Category Archives: Events

  • Spurring Action

    Years ago, I read about some study on crying, comparing how frequently women cry compared to men. I think the number back then was six times per month for women compared to only once a month for men. I remember that at the time, immediately on hearing the stats, I scoffed. Big. time. WTF, people. There is no way I cry that much in 30 days. And in typical fashion, Bubbey stepped right in to challenge my reaction: “You definitely cry six or more times per month. You cry just watching things on tv!” Say what? That shit doesn’t count!!! Ok fine, if watching something on tv counts, then fine. Yes, sometimes I get emotional when triggered.

    Fast forward to now, and well fuck, last week was a rough one. I must have doubled the monthly average. My trigger(s)? Four days of the fricking Democratic National Convention. Admittedly, since my days at FMF (when I was just a young pup in my 20s) I’ve def stepped back A LOT from politics. When I was at FMF, I was all in: I wrote for the organization’s daily news wire; I crafted letters that constituents emailed to their elected officials; I petitioned in front of the Capitol calling for greater access to emergency contraception and broader abortion rights… I was in it hard. But those days, every time I saw my parents, we argued (mostly about how damaging Republicans were for women and minorities). I was angry every. damn. day, and I was always fighting with someone about something (Johnny was also living with John and me at the time). I even had heated email exchanges with haters who wrote into the organization, complaining about my advocacy emails and other stances to which they disagreed. Back then, I cared so much that it exhausted me. After I left FMF and we moved to China in 2003, I realized just how much I needed that break and distance. Now that I’m forty though, I’ve realized that I’ve shifted to the opposite extreme, to the point of not even wanting to debate politics with friends.

    So last week, I watched most of the big DNC speeches… So many of them moved and inspired me. I’d been comfortable in my stepping away and in NOT engaging, but as I listened to Michelle Obama and Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren and so many others, a part of me couldn’t help but feel ashamed by my inaction and lack of participation. Our voices DO matter. And change happens powerfully when people who have less at stake join in supporting and advocating for people who have everything at stake. So how do I re-enter this treacherous zone without losing my shit? I honestly don’t know. But after I got over feeling disappointed in myself (yet again), I decided that I need to start volunteering again. Last time when I was unemployed for an extended period, I helped the local job center with training and computer lab support. When I lived in China, I used to volunteer with animal rescue orgs. When I lived back East, I taught English to adult immigrants. What happened to that person who cared AND acted?

    So I contacted the local day labor center to learn more about volunteer opps with teaching and tech assistance. Even though this isn’t a direct way of defeating Trump in the upcoming campaign, I’m going to view it as a beneficial first step towards reconnecting with things that matter to me.

    Meanwhile, some interesting articles I’ve read:
    Re: Hillary Clinton for President. Sexism is REAL.
    Reconciling the differing roles of spouse vs. daughter: Melania and Ivanka
    A reminder to be less judgey

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  • Kobayashi Part II

    As you know, Bubs and I hit up the HOPR back in March for his 40th bday. I was all bummed bc Bubs totally thwarted my plans for leaving the joint with a shit ton of leftovers. So for my bday, I was super stoked about a HOPR do over. In early May, I tried to get reservations for my bday but shit, that place was booked big time and the earliest booking I got was like June 27. WTF? Fortunately, as my charmed life would have it, the week of my bday, a slot opened up for Friday, June 10. I suspect a cancellation came in for the NBA Finals game, but hell yeah, I took what I could get!

    All day, I fasted. When we arrived, I was famished. And then, the ritual began: loaf of fresh baked bread, salad with beets and drenched in Thousand Island dressing, English cut beef, creamed spinach, loaded baked potato, and Yorkshire pudding. We sat next to a couple who was there celebrating the hubby’s bday. I overheard them tell the waiter that they come every year for the splurge, and I felt like a spoiled punk already having dined twice in three months. Anyway, as I made my way course by course, by the time I got to the meat, my tummy started feeling nauseas. Oh hell no, you are NOT gonna fail me now. It is GAME TIME, baby! Was it something about the meat this time (medium well) or had I over-fasted? I dunno but shit wasn’t feeling right. J looked over and was like, are you ok? Fuck man, I will not be stopped. I just continued to get it down my pie hole. It didn’t taste bad, but somehow not as savory as last time. The waiter came by and offered the complimentary second plate. Yup, bring it on. Similar to last time when the waitress was like utterly shocked by how much I had consumed, the lady at the next table, also expressed surprise. Yeah people, I don’t back down in a buffet-like setting. If I’m gonna go, there’s only one way to do it. It’s the Chinese in me. Years of training, I tell you. Meanwhile, Bubs devoured his prime rib original cut. Homeboy should have gotten the second plate, but as usual, he refused to play my game. Instead, while I dug into my second plate, I had to endure his disgusted looks. Dude, your dirty looks aren’t gonna shame me into not doing my thang. I took a few more bites, and then I got all that shit packed up. Two full bags. Give my body the night to process everything through the system, and then the next day, I am ready to go again. The leftovers were tasty! The lesson learned here? Obviously, the 40-y/o body isn’t as robust and sturdy as the younger version. I would like to look into re-creating the salad and Yorkshire pudding at home (new inspiration). Between HOPR and the two buffets we had in Vegas with dad, I think it’s time to put buffets behind us. Kobayashi needs to retire!

