An Insignificant Birthday – A Short Story

It was an insignificant birthday, the number unknown to the people attending. They weren’t supposed to even realize that the cake meant more than the sugar, eggs and flour it contained.

She had labored in the kitchen alone, with only her mixer and baking pans for conversation. The clanging and banging and whirring making the sounds of happiness if not the feeling. The last minute idea to make a lemon frosting twisted her mouth – tartness was as close to bitter as she would allow herself to get. 

She searched for the stool she used to reach the cabinet above the refrigerator. She only used it once a year. The rest of the time, the stool was hidden so as not to remind her of this day. The year long amnesia allowed her to have a reason to procrastinate.

But soon the stool was found as the smell of freshly baked cake wafted through the kitchen. Her guests would arrive soon and she still needed to let the cake cool before smoothing on the lemon frosting. Hurriedly, she placed the stool by the fridge, stood on it and opened the cabinet, pulling out the jar from it’s abode. She stepped off the stool, care overcoming speed, and sat down. 

The jar was smooth and cool despite the bright glow emanating from inside. She saw her reflection on it’s curved surface, then adjusted her eyes so she looked inside, seeing each individual light bouncing against the glass like fireflies conscripted for summertime entertainment. 

She took a deep breath, grasped the cork top and pulled. A pop sent a shiver down her spine. She quickly covered the glass mouth with her hand. She couldn’t afford even one escaping. She brought the bottle to her lips, lifted her hand up a fraction and whispered her birthday wish into the jar. She slammed the cork top back on and again peered into the jar, marveling as the wish unfolded, brightened and began to bounce off the transparent walls. 

“It’s better this way,” she said and quickly returned the jar to the overhead cabinet for another year long exile. 

Image credit: Andrew Morris @ Unsplash 
For the visually challenged reader, the image shows a lantern sitting on the wet sand of a beach. There are fairy lights inside the lantern.

This beautiful photo from Sadje’s What Do You See #77 inspired this story – one of many that popped into my head as I was pondering this prompt. Being that my family is in the midst of birthday mania (5 out of 6 people in my family have birthdays within weeks of each other), I chose this story of a different kind of birthday.

Turning a year older has never been a big deal for me. It’s been mostly an excuse to have a party and be with people who I enjoy being with. In my family, we’ve toned down the material aspect of birthday parties and have instead focused on celebrating the person and honoring how that person wants to celebrate their special day.

This would be the 2nd year that my family has celebrated their birthday the “pandemic way” – no party, no special outing, nothing except a cake, a balloon, and dinner of their choice. We didn’t even plan a “birthday drive-by” which was all the rage last year (this was when friends would drive by the birthday person’s house with birthday signs and lots of honking). We were lucky enough to see my parents and in-laws during this time since they are all vaccinated, but the feeling of having a big celebration just isn’t there.

We still have a long way to go before this pandemic is over. When we can go about with no masks and hug people and eat face to face, that would be the time to celebrate. Until them – mask up, keep your distance and get vaccinated!

©️ 2021 iido

Silence is Not an Option – A Poem

In the whisper of night

My voice finds her way

Through the crack in my heart

Image credit: Jasmin Chew @ Unsplash 
For the visually challenged reader, the visually a young Asian woman looking up to the sky, where a crescent moon is visible. Her stance is meditative.

Sadje’s photo choice for her What Do You See #75 pairs beautifully with Patrick’s Pic and a Word Challenge #270 – Whisper. Many times in the past weeks, I have looked up to the heavens, eyes closed, willing a moment of peace, whispering a prayer but really wanting to shout my anger and anguish to the sky.

