pandemic normal (drafted April 3)

Nobody I talk to is doing great. Everyone has at least a low level of anxiety. Totes rational reaction to the fabric of our society breaking down. I have broke down in tears here and there, but mostly I feel tremendously exhausted. Anxiety is draining!

The two things that have helped me turn a corner:
1) This speech from a hospital executive: This was early on where my greatest anxiety was the thought that society would fall apart, that we were never coming back to a functional infrastructure. This guy was the first person to state that life will go on, that it will suck, but then we will get back on track. Listening to people who, at least on the surface, seem to be taking things in stride, state facts in an unaffected manner, are tremendously grounding.
2) My Albanian super. Without fail, in quarantine and pre-quarantine days, when you ask him how he is, he always answers “Very good. Cannot complain.” He is among the hardest working people I know, and I have already told Husband we cannot move unless our super leaves. I ran in to him one day in March after shopping, and he asked if I got everything I needed. “Yes, everything but toilet paper.” He rolled his eyes, and said, “You know, Albania, we went through a war, so we know how to prepare. Canned goods, candles, but toilet paper?”

He just gestured like he was totally perplexed. “In a bad situation, nobody worried about toilet paper.”

I laughed so hard. Some days, we are total schmucks, the dumbest species. I laughed until I teared up, and that made me feel so normal and that things would be okay.

a-ha

Among the songs my kids are currently obsessed with is “Take on Me.” First Son has figured out melody line on the piano, and they all join in for the ear-piercing chorus when it gets to “I’ll be gone, and then I’ll PEEEEEE!” I don’t know if that’s the line, but it’s so high, I can make out words.

Of course, my first concert, was a-Ha at the age of 14. (I’m never letting my kids go that young on their own…am I?) I went with three friends to nose-bleed seats, including Mike, who I am still friends with. It was a thrilling experience, which I’m sure I have recounted on this site here and will spare you repeating myself (I will find the link instead at some point. Husband sighs every time I repeat myself). At some point, we got up to dance, and this man came down to yell at us to sit down because he couldn’t see. Of course, I immediately sat down, but Mike began yelling at him that we were going to keep dancing because this was a concert, etc. I have no idea what he said, but I’m floored that he had the eggs to stand up to an adult. Angry man’s girlfriend came down and coaxed him back to their seats. Back then, Mike’s temper always made me on edge, because it was so the opposite of how I conducted myself in the world, but now, I look back in wonder. I don’t even know I can do that now at age 47, never mind 14.

parent human tricks

When I was a kid, this was what blew my mind about my parents:

* My mom’s ability to peel an apple:
She can peel the whole thing in one circular piece or quarter the apple, decore, and skin. amazing. Could not wrap my brain around it.

* My dad’s ability to shuffle cards and then mix them in a perfect arch:
When he shuffled, he split the deck and two an d his hands went about a foot apart in a smooth motion that defied analysis by the naked eye, and then that perfect arch. I still can’t do it. I have no idea where he learned how to do that. The Korean air force? The same place where he learned how to smoke cigarettes and blow out perfect circles?

no, andrew yang, no.

Well, what can I say. When Andrew Yang says compassionate things about people, I really dig him, and him being Asian, is part of the package, but I couldn’t out and out love him, because other moments in public revealed he truly has not thought deeply about multiple subjects. I honestly don’t understand how you can be in your forties without having well-thought, informed opinions on things that affect the country. Like dude, how much of a bubble are you in?

And under the umbrella of “things Andrew has not thought of deeply” is race, with particular regard to what it means to be an Asian in the U.S. He wrote a piece in the Washington Post (and they accepted it? Did they agree? Did they want him to hang himself?) that basically implied if Asian Americans behaved more American, racism would die. Something to that effect. I confess I did not read it and never will. I am very careful about what I read these days. I have no mental real estate for stupidity.

It is a classic blame-the-victim schpiel and it just points to how little he knows himself. There are so many people hurt and angered by the piece. For the first time, he has united Asians! ha ha ha.

