Motherloss Feed

6 years ago...

Yesterday marks six years since my mother died. Typing the last three words is still so very hard. I hesitate every time but in the end I type it because it is what happened and I can't say it any other way.

Two years ago at this time I was preparing for the arrival of Alixe. With the passing of my mother I have learned one very important lesson: You have only one life. That means don't waste the time you have. I know with ever fiber of my being that my mother would be so proud of me right now because I haven't wasted time in the past six years. I had Maximilien, I opened L'OisiveThé, I had Alixe and now I consciously live my life with the thought that I only have this one life and I don't hesitate to make the big decisions. I would give up in a heart beat ...this confidence in my descision making to have my mother back but life is not like this and I can't live in a fantasy world. It's hard to think like this because I miss her so much. The pain in my heart is *still* there but now it's an expected emotion, my constant reminder to live my life. Move forward. Kiss my children and husband and tell them everyday how important they are to me. It reminds me to get out of bed and get moving because this is my life and I have to live. 

The last time I saw my mother was in 2003 just after Julien and I had gotten married the second time. Such a long time ago but still so very fresh in my mind. I remember holding my mother's hand in the airport before saying goodbye. She took a photo of us before going through the gate to our plane. I snapped one back of  my parents waving good bye to us through the glass plate window at MCI. This moment forzen in time in a photo was the very last time I saw her... she was happy and waving to us like she always used to do when we'd leave for school.

Now I wave the exact same way every morning from our kitchen window as Julien, Maximilien and Alixe leave to start their day. I don't think I can ever put to words how this loss has come to shape me. I still don't understand how to deal with it sometimes. I've come to the realization that I may never fully understand or accept.  My children are the best remedy when it comes to my grief. I understand what the five of us brought to our parent's lives. When I don't know how to deal I find my children and hug them. 

I live a life with loss. I won't kid you and say it's totally doable. I sometimes find myself in a panic of grief in public because this epic feeling overcomes me.  Yesterday while having lunch with Julien we both saw a woman sitting across the way and she could have been Omma today.  She was dressed like my mom and the way she sat and ate with her hair styled around her face reminded both of us of her.  Entranced and engulfed by my grief, I let the feeling wash over me. It is still so very hard and I have taught myself that it will be hard for the rest of my life. 




I always walk by this laundromat on my way home from work on Sunday nights. It’s usually always empty and I always walk slowly looking at the bubbles on the windows and the yellow machines in a row in the background. A distinct memory of my mother always appears in my mind. It’s a memory of my mother and I in the laundromat in centre ville in Besançon, France. I was a working as a teacher and my parents had come to visit me for two weeks. We headed to the laundromat to do some washing. I was busy putting clothes in the washer while a French woman was muttering to herself in French and literally scratching her head because she didn’t know how to work the machine. My mother observed her for a few minutes. Then she got up, walked across the room to the woman and stood next to her. They did not speak but the woman made a gesture towards the machine like, “how do you make it work?”. My mother reached out and pushed the button to make the machine go. The button was marked “ON”. The French woman smiled and thanked her in French. My mother smiled and came back to sit next to me. She looked at me and smiled and said, “The machine is in English”. I looked at all the machines and they were ALL marked in English. It hadn’t occurred to me that they were not in French. I smiled at my mother as I could see she was so pleased she could help someone even doing something as simple as pushing the “on” button on the washing machine. This was the way she was. Always helping people out whenever and wherever she’d go.

I feel like sometimes I am forgetting her. It’s sometimes that feeling you have when you try to remember a dream you just had. Fleeting moments that come to me when I’m sleeping when I wake up I am so desperate to keep them close all the while my mind is pushing them away. I don’t know why this happens to me.

I am realizing that it is the little memories that tend to be the most precious to me. Sure there are the milestones and birthdays and firsts to remember. There will probably be photos of those moments for sure. I want to remember the moments in between hence my reason for doing a 365 photo project this year. And who knows… maybe I’ll just do it every year from now on…

He made me a mother... she taught me the meaning of love...

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They make my life amazing. Needless to say that my life is so much fuller with my children in it. Not to say I didn't have a good life before Maximilien and Alixe. But now I truly understand how my mother felt raising the five of us. The love she had for each of us. Different yet the same. How each child must have brought a new dimension to her life. I now understand that because each of my children bring me a different outlook on life and love.

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Maximilien brought back a breath of fresh air into my life at a time when I needed it the most. Alixe is showing me that motherhood is a challenge I enjoy and LOVE. Both of my children are very different and I am grateful for that. The difference in their personalities keep me on my toes and keep everyday fresh. At three years old and 5 months old these two are as thick as thieves. Everyday I look forward to seeing them interact and am amazed at how they bring comfort to each other.

I know it's not Mother's Day in France but in the US it was yesterday. Lucky me I get to celebrate it twice in one month.  Mother's Day has obviously taken a new meaning for me since I became a mother but I still reflect upon the my Omma and how amazing she was in this role. I say it again as I say it to myself very often I appreciate my mother so much more now that I have little ones of my own. I wish I could have told her this but I know she's enjoying the show from a distance and speaking volumes to me through my very own children. 

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Jan 5 - Hands


Maximilien is obsessed with holding my hand. I admit that I love it. I loving holding my son's hand as we walk together. He grasps my hand when we cross the street. In the apt, when he wants me to come and play with him, he grabs my hand and says, "Come Mommy, come with me...". When we sit together and read or watch tv he is always holding my hand. Since Alixe's arrival he's been having a hard sleeping at night. I think this maybe his way of saying to us that he needs a little more attention. Usually in the middle of the night he crawls into our bed and comes and cuddles close to me. He always takes my hands into his and says, "petite carresse, Mommy?". A little cuddle? I say yes and he gently caresses my hands and rubs them against his cheek like it's his favorite dou dou.

The funny thing is, I used to do this to my own mother's hand when I was little (and as a teenager and young adult, I admit). My mother's hands were the softest things in the world and always brought me comfort. When I'd lay with my mom, I'd always hold her hand and like Max, rub the back of her hand against my cheek.

