Monday, July 31, 2006

The Boob Tube

For a few years of my life, the boob tube was literally the boob tube as it was the only thing I could do while breastfeeding. Yeah breastfeeding is supposed to be this magical bonding thing between mother and child and it is for the first five minutes. However if you're fortunate and your child is healthy, your child then breastfeeds for another 15-20 minutes. There's only so long even the most adoring mother can stare at her baby's guzzling mouth and the back of her baby's head. My babies never let me read, so I turned to tv. Now I turn to tv at the end of a long day. I have talked to C. I'm tired. My brain is full. I'm still too keyed up to sleep. Here's six shows I watch.

  • Veronica Mars - If you're not watching this show, and love intelligent drama, you should be. It's hard to find strong female characters anywhere on the tv landscape. Well, here you have one in the title character. Film noir meets California high school drama. Veronica is a tiny blond bombshell who's not afraid to use her sex appeal or her smarts to solve mysteries or deal with jerks in high school. The disturbing and intricate mysteries involve murders embroiled with local town politics and teen angst. Veronica has a quirky offbeat sarcastic humour and so does the show. My main beef with the show is there are hardly any Asian Americans in Veronica's town, supposedly a rich town in Southern California, surely a mecca for certain types of Asian Americans. And pretty silly of the producers to miss a key demographic.

  • Six Feet Under (on DVD) - The only show I know that features a gay couple like any other couple with their problems and heartwarming moments, not as a joke or the stereotype. I fell further in love with the show when it had an episode with Susie Bright. Some folks criticize the show, because at the beginning of the show, someone always dies, sometimes in silly ways, sometimes banal, sometimes shocking. The writers research and draw these vignettes from actual deaths. People die every minute and in all sorts of ways. Life doesn't stop being weird and funny because death is involved. I discovered this show a year ago and I found myself watching this show when things were really bad. I found it comforting not in a schmaltzy tv sort of way, but because it's the only show I've seen that understands grief. How grief can make you laugh inappropriately, trust inappropriately. How you can go along seeming fine, but grief catches up with you later. It's not a linear process. This show even has an Asian character. Woo hoo!

  • House - The medical details on this show don't bear too close scrutiny, at least not the one time I looked, so pretend they don't matter. They're all supposed to be medical conundrums. I just accept them as given. Anyway it's not about that. It's about House, a misanthrope doctor who professes to hate patients but loves a good puzzle. He has one friend, an oncologist, but otherwise browbeats and insults the rest of his team who stay with him, because he's brilliant and right most of the time. He's so mean and unhappy, because he hates himself and self medicates with drugs. Because of his drug addiction, other doctors missed the fact that House's own leg had muscle death and he now walks with a pronounced limp. With a bad actor, this could be an awful show, but Hugh Laurie pulls it off. And you're sucked in wondering watching him take slow halting steps between self destruction and saving himself.

  • Jeeves and Wooster - Hugh Laurie used to play his complete opposite, Bertie Wooster, a English upper class twit with lots of friends who got in silly meaningless misunderstandings. Also utterly captivating and so is his very proper and very clever butler Jeeves who quotes Pope and gets Wooster and his friends out of their mad cap schemes with quiet efficiency. He also brews a good cup of tea and makes a wonderful cocktail for a hangover. Who wouldn't want a Jeeves in their life? Never mind he's a servant. In this show he loves it.

  • Daily Show with Jon Stewart - If you don't know about this show, I don't know which rock you've been hiding under.

  • The Simpsons - Somehow this show manages to be funny even how after all these years. Occasionally it misses, but I have to say I laugh almost every episode.

There's more, but my mind wandered off. I do like my tv, but in small doses unless I'm sick or I really really need to escape from real life.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

More on Trader Joe's milk

tempusfugit asks "Can you talk more about the Strauss Family products? Is this for all Trader Joe's or only in the West Coast or East Coast. What about the Trader Joe's brand milk and yogurt?"

I don't know about the distribution of milk of Trader Joe's nationwide. What I do know is that the cream top Trader Joe's milk is almost certainly Straus Family. Currently this is sold in whole and 1% half gallons. In our local Trader Joe's, the only organic yogurt isn't Trader Joe's brand, but is still Straus Family. Straus Family is a northern California dairy producer, so it may not be able to produce enough for Trader Joe's nationwide. On the other hand, there actually aren't that many Trader Joe's relative to other grocery stores. You should check your local Trader Joe's.

