Archive for June, 2009

Pondering Pain

I just saw a program on TLC that documented a woman in natural childbirth.  She gave birth in a birthing tub with her husband, mother, sister, and best friend encircling her.  The woman was in tremendous pain.  The husband, while kind and supportive, looked absolutely clueless, as if he didn’t have a functioning brain cell in his head.  He came across this way even in the after birth interviews: vacant eyes, deer in headlights expression.  The mother didn’t seem that bright either.

I know there are many people with many opinions about childbirth, but I am in the process of making up my own mind about natural childbirth vs. drugs.  Let it be known that I have a very low tolerance for pain.  I have several friends who went through natural childbirth and who rave about the experience. Both my mother and my mother-in-law did not have drugs during their labors.  (They popped out 5 babies between the 2 of them.)  All these women were, however, quite a bit younger than I will be at the time of delivery and probably had more limber, energetic bodies than mine.  Nevertheless, it would behoove me to exercise more during this pregnancy.  They say labor is like running a marathon, so I should be in training.  Fine.

I imagine I will be screaming bloody murder and strangling Hubby during labor.  I imagine it will not be pleasant.  I repeat, I have a very low tolerance for pain.

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Chasing Windmills

On our road trip across the continent, we noted quite a number of wind farms popping up all over country.  On our trip to Vancouver Island last year, we passed by a convoy carrying a single blade for a windmill.  The blade was huge, about 75  feet long.  It was hard to fathom a windmill that large.  We got a good look at these wind farms during this move across America.  

Windmill in Wyoming

Windmill in Wyoming

The first farm we encountered was in the Columbia River Gorge dividing Oregon and Washington state.  The gorge is well known for its wind, so it seemed appropriate that they would try to harness the wind power of the landscape.  But we also came across wind farms dotted all over Wyoming, Nebraska, and Iowa.  The windmills turned in tune with the wind, dancing a majestic ballet on an otherwise flat horizon.

Hubby’s research found that each windmill sweeps 1.5 acres of airspace, producing 1.8 megawatts of power.  Each windmill could conservatively power 400 homes.  Put it altogether in a wind farm with over 100 windmills and that’s a lot of power.  

It was also encouraging to see the wind farms pop up on actual farm lands in Iowa, so that the land could do double-duty, both producing food and power.  Some innovative technologies going on our land.

That’s my plug for alternative energy.  Save the planet, dammit. Don Quixote would approve.

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On Beauty

I’m wondering how long I can claim exhaustion before I’m expected to write something intelligent in my blog.  Even in the middle of my lethargic haze, it’s been impossible to avoid the news coverage of Michael Jackson’s death.  His music is on all the radio stations, music that is nostalgic for me, growing up in the 80’s.  I hope he is remembered more for his music than for the freaky tabloid stories about his life.

There have been retrospectives about Jackson’s life and I am struck by the photos of him in the late 70’s, before he got his nose jobs and before his skin started to bleach white.  Despite his own dissatisfaction with his appearance, I think he was quite a beautiful man with his own natural features, with what God gave him.  He looked healthy.  He looked full of life.  Later images of Jackson are sickly and ghost-like.  He looked more like the living dead featured in his ground-breaking Thriller video.

I think about the forces in our society and in ourselves that make someone want to alter his or her appearance so drastically.  The skin bleaching is perhaps an obvious attempt for a black man to assimilate into a white-dominated society’s view of beauty.  One could argue the same for the nose jobs.  This seems all too simplistic an explanation as to why a beautiful, healthy black man would endure these endless plastic surgeries.  Who knows of Jackson’s demons that would drive him to such actions?

When I was a teenager, I would have loved a nose job.  I thought my nose was too flat, too big, compared to the slim pointy noses of my Caucasian classmates.  In retrospect, I would have looked strange with a small, pointy Caucasian nose in the middle of my Asian face.  Thankfully my parents didn’t have the money or the patience to indulge my petty teenage angst.

