Friday, November 28, 2008


Today feels like a milestone. My baby is two. I know once a baby hits this age she is not really a baby anymore. She talks. She feeds herself. She runs and jokes and sleeps in a big girl bed.

I keep holding her and smelling her hair and squishing her soft little belly and wondering if I will remember how it feels. She stood in front of me as I sat on the couch folding socks this afternoon and leaned her head back onto my knees and told me a long story in nonsense language, gazing at me steadily with her dark, dark, long-lashed eyes.

In just a couple of months we will finalize her adoption and K's in court and then take them both to our dear little temple in Fresno to be sealed to us forever. My eyes are firmly fixed on that. It makes so many other things seem less important.

Happy birthday to my darling girl, my Z.


I think some kids used to spell that "sike." The middle school set is not particularly well known for its knowledge of Greek roots.

We got totally psyched today. A place where G has progressed through the initial stages of a faculty search sent us a big, fat envelope. I called him, all worked up. No rejection letter is that big, right? He had me open it while he was on the phone.

It was the notes of all the students who had been at his guest lecture.

I'll pause while you take in the weirdness of that.

This place bewilders me. But I really want him to get the job there.

Happy belated Thanksgiving, by the way. I have been cooking for what feels like a week and am looking forward to my turkey sandwich in a few minutes, white bean chili tomorrow and not doing any real cooking for several days thereafter.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


It's been a difficult few weeks for me in some ways, most of it too personal to blog about. Lots of happy things going on, and those you know about. Some heartbreaking things, too.

In the middle of it all, I've been reading The Samurai's Garden by Gail Tsukiyama. It was short, but not fast. Peaceful and challenging at the same time. The characters familiar, the setting utterly foreign to me.

Maybe it felt so right for me because it was about a refuge, a recuperation, a peaceful, slow-moving time. But it also turned out to be a demanding period of personal growth for the protagonist, Stephen, a young man from Hong Kong who goes to recover from tuberculosis at his family's seaside home in Japan in 1937-8.

It was about being caught between worlds and passions; Stephen is faraway and helpless as the Japanese army moves through Canton toward his home, unable to reconcile the kindness and goodness of the people he is meeting in Japan with the horrors of war between the two countries. He falls in love with a young woman and witnesses a sea change in his parents' marriage while learning about a doomed and beautiful true love story from a prior generation. He says he is there to paint but discovers a talent for writing and a passion for story.

It was about brothers and sisters, being close and not close, during hard times and easy times. What happens to us when we are struck by what we never expected?

The prose in this book is as spare, clean and lovely as the shoji-screened rooms described in its pages. Here's a sample that I found moving, as Stephen visits a shrine with Matsu, the other main character, who is the caretaker of Stephen's parents' house.

I quickly clapped three times and pulled on the rope. I stared hard at the enclosed shrine and the bowl of rice. The burning incense stung my eyes. I bowed low and tried to concentrate on some kind of prayer. My mind was confused. Who or what should I pray for? There were too many thoughts cluttering my head to choose only one. I wanted to pray for my parents' marriage, or Sachi and Matsu's happiness, or for the war to end in China. I could feel Matsu standing behind me, waiting. So I simply closed my eyes tight and prayed for all of us.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Loose, footloose

I am officially self-employed. At the university today, I had a nice pot-luck farewell luncheon complete with a humorous "Top 10 Reasons Ana is Leaving" and a beautiful framed photo of the campus. Hugs and teary goodbyes, and a big box of crap I have taken into the office over the last four and a half years now sitting on my dining room table.

My replacement starts Monday. I am training her, and billing it. Here's to freelancing ... and yes, that kind of means all the goodbyes were for nothing. Maybe I can get another party with presents and stuff when G gets a grownup job and we actually move away. Although, who knows when that will be.

The best surprise today was learning that my benefits continue through Dec. 31. With a little luck, we will have no gap in health insurance coverage! This is a big blessing! I'm so grateful.

Already, though, my login for the campus network is nullified. That was quick!

Now that I'm in business for myself and had to turn in all my work equipment, I did a crazy thing (for a Luddite) and bought a cell phone. If you would like the number, let me know.

In reality, things are not going to change that much. I will just be working (and blogging) from my home PC and not my work laptop. And running my own life, theoretically.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

This is my country

My 9-year-old S was in the local Veteran's Day Parade today with his Cub Scout pack. G and I took the younger three kids to watch.

A small town parade is a great way to spend an afternoon, no matter how you slice it. The parade participants hand out candy and tchochkes to the kids. The announcer greets parade participants he knows personally. You are sure to see a couple of kids from the ward playing the clarinet or the trombone.

