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  • Writer's pictureAjumma EXP

Ajumma Misty: A Bada$$ Milk Producer from the Bronx Who Can Swim Circles Around You

Tell Us About Yourself

I was born in California, but raised in the Boogie Down (aka the Bronx). My mother, brother and I first moved there when my parents separated- and we went to live with my imo (aunt from mother’s side), her family and my halmoni (grandmother). I learned to be responsible at a young age of five - taking care of my brother (age 3) and cousin (age 2) when halmoni had to help the adults close up shop at night. I fed them dinner, bathed them and put them to bed; so I’ve been an Ajumma since then- it was destiny! 

Misty on sled, playing with her younger brother and cousin whom she cared for while the adults worked.

Misty and her halmoni

My mother met my step-father when we went to a new playground :) Next thing I knew- we were living in a new house, with a new dad and a new religion! I attended Hebrew Sunday school before I even learned to read and write Korean. My brother and I were raised Jewish, attended synagogue regularly and kept Kosher. Now as an adult and having chosen my own path, I’m still uncomfortable eating certain non-Kosher foods like seafood.  

Misty with her step father and brother Conrad

I am a product of the NYC public school system and attended from K-12. I also attended Bronx Science, one of the top high schools in NYC that has an acceptance rate of 3%. It was there where I encountered the most Asians. Until then, I grew up with mostly Jamaicans and Puerto Ricans whom I was most accustomed to and comfortable with.  At first I was taken aback encountering so many Asian Americans. I had a hard time telling them apart, and many had similar names! Eventually, this is where I grew to love and appreciate my Korean culture and learned so much of my ethnicity from my peers. It was the first time I didn't feel like the odd one out.

Misty's brother Conrad (L), with her daughter, step father and mother

fter my education in NY, I wanted to try a new place. I ended up in San Diego and almost had to leave because everything was sooo slow-paced. It took a solid 2 years to acclimate to the lifestyle out here! I attended SDSU earning my BA in Liberal Arts to teach and a degree in Early Childhood while lifeguarding, coaching Masters and teaching swim lessons. 

Even in her last trimester, Misty enjoyed coaching.

Up until recently I coached an LBGTQIA+ Masters team. (More on how I met them, how I started coaching, in a bit). I am still good friends with many of them and they have known all my kids since they were in the womb. My kids are lucky to have so many Guncles!

After school, I soon began a serious relationship where I married and ended up having my daughters Eden (March '10) and Avalon (Aug. '12). Unfortunately the marriage did not last and I moved back to NYC to raise my girls near my large family consisting of aunts, uncles, cousins and grandmother. My family has always been important to me and to this day I speak to one of them at least once a day. It definitely was not fun being a single mom with two kids under 4 years and going for my Masters in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). I always worked in some sort of field in education.

Misty, husband Juan, and their beautiful children

When I first moved back to the Bronx, I began with Lifeguarding and swim lessons and then moved into working for a non-profit whose goal was to provide and guide lower-income students to a path of higher education from their start of middle school-end of high school. At one point I oversaw 3,000 students and organized educational activities and outings.

When I completed my Masters, I moved into teaching middle school in the South Bronx. I loved every minute of it, and it reminded me of my own youth. The good thing is, I soon met my current partner, Juan,  and we decided to give San Diego another try. We arrived right before COVID, and as we all experienced- a scary time. Thankfully, our family came through unscathed. I was also working for Scripps at that time which was very fortunate during peak COVID. I soon had our son Harlem (Sept. '21) and shortly thereafter our LAST daughter, Bronx (March '23). I'm currently a SAHM doing my best raising 4 kids and taking care of their needs and home. 

Misty's youngest already training to be an ajumma

What does being an Ajumma mean to you (and also being part of Ajumma EXP)

 Being an Ajumma is a great next step in my life. At first I was confused when I was called an Ajumma. I looked behind me to see who they were speaking to- oh wait- me. Then I realized, “It’s all good in the hood.”  Ever since I’ve been a wee one,  I did my best at each junction of my life, and I’m honestly still same person as when I was little. So, I know that being an Ajumma is just what I am going to be great at as well and I welcome this moment of my life with open arms and look forward to what experiences I will encounter. 

I saw and heard about Ajumma EXP on social media and I said to myself that I need to have a group of people for myself too; currently much of what I do is for my kids. And I’m so glad that I reached out :) These women are confident yet humble, genuinely nice and accomplished in so many ways- even the ones who say they are not- are! 

Ajummas are known to have super-human strength and extraordinary abilities.  What is your Ajumma super-power? 

I’m pretty good at most things with a some practice to it, and I’ve done a lot of things, if not, I will be down to try it out 99% of the time- just nothing with alcohol- I smell it and I get that Asian Flush going hard, then you’ll find me napping under the table or something!  

Best way to see me executing my superhuman strength would be to just hang out in person; to sum it up- I’m like an athletic dork. My (current) super-power is being able to breastfeed my two babies at the same time. If I’m not milked every 3-4 hours, I go up 2 cup-sizes and feel like I just surgically received rock hard implants. At one point, I wanted to gather other heavy suppliers and sell our milk to gym rats. We would be called, “Top Shelf Liquid Gold” and our motto (must be said in your best Arnold Schwarzenegger voice) would be: WE pump, so YOU can Pump! 

What is one of the biggest challenges you've overcome?

(I’m going to answer this like I’m writing my college essay and attempting to get into my top choice university- so go get them tissues!) I’ve always danced to the beat of my own drum and therefore been teased by many all through my life (even as an adult). But, I knew deep down I know that that is who I am. As a kid, I would stand up for those who didn’t have a voice and got into a few scuffles as a kid and the latest being bullied by former colleagues for reporting a racist and vulgar act done in front of children/my students. Fortunately these instances have not really bothered me, I bounce back pretty well and quickly (physically and mentally).

Misty as a baby w/ mom. Like her mother, Misty would survive single parenting before finding her lifelong partner.

Any sage advice live by?

I firmly believe in the saying, “There’s a silver lining in every cloud.” I think negative and positive occurrences happen for a reason, and they help us grow as a person. There’s always another side to the story, so I always try and see from that other viewpoint and even if it’s bad news for me- there must be a reason. So I try to forgive them. 

A pregnant Misty enjoying a swim

Any guilty pleasure that you can share with us?  

Oooh, I have so many! But, I’d say being in the ocean and just swimming off. I’ve swam so much of my life, that it all becomes automatic-therefore I can allow myself to think about other things and I swear I’ve slept a few times whilst swimming. I’ve even dreamed that I swim to places. 

It allows me to have me-time. Even though my mind is going at 100 all the time- those thoughts are mundane, something about the salt water and the ocean creatures all around brings out new ideas and solutions.

Favorite Korean food

Anything my halmoni made. She could look in her fridge and put together random ingredients and they’d come out delicious. She was awesome with the 두부 (tofu) dishes, so those really remind me of her, therefore many of those dishes are my favorite. 

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