Follow by Email

Friday, March 23, 2018

Am I a Navy SEAL Yet? (And other questions from this side of Hell Week)

In the Navy Seals they have this thing called Hell Week.  It happens early on, in the third week of the first phase.  They want to weed out the weaklings before they make an expensive training investment. 

I didn’t sign up for Navy SEALS but I just had my hell week.  Let’s skim the highlights shall we?  Be warned.  There is GROSS stuff in here.  Vomit.  Poo.  Complaining.  

You were warned.

Benji projectile vomited Sunday morning.  Twice.  On me.  

Jichaan was angry we couldn’t take him to the Taiwanese society Sunday because afore mentioned projectile vomiting.  Apparently it never occurred to him we would be spending so much time and energy on the babies.  Because two children under four is a walk in the park and we’d have LOADS of time to, well, take him for walks in the park. 

I digress.

Monday Bill drives Ellie to school with minimal pain while I drive to an appointment in Houston.  During rush hour.  With a screamey baby.  I only took the wrong exit twice and between that, construction, and rush hour traffic, I was only 45 minutes late.  Right?

Tuesday everyone was off.  Ellie was extra screamy, I was extra head-achy and Benji was teething and up all night.  He’s getting his two year molars early.  And the fun never stops…

Wednesday Ellie gets dropped at school after crying all morning about going.

Then I began to vomit.  

Pulled the car over four times in the 15 minute drive to get her in the afternoon with dry heaves.  

The fourth time as I was looking for my gum my fingers grazed something wet and cold, soft and sticky.  I almost didn’t pull it out.  Do I really want to know?  


Yes.  I’m an adult.  I can do this.  I pull it out.  It’s a brown congealed mess of what smells like it used to be banana before the microbes began entering the space-age stage of their evolution.  

I brushed away the tiny microbe space-ships, chucked it out the window, then pulled over and chucked up the last of the water I had at breakfast.

Wednesday night - flu hits me hard and I text Bill to come home early.  I won’t tell you what time he finally came home because those who love me may want to murder him.  Suffice to say, he does not handle ‘unexpected situations’ well. 

If he has lots of time, and lots of notice, he can shift things around.  But if not, well, I’m laying on the couch heaving in a bucket while Benji smears his own poo on the windows.

I did not cook them supper.  I did not say hello to my husband.  I went immediately to bed.  I did not get up with Benji all night.  I crashed.  Hard.

When I woke up Bill was handing me a Benji who needed changing and when I checked on Ellie, she was crying on her bed, covered in her own puke.  

In Bill’s defense, he did not hear Ellie before he left and didn’t know she was in trouble.  At least, that’s what I tell myself.

He did offer to come home early THAT day.  But I was feeling better by then and had a nice day of bleaching sheets and feeding Ellie crackers.  Benji took a break from his teething.  He slept well Thursday night.

Friday. Ellie is feeling much better but still a little sick.  So basically she’s whiny and demanding and extra screamey but also hungry like usual and needing to eat every 1.25 hours.  I didn’t realize until she wasn’t hungry how much of my day is spent finding snacks, preparing snacks, cleaning up snacks, then preparing lunch/breakfast/dinner and cleaning…ugh, you get it.

Benji is extra teething.  His whole hand in his mouth, chewing on anything he can put in there and crying when he’s trying to eat anything harder than a cooked-to-death-piece-of-macaroni.  I’ve never given him Tylenol so early but he had it at 7am today and it barely helped.  Poor guy.

So when Jichaan pops out of his room around the time Bill normally gets home Friday night (late of course) and tells me he wants Bill to take him to the store to get a few things (even though I asked him earlier if he needed anything because I was going out and he said NO)…I almost twisted his ear and led him right back to his room. 

“NO!  I need him more.”  Is what I wanted to say, very calmly and firmly.  Instead I said…”He won’t be home for another half hour.”  
“I’ll wait outside.”

So he ‘waited’ outside, watering the plants I already watered this morning AND this afternoon, hitting them full spray from three feet away, bending the delicate….I can’t even…ugh.

