Status

Do I have something on my face? Oh wait, it’s just me.

facing life

It’s Friday, Precious Readers!

I can’t begin to tell you how happy I am about that. For those who follow me on Facebook and are a part of my Facebook Group: Katherine Bacher’s Happy Hour (hint hint), you may already know that this has been a week from the seventh circle of hell.

After weeks of (not) adjusting to our new neighbors’ schedule, we are pretty much sure our new neighbors are drug dealers and/or gang members. For longtime followers of this blog, you will know that often, the life of an author is not glamorous or even lucrative. We write because we love to do it. It’s not for the money or the fame. I write because it’s what I was born to do. I would write even if I was never published. (I’ve written this blog for over 5 years, so what does that tell you?) However, due to not having achieved 100% world domination, I still live in an apartment in a ghetto area of Washington State. This includes dealing with people who choose to make less lawful-based career decisions. Due to my neighbors’ nocturnal and nefarious activities, my husband Pilot and I have not had a good night’s sleep in several weeks.

To help report this activity to local police and to our landlord, my husband setup a camera to take photographs every 5 seconds. The video footage was quite astounding, showing over 10 cars coming by and being met by our neighbors (after 11:50 pm, mind you) within the first few minutes of footage (first full 10 minutes of recording.) This continued on from 11:50 pm well into the wee hours of Monday morning at 5:30 am. I wish I was kidding, but my lack of Z’s is proof otherwise. An unexpected result of recording through the night added to our stress: my car was broken into on Monday morning around 3:30 am. On the plus side, the perpetrator got The Cranberry’s door unlocked and partway open instead of busting the window open. Which happened last year. And, several other times to both Pilot and I before. Between both Pilot’s and my vehicle combined, this will be the 6th time our cars has been broken into while living in this apartment complex.

To add insult to injury, that same Monday, Pilot’s car battery died in the middle of the day. He managed to get it charged, but it died again around 5:30pm Monday, requiring meeting him at his stranded location, dealing with tow trucks, and dropping the hunk of metal with a mechanic. It is still currently at the mechanic’s, who informed us his vehicle, War Machine, needs a new alternator and an entire new electrical system. So there’s that.

This can take a toll on a person’s sanity. Operating on 1 vehicle is difficult for two workaholics like Pilot and myself, but the morning commute has been filled with quiet laughter together while both of us trying not to take our frustration with life out on each other.

One thing that has gone by the wayside is my personal self-care. While I still have several things to follow-up with (the mechanic, the local police, our landlord, and now attempting to find a new place to live as we consider vacating the apartment we’ve called “home” for the last 8 years and our entire marriage), I plan to make time for some rest and rejuvenation this weekend.

Speaking of rejuvenation, I take the time to fill out surveys, in Hopes of products suited to me will fill the shelves. Plus, it’s a great time passer.

I was asked to take a survey today about facial skin care. The survey did not provide a progress bar (which annoys the heck out of me), and ended up being more in-depth and scientific about the product itself rather than just “do you like label A or B?” The experience ended up making me face a mental mirror about a deeply rooted insecurity and fear that I was unaware of floating around in my psyche.

While filling out this survey, a sense of dread bloomed into a dark, gray cloud that hovered over my head for a good half hour after completing it.

welcome to your face

Those nearest and dearest to me know that I have an above-average concern regarding sun exposure. Living in the Pacific Northwest means that sun exposure is limited compared to other parts of the country, but it can actually be more dangerous for PNW dwellers than your average Californian. So many of our days are gray and overcast that many in the PNW do not wear sunblock leading to spots, advanced skin aging, and the looming skin cancer. I don’t know if it’s in my Asian DNA or mental paranoia, but I fight the sun like a mother f-ing heavyweight champion. (Insert favorite fat joke here, says fat blogger.) Although I don’t wear sunblock everyday (longtime readers know I am not a morning person), I do my best to wear it when I know I will be outside for extended periods of time. I’m better at keeping my arms covered, I wear my Bubble Run hat or travel (crush-able) visor, and weirdo that I am, I wear driving gloves to keep my hands sort-of youthful looking (thanks to a lovely requested Christmas gift from my Mom. Thanks Mom!). I tend to splurge on facial products and nail products. This includes night creams and daily moisturizer with SPF. I have a gentle scrub face wash, toner, moisturizer, and a night cream.

