Year of the Dawg (#212)

It’s Chinese New Year, and it’s also my third blogoversary! I bet y’all think I’m gonna do an uplifting or informational post about the Year of the Dog today, right?

Nope. Today I’m gonna talk about just how much a new mattress can improve your life.

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When my Chinese-American husband and I didn’t get pregnant on the first try, I consulted my Judgmental Genius Doctor Sister. She told me not to worry and gave me her foolproof method for getting pregnant.

When I got off the phone, Andy said, “Well? Well?!”

“It’s kind of a lot of work,” I warned him. I took a deep breath and said, “We’re supposed to have sex every other day.”

“What?” Andy breathed. “Sex every other day?”

“That’s what Dr. Sis says,” I told him. “Every other day for 10 days after I finish my period.”

“Making a baby is awesome!” Andy shouted. After he calmed down, though, he groaned and said, “Time to get that new mattress.”

We’d been putting off the new mattress because we knew we needed an expensive one. The need for an expensive mattress was Andy’s fault. While the man was a perfect husband in many ways – good person, good job, good sense of humor, good cook, good around the house – his physical form was riddled with design flaws. He had retinas that were prone to tearing. Same with his meniscus – in both knees. He had infection-induced asthma. A cyst in his heel. His hearing isn’t that great either, although I suspect that might be by choice, especially when he ostensibly slept through my screaming, “Get up! The dog is puking!” at 2 AM.

Worst of all, Andy had recently learned he had compressed discs in his back. Physical therapy could only do so much. The doctor told him to get a really, really good mattress. Do you know how much a top-of-the-line mattress costs? It costs at least two mortgage payments. My Chinese-American husband is very frugal, especially about luxuries he can’t truly enjoy because he’s unconscious. He balked, opting to sigh and groan and moan about his aching back.

As soon as Andy learned there would be loads of conscious fun time on a mattress, he picked out the most expensive one. He called daily to see when it would be delivered. The day it arrived, Andy came home early and we got busy…

Only to be interrupted by the doorbell. The dogs went nuts.

We dove under the covers.

“They’ll go away,” Andy said. “Let’s pretend we’re not home.”

The doorbell stopped – and pounding on the door began. “Autumn? Autumn! Did you get something delivered? I saw a truck!”

It was our neighbor, Gin. Gin was one of the original owners in our neighborhood. She was a widow who’d raised five kids on the block, now lived alone, and was pushing ninety. Gin charged across the street when she saw me gardening, thrilled to have a new neighbor that hadn’t lived or heard all her stories:

“You know that gurneys and wheelchairs won’t fit into these little houses, right? When my husband died, I told the paramedics to stay outside, then I wrapped him up in a sheet and they carried him out that way.”

“I was one of the first people to visit China after Nixon! And I have a cheongsam from Hong Kong, too – did you know they have a polo club there?”

Gin was a bit of a hoarder, but she was also a giver. She’d pop over with a Halloween house flag “to match your black cats” or gorgeous glass Christmas ornaments “because I saw your tree in the window and it looked so pretty!”

Gin’s paperweights.

Once she learned I had a paperweight collection, she gave me two more.

She had advice on the summer fungus that attacked my roses.

Andy helped her when she struggled with her trashcans, even though he complained that she’d trap him with her stories for hours. He decided to share the joy, and sent the guys who investigated him annually (for his top secret security clearance) over to interview Gin.

One of them came to our house afterwards and said, “Ha, ha, do you have any real neighbors that I can interview in under two hours?”

Since I worked from home and often brought her baked goods, Gin got in the habit of popping by whenever she felt like it. I’d been raised to be a good hostess NO MATTER WHAT, which meant I probably made Gin feel a little too welcome, too regularly. It never occurred to her that I might be working on a book – or a baby.

Gin kept hollering. “Autumn! Are you in the backyard?! Hello!”

Andy whispered, “How long before she goes away?”

I giggled. “She’s not going away.”

“What? Never?!”

“Nope. She can see our car, she can hear the dogs, she knows we’re home.”

“We’re doomed,” Andy moaned.

“Autumn! Autumn!” called Gin. “Where are you?”

Andy sighed. “I guess you’d better go answer the door.”

“Or…YOU could answer it! And solve a little problem for me,” I said, a brilliant realization dawning.

Andy answered the door in his bathrobe. As Gin’s jaw dropped, Andy explained that yes, a truck had come — with a brand new mattress. “Autumn is a little busy right now. But I’m sure she’ll see you soon and tell you how well the new mattress works.”

Gin went home without saying a word.

The next day, I brought her some cookies and started to apologize.

She cut me off. “Oh, no, Autumn, no, I am so sorry! I had no idea. It’s been a long time, and I think I’d forgotten what it was like to be a young married couple. But then I saw your husband in his robe and my!” Gin trailed off, fanning herself. She gave me a grin and said, “What is it you young people say? Andy is quite the sly dawg, isn’t he?”

I agreed. Later, I saw Gin chatting with a few other neighbors. Word got around. Andy and I got a few snickers questions about our new “mattress.”

In the Chinese Zodiac, Andy was born in the Year of the Dog, which starts today with the new moon. Andy even embodies the very best attributes of the Dog; he’s honest, faithful, smart, and has a strong sense of responsibility.

