Thursday, April 13, 2017

Things You Don't Know About Me (Part 1)

So I've been reading Any Schumer's book lately (which is awesome, by the way - I highly recommend it), and she had a chapter in there called, "Things You Don't Know About Me." I thought it was a great idea because, even though I'm obviously nowhere near as famous as she is, I have a rather interesting story (if I do say so myself) and I think this list will be fun to make. So here we go.

1. I was born on April 3, 1983 (Easter Sunday), 2 whole months early, in Angel Baby Hospital in Seoul, South Korea. Being a premie, I weighed only 4 pounds! I was adopted when I was only 3 months (and 8 pounds).

Map of South Korea (courtesy of Google images)

2. When I was little, my parents told me that I was the second baby they tried to adopt, that the first little girl had died before they got her. So basically, I was their second choice. That was an awful thing to tell a little girl (who already had enough issues about being adopted)! I could see them telling me now that I'm older, MAYBE, but definitely not back then.

3. I effing HATE spiders. Big ones, teeny tiny ones... I always make Chris kill them and he never fails to make fun of me.

4. My hands are ALWAYS hot. Like, more often than not. I noticed it more when we were on drugs (especially when we were sick - that was the worst) but even now, they are super warm. It's sometimes a blessing but mostly it reminds me of those awful days and nights when we would alternate between sweating and the chills.

Warm hands, warm heart? (courtesy of Google images)

6. My first pets were gerbils that my college roommate and I got from PetCo. We thought they were both boys but apparently they were NOT. They had babies and then, one weekend, we went out of town and when we got back the daddy had straight up EATEN some of the babies and there were half eaten baby gerbil carcasses in the cage. It scarred me for life. No more pet rodents after that.

7. I am a total klutz. I trip over anything on the ground (including my own two feet). There was a month when, every Monday, I tripped and fell. I literally fell last night in my parking lot, walking from the car to my building, and completely destroyed my knees (and, more importantly, my favorite wedges). Due to this, I have more scars on my legs than most 8-year old boys.

My bandaged knees from my epic fall yesterday.

8. I went through a phase of crazy promiscuity in my early 20s. I don't even know how many guys I've been with. I was not a cute kid (well, I guess I was, but I had coke-bottle glasses, braces and a horrible haircut for most of my childhood) so when I got older and boys started noticing me, I went slightly (a lot) overboard. Add to that self-image issues, daddy issues, abandonment issues and Catholic parents, and it was bound to happen. I look back now and wish I had saved myself, but it also made me who I am today.

9. (This ties into #8) I am very vain and superficial. Not in the sense that I won't talk to someone if they're not wearing designer jeans, or if they have any mental or physical impairment, but I personally always like to look nice. I don't go to the grocery store without at least putting on earrings, eyeliner and lip gloss. I like nice shoes and purses. I like my man to smell nice and look sharp when we go out. If that means I'm going to hell, at least I'll look damn good when I meet Satan himself.

10. I have the most sensitive stomach in the world, and I hate it. EVERYTHING makes me nauseous. I went to the doctor a few years ago after a particularly bad bout (there was a week where I couldn't keep anything down at all) and they originally diagnosed me with gallbladder disease, but it turned out to be Hepatitis C (due, most likely, to my aforementioned drug use), so I still don't have any answers as to why I get sick  all the time.

11. I don't think I want kids. I'm not naturally caring or nurturing, and I know that. I'm terrified that I wouldn't get those motherly feelings people always talk about. I'm scared that I would fuck up the child the way my parents fucked me up. If I were to have a child I would want to adopt one, like I was, but I don't think it'll happen due to my criminal background (or my fiancé's). If I'm this ambivalent now, at 34, will my feelings ever change? My pets are enough right now and that's fine with me.

12. When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a princess. Or a teacher. Or a detective. But mostly a princess. (I still sorta do, actually.)

13. I was raised Catholic but I don't practice anymore. I honestly don't know what I believe, but that's for another discussion. I never felt like religion was the answer. My parents made me do the whole Sunday School thing, and I was baptized and confirmed, but it always felt like they only did it because it was the right thing to do. My first office job was at a Catholic church and my beliefs went even further downhill after that. Like most corporations, the people who gave the most money had the most power, and I didn't like that. Plus they fired me (after only a month) for the most bullshit reasons: the priest told me I was too young and inexperienced. What IS that?! He knew how old and inexperienced I was when he hired me; it's not like I got younger and less experienced as the month went on! So if my faith wasn't shaken before, it was definitely gone after that debacle.

