Sunday, January 4, 2009

Stories About Me

Toby and Josie love hearing stories about when they were babies. I think all kids do. I'm one of them. I'd like to know what I was like in high school, college, my twenties. I have my own version of me, of course, but I'm finding lately that others have different versions.

For example, I've gotten in touch with some former students of mine. It was my first job out of college and I was just twenty-one; my students were fourteen and fifteen years old. I have some terrible memories of disasters in my classroom. One incident was so awful, as soon as the class was over, I got in my car and drove to the airport, thinking I'd just escape.

But now these and other former students tell me that I was one of the best teachers they ever had. They don't seem to think I was a disaster. They've changed my view of the four years of my life I thought I might have wasted in teaching. I wasn't sure I really made any impact on my students.

Same goes for friends and ex-colleagues. And especially boyfriends. I thought I was pretty awful on that front. Some of them say I was, but they've forgiven me and we have since become good friends. Strangely, almost all of my former bosses and ex-boyfriends are still good friends of mine, some of them after almost twenty years.

Now I'm eager to track down as many stories about me as I can. I want to dig up memories that people in my past have about me. Maybe I didn't waste most of my life after all.

It sounds a bit self-indulgent, but I'd really like to hear stories about incidents I might have forgotten, to color in gaps and fill in outlines. I'm leaving this blog behind for Josie and Toby, and I'd like these stories to help them know something about their mother.

So those of you who have any stories about me that you think Josie and Toby would appreciate, please tell them here. If you don't feel comfortable posting your stories in this public forum, you can e-mail me.

Someday, Toby and Josie can ask, "What was my mother like?" and all your stories will help them see me. Thanks.


Scott R said...

When we were in each other's lives, you were on a serious walkabout within your soul and mind. (So was I, for that matter, and so I am still.)

I remember someone often clad in a simple sun dress, at times angry or frustrated with the cosmos, and at other times enticingly sweet and embracing.

Some vignettes:

+ A picnic dinner on a bumboat in Singapore's harbour, and you sharing with me your teaching days whilst we drifted through a haze of smoke sifting in from fires on Java.

+ What I thought were some nice days on Ko Samui, but then you not wanting to sit next to me on the flight back! The frown you gave me when I sat next to you was classic. And at the Bangkok airport, you declaring without hesitation that you were above any airport rules! Boy oh boy. :)

+ Your long hours working to perfect the words you had put to paper.

+ The cute granny shoes in a photograph of you doing a TV reporter's stand-up in Korea. They looked nearly like black Dutch wooden shoes, and orthopedic ones at that.

+ The transformation in your personality when you put on your spectacles. You were generally sweeter when you were wearing glasses, and spoke more softly.

No big anecdotes, just simple moments.

Christine Raza said...

Dearest Shin,
One thing that really struck me while visiting you this Christmas was the wonderful friends you have. There were friends dropping by all the time and they were all so kind and clearly have great love for you. I can't remember even half of their names, but they made a deeper impact on me with their open arms, and made me feel like we had met before. Michelle especially, is an absolute gift and I have never had a better hug in my life!

I say all this because your friends are a reflection of who you are, and you have amazing friends. You are a very lucky person to be surrounded by such people.

Francesca Giessmann said...

Never met you so no stories but if this is for Josie and Toby I would like to add that because of your friends that love you so much I got to know you. From Christa & Miros' stories about your life in Singapore and how special you and your family are. So I wanted to know more and due to some shared cancer pain I have been following your story and your life. It has been very , *very* special to make this link and every time I see the Janjics .. it is like we have a "comon" friend.. and all that without we ever meeting , or even talking too. You are special Shin... a special Mom, wife and friend.
with love from half away across the world...

writerinresidence said...

Here's a story: We worked together a tiny total of just four months at XS Media...and to me, it was clear from the first two sentences we exchanged at the interview that you were very different (from me). Not good. Not bad. Just different. And I thought to myself, how is this going to work. But very quickly in those four months, I saw that the way you were at work - tough, a perfectionist, a driver to the hilt - was very very different from the conversations we would share in the lunches that we would take together. When we would talk about kids - mine, for you did not have yours yet - or your life as a teacher, or Tony. And I would think, this is a good person. An honest person. A person who is engaged and wants to know more. This is a person who is genuine because she does not see the way she comes off - often times, it never even occurs to her to look (at the ways she might come off). Which makes her always authentically herself pretty much 24/7. And the world would be a better place and people would be happier if only they were a little more like her. Wishing you well for 2009.

Charlotte said...


You stood out at the one and only time that I met you in person. It was at Christine and Jim's wedding reception at Carol's condo's large hall. I felt a bit out of place even though I was the Mother of the bride.

Most of the people there were Razas or relatives of Razas because not many of the people on my list were able to get there on that day. Feeling a little bit left out I came over to see the darling baby girl, Josie, that was there. Our grandson William was playing with her.

After I had ooohed and aaahed over that beautiful baby, you seemed to know that I was sort of alone. You put your arm around me and walked me all around that room introducing me to those people you knew. You were smiling the whole time and making me laugh and suddenly I didn't feel left out any more.

You were so warm and welcoming I couldn't help but to feel included. I have never forgotten that tiny, wonderful girl (you) who made me feel special on a very special day.

I hope that Josie and Toby one day will see my story because you were so wonderful to me and I think that side of you, welcoming a stranger, is a part that they should know.

Love to you and Happy New Year.

Love, Charlotte

Ray Timonera said...

Hi Shin!

