What’s the Worst that Can Happen?

So, on Monday, I was very nervous about posting my thoughts on SCA5 because quite frankly, it required facts and citations and I’m terrible at those things. I would make a really shitty journalist. There is a reason I was not in one of those majors that required writing multiple term papers. After all, you can cram organic chemistry and wing an exam (albeit, poorly) but the only way out of a ten page term paper is to write a ten page term paper (even with double space).

The other reason I found it hard was because it is such a polarizing topic. I was prepared to be called a race traitor or naive or whatever. In particular, I was worried about alienating my Asian friends who were against the measure. I didn’t want them to think I thought they were bad people or cause any trouble. After all, people are allowed to disagree with me – and when they do, they are not always crazy or insane!

I admit, I didn’t even know what SCA5 was about until I saw a friend post about it. Because I learn a lot about the news and the world through Facebook (I find that my friends are endlessly fascinating sources of information), I wanted to see what SCA5 was all about. Once I did, I realized that I very much wanted to vote for it. However, as I am usually wont to do, I didn’t say anything about it on Facebook because in general, I dislike talking politics because I hate arguing issues (see the first paragraph re: facts).

But, after seeing an ever increasing number of friends posting “No on SCA5,” I just couldn’t stay silent on the matter anymore because I firmly believe that SCA5 is a good thing (just like some of my friends firmly believe that SCA5 is a bad thing). Furthermore, I didn’t want my black and Latino friends to think all Asians were against SCA5 and that I was among that group.

Now, before I started Mandarin Mama, I tended to post solely on neutral things. You know, pictures about my kids, rants about my day, funny comments, etc. I purposely avoided posting anything that would even contain a whiff of the controversial. In fact, I’m one of those people who absolutely HATE changing my profile pic to support things. I think it’s the internet version of peer pressure and refuse to do it even when I agree with the issue. (This is just my personal baggage. I am aware people are perfectly capable of changing their profile pic to support issues for completely valid and non-conforming reasons.)

But after regularly posting my opinions here, I realized I was sick of being “neutral.” I was sick of being afraid what other people would think of me if I actually voiced my opinions. I wanted to be brave. I wanted to have opinions about Real and Important things (even if my two cents were just a mere pip in the surrounding cacophony of voices).

I wanted to step away from fear. Fear that my friends would drop me. Fear that I would look stupid. Fear that I would be wrong in public. Fear that I would muddle facts. Fear that I would actually have to research facts. (Funny enough, that didn’t kill me!) Fear that I would have to write in a different style than I was accustomed to. Fear that I was becoming more and more myself – and if people rejected me, they would be rejecting me versus some carefully crafted version of me.

It is scary to put my thoughts on controversial issues out there – particularly since I keep telling myself that I am bad at research and facts. But you know what I discovered? Thanks to the internet, facts are pretty easy to find and check. Also? I am capable of writing something that is not just “slice of life.” And the best part? My friends are a lot more gracious and a lot less petty than I am.

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Grief on the Side

An old co-worker and friend of mine died yesterday morning. He would’ve been 44 in less than a month and leaves behind a wife and two teenage children. Although I knew it was inevitable (he had been in a painful struggle with cancer for a long time), it is still a shock to my system. (Obviously, my grief is nothing compared to his family and closer friends.) 

It’s a mixed bag, right? When people we love and care about die after suffering so much physical pain. On the one hand, we do not want them to be gone – for death seems so final to me (although the thought of a Heaven and him being in it brings me comfort). On the other hand, we do not want to prolong their suffering and pain. So though I am sad he has left us, I am relieved there was an end to his pain.

I must admit though, part of my grief (despite losing a friend who was a person who drew others in with his fun and positive personality – geez, even my attempts to describe him fall so flat, as if reducing him to a caricature of himself) is the thought of this happening to ME. I am sad for his family who are left behind, and I cannot stop thinking about ME. How I am so grateful that this is NOT happening to ME.

I am a selfish ass.

When I consider the possibility of my babies in a life without Hapa Papa, I can’t breathe. Not to mention just the practicality of WHO WILL PROVIDE FOR US? and OMG IT WILL HAVE TO BE ME!

