Post Father’s Day Post (#323)

Compared to Mother’s Day, Father’s Day is pretty recent. It only exists because certain politicians got all whiny about how dads in America were bereft of recognition. Instead of self-soothing with their higher wages, or their ability to assault women with impunity, or their success despite white mediocrity, they demanded their very own holiday.

President Nixon signed Father’s Day into law in 1972. Yes, NIXON, the most corrupt U.S. President until Trump demanded Nixon hold his beer.

Mother’s Day, at best, says “thanks for all the unpaid emotional labor of child-rearing, please have this one day off.” Ironically, it often means more work for a person who is already overworked and underpaid.

Father’s Day? Father’s Day is ridiculous. We live in a damned patriarchy. Every day is Father’s Day.

Every day the mom network has stories of moms managing kids, work, pets, and broken appliances while this husband went golfing or that husband was hungover from poker. Moms struggle to recover from things like surgery and childbirth, getting up when they should be lying down because their husbands are shit (and allowed/ expected to be shit) at coping with recalcitrant toddlers and teenagers.

As a society, we allow men to focus on their own needs (be it their career or their Crossfit workout) while expecting moms to always hold down a fort teeming with screaming children–even while they’re holding down their own job. Men’s wages even increase once they have kids, despite doing less around the house, while women get penalized. (The combination of pandemic and social media threw this disparity into high relief.)

The result? Less women are getting married. Less women are having kids. More women opting out of a shit system where even single moms have more leisure time than married ones.

Good call, women.

Now, there are some great dads out there. And we certainly hear about them! In fact, the very first state-wide celebration of Father’s Day in the U.S. was in honor of a widower who raised his 6 kids when his wife died—some 40 years after 200,000 widows had to raise kids alone after the U.S. Civil War.

The media is all over these good dads:

This dad learned to braid his daughter’s hair!

This dad coaches his daughter’s team and not his son’s!

This dad bought his daughter tampons isn’t that fucking amazing!

Seriously. How low is the bar for dads?

I mean, take Andy. No, don’t really take him, my husband is a great cook, can dance, makes decent money, and has solid health insurance.

But…Andy would also give our child 12 hours of screen time a day if I weren’t around so he could play Clash Royale or read the news in peace. Andy wouldn’t have done the work to get Baby D into swim classes, Junior Lifeguards, or any sports. Without my  badgering guidance, Andy definitely wouldn’t have volunteered to coach any sports, or signed Baby D up for Cub Scouts. There wouldn’t be father-son trips to McDonad’s Playland, let alone the beach.

Our kid would also be wearing clothes he outgrew 2 years ago.

Yet my fellow moms shrug off this standard dad behavior. Instead, they are in awe over the fact that my husband goes to the Farmer’s Market and cooks on the weekends. They repeatedly tell me how lucky I am.

Can you imagine being amazed if a mom went to the market and made dinner?

Other women tell me what a great dad Andy is because he goes to his son’s sports games—even though he’s missed a few while injured or out of town.

Meanwhile, my Surgeon Sister works long, unpredictable hours and misses some of her daughters’ events. When Surgeon Sis introduced herself as “A’s mom” at swim meet, a woman blurted out, “You’re A’s mom? I thought you were dead!”

The bar for moms is set so high you’d have to be an eagle to fly over it.

The bar for being a good dad is so fucking low a dachshund couldn’t get under it.

But don’t worry, I’m not a total monster. Yesterday we still celebrated Father’s Day in our house.

I walked the dogs early while Andy had coffee and read or played video games. Just like every other day.

I took Baby D to specialized soccer training while Andy relaxed, as I do every Sunday.

We gave Andy new bourbons to try and a few other gifts, plus his favorite doughnuts and apple fritters. Then I took Baby D and some friends to a pool for the afternoon, followed by pizza and frozen yogurt—handling my kids’ activities and social life like I do every day.

Cuz every day is Father’s Day.

Skirmish of the Sides (#322)

I did not grow up gourmet.

I grew up excited about McDonald’s. This might have been because my parents’ ideas of cooking meant throwing protein and potatoes in the oven for an hour or two. Sometimes we had rice as a side, but mostly it was baked potatoes. With margarine. (I didn’t discover butter until I was in high school. Whereupon I ranted to my parents, “Why have you been keeping this deliciousness from us and giving us MARGARINE?!”)

My husband Andy is Chinese-American. In his family, rice isn’t a side, it’s necessity. The angriest I’ve ever seen Andy’s Engineering Cousin was when her Quite White husband went on the Atkin’s diet. “It’s ridiculous!” she ranted at Andy on Thanksgiving. “It’s all meat and fat! Not a grain of rice ever! How can you have dinner or holidays without rice?!”

