Morning chat

Chris has been waking up at unGodly hours the last week or so. This morning, he decided to wake up early and include a morning chat (or late evening chat in Melbourne) with his parents. I joined the conversation when Chris put the phone on speaker at some point. We discussed our apartment search and how it resulted in us staying here, my desire for potted plants, recent work related events, and my rasgulla making project. It was jovial and fun, with the much-anticipated “Tried any good reds?” question from Chris’s dad.

“Why can’t you tell (insert annoying name that Chris calls my mom) about how the rasgulla turned out?” he said jokingly. He loves to do this.

“Because she isn’t going to care!” I shot back.

My parents don’t really care about these things unless they know what the food is. And they definitely should not be told that we were looking for a new and more expensive apartment because my parents have no real knowledge when it comes to renting property; they’ve never rented in their lives and just think everything is too expensive. These are the realities of conversations with my in-laws vs. own parents.

Knowing

My cousin in Sunnyvale texted me to ask what my dates home will be in September. I figured my aunt, his mom, had told him I was coming home. I don’t really proactively tell any of my cousins back in the Bay Area I’m coming home now because I don’t really care that much. This cousin’s brother and wife would probably only come to the city if it were my funeral, so why even bother making the effort?

This cousin is probably the most loyal to my aunt, though. He tells my aunt everything, all the time, and he calls her pretty much every day. I get that every family is different, but I can tell you that if I were dating someone who called his mom willingly every single day just to exchange meaningless information regarding the weather and what I ate, I’d be worried. Yes, I’m aware I used to call my mom every day. But part of me, like you, is sexist, and so I give girls the benefit of the doubt versus boys.

Oddly, I found out today that my cousin may tell my aunt everything, but my aunt certainly doesn’t tell my cousin everything. I told him via text that his mom told me she’d be back in San Francisco on September 6th. He didn’t know she’d be away, and so he asked me where she was going. Strange, I thought. She would tell me she’d be going to Oregon for over a month and not tell her own son? So I told him, and he seemed surprised.

I love finding out information before other people do. It makes them feel like they don’t have as much power.

Three

Dear Ed,

Today marks three years since you left us. Every year when we begin approaching the anniversary of your escape, I always feel an agonizing feeling inside my stomach and wonder if you will come back for a visit. Well, this year, I am not as naive. This year, I didn’t expect you to come visit on your anniversary in my dreams. This year, I was stronger than the last two years, and I knew I could get by without seeing you again. But that doesn’t mean I don’t feel as miserable.

This year has been an emotional year for me. Chris and I had our wedding in March; in fact, I saw you when I walked down the steps to the aisle. You were there. No one else saw you. But I did; you were staring right at me and smiling, just like I thought you’d be. We did all these things to get you to come: we named the tables after your favorite foods, we had photos of us together around the venue; we put your name on our wedding program. Chris even gave a speech and talked about how important you were to me, to us, and how much we missed you that day. It brought tears to my eyes and to all three of my bridesmaids’, my childhood friends that you saw all the time when we were growing up together. There was some surprise regarding how much you were in the wedding, but I didn’t really want it to be a surprise. I wanted every single person to know that I’m painfully aware that you’re no longer part of this life physically, but you will always be in my life — in my head and in my heart. I miss you more than anyone could possibly imagine, and I don’t want you to think that on what is supposed to be the biggest day of my life that I had forgotten about you for even a second.

This year is an election year, and a scary one at that. Donald Trump could end up being our president, and that is absolutely terrifying to me. Sometimes, I slip back into my cynical thinking and I think that the world is going to be a worse place, especially if he ends up getting elected. But then I am quickly reminded that if I keep thinking negatively, I will do you and your memory a disservice. I need to be strong, even when it’s hard, for you. I need to work my hardest to prove to you that life is worth living, that the world is going to be better place in the future for the future children of the world. You know what I want? I want the world to become a better place so that you can look down on us and think, “Man, I wanted out on that? What was I thinking?!” We have a lot of work to do to get there, though.

I don’t want to upset you, but our dad didn’t say anything about the anniversary of your passing as I expected; he never has, and he probably never will. He’s too out of touch with human emotion to be able to do that with me or anyone. Some people and things will never change, sadly. Our mom is picking fights with me about Chris and his family since the wedding, but you probably already predicted yourself that would happen; you probably know our mother better than I do.

