Recent Reads

by Grace Ko in ,


My childhood friend, Christine has a blog (one I’ve been a big fan of for years). Not only does she beautifully capture her life, her family and her adventures, she has a series called “What I’m Reading” that serves as a constant inspiration for more reading, which I always welcome.

Lately, I’ve found myself talking incessantly about a book I recently finished. So rather than talking off the ears of any friends that will listen, I thought I’d do my own version of “What I’m Reading”.

Rich People Problems, by Kevin Kwan

This year, I began listening to books on Audible and boy, has it been the best thing ever! This one was one I listened to. It’s the third book in the Crazy Rich Asians triology. Ever since I read Crazy Rich Asians and heard it was going to be made into a movie, I anxiously awaited for it to premiere here in Korea. With a little one, it’s not always easy to find the opportunity to catch a showing but Y and I made it happen before they stopped showing it here in Korea. Since, I have listened to China Rich Girlfriend and most recently, Rich People Problems. It was hilarious, having me chuckle to myself, legit laugh out loud. There was a hint of mystery and suspense but nothing too crazy. I enjoy the details of fashion, jewelry and travels interwoven in Kevin Kwan’s books. This book left me desperately wanting to travel to Singapore.

The Gratitude Diaries, by Janice Kaplan

I found out about this book through one of my favorite YouTubers, MKTV. (She’s a famous lecturer/motivational speaker here in Korea and I’ve been recently watching a lot of her videos for inspiration but also to study Korean.) Janice Kaplan embarks on a year-long gratitude project and shares how it changed her life. This book was the perfect mixture of research and anecdotes. I thoroughly enjoyed it and felt challenged by her personal stories. Gratitude, like any practice, takes just that, practice. But once we begin to build that gratitude muscle, it becomes easier and easier. And it can literally changes your body, your health! And the best thing? Gratitude is contagious! This is the book I’ve been nonstop talking about to many around me and I don’t think I’ll stop anytime soon. (More posts about Gratitude to come!)

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, by J.K. Rowling

This is one I’m currently listening to. But technically, it’s a re-read. It’s a perfect fit for the season with October (and Halloween) approaching. I have a confession. I never finished reading/watching the Harry Potter series. And every time I mean to, I tell myself I’ll start from the beginning to do it “justice”. So here it goes! I love this world that J.K. Rowling created. I’m curious as to what it’ll be like to reread this as an adult.

*** [If you have read any of these, let me know your thoughts! Also, feel free to share any book recommendations! Comment on the post!]


Seasons

by Grace Ko


I’m sure I’ve mentioned it here before but I’m just going to say it again. I love Fall. Like, butterflies-in-my-stomach, I get giddy inside, love. I love everything about it. I love the change of seasons, that first taste of the cool fall air that beckons me to pull out a cozy cardigan to curl up in. I love cooking a big pot of chili. I love fall-scented candles. But recently, I realized I love the newness of it all. Fall triggers a nostalgia within me that reminds me of a new school year, a clean slate, a fresh start and new beginnings.

I write this sipping on my homemade pumpkin spice latte. Albeit not the same as a cafe-made PSL, I’ve been desperately trying to replicate Northeast fall vibes here.

My PSL, fall vibes blanket, and October bullet journal spread inspo c/o  amandarachlee

My PSL, fall vibes blanket, and October bullet journal spread inspo c/o amandarachlee

J in his newly thrifted outfit and our new fall wreath!

J in his newly thrifted outfit and our new fall wreath!

Fall food that will be on rotation: chili & apple crumble

Fall food that will be on rotation: chili & apple crumble

With the change of season upon us, it got me thinking about seasons in relationships. I started off this year with high hopes for certain relationships to blossom and grow. I began dreaming big and hoping. But only recently did I realize that as the year begins to wind down, it just hasn’t panned out as I had anticipated. And I had to come to terms with it this morning. I allowed myself time to journal and process my thoughts out of the disappointment, and maybe even a bit of hurt. The voice of shame began to creep in, the ones that tell you you’re not enough. But then, I decided to shift gears and remind myself of all that I have to be grateful for.

People come and go. Relationships change.

This isn’t something my younger self would’ve anticipated. But I’m learning it’s all a part of life.

When I first moved to Korea, a friend of mine came and spent as much time with me as she could. Later, she told me she was intentional about that time because she knew it would be but for a season. She knew that we would both branch out and have our respective responsibilities and relationships to pour into, so while she could, she poured into ours. What a blessing she is, my wise, wise friend.

