Trade-offs and Triumphs 31 by @jennykim
Issue 31: Mothers, Birthdays, and Legacies; How to Write a Gratitude Letter; Resources for the Week; Closing Thoughts
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Welcome to issue 31 of Trade-offs and Triumphs - a newsletter of resources and thoughts about how to balance trade-offs in life to find and celebrate the small triumph; every decision point requires thinking through trade-offs and not just immediately aiming for the “solution.”
How was your week? What were your trade-offs and triumphs?
This week we will hit on:
👉 Mothers, Birthdays, and Legacies
👉 How to Write a Gratitude Letter
👉 Resources for the Week
👉 Closing Thoughts
For a quick oral summary of Issue 31, hit ▶️ below:
🎂💐 Mothers, Birthdays, and Legacies
The homes and belongings Janet prized are all dispersed. And in all the talk over the years about Jackie, and in all the eulogies she received at her death and then again when her son was so shockingly killed, those mentioned were her children; her past husbands, Jack and Ari; her father, Jack Bouvier; and her in-laws Rose and Joe Kennedy. Not one reference is made to the woman, Janet Lee Auchincloss, who purposely and sometimes unwittingly shaped Jackie into the icon of an era.
“Don’t smile in videos and pictures. Your teeth are not attractive.”
“Let me look at you. Turn around. Are you sure that you want to wear that? You look fat.”
“You love books too much. No man in his right mind would marry you.”
“Thanks goodness you are not married. The soothsayer said that you would have been divorced at least once. That would not be acceptable.”
“Don’t ever sell your integrity. Nothing in life is worth it. At the end of the day, you have to live with yourself, not in the circus of others.”
Jenny Kim’s Mother
This past weekend, my mother celebrated her 72nd birthday. Or, she tolerated her 72nd birthday and permitted my brother and I to hold a COVID-inspired birthday party for her: a simple birthday cake, no candles, a traditional Korean seaweed soup, and assorted dishes. She did not feel well so she was cranky and at her most merciless.
My brother and I rolled our eyes as we attempted to keep up with her orders. My mother is one of the most reserved and stoic people in the world - she does not “chat.” She orders, commands, criticizes - she does not waste words. She expects her family to execute her edicts, and when she is cranky, expect only constructive feedback and no praise.
In between all this, I ended up skimming through two biographies of Janet Lee Auchincloss - mother of the late icon, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Turn around, and there is yet another retrospective about Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and her relationships with men - her husbands, her father, and her father-in-law - and her sister, Lee Radziwill. But, there are very few essays or books about her relationship with her mother, who is either portrayed as supportive or super critical and demeaning of Jacqueline. I had read endless accounts about how exotic and imaginative her father had been, and how his good taste had influenced her.
But I had scratched my head: her father sounded like a lot of fun, but he did not seem the type to instill in his children the importance of grit, patience, and suffering. He seemed incapable of self-restraint and decorum. So where did Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ self-restraint and self-discipline come from? Who ensured that she would speak fluent French and be capable of renovating and managing a large historical residence like The White House?
Enter Janet Lee Auchincloss - the mother of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. By modern standards, she was old-fashioned, unimaginative, and very focused on her duties as the chatelaine of two large estates in Virginia and Rhode Island, and stepmother to five children and biological mother of four. She wanted conventional but monied “WASP” lives for her daughters, and focused her efforts on ensuring that her two daughters by her first marriage had those opportunities.
But at the end of the day, Janet’s exacting and focused qualities enabled her to support her daughter as First Lady behind the scenes and to enable many of Jacqueline’s supposed successes. For example, Janet’s social connections and fundraising capabilities enabled the building of what we know as the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. She fundraised the dollars to support this building to ensure the success of her daughter’s vision of making Washington, D.C. a cultural arts center. Janet also stood in for her daughter at The White House whenever Jacqueline dropped out of hosting events at the last minute - which sounded like it was more often than not. And if Jacqueline’s children needed adult supervision when she and her husband were tending to their public duties, Janet took over as well.
Recent health scares have reduced my mother’s physical mobility and stamina. Therefore, she is perpetually cranky. Like Janet Auchincloss, my mother is quite exacting when it comes to order and cleanliness in her house, and anything that does not come up to par is unacceptable. And no matter how my brother and I try to live up to her standards, it is never enough.
Don’t complain and don’t make excuses.
We can never do it exactly the way she does it.
But at the same time, my mother supports our desires to live our lives with integrity and intentionality. Although she views the world through the lens of scarcity (she grew up in a Korea that was ravaged by the Korean War), she understands that such a view for us would be too self-limiting. When we experience set backs, she is the first one to encourage us to see that failure as a lesson and to incorporate it into our future endeavors.
Go after it all, she affirms, even if you fall and get hurt. But in the process, just don’t lose your soul and your integrity - as long as you have those, anything is possible.
🌠Determine the recipient
“If you could give credit or thanks to one person in your life that you don’t give enough credit or thanks to, who would that be?”
“Quickly, think of the five people you want to hug first after quarantine.”
This past weekend, the recipient was my mother, because it was her birthday, even though she did not want to celebrate it.
🌠Gather your supplies.
Stationery, notecards, pens
🌠Think about the recipient
Focus on your most cherished memories
🌠Sit down and write
🌠Write in your style
🌠Finish strong - end with gratitude and a compliment
✊⚒️️🧰 Resources for the Week
✅ Ready for the camera? Join Cam Houser’s and Julia Saxena’s 14-day camera confidence challenge, and you too can be ready to share your videos quickly- it takes only 10 minutes a day.
✅ Michelle Fishburne and Who We Are Now USA - Looking for an inspiring and uplifting oral history of average Americans and all via video and written text?
Then, follow my friend Michelle Fishburne’s venture, Who We Are Now USA, and her RV journey across America as she creates a contemporaneous oral history of Americans during 2020-2021.
And of course, check out how you too can hang a chandelier even when hanging out in an RV park:
✅ Type in a synopsis, get a movie suggestion: type in a brief plot description of a movie you’d like to see and get instant results. (h/t Jane Friedman)
✅ Explore and analyze large collections of documents with Pinpoint: unlock stories by uploading PDFs, forms, handwritten documents, audio files, images, or emails—and let computers analyze it all and report back. (h/t Jane Friedman)
✅Identify the plants and animals around you, especially the insects: the Seek app (a joint initiative of the California Academy of Sciences and the National Geographic Society) (h/t Jane Friedman)
✅ Find out what technology enables specific websites courtesy of “Built With” - h/t Alice Zhang
Closing Thoughts: Stories, Time Machines, and Dreams
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Be conscious of your trade-offs. Before settling on any one “solution,” run your fingers through all the trade-offs and decide intentionally and specifically.
And then celebrate your triumphs, no matter how small.