Monthly Archives: June 2015

  • The Pointlessness of Worrying

    I had another epiphany this week. I learned from my father that my mother’s parents are selling their townhome back East. Remember how I was super irritated with my mother several weeks ago, bc she kept insisting that my grandparents would eventually return to living on their own? That convo was followed by several weeks of debate where my father basically tried to tell the grandparents and mom that the best next move was to sell the house. My father was exasperated, bc the other three just kept insisting that the decrepit, rat poop-infested place was a “treasure.” So I called my grandparents to broach the difficult subject. I tried to ask them why they were hesitating with moving back to Taiwan… I don’t know if my conversation had any sway or if they just got sick of debating with my father, but now we are finally at the point of getting reno bids, and the tenants have been notified. My father’s plan is to move Yeb and Nai to Taiwan before September. Anyway, at some point in the last month, I made a choice to just let go of all the excessive worrying. And now, thankfully, there is some unexpected progress and movement.

    At home, Marty’s been super on and off in the last week. Then on Friday, J and his brother-in-law started their cross-country adventure. Previously, I had been stressing out big time thinking about how I was going to administer Marty’s daily fluids solo (he squirms a lot), how I was going to get him to eat, and what I would do if things got worse, yada, yada. I mean, I AM a worry wart. In my defense, I think it’s part and parcel with being a planner. In order to have a solid plan, you have to anticipate the future. Needless to say, I was seriously wearing myself down with all the catastrophic over-thinking. One boil on my face suddenly turned into three, I couldn’t sleep, I was crying every day, and I just felt my mind spiraling. That’s when I knew I had to save myself. I was falling into an abyss, and this shit was getting out of control.

    So J and I talked about Marty. He said he trusted me to make the call when it was necessary. I don’t think a decision like that can ever be 100% clear, but I do have confidence that I will throw in the towel when I need to. I will be completely heartbroken, but I can and have made the decision in the past. Next, I need to really focus on staying calm and testing out a few other food options for Marty. Previously, J had been doing all the cooking (Marty no longer eats commercial foods), but there were a few other items I’d read about that I wanted to try. I dedicated this first weekend alone to gathering all the supplies.

    The third area is work. I know I’m not happy enough at work to stay on super long term (social media is exhausting), so I want to start getting back on the networking wagon… time to tap into my exroverted, social self and refresh those old contacts again. Gotta do what you gotta do!

    So yeah, the key note to self this week? I need to stop letting myself feel overwhelmed by everything. All that worry about my grandparents: my parents are handling it, and extra worry doesn’t do anything, so I have to stop. Help where I can and then focus on other things I have to do. And Marty is going to have good days and bad days. I have to be better about rolling with the punches and riding out the waves. Thankfully, since Friday, Marty has been doing amazing. The daily sub-q fluids plus appetite stimulant seem to help. Maybe the antibiotics are also aiding to kill that bladder infection, and he is feeling better? I tried some new foods: baby food, chicken thigh, red potatoes, cottage cheese, applesauce… some work, some don’t. I have also added fish oil and B-50 complex to his meals. In the last two days, he has been running at the park even. 

    I also caught a break with Martin’s lactated ringer fluids. I talked to the pharm tech about my troubles getting the supplies online (vet charges $30/bag vs. $10/bag online), and her manager actually offered to price match six bags!! So for the time being, that buys me another 24 days and then I can deal with the online shop later. What a welcome relief and a very nice customer servicey thing to do!

    Beyond all that, I’m trying to get back with the self-care: nails, teeth-whitening, skincare, diet, SLEEP. That’s the good thing about Bubbey being away: I can spend some time and energy getting myself back on track.

