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 I would like to introduce Shaq to my parents,” which actually happened and Shaq reported they were lovely people and rescinded his ridiculous, offensive remarks.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. Some are fine for kids. Others cause him to ask “What’s a condom.”

4) 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!”

5) 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.

no more guns [drafted two months ago]

When I went to visit Cousin Ed in his latest hometown and meet his kid, we took the entire posse out to a local park where there happened to be gigantic Sikh temple party, and I thought about the massacre that happened at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin a few years ago. Someone came up to us and welcomed us, said we could eat their food, and play in their bouncy castles (there were like four different bouncy castle like options. This was like a kid fantasy. Who goes to a park to find amusement rides available for free?)

As a child in U.S. schools, I was spoon-fed the following: America is great! Things are so much better for women and non-whites than they used to be! Capitalism is awesome! Reality is not that simple.

I’m questioning all that now. So many of our greatest industries and companies that make beaucoup bucks do so on the backs of poor and working poor people. We don’t have an agriculture business without illegal immigrant working for less than minimum wage. New York’s amazing restaurant scene is partly due to the paid-under-the-table-less-than-you-can-believe wages to bus boys and dishwashers, who are definitely not citizens. And the gun industry is another one of these. I sincerely doubt the NRA want to lose their kids and grandkids to gun violence, but the need to make a profit is greater than the value of human life. (See Sandy Hook, see Parkland, see Pulse Night Club, see anything you want. The day I visited cousin Ed, there were two massacres.) (Currently, in New York State, prisoners are producing sanitizer for no pay, but cannot actually have sanitizer.)

There is something deeply sick about our country that values cash over lives. That is really too much to bear.

david chang/ugly delicious

For light TV, these cooking shows show just enough substance. I caught some “Ugly Delicious” over the holidays. I knew nothing about David Chang, but he’s the pretty famous chef of Momofuko, which he started at age 26. (Can you imagine? Did I even understand how to do my own laundry at that age?) Momofuko was supposed to be a dismal failure before it even opened its doors, so Chang said the hell with it and cooked wildly. He was rewarded with great reviews, commending him for his originality and inventiveness. His co-host on “Ugly Delicious” is a food critic who gave him one of his early stellar reviews. He says Chang came up to him at a concert, and he told himself, either they were going to become best friends and he would never review him again, or he could keep reviewing him. He chose friendship! (I didn’t catch his name. He is a white guy with glasses.) Now they are like an old married couple who don’t talk anymore.

Chang shows a lot of humanity for the peeps in restaurants and comes across as very humble (could be a lie. Chefs can be as rude and obnoxious as office CEOs.) In the Episode Two: Tacos, he mentioned a Philly taco mistress who walked across the Mexican desert to immigrate illegally to the US so her daughter could become a nurse. Her daughter is a nurse, but this taco mistress’s own status is up in the air. She’s married to a U.S. citizen but illegal herself. Her husband says it’s difficult to expand their restaurant when they live in limbo, how he wants to live in a country where you can be free to be yourself. I have read about people’s arduous journeys in these illegal immigration paths, but it hit me differently when I saw the person who did it. That’s some toughness. Someone like that does well in our country. That seems to be the type of people we’d want. Chang concludes that episode saying his dad became a handyman because it was a job he could do without knowing English. Chang says he has always empathized with the immigrant just trying to do right by their family.
On Episode One: Pizza, he vehemently defends Domino’s pizza as delicious. These is apparently a sacrilegious statement in his profession, since chefs are not supposed to like fast food. The other food experts with him look uncomfortable. Chang is being so public because he hates being told what to do and think. Same. Also, same for my dad. Is this a Korean trait? Can someone tell me? I so identify with it – I go against the grain simply because I’m told not to. For better or worse, it’s one of the instincts that have shaped my life path so far.