I couldn't believe how quickly the emotions welled up last night. As Max fell asleep, I quietly weeped missing my mother. I miss her immensely but I especially miss the simple gestures like hugging her or holding her hand. Holding her hand was one of my most favorite things. And for this to be one of my son's favorite things to do brings me so much happiness and sadness at the same time.


Mama et Alixe

We've been home just over a week now and life is starting to take a familiar routine. The late nights have started as Alixe seems to be a night owl and I repeat to myself everyday, "when baby sleeps, Mama sleeps." As hard as that is because sometimes I just want to knit or have a bit of face time with my husband, I am reminded at midnight when the night feedings begin that I should have taken that nap in the early evening. It's all a new learning curve for me. I have let go of "Max did this when he was this age" type of thinking because all it does it frustrate me because I think it would be easier if Alixe just did what I knew. Talking with a girlfriend on the phone, we reminded ourselves that we have to let go of the comparisons even though they are innocent on our part.  Alixe is a whole different baby. She doesn't get colicky like Max (thank goodness) but she is much more awake and aware than Max was at this stage. (There I am comparing again...) I enjoy the awake time with her but sometimes I run of things to sing and do with her because she's awake for like 4 hours straight sometimes.  I've taken to swaddling her when I notice she's getting tired but fighting sleep. I am finally getting good use out of the Miracle Blanket I bought for Max which didn't work because he was  brut and he'd break out of it. But with Alixe, she likes it just fine. We call her the burrito baby now. 

Snapshot: Wednesday Morning

So, the weather has turned quite cold in Paris. And in turn, we've been hibernating in our apt. Our bedroom has become command central of our apartment. I spend probably 85 percent of my day here, either laying in bed or sitting in the rocker by the heater and window.  Julien has stocked our frige and freezer full of food so that we wouldn't have to run out for anything (except fresh mlik) and we've had continuous pajama days at the Gille house. Maximilien is feeling much better. It turns out he had an ear infection on top of the lung congestion he was battling and was finally prescribed antibiotics for his ear. He is completely smitten with his sister. Everday after the Creche he comes home and immediately asks where Alixe is and goes to see her. We have a routine of him taking off his shoes, washign his hands and then kissing his sister. It's so very cute. Now instead of Mommy getting the first morning kiss, it's Alixe who gets kisses first. 

December 17th: SNOW!

We were teased all this week with low temperatures but no snow! What's the point of it being so cold if there's no snow?! Growing up in Kansas, we always had snow at this time of the year. Always had a white Christmas and probably much to the chagrin of our parents snow days from school! And snow always makes me think about my mother. She loved the snow. Today is her birthday and always for her birthday there was snow. I still have vivid memories of my mother bundling up with a homemade scarf wrapped around her standing at the door waving goodbye to us as the school bus would take us to school. Winter time always meant fires in the fire place, homemade cookies and pies and her birthday. I was down this morning when I woke up. I shuffled to the kitchen to get a drink without even looking out the window. I then came back to the bedroom, scooped up Alixe and walked over to the window and saw the snow. I immediately felt better because I felt like it was a little wink from Omma saying hello. 

18 of 30 - Comfort things

18 of 30 - Reblocking Lady E

I refreshed Lady Eleanor yesterday. This is a shawl/scarf I knit a few years ago right after my mom passed away. It was a large knitting project that helped to get my mind off things. At the time I was unemployed and just needed to be. Every year, I reblock her so she's nice and fresh for the fall/winter season. She brings me a lot of comfort when I wear her. There is a lovely feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment that comes with wearing your own handmade designs. This is something I learned from my mom from an early age. She always wore her own scarves she made and in turn I loved wearing them too. For now, I have her scarves and handknit treasures packed away safely in an air tight container. Saving them for the day that I can share them with my kids, mostly BB because they are very girly. I hope that BB will love them as much as I do. 

11 & 12 of 30 days - The 50mm is still on the kitchen counter.

Well, I got caught up in life and my camera was left at home. These days I can't carry much around with me because I'm carrying a 4kg+ baby in my belly. I've been caught up getting the tea house and my staff up to speed before I go off line and have my baby and will be absent for a week. It's still three weeks away but I gotta start now because that's just how I roll. 

We had a huge turn out for knitting last night at the tea house. It was very exciting to see so many knitters in one place. My little tea house was busting at it's seams we barely had enough chairs for everyone. I went and helped out with the dishes and watched everyone knitting around me and it warmed my heart. I watched my dream happening right before my eyes. I silently thanked Omma for her help because I know without her watching over me I wouldn't have been able to do it alone. 

With each turn in my life, I find myself looking up at the sky and thanking my mother for her guidance. I can't explain why I know she's right here with me I just know it. I feel it. I used to write that I would prefer that she be here physically. I think it's something that doesn't need to be said. Anyone who has lost a loved one would prefer that but this feeling of knowing that she is here with me spiritually is a powerful one. And it has helped me get through many difficult times in my life. 

I remember when I was in the operating room having Max and that feeling of panic and dread came over me.  I was panicking and speaking in English and no one in the operation room could understand me. I swear there was a moment when I heard my mother's voice saying to me in Korean that it was okay. over and over again. And right at that moment my doctor leaned over the partition and said to me in French, that it was ok and showed me my pink, chubby baby. Panic and dread faded away and I drifted off into unconsciousness. 

Last night I couldn't sleep. I would close my eyes and have these mini dramas in my mind and be forced to wake up. Talking with my brother today he told me that last night he had slept terribly as well. It was 4 years ago today that my mother passed away. I hadn't been keeping track of the day but somehow my subconscious was. It is inevitable that I think about my mother at this time in my life. I'm about to give birth to my second child and taking that trip of becoming a mother to a newborn again. I think as mothers we inevitable think about our own moms. I remind myself that life is cyclical and that this is all part of my cycle of life. As hard as it is I have to keep on going. I feel her hand on my back guiding me along the way and I know it's going to be okay. 

9 of 30 - Self Portrait

9 of 30 - Self Portrait 

While setting up the camera for a self portrait I took this shot accidently triggering the shutter while trying to set up the timer. Out of all the photos I took this one was the most natural. Pregnancy has brought out the freckles on my face.   

