5 Reasons My Nana Was A Badass

Every kid growing up looks up to someone, a hero so to speak. For me, that person was my nana. She was a small, petite Korean woman who married an American soldier during the Korean war and made a home here in America. Her name was Deuksoon “Carol” Simmons and when she met my pap he called her Carol. (If you are unsure exactly what the Korean War is check out the video below and what the video doesn’t mention is that many in Korea do not consider the war over.) She may not have looked like much at first glance but looks can fool and anyone in my family who knew her would probably agree my nana was a bad-ass. So here are 5 reasons my nana was a total badass.

The Korean War

1. She escaped Japanese soldiers with her crippled mom and younger brother.

One of the many stories I would eagerly listen to her tell at her kitchen table while she prepared us food was the story of what happened during the Japanese Occupation in Korea. My nana was in china and had to sneak back into Korea. She first snuck back into Korea using her dead sister’s birth certificate. Using that she was able to get back into Korea, but her journey was long and hard.

During her trip, she had to carry her crippled mother on her back and bring her younger brother along as well. At one point they reached a bridge where all travelers trying to cross were shot. She didn’t know what to do. This is where she says a young boy offered to help them get across the bridge. He went and talked to the soldiers for a minute, came back, and told her to cross but not to look back. She, her crippled mother, and younger brother were the only ones to get across that day. She believed the boy was an angel. Did I mention she was probably like 12 or 13 at the time?

Japanese Occupation of Korea

2. She Stood Up To Her Aunt

Here in the US, it may not seem like a big deal to stand up to your Aunt, but context helps. First, in Korea, there is a large amount of respect for your elders and second, my nana’s family was very traditional in those days. This was with a full-blown head of the family and if one of your elders told you were going to do something you did it.

Why do Buddhist Nuns shave their head?

Apparently my nana had been training at her Aunt’s Buddhist temple to become a priestess. (My Great Aunt was pretty amazing too, but she’s another story). My nana had long beautiful hair that she really took care of. So when the day came for her to shave her head to become a priestess my nana said no. She flat out told her Aunt she would not cut her hair.

Well, that didn’t go over well with her Aunt. Her aunt threw her out on the street. Thankfully, she was taken in by some catholic missionaries and she soon after gave her life to Christ.

3. She Responded To Racism With Love and Grace

When my nana married my pap they decided to make a life for themselves in America. My nana knew her son, my father, wouldn’t be accepted in Korea because he was half American. So she went with her husband to America to give her children their best chance. Wondering about Korean War Brides? Check out the link to learn more!

It wasn’t all roses and peaches when she got there. Unfortunately, racism wasn’t just a thing she had to face, but the family she married into had trouble seeing past color. They were furious their son married an Asian woman.

Fight Racism with Love
Martin Luther King Jr. on Racism and Love

Most people might have responded with equal anger or rage. They might have thrown around some hurtful words, but nana didn’t do that. While I am sure she was hurt she treated her in-laws with the love and grace they probably didn’t deserve. Years later before my great grandmother died she did admit she was mistaken to judge my nana like that. That she had been a wonderful daughter in law and she was thankful for her. She taught her children by example how to deal with those hateful attitudes and I can tell you my father is grateful for that lesson.

4. She Was The Head of Her Korean Family

Here in America how families are thought of and come together are vastly different from the family makeup in Korea. Here in America we value independence and push our children to become self-sufficient and independent and if they grow up and leave the nest we’ve done something right. In Korea, children are indebted to their parents. They try and honor their parents at all times and when their parents grow older they are expected to care for them. This usually falls on the eldest. By care for them, they would have their parent live with them. They would not be put in an assisted living or nursing home.

Differences Between American & Korean Parents Parody Video

My nana’s family was very traditional (although this could have changed I can’t be sure). The head of the family had to approve of many decisions. If you wanted to get married the head of the family had to approve. You couldn’t buy or sell a house without approval. You also were expected to bow to the head of the family, maybe even give gifts. You also were expected to follow any instruction the head of the family gave you.

Thing is a head of the family is usually male. So for my nana to become head of the family was a huge thing. She told her family that they couldn’t sell a certain property because land ownership was hard to come by in Korea. She also approved marriages and when she visited with her daughter even her daughter had to bow, but when she visited with my father her eldest son they also bowed to him.

