Archive for August, 2009


Sometimes it feels as if the universe is conspiring against you.  We had hoped to move our futon into the new house last week.  We thought camping out in our house renovation would help motivate us to do the work more quickly.  But when we tried hauling the futon out of my parents’ garage, we noticed it was moldy.

This is bad news.  It’s been a rainy, hot summer, the kind of summer mold loves.  We noticed our memory foam mattress top was also moldy.  Possible other victims are our mattresses, couch, two loveseats, clothes, and (yikes!) my books.  I don’t know what can be salvaged, if anything, and I’m afraid to look.  I am not one to get too attached to the material, but I will be very unhappy if we have to burn all our belongings and dish out money to buy new furniture.  Not to mention rebuild my library, which includes personalized signed copies of many books.

Maybe moving back to New England was not such a good idea.

My parents picked up an air mattress for us so that we could sack out in the new house.  We managed to install our hardwood floors this weekend, though our out-of-shape bodies are now paying for it.

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The Last Kennedy

I woke up this morning to the news that Ted Kennedy had passed away.  I grew up in Massachusetts during the 70’s and 80’s, when the Kennedys defined Massachusetts politics.  Coming of age during that time, I realize now that my own politics were directly influenced by the Kennedys.  They were champions of civil rights, advocates for the poor, and critics of war.  Jack and Bobby stirred up the pot in the 60’s, but it was Teddy—who has been a senator as long as I have been alive—who brought much of their vision into reality.

I remember when Ted Kennedy ran for president in 1980.  I had a bit of schoolgirl crush on him, his still boyish face, intelligence, and obvious charm.  I hated Ronald Reagan, who I thought was bad actor (and he was).  With Teddy, I felt like I was rooting for the home team, though I was not very conscious of politics back then and didn’t understand the adult implications of the Chappaquiddick incident.  But Teddy was my guy.  I was disappointed when he lost the primary and then pissed off when Reagan won the presidency.  Something was not right with the world.

I left Massachusetts for California in 1986, but I always noted with a tinge of pride the influence Uncle Teddy wielded with his legislation and oratory.  It was Teddy who killed the nomination of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court.  It was Teddy railing against the policies of the Iraq War.  Massachusetts is one of the most progressive states in the union, thanks in no small part to Ted Kennedy.

Ted Kennedy was no saint, that’s for sure.  His ruddy red nose was as stalwart as his tenure in the Senate.  Resist the temptation to canonize the guy in the event of his death.  But it’s interesting for me to be back in New England this summer, at the announcement of his passing.  All of New England mourns.  It feels as if I’ve lost a bit of a political mentor, even though I’ve never even met the guy.  And now it’s time to pick up the torch and keep moving forward.

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Leaking Pipe

I was hoping to move into the new house this weekend.  We’re not quite done with painting and the hardwood floors just arrived, but I figured we would do the work faster if we were actually living here in the basement and faced with the unfinished work everyday.  So I made arrangements to move in this weekend.

Unfortunately, we’ve discovered a leak in the basement.  It’s not a gushing pipe, but enough of a leak to stain the ceiling, warp the drywall, and stain the carpet underneath.  It seems like this leak just recently started dripping, as we found no evidence of it in the house inspection.   Even Hubby, who is pretty meticulous when it comes to house inspections, didn’t notice it.

So we won’t be moving in this weekend.  It doesn’t look like we’ll be able to move until we finish the paint and the hardwoods in the bedrooms.  Hopefully we’ll get our butts in gear and get everything done soon.

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15 Books

Thought this was an interesting exercise.  Throwing my blog readers a bone because I’ve been swamped with family drama.  Hope to resurface soon.

Rules: Don’t take too long to think about it. List 15 books you’ve read that will always stick with you. They should be the first 15 you can recall in no more than 15 minutes. 

1. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
2. Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison
3. Complete Stories, Flannery O’Connor
4. Pale Fire, Vladmir Nabokov
5. Friend of My Youth, Alice Munro
6. Lolita, Vladmir Nabokov
7. Sound & Fury, William Faulkner
8. Otherwise, Jane Kenyon
9. Letters to a Young Poet, Ranier Maria Rilke
10. Beloved, Toni Morrison
11. Mystery & Manners, Flannery O’Connor
12. Pride & Prejudice, Jane Austen
13. Crossing to Safety, Wallace Stegner
14. The Woman Warrior, Maxine Hong Kingston
15. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

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Holding Pattern

We’ve decided to do a few upgrades to our house before moving in, namely painting and installing hardwood floors in the bedrooms.  The rest of the upstairs is already in hardwoods and we’d like to match the bedroom hardwoods with the rest of the house.  The problem is that those particular hardwoods have been discontinued by the manufacturer.  We’ve been on the hunt for remainders.  We’ve found one supplier, but the price is pricey, but we may not have a choice about this one.