Anyway - I know this blog entry is longish but I wanted to end on a grateful note.  Yep I had a crazy, crappy week where I lost my lunch, lost my cool, lost my focus and lost my perspective.  

But Holly, from ‘My Plant Based Family’ ( finally told us why she hasn’t posted in a while.  Her son Steven has Leukemia.

And instantly I have gained my perspective back.  Everyone here is healthy.  

And it reminds me of something someone said to me once when I was taking treatments for Leukemia at Sick Kids when I was 16.  They said, “There’s always someone worse off than you.”  There’s no point in comparing or complaining.  No matter how bad things are and get, there is always, always someone going through more.  So there’s always something to be grateful for.

And always someone you can reach down and help out.  With a smile, a hug, prayers or dollah-bills.  If it moves you, you can help her family out at:

Because as my own parents know, it’s hard to work full time when your baby is full-time fighting cancer.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Why Jichaan is Mad at Me

I’m trying my best to ignore the simmering resentment emanating from the in-law suite.  We are in day two of a massive geriatric tantrum.  

What caused this sweet old man to retreat into a sullen silence you ask?  

Let me tell you.  It is because we won’t sell the house and move to Houston (city) so he can walk to the Asian grocery store when he wants to.


And because Bill told his father that he discussed it with me and WE agreed WE don’t want to do that, get this, are you ready for this?  

He told Bill I’M calling all the shots.  Like, I’m the boss.

Can’t let your wife have a voice in a marriage right?  That’s crazy talk!  Says the man born in 1923.

Anyway, so he’s mad at me too.

I gave Bill a list of all the things that would be different around here if I were REALLY in charge.  

Suffice to say it included a two story pool with waterslides, a home theater and a yoga/sun room.  And three more dogs and two cats.

The first day of the tantrum I was worried.  Bill, trying to save me the drama, hadn't told me about their fight the night before.

So Jichaan stayed in his room with the door shut all morning.  Finally I knocked and asked if he was ok.  (Hello?  Are you still breathing in here!?)  

Yes he was but something was clearly wrong.  He didn’t want to see the kids all day and he didn’t set foot outside or in the garden for the first time in the month he’s been here.  He burnt his tofu too. 

I told Bill to come home early because I was worried he didn’t feel well and just didn’t want to tell me.

Turns out he’s just mad.

Turns out even when you’re 95 you still don’t grasp your days are numbered and you should spend them wisely, in love, and not chuck them away being angry all day.

Well, I will learn that lesson for him.

So I will spend the day lovingly checking on him, asking the kids to go see him, bringing him snacks and offering to share our supper.  Which will probably drive him totally bonkers.

Anyway - hug your grammies and grampies, even if they don’t want you to.

You’ll be spending your day in a right way AND it’ll probably drive them nuts.  Two birds.  One stone.

As Mark Twain liked to say:  “Always do right.  This will gratify some and astonish the rest.”  

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Growing Flowers with Jichaan

What I’ve done this week:

Listened to the movie ‘Inside Out’ 1,247 times.

Listened to Ojichaan tell me how to prune my roses so the ‘air’ can get through and they’re less prone to disease. 

Listen to Ojichaan tell me where and how to plant my grape vines so they get the max sun.  

Listen to Ojichaan tell me why I need to transplant my plants so he can have an easier path through my garden.  

Listen to Ojichaan tell me how to water properly so the water ‘gets deeper’.

Listen to myself chant my new mantra:  "He's good for the kids, he's good for the kids, he's good for the kids, he's good for the kids, he's good for the kids...

Because there is only one proper way to do EVERYTHING.  And you must listen carefully.  Until Benji falls in the mud/loses his boot and is walking around/picking up dog poop/sticking the hose down his pants/pulling up my tomato plants/stepping on my pumpkin plants/pulling the fertilizer off the shelf and trying to play with the TOXIC CHEMICAL.  Cue me, pulling out all my hair.

Anyway.  This morning Bill got to listen to him for about 45 minutes.

