Monday, December 2, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving, you all!

I know I know, I am quite late in the game.  I am supposed to write this post in a timely manner but my life recently has been out of ordinary because Fabrice has been traveling for almost the entire November!  I can enjoy being a single Mom for a short period of time, but for a whole month, well, that led to the following few incidents:

- Last Monday morning, I woke up at 7:30 am resulting in having Zhuzhu to miss her latest allowed drop off at 7:50 am.  We arrived at her school at 7:58 am and she had to enter from a side door.  Fortunately she was not alone and it was rainy...Sorry kiddo, it is the first time and hopefully the last time that you had to walk into the school through the door of shame.  

What, don't I know how to use an alarm clock?  Well, let me tell you, I am a dreamer and I love to dream in the mornings.  That morning I was listening to one of Fabrice's postdoctoral trainees to report her research progress in a lab meeting in my dream.  I remember being annoyed by some beeping sound while the meeting was going on and wished someone in the lab to turn that unattended timer was actually my alarm went off in reality...


- I also cheated by skipping regular breakfast at the table in order to get Zhuzhu to her school on time, at least 2 morning per week.  Shh, don't tell Fabrice that I fed the kids in the car since he is the one who cleans it!

- The house is a mess now.

Oh, alright, this post is not about my relying on Fabrice to live a life as a responsible parent.  It's about the T-day. 

Yes, I had learnt to appreciate this special day and in fact, our family has already spent our last 2 Thanksgiving dinner nights with the same close friends Mike/Vera and their close friends.  The 2012's T-dinner was even more specially personal to me because my parents were visiting.  After the dinner, my father could not stop talking about how much he appreciated the hospitality of our hosts.  He was trying to name each dish that he had as he had not had such typical/traditional American dinner before.  He was also offered a silver bracelet by one of the guests and surprisingly my father wore it all the way back to China - just so you know, this man had probably never worn any jewelry in his entire 82 years of life (well, at least I had never seen him wearing any in my entire life).  

It turns out that this year's T-holiday has made me in debt to our regular T-dinner hosts even more...

... right, we had planned to again join Mike/Vera and their close friends for another special T-dinner this year.  In my RSVP, I even emphasized the fact that we had to reject 4 other invitations to make it to their T-dinner indicating how much we appreciated the invitation and how much we were looking forward to another special evening.

However, just a day or 2 after I RSVPed, an email from SW airline lured me with a special offer to Denver, the ticket price was within our budget and I immediately booked 4 non-refundable tickets and then happily informed our hosts.  I did so NOT because I needed to change our RSVP from a Yes to a No, but because I thought that they might wish to jump into this opportunity as I did.

A bit of a background information here: we had been skiing together in the last 2 years and had been planning on having a ski trip together this winter too, except that we had failed to find reasonably priced tickets.

Well, guess what, things are not as easy as I thought. 

This year Chanukah/Hanukkah spans from Nov. 27 to Dec. 7, and our T-dinner hosts happen to be Jews who enjoy Jewish holidays.  That meant that their T-dinner guests included usual crowd and some unusual "out of town" Jewish friends.

That also meant that the T-dinner plan could not be easily changed.

After having found out this, I had tried to reschedule our ski trip but then was advised not to by our loving friends/T-dinner hosts.  They love me so much that they support, at least understood, my need of getting out of another 4 days of babysitting life.  Having been listening to Zhuzhu and Niuniu's complaints about how unfair it was that the Daddy got to travel everywhere in the world yet they had to stay home, I had been becoming more and more bothered by the fact that the T-holiday would need me to take care of them 5 whole days more straight while the Daddy is dealing with his jet lag from his international travel (Australia) and then catching up with his work!  

For the record, Fabrice was quite upset about my sudden change of plans.  He missed being home after a 12-days traveling in another continent; had to cancel several scheduled meetings including an important one with his biggest employer NIH; and of course, would have certainly not cancelled a T-dinner plan with our friends...However, I believed that he was mad at the fact that I had made a "mini family vacation plan" without his consent.

Sorry hubby, if you go out of town so often, I may run our lives like a true single Mom.


Now, the end results? 

Fabrice has gotten his "home cooking" for not being "home" in the last 4 night straight - yes, I have cooked 4 dinners straight in our rental condo; he dealt with his jet lag effortlessly by flying on ski slopes; he also bonded with the kiddos by spending every single minute with them in beautiful Colorado Mountains; he even has not lifted a finger to decide which ski resort to take the kiddos - he followed my lead and we skied at the Breckenridge and Keystone, 2 days each resort.

Indeed, having a ski trip during T-holiday has been our tradition ever since Jay, one of my best friends, invited Fabrice and me to join him at Frisco years ago.  Following his lead, we have since invited many other groups of people, including friends and relatives, to Frisco to spend our T-holidays.  Together, we have had some special T-dinners at this small but friendly town.  I love Frisco and many other cities that welcome skiers during winter seasons.  T-holiday is particularly colorful as these cities put out the Christmas lights early enough for skiers like us who enjoy preseason skies - cheaper lift tickets with less people on the slopes.  I personally believe that a ski trip to CO mountains is the best way to spend T holiday for the ones who have not grown up with a holiday named Thanksgiving.  Therefore, I did go on the Facebook to thank Jay for taking us there years ago.  

On the other hand, I have lived the last week of my life in a terrible guilt.  The spirit of this T-day may have gotten into me after all.

Thank you to all of you for loving me as who I am and happy Thanksgiving to you all!!!   

Monday, November 18, 2013

Jimmy Kimmel - a name otherwise unknown to many Chinese

The last grant deadline delayed for more than a month, thus,  I was given a bit of time to think about something else other than writing my grant every minute of my day.  What I have done is so out of ordinary that I have to write it down here.  Before we go further, you first should take a look at the following clip:

Honestly, after watching it, I had felt almost nothing, not funny, not insulting, a bit of concerned, maybe, I was a bit sympathetic for the parents of the kid - imagined if that kid was my own, boy, I would have had hard time to get to my work place next morning.  As emails kept coming to my way asking me to sign a petition to boycott JK and I had to follow what has been happening.  Then I saw this clip:

That, my friend, ticked me off.  His arrogance and ignorance were unbearable.  I felt insulted and disappointed.  I used to like him a bit when I had time to sit in front of a TV years ago.  After watching this, all the worst experiences at which people have looked down on me in the last 21 years have appeared in my memory.  Then I volunteered my time, money and sleep to join the protest on 11.9.2013 (119 movement), which is an event organized by "the people" in the following cities. 