14. I'm very anal and organized about a lot of things, but not at all about others. I guess I'm a paradox in that sense. I want my nails and hair to be perfect. I have a set routine in the mornings. I like my work space organized in a certain way, so I can easily find everything. I constantly cycle between a handful of apps on my phone and tablet. But there is clutter all over my side of the room and it doesn't bother me (meanwhile it makes Chris crazy).

15. I LOVE FOOD. (You actually already may know this, particularly if you have read my other blog, Food, Glorious Food, but you may not realize just how MUCH I love food.) I love Italian food, Mexican food, Asian food (especially Asian food), southern food, soul food, gourmet food... just about everything. Except olives. Which is okay, though, because Chris loves them (little nod to the "Olive Theory" from How I Met Your Mother).

Apparently, "The Olive Theory" is really a thing... I found this on Google images!

16. In addition to spiders, I also have a fear of heights. It's so bad that when I go into tall building with really high ceilings, my knees lock up and my heart starts pounding really hard, When I was little there was this aerospace exhibit at a local museum, and it had a really high dome ceiling (made to look like the sky), and when you walked in you were on a platform overlooking a replica of the moon landing, and it totally freaked me out for some reason. To this day, I STILL have nightmares about it!

17. I got my period at age 10, in the fifth grade, when my mother wasn't home (she worked nights - I got it when I woke up one morning to go to school). Luckily, she had already told me where everything was, so I told my dad, "Hey, I got my period," got a pad out of the cabinet, and went school. The only downside was that I stopped growing after that, so I've been 5' tall since then!

18. I have 4 tattoos: a flower on my hip (got at age 19, want to cover it up and make it better); my Korean name (in Korean) on the bottom right side of my back; a triquetra on the bottom left side of my back, and a four leaf clover on my left shoulder. I definitely want more, just haven't decided exactly what and where. (Side note, when my mom saw them for the first time, she freaked out - you would have thought I had a skull and crossbones or something!)

That's a good first start... I definitely have more I want to say but I've already been working on this list all week (I'm also a procrastinator, have I mentioned that yet?). Have a Happy Easter everyone!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Pretty in (Pender County) Pink

So I've been reading Orange is the New Black, as well as re-watching previous seasons in preparation for the Season 5 premiere in June, and it's made me reflect on my short stint in jail (not prison, mind you). In the winter/early spring of 2015 I was sentenced to a total of 10 days in the Pender County Jail for second-degree trespassing (how stupid, right?), leftover from some charges I accrued during my "addict" phase. The one silver lining is that I was able to choose how I wanted to do the 10 days - I could do 5 weekends (Friday to Sunday nights), or 1 day (Friday-Saturday or Saturday-Sunday) for 10 weeks. I chose the latter. I was working full-time and didn't want to have to spend my whole weekend in jail for over a month. After further debate and discussion, I chose to go in at 6 PM on Saturdays and get released at 6 PM on Sundays. That way I would have all Friday night and Saturday to spend with Chris (my fiancé), and still get out early enough on Sunday to prepare for the coming work week. Only now, 2 years later, can I look back at that time with a clear head and reflect on how those 10 weeks shaped my life. This post will be about my first night there, as well as a summary of the remaining 9 Saturdays.

My first date I was to report was Saturday, March 21, 2015, at 6PM sharp. I was terrified but trying not to show it. My probation officer in Pender County had told me that "weekenders", as they call those who only have to serve weekend time, had it easy - she told me to dress comfortably, bring a paperback book, and that it would all be over before I knew it. When I got there, of course my paperwork wasn't finished, so I had to wait for what felt like an eternity. Which, honestly, was fine with me, because that meant less time I had to be in there, and more time I could spent with Chris (who always drove me, and waited with me until I had to go back). One thing that did rattle me slightly was that the lady who did the intake told me that my PO was mistaken, I couldn't bring anything back with me, including my book. If my PO had gotten that minor detail wrong, what else would she be wrong about? Still, I felt hopeful that I would make friends, we would talk, and time would fly by. Eventually they called my name and I nervously said good-bye to Chris. It was unbelievably hard that first night, and, while it got easier over the next 10 weeks, it still wasn't fun, by any means.

