traveling with paps

I waited until the last possible moment to book my tickets. I wavered on the thought that traveling with my you for 10+ days could destroy the something we had. We’ve never really had a relationship outside our required commitment to each other as family. I’ve always loved you, but because I was taught to. I’ve always wanted less hierarchy, but I didn’t know how to ask it because we were taught to respect our elders, which meant never talking back and just bowing to their commands.

i knew this trip would be important. i knew in order to learn more about the translucent layers in me, i had to get to know you. your dna runs deep in me. i knew it would not be easy. i knew there was a chance your snoring would keep me up at night. i knew i would be predisposed to reacting un-emphatically with the side-effect of a living with historically faulty lenses. i knew there would be times i would want to yell at you. i knew i would hear you vocalize what you were thinking when you looked through your lens. i knew there would be times i would just want to tell you to “Stop”. i knew there would be room for special moments. I knew that we could re-write history and muscle memories, one second at a time.

and so we go.

i learned how to hold my tongue. i learned how to hear you. i learned how to listen deeper. i learned that my choices do not make sense to you, that they are unexplored parts of your universe you haven’t conceptualized. i’ve learned that we will continue living very strikingly different lifestyles, wanting very different things, but that our experiences will always be unique to us. i’ve learned to increase my tolerance of listening to your unsolicited advice because it makes you happy to say it and because it means you care. i have learned to tell you if your words or actions are hurting me. I’ve learned that being an immigrant to the US was not actually the better path for you, but in your sacrifice, it gave me and Ange something far greater.

 


you have given me the chance to live a life that is joyful. you have given me just enough material comfort that i could live a life that leans towards non-attachment. You have created a strong, loving, independent woman. Make that 2 strong, loving, independent women.

as much as i love you, i am ready to come home to my unscheduled, attempting and always failing to be scheduled life.

thank you for not judging the dress and all the whisky i bought.

my HK family

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It’s been a new experience this trip to Hong Kong, getting to know my family that loves, breathes, and could only imagine living in HK. It takes me a few trips to the same place or at least a total of a month’s worth of days to feel like I know even a small part of a place.  My entire father’s side lives here. On my 5th trip here, they finally acknowledge me as a real Chinese person and not just this American that pretends once in a while. Their test: you must love to eat (and appreciate the thousand-year-old egg). When I’m in town, their weekly extended family dinner dates ends up being daily make-it-if-you-can dates.

Their friend circles know when I’m arriving. I’m like that mutt that must be shown the ways and taught the food and culture of Cantonese people. My palate must know what is the best. I have since decided the Instagramable things and reviews online by Westerners have missed some of the best foods this place has to offer (including the people that give away constellations). On this trip, the universe granted me an amazing opportunity to learn how to make dim sum. Usually, dim sum masters don’t trade secrets and definitely don’t let you into their kitchen. I want to preserve some knowledge of my dna’s food culture and incorporate that into my own expression of baking. A plead for knowledge, promise to keep our craft alive, and being the niece of an uncle who loves to eat convinced them to allow me in their kitchen.

Another unique identity of my people comes with addressing women as “beautiful lady” and men as “beautiful gents.” Age doesn’t affect whether you are beautiful or not. I asked my father how you know if they were speaking to you or the person next to you. His response: “You just know.” Fair enough. I’m turning my head every time.

The parks here are exceptionally beautiful.

They also really love their cell phones.

Who doesn’t like a properly made 蝦餃? 🦐

Much love, Oxheart

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You have offered words of advice: to enjoy, to savor, to live every last minute of those 5 years. With about 21 hours left of these 5 years, I focus on breath. The air I share with you, we shared 5 years ago. It has matured. It has lightened. It has evolved. It moves more energetically through my somewhat tired body. I am older now. My skin is less tight on my face. My forehead (finally) moves. My hands more wrinkled and dry. My eyes can hardly handle contacts anymore.

I look into the mirror, peering past the eyes—gratitude—she takes over. Sharing my last dinners with new friends, old friends, and a dining room of humans who supported us before we knew the name of this 31-seat restaurant brought tears to my eyes. I didn’t realize 5 years ago that places could touch people the way that they do. (Cathi, I found the last message you sent me, which was in 2013, asking me if you could bring me cake for my birthday. You may have been the first person to ever bake me a birthday cake from a home oven. I should return the kisses you gave me the other night.) Our city welcomed us into its community, watched us grow up (have you seen that they-can’t-seriously-be-over-16 pre-opening photo of Justin, Justin and I?), helped us tell and share our story, watched with compassion even when we showed our age, and is still here celebrating its youth. If you feel any of the similar sentiment I do, think about how you support other establishments in our world. Make a conscious choice in whom you show support to: where you spend your resources, how you spend your extra gifts. Teach us, challenge us, help us, nurture us. We need you. 

Writing my first book helped me savor more than the past few days. The past few months have been incredibly moving. I cannot wait to reread the journal entries of this year.

