Wednesday, September 12, 2018


It is a beautiful day. I went out for a walk along the Mill Race Trail between Elkhart River along the canal. I should call my mother I thought. She would enjoy talking to me. She is 83 years old and insist on living alone. So the best we can do is visit or call her on the phone. I have more than one hour.

I was expecting the "same old" stories that she tells me over and over and over. I could almost recite them. At times she does not even realize that she is repeating herself for 20th time in one time stretch.

As she was talking, my mind was far away. Agreeing with her and synchronizing the timing of response that she expects at the right moments. I had heard this story so many times before, but today she pulled on my heart until I was in tune with her story telling.

"We had just immigrated to US. You were about 12 years old. After school, I would find you in bed with expression of forlorn life. Depression was on your face every day. I was desperate and did not want to lose you the way your aunt and uncle lost their daughter TaeSoon; from depression to loss of her mind. She never got her mind restored.

TaeSoon was 16 years old. She was probably the smartest girl in the family of seven children. So smart that everyone knew that she would become somebody someday. Yet she did not have the beauty that her older sister and younger sister had. She had fallen in love with a local boy. Her mother and father did not approve of him. They told her that her status was too high for that common boy. This was Korea during early 1960's.  Her dad was a high level executive and they were very wealthy.  Because of the disapproval of the parents TaeSoon had to give up her love. She changed. The boy was taken away from her yet her mind hung on to him and eventually desire for life left. She never sought another man. Eventually all her siblings got married and left home. When her father retired, he bought a large farm. He gave TaeSoon bit of land to manage herself, to plant vegetables and flowers. She lived with her parents. She had lost zest for life. Her ambition in career died. In time her mother died. Then her father died. She grew to be an old woman. I don't know if she is still alive or not."

That is a sad story of my cousin I thought. Yet this was an intro to how that relates to me as a 12 years old. My mother continued.

"You told me that ...Life is too hard. Learning English is too hard. You have no friends.... I told your dad that we must do something to make you happier. Otherwise you may end up like your cousin TaeSoon. You had tendency to be depressed. That is why we bought you a piano."

At that time we lived in a cheap one bedroom apartment. My parents had the bedroom. My brother had the dining room and my little sister and I had the living room. It totally did not make any sense to buy a piano at that stage in life. My mother continued ...'I told your dad, I want to save you(JaeHi) from depression that can lead to mind loss. I don't care about money....' Once we bought the piano, I found you playing the piano every day after school. I did not see you being depressed anymore."

On my part, yes I do remember those days. I felt it was my duty to play the piano otherwise all of their money would be wasted. My ten years old brother and five years old sister had no interest in piano. I kept on playing because my parents sacrificed too much. I knew how many hours they had to work to buy that instrument. I never understood why they bought a piano. I did not know that I appeared so depressed to my mother. I was always a melancholy child and having melancholy face was the norm for me. Immigrating at age eleven and being put into my grade when I did not speak any English was not an easy thing. Not having any friends was not a easy phase to go through. Anyhow it was my duty to play whether I wanted to or not especially since my brother and sister did not care to play the piano. My mother felt that they did the right thing to pull me away from depression.

When I married Tom, he bought a piano because he wanted to play. I hardly notice that we have a piano. I don't play our piano but I always love to hear Tom play.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Clearing the Paths

We live near a small woods where we hike daily if time and weather allows. The winding trails can intertwine so much that we can hike up to two hours within a deceptively small space. We have done this for few years now. We are creating memories for ourselves when we can no longer hike. Then we will reminisce ... those good old days when we were able to spend so much time together daily in the woods, breathing in the wonderful fresh air and loving the beauty of it all.

This year the river that flows within the woods flooded due to melting snow and lots of rain. Much of our trails have been under water for a week or more. As our paths have dried out, we have been able to use more and more of them, after clearing away the branches and fallen trees carried by the flood blocking the paths.

This flood also left an abundance of litter: pop cans, alcohol bottles, candy and gum wrappers, etc. The first day back on our trails, we collected five grocery bags of garbage. Subsequent days were much less. One week will clear the woods for another year!

It is rather interesting that we have learned to enjoy the whole process of maintaining these trails by trimming the thorn bushes that would snag us, collecting litter, and clearing fallen branches and trees as we're on our daily walks.

We have all the wonders of nature, many giant logs that have fallen, the uphill climb, wetlands, river, countless trees that create such interesting patterns with the blue sky, small and large animals that make home here, and all the birds and their songs.  And we have our little haven in which we take daily mini vacations of hiking in nature as if these woods belonged to us.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Goals, dreams, and an open door

Earlier today, as we were walking in the woods after the flood, even though our boots were getting muddy, I was moved to see the beauty of my surroundings. My thoughts were roaming. What is it that is important for me? How do I want to finish my life.

I thought of my history. As a little girl growing up in post-war Korea, I determined that I wanted to fulfill all the aspirations that my parents had, that were taken away by the war. I wanted to fulfill my grandfather's aspiration also taken away by the war. It was a huge task to fulfill their dreams.
In that endeavor, I tried so hard to achieve the unachievable. Those around me noticed me as someone  accomplished, but I was always a huge disappointment to myself for failing my parents' and grand-father's dreams. I could not enjoy my present life. 