The guard brought me back through a metal detector into a holding cell, to get changed out of my street clothes and, of course, wait some more, (Really, the waiting is the worst part - it really shows how you are completely at the mercy of the guards. They will get to you when THEY feel like it - if it's shift change, or they're otherwise occupied, it doesn't matter if it's visiting time, dinnertime or time to get released, they'll get to it when they get to it.) A female guard came in and had me strip, and do the regulation "squat & cough", which was every bit as demeaning as it sounds. Luckily they didn't go as far as on OITNB, where they made Piper bend ALL the way down and grab her ankles! Eventually the embarrassment was over, and I got "dressed out". Prison wear in Pender was pale pink scrub-like pajamas, mesh granny panties and a (too-large) pair of brown plastic slip-on sandals. I definitely preferred the pink to the standard "orange" scrubs I had heard so much about (apparently the only variation is if you were a violent offender, or something, in which case you got black-and-white scrubs, much like the Monopoly man's "Get our of Jail Free" uniform on the Chance & Community Chest cards). As for the sandals, they looked much like the cheap ones you can get at Wal-mart, only even less flattering. I wear a 6, which of course they didn't have, so I was forced to clomp along behind the guard in a pair 2 sizes too large, all the while praying I didn't trip.

Afterwards I was handcuffed, given my lumpy plastic "mattress", blanket, cup, and spoon, and led down a hallway to the cell. I had no idea what to expect - would it be a large room separated by cubes, with bunks and lockers,similar to real prisons (and like the one in OITNB)? Not even close. It was a fairly small room, maybe the size of 2 master bedrooms put together, with 5 bunks along the left wall, 1 shower and toilet in the back right corner, separated by a cinder block partition (blocking off the "bathroom" from the rest of the room), and one long multi-purpose table in the front right corner. The entire room was windowless and made of concrete and cinder blocks, with one camera over the front of the table, a small television set over the rear of the table, and it was COLD. The guard led me into the "foyer" right outside the room, closed the door to the outer area, buzzed me into the room, and uncuffed me. And then I was standing there in front of nine or so other women, all of whom were playing cards, laying on their bunks or mattresses (on the floor), and staring straight at me.

To say that it felt like my first day at a new school is a severe understatement. I'm not shy by any means... unless, of course, I'm in an entirely new situation with a bunch of strangers (who also happen to be criminals). I lugged my mattress into the room, very self-consciously, looking around until Abigail, a plump girl with long brown hair and glasses told me I could sit near her, on the floor. I gratefully laid my mattress and other belongings down beside her, and we played cards and began the obligatory small talk: "What's your name?" "What are you in for?" "How long do you have?" I learned that she was a weekender, like me, and, aside from her stories of her "crimes and misdemeanors" that landed her in there, she had absolutely no personality whatsoever. Eventually I became overwhelmed both with boredom and the need to stretch, so I migrated to the table, where several girls were playing cards, hoping to waste some more time, Among the other girls were Caroline, a sweet blond girl; Jenny, a tough lesbian brunette; an older woman (whom they all called Nana), Macie, a cute young African-American girl, and a few other random characters. It turned out that by coming in at 6, I had already missed dinner, which was fine with me (luckily, I had thought to eat beforehand). Abigail let me borrow a romance novel for later, and it was lights out (at 10:30) before I knew it. I climbed onto my top bunk (which, I soon realized, was a HUGE mistake), pulled the blanket over my head, and laid there. And laid there. And laid there.