I feel like age is starting to catch up with me. I am 32 years old. Still very young. But I often stare at my eyes and see a wealth of experience in the depths. Experience that I have inherited because I share the same eyes as my mother.

After becoming a mother I notice that I instinctively react and do things and after the fact I often wonder how I knew how to do that. I must have seen my mother do it. I don't have any other explanation. Unknowingly as I grew up I was shaped by my own mother to become the mother I am today. 

Omma has been gone for 5 years now and I still feel the pain of her absence. I take enormous comfort in the fact that when I feel down I can hug my son and know that the love I feel in this moment is what she felt when she'd hug me. 


It's unavoidable that today I feel sad. I miss her. Terribly.

But it isn't really different from any other day of the year for me. 

One of my biggest fears is that Maximilien will have to endure the pain of losing his mother at a young age. I know that I can't control life. But how do you teach your child that sometimes life isn't fair? I don't know how to teach these life lessons.

But I do know how to love my baby. And he sure does know how to love his Mama.

Tonight before bed:

"Mama, calin?" and he threw himself into my arms for a big bear hug.

And then he stood back and said, "Mama, buh buh?" (kisses in Korean) and showers me with kisses on my cheeks.

My son. My hope. My heart.

Holding on to those moments

Spending the last few days home with Maximilien while he's (and I have) been sick I've found that I have been thinking about my mother a lot and feeling the void. Moments when Max snuggles close to me while we are reading books. Nestling his head against my arm, eyes closed while sucking his thumb. Telling me that he is tired and that there is no where else he'd rather be. I close the book and lay down next to him. His cheek against mine. I hear him "hmmm" and sigh.  Pure love. I think this has to be what my mother felt holding me as a baby. I've never felt so much love in my life. I close my eyes and hold him close and tell myself to remember.

You have these moments in life when you tell yourself to remember. Graduation from junior high. I was taking a photo with my parents wearing a pretty silly looking hat and a dress that my mother made. I remember clicking my press on nails and pushing my glasses up and looking at both my parents and thinking. Remember this moment. Girl Scout camp. I remember the day that I left getting dressed pulling up my green knee high socks with tassels and lacing up my brand new Reebok high tops. My mother and father leading me out to our back porch and them taking a photo of me. Later, the drive to the camp leader's house with my father in his gray pick up truck and saying goodbye to my dad who was smiling at me wearing his tortoiseshell glasses. I remember telling myself remember this moment. Saying goodbye at the airport.  It was after our church wedding ceremony. Julien and I had spent the last three weeks in Kansas getting married, spending the Christmas holidays with my family and just having fun. My mother was wearing her Christmas sweater and my father his fleece jacket. My hair was long and in a pony tail. My mother had her camera in hand and snapped a photo of us passing through security. I remember saying goodbye to my parents, hugging them with all my might and feeling the tight pang of sorrow as I had to leave them to return to France. Little did I know this was the last time I saw my mother alive.

So many of these moments come back to me at random times. Not sure what triggers them but when they come I try to think hard and remember them. Just today, laying with Max listening to him sleep I remember the last phone call I had with Omma while she was in the hospital the night before she passed away. I remember clearly her voice and how happy she sounded. Her laugh.  We talked about Thanksgiving and what she was going to make for dinner. We talked about the doctors and how nice everyone had been to her and how she felt strong and better than earlier in the week.  Then we talked about my visit and how it had been nearly two years since we'd seen each other. And how much we missed each other. The tightness returning to my chest as I said those words to her.  We just chit chatted about other things and at the end she told me she was ready to be a grandmother. My mother, the frank one.  And I told her that I had gotten the message with a smile on my face, of course. We said our goodbyes and I told her that I loved her and that I'd call her tomorrow. 

As mothers, I don't know how we are supposed to prepare our children for a life without us. I guess we just love them as much as we can and hope for the best? I never got to have certain conversations with my mother. I ask myself what conversations did I miss out on? Motherhood for one.  And many others I'm sure...  I just feel like we should of had more conversations like we did on the phone that last night of her life. Maybe it's just like this when you lose a loved one. Seems so unfair to me still....

All I know is, I hope that my blog will someday be a window into my person for my children and loved ones after I am gone. That if they have unanswered questions or memories lost they will perhaps be able to find the answers here.

A day does not go by...

Playing with Maximilien today I felt an overwhelming wave of joy and happiness burst from my heart and like a wave it flowed out of my arms, legs, chest and engulfed Max and I.  And in this moment, I thought of my mother and how this is how it must of felt for her playing with us, raising us, being our Omma. I felt the tears welling up and I held Max close and he wrapped his little arms around my neck.  The tears disappeared. He smiled and off he went. I sat watching him and thinking of my mother. Missing her. Wishing she could be here with my right now.

A day does not go by that I do not think about Omma. Say her name, call out to her or even talk to her.  Most of my everyday life reminds me of my mother. The baking I do at the tea house. My daily routines with Max. And now my brother is here living with us for a year and just seeing him reminds me so much of her.

I  have a photo of Omma and I on the bookshelf at the tea house and that brings me comfort when I suddenly feel lost in thought. But still... it is all very hard to handle. And there will never be enough passage of time to dull the pain of these emotions of loss and love.

My brother built these shelves

I have been sitting here trying to figure out a title for this blog entry and nothing is coming to my mind. I have been pretty lax on my blogging lately. Yes, I have been busy but I have had time in the evenings to blog. I often log into Typepad and stair at the Compose New Post page and my fingers are stuck. The ideas I had to blog about during the day when I'm busy baking or serving tea are all lost to me.  No time to jot them down in my moleskine. Fingers often covered in scone dough or cookie batter so I can't type. And then sometime I blog block myself by thinking that what I have to say is uninteresting and who would be interested in what I have been up to?

I think I'm just too much in my head and just need to write down my thoughts so I can access them later in time.

 - Today, I walked down a freshly rain soaked cobblestone sidewalk on my way to the tea house carrying a bouquet of sunflowers, two freshly baked baguettes and today's Le Parisien.

