kedim xiv: the long haul

From May to July, things get a little rough around here.

If you have read The Unapologetic INKDOG for any length of time, it has probably already become evident that I have a significant number of demons.  They’re always present, but this is kind of the season for them, so it’s probably fitting that I woke up today from another nightmare about my parents.  I have them fairly frequently and I rarely write about them.  For awhile I thought maybe it would be a good idea to keep track of them, but then I have to scroll back through them and see them.

So…I’m not going to write about the one I had today.  I’m just going to throw out into the void that I’m having a hard time and I’m grateful for my therapist.

On the bright side, I’m also just about halfway through KEDIM and even though I’ve done things a little out of order, I’m still on track.  If by May 31st I can say that I have written or created thirty-one things, I will consider this month a win.  I mean, it’s already pretty much a win.  I started making ASMR videos again, which I haven’t felt confident about doing since October 2015 when I got sick.  I finished poems I didn’t think I’d ever finish and started a few scrappy ones that have good enough bones to salvage and repurpose.  If I can keep up the habit of writing every day, maybe I’ll manage to finish something one day!  That’s the goal, anyway.

I’ve been lagging behind on studying Korean, though.  If I put two to three hours of study time in every day for the rest of the month I will still have 30+ hours of study under my belt by June.  I’ll try to focus on doing that instead of feeling bad about the time I missed.

Lastly, it is Mother’s Day.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you, whether you are the mother of a “traditional” family; a single father working double duty; a mother of children fluffy, feathered, scaled, or tailed; a sibling who has had to step up and assume such a role; a foster mother of people or animals, helping your babies get healthy and happy and preparing for the heartbreak of letting them go; a mother in the workplace who remembers to take care of your coworkers; and all of those who have assumed similar roles to make the world a happier, safer place. Happy Mother’s Day to the new mothers; happy Mother’s Day to those who have tried or are still trying to conceive; happy Mother’s Day to the mothers-to-be. Happy Mother’s Day if you’ve lost your mother and are thinking of her especially on a day like today.

Happy Mother’s Day to everyone who has made the choice to remain childless and gets flak for it; you deserve exactly ZERO of that flak, because making that choice is a personal decision and you should have a wonderful day anyway.


kedim iv: airplane day

Today is Airplane Day.

Thirty-two years ago I was put on a plane bound for John F. Kennedy International Airport with nine other Korean children.  Eight of us were born in 1984, from October to December.  One girl was born in October 1972.  Our flight’s 막내 [“maknae” — the youngest person in a group] was born in January 1985, which means that she would have been considered a Rat like the rest of us — and I really do mean the rest of us.  Coincidentally, all ten of us were born in the Year of the Rat.  1972 is a Water Rat year and 1984 is a Wood Rat year.  Had we grown up in the culture we were born into, we nine could’ve called each other 친구 [“chingu” — same age friends] and we might’ve called Miss 1972 언니 [“eonni” — a term that means “older sister” and is used by younger females to address an older female they are close with; also romanized as “unnie”] or 누나 [“nuna” — a term that means “older sister” and is used by younger males to address an older female they are close with; also romanized as “noona”].  I’m going to put a list of the names of my fellow passengers here on the off chance some of them are out there in the void:

  • Choi Myung Wha
  • Kim Jeong Soon
  • Lee Ja Won
  • Kim Yoo Mee
  • Yoon Mee Sook
  • Choi Seong Jin
  • Kim Min Seong
  • Lee Seong Joon
  • Kim Yeong Ae

I came with an instruction manual like every other imported good.

I also came with a letter stating:

Re: (84C-3093) SHIN, KONG JOO —ALBORA—

The above mentioned case is the birth mother was unavailable at the time of intake.  We received this child from the Head of Clinic after the natural mother disappeared from her recovery room.  Therefore, no one has any information about the birth mother and we have no possible way to locate the mother.  Thank you.