One thing I would like to note is that, at least in Pender County, "lights out" doesn't truly mean "lights out" - for safety reasons (I assume), there are always some dim lights overhead, and my choice of top bunk, combined with my need for pitch black when I sleep, did NOT help. Neither did the snoring - oh, lord, the snoring! I am a heavy(ish) sleeper once I actually fall asleep, but I have a routine. I like my fan (both for circulation and white noise), so the still air and the cavemanlike sounds that were coming from the women beside and below me were a sure sign I would be up for awhile, Particularly the sounds coming from my new buddy, Abigail. I would soon find out that she was loathed by all the other women because of her snoring. Now, my father was a snorer, and I have shared a room (and a bed) with other people who have sawed lumber, but I have never, ever heard anyone make the noises she made that night. Between that, the unfamiliar setting, the uncomfortable metal bed and scratchy blanket, and being without Chris at night for the first time in years, the reality of the situation finally settled in, and I started to cry. I couldn't wait to go home the next evening.

I tried getting my mind off of things. I read the book Abigail had given me (not a hard feat, 
considering I was on the top bunk and the florescent lights were still humming above me). I thought about how stupid I had been, to end up in here (even if it was just for a few weeks). I wondered what Chris was doing back at home, if he was missing me as much as I was missing him. (This was, after all, our first night apart in YEARS.) A guard wandered in every hour or so and pushed a little button on the far wall, glancing around at everybody. I guess I eventually drifted off to sleep... and then, before I knew it, the lights were coming back on, and there were 2 guards standing outside the door, calling people's last names for breakfast. I asked around and realized that it was only 5:30. Seriously? I still had 12 and a half hours until I could get out of this hellhole.

Most meals in jail are nothing spectacular, and breakfast was no exception - dry, unseasoned scrambled eggs (that probably came from a powder and not real eggs), a hockey puck that was imitating a sausage patty, and toast, all packed in a Styrofoam box, with a carton each of milk and orange juice (like the kind they give kids in grade school cafeterias). The guards would push all of this through the little slot in the door (the same one you would stick your hands through to be handcuffed). Most of the girls ate in their beds and immediately pulled the covers back over their heads to get some more sleep. I tried in vain to eat something, hoping it would allow me to go back to sleep, as well. Luckily, apparently every other Sunday they turn on the little TV set during the day, and that just so happened to be the "on" Sunday, so I laid in bed, trying to read, and glancing at the television every so often. (The one good thing about having the TV on constantly was that it helped me gauge how much time had passed, since there were no clocks anywhere to be found. You constantly have to ask a guard to tell you what time it is - and pray that they're feeling generous enough to tell  you!)

Lunchtime came at 11:30, when at least half of the girls were still asleep. It was even worse than breakfast - bologna and cheese sandwich, on white bread, with a packet of mustard and some cold, unseasoned fries. To drink was the most bitter, unsweetened, watered-down lemonade I've ever tasted. For the thousandth time in the past twelve hours, I thought about how glad I was to be going home soon, and that I'd get to eat REAL food. The rest of the afternoon was spent making more small talk with the other girls, watching TV, playing cards and praying the time would move faster than it had thus far. At one point I tried to use the pay phone to call Chris - I heard him say "Hello?" and as I was trying to say "Baby, it's me," I instantly got choked up. I heard him start to say something and then we got disconnected. I tried to call back but no luck. Even though I knew I would be seeing him soon, I still felt defeated, which only made me feel worse, since I hadn't even been in there for 24 hours, while some of the other girls had been in there for months! Being in jail has a way of making you feel like you are utterly alone, whether you're in there for one day or one year. After I hung up the phone, I sat down and proceeded to write him a letter, with a sheet of legal paper and a "pen" (literally it was only the inside of a BIC ballpoint pen, the skinny inner tube with the ink - that was it!) I had gotten from one of the other girls, and wrote him a letter.

Dinner was at 4:30, which is ridiculously early for anybody, but especially for someone who typically doesn't eat until after 8! The only good thing was that it meant I only had an hour and a half left. It was "meatloaf", but I not-so-fondly refer to as "mystery meat" . I did learn that the other girls were super stoked for meatloaf (which was served every Sunday), which just made me even more depressed - if this was considered "good" food, what exactly was the "bad" food? There were mashed potatoes (boxed, presumably) and more toast (they sure love the carbs in jail - definitely not Atkins friendly in there!). Luckily, since I knew I would be getting released soon, I gladly passed my box to Jenny, sat back on my mattress (which I had moved back to the floor beside Abigail, so as not to have to climb back onto the top bunk anymore) and prepared to get out of that hellhole and back to my real life waiting outside.

