• Parental Relations

    Ahead of my trip, I def had a ton of reservations. There was a lot to do, and I’d been feeling a little apprehensive, like maybe mom’s health was on the decline and dad was keeping it on the downlow… I just hadn’t really spoken to her on the phone in recent weeks, so I was starting to worry. Thankfully, she’s doing fine– being her same old self, so that’s a relief. Both of them appear ok. Dad hasn’t had his dizziness/imbalance issues. They did both stop exercising since returning from Taiwan, but I’m planning to get them walking again before I leave town…

    So far, we’ve been getting along fine. Funny thing: on our drive home from BWI, I told my parents about my Rover and eBay/Craigslist escapades. I actually expected my parents to not really be impressed at all since I was just earning a few Bubbey bucks here and there, but to my surprise, they actually loved the idea. And they thought both Rover and Ebay/CL were a good fit for me in terms of running ops and being prompt/responsive. I was pretty darn blown away. Maybe it was in the way I told my story: they laughed at my stealthy strategies for converting my Rover meet and greet visitors into clients! Haha.

    In other family news: the other night, I spoke with one of my aunts in Taiwan (my father’s oldest sister). Aunt G is the aunt who most closely follows the philosophy of filial piety, so she always drones on and on about how much she loves her father (my paternal grandfather) and how she wants to spend as much time as possible with him…. that’s all fine and dandy but then she also goes on to talk about how well respected my dad is in their town and how he’s so smart and wise and successful… I mean, all those things are true. Indeed, of all the people I’ve encountered in my long life of 40 years, he’s without doubt the smartest, most hardworking, most moral person ever. But the way my aunt couches every conversation about him, she starts expressing disbelief at how little time (Johnny and) I spend learning from dad. His wisdom extends so far beyond just medicine, she exclaims. We have access to this incredible resource and what have we done with it?!? It’s hard to explain, bc I’m sure her intention is only the highest praise for my dad, but sometimes it just really comes across like, “Look how amazing your father is, and what a shame you and your brother are no where near that level of greatness. How can you two be his progeny?” It’s a bit like, you’re not good enough to be his kids.

    The thing is, I am well aware of the stark contrast, and admittedly, I don’t work nearly as hard as my dad. BUT, at the same time, my brain capacity is what it is, you know? Like my dad remembers every fricking stock transaction… it doesn’t matter how long ago the transaction. He just remembers that and a shit ton of other details. Meanwhile, I can’t even remember how much I paid yesterday for a gallon of gas! So yeah, he remembers interest rates and stock values and rent payments and physics principles and math and ALL that stuff… Maybe working in medicine required him to memorize a lot of info and that trained up his brain? I don’t know, but even among doctors, his brain capacity still seems extraordinary. The point is, in Chinese culture, evolution and legacy are super important themes. The curve is supposed to keep going up over time, whether it’s family wealth or quality of life or success or whatever. So every time I have some version of this conversation with my Aunt G, I just visualize a graph that for all the generations before, steadily increased, and then at me, it dropped. It sucks to be the lame one. I mean, it could be worse: I could be my brother, but still.

    Ah well, it’s pointless to dwell on my inadequacies and failures. Ultimately, it’s more productive and helpful to just focus on how I can return this favor of a privileged life provided by my parents. There are things I can do that my father can’t, and I suppose we can fill the gaps together. So that’s that.

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  • Nonstop Research

    Hello from Maryland! Gosh, it feels like I’ve been away for quite a while but shit, only three days have passed!! First, I’m happy to report that my inaugural flight on Southwest’s OAK-BWI route was a breeze, which means there may be many more to come (I need the points if I’m still aiming for the Companion Pass!). I had deliberately taken the 6:20 am flight to arrive at a decent daytime hour for my parents, but shit, I got no sleep the night before: I had Bubs up really late talking about my trip and my relationship with my parents. Yeah, I was kinda bugging about it. But we had a good conversation and in the end, both OAK and BWI were easy to navigate. In the future, I need to stop getting to the damn airport so early. You see, I have TSA Pre, so getting from curb to gate is always under 20 minutes, but bc I’m a planning freak, I always convince myself to get to the airport 90 minutes early just in case… you know, new airport, holiday traffic, whatever. I know, overkill. I’m making adjustments next time for sure. Other observations from the flight? The OAK crowd is definitely different from the SJC crowd. A lot more sports gear and tats, let’s just say.