Since I’d never seen rice served at Thanksgiving or Christmas or Easter or 4th of July until I met Andy’s extended family, I could easily imagine holidays without rice. There would be mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, or potato salad. Rice had never made an appearance at any Ashbough holiday EVER.

I was fine with that, because rice is boring. Like tofu, it’s great for soaking up the flavor of any sauce, and when it’s fried into crispy rice with some spicy tuna on top? Divine.

But plain rice alone?

“It’s only good for keeping your mouth from burning up after spicy food,” I informed Andy. “Why don’t we have more potatoes? They are healthier than rice, with more vitamins and antioxidants. Plus, you can make a potato into anything: hash browns, home fries, potato skins, scalloped potatoes, potato pancakes, and even French fries! Or you can just have a potato baked with cheese and sour cream.”

“Potatoes are only healthier if you eat the skin,” Andy retorted. “And all the potato dishes you listed are not healthier than plain rice.”

“But way yummier. I miss potatoes. The only time we have potatoes is when I make pot roast.”

With no small amount of side-eye, Andy said, “When you make the food, you can choose the side.”

Not long after that statement, Andy was injured and couldn’t cook for months. Which meant I had to. The only fringe benefit was potatoes. Lots of them. Potatoes went into the oven and the crockpot. (Especially after I burned the rice. In the rice cooker. Yeah, it’s a mystery.)

Our son Baby D was my ally—at first. He liked pot roast potatoes smothered in gravy. He didn’t bat an eye at the little purple potatoes in the chicken rosemary. And Baby D devoured baked potatoes loaded with bacon and cheese.

Andy’s scrumptious eggs Benedict with home fries.

Once he healed, Andy grudgingly added potatoes to the weekly shopping list. He made hash browns and home fries for weekend breakfasts. He would occasionally toss in a potato galette to go with his beef Wellington. He made potato skins for the Superbowl every year.

IT WAS A CLEVER DIVERSION.

At the same time, Andy introduced Baby D to sticky rice and musubi (rice wrapped in seaweed). Baby D would have sticky rice with dinner and then eat a bowl with sugar after dinner if he was still hungry. He’d often beg his father for a quick snack of musubi. Andy would oblige, of course.

All part of his master plan.

Only I was surprised the weekend Baby D glared at his breakfast burrito instead of eating it.

“Not hungry?” I asked.

“It has hash browns in it. Don’t want hash browns.”

“What?!” I practically screeched. “Who doesn’t like hash browns?!”

“I can make it without hash browns,” Andy quickly offered, trying not to smile. “I could even put in—”

“Don’t say it!” I interrupted. “It would be a TRAVESTY.”

“—rice,” Andy finished.

While Baby D declined the rice, opting for an egg, cheese, and bacon breakfast burrito, the hash brown incident heralded the resurgence of rice in our household. With the exception of pot roast potatoes, Baby D had to be reminded to finish any potato dish on his plate. He’d even eat his vegetables first. (Unheard of!) When we had our quarantine/ birthday/ Thanksgiving last year, he was particularly bitter about mashing potatoes.

“Why can’t we have rice?” he whined. Repeatedly.

We might have been physically alone that holiday, but Andy’s family was definitely with us in spirit.

No rice, only mashed potatoes because Baby D’s mother is so mean.

Mother’s Day Musings (#321)

Content Warning: We’ve lost so many millions of mothers to COVID this year that even relentless jewelry-hawkers like Pandora are exercising a modicum of compassion in their Mother’s Day advertising. If you aren’t up for reading about the holiday, skip this post and consider yourself hugged.

My mom died when I was a teenager. I dreaded Mother’s Day every year after that.

I’d’ve liked to ignore the entire day. Or better still, the entire week.

Instead, there were celebrations for the other moms in my life. By the time I left home, I had to remember cards and gifts for my ex-stepmother, my current stepmother, my former stepfather’s current wife, etc. (My family is so complicated that my Big Brother finally made a PowerPoint presentation for those foolish enough to marry into it. My husband is still bitter Big Brother didn’t make it until after we got married.)

After I got married, though, Mother’s Day wasn’t so bad. Sure, I had to add my mother-in-law to the list of card recipients and badger my husband about getting her a gift, but this also served to remind him to start planning a celebration for the other mother in his life. Andy made sure that our dogs Fey and Woofie “remembered” Mother’s Day with gifts for me. He also made me beautiful breakfasts.

Once Baby D was born, every person I ran into on Mother’s Day weekend wished me a “Happy Mother’s Day.” I got cards, chocolates, and sometimes a babysitter so we could go out to dinner. Once Andy even sent me to the spa for a massage while he wrangled Baby D alone. ONCE.

By the time Baby D was three, Mother’s Day had evolved into A Most Important Event. Dozens of adorable, utterly useless crafts came home from preschool in my honor.

