Floaties.

 

The Florida sun had descended and left a deep jet-blue sky littered with sparkling stars. We were in our vacation home’s warm pool, my dad and I with my husband and our 10 year-old and 6 year-old daughters. My mother had taken my 2 year-old to bed.
As my dad came up from his pool-length swim, he shook the water off and gazed over to my daughters. They were splashing around with the pool floaties we had bought for them on this spring break trip. He waded over to me and began telling me the story of the floaties. You see, my parents (and so many other fellow Hmong families) came here to the USA during the early 1980’s as refugees. After a horrific war in Vietnam where the Hmong aided the US, the Hmong were hunted after the US pulled out. To escape persecution, they left the remains of their villages and traveled miles at night through the jungles of western Laos in hopes to find some safety in the neighboring Thailand. But in order to get to Thailand, they had to cross the mighty Mekong River that divided the two countries. The Mekong can be three quarters of a mile wide. Many Hmong do not know how to swim. Especially at night, quietly as to not alert soldiers. And that’s where the floaties came in. My father said only the families that could afford the floaties had that luxury. And even then, it was reserved for the elderly or children. That evening as we watched my children pull and spin each other in that Florida pool, he talked about the process of blowing up the floaties and tying them onto a string. He talked about how his hands shook and how his body was so numb with fear he didn’t recall if the river was cold. He talked about how as he was the only member of his family group that was able to swim, he pulled his mother, my mother, and a nephew across the river in the dark. He talked about how many families didn’t make it.
He talked about families getting shot at or drowning and making it to the Thailand shore with only 1 or 2 members. Or just 1-2 limbs.
He talked about families that swam for miles and miles to reach the same shore they left.
He talked about how babies had to be drugged up so they wouldn’t make any noise. And how many of those babies never woke up.
He talked about how men surrendered so their mothers, wives, and daughters wouldn’t be raped.
This is a story I have heard so many times before growing up.
But it was something in this instance that made it all the more…real. Raw. Gut-retching.
Here I was sitting in a heated pool on vacation with my oblivious children and…my parents and so many others had gone through this traumatic, heartbreaking experience.
So that I could sit here in a heated pool on vacation with my oblivious children one day…………………………………
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And I have never felt more foolish. More thankful. More humbled.
And in awe of my parents and my fellow Hmong people.
#neverforgetwhereyoucamefrom
Until next time,
-M

Running under water.

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Remember when you were a kid and you and your friend decided to “race” each other in the swimming pool by running under the water? Your legs ran and ran but your body remained in the same area? That pretty much sums up my life lately. There’s so much I want to do (get this blog going, record the podcast, etc) but I have to be honest with myself: It just is not going to happen. Now.

With a full-time job, new house, three girls (one of whom is a busy toddler), husband who works weekends, and minimal child-care help, surviving the days is all I can do at the moment. And I’m working on being okay with that. All these ideas in this head will just have to brew for a while.

Until next time,

-M

You never outgrow your parents?

My parents are moving out of state. I am devastated. I am almost 31 years old.

They had been talking about moving for some time now. Empty-nesters, they no longer were tied down to a job. They wanted to be somewhere warmer. Doing something on their own terms. I get it. After raising my younger sister and I, they totally deserve to do what they want for once. At least that’s what the adult-me is saying.

The child-me is saying “Why are you leaving? Don’t leave me! I need you.”

Now I’m with a loving partner, mother to three girls, homeowner, and a helping professional. I should be fine. And I will be fine. But there is that part of me that is panicking a little.

Oye. We never outgrow the need for our parents, huh?

-M

On knowing you will be tended to…

It was a late weekend afternoon. I was in the bedroom of our small Fresno apartment cutting up a piece of paper. My parents were in the living room, the blinds were open, and the California sun was beginning its descend for the day.

And I remember feeling warm. Not warm as in I was physically hot but warm as in happy, fulfilled, and content. I wanted to continue cutting and pasting but my hands were getting heavy and sore. I had been playing for a while. As an only child at the time, I spent a lot of time playing independently.

I remember laying my head down on the bed while still holding onto my scissors. The pile of paper was scratching my knees and made crunchy sounds each time I shifted to get more comfortable. I remember closing my eyes in amidst of all of that knowing that my mom or dad would find me, remove the scissors and scraps of paper, and tuck me in.

When I awoke, it happened just as that. By this time, it was nighttime and the only light I could see was from the living room lamp creeping through the door crack. My hands were empty and my knees felt sweaty underneath the comforter that someone had put on me.

It is this early, nurturing memory that I carry with me and recall warmly each time I find my children asleep. It is the great experience on knowing that you will be tended to. That someone cares for you and will come find you and make sure you are alright even when you aren’t aware. That someone is thinking of you and carrying you in their mind even when you aren’t present with them. And I thank my parents for providing me with this and allowing me to pass on this care to my children, their grandchildren. Throughout my childhood, I have endured some traumatic events at the hands of my parents (as I will write on this blog) however,  it does not discount some of the nurturing memories they have given me. The negative experiences I received, I strive daily to overcome but it is those warm, tender gestures that I use to give me the strength to carry on and love.

-M

Grief. Loss. Shock.

Image Like most people, I have experienced death in my life. Grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins have all passed away; young and old. I have a wardrobe of jet-black for the occassion. I know where all the Hmong funeral homes are in the state. I’ve traveled acros the country for services. I know of the general funeral practices. But goodness. Nothing prepared me for the death of my step-grandmother this past holiday season.

The funny thing is is that we were not that close. We were close in the sense that at family gatherings, we would greet one another and make small catch-up talk or she would hug my girls and remark how big they have gotten. But we weren’t close like talking-every-day-and-me-dropping-by-for-a-visit close.

Still. She was my grandmother. She had been my only living grandmother on my side for quite some time. It was comforting to be acknowledged by her. To see her gently teasing my girls in the way grandmothers do. To simply be in her presence at family functions.

And her sudden death (in her sleep), a day before our family Thanksgiving, definitely made it harder.

I realized I’ve been in a trance-like state since her death and funeral. I feel like with the hustle and bustle of the planning and doing, I haven’t had an opportunity to reflect and grieve. It’s been go, go, go.

So I’m finally grieving now. Almost two months since her death, almost two weeks since her service and burial. For instance, while editing her service photos, I even wondered for a second why there were pictures of everyone there but not her.

I’m still in shock and disbelief. It is true that we all grieve in our own ways and grief comes in all forms.

-M

the importance of revisitng your past.

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I attended a workshop today for work. It was about how grief and loss plays out in the behaviors of children who have experienced trauma. And what really stuck out to me was the quote above from the speaker. It has been what I have known all along but for some reason today, it really hit me.

I cannot move forward until I deal with my past. I cannot be the person I want to be until I deal with my past. I have psychological wounds that are still hurting. If I am 28 years old and can be taken back to the pain I felt when I was 4 years old with the slightest sounds and smells, obviously something is not right here. It’s not healthy and not fair to myself nor to my family and clients.

Just venting tonight. End vent.

-M