    Maryland has been wet!! We’re getting rain all week long! Everything is super green and lush. My dad’s basement dehumidifier now fills up and requires emptying every. damn. day! Totally the opposite of California. Work wise, I def hit the ground running on Day 1. First things first: tech support. Holy crap, I’ve never made so many damn calls to Comcast. All the issues finally got resolved tonight. Tomorrow I’m going to try and hook up my mom’s karaoke Laserdisc system to the HDTV… After tech support, I hustled to take pics of their nicer furniture and decor… I figure, if anything, it’s always good to have photos, regardless of whether or not we’ll ultimately end up using the estate sales person I’m meeting on Wednesday. Until then, I’ve gone ahead and created Google albums (I’d taken a break from Google and was using Flickr for the last several years, but I have to say, Google Photos offers a nice workflow, esp for my busy operations on Freecycle, Craigslist, and Ebay!). If you’re curious, here’s stuff that I expect to go up for sale (I might ship select pieces back to California though), and here are free items that I’m clearing out to make more room for staging/organizing stuff indoors.

    Do you remember when my cousins visited from Taiwan, and they could not stop raving to everyone in Taiwan about how nice my little Houseboat was? And my mom, was all like, “What? What did Vicky do? Her house isn’t that nice! What’s so nice about it? What am I missing?” At the time, I was all pissed like she was being a love withholder or something. But now that I am taking inventory of their stuff, I am realizing there is a huge difference in quality and durability. I mean, their style isn’t necessarily my style, but shit man, the difference in craftsmanship is significant. And credit where credit is due: they really did do a great job assembling pieces together in a cohesive way. So, kudos to them, and I stand corrected.

    On Day 2, I started digitizing some of dad’s important files. Dude is super organized and has impressive homemade spreadsheets tracking a gabillion metrics, but still, his files are stored all over the damn place. Going over where shit was and the status of each project took an entire evening, and he and I were up past 2 am discussing all these details. Bubbey is calling us the Mogul Mafia now. For reals. My dad is intense, I tell you.

    Today was the holiday. I slept in late bc after our 2 am jam session, I couldn’t sleep and I was up until 5 am. But once I got up and going, I decided we needed a large staging area for various piles: trash, recyclables/ewaste, donations, free cycle, and for sale. I posted some stuff on CL, but logistics-wise, instead of having strangers enter deep into the bowels of the house, I think it’s better to just put the items in a bay in the garage and have people come look there. All afternoon, we were uncovering bags within bags within bags in the garage. Holy fuck, I come from an entire line of pedigreed packrats!!! Saved plastic bags, unused restaurant napkins, plastic utensils, takeout containers, etc. Yes, now you see where I get those proclivities!! I started feeling overwhelmed and began sweating my brains out and sneezing up a storm, shuffling around in all the muck. Then, I moved my grandfather’s car out of the garage to take pictures and holy fuck, that thing was stuffed with garbage too, including like five canes and six umbrellas and a whole load of US and Taiwan flags (WTF??)! I started getting so pissed about all the hoarding, so I just threw everything out of the car and onto the driveway. And then it started to rain. Yeah, it was not a good scene. But in the end, I got ‘er done. Toyota Corolla for sale, bitches. Tonight, I reformated two of dad’s old laptops and posted those for sale on Ebay. I need to pad my Ebay stats. :) Actually, if I reapply for the Southwest business card, I need to beef up business for my business, know what I mean? Haha, always hustling.

    On tap for tomorrow: I’m meeting the realtor to talk about the townhouse reno and then he’s touring the family home to share his insights on that potential sale. I’ve also got to call a bunch of vendors regarding dumpster rental, moving services, ewaste pickup, and donation pickups. In the afternoon, a bunch of people are coming to pick up free items: the 20+ year old riding mower, two twin beds, an old stereo, etc. I need to start seeing faster progress; otherwise, I’ll have another “throw everything out of the car” meltdown.


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  • The Artist (Formerly Known as…)

    My sleep is all jacked up again. Every time I’m about to visit with family, my anxiety level goes up. And on top of my family woes, there are also a number of other factors that are weighing on me: Bubbey is unhappy at work again, his back is NOT getting better, I’m stressed thinking about all the oldies (my grandparents and Marty) and their increased health problems, and I am still trying to learn my real estate stuff as fast as possible… My brain just can’t seem to ramp up fast enough though. On top of that, I’m out of shape. So yeah, overall, I’m feeling overwhelmed.

    But given my experiences from last week, between visiting with S and her Camp Wonder girls and having Buddy pass away, I am trying really hard to maintain perspective and to just focus on the smaller steps.