This concern did not appear once I hit adulthood. In fact, when I was in elementary school, I was often getting in trouble with the summer day camp teachers for taking too long putting on sunblock before going outside to play. I would use the mirror in the playhouse area to make sure I covered my ears, got the back of my neck and shoulders, etc. Yes, even as young as eight years old, I was concerned about sun exposure and skin care. This is not due to me burning. In my youth, I tanned mostly, probably due to the huge amounts of sunblock I was using. I didn’t get my first sunburn until I was about 19 years old during an unfortunate misunderstanding of how long we would be on Boeing Field for an airshow during the first year of Pilot and I dating.

However, that’s not what I wanted to talk about with you. While answering questions such as Do you look for anti-aging features? or the ever popular women’s questions about concerns over eye sagging and wrinkling, I was confronted with what was my actual fear? Yes, of course, no one wants skin cancer, but this was more than that. I asked myself why I was so concerned about aging beyond my irrational thanatophobia.

Here was my revelation:

I have no idea what I will look like as I age.

I can hear you thinking right now: What the heck is she talking about? None of us know what we’re going to look like as we get older.

Here’s my rebuttal: Actually, yes, most of you do.

(Most of) You have family members you can reference where you got your looks from. Perhaps you’re a “Mini Me” of your parents. Maybe your family’s DNA caused looks to skip a generation and you look like your great grandparents. It could be a situation where you look more like your extended family. My husband is the youngest of three children in his family. My husband looks the most like his father in height, stretched build, and facial features, except he has his mother’s eyes and hair color. His sister has their dad’s height, but looks the most like their mother. Pilot’s brother doesn’t look like either of his siblings, is the shortest of the three (while still tall), has a slightly stockier build that comes from their mother’s side of the family, darker hair, and in looks he is almost a twin of one of their first cousins.

Maybe you have your uncle’s nose and your grandparent’s build. Maybe you have your mother’s eyes and your father’s ears.

For me, this is what I know about myself:
I’m Korean.

That’s ALL I know, and whether that’s 100% Korean is yet to be determined.

I don’t know if I look like my biological father. I don’t know if I look like my biological mother. I don’t know if looks skipped a generation and I look like one or a combination of my grandparents. The unknown is scary. There’s probably some additional tie ins with my Type-A personality about “control issues” due to so much uncertainty in my infantile year(s) and lack of control over the future of my body, but I don’t feel like opening that Pandora’s box anytime soon.

This is going to sound weird, but sometimes I forget that I am Asian. The world sees me as such, but to me, I grew up as a suburban, “white” American, of German descent. Sometimes I’m actually still surprised when I look in the mirror and I see a change in my face. This was exceptionally confusing when I was just hitting puberty as a teen, watching my small, cherubic face lengthen, my height extend, etc. I had nothing to reference from. Every change was a surprise and I had no frame of reference while experiencing it.

About a year ago, I noticed a brown speck near the base of my palm, smaller than the head of a pin. I thought it was a piece of dirt and proceeded to flick it off.

It didn’t.

I realized it was a brown spot that had appeared on my skin and IT WAS PERMANENT.

While this wasn’t earth-shattering news, or a symbol of something more unhealthy going on, it was a realization that I am well into my 30’s and not getting any younger, and that if I wanted my face to be even close to resembling what I know it to be in this moment in time, I needed to up my game from daily SPF moisturizer and face washing. (Hence the night cream(s).)

All I know about Asian aging is that we age slower than some other ethnicities, but we also have delicate skin. I have the hooded (flat) eyelid, so my eyelids may be prone to drooping as time goes on. I may develop jowls and end up looking like a Korean Winston Churchill. Maybe I’ll develop osteoporosis, which is more prevalent in aging Asians than other races, or shrink down an entire foot as I age. I’ve already lost some hair on the top of my head near my forehead. To be fair, I think that was resulting of a medical condition that is now more under control… but it hasn’t grown back.