Anyway, if I’m not careful, I will end up summarizing every single episode, so let me quit while I’m ahead. Watching this show makes me realize professional cooks are part scientist, part artist. Chang’s wife mentions she didn’t know food could remind her of childhood (I heard of that idea in a play, but thought it was a flamboyant confection) and a Toyko-ian BBQ world-class chef discusses his charcoal as “a living thing.” All these chefs are humble and touched as Chang shouts and curses to the camera about how awesome they are. I love it. Also, the show features a plethora of Korean Americans and other Asian Americans with all sorts of American accents. They are funny, weird, irreverent successful dudes. It’s an ABUNDANCE OF KOREANS! Bring it. I’m ready. (My only wish is I’d like more, ahem, weird Korean ladies on the show.)

michelle wolf

You have to be smart to be a standup comedian. Correction: you have to be intelligent to be a good standup comedian. Most specials start strong, have about ten minutes of interesting, original material and then never deepens, which is why I’ve never really fallen in love with standup. I have flirted with it, exchanged glances, but it never goes further. The whole concept of standup, to me, is it’s a presentation on your thesis of life. to you. Basically, you make your quirky point, your different way of looking at things, and then recite three examples of how your rule applies. And if it’s truly original, the jokes get progressively funnier. Each example elicits a harder laugh. (I have not studied standup. This is just what I glean from the comfort of my couch.) This comedian Michelle Wolf is pretty good the whole duration of her act. She is fun because she’s mega-liberal and quite scathing. She has one bit about abortion, how we’re supposed to feel about it. Even the most devoted pro-choicer says in a whisper full of reverence “But abortion is very serious. It’s a very intense choice.” Like it’s full of regret and sadness – very true. Wolf’s point is this is bogus, that women can feel any way they want about abortion. If you have one, you can feel devastated and sad, or maybe you feel nothing. You feel fine. It’s just a P.S. in your life.

That’s an amazing true point I have never heard articulated before.

She has this other joke about blogs – “blogs are the conversation no one wanted to have with you.”

This, of course, made me think of you.

Thank you.

the witcher

Man, this show is so bad. “The Witcher” is the poor cousin of “Lord of Rings” and “Game of Thrones.” It is so incredibly stupid, and yet – it scratches an itch. The character names are lazy – instead of “Jennifer,” they have “Yennifer.” Instead of “Harold,” they have something like “Yarold.” In a pivotal battle scene, an actor yells out “let’s do this!” What did they invest their budget in? Not the writing. I will say the special effects of slimy monsters and athletic skeletons and dragons look as good as a Marvel movie (but keep in mind I don’t really have an idea how to discern that stuff and my eye sight is terrible – I have these stupid progressive glasses now, which virtually guarantees I see the world out of focus 99% of the time.) The actors wear some weird Emmy gowns and peroxide blonde wigs go through forests and hills. No pointy ears though. The setting seems like legitimate hills and forests, but I keep expecting to see a port-a-potty something else that betrays the budget limitations. Sure, the story says it’s taking place on a magic mountain, but is it actually like Van Saun Park in New Jersey? I make fun of it, but the jokes on me, because I CANNOT LOOK AWAY. Now that we have binged the first season, I don’t know what to do with myself.

brad behavior, essence of marriage

I was listening to this meandering, slightly crabby exchange between Brad Goreski, stylist to the stars, and his husband Gary Janetti, hilarious Instagram, TV and book writer, discuss about their mundane everyday routines. They’ve been together maybe 18 years and married for two. They kvetch like a senior citizen couple, about family and other normal things that make them cranky. I found their chitchat very comforting.

One of the things they talk about is New Year’s Eve, how they always go to bed well before midnight. Janetti goes on about how he hates the pressure he feels to have epic fun and kiss a stranger at midnight. His husband Brad picks at his idea and go back and forth before they settle on the perfect way survive a New Year’s Eve party: look up from their phones, exchange a midnight kiss, then go back to their phones. Perfect. But in reality, they said it was all for naught because they can never stay awake that long. Their biggest concern on New Year’s Eve is what they’re going to eat and watch on TV that night.
Now that is the essence of a good marriage right there. Why else get married? That is a little space of Nirvana.

On another note, I just read Gary Janetti’s first book Do You Mind If I Cancel, a series of memoir-ish essays. They are as funny as people say, but also poignant. I enjoyed them very much. He speaks very well of how sometimes how lonely and wonderful it was to be a young gay man in a way that helps me imagine it.