All I can do is stay intentional and connected to those in my life now, and remain grateful.


J at 31 months

by Grace Ko


I blinked and J is now 31 months. What?!

I thought toddlerhood would be a nightmare (all those stories of “The Terrible Twos'“). But it’s been relatively smooth-sailing (crossing my fingers) and a WHOLE lot of fun.

the first day it felt like fall, we pulled out his dinosaur sweatshirt

the first day it felt like fall, we pulled out his dinosaur sweatshirt

J is quite entertaining at 31 months. He’s even more full of life, expression and energy. He’s overflowing of curiosity, brimming with questions. Currently, this looks like a lot of “Why"? I am amazed at how much he soaks in and has learned. I’m also humbled as to how little I seem to know and how much I struggle to answer his Why questions.

At 31 months, he loves ice cream, his current obsessions are dinosaurs and most recently, mummies. We were gifted a collection of National Geographic books from my cousin and one day, he picked up the one on mummies. What started as a mixture of trepidation and hesitancy has now become an infatuation with the book. Last night, J and daddy played “Mummy” where my resourceful husband took some toilet paper and wrapped him up in it. (We saved the toilet paper to use later.)

magnatiles + dinosaurs

magnatiles + dinosaurs

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One of the biggest developments in our household has been that J is now potty-trained and sleeps in his big boy bed! These are big milestones, people! BIG!

It’s a funny thing, how kids just do things when they’re ready. I had been trying to potty train him for months but one day, he just didn’t want to wear a diaper so I put underwear on him, we went out to a doctor’s appointment, and at the pharmacy, I asked him if he needed to pee and he said yes so I took him to a public restroom and just like that, he went pee outside of the house for the first time!

With sleeping in his big boy bed, we made it a big deal. Leading up to the transition, we stumbled across a book, The Berenstein Bears “A New Baby”. Granted it’s about a new sibling coming into the picture, a majority of the plot was about Small Bear growing out of his bed and getting a new bed. So we ran with it. J helped clean the room and get it ready for the bed, he helped daddy move the bed into the room, we went together to pick out bedding (dinosaurs, of course).

Since learning to sleep on his own, each morning he wakes up and shouts out, “엄마! 아빠! 혼자 잤어!” (“Mom! Dad! I slept by myself!”) It’s really the cutest thing watching him feel so proud of himself.

I’m learning that parenting is a lot of watching and waiting and learning from our children. My sweet, sensitive, compassionate little man has been a source of great encouragement and inspiration - praying for dead bird, praying for mommy and daddy to give him a baby.

This week, I’ll be holding down the fort by myself as Y goes off on an adventure. Part of me is worried but a small part of me knows I should relish one-on-one quality time with my little man. Here’s to a week, just you and me, bud!


On grief

by Grace Ko


“Grief has many faces,” my dad once told me. And true it is, indeed.

One moment, you’re going along, just fine. The next, it hits you like a ton of bricks. Your heart aches, it physically hurts and you feel like life is so cruel that it would go on, business as usual.

These past few weeks, I’ve grappled with a slew of emotions and thoughts…

J served as the best kind of distraction, a trip to Busan was necessary for my soul but returning to the “real world” felt daunting. The quiet, the stillness of my life here in Pyeongtaek, usually such a blessing, felt like a curse, a prison of my own thoughts and feelings.

How do you even begin grieving losing someone? How am I supposed to process the many feelings that accompany grief: anger, guilt, sorrow, hopelessness, fear. Why didn’t I tell him how much he meant to me, that he was like a brother? How do you come to terms with the fact that “Life goes on”? How do you embrace life in the midst of loss?

I’ve felt so conflicted to keep going, to stay strong, to remain present and to live on in remembrance of him but feeling so raw, so broken. When the pain begins flooding my heart, I want it to go away but I cling to it, not wanting my memories of him to go with it.

 

I don’t have the answers.

I won’t ever have the answers.

And maybe that’s just it. So I cling to the Cross, to the One who knows infinitely more the weight of death, the value of life, to the Friend who knows our pain, our hurt, our brokenness and embraces us as we are.

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Regret

by Grace Ko


The other night, Y and I had a “date night in” of sorts. The kind where you put the baby down and then sneak off to the living room and turn it into your own oasis. This night, it was movie night. We popped open a can of beer and shared it while we browsed the plethora of options Netflix had to offer. We ultimately decided on “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before”. (Yes, I’m a bit late to the party.) But to say that I loved this movie would be a gross understatement.