A paper plate “purse” with coupons for hugs, kisses, and chores that my child refused to ever let me redeem.

I also discovered that preschools and kindergartens went all in on “Mother’s Day Teas.” Children sang tear-inducing “I Love My Mom” songs while the teachers handed out tissues. Afterwards, kids served their mothers chocolate covered strawberries, cookies, and lemonade…and immediately ate the goodies themselves while the mommies were still blowing their noses. Since SoCal moms are constantly dieting, most moms didn’t care. Much to Baby D’s dismay, his mother ate her chocolate strawberries RIGHT IN FRONT OF HIM and he had to wait until all the moms were served to get his own plate of treats.

Even youth sports recognized what a big deal Mother’s Day was. No games were scheduled on Mother’s Day. Which hardly seemed like a Mother’s Day present; the whole point of my ridiculously energetic kid playing sports was for SOMEONE ELSE to exhaust him on the field so I didn’t have to exhaust him at the park or in the pool or with Nerf gun wars. But instead of playing on Mother’s Day Sunday, corsages or flowers were given to all the moms in attendance at the Saturday games (the coaches warned you in advance to be in attendance).

While I might have preferred to celebrate Mother’s Day with more sports and less obligatory maternal celebrations, other moms relished the recognition. “At least I get this,” one mom told me, sniffing her bouquet.

Aghast, I said, “Your husband isn’t doing anything for you?! No brunch or dinner?!”

“Oh, there’s a dinner tonight—for my mother. I still have to pick up the cake and flowers and make the boys sign her card and get her present wrapped. And tomorrow, it’s a brunch for his mom. She can’t drive, so my husband will pick her up while I’m getting the house and meal ready a second time. By the time he takes her home, I’ll just have enough energy to put in a movie for the boys and retreat to my room with a glass of wine.”

With my mother deceased and Andy’s mother 3,000 miles away, I’d never really thought about Mother’s Day for the “Sandwich Generation” before. It sounded exhausting.

Yes, Mother’s Day without my own mom was always sad.

No, Mother’s Day as a mom wasn’t always what I wanted.

But it was mine. All mine.
Right down to the Nerf Wars.

Running the Numbers (#320)

Everything carries a risk.

Walking outside exposes you to pollution, pollen, an aging population that refuses to give up their cars until they kill people.

Staying inside? You risk depression and poor physical health without sunlight, nature, human contact, and exercise.

Getting married? Well, for heterosexual men it’s a win; you live longer and you’re happier.

For heterosexual women? Your partner is the most likely person to murder you. Even if he doesn’t, your life expectancy is shorter (but that’s okay because you’re more miserable than single women).

I’m apparently something of a risk-taker. I brave the great outdoors on a regular basis. Despite nearly being run over IN THE CROSSWALK by hundreds of old folks in big cars, a dozen moms dropping their kids off at school, and multiple bicyclists.

I’m a heterosexual woman who got married—even after watching the extraordinary marital train wrecks of multiple parental units.  I’m still married (possibly it’s my husband who fears being murdered by his wife and RIGHTLY SO).

I even survived pregnancy. 17 out of every 100,000 American women don’t, which is the highest maternal mortality rate in industrialized nations and a goddamned travesty.

I take birth control pills, which puts me at a 0.03%  to 0.09% risk for a blood clot. (But since I’m not a complete adrenaline junkie, I don’t drink or smoke, which increase the risk.)

Most recently, I got the “risky” COVID-19 vaccine. No, no, not AstraZeneca—that one is super risky, with a .00065% chance of causing a blood clot. I got the J&J shot— which carries a blood clot risk of .00086% (if you round up).

When I got the shot, of course, no one yet knew the Johnson & Johnson vaccine posed that risk. About a week after my shot, the U.S. paused use of the vaccine.

Birth control pills are still being dispensed, as are guns, which increase risk of death by homicide (2%) and suicide (10% for males with guns in the house) .

Despite the above numbers and snark, I’m not opposed to the J&J pause. Treating these blood clots like other blood clots by using heparin can make them worse. All physicians should be made aware of the potential issue and side effects—especially since the clots appear mostly in women. Doctors have a history of not taking medical complaints of women—especially Black women—seriously.

Still, with such infinitesimally low odds, who would worry more about getting a blood clot from the vaccine than dying of COVID-19 itself (.25% to 20% risk depending on age, health, nationality)?

Apparently I would. Last week at 5:30 AM, I was on the floor of my bathroom, certain I had a clot in my left leg. It hurt to move. I was clearly going to die. My child would be motherless. Worse, son and husband would be referee-less! No one would remember to fill the pets’ water bowls and they would die, too!

I reminded myself that if I hadn’t gotten a blood clot when I was pregnant and stupid (.2% chance), I wasn’t likely to get one now. The pain eventually faded.