Of course, my mind veers to the practical, daily providence side of things. Because to think too hard or too long of an actual LIFE without Hapa Papa, I just can’t. I feel an ache in the back of my throat and eyes just thinking about all the things that my kids (and by extension, my friend’s kids) will miss and all I want to do is cry.

After I heard the news this afternoon, I just stumbled about, letting my kids zone out on the iPad. All I could think about was how grateful that we were all healthy and alive and that I loved my kids. Of course, fast forward to this evening right before bed when I reached new heights (in terms of volume) of screaming and yelling at Cookie Monster and Gamera (POOR Glow Worm!) and I feel even more like a giant piece of turd.

I don’t know why the juxtaposition of these two events sits so heavily on my heart. I suppose it’s some trite message about how we never know when we’re going to die so we need to cherish the moments we have with our children.

Mostly, I just feel guilt.

But since I already wrote a post on being a monster, we can skip that guilt-fest for now. I think I am just going to chock all that yelling to misplaced grief, stress, and the sad fact of life for the moment. I’ll make better choices tomorrow.

At any rate, I miss my friend. We had somewhat lost touch in the past few years, but that did not dampen my love for him.

Rest in Peace, Nellie. My heart breaks for your wife and two beautiful children. You are with Jesus now and we are without you. Seems a bit selfish of Jesus if you ask me, but that’s just me feeling sad. You were one fucking awesome guy and it sucks that you’re gone. You are loved.

Family Traditions

Every family has their traditions and mine is no exception. When we were growing up, without fail, every Thanksgiving, we would have all this awesome Chinese food and a neglected, dry, sad turkey. No one in the family (or in the families we celebrated with) knew how to make a turkey. Every year, we would say, “No turkey!” but inevitably, every year, a new family just from Taiwan would join the group and insist on having a turkey in order to have an “authentic” American Thanksgiving.

It was never very good.

As a result, I have never enjoyed turkey. However, one year at a Thanksgiving Part 2 (the attack of the leftovers), my friend JL brought out his turkey, gravy and stuffing. It was amazing. I thought it was a fluke, but year after year at our TG2 parties, the turkey was delicious. I decided it was because JL had a white mother (he’s half white and half Chinese) and she knew what she was doing.

So, the first year we moved into our current house, I really wanted to make a Thanksgiving turkey. I saw it as finally growing up and becoming an adult. The only turkey/gravy/stuffing I have ever enjoyed was my friend JL’s so I begged him for the recipes and he kindly emailed them to me. Since then, I have made his mother’s turkey, gravy, and stuffing every Thanksgiving. They are always a hit.

One of my traditions at Thanksgiving is to invite all family and friends who have no nearby family to our house. There is nothing sadder on Thanksgiving than celebrating with just yourself or a your spouse or your own small family. What’s the point in making a turkey for four people? So, I always invite folks who I know have family far away and won’t have anyone else. Makes the celebration much cozier!

Hapa Papa’s cousin also lives in the Bay Area so they come over when they are in town. It brings me great joy. Besides, the more people who come, the more people will take home leftover turkey. I swear I was still eating frozen turkey from last year only a week or two ago. (I freeze the turkey into small bags and use them in soup.)

Anyhow, having a Thanksgiving turkey is one of the traditions I want to pass down to my kids. Plus, sometime this weekend, we will pick up a Christmas tree and decorate it with the kids and it will be so much fun! I LOVE IT.

Here are some other traditions I hope to start or continue:

1) Yearly trip to LA and SD
2) Cherry picking
3) County Fair
4) Christmas Tree (which seems stupid, but our family hadn’t had a Christmas tree since 1995 – we fixed that in 2010)
5) Yearly trip to DC to visit my brother
6) Joint vacations with family friends to a bunch of national parks
7) Playing cards (Napoleon and Chinese Hearts) and mah jong
8) Game nights (and we’re talking super geeky games)
9) Easter Egg hunts (until the last kid is too old to care)
10) New Year Eve parties (which are overrun by kids and adults and awesome when we ring in the New Year at 6pm)

Obviously, this is not an all-inclusive list, but a nice start. What are some traditions you are hoping to continue? While you’re thinking of them, I will leave you with one of the first records I remember hearing.