 - I met two readers of my blog today. One person a lurker from San Francisco who has never commented on my blog who found my through another friend's blog who had linked about the tea house.   The other visitor a woman and her husband from Vancouver who has been reading my blogs for years and leaves the most wonderful comments some which have really helped me through some dark times in my life and brought smiles to replace the tears.  I was thrilled to meet her. Hugs were given. She knit and enjoyed my homemade carrot cake. Really lovely to put a face to the familiar name that often appears in my comments.

 - I baked cream scones today. Seriously, these are the best scones I've ever made. I also learned from a customer who happened to be from Australia about Devonshire Tea. I am going to rename my Thé Gourmand, Devonshire Tea instead. And perhaps I will adapt the Aussie way to pronounce scone as /skɒn/ like as in John. Just because it's so cute. But I will not be making Vegemite scones as the woman suggested I could. My taste buds have not yet gotten used to the unique taste of Vegemite.

 - I thought about how I am a mother. Last weekend was mother's day in France and to hear my husband wish my Bonne Fete de Mamans made me feel really good. This role of mother is the most natural role my life has taken to date.  Through all my fears and worries in the beginning I can easily say that I am really glad that I became a Maman when I did. It was the hardest period of my life. I had just lost my mother and knowing myself I had to challenge myself. Challenge myself to advance and live life. And I knew that my mother wouldn't want it any other way.

Just a few of my thought today... enough to blog about? Who knows. But I do want to remember these moments.

From memory...

Stirring cookie batter this morning got my mind jogging back to when I was a young girl and I'd watch my mom stir the batter. She'd always let me stir it until it got too hard for me to stir. It was always after the second cup of flour.  She'd hand me the  yellow bag of chocolate chips and let me pour while she stirred. I always looked forward to this step.   After all the cookies were on the baking sheets. She'd let us clean the batter from the bowl.

Stirring the cookie batter this morning I felt her presence next to me. I folded the batter over and over again and I looked at my hand and instead of seeing my hand I saw hers.  The cookie recipe I sell at the tea house is my mother's. When people ask for the recipe, I tell them it's my mother's recipe and that there is not a written recipe to share and that I make these cookies slightly differently everyday just going off my memory.

And her ever present guidance.

And there are hard days...

I dropped Max off at Tata's. He was quietly sitting in his stroller as we approached her door.  The hallway dark as I hadn't tripped the minuterie to light the way.  I stood for a second before turning on the light but then Tata opened the door and was waiting for us.  She greeted us with a warm smile and reached out to get Max out of the stroller. She glanced at me and her face changed. I guess I wasn't hiding my feelings very well. I was wearing my emotions like a huge billboard across my forehead. 

Just a few minutes before arriving to Tata's, Max and I strolled through the park by her apt and I saw a group of older women practicing Tai Chi.  The build of these women, the way they held their hands and the way they fixed their hair reminded me so much of my mother. One woman in particular was intrigued by my presence and she studied my face. A smiled appeared and she waved. I smiled back shyly and I felt the tears stinging my eyes. Any one of those women could have been my mother. I wished that she was one of them.

Tata motioned for me to come in and I went and sat down on the her couch as she filled me in on the day's activities. Max was going to be Tata's only charge for the day as the other two children were on vacation.  I hugged Max to begin the goodbye process and he grasped tightly to my coat.  Tata watched but mostly looking at me, studying my face.  I felt the tears rising. I quickly stood up and I said "bye bye" to Max and he waved and said, "Ba, ba, Ma Ma". Before I ever realized it I was crying. I rushed for the door because I did not want Tata to see me upset.  When I am missing my mother and someone asks me what's wrong, I can not lie and say it's something else. I tell them that my mother died and I miss her. But responses like this make people uncomfortable so I try to avoid them if I can.  She stood in the doorway, shielding Max with her shoulder. I stood in the dark hallway pressing the elevator button as sheets of tears streamed down my face.  As I turned to bid them goodbye,  Tata quickly mentioned that Max shouldn't see me upset because that would only upset him. But I looked back at Max with tears in my eyes and he smiled and reached out for me. Giving me a sympathetic smile. One I've seen so many times when I am sad and missing my mom.  I said, "bye bye" and let the elevator door close.

Should I let Max see me upset? Of course, he should see me upset.  If anything, Max has seen the entire array of emotions that I own.  I don't cry everyday but I do cry most days. I miss my mom and I tell Max that everyday. We look at her photo and I talk about her to him. He clutches the photo and gives it kisses. I honestly believe he  understands. 

In the afternoon, I went to pick up Max and he was so excited to see me. He held his arms out to me, letting me falls into them as I inhaled his sweet baby scent.  The melancholia of today just seemed to melt away in that moment.  Walking home in the rain as my Converse sloshed and my wool coat hung heavy on my shoulders, I felt better. I imagined my mom if I had the chance to tell her about the cafe and I could see her reaction. Her clap and little jump that she'd do when she was excited about something. And before I knew it I was imitating her. I was standing in front of Max in the stroller clapping and jumping and Max broke into a series of baby giggles and clapped himself. 

I will never hide my feelings from Max. Omma never hid hers from me and that is one of the strongest memories I keep of her.

30 Days :: 10

30Days :: 10

Today was an exceptionally hard day because Maximilien is transitioning from two naps to one.  I know it seems small but nap time has always been a very integral part of our everyday life.  Along with the physical fatigue of trying to keep up  with an over tired baby, my heart was aching because I've been missing my mom a lot lately.  I really, really needed to call her and just simply tell her how hard today was and to hear her reassuring words. 

When I miss her the most, I curl up with the wedding afghan she knit for Julien and I and sit quietly and think about her.  I get lost in my thoughts remembering everyday conversations that we had. I focus in on her voice and intonation and it brings me comfort.  I study the stitch patterns of the afghan and  I can see her knitting. Her hands moving over the yarn and the click of her needles.  I grasp the wool of the afghan and I can feel her presence though not the physical presence I so desperately yearn for, I can feel her spiritual presence and this brings me peace.

2 years already...