Finally, it neared six o'clock. I gathered all of my stuff together and waited. And waited. And waited some more. Caroline told me that shift change occurs at 6, and the guards will wait until they get settled first before handling any releases, which didn't surprise me, yet I was still disappointed. Finally I heard them call my last name, along with Abigail's last name, and tossed my mattress and blanket into the wheeled laundry basket one of the guards had carted into the room. I then grabbed my cup and spoon, slipped on my plastic sandals and stuck my wrists through the slot to be cuffed. The guards led Abigail and me back to the front desk, where we traded our cups and spoons for our street clothes, and were led into separate holding cells to change and wait to be officially released. Finally the cell opened and I was free. Chris was just walking up towards the entrance as I walked outside and I ran into his arms like I hadn't seen him in a year. Even though the night hadn't been THAT rough, I burst into tears anyway, just from the pure relief at being back in the outside world. We drove home and I relayed the stories and colorful cast of characters I had met, and I went home, ate dinner, and got ready for another week of work before returning for another 9 weekends.

Surprisingly (or maybe not), the next 9 weeks got easier to bear as they went on. I made more friends and by the final weekend, May 23, I knew that Caroline would be waiting for me to come in on Saturday and have a spot saved for me on the floor next to her bottom bunk. She also bought me a crossword book with her "canteen" money (same as commissary, from what I could tell), made me some homemade ear plugs, and let me borrow one of her (clean) sports bras every weekend. Another "weekender," Amy, would save me some of her imitation Kool-Aid flavor packets to mix with water (so I could drink something besides the watered-down lemonade that was served at every meal). I learned how to play various card games (and kicked ass at most of them, if I might add). I met Heidi, who knew Chris' aunt & boyfriend (and we found that we had similar experiences as well, so the combination of the two gave us a LOT to talk about). What's sad is that I heard she passed away (from an OD) shortly after she got out, which made me so sad, because she was only 26, had a young daughter, and had talked about getting her life back together... but I know how hard it is for addicts. I was lucky that I got out when I did. I met a 6' Amazonian named Christi who was locally famous (or, infamous) for doing something unspeakable to her child (yet she was super nice to all of us, interestingly enough). I met a girl named Rebecca with whom I had gone to high school (and, as it turned, out, who had married the best friend of my high school crush!). We had a lice scare my last day and everybody had to take showers with specially medicated shampoo (although, I didn't think it looked like lice, I didn't use the shampoo and nothing ever came out of it - in my opinion, they kept it WAY too cold in there for lice or any bacteria to live!), which at least broke up the monotony of the day. Overall, it was quite an experience, and definitely made me realize how lucky I had been to only have to spend such a short time in there. I do think about those girls often and about how differently things could have gone for us, had we not had the love and support that we did. And I am so grateful for every day that I get to wake up in my own bed, go to work, go shopping, eat real meals, and go to sleep in my own bed, with Chris and our pets, and that alone is enough to make me never want to break any law ever again!

** All names have been changed to protect the (not-so) innocent.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Happy Birthday to Me!

So today is my 34th birthday and there were many things I thought about posting in honor of today. After much debating (and several failed attempts) I finally decided to just list a few things for which I am grateful, that have helped make me into the powerful, strong, intelligent woman I am today (in no particular order):

1. My mother. Lord knows we have not always seen eye to eye (particularly during the teenage years, and then there was that period of time when I was going through some of the darkest moments of my life, during my addiction), but in the end she has ALWAYS come through for me. She's the one who taught me the importance of speaking and writing well, who instilled my love of reading, who took me to the doctor at the smallest sign of injury or illness, who told me to never wear white shoes before Memorial Day or after Labor Day, and who made me realize that being different is special. She helped me find my first gynocologist, get into my first apartment, write my college essay, get over my first boyfriend (albeit not in the most gentle way), and learn the hard way that life isn't always fair - but what doesn't kill you really DOES make you stronger.

