Gabriel turns Two: Happy Birthday Sweet Boy

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Blood Diamond

the cost of love

Blood Diamond. It's a movie (one I watched last night) and a story worn secretly on the feminine fingers of women in the supermarket, teaching Sunday school, caressing someone on a Saturday night. I thought persistently about the images of brainwashed children shooting one another in a culture of violence fed by diamond dealers in black suits accented with slick, cologne smelling skin.

I was thinking about the diamonds themselves as I strode toward my car, distracted only by the voice of my neighbor Alissa calling from her bright red pickup, "Look!" Alissa grinned, happily gesticulating her hand, which touted a huge sparkling rock easily visible from my parking spot. I went over and told her how happy I was for her, as she recounted the proposal, fanning her fingers before my wide eyes. The diamond was stunning -- a gigantic jewel in the middle, cherished between two amethysts, bracketed with smaller diamonds on each side.

A man saves his money for months to prove himself worthy of her love...to prove his love.

A diamond for her hand.

It is expected. If you are engaged and you're finger is naked, you could practically get arrested for indecent exposure. People look at you confused and disappointed -- not exactly the reaction you were hoping for when you leapt with faith toward a life together. Perhaps onlookers think less of you, like he couldn't afford it, or didn't think you were worth it, or he just isn't the romantic type. you didn't play according to the rules and people feel unnerved. Is it possibly easier to get excited about a sparkling stone than a marriage, with all its buried light and rough edges?

What of the more important sacrifices later in the marriage? A man who turns down a promotion may be mocked as "whipped," or honored as a hero. But such sacrifice is hardly expected. A man who gets promoted out of family life is accomodated by society and women, at least until it's too late for everyone.

Would it not be better for a man to give himself for her than to give her a pretty stone to glitter as a placeholder while he's away on business? Which is a more worthy sacrifice of love?

For some men, no saving is necessary to buy a diamond capable of eliciting jokes about the size of the rock. Except maybe he could have saved a child by not buying into this diamond myth; a myth creating by the diamond industry, and not by tradition passed among generations, nor invented by Hans Christian Anderson, God, Hallmark or Disney.

A diamond.

Symbol of eternal love. Bloody, not with the loving, life-giving blood of Christ, but stained and dripping globs of childhood blood into red African earth.

Children. A great gift, welcomed into the arms of couples newly wedded, one in flesh and love, wishing peace, wonder and safekeeping for a tiny gift.

What curse have we bought that a diamond is equated with love even at cost of tiny gifts? And another shot down a minute later, his soul ripped from him long ago. We've confused status with love, symbol with reality. Where is the love for those who extract the gems in a kill or be killed competition promoted by the diamond industry's desire to keep diamonds rare and pricey -- feeding into killing sprees in origin countries, and illusory ideas about romantic love among young American wives; milking the cattiness among western girls who show off their rocks like some guys who off trophy wives. It seems we've all been sold out for sparkling studs.

Isn't it time to stop objectifying love?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

New Year, New Name

A new name is attached to "Jemila" and I'm announcing on my blog to coincide with the Jewish New Year. A time of fresh beginnings, re-dedication and renewal of love and devotion: everything embodied in my wedding ceremony, which unfolded with my best friend Jenn officiating, David's mom & partner Rich as witnesses and our kids the ring-bearers, flower children and living testimonies to the love we share. Our wedding ceremony took place four years after we first married each other in a small one-bedroom apartment with (planned) impromptu vows spoken between kisses on a rose-strewn bed where we first made love. Finally, we decided it was time to let some witnesses, and even Uncle Sam in on our promises to each other.

An explanation of the name change:

David would have happily carried the feminist flag by taking my last name, had it been my maiden name. My maiden name makes me cringe, remembering how it was always mispronounced at figure skating competitions, and how it sounded odd and unappealing to me even when pronounced correctly. These memories explain partially why, when I divorced, I kept former spouse's name, namely Monroe. It was a fine, normal name. Fine and normal were(and at certain junctures remain) appealing qualities. Yet somehow, David wasn't thrilled with the idea of inheriting the last name of my ex husband.

So our solution was to be introduced as Mr. Jemila Kwon and Ms. David Kwon. We belong to each other as we daily give ourselves for one another. In fact, it is more beautiful and true to say that we belong acutely with each other.

We are one because we create a new synthesis when we bring our whole, complete selves to the community of our marriage. And for the record, I am not Mrs. David Kwon, although I will possibly wear that hat once a year for Halloween, or other festive function featuring ridiculous costumes.