    Yesterday, I didn’t study as much as I had wanted, but I did reach out to various contacts. Yeah, the Unabomber had a lot of people interaction yesterday. I called Virgin America again and got the remaining points redeposited. Then I called SmileDirect Club and peppered them with a gabillion questions. Wow, that customer service rep Randall is GOOD! What a relief to find someone knowledgeable, helpful, AND attentive. A goddamn unicorn these days! Yeah, I got my treatment plan last week along with an animation and Im pretty darn inpressed! They expect treatment to be only six months!! I’m so tempted but am still sitting on the decision. More on SmileDirect Club later. After that, I contacted a few computer repair/tech support vendors to inquire about home visits. Found a responsive shop, but they mostly do businesses only. Then upgraded my care.com account and researched personal assistants for my parents. I swear to god, the sharing and/or gig economy has not made it to Frederick. Slim pickings, I tell you. I should have known, considering that even Yelp doesn’t have enough critical mass there. I found ONE dude who had “computer help” in his profile. And most other general personal assistant profiles aren’t even active, with 5-7 day response times and log ins from 3 months ago. WTF? Regardless, I reached out to that one dude, and we’ll see when he gets back to me.

    Meanwhile, I’m still hustling through my eBay store, Craigslist, NextDoor, and OfferUp sites. Trying to sell my stuff and all. Somehow the physical decluttering makes me feel better. So I got a bite for my old mattress yesterday, and the dude showed up with his friend– some chick with green hair. We were talking and then, he asked if I was an artist or musician? Say what? Haha, I could not stop smiling. I mean, I was wearing my crazy floral jeans but shiit, his comment made my fucking day. And they bought the mattress to boot (didn’t even haggle)! As soon as I got back inside, I sent a giddy text to Bubs. The simplest things crack me up. That’s the thing about first impressions though. I’m always curious about the clues we use to make our split second judgements… It’s such an interesting part of human interactions.

    Anyway, in the evening, I had someone respond to my NextDoor posting for Bubbey’s old Mac tower. I had received a few bites last week, with people making outrageous lowball offers, but this dude came by, checked everything out, and bam, sold! Maybe I’m just not as trusting, but this guy was all surprised that I had set the tower up with an old monitor and keyboard and mouse, so he could drive around in the OS. I mean, were you just going to visually inspect, buy, test it out at home, and risk having to find me again if it didn’t work as described?? And it was $375, not just chump change! Oh well, regardless, it worked out great and he even had me keep the change. Yay! The guy himself is a CAD designer, and he was getting it for his friend who’s starting grad school in video/cinematography editing. So cool to be amongst the creatives! Haha. You know me: always wishing I were cooler than I am.

    What else. My third Schoola shipment arrived yesterday. I know, it seems like I have been doing a lot of clothes shopping, and I guess that’s true, but I’m telling you, these second-hand joints are so fucking cheap! My latest lot was all wins: two button down shirts, two blouses, and a blazer for $42!! And all the goods except the blazer are Banana Republic and in excellent condition! Not that you care, but hell, you know I like to crunch the numbers: in total, I have spent $105 with Schoola for 11 items that panned out for me and 2 that panned out for my friend M! Yeah, the free shipping takes 2-3 weeks but it’s worth the wait. And I guess I could always fork over a few extra bucks to upgrade shipping. :)

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  • Scammers are Everywhere!

    I swear to god the older I get, the more I uncover incompetence all around. For reals, how are these people holding jobs??? Sure, maybe I’m misdirecting the blame: after all, line staff are at the bottom of the totem pole. Maybe it’s the executives and company leadership who are the real culprits. Either way, where is the fucking accountability?

    There have been so many examples these last several months, from the scammers at Verizon who charged me for a data plan after I canceled my phone service, to the crooks at T-Mobile who charged me for a piece of equipment they claim I didn’t return (until I provided the tracking number) to Upromise dilly-dallying on my cashback rewards to this. Last month, I booked my trip home using reward points on John’s Virgin America account. Within 24 hrs, I called to cancel the itinerary (free to cancel/change within 24 hrs.). Since forever, the VA website has been buggy as hell. Seriously, how many times has the damn site gone down when there’s a fare sale? Anyway, when I cancelled the trip online, I got a generic error. So I called, was on hold for fucking ever, and then the agent assured me the itinerary was cancelled and said John’s reward points would redeposit in a few days. In the end, I booked a new reservation on Southwest, but today, when I checked his VA points balance, 26000 points were STILL missing. That’s about $600 worth of airfare.

    Meanwhile, when I log into his account and my account, clicking on the itinerary code in either case gives another site error. Fine, so I email customer service: once at the start of last week and another time at the end of last week. No reply. Today, I call customer service. The agent says the points will redeposit by end of day. This evening I log in, and only HALF of the points were redeposited. When I click on the “view receipt,” another goddamn error. Hel-lo people, wake the fuck up! I mean seriously, does every damn transaction require this much check in??? The reservation was roundtrip (under ONE itinerary code, which I provided), and it was cancelled. So this evening I fucking call again!! I was on hold forever and then they gave me the callback option. Basically, up until now, still no call back. After waiting 90 minutes for the callback, I call again and now the agent says the points department is closed. To date, I have wasted time online clicking to a gazillion error messages, emailed customer service twice, and called the Elevate Silver line multiple times, each time waiting on hold for 25+ minutes. Is this a game of attrition, bc I will fucking school your ass! I’m calling first thing tomorrow morning. Assholes.

