Middle Age

Middle Age is defined by the Encyclopedia Brittanica as a period of human adulthood that immediately precedes the onset of old age…which is generally defined as being between the ages of 40 and 60.

It is also defined by one’s experience of the actual Encylopedia Brittanica in its paper form once upon a time.

I’ve been thinking on this lately, in part because of my spasmy neck that wasn’t so bad until the past 2 years, and in part because I sat on my couch in front of a fire on a sunny Saturday, with a tray table on which to do my work, while wearing fuzzy slippers and this brilliant massage thing I bought off Amazon:

I am aware of how totally uncool I am, and I am okay with it.
I am also drinking a non-alcoholic beer because apparently, I can’t have alcohol or I won’t sleep anymore.
And I have to wake up early to exercise, because if I don’t, I won’t be able to move
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The other reason I’ve been thinking about middle age is because my husband has a motley crew of old and loyal friends, and recently, they’ve been appearing out of the woodwork to visit. Nothing like seeing someone you knew twenty years ago to get you thinking.

You know how when you date someone, you meet their friends and then judge the character of the person you’re dating by the character of the people they surround themselves with? No? Just me?
Well, Judgey McJudgerson here determined that many of my husband’s friends are gems, and some were…a little rough around the edges and maybe a little cringe, though at their core, still good people.

One of the gems was recently in town. He was working as a valet for a fancy steak house in Toronto when I first met him, and then I forgot all about him until years later when my husband and I were gifted a trip to Yellowknife, in the Northwest Territories (it’s not really one of those places you typically plan a vacation around). We went in late winter, when it was only -40 degrees Celsius (which is also, strangely, -40 in Farenheit), because it was a great time to see the northern lights.

Here’s Yellowknife, in case you’ve never heard of it.

At the time, he was working there as a pilot, and was on a show called Ice Pilots NWT. It was probably in its second or third season when we saw him up in Yellowknife, and we got to tour the hangar and some of the WWII planes he worked with, and got into a lot of bars without waiting because he was recognizable. Anyway, if you want to know all about him, the internet is a trove.

We saw him and went for a ski day earlier this week, and he gave us a little update on his life. He flies water bomber planes now (which is a fascinating topic in and of itself) and has the freedom to live anywhere he wants on the continent. So he’s got a place in the big city, and crashpads at friends’ houses all over the rest of the continent.
But where do you want to live?
Ah, he says, that’s the big question. Ideally where someone I love is. And finding that has proven difficult.

Mid forties, a job he is passionate about, decent pay, decent looking, decent guy, doesn’t lie about his height (doesn’t need to), no children he knows about, no crazy exes, and a plight many are facing: the numbers game of dating apps. There are hits and misses, and a lot of people out there who apparently don’t think ghosting is a horrible thing to do. He is searching and putting in earnest effort, and I feel bad I have no candidates to introduce to him.

Today, the husband and I went for breakfast together. It’s a rare time where we can just sit and talk about things, uninterrupted by children every fifteen seconds. Sometimes we just sit in silence. We talked about another gem who came to visit and their conversation last week, and we talked about a conversation my husband had recently with a local friend and entrepreneur who asked him, “What are your targets for this year? How do you set them? Dollar values? Total sales? Client numbers?”

It made me think, and it isn’t any of those things. It’s changed. It’s time with my family, time I have off to ski or take vacations, and the financial flexibility to do so. Time to have breakfast with my wife, because it sets the tone for the whole weekend.

The targets have changed; the things that are important, the objectives. But how does this work then for the pilot? How does his Middle Age play out? Is it the same, only with a different variety of family and friends? What about all the people who chose not to have children, or have found themselves without a partner?

Is it a universal adult coming of age for everyone? Will we all end up coming to the same realizations and life-wisdom mantras after it’s over? (and when is that? 61? 70?)

Or are we all destined to simply keep wondering, wearing silly-looking massagers, reminiscing over hardcover books and blindly, obstinately forging ahead?

Hero dirt

Loam. Brown pow. Hero dirt.

I never thought I’d be the kind of girl who would celebrate a good day on dirt. When I sold my second mountain bike to a guy who was buying it for his girlfriend to get into the sport, the girlfriend stood in my front hall and apologized for tracking dirt into my house. I laughed and told her I didn’t mind dirt.

I might actually really like it, in context of course.

This past weekend, I got back on my bike. I was missing a piece on my headset assembly, and I don’t know what happened to it, so it meant it was a mildly terrifying ride with variable steering and a slight rattle in my headset when charging down the hill, and it meant the avoidance of any jumps lest I land hard and shatter my bike apart with the way things were feeling, but outside of that it was a pretty great day.

