Global Entry and TSE Pre-Check

My Global Entry status expired earlier this year, and given we had no idea when we would get vaccinated at the beginning of the year to be safe enough to get on a plane, I didn’t jump to renew it before the expiry date. When we finally did become fully vaccinated in May, Chris scheduled my Global Entry interview (part of the application process, even with renewals, unfortunately), but there were long waits and the earliest we could get was the last week of June. The plus side is that I didn’t need to go to the airport to do the interview in person, and instead, I was able to do a Zoom interview with a Customs Border Patrol officer. I did this on Sunday, and it lasted about 10 minutes with the usual routine questions (verify identity, employment, previous countries traveled to, etc.). The officer said I was approved, and it would go into effect immediately. I asked him if it would be as immediate as applying to my domestic flight this Thursday, and he said yes.

So I checked into my flight this morning, and when the AA app generated my boarding passes, the TSA pre-check symbol did not appear. Red flag. I thought he said this was immediately in effect? I double checked my TSA pre-check number, checked the website to ensure I was definitely re-approved. Everything looked good. So I called AA and asked them to check for me. After 15 minutes on hold after verifying my full name (no name changes, right?), date of birth, and Global Entry number, they got me back on the line and asked me to delete the current boarding passes and regenerate them after refreshing the app. Phew — thankfully this worked, and my TSE pre-check was reinstated. I would have been really pissed if I had gotten this interview done and was approved, and somehow there was a “waiting period” for it actually go into effect.

The experience of going through a regular non-priority, non-pre-check line in May was NOT fun. Chris kept making fun of me and calling me a pleb because he was able to get his Global Entry renewed in time for that trip. I never want to go through that again. Who wants to voluntarily take off their shoes and separate all their electronics and toiletry bag…?!

Week 16 – pregnancy observations of self to date

I cannot believe I am in week 16 of pregnancy. Every morning I wake up, and I’m so grateful to be pregnant, to have had no complications to date other than the vanished twin. It honestly just feels like a miracle to me every single day that I am pregnant. Fingers crossed that things will continue to progress smoothly.

A few things I’ve noticed about myself since getting pregnant:

*Stretch marks around both hips

*Rapidly growing nails and hair

*Sensitivity to and sometimes total disgust of certain fish smells, both raw and cooked

*Near immediate bloating when drinking some carbonated drinks, like kombucha

*Sensitive and increasingly heavy-feeling breasts (which are obviously growing)

Food cravings to date:

*Matzo ball soup, egg salad, bagels (this must be the inner converted Jew in me since I’ve lived in New York for 13 years now)

*Rice noodles, especially the flat ones… or really noodles of all types; beef chow fun/gan chao niu he especially

*BREAD, especially sourdough — the Bourke Street Bakery special for Father’s Day, the bacon, garlic confit, and sage sourdough REALLY hit the spot

*GRAPEFRUIT — this is probably the most refreshing fruit I’ve had during pregnancy, the one where my mouth literally waters every time I have a bite. Interestingly enough, it’s been far more satisfying to eat a grapefruit anytime this period vs. a mango, which is supposed to be my favorite fruit… I feel like I’ve almost cheated on mangoes with just this feeling.

Changing breasts

As pregnancy has progressed, my breasts have really taken on a life of their own. Not only have I been unable to recognize them in the mirror sometimes, but they’ve also been growing and have taken on their own sensitivities. In the last couple of weeks when I’ve woken up, the first thought I have based on how it feels to physically get out of bed is “Ughhhhhhhhh, why do my boobs feel so HEAVY?!” It finally got to a point where I decided I needed to wear a bra to sleep, so I started wearing one of my more supportive sports bras to sleep. Sleeping with a bra is fine as long as it doesn’t have an underwire, and as I’ve learned through reading different pregnancy guides and sites, underwires are really all pregnant/postpartum women’s worst enemies.

I finally decided to purchase some maternity/nursing bras today and stop putting off buying maternity wear given the breasts have been crying out for help, so I purchased three of these bras that are supposed to expand with me. We’ll see how it goes. When people generally think of pregnancy, they think of all the baby-related things to buy, but they don’t necessarily think of all the things the growing, pregnant mom needs. I’m trying to be practical about what I purchase, at least as much as possible, because I want to minimize the things I can wear/use only while pregnant and at least ensure I can use them postpartum/during nursing, and with clothing, that it can be used even while out of the pregnant/postpartum period if possible. It’s not going to be possible for things like belly bands unfortunately, but hopefully with most other things, they can be multi-functional.