When I look back at our time together, I have many regrets… as useless as they are. But one regret I have that I always get reminded of every year is that we didn’t spend your last Christmas together. Under my bed in our tiny apartment here in Manhattan, I still have the collection of ornaments that you and I collected, and many that you so generously bought for me (70-80 percent off at Macy’s after Christmas, no less!). What I want to do is to have our own Christmas tree to hang up all these ornaments, and it would be an ode to you and how much you loved Christmas and everything about it. That home we shared never truly embraced Christmas, but you always looked forward to that time of year anyway. It would be amazing for us to have one more Christmas together, just us, away from the dysfunctional and maddening family we share. You would no doubt drive me crazy with your obsessive compulsive ways and your lack of desire to wash dishes or clean, but I’d suck it up since I haven’t seen you in too long.

There have been a lot of times in the last three years when I wanted to take a break from reality, pause it all, and just come hang out with you. That sounds ridiculous and is clearly impossible, but it doesn’t mean I don’t wish it could happen. I promise I wouldn’t complain about our mother to you, and I also promise that I wouldn’t try to beg you to come back. I just wish I could see you again. I know it’s selfish, but I occasionally find myself envious when I hear about my friends or my colleagues spending time with their siblings like it’s no big deal. I feel even more hurt when they express how close they are to their brother or sister. It shouldn’t be a big deal, but it is to me because I no longer have that option anymore.

A number of colleagues and friends, after learning about your passing and how it happened, tell me they’d like to chat with me about it sometime. For the most part, it doesn’t happen. In the beginning, because it was so new and still raw for me, I didn’t always answer the question of “how” directly, either. It was too much at the time. But as time has gone on, I’m more comfortable talking about it to reduce the stigma around it and to help other people understand what they may not want to or be able to understand. Now, I’ve realized that I’m not really creating the problem; the people who want to know but fear knowing are adding to the problem. I would love to openly tell anyone about this in an effort to potentially help someone else’s life, but so many people are scared. They are scared of my getting hurt (I’m not), they are scared of understanding, and they are probably scared of how they will react. I would love for the day when people would cut the bullshit and just ask what they want to ask and listen — truly listen and not just listen for the moment and move on to the next idea. I’d love for them to listen, digest what they’ve heard, and see how they could apply this knowledge to their lives potentially in the future. I’m sitting here waiting for that to happen.

Well, I decided to do a few things for you to remember you this weekend. I’m making one of your favorite soups — West Lake beef soup. I even made my own stock, used the egg whites, and everything. I’m also making Chinese sticky rice, and contrary to what our grandma used to do, I’m stuffing it like crazy with meat and seafood filling, so the ratio of filling to sticky rice is almost 1:1. I’m sure you would have enjoyed this. If you were here, I also wouldn’t have made you wash the dishes since I know you hate that.

It’s time for me to say goodbye for now. I’ve never really said goodbye to you because it’s too hard for me to say. I couldn’t even say it to you when they closed your casket, and I couldn’t see your face in the flesh again. I couldn’t even be there when they closed it because it was too hard for me that day. I hope you aren’t upset by that.

Each night, I still wait for you to visit. You only really come about once a month now, but that’s okay. You can do whatever you want now since you’re free. You’ve escaped. I won’t see you again here, but just like that Puff Daddy (or P. Diddy now as he’s known) song, “On that morning / When this life is over / I know / I’ll see your face.”

Hope you will be patient with me for that moment because there’s a lot of things I need to do in this life before it’s over. Until then, I’ll see you in my dreams… because that’s all I can really hope for. Love you.

Love,

your hopeful sister Yvonne

Divided

This week has been dismal for multiple reasons for me. This week ends in the third anniversary of my brother’s passing. This week contained my first experience firing someone. And, it is the week of the Republican National Convention, where I heard so much fear and hatred among the Republican speakers and audience, with the exception of Melania Trump and Ivanka Trump’s speeches, that it honestly made me fear for the future.