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  • Family: Different Things to Different People

    So my friend B invited me over for her son’s 2nd bday party. J and I don’t go to very many kiddie bday parties (like never), mostly bc up until this last year, our closest friends were child-free like us. B was very sweet: she expressed some hesitation about inviting kid-free people to her baby’s bday party, but I said I was happy to go every now and then. I mean, it’s worth a try, dipping the feet into the pool occasionally. Plus, it’s only for a few hours… can’t be that bad. So Sunday came along. J managed expectations from the get go and declined, so that was fine: I went solo. But the last time I was invited by this friend’s place for a party, it was uber swank. She’s Afghan, and I dunno what it is, but I find that some cultures, like Afghan and Persian cultures really glam things up. When I went to her baby shower about seven years ago, I showed up very punctually, wearing casual clothes, i.e. dark jeans. Holy crap, the Afghans run super late, and OMG, I was not only like one of two non-Afghans there, but I felt like I was at a party with the Kardashians… everyone was uber polished and fancy. Yup, it gave me the ugly duckling complex, so this time, I made sure to put in more effort. I wore a dress, and I also arrived 45 minutes after the stated time. As it turned out, I was STILL on the early side, and I think I was the only non-family member there, which was kinda intimidating but everyone was also very welcoming. I met her parents, mom-in-law, brothers, sis-in-law, etc. I’d met all of them at the shower years ago, and man, the moms are so put together also!! Just, classy. I dunno how else to describe it. A lot of times, I feel like my family wears big, baggy, ill-fitted stuff. It’s not that their clothes are cheap, but their outfits rarely fit. But B’s family? Very well-dressed. I had originally anticipated 2 hours, but well, I ended up hanging out for four hours. I had fun catching up with B and her hubby K, with whom I used to work. Of course, their two boys plus two of the boys’ cousins were there, so I had to work especially hard focusing on the adult conversation while the kids were bouncing around on a trampoline and generally going bonkers. Holy crap. There was screaming and crying and then so-and-so hit the other kid. Then shit got unplugged, and wires were tangled. I dunno. It was a fucking zoo. I seriously do NOT know how people handle kids, much less MULTIPLE kids in the same household. Mind blowing for reals.

    The interesting thing about all of this though was just that family was clearly so important. The mom-in-law had flown in from the midwest for the bday party. I observed K standing behind his mom with his hands around her neck. Affection, laughter, celebration. The total opposite of time I spend with my family. Maybe I’m comparing their best with my worst, or whatever that comparison game line is. The thing is though, my best is neutral: it’s just times when there’s no disappointment or criticism or sadness. It’s just getting shit done and doing practical things. I guess that’s what happens when you isolate yourself. You lose the skills of communication and connection. As a practicing physician, my father had excellent bedside manner. His patients and colleagues loved him, but I don’t think he really ever learned how to connect with people on a deep, friendship level. Being useful and helpful and full of advice? Excellent. But just cutting loose and hanging out? Never. Completely foreign. I’m sure growing up in this environment of chronic distance and lack of connection is partly what makes me so desensitized to social awkwardness. I mean, hello, welcome to my family. Welcome to every single homecoming, phone call, family gathering. It’s pretty sad, and yet, what can be done. I can only learn from this and apply my knowledge going forward, bc in my family, some things will just never change.

    When I was on the phone with my father yesterday, he asked about my job. He asked if I liked my coworkers. I said I was good friends with one person, and the others were fine. I got along with everybody. Then, he started warning me that sometimes people come across nice but then they backstab and sabotage you. I mean, look: I know my father faced racial discrimination. I know he’s seen the bad side of people, especially when, for a period, his office staff had trouble getting along. I’m sure he saw all those awful things that come along with dysfunction. But at the same time, I’m 39. I have my own lifetime of experience, and no matter how fucked up any of my past workplaces have been, I have NEVER had an issue with people. Overall, my work speaks for itself, and I pretty much get along with everybody. Some people frustrate me, but it never gets to the point of deliberate ill-will and malice. Anyway, his whole point going down that path was just another example of the habit of paranoia and fear-based thinking: everyone is out to get you. When I was in school, my parents always insisted that my friends who were doing well were out to topple me from being at the head of the class: Don’t share any secrets, blah, blah, blah. I mean, is it any real surprise that they have no friends?? I just tried my best to nip this convo in the bud by saying “I don’t have that problem.”