The recent violence against Asians is unfortunate, but that racism has always been there. It’s just come up more on the surface cuz people are angry and fearful, but I believe that’s how they feel the whole time. It’s a really tough thing to change — racism, that is. It’s not up to the individual when the system is against groups. And it doesn’t matter how many wars you fight in (African Americans have learned this lessons. Asian Americans fought in World War I and II, and still lost property and wages when they got back), you will never be considered equal.

It’s not all doom and gloom, and Asians aren’t the only race dealing with racism. And still, I have no regrets on regarding the race I was born in, I don’t cave in inwardly or wish it away when I’m dealing with threatening situations the way I might have when I was growing up.

i’m going to stop here though because I have endless musings related to race and identity that I will stop. The point of this post is Andrew Yang turned out to be a tool, or part tool (I still like when he goes to Flint, Michigan and points out that the people there still don’t have drinkable water).

Dancing Spots of Yore/Wardrobe of Your Teachers [soo old post]

Caught up with a co-worker recently who is a bit older than me and we reminsiced about all the great places to go dancing in the city back in the days of yore. I have good memories of dancing all night at the Limelight, Danceteria, and the Roxy. I didn’t drink back then, and I just had a blast being out, dancing, sweat for hours. She’s a bit older than me so she remembers going out in strapless jumpers and being sandwiched on the dance floor, again, for hours, not drinking, dancing, sweating. I believe she mentioned the Palladium, but I can’t remember the other clubs she mentioned. She grew up in a strict Christian home but still went dancing all night and took the subway back at 6 a.m. (She’s nearly sixty or sixty-five now, so this was fun to hear.)

We also gabbed about how our teachers in school used to dress. My typing teacher and violin teacher in school were fabulous dressers, though I could not appreciate it at the time. My typing teacher dressed as if the 1950s had never left, and the wardrobe she had was true vintage, probably the same stuff she wore when it was actually the 1950s. In our 1980s high school, she would shout directions “F! G! F! G!” (now my local subway lines) over the sound of thirty kids typing those letters, her poodle skirting swaying with every letter.

Then there was Ms. Grasso who had a killer wardrobe. First of all, her hair was white and went past her armpits, and she prepped like the old Farrah Fawcett style with wings on both side of her heads. She’d wear bright suits with high heels, kimonos, accordion-pleated silk dresses and she had a variety of rhine-stone studded cat-eye glasses. In the suburbs, she was a freak, but when I look back, I whistle in appreciation. (Well, I don’t whistle really. Just appreciate.) She went to Julliard and hung out in the West Village the 1960s. That’s pretty cool! But in my high school, if you were seen talking to her willingly in public, your rep was toast. Ha ha ha ha.

Yao Ming [old draft, from pre-kids]

I am not the most patient person, so I’m not always so winning during this stage of my life that is heavily steeped in caregiving.

I was being snippy toward my mom during a recent family vacation. There are days where I feel like I just want to go somewhere where I am not taking care of anyway. I apologized to Husband, because hosting my folks can be a lot and they’re not even his family and he said. “They have given us so much and they raised you. The least we can do is take them on vacations.” He also told me a few stories about Yao Ming (it was a really long drive), the enormous NBA basketball star circa the era of Shaquille O’Neal. Shaq said multiple racist comments to razz Yao, including How do Chinese people name their kids? They throw silverware down the stairs.” (I had never heard this joke. Husband was not surprised), among other tasty bits. And Yao’s response was “That’s too bad. I would like to introduce Shaq to my parents,” which actually happened and Shaq reported they were lovely people and rescinded his ridiculous, offensive remarks. Husband and I discussed how it’s actually challenging to stay racist when you actually get to know or even just meet people of that group. But before I go down the Yao Ming/race discussion rabbit hole, one more thing Yao said that I found helpful. A reporter asked him how he thanks his parents for training him for basketball and raising him, and he said “how does a blade of grass thank the sun?”