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  • Best Life with Best Friends

    Last weekend, J and I hosted our Best Life with Best Friends in getaway in Templeton, CA. Overall, we (both natural pessimists) were happy with the weekend… I mean, sure, leading up to the event and some part into it, I did let circumstances and the planning tedium/logistics get to me (my own fucking fault!). But shit, if I step back and look at the big picture, what an incredibly beautiful setting to enjoy with our dearest friends. Indeed, it was a big group, with people at different life stages and at different levels of familiarity, but the arrangement was flexible enough that people had the opportunity to hang together and also go off and do their own thing. I appreciated how there wasn’t the pressure of having to hang out with everyone all the time. For example, my friends J and J retired to bed early or took the baby to a local farm. J sometimes just sat by the pool and worked on writing her book. When some of us went to Jack Creek Farms and Croad Winery, M stayed back to enjoy the pool and hot tub. I’m an E (ESTJ 14/16 times), but I can also appreciate sprinkling in some solo rest.

    This was also our first time doing an overnight trip with kids. Initially, I had some qualms about how things might work out, but honestly, how refreshing to witness the wonderment of children! Obviously, it helps that my friends’ kids are really well-behaved. But man, watching them explore the property, visit with the goats, call out to the horses, and play in the pool, I was reminded to savor these moments and to find delight in these simple pleasures. Too often, as a planner (and occasional people pleaser), I really lose my perspective and get stuck in the details. But looking at the photos, the house really was quite a gem, surrounded by such breathtaking landscape.

    More images on Flickr

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  • London + Paris

    Whew, I’m finally back on the plane headed home. Thank goodness. Don’t get me wrong: Bubs and I had a great time in London and Paris. We did TONS and we really enjoyed catching up with friends and family… That said, both of us are also ready to return to our bubble. It’s funny, bc when most people vacation, esp somewhere far away, they go for AT LEAST two weeks since they’re “already traveling so far.” But for us, ten days felt a little long: we get fatigued being away from home. Next time, maybe shave off another day or two. Shrug.

    Both cities were amazing, offering lots of walking (which we enjoy), breathtaking landmarks and architecture, tasty foods, and easy transportation, but dayum, we are tired, boss! For one, there’s the jetlag. Bubs had flown in from NYC (EST) and I from California (PST), and then we met in London so it was the intersection of three substantially different time zones. Then, I’m out of shape and neither of us is used to walking 15-20k steps/day, so our bodies definitely had to adjust. (On average, J clocks about 10k and I do like a lame 2k.) Second, the weather in London was cold, rainy, and windy… What can I say, the Valley has made me soft to the elements. Add to that, we did way too much eating out, so yeah, too many bodily changes going on at once. After so many days of hard living (excessive eating/drinking), our stool is coming out like rabbit pellets. Seriously.

    Typically, J and I are superstar packers, but this trip was kinda a fail. I blame Bub’s business trip to NYC: he had all his fancy shirts, a blazer, a work bag, his shiny shoes, etc. Then we were also misled by his eldest sister, a shopping aficionado who urged us to take a big suitcase for “all the goods” we were going to buy. It ended up just being kinda cumbersome to lug around.

    But that info is just boring details explaining why we felt so damn tired. On the positive side, we had a fun adventure. London reminded me a little bit of Canada, where the common language kinda fools your brain into thinking you know the country and culture but shit is off just enough that something feels amiss. In London, my highlights included having afternoon tea (tea biscuits and scones with clotted cream and jam) with our friends whom we met over a decade ago in Shanghai. They’re very unconventional, and the lady is quite entrepreneurial, so I enjoyed hearing her interesting business ideas. Entrepreneurial people are so refreshing bc I never have to explain why I left my shitty jobs (as with my college roommate and her “what job number is this for you now?” comment). J and I also had some incredible meals, including some fresh, new Mediterranean flavors from Chef Ottelenghi at his restaurant Nopi. Les Mis at the Queen’s Theater was a memorable night: our seats were perfect, just far enough so our necks weren’t strained and stretched but close enough that we were in the midst of the action. Surprisingly, I didn’t completely lose my shit during the performance like I normally do… I mean, I really am wed to the NYC Broadway rendition of the songs… That’s just what I grew up on, and frankly, it’s always going to be my gold standard.

