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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.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Homework, the fun kind

Good (Enough) Woman assigned me something entertaining over at her place: seven things I haven't mentioned before on my blog. Just the thing that might get me out of a writing rut, GEW! So thanks, and here we go ...


1. I used to have curly hair because my mother thought I might look nice with a perm. Not long after my tenth birthday, she took me and my stick-straight Asian tresses to her hairdresser. I was nervous -- no one had ever cut my hair except Troubadour Mom (nor, for that matter, had anyone ever processed it). But I had visions. Oh, such visions -- of sleek, thick, raven-black waves rippling down my back like braids freshly undone at the end of a school day. Only the effect would be permanent! How, I ask you, could I have resisted?

I put myself in the hands of the hairdresser, let her wrap my scalp in curling rods and douse me in chemicals that smelled like rotten eggs. I remember her explaining to me that one solution would break the bonds in my hair while the other would re-fuse them so each strand would conform to the shape of the rods. Rods, braids; same idea, right? I trusted her completely.

After nearly three hours in the hairdresser's chair, I got my first look at the result. It was frizzy. Cloud-like. A wiry, raven-black mass that could hardly move, much less cascade. I went home and told my mother I liked it, even though as soon as I saw my little sisters' still-unsullied locks, I wanted to cry.


2. If you've ever permed your hair, you know how awful it is when the perm is half grown-out. Because I looked so bad during that in-between stage, I continued to get perms for the next thirteen years. I had to finish college before I got up the guts to let nature put my hair back the way it was supposed to be. It took almost two years.


3. Continuing the bad-hair theme: I have watched every episode of MacGyver ever filmed. Including the two made-for-TV movies that followed a few years after the series ended. While Richard Dean Anderson's mullet did little to inspire me to get out of the vicious perm cycle, watching the man escape from various tight spots did turn out to have educational value one summer when my sisters and I got trapped in an elevator with our grandfather, who started to panic and have chest pain. Remembering what MacGyver had demonstrated many times, I wedged my fingers into the crack at one end of the elevator's single door and rolled it open. (The car was already right at our floor, so there was no need to do anything really wild like climbing up the shaft, thank the gods.) Once Grandpa got some nitroglycerin in him, all was well again.


4. I age people. Not by getting them trapped in elevators -- I mean that, when I've got nothing to do in a public location (say, while waiting for the bus), I look at people, particularly children, and imagine what their faces will look like when they're older. I don't know how long I've been doing this, but I'm guessing it's been going on since I was a kid. I say this because when I was a sophomore in college, I recognized a girl whom I randomly bumped into at a start-up meeting for a creative writing group. I hadn't seen her or kept in touch with her since I moved away from our home state at the end of third grade, but I was 99.9 percent sure of her identity when I saw her from across the room -- something familiar about the shape of her slightly turned-up nose, the position of her eyes in relation to it, still squinty whenever she smiled. "Christina?" I said. "It's CT."

Her jaw dropped. "I totally didn't recognize you!" she said. "Wow, your hair's curly now ..."


5. I took my first bath last month. Wait, before you run away from any imagined stench, let me explain! On an ordinary day, I'm a shower girl -- have been since the day I could stand in the stall without slipping. (It was easier for my mother to get three girls clean using a removable shower head rather than bending over the edge of the tub to scrub us while kneeling.) On occasion, she would let my sisters and me play in the tub with about three inches of water in it, but definitely no filling it all the way. We lived very frugally.

So the house we bought last spring has an enormous soaking tub in the master bathroom. The weekend before D and I were to leave for all our holiday visits, I decided to treat myself to a proper luxury bath. I lit candles, put on soft music, ran the water till the tub was full. I added the bath salts we'd received as a favor from somebody's wedding and body wash for some bubbles. Sank in, melted. Bliss.


6. I do my best thinking in the shower. Sometimes this leads to fairly comical moments of near-indecency -- if I come up with an idea I'm afraid I'll forget (which is a strong possibility, the forgetting), I'll jump right out from under the spray to go write my thoughts down. Most of the time, I'll grab a towel, but I'm sure that many years ago, when my sisters and I were sharing a bathroom, I streaked past them at least once. You'd think I would have learned by now to put a piece of paper and something to write with by the sink, but sadly, I have yet to do that. And if you're wondering, no, baths aren't the same. In fact, they cause the opposite effect: total mind vacation.


7. I would not have reclaimed my girl-ness without my sisters. Even though they are younger than I am (or perhaps because of that), they were the ones who taught me, among other things, how to put on makeup, how to use a razor, how to treat myself to pretty underwear. These were things my parents didn't want to encourage, and they had good reasons (probably influenced to a degree by the disastrous perm but more likely born of the culture in which they grew up). By the time my sisters were old enough to handle eyeliner, though, the parents Troubadour had relaxed somewhat.

