Friday, March 30, 2018

Standing up to Bullies or No Cockroaches Here, Thanks or Happy Easter!

For a few hours Thursday morning we were without power.  The silence was so complete I could hear the crackling of the gas stove (which we lit by hand).

The Rice Krispies were snap-crackle-popping so loud I had to put in ear plugs.  

It was cold and calm.  I gave Benji breakfast by the light of four candles and a strategically placed flashlight.  We watched the sun come up through the trees, Ellie still asleep and Jichaan brooding quietly in his cave.

No internet.  No TV.  After Benji went down for his nap nothing but a hot mug of green tea and a blank page.


I didn’t think I’d feel this kind of peace for some time to come.  Certainly not this morning, not after the night we had.  

There are a couple of verses from childhood running through my head ‘This too shall pass’ and (paraphrasing) ‘When you’ve done all, stand.’

So, let me lay this out for you.  I stood up to a bully yesterday.  A bully in my very own home.

Yes.  Jichaan didn’t approve of the cost of my sweet cleaning lady who comes twice a month and helps me remember what a clean house feels like.  For two minutes until my children systemically and gleefully tear it apart/spill apple juice on it/crush chips into the carpet again.

Life is too short.  And messy.  And…if it isn’t REALLY clean, like REALLY CLEAN, we get BUGS people.  Like, big ones.  Cockroaches and flying many-legged things that make my goosebumps have goosebumps.

I’m not a saint, or an angel.  I’m just me.  I’m a pacifist, and a turn-the-other-cheek-second-chances kind of person.  At least I try to be.  But something flares up hot and immediate when I’m being pushed around.  

And then it hardens and I will not be moved.

There are some who say - he’s 95.  Just let him have his way - just humor him a little longer he won’t be around much more.  

Reality?  Everyone caves to Jichaan.  The only question is how quickly.

Immediately so as to avoid suffering?  Or eventually, after he has relentlessly hounded you day and night until you throw up your hands and agree to anything to make it stop?  He is a minor tyrant.

To be honest, I’m kind of a pushover.  I’d rather have peace than my own way 95% of the time.  But when I feel like I’m being bullied?  It’s like a special super-power that surprises even me with it’s grit.  I wouldn't even have known it was there except, well, except for bullies.

Anyway, I said no.  I said cleaning lady stays.  Especially since Bill will be in China this weekend and won’t be available to help me scrub/vacuum/dust/Clorox and in general keep the nasties away.

He erupted into a very predictable (and loud) tantrum worthy of only maybe Shannon Doherty when she didn’t get the part of ‘Drama Queen Three - the Return of Highest Drama Over The Silliest Of Things’.  

Apparently I am dis-invited from his funeral.

I do have compassion for the idea of a proud older man, faced with end-of-life realities and decisions.  It isn’t easy being 95, physically, emotionally, spiritually.  There is no doubt he is suffering.  Actual pain in his body I am sure, and emotional pain from suddenly, and for the first time in probably decades, losing a power struggle.

I welcomed him into my home.  Nervously, admittedly, but with open arms and with the hope he and his grandchildren could form a special bond, fill that special spot only a grandparent can.

That might still happen or be happening.  

But, it is clear he doesn’t want to live here unless he is boss.  Which I just made it clear, he is not.  And that’s painful, yeah?  So I have compassion for the bully who, once someone stands up to him, begins to look diminished in everyone’s eyes.  Instead of fear there is pity.  

And the bully has the choice to change, to grow, to reach out and be vulnerable and loved.  Or he caves in on himself and becomes bitter and isolated, resentful and wretched.

It is my sincere desire that he reach out and accept the love and support he is being offered.  There is love here in my house, and warmth and forgiveness.  There’s crazy too, and nervous breakdowns on the horizon.  But love too.  

But no cockroaches.  And no bullies.

“Courage is fire, and bullying is smoke.”  Benjamin Disraeli.

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.

The Gift Of Nowhere To Go

Hiya my friends – look – I don’t know if anyone other than mom and some uncles and aunts back home read this but, in case you’re out ther...