Later, I was to discover an operation popular among Asian women who wanted their eyes to look rounder, more Caucasian.  Asians typically have what is called an epicanthic fold in their eyelids, in which the skin folds inward so that it looks like we have no eyelids.  This operation stitches the inside of the eyelid so that the skin looks like it folds outward, creating a crease between the brow and the eyelid.  In other words, the operation creates a clear delineation for one to place the eyeshadow makeup.  I always thought the operation was ridiculous and refused to entertain the thought, even when my mother’s friends’ daughters would go under the knife.  

I note that when I was a teenager and went to a mall to get a makeover, the makeup artist did not know where to place the eyeshadow.  To this day, makeovers feel artificial to me, as if someone is trying to impose their own image of beauty on my face, but the result is always the face of a stranger.  I feel the same way about colored contact lenses as friends would change their eye color to look different, unusual.  It would make people look at them twice, they said.  It would make them stand out.  

But for me, I could not understand  why you would want to create an illusion of someone who was not truly you.  It would be like walking around with a mask that would eventually have to come off.  Unless you had the wealth, as Michael Jackson did, to surgically alter your appearance permanently.  But to me, it seems suffocating, like you always had to pretend to be someone you were not.  It would be like living a lie.

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I had hoped to have some profound reflections on our cross-continental journey, but my brain has mostly shut off.  I slept for another 10 hours last night and I feel I need another long nap.  Body and Baby are complaining about the long hours in the bumpy big yellow truck.  We’re not getting any younger.

We unloaded the truck into my parents’ garage yesterday, thanks to the help of two strapping young teenagers.  I was amazed to see all that stuff come out of the big yellow truck.  It spilled out and took over the entire 2-car garage.  Hubby and his father had done a magical job packing the truck into a tetris-like configuration.  Pretty impressive.

We returned the truck this morning and I felt not an iota of sentiment.  The only thing odd is driving the Mini now feels very low to the ground. 

The bones in my fingers ache.  Time for a nap.

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We arrived in Windham, New Hampshire, last night around 8:00pm Eastern Standard Time–570 miles.  The final leg of our move was without incident, through rolling tree-covered hills and farms of upstate New York and Massachusetts.  Hubby and I split the driving time almost evenly.  By the last hour, every bump and pothole was getting on my nerves (the shocks on our truck were less than optimal).  We’re both exhausted.

My mother cooked us a great meal of grilled halibut, stir-fried beef & greens, portabello mushrooms, and glass noodle stew.  Both Hubby and I kept eating and eating.  Mom is an excellent cook, from whom both my brother and I get our appreciation of food.  I’m hoping she’ll cook for us more when the baby comes.

During our first night in New Hampshire, what is most notable is the silence and stillness.  There is a slight breeze through the trees, full of gentle rustling leaves, and a warm summer rain drizzling though the night.  My mother says it gets loud in the summer time when the frogs come out, but that’s a very different kind of noisy than the city noise.  As much as I know I will miss San Francisco, this place is kind of nice too.

Hubby and I slept like logs.

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Truck Cabin Fever

We had hoped to make it to Buffalo, New York, today, but after a late start from Chicago and a few bad traffic jams in Cleveland, we made it only to Erie, Pennsylvania–450 miles.  We’re getting pretty cranky.  We may have a long drive tomorrow (if we feel motivated), but may decide to break it up into two days to reach our final destination in New Hampshire.

Hubby and I are having arguments about and with the GPS.  The thing can’t predict traffic, of course, and it also assumes we’re not driving a truck, so it sometimes recommends routes on which trucks are not allowed.  We don’t know this until we actually reach the off ramp with big signs that say NO TRUCKS ALLOWED and then we have to make a quick decision, which often results in the GPS recommending we take the next exit and turn around to go the opposite way on the freeway.  This happened a few days ago in Davenport, Iowa, when the I-80 bridge across the Mississippi River was closed for repairs and we had to take another bridge.  The GPS got quite exasperated with us.

