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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!)

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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.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Change is good


Especially when it adds up to $30.50! D and I had been putting off rolling our coin stash for quite some time, but the giant cocoa container we'd been throwing pennies into in the car kept tipping over and spilling the contents everywhere when we were driving (the snap-on lid was nothing against the force of all that metal battering it from underneath). So we emptied the piggy bank over the weekend and went to work.

When we were doing the long-distance thing in college, D and I used to save our pennies to pool when we saw each other. Once we'd saved enough, we'd go, like eager children, to the nearest Ben & Jerry's for ice cream cones. It was something to look forward to, and it gave us a sense of progress toward a goal smaller than reaching the end of commuting (it was also unclear at what point that would happen). I don't think we'll be spending all of this windfall in the same way, but maybe we'll hit a Ben & Jerry's for a (sugar-free) treat as a little reminder of that time. Haven't really thought about how else to use the money yet.

Speaking of change, I've been thinking a lot about the week in Canada with the family Troubadour (both sides of it), and I'm really struck by how my relationship with different members of the family has shifted. When I was very little, we used to go to Toronto at least once each summer, so my aunts and uncles got to know me as a kid reasonably well. Then we stopped going up as regularly for several years -- Dad's job, summer sports, etc., got in the way. By the time I reached high school, we were only visiting for weddings and funerals, which were highly focused events where everyone was busy with the ceremonial tasks at hand (obviously) and no one had time to visit, per se. As a result, I lost touch with my aunts and uncles, and their primary knowledge about me became fairly dated, somewhere in the range of the awkward early teens.

Now fast-forward more than a decade. In the last few summers, I've managed to make it to Toronto to spend time with my grandmother (my only remaining grandparent), so I've been able to catch up with my mom's family somewhat. While we were in town this month, Troubadour Mom, her older sister, and I stayed up into the wee hours talking and talking, which was nice. When I was in that awkward stage, I would still opt to listen to the adults chattering away instead of running around with my cousins -- they were quite a bit older and Troubadour Dad wasn't inclined to have me out of easy retrieval range. This time, though, I was actually included in the conversation. Heavy conversation. Discussions about money (trying to make ends meet), marriage (its challenges), long-standing friction between some of my mother's siblings (the fallout), and the decisions some of those siblings made regarding the health care of their aging parents (possibly dubious). I didn't have anything to say regarding the last two topics, of course, as it wasn't my place, but the fact that my aunt felt comfortable talking about such sensitive things in my presence marked the difference in how she looked at me. Perhaps it was because I'm married (that seems to carry a certain weight with most relatives when it comes to their regard); perhaps it was because I've seen my aunt at least once a year in the last three years and she's had the chance to reacquaint herself with who I am. Whatever it was, I appreciated the change.

Then there are those relatives who, regardless of my marital status or how often they see me, will consider me a child to the day they join their ancestors. One of these people is actually Troubadour Dad, and that bothers me -- not so much because of how he acts toward me when he's on his own, but because of how he acts toward me in front of his family. For some reason, when they're around, Troubadour Dad gets especially sensitive about his image, and if any one of his children does or says anything that threatens to make him lose face (at least, in his own mind), he swiftly invokes the use of public humiliation.

I never thought it was an effective tool when I was a kid, and I really don't think it's appropriate to use on adults. Imagine being told, for reasons unclear, that "you'd better behave" -- while your aunts, uncles, and their grown children are standing right next to you. I won't even try to describe the circumstances under which this occurred while I was in Newfoundland as that will only mire this post in further discussion of convoluted family politics and a debate on whether any wrongs had actually been committed (suffice it to say, for the purpose of scene painting, that we were waiting for a table at a restaurant). My point here: wouldn't you be far more likely to get a desirable response from a grown man or woman by taking the person aside and raising your concerns privately rather than chastising that person as you would a small child, especially given the sizable audience? I'm not sure if the language or the wagging index finger (I kid you not) was more degrading.

But enough about that. Sigh -- I think the trip to Ben & Jerry's is definite. At least the experience there will allow me to feel like a kid again in a good way.

4 comments:

French Fancy said...

I know exactly what you mean here - after my parents died I spent a bit of time with various aunts and elderly cousins - ones that I had never had time for whilst I was growing up. I found a few kindred spirits and it was lovely to be with them on an equal footing instead of being the child with the adult.

How is your grandmother getting on? This must be very depressing for your mother - the photo of the hands was very poignant.

Well done on sorting out the change - French small change is awful - those weeny centimes are a nightmare and we have bowls of them all over the house. I've got the change packs from the bank but that rainy winter's day when I've promised myself that we will sort them out has not seemed to happen - you go and enjoy some well-deserved ice cream.

Contemporary Troubadour said...

FF, thanks for asking -- my grandmother seems to be doing all right in that she's eating well. It's hard to get updates on her, though (she can't talk on the phone because of her condition and the aides are spread too thin to answer calls about the residents). My uncle and his wife, whom my grandmother used to live with (not the family we were staying with on this last visit), go fairly regularly to the nursing home -- the wife will do the evening snack feeding while the uncle watches TV. It's not the most stimulating sort of interaction, but it's at least some kind of companionship.

Troubadour Mom handles all of this pretty well. It is hard on her, though. My sisters and I try to encourage her to visit more often (not something that can be easily arranged).

French Fancy said...

It must be reassuring though for your mum to know that loved ones are popping in regularly. It's awful when you hear of residents in homes who have not had a visitor for years - even though they might still have family

Contemporary Troubadour said...

