birth

When I was in the middle of labor with First Son, there was an announcement that came over the loudspeaker of my hospital room:

“Tina Lee’s boss is here to see here.”

My main nurse, who was herself about 9 months pregnant, rolled her body in the equivalent of a corporeal eye roll and yelled “Oh come on!”

Husband and I turned to a doula (yes I hired a doula. Mostly because I wanted to try every single experience available to me and it took so long to get pregnant, I wasn’t sure if I’d ever get here again. Her name was Sarah Pancake. I couldn’t not hire her with that name.) She said, “[Husband] will go out there and tell Tina’s boss she’s unavailable at the moment because SHE’S IN THE MIDDLE OF GIVING BIRTH.”

It was helpful. I can recount details later but I was very angry. I told Husband “My boss is trying to take over my birth story.” Husband was very wise. He counseled “Only if you let her. She is a minor character in our story.” I listened to his advice, and I also just accepted this incredibly aggressive invasion of privacy and never complained about it or reported it to HR.

It’s been years, of course, since that day, but I thought about it yesterday, because Wonder Twins are dealing with a multi-year challenge with a school bully. After he punched Wonder Twin Girl hard enough in the stomach that she cried (she never cries), we were invited in for an unproductive meeting with the school administration that dismissed our concerns. Things seemed to calm down when I filed an official complaint and passed bully’s mom, who gave me creepy vibes (she’s a bit scary, I will admit. She body-checked the Twins’ teacher last year so I wondered, how will I react to being body checked? Why can’t I be more like Husband? I am always scared in these situations, and he gets angry and absolutely confident in his right to be here. Phew. An inspiration.) But I recently find out that school bully is still physically intimidating both twins and I am reminded how we as a society cater to bullies.

Of course, there is Trump, but there are bullies everywhere. I was in a job for 18 years that supported abusive, toxic behavior from its leadership. In this place, it was men who were the screamers. There would be these well-suited men who would rail and scream nonsensical abusive diatribes at staff, and everyone else would talk normally as if this was normal, because we all kind of normalize this behavior. We’re all invested in keeping the surface calm, keep the social fabric going, even if there is obviously a psycho behaving like a toddler who needs a nap.

I have a lot of thinking to do as to what allowed me to stay in a position for so long where abuse was so pervasive and prevalent. (That office’s culture was to let things roll “like water off a duck’s back.” Old school culture is all about being “a good soldier.”) I was listening to a Neil Grasse (not Degrassi, which I’ve said for years, but that is Degrassi High is the series that brought Drake to stardom so can you blame me) Tyson (omg who is so brilliant and charismatic. Excellent speaker and explainer of obscure, inaccessible content in a mellifluous voice that implies some kind of professional training — and if that’s his natural voice, it’s not really fair) interview on Larry Wilmore’s podcast — he said that children are not taught to be thinkers but to be obedient, to be seen not heard, to be good soldiers — and man, I’m so sorry to realize that is true.

So among my parenting duties, I have to teach these kids that yes, we have bullies in our lifetime and how to face them. The answer is not to fall down and absorb their aggression, as I have done for so many years. The answer really is to disrupt the status quo and say, dude, this is not right and I will not accept this. I will not deserve this. You can even be polite while asserting yourself, but you have to do it. If not for yourself, for others who can’t do it this yet.

Anyway, this is ongoing.

haiku

I grew up with a writing teacher I adored but whose editing style made all my writing sound like her. I remember another high school teacher told me that teachers should never cross out and rewrite over students’ work, and my reaction was “say what now?” because that was how I had been edited forever. In high school, I wrote a memoir piece that won a national writing contest that was to make me a “shoo-in for the Ivies.” I wrote it, it was healing, I felt deeply connected to the piece, and it did bring me very close to that teacher – but she had a very heavy hand in editing the piece. When you read it, it does not sound like a 17-year-old girl. It sounds like an older, educated, hyper intellectual bossy ethnic senior citizen (a.k.a. my beloved teacher). (Also, the piece did win that national contest, and I was as predicted, a shoo-in for the Ivies. As an aside, there was a point where I stopped doing any classwork, ticking off every teacher and gave myself a heart attack that my acceptance would be rescinded, but it all worked. Ahh, fairy-tale endings.)

