Blogroll

When I'm not here, you may find me wandering the pages below. (If I'm a regular visitor to your site and I've left your link off or mislinked to you, please let me know! And likewise, if you've blogrolled me, please check that my link is updated: thisroamanticlife.blogspot.com. The extra (a) makes all the difference!)

Archives

For posts sorted by date or label, see the links below.

For posts on frequently referenced topics, click the buttons to the right.

To search this blog, type in the field at the top left of the page and hit enter.

Body: in sickness and in health

I won't lie; this body and I have had our issues with each other for many years. Body image -- sure. Physical and mental overextension -- comes with being a Type A kind of girl. I still struggle with these things, so they show up from time to time in my writing.

More recently, illness, pure but not simple, has added itself to the mix in a multi-system sort of way. And the challenges in figuring out exactly what's gone wrong are many. As problems have revealed themselves in the last few years, beginning with reactive hypoglycemia in late 2008, I've documented them here, partly to gain a little clarity on managing complex conditions but mostly to give voice to vulnerabilities I feel but don't normally share with anyone face to face. Better out than in, they say, right? (Oh yes, humor is one way I deal.)

The links below cover the different angles I've examined (and from which I've been examined) within that experience.

Travel: neither here nor there

When the person you're married to lives two time zones away, you log a fair number of frequent flier miles. And if you blog about commuter relationships, you log quite a few posts en route too.

Since we're no longer in separate places, I blog less often from airports. But we do travel -- together now! -- which is much more fun to write about. So in addition to thoughts on our years of commuting, the links below cover the places we've been as a pair and, in some cases, the adventures that have happened on the way.

Writing: the long and short of it

Why do I do it? Good question. Maybe it's not so much that I like to write but that I have to write, even when the words refuse to stick to the page. Believe me, I've tried doing other things like majoring in biochemistry (freshman fall, many semesters ago). Within a year, I'd switched to English with a concentration in creative writing and wasn't looking back.

After graduating, I taught English for a few years and then worked as an editor, which I still do freelance. In 2007, I applied and got into an MFA program at a place I like to call Little U. on the Prairie. I finished my degree in 2011 and have been balancing tutoring and writing on my own ever since.

The following links cover the writing I've done about writing: process, content, obstacles, you name it. It's not always pretty. But some part of me loves it, even when it's hard. And this is the result.

Heart: family and friends

I'd have a hard time explaining who I am without being able to talk about the family I grew up in as well as the people I've met beyond its bounds. But even with such context, it's not easy! In the simplest terms, I'm a first-generation Asian-American who has spent most of this life caught between cultures. That, of course, doesn't even begin to describe what I mean to, but there's my first stab at the heart of it all.

That's what this group of posts is reserved for -- heart. The essential parts of my life whose influences I carry with me, for better or worse. The links below cover what I've written as I've learned how these forces work within me, for me, against me, in spite of me. They anchor me even as they change me, and they keep life interesting.

Recommended reading

What do I do when there's too much on my mind and my words won't stick to the page? I escape into someone else's thoughts. Below is a collection of books and articles that have been sources of information, inspiration, and occasional insight for my own work.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Processing and processing

Some time back in early November, I reached the one-year mark for a writing goal I didn't realize I'd set for myself.

When I finished my thesis for Little U. on the Prairie in 2011, I wasn't sure how I felt about writing. I'd spent four years wrestling with words in an environment that was meant to give me the time and space to do just that. And yet, after being put through all the academic paces that went with that luxury, I felt like I'd trained for a foot race only to learn that the event I'd signed up for was for swimmers.

Writing in real life is not a process bookended by predictable deadlines at various points in the semester. Nor is it something you're lucky enough to do with a preselected set of peer reviewers. Not that the work that comes out of all that is at all good, either -- in fact, some of my worst writing happened at Little U. Forced into artificial final form for the end of each term, my work was undergoing revision -- prematurely, it seemed -- before I had even had time to get distance from it, much less consider all the feedback from my professors and their workshops. I hated my thesis. The first five chapters felt like mine, but the rest didn't come from my writing brain; they were a strange, out-of-body text generated to make page count.

Somehow, in creating those final two chapters, I lost my voice and my way. When I got back to Seattle after my defense, I couldn't understand why something I had once loved doing and felt confident doing, despite its difficulties, was suddenly like trying to do calculus without knowing any basic math.