2. My fiancé. I talk about him a lot, for good reason. We met at the Bridge Tender (in Wilmington) way back in 2005, when I was 22, fresh out of college, and he was 23. I was a waitress and he was a chef. We were both dating other people (so you can imagine we have an interesting story, but more on that later) but eventually we started dating, and have been ever since (so, for those of you who are bad with math, we are going on our 12th year). Talk about a rocky road! We've been through more in the past decade than most people go through in their entire lives, and then some! He has definitely seen me at my best and worst (particularly during my aforementioned addiction, as he went through it right beside me) and he loves me regardless. He is my best friend, the only person I want to see after a rough day at work, the one person who can cheer me up when I feel like the world is out to get me, the best chef/shopping buddy/jewelry buyer/cuddler that I know, and my soul mate. I would not have made it through everything that I have had he not been by my side.

3. My friend Emily, who has stuck by me all these years. I used to have a lot of friends, back in middle/high school and college, but after all of that is over, then you find out who your REAL friends are. I only have one person in my life that I would call a "true" girlfriend - I've known her since 7th grade and she's seen me through everything - that awkward middle school/puberty phase, my alcoholic-promiscuous phase, my addiction - and she doesn't judge, she just wants the best for me (I know, because I asked her recently if she had any bad feelings about some of the things that I've done, and when she said no, I felt so relieved). Additionally she is a psychotherapist, so she gives great advice and insight when I need it the most!

4.  My "fur-children", Grayson (the Russian Blue cat) and Penelope (the pit bull). They definitely drive me crazy at times, but they definitely bring more joy to my life than not. Grayson typically lays on his daddy (which is one of the cutest things I've ever seen, by the way) but every now and then, he'll creep into my lap and curl up, and I can feel the warmth of his body and his purring, and at that moment, life is always good. As for Penelope, she is definitely an odd bird (she puffs up and acts all "alpha" at times, yet she's terrified of our smoke alarm when it goes off) but, overall, she's a sweet girl who loves us with all of her little doggy heart, and I know she would defend us with her life. They are always happy to see me when I get home (granted, it's usually because they want their evening feeding, but still), and they amuse me to no end when they play and chase each other.

5. 4. My experiences, both good and bad. They have both helped shape me in various ways: I've learned not to touch hot stoves; that karma really is the biggest bitch; that you can't hide from your mistakes (they will always come back to bite you in the ass, usually when you're least expecting it); that I really AM worth it; that I have a VERY addictive personality; that, while I do enjoy socializing, I am an introvert at heart (I think a lot of that stems from growing up as an only child); that, for the most part, other people suck, and the only person you can truly count on is yourself; that I really CAN do anything if I put my mind to it (which can be hard, given my ADHD/biolar/anxiety issues); that the law doesn't always uphold the "innocent until proven guilty" standard; that sometimes you meet the best people when you least expect it; that you have to learn to let go... I could go on and on, but those are the ones that come to mind right now.

6. All my new Bloggesstribe friends (and, of course, TheBloggess herself, Jenny Lawson). I read her books recently and they could not have come into my life at a better time. She writes about her own mental health struggles while maintaining a light, humorous tone, and it really made me feel like I'm not alone in this crazy world. (I know I sound like I'm writing a freaking book review here but it's the truth! If you'v never heard of her, I definitely recommend looking her up and buying all of her books, like, right freaking now.) She has this amazing group of followers on Instagram & Twitter called "TheBloggessTribe" - I am a newbie to this group but have never "met" other people who are as funny, warm, honest, welcoming and all-around unique (in a good way, of course!) as they are. Whenever I log on and scroll through my feed, it always makes me smile to see not only what everyone has posted, but their responses to things I've posted as well. I know I've said it on Twitter but I'm damned lucky to be part of a group this awesome.

7. The little things: sunsets, Thai food, leggings, swimming, holding hands, new shoes, the smell of cookies (or anything) baking, springtime, hiking, doing yoga, thrift stores, espresso, coloring, clean laundry, coloring, taking walks, getting my nails done, binge-watching Netflix (or Hulu), reading to Chris in the car, cooking... the list goes on and on...

Of course, I have much more to be grateful for than that, but those are the first few things that come to mind. All in all, it's been a wonderful year and I realize just how blessed I am to be where and who I am, after everything I've been through. (Again, more on that later.) About to spend a nice, quiet evening with my man - here's to another 34 wonderful years!