Friday, April 11, 2014

a love for hongcho

What's the big deal with Hongcho? I love it. That's all that really matters. The pomegranate vinegar juice concentrate can be added to water or used in sauces, yogurt, salad dressings, milk, carbonated water, etc. I use it as flavoring for my water as a thirst quencher. The packaging and various reviews state that the vinegar:

  1. Supports the rate of digestion. 
  2. Helps absorb calcium. 
  3. Is an addition to everyday healthier life. 
  4. AND. is a vital quencher. "So refreshing!" 

For the best taste add one part vinegar to three parts water. 

Best taste: Hongcho 1: Water 3
Strong taste: Hongcho 1: Water 2
Light taste: Hongcho 1: Water 4

A serving size is 12 tsp. 

You can drink the beverage after a meal, after a shower, after a workout or anytime of day you feel the need to drink something so delicious. I like to drink it after or with some meals and after exercising. I often dilute it with water and drink it anytime a moment of thirst comes over me. I have to drink as much water as I can on a daily basis, so thankfully I have Hongcho flavoring or lemon for my water.  I have more stamina and energy after I drink a glass of this goodness.  

I bought a 3 pack (2 pomegranate and 1 blackberry) Hongcho vinegar mix from Zion Market here in San Diego last week. It was on sale. Taste it! 

Friday, April 4, 2014

how NOT to eat bibimbap

Yesterday evening my friend and I decided to go to a meeting to inquire about writing for a Korean magazine in San Diego. 'twas a very interesting and fun experience learning about it and meeting all of the people. Though almost all of the people were familiar faces to me, my friend met lots of new people.

Afterwards, we ran out in a flash to find a Korean restaurant.  We originally intended to eat dinner beforehand, but we got a late start. By the end of the meeting our stomachs were making the gurgle gurgle, "please feed me" sounds.

We ended up on Convoy St. at Grandma Tofu and BBQ. In Korean it is known as 할머니순두부!
We ordered a selection of favorite Korean foods.

I usually like to eat fairly healthy and enjoy eating a good hearty bibimbap. I always order the hot stone pot bibimbap. If you would like to sound like you know what you're ordering you can say you want the dolsot bibimbap, which written in Korean is 돌솥비빔밥. The hot stone bibimbap is the best! It cooks up all the vegetables and makes the rice and other foods at the bottom crispy. The stone pot itself always adds extra flavor.  Because I am abstaining from gluten for an undetermined amount of time, I order mine without meat. Most restaurants will add soy sauce to their meat marinade. Though Koreans will tell you that their soy sauce was and is traditionally made without wheat, in America almost all soy sauce is made with the glutinous goodness that we know of as wheat.

As many stereotypical Asians do when their food comes out, we started snapping pictures.  My friend snapped a picture of me while I grabbed my chopsticks and picked up the first vegetable in my stone pot. HOWEVER, might I inform you that this is traditionally NOT how to eat your bibimbap.  See below.

Modeling how NOT to eat bibimbap

How do you eat bibimbap? I would say it's best eaten after adding some gochujang, Korean red chili pepper paste to the top. Using your spoon and or chop sticks mix all of the vegetables, egg, meat, sauces, etc. together.  If you're eating the bibimbap in a hot stone pot, be sure to scrape the food off the sides and allow the other parts to warm up, too.  You can then eat your bibimbap with a spoon!  It's okay to eat with chopsticks too, though it's much more commonly seen and easier to be eaten with your handy dandy spoon. Note: be careful not to burn yourself against the edges of the hot stone pot. When they say hot, they mean it!

My friend ordered the combo with soondubu jjigae (tofu soup) and kalbi (tasty marinated ribs) that comes with a hot stone pot of rice.  A look at what we ate:

Left: Friend. Right top: hot stone bibimbap, bottom: the dishes

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April showers bring May flowers

In San Diego it rarely rains!  Fortunately, we got some rain today!

Having lived and gone to college in Oregon, the rain always brings me a sense of peace.  Sometimes there is a bit of stress that accompanies it when having to fight the rains to face the day, but rarely does it rain enough to cause that kind of stress or problem.

Rain makes me happy!