    After five days in London, we hopped the Eurostar train to Paris. The ride was pricey (next time, get the tickets in advance!) but comfortable, if somewhat restless. There was an Indian family next to us who brought on their entire lunch– bento boxes of curries, naan, rice, and all– and proceeded to have a freakin’ party on board. To my amazement, they talked THE WHOLE TIME, like 2.5 hrs.!?!? Who has so much to say amongst family??

    Paris was a really beautiful transition. Unlike the clouds and gloom of London, the weather was warm and sunny, at least for the first two days. Thank goodness I packed three different outerwear, bc I used it all on this trip. I shed my big puffer and switched over to my thin athletic jacket topped with my F21 red pleather. I was feeling pretty badass and chic sporting my MJ jacket with my edgy side shave. Haha. Yup, side shade (aka quasi-mullet) made its European debut.

    In Paris, we met up with J’s youngest sis S and our niece M. S is a project manager, so we got a shit ton of landmarks crossed off our lists in just a few hours. Traveling with other people is always a riot: M was super lax; S was aggressive about hitting the sites; then, as a group there was a lot of indecision (due to decision fatigue?) re: food/drink spots. Usually, J and I like to leave the hotel, come back mid day to rest/nap in the room, and then go out again. On the there hand, S is very much an out all day until late evening kind of traveler. Her very first day in, she got off the 10 hr flight from SFO, cabbed 30 min to the hotel, and then stayed up and out until 11pm. The next two nights, after all of us spent the entire day out, she and J hit up a nearby bar at like 11pm. I declined: I was so tired and the bar scene is even more exhausting. That night they got home after the bar CLOSED at 2am. The next night, it was the same deal except Bubs came home after the first bar closed at 2am, and S continued to hit a second bar with some new friends she made at the first bar! She got back to the hotel at 6am!?!? Hard core, I tell you. She was asking us how late we normally stay out on the weekends. Um, same as during the week, lady. Bubs goes to bed around 9 or 10; I fall asleep around midnight or 1. If we go out, we are almost always home by 11p.

    So of course, after we retired to our rooms one of the nights, Bubs was all sighing and stuff. “We need to have better hobbies or new activities for when we travel. We need to be more fun.” Yada, yada, yada. I mean, I’m the first person to be inspired by how other people live their lives, but sometimes it’s so fucking frustrating being downplayed. I mean, I drink but I don’t really go to bars and drink a lot nor do I make friends with strangers in such settings, so what, now that means I’m boring and no fun? Or I’m not a huge shopper who goes overseas and brings back a bunch of loot, so now I have no interests and hobbies? I started getting a little defensive with Bubbey, bc why do I have to keep defending or justifying how I live my life? Am I supposed to keep apologizing for not being the way other people are? When does this stop, this mentality that there is something wrong with me or us and our choices? I dunno. I was annoyed. I mean, already I have self acceptance issues about my career, so please don’t pile on all this other shit. If you want to be a different person with different interests, have at it. But don’t impose that shit onto me. Like the whole bar scene. I’ve given it plenty of tries, and I just don’t like it. I’m not going to apologize for not jiving with it.

    I digress. I’ve missed my Marty a lot on this trip. I’ve been really happy with the frequent updates from the sitter. I think I found a good one, so it’s a relief to have options esp since I might be headed back East or to Taiwan again soon. I’m also excited to start cooking at home again. Apparently, there IS such a thing as “too much of a good thing.” Seriously. My body needs to stop shitting rabbit poop and get back to normalcy.

    More images on Flickr

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  • Plant Thieves

    For a long while now, J and I have been feeling pretty tired. The last time something like this happened, a coworker of mine suggested I call PGE to check our gas lines and low and behold, they found a pinhole gas leak at the bottom of one of our wall heaters! So, it’s been on my list to just have everything checked once again. I didn’t feel like this qualified for a major emergency, so on Monday, I just called the main line. I was on hold for fucking ever. Finally, I just decided to send in an email. The time was around noon. Basically, I said that we had been feeling tired and the last time this happened, the tech found a small leak. I mentioned this, yes, with the intention of moving it up the queue, but seeing as we had been (possibly) living with this for a while, I didn’t necessarily classify it as URGENT. So I pressed send and went about my day, practically forgetting about the whole email.