Here’s the lowdown: 

Apparently Jichaan thinks I should go to work and hire a Japanese nanny to take care of the kids.  (Works for me).  Also, that we should move into Houston so he can walk to stores.  (Buy him a condo!)  And so the kids can make some friends with Japanese families.  (Good idea).

Anyway and the kicker - he also wants Bill to quit his job, move to Taiwan with us and open a pizza restaurant.

Yeah.  I’ll just let that one sink in for a minute.

He wants Bill to quit his job where he’s been working at the same company since University, over twenty years, move his entire family to Taiwan and start a restaurant.  Selling pizza.

I said to Bill... “Let’s go!”.  The only answer to absurdity is absurdity.

But that's ok because now Jichaan wants to move to Taiwan HIMSELF.  

I mean…we don’t even need to get into the craziness of that idea.  

In all the angst and stress involved in getting him here and settled it never once occurred to me he’d rather live alone.  

Of all the terrible things I was imagining that could happen:

“He’s going to fall/get hurt/get sick/die on my watch while I have the kids.  He’s going to plug the toilet/pee on the furniture/leave the gas stove on/cook weird things that smell bad/need a bum wipe/help getting off the toilet/out of the shower and I have to see old naked man.  (I’m sorry, it freaks me out ok!).

It never once occurred to me I’d have to deal with him NOT wanting to be here.  

Being here in case he needs me when he’s grateful and happy to be here is one thing.  Being here in case he needs me when he’s resentful and bitter about being here?  Not even on my radar.

If it were my dad I’d lay out the options.  A government-run home, or here.  Two options.  Get happy about one.  (I love you dad, you stay with me!)

So, anyway.  I’m trying not to numb my bad feelings with sugar and good red wine.  I’m trying to lean into these feelings and just feel them.  Listen to sad songs and ask for extra hugs from whoever is giving them.  (Asking for hugs from the nice cashier-lady at HEB is cool right?)  That’s normal.  Eh.  I haven’t seen a moment of ‘normal’ since my 12th birthday.  Why start again now right?

“Normality is a paved road:  It’s comfortable to walk, but no flowers grow.”  Vincent van Gogh

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Pulling Weeds by Hand and Muttering to My Tomatoes

But first, so it turns out it isn’t going to be easy to apply for my masters degree.  (I know…I was surprised too)  And the deadline for this September has already passed.  But that’s ok because I have to complete a GRE exam as part of my application for NEXT September.

Whaaaaat?  And there’s MATH.  Noooooooooooo!!

Adding and subtracting fractions and remembering what the heck an integer is?  Why God, why?

Can you tell I’m terrified?  Not a little.  A lot.  Math.  It isn’t really the math I fear so much as the overwhelming sense of inferiority and helplessness it swamps me with.  Who likes to be reminded they’re not smarter than a fifth grader?

Anyway.  I see you, math-wall, and I am going to climb you.  I’m going to get high school math workbooks and GRE prep books and I’m scheduling my exam date so I have a deadline and…and if I fail I’m going to try again.  And Again.  Until I get this.  Grrrrrr.

Why?  Because my good friend Bobby went blind at 40, learned Braille, went back to University, earned a 4 year undergrad degree in Sociology and then completed a Masters.  Or mostly finished.  In any case he’s teaching at UNB so that is AMAZING. 

Holy crap if I can’t handle a measly GRE and a year and half masters degree WITH BOTH EYES, I’m not worth the math sheet I’m sweating over.

So that’s my update on my Masters Degree Adventure.

Quickly to recap my Ojichaan Settling Adventure:

(On my way out the door yesterday with both kids trying to get to the doctors office because Benji has been screaming non-stop all day) 

Ojichaan:“My clothes are missing.”
Me: “Your CLOTHES are missing?”
Ojichaan: “Clothes are missing.”

On my way to his room to check his closet for a shirt he may have dropped he says:  

“Door is shut.”

So I check the patio door and unlock it, open it for him.  He’s still making his way back to his room from the living room.  I wait.  Benji screams.  Ellie throws her shoe at the wall.  

I come back out of his room and meet him in the hallway.