There are so many things I could and would enjoy doing when it rains here:

a) go for a walk/jog
b) let it serenade me back to sleep
c) curl up in a chair with a good book and hot cup of tea
d) not do what I'm doing now
e) all of the above.

Water is life. It's refreshing and nourishes our soils, land, and our bodies.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

looking back helps me look foward

I keep looking back...looking back at Korea, looking back at my adventures while dreaming forward to Korea and other service projects if they are to become a reality again. Where is time going? Last year I traveled a lot for work, pleasure, and personal emergencies.

I keep looking back at the past...remembering good things...It's great I have memories to look back upon, but today is different. I need to look at today and accept that it is not the same.  I do not know when I will return to Korea. I do not know where I'll be next week or next month.

Instead, I'm going to look back with a smile only to motivate me to keep moving and progressing in a forward direction.  Right now that looks like having my health, being well, becoming stronger, and living in the present.  I can create new memories everyday! Hence, why I started the #100happydays challenge!

As I look forward, there are many things I want to accomplish and places to be. I am going to continue to set those goals in motion by doing what I know is within my capability on a daily basis.  In many ways, I am living at the mercy of others in faith with no control of my surroundings or my future. I promise to stand strong, positively looking up, believing and doing the little things that slowly get me closer to my goals and dreams.

This week includes exercising, sleeping, and studying even if for only ten minutes each per day.  That is what I can do. That is what I will do.

Let's keep fighting!

Friday, March 21, 2014

The stranger sitting next to me. not so strange at all.

One minute could change the whole course of your day. It did mine.

Today, while waiting for a trolley, I sat two seats away from a male figure who told me that I had missed the trolley by one minute and that he, too, had missed it. The doors closed on him and he couldn't get on. I had no idea who this stranger was. I thanked him for telling me and began to enter my own world again. He made sure I didn't stay there for long. For that, I am thankful.

Suddenly, while checking the weather app on my phone (why I check the weather app in San Diego, I do not know. Oh, it's sunny again. What a surprise! I was curious to know the temperature..) and KakaoTalking with some friends, I heard him begin his story. Words for which I had no reply came pouring out. I was slightly befuddled by this, though I suddenly put away my phone and began to listen.  As much as I've been attracting some really creepy people, I could tell this was a soul that needed to be heard.

He let go. He opened up.

I learned that 8+ years ago he got in what could and probably should have been a fatal car accident. Him and his friends were doing something down by the border in Mexico. They used to play there a lot. He did not go into detail, but he did say that the accident was a direct result of their actions and very well, as it did, should have happened.  He is lucky to be alive.  He was in a coma for 3 months and approximately 8 days. However, he was in the hospital for over 3 years in recovery with over 30 surgeries to reconstruct and rebuild his body.

While talking to him, I observed that his speech was slow and sometimes slurred. His thoughts somewhat cloudy, came and went as we conversed. I knew he knew what he was talking about.  Some might be tempted to call him dumb or retarded on first glance. You need to stop and listen. He is a sweet and simple person with a less than simple past. As with many people with traumatic brain injury (TBI), he had a very poor short-term memory. His current age is about 31 or 32. He had been out of the hospital for many years.

The trolley finally arrived. We sat down together. I asked him questions and gave him the freedom to continue speaking. He explained to me the things that happened in the hospital. They had to bring machines in to replace parts, they used materials and metals to hold his bones in place.  As he continued his story, he lifted up his pants and showed me what he had left of both of his legs.  Large chunks of muscle and bone structure completely gone.  Imagine looking at the back of someone's legs as they walk. You see those gastroc muscles on the lower back part of the leg? Yeah, his left leg looked like someone took a knife to his leg and chopped some out. The other looked like someone scooped out the bone and muscle with an ice cream scoop. He had scars and stories to share for each of them. The things the surgeons did to repair him. The four muscles he was missing in his stomach. We could have gone on.