It was probably a cramp from kneeling on the cold tile floor in order to beat back an ant invasion.

But if it had been a blood clot?

The smart money would have been on my birth control pills.

Vaccination Nation (#319)

I need my vaccination
Want my arm burning
Immune system strong
I need that vaccination
White blood cells learning
That COVID’s wrong…
(Sung to the tune of the Human League’s “Fascination.”)

After my post on my drive-thru vaccination, I’ve fielded questions on vaccine side effects—possibly because I got the newer, less popular Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Here are all the details you could possibly want. And some you maybe don’t.

For the Pfizer vaccine, which both Andy and his mom got, the most obvious side effect was a sore arm. Neither one had nausea for the first shot, just some fatigue. Before his second shot, I warned Andy to stay hydrated; a nurse-friend had told me that she suspected a lot of the fever, headaches, and nausea people experienced with the second shot were either caused or exacerbated by dehydration (especially common in SoCal during our recent, delightful, low-humidity wind events).

Andy stayed hydrated, but he was literally sprinting for the bathroom when he got back from his long drive for shot #2. Not because of all the water he drank, but because he had diarrhea. (Andy insists that he over-indulged in cheese the day before and diarrhea is thus NOT a side effect. I have my doubts.)

Andy insists his only real side effect was being tired for a day or two. His mom just had the sore arm. But since Andy and his mom both have Chinese-American stomachs of steel and almost never throw up, I wasn’t sure their lack of nausea was typical.

I, on the other hand, have a highly reactive stomach. I’m the sympathetic puker and had morning sickness for six damned months (also threw up during labor).

If anyone was going to hurl after being vaccinated, it’d be me.

I’ve also got a delightful vasovagal response when it comes to blood and some shots (i.e., I’m a fainter). I packed ice (for the back of my neck, helps you not pass out) and an air sickness bag for my inoculation road trip.

Andy eyed me dubiously and asked, “Are you sure you don’t want me to drive you?”

“I’ll be fine. You need to keep an eye on Baby D.”

“I’ll be fine,” Baby D declared. “You’d better drive her, Dad.”

“YOU just want us both gone so you can steal screen time and cookies, mister,” I told Baby D. “I’ll be fine. I haven’t thrown up or passed out since…”

“Since your last tetanus booster? Last August?” Andy offered, with unforgivable accuracy.

“Mom’s gonna faint, Mom’s gonna faint!” Baby D chanted.

“I did not pass all the way out,” I countered. “I just had to lie down and couldn’t see anything. Besides, I haven’t heard about people passing out. Your Engineering Cousin’s husband’s only side effect from the Johnson & Johnson shot was sleeping for two days. Two days! How awesome would that be?”

Sadly, I did not sleep for two days. But I didn’t pass out or throw up after my vaccination, despite the 11% humidity (possibly because I guzzled water all morning and throughout the weekend).

I didn’t get a headache, either. Nor did I get a fever. Yes, I popped some ibuprofen before the shot and several times over the weekend, but even when it wore off, my temperature stayed a degree or two below normal.

My left arm was sore, but the injection site hurt less—and did not hurt for as many days—as it did for other vaccinations (and cortisone shots). I could even sleep on my left side!

I definitely didn’t have my normal energy, though. On Saturday, I let Andy handle the three-mile morning dog walk (which hasn’t happened in years). I wasn’t sleepy, and I didn’t nap, but I was definitely lethrgic.

Sunday the dog and I only made it two miles. Monday morning I was still tired, but we made it three miles.

“So really,” I told Andy, “the only side effects of the Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccination were a sore arm and fatigue. Which is way better than being unvaccinated and risking a trip to the hospital…or the morgue.”

Still bummed I didn’t get the side effect of sleeping for 2 days, though.

(Note: Andy would like me to tell you all that there was one other side effect. He insists I was super cranky when I came back from being vaccinated. I even “yelled” at him! I would say the crankiness/ yelling was caused less by the vaccine and more by him sitting on his ass for three hours and leaving certain physical chores in the yard for his spouse with a sore arm to do when she got home. You be the judge.)

 

 

When the Drive-Thru Will Save You (#318)

I am not a fan of car culture. I believe in public transportation: trains, the subway, buses. Do not get me started on the lost and lamented Los Angeles Red Car.

But damn, cars came in handy during COVID-19. Cars were a way to maintain social distancing in drive-thru testing sites. There were Ubers and Lyfts for those who didn’t dare brave buses, even with masks. There was Instacart for those who didn’t dare brave the grocery stores. With restaurant dining off-limits, at least you could still pick up a pizza or have it delivered.

Drive-in Theaters became a thing again. Fast-food restaurants brought back carhop service. We went from Escape Rooms to Stranger Things: the Drive-Into Experience. The majority of Americans opted for road trips this Spring Break, rather than risk flying.