I dropped my kids at their ski and snowboard lessons respectively. City folk were pouring into town, clogging the northbound highway, lining up to get on the lifts. I hopped in my car and drove south, bike hanging off the back of my car. The snow was coming down hard, and for three brief seconds, I wondered if I was crazy, but my riding companion rolled her eyes and reassured me that this was the only practical thing to be doing with the mountain as full of tourists as it was. We saw a few accidents on the highway, the slushy snow blanketing everything before the plows could get to it, but southbound, we were free and clear. Forty minutes later, we were pedaling up a service road, a light drizzle sprinkling our faces. Here, there was no snow. Just trees and moss and quiet.

It’s always a slap in the face, that first ride of the season. My butt aches on the saddle, my heart is pounding, my fingers and toes are numb from the cold. Winter training is nothing like actual riding, and my fitness is lacking.

It’s also crazy, because with all the hours I’ve spent on a bike, three months off a bike and it feels like my body has entirely forgotten how to ride one. My faithful companion feels foreign and unwieldy.

But that first descent. Oh, that first descent. Just drop in and trust.
Trust muscle memory. Trust the innate velophile. Trust that reflexes will kick in with that first rush of wind, that first sideways root.

We rode this same trail around the same time last year, and there was snow on it, making each successive lap slicker and greasier than the one before as rivulets of mud and slush followed us down the slope.

This day though, despite the drizzle and the snowmelt, the barely above freezing temperatures, the trail is dry and clear.
It’s why we came. There had been whisperings of hero dirt all week, and wouldn’t you know it, the rumours were true.

It feels like flight, that first lap, with the trees whizzing by, numb hands trying to modulate brakes, and the body’s slow recognition of a familiar stance, a familiar balance, and the nuances of movement that will smooth out the trail. One lap, and there is breathless exhilaration. Two laps, and my legs are tiring, my feet well and truly frozen, but I remember how to pump and lean and push and….. aahhh.

It’s a sigh of relief, a release of the pent up sadness and tension and general anxiety that has plagued me these past few weeks.

Shall we do a third lap? Nah, I’m hungry. Out of gas. It’s been a few hours and in the cold, I forget to drink water. I also need to pick up the kids.

Yesterday, I take my bike to the shop and they tune everything up; all the squeaks, clicks and wobbles, all the little things that have been annoying me. It’s quiet at the bike shops, and they’re just happy for people who will ride in any weather. I give my handlebars a spin and they are smooooth. We chat briefly about my headset bearings, as they’ve been annoying since last season, and the conclusion we arrive at is that mountain biking is bad for mountain bikes, because it’s a fine balance of cleaning the dirt off your bike, and getting your bike wet. Such a dilemma.

But when it’s hero dirt, or really any dirt, it’s worth it.

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This article defines the Five Types of Mud well, in case you have obsessive compulsive tendencies. Or maybe you’re a soil scientist. Or just a nerd like me.

Argh

It’s been three weeks of only partially, if at all, turning my head to the right.

It started during residency, with studying. I’d develop pulsating headaches at the back of my head, only on the right side, with tightness radiating in to my shoulder. A massage and diligent hydration would often settle it, but once it started, it never went away.

In the past decade, it has only become more frequent, occurring with skiing, cold weather, workouts at the gym, and often, just sleeping. I saw the shiatsu guy in his massage truck, had myofascial releases, saw physiotherapists and massage therapists, but it was a chiropractor who was finally able to sort things out last year, and for three whole months, I was pain free and turning my head in all directions with impunity, all while pushing my physical training and working in less-than-ergonomic desk setups. It was like I was twenty again or something.

I’d been a bit achy while on vacation, but I chocked that up to hours on a plane and the stress of (FIVE) cancelled flights and hanging out at airports, beds/pillows that vary in quality, and days involving the dodging of waves and the tossing of children into a pool. That, and then arranging a funeral and cleaning a house and hauling out a lot of garbage.

But now, in the comfort of home and routine, the pain persists, and I dream about taking a small scalpel and cutting each taut muscle fibre in the right levator scapulae, one by one, until relief is achieved. Is this what aging is?

I am lucky, because I work in a medical office, and I swing by a colleague’s room and ask if she does trigger point injections, and could she maybe do me at lunch, and bill for it?

I get a series of small pokes, each filled with saline and lidocaine, into the little wad of muscle misbehaving beside my right scapula. Nothing happens.