    I suppose all of this really boils down to a fundamental difference in philosophy. My parents feel that honesty and truth is overexposing and risky, that vulnerability is a weakness. But after years of damaging myself with inadequacies striving for perfectionist ideals, I find that vulnerability is a truth, and while I value strength and resilience and the desire/effort to improve, I also try to minimize feeling shame about all my flaws and foibles. Maybe in some odd way, I feel that my (radical) honesty is what’s unique to me. That’s what I offer to others. And oddly enough, that’s what my parents have always instructed me to hide.

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  • Managing Sadness

    Holy shit, another week is over already. It’s Ramadan, Father’s Day, and Summer Solstice. Yup, I only keep up with those holidays bc well, I’m still saving lives with social media and all. Haha.

    Last week was mostly good for Marty. J made him chicken soup and with the daily sub-cutaneous fluids therapy, his appetite started coming back. Mind you, he’s still been picky as fuck, but at least he was ingesting stuff. Because of his progress, we decided to skip ONE day (Wednesday) with the fluids. OMFG, I thought he was going to die the next day. On Thursday, he was so lethargic, he barely even got up. By evening, J and I started panicking and I had another cryfest meltdown. We immediately resumed the fluids, and thankfully, the next day (Friday), things began looking up again. I was still feeling really sad though, just wondering about the fluids management and stressing about J being away for his cross-country trip. Goddamn that catastrophic thinking; it’s enough to KILL me. On Friday late morning, my boss came into my office to tell me about some new data visualization software. I had been crying. Thirty seconds in, with her blurting out a bunch of stuff, she stopped to ask, “Is everything ok? What’s wrong?” And just like that, I lost it again. Fucking emotions, man. Fortunately, she was very kind. Later, J sent me a pic of Marty mid-day and he looked so much better, so I felt better. I swear I need to gain some frickin’ emotional stability.

    I was so glad for this weekend. I caught up on some sleep and pulled myself together a little. J made a new batch of food for Marty; we also went to the vet to get more fluids supplies plus some appetite stimulant meds N recommended. I also purchased some additional brands of dry and wet kidney diet foods. I swear, I feel so stressed when Marty doesn’t eat. He’s always been super food driven, so to see him have zero interest or to see him just spit everything out all over the floor is exasperating. But yesterday, we started with the new drug and holy crap, I haven’t seen him eat like this in forever. He even chowed down on the new kidney food. I dunno. I’m relieved that the drug is getting him to eat again, but I’m still wary about overworking his system and kidneys with TOO much food. It’s a weird balance with way more trial and error than I’m used to.

    Yesterday, Bubbey and I tried to do something “fun” for the weekend. We went to see Inside Out. Pixar is always brilliant. I really identified with the Sadness character. But I also was reminded of just how dangerous sadness can be. It has the power to negate and erode all good memories. It’s like a fucking contagion.

    This morning, I called my father for Father’s Day. Ho hum, woe is I, blah, blah, sigh, sigh. It’s exhausting. My whole family: they don’t do anything; just stay at home and watch tv. I mean, my father stays somewhat busy managing his properties and dealing with tenant demands and chores and errands (he even tries to do minor handyman shit himself), but Jesus Christ: no fucking joy. His life is joyless. I really don’t know what to do. It takes all the energy in the world NOT to blow up at him and just say, “Do SOMEthing.” Stop being depressed. Stop thinking about ALL the things in your life that disappoint you. For fuck’s sake, save yourself. That’s what I feel and think, but that’s NOT what I say bc well, depression is some real shit. And not everyone responds to that whole “Pull yourself up by the bootstraps” kind of messaging. But goddamn, that’s what I want to say to so many people around me, including myself. Save yourself, people. Please.

    In other news, I’m developing a monster boil on my chin. Maybe I’ll just give myself zinc poisoning again with all this desperation. On the bright side, Martin IS eating again. This appetite stimulant mirtazapine is some crazy ass shit. We’re taking a super small dosage too, like 8 mg, and he is eating like a football player. Sigh. Focus on the good. Focus on the things I can change.


