Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Internal Workings of a MK

The life of a MK has a uniqueness to it that is not visible.  An invisible other.  A world within worlds.  In my case, worlds within worlds.  Various cultures from various places.  I react at different times differently.  I react in many ways.  In silence.  Inside my head.  From these feelings and reactions, I chose which is appropriate to the situation, to the event, to the people involved.  Chosing to show one does not negate the others exist.

Generations of cultures live in my head, some so distant that they are vague, unidentified.  Recently I said to someone that, "oh that is my Hispanic background."  They gave me a blank stare and said, "you are a little dark, but I never knew you were Hispanic."  I smiled.  I didn't stop to explain that it is my white side that is Hispanic.  My dark side is German and Native American.  But I am Hispanic by culture from three generations.  My father was raised there.  My cousins are all partially Hispanic.  I grew some years there also.

I did not confuse the questioner by explaining that my white Chinese grandmother went to Mexico and that is why we are now Hispanic by culture, too.  Too much explanation.

My white, Chinese grandmother was by genetics Canadian, although she did not go there until she was more than half grown.  Her trip there was sudden.  War and uprisings came, and they evacuated.  She grew up Chinese and was suddenly Canadian.  Later she immigrated to America for a time.

Today I finished reading the book Obasan by Joy Kogawa.  I set it down and stared off into space.

 Thinking of my grandmother.

Japanese were treated horrifically on both sides of the border, for sure, but it seems that in Canada, the treatment was worse.  They were stripped of their possessions which were then sold at auction, sent to work camps, separated from each other, and forbidden to re-enter BC for several years after the war.  Not until 1949 were they permitted to return to BC.  Four years after the end of the war.  Four years.  For citizens of their own country.

It is the rhetoric of the government that amazed me.  The angry talk about eliminating the "Japs" and making BC only for the "whites".  This was not in the 1800s.  This was recently.  It was while my father toddled around in diapers.  While my Chinese born grandma lived in BC.

I wonder about her.

Years later, I watched her be a tireless advocate for the Vietnamese boat people and other refugees from East Asia.  She did not simply raise money or speak.  She took them into her home, gave them the furniture and blankets, dishes, and food she had when they were able to get apartments.  She was their family as long as her memory lasted, visiting, eating with them, being a grandma to their children and their children's children.  And when she died, her service was attended by a sea of Asian faces.
I wonder about her during these war years when a war was being waged in Canada against Japanese.  A different country, but faces so similar to the land of her birth - her identity.

I wonder then if this passion to welcome and care for those who arrived on her shores came from those years.  If that passion was born out of pain.

 My grandparents took in people.  One day my grandpa made a quick run across the border to buy milk and gas, and came home with a woman from Guatemala.  My grandma made a fuss over her and moved a bed in my room where she stayed for nine months.  She was caught up in someone else's crime, attempted the cross the border (but she didn't even know she was), and was arrested.  My tall, Swedish/Irish grandfather saw her and offered to translate for the bewildered border guards.  Somehow, somehow, he convinced them that it served no one any good purpose to put her in jail for months until her hearing, and talked them into releasing her into his care.  And he brought her home.  At that time, I was living with my grandparents for a year, so we became room-mates. She and I picked blueberries side by side that summer.  She could not work, but I could, so we worked together.  When her deportation came, my grandparents and their church filled her bags with gifts for her two sons, linens, towels, clothes, and the church took a collection and sent her home with an envelope full of money.

Whatever you think of illegal immigration is irrelevant to me.  She was a mother, a widow.  Her crime?  Wanting to make enough money to send her sons to a Christian school.  A more honest, respectful, and fun roommate would be hard to find.  And she returned my grandparents love with delight.  Together we worked in their garden, cleaned the house, and cooked for them.  We laughed and talked many happy hours in Spanish.  I so enjoyed her warmth after my sudden introduction back to a province that was so cold and segregated.

Perhaps I could have just ignored it.  I fit in.  I could walk the streets and not be noticed.  Even my background was partially German, so I could be accepted if I said that... at least pegged.  You should be either German or Dutch.  And you should not be American.  And strangely, even those groups remained at a slight distance from each other.

I did not want to fit in to that isolation.

The other group were the "East Indians".  Indians from India, and opposed to "Indians" who were really Canadians... the Canadians to whom that land belonged before the British, French, German, and Dutch moved in.

(It has never ceased to amaze me how people immigrating from one continent to another and totally taking over the land can be so opposed to immigrants from other countries doing exactly what they did - only not so bad... they are only moving here, not slaughtering and rounding up and relocating those who were already here.)