Most people who are 60+ years in age say that they sometimes don’t recognize the person in the mirror facing back at them. I can genuinely say that the person I meet in 30 years will most likely be a complete stranger to me unless I do my best preventive and maintenance methods, that I can afford to do, right now.

It was one of those psychological jabs poking insecurity into my brain, causing a moment of that loneliness that reveals itself to me from time-to-time, making me feel different than my family, different from my friends, different from my own celebrated German-American heritage. I experience the following jabs:

  • I’m a phony
  • I don’t belong with my family
  • I’m not a “real” Asian
  • I’m not a “real” American
  • I’m not a “real” anything
  • I don’t deserve to celebrate my American and German roots

Another thing that pops into my brain, as a woman, I have no idea what my children would look like. If I had married an Asian man, I would be able to say my children will look Asian and most won’t question that they’re my or my husband’s kids.

Even though it’s 2018, there are still many who frown upon interracial marriage. White supremacy gangs are the leading type of gang activity in Washington State, and despite living on the coastal side of it, there are still areas where Pilot and I will encounter hate and/or racism merely for looking the way that I do. It’s rare, and the situations are few and far between, but they do happen.

I have, what I feel is, a legitimate fear that if Pilot and I were to have children, chances are they’re going to look mostly Asian instead of Caucasian. Based on other Asian/Caucasian couples that I know and have met who have children, their kids tend to take on more Asian features than their Caucasian parent counterparts. (The Asian genes are incredibly strong.) I fear that if Pilot and I were to have children, and he’s watching them by himself, that someone will call CPS on them fearing he’s kidnapping them. Or that a stranger will make a comment that may hurt my husband and/or those children because of ignorance, hate, or a misunderstanding. I don’t look forward to those questions, potential tears, and conversations of having to explain human stupidity to a child in a way that they understand and doesn’t hurt them further.

My parents had to give me a lot of educational and grown up discussions about adoption, racism, what it means to be a family, parenting, the parent-child dynamic, etc., probably far more discussions than the average family about us: What could/could not be said at home versus in public, how to act when meeting people for the first time as a family, how to make sure that I am always making that extra effort to make sure that I keep the offender comfortable after they’ve insulted me, my intelligence, my race, my assumed heritage, my actual heritage, and whatnot. I never remember them offhand, but something will trigger one — a comment someone said, witnessing institutional racism, seeing a parent of interracial children get questioned, etc. and I remember a certain “family meeting” I had shared with my parents for whatever ridiculous screwed up thing had happened that day in my childhood. I do have hope that maybe the world will change into a less racially charged place where it’s not assumed that children of a different appear race to the adult means that the kids were “rescued” or “kidnapped,” depending on how the offender is feeling that day.

I had no idea that a survey about face cream would stir up all several emotions that I haven’t felt in… well, frankly, in almost twenty years. I suppose I could look at it from a different perspective: I get to meet someone new in the mirror about every 10 years who likes and hates all of the same stuff that I do. If Pilot and I were to have kids, maybe they’ll take on features of both him and I so I won’t have to try to guess who they look like.

Probably a bit heavier for a Friday post, but why not throw out an existential question for the weekend? While War Machine is in the shop and Pilot uses my car, The Cranberry to meet with clients for work, maybe I’ll spend a nice quiet Saturday using one of those home facial masks.

TGIF everyone!
– KB

did I mention that I’m traveling to Korea? (South Korea. the good one.) / Japan is kawaii

“Making kawaii stuff, watching Studio Ghibli films,
looking through Netflix for good anime…
Hi, my name is Katie, and I’m obsessed with Japan.
Oh, and did I mention I’m traveling to Korea?”

~ Katherine Bacher

Happy Spring, Precious Readers! (And, Erin go Bragh!)

(Wow, an entire sentence with all capitalized words. I think that’s a new one for this blog.)

First up, complete transparency:
I’ve never kept it a secret that Pilot and I are not wealthy people. I didn’t have the funds to keep my domain up and running the last few months. I apologize for making it seem like this blog was dead. It wasn’t. Think of it as being in winter hibernation.

