This is an ode to my mother.
to the big mamacita Song herself, known for her fashionably pink ways, her
bubbly spirit and her bottomless pit of a stomach, so incompatible with the
petite, flower of a woman who can still squeeze into a size six and be mistaken
for my sister.
On Mother's Day, I find myself doing a wee bit of introspection and realize just how much my mother's influence has shaped my values and, in a roundabout way, brought me to Green Planet.
For example, a common refrain in my childhood aside from, "Stop hitting your little brother" was "What a waste," whenever we left a few kernels of rice in our bowls. That was followed by a swift rap on our heads or high-pitched squealing in Korean about how poor children in Ethiopia were dying of famine -- she was a particular fan of that guilt-inducing mechanism and the diatribe could last a good 15 minutes. My brother and I weren't allowed to leave without scraping our bowls clean.
She also has a curious hobby of reusing items until they've died at least two deaths. She has an uncanny knack for reincarnating random items like 30-year-old doilies into sweater accessories -- no joke.
She'll also turn ordinary shoe boxes into decorative storage boxes, dressing them in whimsically pretty wrapping paper, two of which sat on my dresser for 10 years.
I've been the fortunate beneficiary of her antique accessories, a collection of unique scarves, hair clips and knick-knacks she's kept since high school -- props to her impeccable and timeless taste.
She's also fond of retelling a story that beautifully illustrates the scrappy spirit of Song women. During a recent trip to Korea, she visited a public bath house, an old tradition where bathers go to scrub their skin raw of dead cells stopping only until they reach muscle (Koreans use a medieval torture device, exponentially more potent than the exfoliating towel and feared by little Korean children everywhere).
When she saw a woman running the water at full blast and not using it, so incensed was she -- this 5-foot-nothing little woman, buck naked in this public house -- that she confronted the bather and launched into a sermon about water scarcity in her birthday suit.
That's my mom. Undaunted by nudity, or time-yellowed doilies, the big mamacita will go to all lengths to reuse and recycle.
My mother grew up in a still-developing country. My parents recount how poor everyone was back then: My father, for example, ate one meal a day, of boiled mountain weeds and rice.
They have an acute sense of scarcity. We call my father the human incinerator because he can't see food go to waste, while my mother's deftly skilled hand and creativity work small miracles on old trash.
My mother is a formidable force of life. She sees the divine in the everyday and still gets excited by the simple bloom of a rose. She never fails to remind her children to be thankful.
So today, I'd like to thank my mom and my best friend. Together, may we banish the wasteful water habits of naked public bathers everywhere.
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When Monique Fabregas decided to give up her childhood dream of becoming an architect to raise her daughter, she didn't realize she was just giving up one career for another.
While some things about motherhood are intuitive, she says,
other things have to be learned.
"The way I see it, motherhood is a life career and I can't just wing it," she says. "It's natural to love your child, but some things you have to learn, like breastfeeding. I wanted to educate myself about the choices available."
So, never one to be idle, Fabregas, 37, treated motherhood like a job, obsessively researching how to be an eco-mom, partly in response to the demand from other women in her mom's group. What followed was the creation of www.greenmom.ca, a website that educates moms on everything from safe foods, clothing and baby care products.
"A lot of moms work and so it's hard to do all this research the way I do," she said. "The message is we're here to help you through this ... it's daunting and not everyone has the time, but what I'm doing is helping people along."
The modern mom leads a harried lifestyle, Fabregas acknowledges. But becoming a green mom doesn't have to be ambitious and can start with simple choices such as switching to organic produce, she said.
"We're not saying give up your car or washer or the convenient things in life. What I'm saying is make one change, one day at a time."