But at that time, the East Indians were the unspeakables.  They did not mix.  They passed each other in the streets, in the stores, at at the same McDonalds, but they did not mix.  They did not greet.  They did not know each other's names.

I had grown up, not in India, but in Central Asia.  Who was I?  Was I the priviledged or the unspeakable?  I did not yet know.  At times, I was accepted as long as I did not open my mouth or speak of my history.  If I did, I was an "other".  At times called racial slurs.  "You dirty paki".  I stared back silent.  How blind can people be?  My skin is as white as theirs.  Yet I was glad I was not them, for to be the racists would be far worse than being the oppressed.  I was shyly smiled at by East Asians, but their eyes would watch me confused.  Why does this white girl talk to them?  Never completely accepted either. Only with one close friend who knew my history was I accepted.  But I paid a price for my friendship with her.  I chose to sit with her, to eat with her, to study with her.  And I was isolated for that decision.  "She stinks, why would you sit near her?"

So during that time of living in racism, I was thankful for my Guatemalan friend and the open warmth, laughter, and fun of our relationship - a relationship untouched by the world of strict racial lines outside the door.  She and I fit neither group, so together, we could step outside this odd culture and into our Hispanic sides.

Perhaps this is how my grandmother felt living here.  By culture Chinese, by skin white, watching mass hysteria and hatred against Japanese, and by default anyone who looked Asian.  Those people were not "other" to her.  Their faces looked like her auntie's, her friends', her countrymen.

My grandmother never recovered in one way from living in China so long.  She was utterly untouched by the "normals" of western culture, of what was "proper" to wear.  She happily wore her orange and pink flowered shirt with her green and red striped skirt, and threw a blue checked blazer over that.  If we protested and tried to get her to wear matching clothes, she'd look puzzled and say, "Matching?  This shirt is so cheerful, and the skirt is cheerful, too.  So colorful, so cheerful.  Cheerful matches cheerful."  We groaned and gave in.  But it was simply her Asian side.

This is also a part of my heritage.  My Asian side.  My Hispanic side.  My Central Asian side.....  oh, I have so many other sides, too.... places I have lived since childhood, where I am now, where we work...

I have not yet decided what shape I am.  It is not so easy, like a bi-racial child to say "I am Irish/Swedish".  Two sides of a coin.  Perhaps I am like a dice, but even that does not cover all sides.  Yet, like a dice, I am thrown - each side spinning and flipping, now seen, now not.  Which will win this toss?  How will I react?  I wait till the dice lands, look at the reaction, and smile inwardly.  Perhaps it is not the appropriate answer.  So like someone peering into a magic eight ball, smiling at the answer, and going on to do what they think is best, I see the reaction that comes, smile, shake my head, and try to act ....... it depends on who I am with and what they expect out of me.

Hidden behind my appropriate-I-hope response lies a world hidden within a world, something unique and wholly other.  Not only my history, but the rich and varied history of my parents, grand-parents, and great grandparents stretching behind me.  So many cultures woven together into a tapestry that shimmers as one holds it to the light.  Is that blue?  No, purple.  No, look there is some yellow threads; oh, look some greens!  Every way you turn it, it looks different.  Dupioni silk woven with the warp and the weft in different colors. Oil spilt in a rain puddle. A kaleidescope on constant rotation.

I will watch you talk and have six to eight different reactions to what you say.  I am not a multiple-personality disorder off drugs.  I am a MK.  If you see a tiny smile flit across my face, don't assume I'm laughing at you.  I may be laughing at me - at one of my reactions and realizing it is so totally inappropriate to the situation.  I smile, and shake my magic eight ball again searching for the response that fits in your culture.  The color that you live in.  The kaleidoscope piece that fits you.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


My life feels disjointed right now.  Not chaotic, but disjointed.

My husband is still gone.  We keep praying for him.  In a relationship sense, we've made steps closer... but not heart level steps.  Not what my heart longs for - assurance that he's changing.  Just steps to coexist smoother.  I learn to set it down.  God will work in him when he and God are ready.  It's not my burden.  So I love and wait.

I'm breathing a little easier now with the introduction of steroids to my inhaling regime.  So thankful for that.

Kid's lives are busy.  I've got a room remodel I'm doing for a birthday gift for my daughter.  We have a party coming up in two days and a bunch of giggly girls excited about it. I bought three more chickens for my coop and am hoping for eggs next week.  I butchered my ducks.  Ducks are just too messy and noisy.