“Door is shut.  Bathroom,”  he manages to say.  I look at the bathroom door.  It’s shut.  I try the knob.  It's locked.  How does this happen?

Feeling a lot like MacGyver I rush around with a butter knife and after a few minutes manage to get it open.  He smiles and says ‘Thank you, thank you!  Arigato, arigato.”

Feeling like a super hero for not only figuring out what he wanted but fixing the problem, I proceed to herd the two demented cats (I mean my kids) into the van and onto the road.

Baby steps people.

I’ll finish off with a revelation I had this morning while weeding the garden.  I love to garden.  Even the crummy bits like weeding.  

Out there in the early morning sun by myself, focused on the seedlings and clearing the weeds I felt whole.  There is a solace gained by the solitude in a garden.  It’s this perfect mixture of fun - playing in the dirt - and divinity - sharing my space with God and nature.  The sun on my back, the birds overhead, there’s something spiritual about working outside in a garden, helping things grow and bloom, nurturing and caring for the young seedlings.

Anyway.  If you come by the house and my kids are duct-taped to the couch in front of a movie and Ojichaan is napping because I slipped him some wine in his juice, you know where to find me.

That's right, I'll be outside in my garden, pulling weeds by hand and muttering to my tomatoes.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

What I want To Be When I Grow Up. Hint: It isn't an Oompa Loompa

The two things I’ve always wanted to be, since I was a teeny tiny tot of a terror, was a writer; and a Star Ship counsellor.  I wanted to be telepathic too like Diana on Star Trek.

Whisking through the stars helping humans and aliens with their troubles.  Then writing a best seller about it.  Or about just the aliens.  Or a tawdry romance about my three dates with a Vulcan.  Vulcans.  So cute.  So smart.  So emotionally unavailable.  So my type of guy.  Ah, alien?  Anyhoo.  

Where was I?

What I always wanted to be when I grow up.  

Well here I am, ready to re-enter the work force after six year absence and I want it to be special.  I don’t want to just ‘have a job’.  I want to have a meaningful, fulfilling career I can be proud of.  

I want to help people.  

Even though most of the time they don’t want my help.  I can’t say that I blame them.  Who wants advice from an Oompa Loompa who dresses like an eight year old boy?  Who would rather crack a joke than a textbook?

I think it’s hard to take me seriously sometimes.  I’m a bit of a nut.  Clearly too happy to be smart, too.  You know, the Smartest People are also Super Serious and Sometimes Mean.  Grumpy for sure.  

Really Smart People don’t go around asking what they want to be when they grow up.  Not at almost 40, anyway.  Or do they? Hm.  

Anyway, I don’t want to make a mistake this late in my ‘money-earning years’ we’ll call them.

So I went to a life-coach workshop-thingie for an hour and half last Sunday to try and get some professional guidance.

And you know what she said about mistakes?  She said I WOULD make mistakes.  And then I’d learn from it.  Who doesn’t make mistakes?  People who aren’t getting off the comfy couch and trying new things, that’s what.

She also asked me why I didn’t want to use my psychology degree?


Bottom line?  It’s going to be hard, guys.

Hard to get the masters degree I know I’ll need to get a good job.  Hard to find the money to pay for it.  Hard to go back to school after twenty years.  Hard to have a young family and a new career.  Hard to work with special-need kids and not have my heart all wrung out and pulled apart at the end of every day.

If I really examine myself, it’s kind of what I’m built for.  My heart’s all lovey, my spirit’s all nurture, my mind’s all CHALLENGE ME!  

So.  Did I figure out what I’m ‘meant’ to do?  I don’t know.  Maybe I figured out what I’m supposed to try to do.  Maybe I’ll fail.  Maybe I won’t find the money, or the time, or the grit to see it through.  But then maybe it will lead me to something else, something I don’t even know is out there yet because I haven’t started the journey.

Maybe you all can start the journey with me?  It won’t be so scary then.

Really?  You will!?  Thank you so much!