    In other news, after a couple of weeks of inactivity, I finally got another Rover bite: an older lady with a 14 y/o Schnoodle. In typical fashion, I moved fast and we scheduled a meet/greet this evening. Booked for a week in July (after the corgi!). Yay, old doggies make me so happy!

    On the family front, I texted dad today to check his email, and he called saying the wifi at home wasn’t working again. He went to Comcast, they gave him a serial number, that number didn’t match anything, so they issued a new cable modem, but it still doesn’t work. Blah, blah, blah, same old story. He thinks he can just wait until I get home (Saturday) to handle it. Yeah, along with selling grandpa’s car, meeting with the agent to discuss the townhouse reno plus sale of the family home, meeting with an estate sale lady, cleaning out junk, dealing with iPhone issues, cable tv issues, and now this. Then he started verbally beating himself up about being such a Luddite and being so useless and having to always bother me… The negative self talk, while extremely familiar, is exhausting. I was like, look, the CEO doesn’t have to clean the toilets or order the office supplies. I don’t expect you to know or even do that low level shit. And you’re not bothering me: I can help you, but you have to be able to hire help. I will research what I can ahead of time so I can schedule meetings with vendors while I’m back, but I can’t troubleshoot your tech issues if you no longer have wifi! You have to get Comcast to come out and fix the issue instead of you trying to randomly connect cables on the phone with tech support! Ugh!

    Earlier this week, he had called to report that the grandparents are not doing well in Taiwan. Then my father, being the retired doc that he is, proceeded to explain in excruciating detail my paternal grandfather’s bowel movement issues. Apparently, gramps will go for days unable to pass stool. So I’m thinking, whatever, if he can’t shit, just keep going. NBD. Turns out, it IS a big deal bc all kinds of things get backed up. Needless to say, it is a fucking MANUAL process (literally!) breaking up the blockage. And it’s not even a sickness or anything: the colon muscles are just old as fuck, and they can’t push things down like they used to. To my own surprise, even my background in solid waste couldn’t prevent me from getting really fricking grossed out. Mind you, my dad was doing this procedure, and then he had to train the caretaker to do this… Who has the stomach for this? WHO???

    As for my mother’s parents, who are currently living in the same residence as my dad’s dad, they are also starting to require more care. Grandma is sleeping more and more and grandpa broke the chair and fell while in the shower. Dad says the next time he goes back, he’ll need to ask them to move into a senior care facility… of course, the nearest one that meets decent standards is in Taipei, 5 hours north (where my brother lives). So yet again, my 90+ y/o grandparents are gonna be on the move, led by my 72 y/o father. OMFG, who has the stamina for this?

    Oddly, these days I hear less and less about my mom. Today I asked Dad if I could have her (instead of him) help me with the online troubleshooting, and he said she is getting more and more forgetful. WTF? I mean, granted my maternal grandmother has Alzheimer’s but shit, is this all really happening now? I’m feeling pretty stressed out about everything there is to do, and I can hear the weariness in my father’s voice. I don’t know if he’s an ESTJ, but he’s definitely a doer and this is the doer’s curse for sure: you take on responsibilities bc you want to help and you want to get shit done. But after doing so much for so many years, other people just come to rely on you more and more for every. little. thing. Ultimately, you’re the last one standing, completely exhausted and yet there is no fucking way out. So many times, I think about how to offload his burdens. Surely, something can be delegated. Yet when I sit down with all of this, realistically, you still need someone to research and identify the right person to delegate shit to. For example, I still had to research a bunch of estate sale people or real estate agents or even like tech support people… I know Frederick is the second largest city in Maryland and all, but I can’t even find an onsite tech support service other than bullshit, crappy GeekSquad!! For real!

    And then on the Taiwan side, let’s give Johnny something to handle. What? He can’t even pay his bills on time. Can we possibly ask him to scout out senior care facilities in Taipei, his home city? Nope. I can’t trust that shit to him. So fine, book airline tickets for my parents? Nope, he messed that up before too. Tech help? Totally useless. I asked him once about using a printer/scanner to get documents to my parents. NO ACCESS TO A SCANNER. For fucking real, people. He teaches at a university but says they don’t use scanners. How do you people live under these conditions?