November 12th was the two year anniversary of my mother's death. Is anniversary the right word? Don't you celebrate anniversaries? I don't know what other word I can use. The day was uneventful at best. Normal is a better word that uneventful. I struggled a little getting Max down to bed. Talked about future plans for projects with Julien. We ate dinner together while watching a movie. I knit a little. Julien went to bed early and I puttered around the kitchen doing last minute things before finally putting myself au lit. I layed down and closed my eyes and thought about my mother. That's usually what I do when I go to bed. I think about all the things I want to tell her and I tell her. Then I remembered! It has been two years since....

and I cried. Silent tears. Julien was fast asleep and so tired. I didn't want to wake him. I clutched my pillow to my chest and sobbed. Max stirred in his bed and I listened to him scoot around a bit. My heart hurt. It hadn't hurt like that in a months. The crushing pain you feel when you can't breath. Like someone is standing on your heart. I was a wreak the next day. I hadn't slept. I woke up when Julien got up to leave for work. Max had woken up for his morning snack before going back to sleep for a while. That while turned into hours. I woke up at noon and squinted at the clock. Rubbed the sleep from my eyes. I jolted out of bed and ran into Max's room to see if he was ok. He had gone back down from his morning snack at 7am. He stirred a bit and then turned his head at me like he always did and smiled his toothy smile. Reached his arms to me.  He knew.  He knew I was having a bad day. All day Tuesday, he was exceptionally calm. It was like he understood I need that.

I often think about the afterlife. More so now that my mom is gone. I believe. I have to because someday I need to see her again. She comes to me often in my dreams. I am grateful for that. And I  catch Max staring at her photo on my desk and I wonder if he somehow knows.  I let myself believe because it helps me to heal.

Two years gone and I it still feels like she's not really gone. I feel like she's on vacation or something. When Max does something awesome the first thing that comes to my mind is I want to call my mom to tell her about it. How long do these feelings last? A part of me does not want to let them go because I feel like I will forget her if I do. But part of me hurts so much holding on to these feelings that I feel so sick from sadness.

It is 3am. I should be sleeping but for some reason the words are just pouring out of me. But must get some sleep. I have a little man who depends on me to be 100% and I can hear my mom, as she did for so many years, telling me to go to bed. NOW. At least her voice is still strong and clear in my mind. I love you, Omma. And I can still hear her saying it back to me in her special way.

Moving forward

It's a busy time around our house. Out of town travelers will be arriving this Friday but before that we have a quick trip to make up to Reims on Thursday in preparation for Maximilien's baptism on the 21st.  As much as I could just let myself be sad and let life pass me by I get up every morning sometimes 2-3 times in the wee hours to tend to my son. The grogginess fades away when I see his little face and his arms reaching out to me. My heart swells with love for this little human being. As hard as things are right now, I wouldn't change anything in this world for what I have today.

Life moves on like it or not... and I have to go with it. I just need to remember to go slow and not let myself get overwhelmed. And allow myself time to feel everything I need to feel. And in the meantime enjoy precious moments like this:

Max showing off his baby upward dog technique from PutYourFlareOn on Vimeo.

In our own ways we are all moving forward even if it's only one scoot at a time.


I jerk myself out of bed tonight to write down the words that are pouring from my brain. The are pulling me back to a place that I have chosen to forget about for a while now. I'm too happy being a mother to let myself live these sad feelings. But sometimes it's just stronger than I can withstand. The sad emotions come flooding out of me. Mostly at night when I lay down to go to sleep.

Words over come my brain as I try to sleep. Things I wish I could have said to her. Letters I should have written when I had then chance. 

I find old birthday cards with her delicate handwriting on them and I find myself 8 years old again watching her write notes to remind herself of new words she had learned.

After my mother died, I went through her desk just looking at her things. It was her new desk at the new house. A new desk with a new mac computer.  I never knew her there. I only remember the old desk at the old house. The old desk that had her old IBM laptop on it. The old desk that kept her bobbles and such. Her address books and pencils and note cards. I went through her new desk at the new house just hoping to find something she had perhaps written to me. Maybe a letter or a note. Just something telling me something I didn't know. I hoped to find the letter that would tell me everything I would ever need to know. But of course, this would never happen as my mother didn't know she was going to die. Letters like these are only written when you know...

Before Max was born I often questioned myself why I even kept this blog anymore. It started out as something fun to pass the time. A journal of silly thoughts I had about living in France. But as the years have gone by (I have been at this for over 4 years now) I have found my blog to be a way for me to record my life.  There are so many little things I have forgotten. And now I hope that someday Maximilien and perhaps my other children will have a place to read my thoughts and dreams. And they won't be left wondering if I had left them the letter somewhere in my messy desk drawer.

I feel torn between two worlds right now. My present life and the life that stopped violently the day my mother died. Part of me feels like this is a vicious dream that will never end. I dig through the sheets trying to claw my way to the surface only to find that I am still asleep and unable to awaken myself. The other part of me is living the happy life that I am destine to live. Mother, Wife, Friend, Daughter, Sister. I am these things. But underneath I am sad. Very sad. And incomplete.

It's just one of those days...

when eating cookies all day long makes you feel better....

It's just one of those days...

Not a lot sleep (or blogging) going on at our house and it's starting to take a toll on my husband and I's sanity.  To be honest, I feel more out of my mind now than I did when first came with Max. People kept saying to me, "oh babies change"... yeah no shit.  Every morning I feel like I'm running on fumes, it's really hard making it through the day. 

And lately, I've been missing my mom. I wish I could call her up and ask her for advice. She's raised 5 kids  and I'm sure who've had many sleepless nights. I'd just like to hear her voice again and for her to tell me that I'm doing alright. And then I think about Maximilien not getting a chance to know his grandmother. It's so unfair. I still can't get my mind around it. I don't think I ever will.

I've been trying to figure out how my mom made her chocolate chip cookies. I know it's a variation of the Toll House cookie recipe. I think I've come pretty close.  They taste good and familiar and very, very comforting.

I don't have much time to sit down and collect my thoughts for a real blog entry but I have been distracting myself late at night with Twitter. Feel free to check out what Max and his Mama have been up to the last couple weeks.