Ok guys I’ll keep you in the loop.  In the meantime, here’s one of my favorite quotes:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without err and shortcoming; but who actually strives to do the deeds, who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”  Theadore Roosevelt.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

A Beautiful Tsunami Has Reduced Me to Cliche's

Upon walking into my home you won’t immediately see anything different.  A new pair of shoes by the door.  The strange sounds of Japanese men singing and playing….something…on TV.  

Depending on the time of day he’ll be eating his morning gruel or his afternoon Ramen noodles.  I suspect routines mean a lot to elderly people.  

Bill shakes his head.  “He wants Ramen…again…”  And I say…”He’s 95.  Let him eat donuts every day if he wants to.”  Or, sometimes when I’m feeling particularly snarky, “Clearly he’s doing something right he’s made it this far.”

Bill has warned me, “He’s opinionated, and thinks he knows the best way to do everything.”  I gaze at him with my wide brown eyes and wait silently.  I wait for him to realize he has just described himself.  When he doesn’t immediately understand I help him out.  

“So, when I married you, I got two for the price of one?”
“I got two of you, two of the same person, for the price of one husband.”
“I think so.”

Poor Ellie.  Ellie isn’t elderly but she doesn’t like change much either.  Especially when they come in the package of a large (to her) man who speaks a strange language, and who speaks it much too loudly.

She’s dealing with this change the way any three year old would.  

She is completely losing her mind.  

Tantrums, screaming fits, throwing fits, aggressively hitting Benji, or me, or anyone in her way.  

She is now on day 4 with no Kindle, and no TV.  I know.  I should cut her some slack.  But then, when do I ever stick to my guns?  When is it the perfect time to do what I say, and to back up threatened discipline with actual follow-through?

The time is now.  Plus, she’s started hitting me.  That is not acceptable.

Anyway, someone asked how I was coping.  I know mom would prefer me to answer - prayer is all I need!

But in reality I am ordering Dairy Milk chocolate bars by the truckload and that occasional glass of wine has become not so occasional.  Oh, wait, do we not talk about those things?  Well, it’s what’s happening with me right now and it’s how I’m coping.

That and spending lots of time in the garden while Bill is home from work helping his dad settle.  Far as I see it, he’s here to help me and the kids settle too.  And that means letting me hack away at the soil, aggressively weeding and hauling rocks around organizing my perfect planting spots.  For hours.  Nothing like mud to my elbows to make me feel human again.

Right now solitude is my friend.  It’s a good thing because all my friends are moving away.  Calgary, Toronto, and one family is moving all the way to India.  

Boys when change happens it doesn’t just peter in it swamps through.  Like a Tsunami, clearing everything out, cleaning the stale stuff and disrupting routines.  Pushing all my furniture around, literally and figuratively.  Completely overwhelming me, rushing over my head while I try to thrash back to the surface.

I can honestly say I'm a hot mess right now.  I'm taking it one day at a time.  It's all I can do.  I'm reduced to cliche's.  I'm listening to 'All is Well' meditations and sending prayers for help.  

And you know what?  Turns out my beautiful little Tsunami has some good ideas.  Right now it's just easier ways to organize my garden.  Better ways to cook Ramen.  But I can already see him changing the course of our family, nudging it a little, adding his own water presence to ours and altering the path we are running. 

I don't know where we're going but I know we're going there in love, bound by the cords of family, of duty, of love and responsibility. 

Or you know, maybe I've got the analogy all wrong and we're just on our way to a big train wreck.  Either way, we're going there together.  One cliche at a time.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

The Imminent Arrival of Ojichaan. For Reals This Time.

Three years ago when we bought the land and built the house we live in we made the third bedroom into an in-law suite because his dad was going to come live with us.

Fast forward three years and now we’ve got two kids and a room full of ‘storage’.  

Until this weekend.  

This weekend we are clearing and cleaning that in-law suite/room because on Wednesday Bill will arrive in Houston with his 95 year old father.  For a ‘visit’.  He may stay a month or forever.

I’ve got mixed emotions about this.  Fear, of course.  How much care is he going to need?  