I don’t know if it was the incredible chemistry between the actors or the reliability of Lara Jean’s character. Okay, fine, it sure didn’t hurt that Peter Kavinsky, played by Nick Centineo is a TOTAL cutie (I’ve confessed this fact to my husband…)

But what I wasn’t expecting was how hard I was hit with a sense of nostalgia. It whisked me back to my high school days. (Not because the plot was similar to my life. It wasn’t.) But maybe that was exactly it. It was so different from my life in high school that it felt refreshing. It was empowering to see an Asian-American female protagonist, not ticking off the list of the stereotypical images of an Asian woman. The plot wasn’t one where the girl had to “change” to win over the heart of the ever-so popular jock. He just fell for her because of who she is. It was one of those movies that I wish I had grown up watching.

Growing up in a mostly White, affluent town, I was definitely a minority and I felt it on many levels every day. In the subtle and the not-so-subtle ways. Not only did I look different but I felt different. There were seasons my mom worked multiple jobs to make ends meet and my dad pastored a church while pursuing his doctorate studies. We didn’t own a McMansion like many of my classmates did. We didn’t even own a property. I didn’t even have my own room.

From an early age, somewhere along the way, I had picked up the message that I was not “desired” because I thought I wasn’t as pretty, smart, funny, tall, curvy, witty, athletic as my White counterparts.

So I just resorted to walking the narrow path, sticking to my studies, living my straight-edged Churched life. I floated between friendship groups and didn’t venture out to parties or many social gatherings and sure as hell didn’t date for most of my high school years.

I’ve been listening to Trevor Noah’s “Born a Crime”. And recently, a passage hit me like a ton of bricks.

I don’t regret anything I’ve ever done in life, any choice that I’ve made. But I’m consumed with regret for the things I didn’t do, the choices I didn’t make, the things I didn’t say. We spend so much time being afraid of failure, afraid of rejection. But regret is the thing we should fear most. Failure is an answer. Rejection is an answer. Regret is an eternal question you will never have the answer to. “What if…” “If only…” “I wonder what would have…” You will never, never know, and it will haunt you for the rest of your days.

- Trevor Noah, Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood

I was walking on the treadmill at the gym when I listened to this excerpt. And I had to stop because I was flooded with regret. I started recalling things I had long forgotten about.

And it then dawned on me why “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” hit me so hard. See, there was a boy. We’ll call him Peter for fun. He was a grade below me but he was tall, handsome, fun, funny, athletic, musical. And he was my friend. He used to walk with me to class, we would stop to talk briefly at our lockers. He was basically my Peter Kavinsky. And I wanted to ask him to my senior prom. One day, a friend of mine asked me who I was thinking of asking to prom. I responded saying, “Oh I was thinking of asking Peter.” That’s when she said, this other girl in my grade (we’ll call her Amanda) was going to ask him. So… I didn’t ask him.

Why did I think it was my responsibility to accommodate Amanda?
Why did her desire to ask Peter triumph mine?
Why didn’t I stand up for myself and tell my friend that I wanted to and that I was going to ask him?"
Why didn’t I give Peter the choice of choosing?

Probably because I feared rejection. Probably because I didn’t want to confirm in my heart the assumption I had had all along, that I was not “desired”. Maybe I even thought that because Peter was White, he wouldn’t want to go with me, because I’m Asian. (I know it sounds far-fetched but I think if I’m honest, there was a part of me that genuinely believed this.)

In college, I studied French for the first two years. I qualified to apply for Junior Year Abroad in France. And I accepted but under the condition that I study the French language over the summer to prepare myself for a full year abroad studying all of my academic courses in French. And guess what I did?

I backed down. I ended up going to London for a semester (I don’t regret going abroad. I’m glad I still got myself to study abroad) but I still wonder… if I hadn’t backed down, would I have become fluent in French? I’ll never know. Because I gave up even before trying.

Why did watching an innocent chick flick spiral me down such a rabbit hole? Why is my choice of prom date haunting me when I’m happily married with a beautiful family and life? Why does this even matter?

I’m not sure. But regret sucks. It’s uncomfortable. It makes you feel raw and exposed. It feels gross and I want to do what I can to minimize feeling it from here on out.

It got me thinking… “How do I live a life without regret?” I don’t have an answer. But I do think gratitude has something to do with it. But so does not letting fear dictate your actions or inaction.

As a reminder to myself, this is a working list of things I won’t ever regret:

  • spending quality time with loved ones

  • making time to care for and love myself

  • being vulnerable to those who have earned my vulnerability stories (Brene Brown)

  • working out

  • trusting in God