I asked him what he was currently doing. What were some of the things that kept him going on a daily basis? Did he have hobbies or did he work? He said he was on permanent disability (yeah, ya think?) and that he was also trying to look for work. He does some yard work and cleaning among other little tasks. I can't remember all of the fine details. It's challenging for him to do some things, but he has aspirations and desires. He once was a good athlete and he had scholarships and recruits to play baseball for local colleges. He had to go home and help the family because his dad went to prison. He admitted he never went to college and that he lived a tough life. Now, he wants to become a respiratory therapist. He wants to give back to others because he realized how hard others worked to save his life. He claimed that doctors and nurses told him how smart he was and that he had potential and he could go places with his life. I continued to affirm that he had a whole life to live and he was still young.  He could do it! 

We finally exchanged names. Ironically, his name was Nick.  My name is Niki.

Nearing the closing of his story, I began to share some of my own struggles. I told him how happy I was to have met him. I kept reiterating that I was so thankful that he was there to share his story with me and that his life had meaning and purpose.  I did not want him to feel bad for being alive. I just wanted to breathe hope into his life. I shared that I was fortunate to meet him because I was adopted from Korea and after learning of my biological family and meeting them I had a sister that passed away after a year of being in a coma. She, too, was in a car accident. He asked me what kind of injuries she succumbed to or the type of accident. I said I knew nothing. All I knew of was her passing after a year long coma and a car accident. Also, ironic, I had texted my Korean brother a couple of days ago to see how he was doing and also because I desperately wanted to ask more about the sister I never met. The past couple of weeks I had been thinking a lot about her, especially as I deal with serious medical issues. Was the accident caused by someone else? Did she have a stroke? Was she drinking? I continue to mourn her loss and am very curious to know what really happened. I refrained from asking. Maybe someday when I am fluent in Korean or maybe never.

Nick told me that my biological parents must be that much happier and lucky to have me.

I paused.

It must be true. I know it is true. This is why they began searching for me. Longing for my return. My life has meaning to them. Four years after our first reunion, I still have much to process. I put part of myself in a box on a very high shelf in a closet. I will open that box again later when I have time to process it again.

As he was sharing his story with me, I could feel the emotion between us. The combination of my allergies and intense compassion for this complete stranger made my eyes slightly shimmer with water. I held back.

We talked a little more and Nick became frustrated that he started to forget some things. He had to ask for my name again.  I told him he could ask me as many times as he wanted. He could take as long as he needed.  I shared with him that I understood his neurological and psychological changes and feelings. I am a mini-stroke and TIA survivor. I have had brain surgery. I am a survivor, too. I am also lucky to be alive. I openly shared that I struggled with some of these things and that I was also self-conscious about them. I wonder how I sound in front of others. Do I look or act stupid?  Most of them, many of you reading...probably didn't know this about me. My migraines and TIAs cause a lot of funny things to happen to me on the daily.  Are we happy to be alive? Heck Yes!  I told him that sometimes I have cognitive issues and trouble with my speech if the blood isn't flowing properly in my brain or that I have trouble doing daily tasks in the process of living a normal life. I might even be having brain surgery again in a couple of weeks.  He really wanted me to affirm that I would be okay. I assured him that I would make it out alive.  

It was time for me to depart. I walked away telling him that I believed he could do whatever he desired. I told him the truth. Nick, you are strong and capable. You are loved and blessed. You are beautiful. I said I would be cheering for him, praying for him, and wishing him well. He hoped I would be okay. I smiled and walked away.

Time is precious. It is a gift and so are our lives. So, I had to wait an extra 15 minutes to get home. One minute late meant 15 or 20 minutes with this individual.  One minute or one incident has the potential to change our lives forever. I don't know anything about my future. I do know that I am loved and that there are people out there. What am I going to do with my time as I begin to regain health? I have so many things I want to do and plan to do. Yet, will I be able to do those things? I've learned to humbly accept that I can't predict or control anything. I must hold onto faith. Inevitably, things will change...I'm in for quite a ride and I will thank God for every moment of this life that I have!  I can't wait to see the fruit in these struggles and all the cool people I have time to love and meet on my adventures!

It was the first day of Spring and International Day of Happiness!!