When your mom still treats you like you are 6

After my doctor’s appointment yesterday, Chris quickly rushed home to get to his next meeting. Since I was on the Upper East Side, I decided to text my friend who lives in the area for a quick coffee date, especially since the weather was so nice outside. We sat outside for a couple hours and caught up on life, health, and politics.

I eventually walked home and decided to call my mom to let her know how my appointment went. Pretty much every call we’ve had during the pandemic has included her warning me not to go anywhere by myself because “the world is getting worse” with all the hate crimes against Asians and the increased shootings since the beginning of this calendar year. When I told her I was walking home, she asked if Chris was with me, and I said no. She asked why not. I said I went to go meet a friend after my appointment.

Well, that was a mistake.

“What friend? Why are you meeting a friend? Is it (insert name of friend she knows in New York)?”

I wasn’t rolling my eyes, but I certainly was on the inside. I told her that the friend lived near the doctor’s office so we just met up for lemonade. No, it was not the one friend she is aware of.

She starts making the sound with her voice, indicating she’s annoyed and unhappy. “Who is this friend? Why are you meeting with them? How do you know them? You need to be careful! You don’t know who to trust!”

Yeah… I don’t have to answer any of her questions because I am no longer in elementary school, so I just said I was already home and had to go, so I hung up. Once upon a time, she used to revel in the fact that I lived under her roof and could control my every move, that she could get the phone number of all my friends and then check in and call them behind my back after I’d see them… to double check that I really was where I said I was. My friends always told me when she’d call. She’d even say dumb things to them like, “If Yvonne does anything bad, you let me know, okay?” She even did this a few times when I was in COLLEGE.

Now, as an adult, I’ve made sure to tell her as little as possible about any friends I’ve made as an adult so she knows as little as possible about my social circles. She is always so suspicious of pretty much anyone and is constantly, constantly saying, “You can’t trust anyone.” As far as I’m concerned, that may be true… but that also extends to her given all the stuff she’s done behind my back. It’s amazing that I haven’t ended up just as paranoid and distrusting as she is today.

15-week pre-natal appointment

Every time I have an appointment, I get a little jittery and anxious beforehand. I never know what’s going to happen or if there may be bad news. Granted, I recognize nothing I will do will have any control over the outcome of the appointment, but I still get a little nervous anyway. I’m progressively less nervous than I have been since my first prenatal appointment with my OB-GYN at week 10, but the fear of the (negative) unknown still creeps in the background.

Chris and I walked across Central Park to my doctor’s office, where I was immediately checked in and given a little cup to pee in. Then, I was brought in to get my weight and blood pressure measured; luckily this time, my blood pressure was actually normal. They brought me into the sonogram room, where we waited for the NP to come.

She eventually came in with an NP in training, asked a few questions about how I was feeling, and she started my scan. The quality of the imaging here has never been great, but we could see a very rapidly moving outline of a tiny human on the ultrasound screen. The NP let us know that the baby was currently in breech position (that’s okay at 15 weeks… not so much at 35-38 weeks). She measured the baby’s heart beat, which was in range, and also said she was measuring at about 4 inches long, which is also normal for this gestational age. This week, the baby is currently the size of a navel orange — my little orange baby.

Everything was looking good, the NP confirmed, and we’re right on track. All my tests and scans have come back normal to date. The baby was likely setting a record for how active she is, as the NP said that she’s rarely seen the baby so active at this age. She was really using her hands a lot and getting to know how to use them in there!

My active little baby, I thought happily on my walk back home. Hopefully she will be fit and active like her mom. I’m hoping that all the exercise and physical activity I have been doing will be beneficial to her.

Bottom of the freezer

When you are getting ready to move, even when it’s just to another unit in the same building, it makes you start going through all your stuff and realizing how much crap you’ve accumulated since the last time you moved. Even though this will be the easiest move of our lives given it’s in the same building, I still want to cull a lot of the things we have, especially things we do not use at all. However, even with places like the freezer, stuff accumulates that you just forget about. Here are some things I found that I totally forgot about on the bottom of the freezer: minced lemongrass and chopped lemongrass stalks; Trader Joe’s frozen chicken burritos, Trader Joe’s frozen charred corn; frozen banana and pandan leaves, two frozen barramundi fillets, one frozen chicken drumstick. Some of these items already have freezer burn. That definitely sounds delicious. This is one of the fun activities that’s a part of moving — discovering food items you’ve neglected.