Aside from take out, Andy and I mostly skipped the resurgence of car culture.

Until it was our turn for vaccinations.

Andy, being part of some top-secret national defense project, and being asthmatic, was up first. Now, a lot of folks are very pro-Pfizer (the first vaccine out), which requires two shots. But since all the vaccines will keep you from being hospitalized or dying, I’m with the California website My Turn, which says, “the best vaccine is the first one you can get.”

The first appointment Andy could get was the Pfizer vaccine at the LA Forum at the beginning of March. Run by volunteers, Andy drove up on Sundays, three weeks apart. He reported that it was smooth sailing, with minimal traffic and no wait times.

The first appointment I could get was last Friday afternoon, for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. (Andy reported that his coworkers eligible at the same time couldn’t get appointments as quickly as I did, possibly because they don’t get up at 5 AM. At least there’s one good thing about having a kid who wakes up early.)

The vaccination site was a drive-thru at Cal State Los Angeles, run by the California Office of Emergency Services. In practical terms it meant the vaccination site was being run by the National Guard.

It also meant I would have to brave a fifty mile round trip through Friday afternoon traffic. In Los Angeles.

So be it.

There’s an LA-specific greeting card that says, “I love so much I’d take the 10 to the 101 to the 405 for you!”

True love has nothing on inoculation against death. For the COVID vaccine, I took the 405 to the 91 to the 710 (because the 110 had 3 accidents). The 710 was stop and go, because it was, as always, filled with big rigs hauling containers from the Port of Los Angeles. Those trucks can’t accelerate quickly and thus cannot merge for shit.

About the time I exhausted my supply of swear words, I arrived at Cal State LA. There was a ton of signage, plus literally thousands of orange cones to make sure everyone went the right way. For 5 minutes, we literally followed cones around the campus and through two parking garages.

In one parking garage, we stopped in front of a sign that offered translators in every language I’d ever heard of (yes, including Tagalog). Next to the sign were members of the National Guard (who looked like 12-year-olds-dressed up in camouflage uniforms which is probably a sign that I skipped middle-age and went straight to old ladyhood).

The National Guard member checked my ID (which was my license but could have been a library card or a utility bill) against his electronic tablet, filled out my vaccine card, and had me put it on my dashboard. A laminated card with the time went under my windshield wiper. I drove through another parking garage to the actual inoculation site.

The site had tents and about 20 rows of cars. A pair of National Guard members walked down each row, giving shots. 15 minutes after the last injection in a given row, that row was allowed to drive away, following more orange cones off the campus and practically right back onto the 710 freeway. (Spoiler alert: equally awful traffic on the way home.)

You can check out more snippets of my drive-thru vaccine experience on my Instagram account if you are so bored so inclined.

I probably spent less than a half-hour at the vaccination site, but the whole excursion was over 3 hours in the car.

Pretty much a typical roundtrip commute in Los Angeles.

No wonder I’m still a big fan of public transportation.

 

Shoe In, Shoe Out (#317)

When you marry across cultures, there are bound to be a few differences.

Some differences are jarring at first—like my husband’s Chinese-American family openly discussing money. If you’re open-minded, however, you can learn to embrace coupons and brag about how much money you saved.

Other differences seem insurmountable, especially when much vaunted Western autonomy clashes with Asian filial piety. That’s when it’s important to distance yourself from the issue. I found that 3,000 miles proved effective. Mostly.

But every so often, a practice from another culture makes you say, “That’s brilliant! Why don’t we do that?!”

Like shoes.

*****

Most Asian-Americans don’t wear shoes in the house (no matter what you saw in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before). Multicultural blogger Mabel Kwong has a great post on all the reasons why.

My husband grew up in Hawaii, leaving his shoes outside. I grew up on the East Coast, where the only shoes I took off before coming inside were snow boots. (In rural area with lots of winter snow and spring muck, some North American homes have “mud rooms” for outdoor shoes.)

When I moved into my husband’s townhouse, I left my shoes in the front hallway and never looked back. Sometimes my white guests looked at me askance when I told them to take of their shoes. One even commented, “No shoes? Weird.”

I said, “Dude. Weird is allowing people to track all the dirt on their shoes all over your house. As Vacuumer-in-Chief, I endorse the no-shoe rule!”

When we moved into our little house, there wasn’t a convenient indoor space for shoes. We left shoes on the porch by the welcome mat or at our backdoor.

The first things to make me reconsider the no-shoe rule were our rescue dogs. When ninety-pound Woofie stepped on my bare foot, it HURT. Because the giant goofball neither knew (nor cared!) where his massive paws were, Woofie crushed my toes daily. Even seventy-pound Fey, who was far more considerate with her comparatively dainty paws, could draw blood if she made a misstep, thanks to her strong shar-pei claws. Furry leather slippers with suede exteriorI finally bought super sturdy (super expensive!) slippers and wore those even through the hottest summer.

