Reupholstering

Our sofa is getting a makeover. I finally got new foam cushions delivered for the seats of the couch and spent tonight resizing the cushions by cutting them with my big bread cutting knife. The cushions came sized a bit bigger than ours, so I had to bring out my DIY self and start cutting away. When I was done resizing, cleaning up the foam shavings, and stuffing them back into the cushion covers, I sat down on the “new” couch to feel a firmness that had never been there before for as long as I’d lived in this apartment. It really was like a new couch, just with the same color and stains from before.

Re-upholstery. It’s like one of those “grown-up” tasks that you tend to hear about when you get older and you have to start doing these things because they are either good for your health or good for your house or good for your kids. Chris thought to do this because he has been having back problems in the last month or so, so the firmer cushions would help with his posture and of course his back. We really are getting older.

Sleep trouble

The last weeks have been odd for me sleep-wise. Because I usually wake up early for the gym, I get tired by around 9:30-10:30 and am usually in bed by 10:30. I would fall asleep fairly quickly, and by 5:30am, my natural internal clock would automatically wake me up to anticipate my 5:50am alarm. However, there’s always been a day or two every week for the last few weeks when I just can’t fall asleep. I’ll lie there, toss and turn, and not fall asleep until around 2 or 3am. I’m not quite sure why. To try to get myself to sleep naturally the other week, I drank two glasses of wine before bed. Well, that did the trick then.

I didn’t recall any dreams until after Chris’s 6:50am alarm went off this morning. By that time, I’d already given up getting up for the gym and stayed in bed. I dreamt that my mother had just seen my aunt, and she started whining and crying about how she tries to move on, but she can’t forget about Ed, especially when my aunt calls her every day at 2:19pm to remind her that Ed is gone.

What is so significant about 2:19pm? Is that the time he left the house to go to the Golden Gate Bridge?

When things never change

I called home today to get a pretty cold, harsh reception from my mom. Apparently, a fellow JW acquaintance, who my mom doesn’t like, met up with her for their usual “field work” over the weekend (that basically means that they went around some neighborhood together trying to pass out their JW pamphlets to “spread the good news”). My mother has never liked this person or her family for what has always seemed to be irrational reasons, and she never liked it when I associated with this woman. Either way, this woman asked about how I was doing, and my mother decided to tell her that I got engaged. She immediately asked, “Is it Chris?” And my mother being my mother immediately got really aggravated. She told my mom that I’d told her that I had visited Chris’s family in Australia. That made my mom even more angry. “I condemn that,” she said to me on the phone today. “But it’s all over with, and I just want peace, so I’m not going to say any more to you about this.”

The irony about that statement is that as long as she keeps talking this way, I will never have any peace in my own life.

There’s no way I could live a life that 100% pleased my mother; I don’t think any of us are capable of doing that with any of our mothers. But in my world, if I 100% pleased my mother, I would not only have to live at home with her and my dad, I’d also have to clean their house, do their laundry, do all their dishes (and God, there are a LOT, even after just breakfast!), be my mother’s chauffeur when I wasn’t working, spend all my free time outside of work with her when she wasn’t doing JW work, never travel anywhere, especially internationally, have no friends (“no one really cares about you, so why do you spend so much effort on them?”), tell no one about anything other than work and current events, not cook, not spend money on “unnecessary things” (that really means… everything that is not groceries), never see any of my relatives or communicate with them, and never tell Chris “personal and confidential” things about my family (that’s pretty much everything about them). The fact that I tell people that I travel with Chris makes my mother very upset because she finds it inappropriate and apparently a disgrace to our family… because we don’t have enough disgrace as there is.

Dosa making at home

It’s been one of my goals this year to expand my cooking horizons cuisine-wise, so I’ve been adding a lot of different spices and sauces to my pantry that span from around the world. This isn’t just an Asian/Western kitchen anymore, but it’s also South Asian, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and African. I’d been perusing multiple dosa (South Indian style rice and lentil-based crepe) recipes, and I finally stumbled upon one that seemed very authentic and doable… with a three-day process. And we can’t have dosa without having an accompanying potato filling, sambar, and coconut chutney, so I’m making those from scratch, too.

Today is day two of the process, and I’m already exhausted. I was thinking about this today while grinding lentils and rice with water in my blender: how the heck did Indians suddenly decide to start grinding rice or lentils with water and make them into a batter for a crepe, to then fill with potato? How would they have learned that rice and beans could be fermented? Dosa is actually a fermented food, which I never would have guessed while eating it in a restaurant. When I look back at the history of different foods and how they came to be, it makes me think that maybe way back when, people were extremely smart and inventive, and now, people like me aren’t that creative and we just rely on finding “new” things via the internet. There are pluses and minuses to everything, especially the internet.