Technorati tags:organic food,organic milk,Trader Joe's

Free food for bird brains

A month ago I installed a finch feeder

and a hummingbird feeder. I have two cats, but I've seen hummingbirds feed from flowers on the front lawn where they could (theoretically) be caught by the cats. I think I've heard finches. Both feeders are high above the ground far from where the cats could climb. Yet I've never seen any bird feed from them. The hummingbird liquid is going down slightly, so it could be getting fed from or evaporating. The finch feeder is down a touch. My friend Chris told me it takes me a month for the finches to notice and feed. Why does it take the birds so long to notice and get free food? I hear birds are smart, but this sounds very dumb to me. Oh, well. At least now they're using it. I just wish I could see them feed.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Trader Joe's Organic milk gets four cows in my book

Earlier I blogged about my difficulties finding organic milk that wasn't factory farmed. Well I'm 90% sure that Trader Joe's organic whole and 2% milk is Straus Family milk and therefore four cows.

  • Trader Joes sells Straus Family Yogurt.
  • Straus Family milk is unhomogenized
  • Trader Joe's whole and 2% milk is unhomogenized.

Note that the 1% milk and other homogenized milk is NOT Straus Family milk. Therefore the cows are not guaranteed to have the idyllic conditions seen here,

but more like here

Technorati tags:organic food,organic milk,Trader Joe's

Little T has severe nerve damage, roar!

Sorry I haven't posted for a few days. My heart broke again. I went to Little T's Hand apt on Wednesday and the report said in black and white. "These electrodiagnostic studies provide evidence of severe loss of sensory and motor axons in multiple nerves in the left arm."

This doesn't actually change anything. I mean the boy's arm barely moves. And in fact since the report the boy now slightly twists his arm inward. But somehow I let myself believe what the EMG doctor told me. Why this stupid doctor (not his hand doctor BTW who's really wonderful) told me this. I dunno. I believed him, because I'm his mother and I believe in my boy. But believing he had moderate damage for a week and then hearing he had severe loss was crushing to me. I feel horribly betrayed and sad.

On the day Little T was born, they told me they would have to cut off his left arm to save his life and I honestly thought if they did so, he would die. Now I would have just refused the operation. That day I accepted him as he was, a one-armed Popeye. His arm no longer resembles Popeye's, but he's still a fighter. I think his arm will do more than what it can do now, which is mostly hanging by his side, but I'm not sure what that means. Whether that just means he pushes it around or not and makes it grasp and ungrasp things with his right hand. I'll leave that up to him and what develops.

For Little T, life is fun and a big happy game, but Little T is not a laid-back kid. He's always pushing himself. He's aggressive. He roars. When he falls down, he literally gets back up and tries again. So that means that as his mother, I can't give up on his arm whatever the numbers say, because he wouldn't. He's just too young to understand what his arm can do.

But I can't live in fantasy moderate nerve damage land either. It's a very hard thing. The past couple days I've cried several times. I think not just about his arm. But because this also feels safe to cry about. I wrote in my book that I rarely cried when he was seriously ill, because crying meant facing his death and that I couldn't bear. I think that's really what I'm still grieving.

Grieving not being able to fix things. I never dreamed I'd have the perfect baby, but I think I did dream I could be the perfect mother and not make mistakes, especially not mistakes with scary names and consequences like brachioplexus. We still don't know if that's what he has. We may never know. I will always know he should have been born via c-section.

And being Little T's mom, well being mom to any child, means that you have to leave your heart wide open to all possibilities, to dream and strive for your child's potential, while looking at him here now and loving and working with what he can do today. Little T has so many unknowns, more than most, so I'm resigned to more heartbreak. I read these books about special needs kids that don't match me. I never feel sad about him. And when I go to the hospital, I always see kids that look so much worse than he is and feel so grateful for his vitality, his zest for life, how incredibly charming he is. I always feel joyful to have him around when he's happy which is most of the time. And like any mother when he's cross sometimes I wish I could run away. Rather I'm well aware of the challenges of being disabled in an ableist world. I want him to be happy with who he is. I want to make sure I've done everything I can to help him accept himself, to live up to his full potential and to make his path easier. There's still a lot of soft biogtry of low expectation for disabled people. It's changing, but I still encounter it from time to time.

But today I woke up still feeling sad but lighter. I don't think about the past much except when the present reminds me of it. I used to blame myself for that. Why do I think about these depressing things when I want to forget them? But a couple weeks ago C asked me "What is your brain trying to tell you?" Oh! Light bulb moment! My subconscious is trying to tell me a life lesson from my past.

My past also tells me we got the most crucial bits of that bits of that day right. I saved his life. I refused pitocin which would have killed him. He didn't get surgery which would have killed him. He's still here by some miracle. I felt so all alone that day. I stared at the ceiling. I had never felt so raw and broken in my life. I wasn't sure if I wanted to live. Then a light - a nurse whose baby had died came to talk to me. She was still alive and actually working. And I realised that even if the unthinkable happened, I might actually be okay and I started to get back up.