Problem solved.

Then my old, white neighbors very considerately warned me that thieves in California targeted houses with shoes outside the house. Apparently Asian-Americans have a reputation (at least among thieves) for keeping a lot of cash in the house. I pooh-poohed this claim—until some would-be burglars tried to get by Fey the Fierce. (Spoiler alert: Fey was having none of it.) After the attempt, however, I found the perfect welcome mat/ warning sign to surround with shoes:

Welcome mat reading: "We like big mutts and we cannot lie" with silhouette of large dog.

No one has tried to break in since.

My child and his non-Asian friends, running in, out, and around the house with Nerf weaponry, often neglected to put on or take off their shoes. (The heat of battle has that effect.)  Many times I’d have to remind them that “no shoes in the house” was useless if they ran around in socks outside and then wore those same dirty, debris-covered socks inside.

Baby D, impatient child that he is, hated having to take the time to remove his sneakers when he had to go back inside for a single forgotten item. But as the Vacuumer-in-Chief refused to relax her no-shoe policy, he adapted. He skirted the no-shoe rule by hopping back into the house on one unshod foot—while holding his still-sneakered foot up high. The kid would hop through the entire house at least 3 times a week, hunting for his backpack or water bottle.

More than one coach has commented on Baby D’s extraordinary balance and leg strength. Credit the no-shoe policy. (You’d think the kid would eventually learn to do a mental checklist before going outside and putting on his shoes, but YOU’D BE WRONG.)

There’s one final issue with leaving shoes outside: critters. While SoCal lacks the over-abundance of insect life that characterizes the East Coast, we do have crickets, brown and black widow spiders, and lizards. I always warned Baby D to shake out his shoes before putting them on.

Lizard inside an athletic shoe
Lizard in my shoe. Not an uncommon occurrence at our house.

Unfortunately, the kid has to do things the hard way. Baby D returned from soccer practice last week indignant. “Mom! When I got to the field and put my foot in my cleat, there was a lump! So I reached in and grabbed it and it was a lizard!”

“Guess you won’t forget to shake out your cleats before you put them in your soccer bag again, will you?”

Baby D glared and said, “No, because I’m keeping them in my bag from now on! Inside the house!

And so it came to pass that the Vacuumer-in-Chief granted a special dispensation allowing soccer cleats in the house.

Because next time, it might not be a lizard.

Black widow spider
Black widow found in my watering can.

Celebration Mash-Up (#316)

Holidays were huge in my white family. We wore green, pinched each other anyway, and listened to the Irish Rovers on St. Patrick’s Day (despite being Protestant or atheists). Small gifts appeared on Valentine’s Day morning. There were Easter egg hunts and chocolate bunnies. Our birthdays began with presents and towers of doughnuts. Christmas magic (and excesses) went on for days.

Holidays were not big in my Chinese-American husband’s family. Growing up, he got a red envelope with cash, usually from his Popo, on Chinese New Year.

That was it.

Even though some Wong family members were very earnest Christians, there were neither Easter baskets nor Christmas stockings.

Birthdays might involve going out for dim sum. There wasn’t even a cake until Andy turned 18—when his mom told Andy to pick one up for himself at the grocery store. Andy had a job at that point; I suspect he even had to pay for it.

Since holidays were the highlight of my childhood, I was horrified every time I discovered a new one Andy had “missed.”

You never carved a pumpkin?!” I’d screech. “What did you DO on Halloween, then?”

“Went trick-or-treating.”

“Oh, good. At least your parents let you do that.”

“Of course. The candy was free.”

I was sad for all the fun things Andy missed, but, even though he was the child of immigrants, Andy had a more secure childhood than I did. He was the apple of his mother’s—and his grandmother’s—eyes, the first male in two generations. As the much beloved Number One Son, his mother and grandmother constantly pushed him to eat more. When they went out for dim sum, there were always leftovers to bring home.

I had years on free lunch tickets, plus I had to guard my food from my hungry siblings. My parents were terrible cooks. When we went out to Shakey’s Pizza or McDonald’s (a HUGE treat!), there were never leftovers. Probably the reason we loved holidays was in no small part due to the abundance of food, especially sweets.

Andy, in turn, was horrified that a) I grew up without quite enough food, and b) Kraft Mac & Cheese with Hormel Chili was my favorite dinner.

Over the years, I introduced Andy to holiday fun. He showed me that cooking meals from scratch was tasty (and, when it wasn’t beef Wellington, economical).

Andy’s homemade mochi doughnuts.