I finish the work day, and more than a month’s backlog of paperwork has been unleashed, and I’m in the office for fourteen hours, with a brief break for another colleague to swing by and talk bikes. I convince him he needs to swap out the decals on his new build. This is my one exciting event in that now I’m thinking about colours and bikes and matching things all custom and I cannot explain what a fun mental excercise this is.

But upon arrival home, my kids are still awake and my husband is feeling sad and so am I, and there is nothing left inside because tomorrow morning I will have to wake up and do it all over again and my neck still hurts and it makes my head throb, so I crawl into bed and think about my dad and cry a little, resolving to be done by morning and ready for a hard session on the trainer. I’d like to do some weights, but my neck and shoulder won’t cooperate.

Only I can’t get up in the morning (is it the sads? misery? or that it’s 5 am? I can’t tell), so I don’t do my trainer session, and my neck is still pulling my head off kilter and wouldn’t it be a little bit of a relief if it just pulled my head right off for a few days?

I get up after my brother calls me at 6 am to advise that our plans to sort out long term care for my mother have been obliterated by a refusal of funding from the insurance company and we are back to the drawing board, but it is probably for the best, though it sucked up six weeks of time and a few hundred dollars in processing fees.

Then I’m at work and it’s 7 am and yesterday’s colleague has dropped in to do some paperwork and advised that he obsessed over bike decals yesterday. I send a link for a gunmetal gloss I think would be best. Gloss. No matte. Will he spend $30 on stickers? Only the shadow knows.

I’ve made plans to ride bikes this Saturday with girlfriends. Hopefully I can still ride after 3 months off and with my neck staging a revolt. I also have to cut my steerer tube down after they put a new CSU in because as it stands, it makes my bike a unicorn/tool for unintended core biopsies of the brain. I don’t own a hacksaw, so I’ll end up having to take it in to the shop to get it done but at least then it will be nice and level, one would hope. And then I have to put my bike back together and it needs a fair bit of work right now, but I can’t be bothered to get it sorted because no one’s paying me to fix my bike, so I guess I’ll keep doing the things that pay me even if maybe they are causing my head to fall off.
Because I have to pay the physio I’m seeing tomorrow, and the chiro on Friday.

Getting old is expensive.

Cue tiny violins.

42

What a way to ring in a birthday. A mere 11 days off from a death day.

The nice thing about funerals (and their expected photo slideshows) is they force you to go through old family photo albums. This photo was from when I was four, learning to ski. My parents had come to pick me up. You can see from their poor choice of footwear and dressy clothing that they were not skiers themselves. Yeah, that was me 38 years ago. I don’t know what possessed my immigrant parents to put me into ski lessons, but I’m grateful they did.

Then there’s this gem. My brother was about a year old, so that would’ve made me six or so. This was for a church photo directory.

The funeral was yesterday. It went pretty smoothly. There were a few faces I didn’t know, and a lot of my parents’ old friends I haven’t seen in decades. Some have aged elegantly, and some..ehh.. have not.

I don’t know how I’ve aged.
Right now, I’m nearly ten pounds heavier than my baseline. There is a little pouch on my stomach that flops every time I jump. It feels like my body has staged a revolt. My neck has been spasming for the past two weeks. A physio appointment two days ago did little, and I’ve been sitting with a massager on my neck/shoulder every time I sit down to work. I cannot turn my head.
I know I just need to get my fat@ss back on the trainer, start eating cleaner, and lean out again, but when I’m in the big city and my brother and his wife are around, we eat a lot, and we eat well. Every imaginable variation of Chinese cuisine is at our fingertips, and I miss some of this food so much I can’t possibly refuse.
They’ve said to me that they exercise so they can eat, and here, I am reminded that all social activities are based around food. When I’m back home, all social activities are based around outdoor activities, and I exercise so I can keep up with my friends.

This, compounded with the knowlege that every year, I have to fight harder to maintain fitness, much less make gains, is demoralizing. Because also:

Anyway, I wanted to write something insightful and good today, but cartoons and photos are all I’ve got.

I’m headed to my brother’s for a hotpot dinner tonight. I am, per my sister-in-law’s admonition, wearing stretchy pants. Then I fly home tomorrow, my mother’s care and future still undecided, into some semblance of routine.

Here we go again.

Gone Forever

Christmas Eve
Hi Dad.
Hey.
You feeling okay?
I’m so tired, it’s hard to talk. Doctors say we have to see what my bloodwork shows. We have to wait.
Ok, rest, I’ll call you tomorrow.

Christmas Day
No answer.
Text brother: Is dad okay?
He doesn’t want me and S [my sister-in-law] to visit. He’s pretty adamant he doesn’t want to see us.
So you’re not going to see him then?
No.