Satisfaction - no matter what happens this will be good for the kids.  There are loads of studies that have shown having three generations in the house is all kinds of beneficial.  Grandparents and grandkids have special relationships and having him here will be good for them.

Fear.  He doesn’t speak much English.  My meager inventory of Japanese words aren’t going to do me any good in a real crisis, unless he needs tea, water, milk, or a newspaper RIGHT AWAY.

Fear.  What if he DIES here!?  And the kids find him?  Or he gets sick and won’t go to a hospital?  Or does go to the hospital but completely freaks out because no one in Texas speaks Japanese?

Alright so it sounds like my ‘mixed’ emotions are like 90% fear for me and 10% satisfaction I am doing the right thing for the kids. 

The timing was right when I saw a video on facebook about two 98 year old sisters arguing in the car all the way to the post office.  I shared it on my facebook because I laughed so hard I cried.  I think I needed the reminder that old doesn’t mean dead.  At 95 he is still living on his own for a few days a week so clearly he is quite mobile.  

I don’t know what is in store for us for the next few weeks, or years, but like everything else I’m nervous about I’m going to take it one day at a time.  When that seems like too much I’ll take it one minute at a time.  You can get through anything for the next 60 seconds if you have to.

I am curious how the relationship between Ojichaan (Grampy in Japanese) and the kids will change and grow.  He is looking forward to meeting Benji for the first time, and re-establishing the relationship with Ellie.  

Regardless of how I feel, I know I’m doing the right thing by welcoming him here.  There are times in your life where you don’t know how it’s going to end, how you’re going to get through it, but you know it needs to be done.  So everything else after that doesn’t really matter.

Anyway, like Dean Koontz says, where there’s cake there’s hope.  And there’s always cake. 

Sunday, February 04, 2018

Building Resiliency in My Children and Other Lessons I Hate Learning

It’s Super Bowl Sunday!  It’s flu-season!

After weeks of keeping my kids away from possible sources of flu-contagion, the flu came right to me.  (Deadly flu-pandemic with extra olives ordered here?  No?)

I kept Ellie home from school Wednesday out of a gut feeling there might be flu germs circulating.  I usually trust my gut it rarely steers me wrong.

And then the lady that helps me clean the house from time to time showed up with her daughter, home sick from school.  Her 12 year old daughter who looked like a Bubonic plague victim from the 1600’s complete with bloodshot eyes, blotchy skin and a fever I could feel from the door.  

I said…I will keep the flu away!  And God said…I will bring it in your house then!  Are we having fun now?

*Sigh.  What can you do?  She’s a single mom she’s supposed to leave her sick daughter at home by herself?  Of course not.  What’s the lesson here?  

What is the lesson here?  

I feel like I’m being nudged to a conclusion but I may be too stubborn to accept it.  Control is an illusion?  God has a wicked sense of humor?  Shielding someone you love from every negative occurrence is not only useless but possibly detrimental?

I recently had a conversation with a friend about resiliency in our children.  As in, we’re not building resiliency in our children when we helicopter-parent.  There has been rampant, actual pandemic levels of depression and anxiety in our teenagers and it feels as contagious as the flu.

I can’t protect them from everything out there.  But maybe I shouldn’t.  Everything ‘out there’ may just be acting in concert with God to build internal strength.  There may be no good or bad experiences, only those we learn from and those we don’t.  And I really want to learn the lessons.

Not being a hard shield and buffer between ‘the world’ and the children I am in charge of protecting is like asking me to stop my heart from beating.  Ready?  Go!  No?

I can’t protect them from everything bad that could happen.  And I probably shouldn’t.  That is a truth.  

What I need to do is spend my energy and time building their inner landscapes and resources so that when something (or someone) knocks them down, they dust off their little knees, straighten their little chins, and get back up again.  

Same shielding concept, different focus.  Turning my little spotlight from all the shadows out there and using it to shore up the innate strength and light inside them.  

In the process I’m reminding myself of my own unique resourcefulness and optimism.  I can do this.  We can do this!

“Do not judge me by my success, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”  Nelson Mandela