So I stopped writing for two years. Partly because life happened -- I'd been sick for more than half the time I was a graduate student with no explanation in sight and I wanted some answers. We got them. And then we had O. Any hope I'd had of getting back to the page evaporated with my claim on a proper night's sleep for the first nine months of his existence. In the haze of new parenthood, the idea of a writing life was so implausible that spontaneously sprouting a third arm was looking more likely (and at the very least, more useful in baby-wrangling).

But in that mid-fall of O.'s first year, I sat down in front of this screen and put words there, one by one. Not the random notes on life with O. that I'd been posting infrequently, but words from my writing brain. It felt strange. It wasn't the voice I'd had in the past nor the stand-in text generator from my final months of work for Little U. I didn't question it. I just wrote.

And I kept doing that. In fits and starts, yes, but always with the knowledge that I would come back to whatever I left behind, as long as it was giving back to me some measure of mental energy that being a mother wasn't. And suddenly, it was November again, and the work was no longer an exercise but a comfortably demanding habit or practice, which is what I'd wanted it to become all along. I think in returning to the screen, the words, the ways of thinking I had abandoned, I was hoping to make them the part of my life I had failed to establish in a meaningful manner in my previous attempts.

I am still at my keyboard even though there's been little to read for a while here. Words are finding their way to the page, so much so that what I'm working on is no longer a reasonable fit for this space on sheer length and scope alone. So if I'm silent, it's not for lack of news or thought. I'm just working.

This is more than I ever expected would come of going back to something that felt more and more exacting with less and less benefit to anyone when I left Little U. If it hadn't been for O., I might not have pursued it at all. But having him has given me a different lens through which to consider the subjects I write about -- the nature of family and its ever-evolving dynamics -- and with that change, the old sensation of being lost has gradually faded.

I still have no map for the path forward with my work. But for now, I'm no longer trying to see a way out of it.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Rude awakenings

At quarter after 11 on a drizzly Wednesday, O. pushes off my lap, where he's been climbing up and down all morning, and starts rubbing his eyes. My rendition of "This is the way the ladies ride," which I've been repeating for half an hour with all the associated bouncing speeds, has finally lost its appeal, and the tell-tale signs of tiredness are on both our faces.

For most of O.'s life, I've automatically kept an eye on the clock -- if it isn't time for him to eat, nap, or be changed, it's almost time -- and we both do better when he gets his needs met on a reasonable schedule. Of late, though, despite my attention to his usual signals -- half-mast eyelids, a sudden interest in cuddling rather than running circles around the sofa -- O.'s barely been sleeping during the day, and I have yet to figure out why.

I've grown skittish of his new quickness to wake. And resentful of every rumbling truck, yapping dog, and shrieking middle-schooler passing our door at certain times of day. Our walls are thin. While O. used to slumber through almost anything, the slightest disturbance now raises his banshee howls right away.

I know he's not fully rested. When he used to nap for three hours straight, he'd wake up babbling to himself and thump the bars of his crib with glee. His screams of distress complain of interruption, of the sudden, abrupt transition from a dream state to reality, almost like the indignant cries of an infant just born. I'd pity him more if his predicament didn't mean a similar disruption of my own work. I am inevitably writing -- I've stepped into that ever changing current of words and thoughts that will only be here in this form on this day now when, unexpectedly, I'm hurled from the stream onto the rocky shore again and someone has made off with my towel and shoes.

Today, though I'm tempted to hustle him off to his crib right away, I buckle O. into his high chair and put his favorite foods on the tray. It's hard to know if this is the right choice -- if I delay putting him down, am I missing that magical window where he'll naturally fall into his deepest sleep state, or if I don't, will I set him up to wake too soon because he's hungry? He seizes a pork rib, bone and all, and gnaws contentedly. That he has the patience for this tells me all is as it should be for now.

I take O. to his room an hour later. There's minimal protest -- a whimper or two as I leave him, but he's quiet in seconds. At last, I can sit and think, the blank page before me, only the slight hiss of air through the floor registers for company.

But I can't settle. Three delivery trucks motor through, engines thrumming. Our neighborhood school lets out, and children call after their friends as they head to the park down the street. It's not the noises themselves distracting me -- I've written in a college dorm that faced a local fire house and in an apartment under another inhabited by an old professor who thumped around with his cane at all hours. He'd swear in Greek every time he couldn't get his PowerPoint slides working for his next day's lecture, which seemed to be a frequent problem. No -- I only cringe now because I'm anticipating a rude awakening for O. and me, though I haven't even entered that meditative state I've been looking forward to.