My family and our two besties, on the other side of the country, head up the mountain to ski and have an indulgent Christmas brunch at the top.

As we’re leaving that afternoon, the phone rings.
Hi, it’s Dr. F. I couldn’t get a hold of your brother. Your dad is worse. I’d consider changing his code status. We need to have a discussion.

Two of my best friends are staying with us. One lost her father last year, unexpectedly, suddenly, in a similar situation requiring siblings and emergency flights. Her relationship with her father was complicated, as is mine, and there was reluctance toward stepping in to the inevitable cascade of events to follow.
I fold laundry, and she leans on the doorway of the laundry room.
“I know. It’s so hard to know what to feel. But one thing someone said to me that stuck was, what can you do that can best honour your father? And if it means being there for his last moments, then that’s something worthwhile.”
But what if he’s not even coherent? And then he’ll be gone and life carries on and I’ll have risked flying in storms and living in airports for the rest of the holidays for that.
“Well, yeah, but with this, he’ll be gone forever. Forever. You have to think about that.”
She hugs me hard.

I book a flight for early the next morning. My other friend and I drive down in the pitch black after sharing in Christmas dinner, in a downpour, on icy roads to the city, where I crash at his place and he’ll drive my car back and spend the remaining holidays with my family at my house. I cab to the airport at 4 am, and miraculously, after five cancelled flights due to mechanicals and weather in the past few weeks, this flight takes off on time, and arrives on time. There is turbulence. The plane yaws left and right. I feel nothing.
Yaw. I learned that word when I was working on a research project meausuring the empty spaces in the dementing human brain. MRI images had to be adjusted just so to keep measurements consistent and one axis was fixing yaw.

My sister in law weaves through traffic and we arrive at the hospital. I’ve been updated, but nothing ever prepares you for the bloated appearance of bodies in ICU. My father’s face is gaunt. He’s been overweight my entire life, and for the first time, I realize that I have my dad’s face, now that I can see its structure so clearly. He is vaguely sentient, facial muscles flickering at the sound of my voice, but no conscious reponse. He can hear me, on some plane of awareness, so I whisper-sob into his ear all the things I should have said, should have done, all the things Asian families assume but never say. I tell him I love him, not to worry, we’ve got this, I’ll see you on the other side, so just wait there and it’ll be better, then. I grasp his puffy, edematous hand like it’s all I have in the world, and remember how dry and leathery that hand was when I was a kid; rough from the winter cold, with tapered fingertips and a sandpapery texture.

He appears uncomfortable, and after a shot of hydromorphone, he calms, and is quiet. He remains this way for the rest of the day, as old friends of yesteryear file in and say their goodbyes.

It’s 10 pm. We are tired. I look at his four IV bags, and he is maxed out on pressors to keep his blood pressure at a viable level. I look at the nurse. She is older, kindly, and experienced.
“He’s on so many pressors. If we stop them all, how long do you think it will take for him to slip away?”
She is pensive, balancing her delicate role as soothsayer and carer without becoming a fortune-teller.
“Sometimes,” she says, “it can take a whole twenty-four hours. And sometimes, when someone is on such high doses and his blood pressure is still so low, it is much quicker. Minutes, maybe an hour.”

My brother and I confer. We run the idea by my mom. We ask to speak to the doctor. That’s what we’ll do. Just keep him liberally pain free.

Soon, all IV pumps go dark, the gentle hum of machinery quiets, all alarms are silenced, and the little squiggles on the screen flick off.

All that’s left is the laboured, rhythmic breathing of my dad, and the snotty, ugly crying of me, my brother, and his wife. A million snippets of memory flood my senses, from childhood to now.

My mother, with her brain injury, appears almost blank, sitting in the corner of the room. She has a furrow in her brow.
“Forty-six years we were married,” she muses. “That’s almost half a century.”
Her eyes are damp. She repeats this twenty minutes later. And has repeated it approximately once an hour for the past six hours.
She looks lost.

At 11 pm, the laboured breathing stops. He closes his mouth, as if to signal that he is well and truly done. His eyes open gently half-way, then close again.

Just like that, he is gone. Gone forever.

The room feels off balance.
Yawing.

Surreal.

We drive to my parents’ house with the radio playing. I think I’ve just properly hugged my brother for the first time since were little kids.

We make a long list of to-do’s for the next few days.
Banks, lawyers, financial managers, funeral services. Lists of documentation needed. Task lists to sort out how to get my mother cared for. Sell the house. Sort belongings. Close out accounts.

My mother crawls into the bed she’s shared with my dad for the past forty-six years. She falls asleep immediately.