It’s a bit proverb-lite, but still, it made me feel like a heel, gain perspective again, and remember to be humble me settle down and remember to be humble. I have to help my parents, even when they get on my last nerve. They deserve it, and I don’t know, all that eased my mind and restored my patience. Yao, Husband, thank you for bringing me back down and helping me not behave like a turd.

girl code [old draft, maybe a year or two ago]

All three of my children have distinct personalities, different natures, and distinct temperament. None are completely alike. Wonder Twin Girl is very bright and already has a society identity. Funny, the boys don’t change their character around different people, but as soon as we are around, non-family members, Wonder Twin Girl will take off what she considers a goofy winter hat (anything with an animal face) and smooth down her hair, and I can’t explain it, but her face changes. This is all just set up for her class room report. She’s typically the ace student, always helpful, mentoring others, answering adult’s “thank you” with this 19th century etiquette “oh you’re quite welcome.” People raved about her. (I didn’t quite buy it. I mean, of course I adore her, but I also know her, you feel me?)

This year, the teacher complained that though bright, she doesn’t work that hard, is calling it in and talks too much in class. This really ticked me off. I don’t care if the kids achieve per se, but I want them to hit the minimum of what’s asked. That’s me, Low Bar Mom. Mostly, when I hear feedback, it’s acceptable to me, but if I hear this evidence of slack, I get annoyed.

I do not know (yet) how to get this girl engaged.
“School is important. You know, we’re all lucky we get to go to school. We get to go to school for free. And in our school, the teachers care about the students and it’s safe — we are really lucky. In some parts of the world, girls don’t even get to go to school. Some people don’t believe girls should be educated.”
Wonder Twin Boy: Why is that Mom
Me: I guess it’s because some believe that girls are not as good as boys. They are less than.
Wonder Twin Boyu: I don’t believe that Mom.
Me: okay, yes, fine, i’m focusing on Wonder Twin girl
(she ignores me).
ME: Do you know in fact there is someone who won the Nobel Peac Prize this year, a young girl who advocated–I mean, wnated girls to go to school, just like boys? I forget her name, I forget what country she’s fromt, but I mean, she got shot in the face like by the Taliban.”

too far? I asked myself as I said “shot in the face.” Yes, too far, and also, so not impressive.

Wonder Twin Girl just ignored the whole stupid attempt

things that keep me going

I was having a bum out period. (This draft was started before Pandemic/BP). You know, Trump is president, massive corruption, systematic racism firmly in place, but there are things I listen to or learn about, that make me feel better.

* Beyonce’s song “Bigger” came out with Lion King, and it’s such a wonderful piece of music (I like a lot of the soundtrack and just am impressed with her output and vision. I don’t know connect with all her music) but I found this song very encouraging. If you don’t want to listen to it, that’s cool. Here is the Cliff Notes version: there’s something bigger than you and your life. The Cliff Notes version of the Cliff notes: Bigger.

* Whales dream. That actually blew my mind when I read that. There was a wonderful article on whales in the Times I can no longer find, so you will have to content yourself with this one, but what was so wild by that lost article is how much whales are like humans. They form tribes, they have wars, they have been known to attack whaling boats, but when they stopped hunting whales, they learned to trust those same men again. They sing. Like not every sound they emit has a biological purposes. Sometimes that create music just for the hell of it and it is so complicated that scientists don’t know what to make of it. (A sample of whale song is in one of those taster platter versions of life on earth is floating out in space, in case any aliens out there want a preview of what they’re getting into, should they decide to visit us). And god, I have no idea how they proved this (maybe by measuring brain waves), but the article said that WHALES DREAM. WHOA WHAT IS EVEN HAPPENING. I mean, is that not fascinating? Consider this blog your stupid woman’s version of Brain Pickings.