Today I feel less alone. I have C now. We have figured out how to support each other in the ways we need. I also know other parents who had kids with life threatening issues with whom I've talked with honestly. I have close friends without kids who will listen, though of course none of them really understand. I have some kind parents with kids who will help babysit Special K when my nanny isn't available and I need help. But I still find myself crying with Special K and Little T in horrible pain not sure what to do. I didn't call any friends the past couple days. I didn't know what to say. I dunno if there's anything to say.

C says that "a support system doesn't make this stuff any easier, it just makes it so you don't fall off the deep end." I guess that's true. I didn't fall off the deep end. And I did just figure out like 90 seconds ago that maybe I should let my friends know beforehand when we're doing these upsetting tests and appointments, so they can call me and ask what's up. I tend to just avoid thinking about them until at the last minute, because I know they'll be bad news. But it'd prolly be better for my mental health. Our next upsetting appointment will be our meeting with the brachioplexus doctor on the afternoon of 8/7.

Anyway I'm still sad, but I also wanted you to know I've started to roar again. I leave you with

Monday, July 24, 2006

Special K talks about Racism

Special K has a strange understanding of race. We don't tend to talk about race much, more ethnicities, because she's a multi-racial child and those around here tend to be also. When we attended my brother's wedding, she suddenly started talking about her "black friend." I got all worried. What kind of message was I sending my child that this was the way she referred to people? But C asked her "Who's your black friend, honey?" "Eliot." she responded. Eliot is a blond, blue-eyed child who wore black that day.

Yesterday we went to the Stanford museum and saw a photo of the Klu Klux Klan. "Who are those people?" she asked. I said "They're bad people who dress up in white masks and white hats to try scare people, because they think that looking white makes them better than anybody else." She said "I don't think they're better than anybody else."

An angry young black girl according to Special K's definition

Knock knock walk me

Yesterday Special K discovered 'Knock Knock' jokes. Over forty-five minutes we spent telling them until we begged her to stop. Thank the gods for the Internet, so I could look them up. And she got her first pun. The classic

Knock Knock
Who's there?
Boo who?
Don't cry. It's only a joke.

Most of hers were more estoric like:
Knock Knock
Who's there?
Skunk who?
Skunk Flower.

I hope she's not going into that heavy joke-telling phase. If she's in that phase and Little T's in the 'walk me' phase, I may truly go off the deep end.

I give you a skunk flower

Thursday, July 20, 2006

I'll be published in a book!

Woo hoo!! I'm very pleased to announce that I sold my very first piece of writing, a personal essay "Gimp Geek." It will appear in the anthology She's Such a Geek due out in November from Seal Press, an imprint of Avalon Publishing.

I hope the title of the book is a propitious start to my writing career. I'm also excited about some of the other writers and fellow geeks who will be in the collection with me.

I'd like to thank C most of all for reading the story over and over again especially when it was just to tell me it would get better, Annalee and Charlie for editing it and telling me to make a more satisfying ending, and my sister for helpful comments and editing, for words of enthusiasm and encouragement, and for great line edits and final proofing.

I'd also like to thank my friend Mary Anne who believed in my writing over ten years ago when I was incredibly shy about it and very far from wanting to be published. Since then and to this day, whenever we talk, she asks me in a friendly voice, "How's your writing going?" Every writer should have a friend like Mary Anne.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Blog against racism week

It's Blog against Racism week. Details are here.

I'm a disabled Anglo Burmese woman of above average height. I'm married to a Chinese American man of average height.

The worst way I experience racism is when I've been mistaken for Hispanic and get treated badly. Along with this assumption is frequently the assumption I can't speak English, and the person speaks to me in loud patronizing slow tones or tries really bad Spanish. However as soon as I open my mouth and my slight Queen's English accent comes out, the person realises I'm not in fact Hispanic. That may be part of the reason I retained a little accent, but if so it was unconscious.

The main way I experience racism is white Americans often assume I'm white, because I have relatively pale skin (not white but a little lighter than most East Asians) and I'm tall. Sometimes African Americans do also. That unconscious assumption that everyone is white dovetailed with my childhood discomfort with my own race. There's much about my Burmese heritage I don't understand and most Americans have never even of heard of Myanmar. I used to feel bad about this, that I wasn't Burmese enough. My brother and sister are both several shades darker than me, darker than most East Asians, unmistakably a non-white shade. Then I realised that beyond this set of folks, other people knew I was multi-racial. They might not get the Burmese part, but they knew I wasn't white.

And I'm afraid when people do know something about Burma, their characterization of my mother's people invariably grates. They describe them as happy or loving life or backwards, terms you'd use to describe children. Yet before college I didn't identify as a person of color.