I’ve learned to be less sad about things of the past. Oxheart served its purpose for me. It taught me I am a good baker. It taught me how to love the people I am living on the world with. It taught me that breathing carves my path forward. It taught me that my anger wasn’t something I (and probably others) liked to experience. It taught me that I will always be imperfect. It taught me to lean hard into my imperfect. It taught me that my tears don’t make me weak. It taught me that being a woman is quite special. It taught me that if I push my body too far, it will give out. It taught me that I live to love. It taught me that sustainability wasn’t a definition meant for just the environment, eco-friendly products, and sourcing locally.

From the beginning, we struggled to find and create a work-life balance. We, on closing day, still have not found that balance. Better isn’t good enough. It’s just better. Everyone has asked me what I will do next. I am doing what I am doing next now—and that is being joyful.

I don’t know where I’ll land, how much space I can take up, or what my joyful balance of life looks like. I know to take each day as they come, to live in gratitude for the moments I get with you (with me), and to keep practicing so that it becomes more innate. I choose to walk with courage, conscious fervor, and softness. I’m searching and working on stillness.

I re-wrote my creed. I wish to share it with you:

I will learn something new every day. I give myself the freedom to love. I strive to be vulnerable and compassionate. I will build up my friends and community to help us see our full potential and expression of joy. I will show myself love and compassion. I will pour energy into outlets that give me strength, creativity, and freedom. I will insist on experiencing more everyday awe. I will not be motivated by material wealth, for it doesn’t equate with my measure of joy. I am participating in this ironman, not a sprint. No matter where the finish line waits, I will breathe in inspiration from the past, present, and future, breathe out with gratitude, sun salutate my way through stuck time, keep moving when the fibers tire, and love endlessly. I will flow like a river, carving my experiences in the canyon walls that echo my gratitudes. I will create memories. I will leave a legacy.

Thank you for being a part of my life. I am truly blessed.

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Early 2012 (not sure to whom I should credit)

Us now (still nerds):


Come celebrate and karaoke with us, starting at 8pm tonight at Public Services.

05.03.17 gratitude

Words.

They cannot express how I felt
I feel
I’m feeling
I will keep feeling.
Each and every one of you,
(stillness)
(more stillness)
the collective breath
blows me away.

Your energy resonates
through every space I know.

This feeling, new to me
new to you
new to us.

Words, I have not many.

Oxheart celebrates community. Sunday was about us, what we did together, along with a group of humans that put it on paper, sharing their style. Without you, there is no me. You make me feel comfortable in my own skin, to allow me to tell my story, to share my life with you, to love in the way that I know how to love. The energy from Oxheart never leaves this world. It will be what you let it be. It is as much a part of me as it is of you. This book is for all of us.

The room filled with my love, your love, our love. We took a space, transformed it into a place that vibrates with love for those who come in next. What we did was magical—like funfetti—the ability to take something ordinary (cake) and make it something extraordinary. You walked away with a bit of me and him and her.

You didn’t judge me for my 1.5 painted nails because you didn’t notice. I’m usually purposefully on the bias, but today I came with honesty. You listened deeply to the blabber coming from my heart. The words made sense to me. It seems like they made sense to you. My soul overflows with fullness. I am beyond grateful for you, for us. Thank you for loving me and for letting me love you. I am honored to have each and every one of you in my life. I would not wish for it to be any other way. I cannot wait to do this again.

My soul overflows with fullness. I am beyond grateful for you, for us. Thank you for loving me and for letting me love you. I am honored to have each and every one of you in my life. I would not wish for it to be any other way. I cannot wait to do this again. I’ve been told I throw good parties. My hidden talent: finding excuses to celebrate life.

I am still vibrating.

reflection in the mirror

How do we want to be seen?

I challenged myself to look at myself in the mirror. It wasn’t about what I was wearing, or how I looked from the side, or if the black made me look thinner. I looked directly at her, into the eyes that see the world through their lens. The mirror—dusty—when was the last time it got cleaned? I cleaned it with a cloth. Still dusty. Is that me looking back at me? The dust distorts her vision. I cleaned it with an all-natural glass cleaner. The image sharpened, but I’m not sure if I saw myself clearer. She tries taking off her glasses. Perhaps it’s the glare from the extra set of eyes.

Could she soften the muscles between the eyes? Why were they engaged? There is nothing to hid. Were her eyes really that shade of amber? I’m not sure they have ever been amber. They used to be hazel (in her younger years), then a dark brown, but amber? I miss those hazel eyes. Despite her weariness, her eyes are wide. Observing the world with intrigue? She can’t find stillness. Her gaze moves down to her freckles. Are they freckles or sun spots? The hair on her face, removed this afternoon—at least there is nothing to look at there. A recent photo of her, published in the Chronicle on Sunday, pictured her four years younger. I wasn’t sure she looked like that, but photos don’t lie. The fat around her cheeks don’t exist today. She has lost the protection of youth. She tests if her forehead moves—it does. When did that happen? It was after she turned thirty. I remember that day. I was oddly excited. Her skin, gradually losing its elasticity. Aging, it’s real. Perhaps I’m the only person excited to age. Maybe her acquaintances will stop calling her ‘little one’ or ‘munchkin.’ (Her height matches the average height of the average adult American female. Shocking. Aren’t Asian people shorter in general?) Neither words are adequate descriptions of her. I digress. When will my eyes get crow’s feet, she wonders. She laughs a lot now, surely the feet will ground themselves into her skin.