My name is Ray. I'm not sure if you remember me, but I knew you way back when. Your sister and I used to date when she and I were at Rutgers. Geesh, that's about 20 years ago.

Every now and then you would come down from NYC and stay with us in Lawrenceville for the weekend. I always liked it when you came by. I thought it was fun hanging out with you. And when Jenny and Won came by, it was like our own little get together.

I came upon your blog last week. A few years back, I saw you on TV as a correspondent for a cable channel that I can't remember, but I think you were talking about places to visit in Korea. Hey, maybe it was for the Travel Channel. Anyway, I do recall saying out loud, "Hey, I know her!" Then I thought to myself, "Way to go Shin!" as I was happy to see you doing well.

To say that I'm shocked and saddened when I came upon your blog would be an understatement. To me, you will always be that smart, strong, classy, and outspoken person that I knew you as back then. I looked up to you as I know your sister did. When I read a recent post in your blog where it was written that you had helped someone improve his or her grammar skills, I chuckled to myself. I remember thinking that I had to be a bit more vigilant with my grammar whenever you were around… in a good way of course.

Here are some fond memories I have of all of us in "random" (a favorite word of your sister) order:

You, your sister, and I used to watch movies in the living room together. We used to sit on the green and white sofa and eat chips and salsa.

You happen to come by on the weekend of my 21st birthday. The three of us made gin and tonics to celebrate. I think we all got a bit tipsy. At the end of the night, you asked your sister if you could give me a birthday kiss, to which your sister replied "Heck no!" Haha, that was funny.

You had a French ex-boyfriend who dropped by a couple of times. I forgot his name but I do remember one week the French Open tennis tournament was on TV and I used to recite the scores out loud in my awful French accent. One day when the four of us were sitting at the dining room table, you requested that I do my best French accent in front of him because you thought it was amusing. After a bit of prodding I did and everyone laughed. In retrospect, I bet he was thinking what an idiot I was. Haha.

You had a red Acura Integra. I remember you gave us the keys to drive it (or did you? haha). I think you did because one day a tree branch fell and cracked your windshield and you wanted us to move it around the lot so that wouldn't happen again. Well, your sister and I did that for you. But I must confess, one day Won and I took it out past the limits of the parking lot for a short test drive around town. We were gentle (or were we? haha). =)

That is all I have for now. By the way, I must say your kids are beautiful! What a wonderful family you have! To that I must again say, "Way to go Shin!" I'm proud of you and after reading the intelligent, insightful, and very personal posts in your blog, I must say that you are still someone I look up to. (I know, I know. Ending a sentence with a preposition is not proper grammar. Deal with it. Haha.)



Alistair Scott said...

In February 2000 Melissa and I had to get married at short notice to keep Hong Kong Immigration quiet. We planned just to have a registry office wedding and maybe some drinks in the evening, all planned to be pretty low-key, partly because it was all very rushed. I emailed out to people to tell them what was happening and Shin, who was living down in Singapore, said she wanted to come. When we spoke I did that (very annoying to Shin) English thing of trying not to push too hard as I knew it was a long way, expensive etc...something like 'Don't feel you have to come'. Anyway, we later got the message she was coming.
At the wedding itself (which turned out to have loads more people than we expected) Shin. We had kept a place for her, and a couple of other people who had flown in, at the family lunch Shin.
At the party that last Shin, who had spent the day in her hotel room and catching up with friends, apparently because she thought my downplaying of the event was English code that she wasn't invited. Of course she spent the evening in a little black dress surrounded by people wanting to meet the famous girl who had missed the wedding (and by a large number of gents who hoped to get to know this enticing creature). Luckily it was a good party so perhaps partly repaid her trip.
Shin's decision to jump on a plane and fly to Hong Kong for a modest wedding just captures her loyalty, while the rest just typifies her struggle with the English (as a race, not a language) and her popularity.

Mylinh said...


The first time we met was at Hj's place when she held a girls only dinner, and conversation inevitably turned to stuff that writers of Sex and the City would wish they could have heard as it would make great material.

I was the new girl in the friendship circle so I did more listening than talking but loved it when you would, in your strong, confident American accented voice, interject with your thoughts and opinions about any topic we touched.

I remember you most from that night as your insights into the men you have encountered in your life were shared with us with a lot of wit, humour and empathy. Your stories were hilarious. Tony made great material for you, but it was nothing unkind. Rather, your observations spoke volumes about your pride in him :).

So, to Josie and Toby, your mom is a great story teller, an entertainer who can command a room and a woman whose life has touched people.

Shin, you are also someone who is gutsy, tenacious and determined. The first 10 km run I ever did was with you at the women's annual Great Eastern. This was after you learned that your cancer had come back. You were trailing me for most of the race when towards the last km, zoom, in a blur you passed me with ease... red faced, BIG smile, in your sweaty t-shirt with sleeves as you don't like running with a sleeveless top, you left me in the dust. I had to grin and thought to myself, "What an amazing girl that Shin is!" I was beaten soundly by someone with cancer.

There are more stories, ones that showcase your generous and kind spirit, but I will stop here to allow others who have been touched by you and how you have handled your cancer to get the chance to post. I have blogged about you so if Josie and Toby ever want to read them, they can contact me by Gmail in the future.

How I wish that you could run the next organized 10km with us. The next race, Shin, is going to be run in your honour. That's in May, and I am running that one for you! I look forward to telling you all about it.



Christine Raza said...

One of my favorite times with you was spending Christmas in the Berkshires, driving around singing the songs from Philadelphia Chickens.

" my rabbit Bob, and his bunny wife Bob, and their kids Bob, Bob and Bob..."