It's true, FF. We're all very glad that family is there on a regular basis.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Change is good


Especially when it adds up to $30.50! D and I had been putting off rolling our coin stash for quite some time, but the giant cocoa container we'd been throwing pennies into in the car kept tipping over and spilling the contents everywhere when we were driving (the snap-on lid was nothing against the force of all that metal battering it from underneath). So we emptied the piggy bank over the weekend and went to work.

When we were doing the long-distance thing in college, D and I used to save our pennies to pool when we saw each other. Once we'd saved enough, we'd go, like eager children, to the nearest Ben & Jerry's for ice cream cones. It was something to look forward to, and it gave us a sense of progress toward a goal smaller than reaching the end of commuting (it was also unclear at what point that would happen). I don't think we'll be spending all of this windfall in the same way, but maybe we'll hit a Ben & Jerry's for a (sugar-free) treat as a little reminder of that time. Haven't really thought about how else to use the money yet.

Speaking of change, I've been thinking a lot about the week in Canada with the family Troubadour (both sides of it), and I'm really struck by how my relationship with different members of the family has shifted. When I was very little, we used to go to Toronto at least once each summer, so my aunts and uncles got to know me as a kid reasonably well. Then we stopped going up as regularly for several years -- Dad's job, summer sports, etc., got in the way. By the time I reached high school, we were only visiting for weddings and funerals, which were highly focused events where everyone was busy with the ceremonial tasks at hand (obviously) and no one had time to visit, per se. As a result, I lost touch with my aunts and uncles, and their primary knowledge about me became fairly dated, somewhere in the range of the awkward early teens.

Now fast-forward more than a decade. In the last few summers, I've managed to make it to Toronto to spend time with my grandmother (my only remaining grandparent), so I've been able to catch up with my mom's family somewhat. While we were in town this month, Troubadour Mom, her older sister, and I stayed up into the wee hours talking and talking, which was nice. When I was in that awkward stage, I would still opt to listen to the adults chattering away instead of running around with my cousins -- they were quite a bit older and Troubadour Dad wasn't inclined to have me out of easy retrieval range. This time, though, I was actually included in the conversation. Heavy conversation. Discussions about money (trying to make ends meet), marriage (its challenges), long-standing friction between some of my mother's siblings (the fallout), and the decisions some of those siblings made regarding the health care of their aging parents (possibly dubious). I didn't have anything to say regarding the last two topics, of course, as it wasn't my place, but the fact that my aunt felt comfortable talking about such sensitive things in my presence marked the difference in how she looked at me. Perhaps it was because I'm married (that seems to carry a certain weight with most relatives when it comes to their regard); perhaps it was because I've seen my aunt at least once a year in the last three years and she's had the chance to reacquaint herself with who I am. Whatever it was, I appreciated the change.

Then there are those relatives who, regardless of my marital status or how often they see me, will consider me a child to the day they join their ancestors. One of these people is actually Troubadour Dad, and that bothers me -- not so much because of how he acts toward me when he's on his own, but because of how he acts toward me in front of his family. For some reason, when they're around, Troubadour Dad gets especially sensitive about his image, and if any one of his children does or says anything that threatens to make him lose face (at least, in his own mind), he swiftly invokes the use of public humiliation.

I never thought it was an effective tool when I was a kid, and I really don't think it's appropriate to use on adults. Imagine being told, for reasons unclear, that "you'd better behave" -- while your aunts, uncles, and their grown children are standing right next to you. I won't even try to describe the circumstances under which this occurred while I was in Newfoundland as that will only mire this post in further discussion of convoluted family politics and a debate on whether any wrongs had actually been committed (suffice it to say, for the purpose of scene painting, that we were waiting for a table at a restaurant). My point here: wouldn't you be far more likely to get a desirable response from a grown man or woman by taking the person aside and raising your concerns privately rather than chastising that person as you would a small child, especially given the sizable audience? I'm not sure if the language or the wagging index finger (I kid you not) was more degrading.

But enough about that. Sigh -- I think the trip to Ben & Jerry's is definite. At least the experience there will allow me to feel like a kid again in a good way.

4 comments:

French Fancy said...

I know exactly what you mean here - after my parents died I spent a bit of time with various aunts and elderly cousins - ones that I had never had time for whilst I was growing up. I found a few kindred spirits and it was lovely to be with them on an equal footing instead of being the child with the adult.

How is your grandmother getting on? This must be very depressing for your mother - the photo of the hands was very poignant.

Well done on sorting out the change - French small change is awful - those weeny centimes are a nightmare and we have bowls of them all over the house. I've got the change packs from the bank but that rainy winter's day when I've promised myself that we will sort them out has not seemed to happen - you go and enjoy some well-deserved ice cream.

Contemporary Troubadour said...

FF, thanks for asking -- my grandmother seems to be doing all right in that she's eating well. It's hard to get updates on her, though (she can't talk on the phone because of her condition and the aides are spread too thin to answer calls about the residents). My uncle and his wife, whom my grandmother used to live with (not the family we were staying with on this last visit), go fairly regularly to the nursing home -- the wife will do the evening snack feeding while the uncle watches TV. It's not the most stimulating sort of interaction, but it's at least some kind of companionship.

Troubadour Mom handles all of this pretty well. It is hard on her, though. My sisters and I try to encourage her to visit more often (not something that can be easily arranged).

French Fancy said...

It must be reassuring though for your mum to know that loved ones are popping in regularly. It's awful when you hear of residents in homes who have not had a visitor for years - even though they might still have family

Contemporary Troubadour said...

It's true, FF. We're all very glad that family is there on a regular basis.