    At 3 o’clock in the morning, Bubs had fallen asleep on the couch and I was in bed. My phone was buzzing nonstop. Some 877 number. Then I got a bunch of Google voice text messages from PGE: the tech was saying he was here and trying to get inside our gate (which I lock at night with a bolt). I ran out to the living room, and Bubs suddenly got up, saying someone was in the yard. I opened the door and the PGE guy was like, did you just put this ticket in at 2:50 a.m.? Um, no!! Something about how it was urgent and he had to check the house with a gas meter. WTF?? Bubs and I were all disoriented and then I realized what had happened. OMFG. I could not stop laughing. Consumer advocate in action! So the dude was unable to get through to us, so he basically got himself inside the gate and started checking the gas meter in the front of the house. Prior to that, homeboy had also rung the doorbell, which Bub thought was part of his dream. Jesus Christ. Ever since that whole thing happened with Mo and we were unable to get a hold of ANYBODY in the middle of the night, I always sleep with my phone nearby bc shit, emergencies happen. But even so, it took the dude 10-15 min to get us up and moving! Kinda a scary thing to realize. After the initial gas scan, he said PGE would return the next day to check gas on all the appliances in the house (stove, 2 wall furnaces, gas water heater). After he left, Bubs and I had a good laugh. Bubbey said he didn’t know what the hell was going on. He heard the doorbell in his dream and then when he finally registered that someone was outside, he thought the person was trying to steal our plants (yes, the ones that have mostly already been planted into the ground OUTSIDE the front gate). Ah well, obviously, a sleepy brain doesn’t make a lot of sense. I have to admit though: I was a little disappointed bc I always want to live by this quote from the movie Heat. “Don’t let yourself get attached to anything you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you feel the heat around the corner.” Clearly, we are just not ready to handle the heat coming around the corner.

    In other news, I spoke to dad yesterday. What’s fucking new, he’s majorly stressed again and sounding down. Still dizzy and just in a sad mood. I think his health is really freaking him out, so now more than ever, he is hurrying to consolidate, simplify, tie up loose ends, and take care of business. In other words, he KNOWS mom can’t handle jackshit, so he’s gotta have it all squared away. Fucking co-dependence. Don’t even get me started. Of course, just as the doctor was telling him too much stress and too much long distance traveling was contributing to his problems, Dad books another fucking flight back to Taiwan for May/June. Jesus Christ. Calm the hell down already. I swear, if I am on this same trajectory of stress and micromanaging every goddamn detail, I’ve got to step up the resistance. For realz. Don’t let me go down that path. Incidentally, what this new travel plan means is that I will probably be headed back to Taiwan some time in June to coincide my visit with the parents and check in again on the three grandparents. Of course, that’s my bday month, so I’ve got to tread lightly. Just what I fucking need: daily volcanic eruptions with mom near my bday, right? Shit, I need to start therapy again now just as preventative medicine. FML.

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  • Discovery Island

    I’ve been in big time product discovery mode lately. My mind’s been back in overdrive and to make matters worse, Marty’s doggie dementia recently hit new heights. Every night, he was panting excessively, scratching his bed like a maniac, and just being generally neurotic, unsettled, and jumpy. J and I were both at wit’s end. “He’s going down!! We can’t take this anymore!” we screamed. Then one night, I started researching doggie dementia again, and holy crap, I came across a forum where so many people are having the same issues! They lamented about how much joy their dogs brought to their lives and yet, they were really at the end of their tethers bc the old dogs were practically unrecognizable in behavior. There was this palpable tension of being frustrated and sleep deprived, teetering on the verge of pulling the plug but then also still wanting to honor the lifelong friendship with their pets. Ah, the heartbreak! Many things, I’d come across before: Rescue Remedy, Thundershirt, melatonin, Benadryl, and then… Apawthecary Tranquility Blend AND Hyland Calms Forte. Huh? I went to Amazon and read the reviews. Bam! Ordered. The homeopathic tincture arrived last Monday and holy Jesus Mary and Joseph: Marty has been sleeping through the night for the last seven days. As for me, I’ve been taking the Calms Forte tablets and what the what? Sleep for all!!! No waking up on the 2-3 hour OB/GYN or new parents’ cycle. Fucking miracle!!! We’re all saved. I haven’t slept this well in YEARS.