I shower and crawl in next to her, on my dad’s side.
And I write this, to remember the vivid sense that everything feels like it is happening with overly bright colour and loud noise coupled with a disasocciated sense that I am watching it all from outside a glass bubble.
I write to remember this strange emptiness of finality. A space once occupied by someone who is woven into my very cellular being is gone. Vanished. There is only void, and nothing to fill it.

Tomorrow, I know, will be a new day.

We will restructure life to work beyond the new void. Grief will resurface suddenly and at inopportune times for the next few months but soon that will fade, and the edges of the void will dull, and before I know it, forever will seem manageable.

Escape

I might be deep into a very fancy French, etched-crystal glass.

I’m on vacation.

I was on a small island that takes you up and down and around very steep roads in very small cars that struggle on the hills. It is a small island blessed with spectacular beaches and a very French way of life.

One night, I dressed my family up (yes, progeny too!) and we waltzed into a restaurant known for it’s Saturday night party. We ate, we had ridiculous cocktails that cost 25 euro, and by 10 pm, my son had his earplugs in and was passed out at the dinner table.

A woman with too much lip filler sidled up to my brother to take a photo. I am confused, because my brother isn’t famous, and my husband laughingly obliges in taking the photo.

It is only later that she expresses how excited she is that she has taken a photo with the North Korean Supreme Leader.

I don’t even know what to say.

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We are at an exclusive speakeasy-esque bar that specializes in rum. We have had several tastings of a Guadaloupe rum from 23 years ago. We have been hanging out with the French-Italian bartender and he is lovely, yammering on about his adorable toddler daughter. There is a German couple hanging out with us too. The bartender feels it necessary to bond with my brother and I (I guess?), to describe some of the asiatic features of his daughter’s eyes, and I see his fingers go to the sides of his eyes to pull them up. Don’t do it friend. I like you right now. Stop right there. My brother saves the day, offering the terminology of an “asian face”. The bartender stops the gesture.

Good Lord.

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We head to a restaurant known for its wild pirate theme and parties. They have a room full of costumes for patrons to dress up in. There are sombreros and ponchos. A sheik’s outfit. A feather headdress.
I am cringing so hard. I refuse to dress up as anything. I let my daughter dress up as an angel, and my son and I dance with the drunken crowd, and his dance moves earn him high-fives all around.

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Later, I am telling my brother about the history of this island, with its French colonizers, but before them, the Swedes.
“Ahh, no wonder it’s so racist. Swedes! Such homogeneity.” says my brother.
Wait, I say. One of my good bike buddies is a Swede, and is lovely through and through.
“Well, he left Sweden, didn’t he? To explore other places. That says something.”

It is the most time I’ve spent with my brother since I left home at seventeen, I realize.

We try to leave the island. It is a series of flight delays, cancellations, missed connections. Two days in limbo. A relaxing vacation undone in two days. Still one more destination we’ve tried to fit in on this ambitious family trip.

Add to this my newly protuberant belly, full of fish tacos and ceviche. I have gained eight pounds and I don’t care. I just keep wearing a bikini and pretending to be pregnant.

Add to this my father’s recent renal failure on chemo, his sudden admission to hospital this afternoon, and the very distinct possibility that he could be gone before I’ve had a chance to blink, though my medical brain thinks he has time.

Add to this the urgent need to get my mother into a care facility now that my father cannot care for her impulsive, head-injured self. The paperwork is spectactular and exceptionally annoying when nothing is a fillable PDF (guess what I did all morning?).

Add to this an event on the sidewalk of a mentally ill man on the street where we’re waiting for our Uber driver. He is ultimately arrested, and an officer questions us as witnesses.

Add to this the steady stream of neverending work emails that have flooded in the entire time I’ve been away.

Add to this the renovation of a few bits of our home while we’re away. The painter is delayed an extra two days. Which is fine, because with all the flight issues, we won’t be able to get back as originally planned, which also means I’ve had to reschedule two full clinic days last minute, which I can only make up by working more than originally intended during the holidays.

Add to this my corporation’s year-end, and my accountant’s long list for me of to-do’s, all the professional membership renewals. All the forms. All the payments.

Add to this the fact that my bike fork CSU is done and needs replacing, and it will cost a pretty penny.

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I order a negroni and a basket of fries via room service while I sit in dirty jogging pants, slogging through emails while my children sleep. They will probably be the most expensive fries and cocktail I’ve ever had and I don’t care.