But I also see that it's hard to recognize the privileges one has. I went to a womyn's music festival and yes woman was spelled with a 'y'. At a concert, some women of color were dancing in front of some white women in wheelchairs. The women in wheelchairs asked the women of color to move, because they couldn't see. The wheelchair seating was limited to a specific area. The women of color called them racist and oppressing them. Finally a woman in a wheelchair managed to get a guard who escorted the women of color to another area. Later one of the women of color complained to me about their "ill-treatment". She was totally shocked when I not only took the women in wheelchairs side, but that in fact she was being incredibly ableist not to see how far from being oppressed she was abusing her able-bodied privilege to oppress others.

But in many ways my self-image has changed a lot. I feel a lot more comfortable identifying as half Burmese. I can see more clearly the culture my mother passed on to me. And in some ways right now I'm the ideal Burmese woman.

Yet this has not changed people's assumptions. Most people who know me say my daughter looks a lot like me. However she has straight black classic Asian hair. My hair is a couple shades lighter than black and wavy. Once I was asked if my daughter was adopted! Others would ask the question "Where does your daughter come from?" and look surprised when I said "From me". Now that my son has been born and he has dark brown hair, I rarely get asked if my children are my birth children. Ironically other than hair color and skin color, he looks a lot like C.

Earlier in my life, I would feel offended or worried that people think my children don't belong to me. Now I think it's funny and reflects their own silly assumptions. I accept my role as someone who can pass as both white and ablebodied not because I am either or get to bask in privilege, but because people fail to notice the obvious due to their own blinders. At some point, another family member shows up (besides C), or I have to eat, and the gig is up. I get tired of speaking up sometimes and I haven't had much energy to do it lately, but I do still speak up instead of remaining silent. That's the best I can do right now.

But actually I do think I have a tremendous amount of racial privilege that Americans don't talk about much. I profit every day from other races in the Third World including my mother's native country. The US spends billions of dollars arming oppressive regimes who kill and rape people. Billions of children starve while my country and other rich nations do very little. The Gates foundation leads the fight against basic African diseases. I think it's shameful it has taken so long and it takes a software engineer to wake up the Western world. The equivalent masskiller European diseases were wiped out or controlled in the beginning of the previous century or earlier. I buy goods made by people who will never have access to the infrastructure, education or goods and services that I do simply because of where they were born. I know I contribute to the problem by not paying careful attention to where I buy things and that my government's own policies contribute massively to the problem. And most of the time I don't give it a second thought. I take it for granted my numerous privileges like running water, a tv, and basic sanitation. Only sometimes do I remember shocking things like if Little T had been born in Myanmar, he would not have survived.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Little T's first steps

Not to be outdone by his sister, Little T took two steps yesterday from the couch to the coffee table. Go Little T!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Special K's first reading lesson

Special K has asked me several times to learn to read. Before we started, she could already read several words like "ok", "no", "on" and "Deeprun Tram".

As soon as the reading books arrived, Special K wanted to read them. She read the first two books of the first set of the Bob Books. Together we read the first book of the first set of Dora Phonics Together we read the first Dora book and book 9 of the Bob books. The Dora books are way too advanced for the absolute beginning reader, but she really loves Dora.

I taught my sister to read almost twenty years ago, and the Bob books are a lot easier and more interesting than the Peter and Jane books we read. However Special and I started to have the same frustrating problem where phonics didn't make sense to Special K. They never made much sense to my sister either. Sure Special K knows every letter sound and can sound out C A T, but to get from there to the word 'cat' is a huge leap.

In reality I don't read that way and my mom tells the story of how she tried to teach me to read. "r-a-t, what's that word?" I replied brightly "Mouse!" I remember a teacher taught me to read in preschool, but I forget quite how.

I've memorized thousands of words and word chunks. On the rare occasion I encounter an unfamilar word, I never sound out the word letter by letter, I process it as a chunks. With my sister, phonics only made sense after she had learned to read as tool to learn harder compound words, not as a tool for learning to read.

I was beginning to think the same might be true for my daughter, but the Bob books are much more clever than the books twenty years ago. They have words like Mac, and Mat and rhyming words like bags and rags. After she read bags, I told her rags was very similar to bags except it started with r, and she got it.

I've heard of some other movement like whole language or some such. If I had more time and patience, I might look it up. I took a brief look at this DISTAR book, and to be honest, it looked so tedious and difficult for the poor parent, not to mention the child. You had to move your hand in a certain way. A total nonstarter for a person with a movement disorder. And each lesson didn't seem to tell a story. What's the point in reading to a 4-year-old if you can't read a story? But then I'm afraid most reading theories make me want to beat my head against a wall. "Did you bother to make it fun and exciting?" as well as fit with your theory.

But if you have any fun and exciting recommendations, please let me know.