I'm learning to live with a new type of sadness.  I've worked in dementia care for years and am used to death and dying.  But now, working with two boys, one with Spinal Muscle Atrophy and another with Duchenne's muscle dystrophy, means I am again working with people approaching death... but these are the ages of my older two sons.  And they are the only remaining children of their parents.  It is a new type of sadness.  Once took a turn for the worse last week and lost one more ability.  More privacy lost, more freedom.  And I had to introduce him to more medical equipment and more care done to him.  We managed.  I'm good at what I do.  We even managed to share a few laughs during the whole process.

And I went home and cried.

Death should not be nipping at the heels of two boys, barely teens.  I should not be seeing fear, panic, and revulsion in the eyes of a mother watching her son.  (Revulsion at the whole idea of death, not of her son!)  Death is such an unnatural visitor in a highschool. Especially a slow, wasting death. I should not be using words like contractures and range of motion in these halls.  Death belongs by the bedside of a 97 year old with her family gathered around her.  There it is a solemn visitor, unwelcome, but expected... even quietly welcomed at times by those who it has come for.

Yet it is here.  A quiet presence in the rooms, not ready yet to take the child, but to slowly take his abilities and bide his time.

I go from that to the busy activity of my own children.  It can be a disjointing switch.
Pray for me as I minister to both mother and child.

And I am physically still weak.  Still recovering slowly. I'm tired.

Friday, November 9, 2012


My husband will leave again soon.  Another trip. Our lives punctuated by when Daddy is here and when he is gone.  The kids are older.  Their needs are not so difficult as when they were toddlers.  They are old enough not only to assume responsibilities, but to care for me when I need it.  Even the little ones know that right now mommy needs them to step up, to use their energy where I don't have much.  So we manage well.

How are we doing?  It is a hard question to answer.  I pray, I pray, I pray, and I wait.  And there is silence. Both from God and from my husband.  He's cordial now, talking in the family.  We discuss kid's schedules, grocery lists, and other mundane things.  That is an improvement from his month of silence.

His indifference to any assistance in the house has been hard for me this last month as I've struggled with sickness and trouble breathing.  I wish for a husband who would say a few simple words: "How can I help?" or who would simply pick up the iron instead of saying, "I need more shirts".  He knows how to do all housework and I'm struggling to breathe.  But I'm not willing to face an argument, so I silently struggle on.

But he has not exploded in anger for a few weeks.  There is some good in that, and collectively, the kids and I slowly let out our held breath.  (Except for me.. breathing out is still tough to do without Ventolin!)  We enjoy the lull and pray it lasts.

This is how I feel.  It is as if he is trying to hold two very large, heavy balls.  Balls too big to be held with one hand.  Both his family and his anger.  And he can't.  We've helped him before by propping him up, by living in reaction to him.  We aren't any longer.  We aren't against him at all.  We just have decided to be stable.  Both balls are too big to hold without dropping one.  I hope and pray he makes the right choice and chooses to drop the anger.

Having been through my own struggles to be free from the past which can burden our present too much, I am very aware that it is not so simple as "dropping the anger".  We are willing to help.  Part of that willingness is the willingness not to be part of the problem.  Not to add to the anger.  Not to get involved in it.  Also the difficult and often misunderstood decision not to ignore it, not to prop him up, not to pacify, not to allow the anger to dictate our lives.  By stepping out of the circle, I have opened myself up to harsh criticism that I am "abandoning my husband" or "taking over the reins of the family".  I haven't.  I am here.  Praying for change.  Hoping.  But choosing not to be an enabler of anger.  I chose to be an enabler of healing.  That choice is painful.  I have to endure loneliness.  I have to wait for his timing, not demanding my own.  I have to ignore anger thrown in my direction.  I have to forgive the pain, choosing to say that my pain is not as important as his healing.  I have to stay.  Stay here, stay stable, stay loving... in a relationship where I am getting nothing in return. I have to stay strong... allowing him to feel the consequences of his choices rather than to rescue him and brush the problem under the table.

He will only deal with his problems when he wants to.  I have to trust God that God will ultimately speak to His child and deal with him in His way.  I have to trust that as God's child, my husband will respond to the discipline of His Father.  I have to trust enough to step out of the way and quit demanding that He do it in my way or in my time table.  It's been a long wait, and the wait is lonely and hard.  I really have no clue as to what is going on in his heart and what God is doing.  I wait and I watch.  I think I may sense a softening, but I don't know. Perhaps it is only wishful thinking.  Perhaps it isn't.