    Same problem with my mother. What can she do? I think about hiring my parents a personal assistant. A few months ago, I researched profiles on Care.com. But my family has trust issues. Do I try and hire my nephews? Fuck. See? Even delegation has its roadblocks. I’m trying to just take it one step at a time. You know, go out this next week, hire people wherever possible, but thinking ahead, I have a feeling I’m going to have to get to Taiwan sooner than later to help my dad shuttle the grandparents. And when I go back, I’m taking a goddamn multi-function machine. Yes, I could buy it there, but then I’d have to decipher the Chinese software and buttons.

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  • Deluge of Tears

    Last week, on the same day that I had gone to visit the kids at Camp Wonder, I learned of Buddy’s passing on Facebook. He was the hyperspaz yellow lab whom we dogsat last year while his family welcomed their third child. The FB posting was frantic, something like “Please pray for Buddy. The vet is doing CPR on him right now,” followed later by a post saying that he was gone. WTF???

    I so wanted to contact D to ask what the hell happened? I mean, he’s only four years old, hardly the age for death! I wanted to know and I was annoyed by the “info but no info” kind of social media post that seems all too prevalent these days. But after pausing and letting the truth sink in, I realized that the details didn’t even matter. I was just dumbfounded (he was such a strong boy) and sad. He had only stayed with us for ten days but he’d grown on me. I suddenly felt so regretful that the day they came to take him back home was the last day we saw him. I thought there would be later opportunities, but I suppose bc of the human relationships (and our personal aversion to hanging out with a gaggle of kids), that never happened. And now he’s gone. The one with ears even more velvety than Martin’s. He’s gone.

    A few days later, after a bunch of people on FB kept asking what happened, D finally shared the details. Buddy had just finished an ordinary play session, and then he suffered from heat stroke. My mind just kept imagining that happening… And escalating so quickly. It’s amazing they even got him to the vet. Ugh.

    Years ago, when I worked at the environmental agency, every summer, the rangers would ask us to put out warnings and signs reminding people about heat stroke, esp for dogs. People would go up a steep trail with their dog on a hot day, and come back down carrying their dying dogs in their arms.

    I thought about how much we anthropomorphize our animals. They are so much a part of us, that we forget they are completely different animals with different DNA. To be honest, until this news about Buddy, I had forgotten that dogs don’t sweat. I mean, I knew this fact, but somehow it was buried deep inside and it had left my consciousness. And I thought about how much Buddy panted and breathed so loudly when we had him… The vet did say that he thought Buddy had a condition that compromised his ability to self-cool… Anyway, whenever we took him to the park, he ALWAYS went after the ball. He would appear physically exhausted but his face and body was always ready for more. Back then, I stopped playing with him bc I didn’t want him to over exert or bc I wanted to get going, but it was never about heat stroke. This could very well have happened on our watch, and that scared me even more. This was a devastating but powerful reminder.

    Of course, that evening I started scrolling through our pictures of Buddy. So heartbreaking. And then I saw my old pics of Remy and Ramona… People always say you have to tell the people you love that you love them. Do dogs know? I was petting Marty today, wondering does he know I love him? I tell him but we speak different languages. Does he know from my actions? Is loyalty a kind of love? Clearly, I’ve got insomnia tonight, and the brain is just all over the damn place.

    Needless to say, I’ve been crying a lot lately. That said, I am still trying to make the most of my life, so that means I kicked my studying into high gear. Today, I even tried something new: I got my butt to Starbucks, downed a chai latte, and then hunkered down from 11-4:30p. Government-backed loans, the law of agency, and real estate appraising. I was doing pretty well until I got into Fannie Mae and Ginne Mae and Freddie Mac. WTF. Thoroughly confusing. And then the fucking mortgage-backed securities and insurance and guarantees and… Argh!!! Why is his shit so goddamn complicated? I got really frustrated bc isn’t that what the movie The Big Short is all about? This intentionally complex system that then screws people over?!?! Thankfully, Bubs explained it to me after he got home. It’s still confusing but less so. I’m gonna sleep on it.IMG_0176 IMG_0177IMG_0198(2)

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  • Lessons from Kids

    Today, I was up in Livermore hanging out with my friend S and her girls at Camp Wonder. I saw some familiar faces from last year, but overall, S’s group was noticeably more chill than her groups from previous years. Perhaps it was the older ages (9+)? Or simply different personalities? I don’t interact with kids enough to really know. Regardless, I was thrilled to see several of the kids playing with my headband and bracelet-making kits, even proudly wearing their creations afterwards. Those kits, man. Can the instructions be any more confusing? For reals.