The mirror, clean for tomorrow’s study. I shouldn’t wait that long between cleaning.

See you Sunday.

The Art of Baking: Oxheart

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Some of you know that I’ve been working on a project that’s near and dear to me for quite some time now. Well, I’m excited to finally share it. Here’s a first look at The Art of Baking: Oxheart—my book!

As my time at Oxheart comes to an end, I wanted to put my thoughts and memories on paper. I turned them into paintings, drawings, and collages. There is color. There are stories. There are recipes. There is more color. My good friend Sarah Belfort helped me capture the things that float inside my head. Marcella Arreaga, Ceci Norman, Siobhan Battye, and Melissa Kwan added a few splashes of their creativity. There’s a whole lot of love and reflection. The experience of opening Oxheart started me down a path of creativity. It’s helped me flourish as a person and as an artist.

I hope you grab a copy (for I’m only printing 300) and relive some of the memories of Oxheart we’ve made together. I want this book to inspire you, to spark your own creative path. Pre-order a copy at https://bread.blog.

If you’re wanting to follow other projects I’m working on, check in on karenman.org from time to time.

With much love and gratitude,
Karen

my first mental health day

I took my first mental health day.

That day lasted a weekend.

And quite frankly, it was pretty much on and off all week, minus the times I had to do adult things to make sure the other worlds around me that are affected by me keep moving since I like being responsible.

During my first mental health day, I washed all my bedsheets, made my bed in the most proper way possible, cleaned the floors, cleaned my bathroom, wiped down my Vespa, fed Daisy (my starter), let my brain veg out to some TV (Netflix: Chef’s Table – Franc), pretty much try to reset all my senses, signaling a new direction I decided to move in. I nourished myself with the finest tea I own, spent the minimum amount of time needed to set certain things in order and sat on my porch swing. I let myself laugh; I let myself cry; I let myself feel nothing; I let myself feel everything. For me, if I were to figure some things out, I needed to allow myself to experience every emotion.

I can’t believe I procrastinated from a mental health day all the other times in the past when I should have probably taken one. I vow to more than make up for it going forward. I have emerged, with more clarity (not all the clarity) and a stillness I had never found before. I am very grateful for everyone’s offer to listen, to love, to care.

I will try something new. Maybe I will call them mental health hours, or minutes, or seconds.

 

Duplicating Dandelions

I made a wish with your sister the day before yesterday.
Yesterday, you gave me another wish.
Perhaps Mother Nature knew I had two wishes.

I wished for the future to feel love and to be loved.
I wished for those in the now to feel love and to be loved.

Because you breathe the same air I do, I know that you feel loved.

We are connected

I feel as if no matter how far in distance I am from you that the space is actually not far. I’ve gotten so many random messages:  of love, missing you, I’m always here for you, it’s not okay I haven’t heard from you in a while. 

My heart is heavy. It contemplates what its purpose is here on Mother Earth. It contemplates how it should extend love to others and self. It contemplates if past notions can be future notions. 

I am grateful for your ❤ and self. I promise to keep leading with my heart. It’s the only way I know how. 

Isha

She told me I looked good. Was it because I finally shaved my legs for the second time this year? Was it because I microplaned all the dead skin off my feet? Was it because I decided to stop protesting razors and have bare underarms for the first time in over half a year? Perhaps, it was because I felt good, healthy, wiser. Today, I showered for me. I dressed for me. I put on nice shoes and pearls for no reason but for me. I decided to love me.

Every woman should feel this way. Every man should feel this way. Every human should feel this way. We should build each other up so we can feel this way, to nourish the love that is sometimes deeply embedded inside us, struggling for its full expression. I made it a point to focus on self-care this year and I found my aspects of fullness.

From the Upanishads, the first of the principle is the “Isha.” Here is the opening prayer, known as The Perfect Prayer, translated by Easwaran:

All this is full. All that is full.
From fullness, fullness comes.
When fullness is taken from fullness,
Fullness still remains.

In the past, I found myself depriving myself of things because I felt guilty for having things. This wasn’t a very peaceful existence and definitely not the healthiest way to live in this world. I am practicing to rejoice in gratitude when I have things and rejoice when I am able to give those things to others.

I find myself alone more often, quiet more often, sitting still more often, meditating more often. When my balance is off, I worry less. I look ahead, do what I know and ask for help in the things I am unfamiliar with. I’m currently a little unsure of what my short-term purpose is: if the things I have always desired are really meant for me, if I’m meant to live in the city I call home.

Angie, I’ve been contemplating a lot of things lately. It makes me more reserved for the time being. I know you know my full expression and wish to see it every day, but for now, this is me. I am not sad. I am just practicing to be grateful for the things that I have. It warms my heart that I have you.