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  • Birthday Bash + Marty Update

    So I neglected to mention my bday party last weekend. Too much going on these days. We had a good time: I changed up the guest list a bit due to limited space on the Houseboat. As usual, J and I were up super early cleaning and getting the smoker going, so by the time the party started at 4p, we were kinda already pooped. I know, we never learn. Still, we had a blast. I had a big contingent from my last workplace and then a dabbling of reps from the fuel cell startup and my current gig. Yes, I like to throw my buds into a big mix and see what comes. Haha. I think it works out fine; I never really ask them, bc frankly, I wouldn’t change the lineup anyway. That’s right: unapologetic, as usual. Hee hee.

    My friend J, she’s about my dad’s age. She was so sorry that I was throwing my own bday party… even down to buying my own cake! She’s funny. On one hand, the modest Chinese in me does feel like, “Wow, you’re going to celebrate yourself?? Aren’t other people supposed to celebrate you?” On the other hand, I know that parties are a ton of work and well, I’m an ESTJ after all. If I want shit to happen, I pretty much gotta do it myself. Shrug. I have to say though, it was super helpful having my friend K attend. She has a master’s degree in counseling, so home girl is all up on Myers-Briggs and the love languages and psychological “conditions”, etc. In other words, she’s super keyed in. First time aboard the Houseboat, and she stayed late to wash dishes after everyone else went home. It was totally unnecessary, but at the same time, really thoughtful. A huge help. Fuck man, we had so many dirty dishes. So much so that J thinks we ought to consider disposable plates next time, esp since CA is in a drought and all. We’ll see.

    Overall, the bash had a little bit of everything. Some people came early to watch the Belmont Stakes. We witnessed the first Triple Crown winner since Secretariat in the 1970s!! Later, we hung out, chatted, played a little bit of Jenga, and we even busted out the karaoke system. My bad: apparently, I was logged into my “work” YouTube account on this new phone, so I didn’t have my ktv playlist. So yes, my poor guests were subjected to “Unbreak My Heart” and then like three “do over” versions of “Kiss Me” bc I couldn’t find the right file. Haha. Unapologetic, again. Of course, later on K and her beau showed us all up with some rap song by NWA (I only remember this group, bc I think of Northwest Airlines). Anyway, they were damn good and frickin’ spot on with the beats and rhythm. Sigh. Rhythm is THE fucking bane of my existence. The good news though? I think I found some new KTV fans.

    What else. On the actual day of my bday (Monday), I went to work bc well, wtf else am I gonna do? J drove down for lunch, and we tried a new pizza spot by Avaya Stadium. Then, he took me to the Rose Garden in SJ. Beautiful spot despite the heat wave that day. Good for me, but bad for him. For dinner, I left work early bc we had fucking old people reservations at 5p. Great meal, then back home for leftover ice cream cake. Yup, living it up while I can!

    The rest of the week was pretty up and down. My buds took me out to dinner and a play (Urinetown) on Wednesday night. The play was so different than any other: a bit over the top with the narrator frequently talking to the audience. It was a long day and late night, but well worth it. Beyond that, Marty’s condition is still really touch and go. He had a few days where he looked really bad, so there was another trip to the vet, changes in medication, and back and forth phone tag. He’s now in Stage 3 of 4 for chronic kidney disease. We ordered some lactated ringer bags (sugar water + electrolytes) to start administering subcutaneous fluids at home. The whole ordeal is super stressful, handling the logistics of home care, getting Marty to eat/drink (cooking and prepping a bunch of different foods), tracking all the meds and symptoms, plus of course, mentally preparing for end of life stuff. Bottom line: it’s hard to have a good day when Martin isn’t doing well. Our latest plan is to give him fluids daily (instead of every few days) and see if that improves his appetite. Until now, his appetite and lethargy have been frustrating. With the fluids, J cannot handle needles so I poke and he holds Marty still. The tricky thing with kidney disease is that the kidneys remove toxins from the body. We’ve had Marty on a low protein, low sodium canned food diet since fall, when we first learned of his renal failure, but with this latest bout, he just WILL NOT EAT much or anything at all. And bc his weight is already trim, he can’t exactly afford to have him skipping meals. And he’s so finicky now, he won’t eat the special kidney diet food, so we’re trying to weigh feeding him foods he’ll eat (right now: chicken, beef, cheese) knowing that those foods are also high in protein and hard for his body to process. I’m hoping he’ll show some consistent improvement this week. Fingers crossed.

