B-Yourself: Kornbread & Kimchi

The atypical life of our ultimate blended family

Tonia and Young Choi

Name: Tonia and Young Choi

Hometowns: Moselle, MS (Tonia), Washington, D.C. (Young)

What is Kornbread & Kimchi? It’s a blog I created to journal the untypical life of what we consider the ultimate blended family. I’m Kornbread. My husband Young is Kimchi. As most of us know in the South, cornbread is a staple to a lot of our meals. Kimchi is a staple to most Korean meals. As a Southern girl married to a Korean-American, I thought it fitting to compare the roles we fill within our family to the most common foods we grew up eating. How in the world do you compare the two? How do you even attempt to make them compliment each other? Different ways of preparing them, different smells, different tastes, and the many different meals each staple enhances…

Your family dynamic is interesting, tell us first how you met: We get asked this a lot. To make a long story short, we met in New Orleans in 2004 while vacationing. At the time, Young was still living in Southern California as a single dad finishing his last year of ophthalmology residency. I was still in Mississippi working as a teacher’s assistant/writer/artist while being a single mom to my three sons. Realizing there was a special connection, we decided to stay in touch by phone and email, which led to three years of a long-distance relationship.

How difficult was it to maintain the long–distance relationship with children and totally different lives: At times it was extremely difficult. A long-distance relationship is challenging enough for two people without children. We had to be very flexible and understanding of each other’s responsibilities outside our relationship. It wasn’t just about what was best for the two of us. It was all about what was best for everyone.

Your fairytale wedding day: After getting the blessings of our kids and family, we decided to run away to Italy to get married. It was the best thing we could have done! We arrived in Tuscany on a Sunday, scouted out churches on Monday, and got married on Tuesday, the exact day of our three–year anniversary. With the help of a local priest, we exchanged our own written vows in an 11th–century cathedral in the middle of a remote Tuscany countryside with two close friends as witnesses. I wore a simple wedding gown. Young wore his nicest suit. We stopped by a local florist on our way to the church to buy a fresh bouquet of pink roses for my flowers. It was definitely the most romantic and one of the happiest days of our lives. It made the three long years of dating long distance totally worth it!

After the wedding you became a blended family. What are some of the unexpected surprises you speak about on your blog? I think the biggest surprise was just how hard the first year of marriage was. It wasn’t just about learning how to live with each other. It was learning how to take on new roles with four kids as a blended multi-cultural, multi-racial family. The dynamics of our families completely changed as we merged the two. But the biggest surprise is just how well we make it work. It’s challenging to say the least, but I think we’ve found a level of happiness we only hoped for.

Favorite road trip story with the boys: Several years ago, we took a road trip to Chicago. The boys still talk about the museums, Lake Michigan, eating Chicago-style pizza at Geno’s, and all the fun we had. It’s funny, when we look back on those kinds of trips, the memories of them driving us crazy during the eternity of a drive to get there are pretty dim. It’s definitely the fun stuff we tend to remember the most.

Where do you see yourselves in 10 years? Life is so full of surprises; there’s no telling what we may be up to! But if I had to guess, Young will still be practicing medicine and pursuing his passion of doing mission work. I hope to continue writing, indulge in all my artistic endeavors, and of course, enjoy as many visits from the boys as they want to make!

Photo by Angela Karen

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