Here I am, 62 years old. Because of what I believe was a providential pathway, I resigned from my lifelong career. Then another career path opened up, which I believe was also providential. That step alone was empowering. I actually chose my desire in studies, something that I am passionate about.

 The thought of fulfilling that path also scared me. Why would I want to be a functional medicine practitioner when I don't have... a million reasons pop into my mind contrary to pressing on.

Providence has opened the door for me. I will pursue it. At the same time, I realize that what is important is relationship with those whom I love and care about and those whom I will meet in my path. My dream is not a successful career but a successful life. I dream of making an impact on the people whose lives I hope to touch with love for God by serving humanity in the healing arts.

I realized that there are lots of things that need to be cleaned up within me. With God's help I am allowing forgiveness for myself. I can let go of my past, when I was so intensely focused on fulfilling my seniors' dreams that I often did not enjoy, relish, and pour myself into my own children as they were growing up. My regrets only tie me down. Only when I am free from that weight of guilt can I love my grown children to the utmost and love my grandchildren to the fullest. I shall also let go of any bitterness that has come along my path one by one so that I can fully be released to live in life, in God, and in love.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Visiting my blog again

Life has a funny way of marching on. Who would have thought a year ago that so much would have changed in my life. I was able to leave the pharmacy world in September, then embark on totally new studies as I pursue another field. As most peers my age are looking forward to retirement, I have decided to tackle new studies for new goals. And I am dreaming of living a full life and loving my new career as I age.

I graduated from college in 1980, 38 years ago. It has been a long time since I was an active student. Back then, it was normal to dedicate a full day every day to studies. Fast forwarding 38 years, I was not ready to experience headaches and eye aches after just two hours of studying.

Four years ago, I stopped blogging, except during vacations. My full-time job as a pharmacy manager had consumed my body and my soul. This very dissatisfaction with my career screamed out to me, and I felt I must do what I wanted to do before I die. So now I spend most of my days studying functional medicine. No excitement. Just plugging along daily in my studies with the dream of becoming a passionate healing practitioner.

Just two days ago, I made a decision to join #standupandshinechallenge. This was something the young me, as a college student, would have joined. Lizy, my youngest daughter, had joined and in her excitement, I followed suit. Joining was a difficult decision for me. These thoughts were filling my head: "I am too old for these kinds of challenges. My daughter will be embarrassed with her mother doing the same projects. My peers will laugh at me." On and on the thoughts came into my head. Not only that, I was filled with, "What a crazy venture I am starting. I like to study. After I am done studying, I will quit. I do not have the oomph to press on to become an effective practitioner, to fight through what it takes to get there."

Oh my goodness! All those thoughts passed through my head. I just pushed and forced myself to signed up on my Instagram account (@noni_jaehi) and tagged Lizy (@elizab_anne). If I become a laughing stock, well let me see if I will survive.

My daughter Lizy responded:
  • elizbeth_anneGo mama!! You’re amazing and I love you so much!!!
  • elizbeth_anneYou inspire me ❤️

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Ranch Tres Palomas

The ranch we stayed at was on this dirt road. It is plowed from time to time because the wind causes the sand to accumulate.

The Neill men on the Ranch
Me and my two boys

This is some of the food we ate. Tom and I made breakfast every morning, and our sons and Danielle made dinner every evening. We had wonderful meals. Here are some samples.

All in all, in spite of challenges in our health, we had a wonderful week together!

Friday, January 27, 2017

Joshua Tree: Day 6

Today is the last day of our vacation. Seth said he felt so comfortable being here together that it seemed we could just go on living like this for who knows how long. I like that sentiment.

We had a lazy breakfast and left for our last day of excursion. We wanted to do so much but so limited in time.

We headed for the Fortynine Palms Oasis in Joshua Tree National Park, one of the final destinations of our trip.

Seth told us about Noah Purifoy's Outdoor Desert Art Museum of Assemblage Sculpture. Although it would be closed and it was getting dark, we decided to go. I have never seen anything like this. Each piece is so large that it needed to be displayed outdoor rather than indoor.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Joshua Tree: Day 5

This morning Christian came down with a virus. So Danielle is the only healthy one. Tom opted out of today's outing to get some more rest, and Seth decided to work at home.

So today it will be me, Christian, and Danielle. I cannot miss out on the sun and the beauty that awaits me even if I am still under the weather.

Funny, we all thought we would be having outings in other areas besides Joshua Tree. There are bends and turns that one could not anticipate. Yet I am loving every moment here with Tom, my sons, and Danielle.

Christian and Danielle really wanted to climb Ryan Mountain, which I did yesterday. The second visit was just as impressive. I still needed several stops to rest! I loved this hike just as much as yesterday's.

The sides of the mountain at this point looked like the boulders had stopped in the midst of the momentum of rolling down the hill and froze in time.
So glad that Danielle took so many great photos.