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  • Desperate Times, Desperate Measures

    I’ve always been pretty straight up about my life of privilege. Life has blessed me in so many ways. Still, there are times when I feel overcome with desperation. Desperation is a weird emotion: I’m generally a very logical and practical person, but every now and then, emotion overtakes my good sense and I find myself wanting to believe what I want to believe. After John and I returned from our wonderful getaway last weekend in Santa Barbara, Martin started acting a little off. For the last six months, Marty’s issue-free living somehow fooled me in to thinking I no longer needed to worry about him. Wrong. The day we got back to town, he drank some puddle water at the park (he never does this), and the next morning, he had no appetite. His tummy started gurgling like crazy. Maybe he ate something? We gave him some Pepcid, and by evening, he was eating again. But the rest of the week, things were very touch and go: one day lethargic with low appetite; the next day seemingly better. By Thursday, we figured another vet visit was in order. Back to the drill: blood draw, urine draw, meds, pokes, etc. We gave him sub-q fluids plus anti-nausea and IV Pepcid. The blood work once again showed elevated creatine and BUN levels, indicative of dogs with chronic kidney disease. After I got home, I started researching kidney disease again. The thing is, we’ve known about his kidney disease since last fall, and yet, when he’s well, my mind just conveniently forgets that his kidneys are FAILING over time. It’s as if my brain deliberately denies the inevitable.

    A few days ago, I came across a website with some homeopathic treatment plans for dogs with kidney disease. There were various recipes for the homemade raw food diet, plus anti-nausea foods, plus a kit of supplements and powders. I read the testimonials, and just like that I was ready to blow like $150 on the kit. I mentioned this to John, and he said we should try the diet first, but he cautioned that the testimonials might be fake, considering they are posted on the product’s website. And then it hit me: I know better. I know about online scams. I know how easy it is to post fake reviews and fake testimonials. And yet, I was so stressed and desperate to find SOMETHING or ANYTHING to heal Marty, that all my logic and common sense went out the window. Yesterday, I revisited that site and then decided to check some external forums. No one seemed convinced that the kit worked; at best, they just said it didn’t hurt. Some people said they emailed the owner and never received replies. Then I read a post about kidney disease: the organs don’t regenerate: they are on a one-way, irreversible decline. And then I just started to cry. I thought about my friend Chuck, who passed away two years ago from colon cancer. When he was first diagnosed with Stage IV, I remember how his wife researched all these things online about a juice diet or this and that to make the cancer go away. There’s hope and optimism, and then there’s denial. Here I am angry at my mother for so foolishly thinking that her parents will ever live independently again. And just a few weeks later, I’m on some website researching diets and ingredients to miraculously CURE Martin of kidney failure. The mind wants to believe what it wants to believe.

    Yesterday morning, Martin ate like a champ. Today, all day he was lethargic and refusing to eat or drink. My mind started going down that all-too-familiar path of catastrophic thinking: what if he doesn’t eat; how can I give him the antibiotics if he won’t eat/drink; what exactly happens when a dog has full blown kidney failure? In the afternoon, J and I went to the movies in hopes breaking my cycle of worry. We went to see Entourage. At first, I was going to just go and watch in my sweat pants without any makeup on. Yes, I was that bummed about Marty. I didn’t even have the energy to be “presentable” when leaving the house. Then, I thought of Stacy Clinton and all her What Not to Wear wisdom (NEVER leave the house in workout clothes unless you are actually going to the gym). I knew too that I would be watching Emmanuelle Chriqui (Sloan) in the movie, and fuck, I cannot watch THE hottest woman on Earth while looking like a total schlump. Not that I’m trying to compete with her, but shit, looking good takes effort, and today just was not the day to wallow in self pity. So I actually changed and did my makeup and shit… all to watch the movie in a dark theater. Fucking mental games with myself. Anyway, after the movie (decent but predictable), we went back home and Martin was the same: seemingly weaker and disoriented. I started freaking out. I called the vet for more info.