    Of course, my research did not stop there. Bc of the Muddy Waters incident, an acquaintance directed me to Norwex microfiber cleaning cloths, recommending that I use them for the new sectional… except that Norwex works with water and my sofa is water-free only (cleaning code S). Nonetheless, what’s this product she’s raving about? I investigated. Holy crap. $30 for a pair of microfiber cloths?? Can they really be that phenomenal? I was intrigued. Well, this necessitated drilling deeper, bc you know I’m a cheap bastard. Whatdya know? I came across the blog of a former Norwex rep (FYI Norwex is a direct sales/MLM-style company, like Mary Kay, Amway, JuicePlus, etc.). The rep said she absolutely loved their cloths, but they were too damn pricey. She found a cheaper alternative, called ecloths. So I ordered those just to see what all this fuss was about. The cloths arrived last week and holy cow. Every glass surface in my house is now spotless– even cleaner than with Windex + newspaper, which already was already freaking trail-blazing, in my opinion. And with just water!!! I was so excited, I couldn’t wait for Bubbey to get home that day to see the difference. Sadly, when he got home the sun had already gone down and he couldn’t really tell. But, the next morning, even Bubs was impressed. That shit is cray! You will have to see for yourself.

    Continuing on the cleaning vein, yeah, since my new sectional was all high maintenance with the whole water-free thing, I did have to use solvent. If any of you should have the misfortune of getting your upholstery soiled by a Muddy Waters, I’d recommend K2r solvent. I mean, Marty did a real number, but after multiple applications, I’m pretty happy that order got restored. Good enough, at least.

    In non-product-related news, our Phoenix trip was a blast. I had been there two years ago for a weekend with G and then before that with Bubs and our friend M for the Grand Canyon. This trip was more focused on Phoenix and Scottsdale. I gotta say: I’m not a fan of the politics there or the utter lack of Asians (Asians are less than 3% of the population!), but shit, I am a fan of cheap(er) real estate and shiit, 299 days of sunshine every year! Plus, the store/shop names are so much for creative. Like we ate at a pie shop called The Pie Hole, next door to a pizza joint called Humble Pie. Then, there was a breakfast spot called The Good Egg. And a used car lot called the Jalopy Jungle. And a mega gas station called Super Pumper. See? Creative, right? J and I found some decent grub too, well except the mediocre sushi (duh!). We hit up Bob Marley at the Tempe Improv (fantastic show!!), the Desert Botanical Garden where there’s a really beautiful integration of sculpture art + plants, and I didn’t even realize this until our last day, but Frank Lloyd Wright’s western campus for his architecture school is based in Scottsdale at Taliesin West. We did a tour, and now I’m planning to add FLW buildings to my bucket list. So cool! Turns out, he also designed a house in a Phoenix suburb for his son, and we’re gonna hit that up next time! Overall, another great quickie destination (with direct flights to SJC): truth be told, AZ might just make it onto our “places to live” list. That said, I should mention that the PHX Sky Harbor Airport is a disaster. New and beautiful but fuck, that place is run like an LAX: disorganized with lots of idle staffers doing zippo about long lines. It was an optimizer’s nightmare, and for sure, both of us nearly lost it witnessing the egregious inefficiency on our flight out. SMH. Total buzzkill to end the trip, but I guess you win some and lose some.

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  • Kudos to Kdash

    Being the prude that I am, I wasn’t particularly thrilled this week when Kim Kardashian posted a nude selfie (with strategic blacked out areas). In fact, when I saw it appear in my pop culture social media feeds, I kinda rolled my eyes thinking “self-absorbed” and you know, generally “overexposed as usual.” Then the Bette Midler/KK twitter storm happened, and I gotta say: Kdash has a point. Why am I being so critical/judgey about a grown woman’s choice to do what she wants? Admittedly, in my younger years, I was all about being judgmental. Judgement was practically my middle name: why is she being so trashy; why is she celebrating sex rather than intelligence? Why is she objectifying herself? As I got older though, I started to come around. Perhaps I started to get a taste of my own judgey medicine, enduring the judgement of my parents, my relatives, and even my friends, regarding anything from my choices on profession, family, politics, philanthropy, attire and/or spending habits…

    It’s one thing to be judged when you’re young and foolish (and obnoxiously self-righteous– been there, done that!), but it’s an entirely different thing to be judged as an adult. Sure, my parents didn’t hide their displeasure even as I entered my mid 30s: the child-free thing, the non-career job hopping thing, the living abroad, the casual attire (jeans!?!)… I suppose some part of me just came to expect their constant criticism, although by now after all the recent shit I’ve had to handle for them, they are finally letting up. I can’t necessarily say the same is true for my friends. Sure, I def went through a phase of you know, “hit me with the truth.” I don’t shy away from radical honesty, so at times, I ASKED for brutal honesty. I actively solicited the feedback. But issues arise when we disagree on our choices, and people start telling me what I ought to be doing or how I should be behaving AFTER I’ve already expressed that I’ve decided for myself. That’s when shit starts to get messy and irritating. And so for Kdash, I see her point. What she posts to her feed is her choice. If I don’t like it, I don’t have to follow it. On a related note: if Bette Midler were indeed friends with Kdash, does that mean Bette has to agree with Kdash on everything? I don’t think so, but apparently, Kdash expects complete agreement (maybe she interprets that as loyalty) from her friends. I think that part is kinda immature.