Handknit Love

Is orange my color?

Maximilien can sit up now. It is a new development that literally happened over night. I can not believe how fast he is growing up. Chatting with another mama friend online today, we were marveling at how fast our boys were hitting their milestones lately and at the same moment we both typed: :(  because it's just happening too fast. Our little boys are becoming big boys.

Max is sporting a bottom up raglan with a placket-neck that I knit for him in just three days. Three days! That's insanely fast for me. But I have to knit fast now if I want Max to wear something I make for him more than once. He's got some time with this sweater. I knit the 1-2 year old size.  Standing up he looks like he's wearing a mini dress.

Finishing this sweater was so fulfilling. I admired it as I laid it out to block and I was filled with this unexplainable feeling of love. I made something for my son. It made me think of my mother right away.  She was such the fiber artist. She made us all kinds of amazing things for us: Dresses for school dances, graduation dresses, bridesmaid dresses, curtains for our bedrooms, hand knit sweaters, scarves (or mufflers as Omma always said) to keep us warm, booties, gloves, hats, a tube top (from seeing a picture in a JCrew catalog!) a wedding quilt, afghans, and the list goes on.... I was so lucky to have all those wonderful things growing up and  I am so proud that I can do the same for Max. It will be a way to leave my legacy for him long after I'm gone just as my mother has done for me.

Handmade sweater and quilt

In the background is the quilt she made Julien and I for our wedding. This is a sweater that my mother knit for me after I showed her a photo in an Abercrombie and Fitch catalog of a sweater with long flared sleeves.

This is my favorite sweater and the last one she ever made me.


We're back in Paris. It's good to be home. Max was a champ during both legs of our international trip to the US.  He actually slept in the weird bassinet thingy. And what is with strangers thinking that it's okay to touch him.  I had to stop several hands from pinching his chunky cheeks while he was sleeping? Hello? I must say that I was very happy to have the Maya Wrap with me. It made toting my 15lb two month old plus two suitcases at 50lbs and the Maclaren very, very easy.

The time spent with my family was amazing. He was welcomed by my family with open arms. We laughed and shared tears of joy and sadness. I was in awe all weekend to see the generations of my family all together. My father holding his grandson for the first time. My Aunt speaking Korean to her great nephew. My cousins introducing me to their children.  Family. The one thing that makes living abroad so hard.   

With every milestone in my life, I am reminded of the emptiness my heart feels.  The void that often over takes me when I think of my mother.  I know that her time on the Earth has ended and she's gone off to do bigger things. My spiritual side reminds me that when my life ends on this physical Earth I walk on, a new spiritual life will begin and there I will see my mother again.  But I am terribly sad that she can not take part in this momentous time in my life. To hold her grandson, to experience this with me.  I guess it's my selfishness that will not let her go. I choose not to let her go and I know that makes it hard for me to fully enjoy these happy times.  I do find comfort in speaking with my family about my feelings. To know that it's just as hard for them as it is for me.  We are all moving on in our own ways.

I try to keep my head up and look at what is ahead of me. I take quiet moments to absorb happy moments and try to linger on those happy times to help me get through the hard ones.  I look to the faces of my loving family and see that time is catching up with each and every one of us.  I just turned 30. But I still see my siblings as the young under 10 year olds they once were and yet they surprise me with their wisdom and I realize they are now adults just like me. 

Leaving my family was hard but I looked forward to coming home to my own family. Max and I were greeted by a very happy Julien.  Max's eyes lit up with recognition as his father pulled him close for cålin.  We stood and held on to each other in the middle of the airport.  Kissing and hugging. Smelling each other again. It's good to be home.


January 6, 2007

This photo is today's entry in my 2007 photo diary:

I've been having a rather rough week. Emotionally speaking that is. I've been thinking about my mom a lot lately.  Missing her terribly. I lost her a year ago last November.  Last year was a complete blur. I only started to see clear near the end and with the beginning of this new year, I beieve I finally see where I want to go.

I've scanned a photo for today's entry.  This the photo that is on my bed stand. I look at it every night before I got to bed and it's almost the first thing I see when I wake up.   

Every night before bed, my husband and I have our nightly ritual to tell each other that we love each other. I often lay carressing my husband's hands and I fall asleep.  Growing up, my mother's hands were my "dou-dou" as the French call it. Her hands were my security blanket. My teddy bear. I always remember holding hands with my mom. It was just something we always did.  They smelled of sweet cherries and were as soft as silk.   In all the photos I have of my mother, I always look at her hands. They were always a safe place for me.  After grueling tennis matches in high school, my mother would rub my shoulders. Hugs always included my mother cupping her hands on my face. And excitement always meant an enthusiastic clap of joy from her.  These little things I miss so much. 

I reach down and cup my hands around my growing belly and know that my hands will be as equalling important to our little guy.  I often wonder what memories a baby carries with them when then start their life, I truely believe that deep feeling I have towards my mother's hands stems from the very beginning of my life.  This memory is an intrinsic mark I will carry with me forever.

This day

This day, my mother was born. December 17.  It's been a pretty, happy day. Because I've been thinking of her.  Missing her. Feeling her close to me. She came to me in my dreams last night. We spoke. I cried. She reassured me that all was well and she touched my stomach.  Julien said that last night after I fell asleep, the baby was moving around a lot. But I slept. Finally. When this day comes, I can't help think of the cycle of life and how amazing it all is. This day last year, my friend Sarah gave birth to her amazing son, Felix.  I'm so much more aware of the present and this life I live right now.  I'm learning to live life in the now. 

Happy Birthday, Omma.