If we had to do this again, I would have set fewer miles per day and gone an extra day or two.  I think this would allow us to explore more and take our time.  Hubby thinks we just would have slept in more and not taken advantage of the extra time.  Maybe he’s right.  After 5 days of driving, I’m really short-tempered and cranky.  Hope we can make it one more day.

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Caroline’s Blankie

Another full day of driving took us across the state of Iowa and Illinois for 530 miles.  Iowa is mostly rolling green hills (not flat like Wyoming & Nebraska).  Once we hit the Chicago suburbs, driving the big yellow truck became a bit harried as Hubby had to maneuver the hulking monster through traffic and a maze of a construction zone.  It was then that Hubby decided he didn’t want to live in Chicagoland.

Here in Chicago, we are staying with my friends Pam and Sam Schapmann and their four kids, Nathaniel (14), Elizabeth (11), Caroline (7), and Joshua (6 months).  Pam was my roommate my second year in China.  I was a bridesmaid at their wedding and I’ve watched their kids grow.  It’s been about 6 years since I last saw the Schapmanns, however, and they welcomed me and Hubby like long lost relatives.  They fed us Chicago-style deep dish pizza.  It was then that Hubby decided he could live in Chicagoland.  

Elizabeth, Caroline, Pam, Baby Joshua, Nathaniel, and Sabina

Elizabeth, Caroline, Pam, Baby Joshua, Nathaniel, and Sabina



We had a long discussion about baby blankets.  I did not have an attachment to a baby blanket, but Hubby did.  His mother saved what was left of his baby blanket–nothing but the silk border, which is frayed and yellowed with age and now hermetically sealed in a ziploc bag.  Evidently, all three of the boys in Hubby’s family had well-loved baby blankies and the nostalgia for them run so deep that my 37-year-old husband was horrified by the thought of his baby blankie being thrown out.  It’s a good thing his mother saved it.

I must admit that I cannot relate this this kind of attachment to an inanimate childhood object.  The Schapmanns’ third child,

Caroline and her blankie

Caroline and her blankie

 Caroline, introduced us to her blanket, a Pooh Bear blanket with a section that has been so loved that the fleece has been rubbed out completely.  Caroline uses her blankie to create cloth sculptures and to talk.  She even uses the blankie kiss people.  Hubby says she’s using it to express emotion that she’s not ready to express herself.  Hmm, that’s deep.


I think of Pam as a very practical mother, but she says there’s no way she’d be able to throw out Caroline’s blankie once it becomes nothing but the lining.  There would be no choice about it, she said.  Her two older children did not take to blankies when they were babies, but Caroline will not be parted with hers.  In some ways, the blankie is like a substitute mother, offering comfort to her when her own mother can’t always be there.  

What would Freud have to say about the blankie?

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Visiting the Roeloffs

Day 3 of our transcontinental sojourn took us 480 miles across the state of Nebraska to the city of Lincoln, where we are staying with my friends Teresa and Ken Roeloffs and their two kids, Joshua & Hannah.  The drive across Nebraska was green and flat, with miles of fields that go on forever.  There was one rainstorm and some strong winds along the mostly very straight, flat highway.

I know Teresa & Ken from my days at Peninsula Bible Church in Cupertino, California.  Ken is a California boy and we were both in a group called 20-something.  Teresa is from Iowa and she came out to California as a nanny in the early 1990’s, where she met Ken.  Their wedding was in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and I was fortunate enough to be able to attend.  I happened to be in Iowa City for a writers’ conference the week before the wedding, so I hopped in a rental car and drove across Iowa.  It was a beautiful wedding.  Everyone was blond and sang.

Teresa is the sweetest person you will ever meet and she welcomed us with open arms and a great meal of pastas & ice cream. Hubby played foosball with Joshua, who is a computer genius and easily connected our computers to their wifi system after Hubby had struggled for a few minutes.  Hannah looks like her mom and accompanied us for a walk around the block while the family cat followed.  The cat must think it’s a dog.  Ken, who is a pastor here in Lincoln, was officiating at a wedding and arrived home later, where he happily opened a beer with Hubby.  (I always think it’s a good sign when a pastor has an occasional beer with friends.)  Ken was educated as a civil engineer before going to seminary to become a pastor.  Hubby was fascinated by his combination of geek and people skills.  It’s a rare combination.