I was asked to write about the recent news coverage of violence against Asian Americans for a local group that I write for. I am the only Asian person in this group and as such, the assumption was that writing a piece about this topic would be easy. Even I thought it would be easy…but it wasn’t. I’ve been conditioned to believe in the “model minority myth” – the one that says that Asians (especially Asian women) are the “good ones,” the “minority group” that has been able to achieve the American Dream, and because we don’t want to lose this status, we should overlook the ways in which we have been discriminated against, the ways in which racism and sexism has adversely affected our lives. I’ve always been told to keep my head down, do my work, don’t complain, don’t speak my mind, don’t rock the boat. That was how we have survived.

But now – it seems obvious that despite this moniker (that really only served to separate Asians/Asian Americans from other communities of color), we are not exempt from being victims of violence due to racism. No matter how quiet we are, how much work we do, or how many ways we serve this country – we are still considered “other, different, foreign.” There is no way we can assimilate our eyes, our skin, our hair to the white culture of the United States of America.

Yet for years, generations, we have kept quiet. Sure, there have been a few who have spoken out, who have gotten politically involved, trying to make a difference, make a change. But for the most of us, the rest of us, we have continued the mantra of “keep your head down, do your work, don’t complain” – don’t be noticed and they will forget about you and let you live your life in peace.

This belief is like when little kids cover their eyes and think that just because they can’t see us, that we can’t see them.

It’s cute and fun when you’re two, but it’s dangerous and scary to believe this when you’re 22 or 42 or 62.

Asian Americans need to open our eyes. We are not immune to racism or sexism or any other – ism. Whether we stay silent or not, whether we work or not, whether we save lives as a doctor or not, whether we serve in the armed forces or not (I can go on, but I think (I hope) you get the point), none of these behaviors can combat racism because racism needs to identified, racism needs to be called out an held accountable, racism needs to be decried with the loudest voice we have.

Racism needs to be identified.

Racism needs to be called out and held accountable.

Racism needs to be decried in the loudest voice we have.

I hope my broken-hearted voice is loud enough in the roar of day.

©️ 2021 iido

The Guardians – A Poem

Among ancient giants

Along paths etched through pine needles

As hesitant fingers of mist wrap around me

I follow the curve and stop

At the unexpected whisper

Of two moss covered guards

Warning me not to disturb the peace

Image credit: Eric Muhr @ Unsplash
For the visually challenged reader, this image shows a forest scene with a path going deep into the forest. The trees at the distance are shrouded in mist.

Sadje’s What Do You See #74 offered this serene photo of a misty path winding through the forest – a perfect day for a peaceful hike! At least it’s peaceful to us – but what of the plants and animals who live there? Is it peaceful for them as we traipse through their home?

This poem was also inspired by Kate’s Friday Fun – Etching and Sgeoil at the Saturday Ragtag Daily Prompt – Unexpected. The mood of this poem was unexpected for me. I had thought of writing a poem of two people in love, walking through the woods and etching their initials into a tree. But after reading about the parts of a tree’s bark and how, after the protective outer layer that we see, the next layer (called phloem) is living conductive tissue that carries food throughout the tree, I got to thinking….

The romantic act of lovers carving initials into a tree is actually hurting the tree. While it may not immediately kill a tree, the carving will leave a tree open to infection and will result in a permanent scar. (For more information – read here and here.) How often do we do something that – intentionally or unintentionally – hurts another living thing?

Since the start of lockdowns due to the pandemic, the amount of carbon dioxide in the planet was reduced by 20%. That means that people staying home reduced the amount of air pollution in the world. While this dip may not be enough to offset overall global warming, it shows how significant an impact humans make in the world. (Jane’s Climate Change World Map has a great visual on this topic.)

This pandemic has etched a permanent scar on our collective human psyche. But what scars have we left on the world?