When people become the mini-me of their parents

On the dad’s side of my family, I am the youngest of my current generation among all the cousins, and also the only girl. Of my paternal grandparents’ four children, their eldest son had three boys, their second eldest son (my dad) had a boy (Ed) and a girl (me), their third child, a daughter, had one son, and their fourth child, their third son, never married and had no children. Of the people who have probably went against the grain among these cousins, it’s probably me and my cousin from my dad’s sister. That cousin is fully estranged from his mother, and his dad passed away in 2012. While he and I are in contact, he does not maintain contact with anyone else in our family. Ed’s gone, and so that leaves my three much older cousins, who are 13, 16, and 17 years older than me.

While those three cousins, Ed, and me, we grew up in the same building in two separated flats, so we basically grew up like siblings and were as close as you could be despite the age difference. Yet somehow, I always felt like my three cousins had never really “grown up” properly, as not only did they not participate and do “normal” things that people do at certain ages, e.g. go to prom, leave home for college, move out of their house in their twenties, they never really dated anyone until they met the women who would ultimately become their wives. It always felt so weird to me. Not only that, sometimes they would make comments comparing their soon-to-be wives with ME. That’s just flat out gross.

The cousin who is 13 years older than me is probably the biggest embarrassment in our family, though. He’s married to someone who served him an “ultimatum” to get married, otherwise she’d dump him by a certain point, and they hate each others’ guts. Her family hates him, and he hates her entire family, including her. They share a child who has mild autism, so the road of parenting has been tough to say the least. He moves from one job to the next every 3-5 years, making racist comments about anyone he perceives to be a threat, particularly White and Indian people for whatever reason. On top of that, I’ve realized that of all three of the boys, he is most like his dad, who passed away 21 years ago and who I perceived to be one of the biggest losers I’ve ever known: constantly complains, is extremely and openly racist and sexist, blames all his life circumstances on others instead of ever taking responsibility for himself. His default is to complain and whine, particularly about people behind their backs. Yet he lacks the balls to ever confront them in person (that’s actually a theme in my family; no one ever wants to confront anyone. It’s all back talking). And to think he’s still as immature and ridiculous as he’s turning 48 this year is even more embarrassing for me. It’s basically embarrassing for me to be associated with him. He literally complains about some person or another every single day and, no fail, always has to state their race in his complaint.

If anyone ever saw some of the texts he sends me, which I have muted, they’d immediately assume I was a bad person for having any kind of a relationship with him and he was a terrible, racist person.

When people become so similar to their parents, though, especially the worst part of their parents, I always wonder what level of awareness they have of this and if they actually think it’s good or bad, assuming the awareness exists. In my cousin’s case, he’s delusional; since his dad died, he’s basically built a metaphorical shrine for him and thinks of him as the best dad and role model in the world. What a joke. We need to accept the good parts of people as well as the bad instead of sticking them on some untouchable pedestal after they’ve died.

Going back home for the first time in nearly 16 months

Chris and I have been in the midst of deciding what dates and for how long we will go back to San Francisco. We knew that after we both got fully vaccinated that we’d plan a trip back home at some point during the summer. Yet although I do want to go home, especially given how long it’s been since I was last there, my last visit wasn’t particularly happy or calm, and I have a feeling this trip will also be full of angst and stupid annoyances that really do not have to happen.

It shouldn’t be drama-filled to go home, but in my case, it always is. My mother is always extremely paranoid about who knows I am coming and if I have to see them… because inevitably if I see extended relatives, that means SHE and my dad need to see them, and she never enjoys that. She loves to ask about them and gossip about them, but once she has to see them, she dreads it and then has to gossip about all of them after. She also thinks that if we all go out, it inevitably means that everyone is expecting and “using” and “taking advantage of them” to pay whatever dinner bill there is. But it’s not like she ever even gives anyone else a chance to pay; she just secretly pays the bill in the beginning by pretending to go to the bathroom, or instructs my dad to do it since my dad always needs motherly instruction. Then afterwards, she blames me and accuses me of forcing her into the situation and makes herself out to be the victim once again. It’s an exhausting thought and exhausting to even type out, but I unfortunately have to think about this EVERY SINGLE TIME I go home. She’s repeatedly told me over and over again not to tell any relatives I’m coming home. “They don’t care about you,” she always says. One of my mother’s very favorite things to say, other than, “No,” “You know….” (always in an angry tone), and that “I worry…,” is that no one cares about me or her other than our own immediate family; no one else. She repeatedly told me around the time when Ed passed away that if I died, none of my “friends” would care. They’d cry once or twice, and then they’d forget about me as though I never existed. While that may be the case for distant friends, I really am not cynical enough to believe that’s the case with very close friends.

