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Take the time

When I really try to think through about a "problem" in my life, the answer invariably comes back the same: that I did not take the time.


Yesterday I opened my fridge and took out 3 eggplants about to go south, string beans that still looked fresh and inviting, a block of tofu whose package told me it's already expired but still passed the smell test, a bunch of chives in the prime of its usable life, and some ginger and scallion that have been sitting in a breathable fridge container designed to prolong their shelf life, but were stretching their last bit of vibrancy anyhow. I decided that I needed to do these friends justice. They did not choose to go into my fridge: I invited them in. I cannot just let them stay there, not fulfilling their life's purpose. That would have been very rude, cruel indeed: to throw my friends into the garbage.


The thing is, I'm a fairly competent cook. I can take what I have at hand, turn the raw into the cooked as my sister would say, and my product is usually more than edible, at least as far as I myself the fair judge is concerned. My kids sometimes shun my food, but that's because they have yet to learn what is good and healthy for them. I'll teach them one day.


Because of this curse of mediocrity, I refuse to watch the cooking channel. I'll get recipes, but why waste time watching how others cook when I already have the words to read? Moreover, since I'm Chinese and the food I'm about to cook according to the memories in my mind are the key ingredients towards success (well, raw to cooked) in my culinary effort, wouldn't it be a double waste of precious time watching a Chinese cook prepare my own food?


So my normal routine was to charge right ahead with all my ingredients. Whipping up 10 dishes for Chinese New Year's Eve without consulting a single recipe. Can you imagine if I had to read instructions for all 10 dishes or even watch a video in addition to that, get all the ingredients that I don't have and need to search for? New Year's Eve dinner would never happen.


Yesterday, however... I watched a video, maybe two, of two separate Chinese chefs preparing two Chinese dishes. I thank whatever spirits that had possessed me at the moment, because now I know how to make eggplants wilt, and how to make string beans sag.



I offered a shrimp to each of my kids (it was way past lunch time by the time I finished cooking these dishes). They were leery, wary, sticking their tongue out the tiniest bit to try to lick the shrimp the tiniest bit to take a taste before full commitment. I said with a smile on my face, "just one," and after they complied with my request, I walked away with my dish.


But my 7yo and 8yo soon stole their way back to the dish to take another shrimp. They scurried away so that I wouldn't see that they liked the taste... I'm thinking that my 10yo didn't come back because she was on zoom school and couldn't, haha.


I took the time, and it paid off.


I can also tell you that we took the time to go to the reservoir behind our house where the kids played with ice that wrapped itself around rocks over the water. I sat and watched them play. I chipped ice with them. I did not hurry them once, and let the play come to its natural conclusion. We got muddy. Kids put horse tails on my beanie. Our hands were freezing. Our jack russel shivered (in excitement or because he was naked?). The reservoir showed another side of itself to us, beautiful and accepting as ever. We took the time.






Alas, there are so many moments in our lives that we could easily label as "inconveniences" and spend the least amount of time to "get it done and out of the way," so that we could move on to bigger and better things. But what are these bigger and better things? Are they not an illusion and a mirage, when the best thing is always just right here, right now, underneath our very noses, patiently waiting for us to realize that the miracle is already underway. It's been happening from the very beginning of our time. It's in every breath we take.


It's in every moment we throw away.


Yesterday in a moment of need, I heard a teacher say these words to me:


What is Zen? The master replies, "When hungry, eat. When tired, sleep."


Listen to the voice of the moment. Answer the call. Take the time. Blah, blah, blah...


My 10yo walked in and read the Zen master quote. She said, but mommy said, when I'm hungry I need to ask mommy before I eat, and when I'm tired, I must still finish my chores before I go to sleep!


Touche my dear. Nothing brings me back to my real life like my kids. They don't let me get away with anything. As it should be. Here's to another day of mundane miracles and my pledge to be in it. Just in it.

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