Here was the speech I prepared but only had time to deliver a summarized form in 2 minutes:

I would like to express my motivation and purpose of coming out today to join this demonstration.

At first, I was kind of shocked by how desperate the ABC producers for Jimmy Kimmel’s show are. I thought it was obvious that they are seeking negative publicity to boost the declining viewers’ rating. I believed that I was an educated scholar and a mother of 2 young kids who has no time for such shows anyways. I would not give them the publicity for which they were looking. However, when I began to receive more and more emails from friends who are as educated as me, particularly many were American fellows, I began to understand this not just some kind of show to entertain viewers by singling out Chinese, they were clearly using “innocent” voices to promote ideas and values that they did not dare to speak by themselves. Because the show was pre-recorded hours prior to the air time, the ABC and JK show production team purposely chose the segment to show the viewers where they stand by commenting “killing everyone in China” as “an interesting idea”, by arrogantly asking “should we allow the Chinese to live”, by making more offensive remarks to accuse his viewers “have problems thus do not get the joke”.

I think the ABC network and JK production team should be boycotted for the following reasons:

Frist, JK commented the kid for his “killing everyone in China” as in interesting idea. Regardless which cultural background that we come from, this type of remarks is no joke to any of us. There is nothing funny and interesting about killing. As an experienced host, JK could have used his sense of humor to stop such horrifying statement, yet he chose to promote it. Now think for second here, do we really want to make our next generation killers? As a scholar and educator, I believe this is completely unacceptable and this alone, indicates that JK is unqualified for his job. His face should be banned from public media.

Second, after the fact, JK has never apologized. Personally, I am mortified by how uneducated he is, because he failed to understand “an apology” should include what he did wrong and why it was wrong and what he would do to avoid making the same mistake again in the future. There is nothing in his “apology” remotely covering above points.

Third, the ABC network authority has never apologized. In a letter that ABC management sent to the Chinese community, they stated, “We would never purposefully broadcast anything to upset the Chinese community, Asian community, anyone of Chinese descent or any community at large.” Again, this letter has not covered any points listed above. Again, it failed to admit what they did wrong, their responsibility and strategies to correct and avoid repeating the same mistakes in the future. This raises the suspicion that the ABC network is using “naïve kids to spread thoughts that those adults dared not speak for themselves.” – a quote from Iminusc’s public protest letter.

Finally, I would like to end my speech with my personal view of this matter. I have come to the U.S. from China 21 years ago. Over the years, I, like many people who live in this country, have immensely enjoyed the multiculturalism and diversity. I am amazed and grateful everyday to the opportunities to learn from each and everyone of my daily encounters, particularly the ones with different cultural backgrounds from mine, about their cultures, values and tasty food. I have also chosen to immigrate to the U.S. after acquiring 2 advanced degrees so that I can contribute to this melting pot with the benefits that I have received. By marrying a French, I created our little world of diversity in our family and have created 2 little trilingual children.

Unfortunately, there are still small amount of people like JK, the production team of his show and the ABC network, who do not cherish the beautiful and colorful country by broadcasting a violence promoting show. What they did is disrespectful to the majority of the people in America, regardless the ethnic background, who have contributed to build this beautiful and attractive country. JK’s remarks in The Kid Table and the follow up “apology” shows were demeaning, ridiculous and offensive to the Chinese community and all JK TV show viewers. Therefore, he needs to be removed from the public eye.

Lastly, as an educator and a mother of 2 young children, I would strongly advocate education. The public media is one of the influential places that can assist us to achieve this goal. We simply need to have qualified and educated TV show hosts, producers and editors to focus on promoting responsibility, hard working, tolerance and peace with the true American sense of humor.

After this, our local newspaper reported our demonstration and then few readers commented that we Chinese had no sense of humor. To which I responded:

"There is a huge difference between joking in private setting and public network.  Can you imagine to replace "Chinese" with "Jewish" "Blacks" "Whites" "Indians" "Japanese" or any other words in a broadcast show like this one? I don't even dislike JK shows, however, when he node his head searching for words to promote the funny part of the "killing everyone in China", he said, "That's an interesting idea". Following that, he even offended his own viewers by saying that they "have problems and could not get his obviously disagreeing with the kid". As a TV show host, his inability in handling unexpected answers with true sense of humor disqualifies himself from the profession. ABC's JK show production team had ample time to "save his grace" yet this segment was allowed to show. Now if you were the parents of the kid, would you really think it's funny to use violence to solve every problem?"

There you have it. I have done something else on the top of working hard to meet deadlines.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

My definition of smart and talented

I find myself getting into the habit of learning English words by chewing them over and over again in my head, particularly when I am out running and biking, you know, when almost everyone else is plugging their ears with earphones...  

Today, I cannot get these words out of my head: Smart and Talented

Smart is what you are born with and Talented is what you learn to be.  

Do they make sense to you all?    

In Chinese, they should be translated as the following:

聪明 Cōngmíng = smart
能干 Nénggàn = talented

Feel free to correct me.


After I posted this, I consulted the Google and then I found someone named eggman said this: Smart is a state of being and talented is an attribute.  But then he sort of agreed with me by saying: you can be talented without being smart, but if you are smart you already have a talent.  

Anyway, based on what I found out, I must admits to you that my Chinese translation of "talented" more closely means "skilled and capable".  And after chewing those words some more time, I kind of believe that most English speaking people prefer to use "talented" to describe "gifted" people and "smart" to describe just about anyone and everyone.  

Clearly, to master English, I have long way to go.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

A break from grant writing

Boy I am not kidding when I said that I needed to claim my identity back!  I'm completely dedicated my days and nights to this grant writing lately.  By the beginning of next month, I will be done with 2 of my planned 3 grants.  I am still having 2 papers to draft, which I have not even started to gather the necessary data yet.  The remaining days of 2013 won't be too relaxed for me.