This can't continue, I tell myself. You can't jump at every potential disturbance or you won't get anything done.

But there is no solution for this when I am both mother- and writer-in-residence. I laugh wryly at the idea of parenthood as a post one might apply for like a guest lectureship at a university. I enjoyed the visiting professors who rotated through my department when I was working on my MFA, but as they weren't permanent, the connections I made with them always felt tenuous and harder to guarantee. That certainly wouldn't be an ideal dynamic for me or O.

Still, I wish in this moment for a little less mother brain and more of the focus that only a particularly emphatic stream of profanity from the old man upstairs could break.

*

I'm linking up with Just Write this week. For more stories and essays, click the button below.

Posts by label

Air travel Airline food Allergic reactions Astoria Awards Bacteremia Bacterial overgrowth Baggage beefs Bed and breakfast Betrayal Blues Body Boston Breastfeeding British Columbia California Canada Cape Spear Clam-digging Colonoscopy Commuter marriage Cooking CT scans Delays Diagnoses Dietitians Doctor-patient relationships Doctors Eating while traveling Editing Endocrine Endoscopy ER False starts Family dynamics Feedback Food anxiety Food sensitivities Gate agent guff GI Halifax Heart Home-making House hunting Hypoglycemia In-laws Intentional happiness Iowa Journaling Kidney stones Knitting Lab tests Little U. on the Prairie Liver function tests Long Beach Making friends in new places Malabsorption Massachusetts Medical records Medication Mentorship MFA programs Miami Monterey Motivation Moving Narrative New York Newark Newfoundland Nova Scotia Olympic Peninsula Ontario Ophthalmology Oregon Oxalates Pancreatic function tests Parenting Parents Paris Pets Photography Portland Prediabetes Pregnancy Process Professors Publishing Reproductive endocrine Research Revision Rewriting Rheumatology San Francisco Scenes from a graduation series Scenes from around the table series Seattle Sisters Skiing St. John's Striped-up paisley Teaching Technological snafus Texas Thesis Toronto Travel Travel fears Traveling while sick Ultrasound Urology Vancouver Victoria Voice Washington Washington D.C. Weight When words won't stick Whidbey Island Why we write Workshops Writers on writing Writing Writing friends Writing in odd places Writing jobs Yakima

Friday, January 16, 2015

Processing and processing

Some time back in early November, I reached the one-year mark for a writing goal I didn't realize I'd set for myself.

When I finished my thesis for Little U. on the Prairie in 2011, I wasn't sure how I felt about writing. I'd spent four years wrestling with words in an environment that was meant to give me the time and space to do just that. And yet, after being put through all the academic paces that went with that luxury, I felt like I'd trained for a foot race only to learn that the event I'd signed up for was for swimmers.

Writing in real life is not a process bookended by predictable deadlines at various points in the semester. Nor is it something you're lucky enough to do with a preselected set of peer reviewers. Not that the work that comes out of all that is at all good, either -- in fact, some of my worst writing happened at Little U. Forced into artificial final form for the end of each term, my work was undergoing revision -- prematurely, it seemed -- before I had even had time to get distance from it, much less consider all the feedback from my professors and their workshops. I hated my thesis. The first five chapters felt like mine, but the rest didn't come from my writing brain; they were a strange, out-of-body text generated to make page count.

Somehow, in creating those final two chapters, I lost my voice and my way. When I got back to Seattle after my defense, I couldn't understand why something I had once loved doing and felt confident doing, despite its difficulties, was suddenly like trying to do calculus without knowing any basic math.

So I stopped writing for two years. Partly because life happened -- I'd been sick for more than half the time I was a graduate student with no explanation in sight and I wanted some answers. We got them. And then we had O. Any hope I'd had of getting back to the page evaporated with my claim on a proper night's sleep for the first nine months of his existence. In the haze of new parenthood, the idea of a writing life was so implausible that spontaneously sprouting a third arm was looking more likely (and at the very least, more useful in baby-wrangling).

But in that mid-fall of O.'s first year, I sat down in front of this screen and put words there, one by one. Not the random notes on life with O. that I'd been posting infrequently, but words from my writing brain. It felt strange. It wasn't the voice I'd had in the past nor the stand-in text generator from my final months of work for Little U. I didn't question it. I just wrote.