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. - 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Edits and changes

I'm in the process of editing this blog and also trying to make some changes to the layout, but I have been very sick. I cannot look at the computer screen for very long without feeling sick. I apologize that you may not be able to access it on some days. I want to block the ugly spammers and still working on how to do it! I hope to have something for you in the coming weeks or months.  : )

For now, I'll leave you with this picture of another sunset. I love sunsets through and through. This was taken at the Getty in LA. It's a must visit site!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Lenses of beauty: Getting God's goodness at the Getty

Yesterday, while venturing down to Balboa Park to catch the Cherry Blossom Festival, I met up with people from the Korean language exchange I intermittently attend. I noticed the lines so long and the weather already too hot and humid for my body’s liking. From day one, you could expect to hear me bawling in the heat. I can now attribute part of that to a fairly serious health issue. Make sure to keep me hydrated at all times.  Our leader decided he didn’t want to enter the festival or Japanese gardens because he knew there were no good flowers for photographic purposes and it would be rather crowded.  I had already concluded the same before seeing the tortuously long line.  So, along with J and EJ, the girl that came with J, we made our exit out of Balboa park. The intention to join them for a quick brunch, turned into a full daylong trip all the way to the Getty in LA! What a spontaneous adventure.

Walking around the Getty envelopes my senses and momentarily takes me away from the busy-ness that is my life. I get to admire art, nature, detailed paintings, dynamic architecture, and breathtaking views.  For the sake of this post and the length, I will only bring you to the garden. I used the senses of sight, sound, and touch as I admired the beautiful gardens. I listened to the couples walk by and the children at play on the grassy lawn.  I went into auto sensory overload. I paused feeling the warmth of the sun on my cheeks, the slight breeze brush against my arm, and momentarily sat basking in the perfect day. I walked over the mini bridges, listened to the stream, and observed the vines growing among the arches.  

As we rested on the large lawn, our friend J off in the distance bullets of sweat dropping, captured our delight at the day’s happenings - with a $2,000+ camera lens no less. Yes, the “amateur” photographer has quite a set up of lenses and other gadgets for his camera   Psh! The photos looked pretty pro pro professional to me! Say what he wants, but my eye after a few months of stalking believes they’re pretty darn good photos he takes. He’s definitely no amateur.

photo courtesy of J : ) 
J decided to make it his mission to practice some photography with subjects and models aka EJ  and I. For as long as I can remember, I’ve never liked being in photos, but I’m slowly learning to be in more photos especially because all my Asian friends insist on it.  As he began taking pictures, we were given the opportunity to review some of them. We compared some photos on the basic lens to the $2,000+ lens. The lens lit up our faces and caught our exuberant expressions not to mention our tired faces.

I thought, “wow, this makes me look good. On a day I feel gross and ugly, this actually makes me look really good!” And then it hit me, it doesn’t matter what I think. I get caught up comparing myself through different lenses of wealth, success, beauty, and my own broken lenses through which I see myself in the mirror.  I look in the mirror with the lyrics of Mulan’s “Reflection” running through my head. Who is that girl I see, staring straight back at me? Really, what do these thoughts matter at the end of the day? I’m not everyone else, I am uniquely and wonderfully me. That’s all I want to be.

While I want to be many things, I want to grow in love for Christ and see through the only lens that matters. Only in Him do I have the strength to achieve and be all things.  I had a moment of rebuke and awakening. I repented and looked again back at the picture. That my dear friend, is like the lens of God. I sometimes pick up my broken fleshly being of a lens to view myself.  I wake up remembering to put on my “corrective lenses” to see through the lens that Christ is showing. My shame, my pain, my sorrow, and my brokenness were all dealt with on Cross.  God sees us through a lens so beautiful and rich there is no price tag. Regardless of my health, the fog in my brain, and my quirky flaws, the lens that I am to see myself through is His lens and His alone. I daily want to wake up not conforming to this world, but renewing my mind and putting on the mind of Christ. (Rom 12:2)

Which lens do you see yourself through? What is and where is your identity? God uses His light and lenses to brightly shine light and love on our faces.  Here are just a few affirmations.  

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.  2 Corinthians 4:6

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Matthew 5:14

Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky. Philippians 2:15

You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. Thessalonians 5:5

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. Ephesians 1:4

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful. I know that full well. Psalm 139:13-14

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. Ephesians 2:8