Second, quick catch up:
As I wrote in my last two blogs, I had just begun working at a high school. Now that it’s MARCH, clearly I’ve dusted off my rookie wings and am beginning to truly learn how to fly. Due to enjoying the perks of my new job, that did include paychecks. Unfortunately, the paychecks had to go directly to some bills instead of this.  Life priorities always seem to get in the way. (Why, oh why can we not just recreate the barter system?) During that time, I’ve been able to assist the students in participating with school morale boosting events. One of which was “What Makes Me Happy?”

(…aaaand there’s the second sentence with entirely capitalized words. I’m on a roll!)

Lastly, the purpose of this blog post today:
Each staff member was provided with a piece of paper saying “What makes ____ happy,” asking each of us to populate the sheet with our name and a list of things that bring joy to our life. Our particular district has suffered due to previously mentioned lock downs, along with heartrending news of several children committing suicide or killed in gang fights.

Yes, I’m serious.

In the last 1.5 years, our district has suffered a minimum of 4 child suicides. One was as young as an eighth grader. It’s horrifying, sad, and makes me wonder how it was possible for an eighth grader to feel so alone. That they felt their only choice was a permanent solution to what might have been a temporary problem.  (Not an easy problem to solve, but most likely temporary.)

I ask you, Precious Readers, to be respectful of those who have suffered loss and not provoke each other. Instead, let us always keep this blog as an area of uplifting and supporting each other. That’s the culture I try to leave behind as I wake each morning. I hope you do as well.

Back to the story:
As you can imagine, after suffering those losses, we amplified not only positive morale boosting activities among our schools, but also to make our staff reveal ourselves as human and approachable. II sat looking at this sheet. Some of my coworkers had already completed theirs, making long lists of written words such as
family, friends, bacon, etc.

Let me tell you something: Kids have short attention spans. With our world ever evolving towards instantaneous gratification, their attention span is even shorter than previous generations. What kid is going to want to spend 5 minutes reading an entire written list by an adult they hardly know? Not many. I looked at my sheet and decided to go a different direction. I found images and obvious symbolism of things I was interested. Since I embrace my inner nerd here, I embraced my inner nerd for the project. After arranging photos, a pattern emerged.

My inner ego is obsessed with Japan. I don’t watch a lot of anime, but I probably watch more than your average person. I have never dressed up and gone to Sakura Con. I have friends who have never heard of or watched anime in their life. I fall somewhere in between.

I’m obsessed with Hayao Miyazaki/Studio Ghibli films. If you haven’t heard of him, he created animated family favorites like My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Howl’s Moving Castle (LOVE), Princess Mononoke, recently, The Secret World of Arriety, and currently in theaters Only Yesterday. (For Washingtonians, this means in Seattle at SIFF.) In fact, I’m seeing Only Yesterday this weekend with gal pal, “Caring.” Maybe you’ll spot me.

Why the Japanese culture fandom? If you’ve read this blog before, you know I’m an only child. (This blog is a perfect testament to my “Only Child Syndrome” condition of loving to talk about myself and having an internal dialogue that often becomes an audible dialogue of my thoughts.) To help pay for school, and additionally for my socialization needs, my family hosted several exchange students. 28 to be exact. Most were from different areas of Japan, with only 5 out of the 28 being from elsewhere of the world. (Stories for another day.)

Keep in mind, we hosted students from when I was a toddler through my junior year of high school. That is a LOT of students over the course of a LONG period of time. Since most were from Japan, I learned quite a bit not only about their culture and language, but at a young age was exposed to awesome shows that few 90’s kids spent time watching. Sailor Moon and Voltron were a couple of personal favorites. More commonly known Speed Racer was a greatly admired show during the 80’s/90’s.

Did you enjoy the Speed Racer movie? I liked their adaptation, but the constant spinning and Lisa Frank rainbow/neon style of palette made me horribly nauseous during the film. And I go on rollercoasters for fun.

