This is what my success looks like nowadays

It's been seven days since I wrote a story, thanks to a last-minute decision to take my kid to the beach for the first time in her life during the holiday. I'm still smiling over the look of utter joy as she pranced in the water, kicking at the waves as they crashed into her small frame. I want to laugh out loud as I think about how she lost not one but two toy shovels, and then subsequently took to throwing her last one into the water just so she (that is, I) could chase it as the water moved it up and down the shore. 

But it's been seven days since I wrote a story, which means it's been seven days since I did "work" to get paid. I guess the short getaway did me good because I'm actually not freaking out too much about that. The work will come.

An unexpected encounter brings some comfort for 2016

For the first time in many years, my ex-fiancé and I sat across from each other in the Korean church we grew up in. It was lunchtime on the Sunday after Christmas, and we were seated in the former Pizza Hut turned cafeteria, eating rice, kimchi and ribs.

We avoided each other’s gaze.

The holidays bring people home, so I shouldn’t have been surprised to see him. But I was.

He’s a Marine stationed in North Carolina with family who long ago moved to Korea. As for me, this was only the second time I’d visited the church since I returned to Augusta six months ago from almost 10 years in Charlotte; I’d only come because a good friend and her family was in town, and this was my last chance to see her kids.

Despite the awkwardness I felt at sharing a meal with a complete stranger I’d once planned to marry, I made small talk. “How are your parents? Where’s your brother at nowadays?” I think he felt as uncomfortable as I did; he kept staring off toward the kitchen, where the older Korean women, my mother included, were milling about.

Afterward, when we had nothing left to say, I latched onto my good friend like she was my bodyguard, left the lunchroom, and waved awkwardly when he drove off in a black truck.

Now that I’ve had a little time to digest this peek at my past, and reflected on 2015 in general, I’m realizing just how much I needed that unexpected encounter.

An open letter to Franklin Graham

Dear Frank,
Earlier this week, I read about your latest Facebook post, in which you called for Christians to move their bank accounts out of Wells Fargo to other non-gay-friendly instititions, and to shop at businesses who don't  "promote sin and stand against Almighty God’s laws and His standards." The funny thing is, you moved  the assets of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association to BB&T, which is also a big proponent of gay rights.

Once again, you spew hatred for other human beings and use Christianity to shield your bigotry. (And then you looked stupid doing it.) What you call "moral decay," I call America opening its arms to all people.

And once again, I felt disgusted that it's folks like you the world sees as a representative of my faith, and I want to bury all signs of my own personal belief system in a hole. Why? Because no one wants to be associated with an asshole.

But today, thanks to the latest podcast from the church I attended in Charlotte, I realized something about you, Frank. You're a Pharisee, and you don't know how to evolve. Instead of being angered by your bigotry, I feel sorry for you and the people who follow you.

Watershed, the church in Charlotte I attended for years, is currently hosting a series called Wayfarers, Wineskins and Newness, and, Frank, I really think you should check it out. The pastors write this in their introduction to the series: "Thousands of years ago Jesus spoke of wine and wineskins. He made the ongoing invitation to us to blow the dust off of our beliefs and tenets and to continually take in the newness that He is with fresh eyes and a new wineskin heart."

And if anyone needs some fresh eyes and a new wineskin heart, Frank, it's you. When Jesus came, he was a radical. He wasn't cracking the whip on people to uphold the Jewish laws. When the Pharisees asked him why his disciples weren't fasting like everyone else, per tradition, he said, eh, it's not a big deal (my paraphrase). Because he came to pave a new way and deliver a message straight from heaven, which is to love. Just love, that's it. None of this talk of condemnation, sin or whatever.  

I know you don't want to be a Pharisee, Frank. It's not too late to get on the right side of love. You can shut down your Facebook page and start a new one -- plenty of people do it. 

Here's to hoping you'll use your platform to spread the good message of Jesus, instead of worrying about who's sleeping with who. 


A new adventure for this worker bee

I had my first job at the age of 8. My mother owned a little shop in a strip mall, where she sold everything from clothes and accessories to hair weave and home decor. It was called Victory Shop, inspired by my own middle name, Victoria. 

I usually helped out after school. I knew how to work the cash register and was excellent at counting money, but my mom mostly handled that. My job was to watch the customers to make sure no one stole anything. 

One day, my mom left me in charge. She needed to walk two stores down to the neighboring fish market to order us dinner. A couple of minutes after she left, a group of teenagers came in.

"How can I help you?" I asked in my best grown-up voice. Finally, my chance to show my mom I was responsible.

I can't remember now how many kids there were. Maybe three or four? They wandered to the glass display case I stood behind -- I could barely see over the top. They wanted to get a closer look at the selection of gold caps we had. I don't keep up with the fashion trends of grills, but back then, some of the caps had cutout shapes in them: a star or a cross, for example.  

The teenagers pored over our offerings. One kid made his choice and moved toward the cash register. Another girl, though, asked me, "Can I have this one?" She was holding another gold cap, protected by a plastic case, that had a simple butterfly in it.

Me, a mature almost-9-year-old, I said yes; I thought she meant, could she buy that one. 

I rung up the first customer, took his money and gave him his correct change back. I made sure to give him his receipt, too, just as I had watched my mom do so many times. To my surprise, though, the girl did not step up to the register to pay for her selection. Instead, the group walked out, laughing. I just stared after them.

"Ooh, [insert name of girl here], you're wrong for that," one of her friends said as the door closed softly behind them.

Needless to say, my mom was a little upset when she returned. 

Since then, I've become a much better employee. My mom closed her shop a few years later, but I got to hone my worker bee skills in a handful of different places until I graduated college. In 2006, I applied for and attained a part-time copy-editing job at Creative Loafing, the weekly alternative newspaper in Charlotte, North Carolina. Fast-forward to 2015, and I've now been donning the hat of editor in chief for two years now. 

Yesterday, though, I put in my notice of resignation. 

After having worked for several bosses throughout my short 30-some years, I've decided to freelance. It's a scary and exhilirating move for someone who's lived to please an employer since she was 8. But it's time.