I spoke Korean exclusively from birth to about age 3 or 4, whenever we moved to England then the U.S. and I entered the local school system. Because of that, my beloved teacher said repeatedly during our time together, “you can never be a true poet because you lack an intimacy of language. Your syntax is all wrong.” (And as an aside, I wonder, maybe that’s what’s behind my exhaustion-fueled garbled sentences to my family. I am infamous in my apartment for reverse subject and verb words or other perplexing combinations. Things don’t always come out of my mouth in the right order.)

I really did get so much from my relationship with my teacher and I do love her for everything she’s given me and for what we shared, but it also took years to untangle myself from her influence in my writing and to find my own voice – my actual, figurative, literal, physical voice. (She was not the only one who inadvertently handicapped me but she is part of that team.) I am finally in a place where when I write, I am one with the writing. It’s not that I don’t accept edits or constructive criticism, it’s just this my voice. It is not baroque, rich with ten-dollar-words, multi-syllabic exclamations of whatever point I’m trying to make. It’s pretty straightforward, plain, and simple. (Dude, I have friends who write like Rachimoniv on the piano, while I’m here plunking out Hot Cross Buns.)
So all of which is to introduce my latest haiku (first line 5 syllables, second liken 7, third line 5).

Fuck you fuck you fuck
You fuck you fuck you fuck you
Fuck you fuck you. Fuck.

Las Culturistas, limitless

I was listening to the Las Culturistas podcast. The hosts Bowen Yang and Matt Rogers introduced Stephanie Hsu, the actress who played the daughter in “Everything Everywhere All at Once.”
Turns out they all went to NYU together and so had a very intimate talk, not a simple Q & A, and they were talking about their drama teacher Elizabeth Swados, who they credited for giving them permission and for pushing them into emotional spaces with each other they did not realize was possible. How exciting it was then and how strange and difficult it’s been to preserve and negotiate space for that artistic sensibility into their professional lives.
Their talk reminded me of that time in my youth when I first studied acting, how exciting it was to perform in ways you didn’t think were possible; demonstrating and proving to yourself you are capable of more than you realized. I was talking to Husband that it was probably my favorite time in acting – the beginning, heady days of discovery and excitement over unknown possibilities yet to come.

So anyway, this teacher, they said, taught and encouraged them to perform from a place of limitlessness — that really struck me. I live in a very limited way with a very limited perspective – I think constantly on how to shrink my workload, needs, thoughts within the parameters of the demands of the day, and my dreams have become very small. My thoughts mostly circle around to-do lists. I don’t remember when this started, but I live tempering m capacity for joy and happiness, to feel big feelings, and to think large, landscape-size thoughts. What the fuck happened. I think it developed out of a desire to protect myself from…disappointment maybe? Anyway, it got me thinking. How and what if I returned to the limitless mindset? What if I start to explore how to be free within the confines of my day and situations? That would lead to a very different kind of life.

cat

I have a cat. Let’s not make a big thing about it. It happened. I didn’t plan to have a cat, but one of the kids (Wonder Twin Girl) and Husband really love animals. The boys do too, and I am adamantly separate from any instinct that would lead me to interact with another species.

But we have mice. Though Wonder Twin Girl actually wants a dog, she said she’d compromise so this cat joins us, and now, I have another creature to clean up after, feed, etc. The cat is quite skittish, given her Oliver Twist past, and hides most of the time. The mice run free. I think the kids are disappointed about not being able to pet the cat much, never mind hold her, but it’s just fine with me. You go you way, and I will go mine. We mind our business. Husband said “I’m concerned you’re not opening your heart to the cat.”

Jesus. I mean, I purchase the cat supplies and do the aforementioned cleaning and feeding. That’s all you’re going to get from me. That’s how I’m showing my “love.” I don’t have any desire to interact. And also, by the way, what I do give is significant. At the end of the day, after a day in the office and housework, I end the night by CLEANING OUT THE LITTER BOX. Do you think that’s what I want to be doing? No, of course not. Do you know how bad Meow Mix SMELLS? (On a side note, the woman who was sheltering the cat does this as a volunteer, spent $4,000 on medical bills for the cat, and gave it only organic food. When she came to our apartment for a home visit, Husband said he had to talk her off a ledge when she thought I had bought Fancy Feast, which is apparently the McDonald’s of cat food. I caved and got the organic stuff, but Cat got tired of it. Fancy Feast is back in full force. Also, quite gross smelling.)