    But let’s take a real example: politics and/or philanthropy. My top causes are the environment, women’s health, and medical/humanitarian services. Those are my core issues. I know the Bay Area is in the middle of a housing crisis. I know there is low supply, high demand, and sky high rent/purchase prices. Cost of living is through the roof. Clearly, this area is NOT affordable. But when I’m asked why I’m not attending town hall meetings or supporting rent control policy and legislation or whatever, it should be enough when I say that it’s not an issue that I want to spend my time/energy/resources on. My choice on what I prioritize shouldn’t be questioned, and I shouldn’t be harassed.

    The bottom line is this: my parents are immigrants, so there’s no notion that you HAVE to live in any given place. I have lived in five different states and in two different countries. I know there is abject poverty in the US, but shit, there is a very different prevalence and intensity of poverty that I have seen in other parts of the world. I have never felt that any given city/place is my “rightful” home. In other words, I’m not entitled to live anywhere just because I grew up there or bc my family lives there or whatever. In Shanghai, people go where the jobs are. Housing is also crazy expensive, so people live in zero space with multiple roommates, or they live far away in the suburbs or somewhere else entirely. Sure, the Bay Area is well beyond affordable even for educated, yuppie professionals. If yups get priced out of the area, they should move. Isn’t this a natural progression for cities? They get expensive and people move away (but there are always people who can still afford to live there). I have seen this play out over and over again: Taipei, Shanghai, Tokyo. Life doesn’t guarantee anyone a home anywhere. And then with all the recent news attacking tech workers bc they are earning higher income. Why are tech workers obligated to support any given cause? I mean, sure, in general, civic participation is a good thing, but should it be mandatory? Should it be an expectation? And if tech workers, as high wage earners, have a responsibility to the community, what of the average American who is living in ridiculous extravagance compared to people in developing countries. And what about parents? Do they have an even greater responsibility or obligation to be involved in the process? After all, they have kids who are the future. Why aren’t they at all these meetings? Most parents I know don’t even keep up with the news, and shouldn’t they bc they actually are invested in the future? Who is to say?

    You see, I’ve been on both sides of the judgement spectrum. How many times do people consider me selfish or insular for not having kids. It’s as if, I just want to live my own life and not care about other people or the community or the future. Partly true, but when Jennifer Aniston was harassed in yet another interview about being child-free, she countered, “just bc I don’t have kids doesn’t mean I don’t care/nurture people or friends or animals. There are many ways to demonstrate care…” Yeah people. Back the fuck up. Don’t act like you’re God’s greatest gift just bc you are raising a kid. I’ve always argued to my parents that kids aren’t a purely selfless act: at least for the Chinese people I know, kids are an investment in the parents’ own future– it’s their way of ensuring someone is around to take care of them when they’re old. Anyway, long story short, Kdash just really got me thinking about choices and judgement. I guess I’m saying it’s hard to have an opinion and yet refrain from being judgey. Still, I try my best to catch myself and to stay vigilant.

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  • New Buttons, New Outlook

    So I finally prevailed in my feud with Crate & Barrel. Despite their initial refusal to repair my popped sofa buttons, I continued to push back, and ultimately, customer service agreed to re-attach my seven buttons on the Petrie sofa. The day after I returned from Palm Springs, the furniture repair guy made a house call. Now, part of my case for requesting repair was that I don’t have kids and my dogs NEVER get on the furniture, so there’s no reason why these buttons should keep popping off. To not appear like a fucking liar, I spent FORever on Monday night and Tuesday morning trying to get Muddy Waters’ stains out of the chaise. But turns out, when the guy arrived, I also wanted to ask his recommendations for stain removal, meaning I had to bring it up. Matt was a big, heavyset guy (I actually thought my new sectional might break with him sitting in the middle of it!)– super nice and cool. First, he admitted that buttoned furniture are THE WORST. If there are buttons anywhere, they will come off. He said some customers have beautiful, super expensive tufted leather couches (think Restoration Hardware) and the buttons come off in no time with very minimal wear. See? He totally corroborated my claim that they just fall off for no reason without any abuse! Second, he himself has a 7-y/o German Shepherd who stays in a very defined area of the house except when there are fireworks. Then, the dog goes totally berserk. So he totally empathized with Marty behaving out of character, triggered by fear. We chatted it up the whole time he was here: it took him 90 minutes to reattach all the buttons. Now, that couch is ready for sale. Yippee! First, Craigslist and the neighborhood list. Then Ebay.