I’ve never seen a series of speeches that tried to instill fear in the American public. Usually when I think of Republican or Democratic national conventions, I tend to think of them as a time to instill hope for the future, but these speeches were all about how we should fear for our lives and fear our neighbors and potential immigrant neighbors, load our guns, and defend and preserve what is America. I don’t know what America is if it’s a place that is hostile to neighbors, or thinks that it’s actually an easy feat to immigrate here. The “facts” that were discussed during this convention did not appear to me to be facts, but more lies that try to make people hate Hillary Clinton, who really doesn’t deserve that much hate and is frankly getting a lot of this hate because she’s a powerful woman, and make us hate each other more. It felt hurtful to me to watch these speeches, and it pained me to think of the future ahead of us with a potential leader who has no true game plan at all.

Bill Maher and Michael Moore are right. We’re a nation of people who are idiots who will likely be led by Trump because of our laziness to see the truth and cut through all of the Trump campaign’s bullshit.

Plagiarism

What is really amazing is all the crap that the Trump presidential campaign has been able to get away with simply because it is Donald Trump running for president. Every time something stupid has been said or done by this campaign, I always wonder: what would America have said if Mitt Romney said that Mexicans were rapists? How would people have responded if Obama had said he wanted to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico? And if Michelle Obama had plagiarized Laura Bush’s speech from a major convention, the right would never have forgiven Michelle.

The plagiarism of the speech speaks to several things: Obviously, Melania Trump likes Michelle Obama; she admired this speech so much that she read it to her speech writers for her inspiration, leading to this plagiarism (gasp, looking to the other side for inspiration!). Melania can’t write, even though the Trump campaign insists she wrote the speech herself. And, this issue also raises the issue that I know will be raised by the further left in the media and by black people (and really, anyone of color who thinks deeply about this, including me): white people stealing the work of black people and claiming it as their own — an ongoing battle since forever.

Oh, dear. This is the world we are a part of.

Getting fired

No one wants to get fired. It’s not easy to get fired, and it’s also not easy to fire someone. Seven years ago, I was laid off due to the big recession. Sometimes, people don’t differentiate getting downsized due to recessions/overall company layoffs or actually getting let go because of performance, but I think that either way, it’s a pretty miserable experience. I’ll never forget how terrible I felt the morning it happened. It’s funny because I actually had anticipated it for weeks and had even cleaned up my desk and taken home all my belongings two weeks before. I had already started applying for new jobs. But on the day, I still cried and felt unloved, unneeded, and like no one cared about me. I felt like a complete failure. My friends and family called to comfort me. My roommate held me when I got home. But I still felt useless and unneeded.

So, I thought about this throughout today as I prepared to let someone on my team know her employment would be terminated, effective today. It had been a long time coming; she’d dictated to everyone else what days she’d choose to take the liberty to work remotely, was argumentative when I asked her to come into the office during normal office hours during work days, and consistently tried to tell her teammates that she knew better than they did because she’d been at the company longer. She refused feedback constantly and perceived everything as an attack. But despite all this, I felt terrible because I knew how she would feel. She would feel betrayed, like I had pretended to help her since her performance improvement plan but had never really intended to at all. She’d feel like we never appreciated her hours and devotion to the company. She’d feel worthless the way I felt seven years ago when I got laid off. Regardless of whether it’s true or not, she’d feel like she did not deserve this and that she’d done nothing wrong.

It’s cliche, but I’ve learned a lot since that day I got laid off. I learned that my loyalty to a company should never be that deep because frankly, loyalty is dead today. People don’t get pensions anymore; time devoted to a company is now meaningless. I learned that I can’t fully trust anyone I work with while we are still at the same company or in our current partnership, that there would always be things I wouldn’t know that would have the potential to harm me (two minutes before she came downstairs for our final meeting, she went into my manager’s manager’s office and asked him, “If you knew I was getting fired, you’d tell me, right?” He said, of course!). You can be friends with your colleagues; no one is arguing against that. But you should also be very careful what you say, especially when it has to do with the company or others who work there.

I also learned exactly how important perception is; just because you think you work hard doesn’t necessarily mean anyone else thinks you work hard; you need to make that shit obvious. Also, working hard doesn’t mean working longer hours; it means working smarter and more efficiently. Oftentimes in this brainwashed American society we live in, we confuse working hard with working long hours, which is so flawed and simply stupid.

I feel bad for her, and I know she cried on her way out. But I do hope she saw this as a learning experience as cliched as it is, and that she does try to improve herself in her next role. I don’t wish ill will on anyone. Although I still deal with my own trust issues, I really do wish the best for everyone I know, even if I absolutely cannot stand them. Some people I know will never improve (mostly my family, sadly), but it doesn’t mean I don’t still hope for positive change.