Caring and I recently discovered we had a mutual love of Studio Ghibli films. She and her sister are such fans, they even give the proper pronunciation of Totoro. I hope to save up the funds to purchase the Studio Ghibli collector’s box containing every film they’ve created.

I’m also a fan of kawaii things. For those who don’t know what “kawaii” means “cute” in Japanese. It’s a term encompassing all things adorable. Think cupcakes with smiley faces.

One of my bucket list locations to travel to is Japan. Ride the bullet train, hike on Mt. Fuji, and of course, enjoy the light, fresh cuisine they’re known for. It will be some time before Pilot and I get to enjoy Japan, but I hope to go someday. But in the meantime… I’ll settle for:

KATIE’S BIG SUMMER ADVENTURE!

A dream has come true, Precious Readers! This year, Pilot and I will be flying across the world to South Korea! It all started with a documentary.

Once upon a November in 2015…

Pilot and I were having a quiet Thursday night, trying to decide what to watch from our Netflix queue. (Yes, “queue.” There’s an extra “-ue” in there.) Some time ago, I’d been told to watch a documentary called “Twinsters.” I won’t provide spoilers here, but it’s a real life documentary about Korean Adoptees. (There’s WAY more to that film, but I don’t want to give anything away.)

I had actually avoided this documentary for a few months, unsure if I would appreciate the content. Several programs focused on “adoption” in popular culture stem from the idea that there is a “lost soul” who needs to “reconnect” with their so-called “missing piece.” Granted, there are some adoptees who feel that way, but between myself and fellow friends who are adopted… I’ve never met someone in person who feels that way. In my personal experience, most of those shows represent a small percentage of adoptees. The shows are catering to viewers looking for “drama.” Twinsters was far more realistic in representing, what I believe to be, the general adoptee point of view. (At least for those who were born in Korea, then adopted outside of that country.)

Pilot and I were riveted by the documentary, staying up later in the evening to finish it in one go. Twinsters revealed information about a Korean Adoptee Conference held in Seoul, South Korea, which is only held once every three years. It welcomes around 500 Korean-born adoptees from around the world to fly to Seoul and learn not only about the adoption process, but learn about their birth country.  (Major plus: it’s mostly hosted in English, thank GOD!)

After the documentary finished Pilot and I deeply discussed into the wee hours of early morning. I’m not terribly emotional when it comes to my adoption, however I did experience several waves of different emotions I wasn’t expecting. Pilot shared that he felt closer to me, that he was able to better understand my personality and how my thought processes work. I am grateful to Twinsters for this. Over the course of 13 years, you learn so much about a person, but the documentary gave a voice to a part of my point of view of the world and my childhood that I’ve never been able to verbalize well. Even if you’re not an adoptee, if you just like documentaries, I highly recommend the film.

While discussing the conference, I remembered the film saying it’s hosted only once every three years. We checked the date of the documentary. It was took place in 2013. I looked at Pilot, and he looked at me. Instantly, we were both looking up the conference, and sure enough, it’s being hosted this year.

Pilot and I are in our (early) 30’s. If we don’t attend this year, the next time it will be hosted is 2019. If Pilot and I are realistic, if we’re going to have kids, it’s going to be sometime in our 30’s. If we were going to (easily) attend, it would have to be this year, or we’ll be waiting a looong time before going again. There were 3 problems:

How was this going to affect my mother?
I don’t care how understanding your parents are, how open-minded, how freely they share their emotions, how old you/they are. Talking with an (adoptive) parent about potentially looking for biologically related family members can create a whole world of hurt, pain, and insensitivity if not handled correctly.

I’ve mentioned time and time again, my (adoptive) parents are my real parents. I don’t think of them in any other way. Just because we don’t share the same biology does not mean they’re not my “real” family. My parents are each adopted as well. We have this in common, and I’m grateful that although they were both born in the USA and adopted within the USA, and I was adopted out of country, we share 90% of our points of view regarding adoption. My mother even spent time in the early 2000’s searching for more information about her biological family, and received information back from her adoption agency. She’s even mentioned that if I was interested in looking up biologically related people, she would be supportive.