This year, our child’s birthday, Chinese New Year, and Valentine’s Day fell within days of each other. Piles of candy and gifts accumulated on the dining room table. At that same table, I watched Baby D devour Andy’s homemade mochi doughnuts, Andy’s beef Wellington, carryout from Din Tai Fun, about twenty shrimp dumplings from the local dim sum joint, and Andy’s homemade chili and cornbread.

Baby D’s homemade cake.

Meanwhile, Andy watched me make a six-hour chocolate cake and arrange a surprise birthday COVID car parade for our kid. He laughed as I swapped out birthday balloons for red lanterns and lucky money envelopes for Baby D’s favorite See’s Candies so our kid could fully enjoy each special occasion.

After Valentine’s Day dinner, Andy surveyed the accumulated culinary/ holiday debris and said, “Our kid is spoiled.”

“We’re just giving him everything we wished we’d had,” I countered.

“But it’s so much!”

“Maybe you’re right. But there’s one really important Ashbough tradition left.”

“Even your family cannot possibly do anything for President’s Day.”

“Hahaha, no, we’re not celebrating problematic old white men. It’s something else.” I raised my voice and called, “Baby D! Come here! We have one more thing for you!”

Baby D ran into the kitchen. “Is it a giant gummi worm? More hong bao?”

I placed a towel in his outstretched hands and said,

“It’s the dishes.”

Consider the Dachshund (#315)

Comedian Sarah Cooper started a funny dog thread on Twitter with this tweet:

https://twitter.com/sarahcpr/status/1350622446848770049

Thousands of replies told Sarah all about dachshunds. About how they were bred to be small enough to fit into badger holes, but aggressive enough to drag badgers out of them. About how neighborhood and household dachshunds terrorized all other dogs.

Twitter, which never agrees on anything, agreed that dachshunds are assholes.

Even dog breeding groups, which put the best possible spin on all purebreds, concede that dachshunds are “more likely to be aggressive towards both people and dogs,” although the they do not specify more likely than what.

More likely than ANYTHING would be my guess.

My father had a dachshund. When two German shepherds tried to invade their yard, twenty-pound Ziggy Star Dachs attacked them. The German Shepherds fled, tails tucked between their legs.

So when Andy and I packed up our two big rescue dogs and went off to visit Dad, I had concerns. Not about Woofie; he could convince any dog to play with him.

Fey (orange) and Woofie (dark brown).

But Fey? Fey grew up starving on the mean streets of Los Angeles. While she was obedient for humans and would never start a fight, she’d sure as hell finish it–usually by biting an attacking dog’s ear with her sharp, almost serrated teeth.

Fortunately, Fey ignored well-behaved dogs. Most dogs ignored her right back.

But Ziggy Star Dachs wasn’t most dogs. Like many small dogs, Ziggy wasn’t well-trained. Or even remotely trained. Which is often typical for smaller breeds. If a small dog misbehaves, the owners simply scoop up the dog, removing him from any problem situation. When Ziggy tried to run off with the butter dish, all Dad had to do was take three steps and grab him.

With big dogs, training is crucial. I spent months training Fey and Woofie to “stay” and “come” when called (because if they decided to run, not even Usain Bolt could’ve caught them). I taught them “leave it” because I didn’t want to be dragged every time they spotted a squirrel, an aggressive Yorkie, or a fast food wrapper.

When we arrived at Dad’s, I had Fey and Woofie sit nicely for their introduction to Ziggy.

Ziggy charged ninety-pound Woofie immediately.  Woofie responded with a play bow, and followed up with a pounce. Ziggy darted under a table. Woofie bowed again and whined. Ziggy charged. Woofie danced back, then pounced again. Ziggy scooted under a different table. Woofie loved this new and awesome game.

Fey sat at my side and watched until the male dogs were tired. Dad brought out chewy treats to keep the canines occupied while the humans chatted.

Ziggy wasn’t content with his chewy. Bit by bit, the little dog scooted our way. Which would have been fine if Ziggy was after Woofie’s chewy. Woofie would have happily played chewy tug-o-war with for hours. But Ziggy had designs on Fey’s chewy. When he got within 2 feet, Fey raised her head and growled.

“Leave it,” I told her. She went back to her chewy.

Dad picked up Ziggy and put the dachshund on the other side of the room with his own chewy. Ziggy inched back toward Fey. Dad put Ziggy back on the other side of the room. Ziggy again began his inexorable crawl toward inevitable conflict.

Dad put Ziggy on a leash and gave him a new chewy. Ziggy ignored it, moving as close to Fey as the leash allowed. (Meanwhile, Woofie ate all Ziggy’s untended chewies.)

Dad kept the relentless Ziggy leashed until I took all the dogs outside for a potty break.

Outside, the dogs had a blast in the Utah snow. Woofie’s giant paws gave him enough traction that he could finally out-corner Fey. She chased after him, determined to take him down. Ziggy manfully ran after both large dogs, barking—only to dive into snow drifts when they changed direction and galloped at him.