Thank goodness. My sisters were and continue to be the best teachers I've ever had.

Photo courtesy of Almost Dr. Sis

I'm passing this homework assignment along to these seven people (in no particular order), whose blogs I love reading:
No rush, though! And if I didn't name you, it's very likely that it's because you've already been tagged with this very recently and I didn't want to make you redo it. (I have a fairly small blog circle, but it does grow, even if it's a very gradual process ...)

9 comments:

Good Enough Woman said...

Ah, CT, I'm so sorry for your perm years. I lived through those years, too. And I'm sorry you only had three inches of water to play in.

And that is SO cool that you MacGyvered your way out of an elevator and saved your G-Pa. Nice work!

Tell me when it's your b-day. Sounds like you need a dry-erase board and some bath toys for the bathroom (Santa gave my daughter some "Tub Time Pirates." Sound good?).

:)

Sherlock said...

I remember the perm years too. And showers -- can't remember the last time I was in a tub! And I remember MacGyver too!! Great post!

Contemporary Troubadour said...

GEW -- the dry-erase board idea is terrific! And the Tub Time toys are adorable. How did you know I had a pirate streak in me? I loved the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disney World ;)

And to both you and Sherlock -- what is UP with those perm years??? I do have to say, though, that such events weren't isolated to one particular decade. My mother was subjected to the same treatment at a very young age -- like her three older sisters, she was taken to the salon to have her hair done. Hers just didn't respond quite so badly. So I can't really blame the experience solely on what was fashionable at the time, as it's apparently a family tradition too?

Amanda@Lady Scientist said...

Oh! I'm looking forward to doing this one. :) I have the same shower problem... I just repeat the idea over and over again-- thereby forgetting if I've washed my hair yet.

Contemporary Troubadour said...

That's almost exactly what happens to me, Amanda! In my case it's "Wait, did I wash out the conditioner yet?" Hard to tell, so I'm forever giving my hair an extra rinse ...

Bev said...

I REMEMBER THE STREAKING INCIDENT! I think it was to write down a character's name that had come to you in the suds.

Contemporary Troubadour said...

Er -- my apologies? ;) Wow, I'm impressed you remember WHAT was so important to write down, given the circumstances! (No recall here about that.)

TKW said...

You are making me re-live some very painful memories of Perm. *shudder*

Contemporary Troubadour said...

Exorcising them, TKW, exorcising them!

;)

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Homework, the fun kind

Good (Enough) Woman assigned me something entertaining over at her place: seven things I haven't mentioned before on my blog. Just the thing that might get me out of a writing rut, GEW! So thanks, and here we go ...


1. I used to have curly hair because my mother thought I might look nice with a perm. Not long after my tenth birthday, she took me and my stick-straight Asian tresses to her hairdresser. I was nervous -- no one had ever cut my hair except Troubadour Mom (nor, for that matter, had anyone ever processed it). But I had visions. Oh, such visions -- of sleek, thick, raven-black waves rippling down my back like braids freshly undone at the end of a school day. Only the effect would be permanent! How, I ask you, could I have resisted?

I put myself in the hands of the hairdresser, let her wrap my scalp in curling rods and douse me in chemicals that smelled like rotten eggs. I remember her explaining to me that one solution would break the bonds in my hair while the other would re-fuse them so each strand would conform to the shape of the rods. Rods, braids; same idea, right? I trusted her completely.

After nearly three hours in the hairdresser's chair, I got my first look at the result. It was frizzy. Cloud-like. A wiry, raven-black mass that could hardly move, much less cascade. I went home and told my mother I liked it, even though as soon as I saw my little sisters' still-unsullied locks, I wanted to cry.


2. If you've ever permed your hair, you know how awful it is when the perm is half grown-out. Because I looked so bad during that in-between stage, I continued to get perms for the next thirteen years. I had to finish college before I got up the guts to let nature put my hair back the way it was supposed to be. It took almost two years.


3. Continuing the bad-hair theme: I have watched every episode of MacGyver ever filmed. Including the two made-for-TV movies that followed a few years after the series ended. While Richard Dean Anderson's mullet did little to inspire me to get out of the vicious perm cycle, watching the man escape from various tight spots did turn out to have educational value one summer when my sisters and I got trapped in an elevator with our grandfather, who started to panic and have chest pain. Remembering what MacGyver had demonstrated many times, I wedged my fingers into the crack at one end of the elevator's single door and rolled it open. (The car was already right at our floor, so there was no need to do anything really wild like climbing up the shaft, thank the gods.) Once Grandpa got some nitroglycerin in him, all was well again.