This doesn’t change the fact that I wasn’t sure how to broach this topic; and I still didn’t want to cause my mom any pain in any way shape or form. Especially about this topic. I wanted her to be sure that I view her as my mother, 100%, and that I don’t consider anyone else my mom. If my dad was still alive, I’d want to reassure him as well. The timing of watching the documentary couldn’t have been better. Pilot and I had stayed up late on a Thursday evening, and we were having dinner with my mom the next night.

I was a nervous wreck.

We first mentioned the documentary to her. My mom and I love watching movies, it’s one of our favorite activities, so it’s not uncommon for us to recommend films to each other. I wasn’t even 5 minutes into talking about the documentary plot when she jumped in and asked me if I wanted to go to Korea, in an excited manner!

Did I mention, I love my mom? We’re far too similar, which is probably the reason we butt heads sometimes.  All of the worry and concern was for nothing, and she was supportive beyond description.

Emotional problems avoided, I found myself with a new problem.

Did I mention we’re not wealthy?
Even on the cheap, there is zero way we would be able to afford this trip. At the time of the conference, it’s the highest time of tourism for the country, meaning the flights for a single person round trip would be $1,700-$1,800. This doesn’t include the fee of the conference, living quarters, or food.

Did I mention, I love my mom?  (Oh, I did? Well, I’m mentioning it again.)

While growing up, my parents both said that there was some money set aside should I ever express interest in traveling to South Korea. I had completely forgotten about it, as my 30-something year old brain is beginning to forget conversations like that from my itty bitty childhood years.

Besides, no person in their 30’s enjoys going to their parents and asking for thousands of dollars. I don’t care who you are. Asking for money can be stressful, hurt relationships, and all around not end well. I am fortunate that my parents had the foresight to predict this want to visit Korea may happen in my future. Hence, this added to my stress of approaching my mother with this topic.

Immediately after jumping in during my description of Twinsters, her second immediate statement was, “How much do you need? You have X amount of money already. Will that be enough? If you need more, let me know. Want to stay longer? You can stay longer beyond the conference if you want. Just let me know.”

I love my mom.

Funding issues avoided, and absolutely no more hurdles to prevent Pilot and I attending the conference, I was stuck with one, final problem.

Did I even want to do this?
Here’s my (current) list of insecurities, (as they fluctuate in severity each day):

  • Am I doing this because it’s convenient, or do I really want to go?
  • This is both Pilot and my first big trip anywhere. Were we prepared to do a large trip, especially to a foreign country where we don’t speak the language?
  • I hate flying. Can I stand to be on an airplane for 12 hours?
  • It’s going to be hot with 99% humidity, and they’re a conservative country requiring me to dress covered up. I grew up on the West Coast. I need new shirts. I’m going to FRY!
  • Is the conference going to be good, or will I be wasting my mom’s money on something that wasn’t “my thing”?
  • Am I prepared to go searching for birth/foster family information?
  • What happens if birth/foster family members don’t want to meet me?
  • What happens if they do?

I don’t have much to say on the subject right now. I’m still processing the fact that my husband and I have booked the trip, found a place to stay, have the flights all scheduled and will be leaving for 2 WEEKS for South Korea this year.

As far as what to do about biologically related people, or foster family people… I haven’t decided yet. We have a few months to get paperwork in, and I have a feeling I’ll probably regret not doing the paperwork, but it’s too much to decide in this moment right now. I gave myself a personal due date to make the decision and fill out the paperwork, and I’m 75% sure that I’ll do it. (I mean, if will be traveling all of that way to Korea and staying that long, why wouldn’t I at least try?)

That’s a post for another day. I promise to update as time goes on, and let you know the progress of that decision.

Wishing you and yours the luck of the Irish today. I think I’ll need some for the remainder of the year.

If you had the opportunity to travel to a country of your family’s heritage, would you go? What would you do? Who would you visit, if you could?

What was the best and worst advice you received about traveling abroad?

Would you do your best to learn the language before going?

If you’ve been to Korea, what should I know before going? (It will be late summer.)

– Food
– Culture
– Manners
– Things to see
– Things to eat
– 
Things to do