Why I No Longer Read Celebrity Gossip

As much as it is possible, I try to avoid celebrity gossip in my daily life. Which, if you’ve ever tried to do, is getting increasingly difficult. I’ll be driving along, listening to the radio or a morning show and then, BOOM! Some stupid story about some minor celebrity is teased before I have a chance to change the station.

Or, I’ll be minding my own business, trying to read the news and BLAM, a headline about some celebrity interferes and I am tempted to click and find out just what did so and so do to piss off so and so. Or even worse! I read the headline and now, I will forever know that Kimye had a kid and named her North. This will now prevent some vital information that I will need during the pending zombie apocalypse from adequately anchoring in my brain. Thanks, Huffington Post, for your hard hitting news.

This is not to criticize you if you happen to enjoy celebrity gossip. I mean, it is interesting. That’s why there is a $3 billion dollar industry built around stalking people and their poor children. Hapa Papa reads The Superficial at least once a week (he says because it’s funny, but I think he just wants to see pictures of hot women) and says he can’t help but know about celebrities because his Yahoo! homepage shows him a TON of celebrity stories. Celebrity news is practically ubiquitous, so I totally understand if a person gives in and reads it.

Besides, this post isn’t to lambaste you if you happen to read celebrity gossip. It’s about why I stopped reading it.

A few years ago, I used to read Perez Hilton and The Superficial everyday. I would read The National Enquirer, look forward to going places with lobbies so I could read their free issues of People or Us Weekly or whatever. (I refused to actually pay money for these things.) In fact, I would often refresh the gossip sites 10-15 times a day (more than I did my Facebook!). It got so bad that I decided to give up celebrity gossip for Lent. But after Lent, I immediately went back to my old ways and read ALL the back issues (starting immediately with Ash Wednesday and didn’t stop until I was all caught up through Easter). Kinda ruined the whole point of Lent, no?

One day, though, I realized that I knew more about celebrity lives than my own friends who I actually knew. And really, celebrities are more like fictional people instead of real people because half of the stuff we read is likely fabricated anyway – and no way a true reflection of their actual lives. But it was a startling and depressing revelation. How could I possibly know more about people I didn’t know, didn’t have a chance of knowing, and probably wouldn’t care for if I did know them, than my own friends? Why was I spending so much of my time and energy learning about their likes, dislikes, activities, children’s names, etc. and not spending my time on pursuits that really mattered to me?

Once I realized this, I went cold turkey. I haven’t regretted a minute of it since.

Now, this doesn’t meant that I don’t occasionally give in and click on slideshows of celebrities without makeup or see pretty pictures of Oscar dresses, but for the most part, I avoid celebrity news. (That’s why when I do see these pictures, I don’t know over half of these “actresses.”) My life has been all the better for it.

Plus, this frees up much needed time to waste on truly important things such as stalking my “real” friends and refreshing Facebook a billion times a day. I know how to live, people. Don’t be jealous.

Fakebooking

In the past few months, I’ve seen several articles on The Huffington Post (which, let’s face it, has some quality control issues and is supremely left-leaning, but for the most part, I like their stuff) about the problem of “Fakebooking,” or presenting your life on Facebook in such a way as not to reflect reality and make other people feel bad.

The other day, a friend of mine posted an article on Facebook titled, We Need to Quit Telling Lies on Facebook, (she’s not the author of the piece) and I had enough. When I complained to Hapa Papa about the topic, he replied, “Stop. This is just too stupid. I don’t want to hear any more. People are idiots.”

Now, of course, please don’t think that I think you’re an idiot if you happen to fall prey to “Fakebooking” and its assorted ailments of envy, coveting, and feeling bad about yourself. (I may privately think you’re an idiot for other reasons, but not this reason.) In general, I think that’s symptomatic of being human and just seeing the surface of what other people want to project. I totally understand. Furthermore, I fall into this occasionally as well. Who hasn’t after seeing a particularly awesome picture of scrumptious food? Or happy, clean children? Or a beautiful beach view?