Here's a Christina Rosetti Poem David and I read together at our wedding:

What is the beginning? Love.
What is the course. Love still.
What is the goal. Te goal is love.
On a happy hill.
Is there nothing then but love?
Search we the sky or earth
There is nothing out of Love
Hath perpetual worth:
All things flag and flee;
There is nothing left but Love
Worthy you and me.

If you would like to see pictures of our wedding, they are posted at djfamily.shutterfly.com
The password is djfamily

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Why do people cry?

Do we cry because we're sad
Or because we feel safe and comforted, sufficient to allow rain to wash over us unclothed by stiff upper lips
Is it a sign of something wrong
Or that yes, we'll be okay
It is the absence of tears that signals impending deadness
Presence of tears, inviting, watering, signaling Life is occurring
Yes grief
Yes anger
Yes song
river flowing abundant
fertile soil
wet moist
Growing into a tomorrow
Yes Life

Say, cry
feelings brushed aside weeks on end
saying hi, each flowing by
swirling aches, dreams, loss
tears cleansing infected seams
Alive and here
all my tears
Crying, singing, even those waiting to cry
heart singing thank you
glad to be alive
crying soil to flower
Garden of

Saturday, September 08, 2007


Ivett made a scrumptious Hungarian dessert, created from whipping cream, mascarpone cheese, honey, rasberries, chocolate cookie crumbles and butter, decorated with a single walnut.

I could mention less delectable moments in my day -- Nika's meltdowns, my feelings of helplessness and turmoil; Avriana's nocturnal demands, Gabe's anger when forbidden to climb the stairs. Learning Greek grammar. Anticipating David's notable absence during his upcoming surgery rotation....

But in all these moments lies some gift. Love of the Universe, open wide the doors of my earthly self to receive the Life that's here in my living room. Amen.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Quit Quitting, Start Living

I quit seminary. I quit on the grounds that it take too great a stress toll on me and my children and that the loving, self-emptying thing to do is to let it go and be with my kids without the distraction of hanging deadlines or the exhaustion of commuting and thinking layered on motherhood. 'Cause I was pressuring myself to finish my program before we move somewhere else for David's residency. On account of my overriding anxiety and the tape recording that kept saying, "I can't do this." "I'm going to snap."

I quit because I was trying to love my kids selflessly. Because everyone says I can recreate myself later. Because I'm not sure where this road is leading me. Because I was having trouble justifying the time, money, gas and intangibles in a world where kids are starving, the ozone is leaking away and my own babies will soon be big and never again will be little pudgy peach skin rolling in innocence, smiles, fussiness, love, messes and open curiosity.

And when I quit, my heart sank like a sopping wet sand big pitched into an abyss of loneliness and aimlessness. I felt my happy energy sap away and instead of feeling free, lighter, actively engaged with giving my best love to the people in the world I love best, I felt achingly absent and sad.

So I activated the only common sense decision I could: I quit my quitting and put myself back on the road to seminary, now because I am happy to be learning, clear that I am supposed to be on this path, and open to a new way of being that is balanced, learning when it's time to learning and learning when it's time to Be. Laugh. Listen. Engage with life, nourish my family, celebrate the lusciousness of fruit and chocolate, peachy skin and parent in firm, agape ways that acknowledge and nurture the spirits shining through my children in surprising and tricky ways. Love life. Let go of pleasing anyone. Love everyone.

Will I pass my classes with this approach? Will I finish seminary or ever have initials before or after my name? Who cares! I live for the abundant life of the God who lives in me.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

What am I (doing) here?

I am enrolled in seminary, but I'm not at all sure what I'm doing -- if I should even be there, if I'll finish my program, switch my program or drop out after a year of acquiring experience.

The natural thing seems to be to drop out after a year. But is it natural because it's right, or because it fits with my family's style of of flirting with success, yet avoiding it? What is the block of fear that I feel about going for an Mdiv, that I don't feel about spending a year in theological learning, followed by a time of letting go, just being in life and seeing about my next step? Is it an unwillingness to follow through? To be constrained by a process rich in bureaucracy, with abundant hoops through which I'd be expected to jump? The desire to not be like everyone else? Or is it a gentle reality that my way takes me on this road for a little while, leading me to another path? In this, where will I discover Christ's face? How can I listen to the Spirit when my own heart is so complex and my hearing muddled with many voices and feelings?