On the other hand, having completed 2 grants in 2 months, I begin to wonder where all my months and days had gone prior to these 2 productive months?  On the top of being able to write grants, I even can take a peek at what my Facebook friends up to from time to time when I want a quick break.  Even they are surprised about why I suddenly come out to play with them - I usually don't check Facebook more than 3x per week and rarely I would even say a thing or two.  Now, I am commenting/posting/shouting/laughing/ like a 14 yo!

Who knew that I still have so much desire to be young again.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

My facebook friends do not like my joke

What about you guys?

I posted this on my facebook status: People who are under 18, cover your ears or eyes...Today, in the elevator, one of my colleagues called me on eating flowers and boy, can you imagine how much I wish to be a man at that moment?

No one liked or commented on my joke and I knew some of them were online!  At least one of them responded to my comment on my another status.  Boy, with fun friends like that, who needs boring ones?  So, tell me, why don't you like this joke?  Do you already know that I used to be a bi- long time ago?

Alright, maybe because I should not have posted the photos below to show off the food from my garden.  I am indeed a flower eater.  I would kill to have some of it.  They are delicious!  Want some?  Care of guess what's in the green dish?  

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Deadline number 1*

* Written on Aug. 30th, 2013.

Dear friends, I am done.  I defeated the deadline #1 by an entire hour, a bit of encouragement in order?

The cost though is that I had almost fainted early in the morning.  It's the first time that I felt this way following an overnight non-stop working.  I took it as a warning sign as I had many no-sleep nights before yet somehow I was able to manage those sleepless nights well.  Sometimes I even felt better with more energy the very next day following a short night.

But this morning was very different, so different that I thought I was dying and it was scary.  As dying was not part of the plan, I dealt with such dying feeling with a bit of grace.  First, I made sure that my office window curtains were all pulled down to block the rising sunlight.  Second, I spread a piece of cloth on the floor to make a little bed that was big enough to contain the top half of my up-body.  Finally, I drop dead on the piece of cloth.

Yes, I crashed on the office floor...

...for merely about 30 min.

Then the phone rang.  It was Fabrice, "Did I wake you, I am sorry.  I am at Au Bon Pain, do you want me to bring you some croissant, coffee, or whatever?"

(Just before I was dead, I'd called him to let him know where I was.  He could have guessed it but I liked to inform him anyways.  The man only discovered that I was not in the same house with him when I called!)

If any of you have experienced a condition called BPPV (benign paroxysmal positional vertigo) before, you would definitely know that food is the thing that you want the least while the world is spinning around you.  So I thanked him for his attentiveness and then went back to my computer screen.  When I found that it took me at least 3x longer to find a correct reference from a list of papers showing up on my "EndNote" searching engine, I knew I had to get up to activate my clock genes.

So I opened up all the curtains to let in the sunlight that immediately activated all my circadian genes and fooled my brain cells into believing that I had a whole night sleep.  And then I splashed some cold water to my face to wash of my tiredness.  Finally I brewed some fresh tea so that the caffeine could fuse into my bloodstream.

Then I felt fresh and anew.

Happily I sat back in front of my computer and completed all the remaining task, that included putting in all the references, drawing the last figure, and writing 2 forms of summary in both technical and lay languages...

Finally, it came to the time to submit the grant.  I was going to do that all by myself but my grant manager attentively took over the important task and provided me a stress-free service.  She even went extra miles to proofread the few paragraphs that I wrote when I was a zombie - I did not know I still need to write those important statements before I went down to see her.

Now the grant is in and I am happy.  I am happy not because that I think the grant will be found worthy of investing.  I am happy because I am alive.

Sometimes one's basic need is all that matters.  I don't need to be called a professor, but I do need to be called a mom.

Just for the record, I am happy to be alive also because that I overcame another difficulty early in the morning.  I almost died of driving this morning.

Remember that Fabrice and I usually car-pool to work?  In order to let him have the car with our parking decal, I took our little beetle that we use only on weekends.  It is usually parked outside of our garage under a big tree.  Since we had been out of the country and the car had been left alone for a half of a summer long, it has gotten very dirty.  What's annoyed me was the "dirts" could not be cleaned away!  I did not know how bad it was until this morning when I drove it and could see nothing in front of me.  I tried to drive it anyway since the distance between our house and my office is only 5-min.

However, as soon as I got on the main road, cars kept coming.  Tons of them.  I had to make a stop to wipe the windshield.  Unfortunately, the more I wiped, the messier it became.  Then I got back in the drive seat and drove another few blocks slowly.  The closer I got, the more cars and even people I met.  They were all walking/driving towards me.  It was then I realized that we had a big football game on campus and those people just finished the game and walking/driving home!!!

And they mostly were drunk!

So I had to make another stop.  This time, I parked the car in front of a church.  I tried to get in to get some water but I could not.  The doors were all locked.  Luckily I had some good quality of paper towels in the purse so I could use them to wipe the glass.  But no matter how hard I tried, I could only spread the dirty stuff ON the glass, not OFF it.  At the end, I made lots of white streaks on my windshield.  I had to give up, because I finished all the paper towels and both of my hands were covered by some sort of sticky and oily materials!

It was then I realized that those stuff I was trying to wipe off was wax, which must have been falling from the tree under which we usually parked our car!

Anyway, when I got back to my driver's seat, I rolled down my window and stuck my head out so that I could watch where I was going.  You can imagine how slow I was driving!  The police who was directing the traffic had to come to rush me, "Go, go, go!"  He said to me with his hand pointing to the right.  I was giving right turn signal but I could not drive an inch.  It was so hard to see the other way while my head was sticking out from my driver's window!

Fortunately, that was the last 10 meters that I had to drive on the road.  So as soon as I drove inside the parking lot, I parked the car at the first spot that I could locate and it stayed there illegally at the area for patients and visitors to our hospital/school.
Let's hope I will deal with the second deadline better!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Tree of heaven

I am supposed to come to my office to work, but I am so mad at Fabrice today that I can't do anything else unless I have ranted here frist! 

Why am I mad at this guy?  Because this man thinks that he is the God thus no need to apologize for any of the mistakes he makes, even when such mistakes affect others profoundly!  

What did he do this time?  

He did not listen to me, which led to the loss of my food tree!  