Yesterday, I crumpled to the ground and sobbed.  I let myself for two minutes.  Then got up, wiped the tears, squared my shoulders, and went on cleaning my house.  I have to be able to go on.  To chose stability in a life of unstability.  To pray and hope.  If I give in to my own feelings and try to dump those on my husband now - my needs, my pain, my wants - he can't face himself.  I feel God is telling me to leave him to Him.  To leave myself in the hands of God, and let my husband be first of all a child of God, and then a husband.  Let him deal with God face to face and deal with whatever the root of this anger is - whether it is wounds, pain, or feelings he hasn't yet been able to hand over to God.  Only then will he be able to be a husband.  If he can't carry his own pain right now, he can't carry mine, too.  Especially when he knows he is causing my pain.... and he isn't even able to stop that since he can't even carry his own yet.  Leave him to heal with God and then he will be able to heal in our relationship.

It isn't an easy position.  There is something in each of us that wants to say, "hey, what about me?!"  To demand our needs be filled.  To insist on our rights.  To say that this is not fair.  It isn't.  I've fought for my rights long enough.  Demanded that he stop being angry.  That he become a good husband.

I don't know if he can be.

At least not until he becomes a good child.  Not until he is secure as a child of God.  Able to open the wounds of his heart to God and find healing there.

I feel if I fight now for "a good relationship" that I will lose everything.  He isn't capable of it now.  So I am not "fighting for my marriage".  I'm fighting for my husband.  By being stable and uninvolved.

Even Jesus went off a distance to struggle with God alone.  There are some battles that must be fought first with God.  All others stand by watching and praying.

That is all we can do.

For me, it is hard.  I am a communicator.  A talker.  I love conversation - not the shallow group conversation of a party, but the heart to heart of a friend over coffee.  Right now, I'm carrying pain - yet unable to express it much.  I'm lonely, deeply lonely, yet unable to reach out much.  After awhile, what is there to say?  We just wait.  Wait, watch, and pray.

I have faith in God's ability to deal with His own. That holds me on dark days.  I've seen Him deal with me.  I also know that God does not force His children.  He wants their hearts, not their fear.  So He waits.  He calls gently.  And He allows them to go further until they realize how much they need Him.  And then He is right there.

So while I have faith.... I have no assurance that the end is around the corner.  I wait, hoping, but knowing I need the strength to endure with patience.

I was thankful God never forced me to heal on His time, but waited for my heart.  Now I need to chose to be thankful that He will not force my husband, either.

Wait with me.

Each Breath

Breath.  Something we need.  We never even think about it.  We just breathe.

I got a cold a few weeks ago.  Strange as I rarely get sick, but I rested, drank hot tea, and waited.  I felt better in three days.... except I couldn't breathe well.  My chest felt tight.

I rested more.  I drank more tea.  I held hot drinks against my chest trying to relieve the pain in the muscles.  Wondered about pneumonia... but I didn't feel sick enough.  I just couldn't breathe well.

I decided to just go on with my life.  See if the "mom immunity" that tells our bodies that we are just too busy to be sick would kick in and I'd feel better.  I managed fine... as long as I didn't do anything strenuous that required a need for increased breathing.  Breathing was hard.

Then I went back to work.  I took the shift easy, but I couldn't keep up with the need to breathe, walk, and talk all at the same time.  Halfway through, I was struggling.  As the last hours ticked by, I was audibly wheezing and having to force to exhale with little grunts.  But I was the only nurses aide on that late at night and thirty one patients depended on me.  I struggled on.

Immediately after the night shift came on, I drove myself straight to the emergency room.  Amazingly, in a system that usually take four to six hours to get in to the ER, I was ushered in within twenty minutes.  (I must have looked bad!)  It still took them three hours to actually get a doctor to me and begin treatment, but at least I had a bed and an eye on me.

It wasn't pneumonia.  I have asthma.  Why at age forty am I just now coming down with asthma, I do not know, but I have it.  They gave me an inhalation and sent me home with puffers.  I feel... slightly better.  The asthma is by no means controlled and I am still waiting to see my doctor next week and see what can be done about it.  It still hurts to breathe, but at least I have the inhalers for when it gets tough.  I'm managing.  But I have limited endurance.  Singing, walking, working for more than an hour on my feet - this all takes more air than I currently can get.  I tire easily.

I know asthma can be controlled.  I have hope that mine will be once I get to see a doctor.  But for now, during the wait, I treasure breath.  Each one is precious.  With each exhale is the quiet reminder of pain.  A reminder not to push it.  Not to do more activity than my lungs can keep up with.

This is not what I wanted now.