    It was great to catch up with S. She’s had an extremely difficult year, getting kicked off her insurance and then having to go off her meds. Compared to last year, her arms and legs were covered in scales, and she said the chronic pain got really bad the last several months. It was so upsetting hearing her describe firsthand our broken healthcare system: Medi-cal refused to cover the meds she needed: to make matters worse, the program administrators insisted that she go through various courses of cheaper meds first– meds that she’d already tried in the past and that had proven ineffective (some with extremely damaging chemotherapy side effects)– before giving her the known working meds. So despite her extensive medical records and documentation, with physicians already having tried the cheaper drugs, the program made her jump through the hoops all over again! And during this time, of course her condition and pain escalated. Argh, so incredibly frustrating that she was forced to endure even though a helpful treatment had already been identified!! WTF?!?!

    I was really glad to visit my friend and her girls, but on the drive home, I felt really sad. Seeing all the kids with such severe, disfiguring, and debilitating skin diseases… It reminded me of all the pain and shame and embarrassment I had felt when I had severe cystic acne. And no matter how badly I had it back then, my case was just superficial shit. These kids’ diseases are on an entirely different level. Some of them have skin so sensitive, it has to be bandaged and dressed multiple times a day– their arms and legs completely wrapped and covered. The skin that is exposed– it’s splotchy, lesioned, and discolored. Some have lost their hair. And as if that weren’t enough, they are in chronic pain, with arthritis and blisters and organ issues. Some kids don’t have fingernails much less fingers. It brings tears to my eyes thinking about how much they suffer. And they are just kids. How do they still find joy in each and every day? How do they find the strength to laugh and play and smile through the overwhelming discomfort and pain? And then I think about the families who provide for these precious little hearts. Honestly, where do they find the courage and stamina? 

    I am reminded again today of my many blessings. And I’m grateful for the kind souls behind Camp Wonder and the Childrens’ Skin Disease Foundation (created by a fellow Dukie, btw!). I am humbled by their purpose and commitment. And the kids… I am inspired by their sweet smiles.

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  • On the Move

    As I type, my parents are enroute to Maryland (from Taiwan). Yup, seems like I’ve been getting flight updates all damn day. I mean, it is a very long haul. Sure sucks to be them!

    So I’ve been crunching down on the studying this week. And thankfully, the material is finally starting to sink in. I mean, with enough repetition from note taking plus reading plus lectures plus chapter tests, I should hope so. That said, I’m not gonna lie: things started out pretty fricking dry (kinda how I imagined law school to be…). Sure, I was able to connect the content to my real-life experiences, but I wasn’t really feeling the jazz. Now, I’m actually digging the pragmatism of it all, like just having a clearer understanding of how things work: processes, contracts, loans. I know, you’re not convinced. That’s why you aren’t transitioning into real estate. :P

    So far, one of the biggest takeaways for me has been this: Dad was right about so many damn things! WTF?!? From obsessively reviewing tenant applications to prohibiting pets in rentals to fearing the difficulty and complexity of evictions… So many times when handling our own rental in Virginia as well as my father’s properties, I thought Dad was being needlessly hypervigilent. But shit, according to the real estate professor on my podcast, Dad had it right all along. Shit man, credit where credit is due. Maybe when I visit my parents next month, I’ll finally reveal that I’m studying real estate. It’s too bad the timing doesn’t allow me to save my parents some dough… Nonetheless, I’m sure being involved in a few more transactions while I’m still learning will help everyone.

    The weather has been bloody hot the last few days. Every night Bubbey comes home and tells me our bedroom AC unit is “the best money ever spent.” Haha. Of course, now that we have a permanent and reliable means of cooling the room, I’m itching to sell our older window/standup unit on Craigslist. We bought that mofo many years ago when my parents visited during a heat wave. And my dad is SUPER sensitive to heat. After a day or two of full-on dripping, J and I bought whatever unit they had at Costco. As soon as we set it up at home, my dad just sat in front of that thing for hours, exclaiming “It was REALLY hot!” Since then though, J and I have rarely used the thing. It takes up a shit ton of space on our already crammed houseboat and then it’s super fucking loud and inefficient. Like we can’t even have a conversation with it on. But like a legit seller, I wanted to double check everything before posting for sale. So I set it up in my office. Yup, still works but wow, what a huge difference from our mini split. Indeed, the Fujitsu is the best money ever spent!!

    Meanwhile, the new Casper mattress and slatted bed frame are continuing to deliver. Who expected that I could ever sleep through the night? A goddamn miracle.