What we don’t know

This whole year, I’ve managed to make one new friend, and he just happens to live in New Jersey, which clearly is not that convenient. Our hangouts have usually been during lunch since we work fairly close to each other, yet given his 1.5 hour commute each way between home and the office, after work doesn’t work, and on weekends, he usually stays in Jersey. I’ve become like the Chris in our friendship — he has shared quite a bit with me, but I haven’t shared much with him that is below the surface.

We were chatting over Google Chat today, and I was telling him about my weekend plans for theater, making dosa, watching the Australian Grand Final (or really, sitting next to Chris while he watches it and I pretend to watch), among other things. He said to me, you have such a happy life. Things seem so good for you. I smiled when I read this. There’s a lot you have no idea about, I responded.

It’s not that I don’t agree with him. I know that overall, I do have a happy life. I live in a city that I love, I work in a buzzing industry with pretty attractive remuneration, I have a life partner who is fully here for me in every possible way, I travel a lot and pursue many different interests and hobbies, and I have friends I love who care about me.

But like the majority of us in the developed world, I have what is known as the deficit attention disorder — I pay attention to what is missing or not good. I think about my unstable mother, my emotionally void father, their dysfunctional marriage and dilapidated and cluttered accident-prone home, and our overall dysfunctional and contentious wider family. I think about Ed and how and why he died. I think about how I don’t have a living brother anymore and how that will plague me the rest of my life, and how no one really can understand that unless they’ve experienced the same thing. I actually said that to my friend the other day over the phone — “I think his death is going to plague me until I die.” The response was total silence. What kind of response am I expecting when I say something like that, anyway?

Church wedding

My mom called tonight to voice her concern at the potential thought that we may decide to have a church wedding. It took some time to calm her down and confirm with her that no, we would not be having a church wedding. She launched into a repeated, angry rant (I’ve heard this rant at least 50 times in the last seven years) regarding my second oldest cousin, who married a woman who was born Catholic, barely practiced it, yet insisted that my cousin convert to Catholicism so that she could have her dream Catholic church wedding. What this ultimately meant for my cousin’s mom and my own mom was that neither of them could watch my cousin get married since they are Jehovah’s Witnesses, and apparently JWs cannot enter another religion’s house of worship. They sat in a car outside the church for the entire three-hour ceremony in the summer of 2007.

At the time, I wasn’t that happy about the situation. No where in the JW version of the Bible does it explicitly state that you cannot enter another religion’s church, yet the “elders” at the congregation advised both my aunt and my mom not to do it. But what annoyed me even more than this was that my cousin’s now wife completely disregarded her future mother-in-law. She didn’t care that her husband’s mother wouldn’t see them get married. It was her wedding, so she wanted it the way she wanted it (my cousin has no balls or opinion, so clearly he did not speak at all during this). At the time I thought, wow, this is just going to pave the way for a very unpleasant future relationship between my aunt and her first daughter-in-law. In the end, I predicted correctly — it’s been terrible ever since.

I can see both sides to the situation, but at the end of the day, I would never do something explicitly against what my future in-laws wanted, especially if it were something as significant as our wedding. It wouldn’t speak well to how I feel about them and “consider” their feelings, and it also doesn’t set a good precedent for future relations. Yet at the same time in this situation, I don’t have a strong feeling about a church wedding; in fact, I am more opposed to it than for it. Neither of us is particularly religious. He was baptized Christian and does nothing Christian anymore, and I believe in God and practice nothing. Having a church wedding in our case would just seem like we were being phony or trying to please his parents or grandmothers. It would certainly not please anyone on my side.

Same place, different experience

Tonight, I went to see a play with a friend called I Like to Be Here: Jackson Heights Revisited, Or, This is a Mango. It was probably one of the best shows I’ve seen in a while, and my friend and I were laughing almost the entire time because of the ethnic interpretations and the very not politically correct statements made.

Jackson Heights is a neighborhood in Queens that I frequented several times a month when I lived in Queens, as it was just two stops away (or about a 25-minute walk) from my old Elmhurst apartment, and even now that I’ve moved into Manhattan, I go there about every couple of months. I’ve always looked at it as a fun, boisterous area full of immigrants, primarily from South Asia and Latin America, but with a good sprinkling of pretty much every ethnicity known to humans. It was portrayed as such in this play, but then I suppose my “yuppie” status was made obvious.