    As for the chaise part of my new sectional, it’s mostly back to normal. It seriously took me hours and endless reapplications of this super potent, stinky drycleaning solvent. I’m sure I blasted all remaining brain cells, but in the end, I’m happy with my progress. Two nights ago in the middle of the night Marty was having his anxiety issues and he tried again to get on the (re-cleaned) couch, so for now, I am keeping a close eye and covering the furniture with all kinds of things, including big bubble bubble wrap. I know, NOT optimal in the long term, but I’m hoping we can get his issues under control in the next few days and return to normalcy after that.

    This morning, I was awoken again by a call from Dad. He and mom had just flown into SFO, but for the last travel leg back to Maryland (SFO-IAD), they were on separate flights (long story). In other words, Mom has to fly solo today (which she has never done EVER). Basically, she was freaking out about having to wait without my dad for her flight and what if… they change gates or she misses the announcement or blah, blah, blah. Again, paralysis by paranoia. So Dad wanted me to call her closer to her boarding time to guide her on the phone before getting on her flight. WTF, are you for real??? I mean, as someone who is all about self-sufficiency, I’m thinking Jesus Christ, enough with the goddamn hand holding! But as usual, they sound stressed, they already feel bad about waking me up and asking for help… so fine! I try calling her Taiwan mobile as a test, but it doesn’t go through. I think her phone only works in Taiwan. I guess the universe helped me out there. Mom, you’re just going to have to figure it out on your own.

    In related news, J and I went to a play last night called Tokyo Fish Story. Despite my many recent duds (esp with K), Goldstar pulled through last night. Incredibly well-acted and well done. First, I’m not gonna lie: it was kinda bizarre to see Asians in a play. That whole Oscars so white thing is real. Very minimal representation of Asians in theater. But I digress. Anyway, the story was vert poignant, and it really struck a chord with me, hitting on themes of Asian culture, showing how starkly those values contrast even across generations in the same culture. It reminded me of the internal conflict that for so long, I didn’t even recognize or attribute to growing up Chinese-American. But even thinking about how much my parents rely on me now, how much they expect from me, and how I feel obligated to help them even if “helping” feels more like “enabling”– the latter of which conflicts so strongly with my own personal values of self sufficiency and empowerment… The play addresses the concept of respect and how in Asian culture, respect often equates to conceding and acquiescing and never challenging your elders. As J and I walked back to our car, I realized that so much of my youth was spent rejecting and denying my Asian-ness. And now, as I’m on the brink of 40, I finally am realizing how I am a blend of so many things. All these years, I wasted energy trying to categorize myself into neatly defined boxes, be they personality types or some other kind of label (What kind of car would I be? What kind of love language am I? What is my dress style?). Ultimately, I am a complex amalgamation of many things. I’m American-born Chinese and I like that I speak Mandarin. I’m happy that I know how to play the zither, that I enjoy Chinese language films, that I know how to make dumplings and roast duck… Usually yes, I’m an ESTJ but sometimes I’m ISTJ or something beyond both of those types. Some days, I dress like a cowgirl. Other days, I feel more edgy/rocker. Still other days, I prefer heels and a classic sheath dress. For some reason, I was so concerned about consistency in presentation, as if that uniformity somehow equated/attested to my character or integrity. But the truth is, being blended and complex (and unpredictable) is largely what it means to be human. Bubbey once told me he loved how I continued to surprise him. I hope my recent self acceptance pulls up a chair and stays for a while.

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  • Holidays: First Pass

    We had a pretty small gathering this year for Thanksgiving. Partly, I was scrambling around very last minute following a restless week prior in Taiwan. My god that visit was trying. Honestly, I don’t know why after all these years, I’m still so surprised by how frustrating my family is. ANYway, I guess I’m mostly recovered now, at least I’m back on the Pacific time zone. Truthfully, I was pretty annoyed by how little empathy I got from Bubbey while I was dealing with my daily family drama. Given he was exhausted back at home hustling with the new job and long commute and Marty’s health situation, but basically every time I talked to him, he just said I needed to learn to control my response to my mother. Never mind that she was annoying as fuck and def stepped over the line with her accusations, but fine. Chock it up to mental illness or whatever. After I returned, she called and thanked me for all the stuff I did. Yes, I’m still irritated that she makes helping her so goddamn frustrating, but in the end, I guess I’m supposed to just forget and forgive.