4. I age people. Not by getting them trapped in elevators -- I mean that, when I've got nothing to do in a public location (say, while waiting for the bus), I look at people, particularly children, and imagine what their faces will look like when they're older. I don't know how long I've been doing this, but I'm guessing it's been going on since I was a kid. I say this because when I was a sophomore in college, I recognized a girl whom I randomly bumped into at a start-up meeting for a creative writing group. I hadn't seen her or kept in touch with her since I moved away from our home state at the end of third grade, but I was 99.9 percent sure of her identity when I saw her from across the room -- something familiar about the shape of her slightly turned-up nose, the position of her eyes in relation to it, still squinty whenever she smiled. "Christina?" I said. "It's CT."

Her jaw dropped. "I totally didn't recognize you!" she said. "Wow, your hair's curly now ..."


5. I took my first bath last month. Wait, before you run away from any imagined stench, let me explain! On an ordinary day, I'm a shower girl -- have been since the day I could stand in the stall without slipping. (It was easier for my mother to get three girls clean using a removable shower head rather than bending over the edge of the tub to scrub us while kneeling.) On occasion, she would let my sisters and me play in the tub with about three inches of water in it, but definitely no filling it all the way. We lived very frugally.

So the house we bought last spring has an enormous soaking tub in the master bathroom. The weekend before D and I were to leave for all our holiday visits, I decided to treat myself to a proper luxury bath. I lit candles, put on soft music, ran the water till the tub was full. I added the bath salts we'd received as a favor from somebody's wedding and body wash for some bubbles. Sank in, melted. Bliss.


6. I do my best thinking in the shower. Sometimes this leads to fairly comical moments of near-indecency -- if I come up with an idea I'm afraid I'll forget (which is a strong possibility, the forgetting), I'll jump right out from under the spray to go write my thoughts down. Most of the time, I'll grab a towel, but I'm sure that many years ago, when my sisters and I were sharing a bathroom, I streaked past them at least once. You'd think I would have learned by now to put a piece of paper and something to write with by the sink, but sadly, I have yet to do that. And if you're wondering, no, baths aren't the same. In fact, they cause the opposite effect: total mind vacation.


7. I would not have reclaimed my girl-ness without my sisters. Even though they are younger than I am (or perhaps because of that), they were the ones who taught me, among other things, how to put on makeup, how to use a razor, how to treat myself to pretty underwear. These were things my parents didn't want to encourage, and they had good reasons (probably influenced to a degree by the disastrous perm but more likely born of the culture in which they grew up). By the time my sisters were old enough to handle eyeliner, though, the parents Troubadour had relaxed somewhat.

Thank goodness. My sisters were and continue to be the best teachers I've ever had.

Photo courtesy of Almost Dr. Sis

I'm passing this homework assignment along to these seven people (in no particular order), whose blogs I love reading:
No rush, though! And if I didn't name you, it's very likely that it's because you've already been tagged with this very recently and I didn't want to make you redo it. (I have a fairly small blog circle, but it does grow, even if it's a very gradual process ...)

9 comments:

Good Enough Woman said...

Ah, CT, I'm so sorry for your perm years. I lived through those years, too. And I'm sorry you only had three inches of water to play in.

And that is SO cool that you MacGyvered your way out of an elevator and saved your G-Pa. Nice work!

Tell me when it's your b-day. Sounds like you need a dry-erase board and some bath toys for the bathroom (Santa gave my daughter some "Tub Time Pirates." Sound good?).

:)

Sherlock said...

I remember the perm years too. And showers -- can't remember the last time I was in a tub! And I remember MacGyver too!! Great post!

Contemporary Troubadour said...

GEW -- the dry-erase board idea is terrific! And the Tub Time toys are adorable. How did you know I had a pirate streak in me? I loved the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disney World ;)

And to both you and Sherlock -- what is UP with those perm years??? I do have to say, though, that such events weren't isolated to one particular decade. My mother was subjected to the same treatment at a very young age -- like her three older sisters, she was taken to the salon to have her hair done. Hers just didn't respond quite so badly. So I can't really blame the experience solely on what was fashionable at the time, as it's apparently a family tradition too?

Amanda@Lady Scientist said...

Oh! I'm looking forward to doing this one. :) I have the same shower problem... I just repeat the idea over and over again-- thereby forgetting if I've washed my hair yet.

Contemporary Troubadour said...

That's almost exactly what happens to me, Amanda! In my case it's "Wait, did I wash out the conditioner yet?" Hard to tell, so I'm forever giving my hair an extra rinse ...

Bev said...

I REMEMBER THE STREAKING INCIDENT! I think it was to write down a character's name that had come to you in the suds.

Contemporary Troubadour said...

Er -- my apologies? ;) Wow, I'm impressed you remember WHAT was so important to write down, given the circumstances! (No recall here about that.)

TKW said...

You are making me re-live some very painful memories of Perm. *shudder*

Contemporary Troubadour said...

Exorcising them, TKW, exorcising them!

;)