It’s been wonderful to reconnect with old friends.  I haven’t seen the Roeloffs for at least a decade and we found each other again through facebook.  Say what you will about technology, but it does have some advantages.  Hubby commented how nice it was to sit and talk with friends as opposed to staying in an impersonal hotel (where you couldn’t hook into the wifi).


Ken, Joshua, Teresa, Sabina, and Hannah with Blackie the Cat

Ken, Joshua, Teresa, Sabina, and Hannah with Blackie the Cat

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Continental Divide

Written June 19, 2009–Today we drove from Twin Falls, Idaho, through a corner of Utah, and across almost the entire state of Wyoming to Laramie, Wyoming—570 miles.  I’m much more confident driving the big yellow truck now and was able to relieve Hubby for two stints, totaling almost 4 hours. The landscape changed from rolling hills to sculpted red cliffs to green and yellow great plains.  We crossed the Continental Divide at 7000 feet above sea level.  

When I was in the 5th grade, I did a report on the state of Wyoming.  I don’t remember very much except for Yellowstone Park, Old Faithful Geyser, Devil’s Tower from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and the fact that the state of Wyoming comes last in the union alphabetically.  As an adult, I associate Wyoming with Dick Cheney, aka Dr. Evil.  In 1998, here in Laramie, a young man named Matthew Shepard was bludgeoned to death for being gay.  That’s all I know about Wyoming.

Driving across this state, it’s vast and beautiful and there’s very little here.  We stopped in Rawlins (population 9000) to find some dinner.  I told Hubby I didn’t want to eat at a chain restaurant (Applebee’s was subpar last night).  For me, one of the best things about traveling is road food. 

We found a little restaurant call Coco’s in a rundown Victorian house.  When we were seated, we were greeted by a smiling family of Asians.  Asians!  In Wyoming!  The waitress greeted us and then couldn’t help but ask me, “Are you Chinese?”  We bantered a little in Mandarin.  I ordered the chicken curry, which tasted just like my mother used to make.  At the end of the meal, Hubby announced “Bao-le,” which means “I’m full.”  

The waitress was tickled.  “Not many Chinese come to Wyoming,” she said.  “Every time I see an Asian, I’m so happy and I ask if they are Chinese.”  She was Chinese-born, but spoke English well, even with a slight twang.  As we got up to leave, she sent us off with, “Y’all have a good night now!”

Here in Laramie, I am less impressed with the available services as I spent over an hour trying to connect to the hotel wifi internet without success.  It should be easier than having to reconfigure my network connections.  Maybe I’m a spoiled bourgeois techie kid from California.  Is the rest of the world still on dial-up?

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A long day’s drive today from Silverton, Oregon, to Twin Falls, Idaho–590 miles.  The change in landscape was pretty dramatic, from the lush green of the Columbia River Gorge to the dry grasslands of Eastern Oregon and Idaho.  Hubby noted a few points of interest, such as the Umatilla Weapons Depot, where they destroy chemical weapons such as sarin gas from World War 2.  Evidently, they’re incinerating their last batch of bad stuff this month and then they’re going to figure out what to do with the depot itself.  Don’t drink the water.

The last time I drove across the country, I was five years old.  While I have lived on both coasts, I haven’t spent much time in the middle of the country, other than major cities like Chicago.   I’ll admit a certain degree of ignorance, even fear, of the middlelands.  We had a late dinner at Applebee’s here in Twin Falls.  It was a pretty crowded restaurant for a Thursday night and people were friendly, but I couldn’t help but notice that I was the only person of color in the entire place.  We’re not in San Francisco anymore.

I did drive for a few hours this afternoon (I’m getting pretty good at changing lanes), but Hubby pulled the lion’s share of our 10 hours of driving.  He’s exhausted.  Hopefully a good night’s rest and a quick dip in the hotel pool will have him in good shape for tomorrow’s drive.

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