    Tomorrow I’m headed out to Livermore. My friend S, whom I befriended at the Duke Nonprofit program a few years ago, is a camp counselor at Camp Wonder, a week-long adventure for kids with skin diseases. I’ve visited S and her girls (she’s in charge of 8!!) the last two years. S doesn’t always get the same group, but there are definitely repeat campers. And despite my general aversion to kids, I learn so much about fortitude, courage, kindness, and joy from these girls– some as young as six. They blow my mind every damn time. And my friend S… She is so young in age (mid 20s) and yet, she carries so much weight on her shoulders, from being the primary caretaker for her mother who has cancer, to serving as a nanny for her nephew, to herself battling a painful and debilitating skin disease… Hands down, she has one of the purest, most selfless hearts I’ve ever encountered. And she is AMAZING with the kids– so attentive and energetic and fun. She always inspires me to do better.

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  • Channeling Anger

    Last week, I met up with M, the lady who replaced me at the university. I headed out to Los Gatos to check out her big side hustle operation spiffing up free/old/beat-up furniture and then reselling it. Yes, I am drawn to scrappy people! Her house is super charming, filled with many of these treasures. It was a damn hot day, but that didn’t stop us from first venturing out on a hike. I’m super out of shape, so I barely kept up between the trail elevation changes and the fricking high heat. Of course, I’m sure it didn’t help that my blood was boiling during our walk since we gossiped about our former workplace. By the end of the hike, I was physically exhausted but emotionally agitated. The rest of our visit was nice though. We hung out in the shade, drank wine, and ate snacks. She showed me her elaborate workshop and supplies.

    Still, when I got home, I just couldn’t shake my annoyance about my former employer. Trying to find a way to channel my anger, I hopped onto Glassdoor. And I drafted an entire review. But before posting, I just kept hearing John’s voice: “Why are you dwelling on the past? It’s time to move on. You need to focus your energy on what’s ahead.” I paused. Then I did some research. Unsurprisingly, the consensus from job experts pretty much aligns with John’s stance: shut up and move on. The primary reasoning behind that advice seems to be that you don’t want to stir the muck and create trouble for yourself, like you don’t want to be blacklisted or whatever. You left that toxic place for you. If other people don’t leave, it’s not that bad for them, and why should you be their advocate?

    To be honest, I feel like it’s such shitty advice to tell people who know something and who could share the real scoop about a workplace, to just be quiet and pretend everything was fine. Isn’t that partly how all the violence and harassment and abuse in this world just keeps happening unfettered? People see something and know something and yet, they remain silent. I mean, sure, we’re talking a different level of severity but still. There are parallels.

    And you know me: I like to consider expert advice. Ultimately, I make my own decision, but I don’t make it in a vacuum. On one forum, a commenter basically asked someone else who was considering writing a negative employer review, “What are you wanting to get out of your public review?” Good question. And now I don’t even remember his reply. But for me, I have always valued the truth. It’s some kind of compass that’s just deeply ingrained in my person. Like when people pose questions about infidelity or whatever. “What you don’t know won’t kill you,” or whatever bullshit people say. Well, I don’t want to continue in blissful, pain-free ignorance… at least not when it comes to the most important relationship in my life. I WANT TO KNOW THE TRUTH, however damaging and heartbreaking. Even if the indiscretion were short-lived or over or whatever. I want to know, and I will choose the truth every. damn. time. Otherwise, I’m just stupidly living in a foolish fantasy. So tying it back together: I guess I feel a similar stance with these asshole employers. Like, hey you’re not going to behave like jackasses and not get called out on it. Maybe I struggle with this notion that bad people are “getting away” with things. Sure, I might feel differently in cases where my personal safety or the safety of my family is in real danger, but with an employer, is it really THAT bad to burn the bridge? Why do I feel so strongly one way and most other people feel strongly the complete opposite way?

    Then I researched how Glassdoor handles negative reviews… there were a ton of claims that people’s negative reviews got removed or shoved to the bottom or manipulated in some other way to have less of an impact. WTF? Is every fucking thing in this world rigged??? In the end, I saved a copy of my review and just closed everything down. Enough negativity for the day. I mean, in the past, there have certainly been plenty of times when I DID speak out and say something and in the end, not a damn thing happened. Just like with my exit interview at the public agency. Just like my exit interview at the university. Both instances of inaction suggest that it’s not that people (at least internally) don’t know the truth, it’s that they don’t give enough of a shit to do anything about it. So then, which is worse? That said, there are still the prospective employees. I use Glassdoor when researching companies, and has it swayed my decisions before? Yes.

