Month: September 2014


Screenshot 2014-09-22 22.57.01

Wow. Wow. Wow.

I have been sitting in my house for the past day (I seriously never left the house yesterday), stunned at the reception to my BuzzFeed Longform essay about my stroke and recovery, “I Had a Stroke at 33.” I have received thousands of encouraging and kind tweets, dozens of amazing emails, and so so so much support for that piece.

I am seriously floored, and in a giddy, dazed shock. I did not expect this many people to read my piece, nor did I expect it to illicit OMG there is that weird homophone aphasia thing again elicit so many connections. But I’m glad it has–I’m glad it has provided insight into traumatic brain injuries and stroke, that it has provided comfort to some and enlightenment to others.

When I was going through stroke recovery, I felt incredibly alone. Each stroke is unique, so that just furthers the isolation. And while recovering, I basically sat shiva for the person I lost, unready to face the person I’d become. So if this piece eases that solitary for others, I’m so happy.

In 36 hours, my essay was viewed 300,000 times. Three Hundred Thousand.

And this morning, it’s the “most dugg” post on Digg.

Screenshot 2014-09-23 09.30.11

(#4 is the horrific story about a man who has 100 hellish orgasms a day).

I’m trying to reply to each email and FB message. I’m sorry I can’t reply to all the tweets, but I see them, and am so psyched that people feel so passionate about the piece they are compelled to share it with others.

It took a long time to condense my stroke into an essay. Writing nonfiction for me is like cutting my wrists and letting them bleed into words. (Fiction isn’t any easier; that’s like INVENTING a pair of wrists and then cutting them until they bleed, too). I seriously thought my stroke was The Most Boring Story I could tell; who wants to hear about a sick person? And I wanted to write a narrative that provided layers of meaning to my experience. But this summer, I was ready. And apparently, you were ready for my story, too.

Thank you thank you thank you. Deep gratitude.

Thank you to my editor at BuzzFeed, Sandra Allen who lifted every stone and sharpened my story. Thank you to Lisa Perrin, whose illustrations captured the spirit of my essay. Writers don’t get to choose the artwork (and rarely the titles), and I so lucked out this time. Check out Lisa Perrin’s store on etsy.

Stroke Essay


On December 31, 2006 I had a stroke. I’ve written about it in passing on Nova Ren Suma’s blog as a Turning Point, on my old blog about yoga as it pertained to my recovery, and on my (formerly) anonymous blog in real time as it happened, and as I healed.

But I found it very difficult to write about the stroke as the focal point in essay format. Sometimes, it takes time for me to understand a life happening before I can retell it to others.

Today, my essay is out on BuzzFeed Longform. I’m proud of the thing. I’m grateful to my editor at BuzzFeed for guiding me towards the razor’s edge in my narrative. And I’m in LOVE with Lisa Perrin’s artwork. I’ve always admired her work, but I’m thrilled with how much she nailed my story in pictures. The above image is one of several she created for my stroke essay.

Also, I’m grateful to all my friends who held my hand in recovery. I don’t recall every moment–friends have told me they visited me, and it’s in the black hole of memory. But I felt my friends’ presence and caring. Who held my hand last year, which was honestly one of the hardest years of my life. Who still hold my hands. And in particular, to the friends and my sweetheart who read early¬†drafts of the essay.

We writers don’t receive kudos very often. So when the love does come around, it matters very much. It holds me through the darkness. And it keeps me going. So–thank you.

Note: I did chronicle my stroke over at Jade Park. And I blogged in real time as the stroke hit me, and as I realized something was terribly wrong. Whoever says blogging is a waste of time can see how that blog saved my life and writing.

Thank you.

Lunches for P

My toddler started Montessori–and with that, school lunchbox preparation commenced in our household. She isn’t too much into sandwiches and while she eats most anything, her tastes are still fickle; loves peas one day, wants nothing to do with them the next and loves chicken apple sausages for lunch, doesn’t touch any for dinner. Fun times.

I am driven crazy by the lunch making. Constantly making the lunches! The upside: I can take pictures of the lunches. So I take pictures of.the.lunches. That’s the thing with motherhood pictures; we are with our kid/s all day, and sometimes the only relief is taking photographs; kid just dumped food all over their head? Dammit. Gotta clean it. Gotta re-prep the food. Because kid will still be hungry. But–picture!

photo 2 (8)

I get up early each morning with my kid. Usually this means around 7am, but sometimes it’s as early as 5:30am if she’s teething or going through a moody phase. I give her a sippy cup of milk. And then I take out the yumbox bento thing.


When I was a kid, lunches were a very political thing in the cafeteria. Not political in the strict Republican/Democrat sense, but political in the way when meaningless things can affect status. Like how lunchboxes were key in first grade, and how by sixth grade you were carrying lunch in a brown paper bag. And whether or not you had a Twinkie or Doritos, something that you could trade. Nevermind that you traded a Twinkie for a Zinger or Doritos for Cheetos, and the two things were pretty much the same–just the fact that you had something of value made your lunch and thereby you, more interesting, more valued.