However, I will admit, there have been some changes. Cat has stopped hiding and now will nap in the middle of the hallway. She lets the kids pet her. I have to say, sometimes, she looks pretty cute when she falls asleep with her paws folded at the wrist beneath her chin. She caught a mouse a week ago and the song “Crazy in Love” by Beyonce played in my head. When I rake the litter box, it doesn’t bother me as much. Sometimes, I might even think “it’s like a zen rock garden in a way.” And this Xmas, when I bought everyone a chocolate advent calendar at Trader Joe’s, I also bought one for the cat treat advent calendar. (I have lost it. The cat doesn’t understand holidays or advent calendars, my god, if anywhere my money didn’t matter, this is it.)

But I draw the line at petting or interacting. Let us peacefully co-exist in our shared space. Wonder Twin Girl is not really satiated with a cat. She’s been listing “dog” on all her wish lists. To which I say, “what about the cat?”

Who knows. Maybe we will get a dog too…and I’ll just find a nice pied-de-terre studio right by the park to live in.

PS I got to find that great image of Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan with his cats! What happened there!

My book is my best friend

I just wrapped a book draft. It’s not done, but I cracked what I wanted to say and I’m trying to find an agent now. If it gets picked up, it will be written at least five times more so I don’t want to get so attached to a particular version of it. Enough is there now that an agent can see if they love it and will fight for it.

But for me, I’m just lost. This book was my pandemic best friend. I poured my grief about my dad into it, I answered perennial life questions with it, and now that it’s done, I’m just floating. A funny thing happened during the pandemic. I stopped looking for solace in other people. I still have friends, and I enjoy and love them, but I guess I need them differently. It’s now a toss up on whether I want to spend Saturday night with my computer or a human.

I am now blogging so that at least I’m writing. I know it’s going to take time to develop something complex enough for me to have a love affair. (I kept sneaking out of the house to spend time with this previous book).

I don’t even know if I can get it published or if it’s even that “good,” but it doesn’t fucking matter. I loved this book. It helped me so much and now it’s over 🙁

Jeremy Lin, “38 at the Garden”

After I caught Husband weeping at the end of “38 Madison,” an HBO short film on Jeremy Lin and what he meant to the Asian American community, I didn’t watch. After listening to Larry Wilmore wax poetic about not only the exceptionalism of his game but the tremendous racism this kid faced, I tuned in. I too wept. I remember Jeremy Lin’s spectacular run with the Knicks — it was ten years ago. It got me through my pregnancy with Wonder Twins. (I have blogged extensively about that time. I think I even did an obnoxious post, crediting the two men who were supporting me — Husband and Jeremy Lin.)

To me, someone who does not speak Sports Ball, Jeremy Lin’s spectacular run with the Knicks seemed like magical realism. He did well enough that even I could appreciate the tremendous athleticism on display. It seemed like he came out of nowhere. The media coined him a Cinderella story, and I think he was signed with the Raptors, and I never thought of him again.

This documentary goes through his seemingly meteoric rise and made me rethink how I see his success. Honestly, Larry Wilmore’s thoughtful, intelligent commentary also makes me see the story entirely differently. This was not necessarily a Cinderella story. The kid was working out like crazy and drilling himself all the time to get himself to an elite level. We didn’t know about him because no one let him play. he was the top pick in high school in California, and no one had scouted him. Don’t ask me to quote basketball statistics — but let me say, he is exceptional, yet didn’t get picked up. What is that about? Larry Wilmore thinks it’s racism that’s so entrenched — we are not accustomed to seeing elite Asian basketball players, that despite the evidence, Jeremy Lin did not compute. His run with the Knicks was not a fluke. He was capable of such greatness the entire time. He was just never given the chance.