But seriously? Multiple articles on the subject? It’s a new thing now? How fucking stupid.

Who really looks at someone’s Facebook statuses and thinks that is an accurate depiction of a person’s life? I mean, the site is called Facebook. Like, saving face or putting on your face, or whatever. It’s not called Realitybook. And who wants to read Realitybook anyway? I have enough of my own reality, thank you very much. Please let me escape into the allegedly happy lives of my friends and acquaintances.

If you want to have actual, real, deep friendships, Facebook is not the place for it. It can be the place for it, (and many of my friends on FB are Real and honest and awesome and I love them the more for it) but COME ON. If that is what you want, GO MEET YOUR FRIEND IN REAL LIFE. You know, at a restaurant or bar or house or cafe or wherever people who don’t have to constantly tow around small children congregate and enjoy scintillating, interruption-free conversation. Facebook is NOT that venue so get the fuck over it.

Too harsh?

Embarrassing Confession

As much as I would like to think I am a progressive person and would just naturally know injustice when I see it, I really don’t think that is so. Since Trayvon Martin and the Zimmerman case have been in the news recently, I’ll use that as an example.

Here’s my horrible confession: the MAIN reason I feel so strongly about the injustice against Trayvon Martin is because I have one really, really, really good black male friend. Like so good, I consider him to be family. Of course, it’s not the ONLY reason I am angry and sad about the verdict, but when I’m honest with myself, it is the primary reason.

Why? Because all I can think about is, “What if this happened to my friend, PH? What if this happened to his future sons (who I will consider my nephews)?” I’ll tell you what. I would be devastated. Hateful. Full of Hulk Smash. Because racism would have killed someone I consider family.

That is the crux of my confession: that I am only this angry when someone connected to ME is hurt. Yes, even in all my profession of enlightenment, blah blah blah, it boils down to selfishness – YOU FUCK WITH MINE, I WILL FUCK YOU UP.

But this post isn’t about unpacking why I (and really, most humans) tend to defend and pick up causes that affect us personally. This is, strangely enough, turning into a post about why it’s important for us to have close friends who are very different from us. I don’t mean friends in the sense that you have black co-workers or know a gay person or have an atheist neighbor. I mean DEEP friendships where you know the other person almost as well as yourself. Where you consider them a part of you and if they are absent, you miss them like an arm or a leg.

And perhaps, now that I think about it,  it isn’t even necessary to have super deep friendships. It is often enough to have friendships where at the very least, you are aware of their pain and the issues that affect them and their lives. What I mean is, regardless of the depth of friendship, you have to be able to see them as a person – an individual. And when you hear of the injustices enacted against them (and everyone, regardless of race, sex, orientation, religion, etc. experiences injustice – they just may vary in severity and frequency), you feel as if it happened to you.

Ironically, it is because of Facebook that I feel as if I identify more and more with folks who are different than I am. Not because Facebook is the place where people are Real, but because a few brave friends are honest on that forum – and I admire them and respect them all the more for it. I freely confess that prior to seeing some very personal posts on Facebook, I only read about certain issues on blogs. Though the injustices bothered me, it didn’t really affect me.

But now, because I have friends on Facebook who share about the prejudices they face living in a poly family, or being LDS and deeply religious, or choosing not to have children, or being gay, I CARE. I care now, because when I see these issues at play in society at large, I no longer think of the oppressed as a mass of faceless people. I see them as my friends. By name. Who I know and care about.

That is why it is important to have REAL friends who are completely different than you. Groups become individuals. And granted, these individual friends do not owe you anything and are not by default, a spokesperson of any sort to you. But it makes it easier to identify and humanize groups who are almost alien to you and your core beliefs.

Come to think of it, until recently, I have tried to make my Facebook page as controversy free and inoffensive as possible. Mostly because I hate arguing “facts” (I am terrible at remembering facts and details that back up my arguments) and having people think negatively of me. (It may come as a shock to some of you since I seem as if I say whatever is on my mind. But that’s because most of that stuff, I don’t care about. I have relatively little shame in many areas.) I don’t think I want that anymore.

Facebook friends, you’ve been warned.