Because when I wake up every night with anxiety at 4 am (on.my.once.annual.racist.vacation), or wait interminably at airport terminals, or breathe a sigh of annoyance at my new largesse, I am reminded that despite it all, I’m ridiculously blessed, charmed even.

And the best distraction of all?

These. My favourite people.

Add to this the Kindle I bought myself.
Add to this hours upon hours of immersing myself in the Dune series (I’m on book 3 of 6), and reminding myself that I love all sci-fi writing beyond what I am capable of expressing, and Dune. DUNE! It’s something else.
Add to this the random meeting with an old roommate of mine after twenty years, with her now living in Dubai.
Add to this a viewing of The Greatest Showman, which is a feel-good movie musical in every aspect.

I could go on.
But I’ve got a negroni to finish and some kids to cuddle and tomorrow to conquer.

*kiss kiss* the French way.
Bon soir, adieu, au revoir.
For a little while at least.

Legacy

I had an existential crisis in a brewery in Portland. It was our fourth microbrewery tour, and we were deep in our cups.

So says a friend of mine, who has just decided to re-write his memoir. He ran his first manuscript by a writer friend, who told him no one would want to read a re-hashing of his soul-destroying experience as a Public Health Officer for a major Canadian city during COVID.

In the midst of this very sound criticism, he had a crisis, and is now reframing his memoir in the form of life and leadership lessons learned in a series of letters to his daughters. “Because I got thinking about what kind of legacy I would leave for my daughters and I think this is one way I want to do it.

Huh. I admit I’ve never really thought about a life legacy.

But I have been the past few days.

We’re back in the city of Toronto visiting family before heading off for a few weeks in the hot, hot sun, far from the cold rain and sullen faces of winter, far from the tourist flood imminent in our ski town.

The weather doesn’t matter much here though, because we’re inside a lot. There’s not much to do outside. We sit in traffic a lot. Construction is never-ending. Watch TV, read, eat, work. Helluva vacation…Hubs and I have had work calls and emails all week.

But I get to see my parents, who get more and more frail every time I see them. My dad is always physically uncomfortable somewhere, and my mom is always tottering around, repeating the same conversations because she can’t remember. The accident so many years ago replaced my once vibrant, loud-laughing, adventurous mother with an old woman I hardly know. I see my brother and his wife, and he’s fun and we get along, but every time I see him I’m reminded that we are diametric opposites in all aspects of our lives, held together by a genetic and historical thread. My parents watch my kids with affection, even if they don’t quite know how to interact with them, and my kids like hanging out with my parents, though my son has advised that their car “smells kinda funny.” When we leave their house, my mother asks me when she gets to see us again, and I answer, again, that I don’t know. My father waves, gives me a hug, and tells me not to worry.

Kids blurred out because they don’t always want to be on the internet, but all of my daughter’s photos right now are cross-eyed. It’s annoying but also awesome, just don’t tell her I said that.

What are they leaving behind? Does my dad think about these things?

What am I going to leave behind?
Because right now, I’m living for myself. My husband, my kids, my joy, the things I love to do and all my moments. They are all self-interested. Does it matter if I leave a mark on this world?
I’d have to say no. I’m not sure I care if I do. I’ll be forgotten in good time, and if I make it into an afterlife of sorts, I can be pretty certain no one on earth is going to give a damn.
Don’t be a jerk, doff your past hurts, pour love and gentleness and patience on everyone you can, and enjoy whatever you can while you can, as long as you don’t hurt anyone (including yourself) in the process.

So we’ll celebrate my new niece who is now 3 days old. We’ll celebrate my brother-in-law’s new bulldog puppy. We’ll play a million rounds of Monopoly and yell at all the World Cup soccer matches with my in-laws, watch all the movies and eat all the Chinese food with my parents.

I finished The Apollo Murders in a matter of three days, and Chris Hadfield is a man who has definitely left a legacy. I cannot remember the last time I finished a novel without repeated and extended breaks.

Tomorrow, we hit up the Big Apple for a bit before heading to the same island we went to in the middle of the pandemic. While in New York, I’m going to see one of my old university friends, who has been living in Dubai ever since, and happens to be in New York the same time I am.

Because the world is small and life is short.

Legacy shmegacy. Make it ’til tomorrow with a smile on my face and we’ll call it a win.
That, and don’t raise @ss-holey kids.
Win.

Banana-nah

Anyone remember this cartoon?

From Wiki: Rejected is an animated film directed by Don Hertzfeldt that was released in 2000. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film the following year at the 73rd Academy Awards, and received 27 awards from film festivals around the world.

The sketches were weird and a bit gross, but I thought they were brilliant.

Anyway, in this one, the banana comes in at the end of the scene and says, simply, “I am a banana!”