Here is the thing.  I am a Chinese and we Chinese love to eat!  One of things that I love dearly is aromatic leaves of the Chinese toon tree.  It's Chinese name is 香椿 (xiāngchūn) whose tips can be harvested in Spring and early Summer.  I only ate them few times in my life because Xiangchun is not farmed in the place where I grew up You know most of us Chinese love ginger, garlic and cilantro?  And you know most of the italians love parsley and French love province herbs?  Well, toona leaves charm them all.  The 
flavor is so special that makes my mouth watery even just typing the name down. 

Alright, now, given this introduction, can you imagine how happy I was one day when one of my colleagues asked me in a small voice whether I would like to have some of her home-grown Xiangchun tips.  Was she kidding?  It's been over 20 years that I had not had any of this delicious food!  The day I first chopped them in the kitchen, Fabrice was drawn by their exotic and distinct smell - this is why our marriage still strong,  the French man loves food as much his Chinese wife!  He was curious and doubtful though when he had his first bite of the stir-fried eggs with Chinese toon, but he soon swallowed the whole plate - again, this is why our marriage lasts.  I am a typical Chinese wife, that is all I am saying.  

Ever since I discovered that Fabrice fell in love with Xiangchun, I have been trying to grow some of these trees in our yard.  

The first time I had a small tree from the friend who offered me the leaves, I asked Fabrice to put it under the ground.  But the man left it at the deck and only planted when the weekend arrived few days later.  The poor little tree did not survive.  The second time when she gave me another one, I 
immediately took off and went back home to plant the precious tree in the middle of our small garden at the corner of our house.  When Fabrice came home, he said, "it's ugly to have a tree in the middle of the garden."  So, the man moved it to the other side of our house.  One week later, it was gone.  We did not know where it went but from what's left there (an empty hole), we knew the tree did not just die.  It was removed by someone, most likely by our neighbor.  At this time, I felt bad to ask my colleague again for one so I ordered/purchased a small tree online from a Chinese Garden.  When delivered to our house, it was only a stick, looking dead.  Followed the instructions came with it, I carefully soaked the stick in the water for 2 hours and then dug a big hole to bury all the roots inside it.  Indeed, when Spring arrived, leaves had grown out of the stick and I was happy imagining the year after that, we could begin to harvest the delicious food (we were instructed not to nip the tips in the first Spring).  Disappointingly however, the tree fell into a deep coma.  This Spring, we saw nothing new growing out of the brunches.  

Sadly and shamefully I went back to my friend asking for another one and promised her not to lose it this time.  She happily gave me 3, in case you lose them again, she said.  But I had become quite confident in my ability to take care of it, so I generously gave one to my close friend Ling, another to a colleague of mine and then kept one myself.  "Now," I said to Fabrice, "choose the good and safe location for it this time so that our neighbor won't get rid of it again."  I said to Fabrice. 

He decided to plant it in our front yard so that it would grow tall to cover the "ugly electric pole".  "It's too close to the neighbor." I complained, "They will have it removed again once they see it."  "No, they won't.  It's so far inside our yard, they cannot come to our land to dig it out."  Fabrice responded.  

I don't know what's wrong with him and those electric poles.  Fabrice cannot stand electric poles.  For this very reason, we had very hard time to find a house in the district that we wanted to live.  We settled in this one because it is on the side and out of our sight.  He planted some flowers around the pole then found that was insufficient to cover anything.  So when he got a chance to have a tree destined to grow tall, he took it.  

Reluctantly I agreed, mainly I just did not want to argue with the God.  I had carefully watched it for a couple of weeks and happily found it kept growing quite fast.  This time, we should have delicious food in no time, I told myself.  We are having plenty rain water this year and that helps a lot too.  After having made sure that it survived, I began to forget about it.  Today, Fabrice suddenly decided to provide the fast growing little tree a support.  So he went to the tree with a stick and t
he only problem was the tree was nowhere to be found!  

"Did you move the tree somewhere else?"  He asked me, with the stick in his hand.  
"What do you mean I moved the tree.  What tree?"  I asked.  
"The Chinese Toona"  He answered.  
"What, you mean we lost the tree again?!" 

I went to location and found nothing.  The yard was covered by grass as if nothing had been planted there.  

Our tree was deliberately removed by most likely our neighbor, again!  

I was furious.  I was so mad at Fabrice for not listening to his wise wife!  This guy has grown into such a proud person that I can hardly stand him anymore.  Our relationship worked so much better when he was a baby long time ago!  

After having made a big fuss about Fabrices' unbearable non-apologetic behavior, I hid myself in the office and wrote this post.  The man made me lose all my alone time.  If this grant that I am working on will be not funded again, it would be all his fault.  

Sure he cared about the little tree too otherwise he would not have thought about going there to put a stick to straighten it.  However, his love for Xiangchun is clearly not enough to make him listen to the love of his life.  

Alright, now it's time to analyze the situation.  As Fabrice said, "You should not blame me for this.  You should think about why the neighbor keeps removing it."  He finally agreed to my diagnosis that the tree most likely had been removed by our neighbor.  He had not thought so when 
the tree mysteriously disappeared the first time although he could not come up with any good explanations. 

A good listener does the following: 

I went online and found out why my neighbor keep removing my beloved Xiangchun.  Do you want to know?  

He must have thought that we are having the "tree of heaven" in my yard!  

My guess is that he must have confused our trees with those stinky and invasive sumac - they look identical!  In fact, I have seen few of those trees on my running tracks and even harvested some one day to give them a try.  They has some distinctive smell too, except it's quite far different from the enchanting smell that Xiangchun gives out (hence the name "chòuchūn 臭椿" for Stinky Spring).  Their young leaves taste extremely bitter too.  

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Love at first sight

"Hi I am Yolanda.  This is my medicare and the rest of my family are over there."  A woman was wheeling an old lady (her mother and medicare) out of a van and introduced herself and her family to me with extreme politeness.  "It's so nice to meet you."  She carried on the greeting.  We were guests of honor of a farm party.

"Oh, it's nice to meet you too." I greeted back with only half of the enthusiasm than hers because I forgot to tell her my name.  It's always difficult for me whenever I greet someone extremely polite and respectful.  Maybe because my answer did not contain any information, she tried a bit harder to get us acquainted.   "I work for Jim."  She said, which caught my attention.