©️ 2021 iido

Perpendicular Perspective – A Poem

You look down on me without realizing 

Your strength and beauty perfectly balanced 

From your perch 

A perpendicular perspective 

Your artist eyes watching 

My plateaued trajectory 

You don’t realize your wings are ready

To feel the air and lift

An arrow at the end of your line

Infinite, vertical 

Do not continue to look down

My line ends in a point

Flatlined living

Look up with your artist eyes

And imagine, create

Look up with your eagle eyes 

And focus, achieve

The scale has shifted

I look up at you and realize

You’re strength and beauty perfectly balanced 

Image credit: Sonny Mauricio
For the visually challenged reader, this image shows a bald eagle sitting in the bare branches of a tree. It is looking down at the camera

Hello! Hello! It’s been a while – over a month (yikes!) since I’ve last posted. I’ve been busy – and I’m excited to tell you with what – but first, I’m catching up…well, you know, catching up in my usual “late to the party” way…is there any other way? (cue eye-roll and self-deprecating facetiousness)

Three things inspired me with this poem. First, was this adorable picture from Sadje’s What do you see #73. I missed the deadline to be included in her round up, but you can read all the other wonderful submissions here. Second, was Patrick’s Pic and a Word Challenge #268 – Scale and #269 – Perpendicular. Now, I have been a long time fan of Patrick’s challenges and am actually on a streak. Being the “competitive” person that I am, I will have to go back and complete the other challenges because there are no breaks when streaking!

Third, and probably the most meaningful inspiration for this poem is my older daughter who just self-published her first book at the tender age of 12! Yes – my daughter has published her own book before I have! At an age when I was consumed with awkwardness and other growing pains, my daughter has the self-confidence, the motivation, and the perseverance to spend this past pandemic year writing a book and designing and creating the cover art. She even did all the research for how she can self-publish it.

If you can’t tell, I am very proud of her and very much in awe of her accomplishment.

You can find her book on Amazon. She joins the ranks of other esteemed writers on WP such as Mich (see her book here) and Ivor (see his books here and here) and Chris (see one of her many books here).

©️ 2021 iido

Growing Pain – A Tanka

Bright sun of your face

Hair flying free with laughter

Lunchtime playground fun

Replaced by eye rolls and sighs

The penumbra comes too soon

Image credit; Teslariu Mehai @ Unsplash
For the visually challenged reader, this image shows a person wearing a paper-bag over their head. Words ” Photo shop” are written by hand on the bag.

The word penumbra comes from the Bushboy’s Thursday RagTag Daily prompt. I had never heard that word before but the idea of a half shadow intrigued me.

On the other hand, this photo from Sadje’s What do you see #66 brought up a lot of emotions for me, the strongest of which was avoidance (hence my missing the deadline). It took me awhile to process why this was.

The paper bag of the woman’s head didn’t sit well with me. It made me think about all the ways that women are “covered” – how we cover our true selves or how other people try to cover us up. How might we “photoshop” what we want others to see when our true selves are hidden? I began to wonder what her face might be like under the bag – is her face blank? is she frowning? Is she smiling even though her smile can’t be seen?

This reminded me of those “awkward years” as a pre-teen, feeling embarrassed of “changes” and not feeling comfortable in my own skin. I probably would have hidden in a paper bag if I could. That was the time when I decided I wasn’t good at math (even though I was doing high school level math in junior high) – becoming “less than” I truly was. I wouldn’t find my whole self until much later in life.

And now I see my daughter entering that stage where she’s spending more time wearing her ear buds and the eye rolls outnumber the laughter. I try to remind her to stay true to who she is and not feel like she has to become “less than” for other people. Is this something all girls – women – go through? Or is it something that is part of human nature and growing up?

When does the bag go over our face and a penumbra covers our true selves? Or maybe the better question is why…

©️ 2021 iido

The Invitation – A Trenta Sei

Invitation hung overhead

Immobilized, I can only stare

Insistence dressed in red

Urging me to take the dare

What will happen if I open

Adventures to make my heart soften

Immobilized, I can only stare

Yet slowly, my hand grabs the prize

My heartbeat skips as I tear

Deliberate actions, my disguise

With breath held, my eyes scan

An exhale discovers the grand plan

Insistence dressed in red

Has worn me down to my delight

Tickets and suitcase are on the bed

Hurry, pack then catch the flight

No need to bring so much stuff

A dress and a dream will be enough

Urging me to take the dare

My furrowed brow contrasts your smile

You grab the bag and my hand with care

I hope my trust is not juvenile

This trip, a leap, my fear returns

Should I deny my heart that yearns?