But in my neighborhood? Andy is the Dawg.

Baby Battle (#205)

My parents procreated like rabbits. Then they got divorced and procreated some more. Given that having children is pretty much the worst thing a regular person – not an Exxon Executive or a Donald Trump – can do to the environment, I figured someone in my family owed it to Mother Earth to NOT have children.

There was just one problem. My husband wanted a kid. Continue reading Baby Battle (#205)

Winner, Winner, Olive Dinner (#185)

My Chinese-American husband and I live in Los Angeles. Since my husband is an excellent cook, we don’t go out that often. But when we do go out? There’s always a new Japanese, Indian, or farm-to-table restaurant to try. Andy’s up for anything, which is nice. Most of my white girlfriends won’t even consider sushi. And my friend JM will only go to one restaurant — the Corner Bakery.

When my in-laws visited, my husband and I cooked for them for weeks. Near the end of their visit, Sunny announced that they would take us out to dinner.

I cheered. “Yay! What kind of food would you guys like? A new bistro opened in the Village, or you could try our favorite sushiya in San Pedro.”

Sunny said, “Is there an Olive Garden nearby?”

I sighed. “Of course.” Continue reading Winner, Winner, Olive Dinner (#185)

When the Cavalry Sucks (#181)

You know those big, dysfunctional but lovable white families you used to see in television and film? They were all about siblings being super shitty to each other. Yet when one member of the family was threatened, the family closed ranks and fended off the attacker.

I grew up in a huge, white, broken, dysfunctional family.

I thought those stories were bullshit. Continue reading When the Cavalry Sucks (#181)

Hostess with the Mostess…Dysfunction (#179)

I’ve had a lot of comments from incredulous readers over the last few months. Apparently, no one believes that I have not lost my shit yet with my provocative Chinese-American in-laws. Not even when they nearly burned down the house and never apologized.

Spoiler alert: I have, indeed, lost my shit. In as spectacular fashion as any of you could want. It just wasn’t on my in-law’s first visit, the one I’m blogging about now. (Yes, my reward for surviving the first visit was a second visit! Whoo-hoo!) If you’re waiting on the East Dates West version of The Real Housewives, check back in a few months. Continue reading Hostess with the Mostess…Dysfunction (#179)

Doggone In-laws (#177)

These yogurt-covered almonds don’t look like they produce a deadly gas, do they?

Our rescue dogs learned a lot of commands and tricks — sit, down, stay, roll over, etc. Their favorite command was  “vacuum.” Woofie, our Dane-Lab mix, would eat anything — even rocks. (He couldn’t digest rocks — or cabbage, or corn cobs — but he’d still eat them. And then throw them up, of course. Preferably on the nice carpet. Or my shoes.) Continue reading Doggone In-laws (#177)

Pets Versus Dinner (#176)

Christmas Bunny, just prior to attacking a confused cat.

My family has always had a multitude of pets. I grew up with dogs, cats, turtles, rodents, and more. We even had a very special Siamese rabbit named Christmas. Yes, Christmas. Normal people have bunnies named Peter, but, hey, my little sister was only five when she found him in a New Jersey parking lot. Christmas was a New Jersey street tough masquerading as an adorable bunny. He spent ten happy years terrorizing the family Labrador and several cats while eating the antique Italian Provincial dining room set. Continue reading Pets Versus Dinner (#176)

Rules for Shopping with Chinese-American In-Laws (#174)

My Chinese-American husband loves Costco, the giant shopping warehouse. He had a Costco membership when I met him. Every Sunday morning, he did all the bulk-buying. I went with him. Once. Even though he insisted “it wasn’t that crowded, cuz church” there were still hordes of meandering, food-sampling shoppers in my way. I hated it. I’m a military shopper – my mantra is get in, get your objective, and get out. I revel in weaving among supermarket shopping carts with only a hand-held basket, like a sports car weaving through traffic. (And, like those sports car drivers, I probably get flipped off a lot.) Continue reading Rules for Shopping with Chinese-American In-Laws (#174)

A Tale of Two Immigrants (#173)

My maternal great-great grandfather was the most recent immigrant in my family tree. Enraged and disgusted by the rise of German nationalism in the late 1800s, the German patriarch came to the United States. He was so angry with the Fatherland, in fact, that no one in his household was allowed to speak German. Ever.

It wasn’t until recently that I understood exactly how he felt. Ever since the Inflated Tangerine Fascist took office, I’ve regretted not learning Cantonese. It appalls me that such a vile, morally bankrupt cretin is not only human, but American.

Maybe I’ll start speaking in pig Latin. Continue reading A Tale of Two Immigrants (#173)

A Morning with My In-Laws: Part 4 of the Visit (#172)

Orange you glad my in-laws came to visit?

There’s a whole horror show going on in America right now, but it’s time to take a break from protesting the Orange Pustule. Today we’re headed back to a time when my greatest worry was leaving my in-laws unsupervised.

My husband has limited vacation and sick leave. When he had knee surgery, we carefully scheduled part of his recovery to overlap with a visit from his parents. I had visions of them fetching food for Andy, or keeping him entertained while I worked, walked dogs, cleaned, did yard work, etc. Continue reading A Morning with My In-Laws: Part 4 of the Visit (#172)