Le monde a tellement de regrets
Tellement de chose qu'on promet
Une seule pour laquelle je suis fait
Je t'aimais, je t'aime et je t'aimerai
Quoi que tu fasses
L'amour est partout ou tu regardes
Dans les moindres recoins de l'espace
Dans le moindre reve ou tu t'attardes
L'amour comme s'il en peuvait
Nu sur les galets

-Francis Cabrel

Looking back, looking forward

Today, I visited Omma's grave for the first time in a year.  I know that this is only where her body lies and that her soul is everywhere now.  And yet after a year, I still can't believe she's gone.  The stunning, searing pain I felt in my heart a year ago returned for the first time in months and as I gasped for air and reached for Julien's arm, I broke down. Then suddenly something happened, I felt the baby shift and give me a little tap.  I reached down to my stomach and touched my side and felt yet again a tap right where my hand was.   A sign of  consolation? I believe it was.  The pain in my heart was  suddenly lifted. I knew Omma was smiling down on us.  As hard as it is to look back on the last year, this little life I have growing inside of me has given me the hope and strength I've needed to keep looking forward.  As one life ends, a new one begins.   It will be hard doing this mom thing without my own mom there to help me but I am realizing for the first time that all the answers I had been looking for from my mother have always been there with me. They are in the memories I hold of her. They are in the stories I will tell my son of his halamoni in heaven.  I was surprised with the calmness I felt leaving the graveyard.  I left with a feeling of assurance that everything would be just fine.  Omma, I feel you.  And the baby does, too.

I miss you, Ma...


How an obsession begins...

A friend's recent entry sparked an old memory to surface and the significance of this memory is just so comical I couldn't believe I had filed it away.  In junior high, we moved in with my grandmother as our new house was being built.  We took few of our belongings with us as we wouldn't have been able to bring a family of seven's objects to my GaGa's immaculate house.  We lived like that for nearly 6 months, I took the bus to school with the kids int he neighborhood that I did not know. I remember trying to act cool. One day, after school GaGa  tells me to get in the car because we're going to run errands.  I always liked going place with GaGa, she'd tell me stories about places we'd pass and she's always hum under her breathe at the stop lights.  That day she took me to a sort of department store, a sort of Target back in the day.  We shopped around and I followed looking at all the things not wondering once what we were doing. It was like that with her, just go with the flow no questions asked.  We stopped in the shoe section right in front of a Keds display and she said to go choose what I liked. My eyes grew large. I still remember that feeling. After looking around for a while, I finally resolved myself to a pair of plain whites Keds. Remember, I wanted to be cool and to be cool when I was in junior high was to wear  the plain white Keds.  Somehow my grandmother had picked up on this. She always knew these kinds of things.  We paid and went straight home. No other errands to run but to get my shoes. Looking back, I see how GaGa really helped my self esteem.  She was amazing like that.  That evening, I modeled my shoes for my sisters who were jealous but knew with GaGa their turn would come. She was always fair when it came to us five kids.  That night, in my pajamas and my Keds, I prepared for bed. Brushed my teeth. Washed my face. And with my Keds on, I crawled into bed and admired them by the moonlight shining through the window.  I fell asleep with the new Keds on my feet and awoke to my mother looking down at me with a puzzled look on her face.  I'm not sure if my mom knew but I knew she would come in and watch us sleep and I'd lay there feeling safe that she was there.  At the sight of seeing the Keds on my feet, she laughed to herself and unlaced them and let them fall to the floor. She pulled the blankets over my exposed feet and went to bed.  When I saw the light go off in my parent's room, I sat up, put on my new Keds and re-laced them again. Took a moment to admire them and went right to sleep.  The next morning when I awoke they were again unlaced and on the floor.  Clearly, this was the moment my shoe obsession began.  I think my mom knew something of it. She never said anything but whenever I wore my Keds, she would always look down at my feet and smile. 

I take back what I said so many years ago...

Oh, how you were so wise, Omma.

We were sitting at the kitchen table at our house in Olathe. 17582 West 112th St. I watched my mom as she worked her way around her kitchen. Making dinner and mixing cookies for my brother while happily singing to herself.  I was a teenager. 16 years old.  I told my mom that I didn't want to have kids right away and that I wanted to be a career woman.  She turned to me and said you know you might change your mind.  I scoffed because I knew what I was talking about and no one could change my mind, not even my mother.  Well, I've been in the career world and I have to say it's not all that I thought it would be. I guess I had some  vision where the thrill of being a career woman would be enough.  The thrill is gone, baby.  Way gone. Losing someone close to you make you realize so many things.  As I work through all these feelings I'm realizing there are so many other things I'd rather be focusing on right now. Life is just too damn short to wait.  Luckily, my husband is right there to back me up. I love you, honey.   We're starting to make decisions that will change out lives.  We're so excited!  Though I'm no where near the domestic goddess my mother was, I've decided to follow in her foot steps and to teach myself.  So many projects, so little time. I finally feel like I know what to do now.  

Melancholy heart

It's been a rather melancholy week for me.  Last Sunday was Mother's day and my first mother's day without my mom.  This year will be a hard year for me. A year of firsts. I knew this. All the books I've read about grief mention this.  I just wasn't prepared for the pain.  I guess no one really is prepared for the prolonged pain of  losing someone dear to them. I've just gotta hang in there.  This Saturday is my birthday.  29. Not a big milestone birthday but for me it will be.  It will be the first birthday without her.  Usually the week before my birthday I'd receive a hand picked card from my mother with something special written inside.  Usually in Korean to keep me on my toes.  That was just her style.   I haven't checked the mail this week because I know I won't see an envelope with her delicate handwriting on it.  It's so painful and amazing to think that 29 years ago my mother brought me into this world.  And today,  her 29 year old is yearning  to be just like her.  I wish I could stop time and go back and say all the things that I wanted to say.  Just to have been there. To tell her how much I admired her. How much I want to be like her.  I know that she knew how much I loved her. At least I can hold on to that to console my broken heart. I wish I knew how to make this woebegone disappear.  It feels like my heart is being ripped out of my chest.  I desperately wish I knew how to do this.



Since my Omma passed away last last year I feel like I've been going through an identity crisis.   I've lost the grasp on my Korean-ness.  I've had to learn to dig deep to remember and to push myself to read and speak Korean, even if it's just to myself.   Everyday, I take a moment to look at myself in the mirror and remind myself of who I am. A Korean-American woman.   It will be through my memories that I find my identity again.

Looking at this photo I see my mother's eyes.  She was always face forward in her actions and her thoughts.  Eyes full of unconditional love and compassion.  Eyes that I miss so very much. I will honor her memory by doing my best to do the same.  Love everyday. Love fully.  Happy Mother's Day, Omma. I love you.