Can I balance education with family, when I am the primary parent while David is in med school? Can I live with letting my aspirations come second to my man's for a while? Can I let go for the proper reasons? Might my aspirations turn out not to conflict as much as I thought...perhaps I actually want to let go and be home with kids? Am I the only conflicted mother out there?

Can I write my life and live it? Can I create a life of celebration and learning?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Heaving the Mountain, or Shoveling Dirt

Mountains are too big to move. Plain and simple. I don't buy that if I believe it enough, the whole freagin mountain is going to up and move. Shoveling dirt, one scoop at a time, focused, yet delighting in slugs and earthy smells, I can imagine that at some point, one could look up, say forty years later and discover that, in addition to finding others digging and shoveling in your vicinity, the entire mountain has shifted to a new location. This is the kind of faith I get.

But even this "lesser" faith is hard for me to practice. My integrated female brain wants to look at the whole mountain, and my heart feels the heavy, impossible burden of moving the whole damn thing and I'm sunk in stress before I've shoveled a day's worth and come home for Sabbath. Sabbath, to me, is the practice of trusting God enough to not feel compelled to attempt moving the whole mountain at once; the discipline of leaving things unfinished, to celebrate the goodness of today, with each shovel's worth, and the goodness of rest and life and things to come, never snatching control of tomorrow, but letting it stay with God, while we live in today -- an eternal gift, available only now.

I look at all there is for me to manage and I feel too responsible for a 26, almost 27-year-old woman. I want to say girl, because part of me wants to stay young enough, free enough to still be called a girl. I don't want to commute back and forth to my daughter's school in Haddonfield twice before 12am, and then back and forth to my school in Philly on top of that. I don't want want my week nights filled with PTA-esque responsbilities related to back to school stuff that seems fluffy, yet fairly obligatory. I want to stay home and watch a movie, sip a hot chocolate or read a fucking book. Or, God forbid, take a bath or even have sex. Or just stare at a spider alighting on my screen while crickets hum the gentle sounds of evening.

I resent the mountain I feel has been hoisted on my shoulders by forces beyond my control, outside in the ridiculous, oft annoying world, and inside me, in the fermented basements of my soul, where judgment gets clouded and I cause myself harm and unnecessary pain. I let go a little more today.

And perhaps that little letting go is a shovel's worth.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Hungary anyone?

This one thing worked out perfectly: my best friend Jenn slept on my couch the night that our Au Pair, Ivett arrived from Hungary after a brief orientation in New York City. The next day Jenn, Nika and I placed wild tattoos on our bodies -- tattoos of sun, moon, stars and a funky eye, embedded in spirals and poetic swirls that are also kind of tacky. We bought Jenn a pair of turquoise and pearl errands and said beautiful goodbyes.

Help is here to stay, after such a long time of trudging on alone. Let me tell you about Ivett.

She is tall and graceful. Ivett looks a bit like me, although the tall part is clearly a point of difference She bears some similarity to Anne Hathaway, which occurred to me upon her mention a castle near her home occupied by an earl who tried (without success) to buy her beautiful horse named Mirage.

Ivett's quiet love of children shines naturally. She spends long stretches drawing with Nika, and Gabe is smitten, serenading her by name: Ivett! Ivett! Ivett! Avriana is warming up. I am glad someone wants to be a Mama's girl, anyhow.

Ivett is deep, straightforward, mysterious, sensitive and a lover of mashed potatoes, which we served her first full day with our family. She ate about seven small bites of the salty white mash, the most she has eaten of any particular food. She said the mashed potatoes were very good.

Her English is thoughtful and very good, except Ivett confuses gender pronouns frequently when referring to her boyfriend, Peter -- who, by the way, is the son of Russia's Chief Rabbi. Although I didn't know there was such a thing as a Chief Rabbi of Russia until this afternoon, it sounds quite impressive and significant, as this role has landed Ivett's boyfriend at parties frequented by Hillary Clinton and Hengry Kissinger. I couldn't help but ask, "And was Henry kissing her?" Also George W. Bush was at one party.

When I mentioned that I think George W. would make an endearing, harmless character if only he limited his activities to chasing armadillos and frequenting Texan pubs, Ivett observed that she had translated some of Bush's speeches for a language exam and that he sounded "...stupid?"

I took Ivett out driving this afternoon and she said I was a good teacher. I think this was a good sign.