What will happen if I open

This door to a place unknown

What will it say on my coffin

If they knew that I had thrown

An opportunity to transcend my fear

What will I find in a different hemisphere?

Adventures to make my heart soften

To see, eat and feel something new

This dream I have had often

So fears – I bid you adieu 

With love and trust I spread my wings

Ready for the adventure this invitation brings

Image credit: Simona Sergi @ Unsplash. For the visually challenged reader, this image shows an envelope hanging by a white tread. In the background there is a house entrance.

Image credit: Timur Kozmenko. For the visually challenged reader, this is an image of a girl dressed in a red swirling frock walking towards open gates. The gates are very tall and appear to be Asian in origin. From the open gate you can see mountains visible through a cloudy sky.

Sometimes you see or read or hear something that you know would make a good poem or a good story, yet it doesn’t coalesce until something else brings it together. This was the case for me with this poem. Sadje had two beautiful pictures for her What do you see #64 and What do you see #65 (links are to her round-up posts so you can read all the wonderful submissions for these prompts). I loved the pop of red in each picture! The pictures seemed to be connected and, since I missed the deadline for the first prompt, I wanted to bring their stories together for this past week. Alas, the words and ideas were not fitting together.

I had almost given up when I ran across an unfamiliar poetry form called the “trenta sei” introduced by Donna Matthews at the Go Dog Go Cafe. Viola! The story came together and I think the cascade feature of the trenta sei form really worked with this poem.

Fear, bravery and prudence have been themes that we’ve discussed as a family during this pandemic time. We don’t want to live our lives in fear of this coronavirus, however should we be brave and risk getting sick or practice prudence and abide with all the pandemic precautions? I know every family has to take their own individual circumstances into consideration, yet it makes it difficult when my definition of bravery or prudence conflicts with someone else’s. For example, my kids have been asking about play dates because their friends are now going on play dates. But unless the playdates are outside with masks, my answer has been no – it’s winter so unfortunately for my kids….(sigh)….

What I wouldn’t give to get back the days when being brave meant trying the level 7 spice instead of the level 3 or signing up for that ballroom dancing class or traveling to a new and different part of the world…

©️ 2021 iido

Old Woman Running – And Poem and Runfession #15, October/November/December 2020

The hallway, long and dark, 

Echoes footsteps, like a dull bell

Ringing a dirge.

The egress beckons, urging speed, 

Alas, the footsteps carry 

The weight of time

Old woman running

If plodding could be considered as such

The effort coming out of her pores

Her face, glistening

Brow furrowed, lips frowning

A beauty hidden in determined wrinkles

At last the goal is reached

She pauses at the threshold

Stepping aside

A young girl runs by,

Face glistening with hope 

A new year zooming by with possibilities

The old woman laughs

Such innocence in ignorance

Better not to know, her inner child says

She makes her slow exit

Relieved yet fully aware

Not her best race, but finished nonetheless

Image credit; Tim Hüfner @ Unsplash 
For visually challenged reader, the image shows wall art. A woman is dressed in 1950’s style. A speech bubble next to her says, ” Listen to your inner child.” There are cartoons and graffiti on the wall too.

Hello and Welcome to 2021!! What a year it has been! Yes, I know it’s only been 7 days into 2021, but if you’ve been listening to the news coming out of Washington, DC, you’ll know what I mean about this year not starting off as best as it could.

I’m still back in 2020 – not because I didn’t want to leave, but because I feel like there is still so much I needed/wanted to get done before the year changed. Alas, Time waits for no one (especially a chronically late procrastinator like me)! This poem and runfession incorporates Sadje’s What Do You See #61 (check out the wonderful responses to her prompt in her roundup here) and two of Patrick’s Pic and a Word Challenge #258 – Beauty and #259 – Hope.