Mrs. Choi
Information Department

This is the first Airplane Day I’ve experienced since the rift between me and my parents became utterly insurmountable.  This time last year I was still soldiering through, still trying to go along to get along, still choking on retorts whenever various events from my past were inevitably brought up in “casual conversation” — events that painted me as the villain to my own tragedies.  There’s probably some truth to that, but there’re at least three lies for every truth when my parents tell a story.  Maybe it’s cowardice on my part that lets me write publicly about them when I have not spoken with them since I sent them a text message on July 31st, 2016 asking them to leave when they arrived uninvited at my door at 10:15 p.m.

Here is an excerpt from something I wrote that day:

I have not been answering my parents’ phone calls or text messages recently as a matter of self preservation, so tonight they showed up at our apartment uninvited and spent the past fifteen to twenty minutes banging on my front door [which was not locked; thankfully they did not try to open it out of curiosity; I am still not sure what I would have done in that case, but things probably would have become physically violent] and yelling and calling out to me.  At some point my mother began theatrically weeping and wailing.  “Don’t you feel like what you’re doing is evil?” they asked.  “Don’t you feel that turning against your parents is evil?  You can’t possibly feel good about yourself after what you’re doing.  You can’t possibly feel good at all.  You can’t possibly feel good as a daughter or a person.”  My door is not soundproof; it was easy to hear them talking to each other and to my dog — “go get Mommy, Kennedy; go get Mommy and tell her to open the door; Kennedy, where’s Mommy?” — and I am going to refrain from posting the things I heard because I am ashamed and hurt and infuriated by them and because I don’t want anybody else to have to house this vitriol.

When I was younger, I never thought I would ever in a million years want to meet or even know about my birth mother.  Today, though, just for a little while, I admitted to myself that I do.  That not knowing sometimes hurts.  I still don’t know for sure whether excommunicating my adoptive parents was the right thing to do.  I know that my depression and anxiety are my things and not necessarily linked to them, but I also know that life without them is easier.  I know that I feel healthier.

I’m not good at burning bridges.  The fire hurts my eyes, burns my fingers.  Everything I am is equipped for putting them out instead of starting them.

Anyway, enough of that.  Airplane Day is always a bittersweet day, but I’m going to end this post on a sweet note.  What’s important to me is connecting with my culture and connecting with people who share it and can teach me about it.  On June 5th, 2016 I received my Ancestry Composition Report from and was able to confirm my Korean blood; on June 13th, 2016 I connected with a second cousin through the same website whose parents were born and raised in Busan.  I have joined Facebook groups for Korean-American adoptees and have joined the Portland Korean Language Meetup Group.  I haven’t been brave enough to make real life contact yet, but I hope I will gain more confidence soon.  ^^;;

I’m also keeping up with KEDIM, even though by the time I publish or upload anything it’s a day late.  As long as I stay motivated, it’s okay.  Right?  ㅠㅅㅠ


trigger warning: profanity, abuse

When I was small, you loved me so much you named your boat in my honor.  You called it the Royal Princess, making reference to my Korean name — a name that you carefully folded up and locked away like a relic from a dead, unblessed time.  I don’t remember what came first, me or the boat, but I do remember that when you piloted it, you laughed — and when you laughed, your teeth broke white and shining through the tan of your face and that was my cue to laugh along.

I could always make you laugh.  It was a skill I acquired early.  I’d make you a crown out of garish yellow construction paper, grip a Crayola marker strong-steady in my fist, and spell out your name on the brim until the marker’s pinpoint tip slow-eroded to a blunt plateau.  I’d cry out, “Hail to the king!” and parade around the living room and even if you were watching football, you’d spare me a glance and you’d laugh — a gentle, tolerant, paternal laugh — and call me your little princesa.  When your team did something you didn’t like, you’d yell in outrage and pound your knee, words I wasn’t supposed to know, and I’d laugh, scurrying out of the room to cover my ears so I wouldn’t accidentally overhear them — but I always listened.