In the meantime, my mother has hurt her shoulder, so I’m taking over the cooking at home.  I don’t mind this responsibility, as I do enjoy cooking, but the problem is getting my mother to relax and stay out of the kitchen.  My mother has never been very good at letting other people help her, especially her daughter.  But that’s the whole reason we’ve moved back here, to help my parents.  Maybe letting go in the kitchen is a good first step.  Cooking is one area where my mother admits that I am fairly competent.

Even when we do move into our new house, we will probably have my parents over for dinner often.

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Home Improvement

We like to joke that my family, despite a high degree of intellect and education (my father has two PhD’s–math and physics–and speaks 7 languages), is utterly incapable of performing simple home repair.  Anything more complicated than screwing in a light bulb causes blank stares and much anxiety.

Hubby’s family, on the other hand, revels in home improvement.  When Hubby was a boy, his family added an addition onto their home and Hubby did all the wiring–when he was 10 years old.  Since then, Hubby and his parents have gutted a condo and put it back together, as well as gutted our 1967 ranch house in Portland (complete with fuzzy wallpaper) and put it back together.  Home renovation capabilities include demolition (Hubby’s favorite), framing, dry-walling, plumbing, cutting a hole into a concrete floor, sanding, staining, painting, laying tiles, installing hardwood floors, ad infinitum.  I believe home improvement is how Hubby’s family bonds.

Not so much with my family.  Imagine my surprise when my father offered to help us paint the baby’s room in our new house.  Dad claims he actually has a bit of painting experience, though my mother claims he’s delusional.  (To be fair, Dad does have painting experience with oils and watercolors, Chinese brush-painting and calligraphy.  His calligraphy is quite lovely.)  Still, we figured if Hubby supervised him, Dad would be fine painting a wall.  So after Hubby and I pulled up the carpet, padding, carpet tacks, and baseboards, Dad grabbed a paint roller and slathered on a layer of primer.  And he seemed to like it.

The next day, we needed to put on another layer of primer and my mother insisted on joining us.  Mom’s right shoulder has been bothering her and we were doubtful she’d be able to help.  For the first hour, she stood around and told us when we’d missed a spot.  Then she insisted we take a break because pregnant women shouldn’t be doing manual labor.  So while we were outside getting a breath of fresh air, we hear the paint roller squeaking in the bedroom.  “Your mother can’t sit still,” Dad said.  “She always has to help.”

Mom used her left hand to touch up the primer and it seemed to not bother her, so we let her finish up in the baby’s room, while Hubby and I pulled the carpet from the other bedroom.  It’s not quite the same as cutting a hole in the concrete floor, but priming the baby’s bedroom is a good step in home improvement.


Grandpa and Grandma Chen working on the baby's room

Grandpa and Grandma Chen working on the baby's room

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Nursery Themes

Hubby suggested I paint a mural on the wall of our baby’s nursery.  He grew up with murals of the Wizard of Oz and Peanuts characters on his bedroom walls.  His parents projected the images with an overhead projector and traced them onto the walls.  Quite creative engineering for the 1970’s.

I’ve got quite a bit of experience in the visual arts, so the idea of painting a mural appeals to me, though it’s been a while since I’ve actually painted something.  My original idea was to paint Van Gogh’s Starry Night.  It’s an ambitious project, but I think I would enjoy it and pull off a reasonable, baby-friendly approximation of Van Gogh’s vision.  Hubby requested that I subtly insert a few Star Trek icons into the night sky–a Federation Starship or a Klingon Bird of Prey.

My other idea was to do a motif based on a silkscreen by my friend and mentor, San Francisco artist Nancy Hom.  This work is titled Dancer With Birds.   It has been widely reproduced and we own one of the original silkscreens.  I like how the art is both playful and peaceful, as I hope our baby will be.  Nancy creates her art as a voice for social justice and peace activism; I have always greatly admired her vision.  Hubby, still stuck on the Star Trek theme, has requested that I make one of the birds in the shape of a Klingon Bird of Prey.  I believe this would be doable.  And Nancy has already granted me her permission.

Which image would you want for the nursery wall?

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