And I kept doing that. In fits and starts, yes, but always with the knowledge that I would come back to whatever I left behind, as long as it was giving back to me some measure of mental energy that being a mother wasn't. And suddenly, it was November again, and the work was no longer an exercise but a comfortably demanding habit or practice, which is what I'd wanted it to become all along. I think in returning to the screen, the words, the ways of thinking I had abandoned, I was hoping to make them the part of my life I had failed to establish in a meaningful manner in my previous attempts.

I am still at my keyboard even though there's been little to read for a while here. Words are finding their way to the page, so much so that what I'm working on is no longer a reasonable fit for this space on sheer length and scope alone. So if I'm silent, it's not for lack of news or thought. I'm just working.

This is more than I ever expected would come of going back to something that felt more and more exacting with less and less benefit to anyone when I left Little U. If it hadn't been for O., I might not have pursued it at all. But having him has given me a different lens through which to consider the subjects I write about -- the nature of family and its ever-evolving dynamics -- and with that change, the old sensation of being lost has gradually faded.

I still have no map for the path forward with my work. But for now, I'm no longer trying to see a way out of it.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Rude awakenings

At quarter after 11 on a drizzly Wednesday, O. pushes off my lap, where he's been climbing up and down all morning, and starts rubbing his eyes. My rendition of "This is the way the ladies ride," which I've been repeating for half an hour with all the associated bouncing speeds, has finally lost its appeal, and the tell-tale signs of tiredness are on both our faces.

For most of O.'s life, I've automatically kept an eye on the clock -- if it isn't time for him to eat, nap, or be changed, it's almost time -- and we both do better when he gets his needs met on a reasonable schedule. Of late, though, despite my attention to his usual signals -- half-mast eyelids, a sudden interest in cuddling rather than running circles around the sofa -- O.'s barely been sleeping during the day, and I have yet to figure out why.

I've grown skittish of his new quickness to wake. And resentful of every rumbling truck, yapping dog, and shrieking middle-schooler passing our door at certain times of day. Our walls are thin. While O. used to slumber through almost anything, the slightest disturbance now raises his banshee howls right away.

I know he's not fully rested. When he used to nap for three hours straight, he'd wake up babbling to himself and thump the bars of his crib with glee. His screams of distress complain of interruption, of the sudden, abrupt transition from a dream state to reality, almost like the indignant cries of an infant just born. I'd pity him more if his predicament didn't mean a similar disruption of my own work. I am inevitably writing -- I've stepped into that ever changing current of words and thoughts that will only be here in this form on this day now when, unexpectedly, I'm hurled from the stream onto the rocky shore again and someone has made off with my towel and shoes.

Today, though I'm tempted to hustle him off to his crib right away, I buckle O. into his high chair and put his favorite foods on the tray. It's hard to know if this is the right choice -- if I delay putting him down, am I missing that magical window where he'll naturally fall into his deepest sleep state, or if I don't, will I set him up to wake too soon because he's hungry? He seizes a pork rib, bone and all, and gnaws contentedly. That he has the patience for this tells me all is as it should be for now.

I take O. to his room an hour later. There's minimal protest -- a whimper or two as I leave him, but he's quiet in seconds. At last, I can sit and think, the blank page before me, only the slight hiss of air through the floor registers for company.

But I can't settle. Three delivery trucks motor through, engines thrumming. Our neighborhood school lets out, and children call after their friends as they head to the park down the street. It's not the noises themselves distracting me -- I've written in a college dorm that faced a local fire house and in an apartment under another inhabited by an old professor who thumped around with his cane at all hours. He'd swear in Greek every time he couldn't get his PowerPoint slides working for his next day's lecture, which seemed to be a frequent problem. No -- I only cringe now because I'm anticipating a rude awakening for O. and me, though I haven't even entered that meditative state I've been looking forward to.

This can't continue, I tell myself. You can't jump at every potential disturbance or you won't get anything done.

But there is no solution for this when I am both mother- and writer-in-residence. I laugh wryly at the idea of parenthood as a post one might apply for like a guest lectureship at a university. I enjoyed the visiting professors who rotated through my department when I was working on my MFA, but as they weren't permanent, the connections I made with them always felt tenuous and harder to guarantee. That certainly wouldn't be an ideal dynamic for me or O.

Still, I wish in this moment for a little less mother brain and more of the focus that only a particularly emphatic stream of profanity from the old man upstairs could break.

*

I'm linking up with Just Write this week. For more stories and essays, click the button below.