There’s a scene where an assumed to be middle-class white man bumps into a poorer Latina woman (who is a prostitute trying to earn more money to support her child and 10 other relatives in a one-bedroom apartment in Jackson Heights). The white man says to the Latina that Jackson Heights is a “historic neighborhood” in New York City and starts talking about the neighborhood’s rich cultural history. The Latina immediately feels and looks annoyed, and she makes it clear to him that this neighborhood is hardly a “historic” neighborhood — it’s a place where poor immigrants just try their best to survive, hence her tiny apartment housing 12 family members. That type of living situation is the norm for her and her neighbors there.

I don’t think I’ve ever thought of Jackson Heights as a “historic neighborhood” — I’ve always looked at it as the spot to get great Indian, Filipino, South American, Mexican, or many other ethnic foods for a really cheap price. It’s the place I can go for great ethnic markets where I can find all the spices and vegetables I could only dream of getting at Fairway or Whole Foods, or God forbid Gristedes. I guess I am closer to that white man in my experiences of Jackson Heights than the Latina woman.

The unknown

Ever since we got engaged, I’ve been randomly reading different wedding blogs here and there, from standard ones like theknot.com and lover.ly to more practical ones like, well, apracticalwedding.com. Today, I read an article about a marriage that ended because the couple decided from the get-go that they did not want children… until three years later, he changed his mind. And then they divorced.

It was a very simple story; there was nothing incredibly deep or pointed about it. It was really just a story of how people evolve and change, and sometimes, they cannot evolve and change with each other and have to allow the other to change without themselves in the picture in that respect. You might be able to compromise on things like your ideal place to live vs. his because of life circumstances or better career prospects, but you can’t really compromise on something like having children or not. A real person’s life is at stake. If you are the one who didn’t want children, you are giving in to a life that you did not want and responsibilities you never cared to have, and it could end in resentment for your partner and your innocent child.

It made me feel sad to read this. All this talk about vows and spending the rest of our lives together and “’til death do us part” made me think about all the “unknowns” out there that could face us as our life continues, the positives and the negatives. It scares me a little to think of the challenges in our future and how much of what makes up our lives is completely out of my own control, of our own control even.

Homemade seitan

While Chris is away for work this week, I decided to indulge my doughy side and try to make my own seitan. I was inspired by a vegan friend, who had taken me to multiple vegetarian restaurants that served seitan as the “mock meat.” I realized after doing some research that seitan is actually something I ate quite often as a child growing up, yet I didn’t realize it had an English name. It was made in vegetarian stir-fries and eaten during periods when you weren’t supposed to have meat, as my grandma was a Buddhist. In Chinese, it’s called “kaofu.”

Store-bought seitan looked to be quite pricey, so I went to buy some vital wheat gluten flour and make my own. The process is actually pretty simple, and as usual, I found the kneading of the dough very therapeutic. However, this dough was remarkably different than bread dough, as the dough was squishier and even squeaked a lot from the air pockets as I kneaded.

The finished product looked pretty impressive, and I’m looking forward to cooking with it in a stir-fry tomorrow. :)

Friends’ friends

I recently read a book about friendships that talks about how all of your friends that you choose in your life fall into one of eight important friend categories. I’d say that of all the friend categories, I’m probably the worst connector. It’s not that I choose to not introduce my friends to each other. The problem is that my friends generally do not like each other or “click” much. And when trying to get connected, I don’t always get along that well with my friends’ friends. Or maybe I should stop saying that because I recently was introduced to a guy friends’ friends, and we got along quite well last week. So maybe the problem is my female friends’ friends?!

I was at my friend’s house last night for dinner with Chris, and she and her boyfriend decided to take us to her friend’s house party that wasn’t too far away. I was a little bit out of it since I’d had a bit to drink, but I realized that not a single person even tried to talk to me. I tried talking to one person, but it fell a bit flat. Was I dressed differently? Did I have a death stare (I highly doubt this)? The entire ambiance felt like a high school party, and somehow, I just felt so old the entire time I was there and wanted to leave. I didn’t want to be rude about it, so I stayed for some time to try to give it a chance, and we eventually left. i noticed that Chris didn’t talk to anyone, either, and I saw no one approach him. The last thing I heard someone say to us as we waited for our Uber was that we “don’t need to wait behind the gate; it’s safe to stand on the sidewalk.” Yes, because apparently we give off the vibe that we never hang out in Bushwick.

My friend and I will never be each others’ connectors, sadly, even if we did try.