The ebb and flow of time...

How great is it when you catch up with an old friend?  We've recently gotten a land line in our apartment. Never needed one before because we had cell phones but that limited us to only calling people we knew in France.  Great for the husband, not so great for me but I got used to it (how I got used to it, I don't know). When I arrived I had a total of ZERO friends in Paris, so my call lists on my phone consisted of calls made, received and missed all from my dear husband.  He did make an effort those first few months to call often even if he was just down the street so I didn't feel so alone. 

I just called an old friend and had one of those heart warming conversations where it's like we never stopped talking to each when in all reality the last time we talk/saw each other was nearly 4 years ago.  Busy lives in two different countries. We lost touch but didn't lose each other completely. 

It's funny how time plays tricks on my mind. Things that happened 13 years ago seem so clear like it just happened yesterday but I can't remember what Julien and I had for dinner last night.  Then there's time reminding you of an important date, you don't know how you remember it, you just know it like you know your first name.  And then there are times when you try to forget and you can't and your mind seems to beat around this moment until you accept that you are going to remember it.  I just can't keep up with the ebb and flow of time these days...

This is going to be a year I know I will remember. It will be a year of many firsts without my mother.  But I suspect as time passes things will get easier...  I sometimes fool myself into thinking that everything is just fine and then time reminds me.  I feel myself pause. My thoughts regroup. I breathe. And tell myself to live.  It's all still so hard.

Finding a balance these days...

I feel the shift happening in my emotional state of mind.  I feel less suffocated by my emotions and feel like I have a better grip on the state of my being.  I take a deep breath as I type this because it feels really good to see the words on the screen.  I don't think one ever gets over the death of a loved one, especially a daughter who loses her mother.  This will be something that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. It's like an invisible pin on my heart to remind me that I have passed an important stage in my life.  I miss her.  I think about her all the time but I'm not gasping for air as the thoughts over come me like I did just a few weeks ago. Instead, I smile and feel a warmth in my heart and I know that's she's there. 

My dreams have been rather strange lately. Very hard to remember most times but when I awake I feel like I've been blessed.  I feel my husband wake in the morning and kiss my wrist before he leaves the bed and I drift into a state of sleepiness and security.

I often wonder if there is life after death, how does one really know what is waiting for us beyond the life we live?  I'm not a religious person but I feel like I am a very spiritual person all the same.  The concept of heaven and hell isn't strange to me but at the same time I can't imagine either one.   

People ask how I'm doing and I respond that I'm hanging in there.  I'm here. I'm alive and have a lot of love to give.  I feel like starting very soon my life will be turning around and I will be headed towards what I imagined my life would be.  I am so grateful for my family, the wonderful friends I have here in Paris and my darling husband.  The candles you guys have held for me along the long, long tunnel have helped immensely, I see the light and I'm skipping in my converse all stars all the way to the end!

My Chicken Pox Scar

Most nights I lay in bed thinking about the day I just lived and feeling grateful for my life.  I drape my arm across my husband's chest and listen to his steady breathing, he's been asleep for several hours now.  It's at this time in the wee hours of the morning when they come to me. Deep memories I haven't thought about in so very long. 

Last night, as I layed in bed thinking about my day  I was suddenly taken back to 1981 or 1982, I can't be sure of the year but with some research into some old photos I will soon know the exact year. Anyway, I was taken back to my parent's bathroom in our old house at 1509 Concord Drive.  His and her sinks. Big bright mirror. My mother's cosmetics neatly arranged around the sink. Her gold curling iron.  I remember always looking at her gold curling iron, admiring it because it was so pretty.  I was wearing my red corduroy sailor dress and had just gotten over a spell of the chicken pox. It was picture day at school. I was in Kindergarten. Mrs. Reinhold's class. This day my mother decided to curl my hair like a big girl, she said.  I remember her showing me on the gold curling iron to watch the brown dot and to tell her when it had turned red because that meant it was hot. I sneaked peeks at her as she brushed her hair.  I remember my mother curling my hair from back to front and I felt like a princess. And then I picked the last scab on my nose left from the chicken pox.  My mom yelled. Well, more like she yelped.  Asked me why I did that?  I don't know why I did that I just did. It was there and I pulled it off. I remember looking at it and pulling it off. It hurt. And bled. And left a scar. A scar that I still have today. 

These moments when these memories come to me are the moments that I look most forward to these days. 

Treading near the surface...

For the last 7 weeks or so I felt like I've trying to swim my way against the current in a very torrid river. the current pulling me harder and harder to go the other way and something inside of me fighting my way against it. There'd be moments when the current would win and pull me under and I'd lay under the water looking up seeing the world around me pass and I'd just hold my breath. I can't hold my breath like this forever. I have to let myself breath. I have to let myself live.

Everyone tells me that losing a loved one is the hardest thing in life. How does one prepare themselves for this natural step in life? Losing my mom is the hardest thing that's ever happened to me. I've never felt so many emotions all at once. I've never felt my heart hurt so much or shed so many tears. But I know this is natural and with time all this will pass. I feel myself changing not for the better nor the worse just changing. Maturing. Understanding.

I feel ready to live my life again.

This is a new year. 2006. No resolutions for me. I've never been good at keeping them anyways. Just am going to live my life to the fullest and try to be as happy as I possibly can. I'm so lucky to have such a wonderful man in my life who is so patient and so full of love. I have seen how strong my family is through all what has happened and it has reassured me that they are going to make it. And I think I will too.

A Life filled with so much love.

To my dearest Omma,

The emptiness I feel is filled with the love I feel for you. I am grateful for all the precious moments I've had to share with you, mom. The strength I feel today is because of you. The courage I had to move to France is because of you.  The lessons of love I have learned, I have learned from you watching you. Every step I take from now on, I know that you will be there looking down on me and I will look up and smile. I am your daughter and I will make you proud, it's only natural because I'm so proud of you.  I am who I am because of you.

I love you, Omma. Sweet dreams and I will see you again.

Love forever,