Next week (or maybe this week if I can get it together) I will be back on track. This is my mantra for 2021 – “Get back on track!” Or maybe it should be “Don’t fall off the rails”….

I’ve combined my runfessions from the last three months of 2020 because honestly, there was really nothing to runfess those last few months. I did absolutely no running during that time – I wouldn’t even count the 2 mile run/walks I did here and there. I didn’t even really think about running. The Spartan race that I had signed up for in October was cancelled and that was in it for my motivation for 2020. So that’s my biggest runfession for 2020!

I’m hoping 2021 will be the year I get back into running. I’ve already signed up for 2 Spartan obstacle races – a sprint and a stadion – something different to break up the running a bit. And I’m looking to do at least 1 half marathon. Of course, this is all pandemic provisional.

I couldn’t decide if I identified more with the old woman running or the young girl running in the poem. How about you? We’re 7 days into 2021, yet I’m wondering if 2020 has decided to hang around…

©️ 2020 iido

Countdown – A Cascade Poem

The porch steps are cold despite the flowers

I remain hopeful in my solitude

The radio wails so I don’t have to

It’s 6 pm and I’ve been waiting

Since 3 pm, your promise repeating yet

The porch steps are cold despite the flowers

.

It’s 9 pm and darkness is whispering

Forget, the candles are melting yet

I remain hopeful in my solitude

.

It’s midnight and I’m fumbling

For reasons, don’t stop believing yet

The radio wails so I don’t have to

Image credit; Shche- Team @ Unsplash 
For the visually challenged reader, the image shows an outdoor scene. An old fashioned radio is placed next to a couple of candles and a wicker basket. Behind the radio is a pot full of blooming red flowers.

I’ve been sitting on this poem for a few days, but it’s time to set it free! Peter, at dVerse’s last Meeting of the Bar for 2020, brought these prompts together with his request for poems that explored different endings/beginnings. I immediately thought of a cascade poem, one of my favorites with lines that repeat and loop back. The one above also plays with enjambment.

Sadje’s What do you see #60 provide the inspirational picture while Patrick’s Pic and a Word Challenge #257 – Solitude provided the feeling that this picture brought for me. Maybe it’s the melancholy that the end of the year brings me, even for a year as bad as 2020. This year definitely had its share of disappointments, promises and plans not kept. And solitude – even with family, that feeling of disconnectedness has been quite profound this year.

Still, I’m sad to see this year end – I’ve enjoyed the extra time with my children and the more relaxed (meaning, basically non-existent) schedule. I know 2021 will be better. It has to be.

©️ 2020 iido

To Touch the Moon – A Poem

If I reached out a hand 

Toward the moon, touching

It’s essence, not merely flying 

Over its form, like geese 

heading south, but capturing 

The hard rock, biting into my palm

Reminding me I am just a girl

And not a silly goose. 

Image credit; Lolame @ Pixabay
For visually challenged reader, the image shows three Cranes flying in the evening sky. You can see a waning gibbous moon behind the birds.

Getting back on track with a poem for Sadje’s What Do You See #59. When I first saw this picture, I thought the birds were geese, however after pasting in the description, I now realize they are cranes. If I knew that before hand, this poem might have taken a different path. But I didn’t and that’s OK.

I also incorporated Patrick’s Pic and a Word Challenge #256 – Touching. There are so many things I want to touch! I’m the type of person that if I see an interesting texture – on a wall or on clothing or in nature – my curiosity gets the best of me and I do reach out to touch it. Touch is really one of our most underrated senses but it’s the one we have the most of since we are covered in skin from head to toes.

There is a saying, “Shoot for the moon – even if you fail, you might land on a star.” This poem reflects my thoughts before I tried for the moon.

©️ 2020 iido