I remember the joy Jeremy Lin gave Spike Lee — and I was like dude, I don’t know what makes me happier — Jeremy Lin, or Spike Lee’s reaction to Jeremy Lin. Spike Lee spoke with disappointment with Jeremy Lin’s decision to leave the Knicks, and I bought it. Now I understand that it was the Knick who didn’t decide to keep this kid — despite the hype he brought to the team and his incredible talent. How does that feel? When you have indisputable evidence of your greatness, and you still don’t get the job, but they frame it that it was actually your decision? Ay caramba.

The Larry Wilmore podcast also made me think of not only the racism people face but the racism they internalize and how they limit themselves, that it’s funny people’s reaction to “white privilege” is that of capitalism — “I didn’t grow up with money.” His point is no peeps, it’s about you’re allowed to be your full self; minorities are not even permitted to dream of a life beyond certain parameters. This whole old-school approach of raising kids to do well academically and not explore outside interests is from a scarcity mindset — this is your lane. This is where you can thrive and nowhere else.

It really makes me think about how I was raised and how I’m raising my children. (New flash: my mom and I are clashing over my management of my children’s academics. No surprise there.) When I encounter parents who are obsessed with “the right schools” and are focused on Ivy League-or-bust, it strikes me as old-fashioned. It’s also such a way of life that focuses only on the future. If you only focus on the future, you will never be happy now, and these children — they’re actually alive right now. I can see it in my kids — they’re already up and down, find school and conformity a drudgery. I mean, none of us can raise snowflakes. It’s the real world, dude. But I can offer them a mix of living for the future and living for now. Maybe my beef with the old-school way of raising children is that the dreams are too small. Dream bigger.

coffee shop ha ha

I’m working in a coffee shop today, and I have to tell you, it is shocking how many people order drinks with oat milk. Is it that good? This is seriously like the new almond milk.

Also, the owner is going through chemo. 🙁
Also, some people come to coffee shops to work and talk, and don’t seem to realize that’s not my bag

Deep thoughts.

lol: How to Express Anger at work

I have noticed “LOL” is like the new way office people express passive aggressive thoughts. It’s either they’re really mad and they add “lol” to soften the message. Or they really want to challenge you directly so they ask a blunt question like “What the hell is going on with this project? lol” “As established by my previous email, which I’ve attached for your convenience, we’ve already concluded this matter.”

The ultimate act of aggression and “I told you so” is when someone forwards an email you missed and cc’s everyone and their mother.

It’s modern warfare! And it’s fascinating.

housework

I cannot overstate how much I am sick of housework. There are several hours of it to take care of on a daily basis and it never seems to make a dent. Of course, the food and laundry stuff is priority. The rest falls by the waist side (is that the saying?), but the basics of shopping/cooking/cleaning up so the mice don’t enjoy an all-you-can-eat buffet take a few hours a day.

A friend told me about thinking about time as a budget — hopefully, you get about 8 hours of sleep, then you have to work 9 hours at least (more like 10-15 currently), then you have about 2 to 4 hours a day of housework, which leaves you with…three hours a day to do what…An hour to tuck in kids and maybe hang with them? An hour to hang with hubs? An hour to lie on the couch and wonder WTH as you stare a teetering pile of board games, laundry, and miscellaneous mysteries on the floor?

No more housework. Housework is banned. It is not inspiring. I will do the bare minimum, which is time-consuming enough, but I’m going on strike.

candy

Oh my god, Wonder Boy Twin told me that my dad used to sneak candy into his hand.

My dad has always loved children, and even handicapped, etc. towards the end, you still tell he possessed an incredibly impish spirit. Loved to joke and lit up whenever children were around. He kept candy in all jacket pockets, and when I’d come see my parents, while my mom was yammering about some kind of life course correction requests, he would shake my hand and walk away. When he shook my hand, he passed a candy. It was so funny because I could be over 40 and he still did it to me. “Don’t tell mom,” he’d whisper along with the pass.

I told Wonder Twin Boy this whole history and he informed me my dad said the same exact thing to him — “Don’t tell Mom.”

Now, I think it’s rude. Ha ha ha.

Just kidding.

You can’t change an act that works this far into the performance.