SO AM I!

I bought a banana costume.
After Halloween.
It’s a very versatile costume, and can be worn anywhere really, for laughs.

I expected a portion of my friends to think I was an idiot, though if they were truly my friends, they’d know that already.

What I did not expect, however, was the number of people who questioned me on how okay I was on the racist subtext of the banana.

I should note that the people who asked this question were all Caucasian, which to me signals that they’re pretty with the program, “woke” if you will, with regard to this term, because growing up, I thought the whole banana terminology was just something all us North-American-born Asian kids threw around for fun.

“Oh Crusty, you’re such a banana..” said my Asian friends with a mix of affection and pity, shaking their heads at my lack of knowledge about my own culture.

I didn’t know my Caucasian friends even knew about this, and suddenly, they’re worried about it and its racist undertones, though if any of them were to go out and buy a banana costume, they’d just be a banana, plain and simple. Nothing racist. No harm done.

For the uninitiated, Bananas and Twinkies would refer to kids like me who were considered yellow on the outside, but white on the inside. Not all immigrant children are as banana as I, and some are more banana than I. It kind of depends when your parents immigrated and how much of a priority it was for them to raise you in a traditional way. For kids who were second generation North American, they were *really* banana, many of them not knowing how to speak their mother tongue, or having familiarity with their home cuisine.
We liked to classify each other. Korean kids had a system where you were a 2 if your parents were born in N. America, a 1.5 if you were born here and a 1 if you immigrated as a little kid. Or something like that. I never quite got that system. If you immigrated when you were a bit older, then you’d be called a FOB (fresh off the boat) which was the most derogatory term of all. Teenage subculture is cliquey, so adding in a layer of race and “level of assimilation” was just part of it. In my circles at least, it was all in jest, and mostly just a funny way to cope with the way things were.

My parents immigrated when they were in their late teens, going to Texas (of all places!) to start. My mom worked as a server in the summers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana while doing her degree. For both my parents, it was: get good at speaking English quickly, and assimilate or die. How very Borg.

So keeping me abreast of Chinese festivals and finding the ingredients to make Chinese food in a province with a large population of oil-riggers and ranchers wasn’t a priority. It was about making sure I did well socially and academically, so I could do what I wanted with my life, skin colour and eye shape aside. This meant I got to go to sleepovers, play like a feral street child with the girl across the street until the streetlights went on, go trick-or-treating, and have turkey at Christmas. My brother and I were put in ski and snowboard lessons, ushered outside to learn to skate. My parents were, by Chinese standards, incredibly lenient and risk tolerant. I had few Chinese friends growing up, often because they weren’t allowed to do the stuff I was allowed to do.

I was, however, still put in extracurricular math programs, piano lessons, and Chinese language school. University was an expectation, but not allowed for arts or social sciences.

So I was a banana, but not fully.

Ultimately, all this hype has made me hesitant to wear my banana costume, because it’s innocence lost now. Am I going to trigger this “OMG does she know?” response in all the woke white people who see me in it?

OF COURSE I KNOW.

And it irks that it would only trigger this because I am Asian and wearing a banana costume, when anyone else in it would just be a freaking banana.

I just want to wear a banana costume every so often because it’s funny and gives me joy, and when my daughter decides to don it to watch TV, or just putter around the house, it makes us all laugh.

WHATEVER.
I’m just going to wear it.
I’m not offended.
It’s not racist. It’s a fruit.
So everyone else can just mind their own business.

Pilot light is out

Figuratively speaking.

My gas fireplace pilot light is actually out, but only because we’re redoing the surround and had to move some vent work.

But really, my bike pilot light has gone cold.

It was gloriously sunny this weekend, albeit a bit cold and frosty, but above my 2 degree Celsius (35.6F) limit to ride bikes. Did I go?
No.

Instead, I binge-watched Arcane. (It’s INCREDIBLE btw, soundtrack, graphics, story, everything.)

I don’t watch TV normally, but for the first time in ages, I didn’t have file reviews and reports hanging over me. I didn’t have a training schedule to adhere to. I didn’t have any obligations. So I sat there, on a weekend, under a blanket with my kids and my dog, and watched a cartoon. For hours. While my husband hustled at work. While the sun shone and the sky was blue. And I didn’t feel a lick of guilt about it. It was glorious.