Planning to go home

I booked my flight to go home for about a week and a half from the end of August through the first week of September. It’s always one of those bittersweet tasks for me. I love so many things about San Francisco, and while I do love my family, each member of that family drives me up the wall so that I know I can never sanely be home for that long. I told my mom I booked my flight. These are some excerpts of how she responded:

“I’m not trying to be nosy, but can I ask (that’s code for: I’m about to berate you and yes, I am nosy): Why are you staying for such a short time? You should be coming for at least a month. You should do things that make your mummy happy.”

“Just tell your uncle that you are coming home. You told who? Don’t tell anyone else. Did you hear me? Don’t tell anyone else.” (that’s code for: don’t tell your aunt who lives upstairs because I’m mad at her for some nonsense I made up because I enjoy being mad at someone at all times).

“Are you going to be working while you are here? You should take some time off and spend it with me. Always working. You never spend enough time at home. You need to think about me more.” Right.

It could have been worse. This was very mild in the overall scheme of things.

 

Summer cooking

I can’t believe that summer is already half over. I feel like we really just got started, yet it’s already half done. My summer cooking list has barely been touched, and the list keeps getting longer the more I read my favorite food blogs and newspaper food sections.

Two of the more ambitious things that are high on my cooking list this summer are rasmalai, or Indian milk-soaked cheese balls (the description sounds odd, but these little things are so good) and Japanese milk bread. The rasgulla, the cheeseballs of the rasmalai, require milk curdling and straining through a cheesecloth, while the milk bread requires yeast and lots of waiting. But during the times when we aren’t traveling, I want to experiment with new recipes as much as possible to diversify the foods we are eating. It makes home-cooked meals more interesting when you know you aren’t eating the same thing over and over again.

One week visit home

Last night, I dreamt I went home again, and this time surprisingly, Ed was there. My scheduled visit was for one week, and when I realized Ed was home, I was so happy to be there for a full week and wanted to soak it all in… except, he didn’t really feel the same way. He was being moody and negative the entire week, making passive aggressive comments here, snapping at me over there. It was not fun at all.

When it came to the seventh day and I was packing my bag to leave, he said to me, “You must be really happy to be going back to New York.”

I was furious and let him have it. “Happy to be going back to New York? Happy to be going back to New York? I spent an entire week here with you, and you were being negative and annoying the entire time!” I yelled. “And now, I won’t be able to see you ever again! We wasted an entire week together!”

He was quiet for a moment and wrinkled his brow. Clearly, he felt confused. “What do you mean you’ll never see me again?”

My frustration was growing and growing. “What do I mean? I’m never going to see you again BECAUSE YOU ARE DEAD! You aren’t even alive! You aren’t even really here right now!!”

It was as though someone hit him over the head, and he finally understood the situation. He really wasn’t alive. He wasn’t human. He was just a spirit visitor pretending to be one of us. He perked up for a bit and said, “Okay, why don’t we go out together now, then?”

“Okay,” I responded. At least we could have an hour together alone and being seemingly normal without the watchful eye of our parents. And together, we left the house.

We’re almost at the three-year mark of his passing. He always manages to come back around this time, as though he thought that somehow, I’d manage to forget. Little does he know that I’ve never forgotten — in fact, that’s quite impossible, and not a day goes by when I don’t think about him and his eternal absence in my life. It doesn’t really matter where in the world I go or what current events are happening or what people I meet or how I may choose to ‘escape’ my reality — he’s always there in the shadows of my mind.

Adjusting to being back

This weekend will be our first full weekend in New York City in a while. The last two weekends were spent in Korea, while the previous three weekends, Chris had to depart on Sundays for his hectic work trips across the country and to Europe. I’m not sure if he hasn’t adjusted yet to New York time given the chaos of adjusting from East Coast to London/Paris to Seoul time, but all he seems to want to do is rest and be on the couch. I spent the first day back from Korea and Dallas soaking laundry and unpacking, but he still hasn’t unpacked. I’m organizing gifts to give away from our Korea trip, reorganizing the cabinets, and cleaning the bathroom tonight, and he’s snoring on the couch.

This just proves that always being on the go isn’t that good for one’s body. He’s sleeping and it’s only 9pm on a Friday night.