Jim is a the host of the farm party - I've later found out that the farm belongs to his life-long friend Marcia.  Jim loves to use the farm to attract his close friends and family.  He had invited us last time 2 years ago: Zhuzhu (4) caught her first fish and Niuniu (2) had his first horse ride that time.  They both also bought few ticks home last time because they spent quite amount time running around and flaming mesh mallows in the woods!

What I did not remember was that Yolanda and her son Cody were also at the same party 2 years ago.

"Me too, but I wonder why I have never met you before."  I answered Yolanda with a question to myself.  Both Fabrice and I are also appointed by the department where Jim is an acting chair at the moment.  I understand that Jim as a Chair does have an army to serve him.  Even though I don't usually "see" them, I do at least "meet" them via emails.  However, I have never received any emails from this Yolanda woman, which was strange.

"Oh, maybe because I work at the Admin office."  She explained.

"So are you new?"  I continued to investigate.

"Oh no, I have worked there for more than 15 years!"  She said.

At this point, I had to shut up.  Yolanda finally escaped from me to move on greeting other people at the party.

Not only did I not know her, I also did not know the fact that I spent my entire 2 hours fishing together with her son Cody and another young man whose name I did not catch.  The man gave up fishing after few tries and went to socialize with others.  In fact, he spent his farm party time almost exclusively on chatting with Macey, the daughter of Marcia who is about his age and an attorney specialized in family laws.

They spoke loud enough for us, the fishing team, to hear and their conversations covered a wide range of topics from live style to politics. 

Just at the moment I began to get the hang of fishing and caught few of small ones, we were called for dinner.  I unwillingly put down my fishing pole for hamburgers, sausages, sweet beans, and some salad.  Clearly the party was not designed to enjoy French or Chinese delicacies so my goal was to eat as fast as I could so that I could fish some more before it got completely dark.

Now I wish I had sticked to my plan.  

When I discovered that I was surrounded by a group of people that included Macey, the young and chatty man, Yolanda, Cody, Yolanda's Mom, Jim and Fabrice, I started to shift my fishing mood to chatting mood.

That was when I made a fool of myself.

"Is Cody your son?" I turned my head to Yolanda and inquired.   Cody had spent his entire time fishing.  At the beginning, he kept failing while NiuNiu, the youngest participant succeeded.  About an hour into it, Cody became very good at it.

"Yes." She answered with a clear proud look on her face.  

The conversation should have stopped then.  But stupid me turned my head to the young man, who had chatted with Macey after he quitted fishing earlier, and asked Yolanda, "Is he your older son, then?"  I continued. I was going to lead the conversations to make fun of his "early retreat".  Had he stayed, he could have succeeded like Cody.  But before I could do that, I heard this:

"No no, husband." Both Yolanda and the young man answered simultaneously.

I stopped questioning them but only allowed myself one second to react to the unexpected answer - I simply cannot handle a silence among a group of people.  I always feel obligated to elicit interactions among a group of people. "Are you Cody's father?" I questioned the young man with clear understanding the answer would not be positive because he looked way too young to be his father.

"No no, I am not." The young man said awkwardly.   Cody was then leaving the crowd and I understood it was the signal to stop making anyone else uncomfortable.  Yolanda looked at least twice of the young man's age!  But the age difference was not what shocked me.  What surprised me was the fact that this young man who spent his entire evening with Macey was already someone else's husband!  

I had assumed that he, the husband of Yolanda, was flirting with Macey the whole night long!  I thought they were "in love at the first sight"!

Macey seems to be a career-oriented woman who may not spend her time going out with friends, whereas the young man appears smart, warm and witty who gets on with Macey perfectly well.  I seriously and secretly believed that they were made for each others!

Shortly after dinner, Yolanda collected her gang and excused herself from the party.  They left in such a hurry that they missed the course of homemade ice-cream and baked mesh mellows on the fire.  We had them for dessert.

On the way back, Fabrice laughed while driving us home.  "What are you laughing about?"  I asked the crazy driver. "About you."  He laughed a bit more with audible voices!

"What about me?"  I wished that he would not mention about what I said at the party.  What happened at the party should stay at the party, right?!

"I was so sure that you would ask that question.  It's so typical of you!" He added.

"What question?" I continue to pretend.

"Are you the father of Cody." He had to point out the obvious, damn devil!

A romance between Macey and the young man could have existed.  A story was being written in my head already when the 2 young ones feeding my ears with their interesting topics.

Poor Yolanda.  I have no idea what I would say to her next time I meet her.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Post vacation activity

I am sure many of you would agree with me, after a vacation with kids, we adults would love to have just a few days away from them, agree?

So we dump Niuniu back to his daycare and Zhuzhu to a summer camp run by our university and call it's done.  It's Zhuzhu's first summer camping experience and she has not complained so far.  Quite the opposite, she has been enjoying it immensely because she suddenly finds out all her preschool friends are coming back to her life.

To us, however, this summer camping means our work day has become short.  So we decided to make her summer and our baby sitting life less boring by introducing the kids a bit of ice skating.

One lesson later, the kids could stand, walk, and slide on ice comfortably.  Three lessons later, the kids can now "skate" on ice rink.  According to Zhuzhu, she likes ice skating better than skiing.

I signed up ice skating lessons myself and I have been learning it side-by-side with Zhuzhu and Niuniu, which amused them quite a bit, although I had had only few minor and well-controlled falls in the first 2 lessons.

Last lesson however, I was quite confident on getting my balance under control, yet just at the moment that I felt quite good about myself, I had a terrible fall on the back, resulting a big bump on my old skull.  So I am living in a fear of getting a brain tumor!  

All I am trying to say here is that it's not surprising that I am still in a vacation mood.  What's strange is that Fabrice, the workaholic, seems to be still in his vacation mood also. 

Last night at 9 pm, I came home from my dance practice and found the garage door open, bedroom lights on, yet but no kids nor Fabrice.  At the beginning, I thought the kids were playing hide-and-seek with me like they often do, so I started to search inside the house.  When I failed to locate the daddy, I knew something went wrong.  So I started to shout out loud their names, but no one answered.  From the look of it, I knew the house was not robbed and the kids were not kidnapped.  Where could they be then, it was too late for them to be at our neighbors' as their kids'  bedtime is 7 pm.  