I was stuck all day today and yesterday in clinic. Fourteen hours today, ten yesterday. I’m really effing tired and I just got an email with the subject, “Win a cheese advent calendar from Cheese Club Hong Kong!”. There is a woman out there who lives in Toronto, drives an Infiniti, whose name and email is startlingly similar to my own. She also apparently is part of Cheese Club Hong Kong. I get random emails from her friends. I’ve gotten receipts for cake orders, and the odd travel itinerary. I don’t know how to let her know, though sometimes I wonder if we’d be friends. Maybe she’d share her advent calendar cheese with me.

At some point this evening, I got a message in our little bike group. Someone wants to go riding tomorrow and is looking for companions. He is met with a few “out of town”s and “working”s.
I need to get outside. I’ll bite.

But then I don’t. Because I really do have work to do.
Mostly though, I don’t want to clean my bike in the cold. I hate how I’m sweaty-cold and muddy and my toes and fingers are frozen, and then I have to grab a hose and clean off my bike, then hold a scrub brush to clean the little things, then hold an increasingly damp cloth with my frozen fingers to dry off said bike, then lube it and put it all away. Then I have to rinse the mud off the pants and shoes, put shoes on a dryer, peel off cold wet pants, cold wet socks, damp shirt and sticky bra. Then it’s the pain of toes thawing in the shower, the frozen feeling in the core of my very being, yanking the gritty elastic out of my hair. Oh, then the laundry. And vacuuming/mopping my path to the laundry. It’s a lot of bloody work you know.

You will see, too, how someone has reacted with a princess emoji.

I will own this. Princesses don’t ride in the mud.
I will also point out that the person who posted this emoji also did not volunteer to ride, and I know he doesn’t usually work on a Wednesday.

My city riding buddy sent me a photo of his weekend riding crew out riding in the snow. They’ve got big grins on their faces.
“Where ya been?” he texts.
I’m here.
Sprawled on a couch.
In thick, fleecy sweatpants.
Dry.
Fat.
And okay with it.


I text him back: I’m done for the season. I don’t want to touch my bike. I’m all biked out. See you in the new year.
He gets it. He’s the one who almost died a couple seasons ago after smashing his face into the ground. He did the BC Bike Race two years in a row, and two years in a row, did not finish. He broke bits of his hand, then a rib, and this past year, was still dealing with too many concussion symptoms to attempt racing. This year though, he volunteered and waited at the end to put my medal on me, give me a hug, and cry a few celebratory tears with me. It was pretty great.

But WHAT?
Is it even possible to be all biked out?
I blame it on the bike race.
All the training. All the riding. I love it still, but I’m not willing to suffer frozen digits and muddy underpants in the middle of November for it. Not anymore. Maybe I’m just getting old.

Maybe I will sing a different tune in the spring when I actually miss my bike again.

In other news, I bought a big, long, puffy parka online today.

Because the pilot light is out.

What have I done?

I’m trying to do right by my kids.
This means I’m trying to limit their screen time.

My husband is a realtor, and he has to drive around a lot to meet with clients and show property, which means that when I’m busy or working or whatever, he carts the kids around with him. His default is to tell them to grab their screens so they have something to do when he’s talking to people.

Today, I decide I need to encourage my kids’ brains to remain solid, so I say, “NO! No screens! Bring a notebook, and I want the two of you to write a story. It has to be funny, and when I come to pick you up in an hour, I’d better be laughing when you read it to me.”

What you’re about to read is what they came up with. I feel like it embodies what it is to be an eight and nine-year old these days. So, here goes…

THE FARTING STORY
Once upon a time, there was someone named Yo Mama!!! Now Yo Mama was a funny, strict teacher. So one weird day at a Catholic school, there was a lady named Bob who had a whole lot of lady-like friends. Then one day there was a drop in the stock market. So the Catholic school prayed that it would go up again. Now during that prayer, there was Bob and all her friends and a guy named Gloria. Gloria was trying to hold a fart in but he couldn’t so he let it go. All of a sudden there was a loud fart. It sounded like this: Faaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrt. Now everyone was laughing and Gloria’s face was bright tomato red and Yo Mama was like, “Bruh, who did that? In the middle of a prayer.”
The End.

Ha! Finance, religion, potty humour and bucking gender norms.
Throw in some street slang and call it day.

Yo Mama! BRUH! It’s always a weird day at a Catholic school!

Also, we watched a thing about Sam Bankman-Fried this morning while I was on the trainer, reviewing the $8 billion hot flaming mess he’s in and there were a lot of dramatic graphs that only a deity might save.

You also ought to know that this happened in my 9th grade class when I was at a Christian school, only the kid who farted was named Tony. And I probably told the kids about this somewhere along the way, which is where I’m guessing they got the idea.

I don’t know what Bob has to do with anything.

I laughed. I hope you did too.