When I got a little older, I developed a penchant for accents that would turn your face red and send you reeling for the first piece of sturdy furniture.  You still laughed, but it wasn’t just tolerant anymore.  I’d leveled up.  You told your friends I was a “funny kid” and put me through my paces.  “Do the Rap Reiplinger skit!” you’d urge me, your eyes already laughing in an anticipatory way.  “Do the room service one with the haole guy.”  I was shy, but I launched through my repertoire with ease.  I’d mimic with uncanny accuracy the yawning vowel sounds of Boston and New York, the rollicking singsong of the island, and the chattering quickness of the Filipino family who lived next door.  You always laughed.  Your friends did, too, but that was just a canned laugh track in the periphery; you were my target audience.

It got so the jokes were so warm and worn that you’d start laughing the second I uttered a fragment of a line of dialogue.  They were our jokes.  I knew them backwards and forwards.

I was maybe ten when I learned a new brand of humor: the self-deprecating kind.  Some boy at the beach who I had a crush on called me fat.  “You’ve got a lot of pudge on you,” is what he actually said, not unkindly, just stating the facts and calling the shots as he saw them, and when I went crying to you about it, you laughed — and I watched the white of your smile flash through the dark sheen of your face in the Waikiki sun and for the first time I didn’t get the joke.  “Come on, honey,” you said, still grinning, impatience thinning the edges of the mouth that used to blow raspberries into my flyaway hair, knifing your lips into something unfamiliar.  “What’re you getting so upset for?”  Your voice took on an edge of irritation then that I now habitually wield as a blade against myself: come on, honey, what’re you getting so upset for?

I tried to catch up.  I said, “I guess I’m growing out instead of up, yeah?” and you clapped me on the back with your strong-steady hand and laughed.  The impatience bled away but I stayed away from the beach after that, and you sold my neon pink and yellow Local Motion shortboard to the same boy who referred to me thereafter as “Pudge” in an exquisite act of betrayal.  My love for the sea warred with my fear of the boy and the threat of your growing friendship with him, because he was Korean, too — only he got to keep his name and his Korean parents, which made him more than me.  More Korean, more svelte, more worthy.  Better surfer, too.  When I saw you laugh at a joke of his, your face bright red and your arm groping blindly for the nearest palm tree, I learned to hate myself.

That was around the time I stopped being a “funny kid” and started being a “pain in the ass” or a “smart ass” — (Come on, honey, what’re you getting so upset for?) — and our relationship began to decay.  Over the next five years, you laughed — but a lot of the time I was the joke, and I was seldom laughing along.  I was fifteen when I met a boy you didn’t approve of, and looking back now, I can’t remember if I was ever able to make that boy laugh.  I can’t remember if I ever really tried.  That was when we had the cleaning business — when things were good and we could throw money around and the laughing you did at my expense was muted by the cloud-cushion of being found attractive and useful and sweet.

I let that boy own me officially for the next three years until he put me on consignment for the next fifteen, and I learned real quick that I wasn’t any of those things.  He’d settled for me, and he made sure I knew it, and I disappointed him about as often as I disappointed you.  When things went really south, you found out.  You didn’t laugh, but what you learned turned your face red and sent you reeling for the first piece of sturdy furniture: a wooden folding chair.  Your strong-steady hand lifted it effortlessly and fierce-flung it at me, and your teeth broke white and shining through the tan of your face as you screamed at me, renaming me: little whore.  I showed my teeth, too, warning you away, but you didn’t listen — so I fierce-flung myself at the door and slammed it in your face and slammed the lock home.

You yelled at me through it, shaking the walls with the boom of your voice and the pound of your fist, and I remembered how, when your team did something you didn’t like, you’d yell in outrage and pound your knee, words I wasn’t supposed to know, and I’d laugh, scurrying out of the room to cover my ears so I wouldn’t accidentally overhear them — but this time when I covered my ears it was to keep you out.  That’s how you found me when you kicked my door down: palms pressed to my ears, fingernails digging hard into my scalp.  You laughed.  (Come on, little whore, what’re you getting so upset for?)  Your eyes were wide and wild, the gash of your lips sliced open with the serrated alabaster of your triumphant grin, and you laughed, panting and slavering, your mouth wet and cruel and your skin dewed in perspiration.

I could always make you laugh.