* Cute baby videos. Nobody enjoys life more than babies and kids. Nobody. On Christmas, when Wonder Boy Twin turned to me with a dropped jaw when I told the kids I was buying them candy, and he said “this is the best day of my life.” Like is there anything that could give me as much pleasure and joy? Hells to the now. Witness this video of this chunky-faced baby absolutely cooing with divine pleasure from a face massage. You’re welcome.

oh, it’s the little things

Here are some ways the kids are keeping me sane during quarantine (there is also the flip side/dark side to this phenomenon but let’s not go there right now)

EXCHANGE ONE

Me: What’s that on your toe? Is that dirt? [Editor’s note: black smudge on big toe, right foot]
Wonder Boy Twin: Oh, that’s from when I did scratch art with by feet.
Wonder Boy Twin: Aren’t you going to wash it?
Me: Nope. Just going to leave it there. Didn’t think I’d ever hear that in my lifetime. Bye.

EXCHANGE TWO

There was a three for $10 special on ice cream at Foodtown, so what the heck, for Ice Cream Monday, I got more than vanilla, which thrilled the kids:
Kids: What flavors did you get?
Me: Vanilla, Chocolate Chip, Coffee
Kids: Okay vanilla and chocolate chip are for the kids, and coffee for the adults?
Me: Sure.
Kids: Okay, chocolate chip is like chips with what ice cream?
Me: what? Vanilla.
Kids: Okay, good.
They then strategized for hours on what flavors they would choose, in what order for their order that night..

EXCHANGE THREE: The Music
There is constant singing in my apartment, and since the kids listen to whatever we play, there is Led Zepplin, Depeche Mode, New Order, Weird Al Yankovic, A-Ha, Twisted Sister, Tracy Chapman, David Bowie, Bob Dylan, John Denver, Peter Gabriel. During a recent cuddle, First Son stroked my hair and sang “Enjoy the Silence.” As he sang “all I ever wanted, all I ever needed, is here, in my arms,” I was like whoa, if teen me could see this now. What a wild life.

things we are learning about parenting in the time of quarantine

1) You cannot rule from the throne. The porcelain throne, that is. Husband always takes a long time in the a.m. in the bathroom and yells at the kids from his position. You can’t do it. [Sorry to be graphic. Quarantine times are tough.]

2) Don’t buy Family Feud the game for elementary school age children. Yup, told the kids to pick a toy in Walgreen’s two weeks or so ago while I took a conference call. That was splendid. First Son chose the mentioned game. They now all know what the following means: “Going postal”; “smoking marijuana”;[which First Son pronounced MAHR-RE-CHAMA, rhyming it with Parmesan-ah]; “the mile-high club.” Great!

3) Maybe be selective about podcasts. I like to listen to “Heavyweight,” which tells nonfiction stories in a fiction style, as First Son says it. Some are fine for kids. Others cause him to ask “What’s a condom.”

4) Monitor podcast use. I let them listen to “Heavyweight,” because First Son asked “what’s that one that you listen to that sounds like fiction but it really nonfiction?” After a few minutes listening, he asked “What’s a condom?” I turned it off.

5) Go outside. We are playing soccer outside together for one hour every day. It’s helped our collective sanity and we’ve learned the kids’ pattern. So far, Wonder Twin Daughter complains every day about it, but as long as we just say “okay,” her kvetching time lessens. (It takes her an hour of “I never want to go outside!” to die, but then she’s having a grand old time and we’re not burned out at all!”

6) We all need a routine and structure. My week day structure is:
1. Kids pile on top of me until I wake up from lack of oxygen. They do this when hungry. 2. Feed kids
3. Coffee
4. Dishes
5. Recycling
6. Compost
7. Wake up Husband. (See 1)
8. Check in for my work day emails.

7) Distinguish week days from weekend days. I actually don’t know how to do this one since all the days are a blur, but I think First Son did, because last night, which I believe was Friday, when I asked him what he was grateful for, he let out a huge sigh and said “I’m grateful it’s the weekend tomorrow and I don’t have to do anything.”

Huh. And here I was thinking he’s not really doing anything the other days. Interesting.

8) Maintain a stash of emergency chocolate for parents only. I don’t know why, but this has been more helpful than alcohol for me and Husband. I keep two expensive bars at all times in the freezer and now we sneak in a square or four, in Husband’s case. (Yes I am selling him out. What, he’s not reading this.) In those key moments we need a little encouragement, a little sweetness.

To be continued.