While little Ziggy labored mightily to get back to the patio, I took advantage of his absence to feed Fey and Woofie their dinner. Woofie finished in seconds and took off again. Instead of playing with Woofie, Ziggy zeroed in on Fey.

“I wouldn’t,” I warned him. “Sit.”

Ziggy didn’t sit, of course. He continued stalking Fey. I stepped in front of him. Ziggy tried to scramble over my boots.

Fey turned toward Ziggy. Slowly, silently, she pulled back her jowls and bared her teeth.

Ziggy stopped. Fey returned to her food.

“Well,” I told Ziggy, “at least you’re not a complete idiot.”

Wrong. Ziggy zipped around me, heading straight for Fey.

Fey spun, snarled, and snapped her jaws a foot from Ziggy’s nose.

Ziggy dropped.

He rolled onto his back.

And then he peed himself.

Turns out there is an animal that can out-aggressive a dachshund.

The Los Angeles Ghetto Elk eating her dinner.

You’d think Ziggy would have learned his lesson.
Instead, he spent the entire weekend trying to steal chews and food from Fey. Because dachshunds.

Waiting (#314)

I am not a patient person. I was the kid in the car asking “Are we there yet?” every 10 minutes. My many siblings were equally impatient. Road trips were an endless chorus of questions about how long it was to the bathroom, restaurant, and destination.

Unsurprisingly, we didn’t go on many road trips.

My Chinese-American husband is patient (sadly, he grew up on Oahu, which is too small for road trips). I’m not sure if he’s naturally mellow, or if the tropical “hang loose” vibes worked on his personality the opposite way that the intense, political atmosphere of Washington, D.C. affected me.

Perhaps our different levels of patience exemplify the difference in our cultures. My Western mindset insists that I can control my destiny if I work, scheme, and worry enough. At the very least, maybe I can get someone incompetent fired if I document the crap out of his failings. But Andy doesn’t see the point; people are gonna be stupid and other people are gonna cover for them. That’s life, and you have no control over your own fate, let alone anyone else’s. Why exhaust yourself changing nothing?

Much of my experience reinforced my Western views. After all, if I argued long enough and logically enough with my father, he’d come around to my point of view on everything from childrearing to Black Lives Matter (though it usually takes about a year for him to process, do his own research, and then lecture me using my own arguments).

Andy’s parents? You can talk until you are blue in the face. They don’t hear a word you say if it contradicts their ideas.

Maybe that’s how Andy learned to wait. He had to bite his tongue and bide his time until he got a job 3,000 miles away.

I left home at 18 and stayed impatient. Impatient with waiting for guys to ask me out—so I asked them out instead. Impatient with college—so I graduated in 3 years. Impatient with friends, which cost me more than a few relationships. And impatient with waiting for Andy to kiss me, so I kissed him.

It wasn’t until I was pregnant (MISERABLY pregnant) that I learned a modicum of patience. Unless modern science comes up with an artificial uterus, there’s no escaping 10 months of nasty pregnancy side effects. There’s no point in complaining, or crying, and it takes too damned much energy anyway (especially when you’re low on energy because you’re anemic).

I learned to endure nausea, hives, exhaustion, strict bedrest, and then the kid being weeks overdue.

As a reward for surviving pregnancy, I got to endure breastfeeding a growth-spurting giant baby. Welcome, cracked and bleeding nipples.

Followed by an energetic child who didn’t nap.

All the while, I would chant to myself: “Just a few more years until preschool. And then kindergarten.”

Call it patience, or call it endurance, but the ability to hunker down and wait out misery came in handy when Trump was elected. Even as I protested, donated, phone banked, or argued Trump cultists, part of me was simply counting the days, much like Imani Gandy’s thread of GIFs on Twitter:

Then came COVID. Which everyone who didn’t vote for Trump knew was going to be a nightmare, given that man’s ineptitude. There was no way we were going back to normal—and no way my kid was going back to school—until we had a vaccine. A vaccine would take at least a year. We were just going to have to wait out the horror, misery, and death. Which was maddening, because it was avoidable.

But if I thought about how much tragedy could have been averted by a competent, compassionate administration, I would spend my hours enraged. I would fantasize about head-butting Mitch McConnell into oblivion. Or putting up signs with the current COVID body count and the phrase “I’m okay with this!” next to my neighbor’s “TRUMP” flag.

Instead, as I waited, I gradually took heart.

Because we didn’t get COVID (yet).

Because Stacey Abrams created Fair Fight and Wisconsin took advantage of it.

Because Gen Zs is smarter than Fox viewers.

And because Treasonous Trumpers are stupid, and Black Capitol Police officers are smart.

And now?

Tomorrow, the waiting is over.

Fucking finally.

I hate waiting