That’s just one of the five million reasons going home gives me angst. This is also why I cannot stay at my parents’ place the entire time I am home if it’s for more than just a few days. Even three to four days now feels like too much, especially if it’s consecutive days. Once upon a time, pre-pandemic, work always gave me a buffer so that I could stay in a work-expensed hotel for part of the time and at home part of the time, but unfortunately now, that’s not really a possibility. Chris asked me why I never stayed with any of my close friends. Well, one of them had a basement home that is filthy that I’d never feel healthy staying in, though she has offered. And to my knowledge and memory, the other one’s never really offered. So that really only leaves me with relying on a hotel.

I did a quick search for hotels in San Francisco, wondering how high the prices would be, and I couldn’t believe it: I could actually book the Marriott Marquis or the Westin St. Francis Hotel for only $169/night! You may not be aware of exactly how insane San Francisco hotel costs can be, but both those hotels are usually, at minimum, $400++/night, and that’s on a GOOD day for booking. It would actually not be shocking to see rates for either of those hotels in the $700-800++ range; during the most insane conference seasons, they can easily be over a thousand dollars a night.

In some way, that seems sad because it means San Francisco is still picking up, but on the other hand, why would I not take advantage of these rates…?!

First time at the Comedy Cellar since pre-pandemic

Chris booked us the third weekend Friday night show operating at 100 percent capacity at the Comedy Cellar, which we hadn’t been to since before the pandemic began. Just as I remembered, we were all crammed super close together in the basement of the venue, with just enough room between seats to… well, rub shoulders against the stranger next to you. And while most of the time, that’s an annoying thing in New York with its teeny tiny venues and barely enough space for petite people like me to get around, it actually felt refreshing and nice. We can actually BE close together again! The only different part of the operations was that the Comedy Cellar required us to show our actual vaccination cards when showing our IDs. They’re making sure we’re not lying and that everyone will be safe. I’m on board with that.

As always, there’s a lineup of comedians each set, and of course, pretty much all of them commented on the city re-opening fully and COVID in general. One of the funniest lines I heard was when one of them lamented how dumb we are as a country, as the best example of how dumb we are is that we cannot seem to count all the way to 20; we need to be told to sing the song “Happy Birthday” twice. For whatever reason, I never really thought about that until that second, and I could not stop laughing. I remember all the times I was on company all-hands meetings at my last company, and our CEO and CPO would say constantly each time, “20 seconds! Sing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice, people! It’s not too hard!”

I guess we really are that dumb, aren’t we?

Stomach growth during pregnancy

I looked at my side view in the mirror today, and my stomach definitely looks a little bit bigger and rounder than it did this same time last week. But for a few minutes, I got a little paranoid, wondering if it looks bigger just because I want it to look bigger, and then I wondered if my little baby was even still breathing with a beating heart. I immediately Googled belly growth during pregnancy during the second trimester, and the average result seems to be about 1 centimeter per week. Phew, I thought. That’s actually very tiny, so maybe the “growth” I think I’ve observed in the mirror since last week actually is real. Maybe I should really stop worrying. It’s almost like I’m looking for reasons to worry, and I’m letting my pregnancy anxiety get the best of me.

It’s hard to shake the worry and anxiety given the journey I’ve been on, though. I can’t ever be that confident that anything is going well, even when multiple doctors and sonographers have all assured me that everything is on track, which they have. The last doctor at the hospital who reviewed my ultrasounds at my 12.5 week appointment actually said to me, “You could not be in better shape. Everything is on track!” And the suckiest part about this is that it’s not even like the worry and anxiety ends once the baby is born, assuming it’s healthy. Then, I’ll end up worrying about whether it’s eating enough, gaining enough weight, sleeping enough, pooping enough. Then there’s always sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) to be silently freaking out about during its first year of life.

I don’t technically have a baby to take care of that is external to my body. In that sense, no one is going around calling me a mother. But I definitely feel like I’m already a mom with my thoughts and worries.