    So we went back to the vet this evening to pick up a bag of fluid and some IV meds. The tech gave us a demo, and we’re going to try administering fluids for Marty at home. In the waiting room, we saw an old yellow labbie. Her owner had her in a special lifting harness, bc her back end had zero strength. I was reminded of Remy: I’d purchased a very similar harness for when she had started to lose mobility. I wondered how much longer the lab would be around. Putting Remy down was truly one of the saddest days of my life. I still lose my shit when I think about how hard it was to say goodbye. She had bounced back from the edge so many damn times that it became hard for me to realize that one day she wouldn’t bounce back. So just like I tell my mother that my grandparents are in their 90s, I now tell myself that Martin is 15. Like my grandfather, he might be unusually strong and healthy, especially for his age. But in the end, immortality is a fantasy. And so we move forward keeping reality in check. Hopefully, the electrolytes will make Marty feel better, and they’ll bring back his appetite, but ultimately, he IS 15.

    Of course, ten minutes before we headed out for the vet appointment, Martin started eating the bowl of chicken and rice and drinking his water. Keep plugging, Marty man!

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  • New Programs for June

    J and I took a road trip to Santa Barbara last weekend. I actually took Friday off, and it was kinda weird: even though I could feel myself creeping closer and closer to the edge, the three days away somehow quantified just how much I’d let myself stray beyond my “happy” zone. The thing is, all this time, logically, my challenges were pretty straightforward. I already knew what the answer was… or at least, what part of the answer was. Still, for whatever reason, bridging that gap from knowing to doing is just not always easy.

    I don’t like to use the word “depressed,” bc I know it’s a medical term that can apply to very extreme cases of mental illness. I don’t want to discredit/dismiss people who suffer from severe depression and who really require external assistance. I know that in many cases, combating depression is not just something people can WILL to change. That said, my recent funk had been going on for some time, where I frequently felt exhausted, lethargic, irritable, and unusually indifferent. I was also having more stressful dreams… I considered going back to therapy.

    The weekend getaway helped me refocus on Bubbey and Marty. I mean, I don’t think it’s any real surprise that exercising (especially when you’re out of shape) forces the brain to stop the overthinking and get back to basics. We hiked at Carpinteria State Beach Park and the next day, we rented bikes in Solvang. OMFG, all the huffing and puffing after just a few short minutes really proved to me that fuck, I need to get my shit together!!! Part of me is mad for letting myself get so fucking out of whack. I mean, hell, this ain’t my first rodeo, you know??? I really should know better. But I suppose there’s little point in crying over what’s already done. I have to move forward and make changes to my life. Now.

    So today is June 1 . My birthday is a week away, and reflecting on all the people and experiences I have had until now, I want to apply some lessons I have learned. I want to live and act consistently with my values. I know, so many vague hippie dippy words. What does all this mean?

    1. Set stronger boundaries with work. I have struggled all my life with drawing this line. It’s complicated but obviously, these habits are tied to how I equate achievements with success and how I identify myself through work. I did minimal work while I was in Santa Barbara. I’ve started carpooling with a coworker in hopes of setting more stringent start/end times to my work day. I am also trying to exercise at lunch. The activity doesn’t have to be intense, but I HAVE to leave my desk and go outside.

    2. Exercise. Yes, activity makes all the difference. I’ve witnessed the positive results before with myself (Hello, Fitbit!!), with John, and with Marty. It’s a no brainer. Tracy Andersen arms are coming soon. :)

    3. Network. Eight months after pulling out of the job market, I can already feel my anti-social tendencies creeping back in. The thing is, I need to continue attending events, not only to keep my hard-earned networking/social skills sharp, but also to find new sources of inspiration. On Wednesday, I’m going to a Lean-In circle meeting in Palo Alto. The topic is social entrepreneurship.

    4. Write. This blog is as much for you (ha!) as it is for me. :) Getting some of my thoughts down in writing somehow clears the mental clutter and makes room for more productive and creative thoughts.

    I have other things that I’m working on, but four is good for now. Pics below from our weekend getaway.

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