This was our first time attending for Veteran's Day. Here is what struck me: We were all there. Our little town was so well represented, and I do kind of think our town represents the United States in its diversity and patriotism.

The Lao Veterans marched in impressive numbers - older men, all, they made me cry. Their white counterparts rode in convertibles and polished vintage autos - a sad disparity, but guess which group was more moving?

A group of caballeros rode high-stepping stallions to the accompaniment of mariachi music. The NAACP made an appearance with a couple of families carrying a banner.

The drum major of the high school band was a young man with a distinctly Southeast Asian appearance, likely Hmong. Many people his age came to our region as refugees when they were only babies or toddlers, or perhaps their parents came here shortly before they were born.

The university where I work made a big splash with athletes in uniform for the first time, cheerleaders, and a dance troupe. A couple of churches participated - including ours, with the Cub Scout presence. The Girl Scouts had a huge crowd of mothers and daughters marching together, reminding my husband when he shouted "We love your cookies!" that he could stock up again in January. PFLAG's group was small - and poignant, right now, in our red town in a blue state.

A lone Hispanic Navy veteran who appeared to be in his 80s waved an American flag all the way down the parade route. I cried again. How many times, during his service, do you imagine he was called some racial epithet? I know it's just my imagination. But it makes sense to see him as someone who has ridden the roller coaster of freedom his whole life - because we do indeed have ups and downs - and never given up.

In my country, all these people live side by side. We dissent and disagree and struggle, but we unite under the common dream that living in peace with those who are different from us is not only possible, but enriching and wonderful. That is freedom worth fighting for.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Chocolate cake

No clever title needed. This cake rocks, and you will be amazed how simple it is. Recipe from my sister M1. She told me she got it from someone else, but I can't remember who. Maybe she will be kind enough to clarify.

Chocolate Cake
1 c. water
1/2 c. cocoa (preferably dutch processed)

2 c. all-purpose flour
2 c. sugar
1 1/8 tsp. salt
1 1/4 tsp. baking soda

1 c. buttermilk
3/4 c. canola oil
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla

Boil water, turn off and add cocoa powder. Stir to combine. Cool. (I did this step in the microwave.)

Mix dry ingredients in your mixer with the whip attachment. Mix liquids in separate vessel, except for water and cocoa mixture. Scrape and mix on low for 2 minutes. Add cocoa mixture and mix to combine. Let batter rest for 1 hour.

Bake at 375 degrees in two lightly greased, parchment-lined 9-inch pans, about 45 minutes.

Note from M1: This batter is very liquid. Don't worry, it works!

Note from me: After I let the batter rest I found it had a foam on top. I just stirred it in. No biggie.

You can double the recipe to make it in 2 10-inch pans.

I was out of confectioner's sugar. So we just had this with pastry cream in the middle and on top. Oh yeah. I am not that much of a frosting girl, anyway.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

How a couple of black kids feel tonight

A lot of my friends might not have immediate access to the responses of the elementary-school-age African American demographic without me, so I thought I'd help you out tonight.

A, biracial, age 7, praying:

"Thank you for giving us a good blessing and letting Barack Obama be the president. Bless John McCain that he won't feel too bad, because he's a good man and he tried really hard."

S, full African-American, age 9, listening to the victory speech:

"Martin Luther King is alive again."

From the polls

G and I voted at about 8:15 this morning. There was no line to speak of at our polling place. Fifty-seven people had voted before we did. A short line began to form as we left.

Everything went without a hitch for us. Our ballots are paper, with an optical scanner at the polling station. From everything I have read, this seems to be the best system - it keeps lines moving faster because there are fewer machines to break down, and it creates a paper trail in case of questions.

One woman was there who had requested and then lost an absentee ballot. She was allowed to cast a provisional ballot. Remember this is an option for you if there's any question about your eligibility to vote.

Sunday, November 02, 2008


A, looking through our small remaining stack of vinyl albums:

"Look, Mom! It's Bill Cosby, the man who sang "Buffalo Soldier."

We have some work to do. Methinks we better not wait for Black History Month on this one.

I'm off to Rhapsody to find some classic Cos monologues. And I wonder if I can find the famously besweatered dad of my favorite '80s sitcom streaming online somewhere?

Saturday, November 01, 2008

On my own

My employer has finally found and hired a replacement for me. She starts Nov. 17. That means my last day is Nov. 14 and as of the following day I will be officially self-employed. So I did what any good 21st-century girl would do. I made a Web site.

Your constructive criticisms are welcomed.

Also your hints about navigating our wreck of a healthcare system without the safety of an employer-provided insurance plan.