So I dialed Fabrice's cell phone and immediately I heard, "Heeeeeeelloooooo?"  He sounded mysterious and mischievous!  "Where are you and why the garage door is wide open?  And where are the kids?"  He said, "Ah ha?!"  Then I heard the kids laughing and talking excitingly on the background.   

"Oh, here I come!" I regretted immediately for all my questions, because I could hear the kids' real voices, which did not seem to be far.  I looked out the backdoor and there they were, flashing lights at me and towards all 4 directions!  They were inside a tent at the backyard!

So IN I went and the OUT I got as soon as I gave each of them few kisses.  

I did not want to stay inside the tend because the cushion was too thin to support my old bones.  

However, when I finished eating dinner and getting ready for the bed, it was too cold and too empty!  So I invaded the tent again but this time, no one was awake to welcome me.  I had to squeeze Fabrice to Niuniu's side.  But no matter how I tried, I just could not sleep!  

The dirt floor hurt, the air was too wet, the sky was too bright, the night was too quiet...

So I got out one more time to take my iPad so that I did not have to stay inside with my eyes wide open staring at the sky.  Then I spent next few hours watching the dance video against few warn bodies.  At 4 am, I got up to use the toilet in the house.  When I was done on my way back to the tent, I met Zhuzhu inside the house at the backdoor.   Why?  I asked and she said, "Daddy asked me to come in because it rained."  I wondered what had happened, we both had checked the weather report before we committed ourselves to a tent-camping out and confirmed the night would be free of rains.  Then I went outside and felt nothing was falling to my hand.  

I knew then the man was looking for excuses to come back to his comfortable bed.  There is no way the "rain" could become any bigger than few isolated drops!    

Anyway, it would be good for me.  I am too old to sleep in a tent!  Immediately, I helped the man to take everything back to the house.  And finally, I dosed off at 5 am or so.  

A romantic and unpredictable camping night ended up with 4 hours iPad watching in a tent for me.  But it implanted some ideas to the kids head and they went back inside the tent as soon as they got up this morning.  They have made the Daddy promise them to take them out for a real camping so that they could sleep in a tent for real next time because they enjoy it so much!

Yea kiddos, if only I could ask you to stay inside, like forever...  

Monday, July 29, 2013

Reclaiming my identity

I have posted many pieces of my private diaries in the last 2 months, which gets me used to coming here to talk randomly to myself.  Thus, this is really for myself and I don't find any value in random farts from reading other people's websites.  So go away as fast as you can, but if you decide to stay, feel free to give few skills that you want to reclaim.

In the next few months, I plan to do the following:

1.  Catch up with grant submission.  Do you guys know that we scientists don't have real vacations?  Vacations to us usually mean we work without being bothered by seminars, lectures, faculty meetings, or needy students and postdocs.  But this past vacation, I postponed my grant submission deadlines; failed to prepare my lectures; and even not called the lab to ask about the progresses of any ongoing research projects.  Well, that really means that I had a real vacation and now it's time to get some work done.  I am fed up by my slackness and I have decided to make a significant change!  So if you read here occasionally, be my eyes to watch me beating the following deadlines: Aug. 30, 2013, Oct. 5, 2013, and Nov. 5, 2013 for 3 research grants!

2.  Catch up with paper publications.  My job as researcher and the lowest grade of professor is not really attractive.  However, I truly enjoy reading and writing good papers and I've only published well-written and highly visible and citable papers so far.  I must say here that 80-90% of scientific papers are poorly written nowadays, either because people don't have the time to perfect their manuscripts as they need to spend all their precious hours writing research grants, or the majority of new scientists simply don't have good training in writing scientific reports - again, due to the fact that their mentors are too busy (on writing research grants) to fulfill mentors' duties!  I am not a native English user thus the time for me to write anything worthy of publishing is long.  I cannot even use editors to help because I can't stop changing what I write until the deadline, which means that I need give myself extra time.  My goal for the remaining months of the year is to submit 2 papers.  Again, give me some push here.

3.  Catch up with sleep.  This seemingly fights against both of the above points, but I have to list it here because sufficient sleep allows me to think and write much more efficiently.  Of course, sufficient sleep brings me other benefits too, such as helping me to stay in a good mood!  Fortunately, compared to Fabrice, I sleep at least 1h less per night.  A good night sleep means 6 hours for me.  So I'll try my best to hit the bed at 11 pm and to fall in asleep at midnight so that I can get up at 6 am or so.

4.  Claim/reclaim my independence.  Many married people have experienced what I am about to say - losing the ability to live alone.  One of the couple becomes more and more dependent on the other and vice versa, meaning they become symbiotic.  Fabrice has disabled me.  How so, you say?  

Well, our regular day goes like this:

Morning - Fabrice gets up early to prepare his own coffee and then works an hour or so.  Then he wakes up the kids and prepares their breakfast.  While he is in shower and the kids are eating their cereals, I get up to finish breakfast together with the kids.  Then he drives us all to our respective schools.

Lunch - Fabrice and I have our work date - yes, we date every lunch time.  Boy, this reminds me a funeral that I just attended early this summer.  A husband of my friend who was only 41 died from brain tumor.  When people gave his eulogy, one of the many evidence that he loved his wife was that he had lunch with his wife every single day, which put me in tears instantly.

Evening - Fabrice drives the car to one of the kids' schools and I walk to pick another and then we meet at one of their schools.  Then he drives us home.  I cook as soon as we enter the house and he takes care Zhuzhu's homework as much as possible.  After dinner, I wash dishes and he showers the kids, takes are of Zhuzhu's remaining homework, if needed, and then puts them to bed.

On weekends, we are much busier than regular working days.  Here is a typical weekend:

Saturday morning - Fabrice gets up to enjoy his morning alone.  The man loves to eat his breakfast alone.  Then the kids get up, which wakes me up.  We, the kids and I, eat our breakfast when the daddy is taking care of the yard.  At 9:40, Fabrice joins his swimming team and I take the kids to swim beside them.  After a short pool time, I leave Niuniu to him and then drive Zhuzhu to her Chinese dance class.  Fabrice cooks lunch with Niuniu's "help" and together they wait for Zhuzhu and I to come home.