The two sides of my Korean family don’t always get along but when she ordered them to all get together for her visits they put aside their differences and came together. So many years have passed and while I was able to visit them briefly I cannot be sure if they are still this traditional. Since my nana died I am unsure who the new head would be. My guess would be her younger brother if he is alive, but I can’t be sure.

5. She Bought A House Selling Levi’s

My nana always had a good sense of business and making a buck. My pap wasn’t half bad either. In order to pay for a house here in America for their family, they made trips back to Korea and sold Levi jeans and American cigarettes on the black market. Apparently, Levi jeans were hugely popular back then and hard to come by. They made enough money doing this to buy a house.

It still boggles my mind they managed to make enough money doing this to buy a house. It also makes me grateful they were never caught and never got in any trouble.

Conclusion

I honestly could write a whole book about this woman and her life would probably make an awesome movie, but all I have room for here is a blog post. In short, my nana was a bad-ass woman that didn’t take any crap, went for her dreams, didn’t let anyone tell her what to do, and did it all with a smile and love in her heart. I wish my children could have met her.

Why The George Floyd Protests Make Me Cry

After the horrible death of George Floyd, protests erupted in the streets with a clear message of enough is enough. After what seems like an endless stream of murdered African Americans by police or some form of security. The lack of justice yet again finally boiled over for many Americans everywhere and people took to the streets despite the threat of COVID-19 looming over our heads. Many understood that life is valuable and what was the point in staying in our homes to safeguard life when many of our own were being brutally beaten and killed by those we have trusted to protect us.

Bk

These times have been confusing and I don’t think anyone would argue with the notion that the year 2020 has sucked. A lot of bad has happened and it seems just when we are adjusting something else inevitably happens. In fact, it seems for the past few years each year has just gotten progressively crappier as time went on. So much so that I was starting to give up hope on the America I loved and I truly thought the America I grew up in just might be dead…that is until the recent Black Lives Matter protests started.

I cried because what seemed like a people broken beyond repair were now coming together. I saw people from all walks of life, color, political belief, and religious beliefs coming together to fight for our fellow black Americans. I cried because the America I thought was long gone suddenly was back. People rallying together to fight what was wrong with our country and trying their best to make themselves heard. To force change to happen now so our children can live in a better future.

Suddenly it no longer mattered where on the political spectrum you fell because people of all sides could agree that the brutality that people of color face is wrong. That there was no excuse for this behavior. You fell into one of two groups. This is racist, hateful, wrong and this MUST stop NOW or the people who are afraid to admit to themselves racism might still be a problem today. The people who argue it was just a few bad apples or that all lives matter. The people who can’t admit to themselves that they just might be racist.

Are You Subconsciously Racist?

I cried because yet another person of color was unfairly treated, begged to just be able to breathe, to be heard, and whose life was cruelly snuffed out while people stood by and begged for mercy for him. The cruelty was laid bare before the world as video of this horrible act swept like wildfire across the web making everyone confront the uncomfortable truth. Not only was racism alive but we hadn’t done anything to stop this. It lit a fire under us and woke us up to the cruelty we have been allowing to take place every day.

I cried because I couldn’t understand how a person who swore to protect the people could kneel on a person’s neck as they pleaded to be able to breathe. As they cried out I can’t breathe over and over and for that man to continue to rob this man of the air he needed to live. How can someone casually take life so cruelly and think they did nothing wrong?

I cried because our justice system has been broken for a long time and this time I am hoping real change will take place. Better training and stricter screening to weed out those with hateful beliefs that might make them a threat to the American people. By American people, I mean people of all colors, creeds, religion, sexuality, and disabilities.

I cried because there is a part of me that is afraid that this to will eventually be swept under the rug. That the change many are hoping, praying, and fighting for won’t come. That our voices will once again ring hollow and fall on deaf ears.

Black Lives Matter

I cried because of the many lives that also were lost because of this senseless brutality and only now are so many saying enough is enough. A part of me wonders why this didn’t happen so many lives ago.

I cried because I have hope. I cried because I am afraid. I cried because life has been lost. I cried because despite the horribleness just maybe something good can come from it.

I cried because so many are finally listening to their fellow Black Americans and helping them fight for the rights they should have had all along. The right to be treated like a human being. The right to be treated with dignity and respect. The right to justice and a fair trial without racism standing in the way of it all. The right to walk alongside us as equals.

I cried because no amount of apologies for the cruelties committed by people with my skin color will ever make this right. All I can hope for is that everyone crying for change is heard. That change happens and that together we can heal and make a better future.

White Privilege