    The good news is that I made my turkey in the NuWave oven, and it came out great in less than four hours. Except that the only size turkey they had left at the store was an 18 pounder, and our three other guests were vegetarian. Meanwhile, Marty’s appetite is fluctuating daily like the wind. He doesn’t like chicken anymore, so we cooked up pork. That lasted for a day or two, and then he puked that up. Now, he seems to be eating the turkey off and on, coupled with getting the sub q fluids every few days. Yes, we’re back on that wagon again. I try to be all easy going and laid back about it: he’s probably 16 y/o now, so I no longer have the wool pulled over my eyes, but it’s still a stressor. We know the drill, and these are the few factors we’re willing to adjust until the end, but I can’t help but feel some kind of impending doom. Yup, clearly, New Attitude November was a burning success!! Haha. One more day, and then it’s December Doom. Shrug.

    Overall, Thanksgiving was good: J&J came over with the baby and then S joined later on. I have to say, things are different now that my close friends are parents. You can’t have real, in depth conversations anymore, bc they’re always distracted. I mean, that’s the thing about kids. They really are nonstop- there isn’t a moments’ rest. I don’t know how these people do it. As for S, she appears to be doing well. I guess it’s hard to ever really know. These days, more than ever, I feel like everyone is living behind a veil. We’re just too damn busy to peer into the troubles of others. Maybe I’m projecting. Regardless, work keeps her immensely busy, and Thanksgiving weekend is always one of her busiest times of the year, working in retail and all. She had work calls every four hours for status updates on the web traffic and mobile app. Yeah, maybe my job isn’t so bad. Sigh. (Throwing up my hands).

    The next day, K invited us over to her family’s annual day-after dinner party. Man, the Brady Bunch for realz. Serious party hosts: they had two super long tables plus table trays set up for every spot on the living room couch. I mean, there were a LOT of people: maybe 40? J and I had a good time: mostly we chatted with K and D. I brought a box of pineapple cakes from Taiwan, which her father promptly set out on the dessert table. Funny thing: who were the first people to eat up the cakes? None other than K’s brother-in-law and his fam– who are Chinese (maybe Taiwanese)!?! I mean, precisely the people who are already familiar with pineapple cakes. SMH. In the end, K’s parents didn’t even get to try them! My people, man. It still just blows my mind that K has dinner with her fam every single week. I have to say, it is so weird for me to observe joyous and interactive families. My family is so much the opposite. Sigh. It is what it is.

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  • Chauffeur

    Another busy day for us here in humidity central. Today I drove my mother and her parents to a veterans center in Tainan. One of my cousins works there, and she invited us to a special anniversary celebration event on site, featuring a songstress who was super famous back in my parents’ days. When we arrived, my relatives were super impressed that I got my family there. SMH. Here’s the thing, people: driving is a very ordinary skill in the US. Sure, I have some barriers here in Taiwan, like illiteracy and unfamiliarity with the place, but seriously, it’s not that big a deal. The signage has romanized Chinese plus all the usual hwy/route numbers. And the night before I had asked Hong to show me the route on Google Maps. Btw, I have to say, despite my last feud with T-Mobile, the global data plan has saved my ass many times. The Google Maps with the moving blue dot is sooo money, bc when I miss an exit or turn, I can pretty much see the mistake immediately. If only I could mute my mother in the damn backseat. Holy fuck, there are few things more annoying than having someone who is directionally challenged and who does NOT drive nagging you the whole drive up. I took a lot of deep breaths today, that’s for fucking sure.

    So the concert was pretty low budget with wonky mics and shitty speakers. I felt like I was in a crappy ktv lounge or chintzy school auditorium. But I think my relatives enjoyed themselves. Those singers, man: fuck, they were old and yet still prancing around in thigh-high boots and mini-skirts. So very Madonna of them. That said, I gotta say, I admired their energy and sass and charisma! How the hell are they similar to my parents in age? Mind blown.




    For lunch we hit up a really tasty homestyle restaurant nearby. Delish. A lot of veggie dishes, which was a welcome respite from all the meat-laden meals we’d been eating. Afterwards, I was back behind the wheel headed to my paternal grandfather’s house down south. In Wulong, I spent two hours in the salon chair getting my hair trimmed and dyed. Same hairdresser as last time. Unfortunately, she didn’t have navy blue in stock for chunks so she did red highlights instead. It came out super subtle since I had gone all goth at home last month, but she says it will brighten over time. Fine, whatever. I’m just happy to sit in the chair with some fucking peace and quiet.

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