Saturday noon - poor Zhuzhu and I have only 5-10 min for our lunch because her Chinese school starts at 1 pm!  After dropping her, I swing by my office waiting to pick her up 2 hours later.  That counts as my uninterrupted alone weekend hours.  Fabrice usually takes this time to do his man/boy shopping at Lowes - he loves to support hardware stores with his earnings!  He even does grocery shopping at the Costco at this time most of the times because it's on his way to Lowes.

Saturday evening - Party time - we either cook for our friends or they cook for us.  Saturday dinner is usually the most relaxed meal for our kids because it is the only meal at which they can do whatever they want with their food.  They usually eat at their own little separate tables with their own friends.  We adults generally don't monitor how much and what they eat.  

Sunday morning - Fabrice gets up early to cook French toast, pancakes, or whatever he is up to cook with the kids.  He likes to have a family homemade breakfast - I feel like a queen on Sunday mornings because he usually does not wake me up until the hot food is on the table!  After that, it's my supervising Zhuzhu's Chinese homework time and boys' get their own bonding time.  I do few loads of laundry at this time frame also.

Sunday noon - If the kids have no playdates/birthdays, Fabrice usually grills us some delicious lamb/beef/chicken/fish.

Sunday afternoon - Fabrice goes to soccer games.  The kids and I cheerlead his team.

Sunday evening - Fabrice cooks dinner, feeds the kids, and then puts them to bed.  I go to my Chinese dances - I've only started this a few months back.  Prior to this activity, I played piano almost every night after dish washing.  

Are you bored so far?  

I get to the point in a minute.  

We still have few extracurricular activities for the kids - I attend Zhuzhu's piano and ballet weekly lessons.  She will add art weekly lesson and Niuniu starts his soccer lessons this coming Fall.  I will drive Zhuzhu to this art class and Fabrice promised to drive Niuniu. We shall see how that plays out.

Obviously, this schedule applies to school days only.  For non school days, like now, well, we are still at our learning phase.

Looking at what I listed above, I cannot believe how much housework in which Fabrice is involved, I have not even lifted a finger about our rental property, which is completely under Fabrice's control.  What I wrote so far almost makes me to decide not to get mad at him ever again in the rest of my life, even when I am having my periods - yea, right, ha ha, no way.  I have no control over this matter, sorry, hubby!

But this is not the point of this post.  The post is about how his diligence has crippled me.

First, he made me a bad driver.  Apart from the fact that he does not allow me to touch the wheels while he and I both are in a car, he does not understand why people ever drive, instead of fly, anywhere requiring more than 2 hours on a highway.  This reminds me one day when we still lived in Texas, I asked him to drive to the Big Bend with me, he said why we would not fly to the closest city like Del Rio and then drive a rental car to continue the journey.  I said it would be easier to drive our own car.  Then he said okay but he would prefer to take a plane and to meet me at Del Rio.  Then I told him to have a nice fly-everywhere-life and goodbye.  Now he is still in my life albeit has missed the chance to see the magnificent national park - I visited there in my little green beetle with 2 other friends of mine while he was out of town attending a scientific meeting.  I was that independent then, where is that girl now?

Anyway, I don't just want to get back my abilities on a highway, I want to have my "quickness" in responding to dangerously situations back, which I realized that I'd lost recently.

A week from last Friday, I car-pooled with a girl to our Chinese dance practice which was held at a studio 5 miles further than our usual one.  When I picked her up, she was quite happy and trusting.  But as soon as she got in the car and I started to drive, she lost her composure, which followed by giving me driving lessons constantly!  Can you imagine that I, a driver of 20 years in this car-dependent country, had to receive "instructions" from a girl who bikes to work and has only come to this country from China 3 years ago - I am not even sure whether she owns a car!  When she criticized about my driving once again later, I asked, "Are you calling me a reckless driver as my husband does to me?"  She answered bravely, "I must admit that I am quite nervous here."

I could have asked her to walk home or I could also drive safely.  Clearly I wisely chose the latter.  Truthfully, her gentle reminders have made me decide to retrain myself to drive better.  I need to insert driving on a highway into my tight schedule, 20 min/week, minimal, regardless what Fabrice says!

The second skill that I have lost is working independently!  Well, let's face it, I run a research lab and I decide what research projects are.  Fabrice and I started our independent jobs almost at the same time and we used to have our joint lab meetings together.  Thus, we are used to giving each other suggestions, which means that we disagreed with each other often.  But after a while, we had decided to separate our lab meetings because our labs expanded.

This is good, why I am complaining here?

Well, here is the thing, I used to be independent and original thinker and my hard working had made me a "go to person" when Fabrice and I worked in the same lab as postdoctoral trainees.  He might be a well-qualified "go to person" himself at that time except he was a baby and did not have the guts to claim the title.  Ever since I promoted him to be my husband, he has quickly grown into my skull and squeezed my mojo out of it.  Now he replaced me.

What the hell has happened here?  What is that talented and helpful girl?

Sure I could blame my kids; sure I could blame the bad economy; sure I could blame my female hormones; sure I could also blame my Asian race...

But I don't want to, because that would not change a damn thing.  I must swim against all these limitations.  I have always been a female Asian ever since I was born.  If I could do well before, why I cannot make it now?  Plus, she has done it with RA, and her sister has done it with cancer, what my excuses are?

Alright, Fabrice is my husband, I could take his help for granted.  But no, my friends, the price is too high - I rather keep my independence!  The best thing one can do for her/his brain is to use it.  I am sure that you understand that the brain is part of our physical body and it needs constant exercise!  Thanks to my grant reviewers who have constantly and mercilessly criticize my research approaches, discounting completely my productivities, I've realized it's time for me to "catch up" with modern technologies.  I need to claim my identity back!

Even this means that I have to say goodbye to my blog site!  Well, I am not too sad because I really have no followers, so I consider this decision has no impact to anyone else but me, am I right?