    Anyway, in other news, Bubbey’s back pain has been getting progressively worse. I am both annoyed and frustrated that at 40, he is having these kinds of debilitating issues. That said, annoyance and frustration doesn’t serve anybody, so I’ve decided to focus on measures to lessen his discomfort. For the last year, Bubbey has been talking about those new foam mattresses that are recommended by his podcasters, so after I finally realized this purchase would be different from his usual impulsive buys, we ordered the Casper. The mattress arrived and we set it on our “arrangement.” You see, since moving back Stateside in 2006, we’ve always put our mattress on top of a grid of big Rubbermaid storage bins. In the beginning, it was due to space constraints: we didn’t have storage, so we put our crap in the bins and then did a double duty, using them to also support the bed. But then I was reading about how the foundation for the mattress is just as important as the mattress itself. Probably just a sales ploy, but at this point, his back pain is so bad, we just need to pull out all the stops. So I ordered a slatted frame. And last night, I went through the bins. Most were empty but I did uncover my high school prom dress (a tight squeeze but it still fits– then again, I wore shit looser when I was younger) and my red wedding dress (Fucking A, it no longer fits in the bust… really?!?!). I was thinking to get rid of both, but Bubs says I should keep the wedding dress. Back to the mattress. I don’t know that I feel a difference between the frame and the tubs as the foundation, but we’ve had the new mattress a few weeks longer. Even though I’ve been getting to bed super late, after I fall asleep, I do think I am sleeping more soundly. We’ll continue to evaluate the product. Maybe quality sleep will help me better manage my negativity.

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  • Budding Business

    Surprise, surprise, I’m feeling pretty good today. Marty is on the upswing again (See? Despite my earlier reservations, he made it past my bday! Who can ever know when the real end is near?), and I’m getting some decent bites on Rover. Yesterday, I met a 7-y/o corgi named Cody. I had received an inquiry from the owner last Friday night while I was at the HOPR, and of course, like a true internet junkie, I had to reply right then and there. I scored a meetup yesterday, and bam! The client booked ten days in July. Yup, first time ever getting an inquiry for a month in advance. And the lady showed up with her son. Their fam just moved from Singapore a few months ago, so we had the Asian connection going. She was super nice, and honestly, I haven’t met a cleaner dog. Cody’s coat was super luxe. The owner said she wipes him down twice a day with some lemongrass spray.

    I am so excited about picking up business on Rover. I mean, Cody’s going to be with us for another ten days, so you know what that means: I’m gonna be an emotional wreck again when it’s time for him to go home. But seriously, this side hustle is working out great! Partly, I feel like my fast response time serves me well. Often when people are already looking for care last minute, they’re blasting a ton of sitters and I’m sure getting back to them faster moves me up in the queue. Also, I think the meetups at my house are a great selling point. For one thing, they meet Marty. Old but super sweet and chill. And as soon as I tell them he’s 16, it’s all over. I mean, pretty much EVERYONE is impressed. Why? Bc I MUST take amazing care of him for him to make it this far, right? Yes, I know. I can’t take all the credit (genetics, blah, blah), but I’m just saying, these factors influence dog owner decisions… Then, they see his homemade food (set on top of a mini table even), and now they know that I’m not afraid of high maintenance. Finally, my frickin yard sells itself, man. The doggies that come over immediately hit up the backyard, and their owners also love that we aren’t apartment dwellers. Oh and being two houses down from the park is totally money. It’s a pretty sweet deal for the pooches!

    In other entrerpenuerial news, I sold the iPad. It didn’t sell for as much as I had wanted, but eBay is doing this interesting thing where if you set the initial price based on their recommendation, they will guarantee that your item sells for a certain minimum amount. If the item doesn’t sell for the guaranteed price, they’ll issue an eBay credit. Cool idea, so I tried it out. Maybe bc WWDC was yesterday but my item sold way low, and I got a $90 credit which I promptly used to score a new with tags Tacori cuff bracelet I’ve been eyeing for years. Yup. Not that you care, but shit, I gotta share the deets: Bracelet retails for $990. I saw it posted for $400 OBO, and after seeing all the other stuff for sale by that seller, I figured I would negotiate the price. Frankly, would a busy high-volume seller really care about one lowball sale if he had a gabillion other items to offload? So I went in at $300. He countered with $350. I countered with $315. Offer accepted this morning. Woot, woot! Score, baby!! Kinda a “non-delicate” style, as Bubbey said. He’s not a fan. But whatever. I’m gonna try and rock it!

    In other deal news, I’m continuing to tear it up on my Upromise account. Sometimes they’re a bit flaky with issuing the cash back, but thanks to my detailed tracking and record keeping, I will call them out on that shit. Back in January, when my dad was visiting, he asked me to research a new laptop for my brother. I recommended he buy the SurfacePro. Months later, Upromise kept giving me the runaround about my missing cash back. Little do they know, I am a tenacious mother fucker. Today, they finally emailed that I will get $65 cash back. I mean, sure, it takes multiple emails and phone calls. Some people say it’s just $65, but fuck man, that shit adds up (I have earned $800 to date), and I’m not above hustling for it.

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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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