That’s why the tales of these shifting tectonic plates has so grabbed me. Look at the beauty around you. Humanity is a people of resilience. Of strength. Of determination. In a time of desolation, the answer is not, “Let me leave.”

 

Instead, it has been, “Let me live.”

IMG_9604

 

 

As I survey what is no longer there in my everyday, I pray for an existence greater than what was before.