So good luck to me?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Last day in Paris - vacation in France XVI

July 8, 2013.  Monday - a continued story

Alright, do I need to give a reason for our misfortunes?  Let's first blame the Americans, shall we.  Fabrice and I had gotten Zhuzhu and Niuniu up early to catch a TGV to reach the Eiffel Tower to meeting our American friends at 12:00 pm.  With the help of that particular luggage storage locker, we made it there at exactly 12:01 pm.  The naive Fabrice immediately immersed himself among the crowd to fish our friends, whereas I was pretty sure that he was wasting his time.  I have known them long enough to understand their concept of "being on time".  So I took the kids who were whining about the hot sun to the park beside the Tower where the kids could have plenty shady areas  to cool down.  When Fabrice came to join us, I requested, "Could you watch the kids so that I can give my poor bladder a break?"  I'd been holding my pee for the last hour because the man did not think we had time to use a toilet at Paris Gere de Lyon!  Listen to what he told me, "The toilet must have been very far away.  Look at the crowd, the line must be very long."  I did not say anything back because the man had a point.  Seeing my silence, he knew I was getting into my unpleasant mode, so he said, "As soon as they arrive, we will go to get some lunch and you can use the restaurant toilet then."  I bet that my face turned blue at that moment.  In the mean time, our Friends called to let us know that they were walking out of the train station and towards the tower.  Instead of rushing them, Fabrice said, "Oh, we were late too.  I thought that we have already missed each others."  What the hell he just said?!  His indulgence to others and inconsiderate to me can be so unbearable at times!  When the Americans had not shown up at 12:40, I was ready unleash my anger against Fabrice.  The man wisely left the scene where he also left the "red bag" - see below.  The kids and I followed him towards the bottom of the Tower where we met our friends who were walking towards our direction.

"How did you guys manage to be late when you were here in Paris while we made it here on time from an 1.5h-TGV ride away!"  I abused friendship as soon as we completed our usual greeting with newly acquired "French kisses on cheeks".  See what Fabrice made me do?  He should have let me the chance to burst my angers earlier!  Our nice American friends really knew me long enough also to ignore what I said, plus they did have their own version of unfortunate story - they were stuck in their cousin's car on a village road just outside the Paris last night for a whole 4 hours, which resulted that they had not gone back to Paris until 2 am in the morning!

So we loved each other again.

But what happened in the next 10 minutes put me in rage - remember my bladder was not released yet?  Fabrice must have suffered from Alzheimer's since he completely ignored my basic physical need!  He was leading the gang of 7, 4 adults and 3 kids, away from the Eiffel Tower and together we walked, walked, and walked passing numerous fine looking restaurants, but none of them was good enough for him.  The sun was hot, the kids were whining, and my bladder, boy, I cannot even describe how painful that was.  So I had to remind him that I was carrying a near ruptured pouch of urine, he said to me in annoyance, "We cannot choose restaurants based on your bladder!"

I was totally wrong about living with a saint yet I liked this version of him better, because... got the rest of the adults in our group to stand by me!  Immediately we disqualified Fabrice as our executive director.  The headless team then decided to pick one of the 2 restaurants right in front of us.  After we ordered our food and finished our turns to the wash room, Fabrice asked me while sitting down, "Do you have the red bag?"  "What red bag?"  I had nothing red, my purse was beige.  So he flew out the door - the bag was left at the park at the bottom of the Eiffel Tower - see above - few minutes later he returned with it.  Phew!  I said, "See, a restaurant further away would have cost you a fancy camera!"

We are perfect for each other, don't you agree?

My anger went away as soon as I released the tension from my bottom yet it was built up as soon as I found out Fabrice again allowed our Americans to pay our lunch bill!  He was the only one who could speak French among us, how the hell he managed to be slower than the Americans?!  You can only imagine how mad I became later when his "saved" cash had all gone to the hands of a theft(s)!

After lunch, we returned to the bottom of the Eiffel Tower but only to find out that the access to the top was closed so we walked across Pont d'Lena, the bridge immediately in front of the Tower, in an attempt to get to the Trocadero district.  But the place was blocked since Paris was busy in preparing for the National Day (July 14th) Cerebration!  We then acted like typical tourists to have few photos taken with the glorious Tower behind our back and then continued our journey to take the subway to Notre Dame.  At this moment, Niuniu dosed off, Fabrice had to sit with the kid and Mike outside while the rest of the gang were standing and waiting in line to enter the famous Cathedral.  Niuniu woke up in the end of our tour.  Following that, we played/rested in the park behind the Notre Dame.  After a long rest of other adults and my short fight with the stranger, Vera suggested us to get some famous Berthilon ice-cream.  What a great idea.  We consulted Fabrice's iPhone to locate the authentic location, but only stopped at the second closest satellite store for our ice-cream of a lifetime (you should definitely get some of that, totally worth of the walk).  Then we continued to enjoy what île Saint-Louis could offer.  Following that, we crossed the Pont Marie again let the kids enjoy themselves at the playground of  a small park close to Le Marais.  The kids also got their carousel ride at the entrance of Bastille metro station.  Then we wandered about those charming streets and shops at le Marais.  Fabrice got some cakes and croissant for the kids at the pastry shop on rue St. Antoine, which boosted the kids energy level and they started to play a silly game called "butt in the air" - hand-in-hand they bended their bodies to put their heads down to the ground and butts up to the air and laughed hysterically on the streets.  We all should have agreed on Fabrice's suggestion to have our dinner a bit early right at le Marais and then to decide whether we would continue on visiting the Montmartre hill.  But somehow the French was pushed by the Chinese and Americans, so we got on the metro train after giving our kids one more ride on the carousel to the Montmartre district.  When we arrived, the kids started to complain about their "empty" stomaches, which wasted our next 30 min to find a decent restaurant that would not reject kids.  Our valuable Montmartre visiting time was completely consumed on waiting for our drinks, food, and desserts at the restaurant!  It was also then that Fabrice began to worry about our luggage at Gere de Lyon.

Now, I cannot wish more to have followed Fabrice's hunch and to have cut our day in Paris short!  We all came to the Montmartre only for a dinner at Ville Des Abbesses restaurant.

After the dinner, Marie's parents granted her wish to go "home" and we said goodbye to each other and see you soon in the U.S..  

Our journey of 6 weeks in France is now concluded and lessons learned from our last 24 hours: if you take little kids to Paris, make sure you are not over ambitious to cover those monuments!  They would definitely have more fun to eat ice-cream, ride on a carousel, and play at parks!