I could never clearly explain the above to my mother, who packed my lunches for a short while. “Twinkies are important!”

“No,” she would say.

And she was right. They weren’t really important. But at the same time, they were.

I always put some pasta in my kid’s lunch. She, like so many toddlers, likes pasta. It’s a safe bet. Sometimes I will put in mini farfalle, other times annelini or ditalini. Maybe soba.

Toddlers don’t trade food, of course. During the first few days of transition, I watched the school eat; shoving fistfuls of food with trembling hands into their mouths, or maybe they would miss, and get part of their cheek. Half the food would fall onto the tabletop. They would try again. Like old folks, some of them. Random wailing, then random laughter.

In the meat compartment, I sometimes put in some sliced framani salami, or mini chicken sausages. Or leftover meat like diced steak. My kid likes her protein.

When I moved to California as a kid, I lived in a largely homogeneous neighborhood. I was one of two Korean kids in the whole school. One of three Asian kids. One year, there was a new kid who had just moved to the U.S. from Korea. He spoke no English. Here, said the teacher, teach him English.

At that point, I’d forgotten my Korean. I spoke no Korean, either. But somehow, I accepted the fact that it was my responsibility to be that bridge. I was eight years old. I took a yellow crayon, pointed to it and said, Yellow. I pointed to the words on the crayon label, and said, Yellow.

John (not his real name), brought lunch to school. He had kimbap in his lunchbox–everyone stared. The teacher pointed and said, “What is that? That’s beautiful!”

I knew what it was. I loved kimbap. But I would never dare bring it to school. I figure in our heads was a mixture of interest and awe. But then someone said, “Ewww!” and then everyone else said “ewww!” and that was that. He never brought Korean food to school again.

I also give my daughter vegetables and fruit. She loves legumes. Kidney beans. Edamame. Black beans. And also peas. Not so much broccoli, even though she loves saying the word broccoli. Also, all the fruit. Especially berries. I do not know what I will do when berry season ends. Though she does love frozen berries, and that will see us through winter.

photo 1 (9)

Eventually, I asked my mother if I could just buy lunch. That way I could be part of the masses. Everyone complained about the school lunches, but I liked them. My mother did not make me spaghetti or lasagna or enchiladas or anything Western at home. And I relished the cafeteria food. I liked the trays.

My daughter is fickle about cheese/dairy. She does not like yogurt, except when mixed into her sippy cup with milk. No cottage cheese, either. Sometimes she will eat cheese. She drinks enough milk, so I do not worry about her calcium. So sometimes I will put diced tofu in the dairy slot of her tray.

In junior high, there was a concession stand. No more cafeteria lunches. I would take my money and buy whatever I wanted. Usually, chili cheese fries. But then I started worrying about my weight. So when Big Debbie wanted my lunch money, I would give it to her. She was kind of a bully, but at the same time, I didn’t really eat, so I didn’t see it as a big deal.

My friend Toni and I sat together everyday for lunch. Sometimes we sat with Big Debbie and her friends. I didn’t sit with my classmates–Big Debbie was a year older, and her friends were kind of tough. Their frosted hair stood straight up with the aid of Aqua Net. They ate the cream filling out of Twinkies with a straw. I learned to swear.

In high school, I stopped eating altogether. I sat with my classmates by then. We sat adjacent to the rally court, on the risers. I sipped my diet coke.

The daycare provides a report with what my daughter eats each day. None, half, or all. She always eats her meat. Mostly eats her pasta. Some of her vegetables. Sometimes all or half of her fruit. Usually, none of her cheese.

Everyday, I wash the yumbox. And then the next day, I make her lunch again.

Date of Time and Loss / Sundog Lit: Process

photo (15)

I have a new nonfiction piece called Date and Time of Loss up at Sundog Lit

A few months ago, Sundog Lit put out a call for submissions for its special (Letters from) the Road theme issue.

I wondered about what I’d write for a “Road” issue; I’ve certainly gone on my fair share of road trips across the U.S., and even Europe, driving through France, Italy, and through the British countryside. I’ve seen castles and compared road food, napped in the front seat, driven through bad storms, sighed relief at good weather, and admired geography from the inside of a car.

A few years ago, I was hit by a car while visiting Seattle on a road trip.

Those two events intersected.

Ha. I’d write about BEING ON THE ROAD. Like, literally.

I pulled up the police report to jog my memory.

Ha. I’d use the police report to structure the piece. The call for submissions wanted short work that transcended genre.

I’d title it after the first question in the report: Date and Time of Loss.

I began to write the piece–all the things I wanted to write about being hit by a car, and the shock I felt in its aftermath. Not being able to cross the street without flinching, feeling bruised and tender, feeling vulnerable, and feeling so so wounded. That the person I called first on that day, while in the crosswalk, is no longer available to me.

Another event in my life intersected with this trauma; the end of my marriage. That the two feel the same. I wove that pain into the piece.

I didn’t begin writing Date and Time of Loss with the intention of intertwining the two events. But that is what the work wanted me to do. And I hope I made the work, proud.